The Ultimate Easy SEO Checklist

Use this quick and easy SEO checklist every time you write a post to make sure you are making the most of every pageview, every time.

Easy SEO Checklist

Use our ultimate easy SEO checklist to make search engine optimization easy and fast.

SEO used to seem like some huge complicated beast, and since I didn’t understand it, couldn’t interpret it, and didn’t have money to hire an “expert”, I just ignored it.

Big mistake.

That meant my website that had hundreds of posts wasn’t getting any real traffic from search engines, and I was depending solely on social media for my traffic.

Huge mistake.

My #1 goal since coming to work at Mediavine last June and diving head-first into actionable, easy, SEO — has been to make google my #1 referral.

I’m happy to report that finally became the norm on my little corner of the internets, and it happened because I put the following practices into place, and have been editing my posts, 10-20 every week — with the changes suggested here.

1. Research your keyword

Keyword research is not complicated, and it is essential to making smart decisions about what you’ll be writing in your content.

We recommend using a tool like SEMRush. You can splurge for the paid version which offers a ton of great benefits and reports, or you can use the free version which offers up to 10 free searches per day.

The price tag is a bit hefty for a smaller blogger with plans starting at $69.95/mo, but it is one of the smartest expenses you can have on your blog.

You can work this into your routine in a number of different ways. Some writers will do pre-writing research to come up with topics to flesh out. Some will go to their research with a general topic idea in mind, and use SEMRush to narrow it down into something with a good search volume and isn’t dominated by huge, massive sites that would be super difficult to out-rank.

The essential things to look for when researching via SEMRush are the Organic Search Volume, the Phrase Match Keywords & Related Keywords and the Organic Search Results.


Organic Search Volume

Organic Search Volume

For this section, you just want to make sure the keyword you are targeting has a decent possibility of generating some pageviews for you. If the volume isn’t over 100, I would avoid it. Once you find one you want to write about that has decent search volume, check out the Organic Search Results section.


Organic Search Results

Organic Search Results SEM Rush

This is something you will definitely want to glance at before deciding on your final keyword. If this list is filled with sites similar to yours, you have a good shot at ranking on that term.

If it is full of giant sites, you might want to look at the middle section, also known as the Phrase Match Keywords and Related Keywords section.

Gluten Free on a Shoestring

This section is a goldmine for finding alternatives if the keyword you were originally shooting for is too competitive.

A great thing to do to support your main keyword is to write supporting articles that answer questions related to your main keyword, and then link to it.

Example: I want to target a homestyle pot roast recipe. I write a recipe post titled homestyle pot roast recipe. Then I write another post called, “How to keep pot roast tender”, and in THAT post I link to my homestyle pot roast recipe. I write another post called, “What’s the best way to cook pot roast?”, and link that to the Homestyle Pot Roast Recipe.

This is going to get you MORE content for your site, and also get you great traffic from those related articles as well.

Generally speaking, it is better to target keywords that may have a smaller volume, but are less competitive.

2. Use the keyword in your post

You want to use the keyword naturally in the post once, as near to the top of the page as possible. Other options for keyword placement are below. Make sure you are writing for actual PEOPLE and not google though.  

These include:

  • Post title
  • Image Alt Tags
  • Image Descriptions
  • Image Titles (describe what the image is actually of, it should relate to your keyword but doesn’t necessarily have to match.
  • H2 tag

Post Title

Your keyword should always be in your title. It helps Google determine what the post is all about, and is a natural place to include it.

If you are reworking old posts, it is okay to rename them, but make sure you aren’t also changing the url. Whenever possible you want to maintain the same URL for the history of the post. [a][b]

Image Alt Tags

These are little bits of data that Google crawls to determine what the subject of the image is. If you are using WordPress, you can click on the image to edit it and add the information here:

Image Alt Text Example

This part is specific to WordPress because that’s what I work with most. If you use a different CMS, this information still applies but will be added in a different way.

3. Link, Link, Link, and then link some more.

But don’t be annoying about it.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a blogger is to not link to yourself enough in your content. Make sure to link around to yourself at least 3-4 times for each post, organically within your content. Link on the keywords you are targeting, and don’t link to the same page more than once on a page. No linking to random kitten pictures either. Make sure it is relevant!

linking to yourself in your content image Mediavine SEO

It is much better to link within a sentence in your content than have a list of links, and the “related posts” under your actual content don’t cut it either. Those are generally located outside of your content area, and while they ARE beneficial for a user experience perspective, they are of almost zero value for your SEO.

Where the links are physically located in your actual code matters, and it matters a lot. Just because it might appear on the same “page” doesn’t make it the same thing.

4. Give ’em if you want to hope to get ’em back

Don’t be one of “those” marketers. Don’t send out email blasts begging for backlinks in exchange for social shares, or anything equally as annoying.

Produce awesome content, and be a GOOD COMMUNITY MEMBER. That means linking organically in your own content to other people’s content.

Those people will see the links in their statistics or via their pingbacks or trackbacks. If they like what they see, the hope is that they’ll ALSO link to you at some point.

Even if they don’t though, it is a great way to share the Google love, and let your favorite writers and bloggers know you appreciate what they are doing.

[a]Worth noting that the best URL structure for WP blogs is flat. Do a This will be the most future proof URL you can pick because you can change it around and not worry about weird things like dates changing. Build a blog URL structure that will let you modify things later like categories, dates, etc.

[b]So – the problem with this is that a lot of our publishers started blogging before that was considered best practices. And now there are people telling them to change their entire site’s URL structure after years and years of content are established, and ranking. They are doing it, and their search traffic is going away completely in some cases. So we try and avoid that when possible.

What we usually tell people is that if they were starting a brand new blog today, that flat URL structure is ideal. But for established blogs whatever URL structure you already have is what you want to keep to avoid site-wide redirects.

20 thoughts on “The Ultimate Easy SEO Checklist”

  1. marcie says:

    This is so helpful — thank you!! I’m checking into SEMRush now.

  2. Milisa says:

    So very helpful! Thanks a ton!!

  3. You have a lot of great ideas in here. Do you prefer SEMrush to Moz? Just curious.

    1. Amber Bracegirdle says:

      Hey Stephanie, thanks so much for the compliment! I don’t believe most of us have used Moz, so can’t really compare. SEMRush has a lot of wonderful reports that you can deep dive into, about keywords and even your domain (or someone else’s), making it extremely useful for us. I’m not sure if Moz has the same, but if they do, they’re probably about equal.

      – Amber

  4. Great info thanks so much

  5. Great info! Thanks so much for spelling it out so simply!

  6. Super easy and very helpful! Thanks Nicole!

    1. My pleasure! Thanks for reading!

  7. Thank you for the great article Nicole! Great for new bloggers so we can get it right from the start!

  8. How do you know if the keyword is too competitive? Is there a range of volume that I should be looking for? What qualifies as “decent search volume”?

    1. Amber Bracegirdle says:

      Hey Emily!

      A keyword is too competitive if all the sites ranking in the top 10 are huge sites that you’re not near the size of. Think Food Network, Martha Stewart, etc. If some of the sites in the top 10 are more bloggers like yourself, you have a better chance of ranking in the top 10.

      When I search for things for Food Fanatic, I personally shoot for anything that has 250 searches a month and up.

  9. Thank you for this info. Diving head first to make sure I have everything checked off.

  10. Anjali says:

    It is really simple and informative article I enjoyed while reading it. Thank you so much for updating my knowledge I was looking for it on the net I found your article really short and sweet.

    1. Jenny Guy says:

      Thank you for the compliment, Anjali! We don’t like overcomplicated.

  11. Han says:


    For the image alt, title and description is there any advice as to what they should be? At the moment I dont have a description (is that the same as the caption?) as it loads pretty ugly and its information I put in the article and the alt and title are more or less the same – a short description of what the image shows.


    1. Amber Bracegirdle says:

      Hey Han, the description should be about 2 sentences long, and contain your keyword. It can be the same thing as the alt text if you want, but if you can vary it, Eric and I are always of the mind that that is better, especially because the alt text is meant to be an accessibility feature for those that can’t actually see the photo. It should be descriptive in nature so that blind visitors can know what’s there.

      Captions can be the same as descriptions, but the difference is that caption appears in the actual blog post. So if you don’t want that appearing under your photos, no need to put anything there.

      When we name images on Food Fanatic, we follow this nomenclature: Keyword Photo, Keyword Picture, Keyword Image, Keyword Pic etc etc. If your post was about banana muffins, your image names would be things like “Banana Muffins Photo” and “Banana Muffins Image” – this helps with google image search.

      Hope that helps!

      Amber, Co-Founder

  12. Charlotte says:

    I was just wandering if there’s a reason why you wouldn’t link to the same post twice within a post. I do it sometimes as a link will sometimes fit in with what I’m writing and also fits with my useful links in my recipe notes. I wouldn’t really want to remove it from either as both are useful to the reader (unless of course there’s a reason why it’s damaging to leave both).

    1. Jenny Guy says:

      Hi Charlotte! Linking to the same post twice in one article actually divides the link “juice”. It can also potentially be seen by Google as spammy, which will also lessen the great impact you have when you link to yourself.
      Thanks for reading!
      ~Jenny, Mediavine Marketing Manager

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