An Essential SEO Checklist for Optimising Web Content
So you’ve written a shiny new piece of content and you’re ready to hit publish, but you’re not sure how to get your new blog post or webpage found. Your piece is based on keyword research, so you know it’s a topic people want to hear about, you just don’t know how to get it seen by the masses.
To help, we’ve compiled an SEO checklist of things you should tick off to make sure your content is properly optimised, giving it the best chance of ranking well in search engine results.
If your CMS gives you the option, update the URL to something descriptive and clear. Rather than ‘www.yourdomain.com/2020/01/12/blog-post’, try to keep the page close to the root so crawlers can easily discover it. Something like ‘www.yourdomain.com/blog-post’ or ‘www.yourdomain.com/blog/blog-post’ would work well. Include any keywords in the URL where natural, but don’t keyword stuff. Search engines hate spammy-looking URLs.
Make sure your page has a meta title. This sits between <title> tags and tells search engines what your page is about. It’s also what shows up in search results as the blue link at the top of your listing.
Most content management systems will let you update the page title with no coding necessary. Try to choose something between 50 and 60 characters, with the format ‘Page Title | Company Name’. Again, if you can add keywords in that’s great, but keep it natural.
The main heading on your page should sit within <h1> tags and should be something descriptive, naturally incorporating your primary keyword(s). You want to ensure you only have one H1 per page so that search engines can easily understand what the most important topic is. If you have multiple headings, use <h2> or <h3> tags to define these.
At this point you’ve probably already written your copy, but go back through it to check you’ve included your main keywords. Remember, keep it natural and write for your target audience first and foremost. Try to stick to topic and help the user complete one specific task. Long-form, thorough content that adds value tends to rank best.
Also have a look at who’s currently ranking for your key terms - how have they structured their content? Is there a featured snippet or FAQ section in the search results? Try to emulate the structure of what’s already there, but make it even better.
Internal links & topic clusters
Your new content piece should form part of a topic cluster, whether it’s a new page or content relating to an existing topic. Make sure you’re linking out to other related content on your site, as well as linking to the new content piece from key pages. Doing this in a way that is natural and helpful for the user will build a strong link structure that passes link equity and helps search engines understand how your pages relate to each other. For example, if you’ve referenced a certain product, link it so that users and search engines can find it easily.
You can also link out to reputable resources elsewhere on the web where it’s helpful to the user. For example, this blog post links out to HubSpot’s content on keyword research. This helps search engines connect your content with other authoritative content across the web and understand that they are about similar topics.
Perhaps the most valuable type of link are those coming from external websites back to your content. If other people are referencing your blog post or webpage as a source, search engines are more likely to see it as authoritative. To get these inbound links, you may need to actively do some outreach once your piece has launched.
Search engines favour fast-loading pages as they know this is what users want. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is really useful for identifying opportunities for compression.
A quick win, particularly for blog content, is ensuring your images are optimised in terms of file size and format. Avoid image files so big that your page takes forever to load and users go elsewhere. Next-gen formats such as JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP can compress further than traditional formats.
The last checks
Before you hit publish, there are a few final things to check...
Check your new page for meta no-index tags. It’s unlikely you’ve added them by mistake, but it’s always worth a check before you’re two months down the line, wondering why your page isn’t ranking.
Check your robots.txt file (usually at www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt) to make sure the new page won’t be blocked by any of the rules there.
Make sure you’ve added your new content piece to the sitemap, or that it will be added automatically on publication. This makes it much quicker for crawlers to discover your page as they have a list to work through, rather than stumbling across it via internal links. You can usually find your sitemap at www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.
And there you have it, an SEO checklist to help make sure your content is properly optimised. Once you’ve worked through it a few times, it should become a key part of your SEO routine. Make sure you’re tracking your progress and tweaking your strategy as you go along, and you can’t go too far wrong.