12 Step-Checklist To Optimize Your Content For On-Page SEO

blog post seo checklist

This post is part of my complete, 4-part guide on web content writing & optimization for 2020.

The number of bloggers is expected to reach 31.7 million in 2020. As you can guess, competition is high and ranking high in search engine results is crucial.

Before you publish a blog post, you want to make sure that you have taken all the on-page blog post SEO factors into account.

If you have a checklist of all the steps you need to take, you’re less likely to forget any, making your content more likely to appear near the top in search engine results.

It’s not just about maintaining a certain keyword density for your content, but also about a number of real on-page content SEO factors. Hence, these actionable tips will help improve how your content is crawled and ranked by the search engines.

Table of Contents

Keyword Research

If you care about blog post SEO, keyword research is a crucial component of your writing prep-work.

48% of marketers say that keyword and phrase research is the most effective SEO tactic. Based on the topic of your content, pick one main keyword and 2-3 alternative keywords.

There are many keyword research tools, free and paid, which can help you brainstorm and discover keywords to target with your content.

My personal favorite is a premium tool known as KWFinder, for it’s great user experience, affordability and quality of data. But you can also go with a free tool such as UberSuggest or Answer The Public.

Input your main keyword in the tool of your choice and you’ll get hundreds of related keywords, and their associated data. You can also view on many searches happen for a keyword per month (also known as search volume).

kwfinder keyword research tool

If you’re using a premium tool, it will show another useful metric known as difficulty score. This score can give you a good general idea of how easy or difficult it is to rank for a keyword.

Ideally, you want to find and target keywords with high search volume and low difficulty score.

50% of search queries are four words or longer. By targeting long tail keywords (keywords with 3 or more words), you’ll have a better chance at ranking quickly and easily to top of search engine results. Long-tail keywords are also more likely to turn into qualified leads.

The higher the keyword difficulty, the harder it will be to rank on the first page of Google. KWFinder will give you a big list of related keywords, so hopefully you can find one that has a combination of decent search volume and a low difficulty score.

Keyword In Title

Make sure your main keyword is included in your headline. Your page title, wrapped in the H1 tag, has more weightage for search engines than other elements of your page content.

It’s also one of the main content SEO factors to determine the intent of your page and match it with a searcher’s intent. You should not just include keyword in headline, but also try to include it near the beginning, if possible.

To get an inspiration for how others are doing it, search and scan the SERPs of the keyword you are targeting and analyze the titles used by your competitors content pages.

Keyword In Meta Description

Meta description is a short description used by search engines to provide more information for a result in the SERPs. It is also displayed by social networks when someone shares your page on social media.

43% of people click on a given result, solely based on the meta description. It’s important to write an exciting meta description, along with your main keyword.

Not doing so will cause the first few sentences to be picked randomly and displayed in the search results and social networks. And you don’t want that to happen as it’s not good for blog post SEO.

Keyword In Intro & Conclusion

For content SEO, your target keyword phrase should be used at least once or twice in:

  • Your intro paragraphs, ideally near the beginning.
  • Your concluding paragraphs, near the end.

However, remember not to mention it so many times that it looks unnatural to both humans and search engines.

Keywords In Content Body

Include your primary and secondary keywords, as well as their synonyms and similar keywords, in the body of your article.

keywords in body of content for seo

You don’t have to worry about maintaining a specific keyword density, but just ensure your keywords are sprinkled naturally throughout the content.

In any case, never compromise on correct grammar and flow of ideas, just to embed some more keywords.

Your main focus should be giving value to readers, not to please search engine robots. This is key to correct blog post SEO.

Categories & Tags

Depending on the CMS you use to publish your blog posts, there will certainly be options to add relevant categories, and tag or label your content.

Search engines can usually crawl and understand the context of your content better based on these. So make sure to utilize them if you can.

The posts which show up as uncategorized are lost opportunities for content SEO.

Image SEO

Making your images “SEO-ready” is another important step which is not to be missed. First of all, make sure to have a descriptive file name, preferably with your keyword, before you upload an image to include in your content.

For example, based on what the image depicts, instead of using file name such as “Photo123.jpg,” name it as “seo-tool.jpg.”

Also add descriptive alt text to the image image with your keyword in it. Alternative text is used by search engines to understand the content of the image, as well as for your website visitors who are visually impaired.

An alt text can be a perfect place to include a long tail keyword. If your alt text doesn’t allow for including a keyword because the image shows something else, you can put a hyphen and then the keyword at the end.

Image Size Optimization

When adding photos to your content, ensure minimum impact to loading time when it will be published.

If the images you have added are huge in size, the page will take more time to load, which is bad for both search engines and visitors.

You can reduce the file size of images before uploading them by using online compression tools like this for PNGs and this for JPGs. However, the size should not be reduced to such an extent that compromises on resolution quality.

Internal Linking

Internal linking improves blog post SEO and provides useful guidelines to visitors regarding where to click next. They connect your different pieces of content and help search engines get an idea of how your website is organized.

Hence, your blog post must include 2-3 links to other relevant pages on your website. Link often to important pages you’d like to rank better in search, as well as other pages of your site, as long as it makes sense contextually.

internal linking for blog post seo

This strategy will also help you keep readers longer on the website and increase engagement. For example, you can create a few pillar pages and then the subpages which link to those pillar pages.

External Linking

The only way to get significant search engine rankings is to get industry leaders to link back to your content. But in order to get on their radar, you need to give value and get their attention first.

The best way to do that for blog post SEO is to link back to them. External links are a way for you to give a nod to other content in your niche.

They are used for adding supplementary information in your content, guiding readers to useful resources that back up your claims and provide details that couldn’t be included in your post.

There are a number of ways to find the right experts to link to:

  • Join industry groups on Facebook/LinkedIn and channels on Slack. Check the members and identify people who would be interested in link building. Ask if they would be interested in getting a link from your upcoming post.
  • Participate in roundups, and also reach out to other experts featured in the roundup post.
  • Reach out to your blog subscribers, partners, and clients. They would be interested in partnering up for link building.

Also make your external links open in a new window. This will ensure readers don’t leave your site when they click on such a link, and reduce your bounce rate.

Check For Plagiarism

Original content is loved by both search engines and your visitors. Copying phrases, sentences or paragraphs from other people’s content will not just tarnish your brand in the eyes of your audience, but also result in a penalty from Google.

Once you have a draft of your content ready, there are a number of plagiarism checker tools you can use to make sure there is no duplicate material in your content.

However, originality doesn’t just mean to ensure your content isn’t copied from elsewhere. It also means original thoughts and information. Providing the same information that’s already been covered elsewhere will not be enough to move the needle in your niche.

You need to have unique ideas and angles to add to the discussion. If there is nothing new and useful that you have to say, don’t say it. Only high quality content yields good returns in the long term.

Though the extent of this is debatable, the URL or permalink of a page does have an SEO impact. In general, you want the permalink to satisfy the following 3 conditions:

  • It should include your main keywords.
  • It should be readable by humans.
  • It should be short and concise.
URL for content seo

When I say “readable,” I mean when someone looks at the URL, they should get a good guess of what the page is about. For example, the following permalink checks all the right boxes: smemark.com/blog-seo-checklist.

As you can see from the example, the idea is not to include the entire title in your permalink, but just the main keywords. So just from the URL, a visitor would know about what to expect.

Conclusion

As you can see, optimizing your content for SEO is not a piece of cake. There are so many on-page and off-page SEO factors you need to consider, and each of these factors has to maintain a balance between too much and too little to get your piece of content the exposure it deserves.

The good news is by following the steps I covered above, you can exercise control over a lot of these aspects. Following this blog post SEO checklist will help ensure each piece of content you write is up to speed.

Did I miss anything? Did you try these tips? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.

This post is part of my complete, 4-part guide on web content writing & optimization for 2020.

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