Search engine optimization (SEO) has long been established as a must for any digital marketers trying to grow their brands online. While in its early days, SEO was a sort of black magic full of shady tricks to put one over on Google, it is now a legitimate industry and an essential part of any marketing plan.
It is also not as easy as it used to be, and this is mainly due to the proliferation of content online, resulting in a surge of competition. You cannot any longer just stuff a load of keywords on your page in any random spot, or duplicate your content across multiple sites on the web.
Google has long since gotten wise to those shady practices, and instead, by virtue of a number of algorithm improvements over the years, has forced marketers to develop legitimately good content that is relevant to their audience.
As a result, SEO is more difficult. And getting found organically online is a greater challenge. But for those who want to publish interesting content for their audience, there is still opportunity to be had. And even though it can’t be the only thing you do to promote your website, SEO still plays an important role in overall marketing strategy.
That’s why I still am SEO-conscious, and always try to implement SEO best practices on any website. Since WordPress is my platform of choice, I present this quick, easy SEO checklist for WordPress blog posts. This is a list of things that I will always run through once I am ready to publish a blog post. There happen to be 7 of them 🙂
Before getting into each item on the checklist, it’s important to note that for most of these you will want to have the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress installed. As of the time I write this, it remains the most trusted and widely used WordPress SEO overview plugin.
Include a focus keyword in your Yoast post settings
In the update screen on your blog post, you can scroll down to below the content, and you’ll find a Yoast SEO section. Here you can enter a focus keyword. This is the main search term that you are trying to rank for on this blog post.
If you didn’t have one to begin with when you started writing the blost post, don’t worry. That’s fine. You can simply enter what you think the main idea of your blog post is – in a brief term that people might enter when searching on Google.
This is the first step in making sure that your WordPress blog post has a focus for SEO. From this keyword, Yoast will score your post on a number of factors and give you an indication of the “health” of your post, and whether any changes need to be made.
When selecting a keyword, it’s important to be honest and accurately reflect the topic of your post, because Google kind of knows all these days, and tricking it is just not an option. Also, try to use more common, ordinary language that people would be more likely to search, rather than formal language or internal jargon that no one knows unless they work with you.
Include the focus keyword in your title and throughout the body text
Not only will you want to set the focus keyword in the Yoast settings of your post, you’ll also want to make sure the keyword is used frequently throughout the body of the text.
Don’t worry about “keyword stuffing” here. As long as you are using your keyword in a coherent way, you’ll be good. Google is not going to penalize you for staying focussed on a topic throughout your article. Blatant keyword stuffing of the sort that will get you penalized is when you just simply jam the keywords in repeatedly without making them part of a clear, useful point you are making.
Yoast recommends a keyword density of 0.5% – 2.5%, which means that out of the entire word count of the article, the keyword makes up 0.5% – 2.5% of that. You can view the keyword density results in the Yoast section of your post.
The idea here is that you are writing a focussed article that is coherently written for human beings, and not artificially packed with keywords for bots to pick up.
If you stick to this principle, you will be fine for SEO and likely will score well on your Yoast plugin results.
Add a meta description in the Yoast settings of your post
Also in the Yoast admin section of your blog post, you will find an area for meta description. This is key, as it tells search engines what your post is about.
You can add or update your meta description by clicking “Edit Snippet” and entering your new text. Some pointers for writing your meta description:
Include your keyword here, just as you did in your title and throughout the body text of your post
Watch the colored line provided by Yoast as you write your text, and shoot for the green zone. This is the ideal length for a meta description according to Yoast
In this section, as with the main text of your article avoid excessive “keyword stuffing”
Write this for a human being, even though a person might not actually read it. According to Google’s documentation, they still might use this meta description to display in their search engine results page.
Meta descriptions are just one component for SEO, but they are important. And the Yoast plugin lets you add or edit it easily.
Add alt tags to all images in the post
This is another often overlooked aspect of SEO that solopreneurs tend to neglect. Because they are only in the backend of their WordPress post, it is tempting to think that alt tags do not matter. This is not the case.
Alt tags are important because they provide more information for Google to index your WordPress post for their search engine results. It is your way of communicating to Google what the images in your article are.
So, your alt tags should be coherent, not that long, and also keyword-relevant.
To update the alt tags in your WordPress blog post, you can click on the edit icon in your image, and add the text to the space that says “alternative text”. Or, when you are uploading the image, there will be a space for “alt text”.
(If you wanted to go through an overhaul of all the alt tags on your site, you go do so by searching through all the images in your media library and updating any that do not have tags. Also, I am sure there are likely WordPress plugins that attempt to do this on a mass scale, but I haven’t tried any. Have you? If so, drop me a line and let me know how it worked.)
In any case, for basic on page SEO, you should make sure all the images on your post have alt tags.
Index your blog post on Google Search Console
A final step that I usually take right after I publish a blog post in WordPress is to have the URL fetched and rendered in Google Console. You can also request that Google index the page, so it can serve it up in search engine results.
As with most Google products, you just need a google login to use this. It’s completely free.
Just do a search for “Google Search Console” and you will get there. Once logged in, you can add your website, and then crawl and index your URLs.
This process is basically the equivalent of telling Google “Hey, this page is here. Show it in your results.” It’s important because it tells Google to be aware of your new content.
(You can also connect add your site to Search Console via Google Analytics, if you have already set up your site in GA. That way, you do not have to enter the site information twice.)
Once you’re logged in and your site is added in Google Search Console, it’s pretty easy to perform the fetch.
As of this writing, Fetch as Google can only be done from the “Classic” version of Search Console. So if you are in the newer version and do not see the option, select the old version option at the bottom of the menu.
From there, under the Crawl section, select “Fetch as Google”, and enter your URL. Once the fetch request is complete, you should check the box that says “index”, and this will submit the request to Google to index your site so that it appears in search results.
Use the Redirection WordPress plugin to redirect any dead URLs
When you update the URL of any page, including a blog post, that means there was an old URL that no longer goes to a live page. This results in a “404: Not Found” error if a user were to try to access that URL.
This means that there’s a chance that Google has crawled and indexed the old URL of your post, and can still serve it up in search engine results. That’s no good. You do not want users to search something in Google, click on your website in the results, and then find an error instead of the content they want.
Google views 404 errors negatively and will penalize your site if they find a high percentage of them. According to Google’s own documentation, URL errors such as 404s can have a negative impact on your users and on Google crawlers”. This is why they recommend that you “fix Not Found errors for important URLs with 301 redirects”.
The solution is simple for your WordPress blog posts and any other WordPress pages: install the Redirection plugin.
This very simple plugin lets you enter the old URL (that is no longer live) and then redirect it to the new one. Problem solved! When Google crawls your site, instead of returning a 404, it will return a live page with relevant content.
And when a user clicks on an old indexed URL in Google search results, instead of going to a dead page, they’ll get the content that they’re looking for. Overall, it’s a win/win because the SEO health of your WordPress blog post stays in good condition.
Try to make your blog post as content rich and interesting as possible
Creating interesting, authentic, legitimate content is key to providing a good user experience on your website. Google knows this, and has continually adjusted their search algorithms to serve this goal. They want to serve up interesting, engaging content for users.
This means that your blog post should not be skimpy on content. The Yoast SEO plugin recommends that you hit at least 300 words. And this is by no means a maximum. I recently published a blog post that had 1,520 words,and this was still scored as a strength by Yoast.
Not only word length, you should also try to include other relevant and interesting media like images and video. Think about it from your own perspective. Are you more likely to continue to read a blog post that has relevant, attractive images, or one that is just text? Google knows this and will reward your WordPress blog post accordingly.
These are just a few points to mark off as you’re evaluating your blog post for SEO. One of the great advantages to WordPress, in addition to it being free, is that it offers you the plugins you need to quickly diagnose the health of your post, and fix any problems.