Title tags are the single most important element for SEO. Not only
are they a powerful indication of relevance, but typically the title is
the link on a search results page. If it’s too long, it gets truncated.
55 characters is the limit. Be brief.
Use the target keyphrase once in the title. If possible, use it near
the beginning of the title. The prominence of the keyphrase (in other
words, how close to the beginning it appears) is important.
It might be tempting to put your business name at the front of the title. Don’t. Search engine marketers have a saying: “brand last.”
Start with your keyphrase, end with your business name. Remember, your
first goal is to help people. Promoting yourself comes second.
Make your meta description a single sentence, plain English summary
of the content of the page. Use your target keyphrase at least once, but
not more than twice. Limit the number of characters to 155 to be sure
that it will fit within the snippet without getting truncated.
3. Keyphrase Use in the Body Text
We recommend including the target keyphrase in the body of the
article at least twice, but not more than five times. Whenever
appropriate, use the words of the target phrase together as a “bonded”
This should come naturally if the phrase is relevant to the topic.
During editing, go back to make sure it’s used, but not overused.
WARNING! Don’t overdo it on the keywords.
If you compromise your writing so much that it’s obvious to a reader,
you’re guilty of “keyword stuffing.” Using the phrase repeatedly in
unnatural ways is bad for readers and bad for rankings. This is obvious
to Google, and there’s a chance that you’ll be penalized.
4. Semantically Linked Words
Beyond the specific target phrase, use words that are semantically
linked to the phrase. Spread out your meaning by using the words that
are closely related to your keyphrase.
Indicating relevance for the more general topic is good for search
rankings. Any great page on your topic would certainly include the
closely related words and phrases, right?
For example, if you’re writing an article explaining how to design
website footers, you may target the phrase “website footer design.” To
indicate relevance for the general topic, include semantically linked
words in your article, such as copyright, sitemap, navigation, ideas and
Resource: Find the phrases that are semantically linked to your topic – Future Proof Your Search Engine Marketing: 5 Tips for the 5 Biggest Trends in SEO
The headline should be formatted using the <h1> header tag. Use
the target keyphrase once, indicating relevance to search engines and
stating the general topic to headers. Beyond this, the headline should
be written for readers.
The increasing synergy between CRM and online media buying brings clarity to marketing’s family tree.
Human Psychology Elements
The following elements help align the article with human psychology
and increase the likelihood that the article will be clicked, read and
6. Secondary Headline
A great headline stops the reader in their tracks. Adding a dash,
colon or parentheses lets you add a second headline, giving you a better
chance at this. A study by The Guardian found that headlines with
dashes and colons had 9% higher click rates (source).
Here are examples of double headlines that separate the first from
the second with punctuation. Each leverages another technique to catch
- Use a number
The Complete Hamster Training Guide: 5 Circus Tricks Rodents Love
- Promise a specific benefit
Hamster Training Tips – How To Train Your Hamster to Jump Through Hoops
- Create urgency
Train Your Pet Hamster (Before He Escapes Forever)
- Trigger curiosity or emotion
Hamster Training: This Furry Guy Learned This Trick in Just 10 Minutes
- Ask a question
What Tricks Can You Teach A Hamster? Training Advice from a Pet Rodent Expert
Resource: How to Write a Headline That Won’t Get Ignored: a 7-Point Checklist
7. Featured Image
Articles with images are more likely to be shared and clicked in
social media. Content with images is much more visually prominent in
social streams. Images also make your message more memorable, thanks to
the pictorial superiority effect.
Never publish an article without an image.
The featured image at the top of the article is most likely to appear
in social streams if the article is shared. Most social media sites
show a rectangular area of the image, which is roughly twice as wide as
it is tall.
This “aspect ratio” of 2:1 means tall images get cropped, showing
just the area vertically centered. So images optimized for social media
meet one of these two criteria:
- They are twice as wide as they are tall, or…
- The main subject of the image is within the center vertically, rather than near the top or bottom.
Also, adding the headline of the article (or a version of it) into
the image itself makes the image more meaningful, increasing the chance
that it will get clicked when shared in social media.
Resource: 15 Blog Images: Best Practices For Adding Great Images to Every Post
People tend not to read online; we tend to scan. To make your content
scannable, add subheaders into the article, breaking up the article
into sections. These serve as mini-headlines for subsequent paragraphs,
keeping visitors moving through your content.
These subheads should be formatting using <h2> or <h3> tags, not just bolding.
As consumers have come to expect regular communication from brands,
they’re looking for information, not promotion. Experts weigh in on how
to personalize e-mails to make sure your message is heard.
Lists give you a natural reason to use numbered headlines, telling
readers that the article will be formatted for easy scanning. Lists
articles are successful because we’re busy. They align with our
- Use bullet lists whenever there are three or more distinct ideas in a section
- Use numbered lists as a format for the entire article or whenever sequential ideas are presented
- Avoid list formatting when telling stories with a narrative flow
Don’t hit your visitors will a wall of text. Format your content so it’s accessible and engaging to busy visitors.
- Short paragraphs
No paragraph should be longer than four lines maximum. Use very
short paragraphs of one sentence or even one word to add emphasis.
- Bolding, Italics
Excellent ways to add emphasis and make content more easily scanned, but don’t overdo it.
- Personal tone
Readers are people. Write as if you’re writing for one, specific person. From you, to her.
Your goal is to eventually convert your reader into a lead or a customer. As Barry Feldman put it;
"Your site is the mousetrap, your content is the cheese."
But if you don’t help make those connections between the cheese and the trap, you catch fewer mice.
Here are four type of links to create every time you publish
- Link from each new article to an older article
- Link to each new article from an older article
- Link from every article to a product or service page
- Link from each article to the article of an authority or expert with supportive content (see below)
There is a powerful SEO benefit here. Links between pages helps the
authority flow between pages on your site, although these links have far
lower impact on rankings than links from other websites. Internal links
are also is an easy opportunity to use target keywords in anchor text.
Resource: Internal Linking: 9 Best Practices for SEO and Internal Links
12. Quotes and Mentions
If optimizing for search means adding keywords, then optimizing for
social means adding people. Input from experts add credibility and will
make your article more interesting. It’s also more likely to be shared,
since people tend to share articles that mention them.
There are two basic approaches to adding quotes:
- Quote, Share and Mention
Find a quote that supports something you’ve written. Add it to your
article, citing and linking to the original. Once the article is live,
share it in social media and mention the author of the quote. Or simply
send them a message letting them know you quoted them.
- Ask for a Contributor Quote
While writing, reach out to an expert or two (probably someone you’re
already building a relationship with) and ask them if they’d like to
contribute a few sentences or a paragraph. If they do, add a picture and
link if possible. Once it’s live, let them know. Here’s an example from
an earlier post.
Don’t expect experts to instantly share articles that they’re
mentioned in. But most will, giving you a social media boost. If not,
it’s still great for your content and great networking.
Resource: Email Interviews: 5 Ways to Create Better Website Content
A report from the National Center for the Middle Market details the growing importance of organization-wide digitization.
13. Examples and Evidence
Great writers support their claims with evidence. They add clarity
with examples. Here are types of evidence that you can add to your
content to make it more compelling.
- Research studies and statistics
- Charts and graphs with supportive data
- Stories and case studies
- Supportive resources
- Relevant (positive or negative) examples
Ideally, there is evidence supporting each point in your article.
Similar to quotes, these are all are ways to work other people into
your content, and more people means more mentions and possibilities that
they will share.
14. Call to Action
Now that you’ve given your reader a high quality well-structured
piece of content, it’s time to ask for something in return. Every great
post has a call to action, inviting the visitor to become more engaged
with your content or your business.
If nothing else, the call to action is simply an invitation to leave a comment.
Ask a question that they can answer with a comment, ask for other ideas
that would complement the article or even invite the reader to disagree
Another call to action is a one sentence pitch to subscribe to the
newsletter. The moment they finish reading the post is the high-point of
their appreciation. This is when they are most likely to subscribe.
For web pages, a call to action may invite the reader to contact.
Your goal is to start a conversation about how you can help them even
more …if they become a lead.
15. Author Box
Blog software often makes creating the author box very easy. Easy or
difficult, it’s worth the effort since it has social media and
conversion benefits. The ideal author box includes the following:
- Profile picture
- Brief biography (no more than a few sentences)
- Link to the author’s bio on the website
- Link to other social media profiles, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.
Additional Media Elements
Here are ways to improve quality by adding more compelling media. Of
course, you won’t add all of these to every article. But we recommend
upgrading your content with something from this list on a regular basis.
16. Secondary Images
Subheaders and formatting make articles easier to scan, but adding
images throughout the article is an even better way to keep visitors
If you add an image every 500 pixels or so (after every three or four
paragraphs) then there will be something visual to keep the visitors
attention at every scroll depth. In other words, at no point in your
article will there be a screen of all text with no images.
Customer insights can be extremely valuable for marketers... so why are
fewer companies using them than in 2011? Duke University's Christine
Moorman gives 12 culprits.
In our annual blogger survey, we’ve found that more bloggers are adding more images.
48% of surveyed bloggers are adding multiple images per post.
The combination of movement and sound make video the most compelling
format for content. Adding video to the top of a post is one of the best
ways to get visitors to stay. Getting visitors to stay on your page has
indirect SEO benefits. For more info, read about “User Interaction
The video thumbnail (default image) should use the same best practices as featured images.
Similar to video, audio is a big media upgrade to any post. It’s also easier than you think.
- Turn the recording software on your computer
- Read the post in your own conversational tone
- Save as an mp3 file
- Upload to Soundcloud or Spreaker
- Embed the audio player of the file to the page by copying and
pasting in the <iframe> code, just as you would a YouTube video.
Add it to the top of the page.
If your article was ever a presentation, it takes only minutes to add
it to Slideshare and embed it into the article. But even if it was
never a presentation, you can easily add a gallery by putting images to
PowerPoint, uploading the PowerPoint into Slideshare and embedded
Slideshare into the post.
It should look something like this:
20. Click to Tweet
The easier it is to share, the more likely it will be shared. This is
another simple way to optimize your content for social media.
Take a short, compelling quote from the article (or use a version of
the headline) and write it as a tweet, using the link from the article,
along with any hashtags and mentions. Put the tweet into Click to Tweet, then embed it into the article as a link or a little blue bird button.
Digital marketing has four distinct marketing objectives. Failing to
recognize these differences will lead to ineffective and suboptimal
21. PDF Download
The PDF is really an alternate version of an article, added as a
convenience for visitors who may want to download or print it. Large
companies doing B2B marketing often add these to white papers or case
More recently, the PDF is a common format for the “content upgrade,”
available to visitors who enter an email address. This is a cornerstone
tactic in marketing automation.
Links to PDFs can include an icon and an indication of the file size.
Copy is not written. Copy is assembled.
These are the words of copywriting legend Eugene Schwartz. They’ve
never been more true than today, in the era of content marketing.
A great piece of digital content is assembled from many little
elements, words, images, tags, media and formatting. Each adds to
results of the whole in it’s own way.
…That’s it! Did we miss anything? If you have questions or
suggestions for things to add to this checklist, please let us know with
a comment below.