Brands are doubling down on content and becoming publishers in the true sense of the word. With all this investment in content creation, it’s become critical to have internal processes to ensure content is optimized before it goes out the door. Enter the SEO Quality Gate.
What Is the SEO Quality Gate?
It’s a simple idea – nothing gets published on the website or other digital properties without a check for SEO and inbound tactics optimization. It can take the form of a review by an in-house expert, a third-party agency, or it can become part of the way your editors, writers, and content creators do their job. And while it may be a simple concept, sometimes the simplest things are tough to implement.
The Rise of the CMS
As most sites of any significance now run on content management platforms, non-technical people can have a real impact on the level of optimization a given image, Web page, or video has when it gets pushed live.
Even the most basic CMS configurations allow for the editing of key SEO fields. Given a bit of development resources, the CMS interface can be customized to allow for even greater control – the ability to edit or add Schema.org tags for example – or the ability to add G+ authorship, custom image alt tags, Twitter card markup, and more. You can even add a function that suggests internal linking opportunities for a target keyphrase.
So given this new ability for non-technical people to do some pretty fancy SEO tasks, there may be a need to train writers and to make sure there is a formal process that insures all these new CMS capabilities are used to the maximum extent prior to a content piece going live.
Putting SEO Quality Gates in Place
As we are talking about a business process change, it helps to diagram out how the new step fits into the larger editorial planning, review, and publishing process.
Assuming you have a keyword-informed editorial calendar and are giving your content the marketing support it deserves, this will be just one more step in creating a next-generation digital publishing capacity that drives business goals.
For example, your content supply chain may end up looking something like this:
SEO Training for Writers and Content Creators
After you have diagramed out where the gate will go – usually after the content has been created or uploaded into the CMS but before it is published live – you will need to train the writers on SEO basics, or set up a workflow that routes the pre-published content to the designated SEO reviewer.
I am a fan of creating organizations that generate optimized content as a matter of course, so training writers on the elements of SEO they need to be aware of is my preferred way to go.
There are plenty of Web-based training programs, but since every company is unique and has different goals, I recommend working out a custom training program yourself and making it a part of the onboarding process for new hires and contractors as well as existing employees.
Quality Gate Elements
Key things to consider during the quality gate step are:
- Does the content have a keyword focus? Is it a unique keyword, or at least a popular variant of a keyword that is targeted via content elsewhere on the site?
- Does the copy include at least some use of the target keyphrase and close variants, keeping in mind that it needs to follow tone and voice and readability guidelines?
- Does the content have the Google authorship tag? It may no longer generate a thumbnail image on SERPs but it still helps.
- Does the content have an optimized page title and Meta description (for Web pages), or an optimized alt tag and file name (for images) or proper video SEO best practice applied?
- Does the content have link support from owned and earned properties? A quick Google site search ("Site:yoursitehere.com target keyphrase here") for the target keyword can turn up internal linking opportunities.
- Is platform-specific metadata present – Open Graph tags, Twitter Card, etc.?
- Is Schema.org metadata included if appropriate - for bios, events, contact info, reviews, and so on? Keep in mind that this may be hard-coded into the templates or may be editable. To train writers to create valid Schema markup may be hard, so this is often better automated.
- Does the content have a sharable image, thumbnail, or other visual element to help it perform on social networks?
- Is it written is such a way that the H1 tag reflects the keyword focus?
- For organizations with the resources, is the content worthy of promotion? Writers or editors can flag content that is suitable for content promotion (Outbrain, paid search, ad networks).
- Is the content suitable for posting to personal, brand, or group social pages given guidelines?
- Is there embed code for infographics?
- Is the page, video, or image going to be added to the relevant sitemap? This may or may not be an automated process.
Having writers or editors trained to do these basic checks of their content can go a long way to addressing the 20 percent of on-page SEO elements that will achieve 80 percent of the results.
Close the Loop
Once writers and editors are trained on SEO and quality gates are in use, you can start reporting on SEO and content engagement metrics (G+1s, tweets, landing page visits, rankings), calling out the folks who are rocking it and shaming those who don’t with (metaphorical) dunce caps.
Consider the Whole Content Supply Chain
Obviously this is just one part of an optimized content supply chain. Getting your content creators upskilled on basic on-page SEO tactics will help insure that your content goes out the door ready for search, social sharing and graph search, and content promotion.
Plus, your writers get to learn a new skill. And who knows, maybe a raise?
Did I miss anything? Let me know if the comments.
Vanilla Stop photo by Wonderferret cc’licensed at https://flic.kr/p/5qjuAa.
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