One of the most commonly asked questions I get asked is about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and the main thing I always try to get across is that SEO can’t be answered in a phone call or Zoom meeting. SEO is an ongoing, multi-faceted approach to getting found in the search engines. I can’t tell you how to be found faster in one conversation. I’ve written extensively about SEO in this blog, feel free to check the archives to learn more. For today, though, I thought I’d give you a step-by-step SEO cheatsheet for optimizing a single blog post. Please note, that results are not guaranteed as there are many reasons why Google may or may not decide to start ranking your site. But let’s dive in.
1. Choose a keyword phrase
A keyword, keyword phrase, or key phrase, is just the word or words you want your blog post to be found for. Don’t focus on a single word, a good keyword phrase can have multiple words in it. In fact, most Google searches are not single word searches. Okay, decided on your keyword?
Let me stop you right there. One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to do their own SEO is that they select their own keywords without doing any keyword research. I have a message, friends: you can’t guess at keywords. You absolutely must know what people are searching for, and your expertise in any given subject can and will lead you astray.
Story time: One time I was contacted by a potential client who wanted to talk about their website revamp, but made it super clear how important their SEO was and how it was vital that it stay in tact because they were ranked #1 for several keyword terms. I totally understand, and wouldn’t want anyone to lose their rankings! After they gave me their keywords they were ranking for, I did a quick look and discovered that the search volume for those keywords was 0. Does that mean that zero people were using those keywords? No, but it means that not enough people were using those keywords for Google to have any data on them. It’s a lot easier to rank for keywords that nobody is using and much less likely to increase your traffic that way too.
How to choose a keyword
First, look at your content and ask yourself these questions:
- What question does my content answer?
- What would someone who is searching for my content type into Google to find it?
That should give you an idea of a good places to start. The next step is to pop your idea(s) into a keyword research tool and look at the data. I like KWFinder and Moz for keyword research, but those are paid tools. If you don’t want to pay for a tool, Ubersuggest will give you some options for free.
There are two key metrics I want you to take a look at: search volume and keyword difficulty.
Search volume refers to the number of searches that are conducted for a particular keyword or phrase within a given time period, typically on search engines like Google. It represents the demand or popularity of a specific search query among users.
Keyword difficulty refers to the level of competition or difficulty associated with ranking for a specific keyword in search engine results pages (SERPs). It indicates how challenging it will be to achieve a high ranking for a particular keyword compared to other websites or pages targeting the same keyword.
Here’s an example I got when I typed a keyword in over at Ubersuggest. Search volume of 140 which means approximately 140 searches are performed nationwide for that keyword every month, and 47 for keyword difficulty, which is moderately hard. You are looking for a keyword that has a lower SEO difficulty and a higher search volume.
However, don’t automatically reject a result that has a lower search volume. If you were able to get #1 for a keyword that has ten searches a month, that’s still ten potential new leads. There’s value in that. And the more posts you write and optimize, the bigger the opportunities become.
Use the results you see to select the keyword you want to optimize your post for. Choose only one keyword phrase for your post. You want a singular focus to drive traffic for that keyword.
2. Use your keyword in your page title
One of the biggest mistakes people make in SEO is forgetting to use their keywords in the page. And there are a lot of places to use the keyword, and I’m going to go through them all. First, it needs to be used in your page title as your H1.
In HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), an H1 (Heading 1) is a markup element used to designate the top-level heading on a web page. It represents the main heading or title of the page and is typically the most prominent and visually larger than other headings on the page.
Here’s an example of how an H1 heading is structured in HTML:
<h1>This is the Heading 1</h1>
The content placed within the opening and closing tags of
<h1> is considered the main heading of the page. It is recommended to have only one H1 element per page, as it helps search engines and users understand the primary topic or purpose of the page.
In terms of SEO, search engines consider the text within the H1 element as an important factor for determining the relevancy and topic of the page. Using descriptive and relevant keywords within the H1 heading can contribute to better understanding and indexing of the page by search engines.
Your keyword phrase needs to be used in the page title, in the correct order, and if at all possible, it needs to be at the front of the title/sentence. For a blog post, your page title probably won’t just be the keywords, although it could be depending on what the keyword is.
3. Use your keyword in your content
I frequently have people ask me why their site isn’t getting ranked for the keywords they think are appropriate for their business and when I look, I realize they’ve never actually used the keyword in the site. It is very unlikely to rank for keywords you don’t use within your content.
However, you can’t just jam the keywords in, they need to flow in the content, and be used in logical locations. And they shouldn’t be used too much or too little. The rule of thumb should be not to use your keyword more than once per every 200 words and they should be distributed evenly within the content.
Be sure to use your keyword phrase in the first paragraph of content, preferably in the first sentence if it makes sense to have it there. Again, it has to make sense and flow in the content.
Be sure that your content is quality content. Tossing up a 200 word blog post probably won’t get you much traffic, but it doesn’t have to be a piece of literature like this monstrosity of a blog post. I would say a minimum of 500 words, but a good rule of thumb is 1,000-2,000 words.
And finally ask yourself, does this post answer the searchers question? Is it useful and informative? Is it easy to read? Does it showcase you as a trusted expert? If not, you need to rethink the content so that you can say yes to all of those.
4. Use your keyword in your meta title and meta description
A meta title and meta description are elements of a web page’s meta tags that provide concise information about the page’s content. These elements are displayed in search engine results pages (SERPs) and play a crucial role in attracting users to click on a particular search result.
Meta Title (Title Tag): The meta title is an HTML tag that specifies the title of a web page. It is displayed as the clickable headline in search engine results and appears at the top of a web browser’s window or tab when the page is opened. The meta title should accurately summarize the content of the page and contain relevant keywords to improve its visibility in search engine rankings. It is typically limited to around 50-60 characters to ensure it is fully displayed in SERPs.
Meta Description: The meta description is a brief summary or snippet that describes the content of a web page. It appears below the meta title in search engine results, providing additional context to users about the page’s content. The meta description should be compelling, informative, and include relevant keywords to entice users to click on the search result. Its length is typically limited to around 150-160 characters to ensure it is fully displayed in SERPs.
The meta title and description are not shown on your blog post, but can be displayed in the SERPs when people search. The three pillars I tell people to strive for when it comes to meta titles and descriptions are:
- Use your keyword in both, preferably at the start of each one.
- Write something that accurately reflects what’s on the page.
- Make whatever it says click-worthy. This is your one chance to convince the person searching they should click on your link. Make the description appealing enough that they want to click on it!
5. Use your keywords in your subtitles
If your content has subtitles, and you can find one that is suitable for inserting your keyword, do it! But don’t awkwardly insert a keyword into a subtitle if it doesn’t flow.
6. Add your keyword to image ALT text as well as the image filename
Let’s talk images. If you aren’t adding an image to your blog post, you will want to add at least one. And before you do, you should optimize it for your keyword. The first step is to change the filename of your image to your keyword. Why? Nobody can see that, right? Search engines can see it. Having your keyword embedded into code of your page helps Google understand what your page is about.
When your photos come off the camera they may be named something like DSC_0032.jpg. If you buy a stock photo, it’ll be named with the stock photo company. Change that name and put your keyword in with hyphens. So your filename for your image might go from IMG001.jpg to my-cool-keyword.jpg. See what I did there? And if you have two or three images, you can do that for all of them and number them.
Then, when you insert your image, you should use that keyword in the ALT text.
Alt text, short for “alternative text,” is an attribute used in HTML to provide a textual description of an image. It is primarily used for accessibility purposes to assist individuals who may have visual impairments or who are using screen readers to understand the content of an image.
The alt text is added to the HTML code of an image using the “alt” attribute within the
<img> tag. The alt text should convey the purpose or meaning of the image, and it should be descriptive enough to provide a meaningful context for someone who cannot see the image.
Here’s an example of how alt text is implemented in HTML:
<img src="image.jpg" alt="A group of friends enjoying a picnic in the park">
Your alt text needs to describe the image, because that’s what it’s for. But if you are strategic, you can usually find a way to insert the keyword into the description. Don’t just paste in the keyword as the alt text. That’s not useful for people who can’t see the image.
7. Use your keyword in the post slug
In WordPress, a post slug is a part of the permalink structure that represents the URL or web address of an individual post. It is a user-friendly and search engine-friendly version of the post title. For example, the post URL of this post is: https://www.sumydesigns.com/seo-cheatsheet/ so the post slug is “seo-cheatsheet” – basically the part that comes after the domain.
By default, WordPress automatically generates a post slug based on the title of the post. It removes any special characters, converts spaces to dashes, and makes the text lowercase. For example, if the post title is “10 Tips for Effective Blogging,” the default post slug will be “10-tips-for-effective-blogging.”
The post slug is an important component of the URL because it helps search engines and users understand the topic or content of the post. It also contributes to the overall SEO of the website by including relevant keywords in the URL structure.
However, it is possible to edit the post slug manually. If you have a keyword selected, go ahead and change that post slug to use your keyword.
It’s also a good idea to keep that post slug on the shorter side, even if you have a longer post title.
One of the main takeaways that I hope you get from this post is that there isn’t one singular thing that will make your blog post rank, but it’s the combination of many different smaller factors that teach Google what your blog post is about that helps get it ranked. Just doing one or two of these things won’t cut it, it’s the collection of all these together that make the biggest impact.
These seven steps are the basics of what I recommend when it comes time to optimize your blog posts, but I have a few more suggestions to help Google pick up your post faster.
Other things you can do…
Submit your post to Google
Google Search Console’s URL Inspection tool is the fastest way to inform Google that you have new or updated content that the search engine should crawl and index. If you haven’t set up Google Search Console, you need to.
- Sign in to your Google Search Console account: Go to the Google Search Console website (https://search.google.com/search-console) and sign in using your Google account.
- If you haven’t already added your website to Search Console, click on the “Add Property” button and follow the instructions to verify ownership of your website.
- Select the desired property: Once you’re signed in and have added your website, select the appropriate property from the list of websites associated with your Search Console account.
- Access the URL Inspection Tool: In the left-hand sidebar, click on the “URL Inspection” option under the “Index” section. This will take you to the URL Inspection Tool.
- Enter the URL: In the URL Inspection Tool, enter the URL of the page you want to submit to Google for indexing. Make sure to include the entire URL, including the “https://” or “http://” prefix.
- Run the inspection: Click on the “Inspect URL” button to initiate the inspection process. The tool will fetch the URL and provide you with information about its current status.
- Review the inspection results: The tool will display the inspection results, which may include information about whether the URL is indexed, any crawling or indexing errors, and other details.
- Request indexing: If the URL is not indexed or if you’ve made significant changes to the page and want Google to recrawl and update its index, click on the “Request Indexing” button. This will submit the URL to Google for reevaluation and indexing.
- Wait for indexing: After submitting the URL for indexing, you’ll need to wait for Google’s crawlers to process the request. The indexing process can take some time, ranging from a few hours to several days, depending on various factors.
- Monitor indexing status: You can monitor the indexing status of the submitted URL by returning to the URL Inspection Tool. It will display the latest information about the URL, including its indexing status and any associated issues.
It’s important to note that while using the URL Inspection Tool can expedite the indexing process, it does not guarantee immediate or guaranteed indexing.
Find places for internal links
An internal link is a hyperlink that connects one page of a website to another page within the same website domain. In other words, it is a link that points to a different page on the same website. Internal linking helps website visitors navigate between different pages and sections of a website and also plays a crucial role in SEO. One of the best things you can do when you create a new post is look for linking opportunities within your site to link to that post. If you have related posts, or pages that would benefit from linking to your post, please add those links.
However, you can’t just insert the URL. You need to add a link to your blog post in other places in your site, from relevant content, and you need to use your keyword as your anchor text.
Anchor text refers to the clickable text of a hyperlink. It is the visible, highlighted text that users click on to navigate to another webpage or a different section of the same page. Anchor text provides a brief description or context about the linked content, helping both users and search engines understand the destination of the link. Search engines use anchor text as a signal to determine the relevance and context of the linked page. Anchor text provides search engines with clues about the topic and content of the linked page, influencing its ranking in search results.
For the love of all things, please never ever use “click here” as your anchor text.
Share your post on your social channels
If you write a new blog post, be sure you are sharing it on your social channels. This is a great opportunity to drive immediate traffic to your blog post, as well as create engagement, create backlinks, and build your brand. The more eyes your post gets in front of, the more opportunities you have for someone to link to it from their own platforms and website, and backlinks are invaluable.
When you share your post, be sure that you write a short description to go with it, don’t just paste in the link. And use your keyword in that description!
Share it in your email newsletter
If you send out a newsletter, that’s a great opportunity to drive some immediate traffic to your site and get folks to spread the word.
I’m sorry if you clicked on this link hoping to get an efficient and short SEO Cheatsheet of how to optimize a blog post, and instead I provided you with more than 3,500 words to read, but SEO isn’t ever going to be a quick fix. You have to put in the work if you want your website to work for you. Even after doing all this work to optimize one single blog post, it will still take time to start building traffic and increasing your rank. I have one more thing you should do after optimizing your blog post.
Track your rankings
One more note, if you optimize your blog posts, you should probably start keyword tracking so you know if you start to make progress. Here are a few tools you can use to track your website’s ranking for specific keywords.
- Google Search Console (Free): Google Search Console provides valuable insights about your website’s performance in Google search results. It allows you to track the ranking of your website for specific keywords, monitor impressions and clicks, and analyze search traffic data. While it primarily focuses on your website’s performance on Google, it is a powerful tool for tracking keyword rankings.
- SEMrush (Paid): SEMrush is a popular SEO tool that offers a range of features, including keyword tracking. With SEMrush, you can monitor your website’s keyword rankings across different search engines, track competitors, and access historical data. It provides comprehensive analytics and competitive insights to help you optimize your SEO strategy.
- Moz Pro (Paid): Moz Pro is another robust SEO tool that offers keyword tracking features. It allows you to monitor keyword rankings for your website, track your competitors, and perform keyword research. Moz Pro provides valuable insights and recommendations to improve your website’s visibility in search engine results.
- Ahrefs (Paid): Ahrefs is a powerful SEO toolset that includes keyword tracking functionality. It provides accurate and up-to-date keyword ranking data, allowing you to monitor your website’s performance for specific keywords. Ahrefs also offers competitor analysis, backlink analysis, and comprehensive SEO auditing features.
- SERPWatcher (Paid): SERPWatcher is a keyword tracking tool developed by Mangools. It provides an intuitive interface to track keyword rankings for your website. SERPWatcher offers daily updates, search volume data, and historical ranking charts. It also allows you to track multiple locations and devices, making it a versatile tool for monitoring keyword rankings.
Don’t use your own Google searches to evaluate results
Using your own Google searches to track keywords can be problematic for a few reasons. Google personalizes search results based on various factors, including your browsing history, location, and previous search behavior. This means that the search results you see may not be the same as what others see. Tracking keywords using your own searches can lead to biased and inaccurate data since it’s based on personalized results that may not reflect the actual ranking for other users.
Search rankings can vary based on factors like time of day, device used, and location. If you rely on your own searches to track keyword rankings, you may get inconsistent data because search rankings can fluctuate throughout the day. Additionally, using different devices or locations can yield different results, making it difficult to get a clear and reliable picture of your keyword rankings.
To obtain accurate and reliable keyword ranking data, it’s recommended to use dedicated SEO tools or services that can track rankings on a broader scale, provide more comprehensive insights, and eliminate biases associated with personalized search results.
Stick a fork in me, I’m done. If you’ve made it this far, please leave me a comment so I know that my efforts have not been in vain! Go forth and optimize your blog post. I promise, it gets easier the more you do it. 🙂
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