James Royal-Lawson


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.


Detail of title from fishbang page

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.


Detail of URL from fishbang page

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.

Heading (H1)

Detail of H1 heading from fishbang page

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.


Detail of Google search result snippet

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.

Introduction text

Detail of introduction text from fishbang page

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.

Sub-headings (H2)

Detail of a sub-heading from fishbang page

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.

Page length

Word count of fishbang page

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.

Internal Linking

Detail of links from fishbang page

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.

External linking

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.


Detail of an image from fishbang page

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.

Everything else

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.

SEO checklist for content writers

A situation that repeats itself again and again is that those asigned the task of writing content for websites are, well, writers of course. They aren’t webmasters or SEO experts. They are people who are good at gathering information and facts and producing great articles and content aimed at a specific audience.

At the same time, companies and organisations are expecting their websites to appear very high up in search engine result pages for various keyword phrases – often paying regular amounts of money to search engine optimisers who come in and tweak sites and pages, putting all the focus on the machine and less on the reader.

Practical help for writers

With just a little bit of practical help, writers can do a huge amount to help their websites, the search engines, and ultimately their readers. So here is that little bit of practical help for your content writers. This isn’t a definitive guide to SEO. I’m not going to claim it will put all your pages in the top three search results. What I will claim is that this guide and checklist will allow you to put a process in place for getting your talented writers to produce content that is much more search engine friendly.

The Checklist

Embedded below is an easy to follow check-list to give share with your content writers. You can also reach it directly via this link to Scribd: SEO Checklist for Content Writers Beantin April 2010

Example page

To help visualise the checklist, I’ve created fishbang, an example page that follows my checklist. The content is nonsense, it’s probably even a bit spammy for it’s optimised keywords “fishbang” and “bangfish” and the phrase “fishbang bangish” – but the oddness and low competitiveness of the those keywords and phrases means you can easily check where abouts it appears in search results.

Fishbang bangfish screenshot seo content writers


Producing search engine friendly content is an important part of the jigsaw, but as you can’t expect content writers to be webmasters and SEO experts, you need to remember that good texts still need to be published with care and attention to detail. Without that icing on your content cake, your investment in quality texts could be wasted by poor quality web publishing.

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