About to Publish A Post? STOP! Read This

May 12, 2011
By Lisa Barone in SEO

It used to be that it was just us writer people that were responsible for publishing blog posts. But, my, how times have changed. As business owners, marketers, and social media mavens, we’re all responsible for publishing content on a regular basis. We publish posts to our own blogs to build our authority and search engine happiness, and we publish guest posts on other blogs to increase your readership and gain new eyes. With all the time we now devote to writing great content, we want to make sure we’re getting the most out of it that we can. And that means taking the time to optimize your content before you ever hit the publish button. Because search engine optimization always works better when it’s a priority, not an afterthought.

Before you hit publish on that post, make sure you’re hitting seven important points. They may just make all the difference.

Did you target what you meant to target?

Let’s be real – as a business, you’re blogging with a purpose. You’re blogging for authority and for attention, but you’re also blogging to increase your search engine rankings and your findability. If you can’t admit this to yourself you run the risk of not actively basing your blog topics around what you’re trying to be known for. If you’re a business and you’re NOT doing this…well, I’m sure your competitors all really thank you.

Before you publish your post, confirm that you’re targeting what you meant to target with this post. Its fine to go off-topic on occasion (keep it less than 20 percent of your posts to avoid annoying people), but know what you’re after. Typically this means doing some keyword research to find holes in your rankings, unexpected keyword traffic you can capitalize on, or where you want to steal the thunder from your competitors. Before you publish a post know why you’re publishing it. What is this post doing for you? Why is it here? How does it fit? What are your goals and do they match current practices?

Did you optimize your titles?

Our content lives and dies by the blog titles we craft. You know this. But what happens when you have the PERFECT title to draw people in and play on their emotions, but it’s not exactly search friendly?

You create two different titles.

When it comes to blog optimization, there are two titles you need to worry about and consider.

  • The title of your post
  • Page Title (what’s in your Title tag)

On most occasions, the title of your post and your page title will be the same. But, there may be some occasions where it makes sense to vary them a little bit, either to go after different keyword variations or to make your page title more search engine-friendly. Do NOT use this as an opportunity to spam, but know what your options are.

For example, you’ll notice that on our post about creating your social media plan, the post title and page title differ somewhat:

  • Post Title: Creating Your Social Media Plan
  • Page Title: Creating Your Social Media Plan | Using Social Media For Business

By doing that, we’re able to optimize for both users (traditional and the search engines) and take advantage of additional keyword opportunities. This often allows us to write flowery titles when we have a really good one in mind (or simply can’t help ourselves), but also to target the engines with something a bit more descriptive.

What about the URL slug?

What does your URL slug look like? If you’re still using the default permalink setting in WordPress, it probably looks like a mangled mess. Go back and do better.

By going into Settings -> Permalinks in your WP Admin, you’ll see the option to edit how your URLs appear when published. Below is a look at how we have things set up at Outspoken Media.

We prefer to change the custom structure to use a category/post-name format. For us, this works best and allows us to highlight the strength of our category pages. If you chose to replace that code with /%postname%/, then WordPress would generate your URLs as [domain.com/post-title]. Either way is preferred over the default because it gives you an opportunity to customize your post slugs and to work in keywords when you can.

Even if you do tweak your settings (which you should), you’ll still probably want to give your slugs a quick edit before hitting publish to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your publishing buck. Also consider that users tend to like shorter URLs.

And your page description?

Your page description will often be the deciding factor in whether or not someone clicks on your link the search results. It’s your chance to use just a little bit of text to convey both what the page is about, but also why someone should care enough to click on it. Here you’ll want to keep important keywords in mind, but more than that, focus on giving someone a reason to commit to checking out your site in order to learn more about that page. As I like to mention, Darren Slatten has a great snippet optimizer that I’d highly recommend you checking out to help you write better Titles and descriptions.

You got images? Did you optimize them?

If you’re using WordPress, it’s so dead-simple to optimize images that you have no reason not to. For every image that you include in your post make sure you also set a unique title and ALT text to give the engines a clue what the picture is about and to pick up some additional traffic in image search and other areas. Obviously, don’t be a jerk and start keyword stuffing. Keep the text super relevant to the image you’re describing and don’t take too many liberties.

Are you using heading tags effectively?

What do we know about Web readers? They don’t read; they skim. By appropriately using header tags to break up content (eg H1, H2, H3, etc), you make it easier for users to get through your content by breaking it up and giving them a more visual representation of your key points. To same vein, using heading tags also helps the search engines understand the main points and theme of that page, as well.

Did you interlink old posts?

Inter linking old posts is a good habit to get into for a number of reasons. From the user side, it helps new readers familiarize themselves with posts you published before they found you and gives them a reason to dig into your archives. It’s also helpful for long-term readers who may missed a post or who couldn’t relate to a certain post because they weren’t ready yet. Now…months or years later, they are. You also want to interlink old posts to build up your own internal anchor text and pick up some rankings for content you’ve already written. By linking smartly, you let the search engines know that you’re linking to a page that is about X. Considering how much time we spend focusing on external links, the least we can do is optimize our internal links, no?

That’s the mental checklist we go through when publishing content for ourselves or for clients. It may seem like a lot, but it’s important if content marketing is something that’s important to your business (Hi. It is). There are also plugins like Joost’s newly updated WordPress SEO plugin which will examine your page title, Meta description, alt tags, headings, links, and a whole bunch more to essentially do the heavy lifting for you and ensure your content SEO is handled properly from the very beginning. You may want to check that out. We’re fans of it here at Outspoken.

But what does your process for post publishing look like? Let us know in the comments.

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