The first time I saw an SEO copywriting checklist was at my former copywriting agency. Before you submit a task in your dashboard, the checklist would pop up with a to-do list for writing SEO copy.
The editors and quality control team also used this checklist as the gold standard when accessing a copywriter’s work.
In the early days, I thought it was silly. But as time passed, that popup checklist was a reminder for a Copyscape test I forgot to run or an anchor link I didn’t add.
SEO copywriting is not like other types of copywriting. Multiple elements go into optimizing your content for search engines and users. A checklist ensures your SEO copy is properly formatted
But don’t take my word for it. Here are four reasons why you need a checklist.
An on-page SEO checklist ensures that you pay attention to the elements required for Google ranking.
Sometimes, I get a message from a reader telling me that there’s a broken link in one of the pieces I published. In a rush to post, I didn’t run the copy against my checklist.
Human memory is limited. Even seasoned experts sometimes forget an important step that defines high-quality SEO content.
For instance, a key step in SEO copywriting is optimizing all meta tags for search engines. It may seem inconsequential, but skipping this step could be the difference in maximizing visibility for your content.
Google has a list of guidelines for webmasters and publishers concerning content quality. They want the best content that answers a question comprehensively. An SEO content checklist ensures your writing complies with best practices for SEO.
Great SEO copywriters are consistent. They maintain a high standard in their writing style, quality, expression… everything. A copywriting checklist ensures you produce compelling and highly optimized content every time, without fail.
This is the 14-point checklist I use when writing SEO content.
- Optimize your headline for Long-tail keywords
- Optimize Your title tags with modifiers
- Match content to search intent
- Where possible include your target keyword in the introduction
- Include keywords in subheadings
- Three lines for each paragraph
- Break text with bullets
- Add alt text to images
- SEO-friendly URL Slug
- Include relevant LSI keywords
- Check word count based on SERP analysis
- Add a meta description
- Make your copy readable
- Include a persuasive call to action
8 out of 10 people will only read the headline. That’s the extent of their engagement with your content. When writing copy, think of the most important benefit you want to share. Make sure you communicate this message in your headline.
Tips for Writing SEO-Friendly Headline
- Use your primary keyword from your keyword research (or a variation) in the headline
- Connect with emotional words
- Use strong adjectives
- Include numbers
- Keep the headline around eight words
Can you guess the keywords for both headlines? In the first headline, the keyword is “copywriting tools.” But notice I don’t use the exact words, rather a variant. In the second headline, the keyword is “local SEO for small businesses.”
Your headline should include your primary keyword to get the attention of your target audience and rank high in search results.
Let’s look at another example. This is a search result for the query; “tips for painting interior doors.” Which result would you click on?
Notice a few recurrences among the three results?
- Interior door
I like the second result because it’s more direct. Plus, the meta description tells you what to expect from the copy.
This article contains more tips on writing powerful headlines people love.
Title tag modifiers are words that increase the possibility of a user clicking your title in the search engine results page (SERP).
Examples of title tag modifiers are:
- Updated 2020
- Free Template
- Plus Examples
Modifiers in meta titles improve your click-through rate and drive organic traffic to your website.
There is a purpose behind every search query. Google values content that thoroughly solves for the visitor’s search intent.
The image above is the search result for the keyword “Hire SEO Copywriter.” The intent behind this keyword is informational.
If I wanted to rank for the keyword, I would need to create content that informs, not sell. It would be easy to assume that it’s transactional and to create a service page. But it won’t rank if there’s a search intent mismatch.
Keyword research shouldn’t stop at finding profitable keywords. Take time to understand the problems people have and the desired solutions that help you rank and keep you top of the reader’s mind.
Google gives weight to content that appears above-the-fold. They may skip your meta description in favor of relevant text in the introduction.
Include the primary keyword in the first paragraph. Think of your introduction, as a summary of everything you’ll discuss in the article. However, avoid keyword stuffing or adding the keyword for the sake of optimization.
5. Include Keywords in Subheadings
It’s usually difficult inserting your keyword in more than one subheading. Don’t sweat it. Use secondary keywords and variants of the primary keyword to improve the SEO saliency of the page.
When crawling your page, search engine bots are looking for mentions of your keyword in the H1 and H2 headers to understand which keywords you want to rank for.
Sprinkle a few LSI keywords from your keyword research in subheadings to break down your content, arouse curiosity, and provide a logical structure to your content.
Long paragraphs are difficult to read. While the rules for paragraph length isn’t set in stone, vary your paragraphs with two and three-line paragraphs.
Paragraphs appear differently on mobile phones and tablets than on desktop. Two lines on desktop are about 4-5 lines on mobile. Since most users are browsing through mobile, you want mobile users to have a great experience on your website.
Bullets are magical. They attract attention, help the reader identify key information, and improve the ability to scan for information quickly.
How do you know when to use bullet points?
If you’re writing a sentence that reads like a list, that’s your prompt to turn it into a bulleted list. Let’s use the first sentence as an example
The purpose of a bullet point is to:
- Draw attention to important information
- Help the reader identify key facts quickly
- Improve scannability
I’m a big fan of images. I use at least five images per copy, depending on the length. I’ll include animated images, charts, infographics, and screenshots. Visuals help your readers digest information, and it’s great for SEO.
Alternative text describes what your image is about to search engines and visually impaired readers. It also broadens the reach of your copy when it appears on Google Image search results.
Brian Dean says that shorter URLs tend to rank better than long URLs. A short URL is easier for Google to understand.
Former Google’s Engineer Matt Cutts supports this statement. He says that the Google algorithm weighs the first five words in your URL. The rest get less credit.
SEO-friendly URLs are short, descriptive, and contains your target keywords. The main SEO benefit of the slug is to provide more information on what the content is about.
Don’t leave your URL for your CMS to format, like this:
Always optimize your URL before publishing your content, like this one:
LSI Keywords are words and phrases that relate to your target topic. They help Google algorithm to determine the content quality and relevance to the keyword or search term.
In the early days, Google relied on how many times a keyword was mentioned on a page to rank it. Keyword density was the most important ranking factor.
For instance, if you wanted to rank for the term “Product Description,” you had to mention it a bunch of times, or Google wouldn’t understand what the page was about.
Today, LSI keywords help Google understand your content on a deeper level. In the image below, if you want to rank for the massive keyword “library,” you’ll have to create entity pages and informative content around related terms like educators, librarians, and librarianship.
Here’s another example from Brian Dean for the keyword “Cold Brew Coffee.” Google looks for the primary keyword in the URL, headline, and the alt image text. But they also search for mentions of LSI keywords like cold water, grind, beans, and temperature.
In 2019, Google’s John Muller said that word count is not a ranking factor; neither does it indicate quality content.
However, multiple research reveals that word count matters. An Ahrefs study found that the average No. 1 ranking page will also rank for 1,000 relevant keywords. This isn’t possible with short-form content.
A 2017 HubSpot study found that 2,500 was the ideal length for a blog post. Does that mean you should write a 5,000 or 3,000-word blog post every time?
No. if you can say it in a 1,000-word blog post, go ahead. I currently have several pieces under 2,000 words ranking on page 1.
As a rule of thumb, research the word count for the top 10 results on Google search. SEMrush content template automates this task.
12. Add a Meta Description
In a study conducted by Ignite Visibility, 62.9% of respondents said that meta description had the largest influence on whether they click through on a search result.
Think of a meta description tag like an ad snippet. It’s a great opportunity to tell the reader what your content is about in 160 characters or less.
Your meta description should be readable, compelling, and feature your primary keyword for a higher click-through rate.
A few tips to guide you when writing meta descriptions include:
- Keep it conversational
- Include your primary keyword or a variant
- Show value
- Add a compelling call to action
- Write in an active voice
Here’s my thinking – If it’s easier to read, it’s easy to take your desired action. Readability has the power to increase your SEO score greatly.
According to Yoast CEO, Marieke van de Rakt:
“Unintelligle copy makes for bad user experience.”
Readability is the hallmark of quality content. No one, not even you, would spend a minute on a piece of content that is boring, incomprehensible, and stuffed with keywords.
If your webpages are readable, visitors spend more time on your website, which improves dwell time. Longer dwell time tells Google that your content is informative and engaging, which leads to a higher ranking for your desired keywords.
Visitors are likely to spend more time on your website when they engage with your content.
But how do you measure the readability of your content? Tools to help you check your readability score include the Flesch-Kincaid readability score, the FORCAST formula, and the Automated Readability Index.
A few tips to improve readability include:
- Break up your copy into shorter sentences and paragraphs
- Use bullet points
- Eliminate jargon from your copy
- Use short and easy to understand words
- Aim for a Grade 7 or 8 when writing. A 12-year-old should read and understand your content.
14. Include a Clear and Persuasive Call to Action
You’ve communicated your message and educated your reader. What next? What is the action you want your visitor to take after reading your content?
It could be to sign up for a newsletter, book a free consultation, buy a product you’re selling or read another post.
Whatever your CTA, it should correspond to the piece of content the reader engaged with and your content marketing goals. This post on writing engaging copy contains tips on crafting the perfect CTA text.
An SEO copywriting checklist ensures every post on your website performs well on search engine results and engages your reader. It could take some time adjusting, but when it becomes a part of your process, the results are worth it in higher ranking.
Do you need SEO content that engages your audience, ranks on Google, and achieves your content marketing goals? Schedule a call today to get started!