When you’ve got the motivational juices flowing, its easy to publish lot of content. It’s even better if you manage to put together a long-form blog post every day, but if you’re not optimizing that content for SEO, it isn’t adding any value to your blog or website (at least from a ranking perspective).
In this article, I’ll take you through my personal checklist for writing SEO content that guarantees your content will be recognized by Google.
This checklist doesn’t guarantee your content will rank. Getting your content to rank requires some keyword research which will not be covered in this article. You see can see my favorite method for keyword research in my post about using the keyword golden ratio (KGR) calculator method.
The first thing you should always check is to make sure your web page or blog post has a site title. Your site title is what Google uses to determine what your content is about. This is also what people see in search results.
Because the site title is what people will see in search results, you should definitely treat this as if you were writing a catchy headline.
Your site title should:
- Contain your focus keyword
- Be attention-grabbing (this is somewhat of an art form in itself)
- Not exceed 60 characters
The one small exception for site title length is to keep the focal point of your headline within that 60-character limit. Exceeding 60 characters is allowed, but Google won’t really count anything past the limit.
If your focus keyword is cut off, you will lose the SEO value of having it there in the first place.
A web page’s meta description has been widely accepted to have zero effect on improving a website’s ranking in search results. It does, however, give you an additional opportunity to seal the deal for getting them to click on your headline.
I personally believe that your meta description contributes to a page’s overall keyword density.
Your meta description should:
- Contain your focus keyword; or at least a variation of it
- Give the reader a taste of what they’ll get if they clicked your headline
- Leave the reader wanting more
- Not exceed 160 characters
After the site title, you want to make sure your page has an H1 header. Think of this as a second headline (or a tagline) for your content. People will only see this once they’ve landed on your page.
In a sense, Google matches your H1 header with your site title to determine if your content is actually relevant to the title. Be sure not to repeat yourself here, as you may risk over-optimizing your content.
If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, every page and post you produce will have an H1 header tag by default.
The first thing you should know for on-page optimization is the keywords you use in the actual URL for the page you’re producing.
Page URL actually has more importance than the first and second points. The reason I’m listing it third is that you can’t necessarily change the URL for existing content…or rather you shouldn’t.
Why you shouldn’t change your Page URL
Every time you publish a new page, Google has to discover the new page and add it to its index. Once the page has been added, it will begin the process of ranking for keywords on the page. Additionally, any kind of promotion or linking you’ve started doing for this page will all be applied to this exact URL destination.
If you changed the exact URL of the page, you lose ALL rankings and other SEO value this page has provided. It is possible to recover these rankings, but you would need to be diligent about setting up the proper redirects.
Now that you’ve established what the content will be about, you need to create an introduction paragraph. Be sure to let your readers know what this article is about and what they can expect to learn from it. A great introduction will let someone know there is good information sprinkled throughout the content and it is worth reading in its entirety.
Your introduction should:
- Be at least 100 words in length
- Be kept brief
- Have your focus keyword in the first paragraph
- Let your readers know what they will learn
If your content is lengthy, consider adding a table of contents. A table of contents will allow your readers to skip the parts that interest them the most.
After your intro, create a subheading using an H2 tag which will be used to lead the reader towards understanding what the next few paragraphs will be about. Separating your content with headers help to break up the content, making it much easier to skim through.
My favorite way to break up the writing is to plan ahead of time which topics you will be covering. Before doing any actual writing, I will think about the core sub-topics that need to be covered in the article. Once those topics have been decided, I will add them as headers and do my best to cover that sub-topic in great detail.
Headers are also a great way to implement HTML/CSS anchors for your table of contents if you choose to use one.
Headers are a strong ranking signal to search engines. Without the use of headers, you can expect your page to see near-zero SEO value.
Content After H2 Header(s)
This is where your actual page content lives. You’ve established what the page will be about and you’ve given the reader (and search engines) a good idea of what this exact text should be about.
Your sub-topic content should:
- Cover the topic in great detail
- Have a length of 150-300 words
- Include an image with alt text (optional)
- If it makes sense, link to another page on your site
- If it makes sense, like to an external web page
In the theme of keeping your readers hooked, make an effort to lead the topic towards the next topic.
“This topic makes more sense if you fully understand the next topic very well…”
Repeat H2 Sub-Topics As Many Times As Necessary
Your article should cover at least two or three topics, sometimes more. Making sure to break up the content with H2 header tags is the key to covering many topics in a single article.
If your purpose is to produce long-form content, you can and should dig into your keyword research to find what else you can provide. A good tool for finding lots of related search queries is AnswerThePublic.com.
Wrapping Up The Article
Give your readers a soft place to land after reading your article. Wrap up your key points in a short summary and reward the reader for making it to the very end. Give some kind of action the reader can take so they can stay engaged once the reading portion of the article is complete.
Giving your readers a simple call to action will help them to find more value while they are still engaged.
Ideas for end-of-article calls to action:
- Read more about a similar topic you’ve written about
- Read more about a similar topic someone else has written about
- Subscribe to your newsletter to be notified when more posts come out
- Follow you on social media, watch your videos, or listen to your podcast
Optimize For Additional Ranking Signals
Now that you know how to write SEO content, let’s take a moment to discuss a few more ranking signals that will take your content to the next level.
The following ranking signals have been confirmed by Google and SEOs around the world. Every page should contain these ranking signals.
Add Internal Links
If you have any existing content that is remotely related to something you mentioned throughout your article, be sure to add a link to those other articles.
This is called internal linking. With internal linking, you have complete control in telling a search engine how each page is relative to another. Sprinkling internal links throughout your content is also an incredible way to improve user experience.
How internal linking helps your SEO:
- Teach search engines what your other pages are about
- Allow your readers to discover more of your valuable content
- Reduce bounce rate
- Increase Pages Per Session (a critical metric if you monetize using display ads)
Receive Internal Links
While you are adding internal links to your new article, you should also add internal links to articles you’ve already published.
If you have any article which already exists that could potentially link to this one, go to those articles and link to this new article you’re creating.
Getting existing articles to link to a new one will increase the likelihood of search engines discovering it. This can drastically speed up the time it takes to index and rank your new article. If the article you are linking from gets consistent traffic, the results may be even faster.
Add External Links
You should always try to link to at least one resource that can be found on a different website. This is a great way to give your readers additional valuable reading while also scoring some easy ranking signals.
This works as a ranking signal because it gives the web crawler somewhere to go AFTER scanning your content. If a crawler reaches a dead end on your website, it sends a signal back to Google that your website is a dead end on the internet, effectively stopping the flow of traffic. This is a signal that you only want to talk about yourself and refuse to comply with how the rest of the internet behaves.
Adding Alt Text to Images
For any images you’ve added throughout your content, be sure to add alt text. Search engines don’t understand your images or their context. Adding alt text to your images teaches the search engine what your images are about.
Initially, the purpose of alt text was (and still is) and a good way to show users what the image was supposed to be in case it failed to load on their screen. This is still useful as some browsers will disable image loading and the user will need to use your alt text to get the context of the image.
Alt text is often a good place to stick some of your keywords. A good rule of thumb for keyword alt text is to use a keyword only if it makes sense.
Use Nested Headers and Lists
In this article, we’ve discussed the use of H1 and H2 headers. These headers are used respectively in order of importance. If you need to cover a sub-topic within a sub-topic, you can and you should. Just be sure to use the next level of a header within your sub-topic.
If you are covering a sub-topic that has been broken down into an H2 sub-topic, you should break that sub-topic down into H3 headers. Headers can be broken down as far as H6.
Lists (Ordered and Unordered)
Breaking your point down into lists is an incredibly powerful way to educate your readers.
Lists are great because they:
- Are easy to consume
- Give your readers a break from reading
- Structure information better for search engines
In this article, we covered how to properly execute an SEO writing strategy and discussed a few reasons why these strategies help our website to rank in Google search. It may seem like a lot to take in if you are new to SEO content writing. I can guarantee that, after a few posts, you will be able to replicate this process naturally.
If you use WordPress to publish your content, there are some powerful plugins available at your fingertips. You should never use more than one SEO plugin, so pick one and stick to it. In the coming weeks, I will post about the plugins I personally use on mine and my clients’ sites. Be sure to subscribe to be notified about any future posts.