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The Master Checklist For Optimizing Your Blog Posts For the Search Engines — Follow This Checklist To Drive More Google Traffic

How you structure your blog post could be the difference between whether people find and read it, or not.

Bookmark this page for reference in your future blog posting.

Working with my clients, I'm often asked how to structure blog posts for optimal outcomes, including ranking high on Google searches for competitive search queries. To share this with them, and anyone else who could benefit, I've composed this blog post with some tips for ideal blog post ingredients.

The following structure is what I have been sharing with them and now I'm making it public for those who want to learn vicariously through my clients.

Ultimately, you need to decide on the vision and intentions for your blog post and the collection of them to determine which of these items will be relevant. Once you have that clarity, you can see this as a guide, and understand which rules can be broken.

Optimal Blog Post Checklist

  • For SEO and readability, the sweet spot length of a blog post seems to be around 1,200 words.
  • Have a strong and compelling introduction. Let people know what's at stake, quickly and concisely.
    • Share the stakes and quickly make it relevant to the reader. If you can tie in your personal story or a narrative connection early, that will help draw people in as well.
  • Have a clear and sharp emotionally evocative conclusion. Finish with a way to make it memorable, which often requires a compelling story climax.
  • If you have access to an SEO keyword research tool like SE Ranking, SEMRUSH, or AHREF, research additional keywords to use for tags and hashtags. If you don’t have these tools, use your best intuitive guesses for phrases people use to search for the topic.
  • Throughout your blog post, include section headers. 
    • The blog post title should be H1.
    • Subtitles should be H2 headers.
    • Sub-subtitles should be H3 and so on.
  • Check and rectify all grammar issues. Use Grammarly to make it easy.
  • Include an image, graphic, or visual break for every 350-500 words.
    • Make sure all images have a description [alt text] to rank better on search engines.
    • Create social sharing graphics to make it easier to share.
      • Include a horizontally designed graphic for sharing on social media.
      • Include a vertically designed graphic for sharing on Pinterest.
  • Identify and create internal links - highlight different words and phrases throughout the content and link to other blog posts and pages that are relevant to those selections. This is an important factor for Google to gauge how important those other posts and pages are to you. If you link more often to them, it tells Google they are important pages.
  • Create & embed a video. People consume content in different preferred media. If you provide different options, it increases the engagement rate. Also, if your written content doesn't describe the video, add the video transcript to the page, even if it's a short video.
  • Make sure you have a call to action if it's relevant.
    • When you add them, I'd recommend creating at least 2 calls to action, unless it's a short blog. The first will be midway through the post. The second CTA would be at the end. If it feels organic, you could include one at the top, like I've done on this post encouraging people to bookmark the page.
    • If the content is longer, consider adding a third, fourth, and fifth CTA.
    • Note: These CTAs can all be the same program with different hooks, or they can promote different programs or products.
  • Set all external links to open in a new window, so people don't leave your website when they click them.
  • Leverage a topic cluster strategy. This means you create a group of content that is relevant and link them all to each other.
    • If this post is part of a topic cluster strategy, include a link to the topic cluster pillar page and all the sub-pages inside that cluster. All cluster pages should interlink with each other.
  • If you have a tag strategy, include those relevant tags. If you don’t have a tag strategy, keep the number of tags down to 1-3.

A Guide on Leveraging Large Language Models (LLM) Like ChatGPT & Google Gemini AI

Since AI is changing many things, quite quickly, here are some tips for leveraging and thinking about AI for your blog content-creating process.

Strategic Approach

  • Difficult Tasks: One of the ways that we can differentiate our business, service, and content is to create hard-to-create things. Chat GPT and tools like it make many of what was a hard task easier. So the way to differentiate the content AI generates is to go further and generate difficult-to-create content. I've described several examples below, but anything you can think to do that will feed AI, help AI optimize that content, and that will improve the content it generates are the categorical strategic efforts required to generate the type of content that few others will create.

Tactical Approach

  • Validating claims: AI chatbots will make many claims, some of which will be distorted or false. I recommend having the AI fact-check itself or running the information through a competing AI chatbot and having it fact-check the information. The ideal quality assurance step is to have a specialist in the topic being discussed to review and rectify any problematic information.
  • Edit & Revise Wording For Voice & Coherence: Depending on how well you feed the chatbot will determine how effectively the content is written. I'd recommend having a writer go through the content to tweak the wording so it flows well and is completely coherent.
  • Personalize (Vision, Stories, Customers, & Services/Products): AI-written content is often generic. One way around this is feeding it a perspective and having it write from and for these perspectives. But ultimately, we want to personalize the content so it's more interesting and less encyclopedic. Orient the content towards the organization's overarching vision and mission, including company and customer stories. Add testimonials and case studies, and organically connect the content to products and services to enrich the content. I'd recommend feeding these elements into the AI before generating the content as it will automatically include them, making the process faster and easier.
  • Optimize With Keyword Research: Enrichen the content further by feeding and including keyphrases and topical ideas to AI for inclusion in its content generation. Ideally, it'll follow the best-practice rules for keyword inclusion and your post-generation content editing can rectify any weird artifacts that make the content hard to understand or read.

Additional Resources

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