Using an SEO checklist for blog posts helps you create marketing content that’s designed to rank high on search engines, target the right readers, and attract relevant leads.
The search engine optimization practices you’ll find in our checklist show you step-by-step how to write blog posts that meet your audience’s information needs. Get your company’s thought leadership in front of the people who are searching online for a solution like yours.
Search algorithms developed by giants like Google are constantly evolving to best meet the searcher’s query. The quick tricks that worked a decade ago, like keyword stuffing and link spamming, will not get your website on the first page these days and will negatively impact your rank and site reputation. Modern SEO is all about understanding the meaning behind search queries and providing the answer as directly as possible.
SEO success comes down to not only what’s written on the page but also the technical setup and overall user experience (UX) of your blog.
We created this SEO checklist to use during our own content creation process. It’s helped us get top rank for queries searched by the people most likely to need our services, such as “inbound SDR,” “SDR metrics,” and “cold call script for software sales.”
Like most aspects of marketing, it takes time for an SEO content strategy to pay off. You can see from the reports above how a strong SEO strategy has helped us improve our rankings, visibility, and inbound lead generation over the past year and a half.
Our B2B marketing experts apply these best practices when providing content marketing services to clients, so search engine optimization is interwoven into the content campaigns we deploy.
Some of the primary goals that this SEO checklist will help you accomplish:
Download our free interactive SEO checklist, and start creating blog content specifically designed to rank well and increase visibility.
Our checklist covers 4 key areas: keyword research, content creation, visual support, and on-page optimization. We suggest keeping a copy of the checklist attached to each work-in-progress blog post and assigning each section of the checklist to the appropriate person on your marketing team.
This checklist will help your marketing team understand the “why” behind each blog post, stay ahead on keyword research and industry trends, and monitor the work in progress.
#1 KEYWORD RESEARCH
Choosing a primary keyword is the cornerstone of writing optimized blog content. Identify the exact search term you want to rank for — the words users should type into a search engine to find your blog post. Start by narrowing down your topic and then build a list of relevant keywords you could potentially target with your new post.
This section of the checklist is usually completed by a digital specialist or the content specialist writing the piece. Assign these keyword research tasks to somebody on your team who has strong SEO knowledge and understands buyer psychology.
Start by exploring Google to see exactly how people are searching for your chosen topic. Build out your keyword list using the Google autocomplete function as well as the related searches suggestions at the bottom of the SERP (search engine results page).
Gather at least 10-15 potential keywords for your topic. Blog posts are an opportunity to target highly targeted long-tail keywords, search terms that typically contain three or more words. Long-tail keywords are usually searched less often than broad ones, but they allow you to target your intended audience more precisely.
For example, the term “cold calling scripts” is searched 501-850 times per month, while the more targeted keyword “cold calling scripts for software sales” is searched 11-50 times per month.
Still, the more specific keyword is a better fit for our audience and helps us target our ideal buyers. Long-tail keywords are generally easier to rank for too. And if you provide valuable enough content, you can potentially rank for the more broad keyword (i.e. “cold calling scripts”) as well.
Expert SEO Tip:
The Keyword Suggestions tool on Moz is an excellent resource for building out your initial keyword list.
This feature provides hundreds of keyword suggestions based on your search term. The results can be filtered by search volume, relevancy, whether it’s a question, by inclusion or exclusion of words, and more.
Once you have an initial keyword list, it’s time to determine which search term is most worth your time. The primary tool we use for this section is Moz’s Keyword Explorer, which gives us the details we need to analyze keyword value.
The metrics we review for each keyword include:
Search intent is a major factor for SEO. It’s a tricky thing to quantify. So for our purposes of choosing the best keyword, we give it a simple 1, 2, or 3 rating based on our initial impression and what we see on the SERP for the term.
The next section of the checklist is entirely about search intent and will help you narrow down your top keywords.
Search intent is the underlying informational need behind a user’s choice of search terms. The final step in choosing a primary keyword is to determine what people are looking for when they search a specific term.
In many cases, you can infer search intent just by looking at the keyword itself. For example, there’s a difference between Googling “B2B marketing funnel” and “B2B marketing funnel template.” If you target the “template” keyword, you better include some sort of template the reader can use (because that’s what they’re likely searching for).
The best way to identify search intent is by looking at the content that’s already ranking high for the keyword.
A search engine’s main goal is giving users the best experience possible by providing the most relevant answers to their search terms. The top ranking web pages on the SERP are the best indicator for search intent, because Google has determined that those pages provide the best user experience and most relevant answers.
Now, which of your top three keywords is the most fitting for your topic, target audience, and the content you plan to write?
Expert SEO Tip: Once you’ve chosen a primary keyword for your post, hold onto those other keywords you found. These variations can be used as secondary keywords throughout your post, and using related keywords throughout the page helps search engines understand the contents and relevancy of your page.
#2 CONTENT CREATION
The two most important considerations for writing optimized content are (1) understanding why you’re writing the content and (2) making sure your content is properly structured for SEO.
The content creation section of our checklist ensures all strategic SEO elements are addressed before and after your writer drafts the post. This section should be completed by the person actually writing your blog post.
The before writing section of the checklist helps you plan out a blog post that’s more valuable than the other pages ranking, so you can potentially outrank them.
Once the post is drafted, your writer should do a thorough review to make sure they’re following all SEO best practices. The content structure section of the checklist largely focuses on user experience and readability, as well as technical elements that act as indicators to search engines.
Your section headings should have a logical flow and assist your visitors in navigating the page. Heading hierarchy ranges from H1 to H6, and each type of heading is considered a subsection of the one it’s placed under. You can have multiple H3’s under an H2 heading, multiple H4’s under a single H3 heading, and so on.
Subheadings are an opportunity to use secondary keywords, which can increase your page’s relevance to the topic and help you capture additional keyword opportunities.
Have you downloaded our free interactive SEO checklist yet? Learn how to create blog content specifically designed to rank.
#3 VISUAL SUPPORT
Optimize images and other visual elements for search by using targeted keywords in file names, alt text, and captions, and by achieving a speedy loading time for your page.
Your graphic designer, or the individual in charge of the UX (user experience) of your blog, should complete the visual support section of the checklist.
All original graphics in your blog post should reinforce your brand style and colors. And any graphics borrowed from outside sources should include a link to the source.
The graphics in your blog post should provide extra context for readers to help them understand the information on the page. Incorporating interactive elements, as well as branded graphics that can be saved and shared, will make for a more memorable page experience.
Before completing their section of the checklist, your designer should do a thorough review of the page to make sure all visual elements and styling work well for mobile and other screen sizes. And look for any potential improvements to the overall user experience.
#4 ON-PAGE SEO
The on-page optimization section of our SEO checklist covers all the technical elements you need to review and finalize before publishing.
Your digital specialist should review each of these items, collaborating with the appropriate people on your marketing team to ensure all content and graphic elements are fully optimized.
If you use WordPress as your CMS (content management system), we recommend the Yoast plugin for setting up these SEO elements. We use Yoast to set up our SEO page titles and meta descriptions, which allows us to easily stay within the recommended character limits.
The Yoast WordPress plugin provides all sorts of helpful insights into the optimization of your page. You can input your primary keyword, and the plugin will analyze how optimized your post is for the search term and provide recommendations for improvement.
Featured snippets are the answer boxes you see on Google, which are meant to provide a quick answer for users. Featured snippets are prime real estate for content creators looking to stand out on the SERP.
The easiest way to capture a featured snippet is to give a clear and authoritative definition for your primary keyword, especially in the introduction or final conclusion on your page. This helps Google understand the main topic of your page and determine whether you give a useful explanation.
There are different types of featured snippets you can target with your content:
Your content writer is responsible for structuring their post in a way that targets featured snippets. However, the digital person on your team should review the potential for featured snippets once more before posting and make any suggestions that may help your chances of ranking.
It’s important we mention one significant featured snippet update made by Google in January of this year. With this algorithm update, pages appearing in the featured snippet for a search term no longer appear as an organic result on the first page of the SERP too.
Since the update, many SEO experts no longer view featured snippets as an ultimate goal for content creators. You might want to skip targeting the featured snippet, depending on how high you can rank organically below it.
One study by Ahrefs looked at 100,000 keywords and found that featured snippets capture less than 9% of clicks on the SERP. This makes sense, as the answer box is meant to quickly answer a question without further reading. You can see that most clicks go to the top organic search result, whether or not there’s a featured snippet.
If you’re unlikely to rank in one of those top organic spots, targeting a featured snippet can still be a smart strategy. When your primary keyword is relatively competitive, claiming the featured snippet provides better visibility and CTR than landing at the bottom of the SERP.
The last item on our SEO checklist involves the technical setup of any engagement tracking tech you might use. For us, this typically includes setting up page scoring in our marketing automation platform, Salesforce Pardot, as well as setting up goals in Google analytics for downloadable content.
You can read more about setting up a page scoring system in Pardot in our B2B Marketer’s Guide to Pardot. But to summarize, a visitor’s lead score increases depending on the pages they visit on your website.
Some blog posts might contribute a higher score than others. For example, a sales strategy blog post might increase a prospect’s score by fewer points than a blog post about the pros and cons of outsourcing sales. Certain search terms show stronger buying intent than the others, so set up your scoring system accordingly.
Engagement tracking features like this are available in other platforms, such as HubSpot and Marketo, too. Feel free to reach out to our email automation specialists any time if you need some help setting this up.
Tracking engagement helps you understand how well your post is performing and identify any improvements to your content strategy and keyword targeting.
This checklist item is the final step in building an optimized content piece. After you’ve set up and reviewed all the technical SEO components of your post, you’re ready to publish!
Once your blog post is live, monitor rankings for your targeted keywords and organic traffic to the page. We suggest revisiting posts later on and testing out further optimization. You should always keep an eye out for ways to improve search visibility, and even small tweaks like changing a subheading or adjusting formatting can make a difference.
Remember that the overall user experience is a top priority. Everything that goes into a blog post — the initial topic research, the visual elements, technical setup, and the content itself — impacts the experience.
Understanding search intent behind keywords and providing easily accessible answers will win you favor with both readers and search algorithms. It starts with empathy for your audience and their informational needs.
If you’re looking for more guidance, our content marketing specialists at EBQ have created SEO-driven content for a variety of organizations and audiences. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team if you have questions or need help executing your content marketing strategy.