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On-Page SEO Guidelines

In this 1st on the List blog post, our 22-point SEO content checklist will highlight many of the SEO best practices and techniques for creating high-quality web content in a post-Google Panda world.

The whole purpose of Google’s Panda algorithm update was to eliminate web pages with low-quality web content and reward pages with high-quality website content. See this Google Panda Update article by Search Engine Journal for more detailed information.

We’ve all heard the term “Content is King” but is it possible to write great web content that engages the visitor and meets the criteria of the search engines? Absolutely!

Our SEO content checklist will show how your web content needs to be original, desirable, and relevant but also must meet other important quality content guidelines.

Below, we’ve compiled this SEO content writing checklist to help you create great web content that is appealing for both your visitors and for the Search Engines.

SEO Content Checklist

  1. Write with a specific purpose and audience in mind – one central theme from start to finish.
  2. Answer the reader’s most important question and help them complete a task.
  3. Be an authority on the subject – make sure your web content includes all the information your reader may be looking for about this topic.
  4. Make your web content relevant and timely.
  5. Write web content in a voice that represents your brand and keeps a consistent style of writing.
  6. Write for your audience and not your peers; stay away from industry jargon.
  7. Stay on topic; each sentence should have a purpose.
  8. Write without promoting yourself and without overt sales pitches.
  9. Link to good sources – off-site links need to be high authority websites that support the theme of your web page.
  10. Double check all your facts, stats, and sources.
  11. Organize text into sections with headers, quotes, bullet points, and so on – use plenty of white space, so that it is visually appealing.
  12. Make the content easy to scan as readers will read as little as 20% of the words on the page.
  13. Write a clear and concise Page Title to catch attention and indicate what content is about.
  14. Be sure to proofread multiple times and ask someone else to proofread once you think it’s perfect.
  15. Provide clear calls-to-action statements to encourage readers to take the next step – what do you want them to do next?
  16. Make the content easy for readers to share through Social Platforms.
  17. Organize text into thematic sections using synonyms, related terms, and supportive phrases.
  18. Write a strong Meta Title and Description that isn’t too long or short for the SERPs.
  19. Don’t overuse your primary keyword for the sake of SEO; be sure to use related terms and synonyms.
  20. Clearly define yourself as the author on the page for both readers and Search Engines to recognize.
  21. Make sure your content is 100% unique and provides unique value not found anywhere else online. Is your content adding anything new and of interest to the Internet or is it just rewriting someone else’s thoughts?
  22. Aim for a minimum of 500 (+ or -) words. Longer articles tend to do well in search so, depending on the type of content you are creating, it’s okay to strive for 1,000 words or more, but never compromise quality for quantity.

This SEO content checklist isn’t exhaustive by any means. We also recommend that you refer to Google’s guidelines for high-quality content to see how your writing measures up.

Web Content Questions You Should Ask Yourself

Below are some of their hardest questions you need to ask yourself as a web content writer:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • How much quality control is done on the web content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

About 1st on the List

1st on the List has been serving clients throughout the United States and Canada since 1997. We offer professional SEO services plus PPC and SEO web design services.

We hope this SEO content checklist has been helpful. If you need assistance writing new web content or optimizing and improving your existing web content, we can help.

Give our professional web copywriters a call toll-free at 1-888-262-6687, or fill out our quick online form to get in touch today.

Please Note: This article was originally published January 19, 2015, and has since been updated to reflect current SEO web content best practices. 

Here are some additional recent SEO Content articles:

Backlinks and the process of link building has reached a unique position where website owners are being told two very different messages. The first is that Google says to avoid backlink building because it can do more harm than good. The other message is that you can’t rank without backlinks.

So what is a website owner to do?

We have recently come across three great articles about Link Building and thought they are worth sharing here on our blog to help you better understand the right way to naturally go about obtaining backlinks to your website.

Link Building: No Longer about Manipulation

In this article over at Search Engine Land, Andrew Dennis makes the statement that manipulation is no longer a sustainable route to link acquisition.

Instead he challenges website owners to question how to improve their authority, relevance, and value online. The purpose of link building in a Post-Penguin era is to ensure that Google recognizes your website’s importance.

Dennis also revisits four main reasons we link to other sites that were relevant before Google incorporated links into its ranking algorithm that are still just as true today:

  1. Navigation – you create a pathway for your visitors to see another site.
  2. Reference – you provide your visitors with more information on the topic.
  3. Citation – you need to acknowledge the original source of the content.
  4. Endorsement – you genuinely want to support another person, company, product, event, etc.

Rather than trying to manipulate the Search Engines with links focus on acquiring links with an audience-first perspective. Always keep in mind the four reasons why links are used. Dennis challenges readers to reach out to real webmasters and actively seek out websites that are relevant to both your website/ industry and to your audience.

It’s worth checking out Dennis’ comparison of good verses bad examples backlinks in guest posting, resource link building, directory listings, and blog commenting.

Earning Links through Trust

In another article posted on Search Engine Land over six weeks ago, columnist Jim Yu argues that neglecting critical on-page elements, site design, and content quality will impact your ability to gain natural links to your website. He touches on several key points:

  • Quality Over Quantity – as Google becomes better at understanding the actual language on your website rather than just strings of text it will depend more on the quality of content rather than the quantity of backlinks pointing to the content.
  • Website Design – your website design will impact who and how many people will want to link to your website. Factors such as page load speed, a simple design that reflects customer expectations, fewer advertisements, high quality and suitable graphics, page layout, and navigation are all factors that will impact who will link to you. Backlink acquisition aside, these factors also have a huge impact on how your own visitors interact with your website.
  • Value of Content – “good” content is what will attract people to your website in the first place, entice them to come back, and even illicit them to link to you from their own website. Yu suggests that quality content needs to meet several criteria including understanding visitor personas and educating them on topics of interest. Keeping your content updated regularly is another key factor.

11 Ways for Local Businesses to Get Links

Over on the Moz Blog Casey Meraz offers up practical ways for local businesses to get links to their website. Here are some of the favorites:

  • Try to get a nomination from your Chamber of Commerce, “Best Of” List, or other local awards for businesses
  • Sponsor a local event
  • Help host a community event
  • Support a local club, organization, or charity
  • Offer discounts for students, alumni, seniors, or another special group
  • Ask for links from manufacturers and wholesalers as they likely have an authorized reseller list or store locator on their website
  • Leverage business relationships (ex. if you are a mortgage broker your best Realtors may want to link to and recommend you to their visitors)

As one commenter points out, these ideas are great not only for SEO value but also for driving traffic and generating awareness among your local audience.

Link Building Key Takeaways

So what can be learned from the general attitude towards link building in 2015?

  • Backlinks are for discovery and visibility, not ranking value.
  • A good backlink will provide value to the person who sees it.
  • Your site needs to be valuable, professional, and inviting for others to link to.
  • You should market your business appropriately through links.

For more information about natural link building please contact our office at 1-888-262-6687.


The recent buzz over Search Engine Land is about how a group of researchers at Google are proposing new ways to determine the trustworthiness of a web page. The Google research team published this paper on Knowledge-Based Trust (KBT) which explains how Google may soon look at the accuracy of the web page to determine the quality of the web page rather than backlinks which are easily manipulated:

“The quality of web sources has been traditionally evaluated using exogenous signals such as the hyperlink structure of the graph. We propose a new approach that relies on endogenous signals, namely, the correctness of factual information provided by the source. A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy.”

What do you think? Even if this shift in evaluating trustworthiness is far in the future it’s a good time to double check the accuracy on your website:

  • Is each one of your services properly represented on your website?
  • Are prices correct?
  • Are your business hours up to date?
  • Is product information up to date? Are out of stock products marked as out of stocked?
  • Do you provide references for statistics you use on your blog?
  • Are your blog posts attributed to an author that is credible?

Spend some time reviewing all the pages on your website and ask a few others to do the same. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes is all it takes to spot accuracy issues.

In a recent Google+ Hangout John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst of Google Switzerland, answered the point blank question, “Is link building in any way good?”  Depending on your opinion of backlinks you may or may not be surprised by his answer:

That is a good question.

In general, I’d try to avoid that.

So that you are really sure that your content kind of stands on its own and make it possible for other people of course to link to your content. Make it easy, maybe, put a little widget on your page, if you like this, this is how you can link to it. Make sure that the URLs on your web site are easy to copy and paste. All of those things make it a little bit easier.

We do use links as part of our algorithm but we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your web site that actually helps.

So what can you take from John’s response?

  • If you haven’t already stop making link building your primary focus, in fact, try to avoid link building.
  • Building links for the sole purpose of links is a poor strategy.
  • Purposefully building links can cause you problems.
  • A lot more goes into Google’s ranking algorithm than just number of backlinks.
  • Look at how easy you make it for others to link to your content.
  • Make sure your content is interesting and well written, even if no one else links to it.

If you are interested in learning more from John Mueller you can watch his recent Google hangout with Webmasters.

Good quality in-bound links have become more and more important in how the search engines rank web pages yet many website owners still have misconceptions about building links for link popularity and how links figure in their search engine optimization efforts.

How the Search Engines View Linking

Link pop, link popularity, page rank, PR, inbound links etc. are all industry lingo for the same thing; but understanding the meaning and importance of links is essential to your website’s success.

Most people think that good quality in-bound links from other sites is what the search engines use to determine if your website is an authority site. In fact, in-bound links are only part of the equation.

The search engines actually look at three areas of website links equally to determine if your website is an “authority” within your industry;

  1. Internal Linking
  2. Out-bound links
  3. In-bound links

Important Note: In organic search engine listing results, an authority website is considered an industry leader and that is why they are listed above the rest, at the top of the search engine listing results. The leader (or authority site) is a resource on a specific market or industry. A leader would be able to provide answers, news and information on specific topics. They would also share their knowledge in the industry as well as link to other sites who share additional or related resources about those topics.

An “authority” is not afraid to share, because whether it is a brick and mortar store or an on-line website, the leader is considered to be the most knowledgeable resource that customers remember; not just the one who pushed their sale the hardest.

For instance, when you want to make a purchase you usually have a lot of questions. You may visit three or four different places but the one who was most knowledgeable and gave you the comfort, security and trust you needed, is likely to be the one you make your purchase with.

Internal Links for SEO

These are the links that you place from one page within your site, to another page within your site.  If done correctly this provides a “map” for the engines to follow and when they do they should be following and finding pages that are related to one another.

If all of your internal links are about one subject and use that subject as the link text (anchor text) it helps you create the thought that you are an “authority” on a specific subject.  You have to determine if you will be an authority on a keyword, a topic, or an overall theme. This can be done with the keyword phrases and with the pages you choose when linking from one page to another throughout your site.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Often times I will review the inbound links of a site with the special operator within the search engines. When I do this I may see 500 links as the total number of returned results.  What I find is that the site may have 5 good quality inbound links from quality sites; but then the remaining links that were counted came from their own internal linking structure. Some may ask how is that so? Well if you have 500 pages that have achieved their own page rank, what you are considering an internal link from one page within your site to another page within your site can also be considered an “in-bound” link from one page to another on a page to page level.

Relevant Outbound Links Can Be Good For User Experience

Often times commercial sites are reluctant to place outbound links to other sites; they feel it may cost them sales and traffic; but having links that leave your site and point to sites that are relevant to your industry, as well as being considered industry leaders (or authorities) helps to build your website’s relevance as an industry leader.

Be sure to truly review the site you intend to link out to, find a specific page that discusses what your pages is about and feel comfortable that you are helping your web page relevance as well as providing a resource for visitors to your site.

Importance of Inbound Links for SEO

A common misconception is that in-bound links are the key determining factor search engines use to rate and rank a web page within the top 10 listing results; this is simply not true.

All the factors listed above help to determine if you will rank well in the major search engines. When sites find success with creating large inbound links it is usually because they had to compensate for not providing outbound links, or having a good link structure within their own site; and the search engines had to rely on inbound link text to figure out what their site was really about.

Important Note:  Quality over quantity is the tone the search engines have set as of late. It is no longer a race to see how many links you can achieve, but how many you can achieve that are in your industry, that are related to the keyword phrase you are trying to rank for, how this site is considered as an industry leader, the other websites this particular website has chosen to link to and how relevant to your theme is the content that is shown on the page supplying the in-bound link.

Understanding this concept will save you a lot of time and make the links that you decide to go after more meaningful; as well as helping your site achieve the rankings you want.

Additional insight and information can be found within our Natural Link Building Services are of our web site.