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Use the Mequoda SEO Scorecard to Measure and Optimize Your Posts

Use an SEO scorecard based on the results of more than a dozen publishers who are already nailing high quality content

I’m going to let you in on a secret. This is the scorecard that we use at Mequoda, and the SEO scorecard we use to train our clients on writing SEO’d website content.

It’s a very simple outline that helps new editors cross all their t’s and dot all their i’s. We developed this SEO scorecard based on composite research about what our clients’ top ranked posts have in common.

It’s not based on what SEO peeps are gossiping about, and quickly change their minds about, but on the cold hard facts: these are the similar traits of what we call blockbuster posts for our clients – the posts that generate sometimes more than 50% of traffic to a publisher’s website.

I invite you to start using the scorecard that we and our clients use to measure every post we write, and evergreen posts we recycle from archives.

Now keep in mind, the magazine publishers who use this SEO scorecard have already nailed the high-quality content part, which comes first.  This is how they take it to the next level and get it found.

The goal is to get 100%, not just check off the top few items. Below, I’ll explain each line item.

The Mequoda SEO Scorecard for New Articles and Potential Blockbusters
Segment Score Possible Criteria
Title 20 Does the post title include your targeted keyword phrase (KCI .5 or above if possible) from your keyword universe?
Subhead 10 Does the subhead include your targeted keyword phrase?
Body 10 Is the article more than 300 words?
Body 10 Is the article more than 500 words? (pass if the article links to 3 similar articles)
Body 10 Is the article more than 800 words?
Body 5 Are there at least 3 hyperlinks from proximity keywords to other content?
Body 5 Is the targeted keyword phrase in the first paragraph of the article?
Body 5 Is the keyword density on the primary keyword between 1 and 3?
Body 5 Is there a text ad for a free download after the second or third paragraph of the post?
Body 5 If the post is recycled, does it include a four-digit year in the bottom (year only, no other date)
Body 5 Is the post assigned to just one category?
Body 2 Is the post tagged with keywords from their universe?
Body 2 Does the post ONLY contain tags from their universe? (no made-up tags)
Body 2 Is the primary keyword in the URL?
Body 2 Is the primary keyword in the meta description?
Body 1 If applicable, do the images in the article contain the primary keyword in their alt text?
Body 1 If applicable, are all image filenames in lower case, include the primary keyword, and use dashes, not underscores?
Total   100

A line-by-line explanation of our SEO scorecard

20 points: Does the post title include a targeted keyword (KCI .5 or above if possible) from keyword universe?

Your targeted keyword is the  keyword phrase you are hoping to get ranked on in your post. Mequoda clients find this keyword in their Keyword Universe, inside a comprehensive keyword report we put together. You can build an entire universe of keywords you want to get ranked for, by building a Google Visibility Report. You could also manually research a keyword to target.

KCI (Keyword Competitive Index) is the estimated annual search impressions (global monthly searches taken from the Google Keyword Planner, multiplied by 12 months) divided by the number of exact match search engine results (the competition) at a point in time. A score of more than one means that you have more people searching for the keyword, than there are competing pages.

10 points: Does the subhead include your targeted keyword phrase or a proximity keyword phrase (KCI .5 or above if possible)?

In your subhead, you can re-use your targeted keyword phrase, or you can use a proximity keyword phrase. Proximity phrases are keywords related to your targeted keyword phrase (like plurals, or other versions of your keyword phrase that are likely to show up with your targeted keyword phrase throughout the web).

10 points – Is the article more than 300 words? 

300 words is not typically enough to get ranked highly in Google. When it is, it’s usually a tag page or a category page, and the reason why that occurs is because Google likes resource pages, and those types of pages typically list all articles related to the tag or category.

10 points – Is the article more than 500 words? (pass if the article links to 3 similar articles)

We find that 500 words is a minimum for any article, however it should still link to at least three other articles on your site. We think this works because Google sees the page as a resource also. We rarely see a blockbuster that’s 500 words and has no links, but 500 word posts can perform pretty OK if they have links. So at a minimum, three links to other content.

10 points – Is the article more than 800 words?

We’ve included this as the ideal length for our SEO scorecard because it’s the sweet spot. Longer articles can work very well when they’re long lists, or an instructive how-to, or include a bunch of tools that people want to bookmark. They don’t perform as well when the article is op-ed, and blather on for 3,000 words. Unless the content is really, really good. Most publishers don’t skimp on quality, so we think it’s safe and even encouraged for publishers to go over 800 words.

5 points – Are there at least 3 hyperlinks from proximity keywords to other content?

Oh right, even if you have 800 words, there should be three hyperlinks in your article. Great if you can link keywords, too. This is a great opportunity to link to your more glossary-type articles. For example, on Mequoda I say multiplatform so often, I always have a chance to link to our “what is” post on multiplatform publishing (ranked #1 for multiplatform publishing, by the way).

5 points – Is the targeted keyword phrase in the first paragraph of the article?

There are three places you must put your targeted keyword phrase and they’re your title, subhead, and the first paragraph of your article. Don’t be lazy and jam it in there without reading to make sure it makes sense, but make room for it.

5 points – Is the keyword density on the targeted keyword phrase between 1 and 3 percent?

Keyword Density = (# of times used divided by number of words in article) multiplied by# of words in keyword phrase.

This is an equation to tell you how many times you need to use your keyword phrase in an article. I know the SEOs will tell you keyword density is old school, but they don’t have their hands on the data we do. When we analyzed the data of our clients to see how the top ranked pages fare on content density. Most winners of the Page 1 top ten coveted spots for the keywords were between 1 and 3. That’s a pretty easy thing to do, if we’re being honest. If you write a 800 word post on “apple pie recipes”, you can easily include it 6 times and get a 2.2% keyword density.

5 points – Is there a text ad for a free download after the second or third paragraph of the post?

We always include a call to action interruptor after the second or third paragraph. If the post starts with a few one-liners, we’ll make the exception to include it within the first 100 words.

5 points – If the post is recycled, does it include a four-digit year in the bottom (year only, no other date)

Our publishers do a lot of content recycling, and sometimes when they recycle content, it already has comments on the page. For this reason, when we recycle and republish content, we include a stamp that says, “this article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated,” or something like that. And they do actually update the article. And they definitely use this SEO scorecard as part of the updating!

5 points – Is the post assigned to just one category?

Again, this is something we’ve learned through trial and error, and the consensus of blockbuster posts. One category seems to be where it’s at.

2 points – Is the post tagged with keywords from your keyword universe?

Have you used the tag field to identify your keyword? When you use it again, you can group posts together to create a tag page which rank well in Google.

2 points – Does the post ONLY contain tags from your keyword universe?

Have you gone and thrown in a bunch of random words and phrases into the tag field that you think might be keywords, or maybe not? This is bad. Only include tags that are keywords, and only use them when they’re actually in the article. The Haven Nexus CXMS has something called an auto-tagger that has our keyword universe pre-loaded and will tag our articles only with keywords we’ve used in the article. So for us and our clients, this is easy!

1 point – Is the targeted keyword phrase in the URL?

This seems like a simple thing to include in the SEO scorecard because WordPress automatically creates URL strings for you, but sometimes it cuts it off, or removes words like “a” or “the” which you’ll need to add back in if it’s part of your keyword phrase.

1 point – Is the targeted keyword phrase in the meta description?

We use Yoast / WordPress SEO to keep track of this.

1 point – If applicable, do the images in the article contain the targeted keyword phrase in their alt text?

This is pretty easy. You upload an image and WordPress gives you fields to describe your image. Lots of publishers just use their title here, because it’s already optimized.

1 point – If applicable, are all image filenames in lower case, include the targeted keyword phrase, and use dashes, not underscores?

I know this is a pain, especially when you’re downloading stock photography and forget to rename your images, but just go ahead and add this to your list of to-dos.

What would you add to this SEO scorecard, assuming that the content is already high quality? And also assuming that a social media scorecard is being fulfilled (yes we have one of those too). We already know adding graphics and video can bring up SEO, but we didn’t include it in this list because not every publisher can do it, but every publisher can complete this scorecard.

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