When it comes to writing articles to rank on Google it helps to have an SEO Content Checklist to hand to keep you on track. Thankfully, we have created one for you.
Writing an article is one thing but ensuring that it adheres to the relatively strict SEO content checklists that have been created thanks to Google’s search algorithms is another. Most people, when they set up their own site, brand or company, initially do the writing themselves, post the piece and then wonder why no one is reading it.
Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. This is actually fairly typical of most entrepreneurs or business owners, especially those who are looking to bootstrap their business. Making use of a quality SEO content checklist can keep your budget on track whilst also delivering some search engine benefits. Even going down the outsourced content route won’t necessarily help, if you don’t pick someone who knows the ins and outs of SEO.
The following checklist is a great place to start and will serve as a way of understanding how to do on-page SEO step by step. Remember that SEO isn’t a constant, set in stone, collection of rules. This is something of a moveable feast and the guidelines, suggestions and Google’s own expectations change regularly. In the remainder of this article, we’ve put together what is seen as expected in terms of the bottom line of SEO. You’ll want to adhere to these suggestions if you’re hoping to rank well on Google.
Chances are that you’ll miss out a few steps, or forget them completely, at least at the start of your SEO writing career. That’s fine, but by regularly checking Sparklite’s checklist (Bookmark it!) you’ll ensure that you’ll be following best practices as much as possible. Plus we’ll update it as and when required! Even if you’re looking to understand how to complete on-page SEO for beginners, this is a great start.
The first step on an SEO checklist is to complete your research. The same can be said for any project but it’s amazing how many people skip this step. We see hundreds of businesses writing what we term ego blogs. These are blogs or articles that serve no real purpose other than to boost the writer’s ego. They list accomplishments, completed projects or new events. Now, these are absolutely fine, but the writers should understand that these won’t, more than likely, rank or appear highly on Google. What they do, however, is develop your brand and customer trust.
If you’re looking to rank well on Google for a particular search term, you’ll want to do some keyword research first. Keywords are the phrases that a user inputs to Google to achieve a search result. Take for instance a business that sells cat toys, they might want to rank well for the keyword “cat toys” but it is highly likely that this is an incredibly competitive keyword.
This is where keyword research comes into play. When completing research, using tools such as Google’s own Keyword Planner or a subscription tool such as WordStream, you’ll be able to find out information such as search volume, competition index (0 being low, 1 being high) and sometimes the cost per click if you’re using AdWords or similar.
Ideally, you want to be writing content that incorporates high search volume, low competition keywords. That is unless you have a solid SEO strategy in place and a competitive SEO expert who wants to target some high volume, high competition keywords.
Let’s go back to our cat toy store. They’ve decided that “cat toys” is going to be too competitive so they begin to look at their stock. They find that “cat toy laser pointers” is a highly searched term, but relatively low competition. This means that if they write an article with this as they keyword, they stand a high chance of ranking for that term. These longer keywords are often referred to as Long Tail Keywords, owing to the search volume graph section they fall into.
Image Credit: SEOPressor
You’ve got your keywords – what’s next on the SEO content checklist?
Now comes the fun part! It’s time to write the content and format it to match SEO expectations. Let’s start at the beginning:
Writing the title
You want to ensure that your title is compelling to the reader. This is the first thing that they’ll see in the SERPs and it has to grab their attention. The same goes for the meta description. It not only has to do this but it also has to appear for the specific search term that you want to rank for. That means including your chosen keyword.
We suggest a format such as the following, make sure that your keyword is at the beginning of your title so that it is read first by both the user and Google:
“Best Cat Toy Laser Pointers: The Ultimate Guide” is better than “The Ultimate Guide to the Best Cat Toy Laser Pointers”
That’s not all for your friendly keywords. This is really just the beginning of your You’ll want to ensure that you include them in:
- H1 and H2 tags
- Keep the URL short and use your main keyword
- Within the body text, it’s a fairly decent rule of thumb to aim for .5% keyword density (5 times per 1,000 words)
- Use keyword at least once within the first 200 words of article
- Use keyword in the last paragraph of article
Header tags (H1, H2, etc) aren’t just for visual formatting. They are read by Google’s robots and tell them exactly what the page is about. If your headers don’t include the keyword, or are just generic, you’ll struggle to rank for any terms.
When it comes to the URL, these can easily be customized using the editor on your site and adding the keyword as a slug. For example, www.catloverstoys.com/best-cat-toy-laser-points is a keyword inclusive URL, whereas something that is created automatically such as www.catloverstoys.com/blog/ae_12/pl-gftar-54246 is nearly useless…
Expanding your article’s reach using LSI keywords
These are worth researching at the same time as your original keyword reach, but many of them you’ll actually write organically when you start writing. LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing, this is Google’s way of understanding similar keywords and their context. In order to be thorough, we recommend using LSI Graph to find LSI keywords easily for your article. Include some of them naturally in your writing and you’ll begin to rank for those terms as well as your focus keyword.
Developing your article’s link structure for SEO
Links are more important than you might think. In fact, they offer a huge boost to SEO when used correctly. You’ll want to ensure that you:
- Link to 3-4 valuable external content pieces but avoid competitors or sites that you might be trying to outrank
- Link to 3-4 relevant internal content pieces
External and internal links are both important. External links show that you’re part of the global community, internal links help users to navigate around your site (as well as Google’s robots to crawl your site and understand its structure). We’ve written a comprehensive How-To Guide for internal linking that gives some really helpful actionable hint and tips, so be sure to check that out for a helping hand.
Videos are great for SEO
Google loves video content, especially if it’s unique. Include it as a YouTube link and you can begin to rank on YouTube as well, that’ll open you to even more searchers. Remember also that a person telling a story on a video feels so much more personal than a company writing a technical piece about their products. We’re huge advocates for the power of story-telling, so don’t forget to add the human touch to your content.
Wrapping up our SEO content checklist
That’s more of less the end of the beginning of our SEO content checklist, but we’ve got a few more short tips to wrap things up:
- Silo Categories: These are ways of categorizing your blogs into subsections on your site which will lead you towards becoming an authority in specific categories. For example: www.URL.com/silocategory/blog-post-title
- Do Roundups: Top 10 industry blogs – Useful types of content to use on your blog include lists and roundups. This style of blog enables you to list blogs from your industry and reach out to them hoping they’ll link back to your article. The more links back to your site the more SEO kudos you’ll receive, which will enable you to rank faster and higher.
- Backlink outreach: As we mentioned earlier, links are incredibly important, and backlinks top that list. Receiving a backlink from a trusted site boosts your credibility. That said, receiving links from untrustworthy or spam sites will equally damage your credibility. Don’t pay for links!
That will give you plenty to get started on, remember to use this checklist and you’ll soon find that your articles, site and business will be growing in the search rankings, expanding in audience and building in popularity.