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Ultimate blog post SEO checklist

Want to increase your blog traffic from search engines?

Writing every single blog post with good SEO in mind doesn’t only mean that your site is optimised for attracting search engine traffic. It is also just good practice that makes your posts nicer to read for your audience!

When I started my parenting blog I paid zero attention to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). It all sounded way too complicated, and too scary. 

I just wanted to blog for fun after all. 

Now five years on I wish I had paid more attention right from the start. And I finally realise that SEO really isn’t all that complicated, as long as you take a little time to wrap your head around it AND make sure your site is geared up to win at SEO. 

I have managed to double my Google traffic to my parenting blog in the last year. I’m ranking on page one, and even have a few Google Snippets (the very top results), for several of my posts! 

How have I done this? Well it’s not something that has happened overnight, but if you start putting the effort in early in your blogging journey then you can greatly increase your chances of getting more Google traffic. 

I don’t like to offer any guarantees that my methods will definitely bring you Google traffic and here’s why.

It can greatly depend on a variety of factors, most importantly being your niche and how competitive it is.

If you’re trying to rank highly in certain niches that relate to money and health, you are potentially going to really struggle. 

But if you’re prepared to put the work in, including really thinking about your niche and who you’re writing for, then you’ve got a great chance of making this blogging thing work!

I’ve written before about SEO tips for your blog, but this post is going to focus on your blog posts and what you need to do on each and every one to make it search engine-friendly. 

This post contains affiliate links. That means I make a small amount from any purchase made but it doesn’t cost you any more.

Before we carry on, I just want to give a shout out to the resources that have really helped me figure out SEO, which are Income School, Debbie Gartner’s Easy On-Page SEO ebook (I honestly love this ebook, I go back to it frequently for tips) and Moz.

If you want a complete deep dive into SEO for a reasonable price then I cannot recommend enough this ebook by blogger and illustrator Angela from Stray Curls.

She has a wonderful way of demystifying technical stuff like SEO and giving amazing practical instructions for upping your SEO game.

And her new ebook The Ultimate Blogger’s SEO Blueprint is a must-read!

Right then, on to the blog post checklist!

Niche down

If you want a website that stands a chance of getting decent Google traffic then you need to zero in on one topic. Preferably it’s one you can write about with authority, or at the very least demonstrate a high level of participation and interest in.

You cannot expect to rank number one on Google for multiple unrelated topics. For example, let’s say you write about breastfeeding one day, then barbecue the next day and finally fixing up garden sheds the next.

Google doesn’t know what your site is about, so it sends you less or no traffic at all.

One of the most important ranking factors for Google is your expertise and experience, and you can best demonstrate that by zeroing in on one topic and covering it from every single possible angle really well.

Write for your reader

The rise in niche sites and blogs means more and more people are clamouring for a piece of the Google pie. Steady traffic from Google is like the gold standard we all want to achieve. 

But, many bloggers make the big mistake of writing for a computer, the Google algorithm, and missing the point that Google is way more sophisticated than that. 

If you write blog posts with keywords repeated again and again in such a way that the post just sounds weird and awkward then you’re not creating a good user experience. 

And that’s ultimately what Google is looking for! It wants to send its users to the very best sites that answer their questions and search terms. 

So in order to be attractive to Google, first of all you need to be useful to your reader!

Write like a human being, not like a robot will be scanning your content looking to tick boxes on word count and keyword frequency. 

If you write content that fully answers a search query, and do this again and again in your blog posts, that is how you greatly increase your chances of getting good Google traffic. 

Put the reader and their experience at the centre of everything you do!

When coming up with blog post ideas, think about what question this answers for your audience or how it helps them. 

Research keywords 

A lot of full-time bloggers pay for keyword search tools such as SEMRush. 

I resisted this for a while, and for a while felt I was doing just fine for keyword research.

But last year I caved and invested in Keysearch. I’m so glad I did as it has made looking for keywords so much easier!

Just in case you’re unsure what I mean by keywords, it refers to the search term that you’re targeting. This is one of the key pillars on which good SEO is based.

Keywords are a combination of words users will be typing into Google. When we talk about short-tail keywords this could be just one or two words, but long-tail keywords may be six or more words in combination. 

Sometimes your blog will rank only for this exact keywords, and other times Google will also pick you up for other combinations of keywords that are similar. Find out more about what keywords are on the Yoast site. 

So how do you research keywords for your blog posts? Here are some simple and free methods for finding keywords: 

Google autocomplete 

Type in keywords relating to your blog then hit space bar and see what comes up in autocomplete. 

These are some of the most popular results relating to your niche and you can get some great ideas there. Click on one of those autocomplete results, then follow the tips in the below section of this post and you can find even more ideas. 

If you’re not seeing anything useful, then type in your keywords, hit space bar and then the letter “a”. See what autocomplete comes up with from that and keep going through the alphabet. 

Google results 

If I have a specific topic in mind then I will Google that and check out the search results. I see what’s ranking in the page one results for that keyword. 

If the majority of those results are smaller or equivalent websites to mine, such as other blogs or even better chat threads on forum websites, then I know I could potentially win a top spot on results for this keyword. 

If the results are huge, official sites such as NHS, Mayo Clinic, Money Saving Expert, or then I know that my chances of getting on page one for this keyword are basically zero. 

That doesn’t mean I may not be in with a chance at ranking for a longer-tail keyword however. 

So I’ll scroll through the search results and take a look at the related questions for that keyword and right at the bottom I look at the related searches. I then click through to these and see if maybe I have a better chance of ranking with these slightly different keywords. 

Other great places to research keywords 

As well as the above methods you can also research keywords in Pinterest search by following a similar process to what I’ve outlined above for Google. 

Answer the Public is another great place to find inspiration based on what people are researching on Google. 

You can also try Word Tracker and Google Search Console

Use keywords in your HTML address, heading and post 

Once you have chosen your keywords for your post, you need to remember to use it in your heading and your post. 

Now, when using keywords in your heading it needs to be in proper English! Often the keyword combinations coming out of Google will be slightly odd because that’s how some people search. 

For example, if you’re writing a post about making hummus, you don’t want the headline to be “hummus how make”. 

You would make it “How to make your own hummus” or “easy hummus recipe”. 

You should also use your keyword in the HTML web address of the blog post, so You can edit this in the right sidebar in WordPress when you’re editing your blog post.  

I recommend you make the HTML address short and sweet, and get rid of any numbers if you’re doing a list post. You never know when I may go back and add a few more tips to your list post. 

So as I said above about writing like a human being instead of for a machine, your headline should be enticing, very clear in what it’s about and make sense. 

Now you also want to use the keywords in your blog post itself. Taking the above example on hummus, you would want to make sure you have “how to make hummus” in the blog post content. 

As well as this keyword, you would also want to add in variations of that throughout the post. For example this could be “making hummus from scratch”, “making your own hummus” and “easy hummus recipe”.  

Find related keywords and use variations

We’ve touched on finding related keywords in the above point. 

It’s important to not just focus on the one keyword you’re writing your blog post around but also closely related ones. 

You can find additional keywords by typing your keywords into Google and scrolling down to see the “people also searched for” section right at the bottom of the Google results. 

You want to weave variations of your keyword into the post. 

For example, and let’s ditch that hummus example now and try something else, say someone has searched for cloth nappies. 

Some people may also call them “reusable nappies” so you’ll want to add that into your blog post. 

Not only does using variations on your keyword give you an opportunity to rank for other keywords, but it also makes your blog post flow much better. 

Alternatively, say you’re writing a post on washing cloth nappies, your additional keywords may be “best detergent for washing cloth nappies” and “removing stains from cloth nappies”. 

Lots more tips over on this Wordstream post.

Use H2 headings 

Google looks at your blog post heading first, because this is the H1 heading. 

But then it also looks at H2 headings. 

Using H2 headings also helps to break up your blog posts so that they’re not just a huge chunk of text. 

I try to use at least three H2 headings in every one of my blog posts. If I am doing a list post then each of the points will be an H2 heading. 

If I am writing more of a feature post, such as a review, then I will be sure to structure my blog post so there natural breaks where I can add H2 headings. 

For example in a review of a buggy I may give it the following structure. 

  • INTRO – State name of the buggy and that this is an ultimate review/guide to using it. 
  • OPENING PARS – Explain a little about the buggy and its biggest selling point (for example is it the world’s lightest buggy). 
  • H2 HEADING – Key features of the buggy
  • H2 HEADING – How the buggy works
  • H2 HEADING – What’s great about this buggy
  • H2 HEADING – What’s not great about this buggy
  • H2 HEADING – Final thoughts on this buggy 

You would want to try and name the buggy in several of these H2 headings so it sends a clear signal to Google that you are offering a comprehensive look at the product. 

Add external links 

By adding links to other relevant websites and pages you are adding value to your reader. 

You should aim to add at least two to five external links in each of your blog posts. 

Try to link to websites with a higher authority than yours, and I suggest linking to them with the hyperlink on the name of the website. 

So I would write “there’s more information on the NCT website”. And link on the “NCT website”. I do this instead of linking on a keyword, such as “diet in pregnancy”. 

Whatever you link to, make sure what you are linking to is relevant to your blog post and adds value. For example it may be a scientific study that helps to illustrate whatever point you’re making in your blog post. 

Add internal links 

You should also be adding internal links to your own blog posts. I recommend adding at least three. 

When you have created a new post, go back to old posts and link to that new post where you can. 

When adding internal links, I always add the link in a keyword rather than the words “this post here’. So for example if I’m linking to a post about pregnancy snacks, I will use the phrase “pregnancy snacks” for the hyperlink. 

Size your images for speed and appearance

A picture taken on your phone these days may be as big as 5MB. That’s way too large for website speed and will slow your site right down!

That’s why with every image you upload to your site, whether you took it yourself or it’s a stock image, you need to check the sizing and optimise it for your site. 

Now, in this section we will talk about two different measurements for images. One is the dimensions of your image which I’ll talk about in pixels and the other is the size of your image which is measured in bytes. 

Image dimension

When you purchase a theme for your blog, the help documentation that comes with the blog theme should tell you what the best image sizes are for this theme. This will depend on where you’re adding the image. If you’re adding it into a blog post as a featured image, the dimensions for this tend to be 1200 pixels by 675 pixels (although some say 1500 pixels is a better width). More on the featured image size at Snappa.

Image size

When it comes to the size of your image, it needs to be less than 100kb. Another above that can slow your site down. If you’re adding images to your site straight from your camera they are likely to be around 2MB or more and this will definitely have an impact on your site speed. 

In order to reduce the size of the image, you can just reduce the image dimensions. But reduce them by too much then they don’t display as nicely on your blog. 

You can purchase a plugin that optimises your images for you. I currently use Imagify. 

The other method I use is I drop my images into Canva into a custom-made Canva project. This is the exact dimensions that work for my blog. I then save it and this compresses the file while maintaining the dimensions. 

There are lots more tips about sizing your images for speed on this post from WP Beginner

Top image tip! Be sure to edit your image name before you upload it to your blog. Use a name that’s relevant to your blog post. Often images will save as a bunch of numbers. Use keywords here too!

Add alt text to images 

It’s so important to add alt text to your images! This is another opportunity for you to sprinkle some keywords into your post. 

Your alt text on normal images in your post should just describe the photo and what’s in it. However in describing what’s in that photo you can use keywords that are relevant to the blog post. 

For example if I have written a post about pregnancy snacks and use a photo of a pregnant lady eating a snack, the alt text might be “pregnant woman eats a healthy pregnancy snack”. 

You can edit alt text in WordPress by selecting the image. When you look over at the right menu you will see a box where you can add alt text. 

alt text tips

When I add a pin to my blog post, I will put the headline of the blog post as the alt text. If I add an infographic, again I will use the headline or a very similar combination of words to describe that image. This gives the image a good shot at showing up in Google image search. 

Take look at Yoast, but don’t let it boss you around!

Yoast is a great plugin and I definitely recommend having the free version on your website. 

But having a green light on Yoast does not mean that you have won at SEO or that your blog post will appear at the top of the Google results. 

In fact, several of my blog posts that rank top on Google have amber or red lights on the Yoast plugin!

I think Yoast is a great tool, just don’t let it dictate everything to you! It works based on an algorithm and doesn’t have the added sophistication that the human touch will bring – and Google definitely has a human touch when it comes to deciding what ranks. 

I recommend using Yoast for the following tasks: 

  • Entering your meta description 
  • Typing in your focus keyword
  • Checking your sentences for repetition, length and readability 

Final thoughts on the blog post SEO checklist

Writing a blog post on a laptop

Phew that was a long post! I hope it’s given you a good idea of what you need to do with every blog post in order to optimise it for search engines!

Remember, content is absolutely king! Google will never recommend your site to users if it doesn’t contain a wealth of useful information. 

It seems like a long list, but actually when you get used to these tasks it becomes totally natural when you come to upload blog posts. 

Happy blogging!

Ultimate blog post SEO checklist for bloggers