Thorough SEO is the key to enhancing blog post reach and readership.

Like completing a puzzle, finishing a blog post feels damn good—and today, everyone’s using WordPress to get a piece of the action. But to ensure that your WordPress post has the best chance of being found, read and shared, you’ve got to be diligent about publishing it properly.  Inbound marketing and blogging best practices say SEO optimization is a must before you post.

To help improve your next blog post’s reach and readability, don’t just press the “Publish” button without following these nine SEO checklist items:

(You can also access an abridged, pocket copy of this SEO Optimization checklist here and at the end of this post. Print this out and keep it by your desk to ensure you publish successful blog posts every time!)

1.    KEYWORDS: Do I know what keyword or keyword phrase my blog post is targeting?

Keywords are the words and/or phrases you think people will use in search engines to find information related to specific topics. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of tailoring your content to the search engines. Every post you write should target a keyword or keyword phrase that is most relevant to your post. To find the best keyword choice for your post:

  • Use Google’s keyword tool. This will tell you your keyword’s average monthly search volume, its competitiveness, and will even suggest related keywords and their relevance.

2.    TITLE: Is mine to the point, captivating and optimized?

An effective title is one that is optimized under SEO best practices, which means it is easily discernible by search engines and is actually compelling to readers.

On average, only 20% of viewers read beyond a headline, meaning the success of your entire post is highly dependent on the success of your title—so make yours stand out. Optimize it!

Aim for a succinct, descriptive title that is SEO-friendly. This will invite more readership than a lengthy one without any flavor or purpose.

  • Include your main keyword phrase in the title.
  • Dress it up with attractive adjectives and adverbs, and instill a sense of curiosity.
  • And keep in mind that readers like “how-tos,” lists and easily scannable benefit statements.
  • Keep it under 55 characters (or have a more succinct “SEO” Title on hand if you use a WordPress plugin like Yoast which allows you to specify an SEO Title separate from your main page title)

For example, if your blog post is all about the keyword phrase “content marketing strategies,” you might try titles like:

  • How To Generate the Most Brilliant Content Marketing Strategies EVER
  • 10 Tips for Surefire Content Marketing Strategies
  • Make Your Business Big Money with These Content Marketing Strategies
  • Are You Missing These Proven Content Marketing Strategies?

At the end of the day, write down a few potential titles, share them with your coworkers or friends and see what sort of reactions you get. But don’t stop there — make it a habit to A/B test different types of headlines against each other. This will bring your headline expertise beyond gut reactions of insiders and will give you data-proven headline types that resonate with your exact audience. Eventually this will become easier, and you’ll be able to identify effective titles earlier, and with more authority.

3.    URL: Is mine optimized?

Your URL, or permalink, is found directly below the title box in WordPress. This simply denotes what terms will be included your post’s URL. If you do not alter this, WordPress will usually automatically insert every word from your title, which is not ideal.

  • For the most SEO-friendly URLs, you want to keep it between 50-80 characters, and it should include your target keyword phrase.

4.    BODY COPY: Is mine effectively formatted and optimized?

A blog post with tons of information to share is good, but fully SEO optimized blog post with well-formatted, search-engine-friendly content is WAY better—and your audience will appreciate it WAY more.

First, strategically make your body copy organized and easy to read by including:

  • A “Read More” tag. Use this to truncate and control how much of your entry is visible from your blog’s home and archive pages. To insert, press Alt+Shift+T at the desired point.
  • Shorter paragraphs. These help the reader cruise through your content.
  • Breakups and emphases. Use bullets, numbered lists, block quotes, italics and bold fonts to cut up chunky text or to emphasize a particularly important point.
  • Action-item in the closing statements. This call-to-action is something that asks your readers a question, tells them where to go for more information and/or invites them to engage with you on social media or through integrated commenting. Whatever the case, your CTA is designed to affirm that this post was for YOU, my dear audience.

Second, achieve SEO success within your body copy by including:

  • Your target keyword phrase. Use this at least once in the title, meta description, URL, and pretty early on in the body copy, preferably the first paragraph. But if it sounds unnatural, don’t force it—write for your audience first, Google second.
Always write for your audience first, Google second.
  • H2 and H3 tags. These are essentially sub-headlines throughout your blog post. They not only break up content and entice further reading, but they allow search engines spiders to easily crawl and rank your post. Therefore, H2s and H3s are great places to use your keyword phrase, if they make sense there. Learn more about headings on Yoast’s SEO blog.
  • Internal and external links. A good post will link to other useful, related content sources. These links can help expound on ideas without need for on-page explanations and they allow search bots to re-crawl your old posts. Internal linking within your own sites send signals to search engines as to which pages on your site are the best resources, so linking back to your own service pages is a best practice. As for external links, linking out to sites with good domain authority is an SEO optimization best practice and a good way to organically build relationships within your industry and earn links back. Try for a minimum of 2–3 linking opportunities per post, if possible and be sure your external links open in a new window. Be sure to also monitor your external links periodically to make sure you’re not linking to posts that pop up 404 errors (unless they’re awesome 404s like this one).

Remember that most of your readers—like Google—will just scan your post, so be as accommodating as possible with how you present your information. Make it scannable and think about creative visuals wherever possible. Do it right, and they’ll likely keep coming back for more!

5.    META DESCRIPTION: Is mine illustrative of my post?

Your meta description is the snippet of text that will appear beneath your title in search engine results. As such, it’s important that you work your main keyword phrase into this (which Google will show in bold text) and maintain an enticing tone that will attract and encourage clicks from searchers looking for the best article that comes up from their query.

  • To help make this step easier, try using an all-in-one SEO optimization plug-in like the aforementioned WordPress SEO by Yoast. Plugins like this are a great way to ensure that you touch upon ALL of the SEO optimization checklist bases—and even some extras beyond those mentioned in this article.

6.      FEATURE IMAGE: Do I have one, and is it formatted correctly?

People like imagery, and simply put, posts with pictures get more clicks.* But for the most mileage, you should do the following with your feature images:

  • Resize your media to fit the width of your post space.
  • Rename the filename and set the title, ALT text and caption to include your main keyword phrase to ensure search engines can instantly recognize the value.
  • Make sure you add a description of the image in the description field to optimize your image for visually impaired visitors.

*Note: be careful that the images you use are either yours personally, or otherwise free of copyright. Click here to learn more about the importance of using legal media.

7.    CATEGORIES & TAGS: Have I selected the proper ones?

Categories denote a post’s broad grouping within your blog, while tags are used to further describe the post and topic.

  • Make sure you select the category or categories most related to your post. Pay special attention to how your category selection affects your URL. In some cases, selecting one category (the most relevant) is preferable to selecting multiple. It largely depends on your particular site’s content strategy.
  • Add the most appropriate tags. Although meta tags no longer do much for SEO, smart tag usage on your site can be helpful to your readers.

8.    AUTHORSHIP: Did I set myself as the author of this post?

If more than one user accesses your blog to create posts, you likely have an “author box” plug-in established.

  • Don’t forget to set the appropriate authorship for the post—give credit where credit’s due!

9.    PREVIEW: Have I done a once-over of my post?

This is a foolproof way to ensure that you see your post the same way everyone else is going to see it live. Using preview helps you recognize errors you may not have seen from the back end. After everything else is set on your WordPress post:

  • Take a 5-minute break to stretch out and rest your eyes and mind, then come back to your desk, hit preview, and see if you’re satisfied enough to share this with the world.

As a blogger, you’ve spent so much time collecting, organizing and crafting compelling content with a lot to be excited about, so you want to make sure you’ve done all you can to disseminate it the right way.

Before you get ahead of yourself, wondering, “Who’s going to read my masterpiece? Who’s going to share it? Who’s going to turn into a client because of it?” be sure to pump the brakes, and first ask yourself, “Have I done everything in my power to give my blog post the attention it deserves?”

Use these nine SEO checklist items to make sure you’re publishing successful blog posts on WordPress like an expert—every time. Or, if you need some extra assistance, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. We’re also always here on Twitter, and you want to learn more our digital marketing program, which include SEO optimization packages, let’s talk marketing!

DON’T FORGET: Access your abridged, pocket copy of this SEO optimization checklist here.

By the way, could you figure out which keyword phrase we were going after in this blog post? It was a hard keyword phrase for an English major like me because it was actually a bit redundant.  It’s not my fault over 1,800 people last month typed in a redundant keyword phrase… and I hope they liked the blog post regardless.

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