Your content is one of the most important elements of your website. It drives traffic and contributes to SEO. Therefore, it needs to be concise and current. If you have a big team or enlist guest bloggers to create content, consistency can be a challenge. Every writer has his/her own style, but a solid SEO style guide will give writers a guideline to follow for SEO purposes.
Documentation is key if you have a large team with multiple opinions. A style guide provides a foundation for writers to create content that coincides with your brand and appeals to your audience. It also helps you save time in the revision process, which means more time to write more content!
Basic SEO Goals
Begin with broad strokes and focus more on the overarching goals and purpose of your content. If you have difficulty determining these aspects, review your analytics. You may need to create personas in order to get an idea of who your audience is. Since you write content for your audience, this is a vital piece of the puzzle. Without knowing your audience, your content portfolio might seem like it’s trying to appeal to everyone and no one all at the same time.
- What is the mission or solution that your company provides to customers?
- What purpose does your content serve? For example, do you want to teach people how to do something or offer advice about a specific subject?
- This is a biggie: who is your audience?
- Why would the audience visit your website or blog? How does your content fulfill their needs?
- Back to basics. What tone and style does your content convey? Is it technical and instructive or more approachable with a bit of sass?
- How do you plan to share this content? It’d be nice to rely solely on the power of your content to drive SEO and traffic. However, a little push might be necessary. Which social media or news platforms do you plan to share your content on?
- Finally, your content needs to lead your audience towards a conversion, whether through a CTA or a form. What kind of conversion do you want to achieve with your content? Do you want to lead readers to a contact form or a specific product page?
The title…the shortest aspect of your post to write but arguably the most difficult. How many times will I title a post beginning with “How To”? Dan, Sevaa Group’s lead developer, has a hidden talent for coming up with clever, “punny” titles. Not everyone has a Dan on their team, though. Your title needs to be catchy, obviously, because it’s the first thing users see on SERPs, their social media feed, and on your blog listing.
Not only does it need to be interesting, but there’s also a format to follow for SEO purposes. If you use an SEO plugin, like Yoast SEO, it suggests the best format and length for your post’s title. Your title should strategically include a keyword without stuffing, and it should include your brand name or company name at the end. Use separators to improve the title’s readability.
Next, your style guide needs to layout the structure of your content. This gives writers a blueprint of where content needs to go and how should look on the website. As a content writer, I try to think about how I read other website’s content, or what appeals to me. It’s difficult to pin down an exact word count for a single post. Readers are likely to skim your content or engage with less textual content.
In addition, you don’t want to limit writers to a minimal word count, sometimes you need a bit more than 250 words to explain a concept. Instead, offer writers a general structure to follow.
Explain that the intro paragraph needs to grab readers, and the conclusion needs to give closure, engage readers, and offer a CTA. The amount of content between these two paragraphs may vary based on sections and type of content.
Explain that subheaders don’t serve to improve the way a post looks. Subheaders actually tell search engines which information is more important. For example, writers may nest information in subsections, make sure they label headers appropriately with “heading 1” being the main section and “heading 4” being lowest on the totem pole. Headings should be sized accordingly based on the section. In other words, don’t make the subsection header under “heading 1” a “heading 4.” It should be a “heading 2.” Here’s what that looks like on the WordPress backend:
A large screen of text isn’t the most enticing kind of content to read. Images help break up text and grab the reader’s attention. If writers enter content and upload images independently on the backend, make sure to stress the importance of alt text. This allows visually impaired users to understand your content and helps with SEO.
What SEO style guide would be complete without an entire section dedicated to keywords? Keywords are those gems that live within your content and contribute greatly to SEO. Provide writers with a list of recommended keywords and phrases. This will ensure that the same keywords are being used through content. For example, IT maintenance and IT management could be used interchangeably, but it’s important to use one of those terms among all content for a better chance to rank for that keyword. Tools like Moz’s keyword explorer can help you decide which keywords you’re more likely to rank for.
Writers can use these keywords in body text, titles, headings, metadata, and alt text. The more you use these keywords and phrases, the more likely you are to rank for them. However, beware of keyword stuffing. This is a very real problem, and search engines will ding you on SEO if they realize you’re adding a bunch of keywords to content. Instead, keywords should be used seamlessly and strategically. Write content for the user first, and SEO will come naturally.
Outside of an SEO style guide, you should also have a link building strategy outlined. Your link portfolio should include backlinks from trusted sources, be absent of any broken links, and make use of UTM parameters. Within blog posts, writers should include external and internal links. Internal links are especially useful in guiding the reader where you want them to go on your website.
When you’re ready to publish and send out your content to the world, always be sure to include UTM parameters with a URL builder. These are fields you add to the end of your post’s URL to let analytics know which platform users visited through and to which blog post they went to.
With a team of writers, content should be flowing to search engines routinely! However, it’s important to ensure that your brand and your message is cohesive. Documentation, in all processes, helps keep everyone on the same page. And when there’s a new SEO trend to follow, a team leader can update one document that everyone can refer to.
At Sevaa Group, we’ve found that there’s always a process to document, whether it be hosting configurations or sales pitch talking points. Documentation helps us streamline our workflow and promote consistency. Talk to us about SEO consultation and how we can make your processes a little more seamless.