SEO Handbook: 17 Essential SEO Blog Tips You Must Follow To Rank

Bonus Material: Blog Post SEO Checklist

Imagine you just published an article you spent countless hours creating. Which one of these results would you rather have?


google analytics declining pageviews graph

Or this?:

google analytics increasing page visits graph

In the first image, you get an immediate, meteoric rise in views (10,000 in one day!). Then the views come crashing down to non-existent within 15 days.

In the second image, there’s almost no traction for over a month. Then, slowly but surely, the views start consistently rolling in, averaging around 600 views a day without any signs of slowing.

One group followed great SEO blog tips. One skimped on blog SEO and relied on social media and email marketing.

Guess which one you should strive for?

Yep, it’s graph #2.

I know you crave instant gratification. We all do. That’s why sometimes I’ll throw 10 Oreos down my throat in one sitting. So the thought of graph #1 and 10,000 views in one day may make you feel all tingly in the pleasure area of your brain.

But that’s unrealistic for long-term success. Fueling your article solely with social media and email is like starting gas on fire -- it’ll be awesome for a bit, and then it’ll just poof...disappear.

how to increase traffic

Do it for the children (and also your business)

You want sustained traffic.

It’s like investing -- it’s not fun to stick $200 a month into an account you can’t touch. But that money will grow into something big in the future because you decided to play the long-term game.

Because that article in graph #2 will keep bringing in hundreds or thousands of visitors every single day thanks to SEO.

The long term play wins, and I want to show you how to get those kind of results for every article you write.

I’ve tried almost every SEO trick and tactic in the book. But after raising 100+ web pages and articles to the first page of search engines, I’ve found a consistent SEO blog checklist for raising your work to the tippity top of Google.

That checklist consists of 17 of the best SEO blog tips to do before, during and after you create your blog post.

SEO Tips Before You Write

SEO Tips When You Write

SEO Tips After You Write

Oh, and guess what?

I’m going to show you how I do all these things with this guide as an example.

Ready? #strapin

4 SEO Tips Before You Write Your Blog Post

Time to break out some wise words from Confucius:

Confucius preparation quote

The preparation you put in before you write your article will determine how successful it is. If you cut corners, your article will fall flat.

If you put in the time to prepare everything, though, you’re setting yourself up for success. And you really need to put in that time, because this is the current landscape of search engines:

percentage of traffic by google results position

Ouch. So the top four results on Google get about 68% of the traffic, with the first page results seeing 91% total traffic. If you’re on the second page, it’s like you don’t even exist.

So it’s important to start off on the right foot, and these four SEO tips will help prepare you for that Confucius-level success.

SEO Blog Tip #1: Find Your Keyword

This isn’t groundbreaking stuff. Almost every SEO guide you’ll read starts out with finding a good keyword.

Basically it’s this:

  • Find a keyword that’s highly searched in the Google Keyword Planner Tool
  • Search that keyword to see what the competition is
  • Find the gaps and fill them with your content.

That’s been repeated time and time again. It’s important, but I want to give you a tip where you can really win:

Head terms vs long-tail keywords.

For example, this is the head term for this blog post:

google keyword tool

We’re going after “SEO blog tips”. There’s a nice overlap with “SEO tips” and “SEO blog,” so we could see residual traffic from those searches.

But here’s the thing: while those are the monthly searches for those head terms, they’re not the only words people are searching for.

That’s where long-tail keywords come in.

How often do you search for “dinner recipes?”

Probably not often. But how often would you search for “quick easy dinner recipes?”

Probably a lot more often. It’s more specific, still contains the the main head term and actually sounds like something a person would search for.

That’s a long-tail keyword. An easy way to find long-tail keywords is to try different combinations in the Google search bar. For this post, I did something like this:

Blog SEO

So I took the second highest-searched keyword and looked at the variations. And guess what?

I use almost all of those in this guide.

Another way to find long-tail keywords is to consider exactly what you would search if you were looking for more information on your topic.

These long-tail keywords will help your blog rank higher in these niches, as opposed to catering to a broad keyword.

SEO Blog Tip #2: Build A Sitemap

Here’s what a sitemap is, according to Google:

“A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site.”

You know that feeling when you’re trying to get somewhere but your Google Maps app isn’t working? That’s what it’s like when you don’t have a sitemap on your site.

Also something to point out in that definition: web crawlers. Think of those like spiders search engines send out to index the entirety of the internet. They see every page and report back to their respective search engine with the information they found.

If a web crawler can’t easily get to your article’s link, it can completely prevent your article from showing up on a search engine.

south park mmkay meme

The good news is, you can easily build a sitemap without any coding knowledge. Just download and integrate either this plugin or this one on your site, and they’ll automatically create sitemaps whenever you add new pages.

SEO Blog Tip #3: Make Your Site Mobile Responsive

Moz wrote an article about mobile responsiveness in search engine rankings. If your site isn’t mobile responsive, you’re going to see a dip in ALL your pages -- articles or otherwise.

This is a newer addition to the list, but you need to follow it like the rest of the rules. Since more searches occur on mobile devices than browsers, you need to be mobile responsive for the sake of SEO AND your user experience.

You can check the mobile-responsiveness of your site by inserting your URL into this mobile-responsiveness tester from Google. It’ll let you know if your site is up-to-snuff or not:

google analytics mobile-friendly test


If your site isn’t mobile friendly, get your site up to the requirements.

SEO Blog Tip #4: Lower Your Average Page Load Time

Will Ferrell said it best:

Think about it: when was the last time you waited more than eight seconds for a page to load?

Be honest: you don’t. And Google doesn’t, either. Once you get over the five second mark, they start penalizing you incrementally.

See, while page load time is a ranking factor in search engines, it’s the plethora of other bad shit it brings that can tank your rankings.

It’s the bounce rate (people leaving your site) being high + the time on site being low + the slow load time that can = penalties from search engines.

There are a lot of things that can contribute to slow load times:

  • Images that are WAY too big (or unoptimized)

  • Uncompressed content

  • Too many background images

  • So, so much more.

Easy way to check your site speed? Head here and enter your URL. They’ll give you an accurate load time.

sumo page test

Good to go.

If your site is a bit on the slow side, check out this site for a few fixes. But be warned: if your site IS slow, be prepared to shell out some money for someone to fix it properly.

If you can look at these four SEO tips and go, “Yeah, I’m so optimized that DJ Khaled just called ME the best,” then you’re prepared enough to move on to step two of this SEO plan.

dj khaled is the best

8 SEO Tips When You Write Your Article

Your site is optimized like crazy. You’ve got the best keywords picked out for your content. Now it’s just time to write the thing.

If you have your keyword in mind and know what you need to write, there are lots of different directions you can go for an article.

If you need help coming up with some new angles or ways to write your post, you can check out this great article on 13 different types of content.

But if you already know what you want to write and how to present it, it’s time to dig into some ways to include SEO in your articles.

SEO Blog Tip #5: Spend SO Much Time On Your Headline

Here’s the truth: no matter how much experience you have as a writer, the headline will always take up a lot of your time.

But it’s worth it when you see your article consistently getting clicks from every medium AND ranking high in search engines.

Here’s what goes into making a headline at Sumo:

  1. Someone finds the keyword we need to include in the title
  2. Someone narrows the 20-30 down to 3-5
  3. A group of us vote on the best headline

That’s how seriously we take our headlines. I have two personas in my head when I write a headline: Drago from Rocky IV and Joy from Inside Out.

Here’s what a typical back-and-forth looks like:

overusing keywords

I wish I was kidding.

When you write your headline, you need to find a balance between those two personas. The headline needs to be something attention-grabbing, but it also needs to be rooted in your main keyword.

For this blog post we decided on “SEO Handbook: 17 Essential SEO Tips Your Blog MUST Follow.”

We get our main keyword variant in there (SEO blog tips) in a way that feels clickable. Handbook is a word that makes the content feel bigger and sturdy, and words like “essential” and “must” convey importance.

If you need help with either of those two things, I suggest these two articles:

  1. 49 Headline Formulas to Skyrocket Conversions (And Where to Use Them): Here’s a list of every successful headline formula you could possibly imagine.
  2. The Automatic Kickass Headline Generator: All you have to do is plug your topic into the spreadsheet and it spits out a bunch of possible headlines.

And when you nail the headline? It looks something like this:

power words for blog seo

That article has 3.5k shares and it grows every day. Find the balance between a headline search engines and people love and you’ll see some great traffic.

SEO Blog Tip #6: Get Your Heading Tags Squared Away

Heading tags - or H-Tags, as the hip SEOs call it - exist to separate sections of you blog post. They’re numbered 1-6, and they actually have some substantial SEO juice if use correctly.

Think of your headings tags like this:

heading tags in blog seo

They’re listed in descending order of importance.

  • Heading Tag 1: This is generally your headline. You only get one of these, otherwise you get penalized because search engines have no idea what’s supposed to be the main idea of that page.
  • Heading Tag 2: These separate the big ideas of your article. Use them sparingly. They’ve got tremendous SEO power if you include your head term and try to work in long-form keywords, too.
  • Heading Tag 3: These are the smaller yet still important headers of your post. They can be used for tools, tips, ideas or anything that falls under your H2 tag topic. Use these generously.
  • Heading Tag 4-6: Lol, yeah ok. These don’t really matter. Use them for styling up your page however you want.

To give you an idea of what that looks like, here’s what I’ve done in this post:

  • Heading Tag 1: SEO Handbook: 17 Essential SEO Tips Your Blog MUST Follow. We felt this was a great combo of our head term and what people would click on.
  • Heading Tag 2: I use this for “4 SEO Tips Before You Write Your Blog Post” and the like. It has a main head term in it, so it’s easier for search engines to link that up with my title.
  • Heading Tag 3: I use this for all the tips in here like “SEO Blog Tip #6: Get Your Heading Tags Squared Away.” It gives me the opportunity to keep using a keyword phrase while providing the tips.
  • Heading Tag 4-6: I’m not about that life.

When you write your own header tags, remember that each one should modify the last. So H3 modifies the H2, and H2 modifies the H1.

SEO Blog Tip #7: Balance Your Meta Description

Your meta description is what shows up below your headline in search results. When I searched for “worst baseball players ever” this was the top result:

Blog SEO

At least they made it on a list

Look what Google did -- it highlighted “worst baseball players.” Google was able to take the phrase from the meta description and connect it to the headline. That’s an important way to build authority and verification that your post will cover what the headline promises.

This, like your headline, is a fight between Drago and Joy for the balance of what’s SEO optimized and what’s interesting to click.

Here’s my favorite formula for this:

  • 150-160 Characters: Staying in this range guarantees your entire meta description will be read.

  • Mention the Keyword Once: Use your head keyword in the meta description once. Twice is stretching it, unless you can make it sound non-robotic.

  • Answer Why They Need This: You need to crystallize why your article has to be read. And you need to do it in one to two sentences.

For this post, it would show up like this: “New to SEO? Here’s all the tips you need to know to optimize your content before, after, and when you blog.”

Strike a balance between using your keyword and writing something that, in combination with your headline, makes people want to read your post.

SEO Blog Tip #8: Clean Up Your Slug

You heard the title:

Blog SEO

Yes. I actually took time to create this image.

Ok. Not that slug. I’m talking about the part of a URL that identifies the specific page you’re on. For our Sumo blog, the bold part is our slug:

But for some people, it can look like this:

That’s too long and it buries the article. Search engines view URLs like they view your heading tags -- the most important thing is first, with everything that follows losing importance.

You want your most important thing as close to your root URL (usually the URL of your homepage). So for this post, our URL looks like this:

Remember: use your head term in this slug. This term is what you want search engines to identify the article with. When you have the slug, headline AND meta description syncing up, it helps tremendously with higher rankings:

worst baseball players of all time

This was the #1 ranking for “worst baseball players.” See how the term is integrated?

There are times when you can take advantage of the ordering of your slug. But, to keep it simple, just get your main head term/article title close to your root URL.

SEO Blog Tip #9: Nail the First 100 Words

Web crawlers see a page the same way you do -- they start from the top and work their way down.

In turn, you’ve got to treat your first 100 words like your headline:

  • For Search Engines: You need to include your head term or long-tail keyword at least once. After the crawler sees your head term in your headline, meta description and slug, you’ll want to introduce it in your articles soon as possible. The first 100 words is a good rule-of-thumb.
  • For Humans: You want to capture your reader’s attention while also toeing the line of addressed the blog topic. If you can’t captivate your reader within the first 100 words, your bounce rate and time on page will suffer big time.

In this article, I use the term “SEO blog tips” in that first 100 words while still using an attention-grabbing opener (at least I hope so if you’re this far into the post). It’s a good combo that satisfies the crawlers and the folks like you.

SEO Blog Tip #10: Tag Your Best Images

This is the biggest step most bloggers forget to do.

People focus so much on the main search results that they forget the “Images” section of search engines acts as a place to rank, too.

worst mlb pitch ever

Never forget how poorly 50 Cent threw that baseball.

The page title is listed at the top, with the URL below that. But under the URL, you’ve got a description of the image.

That description doesn’t just happen on its own. Most blogging engines give you the opportunity to give the image a description through alt text.

Think of the alt text like a meta description for your image. You should use your head term and describe what the image is. Keep it between 70-100 characters to make sure it displays everything.

Two types of images you should link:

  • Your Main Post Image: Always title this bad boy, because most people will pin/share this image. You want a clean description that captures what the whole post is about.
  • Your Best Images You Created: You don’t need to tag images that you pulled from the internet -- those already rank for someone else and they might not pertain to your keyword. You want to spend your time tagging images that are unique to you.

Most places like WordPress make it easy to fill in this alt text:

how to use alt text for SEO

Don’t ask questions about the “candy-haul” thing

However, even though you should give alt text to your proprietary images, you should always name your files with a keyword in mind. This only reinforces to crawlers what your page is about.

So for our post, the files all have names like blog-seo-tips-slugs.jpg instead of something like untitled1.jpg. For all your images, follow that kind of format to help your chances with the crawlers.

SEO Blog Tip #11: Link. Link. Link.

Link. Link often. Link with el passion.

Seriously. Linking is one of the best things you can do within your post. For all the tips I’ve given in this section, this is the one that takes a bit of time but is completely worth it in the end.

Linking is it’s own sort of special SEO magic. We talked about what happens when a crawlers goes through your text and looks for keywords.

You know what they love, though? When your keywords are linked.

internal vs external links

Live your blog life like thing.

When a crawler sees a word or phrase linked, it places more emphasis on that than a non-linked word or phrase.

When I talk about linking within you blog post, I’m referring to three types of links:

  • Anchor Tags: These are simply links to different parts of your posts. That’s why, depending on the post, I like to include links like I did at the top of the post. It gives you the opportunity to link your biggest keywords as early in the post as possible.

  • Internal Linking: This means linking to relevant content that you’ve created on your site. I already did it in this post with a few articles. Here’s a great piece on why internal linking is important, touching on great points like building architecture and increasing SEO success.

  • External Linking: Hey, I just did it in the last paragraph! Linking strong keywords out to other strong pieces of content signals to a search engine that your article should be at least in the same ballpark as that content. Plus, you give some blog love to a fellow content creator for a nice win-win (and maybe a linkback...more on that soon).

Of all these strategies, anchor tags might be the easiest, but internal linking is the most effective. Keeping someone on your site decreases your bounce rate, increases time on site AND created an interlinked system on your blog -- all good things in the ranking algorithms.

But for all this advice on crafting a tight, SEO’ed blog post, there’s one thing you need to remember above all….

SEO Blog Tip #12: Create Amazing Content

Just read the thing. Have others read it. Have a stranger read it.

Do you like it? Does it make sense? Does it solve the original problem you set out to answer?

If it’s not a good, unique and helpful piece of content, then none of these tips will help you.

And if you need help with creating that awesome content….well….here’s an article that shows you how to reverse engineer the most popular content on the web.

5 SEO Tips After You Write Your Blog Post

Hey, you published that awesome post! People can read it on their mobile devices and it loads up nice and fast. Dang, you’re set.

Except you’re not.

I used to think doing these previous 12 tips I’ve shared were all you needed in order to rank high in search engines.

kfc meme

There’s a reason this post is split into three parts. It’s not enough to prepare your site, find a great keyword and write a great post.

You’ve got to bring it all home with five specific things after you publish that will almost certainly guarantee search engine dominance.

One caveat before I go into these tips. Not everyone will do them.

And this isn’t one of those fake “Only 5% of people will share this” phrases copywriters like to use to make you think “Screw you, I’LL share this thing.”

Legitimately, people won’t do these next five steps because they’re hard work.

I’ve laid this exact plan out for businesses before, only to check in a few months later and see poor results because of lack of follow through.

But I’ll tell you something. When I figured out these last five tips is when I consistently ranked content on the first page of search engines.

So if you’re ready to start really making your articles work for you, read on, my friend.

Cause this is where the hard work really starts.

SEO Blog Tip #13: See How Far Down A Page Readers Go

You don’t write an article hoping 15% of people read it all, do you?

I hope not. That’d be a really weird way to approach writing.

Ideally, you want your story to be so good that people feel compelled to read the whole thing, like Kelly after she read a post I wrote for Leadpages:

nice blog comments

Let me be 100% upfront with you on this: it’s not always this way. Sometimes people just leave the article for whatever reason. You can’t control things like their priorities, current state of mind or what have you.

But you can control the quality of your writing. Because 9/10 times that’s what makes people leave a page within the first 100 words, resulting in some scary bounce rates you don’t want.

The good news is, you don’t have to guess if people are reading everything. There’s a way to actually see how far down the page they’re reading (and where they’re jumping off).

You can use a scrolling heat map (aka Content Analytics) to see how far down a page your audience reads.

welcome mat example

Looks something like this.

Again, not everyone will get to the bottom of your page. You just want to avoid people leaving right away. Case in point, a post on our site called 28 Ideas For Content Upgrades to Grow Your Email List saw this happen:

easy content upgrades

Only 62% of readers made it past the introduction.

Yet you’d never know that if you didn’t have Content Analytics installed. No worries, here’s a free version of that tool and you can install it in five minutes.

If you see people leaving before they get to the meat of your post, don’t be afraid to edit your published article. This stuff isn’t set in stone, and you can tweak your intro until you see more people make it down your page.

SEO Blog Tip #14: Get. Traffic.

Alright, people who were guffawing at my intro. Here’s where you get to point at your screens and go “AHA! You do need traffic.”

Of course you need traffic.

Getting traction creates a snowball effect with search engines. If they can see popularity and views on a piece of content, they’re much more likely to raise that than something with 10 views and an upvote from mom.

So if you can combine this:

google analytics declining pageviews graph

With this:

google analytics increasing page visits graph

Then you get an image of such steady traffic that I can’t post it because it could be considered NSFW.

We’ve found that initial traffic and social proof from shares can really kickstart that process. A couple ways to do that:

  • Reach Out Via Social Media: You know the drill. Facebook posts, Tweets, reddit...get the message out and get the clickthroughs/shares on all your channels. Build healthy social media channels that rank for your business to help supplement your post.

  • Post an Abridged Version on LinkedIn and Medium: Don’t worry, you won’t get dinged in your SEO for this. You’ve got to consider the audiences (LinkedIn a bit more professional, Medium more personal), but getting love there can go a long way.

  • Get Featured in Newsletters: I guarantee your industry has a few people that curate content in a newsletter. Build relationships with them and offer quality content to their readership.

After that, you’ve just got to get creative. But focus on getting that initial traffic so your post isn’t dormant -- that only hurts your chances of long-term success.

SEO Blog Tip #15: Build Those Backlinks

Moz, the overlords of all that is SEO, came out with a study on the importance of backlinks in 2015.

Turns out, if no one is linking to your content, you can kiss great rankings goodbye.

relationship between google rankings and links

So backlinks. You need them. Big time.

There are three ways of building up backlinks.

You can be a dirty, unforgivable black hat SEO douche and build link farms that backlink to your site. Thankfully, Google has wised up to that, so it’s much harder to pull off.

You could follow the old-school mentality of linking to a site, then asking for a backlink in return. That’s a bit harder because there’s no incentive for them to give a backlink and your link may not give them substantial value.

The third way, which has the highest success rate, is to provide value through sub-articles.

See, sub-articles are perfect for building MULTIPLE backlinks. I won’t get too deep into it because the article explains it really well, but these are the steps you take:

  • Find Your Best Long-Form Article: This should be a cornerstone piece of content that’s long, has great traffic and touches on multiple topics.
  • Break It Down Into Smaller Categories: Take the bigger topics you cover in that piece of content and write them down.
  • Write Smaller Articles Around Those Categories: 1,000-1,500 word articles that contain links to that article or others on your site.
  • Pitch Those Articles to Websites: Find sites that publish content around those sub-articles and literally give them those articles to publish fo’ free.
  • Repeat: Keep doing it for your big articles, because you’ll get SO MANY BACKLINKS DOING THIS.

What you’re doing is providing immense value to that website. You’re adding great content that they didn’t have to publish, all the while you collect that valuable backlink juice for bigger rankings.

SEO Blog Tip #16: Publish Consistently

You hear bloggers say it all the time: “Publish on a consistent cadence so your readers get in a routine.”

I agree, but I’ll also add this from an SEO standpoint: “Publish on a consistent cadence so your readers and the web crawlers get in a routine.”

This article explains all the benefits of publishing consistently for SEO, but basically it boils down to this:

The more content you publish, the more the web crawlers have to index your site. The more they do that, the higher you rank because they see you as a “healthy” site.

That’s the difference in ranking high and staying in that high rank. If a site becomes stagnant, it’s indexed less frequently. Any post that ranks high will eventually be beaten by a healthy site that publishes often.

Which brings me to my last tip.

SEO Blog Tip #17: Audit Every 3-6 Months

This is easily the step almost every blogger doesn’t do.

I’ll admit, I didn’t even do it when I started out. “It’s either ranking or it’s not” I’d yell.

But it’s about more than that. It’s about mapping out the journey and tracking your success over a long period of time -- SEO is a long term game.

Let me ask you this….

Can you remember a post you published six months ago?

You may not, but search engines do. And if you’ve forgotten about it, then you’re basically giving permission for those search engines to as well.

judd nelson in breakfast club

To quote Buzzfeed, “Only 80’s kids will get this reference.”

You absolutely need to keep track of your post’s performance. Where does it rank for each keyword at the two, four and six month marks? Is it getting traction? Tracking these things will help keep you focused on that long-term goal.

Look, since I know that’s the toughest thing to do, I’ve created a spreadsheet that can help you track that stuff. I’ve also included every single tip we covered so you can track those, too.

All you need to do is click the button below and you can grab the spreadsheet that’ll help you take your blogging to the next level.

Yes, I Want My Posts To Matter