The 10 Point SEO Copywriting Checklist For Better Ranking

Rob Powell
Jul 30, 2017 · 10 min read

I know what you’re thinking — not another SEO copywriting checklist!

But wait…this one’s different. Keep reading and you’ll find out why!

First off, what is SEO copywriting?

Well, let’s define SEO and copywriting first.

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

1.What is SEO?

Google displays web pages in its search results based on two main factors:

  • The relevance of the page to the search query of the searcher
  • The authority of the page, measured in terms of the number of links pointing to that page, and the trustworthiness of those links.

SEO is the practice of optimizing your content so that it:

  • Matches the searcher intent of a particular search query
  • Is written and presented in so well as to attract links and social media shares that increase the page’s authority.

View this video titled ‘SEO Checklist for New Websites’ by SEO wizard Rand Fishkin:

2. What Is Copywriting?

In a nutshell, copywriting is getting people to act.

It’s the art of writing so persuasively that the reader stays with you till the end of your article or letter and then follows your call to action (by purchasing a product, subscribing to a list etc).

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

3. Copywriting For SEO

Put simply, copywriting for SEO is writing content that’s optimized for search engines but at the same time will engage readers.

You might think that those two goals are pulling in different directions.

But that’s not the case at all.

The more persuasive and engaging your writing, the more time your visitors will spend on your page. And the more time people spend on your page, the higher Google will rank you in the search results.

If your writing and the information you’re sharing are exceptionally good, your readers will share it on social media. Those shares will act like backlinks.

They’ll increase your authority, as measured by the Google algorithm. And that, in turn, will give your page a higher ranking in the search results.

So persuasive writing has a direct impact on SEO.

That’s copywriting for SEO and it’s the key to getting pages that rank well in Google.

4. Writing Persuasively

So how do you get people to spend more time on your page?

To start off you need a catchy title or headline. Did you know that 80% of readers never make it past the headline? That’s right — only 2 out of 10 readers reach the first paragraph.

Writing catchy headlines is a whole topic in itself. The best resource I know of is Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks.

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

Once you’ve come up with a good headline, run it through Co-Schedule’s Headline Analyzer.

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

Next you need a compelling Introduction.

There are two basic kinds of Introduction and nearly all successful bloggers use one or the other. For more on this, see my blog post The Definitive Guide on How to Write a Compelling Intro for Your Next Blog Post.

A compelling Intro is a good start but it’s not enough. You can still lose your reader half way down the page.

The secret to keeping readers on your page all the way to the end is transitions. They’re also known as ‘grease-slide phrase’s or ‘bucket brigades’.

In the days before fire brigades, neighbours would fight fires by forming human chains. They’d pass buckets of water along the chain. The idea was to move the buckets along the chain so that there was no break in the supply of water.

It’s the same with transitions or bucket brigade phrases. You can use them to literally move your reader down the page.

Again, it’s a whole topic on its own. Here’s a great article about it with a list of 502 bucket brigade phrases.

Good formatting will also increase the time people spend on your page. Pay particular attention to length of sentence and length of paragraph.

You can get great tips on formatting from reading the guest post guidelines of major blogs.

This is what Ninja Outreach says about sentences and paragraphs:

  • No sentence should contain more than 20 words
  • No paragraph should contain more than 200 words

Here’s another formatting tip that will hugely improve the readability of your article. Whenever you can, use bullet points. They break up the monotony of the paragraph structure and invite the reader to keep reading.

5. Keywords

I’m going to be brutally honest with you.

Unless you have a domain authority of at least 75, you have almost no chance of ranking on Page #1 of Google for any ‘head’ keyword.

What’s a ‘head’ keyword?

Any keyword that contains one or two words is a ‘head’ keyword. Examples are:

  • Internet marketing
  • Car loans
  • Weight loss

Head keywords typically have a high search volume and are very competitive.

Unless you’re a major brand with very high domain authority, the only keywords you should be targeting are ‘long tail keywords’.

These are keywords containing at least 4 words. They have a much smaller monthly search volume than ‘head’ keywords and so the big players leave them alone.

Which is why you have a good chance of ranking for them on Page #1.

Although the search volume on individual long tail keywords is far less than it is for head keywords, about 80% of all searches are for long tail keywords, as the people at Moz show in this graph:

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

That means that long tail keywords are an absolute goldmine.

Another advantage of long tail keywords: people who type them into a search engine are much clearer about what they’re looking for than people who type in ‘head’ keywords.

That’s another way of saying they’re further down the buying funnel. And that’s another reason long tail keywords are so powerful.

Good long tail keywords should have a minimum monthly search volume of 50 and when you type them into Google there should be no more than 200,000 results.

Each blog post you write should target a long tail keyword. You should make sure that the long tail keyword appears:

  • In the title of your page or post
  • In the meta description
  • In the ‘slug’ of the page URL
  • In at least one H2 sub-heading
  • In at least one image ‘alt attribute’

In addition, your long tail keyword should be scattered throughout the article or post.

To make sure you’ve optimized your page or post for keywords, install the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin and follow the prompts until your page or post gets the ‘green light’ from Yoast.

6. Site Speed

‘Site speed’ is based on ‘page speed’, which is the time it takes for your page to load in a browser.

Google has said that site speed is one of the factors it uses to rank pages — the faster your site speed, the higher your pages will rank.

So how fast should you site load? The folks at Moz have given the following comparisons.

If your site loads in:

  • 5 seconds, it is faster than approximately 25% of the web
  • 9 seconds, it is faster than approximately 50% of the web
  • 7 seconds, it is faster than approximately 75% of the web
  • 8 seconds, it is faster than approximately 94% of the web

If your website loads in 1.5–2 seconds, that’s a good site speed.

You can test your site speed at Web Page Test.

One way to increase your site speed is to use a ‘caching plugin’.

Caching plugins work by saving dynamically generated HTML files and serving them from the cache.

This means that whenever someone revisits your site, instead of having to load the PHO scripts from scratch, the files are served from the cache. In other words, the data loaded into the browser is re-used from the previous session.

This makes your site load far quicker.

The caching plugin I use is W3 Total Cache. It’s free and with over 1,000,000 active installs, its popularity speaks for itself.

7. Meta Description

The meta description is the text beneath the page title that you see in the search results:

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

If you have the free SEO Yoast plugin installed, just go to the bottom of your page or post in ‘Edit’ mode and click on the ‘Edit Snippet’ button.

You’ll then see the meta description field where you can edit your meta description.

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

If you leave the meta description blank Google will just pull in some random text from your page and it won’t be the most compelling message.

The meta description is the one chance you have to persuade searchers to click on your page, so this is a huge SEO factor.

Use your keyword in the meta description, preferably near the beginning and use plenty of power words that motivate people and excite interest.

Tip: Google will cut off your description at 160 characters with an ellipsis (…). Having your description cut off at 160 characters won’t always give you the best result. Instead, you can truncate your description at the point of your choosing by simply adding an ellipsis (as I have done in the above example).

8. Page Links

There are two kinds of links that will increase your on-page SEO score: internal and external links.

Internal Links

Internal links are links within your site from one page to another.

One reason that internal links are good for SEO is that they create SEO-friendly site architecture.

To understand why this is so, we have to understand how search engine robots index pages. These robots literally go from one page to the next — they can’t find a page this is not linked to another page.

So having plenty of internal links within your site makes it much easier for the search engine bots to index your site.

As the people at Moz point out, the ideal internal link structure looks like this:

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

Every single page is linked to the home page using the fewest possible links.

A search engine bot would have no trouble indexing every page on such a site.

But not every website is able to use such a strictly tiered system.

That’s where internal linking comes in — in every page or post you should link as many keywords as you can to other pages or posts that contain those same keywords.

External Links

We all know that external links from other sites to your site are great for SEO.

But did you know that linking out from your site to other sites can also be beneficial for SEO?

The reason for this?

When you link to valuable sources that demonstrate a point you’re making or provide the reader with more detailed information about a topic, you are making your content more valuable and trustworthy to your reader.

And that’s what Google wants in its search results — the most valuable and trustworthy content possible.

Rand Fishkin and his team have done studies that suggest that Google rewards sites that link out to authoritative sites that are relevant to the topic of your page or post.

9. Word Count

As you’re probably aware, Google rewards longer rather than shorter content.

And it stands to reason — people who produce sub-standard content will always write less rather than more because writing 500 words is much easier than writing 2,500 words.

Snap Agency has shown that 2,500 words is the ideal article length for maximum SEO benefit:

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

They cite studies showing that the articles occupying the top 2 positions in the search engine results have an average word count of 2,500 words.

The same principle applies for social shares — content that is 2,500 words in length gets many more social shares than shorter content:

SEO copywriting checklist
SEO copywriting checklist

And of course, more social shares means higher rankings in the search engine results.

For many people 2,500 words is a bit of a stretch. But aim for at least 1,500 words.

10. Time On Page

Time on Page, also known as “dwell time”, is another of the 200 factors that make up the Google algorithm.

And it makes sense — if someone clicks on your page in the search results and immediately leaves, what it does it tell Google? That your page didn’t match what the searcher was looking for.

And that’s all that Google is trying to do — constantly improve the match between what people search for and what gets delivered in the search results.

But here’s another scenario.

Let’s say your page ranks #15 in the search results. That’s about half way down the second page of results.

And let’s say visitors are spending 5 seconds more on your page than they are on the page that ranks at #14.

You know what Google’s going to do?

You guessed it — they’re going to move you up to position #14 and the other page down to position #15.

If people are spending more time on your page than any of the pages listed above you, you’ll gradually move up the search results.

It won’t be long before you’re on Page #1.

So, how do you get people to spend more time on your page?

The main way is simply good copywriting. Remember those bucket brigade phrases we talked about? Sprinkle them strategically all the way down your page.

But here’s another way to get people to spend more time on your page.

Go to YouTube and type in the keyword for your page. You should be able to find a video on the exact topic of your article or very close.

Now simply embed it on your page. The time your visitors take to view the video will increase your “dwell time” and improve your ranking.

Over To You

Armed with this SEO copywriting checklist, you have everything you need to start ranking higher in the search engine results.

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