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On-page SEO checklist: Blogging for People and Search Engines

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On-page SEO checklist: Blogging for People and Search Engines

This post is in English
Elena Terenteva updated
This post is in English
On-page SEO checklist: Blogging for People and Search Engines

This is the third article in a series of guides for content specialists on how to write successfully both for people and search engines in 2017. Check out previous one and stay tuned for new updates. 

Content marketing strategy Guide - SEMrush Article

Content Marketing Best Practices: Content Writing in 2017 Article

Content Marketing and SEO: How to Build Links in 2017 Article

How to Measure Your Digital Content Performance Article

Top-rated bloggers don’t only have excellent writing skills, they also take responsibility for their content’s performance in search engines. They’ve learned one simple trick – you have to write both for people and search engines.

During one of the SEMrush Twitter Chats, we discussed how content marketing and SEO can be integrated. A lot of the chat participants agreed on a thesis which was worded perfectly by Adam Dince: “The content marketing crowd has done a good job of drawing focus away from the engines. Big mistake :) .”

We’re hoping to help fix this mistake. In this article, we've collected a complete content optimization list. And step by step, we will explain how to make each detail of your article attractive to both users and search engines.

On-page seo for bloggers On-page SEO - Title

Meta Title Tag

Title 

As a writer, you can’t underestimate the power of an eye-catching title – this page element is highly important for attracting your user’s attention and increasing page click-though rate (CTR).

From an SEO point of view, the title is a great spot for placing a keyword to be highlighted in the SERP. Also, some specialists recommend that you use your brand name at the end of the title to attract more users.

Check out this article whenever you run out of ideas for great headlines:  On-Page SEO Basics: Page Titles.

On-page SEO - URL

SEO friendly URL

URL

Before anything else (as with other page elements appearing on SERPs such as title and meta description) your URL has to make perfect sense and be descriptive and meaningful (without any ugly combinations of numbers and stuffed keywords). Secondly, your page URL is also a good place for your relevant keywords.

Your URL length matters - it’s best to keep it around 3 to 5 words long.

Want to learn more? Check out this article: On-Page SEO Basics: URLs.

On-page SEO - Meta description

Meta Description

Meta Description

Okay, the meta description has no impact on your ranking whatsoever and search engines don’t care about it – but your users do! Once again - it’s important for page CTR.

SEO recommendations are basically the same  – use relevant keywords, keep to the right length. Also – avoid duplicate meta descriptions across different pages.

Get some more ideas here: On-Page SEO Basics: Meta Descriptions.

Related tools:

  • SEMrush SEO Ideas – checks if you have a keyword in your title and meta tag and suggests the right one if you don’t. SEO Ideas also provides the user with a detailed list of actionable, tailor-made optimization tips for each page of your website. 
  • Yoast Plugin for WordPress – great plugin which checks your on-page SEO and points out missing opportunities, also has a snippet editor.
  • SEOmofo  – SERP view generator. Enter your URL, title and description to manage the number of symbols and preview your article’s appearance on SERP.
  • Portent – another SERP view generator.

On-page SEO - Keywords and semantically related words

Keywords

To provide users with the most relevant results for their particular search terms, use your target keywords within first 100-150 words of your text and add some additional weight by placing semantically related words.

To improve your understanding of the idea of semantic search, check out this recorded webinar: The Future of SEO: 5 Ways to Adapt Your Content for 2016 with Andy Crestodina.  

Related Tools:

Tools for keyword research:

On-page SEO - H1..H3

H1...H3

Structured text is easy to read and navigate through. There are plenty of methods for text structuring. If you are dealing with a lot of information, you can use a list with numbered bullet points – it’s easy to perceive and allows you to include plenty of information in the article without sacrificing the user’s attention.

<h1>Example Title</h1><br/><p>Your text</p><br/><h2>Example Subtitle</h2><br/><p>Your text</p><br/><h3>Example Subtitle</h3><br/><p>Your text</p><br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

The second way is more ‘classic’ - write an introduction pointing to the problem and then divide the text into 3 to 5 main points and title them with descriptive subheads. In my experience, 3-5 statements within one article is more than enough to prove your point. (Fewer might not look like enough to convince a reader, more might make the article difficult to read.)

In SEO language – don’t forget to use H1...H6 tags for your subheads (and place your target keywords in the subheads, of course). Learn How To Use H1-H6 HTML Elements Properly.

On-page SEO - Video Content

Video Content

Adding video or images in your text can also help you to structure it and gain more attention. It won’t bring you any SEO benefits, but it’s a great opportunity for sharing your video tutorials and recorded webinars.

If you are placing your own videos, don’t forget to optimize them as well. Check out this article: Advanced Hacks for YouTube Optimization.

Related Tools:

SEMrush SEO Ideas – SEO ideas will check if websites with a higher position for a particular keyword have video content on their pages.

SEMrush Social Media tool provides you with detailed analytics for your video content and it’s performance through all social networks. You can monitor video metrics, such as likes, dislikes and shares, track the audience activity, engagement and interest trend for every video posted by you or your competitors.

On-page SEO - Images

Images

It’s been proven that “content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images. However, we didn’t find that adding additional images influenced rankings.” And, as we mentioned above, it’s a great way to structure your article and customize it. Some experts recommend to insert an imaan imagee text in depth of one scroll, so the user would always have an image on the page while reading. We think it’s optional, if you have some other eye-catchy elements on the page like subheads or quotes, for example.

It’s very important to have a featured image on your page. The featured image is what will be displayed on social media when an article is shared. It can mirror your headline or you can use a quote from your article but be sure it’s informative, representative or at least eye-catching.

Okay, talking about SEO: images which are too large can slow down your site speed – one of the most powerful user experience signals. So be sure to use the right file size and format, and use image compressors correctly to reduce image size while maintaining visual quality.

Descriptive image file names and the use of ALT tags can help images from your page appear in Google image search results.

For more information, check out this great article by Shopify: 10 Must Know Image Optimization Tips

Related tools:

Image compressors:

Site auditors:

On-page SEO- Content Length

Content length

You have to be sure that your content is long enough – it’s good for both readers and search engines. But keep in mind that there is no exact ‘perfect’ content length; it all depends on your goals and the content’s purpose.

The main point is: people love longer content because it implies deeper topic coverage.

And it’s a proven fact that longer content tends to rank higher.

Here’s more proof of why big content wins, along with some recommendations on writing lengthy texts: 10 Things to Keep in Mind When Working on Big Content.

Related tools:

SEMrush SEO Ideas – SEO Ideas will give you information about your (and your competitors’) content length on a page ranking for a particular keyword.

On-page SEO - Readability

Readability

This might sounds geeky, but there is another important content metric - its readability, which shows is your content easy or difficult to read. Readability level depend on a lot of factors. Not only the grammar and syntax play an important role, but also the design and structure of the text - everything that can influence our perception. However, basically the secret is simple - knowledge of our audience (is at advanced specialists or beginners?), good writing skills and focus on message will help to find a balance. If you want to check your text’s readability score - there are some tools, which can help. 

For more information and recommendations about readability tools, check out this Raven’s post -  Ultimate list of online content readability tests.  

Related tools:

SEMrush SEO Ideas

Readability Score

Readability Test Tool

On-page SEO - Internal links

Internal Links

Internal linking helps you to enrich your content with additional useful information for readers while attracting attention to the related content you’ve created. Also, internal linking is one of the SEO essentials – having a big influence on search engine bots’ behavior.

Check out this article for more information:  3 Internal Linking Strategies for SEO and Conversions

On-page SEO - Backlinks

Backlinks

Authority of any website is mostly based upon its backlink profile. Backlinks from authoritative websites offer proof to search engines that your site deserves the user’s attention.

The better your content is, the more backlinks you might get. But, sometimes link building depends on how good your contacts are. Spent some time on blogger outreach, guest blogging, PR and social media activities, and research your competitors’ backlink profiles to finding new media and blogs to target.

For more link-building tricks visit this article:  20 SEO Link Building Tactics That Work

Related Tools:

On-page SEO - Social Sharing

Social Sharing Buttons

Social shares don’t count as links, but they will help your content earn more SEO badges and cover bigger audience - add social sharing buttons and make them noticeable.

Related Tools:

Click to Tweet – use Click to Tweet tool for sharing the main statements of your article. Choose a quote, insert it into Click to Tweet; embed generated a link to your blog  and you’ll get tweetable, noticeable quote with Twitter logo on it.

On-page SEO - Duplicate content

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is the most common SEO problems. Our recent study shows that 50% of websites have some pages with duplicate content. It won’t give you a penalty, but it’s a signal to search engines that your website has little to no value for your readers. Needless to say – your readers won’t appreciate it as well.

All aspects of the duplicate content problem are covered here:  Duplicate Content SEO Advice From Google

On-page SEO - Crawlability

Crawlability

Can’t see your article in SERPs, although you think you did everything right? Be sure that your website is not blocked from crawling, otherwise, you did all your work for nothing. Crawlability is difficult technical question most content creators are probably not familiar with, so talk to your webmaster and find a solution.

Meanwhile, check out:  18 Reasons Your Website is Crawler-Unfriendly

Related tools:

Duplicate content issues, crawlability problems and broken links can be identified by sIte auditors:

On-page SEO - Page loading speed

Page Loading Speed

It’s not even a second – it’s a millisecond delay that can force a user to close your article and go to another website. Sometimes the reasons for delays can be simple, such as images with large file sizes on a page; sometimes they are more serious, including problems with your server. No matter the reason, it’s crucially important to be aware of any page speed issues.

Related tools:

Google Pagespeed Insights – the easiest way to check your page load time.

On-page SEO - Mobile friendliness

Mobile-Friendliness

If your company's website is still not mobile-friendly, you are probably missing a part of traffic flow. No, let’s put it this way — you’re losing traffic. Of course, responsive design and mobile website development requires time and effort. It’s not something you can do in a day but it is worth every second you spent on it. Mobile-friendly websites have a strong priority in mobile SERP.

Related tools:

Google Mobile Friendly Test  – solution from Google for checking website mobile-friendliness.

On-page SEO - Markups

Markups

We’ve already talked about the importance of your content's SERP appearance.  Markup implementations can increase your CTR in times, and the best thing of it, that microdata can be applied to different types of content no matter what topic you are covering.

Markups

Look at this great example. Both sites are using Schema markups to provide more information to the user: a list of ingredients, reviews, cooking time and even calorific value.

How does this influence your SERPs? Not in any way. Schema implementation has nothing to do with the direct impact on your ranking. But do you remember about CTR? Exactly! Everything that’s good for your reader is good for SEO.

Related Tools:

Google Structured Data Testing Tool – will check if there are no mistakes in markup implementation on your page.

SEMrush Site Audit – will give you information about the percentage of pages with implemented markups: Schema.org, Twitter Cards, Open Graph, Microformats.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Google is doing a lot in trying to help unique, informative content get better ranking. But it’s not just Google who decides if your content deserves a higher position – it’s your readers as well. Google doesn’t read your work and grade you with an “A” for excellent wording or exclusiveness of insights; it estimates a level of interest for your article by taking into account users’ behavior and your text’s availability.

You might be surprised to know that some on-page SEO issues have a little to no impact on rankings. At the same time, some issues which have nothing to do with SEO directly, but mostly with writing and content appearance, can have a giant impact on page CTR, time on page and bounce rate –  user experience signals which Google relies on to determine page quality and SERP positions.

Which of these on-page and text elements do you think you might sacrifice without any negative impacts on your article's ranking? One? Two? Maybe five?

Well, of course, some of them can be ignored, but we intentionally didn’t point them out. Don’t think about a bare minimum. Create a good story and do as much as you can to make your text attractive and noticeable to readers and you'll maximize your content's impact. 

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Elena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies.
Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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Great tips for on-page optimization. Really loves your blog and shared on social media. Keyword research is the basis for writing an engaging content. Always prefer long tail key terms with low competitions and high search volume and CPC. Don't stuff your keywords in the content it will not help you to rank high in search engine. https://hansoftech.com/increasing-site-traffic-using-long-tail-keywords
Elena Terenteva
Shazia Samreen
Thank you, Shazia!
Muhish Chandan
Very Nice Article Shared Dear
Elena Terenteva
Muhish Chandan
Thank you!
This is the best article on this topic and SEO tips applied as well! I'll check all of them asap. Great work!
Elena Terenteva
KÜBRA INANOVA
Thanks a lot for such great feedback! I'm very pleased
Sanu Mondal
Wow really this is valuable tips for blogging. I will apply this tips.
Elena Terenteva
Sanu Mondal
Thank you, Sanu! We really tried to look on on-page SEO from different perspectives. Glad you find this useful!
varun kaul
Thanks elena quality stuff with lots of information.
Elena Terenteva
varun kaul
Thank you, Varun!
good
Elena Terenteva
Almiera
Thank you!
Very informative post Elena. I appreciate the effort you spent to put it together. Was wondering what your thoughts are as far as using click bait titles in your meta. On one hand using them will get you better click through rates. But most likely at the cost of your dwell time and other user engagement metrics. But then again Google loves sites with good CTR's. So where the heck does one draw the line?
Elena Terenteva
Matt LaClear
Thank you, Matt! Good question. Obviously, the title has to be relevant - there is no doubt. Noticeable title is not the same as trashy one ("He found a cure for cancer with this pill !!!!"). While making this post I found this example. Two titles: 1. Caribbean Cruises | Caribbean Vacations | Carnival Cruise Line
2. 5 Best Caribbean Cruises 2017: Cruises to the Caribbean on Cruise
If you ask me - I do like the second one. Is it trashy? No. Noticeable? Yes. Still relevant? Indeed. And there is a promise that I'll get some story and won't see just a website's homepage.
Elena Terenteva
Thanks for the reply Elena. I like that you draw a distinction between trash titles and descriptive ones. So if a writer does their job it's entirely possible to come up with a descriptive title that generates clicks without having to resort to trashiness or worse yet, lies.
Its so needful for SEO.
Kathleen Burns
saman
Absolutely! Content optimization is a must, especially as companies continue to use content marketing as part of their strategies. :)
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