March 23

The 15-Minute SEO Checklist

By Bryan Johnston

March 23, 2021


Psst. Hey, you. 

I need to tell you something. Even if you’re not a writer, you need a blog or online portal. No matter what you do, or what your business does, a website makes it all easier. It’s a central element of your marketing strategy. You can connect and engage with your customers. You can strengthen those relationships. 

You can even use a website to help you find a job. Create an online portfolio or resume. Hiring and HR managers love those. 

But here’s the thing: no matter how great it looks, no matter how wonderful your content or experience or work samples, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if no one sees it. But how do you get them to your digital door? 

Well, you could simply give people your URL and instruct or ask them to go there. That can work sometimes. You might link to your website from your social media accounts. That can work, too. But both of those assume you already have their attention in some way (they already follow you on social media, or you’ve included the web address in the cover letter you sent to someone regarding an open position). 

But that’s not all you should do. Get that website up, and then tweak your search engine optimization (or SEO). This will increase the “visibility” of your website when someone does a related search on Google or Bing (or any other search engine). The better your SEO, the more likely you and your website will pop up when someone searches for a related keyword (your product or service, or the industry you want to work in).

To be honest, some of it is complicated and difficult to do well. But other things might only require a little research and elbow grease on your part. Can you handle that? Even if you think you don’t “get” SEO, even if you think it’s above you, there are at least three things that anyone can do in 15 minutes or less to improve their own on-page SEO. 

Got 15 minutes to invest in your business or career? Of course you do. 

PERMALINKS (TIME INVOLVED – LESS THAN ONE MINUTE)

This is an easy one. Permalinks are the permanent links (get it?) to a particular webpage or blog entry. The web address appearing at the top of your browser.

If you’re using WordPress or something similar, the permalinks appear as a series of random numbers, letters, and symbols by default. This does nothing to help your SEO. But one simple change can help.

Under SETTINGS on your dashboard (along the left) you’ll see an option for PERMALINKS. Click on that and you’re given a few different choices for them. The best choice is the POST NAME option. Select that one, and save the changes. Done! Every post will now be linked according to its title, which makes it much easier for people to find.

How does this help? By creating a permalink based on the post name, and ensuring that the name itself uses a useful keyword (more on that in a moment), this small adjustment will help your overall ranking. It helps the search engines understand (at least a bit better) what the page is about and how it might be useful to other people. And it’s so easy.

ON-PAGE SEO FACTORS (TIME INVOLVED – TEN MINUTES TO CHECK PREVIOUS POSTS; ONGOING AFTERWARDS)

Keywords. How important are they? Let me count the ways:

  1. Target keyword(s). Every post, every webpage, should have a keyword or two that you’re going to target. Identify it before you write anything at all. Know heading in what it is, and use it.
  2. Article Heading. Your keyword(s) needs to appear as an exact match in the heading of the page.
  3. Page Title. Again, you want an exact match to your target keyword(s). Exact. Match.
  4. Page URL. Your web address (permalink). You can see what it will be at the top of the post editor. You can even edit it right there. Make sure it includes an exact keyword(s) match. 
  5. Content. You want your keyword(s) to appear multiple times in the body of your text. How many is open to debate. In the past, unscrupulous writers could simply “stuff” the keyword in an unnatural number of times. That no longer works, and will likely get penalized by Google (which negatively affects your ranking). Instead, go for natural repetition somewhere in the 1-3% range, meaning your keyword should be 1-3% of your total word count. This is in no way a steadfast rule. Just a simple suggestion based on user experience and best practices. If you’re writing about hamburgers, you would expect the word “hamburger” to appear many times in the text, right? Likewise, whenever possible, you should include your keyword(s) in sub-headings appearing in the text. You are using subheadings, aren’t you? They break a large block of text into smaller, more scannable chunks. Use them. Make them H2 or H3. Include your keyword(s).
  6. Meta Description. This is the brief (roughly 150 characters) description you write to summarize what a post is about. You need to include – say it with me – an exact match to your keyword(s).

You want to make it abundantly clear to Google, Bing, and the rest the subject of your post. Crystal clear. Your keyword(s) – appearing in these ways – will do that.

Now, here’s the good news. That may all seem like a lot to remember. And it is. But there are plenty of good plugins that can help. The best is WordPress SEO by Yoast. Once installed, you’ll find a handy reminder beneath the post editor. It allows you to fill in the keyword(s) information, and it will check that everything is present and matches up, in addition to a multitude of other useful features. 

SOCIAL MEDIA AND SEO (TIME INVOLVED – FIVE MINUTES)

Links and shares are important, too. Are you making it easy for people to like and share your content? Jetpack for WordPress is the simplest way to do this. We want to add sharing buttons at the bottom (and maybe at the top, too) of each post. Activate the SHARING feature in Jetpack, and then go to SETTINGS and SHARING to configure. Follow the instructions…you essentially just drag and drop the social media platforms you want to include. At a minimum, you should provide buttons for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. 

You could also go the plugin route. Many people use Click-to-Tweet to assist in sharing their content. This plugin provides a super simple way to quickly share useful quotes and statistics. Pretty slick. 

And don’t forget to promote your posts on your own social media platforms, too. Your Facebook page. Your Twitter feed. Your Instagram profile. Once again, Jetpack makes it easy to do so. You may have already noticed this when adding your sharing buttons. If you return to SETTINGS and SHARING, you’ll see something called PUBLICIZE at the top. By clicking the CONNECT button beside each platform, you can link your blog/website to your social media profiles. After that, every time you publish something, it will automatically be shared on your linked pages. Set it and forget it.

SEO can be complicated. It does include much more than what appears here. But these three things will give you a solid foundation, and a better understanding on how it all works. And you’ve only invested about fifteen minutes.

If you’re curious about the whole shebang, try reading up on SEO. 

Any questions or concerns? Anything that just refuses to make sense for you? Let me know in the comments.

About the author

Former high school English lit & drama teacher. Current writer, stand-up comedian, & improv performer. A big switch? You betcha.

International expat for 12+ years with stops in Beijing, Dubai, Shanghai, & Guangzhou. Dad to a high school junior & a Portuguese water dog. Lover of funny things & people. Oh, and craft beer.

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