Organic Search Engine Optimization Tips and Checklist

Boost Content Visibility with these Organic SEO Optimization Tips and Checklist

Search engines are the gatekeeper between your content and your audience. You know that the content you create is helpful and valuable, but unless the algorithm agrees, you could be relegated to the wastelands of the second page.

The good news is that as algorithms grow more sophisticated, the quality of content becomes more of a factor in search engine optimisation (SEO). Your insightful, substantial blog post will rank more highly than a shallower piece stuffed with old-school SEO trickery.

That said, search algorithms still rely on a few key non-quality-based indicators when determining rankings. The following steps can help you convince the gatekeeper that your content is worth promoting to the top of the page.

Your 4-Step SEO Checklist:

1. Make the Most of Title Tags

The title tag determines how your headline appears in search engine results pages (SERPs). In general, title tags should be shorter than your on-page title, with a clear benefit right at the beginning.

The title tag’s purpose is two-fold: First, it lets you grab readers in the crucial second or two after the results appear. Second, a shorter title avoids truncation in the results:

This page 6 headline for “Ugly Christmas Jumpers” doesn’t even get to the “jumper” before it’s cut off.

Google calculates where to cut headlines by pixel, not by character count. This free tool calculates your title’s pixel width automatically, so you can make sure the whole headline is readable.

In general, when writing title tags:

  • Avoid “stop words,” the most common words in a language, at the beginning of your tag
  • Place your keyword or topic as early as possible in the tag
  • Include a clear benefit to catch the reader’s eye
  • Make use of the space—a longer tag (within 600 pixels) can be more descriptive


2. Write a Captivating Meta Description

The meta description tag determines the text that displays under your title and URL in the SERP. This text is not used for search engine ranking, but can make a dramatic difference in your click-through rate, which in turn can influence ranking.

If the meta description is left blank, search engines will pull a bit of text from the content—which may or may not put your best face forward. So it’s a good idea to invest a bit of time filling it in.

Meta descriptions should be a maximum of 160 characters long, and should be unique for each piece of content you create. Think of it as the lede for a news article—it should quickly tell the reader what the content is about and why they should click through.

This example for “Hawaii Travel” tells you everything you need to know about what’s on the page. 

3. Use Header Tags Wisely

Header tags are useful for both search algorithms and human readers. Essentially, they are bits of text marked with the <h1>, <h2>, or <h3> tag (up to <h6>, but few use the higher numbers). These tags help organize your content by topic, providing structure.

Search engines prioritize header text in determining what your article is about. Use <h1> for an article title, or to introduce a large section of content. Then use <h2> for headers describing subsections of the content.

For example, if your content is about ugly Christmas jumpers, that phrase should appear in an <h1> tag as the title, such as “Ugly Christmas Jumpers and You: A Treatise.” Then the phrase should ideally appear in at least a few subsection <h2> tags, such as, “Why Ugly Christmas Jumpers Help the Economy,” and “Ugly Christmas Jumpers Can Save the World.”

Header tags are doubly important because people reading from a screen (versus the printed page) tend to skim first before deciding to commit to the full article. In that way, your header tags can be the deciding factor between reading on, or hitting the back button.
 

4. Add SCHEMA

This last step is a bit more complicated than the first three, but can make a substantial difference in the way your content appears on the SERP.

SCHEMA is an open-source markup language supported by the major search engines—Yahoo, Google, and Bing. Simply put, it’s extra bits of code you can put in your content to tell search engines what type of content they’re looking at. For example, you can say, “This bit is a recipe,” or “this is our intended audience,” or “this is a photo of the author.”

There is some debate about how much SCHEMA influences search rankings, but it does play a role. Most importantly, it changes the way your content appears in the SERP.  For example, SCHEMA makes the movie titles and dates appear here: 

And it displays additional navigational links for the Tower of London site here:

There are a variety of subcategories of SCHEMA to use with specific industries and content types. For blog posts, start with the NewsArticle and BlogPosting schema, or browse schema.org for more.

As search engines get smarter, optimising for humans is becoming more important than optimising for robots. Click-through rates, time on page, and bounce rates all are playing a larger role than ever before.  So great content contributes substantially to good SEO. However, title tags, meta tags, header tags, and SCHEMA can be a solid supporting line-up to make sure readers have the chance to experience your exceptional content.

This content was originally posted on LinkedIn.


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