Ultimate Guide: SEO for Blogging in 2021 [Checklist]

by | Dec 29, 2020

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SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a crucial ingredient for any blog to succeed online.  Optimizing your blog pages for the search engines will ensure you’re getting the most visibility possible when someone types in a phrase relating to your post.  In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about SEO for blogging and how to optimize your blog content for the search engines.

What is SEO for Blogging?

SEO for blogging is the practice of optimizing your content, site architecture, and site speed for search engines.  There are many different components to SEO and for beginners, it may be a little overwhelming.  There are 3 basic pillars to SEO:  On-Page, Off-Page, and Technical.  

On-Page:  On-page SEO is exactly how it sounds, anything you can optimize “on-page” such as titles, headers, and content would fall into the on-page bucket. 

Off-Page:  External factors can have a lot of relevancy to how well your rank in the search engines.   The more websites that link to your website the better your SEO will.  Furthermore, backlinking and social engagement with your content will help provide “SEO juice” to your content.  

Technical: Technical SEO is comprised of many different components.  Essentially anything that has to do with the performance of the page would be considered technical SEO.  Things like site speed, security, crawlability would all fall under the technical SEO bucket.  

Why is SEO Important for a Blog?

When it comes to blogging, diversifying your traffic sources will help lessen your risk when it comes to maintaining as much traffic to your blog as possible.  When you rank well in the search engines you’re essentially getting “free” traffic.   It’s in every blogger’s best interest to pay close attention to how Google is ranking them.  Especially since social media traffic can be unpredictable at times. 

A Few Quick Notes About Ranking Well in the Search Engines 

The Google algorithm changes by the day it seems.  You’re likely to experience fluctuations in traffic and rankings as Google comes out with new algorithm changes.   That’s why it’s vitally important to write content with the reader in mind! The less you try to “manipulate” Google and the more focus you put into writing relevant helpful content, the better off you’ll be in the long run.   

SEO Blogging Checklist

1. Finding the Right Keywords

Keywords are the foundation for SEO success.  Every ranking on Google is derived from a keyword that someone types into Google.  Equally important is the process you take to find keywords that give you a realistic shot at ranking in Google.

Years ago people would stuff as many keywords into their content in an attempt to get exposure from those keywords.  Things are much different these days.

A good rule of thumb (especially if you’re just starting) is to find one or two long-tail keywords that you can focus on with your content.

For example:  “How to Blog” is extremely broad and impossible to rank for if you’re just starting out.  Instead, find a keyword like “How to Start a Profitable WordPress Blog with 0 money,” gives you a much higher chance at ranking and driving traffic.

Tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Ubersuggest easily allow you to lookup keyword data.  Be sure the keywords you’re going after are relevant and have little competition.

SEO Keyword Research Tools for Blogging

2. Perform SERP Research 

As great as keyword tools are, don’t overlook the power of actual SERP research.  SERP stands for Search Engine Results Pages and is commonly overlooked when people invest too much into keyword research tools.  

When you do your SERP research there’s a couple things you should look out for.  At this point you should have 1-2 long-tailed keywords that you want to target.  Type those keywords into Google and see what shows up.  

Is the content that shows up 100% relevant to the query?  If not, there’s an opportunity for an easy ranking.  Be sure to look at the websites that are showing up also.  If there’s a big popular website at the top of the search it will be very difficult to outrank them.   Also, take a look at how many words are on each post.   If you create a piece of content that goes into more detail with more words you’re chances of ranking increase significantly.  This is called the “skyscraper” technique originally thought of by Brian Dean with Backlinko. 

3. Best Practices: Write to the User Intent

This may seem very obvious but it’s very commonly overlooked.  If the article to your blog post is “How to Start a WordPress blog with no Money.”  You shouldn’t create a post that explains how to set up a Wix Blog for only $100.  This creates a bad user experience and it makes you look bad.   Make sure you understand the intent of what the reader is searching for and create a piece of content that fills that intent.  

4. Best Practice: Post Architecture 

The image below illustrates perfectly the proper way to structure your blog post.  People have become accustomed to how content is presented to them.  Even something simple like putting your sidebar on the left instead of the right can feel “off” with some readers.   

Aside from the layout, there’s also heavy importance placed on how you allow the reader to flow through your blog content.   There are a few important pieces of information here.   Be sure you’re headline entices someone to click your listing (more on that later on).  You’ll also want to have your first paragraph to answer whatever question you’re answering.  Don’t make your readers scroll halfway down on the page in order to get their answer.  Provide them their answer right away and elaborate through the rest of the content. 

Lastly, images and call-to-actions need to be present throughout your post.  Images help user experience and make it easy on the eyeballs.  Have you ever stumbled across a blog post with nothing but words?  Not a great experience.  It’s also important to give people a reason to subscribe or get in touch with you.   As your blog becomes more popular it’s important to capture contact info from your readers so you can offer them more valuable content in the future. 

Blog Post Structure for SEO

5. Write Captivating Keyword-Rich Headlines

There’s a delicate balance between making your headlines enticing enough to click on while at the same time optimizing them for SEO sake.  This truly is an art and make take some time to really nail down.   Something I like to do is put myself in the shoes of something who would be searching for the keyword you’re writing about.  What type of headline would entice them to click through?

For example, what headline would you rather click on if you were researching “how to start a blog?”

How to Start a Blog

Or…

Complete Guide: Step-by-Step How to Start a Profitable Blog in 2020.  

On some level, there’s a bit of common sense involved here.  Really the point is that you shouldn’t focus too much on perfectly optimizing your headline for SEO sake.  You should write your headlines so that they encapsulate everything your post is about and make it enticing enough to click on. 

6. Add Relevant Keyword Rich Sub-Headings 

2nd in terms of content hierarchy on your page only behind your title is your sub-headings.  When you section out your content, make sure your headings include a healthy amount of keywords.   Don’t over stuff your sub-headers but you should frequently sprinkle in keywords.   

Again, focus on the user and the type of headings they would find most useful.  Are you noticing a common theme here?  It all comes back to the user and their experience while reading your content.  Often times people don’t even read the text, they just scan the headers.  So make the most out of them and give people a reason to read the content that follows.  

7. USE LSI Keywords 

Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI for short is a computer program used by search engines to learn synonyms of words based on their context.   For SEO purposes LSI keywords are search terms that are closely related to the main topic.  

For example, if you create a piece of content titled “Blogging Tools” you could also expect to rank for: 

  • Best Blogging Tools
  • Top Blogging Tools
  • Blogging Tools 2021
  • Tools for Blogging

Even if you don’t have any of these exact keywords in your content, you could still rank for them.  This is because of latent semantic indexing.   We can help our cause by sprinkling different variations of the same keyword throughout our content and support the LSI algorithm.  Adding LSI variations can help with reinforcing relevance within your topic, increase the number of related keywords, and ultimately boost your blog’s ranking.  

LSI for Blog SEO

8. Best Practice: Meta Descriptions

The meta description is 50-160 characters of text that show up in each of your organic listings.  Its purpose serves as a preview of what the reader could expect to read if they click into your post.  So in a way advertising your content through your meta description.   Your meta description should be enticing and create interest and curiosity.  Keep the reader wanting to read more, this will help with your click-through rates.  Your targeted keyword should have different syntax variations throughout your meta description. 

Meta Description Moonlight Jo

9. Optimize for Featured Snippets

Earning featured snippets spots in Google will DRAMATICALLY increase your traffic.  Optimizing for featured snippet spots is a good idea.  Featured snippets aim to answer common questions people ask without the need for them to click on a webpage.  The first result you see when you type in “how tall is Mount Everest?”  is a featured snippet.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic ingredient to earn a featured snippet spot.  Google puts web pages that they believe are the most relevant in those positions.  However, there are a few things to keep in mind when you write your content to better your chances of earning a featured snippet spot.

 

  • Answer the main question of your article concisely.
  • Ask the question in your article heading
  • Elaborate in-depth about the answer in the rest of your article.
  • Highlight or bold the answer to the question (only if the answer is quick and easy)
  • Answer the question within the first few paragraphs of the post.

10. Ensure Mobile Friendly and Responsiveness

People will often overlook how their content looks on a mobile device.  Since Google moved to mobile-first indexing, having your content aesthetically appealing and responsive is extremely important.  Many of the best themes available on the market have a built-in responsive design.  The cost is worth it as you won’t have to deal with the headaches of fixing your content for mobile devices in the future.  

For mobile-friendliness, there are a lot of free tools available to ensure compatibility.  A popular one is Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Checker.  I highly recommend this tool, especially considering Google is the search engine we’re trying to appeal to. 

Mobile Friend Checker for SEO

11. Image Alt Tags

Images can have a big impact on how readers engage with your content.  Text heavy posts feel like you’re reading a college essay. Sprinkle helpful images throughout and don’t forget to add Image Alt Tags with each image.   This is a line of text that Google bot reads to understand what the image is about.  Additionally, this also helps readers who may have visual impairments and cannot see the image but can see the text explaining the image. 

12. Image Optimization 

If you thought adding Image Alt Tags was all you had to do for your images, think again.   As helpful as images can be for readers, they can also be destructive for SEO.  Multiple large images with high resolution that fill up web pages can put a stretching halt to your page load speed.  That’s why it’s important to understand the important aspects of how to optimize your images for SEO.

1. Resize and Compress your Images

Without getting too technical, it’s important to know that resizing and compressing your images is not perfect size.  You have to strike a delicate balance between file size and resolution.  Plugins like WP Smush and Yoast SEO can help automate resizing and compressing your images.

2. File Type

The most common image files you’ll see on the web are .jpg, .png, and .gif.  I recommend .jpg for large images with lots of colors and .png for simple or images with transparent backgrounds i.e. logo.

3. Image Title and File Name

Often times the Image title is automatically generated from the file name.  Be sure to name your image a relevant SEO friendly name and get the most SEO juice out of each image.

13. Best Practice: URL Structure

The URL or Uniform Resource Locator is what’s used to identify the specific page of a website.  The URL for our post on how to start a blog looks like…

www.moonlightjo.com/start-a-blog

Red X    www.moonlightjo.com/a%rlq38&9vw-8%v

The way you structure your URLs for each page on your website can have SEO implications.  The key to proper URL structure is simplicity, relevance, and accuracy.   URLs full of arbitrary numbers and letters create a bad user experience.  It’s also important for linking purposes.  A proper URL structure can serve as anchor text when you comment on other blogs or within online forums.

14. Site Speed Optimization 

You could be missing out on a serious amount of traffic if your website isn’t fast.  People aren’t willing to wait for a site to load.  With so much information on the web, it’s hard to blame them.  Nonetheless, we need to make sure we have fast load times to maximize our opportunity of showing up high in the SERPs.

To check for site speed there’s a lot of free tools out there such as GT Metrix and Google’s Page Speed Insights.  These tools will give you an idea of what you need to work on.  For novice SEO’s site speed can be difficult to fix.  Consider outsourcing some of the technical work to a developer or experience SEO if you find an issue too difficult to fix yourself. 

 

Google Page Speed Insights

15. Add Relevant Internal Links

An internal link is a link that goes from one page on your website to another page of your website.  Internal links are helpful to both users and bots.   Furthermore, links are helpful for establishing architecture throughout the website and spread ranking power to other pages.  Failing to add internal links to a blog post will make it harder for Google to crawl it with their bost which in turn will hurt rankings.  

16. Provide Helpful External Links 

Unlike Internal links, external links are a link that goes from your website to a different website.  There are many reasons you’ll want to include external links.  One reason is to give yourself the opportunity to earn a backlink.   When a website notices you’re linking to them they may be inclined to link to you, which would help boost your SEO.   

Another reason to add external links is to be more helpful in your writing.  If you have the opportunity to point someone towards additional content you’re only doing them a favor and adding to their experience on your blog.  Check out this post by SEOClarity to learn more about the power of external linking. 

17. Optimize Page Title 

The title of your page can have big implications for SEO.  If your page title is missing, a duplicate, or written poorly your rankings will suffer.  Not to be confused with the title of your blog post, the title of your page is mostly recognized in the browser window.  Since it’s hardly visible it’s often overlooked.  

Page Title for SEO

18. Ensure Proper Keyword Density

Please don’t mistake proper keyword density for keyword stuffing.  Never should your content have keywords in a place that doesn’t make sense.  With that being said, your long-tail keyword should appear in your content roughly 1-2% of the time, according to Alexa Blog

Yoast SEO is a helpful tool to ensure your focus keyword is showing up an appropriate number of times throughout your content.  

19. Install SSL Certificate 

An SSL Certificate allows you to move your website over from HTTP to HTTPS, the “S” meaning “secure.”  This can be seen by a lock in the upper right-hand corner of the webpage next to the URL string.   Typically, an SSL certificate can be obtained through your hosting company.   This is one reason why we love Siteground as a hosting provider, they make installing an SSL extremely simple.  

SSL Certificate

20. Implement Structured Data

Structured Data, also known as schema markup is the language used by search engines to help understand your data.  It’s a piece of code that allows you to break down your content by each section.  This can be extremely useful to help Google bots understand how to index you for the most relevant search phrases. 

If you’re able to use a plugin like YoastSEO or Amasty, implementing schema mark up becomes much easier.  

For those that don’t have this luxury lucky for you, Google has a free Structured Data Markup Helper.  Simply select “Article” then copy and paste the URL of your blog post and “start tagging.”  

Once you finished marking everything up you can create the HTML and add it to the source code of the post. 

Implement Schema Markup

21. Proofread your Content 

You’re human.  Inevitably, grammar errors will happen.  Unfortunately, taking the time to go through and proofread your content rarely gets the attention it needs.   It’s a known fact that articles with less grammatical issues rank higher in search engines.  

Often times I find that outsourcing this work is helpful.  Getting a fresh set of eyes to review your work is always a worthwhile investment.  Furthermore, you can leverage your own personal network to have your friends and family proofread your content.  

Lastly,  step away and come back.  Revisiting your content after a while read it with a fresh new perspective.  You’ll start catching a lot of flaws in your older articles once you start doing this.   

22. Best Practice: Topic Clusters

In recent years Google has started to favor content that is built out in clusters.  So what is topic clustering?  In short, topic clustering is the way you structure the categories and supporting content for those categories on your blog.  For example, if you have a blog about hunting, you could create topic clusters around Bowhunting, deer hunting, big game hunting, etc.  The way you link your supporting content to your “pillar” content allows search engines to easily understand the concepts your blog is an authority in.  See below for an example of how topic clustering looks visually.

Topic Clusters

23.  Ensure Proper Formating

This may seem like a rudimentary step but ensuring proper formatting is a must for bloggers today.  Having extra spacing where it isn’t needed and having columns and headings not lined up can be a huge turn off for readers.   Our advice here is to keep it simple!  Don’t try to add all these crazy plugins and do these unnecessary customizations.  Keep it simple and just get your content on the web.  As you start to build some traction with the search engines you’ll become more familiar with the different ways you can customize your blog. 

24. Add Social Icons for Easy Sharing

Even though we’re advocates for keeping your blog simple, it’s essential to have the bare minimum.  One of these is your social sharing buttons.  Make it easy for people to share your content and your blog will grow 10x faster.  There are plenty of social sharing plugins for free on WordPress.

Add Social Sharing Icons

25. Write Plenty of Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that retains its relevance for long periods of time.  Hence the name “evergreen.” (Like evergreen trees that stay green all year round).   Evergreen topics never lose their relevance.  For example, a piece of content titled “How to Build Muscle” will always retain its relevance all year round.  Conversely, should you write an article titled “SEO for Bloggers in 2021,” you’ll be required to update this piece of content every year! 

Not all of your content has to be evergreen (i.e. the article your reading right now is not considered evergreen).  In fact, content that isn’t evergreen tends to rank easier.  However, keep in mind that when you’re light on evergreen content your blog will require constant attention.  Not ideal for someone trying to create a self-sufficient blog that generates passive income. 

26. Submit a Sitemap to the Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool that helps you monitor, troubleshoot, and improve your presence in the search results.  Create an account, verify your domain, and submit your sitemap as shown below, done!

 

submitting an xml sitemap

27. Diversify your Content 

Having too much of the same content gets boring for readers.  Switch it up and add different ways to get across the same message.  

Video – most people are visual learnings.  Putting your blog posts in video format helps draw eyeballs and keeps people on your website.  Don’t overlook the power of video!

Podcast – Podcasting in media is what keto is to dieting, the hottest lastest trend, and for good reason.  The convenience of listening to a podcast has everyone on board. 

Webinars –  Webinars are incredibly powerful sales tools to help educate, build trust, and promote services or products to your viewers.  People are thirsty for more knowledge in specific areas of their business, webinars allow you to provide that information to them conveniently.  

Long-Form Content – when it comes to SEO, long-form content wins.  It’s been shown that pages that appear at the top of the search engines are typically longer in nature.  Dive into elaborate detail about a specific topic and watch Google fall in love with your content.   

28.  Analyze your Data with Google Analytics

Google Analytics will become your best friend.  When it comes to tracking your site traffic and analyzing user behavior, nothing beats Google Analytics.  If your blog is new it might be a while until Google Analytics is a useful tool but ultimately this is what’s going to allow you to make smart data-driven decisions when it comes to SEO on your blog.  

29. Update Older Content

Set it and forget it is not a good model when you build out a blog.  Make sure you’re setting reminders to go in and update your content, check for errors, and beef it up.  Google will see you’re constantly updating your content and will reward you for it. 

30. Backlinking

Backlinks are a fundamental part of SEO.   Everyone has a different philosophy when it comes to backlinking.  Without a doubt, having high-quality backlinks is an indicator of high ranking websites.  However, we’ve found a lot of success when we focus on creating great content and letting the backlinks come naturally.

If you do decide to start building backlinks, be sure to do it the right way.  It can be risky to pay for backlinks for unreputable sources.  You put your site at risk of potentially getting a penalty from Google.  Instead, use a strategic approach to earn links from reputable websites by providing value.  

SEO for Blogging: Summary

There you have it! All 30 steps to ensure that your blog is fully optimized for the search engines.  SEO for blogging is commonly overlooked but offers great potential for those that put in the effort!  Keep writing amazing content, link it naturally with other helpful pieces of content, meet best practices, and watching your rankings skyrocket!  

We hope you found this helpful!  Please let us know your thoughts!  Leave a comment below…was there something we missed?  Anything you’d like more clarity on?  Until next time. 

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