Content is crucial to your website’s search engine performance, and this is straight from Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev at Google. He revealed in a video interview that the top-two ranking factors Google assess are content and links – find the full Q&A here. It’s important to note that he didn’t specify which is number one, but content is in the top two and so you should definitely be giving yours some TLC.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start because we’re about to go through a quickfire SEO content checklist to help you optimise your content.
Step 1: Nail your content strategy
Like any marketing campaign or strategy you need to do your market research before doing anything, and when it comes to search engines, that involves user intent and keyword research. Once you know why your target audience is searching and the search terms they are using, you can start to build a content strategy to answer their queries and satisfy their search intent.
The three SEO aspects you need to cover to evaluate your content strategy are:
- it has has your target audience’s search intent and search terms at its core
- it helps answer users’ questions or queries and provides them with the information they’re looking for
- it provides users with a clear next step, whether a call to action or more relevant content to be consumed.
Step 2: Craft engaging copy
You should always remember that although you are trying to please search engines, ultimately people are who you should be writing copy for. When creating content, always think of users first, and then the search engines. A quick checklist of what your copy should be is below:
- simple, clear & coherent
- credible, valid & experienced
- thorough and comprehensive
Furthermore, the aspects which will make your content engaging are:
- it’s written for your target audience and not your peers – use their language and use an appropriate amount of technical jargon
- it can be scanned easily – use strong headers, short paragraphs, numbered/bulleted lists, pictures, diagrams and easy-to-read font and font size
- you can share your content easily. Include social sharing buttons and such to make it easier for people to share your content
- it’s better than your competitors – scope out their content and make sure that yours is better.
Step 3 Create copy that’s correct
Although there’s no indication grammar and punctuation are ranking factors, both are user experience issues. When it comes to content, there’s nothing more that sticks out than a typo.
Furthermore, you should use statistics and facts to back up comments that you make that aren’t generally held truths. Not only does it convey you’re clued up on the topic, it conveys authority and also shows Google that you are linking to high-quality, relevant information.
Therefore, for this step you want to check the following points.
- your content is free of spelling, punctuation and grammar errors – establish a proofreading and editing process for your content
- back up comments/statements – link to reputable, authoritative data sources to add credibility
- fact check – make sure you check the facts and statistics you use to ensure trustworthiness.
Step 4 Keyword Usage
No SEO content checklist would be complete without the mention of keywords as they are important for signalling to Google what your content is about. Gone are the days where keyword stuffing is a good ranking tactic as Google has become adept at spotting it – and will penalise you if you’re found doing it. For guidelines on what keyword stuffing looks like, click here.
Google’s algorithm is sophisticated enough now to recognise synonyms and so they’re better at matching a users search query with a website’s content. Therefore, keywords aren’t completely useless, you just need to make sure that you use them more strategically. Below is a checklist for where, how and what not to do with your keywords.
- don’t keyword stuff. Make sure that you use your keywords frequently but in a natural way – a good way to check your keyword usage is to use the find function (ctrl+F for Windows, cmd+F for Mac)
- use your keywords in image titles, alt-text and captions. These are great places to use your keywords, but don’t force them in
- use your keywords naturally in title tags, meta descriptions and URLs. Again, a great place to insert keywords to flag to users and Google what your content is about, but don’t make it spammy
- include your keyword in the first paragraph. By doing this you signal to both Google and the reader what your content is about and increases the chance they will read on.
Step 5 Technical SEO checklist
Normally, technical SEO applies to an entire website but there are some activities you can do to help boost the performance of individual pieces of content on search engines. Although they aren’t crucial for you to carry out, they can help your content rank and will certainly not be bad to do – every little helps.
- ensure your content loads quickly by compressing images and other media files
- ensure your content is digestible and easy to consume on a mobile – use responsive design and double-check CTAs are easy to click
- ensure your content is included in your submitted XML sitemap
- include links to the piece of content from related pages – a bonus if you can use anchors that are target keywords
- keep your URLs as short as possible – a study of 1 million URLs by MathewBarby consulting found that position one URLs average 59 characters in length.
Now you’re ready to create search engine optimised content
The importance of content cannot be understated in the current search-engine climate and if a senior SEO strategist at Google is saying it’s a top-two ranking factor, what more clarification do you need? Don’t be overwhelmed by the importance of content though, as the checklist above will have you ready to optimise your content.
Now go forth and create high-quality SEO content!