The problem with putting together an SEO Basics Checklist is that such things tend to be presented as either something only trained professionals know how to do or, in oversimplistic terms, so broad they do very little.
Nevertheless, like so many things, practical SEO (Search Engine Optimization) metrics lay somewhere in between, a happy medium. On top of that, they are relatively easy to impliment, as long as you know what they are.
With that in mind, the goal of this post is to provide a checklist of SEO basics anyone can reference and apply to the content they’re writing. It’s also worth noting that this short series on SEO that I’m writing is as much for me as it is for anyone else.
As I mentioned in my first post about SEO, I’m well aware that many articles like this one are available online. In fact, I’ve ghostwritten a fair few myself, for various companies over the years.
Given that, what does this SEO blog series offer that others do not?
Honestly, not much. However, I intend to use these posts as reference material for my own content-writing ventures. So, I have whittled things down to the most essential elements, creating a checklist of sorts that I (and you!) can then apply to projects going forward.
And so, without further ado, Let’s go!
SEO Basics Checklist
Below, you will find an SEO basics checklist, along with a brief description of each entry. I hope you find this list as helpful as I have.
Original keyword: Don’t use keywords more than once per page or post on your website. In this way, every post has its own unique keyword. When you start reusing keywords, it’s confusing for Google’s crawler bots and does nothing but dilute the effectiveness of both posts. It’s better to return to an old post and update it with additional information than try to write another using the same keyword.
Keyword density: Your keyword should appear about once every 200-300 words, which means an average 1000-word blog post should include the keyword around 4 or 5 times throughout. Also, be sure to integrate the keyword naturally.
Keyword in the introduction (first paragraph): Your keyword should appear as close to the beginning as possible in the first paragraph.
Keyword in SEO title: Your keyword should be in the title of your post.
Keyword in subheadings (H2 and H3): Your keyword should appear in one or two of your subheadings but not in all of them.
Keyword length: In general, keywords longer than four words are discouraged. However, if you have a keyword that’s longer that can be incorporated into your content naturally, it can be done.
Keyword in slug: The slug is the part of the post’s URL that contains the title of your article. As long as your keyword appears in your title, it will also be in the slug, but it’s important to keep in mind if you intend to shorten the slug to make the URL easier to manage.
Title Width: You don’t want your title to be so long that its title is cut short when displayed in Google search results. The general guideline is to keep your title width to no more than 60 characters (between 40 and 60 is a good range).
Internal links: Internal links are those that connect to additional content on your website. They can be business related, such as a link to your products and services (althought it’s best to stick to one, maybe two of these kinds of links to prevent coming arcross too spammy). But, the best internal links are those that connect to more helpful content on your website, typically other blogs you’ve published. To meet this SEO requirement, you only need 1-3 quality links.
Outbound links: These links follow similar guidelines as internal ones, but are arguably more important. And linking to other websites that contain relevant and quality content is an excellent thing to do whether it’s for SEO or not. 2-3 outbound links are enough to meet this requirement, but feel free to add more.
Meta description length: The meta description for your blog post should be between 150 and 160 characters. I’ll talk more about meta data in my next post.
Images: Include at least one image with every post. (Also, you’ll need to title your image appropriately and include alt tags, but that’s part of metadata, which we’ll cover in the next post.)
Image Alt tags: Every image you include should have alt tags, which are the text shown on the page if the image fails to load. These tags also help to tie the images you are using to your content and help Google’s crawler index your posts easier, which can have a positive effect on your ranking.
Text Length: Longer-form content used to rank higher, but now, as long as your post is at least 300 words, you should be fine.
NOTE: When I was first learning about SEO, I was confused by the term “keyword.” I assumed a keyword was a single word (how silly of me!), and didn’t realize that the terms keyword, keyword phrase, and keyphrase are typically used interchangeably. When someone says “keyword,” they mean a short phrase that someone might type into a search engine like Google. In fact, some of the most effective keywords are those that focus on a particular niche subject.
Ex. SEO basics checklist (the keyword for this post) is far easier to rank well under than if I attempted to us SEO as my target keyword. The keyword SEO is too generalized, and content that attempts to use it will soon be lost in a sea of similar articles.
Why Does My Content Need These Things?
Ultimately, content that implements the above SEO Basics Checklist will rank higher in Google search results than content that does not. That’s the simple fact of the matter, which is why writing your content for SEO is so important. Content that ranks well brings traffic to your website, which can then be converted (if you’re doing things correctly), into customers.
Alright, what’s next? In next week’s post, we’ll discuiss metadata and how to optimize it for SEO.