Ultimately, good SEO is all about making your content the best; making it the most relevant and helpful resource for people who are searching for a specific topic. This is what search engine algorithms and bots are trying to do — show people the exact information they are looking for, and while they’re at it, trying to make that information helpful and credible.
Almost every (good) thing you can do for SEO results in making your content better. And in reverse, making your content better will also help your SEO. They are linked.
SEO Checklist for Posts
Brainstorming and Drafting
1 — Come up with a topic
This is the most straightforward: decide what you want to write about. Perhaps you’re answering a often-asked question, discussing something important to you, or creating a tutorial (or literally anything else!). Whatever it is, pick your focus.
2 — Research the keywords/phrases and decide what your focus will be
Essentially, you want to figure out what people are searching for in order to find the information you’re about to write about; the way they ask and the words they are using. Try combinations of different words and phrases until the results are an accurate representation of what you want to discuss, and decide on that word or phrase as your keyword/phrase.
3 — Figure out how you’ll be better than the competition
You’ll have to get over the fact that what you want to write about has probably already been discussed. This is normal. There will likely be pages upon pages of results. Don’t get discouraged — your aim is to be better. Open up the top 5 relevant results and take a look at the content and take notes on how you can do it better:
- Can you provide more in-depth content?
- Can you provide more accurate content?
- Can you explain better?
- Can you use better photography/imagery?
- More (descriptive) headings?
- Better organization?
You’ll use these notes to draft (or update) your outline. You’re setting yourself up for success by knowing what the bar currently is, so you can raise it.
4 — Keep your keyword/phrase in mind as you write
If you’re aiming to be as helpful as you can when writing your articles, your keyword/phrase should come up naturally. When it does, use it. You’ll know if you start using it too much when the article starts to feel spammy or unnatural. The Yoast plugin can help you with this is you’re feeling like your spam-o-meter is off, but usually if you’ve thought about the keyword beforehand, it comes up naturally and you are less likely to stick it anywhere and everywhere.
Formatting and Posting
1 — Descriptive Title
Use a title that accurately describes what you’re writing about. Your keyword should fit in here nicely. Remember, you want your article to feel like exactly the right thing when it shows up in the search results. Don’t be vague.
2 — Slug
Make sure the slug reflects the title (and if you change the title, update the slug). Use dashes between words, and get rid of the small filler words if you can. Your keyword will likely be in here as well.
3 — Headings
Headings are great for readability (and therefore, helpful for SEO). They also help indicate to search engines what your article is about. You want people to be able to locate the exact information they are looking for easily, without having to read your entire article. However, make sure your headings are not too long, you will be penalized for headings that are longer than 8-9 words.
Important: never use the built in Heading 1 style within your posts. There should only ever be one Heading 1 on each page, and it should always be the name of the page or post (if we’ve built your website, we’ve made sure it is). If you use Heading 1 elsewhere, you are providing conflicting information to search engines and to people, and that’s no good.
As well, be sure to think about the hierarchy of your post and use headings appropriately. For example, don’t put a Heading 2 within a Heading 3. If you can, use them in their exact order, something like this:
4 — Images
A checklist within a checklist! There are a few SEO opportunities related to images, so every time you are adding images to your website, check this. For a more detailed version of this information, refer to this post: https://westartwithgood.co/adding-images-website-detailed-checklist/
a: Choose the best file type
(reason: speed, which helps SEO)
- Choose JPG if your image is a photograph, or has many photo elements.
- Choose PNG if your image is text-based or has transparency elements.
(reason: speed, which helps SEO)
Get your file sizes as small as you can; compressing helps you do this without losing quality. Use something like ImageOptim, www.compresspng.com, or www.compressjpeg.com.
(reason: speed, which helps SEO)
Images for the web don’t need to be exponentially larger than the maximum size they are going to be displayed.
(reason: image search results)
The name of your image is used for indexing your image (and people can see the name in many situations). Don’t upload your images with Canon1123.jpg, or Screenshot12-10-2018.png as the names. Use descriptive names, with dashes between words. Change the name before you upload the photo, because it’s not easy to change it afterwards. It’s helpful to include your website name in the filename as well.
e: Add alt text
(reason: accessibility, SEO bonus)
Alt text is the text that appears in place of an image when the image cannot be loaded. It is also the text the a screen reader reads.
It also happens to be good for SEO when your alt text contains important keywords. However, do not just dump your keywords into your alt text. Your alt text should describe what your image is trying to represent; if your keyword works naturally within that, that’s great. If not, don’t worry about it; we don’t want to sacrifice accessibility.
5 — Detail
Have you provided as much detailed information as is relevant to your topic? You want to create an article better than everything that is out there on the same topic — have you?
6 — Links
Have you written about anything relevant to this topic that you can link to from within your article? If you’ve mentioned something, and you can like to a different post you wrote related to that topic, definitely link to it.
Relevant internal links signal to search engines that you are a significant authority on a particular topic because you’ve written about the subject various times. Your website will always benefit if you have multiple articles about a topic and are able to link to one another within your writing.
7 — Meta Description
You get to choose which information appears below the title in search results. It doesn’t have to just be an excerpt from your post. In fact, it’s best if you write a custom meta description so you can control exactly what summary people are seeing in the search results. You can edit the meta description at the bottom of posts, in the Yoast SEO section of the editor. This description will also appear when people link to your post on social media, where this real estate is just as important.
8 — Yoast
Yoast is an SEO tool that helps you identify additional things that can be done on your pages and posts to help with SEO. You add in your focus keyword/phrase and it analyzes your post, giving you suggestions on how to improve.
Two things that can negatively impact your SEO — broken links and 404 pages — are easy to check for and fix with the help of a few plugins and a few minutes each month (if you are finding few problems, you could easily get away with only doing this every quarter).
You don’t want any links you have on your website to be broken. As an extension, it’s also ideal if links you share aren’t having to be redirected to a different page because of some sort of error.
To check for broken links, we like using a plugin called WP Link Status (Demo). You do a scan of your site, and it brings up a list of your links, with their status. It’s a good idea to go through the list, find the errors, and fix the links they related to. You’ll find it in the main WordPress menu.
You don’t want people landing on the 404 page on your site (the one that shows when a URL doesn’t actually exist on your site but someone tries to go it it). This can happen when you change the URL of an article that’s been linked to from somewhere else, or even flat out delete an article that used to exist that may have been linked to from elsewhere. It can also happen if someone shares an incorrect link to your website.
You want to know if this is happening, and if it is, create redirects so those people land on real content on your website, whether it be the article they meant to link to, or something similar (if the article they meant to link to no longer exists).
To do this, we like using the Redirection plugin (found in Tools > Redirection in the main WordPress menu). To see the 404s, click on 404s inside Tools > Redirection. Note that many of these will be from bots who are attempting certain things on your website. Don’t panic — you can ignore them here (and the URLs won’t look familiar to you). What you are looking for are instances that look like a legitimate person was trying to go to a specific page or post on your website, but there is an error with the URL they are using (it’s incorrect, or you moved/deleted a page or post). Pay even closer attention when a certain incorrect URL is used multiple times.
When you identify something, you can create a redirect from the Redirects section so next time someone tries that particular URL, they actually get somewhere.
Page speed is a factor in search results — slow websites do not rank as high. This is the reason we aim for as small of images sizes as we can (large images can drastically slow down page load speed).
Apart from image size (because we covered that already), here as some things that can affect your website speed:
All activated plugins still have to be loaded each time by your browser. Periodically, go through your list of plugins, delete any you for sure don’t need, and deactivate any you aren’t currently using.
Hosting on a quality server can make all the difference. If you’re using a cheaper host, you may find it impacts the speed of your site.
Caching means storing versions of your website somewhere (depending on caching type) so that your website can be loaded more quickly. There are a few types. Browser-level caching stores bits of websites on your hard drive (controlled by the browser and each user’s preferences). Server-level caching can be done by your hosting provider to send along information faster — you can check with them to find out.
If your database (where everything on your website is stored) gets a little messy, it can slow down your website. You can use something like WP Optimize to clean it up, but always do a backup of your website first.
Note: You can read this site speed information in a bit more detail over at https://westartwithgood.co/site-speed-checks/.