August 24, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Basic SEO optimization helps keep your content on par with the competition. But keeping up with your rivals isn’t the way to grab and convert leads. If you want to pull ahead and secure the biggest possible market share, you need to step up your game. And stepping up your game means applying advanced content optimization for SEO. Today, we’re covering 14 optimization techniques for pros that’ll help your brand boost traffic and generates conversions.
Need a refresher on SEO basics? Check out our article on how to get started with content optimization.
SEO includes both on- and off-page tactics that can influence site indexing and ranking. We’ve put together this list of 14 ways to build on the basics for more advanced content optimization:
It’s best practice to update your old content regularly to make sure it’s always providing factual, valuable, and accurate information. But if you have a lot of content in your archives, it can be a headache to find which content to start with. For large archives, it’s best to dive into the analytics and mine your content for these metrics:
In most cases, you’ll want to start with content that has the highest number of page views, clicks, and conversions. Low bounce rates and more time spent on the page are great to have, but these don’t need to be high-performance to start your optimizations. As you get into these metrics, you’ll have the information you need to analyze performance data.
Look at the performance of the content you’re planning to optimize. If you’re using Google Search Console, the performance data shows the search queries and metrics for any URL on the web. These performance details tell you more about ranking potential and audience reach than page metrics. To find this report, navigate to Performance > Search Results > Pages in Google Search Console to view data for all your URLs.
Filtering by position lets you see which pages rank highest or lowest for any keyword query. Semrush calls these striking distance keywords, or keywords that rank between positions five and 15 in SERPs. These keywords don’t rank at the top of page one, but they’re close enough that the content is within “striking distance” of the top spots. If you can optimize SEO writing to target these striking distance keywords, there’s more potential to improve rankings and increase organic traffic.
Search intent is the reason behind someone’s online search. Internet users have multiple reasons for querying a specific keyword or phrase, and marketers use this intent when creating content for their audiences. User intent can give you valuable insight into why visitors enter or leave a website. And if brand content only covers broad topics with informative angles, you’re probably missing a whole world of search intent that your team could be covering.
So review the current marketing funnel, and identify areas where intent would drive target audiences to your content. The search intent and stage of the marketing funnel directly influence the content type, format, and angle of every piece you create. As you optimize older content, check for the intent behind the topic. Create a plan for updating your content based on informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial search intents.
Since you’re an SEO pro, your content likely already has a pillar page and topic cluster structure. But have you built out your clusters into subclusters yet? Subclusters provide even more potential keywords under the same topic. The more content you have, the more links you can create. This strategy shows your audience and search engines that your brand is an expert on the topic. You answer all the right questions and provide a wealth of information on any subtopic they want.
For example, let’s say your brand has a pillar post on SEO. Then you have clusters attached to that, including subtopics like on-page SEO, technical SEO, and local SEO. This is where many brands stop and move on to the next topic. But these subtopics barely scratch the surface of all the information you could include on SEO. Each cluster also has tools and best practices associated with it. Or you could include lists of traps to avoid and tips to edge out the competition.
This type of topic coverage puts your brand on the path to being a thought leader in your industry. It also helps influence your content creation strategies. Rather than just developing new pieces on random topics with irrelevant keywords, turn to your clusters. Expand on them and research all possible subtopics to build on the work you’ve already done.
If you have content on your website that doesn’t serve a purpose, it needs to go. Every piece you create, share, and promote should have a place in your strategy. Whether it’s an article or a video, each one helps you reach your larger marketing, sales, and company goals.
One way to find this underperforming content is to run an audit. There are many different ways to do this, depending on what SEO programs and tools you use. But no matter what method works for your team, here’s what the audit should tell you:
It’s not uncommon to find that a lot of poorly performing content improves with consolidation into a single article or page. Pieces ranking for the same keywords and the same search intent, or that cannibalize your other content, can merge to create longer articles around one cluster or subcluster. Making these changes helps you ditch underperforming content and address issues like fluctuating SERP rankings that hurt SEO.
Related: Performing a Content Audit
As an SEO master, you already know internal links are integral to a good strategy. But it’s not enough to just link any content across your site. You have to do it with a purpose and a method in mind. Internal links and backlinks are more closely related than you may think. When you link internally to your content that has the most backlinks, you can pass more authority to new pieces or ones that need improvements to SEO.
Free backlink checker tools allow you to browse the backlinks your domain receives. The pages that appear most often or have the most referrals are the ones with the most powerful internal linking authority. They’re the ones to prioritize for internal linking.
Just remember, the links you create have to be in context and relate to the content topic. If your top-referred page is an article on keyword stuffing, link it to articles on the same topic. But linking to an article about keyword stuffing in a blog post about the Oxford comma wouldn’t be logical. In this case, internal linking may hurt your SEO instead of helping it.
When optimizing content, most people aim for top spots in the SERPs. But why aim for spot number one when there’s something even higher? That location is position zero with featured snippets. These featured snippets appear above, beside, and interspersed with organic search results. But unlike paid content, you can’t buy your way in. You have to earn your spot in the featured snippets, and that comes from optimization.
In 2020, Google announced that it was removing double organic listings from the first page of SERPs. In the past, you could optimize your content for the featured snippet and still have an organic ranking spot on page one, allowing single results to show up twice on the same page. That’s no longer the case, so you might wonder if it’s worth it to try to optimize for the featured snippet if it kicks your organic listing off page one. Spoiler alert: it’s worth it.
The featured snippet is the first thing people see on a SERP under the search bar. Depending on the source, studies show that up to 65% of searches use this information to get their results, and never click a link. These zero-click searchers likely never scroll beyond the featured snippet. If nobody clicks content in these searches, what do you gain from appearing in position zero? You get brand recognition. If that many searches end without a click or a scroll, the content in position zero is the only one they see.
No, not every keyword or topic triggers a featured snippet. Before you try to optimize for one, make sure the queries you’re targeting have them before you put the effort in. Pieces with featured snippets can take a higher priority in your optimization plan than those without. There’s no fool-proof process to get your content into the featured snippet since you can’t buy your way in. But answering questions, following proper headline structures, using bulleted or numbered lists, and targeting specific search intent are a few ways to give your content a better shot at ranking in position zero.
Google ignores backlinks that lead to 404 error pages on your website. They don’t pass any authority from one page or domain to another because they’re dead. While that might not harm your SEO, it doesn’t help either. Dead and broken links make you miss out on chances to build valuable domain authority. These kinds of errors occur when you delete content from your site, move it without a redirect, or the linking domain has a typo within the link URL.
You can’t fix the last mistake yourself. You can contact the webmaster for the site that hosts the backlink and ask them to check the URL to make sure they’ve copied it properly. The other two instances you can fix with technical optimization. When you find a page that throws a 404 error due to deleted or moved content, create a 301 redirect. This takes users to the new content using the old URL.
Generally, 301 redirects don’t impact your SEO rankings, so don’t worry about using them in your optimization. Think of linking strategies like roadways. A live, unbroken link is a road that connects point A to point B. When you get a 404 error, that’s the same as encountering a dead end. A 301 redirect, though, acts like a detour to get people around the dead end. It still helps them get from point A to point B with minimal disruption or impact.
Your own 404 error pages aren’t the only ones to focus on during content optimization. Earlier, we suggested a backlink checker tool to help you find out which of your pages were most valuable for internal linking. You can use the same tool to search for information about your competitor’s backlinks. See which links are broken and use those opportunities to create and optimize content that could take their place.
Then, contact webmasters for sites that link to your competitor’s broken pages. Tell them you’ve found a broken link on their site and offer your content up as a solution to take its place. This is a good SEO strategy for both your website and the one with the broken link. It fixes an user experience issue they have and is a legal, acceptable way to build backlinks to your content. It’s also a stealthy way to gain market share and the organic traffic potential from competitors who have gone lax on their links and SEO strategies.
Search engines exist because people have questions and want an easy way to get answers to them. Though studies conflict on just how many search queries include questions, it’s likely somewhere between 8% of all searches and 27% of queries. Most study data on this topic is years old, though. Without more recent data to take its place, we can assume this range might be higher today. Especially with the invention of voice search, which makes it easier to search for longer keyword strings.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ) content exists for the same reason as search engines: the desire to answer audiences’ inquiries. When people ask the same things over and over, using an FAQ saves your customer service team time by making it easier for your audience to get the information they need on their own without contacting your company. FAQs also help your SEO. Listings on page one of SERPs that operate in an FAQ schema take up more space on the page. Each question has its own drop-down box that contains the answer.
The more questions you include, the more room your listing takes upon the SERP. This pushes your competitors’ listings further down the page where a searcher is less likely to scroll. Semrush gives a tutorial on how to add an FAQ schema to your web page content to trigger this kind of behavior on the SERP.
You already know and target your primary audience with every piece of content you create. But they’re not the only people who find or use the information you share online. While the goal is always to optimize with your target audience in mind, there’s another group of readers and watchers who can be just as powerful for your SEO: journalists.
You might wonder why you’d optimize content for journalists if they’re not your primary audience. Doing the optimization isn’t for them. But keeping certain principles in mind makes it easier for reporters to find your content and use it in their own articles. This process can actually help brands build backlinks and establish credibility and thought leadership.
Think like a journalist for a moment. You’re on a deadline to publish an article and need a fact or a statistic quickly. You head to Google to find one and pull the most relevant statistic from the featured snippet. Then you drop an in-text citation to the source and link back to the original article, creating a backlink from a credible source.
Targeting journalists helps you pull in that domain authority to your content without doing any extra work, engaging in PR schmoozing, or securing new partnerships. It doesn’t matter whether you run studies and share your own data or create content that shares other brands’ statistics to get your content into position zero. If you can get your facts to the top of SERPs for these “journalistic keywords,” you have a better chance of building more backlinks and authority for your site.
The time people spend on your website isn’t just good for the metrics. It also helps your search engine rankings. The length of time someone spends on a page tells Google that your content is valuable to users. The trick, though, is figuring out how to get people to spend more time on your site. You can follow best practices, but humans are unpredictable. Even if you do everything right, you may still have a higher bounce or exit rate than you’d like.
Giving people something to do when they get to your site rather than just reading a post helps them stay more engaged. That’s where interactive content comes in. Animated images stop people from skimming your content. They see movement and now they want to watch. Polls and quizzes require readers to think about the information they’re seeing and participate rather than passively scanning content.
The type of interactive content you choose doesn’t matter, as long as it’s relevant, can captivate audiences, and draw them in. Keep in mind, though, that more moving parts and embeds on a page slow the load speed. Find a balance between including engagement features and providing a fast-loading, top-quality user experience and you won’t go wrong.
Advanced content optimization is all about maximizing your reach and rankings beyond the easy, surface fixes. The image choices you make for your content play a role in that. A long-term content experiment from Reboot in 2019 showed that using too many stock images could hurt your SEO. The study came with a disclaimer that results didn’t mean you should never use a stock image in your content. But, it did say that if your goal was to get your images and the content you used them in to rank higher in search, original media is better.
Unique images include photographs, infographics, charts, graphs, and custom illustrations. Anything you didn’t save from the internet or download from a stock website counts. Hiring a photographer and securing the time and resources to make custom images may not fit every brand’s budget, but if you’re looking for an extra SEO boost, it could be worth considering. Prioritize which content is most likely to benefit from original images, and optimize these for SEO. You might start with top-selling product pages or your most viewed articles.
Adding a comment section to your content can be a threefold strategy for SEO and content creation. First, comment sections are interactive. If you want people to spend more time on your site, giving them a place to talk to one another or your team can help. Second, when people leave comments, you learn more about what they think of your content and the questions they still have on a topic. Take what they tell you and run with it to create more vertical pieces and subclusters to attach to your pillar posts.
Anything posted in the comments sections of the site actually counts as brand content. Google crawls, indexes, and ranks any information audiences share there. Adding a comments section increases your chances of developing user-generated content that could help your rankings and increase organic traffic.
If you add a comment section to your site, be ready to monitor it regularly. Just like with any other content you create, information in the comments should be on-topic and provide answers and thought-provoking discussions. If your comments are full of spam and bad links, that can hurt your SEO. As long as you can commit to monitoring and curating your comments section, then it could be an asset to your content creation and optimization strategies.
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