Are you writing your SEO content based on the latest best practice tips?
I originally wrote this SEO copywriting checklist in 2012—my, how things have changed. Today, Google stresses quality content even more than before, conversational copy is critical, and there are revised SEO writing “rules.”
I’ve updated the list to reflect these changes and to provide additional information.
As a side note, I would argue that there’s no such thing as “writing for Google.” Yes, there are certain things you should do to make the Google gods happy. However, your most important goal should be writing clear, compelling, standout copy that tells a story.
I’m keeping the old headline in the hopes that I can convert some of the “write for Google” people to do things the right way.
Items to review before you start your SEO writing project
– Do you have enough information about your target reader?
Your copy will pack a powerful one-two punch if your content is laser-focused on your target reader. Ask your client or supervisor for a customer/reader persona document outlining your target readers’ specific characteristics. If the client doesn’t have a customer persona document, be prepared to spend an hour or more asking detailed questions.
Here’s more information on customer personas.
– Writing a sales page? Did you interview the client?
It’s essential to interview new clients and to learn more about their company, USP, and competition. Don’t forget to ask about industry buzzwords that should appear in the content.
Not sure what questions to ask to get the copywriting ball rolling? Here’s a list of 56 questions you can start with today.
– Writing a blog post? Get topic ideas from smart sources
When you’re blogging, it’s tempting to write about whatever strikes your fancy. The challenge is, what interests you may not interest your readers. If you want to make sure you’re writing must-read content, sites like Quora, LinkedIn, Google Trends, and BuzzSumo can help spark some ideas.
– Did you use Google for competitive intelligence ideas?
Check out the sites positioning in the top-10 and look for common characteristics. How long are competing articles? Do the articles link out to authoritative sources? Are there videos or infographics? Do the articles include quotes from industry experts? Your job is to write an essay that’s better than what’s already appearing in the top-10 — so let the competition be your guide.
– Did you conduct keyphrase research?
Yes, keyphrase research (and content optimization) is still a crucial SEO step. If you don’t give Google some keyphrase “cues,” your page probably won’t position the way you want.
Use a keyphrase research tool and find possible keyphrases for your page or post. As a hint: if you are tightly focusing on a topic, long-tail keyphrases are your best bet. Here’s more information about why long-tail keyphrases are so important.
If you are researching B2B keyphrases, know that the “traditional” keyphrase research steps may not apply. Here’s more information about what to do if B2B keyphrase research doesn’t work.
– What is your per-page keyphrase focus?
Writers are no longer forced to include the exact-match keyphrase over and over again. (Hurray!) Today, we can focus on a keyphrase theme that matches the search intent and weave in multiple related keyphrases.
– Did you expand your keyphrase research to include synonyms and close variants?
Don’t be afraid to include keyphrase synonyms and close variants on your page. Doing so opens up your positioning opportunities, makes your copy better, and is much easier to write!
Are you wondering if you should include your keyphrases as you write the copy — or edit them in later? It’s up to you! Here are the pros and cons of both processes.
— Do your keyphrases match the search intent?
Remember that Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. If you’re writing a sales page — and your desired keyphrase pulls up informational blog posts in Google – your sales page probably won’t position.
— Writing a blog post? Does your Title/headline work for SEO, social, and your readers?
Yes, you want your headline to be compelling, but you also want it to be keyphrase rich. Always include your main page keyphrase (or a close variant) in your Title and work in other keyphrases if they “fit.”
– Did you include keyphrase-rich subheadlines?
Subheadlines are an excellent way to visually break up your text, making it easy for readers to quick-scan your benefits and information. Additionally, just like with the H1 headline, adding a keyphrase to your subheadlines can (slightly) help reinforce keyphrase relevancy.
As a hint, sometimes, you can write a question-oriented subheadline and slip the keyphrase in more easily. Here’s more information about why answering questions is a powerful SEO content play.
– Is your Title “clickable” and compelling?
Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Focusing too much on what you think Google “wants” may take away your Title’s conversion power.
Consider how you can create an enticing Title that “gets the click” over the other search result listings. You have about 59 characters (with spaces) to work with, so writing tight is essential.
– Does the meta description fit the intent of the page?
Yes, writers should create a meta description for every page. Why? Because they tell the reader what the landing page is about and help increase SERP conversions. Try experimenting with different calls-to-actions at the end, such as “learn more” or “apply now.” You never know what will entice your readers to click!
– Is your content written in a conversational style?
With voice search gaining prominence, copy that’s written in a conversational style is even more critical.
Read your copy out loud and hear how it sounds. Does it flow? Or does it sound too formal? If you’re writing for a regulated industry, such as finance, legal, or healthcare, you may not be able to push the conversational envelope too much. Otherwise, write like you talk.
Here’s how to explain why conversational content is so important.
–Is your copy laser-focused on your audience?
A big mistake some writers make is creating copy that appeals to “everyone” rather than their specific target reader. Writing sales and blog pages that are laser-focused on your audience will boost your conversions and keep readers checking out your copy longer. Here’s how one company does it.
Plus, you don’t receive special “Google points” for writing long content. Even short copy can position if it fully answers the searcher’s query. Your readers don’t want to wade through 1,500 words to find something that can be explained in 300 words.
Items to review after you’ve written the page
– Did you use too many keyphrases?
Remember, there is no such thing as keyword density. If your content sounds keyphrase-heavy and stilted, reduce the keyphrase usage and focus more on your readers’ experience. Your page doesn’t receive bonus points for exact-matching your keyphrase multiple times. If your page sounds keyphrase stuffed when you read it out loud, dial back your keyphrase usage.
– Did you edit your content?
Resist the urge to upload your content as soon as you write it. Put it away and come back to it after a few hours (or even the next day.) Discover why editing your Web writing is so very important. Also, don’t think that adding typos will help your page position. They won’t.
– Is the content interesting to read?
Yes, it’s OK if your copy has a little personality. Here’s more information about working with your page’s tone and feel and how to avoid the “yawn response.” Plus, know that even FAQ pages can help with conversions — and yes, even position.
– Are your sentences and paragraphs easy to read?
Vary your sentence structure so you have a combination of longer and shorter sentences. If you find your sentences creeping over 30 or so words, edit them down and make them punchier. Your writing will have more impact if you do.
Plus, long paragraphs without much white space are hard to read off a computer monitor – and even harder to read on a smartphone. Split up your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Please.
– Are you forcing your reader onto a “dead end” page?
“Dead-end” pages (pages that don’t link out to related pages) can stop your readers dead in their tracks and hurt your conversion goals.
Want to avoid this? Read more about “dead-end” Web pages.
– Does the content provide the reader with valuable information?
Google warns against sites with “thin,” low-quality content that’s poorly written. In fact, according to Google, spelling errors are a bigger boo-boo than broken HTML. Make sure your final draft is typo-free, written well, and thoroughly answers the searcher’s query.
Want to know what Google considers quality content — directly from Google? Here are Google’s Quality Raters guidelines for more information.
– Did you use bullet points where appropriate?
If you find yourself writing a list-like sentence, use bullet points instead. Your readers will thank you, and the items will be much easier to read.
Plus, you can write your bullet points in a way that makes your benefit statements pop, front and center. Here’s how Nike does it.
– Is the primary CTA (call-to-action) clear–and is it easy to take action?
What action do you want your readers to take? Do you want them to contact you? Buy something? Sign up for your newsletter? Make sure you’re telling your reader what you want them to do, and make taking action easy. If you force people to answer multiple questions just to fill out a “contact us” form, you run the risk of people bailing out.
Here’s a list of seven CTA techniques that work.
– Do you have a secondary CTA (such as a newsletter signup or downloading a white paper?)
Do you want readers to sign up for your newsletter or learn about related products? Don’t bury your “sign up for our newsletter” button in the footer text. Instead, test different CTA locations (for instance, try including a newsletter signup link at the bottom of every blog post) and see where you get the most conversions.
– Does the page include too many choices?
It’s important to keep your reader focused on your primary and secondary CTAs. If your page lists too many choices (for example, a large, scrolling page of products), consider eliminating all “unnecessary” options that don’t support your primary call-to-action. Too many choices may force your readers into not taking any action at all.
– Did you include benefit statements?
People make purchase decisions based on what’s in it for them (yes, even your B2B buyers.) Highly specific benefit statements will help your page convert like crazy. Don’t forget to include a benefit statement in your Title (whenever possible) like “free shipping” or “sale.” Seeing this on the search results page will catch your readers’ eyes, tempting them to click the link and check out your site.
– Do you have vertical-specific testimonials?
It’s incredible how many great sales pages are testimonial-free. Testimonials are a must for any site, as they offer third-party proof that your product or service is superior. Plus, your testimonials can help you write better, more benefit-driven sales pages and fantastic comparison-review pages.
Here’s a way to make your testimonials more powerful.
And finally — the most important question:
– Does your content stand out and genuinely deserve a top position?
SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into the content. If you want to be rewarded by Google (and your readers), your content must stand out — not be a carbon copy of the current top-10 results. Take a hard look at your content and compare it against what’s currently positioning. Have you fully answered the searcher’s query? Did you weave in other value-added resources, such as expert quotes, links to external and internal resources (such as FAQ pages), videos, and graphics?
If so, congratulations! You’ve done your job.
Google Ads Serving Issue For Ads On Desktop Gmail
Google has a new serving issue with Google Ads that is impacting ad serving on the desktop version of Gmail. So if you are serving Google Ads on Gmail, your ads may not show to a “significant subset of users,” according to Google.
Google posted the incident over here and wrote “we’re aware of a problem with Google Ads affecting a significant subset of users. We will provide an update by Dec 24, 2021, 2:00 AM UTC detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change. This issue is specific to ads serving on Gmail on Desktop browsers only.”
The issue again only impacts ads serving on Gmail on Desktop browsers only.
It started yesterday, December 23, 2021 at around 2pm ET and is still currently an issue. Google is working on resolving the issue but has yet to resolve it.
You can track the issue over here.
Forum discussion at Twitter.
Google Loses Top Domain Spot To TikTok
Google is no longer the world’s most popular domain after being dethroned by TikTok, according to rankings from web security company Cloudflare. The list of most popular domains is part of Cloudflare’s Year in Review report and represents domains that gained the most traffic from one year to another.
Google.com — which includes also includes Maps, Translate, and News among others — ended the previous year as the leader in Cloudflare’s rankings. At that time, TikTok was ranking in the 7th position. TikTok.com is now ending 2021 with a leap toward top spot ahead of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other world leading domains.
Here’s the full list of the top 10 most popular domains as of late 2021:
Cloudflare describes TikTok’s journey toward becoming the most popular domain throughout the year 2021:“It was on February 17, 2021, that TikTok got the top spot for a day.
Back in March, TikTok got a few more days and also in May, but it was after August 10, 2021, that TikTok took the lead on most days. There were some days when Google was #1, but October and November were mostly TikTok’s days, including on Thanksgiving (November 25) and Black Friday (November 26).”
Also included in Cloudflare’s report are lists of the most popular social media domains, most popular e-commerce platforms, and most popular video streaming sites. To no surprise, Amazon ended the year as the most popular e-commerce domain, followed by Taobao, Ebay, and Walmart.
The list of most popular video streaming sites was dominated by giants such as Netflix, YouTube, and HBOMax. Interestingly, Twitch didn’t manage to crack the top 10.
Putting These Rankings In PerspectiveDoes this mean TikTok is now the biggest social media site? No, it still has a long way to go before reaching those heights. What this means is TikTok.com received more traffic than any other domain, according to Cloudflare. That doesn’t mean TikTok has more users than Google or competing social media sites. Insider Intelligence (formerly eMarketer) reports TikTok surpassed Snapchat and Twitter in global user numbers, but is well behind Facebook and Instagram.
In other words, TikTok is the third largest social media platform worldwide. The number of global TikTok users number grew 59.8% in 2020, and went up by an additional 40.8% in 2021.Further, Insider Intelligence estimates TikTok will see a 15.1% growth in global users in 2022.
Should that estimate hold true, TikTok will hold a 20% share of overall social media users by the end of next year.
If TikTok isn’t part of your social media marketing strategy for 2022, these numbers are a good case for making it a priority.
Source: Matt Southern
How to optimize SEO titles with popular keywords
- Title optimization of articles, blogs, or webpages is critical to get traffic, conversions, and earn money from Adsense and affiliates
- The standard advice is to stick to one keyword phrase per page to maintain strict relevance and avoid getting penalized for keyword stuffing
- Adding extra related keywords, however, apart from the modifiers and words to create a sensible title has the potential to get more traffic to websites
- Here are some good insights and tips on how you can optimize your keyword titles
Optimizing titles of articles, blogs or webpages is critical for getting traffic and earning money from Adsense and affiliates. The standard advice is to stick to one keyword phrase per page to maintain strict relevance and avoid getting penalized for keyword stuffing. But adding extra, related keywords, apart from the modifiers and words to create a sensible title, has the potential to get more traffic to your site.
In this article, I’ll review, my own experience in carefully crafting multiple keyword titles.
Keep the title short – one keyword phrase to a page
As a golden tip, start targeting individual keywords on separate pages and use multiple pages for related words. General landing pages for mixed or general topics generally will not work because you will not be able to compete for popular single keywords without adding phrases for longtail titles. The general advice is that you should keep the title short (less than 70 characters) and only target perhaps two or three primary keywords that are highly relevant to the content of the page and its objective. You can of course develop long-tail keywords that include your primary keywords plus a series of modifiers to make a ‘sensible’ title that makes sense to humans and the test the bots use to evaluate your sites.
Avoid keyword stuffing
There is a lot of information on the dangers of keyword stuffing, which means over-use of your keyword or keywords in the title, description, and the body copy. Google invokes a penalty for keyword stuffing, though the threshold keyword density is not exactly known. There are various tools for counting keyword use frequencies. Keyword Density is simply measured as the relative number of times your search term (Keyword or Keyword phrase) occurs as a percentage of the total number of words on a given page. The ideal Keyword Density must not be greater than 5.5 percent. But various search engines have different thresholds before they apply penalties. Reasonably, high Keyword Densities can help boost page rankings but you don’t have to overdo it.
Keyword Density can be boosted by using your keywords repeatedly in the:
- Title tag
- Header tag
- Comment tag
- Body tag
- Anchor tag
- Image tag
- Alt tag
- Domain name, and
- Paragraph tag
Another general piece of advice for titles is not to exceed using the identical keyword in the title more than twice.
How Google and other search engines crawl and rank your keywords in the title
It is not widely understood, but Google and other search engines register and rank every individual keyword in your title and every combination – including various orders and positions for the keywords. Although there is a priority for phrases with the keywords in the order they are in the Title, and for words that appear first, Google will register all the keywords and phrases and derive a ranking for them.
Dilution of the weight of the keywords in the title
Google also appears to regard long titles as more likely to be Spammy (especially very long titles). Longer titles may also appear keyword-stuffed. Research has shown that the first keyword in the title has the highest weight; the second keyword has somewhat less weight and so on. By adding more words you may dilute the weight applied to each of them. For targeting two-word searches and phrases, it is important to keep keywords close to each other and in their ‘natural’ order. Try to match the likely order of the terms in the search phrase, to the order in the title.
Use multiple keyword phrases multiply your traffic
If Google derives a rank for all the words in the title, surely, by including two or three keywords rather than one will be more likely to get more traffic. The traffic for each word should add up and multiply. Understanding when this is appropriate and when it is not is the crux of optimizing titles. As explained previously the weight or value of the keyword appears to fall rapidly as you move from the first word to the last. More keywords appear to dilute the weight given for each word. Also, there is the important issue of relevance. Your page may be penalized if the words you use are not highly relevant to the content of the page.
The key aspect is competition – only use a single phrase if the competition is high
If there is a lot of competition for a keyword then it is best to only use a single keyword or phrase. Stick to the keyword phrase you have found using the Google Keyword Planner for use in the title. You know the statistic and competition for that exact phrase and it is unwise to fiddle with it. Various tools can be used to estimate competition for the phrase and the likely traffic. The Keyword Research tool shows how even minor changes in the phrase can dramatically affect traffic and competition.
If the competition is high you have to maintain the strength of your page and title to compete. Adding extra phrases will dilute the weight applied to the keyword. You will be competing against pages that are likely to be strongly targeted on that keyword phrase as well. You could lose the battle if you don’t have that singular, highly focused title for the keyword.
If there is moderate competition enrich your title with more keywords
For moderate competition, there are several ways you can go to use multiple keywords in the title.
1. Use two or more Modifiers
The solution to not duplicating the keyword is to add one or two extra modifiers or action words. If you look at the competitive keyword phrases shown by the Google Keyword Tool you will often find that two phrases look promising that both contain the primary keyword or phrase.
[action word 1 keyword] + [keyword action word 2] = [action word 1 keyword action word 2]
Let’s say, for instance, you are after a keyword title for your article about Green Tea health benefits and you want to use a longtail keyword narrowing the search to extracts. The obvious solution is:
- Health Benefits of Green Tea Extracts
This provides a title for four phrases
- Benefits of Green
- Health Benefits of Green Tea
- Green Tea Extracts
- Health Benefits of Green Tea Extracts
Another example is a title about Professional Make-up Artists
Reviews of Professional Make-up Artists + Make-up Artist Portfolios = Reviews of Professional Make-up Artist Portfolios
This makes the title target four phrases in one:
- Reviews of Professional Make-up Artists
- Make-up Artist Portfolios
- Professional make-up artist portfolios
- Reviews of Professional Make-up Artist Portfolios
In both cases, this very simple tactic makes it possible to create a short concise title that is enriched by optimizing it for more than one key term and narrowing down your target audience. Perhaps your article is about creating portfolios and how to find and review make-up artists and this title targets these keywords. Of course, it is often hard to find word combinations similar to these and it emphasizes that title design is a real art. These examples also show how the use of action keywords and modifier phrases to target buyers who are ready to buy, which will fulfill the aim of your website.
2. Long tail action based keyword choices
Long-tail titles using action words are generally more effective, as action-based queries usually attract users that have already got their credit card out and are hungry to find what they want and to buy it. Targeting your audience will lose part of the potential audience but the ones you have filtered for will be more likely to buy.
The role of SEO title optimization is to enrich the keywords in the title that potential buyers might use when conducting a search to target the group that is interested in your product or services.
The best strategy is to build the longtail keyword title, not by using poorly selected action words as modifiers, but by researching the action words and phrases as well for maximum benefit.
Combine competitive keyword phrases to enrich the title
The Google Keyword Planner Tool might show two promising keyword phrases essentially related to the same topic. Let say, for instance, that you are trying to market green tea extracts using their health benefits, particularly to help people having issues with losing weight. The Google Keyword Planner Tool shows three competitive phrases
- green tea health benefits
- green tea extract
- green tea health benefits for weight loss
These phrases can be combined in ways that retain the order of the words (with green tea as the first phrase) but allow all these phrases to work in your title.
- Green Tea Extract: Health Benefits for Weight Loss
This longtail keyword is optimized for all three competitive phrases.
The ideal separator for two phrases
What is the ideal separator when using multiple keyword phrases? It does not really matter. You can use a pipe (|), a colon (:) a dash (-), or a comma (,)
However, don’t use the underscore ( _ ) as search engines don’t recognize it as a separator. These characters have no ranking benefit, but they help make your title readable.
Dealing with plurals and synonyms
In some cases, you may want to expand the keywords in the title to include plurals, synonyms, and other expressions for your topic. For example “architect supply”, “architectural supplies” and “technical drawing equipment” essentially deal with the same topic. You will need to craft the title to include these variants if you can.
For example: “Architectural supplies: Technical Drawing Equipment for Architects”
One of the potential dangers with targeting a single term in your title is that it creates a tendency for over-optimization, even when it’s not intended. You may use that single keyword everywhere on your page. If you include variants this is less likely to happen.
Don’t overdo it!
You need to be careful because adding more keywords can mean that each of them will have less and less impact. The more you try to stuff extra keywords into the less natural it is going to sound. For example, if you use the following title it will appear in the search results as –
Cheap Coffee | Gourmet Coffee | Ground Gourmet Coffee
Google won’t like it as it will be interpreted as keyword stuffing. Your potential customers won’t like it because they will see it as unnatural and likely to provide useless promotional material
Much better would be:
Low Price Ground Gourmet Coffee and Fresh Roasted Bean Suppliers
Which version looks better in the search results? Which one is less likely to be seen as keyword stuffing and deception?
If you have a keyword ‘Recycling Information – How And Where To Recycle
What if you want to optimize an article for the keyword “Recycling Tips” as well?
You could build a title such as
Recycling Information – Recycling Tips – How and Why Recycling is Better
But this is clearly keyword stuffing and Google will probably penalize it.
A better option is
Recycling Information – Tips, Tricks and How to Recycle
You can see that your second keyword recycling tips is in the title, but with the keyword word information in between. This will be slightly less effective but Google will still list you page for the keyword Recycling Information – Tips. If you look at the search results where the matching keywords are shown in ‘bold’, you will notice that this often occurs even for pages that appear high up in the search results.
- Building traffic is important, but it is conversion rates that really matter
- The keyword “tail” should not “wag” your dog (marketing strategy). Keep the focus on the major keyword and keep it at the front of your title.
- Use association and keyword matching to group keywords. Rank your potential phrases for search popularity, but make sure you can compete for them and cascade down by adding modifiers to build a longtail title that will work.
- Never forget that a human user will determine your conversion rates, not the search engines
- Your titles must be readable and appealing
If you do all this along with writing high-quality content intended for people and optimized for Google, your articles, blog, or webpages will suddenly be ranking for multiple keywords with high conversion rates. You may even end up being in the first spot for a keyword that was never your main focus.
Jacob M. is a copywriter, marketing blogger, inbound marketing consultant, and founder of Write Minds. He can be found on Twitter @jmcmillen89.
Source: Jacob M.
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