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The Complete SEO Checklist for Bloggers
13 simple steps to optimize your posts for users and search engines

By: Inessa Bokhan
November 29, 2016

Starting a blog is easy, even writing your first post is simple and fun. But what does it take to become a successful blogger with a huge army of readers?

With over 31 million bloggers in the US alone, the competition makes it really hard to stand out from the crowd and attract new readers and subscribers. No matter how good you are at crafting content, there's one thing you just can't abandon — a solid and proven optimization routine.

Today's post is focused on the fundamentals of SEO and online marketing for bloggers. If you're just getting started with a new blog, or even if you're a seasoned writer looking for a quick refresher on SEO best practices, this checklist is for you.

Brainstorm ideas, set goals, and research keywords

First things first — how do you come up with new catchy ideas? If you blog on a regular basis, I bet you've already hit the point when the words just dry up. The good thing is that inspiration may come just as you're doing regular keyword research for your posts. Here are the steps I'd strongly recommend you to follow before you start writing:

1 Determine the goal and the audience of your new post

Do you want to attract a new audience? Do you need to convince your existing subscribers about anything? Or are you planning to share some big news that will hopefully get lots of retweets and likes? Whatever your goals are, get certain about them before you start writing. This way, you'll be able to determine the related metrics (sign-ups, social signals, sales, etc.) and later on measure them.

For instance, your goals may look the following way:

  • Get in the top 10 search results in Google for the "Best Christmas decorations ideas" keyword.
  • Achieve at least 50 sign-ups.
  • Get 1,000 unique page visitors per month.
  • Earn $1,500 on affiliate commissions.
  • Increase your social media following by 10%.

Need even more blogging goals? Take a look at this huge list of 101 blogging goal ideas compiled by Tristan Higbee.

Please do not skip this step — it's vital for your blogging success and it's the only way to learn if you're getting better or worse at writing and promoting.

2 Find 3-5 related key phrases that have similar search intent

There are a great number of keyword research guides on the internet (see our latest guides here and here). Most of them focus on the 3 main steps:

  • Write a seed list of starting terms.
  • Extend this list using keyword research tools.
  • Refine your list using competitive research.

Sounds easy? Well, it's a bit more complicated when you get down to it. Nowadays search engines tend to gravitate more and more to semantic search. Today's web users are searching with a different set of queries. Five years ago, a user could search for "buy used computers in washington," while today's searcher may use voice-activated search assistants and say, "find me local PC stores with biggest discounts".

So how do we find these semantically related groups of key phrases? Rank Tracker can help you with the task.

Say, you're in the mood for writing a post on "how to choose an apartment to buy." In Rank Tracker's Keyword Research module click the Suggest button, pick Google AdWords Keyword Planner (you may choose other sources later to expand the list) and type in your keyword — "how to choose an apartment to buy" in our case.

After Rank Tracker finishes collecting keyword ideas, you'll see them neatly organized in groups:

Just by looking at these groups of phrases, I can already mark out the structure of my future post (or posts if it's going to be a series):

  • Is buying an apartment a good investment?
  • An apartment or a house — which is better?
  • Questions to ask when viewing an apartment.
  • Flat buying checklist.
  • Apartment hunting tips.
  • Things you need for your first apartment.

Not enough ideas? Click again on the Suggest button and pick another option — Google Autocomplete, Related Searches, Competition Research, etc. Select the keywords that are most relevant to your topic and add them to your Keyword Map. Done? Let's move on to the next step.

3 Check your keywords for traffic and competition

You should have an extensive list of keyword ideas by now, but how do you choose the 3-5 phrases for the post? You'll need to take a closer look at keyword metrics and select the queries with the highest potential.

Generally, you should look at:

  • Search volume
  • Competition
  • Keyword difficulty

Keywords with high search volume and low to moderate competition are the best, but sometimes you may see that all keyword ideas have high competition. In this case, you need to dig deeper and discover how difficult it really is to rank for this key phrase.

In Rank Tracker go to Target Keywords — > Keyword Map. Select the words you want to analyze and press Update Keyword Difficulty.

You'll see a keyword difficulty score next to each keyword — the higher the score, the harder it'll be to rank. Below the score, there's a list of the top 10 websites ranking for the query; it showcases a variety of metrics, such as the number of backlinks, on-page optimization score, the number of social media signals, domain age, etc. Take an unbiased look at these stats and choose the keywords you'll be able to rank for.

Create and optimize your post

Now that you know whom you're targeting and which questions you're going to answer, it's time to get creative and write the post.

4 Choose a good topic for your post

If you're still hesitating about the topic of your post, keep in mind that top 3 popular categories of blog posts

a) answer a question,
b) provide a numbered list (checklist),
c) provide a guide or a how-to tutorial.

It might be a good idea to look at your competitors' content and see how you can provide value that's different from what other people have created. For instance, you can share some unique opinions on the topic, or provide new stats you've collected, or present case studies with interesting findings.

If you feel stuck for any topic ideas, here are some more ways to discover them:

  • Analyze the comment section (eligible for your and your competitors' blogs). Spotted the questions that pop up more often? Write them down and think of really good detailed answers to these questions.
  • If you're active on social media websites (and you should be!), ask your followers what they'd like to learn from your next post.
  • Take a look at the related forum discussions — which topics get more comments and answers?

What I'm saying is that you have to identify a need or a problem that many people have, and then work on the profound answers and solutions to it.

5 Plan to add different types of content

Now you should also think about the types of content you'll add to your posts. To make your content more useful, consider adding images, videos, graphs, polls, quotes, infographics, and links. Hard to choose? The Content Marketing survey conducted by Ascend2 compares the most effective types of content with the most difficult to create:

As you can see, case studies may require less effort than white papers, but can prove much more effective.

One more thing, don't be afraid to put links to useful sources — readers won't flee from your website, instead, they'll see your blog as a credible and informative resource they can rely on (and link to!).

6 Make your post scannable

Finally, when you're done with the stream of consciousness, turn off the screen, go for a walk, get a coffee, come back to your post and take another look at what you've created. Does it look simple to read, and more important — is it scannable enough? If you can't scan the post you've written yourself, there's little chance other people will. Here's what you can do to improve this:

  • Break up your content with subheads.
  • Add bulleted lists.
  • Create deep captions for your images and graphs.
  • Highlight the most important parts and call-to-actions.

Surely you may ask yourself "How is this related to SEO?" It is. If visitors coming to read your post bounce immediately, that may negatively count for site's rankings. Many SEOs believe user behavior signals are becoming more and more significant for search engines, and you shouldn't ignore them in your blogging practice.

7 Optimize on-page elements

Let's look again at the list of keywords you've picked for the post. Make sure the most important keyword (the highest search volume with moderate competition) goes exactly matched in page's title, headline, and possibly URL.

After that, you can use two to four secondary key phrases in such elements, as

  • content (pay special attention to the first two paragraphs),
  • meta description,
  • images' alternative texts,
  • subheadings,
  • link anchors.

There's no absolute formula on how many keywords you should use in the post, but be careful not to over-optimize your pages. Otherwise, your blog can be hit by Google's Panda penalty.

So how to estimate the number of keywords to use? The safest way is to analyze the search results and see how the competing blogs are using the terms you target. You can either do it manually, by clicking on each result and searching for the keywords in a browser. Or you can check that quickly in WebSite Auditor.

Under the Page Audit tab (in the Content Analysis module), you will see the average keyword usage stats of your top ranking competitors and where your website lags behind or, on the contrary, goes overboard with keyword usage.

By switching to the Content Editor tab, you can add or remove extra keywords and see the stats recalculated for you as you type.

After you finish optimizing the page, you can save it by clicking Save page and then upload to your server.

8 Proofread the post

Well, this one's obvious. Nobody will take you seriously if you often mix up "weather" and "whether," or "affect" and "effect." If you can't be careful with your words and grammar, why should anyone trust you?

When proofreading your post, make sure you check the 3 main aspects:

  • spelling,
  • grammar,
  • consistency.

You can also use such tools as Hemingway App and Grammarly, or hire a freelance proofreader to get this task done faster.

9 Make sure the post is mobile-friendly

You already know how Google's obsessed with all that mobile-friendliness thing? And there's a good reason for that — with over 60% of all traffic now being mobile, Google decided to create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of content, even for listings that are shown to desktop users.

So, if you've ignored the mobile-friendly craziness all this time, it's possible your blog already looks good on smartphones, or you just don't care if your rankings suffer!

If you want to learn more about the mobile-friendly optimization, look through this checklist — it'll help you pick the suitable solution for your blog.

Plan outreach and link building

Ironically, the most complicated steps follow right after you hit "publish". It's time for the world to learn about your masterpiece and share it across the social media networks. As you may guess, it won't happen automatically, so let's see how you can ensure your post gets the desired attention and backlinks.

10 Make it easy to share your post

Obviously, you should place the social media icons on your page and don't be shy — ask your readers to share the post and express their opinion in the comments. An interesting question here is where exactly you should place social sharing buttons on your page?

The social sharing tool AddThis provides some insight on this question. They recommend to:

  • Pick a prominent position.
  • Keep your button near the top of the page.
  • Place the button in close proximity to the content being shared.
  • Watch out for navigation.
  • Avoid putting sharing in the footer.
  • Avoid putting sharing below the fold.

Also, keep in mind that "near-zero" sharing buttons can provide negative social proof. Taloon.com, a Finland-based e-commerce company, conducted an A/B test and discovered that social media buttons were hurting their conversion rates. Since there were very few likes and retweets displayed right on their product pages, people were afraid to purchase the goods.

So if you're afraid your numbers will look too low, consider adding the buttons without a counter:

11 Share your post on social media and bookmarking sites

Use the power of Twitter, Facebook, G+, and Pinterest to let the world know your new post's out. Create multiple titles and descriptions for your social media posts, so you'll be able to share them regularly across a variety of networks.

In addition to the popular social media networks, you may also submit your post to the social bookmarking sites and online communities:

If you want to find other niche-specific sites, launch LinkAssistant, create a new project and click on the Look for prospects button. Select the type of link prospects you're looking for (Forums, Directories, etc.) and hit Next.

Now type in the keywords related to your topic and let the tool collect the data from the Internet. That's it!

12 Place links from older posts

If you have relevant posts that you've already published, why not put some links (and even redirects) there pointing to the new content? That's a win-win case — people reading older posts will be able to discover this new piece, while the search engines will index and rank the new post faster.

13 Reach out to influencers

First of all, if you've mentioned a person or a company in the new post, let them know about it. You can do that the following way:

  • Send an email if you've already communicated with this influencer. Just give a heads up, don't be pushy about sharing your post.
  • @Mention them in a tweet.
  • Mention them in a Google+ post.

The chances are quite high that the mentioned person will share your post:

The second option is to get in touch with influencers who already know you and share your content. You'll need to use a social media monitoring tool, such as Awario, to see who's talking about you and your blog. Create a new alert for your blog's URL or name and let the tool collect the mentions from the whole web:

Mark out the social media accounts with the highest reach and get in touch with their owners. Once again, there's no need to plead to share your post — instead, you should outline why this post can be useful to the person's followers and subscribers.

Summary

Now, do not expect to get instant results after you follow the above steps — most probably, you'll need to repeat the routine for dozens of posts to see what's exactly working for you. It may happen that you'll need about 30 minutes for keyword research and on-page optimization, and a day or two to promote the post on social media sites and communities.

The important thing is to experiment and analyze. And then one day, you'll just see that most of your posts keep getting new traffic, backlinks, and higher rankings.

Hope you'll enjoy using this checklist! And how do you usually nail the optimization process for your blog? I'll be happy to see your questions and tips in the comments below!

By: Inessa Bokhan

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