SEO wouldn’t exist without content. Yes, we build links, but what we need to do is… wait for it… words!
And here comes the problem:
SEO content creation is super challenging and time-consuming.
In 2020, 82% of marketers had to change their content strategy due to the pandemic. 76% still have teams of less than three to deal with the whole process, from content idea generation and planning to content writing and distribution. Let alone the need to create SEO-friendly and top-notch content every second day when we’re struggling for better visibility and conversion.
While 75% of marketers consider SEO the most efficient content marketing tactic, 39% still face the challenge of producing content that attracts more traffic and generates more quality leads.
As a result, content marketers and SEO specialists look for extra opportunities to optimize their work that could help reach better results with SEO content. Plus, it would help to have some specific instruments and actionable tactics to become more productive and efficient.
This article provides a step-by-step checklist for specialists to refer to when working with SEO content to make this job more manageable. It reveals clear instructions to follow on every stage of content idea generation, creation, optimization, and promotion, for a content audit to ensure we miss nothing.
Let’s dive right in.
SEO Content: 50 Steps to Consider for Positive Results
Stage 1: Content Idea Generation and Planning
As a strategist, you can’t just sit and start writing an SEO content asset on the first idea that comes to your mind. Before implementation, idea generation and content planning are the first steps to take. Given that your whole SEO and content marketing campaign will depend on that, this stage is well worth your time and attention.
With no clear goals and plan, all your marketing efforts go in vain:
- You’ll run out of writing ideas all the time
- You won’t understand what channels work best for content promotion. Your SEO tactics will be a mess
- You won’t have any particular framework to analyze the results of your campaign to see whether it works or not
Below is your checklist to follow once you arrive at the stage of content idea generation and planning.
1) You’ve set goals and KPIs.
Every strategy begins with goals, so you need to specify what you want to achieve with your particular content asset: create brand awareness, attract more organic traffic to your website, build credibility, get backlinks, etc.
For every goal, ensure to set KPIs (key performance indicators), so you can analyze how well you move towards those goals. You can’t start working on content creation unless you’re sure it will meet or even exceed your set KPIs.
2) You know your target audience inside out.
Before writing, decide on the target audience for your content. If you have a few buyer personas, you’ll need to match content topics and types to each one.
Who is a target reader of this particular SEO content asset of yours? Are you sure it will hook and engage them into action? (Will they share it on social media, subscribe to your blog, download your lead magnet, or link to it from their websites?)
3) You’ve identified the best distribution channels for your content.
As a rule, the best ones are channels where you already have an engaged presence. Decide where you’ll distribute the content asset and how you’ll promote it once it’s live.
Your website analytics can help here: Check how people find your content. Do they come to read your blog post via a newsletter or social media? Do they find you via search?
Once you know the source your targets use to come to you, you’ll focus your marketing efforts on those particular channels.
4) You’ve decided on the content types you’ll need.
Some content types perform better on particular channels, and their performance can change based on the audience you target and their marketing funnel stage. Remember that when you plan content writing.
Are you sure you need a blog post, not a video or an infographic, to reach your content goal? Maybe it’s worth trying a podcast or focusing on user-generated content for better engagement and trust.
5) You’ve done the keyword research.
You know that SEO content needs keywords to succeed. Based on the information from your detailed keyword research and mapping, you’ll understand what your audience wants to see (search intent) and which keywords to include in a particular content asset to satisfy that intent.
More than that, particular keywords in the content are a must-have for search engines to identify and rank it accordingly.
6) You have the budget, resources, and tools for this content campaign.
Who will write this content piece? Are you going to do that or hire outsourced writers? Ensure the estimated cost and time you’ll spend on it are within the limits of your budget.
Strict deadlines are critical, but it would also help to set some time aside for a case of emergency. Keep this in mind when planning your content strategy.
7) You have a content calendar.
It’s a must for tracking the topics and content you want to publish and promote. The content calendar will help you see the status of each piece you create and control its distribution, analyzing its performance.
8) Every content idea in your calendar follows these seven criteria:
- Simplicity – The idea is clear and relevant to your target audience
- Surprise – It reveals something new in your niche
- Specificity – The idea has something the audience can relate to: It’s informative, measurable, and non-abstract; it helps targets solve a problem, addresses their pain points, and provides added value.
- Credibility – Your content is trustworthy: It follows E-A-T guidelines guidelines, and its overall presentation is in-depth and professional to build trust in your resource
- Emotions – This content idea evokes emotions for a reader to remember it
- Story – There’s a strong concept behind your content idea, exploring something bigger than common facts or mere hypotheses
- Value – Ensure your content idea doesn’t look and sound too salesy, like a mere promo of your product and service
9) Your every content asset fits the technical requirements of your website or other channels where you’re going to publish and promote it.
Ensure you’ll have a technical opportunity to implement your content idea and format it the way you see it live.
10) Your content idea and format fit your brand voice and writing style.
Consistency is critical here: With every new content asset, you need to communicate a marketing message but do that according to the style your business has chosen for conversation with the audience.
Stage 2: Content Creation
Now that you’ve set goals, KPIs, and content plans with writing ideas to cover, it’s time to start writing. This process is time-consuming, with tons of steps to check and follow:
On-page SEO details like headings and subheads, content body, media files, links, content design and structure, shareability, and technical aspects — all matter and demand a high level of concentration. To ensure you don’t miss any detail, here goes the checklist:
11) A headline is relevant to your content type.
Whether you write a how-to article, a list, a review, or a case study, ensure to craft your SEO title accordingly.
12) Your headline is short, clear, and engaging for users to click.
Only two out of ten people read SEO content, while the other eight confine themselves to headlines only. Your task is to build headlines so they would motivate users to click and learn more; for that, you can rely on proven headline formulas.
13) Your headline contains the target keyword.
Please do your best to place it as close to the beginning of a headline as possible: Remember that people tend to absorb the first three words of the headline; plus, it’s one of the general rules for building SEO titles.
14) You’ve structured the content according to the rules of web writing:
- Relevant and engaging H2 and H3 are present.
- You’ve mentioned a target keyword and its synonyms in H2 and H3 at least once.
- Paragraphs are short: 3-4 sentences.
- Visual content is there for better usability: images, videos, graphics, GIFs, etc.
- You align the text right.
- White space is there for better readability.
- Font size is enough: 14px minimum.
- The color-contrast ratio between the content and background is around 5:1.
15) Your content is of the appropriate length.
It depends on the type: While a blog post of around 2,000-2,500 words typically ranks the best, this rule won’t work (obviously!) for infographics or press releases. Just remember that the minimum content length for ranking well in search engines is 300 words, and organize your content writing accordingly.
16) Content body is relevant to the headline and subheads.
Please ensure you avoid clickbait. No matter how engaging your headline is, it won’t help your SEO and content usability if readers come but don’t see what they expect.
It does nothing but hurts your rankings: a bounce rate grows, dwell time suffers, and the overall reputation of your online resource falls.
17) Your content introduction is SEO- and user-friendly.
Once a person clicks your headline, it’s the first couple of paragraphs that help them decide if they want to keep reading. Check your introduction for the following:
- It’s short
- It contains a hook to get people interested in further reading: an interesting fact, a daring statement, a question, statistics, anecdotes, etc.
- It previews the content for users to understand what they’ll get if they continue reading
18) You’ve optimized all visuals accordingly.
Follow the image SEO rules: resize and compress images if necessary so they don’t affect a page load speed; name image files properly; think of SEO-friendly alt-tags, etc.
19) All the visuals are of high quality.
Say no to stock pictures most webmasters have been using dozens of times. Why not craft custom images? Free online graphic design tools like Canva, Visme, Vista Create, and others can help.
Not only do such visuals engage users and motivate them to share, thus bringing you more backlinks, but they can also boost your chances of getting into Google Image Search.
20) Your images and other media don’t distract users from content.
Know your limit. While visual content is super engaging, it needs to complement the information you share rather than substitute it. All files should be relevant to the content and focused on your target audience’s interests.
21) Your media files do not violate any copyrights.
Ensure you’ve mentioned image sources wherever necessary. Plagiarism-free content is what you need for perfect SEO.
22) All media files are responsive.
Check if they change the size to keep with a user screen’s extension.
23) You’ve proofread and edited the content before publishing.
Typos and grammar mistakes hurt readability and the overall impression of your content. Check your content asset for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes; use tools like Grammarly or Hemingway to see if it’s clear and easy to read.
24) Your content includes a few external links to authoritative resources.
It adds expertness and trust to your page.
25) You haven’t stuffed your content with keywords and links.
It hurts readability and signals to Google about poor quality and spamming.
26) Your content contains a call to action.
Remember the goal you set for your SEO content? What was the desired action you expected from the audience? Ensure you’ve structured the asset so the readers would understand it.
27) You have share buttons on a page.
They should be easy to find while reading your content from different devices and browsers. There’s also a subscribe button for the visitors to follow you on social media after they’ve read your content.
28) You’re going to publish this content during the peak of your audience’s activity.
The general rule here: avoid posting and promoting it during weekends and holidays. Plan your publication time accordingly, to reach the maximum of your target audience.
29) You’ve checked the content in all browsers and devices.
It will help understand if it is properly displayed everywhere.
30) You’ve decided on the semantic core and keyword phrases for content.
LSI keywords, long-tail keywords, and vertical keywords are worth including — they will help search engines understand and rank your page right.
31) You haven’t forgotten about metadata in your CMS.
Ensure you’ve come up with a corresponding SEO title and description. Also, mention a focus keyword there, and check if the URL is short and contains your target keyword too.
32) You’ve tested the final draft for mobile-friendliness.
Over 80% of people use mobile devices to surf the web, and you don’t want to lose such a broad audience because of poor content design, do you?
33) You’ve compared the content with the related one from competitors.
Publish it only when you’re sure your asset is more informative, compelling, and comprehensive than theirs.
34) You’ve shown the final draft to several colleagues before publishing it.
Ensure these are people unrelated to your content campaign: They can evaluate the asset and notice tiny drawbacks with a fresh eye.
35) You’ve demonstrated the draft to several users within your target audience.
They’ll provide you with sincere feedback on your SEO content.
36) You’ve sent content teasers and previews to famous bloggers and influencers in your niche.
Get them interested beforehand, so they can help you promote the content piece once it’s live.
37) You’ve checked the content for duplications.
Use plagiarism check tools to see if your final draft is original to avoid copyright issues and prevent problems with search engine algorithms.
38) You’ve decided on the metrics you’ll use to examine the results of your content campaign and set all the tools you’ll need for the analysis.
Stage 3: Content Promotion
SEO writing is not about content creation and publishing only. Once your content piece is live, it’s time to distribute and promote it for more users and relevant resources to see, share, and backlink to it.
Known as the post-launch stage of your campaign, it’s about content curation. Below are your steps to follow:
39) Post the content to your blog, and don’t forget to pitch it to all potentially interested websites.
40) Share the content piece on all your business social media accounts.
41) Send the post to one of the most influential websites among your target audience.
42) Include this SEO content piece in your newsletters.
43) Reply to everyone who shares the content or comments on it.
44) Do your best to recommend the content piece to the online community who might be interested in it: online groups, forums, etc.
45) Ensure you measure the content performance according to the KPIs you’ve specified during the content idea generation and planning step.
46) Collect all the data about your content performance.
47) Compare the expectations and reality behind your content success: Analyze what you can change or improve during your next content marketing campaign.
48) “Spy” on competitors’ content, analyzing what works and doesn’t work for them to avoid the same mistakes or follow their lead when necessary.
49) Promote the content via guest blogging whenever possible.
50) Update your SEO content regularly to ensure its information is still relevant and topical.
So, now you have it, the 50-step checklist to consider when working with SEO content aimed at better visibility, rankings, and conversion. Refer to it every time you work on a new content campaign to save time and ensure you haven’t missed anything. And, of course, feel free to delete or add steps, depending on your SEO goals and business decisions.
Lesley Vos is a guest contributor and a professional SEO copywriter. She specializes in data research, web text writing, and content promotion, is in love with words, non-fiction literature, and jazz. Lesley currently blogs at Bid4Papers, the platform helping students and authors with writing solutions.