Optimizing blog posts for SEO can be a forgotten piece in the blog writing process. But when we write great content we need to make sure people find it! SEO is an essential part of content development.
Here is a helpful checklist of best practices to follow as you write and optimize your blog content for search engines (even if you have to backtrack to revise published posts!).
First and Foremost, Identify Focus Keywords
Identify one main keyword that is used throughout the entire blog. It can be a word, a phrase, or even part of a sentence. But you must start here.
Your focus keyword is integrated into all other SEO elements. It defines what you want your post to rank for. Search spiders use this keyword information to identify the subject and direct readers using search engines to your blog.
TIP: If you’re using WordPress, Yoast SEO is a great plug-in to guide you through the SEO process and help you accurately define all the SEO elements in your content.
Develop the Meta Description
A meta description is a summary of the blog’s content, and is displayed under the title of your blog post in a search. You’ve probably noticed that search engines, by default, show the first 160 characters of content if a meta description has not been defined.
Write a meta description that succinctly conveys what the reader can expect to find in the article and which provokes action. Be sure to include your focus keyword within the description.
The recommended length should be between 156-160 characters.
Develop the Page Title
The title tag will be the first thing users see, so it needs to be an accurate description of the post. Moz notes that applying best practices for titles should make for “a terrific low-effort, high-impact SEO task.”
Here are a few things to consider when writing your page title:
- The recommended length is between 50-60 characters. Typically, when a title is too long, search engines will show an ellipsis “…” and cut off the title.
- Put focus keywords at the start of the title. This helps with ranking and clicks.
- Use the brand name. The optimal format includes “| Brand Name” at the end of the title tag.
- Don’t sacrifice a great title for word length. Your title still needs to be compelling and click-worthy. In some cases, it may be better to forgo the recommended length and use a longer title.
Here is an example of what your blog looks like in a search showing the focus keyword, page title, and meta description:
Develop Image Alt Text
Search bots are unable to see an image and therefore rely on a picture’s description. Your alt text should be a description of the image.
Since the image should align with your content theme, it should be simple to include the focus keyword. However, don’t make it unnatural or forced. Your description should be as close a description of the picture as possible. Search engines will recognize and penalize inappropriate use of keywords.
The recommended length of alt text is up to 16 words.
Implement Page Linking
Include both internal page links and external links within your content that contain relevant keywords in the hyperlink text. Ideally, when linking to another page the hyperlink text should reflect the the topic or keywords of the target page.
Internal links are those which connect pages from the same domain, whereas external links are those which connect to any outside domain. Use both types of links to improve the ranking power of your site.
Include a Call to Action (CTA)
SEO aside for a second – every blog post you write needs a relevant, click-worthy call-to-action. If you’re not already including a strong call-to-action in your blog, ask yourself, “What do I want the reader to do after reading your blog post?”
A CTA provides an opportunity to advertise and bring the reader further along in the buying cycle. You’ll be writing blog posts that sell.
The SEO benefit of a call-to-action is that it allows you to include additional internal links to other pages on your website. As a result, these pages get a boost in importance.
Next time you write a blog post, remember to include these six SEO elements – they will help get your content in front of the audience searching for it.