Web Content Checklist: 17 Ways to Publish Better Content
Before you click the publish button, check to make sure you’ve included everything and you’re doing them all in the right way. The results are dramatically better if you follow the web content checklist:
It’s the text at the top of the browser, above the address bar, for any web page. Depending on your browser, it may be in the tab. In the code, it’s whatever text is inside the <title> tags. It’s very important.
The title becomes the link when the page or post ranks in search engines. If it’s too long, it gets truncated so limit yourself to 66 characters. Be brief.
Titles are strong indicators to search engines what the page is about, so use your target keyphrase, use it once, and if possible, use it at the beginning of the title. The prominence of the keyphrase (in other words, how close to the beginning it appears) is very 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.
Although Meta Keywords are totally useless, the Meta Description remains important. It doesn’t appear in the content of the page, but it’s highly visible in search results. Below each link in a search results page is a “snippet” of text. In Google, this snippet is either an excerpt from the body text or more often, the meta description. So make it good.
Write it as a single sentence, plain English summary of the content. Don’t just use the title or headline. 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.
We recommend including the target keyphrase in the body of the article at least twice, but not more than five times. In each instance, all the words in the phrase should appear together as a “bonded” phrase. 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.
- Tip: It’s likely that punctuation is dropped in Google, so if you’re having trouble incorporating the phrase, consider ending one sentence with the beginning of the phrase, and beginning the next sentence with the end of the phrase. For example, if you’re targeting “Tampa telephone repair” the following sentences includes one instance of the phrase:
- “We’re located in north Tampa. Telephone repair services include dial tone tuning and button replacement.”
- Warning: Don’t overdo it on the keywords. If you compromise your writing to the extent that it makes no sense to your human reader, you’re probably guilty of “keyword stuffing.” Using the phrase over and over in unnatural ways is both terrible for your readers and bad for search engine optimization. Google can see right through this and there’s a chance that you’ll be penalized. So don’t do it.
People tend not to read online; we tend to scan. Content marketers must accept this and adapt by adding formatting to their content. Big blocky, dense paragraphs are less likely to be read. Content with more formatting is more likely to engage the reader.
- Headers and subheads: Breaking up the article into short sections makes it much more accessible to busy readers. Each section should begin with a header that serves as a mini headline for the paragraphs that follow.
- Short paragraphs: Generally no paragraph should include more than 3-4 sentences. Very short paragraphs of one sentence or even one word can be used to add emphasis.
- Bulleted lists and numbered lists: These are very easy to scan and work well within almost any post. Some very successful posts are nothing more than lists. Some blogs, such as 12most.com, are based entirely on list-formatted content.
- Bold, Italics: These are excellent ways to add emphasis and make content more easily scanned, but don’t overdo it.
Formatting is good for search engines, as well as humans. If you leave out the formatting, you miss opportunities to use your keyphrase in more ways. Subheaders and bulleted lists are opportunities to use words from a target phrase and indicate relevance a bit more.
Your goal as a content marketer is to eventually convert visitors into leads and customers. 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.
Look for opportunities within articles to link to web pages about your products and services, and to other content. Doing so creates a benefit for conversions and a visible impact on the “average pages per visit” metric in Analytics.
There is also an SEO benefit, as internal linking is an easy opportunity to use target keywords in anchor text when linking to other content, although these links have far less importance on rank than links from other websites.
- Tip: Every few months, go back and look at older posts. Try to find opportunities to add links to your more recent content.
Posts with images are more interesting to look at and more likely to be shared. Some posts, such as infographics, are nothing more than a giant image and are extremely successful, sometimes becoming viral.
When content is shared in social networks, an image from the page is generally pulled in and appears within the post, making it more prominent. Shared posts without images have a disadvantage in social streams.
Some sites have a policy of never publishing a post without at least one image. If you guest post on these sites, they may reject your post unless you add an image, or they may add images for you. They may use a lot of bad stock photos and it might not be pretty. Plan ahead and find an image.
Don’t hesitate to mention other people within your content. Input from experts adds credibility and makes your content more interesting. For promotional reasons, it can be effective to deliberately mention those who are active in social media. They may share it once it’s posted.
Calls to Action
Now that you have provided friendly, helpful advice to your readers, it’s time to ask for a little bit 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, for Blog Posts, the call to action can simply be an invitation to leave a comment. Ask a question that they can answer with a comment, solicit other ideas that would complement the suggestions made in the post or even invite the reader to disagree with you.
Beyond comments, a call to action may be a one sentence pitch to subscribe to the newsletter. If the content was truly useful, the moment they finish reading the post is the high-point of their appreciation and the most likely time for the reader to subscribe.
For web pages, a call to action may be a link directing them to read more on another page, or an invitation to contact you to start a conversation about how your business can help them even more…by becoming a lead.
- Tip: Calls to action should use the same compelling language that you use while authoring subject lines, headers, tweets and anything else that you hope a reader to act on. “Contact Us” is not a call to action. “Ask Andy for more advice on web marketing” is.
If you write a very long article, you might get a comment that says “TLDR” (too long, didn’t read)…if they leave a comment at all.
There’s a time and place for epic 2,500 word blog posts, but don’t do it too often. Generally, work within the length recommendations on the Periodic Table of Content. Make an exception when you’re truly inspired writing something longer and it’s not practical to break it into two parts. If your standard length is longer and your readers expect and enjoy the format, keep it up!
Some blog software makes creating an author box very easy. Easy or difficult, it’s worth the effort, since it has social, search and conversion benefits. The ideal author box includes the following:
Profile picture: here are tips for picking the perfect profile picture
Brief biography: no more than a few sentences
Link to bio and/or link to Google+ profile: use the rel=author code, which connects your web content to your profile and makes your profile picture appear in search engines through the magic of Google Authorship.
Link to social network profiles: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc…
- Tip: Create a semi-standard HTML code for your author box. This will make it easy to add to posts on your site or share with other sites when you’re guest blogging. Here’s what I generally use: Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a <a href=”http://www.orbitmedia.com”>web development company</a> in Chicago. You can find Andy on <a title=”Author: Andy Crestodina on Google+” rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/113272929328812128697?rel=author” target=”_blank”>Google+</a> and <a title=”Andy Crestodina on Twitter” href=”http://www.twitter.com/crestodina” target=”_blank”>Twitter</a>.
If you have any questions or suggestions for this web content checklist, please let us know with a comment below.