One common mistake most bloggers do is failing to have a predefined blog post checklist that guides them in evaluating and ensuring the post is well-optimized for search engines and their readers.
User experience is one of the most important Google ranking factors, and ensuring your blog posts is user-friendly is key to lowering the bounce rate and increasing dwell time (two other ranking factors).
Google has made it very clear that it uses User Experience (UX) as one of its rankings factors. You can have a look at their disclosure here – Helping users easily access content on mobile.
Please note an update was made to include both mobile and desktop users, so be sure your website offers great user experience to mobile and desktop users.
That being said, this post will guide you through the most important steps you should take to ensure you get quality traffic having spent several hours doing research crafting a “perfect” blog post.
In case you are new to SEO, then this might seem a little advanced for you. Nonetheless, I will use the simplest language possible to make it easy for you to understand and implement these strategies.
Blog Post Checklist Before You Publish
Here are the 17 things you need to tick their respective boxes before you hit the “Publish” button.
1. Write a compelling title and optimize the title tag for SEO
A post title (also called H1-tag) is the first thing readers see when reading a blog post. If a user enters a search query on a search engine such as Google, what they see is the Meta Title (also called Title Tag).
So there’s a difference between H1-tag and Title Tag. The Meta Title appears in the search bar and on search engines such as Google while H1-tag appears as the title of your blog post.
Optimizing these two is key to increasing organic traffic, reducing bounce rate, and increasing user engagement with your content.
Take for example a blog post about how to increase website traffic, one blogger might use this title: “How to Increase Website Traffic Fast” while the second blogger will use this title: “17 Ways to Increase Website Traffic by 137% (Strategies That Work in 2020)”
The second title will generate more traffic and higher organic CTR for 4 main reasons;
- The reader knows they will get 17 strategies to increase traffic
- The percentage shows how much they could increase their traffic
- The year “2020” indicates the strategies are up-to-date
- Using parenthesis captures the readers’ attention
According to a study by Hubspot, titles with bracketed clarifications e.g. (PHOTOS), (VIDEO), (SLIDESHOW), (INTERVIEW), etc. increased CTR by 38% compared to headlines without brackets and parenthesis.
Another study done by Conductor found that a title with a number generated the most clicks compared to all the others, with Odd Numbers generating 20% more clicks than Even Numbers.
Thirdly, include modifiers such as best, top, most, step-by-step guide, reviews, etc. Such modifiers have been proven to increase both the CTR and shares, according to a study done by SiegeMedia.
2. Write a good meta description
If you’re using an SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO, you need to write a good meta description that contains your target keywords.
Meta descriptions appear just beneath the Meta Title on search results and help boost organic CTR and traffic to your website.
However, you do not have to worry about the meta description is you’re not using any SEO plugin because Google will identify the most ideal meta description to display.
A permalink is a URL for a specific blog post, page, or category on a website. You can customize your permalinks to show different attributes such as date, month, category, page, etc.
It is advisable to set to “Post Name” when setting up your permalinks for blog posts. That makes them clean and easy to understand what each URL represents.
Post Name permalinks are good for both SEO (with search engines) and readers and let them know what the link is about before they click.
Besides, you only need to configure your permalinks once and you won’t have to do so every time you publish a new post.
4. Use short URLs
According to a study done by Marketing Sherpa, using short URLs lead to 2.5 times more search marketing clicks. A URL that looks like this;
…is 2.5 times more likely to get clicked compared to one that looks like this;
Users are more likely to click a short URL as they can easily scan and see what it’s all about, while it takes long to understand what a long URL is about.
Some URLs are too long to an extent they seem spammy, which scares users from clicking.
Most readers will often skim through your blog post first before reading to identify if the content is what they really need. Using subheadings helps break up long text and make the post more readable.
A long block of an unsegmented blog post doesn’t appeal to readers, considering the fact that most people will visit your blog from mobile devices.
Long paragraphs can also be a deterrent and is a huge turn off for mobile users. No one wants to read a seemingly never-ending paragraph that covers their entire mobile screen.
Highlight your points in small paragraphs and use bullet points where applicable. The more readable and user friendly your content is, the more dwell time your blog will have.
6. Include a table of contents
Most bloggers do not understand the significance of using a table of contents. For one, a table of contents increases sitelinks on search engines such as Google as it contains in-page links to different sub-sections of the blog post.
The in-page links will appear on search engines as sitelinks where a user can click on them and be directed to a specific part of the page/post. Sitelinks boosts organic CTR and traffic.
Table of contents also allows a reader to quickly understand what the post will focus on without having to skim through the entire post scrolling from top to bottom.
If a reader can see what they are looking for is highlighted within the table of contents, they are more likely to read through the entire post or just skip to that specific part of the page to get an answer to their question.
That way, your bounce rate will be low, dwell time will be high, and the user is more likely to engage with your content by clicking on related links, sharing, or commenting.
7. Use colorful images
A consumer research by Xerox found that using colorful visuals and placing them above the fold increased the chances of consumers reading the product guide by 80%.
Buffer also did a research and found that including a featured image in your blog post ensures all the social shares contain images, which lead to 150% more retweets on Twitter and 53% more likes on Facebook.
Using multimedia within your content increases user engagement because they are user friendly and users are highly receptive of attractive visuals.
Keep in mind that User Experience (UX) is one of the key ranking factors Google uses and using attractive and relevant visuals in your content increases the users’ engagement.
Better UX signals reduce bounce rate and increase Google rankings while poor UX signals increases bounce rate while reducing your blog’s rankings.
8. Compress your images
While you aim to use colorful images, it’s also important to compress all the images you use on your blog. Compressing images ensures they are small in size and your page’s and website’s loading speeds are high.
There are dozens of free online image compressors that do a good job, such as I Love Img.
Alternatively, you can use a plugin such as “Image optimization & Lazy Load by Optimole” which compresses each image every time you upload without losing its quality.
The plugin also serves users with WebP version of the images, which are smaller in size and the quality is good.
9. Include ALT text on all images
Image SEO is very important, and using keyword-rich ALT text is one way to do it. Every time search engine crawlers crawl your posts, the ALT texts you use will help them understand what each image represents.
So, do not just do on-page SEO and forget about image SEO. Each is equally important. Besides, you can generate organic traffic when your images rank on Google, just like content and videos do.
10. Use custom, pro, or unique images
Do not be among those bloggers who use stock images for every single post you publish (unless it’s completely unavoidable).
Use high quality, unique images that make your content stand out. Unique images increase user engagement in terms of likes, retweets, and shares.
You can also use custom images, such as custom designs made with tools such as Canva or original photos you took yourself.
The more unique you stand out, the more engaged your readers will be.
Internal linking is an important on-page SEO practice that helps new blog posts get indexed faster as well as generate more traffic.
For example, if you publish a blog post about “Ways to Monetize Your Blog” then it’s ideal to link to a related post such as “How to Start a Blog That Makes Money“.
If a blog is generating organic traffic, then linking to a new blog post from the old post will help the new post get indexed faster and get referral traffic from the older post.
12. Link to reputable external sources
Linking to authoritative websites or blogs in your niche will increase your Google rankings. A while ago, Reboot conducted a study on external links (outgoing links used as a ranking signal).
They created content and published it on 10 brand new domains. Five of the sites had outbound links while the other five just had no outgoing links.
They then followed through by fetching the results on Google Search Console until all the links had been indexed. Then they tracked the rankings of the ten websites.
The five websites that contained external links outranked all the other websites without external links. This indicates that Google uses external links as an on-page ranking factor.
Therefore, include a few relevant links to other websites as this will play some part in getting your post ranked higher on Google. Just ensure you set the external link to open on a new tab.
While using categories to group together related blog posts, most bloggers forget to use tags. Google crawlers always check your blog tags to better understand what your content is all about.
Use tags closely related to the keywords or topic your blog post is based on. You can use as many tags as possible, but avoid repetition as they look spammy.
Google has made it very clear that all affiliate links should bear a nofollow tag. Ensure you add the nofollow tag to any affiliate link within the post.
The easiest way to do so is by using the “Rel Nofollow Checkbox” plugin. This plugin adds a small checkbox in the insert/edit link popup for including a nofollow attribute.
15. Use targeted CTAs
A study done by Hubspot found that using targeted Call To Action (CTAs) generated 42% more engagement than generic CTAs. Hubspot also found that personalized CTAs perform 202% better than basic CTAs.
Generic CTAs such as “sharing is caring” or “share this post” or “subscribe to our newsletter” rarely do well. Examples of best CTAs for blog posts include:
Example 1: Curious about how content marketing could help your business take the next step? Call us today for a free consultation at 1-800-XXX-XXXX
Example 2: Are you ready to start a blog that makes money? Download our free ebook today and contact us for free blog setup.
Example 3: Did you find our content marketing guide helpful? If so, feel free to share on Facebook or Twitter using the super-easy share buttons below.
In a nutshell, you are giving someone a valid reason to take action. The reason could be;
- The content was helpful and they would like to share
- They would like to start a blog and a guide would be much appreciated
- They would gladly join a free webinar to learn about content marketing or something else
16. Use other multimedia (in addition to images)
Apart from using professional images and adding a featured image, you should also use more media such as screenshots, videos, and infographics.
Screenshots and infographics are unique, which makes your content stand out. Adding videos, especially YouTube embeds, helps in user engagement.
Positive user engagement sends positive UX signals to Google, which helps in your overall rankings and more organic traffic.
On the other hand, infographics will generate loads of shares on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other platforms and can also attract backlinks from active websites.
Another great way to increase user engagement is by adding easy-to-use share buttons just before the content. A Google study found that elements above the fold get 68% median viewability while contents below the fold get only 40% median viewability.
Such elements could be display ads, banner ads, or share buttons. It is, therefore, ideal to place your share buttons just before the content to increase shares.
Alternatively, you can use floating share buttons but on desktops only. Using them on mobile devices can be cover parts of the content and create a poor user experience.
Read Also: 5 Free Keyword Research Tools for 2020
Wrapping it up!!!
You might have a great piece of content, but if you do not structure it well or make it stand out, it will just float among the mediocre pieces of content out there.
Take your time to craft an awesome meta title, great meta description, use the right CTA, and use appropriate multimedia among other things to make your content stand out.