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 to rank in Google. 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.
We’ve compiled an SEO checklist of things you should tick off, mentally or physically, before publishing new content to your site. Make this part of your SEO strategy and you’ll be a long way towards getting your business ranking in Google search 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 looking 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.
Google confirmed back in 2009 that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, but they do make your listing in search results more enticing, making users more likely to click on you over your competitors. They also bulk out your listing, taking up more real-estate on the page and drawing people in.
Your meta description should clearly describe what the page is about and be around 160 characters long. You want users to be clear on what they’re getting before they click to avoid them going straight back to the search results page and choosing someone else. Search engines take previous user behaviour into account, so if people keep bouncing straight off your site, it’s probably not a great resource.
Your meta description should sit between meta tags:
<meta name=”description” content=”Your meta description goes here“/>
Some content management systems will allow you to edit this, otherwise you’ll need developer help. Yoast is a handy WordPress plugin that allows you to edit meta descriptions, amongst other things.
Ensure your page has a canonical tag, even if it’s self-referring. Canonical tags tell search engines which version of a page is the original, so any further versions won’t be marked as duplicate. You can sometimes update canonical tags through your CMS or, if you use WordPress, a plugin like Yoast. Your canonical tag should look something like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.yourdomain.com/page” />
Where relevant, add schema to your page. If you run an ecommerce site, you’ll want to make sure you’re using product schema. If you’re writing a new blog post, implement article schema. Schema.org is a great resource which lists out the different properties you can use.
Schema adds extra features to your listing in search results, bulking it out so it takes up more space and attracting the user’s attention. One of the most noticeable types of schema is review schema, which looks like this:
At this point you’ve likely already written your copy, but go back through it to check you’ve included your main keywords. Remember, keep it natural and write for the user first and foremost.
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 search results? Try to emulate the structure of what’s already there, but make it even better.
Add internal links to key pages on your site and link your new content piece from elsewhere on your site too. 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 are related to each other. For example, if you’ve referenced a certain product, link it so that users and search engines can find it easily.
Ensure your images are optimised in terms of file size and format. Avoid image files so big 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. Search engines also favour fast-loading pages as they know this is what users want.
Search engines can’t see images. Add alt text to your images to help crawlers understand what they are about. This also helps users using screen readers. Don’t keyword stuff here, make your alt text descriptive and representative of the image. You alt text should look something like this:
<img src=”https://www.yourdomain.com/your-image.png” alt=”Your alt text goes here” />
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 this 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, a comprehensive SEO checklist to help your business rank in Google. Once you’ve worked through it a few times, it should become a habit and a key part of your SEO strategy. Make sure you’re tracking your progress in Google Search Console and tweaking your strategy as you go along, and you can’t go too far wrong.