How do you review content for SEO when you’ve got a large content library? What do you do when you’re a content team of one, and you need to maintain a cadence of new content and deal with legacy content dating back to 2010?
After working on the blog for a while, she realized that she was repeating a lot of the same steps over and over… and it was working.
“Once I started noticing that Google was consistently rewarding content that was written with this approach, I decided to write the process down.”
Just how well was this process working?
“Within the first 18 months of doing this at Nextiva, the organic traffic growth was 500%. There was no silver bullet. It was just being disciplined about following these steps.”
Thankfully, Alina agreed to share that process with us.
Here’s exactly how to review content to capture maximum organic traffic:
- Outline the article
- Write multiple headline options
- Make the introduction count
- Insert a table of contents
- Keep it skimmable
- Double-check product references
- Check citations for accuracy
- Focus on readability
- Add internal links
- Check the graphics
- Match the query intent
- Read it out loud
- Get an SME to fact check
1. Outline the article
It’s not uncommon to hear content managers these days vouching for spending a lot of time upfront outlining their articles, but it wasn’t always this way, according to Alina.
“We spend about 60% of our time on each post working on the outline. Nowadays, I do hear about more companies spending a bulk of their time on building an outline, but when I started, that definitely wasn’t the case.”
Because creating the outline is such a big part of the overall content review process, it has steps of its own.
“The mastermind is essentially the overview,” Alina told me.
“This step includes listing out things like target keyword, approximate word count (I don’t stress on this), and competitor references — this is so any writer can get a quick idea of what their piece will be competing against.”
“Next,” Alina said, “I get into the specifics.”
With the overview out of the way, Alina explained that it’s time to dive into identifying:
- What type of content is it? (e.g., how-to, listicle, etc.)
- What headings and subheadings should we use? — according to Alina, “Sometimes I list these as questions to answer rather than specific headings, and often look to things like the People Also Ask boxes for the target keyword for ideas.”
- What internal posts should we link from/to?
- Are there any related keywords and topics the article should address?
Digital content is a delicate balance of enjoyment and discoverability. According to Alina, it can be easy to over-emphasize one over the other.
If you over-emphasize getting the SEO components right, the article might not be pleasant to read. On the flip side, if you over-emphasize narrative, the content might not get the organic search traffic you’re hoping for.
“I think it’s important to include a step in the content outline where I give direction on tone, examples/stories/case studies to include, any original research of ours I want to link to, expert quotes, and original illustrations.”
SEO-focused content people — don’t skip this step!
If enjoyment is one side of the digital content coin, discoverability is the other.
That’s why Alina always includes a step specifically to cover important on-page SEO elements.
“This step includes things like title tag, description, URL name, and structure.”
Perhaps the most important part of this step though?
“You need to be able to answer ‘yes’ in response to the question ‘Does it satisfy the intent of the query we’re trying to rank for?’”
To conclude her outline, Alina always makes sure that the post has a clear CTA that maps to the appropriate buying intent.
“Ask yourself where you want the reader to go next.”
If you’re writing an informational article, consider how you can lead your readers down the funnel to a mid-funnel asset like a case study.
2. Write multiple headline options
After outlining the article, Alina suggests writing multiple headline options.
More often than not, the best headlines don’t come on your first try.
“Also,” Alina added, “we often treat the H1 title differently than the title tag. The former can usually afford to be a bit more creative and engaging, while with the latter what we’re really trying to do is make sure it’s optimized for our target keywords.”
3. Make the introduction count
“We’ve learned over time that the shorter the better,” Alina told me.
If you spend too much time talking about what you’re going to talk about in the article (e.g. “In this article, we’ll be discussing how…”) or go on a story rabbit-trail, you may lose your readers.
“We’ve also learned that it’s a good idea to hint at the CTA in the introduction.”
Like most people, Alina was in the habit of including a call-to-action statement at the end of her articles. She ended up realizing that might not be enough.
“We started looking at things like time on page and scroll depth and realized that not everyone who visits the page makes it to the end of the article, so we started including a hint to the CTA in the intro.”
Just how effective was this double-CTA strategy?
“We definitely saw an increase in assisted conversions from the blog because of this!”
4. Insert a table of contents
If you want to jump to a specific topic within an article or share a specific section with a coworker, it’s difficult without anchor links
And Alina’s a big fan.
“We also almost never go without one.”
Not only are these great for user experience. Alina said she’s also seen a near direct correlation with featured snippets.
“I’ve seen Google giving us featured snippets directly from these overviews. In that first year I was working on the blog, any time I didn’t include an overview we wouldn’t get a snippet, and any time I did we would almost always get a snippet.”
5. Keep it skimmable
When’s the last time you read an entire article word-for-word the entire way through?
That’s why Alina is such a huge proponent of keeping content skimmable. But how does she do that?
“To make content easy to skim, I focus on the things like heading distribution, inline CTAs, and bullet points.”
6. Double check product references
“This step is especially important if you work with freelance writers,” Alina told me.
“No one knows your product or service like your in-house team. If you have content that was contributed by freelance writers, make sure you always double check references to your products and services for accuracy.”
7. Check citations for accuracy
Speaking of checking for accuracy, Alina shared how important it is to check your sources as well.
“Definitely make sure your sources and citations are accurate — link to original source, make sure the facts and figures you’re citing are correct, etc.”
If you’re editing an older article, it can also be a good idea to check and see if any of the figures have been updated since the original publish date. There may be a more recent study you can cite.
8. Focus on readability
Is your content easy to read?
According to Alina, this is an essential step in her content review process.
“We’re huge on this at Nextiva. We always run anything through Hemingway, make sure we don’t have any long-winded sentences, use active voice, spell out numbers under ten, and other readability best practices.”
Basically, do the sentences sound clunky and confusing? If so, go back and edit for readability.
9. Add internal links
This is a step that bears repeating, but make sure your article is not only linking out to relevant sources, but that other relevant pages on your site are linking to it.
“This is another thing that can be harder when you’re working with freelancers,” Alina told me. “In-house resources will always know your organization’s full body of content better than an external resource.”
10. Check the graphics
“Whenever possible, even with limited resources, we try to include custom graphics in every post.”
Alina said that can come in the form of graphs that illustrate a metric they’re talking about or an illustration that helps drive a complex point home.
When editing older articles, it’s a good idea to see if you’ve included original images, as well as check the annotations and licensing of other images.
11. Match the query intent
We talked a bit about search intent in the outline, but it deserves a step all its own.
According to Alina, one of the most critical things you can do to ensure that content ranks well for your target query is ensure that the content delivers the answer the searcher was looking for.
If you’re targeting the term “website migration checklist” (like Botify is!), you need to deliver a list and not something like a tool or the history of site migrations.
This also means not being afraid to ditch a topic if the SERP indicates it’s not a good intent fit for your business.
For example, if you’re targeting a term that mostly turns up government websites, it may not be the best fit for your SaaS blog.
12. Read it out loud
You’d be surprised how many mistakes you can find simply by reading your content out loud.
“That’s why I always try and read every piece of content out loud before we publish,” said Alina.
Our brains will correct mistakes when we’re reading things in our heads, which is why even if we’ve read something several times, we may not notice the mistake until we speak it.
13. Get an SME to fact check
Finally, but definitely not of least importance, is the fact check.
This step is especially critical if you’re managing a blog or other type of content for a company in an industry you’re not an expert in.
“If the post mentions a product, talk to one of your product managers. If it’s about a subject generally, talk to someone who’s a subject matter expert in that field.”
This step can protect your brand’s credibility with your target audience.
Over to you!
Thanks to Alina, now anyone can create and edit content for organic search traffic growth.
If you’re a content specialist, you can start implementing this process for your own content today. If you’re an SEO, talk with your content team about implementing these tactics into their process.