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Content Optimization Checklist for Human Readers and SEO

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Quick Content Optimization Reference for DIY SEO

On page SEO and content optimization can get very confusing, very quickly. On the other hand, there are a reasonably small number of areas you really have to concentrate on. This guide is a quick checklist to help you focus your attention. Hope it helps – please let me know if I’ve missed anything.

  • ALT descriptions. Always use keywords for the ALT description of an image. It strengthens SEO and is a courtesy to human readers who cannot display images on screen.
  • Anchor text. Use keywords in anchor text for internal and outbound links.
  • Bold and italic text. Bold and italicized text are thought to carry more search engine weight than plain text. Use these formatting options with care, however. Too much of either can result in a page that is confusing to human readers.
  • Entry pages. Concentrate your SEO efforts on pages of your site you really want to be found on searches. These pages, called entry pages or landing pages, will be keyword rich and your targets for inbound links.
  • Flash animation. Do not use Flash for navigational elements, because the navigation text, which should be keyword optimized, will be invisible to search engines. Text navigation links are essential.
  • Footer links. Jamming the bottom of a web page full of keyword stuffed links is a bad SEO practice and serves to confuse the reader. Footer links should be relevant, easy to navigate, and kept to a reasonable number.
  • h1 tags. Every webpage should have one and only one. Use keywords whenever possible, but don’t overdo it.
  • h2 and h3 tags. Use for subhead text. Again, tagged subheads should be keyword rich.
  • Image titles. Always use keywords in image titles.
  • Internal links. Internal links carry some SEO weight and are useful to human readers, as they provide another avenue of navigation around the website. It is a good practice to include relevant internal links on and to entry pages of your site.
  • Keyword phrases. Select phrases that are both relevant to the page content and commonly searched. (I’m generalizing. Determining which phrases to use varies greatly depending on the competitive situation, which is why research is important.) Overusing and under using keyword phrases on a given page will result in penalty or ineffectiveness.
  • Meta descriptions. These snippets of text often appear under the link on a SERP (search engine results page). Although of minimal SEO importance, it’s wise to write meta descriptions persuasively because they influence human readers.
  • Meta keywords. No longer of much importance to search engines because of rampant abuse.
  • Meta titles. The meta title (title tag) of a web page appears at the top of a browser and is very important for SEO and human readers. This is where you want to put your primary keyword phrase for the page in question – every web page should have a unique title tag. Meta titles can also include a branding message – I like the SEOMoz title tag approach, which uses the pipe bar | to separate the brand from the keywords.
  • Outbound links. There are different schools of thought on this, but packing a web page with 100+ outbound links could result in an SEO penalty. Having outbound links adds nothing to SEO, so the safest route is to use outbound links selectively, make them relevant, and use optimized anchor text when possible.
  • URL structure. Use hyphens rather than underscores to separate words. Always use your primary keyword phrase. Avoid overlong URLs as a convenience to human readers and in support of branding.


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15 Responses to Content Optimization Checklist for Human Readers and SEO

  1. Karen, Thank you – hope it truly does help. No doubt this will probably need frequent updating as guidelines change all the time.

  2. Brad, this is a great checklist for everyone, the beginning DIYer or those of us who are ahem like the cobbler whose own kids have no shoes. I’m not confessing or anything, just sayin!:-) Seriously though you hit on all the major points and I love the easy to reference list.

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  4. Good list, Brad! Now, to figure out how to actually, y’know, DO all those things… (sound of head scratching…)

  5. Robert, We should talk when you get your new theme – maybe I can give you a few pointers.

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  14. Mohan, I won’t give you much of an argument here – what you say makes sense. Still, can’t say that I’ve seen seen this particular element of SEO make much of a difference.

  15. Regarding the Meta keywords I would differ – it is only Google that ignores meta keywords, yahoo and bing still count meta keywords. And the rationale for meta keywords counting is that it may contain keywords that are not part of the page contents (thereby the search engine might miss indexing the page for those keywords which a human can specify but a machine cannot think of on its own – like hyphenated product codes and non hyphenated, differently spaced product codes).

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