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36-Point SEO Content Writing Checklist: Optimized for Search Engines

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25 May 2023
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What is a standard SEO content writing checklist?

Standard SEO content writing is a widely known concept among SEO practitioners, especially those focusing on on-page SEO. An excellent article to rank on Google requires not only useful content but also adherence to technical rules that help Google quickly recognize the content and deliver it to searchers. Standard SEO content writing includes principles of keyword density, appropriate text formatting, and detailed calculations to optimize the target keyword (or keyword phrases).

Since the introduction of the real-time Penguin update, Google has become increasingly strict with excessive “SEO tricks,” especially unnatural backlink creation. This is disheartening for SEO professionals who heavily rely on backlinking methods. Still, it is good news for those who follow a holistic approach to SEO with a focus on content.

If designing an SEO-friendly website (including website structure and on-page optimization) is considered the foundation, then Content SEO is the “flesh and blood.” How to write content that is both engaging, SEO-friendly, keeps users engaged, and increases social media interactions is a topic of great concern for the entire SEO community today (as backlinking has become more challenging). EverRanks presents 35 checklist tasks to help you create standard SEO content.

This document is based on EverRanks’ SEO experience and knowledge and references from industry gurus in the SEO field worldwide.

Standard SEO content writing process

Step 1: Determine the primary keyword and secondary keywords

  • Each page on the website (home, category, post, tags, pages) should target one and only one primary keyword, representing the specific search demand of customers.
  • Customers’ search queries vary in length and diversity, especially in Vietnamese, where many additional words exist. Therefore, in addition to the primary keyword, each page can optimize a few secondary keywords (e.g., article writing, best SEO content writing).

Step 2: Research materials (3 to 5 content, images, videos…)

  • It can be challenging to come up with entirely new content because most industries, products, and services already have existing content on other websites.
  • If you’re purely an SEO professional, writing an engaging article without much knowledge about the topic can be difficult.
  • A small tip is to reference 3 to 5 other articles for inspiration.
  • By the way, you should prepare images and illustrative videos before writing the article.

Step 3: Standard SEO article structure

  • First, you need to research the primary keywords and choose the article’s topic.
  • Write the title tag containing the SEO keyword.
  • Write the meta description tag containing the keyword.
  • Build a standard SEO article structure (refer to the top 10 high-ranking competitors).
  • Write the article, publish it, and optimize it for SEO.
  • Divide the article using H1, H2, and H3 tags, and heading tags containing the keyword or related keywords.
  • Use formatting options such as bold and italics for keywords related to the main keyword.
  • Ensure a keyword density of 3% in the content.
  • Optimize images for SEO: the image’s ALT tag should contain the main keyword, and the image caption should include the SEO keyword.
  • Optimize internal links (to related articles within the website) and external links from reputable pages.
  • Thoroughly check the article before publishing.


  • You must not copy the content, as risks are involved even if you make modifications. Once Google detects duplicate content, it can lead to negative consequences.
  • To write something “completely new and unique,” avoid duplication. Utilize your knowledge from Step 2 and structure and rewrite it in your own voice.
  • Remember that everyone has a different writing style, so editing and rewriting the content will help avoid content duplication issues in the eyes of Google.


1. Standard SEO articles should be valuable, original, and well-presented

Standard SEO content must provide sufficient, accurate information without being vague or off-topic. 

Some may ask how to copy without Google knowing. Honestly, no one knows exactly how Google’s Panda algorithm works and how it determines copied content. Use copyscape.com to check for duplication.

2. Make a strong impression from the beginning with engaging content or images

If you’re skilled enough, you can create an impression with just text by addressing insights, issues, or customer pain points. If your title is not compelling, no one will read your article. 

If the first two lines are not appealing, most customers won’t read further. Invest 70-80% of your effort into the title and the content introduction!

3. Include the primary keyword in the title and description

  • The standard SEO title should be 55-65 characters long (preferably 55 for Vietnamese), with the primary keyword at the beginning and repeated no more than twice.
  • The most appropriate description length is 150-160 characters (preferably 150 for Vietnamese), with the primary keyword repeated thrice.
  • When Google indexes the results, you should search and see if the title and description are displayed in full or if they are cut off, and make adjustments accordingly.

4. Include secondary/popular keywords in the title and description (USA, cheap, genuine…)

A few examples:

  • Reputable Law Firm in the USA
  • Genuine Bridgestone Car Tire Replacement

Pay attention to location or price-related keywords and accurately describe your services!

Note: The translation may not perfectly capture the original tone or intent of the text, but it provides a general understanding of the content.

5. In HTML, use H1 for the main title and H2 and H3 for subheadings

  • Headings are used to structure a page, and in the case of an article, they represent the headings within the article (similar to when you’re composing a document in Word).
  • Headings help Google understand the main points of the article and also assist readers in identifying the main sections.
  • Heading 3 reinforces the content of Heading 2 while Heading 2 reinforces Heading 1.
  • It’s important to remember that the Heading tags are only meant for headings, not paragraphs.

Take a look at how Google uses Heading tags in articles. The image often used by EverRanks as an example for SEO classes illustrates this:

6. Keywords should be present in H2 and H3 tags

  • Google looks at H1 and H2 to quickly grasp the main content of an article. Therefore, when writing SEO-optimized content, it’s recommended to include primary and secondary keywords in H2 (avoid stuffing keywords into every heading), as this can make the article appear monotonous.
  • If you’re still unsure about how to add headings to your article, look at your text editor and locate the “Paragraph” option next to the “Bold” option.

7. Keywords in the URL (Friendly URL)

A good URL structure follows the format domain.com/main-category/sub-category/article-title.html. 

  • This structure not only helps users and Google’s web crawlers better understand the content and structure of your website, but it’s also beneficial for Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, remarketing, email marketing, and other online marketing tools you may use in the future.
  • The domain name should contain the targeted keyword for SEO and can be kept concise. Instead of having a URL like “example.com/article-seo-optimization-tips,” consider a shorter URL.

8. Keywords in the content (Using synonyms, related words)

There are three main ways to incorporate keywords into your article.

Approach 1: Keyword stuffing. This method is quite common, and many of us have used it. The recommended keyword density is around 3%. However, this approach can make the content monotonous.

Approaches 2 and 3: Use synonyms or related keyword phrases within the topic.

Keywords in the content (Using synonyms, related words)
Using synonyms, related words

The two examples above (source: moz.com) show how keywords are used diversely instead of being stuffed. The trend for the coming years is that Google will become smart enough to understand the content of your article based on its knowledge rather than just relying on keywords.

Recently, Google announced removing the “Content keyword” feature in Webmaster Tools. Instead of mechanically stuffing keywords, you should find synonyms or related keywords to incorporate into your article.

There are two simple ways to do this:

Use Google’s suggestions when searching for a specific keyword. For example, when searching for “SEO-optimized articles,” take note of the additional keywords Google provides at the bottom of the page (underneath google.com). These are commonly searched terms that you should include in your article. Check to see if this article incorporates all those relevant keywords.

There are two simple ways to do this
There are two simple ways to do this

Using Keywordtool.io is also beneficial, although it provides many suggestions, depending on your preference.

Using Keywordtool.io is also beneficial

If you want to find more keywords related to your topic, Google Keywords Planner from AdWords is the best tool. In addition to closely related keywords, it suggests keywords related to your research topic. By using these words, Google will infer the main topic.

Google Keywords Planner from AdWords

9. Keywords in the first and last 150 characters of the article (Introduction and Conclusion)

  • A proper SEO article should have an introduction and a conclusion. 
  • It would help if you mentioned the keywords in these two important sections.

10. Image optimization (URL, Title, Alt, Caption, Text)

  • Rename the image before uploading, using a non-accented name (to avoid errors during uploading) and including keywords.
  • The image URL should contain keywords.
  • Set the image title to include keywords.
  • Write the ALT tag content with keywords.
  • The image caption should also include keywords.
  • The content surrounding the image should also contain keywords.
  • Do not copy images.
Image optimization (URL, Title, Alt, Caption, Text)
Image optimization (URL, Title, Alt, Caption, Text)

11. Use bold, italics, and underline to emphasize keyword-containing content

  1. Make use of the formatting options available in the editor: bold for emphasis, italics for explanations, and underline for phrases containing links. Avoid using inappropriate formatting, as it can negatively affect your article.
  2. Take advantage of bold, italics, and underline for keyword-containing primary and secondary phrases.

12. CTA (Call to Action) for effective sales

Regardless of the type of article, you need to have a clear goal in mind.

Create a call to action to encourage readers to take the desired action.

CTA (Call to Action) for effective sales
Use a free call-to-action button generator tool: buttonoptimizer.com.

13. Use formatting features for numbering (1, 2, 3) or bullet points

Google may have difficulty reading your content if you use your symbols. Instead of manually numbering or bulletin, use the formatting options provided by the text editor. Google recognizes HTML tags and understands the structure of your content better.

Use formatting features for numbering (1, 2, 3) or bullet points
Use formatting features for numbering (1, 2, 3) or bullet points

14. Use images/videos in the article

Especially for instructional/how-to guides, reviews/evaluations, or experiences/unboxing content.

Including a relevant video will keep visitors on the page longer and provide more information.

Use images/videos in the article
Use images/videos in the article


15. Use External Links

SEO practitioners often hesitate to place outbound links to other websites to avoid losing PageRank. However, it is still recommended to include 1-2 links in your article that link to reputable external websites. This way, you inform Google that your content has credible sources.

16. Use Internal Links

Internal links are crucial. Find content within the article that needs further clarification and link to more in-depth articles on your website about that topic. Internal links are truly valuable when they lead to customer interaction. To achieve this, use internal links in the context of the article.

Links that should be included in the article:

  • Links to other articles.
  • Link to the homepage.
  • Link to the category.
  • Link to tags.

17. Keywords should be present in External/Internal Links

Both external and internal links should contain keywords, explanations, additional credible information, and validate your content.

18. Optimize CTR (Click-Through Rate)

The click-through rate of searchers helps Google understand which results are more relevant to users. This largely depends on your article’s title.

For example, if you’re optimizing the keyword “Writing SEO articles” you have three options for the title:

(1) Writing SEO articles.

(2) A guide on writing SEO articles.

(3) How to write SEO articles: 23 most comprehensive checklists in 2017 to boost sales.

Which title do you find more appealing? This issue is related to the technical aspect of writing titles, which is beyond the scope of this article.

19. Keyword density should be around 1% – 5% (3% is ideal)

You can use SEOQUAKE to check the keyword density directly in the Chrome or Firefox browser.

SEOQUAKE to check the keyword density
SEOQUAKE to check the keyword density

20. Creating internal links from 3 old/3 new articles

Old articles with traffic can be effectively redirected to new articles, leveraging the existing readership for the new content.

21. Directly submitting the website in Google Webmaster Tools

After finishing writing and publishing an SEO-optimized article on your website, you should use Google’s indexing feature to directly submit the new content for quick indexing in Google’s database. This helps avoid the risk of copying your article and becoming a “latecomer”.

Directly submitting the website in Google Webmaster Tools
Directly submitting the website in Google Webmaster Tools

22. Generating backlinks for articles

Not all backlinks are bad or considered black hat techniques. 

Statistics from Moz show that:

  • 99.2% of all top 50 positions have at least one external link pointing to their website.
  • 77.8% of all subsequent top positions also have at least one external link pointing to them.

23. Avoid duplicate pages for keywords

Each primary keyword should only be used for one page for SEO purposes. Therefore, carefully check for any duplicate content using search structures as shown in the image.

Avoid duplicate pages for keywords
Avoid duplicate pages for keywords

24. Check the thumbnail image when sharing on Facebook

Traffic from Facebook is quite important. Whenever you have a new article to post on Facebook, make sure to check that the thumbnail image is not distorted. Use Facebook’s tool to check and fix any errors diligently.

25. Use/create comments for articles

Users trust comments from customers who have used a business’s services or products. All of this is reflected in the comments. Enable the comment feature for your content and respond to all comments in the article.

Use/create comments for articles
Use/create comments for Articles

Create comments for articles

Content with comments keeps readers on the page longer and increases interaction between the website and users.

26. Spell-checking

An essential aspect that needs no explanation. All reasoning becomes meaningless if you have spelling mistakes.

27. Add related articles

Having related articles to the content being read will keep users engaged on the page for a longer time.


28. Optimize “Social buttons”

  • Having prominent buttons for likes, shares, and comments would be best. (WordPress users can utilize Sumome). 
  • You should also add icons and badges for your website to your Google Plus Page and Facebook Page.
Optimize "Social buttons"
Optimize “Social buttons”

29. Longer content has a better chance of ranking

According to statistics from SEO experts worldwide, articles with longer content (700, 1,000, 2,000 words) have a higher chance of ranking well in Google search results. If you can provide a large amount of useful information, don’t hesitate to write longer articles.

30. Reduce Bounce Rate

When visitors land on an article but do not navigate further on the website (click to view other pages), it indicates to Google that they don’t like your content. Make your content engaging and encourage visitors to read more by implementing the following suggestions:

  • Start with a captivating introduction.
  • Place helpful internal links within the article.
  • Related articles above, below, or even on the sides will make visitors want to read more.
  • The top or side menu of your website should showcase intriguing content.

31. Create article links from the homepage and “side menu”

  • A well-known technique in the SEO community is to place important content that needs SEO on your website’s main menu or side menu. 
  • Linking content directly from the homepage indicates that it is highly important to Google.

32. Allocate 80% of the time to “promote” content: Facebook, AdWords, Forums, Email

  • Traffic is crucial in SEO. Suppose you are new or your website is not immediately ranking high. In that case, it is important to “drive traffic” from other sources to quickly generate data for Google to evaluate your content.
  • However, it’s essential to be cautious and target the right audience when seeking traffic sources. If you attract irrelevant traffic to your articles, the bounce rate and time spent reading the content will be poor, which can lead Google to perceive your content as low-quality.
  • Some effective traffic sources include: email lists of existing customers and loyal readers, targeted Facebook advertising, and AdWords campaigns focused on relevant keywords, forums, and Facebook groups within your niche community.

33. Optimize for Mobile and “Fast Loading” using Google’s tools

  • Your website should be mobile-friendly according to the tools provided by Google.
  • If you’re using WordPress, consider using the Instant Articles Facebook Plugin and Google AMP Plugin to ensure fast and smooth content display when visitors access your articles from Facebook or search them on Google. Installing the Instant Articles Facebook Plugin may require some effort, but follow the instructions within the plugin, and you’ll be fine.
  • For further diligence, try reading your articles on a mobile device to check for any issues after publishing.

Here are some tools that EverRanks commonly uses:

34. Monitor and adjust using Google Analytics, Crazyegg, and MouseFlow

  • Understanding whether your audience is engaged with your content is crucial. Google Analytics helps analyze metrics such as time spent on the page and bounce rate.
  • For more detailed insights, EverRanks suggests using Crazyegg. It provides information on whether visitors read your articles thoroughly and which parts of the page they interact with the most.
Monitor and adjust using Google Analytics, Crazyegg, and MouseFlow
Monitor and adjust using Google Analytics, Crazyegg, and MouseFlow

35. Regularly update and edit your content

Unless your content is evergreen (e.g., defining the concept of the sun :D), updating your content is essential. Google still revisits and reads older content, so let Google know that you have regular updates for previously published content.

36. Checklist number 36 (the pinnacle of SEO is not doing SEO)

Search is a complex and ever-evolving scientific and artistic field that can sometimes feel overwhelming to keep up with. Our advice to publishers and webmasters is to always focus on providing the best possible user experience instead of chasing predictions about ranking factors and Google’s algorithms.

Besides SEO standards, another crucial aspect is the user experience on your website.

What makes a website high-quality?

Ultimately, Google believes that we can help them and help our customers by asking “user-centric” questions.

  • Do you trust the content presented in this article?
  • Was this article written by an expert or someone passionate and knowledgeable about the topic, or is the content shallow?
  • Does the website have duplicate or partially duplicated content on closely related topics with minor keyword variations?
  • Are you comfortable providing credit card information to this website?
  • Does the article have spelling errors, poor formatting, or inaccurate data?
  • Do genuine reader interests drive the topics, or is the website creating content based on predictions of what will rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content, reporting, research, or analysis?
  • Does the page provide significant value compared to other pages in the search results?
  • To what extent is quality control implemented with the content?
  • Does the article present both sides of a story?
  • Is the website a recognized authority on the topic it covers?
  • Is the content generated in bulk or distributed to a large number of writers or across a network of websites, resulting in individual pages or websites not receiving careful attention or consideration?
  • Is the article carefully edited or seems to be created arbitrarily or carelessly?
  • For a health-related query, do you trust the information from this website?
  • Do you recognize this website as a source when mentioned?
  • Does the article provide a complete description of the topic?
  • Does the article contain detailed analysis or interesting information beyond obvious facts?
  • Is this the type of page you want to bookmark, share with friends, or recommend?
  • Does the article have too many ads that distract or interfere with the main content?
  • Could this article appear in a printed magazine, encyclopedia, or book?
  • Are the articles short, unimportant, or lacking useful details?
  • Are the pages carefully and meticulously created?
  • Do users complain when they visit pages from this website?

These are all 36 complete tasks if you focus on an SEO article done by EverRanks.

If you’re proficient in English, you can also check out the insights shared by Moz.

Writing is exhausting.

I still have to review all the checklists I wrote to see if this article is complete. Then I have to calculate the appropriate call-to-action statements. Writing a comprehensive SEO article with all 36 checklists is challenging.

After reading this, I hope the bosses understand that writing a proper SEO article is not at all simple. If needed, consider hiring EverRanks for SEO to fulfill all these requirements. It took me a total of 6 hours (this article).


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