SEO Best Practices for Blog Posts and Articles

Have you ever wondered how Google ranks blog posts, or if there is an SEO blog post checklist and best practice guide to help you create great content your users would engage with and Google would rank on their fist page?

It’s no secret that creating great content for your blog is key to driving additional traffic, increasing leads, and growing sales – not mention companies that blog have 97% more inbound links that increase rankings within Google. But how do you create great blog posts?

What most people don’t realize is that just having a blog is not a secret to ranking in Google. As we spoke about in our article, The Hard Truth About Using Blogs for SEO, a blog in itself is nothing more than a platform for publishing content – the secret is creating great content that your users and search engines will love.

There are many SEO blog post checklists and best practices for creating the ultimate piece of content, but many of those focus on so many tactics that it can be overwhelming.  We wanted to create a blog post guide that boils all that noise down to a few key areas to focus on when creating your next blog post.

Checklist for Blog Post Goals and Amplification

Any great blog post starts with defining goals and a strategy to amplify the content to achieve these goals. According to a study by CMI, simply having a strategy and goals in place can increase your effectiveness by 10%.

  • Did you set a goal for your piece of content?
  • Did you do keyword research for your blog post?
  • Do you know your key competition for the topic?
  • Did you define a strategy for measuring your progress towards that goal?
  • Did you identify at least five relevant Twitter followers, Facebook Fans, or businesses that would enjoy your post?

Checklist for Blog Post Images

The power of using images in your blog posts goes well beyond just making it look great. Simply Measured found that there was a 46 percent increase in content engagement for brands who used images. Not to mention, content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

For those that want to use images in their blog posts, here are a few checklist items for blog post images.

  • Are your blog images high-resolution photos?
  • Do your photos look great on desktop and mobile screens?
  • Are you using professional photos and not cheesy stock photos?
  • Do you include a header image that represents the primary topic of the blog post?
  • Did you include contextually relevant images throughout your post to give it some depth?
  • Do all your images have ALT text defined?
  • Have you cited or given credit for any images that were not yours?

Checklist for Blog Post Structure

Having a consistent and defined structure for your blog posts is not just about SEO anymore. Believe it or not, people probably won’t read every word of your blog post – they scan it to find the relevant part that will help meet their intent. In one study, Nielsen found that concise, scannable and objective copywriting resulted in 124% better usability.

In most cases, people usually skim blog posts looking for highlighted keywords, meaningful headings, short paragraphs and scannable list. Since they’re in a hurry to find the very piece of information they’re looking for, they’ll skip what’s irrelevant for them.

Below are a few checklist items and question to help you determine if your blog post is structured for scanning and SEO.

  • Do you have a single H1 tag – usually the title of the post?
  • Do you have at least 3 H2 tags – these are sub-topis of your primary topic?
  • Is your blog post scannable for sub-topics your reader might be interested in?
  • Are your lists formatted properly?
  • Are your paragraphs short and concise – 3-5 sentences each?

Checklist for Keywords

There are tons of keyword research guides to help you learn how to do keyword research. Below you will find questions for the keyword portion of our blog post checklist.

  • Do you have one primary topic defined?
  • Do you have at least three sub-topics defined for the blog post?
  • Have you done keyword research for your blog post to find relevant/tangential topics that can add depth to your content?
  • Have you analyzed the competing content to determine if there are additional topics to cover?
  • Have you included your primary keyword in your Title Tag, H1 tag, description tag, in your opening paragraph, and where it makes sense throughout your post?
  • Have you included your sub-topics within your H2 Tags?
  • Have you included at least five mid or long-tail keywords in your content where contextually relevant?

Checklist for Blog URLs

URLs can make or break some content, so there are a few rules that should be followed when creating URLs for your blog posts. Before you hit the publish button, run your URL through this quick checklist to make sure you are creating a URL that is friendly for users and optimized for the search engines and social media sharing.

  • Is your blog post URL short and concise?
  • Have stop words been removed from the URL?
  • Does your URL include your target keywords?
  • Are special characters removed from your URL?

Checklist for Outbound Links

There are many contradictory theories about adding outbound links to other people’s content from within your blog post. The big question at the center is, “Does linking out help SEO?” or “Can linking to other websites hurt SEO?”. Personally, we don’t think there is any doubt that linking out to trusted/highly authoritative websites can have positive effects on your SEO –  maybe not directly, but certainly indirectly.

Linking to other trusted sources can be beneficial for your users; because it positions you as an authority on the topic. It can also be beneficial for amplifying your content; because it gives you a reason to mention the site or person you’ve linked to when you share your blog post.

Still don’t believe us, here is a post from Rand Fishkin at Moz, that even though it’s a few years old, stands the test of time

With that said, below are some checklist items to use when you evaluate your outbound links.

  • Did you link to at least five external trusted sources that were contextually relevant to your article?
  • Did you find the social accounts for these external sources so you can tag, tweet, or mention them when you share your content?
  • Did you use descriptive anchor text for the link to help your users understand the primary topic of the page they will be taken to?

Checklist for Internal Links

Internal links are links that go from one page on a website to a different page on the same website. Internal links have a ton of value and benefits for SEO and users. They offer a contextually relevant path for users to explore your content, can give a little boost in SEO rankings for your content, and help establish an information hierarchy for your website.

One thing to remember is that you don’t want to go crazy with your internal linking – more is not always better. With that said, below are a few questions in our blog post checklist to determine if you’re doing internal linking correctly.

  • Did you link to other articles on your website that expanded on topics within your post?
  • Did you link to other services or products that are contextually relevant to your blog post?
  • Are your internal links within the main content area of your post?
  • Are your internal links crawlable by the search engines?
  • Do your internal links include descriptive anchor text to let users know what topic they will find when clicking the link?

Content Types Checklist For Blog Posts

Having a diverse set of content types within your blog posts can drastically effect it’s engagement rate and inbound links for SEO.

  • Did you include at least one list in your blog post?
  • Have you included and cited relevant data from trusted sources within your industry?
  • Does your blog post include images other than a hero image?
  • Does your blog post include a video from a credible source within your industry?