Updated: Jul 13, 2020
About to publish a new blog post on your website? Read this first! Learn how to search engine optimise (SEO) your blog post in 9 easy steps.
This article explains the key things you need to do to make sure your blog can get found by search engines, and provides a printable PDF SEO Blog Checklist so you can optimise every blog for search without fail.
If you're writing blogs for your website you're one of the digitally savvy business owners who know the benefits of blogging for small businesses – so congrats!
However, if your blog posts aren't optimised for search engines, it’s unlikely that people will be able to find them in search results. Meaning you’re missing out on visibility, and potential customers.
But never fear! I’m going to show you the easiest and most effective way to SEO your blog posts. I have blogged for many businesses over the years across a range of industries – from rest homes, to pubs, and even adult toy retailers…sounds like an interesting night out, right!?
That means I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to blog SEO (having earned quite a few top positions in Google myself), and I’ve developed a fail-proof checklist that I work from—which I’m sharing with you.
Ready to get started?
The Blog Post SEO Checklist For Bloggers:
Now that you can see the 9 key SEO elements to check off your list when optimising a blog post for search engines, lets cover these in more depth, including what you need to do and how you do it.
How to Optimise a Blog Post for SEO
Step 1: Choose your target keyword
First up, in order to optimise your blog post for SEO you need to decide on what keyword or phrase you want to target.
This is the keyword/phrase that a person would likely type into Google in order to find your blog post. The misconception about keywords in SEO is that they’re rigid and just a word or two long, but usually blogs target long-tail keywords, which are at least three words long.
Search engines can understand keyword association now and are much better at understanding the content of a page – meaning you have flexibility with your target keyword choice, and gone are the days that you choose one specific keyword and stuff it into your blog post unnaturally to trick search engines into thinking your content is relevant. (That’s a sure way to get penalised).
For example: after conducting quick keyword research for 'blog post SEO', relevant keywords I chose to target included:
How to optimise a blog post for SEO
How to search engine optimise a blog post
How to make your blog SEO friendly
How to SEO a blog post
Blog post SEO checklist
Blog SEO checklist
And variations of these.
I chose these keywords to target in my blog post because they’re all relevant, and interrelated.
Yes – your blog can target multiple keywords!
In fact, one blog post can rank for hundreds, even thousands of related keywords. Search engines are moving away from keywords specifically, and more towards topics.
However, the keyword/s you target all need to be relevant and interrelated, and it’s best to choose one strong keyword to focus on in your titles, and use the rest throughout your blog to provide more context.
To do quick keyword research on a blog topic I have chosen, I entered the blog topic into Google to see what came up. This gave me an idea of what kind of content is ranking on the first page of Google, which helps me to understand what I need to include in my own blog, and how I can add even more value than the blogs on the first page of Google about the same topic.
I also used the free Google Ads Keyword Planner tool to find related keywords and their average monthly search volumes, so I could find other related keyword variations for my topic to include in my article.
For a step-by-step guide to keyword research, read: How to do Keyword Research for free.
Just so we’re clear: you can’t choose any old irrelevant keyword and hope that you can make your blog post rank for it. Choosing a loosely relevant keyword because it gets thousands of monthly searches isn’t a great strategy.
Your chosen keyword needs to be 100% relevant and descriptive of the content of your blog.
Therefore, if you’ve written a blog without a keyword in mind, it an be extremely difficult to choose the right keyword after the fact. Unless you've written about something very specific, like, 'where to find the best pizza in Rome', or 'how to tie your shoelaces without thumbs'.
Your keyword research and selection should take place before you’ve written a single word.
Pro Tip: Choose your keyword at the same time you choose your topic for the blog post.
Because the keyword is actually the topic!
Once you know your topic/keyword, you can write a blog post that is truly reflective of that topic and keyword, and will be more likely to rank for it.
Otherwise, you don’t stand a chance. (A bit of tough love here, but I’m just being honest based on what I've learned in my many years of SEO).
While you can SEO a blog post you’ve already written, it’s not the ideal way of going about it, and the results won’t be anywhere near as good as if you wrote the entire blog post with your keyword/topic in mind.
You’ll be in a much better position if you use keyword research to guide your blog topics.
There are two great reasons for this:
It helps you to come up with a huge amount of topic ideas.
They’re ideas based on what people are actually searching for.
That means you’re writing about topics people have expressed a genuine interest in reading, and can strategically avoid the topics that no one cares about – saving you loads of time.
Now that’s what I call win-win.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing blogs about what you personally want to write about. But don’t expect them to be found organically in search engines.
This type of content is best served to your social media followers and current customers, while the SEO-focused content is designed for people who may not already know you and your brand.
Your business blog should be a good mix of both.
So, now that you’re armed with your perfect keyword/topic, and you’ve written a beautiful blog post about it, it’s time to optimise it for search engines.
Here’s what you need to do next.
Step 2: Add Your Title (H1 heading tag)
First thing’s first – your blog needs a great title.
The title should accurately describe what your blog post is about, while sparking interest and curiosity for the reader.
This title is also the H1 tag, and should be the only H1 on the page.
What’s an H1?
H1 is a heading tag that is used by search engine bots to understand the content of a web page. Each page and post should only have one H1 heading, which is the title of the page, and tells search engine bots that the title is important to the meaning/content of the page.
Therefore, it’s important that the H1 heading tag should contain your targeted keyword (in a natural way – please don't force it. If you have to force it, you’ve chosen the wrong keyword).
How do you add a H1 Title?
Your website’s content management system (like Wordpress, Squarespace, Wix, etc) that you use to upload your blog should automatically turn the title into a H1 tag, so you shouldn’t need to change the heading style manually.
The key thing to note here is that you shouldn't add any more H1 headings on the page.
Step 3: Add search-friendly subheadings <H2 & H3 Tags>
Every blog post should contain subheadings throughout to help guide the reader and cater to the generation of excessive skim readers (guilty as charged…).
However, while subheadings are extremely useful for readers, they’re also used by search engines to better understand the content and relevance of a web page.
The Heading 2 tag (H2) is a subheading tag that should be used for other key headings on your blog post. It should contain relevant variations of your target keyword, and be used sparingly, yet logically, to guide the reader (and search engine bots) in the content and highlight the key points you wish to make.
Heading 3 tags (H3) are also important subheadings to use throughout your content, and these should be used within sections that are headed by a H2 heading when it makes sense to have sub-subheadings (subheading inception!). A H3 heading is a subheading of your H2 heading.
Still with me?
If you'd like an example of H2 and H3 heading tags being used in action, this blog post uses 'How to SEO a blog post' as an H2, and each key step heading as H3s.
To add H2 and H3 headings, highlight the text you wish to turn into a subheading, and the text setting box that pops-up should give you options for 'H' tags or 'T' tags (headings or titles), just like it gives you options to bold and underline text.
Select the tag you wish to use, and your text should turn into a title tag automatically.
Find out more: How to use headings tags for SEO
Step 4: Add a Meta Title
The meta title is the title or heading of your blog post which is displayed in search engine results. This usually is the same as your blog’s main heading/title, but you can change it slightly if it makes sense to.
The meta title should contain the keyword/phrase you want your blog post to be found for. It should tell search engines and people exactly what your blog post is about, and be both accurate and compelling.
It’s important to note that the meta title shouldn’t exceed 60 characters in length (including spaces) or any characters after the 60th will be chopped off.
Many businesses also add their brand name to the end of the meta title.
Here are some examples of SEO Meta Titles for blog posts (blue text):
To add your meta title, you need to find the SEO settings for your blog post. This is in your content management system that you use to upload your blog post to your website.
Step 5: Add a Meta Description
The meta description is added in the same area of your content management system where you added your meta title. It is the short description displayed directly underneath the meta title in search engine results.
This description should include a variation of your main targeted keyword and be a compelling, yet accurate, summary of what your blog post is about.
The meta description can be 150-160 characters maximum (one sentence only). This includes spaces, so keep it super short, concise, descriptive and make the viewer want to click through. It’s a great challenge for your copywriting skills, but practice makes perfect! Here are some examples of meta descriptions (black text):
Keep in mind that Google may not choose to display your written meta description in search results for relevant queries, and instead may show its own pulled extract, but it’s still good practice to provide your own meta description.
To find out more about meta data, read: How to write Meta Titles and Descriptions.
Step 6: Optimise the URL
Staying in the same area where you add the meta title and meta description, you should also be able to change the URL path (this is called the Slug if you’re using Yoast SEO for Wordpress).
The URL should include a shortened version of your blog title, and have the keyword/phrase you want the blog to be found for in search engines.
Shorten the URL without losing context to what the page is about. As a rule of thumb, I wouldn’t recommend including more than six words in the URL.
Also make sure you use hyphens (-) to separate words. No capitals or special characters should be used.
Pro Tip: Don't include numbers in your URL, such as years or the number of steps if you’re doing a how-to post. This is to prevent your post from going out of date – as you may want to update it later and don’t want to be stuck with numbers in the URL.
Changing the URL later isn’t ideal either, as it creates a 301 redirect, which negatively affects SEO.
Here are some examples of good SEO-friendly URLs:
See how the keyword/blog title is clear of the content of the page? That's the goal!
Step 7: Add relevant internal & external links
Links are a powerful way to link-up relevant posts and pages on your website, and also are used as a trust signal for search engines if you link to external websites to cite relevant pages and resources.
Include relevant links in your blog post where it makes sense to. This can include external citations (such as to research to back up what you’ve talked about in your post), and internal links to other blogs and pages on your website that are relevant to the blog content and provide value for the reader.
Link to external content when it's helpful, or supports a stat or claim you're making, and make sure you choose for the link to open in a new window so you don't lose your user. You can also make the link ‘no-follow’ so search engines know to ignore/not to follow it.
It’s important to link to other helpful blog posts and pages on your site. This will help to keep the reader on your site, and shows search engines that you have a cluster of relevant content on your website, which helps with SEO.
Make sure the anchor text of the link (the linked words they click on) are truly descriptive of where the link goes. Don’t use ‘click here’. Instead, write something useful and descriptive.
“If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, be sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide to SEO for Business Owners, which covers all things to do with search engine optimisation in more depth.”
See? Relevant, contextual, and helpful. This is also important for SEO and context surrounding a link helps search engines to better understand what that link is for/about.
Step 8: Optimise images for search (Alt text)
Did you know that search engines can’t actually see images? They read them.
Therefore, the only way a search engine can understand what your image is of is through what you named it, and the alt text you’ve used.
What is Alt Text?
Alt text (alternative text) is a short description that can be inserted to the image’s settings/attributes field in order to tell search engines what the image is of. This text will also show to web users if the image doesn’t load correctly.
Therefore, it’s very important that you describe your image concisely, and use your target keyword or a variation of that keyword in the name and alt text of your images throughout your blog post, as this is yet another relevance signal to search engines and helps them to better understand what your blog post is about.
To add alt text, upload your image, insert it into the body of the blog post, then go into the settings and attributes for that particular image. There should be an ‘alt text’ field where you can add a short image description.
For example, this is where you add alt text in Wix:
Pro Tip: before uploading your images make sure you re-size them for the web first as large file sizes will slow down your website.
For a step-by-step guide with instructional video, visit: How to re-size images for the web.
Step 9: Add a Call To Action (CTA)
While a call to action (CTA) isn’t directly related to SEO, your blog should always have at least one relevant CTA for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you should always provide a relevant onward journey for your reader. Whether that’s to read another relevant blog post you’ve written, to sign up to your mailing list, to follow you on Instagram, or to download an eBook. If you’ve written about a product, tell them where they can buy it.
This isn’t about ‘selling’ – it’s about giving the reader a logical next step and keeping them on their journey with your brand. If they loved your blog post and read it to the end, they’re engaged and are likely to want to read more! Do them a service and make it easy for them.
Secondly, search engines measure how long people spend on your website, and how many other pages they visit on your website during that session. The longer they spend reading your blog post and on your site, the better it is for SEO.
Congrats – you now know how to successfully SEO a blog post!
Just to recap what we’ve covered in this blog…
How-to SEO a blog post:
Choose your target keyword
Add Your Title (H1 heading tag)
Add search-friendly subheadings <H2 & H3 Tags>
Add a Meta Title
Add the Meta Description
Optimise the URL
Add relevant internal & external links
Optimise images for search (Alt text)
Add a Call To Action (CTA)
You’re well on your way to obtaining SEO wizardry status. To get to the next level, make sure you read my blog about what seo is and how it works if you haven’t already, as this covers every aspect of SEO and explains how they all fit together.
Have a question about optimising a blog post for search engines?
Get in touch with me via my contact page and I’ll be happy to help.
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Need help with SEO and blogging for your business?
I (Janelle from ContentQueen) am a SEO consultant and certified content marketer with more than seven years’ experience in the field. I specialise in helping websites to get found in search engines through creating high-quality content that tells a brand’s story, is engaging, provides value for the reader, and simultaneously earns its top place in search engine results.
I work remotely from Wellington New Zealand and have worked with incredible business owners in New Zealand, the UK, USA, Europe and even Africa!
Let’s work together to create strategic content for your business that turns readers into loyal fans, driving more leads and sales (without having to pay for expensive online ads).
Thanks for reading – I hope you visit again soon!