25-point Web copy checklist: How to write for Google

Are you wondering if you’re writing your Web SEO copy the right way?

Google’s Panda update raised the content bar. Now, it’s not enough to “have keyphrase-rich content” for a top ranking. Today, that content must be relevant, informative, sharable and well-written.

Additionally, your readers demand smart writing that meets their needs. That means knowing what makes your reader tick – and the best way to write and present the content.

In short, it’s more than just sitting down and writing. You need to make sure that you have all your SEO copywriting basics covered.

Whether you’re an in-house SEO content writer, a DIY business owner or a freelance SEO copywriter, this 25-point checklist will help you write engaging, Google-happy content. Every time.

- Is the content based on a customer persona document or readers’ profile?

How do you know how to structure your writing if you don’t know who you’re writing for?  Ask your client or supervisor for a customer persona document that outlines who the target customer is and their specific characteristics. If the client doesn’t have a customer persona or reader’s profile document, be prepared to spend at least 30 minutes -1 hour asking questions about the intended reader. Here’s more information on customer personas.

- Is the copy based on keyphrase research or based on a trending topic that resonates with your readers?

It’s tempting to blog about whatever strikes your fancy. The problem is – your readers may not care as much as you do. Base your blog posts and site pages on reliable keyphrase research. That way, you’re giving your readers they content they want to read.

- Is  your main CTA (call to action) clear – and is it easy to take action?

Most sites (even blogs) want readers to take a specific action.  In a sales environment, the call to action is purchasing a product. It could also be contacting the company for additional information. Make sure that you tell your reader what you want them to do – and make it easy for them to take action.

- Do you have a secondary CTA (such as a newsletter signup or downloading a white paper.)

Many sites have a secondary CTA. Many times, the CTA relates to lead generation (signing up for a newsletter.) Other times, it could be a link to related products or blog posts. Make sure that your secondary call to action is clear and doesn’t take attention away from the main CTA.

- Does the page include too many choices?

It’s important to keep your reader focused on your primary and secondary CTA’s. If your page lists too many choices (for example a large, scrolling page of products or a long list of related blog posts,) consider eliminating all “unnecessary” choices that don’t support your main calls to action. Otherwise, your prospects may overwhelm and not take any action at all.

- What is your main per-page keyphrase focus (focus on two-to-three keyphrases per page.)

Don’t make the mistake of conducting keyphrase research after you’ve written the copy. Run your research first, and then choose the best keyphrases for your page. Check out how easy it is to develop your own per-page keyphrase strategy.

- What internal pages will you link to? What’s the anchor text?

This is especially important if you’re writing a “soft-sale” blog post, where the secondary CTA is to send readers to specific product or services pages. “Dead end” pages (pages that don’t link out to related pages,) don’t encourage further reading/interactions – and can be a cause of higher bounce rates. Read more about “dead end” Web pages.  As a side note, always hyperlink the keyphrase rather than linking words like “click here” or “learn more.”

- What are the product/services features and benefits (if you’re writing a sales page.)

People make purchase decisions on the benefits of a product – not the features – so this is crucial. Make sure that you tell your reader how your product/service will make their lives better and satisfy a need. Do you have all the necessary background information/research you need to write the page? Here’s the difference between features and benefits.

- Do you have vertical-specific testimonials (if you’re writing a sales page?)

General testimonials are fantastic – they offer third-party proof that your product or service is superior. However, if you are writing a sales page for a specific vertical, always include vertical-specific testimonials (for instance, a real estate agent testimonial on a real estate landing page.) This will help increase your conversion rates. Learn more about writing sales copy with testimonials.

- Is your H1 headline “clickable?” That is, does it convey a benefit statement or otherwise entice the reader to click-through from the search engine results page?

Readers initially quick-scan your content. Benefit-rich headlines tell the reader “what’s in it for him/her” and entices them to keep reading.Ensuring that your headline is compelling and has a benefit statement is a proven copywriting technique – and too powerful to pass up.

- Does your headline include a keyphrase?

Searchers are following the “search scent” from the search engine results page. When they reach the landing page, they are quick-scanning for their search term (or a variation) – so including a keyphrase in your headline is important. Adding your keyphrase to your H1 headline is also an excellent way to reinforce keyphrase relevancy.

- 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 help reinforce keyphrase relevancy.

- Does the content provide the reader valuable information?

Google’s Panda update spanked sites with “thin,” low-quality content that was poorly written. Before you upload your page, ask yourself if the content answers your reader’s questions and is informative. If you find that you’re focusing more on the keyphrase usage than the actual content, rewrite the page.

- Did you use bullet points where appropriate?

Bullet points help to highlight your content, making it easier for your readers to read. Use bullet points whenever you find yourself writing a list (such as a features-benefits list.)

- 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. Learn more about the myth of keyword density.

- Is the “voice” of the page appropriate?

Consider if your tone and feel will resonate with your reader. Your content doesn’t have to sound formal, but it should sound like you talk (or like your sales team would talk to a prospect.) Your customer persona document can help you find the “right” voice for the page. Here’s more information about working with your page’s tone and feel.

Are your sentences too long?

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, it may be time to edit them down – or turn them into individual sentences.

- Are your paragraphs too long?

Long paragraphs without much white space are hard to read off a computer monitor – and even harder to read on a mobile device. Whenever possible, make your paragraphs shorter for easier readability.

- 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.) Eliminate any spelling/grammatical errors and see what you can do to tighten up the word count. Discover why editing your Web writing is so very important.

 - Did you edit it again?

Once is never enough. Review your content at least one more time. It’s amazing what you can find to edit the second (or third!) time around!

- Does your Title contain one (or more) of your main keyphrases?

Always include your main page keyphrase in your Title – and work in other keyphrases if they “fit.”

- Is your Title “clickable” and compelling?

Remember that the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Consider how you can create an enticing Title that “gets the click” over the other search result listings. Remember, you have about 65 characters (with spaces) to work with, so it’s important to write tight. Here are some additional Title-writing tips.

- Did you create a meta description?

Your meta description is like a short page summary – and it helps encourage searchers to click-through from the search engine results page. Although Google may not always use your meta description, it’s still important to create one. Don’t forget to weave in your keyphrases.

- Does the meta description fit the intent of the page?

If you’re writing an article or blog post,  the meta description should be informational rather than sales-y . Conversely, if you’re creating a meta description for a sales page, your meta description can be more promotional.

Do you write Web copy as part of your job? Want to learn more about SEO content creation? My SEO Copywriting Certification training has been endorsed by AWAI and SEOPros – and is a great way to learn how to master search engine writing. Learn more about the SEO writing training today!