SEO guidelines for content writers
Last week I published an SEO checklist for content writers. Here is some additional, practical, information and tips that expands upon that SEO checklist. Just like the checklist, I’m not claiming this is a definitive guide, but sharing these guidelines with your content writers will help you go a long way in joining some of the dots of website management.
The <title> tag is one of the most important elements of the page in determining the subject matter of the page. The title must be unique within the entire website – and unique means unique! Absolutely no two pages should have the same title. This is the title that appears as the link in search results. It should be maximum
65 characters 57 characters (including spaces). Note that Google generally displays the first 6-7 words of your page title in search results, so your most important keywords or phrase that describes the content should be here, and preferably the first word or words.
The URL, or web address, should contain your main keywords and keyword phrase, and preferably as soon as possible in the URL. This is also often displayed in SERPS.
This should be the main heading on the page. This heading should include your main keyword phrase. This is likely to be the first content a visitor reads on the page (but not content that is usually displayed in search engine results). There should only be one H1 heading on your page.
The meta description is often used by search engines as a “snippet” to describe the content of your page in search engine results. It should be a maximum of 150 characters and not shorter than 50 (including spaces). It doesn’t help the page’s ranking, but it does help the visitor decide whether to click on your link or not. Try to describe your page’s content clearly and not to repeat information that is already visible in the title.
The textual content that appears higher up on a page is generally regarded as (more) important in deciding the relevance of the page. Your opening paragraph should include your keyword/phrase or synonyms.
Both search engines and people like sub-headings to break up the content. It allows people to scan the page quicker, as well as giving search engines some more keywords to use in their calculations. Sub-headings, by their very nature, carry less weight than the main (H1) heading. Use subheadings naturally and regularly throughout the content. It’s perfectly OK to have multiple H2 headings.
The total size of the page (in words) doesn’t directly affect the rank of a page in search engine results, but long pages are read less often. Better to keep your content shorter and divide it into separate (optimised) topics if necessary. Aim to keep articles to between 300-400 words. Making it too short and you may struggle to naturally include all your keywords in all the places needed. You won’t generally be punished by the search engines for longer articles, but it’s more likely you will lose the attention of the reader. Never go beyond 800 words unless it’s an in-depth blog post.
Link words and keywords in your text that other pages on your site are optimised for to those pages. Only link once to a specific internal page from the page in question. This helps the ranking of the linked-to page. Link only to relevant related pages. The quality of linked-to pages helps authenticate the relevance of the linked-from page.
Linking to external pages not only helps the ranking of the linked-to page, but also the quality of linked-to pages and anchor text helps authenticate the relevance of the linked-from page. Don’t be scared to link to other sites. Link where you think it’s relevant and helpful to the visitor. Remember to consider linking to sister-sites, regional sites, or other content that you have published on other sites.
When illustrative images are included, write a short description of the picture/illustration that also includes appropriate keywords. This text can form the basis for your <alt> text and <title> text. Likewise, any caption that is associated with the image should be written with keywords in mind. The filename of the image (and therefore it’s URL) should also include relevant keywords and descriptive metadata.
The list could go on; after all Google itself has over 200 different criteria that it uses to calculate the results it displays. But with the above tips and this SEO checklist for content writers and the fishbang example it should be more than possible to lift your writers to the next level.
Remember that you are writing first and foremost for people; the machines are an important target audience, but their importance is in bringing visitors to your content – they are not a final destination of their own.