There is an important balance to strike when creating any blog post. It needs to be useful, engaging and something that people actually want to read.
However, your blog is also a great tool for getting customers to your website who are at the top of the purchase funnel (the ‘awareness’ phase), as well as for building brand awareness.
But to do all this, you first need to make sure that your blog post appears on search engine results pages (SERPs).
How your blog post can help ranking, link building and traffic
Not only do pages that rank well get lots of visitors but they are also a great link building opportunity.
Anyone researching that specific topic may site your blog post as a resource and therefore give you a backlink, with absolutely no additional effort from your digital PR team.
The importance of SEO
So how do you make sure that your content is written for humans rather than machines – but also ensure that machines read it?
The answer is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
Even if you are a complete SEO newbie, there are some quick and easy things you can do to give your blog post a helping hand before you hit publish:
1. Create an engaging headline
From tabloid newspapers to the 10 o’clock news, headlines have always been a key part of any article or story.
Headlines are the first things that people see before they even get to your blog post, so they need to create a sense of intrigue.
Include your keyword and try to match what your user is searching for, as well as giving a clear indication of what your blog post is about.
Include a number and an actionable tip in them (if relevant) to pique a user’s interest. Just look at the title of this article for example!
Avoid anything over click-baity. And keep it truthful – exaggerated headlines that do not deliver in the content will cause a high bounce rate, which is ultimately counter productive.
2. Add your alt text
Make sure that you add alt text to all of your images.
The purpose of alt text is to describe the appearance or function of an image on a page. Alt text is displayed in place of an image if it cannot be loaded and it helps search engine crawlers to index images.
As well as being important for SEO, alternative text (also known as alt attributes or alt descriptions) is also vital for web accessibility. Screen readers, used by visually impaired users, read out this alt text, which describes the image to the user.
Alt text used to be a place where you could stuff in some keywords but recent thinking is that it should be more descriptive than that. Avoid keyword stuffing and accurately describe what is shown in the image.
3. Optimise the meta data
While meta data is not intrinsically linked to your SEO, a good meta title and description will help to improve your click-through rate.
If you do not create your own, Google will often choose the opening paragraph from your blog post, which might be less than ideal.
Aim to keep your meta description between 50 and 160 characters, include your keyword in there and give the searcher a compelling reason to click through to the full article.
There are several free SEO tools that you can use to help write your meta descriptions including WordPress plug in Yoast, which analyses your content and suggests improvements to help you rank.
4. Check your internal linking
This is one to pop on your list for after you click publish on your blog post. Internal links are useful for spreading link equity throughout your site and therefore new blog posts can benefit from relevant links elsewhere on your site.
Are there any other blog posts you can link to this one too, or do you have a featured section on your site where you could add it?
Not only will this spread link equity but it also may get more eyes on your blog post, since you are signposting to it from more places.
5. Check your heading hierarchy
Headings help Google to “read” and understand your content. So ensuring that you have your heading hierarchy present and correct can really help your ranking.
It will also help users quickly and easily find the content that they are looking for.
A proper heading hierarchy also helps with the structure of your blog posts and may give you a fighting chance of getting into one of Google’s coveted featured snippets.
Your H1 should be your blog post title and nothing else. There should only ever be one H1 on each web page.
You should then use H2s as section headings (think of chapters in a book!) and then H3s for any section that need to be split down within these.
If you need more types of heading, you can use H4s, H5s and H6s but these are usually only needed for longer, more technical content.
6. Optimise your URL
Your blog post URL may be automatically generated by your CMS but this might not always be ideal or well optimised. So be sure to check it before you pop your blog post live.
Keep your URL between 50 and 80 characters in length and ensure that your target keyword or phrase is included.
Shorter URLs tend to have higher click-through rates and are more easily understood by search engine bots.
7. Check the length of your post
Your blog post needs to be long enough to be considered useful content. It used to be thought that anything over 300 words was long enough to not be “thin” content but within the last couple of years, longer form content has started to rank higher.
The ideal length of a blog post in 2021 is hotly contested, with Hubspot data showing that 2,100 – 2,400 words is the average length of their 50 most-read blog posts.
However, they also acknowledge that 16 of those 50 were under 1,500 words.
You should ensure that your blog post is on the substantial side but do not add words just for the sake of it. Anything over 1,000 words is a good number to aim for.
Your content should be useful and completely waffle-free. This, in conjunction with your other SEO checks, should help to give you a great chance of ranking well.
Summary: the 7 best SEO checks before making your blog post live
- Create an engaging headline
- Add in the alt text
- Optimise your meta data
- Consider internal linking
- Check your heading hierarchy
- Optimise your URL
- Check the length of your post