10 Commandments of Quality SEO Content

SEO Jun 13, 2013

Search engines are capable of sending tons of valuable organic traffic to your website. But it’s not as simple as creating a blog and publishing whatever content you feel like. Even if you spend hours carefully crafting content, you may be wasting your time if it’s not quality content geared towards maximizing SEO traffic.

Before you write another word or publish another blog post, make sure you’re following the 10 Commandments of Quality SEO Content.

1. Have a content goal

Getting more search traffic is pointless if visitors come to your site and leave without taking action. It doesn’t matter how good your content is, you’ll make far fewer sales without a content goal that leads to conversions.

Choose the right goals, too, not “publish 3 blog posts per week” or “increase traffic by 10%.” These are poor-man’s goals — they’re not sales-focused.

Instead, nail down goals for site visitors that send them into your sales funnel. You don’t need to sell your service or product immediately, but you do want them to come back and consider buying from you in the future. Should they opt in to a free email drip feed? If you’ve found social media effective, should they “Like” your site on Facebook? Make sure this goal is an easy one for them to accomplish.

2. Create amazing content for people, not search engines

Step one for creating quality SEO content: forget SEO.

A now-popular buzz phrase in the SEO world is “Don’t write for the search engines, write for people.” This doesn’t mean to ignore search engines altogether. Instead, do a remarkable job writing for humans and often you’ll have great SEO content, too.

3. Focus on cornerstone content

Cornerstone content is a great way to build a library of useful content and get the results from search simultaneously. Copyblogger explains:

“A cornerstone is something that is basic, essential, indispensable, and the chief foundation upon which something is constructed or developed. It’s what people need to know to make use of your website and do business with you.”

Cornerstone content accomplishes several goals:

  1. Your best content doesn’t get buried. It’s highlighted instead.
  2. Readers refer back and link to the tremendous resource you’re provided them.
  3. The page receives a steady stream of search engine traffic.

A great example: Copyblogger.com ranks #2 in Google (behind Wikipedia) for the term “copywriting.” Click through to Copyblogger’s Copywriting 101 page, and you’ll find a landing page with free resources available for download. Backlink analysis on Open Site Explorer for this page indicates there’s nearly 5,800 links to this page from 831 linking root domains.

4. Know what customers are searching for

To write great content that converts, you need to write about what your potential customers and clients are searching for.

Targeting key phrases strategically brings visitors from search who are looking for exactly what you’re offering. If you’re not targeting any keywords (or the wrong ones), you’ll be wasting your time attracting the wrong search visitors and probably less of them, too.

Finding out what phrases customers are searching for that could lead to more traffic to your website doesn’t have to be difficult. For example, HitTail pulls out the keywords to target automatically so that you don’t have to waste time searching and analyzing keywords manually. Instead, you simply create content with the suggested keywords or even easier: order articles from HitTail directly.

5. Profit from long-tail keywords

Attempting to rank for short keywords like “bank” or “lawyer” may be nearly impossible and might not be that worthwhile anyway.

These types of short search terms don’t always deliver high-value traffic. For a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago, showing up someone’s Google search who’s looking for a real estate attorney in Los Angeles has no value to you.

The majority of searches today aren’t even for these short terms but for “long-tail” phrases consisting of three or more words. Around 70% of search traffic comes search terms of 3 or more words, as shown in the graphic below.


By targeting these less competitive long-tail phrases, you’ll often face less competition. You’ll get targeted traffic as long-tail keywords convert 2.5 times higher than head keywords.

SEO book suggests that ranking for long-tail keywords could be based on about 50% on-site SEO, while on site SEO might only matter for 5% of the search ranking algorithm’s for competitive terms.

6. Setup on-site SEO

While having great content matters, your website needs to be properly optimized, too.

This means making sure your target keywords show up in the right places, including

  • Throughout the text of your content.
  • Title tag, preferably towards the beginning.
  • Page URL.
  • Meta description. While this field doesn’t influence SEO rankings, it’s crucial for getting Google searchers to click on your page in search results.

The good news is setup is often a one-shot deal. WordPress blog users can install plugins like SEO by Yoast that takes care of 99% of the on-site SEO setup with little work.

7. Don’t stuff keywords

A major mistake when writing content to maximize SEO traffic is overusing a keyword. In the early days of search engines, “keyword stuffing” worked to rank in search engines.  While it’s true that search engines still look for keywords, using the same keyword phrase too many times can push your site down in Google rankings.

Instead, use target keywords naturally throughout your content. Forget about calculating keyword density and include target terms in a way that makes sense for your content.

8. Create original content

Another one of Google’s golden rules: no duplicate content. This means never copying content from someone else’s pages and making sure writers you hire don’t do this either.  Changing a few words here or using “spun” content won’t fool Google, either.

Instead of trying to cut corners, craft original content like what’s described above. It’s okay to borrow ideas and give your own, fresh take. Even better: link out to a popular article you disagree with and make your own compelling case. Getting noticed by linking to others earns credibility and increases the chances they’ll link back to you in the future.

9. Remember the headline

Spending all your time creating content but only a few seconds coming up with a compelling headline is a major mistake. Headlines get searchers curious and convince them to click. Without a great headline they may never read the content that follows.

Take the time to learn how to write great headlines that maximize site visitors from search.

10. Keep content fresh and consistent

Don’t think of creating your website’s content as a one-time project. You must be consistent and fresh with your delivery.

Google gives preference to newly-created or “fresh” content, meaning your newly-published blog post can leapfrog other content. A search for “Google algorithm update” returned eight articles in the top 10 results that were published within the past two months.

4 of top 5 results for a search of “Google algorithm update” are from the last 2 months. Taken on 5/31/2013
4 of top 5 results for a search of “Google algorithm update” are from the last 2 months. Taken on 5/31/2013

Part of keeping content fresh is being consistent in content you publish, too. Hubspot analysis shows that traffic to websites for both B2C and B2B companies increased with frequency of monthly blog posts. On average, companies that published more than 15 blog posts per month received 5 times as much traffic as those that didn’t publish any. Failing to publish often means you’re missing out on search engine traffic that drives business to your site.

  1. Avatar
    Ross Davies

    Sound advice. Thanks for the list, I have bookmarked it for the future. It is easy to overlook the basics sometimes.

    2. Create amazing content for people, not search engines – Never underestimate this. If your content is rubbish then no matter how well optimised your site is your visitors are going to bounce.

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    Ian Pickering

    Wow, great post. Thanks for sharing- SEO changes so quickly that it is great to see content like this.


  3. Avatar

    Yup! Thankfully the days of creating keyword stuffed content merely for search engines are on their way out. It’s so refreshing …much fairer …and much better for the searcher.

  4. Avatar
    Enoch Sears (@BusinessofArch)

    Great, concise content. Very meta! Doing exactly what you are talking about…. 🙂

  5. Avatar

    Great! Thanks. Now I will try some ideas from you. SEO nowsaday has been changed more, and your article gave me some things about that..

  6. Avatar

    Great post, Rob. Personally speaking, using Hittail and Yoast have both made my life easier from an SEO standpoint and streamlining my optimization and content creation efforts.

    1. Avatar
      Rob Walling

      Awesome; glad we’ve been able to help.

  7. Avatar

    I included this in my list of items to check out that I send once a month to all my SEO clients! Thanks for sharing.


    1. Avatar
      Rob Walling

      Sure thing; thanks for checking out the post.

  8. Avatar

    Awesome post Rob, People think SEO has become really difficult but I guess SEO has only become genuine now. Thanks

    1. Avatar
      Rob Walling


  9. Avatar
    Will Hawkins

    Excellent advice. I need to keep reminding myself of these rules because it is so easy to get caught up with writing for a search engine and then making your content difficult for people to read.

    Long tail keywords are great too. The keyword suggestions that HitTail sends each week are invaluable and have saved me a lot of time in research.

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