SEO Copywriting Checklist: Write for Humans & Optimize for Search

An SEO Copywriting Checklist: How to Write for Humans & Optimize for Search

SEO copywriting is hard; let’s be real. Producing reader-friendly content while also optimizing for Google (and other search engines) takes skill and time. This reality is even more true in the world of B2B tech, where you must balance reader-friendliness and helpfulness with appropriate technical writing levels and SEO copywriting best practices. Phew.

This SEO copywriting checklist will simplify the process for you while helping you create B2B tech content readers actually want to read. 

SEO Copywriting Checklist: Why You Need One

Many writers go too far in one direction or the other: ignoring SEO altogether or writing directly for the algorithm and sacrificing readability.

In fact, keyword stuffing and copycat content have gotten so bad that Google itself is pushing back. Recent Google updates have penalized low-quality content and elevated content it perceives as high-quality.

In short: if you want Google to rank your content, write content humans want to read. 

However, this doesn’t mean you can ignore best practices for making content easy to find on search engines either. 

This SEO copywriting checklist is a guide to striking this balance. It provides an easy-to-digest yet informative list of how to give your content a fighting chance to hit page one of the search engine results pages (SERPs). You can absolutely do this while still offering a valuable read for the people whose opinions matter most — your prospects, site visitors, customers, and other key audiences. 

In addition to the full post with all the details you could need to optimize your content for search engines, we’ve also created a downloadable SEO copywriting checklist you can find at the end of this post for your own use in day-to-day content creation and publishing. 


☐ Choose a focus keyword for your content.

Many writers overlook this simple step. However, much like a themed costume party, once you have a specific focus, it’s easier to for guests to know how to dress appropriately. Or, to stretch the metaphor, once you have a keyword selected it’s much easier to know what to include in your content to make it both reader- and search engine-friendly.


What is a focus keyword?

Your focus keyword should be the entire subject matter of your content chiseled down to one or a few words (a keyword or keyphrase).


Ideally, each post on your blog and page on your website should target its own unique keyword, and there should be no overlap (see the concept of keyword cannibalization later in this post).

Use a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to select a keyword that relates to the topic you plan to write about. In most cases, it is smart to choose your keyword before you start any other aspects of your SEO copywriting checklist. 

Here are some factors to consider when choosing an appropriate keyword for your content:

  • Search intent: The ultimate goal of a keyword is, of course, to help people find your content. So it needs to be a keyword they real humans actually use when trying to find content like yours.The easiest way to judge the intent of a keyword is to look at the top-ranking results for that keyword. Questions to ask yourself:
    • Are the results related to the topic you’re writing about? 
    • Are they informational articles or product pages? (In other words, is the intent to educate or to encourage a purchase or other type of conversion?) 
    • Would your intended article look at home among the existing search results? 

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then the keyword is probably a good fit. Make a shortlist of keywords or phrases that would qualify based on these questions. Next, assess traffic and difficulty to narrow your list.

  • Keyword traffic and difficulty: Check the keyword difficulty (KD) and search volume (SV) in your SEO tool of choice (Ahrefs, Semrush, etc.) The goal here is balance. Look for a relevant keyword with enough people searching for it but that is (ideally) not too competitive to rank for. 

In other words:

  • The ideal keyword receives at least some search traffic (although there are occasions where it’s useful to target a keyword with little or no traffic — more to come soon on this topic!) Typically search traffic is shown in monthly volume of searches, and many tools will also show the trajectory of the keyword. Is it becoming a more or less popular search over time?
  • Next, look at keyword difficulty. The lower the keyword difficulty, the easier it is to rank for that term. Ideally, you want to avoid keywords with very high difficulty unless your website is well-established or the content you are writing is part of a larger SEO strategy (such as a hub-and-spoke model).

Again, the goal here is balance. You want to find a keyword that is highly relevant to your topic, has decent search traffic, but isn’t too difficult to rank for. One last thing to check for:

  • Keyword cannibalization: Is a page on your website already ranking for this keyword? (You can look this up using one of the SEO tools mentioned earlier.) If so, you should avoid creating more content directly targeting the same keyword. Otherwise, you risk confusing Google, splitting traffic between multiple posts, and reducing your overall ranking for this term. If that’s the case, choose a different keyword or consider adding content to the page you already have if it is not ranking as high as you’d like and you have ideas for additional valuable content.

Write a meta title that includes the main keyword AND is clear and compelling to readers.

Once you’ve chosen your focus keyword, write a meta title using that word or phrase. A meta title is the headline that will appear on a SERP (see below, circled in yellow):

Tip: Always write your meta title after you choose your keyword, or you’ll just have to go back and rewrite it. In fact, it often makes sense to write your title and meta description last.

When reviewing your SEO copywriting checklist, ensure your meta title is friendly for readers, but also keep in mind that your meta title and the title that appears at the top of your website page do not have to be the exact same. You do want them to be close enough that readers don’t feel they’ve been “bait and switched,” but you can write one title for SERPs and one for your actual content page.

Now let’s look at some examples of strong and weak titles.

In the example below, the key phrase — “​​b2b social media strategy” — is included in the meta title, but the title isn’t clear enough for readers, considering what the post is actually about. This discrepancy will likely result in a high bounce rate, because the search intent is not aligned with the article. You might in this case consider writing two different titles

  • Weak: ​​”B2B Social Media Strategy” (too general)
  • Strong: “B2B Social Media Strategy: 5 Questions to Help Focus Yours” (more specific and clear)

In other words, the first is an example of a time you might make the search engines “happy” but not your readers. The second is an example of balancing the two. 

Additionally, keep in mind that search engines will cut off meta titles longer than about 60 characters, so aim for about 50-60 characters in your title. 

Sprinkle your keyword throughout the text

A common mistake writers make is cramming the chosen keyword everywhere it might fit, without regard to copywriting flow and readability. When it comes to using your keyword, imagine you’re salting a dish: You want enough to enhance the dish’s flavor but not so much that everything tastes like salt.

A good rule of thumb is to use your keyword:

  • In the article’s meta title (as mentioned above).
  • In the meta description.
  • In the first paragraph of your introduction (Ideally in the first sentence if possible.)
  • In at least one H2 header.
  • At least 2 or 3 other times in the text, or about 0.5% to 2% of the words in your text. (Source: Hubspot.)

Re: This last point, use tools like Yoast, Semrush, or Ahrefs or one of the many tools like the one screenshotted below to check on your keyword density (the ratio of keyword usage to all other words in your text). They can help you compare your keyword density to competitors’ pages and also guide you toward best practices for density. 

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Leverage headers wisely

Headings (a.k.a. Headers or “heds” if you’re a copywriting nerd) are essential for breaking up the text of your article to make it more readable. Bonus: They can also be used to enhance your SEO. That’s because Google gives more weight to the text of your headers than to the other words in your article. In other words, headings make it easier for search engines to understand what your content is about.  

In HTML, the language that search engines read, headers are numbered from H1- H4 and from broadest to narrowest. You could think of headers the way you’d think about the location of a grocery store.

H1: The supermarket itself
H2: The produce section
H3: Fruit
H4: Apples

Under H4, you’d find a whole bunch of different types of apples to choose from (this is your “body text” in this metaphor, in case you’re following along with it).

Think about it like this: If you walked into a supermarket without signs guiding you to specific foods in specific places, it would take you all day to do your shopping!

All content must have an H1 (usually the title), then be broken down further into H2s, and sometimes H3s and H4s depending on the complexity of the post. 

When writing headers, keep the following in mind:

  • Make headers informative, not literary or flowery. Ideally, a reader should be able to understand the basic premise of your article simply by scrolling through the headers. They can serve almost as an outline for your post, signaling the key ideas.
  • Include the keyword, and variations of it, throughout your headers. Generally, using the keyword earlier within a header is a best practice, and the more you can work it in organically the better.
  • Use H3s and H4s to further subdivide text (when it makes sense). The main reason to add subheaders is to break up long chunks of text and give scrollers a quick overview of the article. The easier an article is to parse, the better it will perform with both search engines and human readers.
  • Don’t neglect your conclusion. Don’t make the mistake of finishing your article with a subheader like “Conclusion,” or “Last Words.” These are too vague. 

Reality check: Keep in mind that some people will read the intro and the conclusion first to decide whether the article will answer their question (or solve their problem), so a concluding header should provide a clear signal of what is in the final section and encourage readers to read the whole article. Additionally, don’t miss out on this opportunity to get your keyword or a variation in once more, as long as it feels natural. 

Add internal and external links with appropriate “anchor text”

Links in your blog’s text increase your article’s usefulness and make Google happy. There are two types of links:

Internal links are hyperlinks FROM one piece of content TO another page on the same website, ideally linked using relevant anchor text. 


What is anchor text?

Anchor text is the text that links out to another website page, as in the example below (yellow circle indicates anchor text):

The words “Snyk platform” here are the anchor text, and link out to exactly what you’d expect: Snyk’s platform page, here: The key here is not to surprise or confuse readers with what is behind the anchor text of a link. 


The two types of anchor text

Internal linking is important for two reasons:

  • It increases website engagement by encouraging readers to consume more content related to the content that initially drew them in.
  • Internal linking allows the search bots to better understand a page’s content. Google gathers anchor text leading to both internal and external sources and stores it in its index. Though anchor text is only one of 200+ factors used to rank pages, it’s important for both search engines and readers.

External Links are hyperlinks from a blog post or website page to another page on a different website. 

There is an outdated view that linking to other websites dilutes the power of your own articles, but this is untrue. Providing useful external resources to your readers is helpful and looked kindly on by Google.

The key: Link to useful, high-quality external resources. Avoid linking to sites that are low-quality or direct competitors.

A note on anchor text do’s and don’t’s:

Again, Google looks at anchor text as a sign of authority. For this reason, and for reader guidance, you want your anchor text to be as descriptive as possible, particularly for internal links.

  • Weak: Internal linking is another factor that allows search engines to better understand a page’s content. 
  • This anchor text here – “factor” – does not let the reader or the bots know that the link takes us to another page that is all about internal linking. It could be much clearer.
  • Strong: Internal linking for SEO (like this!) is another factor that allows search engines to better understand a page’s content. 

This anchor text – “internal linking for SEO” – lets the reader and bots know that the link takes us to another page that is all about internal linking for search.

Need help writing search engine-friendly content your readers will love? Get in touch!

Include one image for each section where possible.

Just as breaking up long blocks of text into several paragraphs or with bullet points makes the reading experience much more pleasant (and easier for the Google bots to crawl), so does adding relevant images. Like this one!

Just kidding: Adding images doesn’t mean randomly slapping on funny(ish) GIFs or stock photos of models pantomiming work tasks (please, oh please, no more!) 

Rather, helpful and relevant images could include:

  • A chart that illustrates a point you are trying to make
  • A screenshot or two to point out a concept you mentioned
  • An embedded tweet that contains a relevant quote you want to highlight

Using Alt Text for All Images

Don’t forget to add your keyword to the image’s “alt text” in the form of a description of the image. This helps Google figure out if it’s relevant to your focus keyword and ensures that there will at least be a descriptive placeholder if the image doesn’t load. Additionally, alt text is a best pratice for online content accessibility.

You can add alt text within your website’s content management system (CMS), such as WordPress. If you’re “just” the writer, leave a note for whoever will publish the content with your recommended alt text to ensure it makes it into the final product. Alt text will not appear unless the image does not load or a reader is consuming the content via a non-visual interface.

Write a strong call-to-action (CTA), and include it throughout the content.

A surprising amount of content out there does not include even one call-to-action (CTA). Many copywriters will add only one at the bottom, and even then it might not stand out. So what if a reader stops reading halfway through?


Weak vs. Strong CTAs for B2B Tech

Think of a strong CTA as a mini-ad that compels the reader to click. The CTA could lead to a contact page, a live demo page, or a downloadable content asset, depending on your goals for the page.

Especially with B2B tech content, you want your CTA to meet users where they are in the funnel and guide them further down. For example, it may not make sense to offer a demo on a very top-of-funnel (TOFU) article, because few readers are likely to make that leap. 

It may make more sense to direct them to another article or asset relevant to the one they are reading and perhaps further down the funnel. 

Further, often, technical audiences such as developers want to skip to a sandbox demo or video of a product in action sooner in their buyer journeys. On the other hand, C-Level audiences may be looking to educate themselves more deeply on a topic and not be as hands-on with tech tools. Know your audience and use CTAs wisely.

For the best results, test different CTAs out. Every B2B brand has different audiences with different needs and behaviors. B2B tech buyer journeys are less linear than the once were, with awareness becoming more important than “leads.” So it’s worth testing out assumptions before moving forward with a CTA strategy and regularly adjusting your approach to match buyers’ behaviors online. 


You might also like: Successful Developer Marketing: 5 Stages of the Developer Experience


Sprinkle CTAs (or one highly relevant CTA) throughout your content about two to four times, depending on the length of the post. Here are some examples of weak and strong CTAs (though, again, everything depends on your unique audience, so get to know their preferences well.)

  • Weak: Reach out to us if you need help! (too vague)
  • Weak: Comment below what your favorite lead gen techniques are! (this puts the onus on the reader to do “work,” rather than being helpful)
  • Weak: Hit us up on Twitter! (this isn’t specific enough and won’t help SEO)
  • Strong: If you want an expert B2B content marketing agency to help you create, strategize and market your B2B tech content, click here! (Clear, actionable, and direct)

Tip: To ensure that your CTA stands out from the text, create a colorful box:

If you want an expert B2B content marketing agency to help you create, strategize and market your B2B tech content for developers click here!

Write a strong meta description that serves as an “ad” for your content

Your meta description must be short, to the point, include the main keyword, and compel the reader to click on your link in the SERPs. You can think of it as a free ad for your content.


What is a meta description?

A meta description is a short explanation of what readers will find inside your content when they click. It should be about 150-160 characters long to properly render in search queries. Here’s an example of a meta description:


To bring it to life, here are two potential meta descriptions for the article “5 Questions to Help Focus Your Organic B2B Social Media Strategy.” Let’s say the focus keyword is “b2b social media strategy”:

  • Weak: Social media is really important. You should have a social media strategy in place. 
    • Why this is weak: It doesn’t sell the piece very effectively and does not include the keyword. It’s also short (about 80 characters vs. the max of 160), so you are missing out on opportunities to tell the reader more about what they’ll learn by clicking.
  • Strong: B2B social media strategy can be challenging to devise and execute. Yet it’s vital to reach new audiences with content and ideas. Here’s how to do it right.
    • Why this is strong: The target keyword is right up front, and the description tells you what you’ll find in the article and why it matters. 

SEO Copywriting Checklist Download: Get Your Copy Today

Again, remember that when writing for a human audience, you will always have “skimmers” who read headers and maybe the intro and conclusion before deciding to dive all the way in. So rather than writing a conclusion with a sub-hed like “Conclusion” or “Final Words,” the best practice is to be specific about what readers will get from the article or content. 

In this case, we’ve put together a shorter, easy to use on a daily basis, version of this blog post. Get your SEO copywriting checklist here and get to work making those articles sing for both search bots and human readers.

Download your SEO copywriting checklist here

Need help getting more quality content out that speaks to both Google and your B2B tech audiences? Get in touch.

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