Content optimization is a strategy marketers use to ensure new and existing content performs at its best. Marketing teams use optimization during content creation to help pieces get as much reach and notice as quickly as possible after publication. Optimizing existing content can help you achieve goals, like increasing readership or improving search engine positioning. Optimization also keeps both old and new content in line with the search engine’s best practices. Today, we’re looking at 12 steps to do basic content optimization for SEO.
Are you already a content optimization expert? Check out our article on optimizing your pieces for SEO for the pros.
Use these strategies to improve your creation and review process to help your pieces rise through the SERP rankings to page one:
Picking the right topics and seed keywords for your article is the first step in optimization. Doing that comes during the planning phases before you ever write or edit a word. The bigger the topic, the better. As long as it’s relative to your industry and the products and services your brand offers. Broader topics allow you to create more pieces that share the same theme.
Working within these topic clusters is great for SEO because it meets the expectations of Google’s 2015 RankBrain algorithm update. This development targets not just what people search for online, but why they do it. Topic organization structure makes it easier for search engines and readers to understand the relationships among each piece. This helps all your content rank better with RankBrain.
Keywords are the individual search terms people use to find content online. Topics help bridge the relationship gap between them. In SEO, the experts call this concept semantics. Semantic search matters to SEO because of the RankBrain update, too. Google and other search engines no longer just look to match exact keywords from a search. They look to match content with related keywords as well.
For example, someone that searches the term “podcast tools” may want to find a variety of things. They may want information on microphones, software, or even how-to content to get started in podcasting. Because of RankBrain, Google knows to pull content for semantically related keywords like “recording equipment” or “audio software” and let those results appear in context with the original search term.
When you use more semantic keywords within your content, rather than overusing the target keyword, your pages provide more context on the topic. This allows them to perform better on search engine results pages (SERPs), when Google understands the relationship between your piece and what searchers want to find.
Think about the last time you searched for something online. Did you use a single word, or did you ask a question? According to a 2017 study from Moz, about 8% of searches are questions. Though there hasn’t been a new study since, we can assume that the number is higher today thanks to the use of AI tools and voice search options.
If you’re not targeting these questions people ask in their searches, you’re missing enormous opportunities to provide answers with your content. Especially now that Google caught on, and it tries to answer questions for searchers so they don’t even have to click a link to get the information they really want.
Instead of putting all your hopes and dreams into your seed keywords, start focusing on the long-tail questions. If you aren’t sure what questions people have that relate to your topic, search for the seed keyword online. Then use the “People also ask” snippet to explore related queries for that topic. You can also use a tool like Ahrefs, which provides similar results based on more in-depth data.
Back in the day, the algorithms and science behind search engines were more basic. They counted the number of times a keyword appeared on a page and the ones with the biggest number ranked highest for related queries. That glitch led the way for a practice called keyword stuffing. Web designers and content writers shove their desired keywords everywhere on a page or within an article to get the highest count. This process no longer works, and those caught doing it can see penalties from Google.
That’s why you need to make sure you don’t intentionally or accidentally engage in keyword stuffing in your content. Do that by monitoring the keyword density on your pages or within your pieces. Find a balance between mentioning your keywords and topics enough for search engines to understand the context, but not so much that they show up every other word. Using SEO tools like the Yoast plugin for WordPress help track your keyword density throughout the content. The tools tell you if you’re using your focus keywords too often or not enough.
Related: The 20 Best SEO Tools
One of the fastest ways to self-sabotage your content strategy is to cannibalize your own pieces. This happens when you optimize multiple pages or content pieces on your domain for the same keyword. When you do that, you’re making more competition for yourself. This confuses search engines because they’re not sure which of your pieces really covers those keywords. When search engines get confused, your rankings, traffic, and ultimately your sales and conversions take a hit.
Make sure you’re optimizing all your content around one unique keyword within a topic. That doesn’t mean you’ll never use similar or related keywords within pieces that overlap. But those aren’t the primary focus of the article. Google and other search engines are now smart enough to figure out your main topic vs. your subtopics and sort the information accordingly.
Just like you don’t want to cannibalize your own content, you don’t want to duplicate information that already exists and ranks at the top of SERPs either. This can be a huge pitfall in content creation. Many brands think to stay in the conversation with competitors, they have to follow the same formats and provide the same information to rank for keywords. But that doesn’t work if your pieces are cookie-cutter copies of the competition.
If there’s nothing new or unique about your content, your audience won’t want to click on it over something else. Lack of originality could be one of the top reasons you’re not seeing the results and rankings you expect from your pieces. Here’s how to figure out the right angle for every piece to make it more clickable:
Competitor research can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. For a quick review of the current actions competitors are taking, search for target topics and keywords and review what’s ranking. Think about how you’re sharing what readers want to know and elevating basic knowledge to present information in a new way.
The team at CopyPress has a tool for doing content and competitive analysis that uncovers content gaps that tell you about the topics your content doesn’t cover. Get insights into your competitors’ content and plan your SEO optimization strategies around the topics your target audience wants to see.
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Looking into what your customers have to say about your products and services can help creative teams find the right angle for every piece of content. Dig into reviews and comments of competitor websites and look for clues into what audiences are saying. What does the audience still want to know? What questions do they ask that your rivals didn’t answer? Are there any unsolved pain points? These insights are opportunities that your team can use to guide content development and basic SEO optimization.
If your brand has a large social media presence, be sure you’re looking at comments, reviews, and ratings to understand how audiences perceive your business. Customer service transcripts from sales and outreach teams are also valuable places to find customer insights.
While you do most SEO to please search engines, those same entities try to please their searchers. Making your readers happy means making Google happy, which ultimately improves your SEO. Aside from providing valuable content and information, the best way to make your audience happy is to give them an exceptional user experience. And keep it consistent so readers get the same quality experience every time they engage with your content.
So establish a consistent format for writers to follow when creating content. You might want to define the structures for written content versus graphic or video content and use these structures when optimizing older content on your site. For basic SEO in written content, several text elements are essential to SEO- and user-friendly content:
Half the battle of getting people to view your content and then find it valuable is to get them to click on it. Your article could be the best resource out there on the topic. But if the title and meta description don’t make people want to click, they’ll never know, and neither will Google. These behaviors hurt your ranking potential and lower your organic traffic.
In your SEO optimization, look at your titles and meta descriptions. Are these boring? Vague? Do these tell audiences what the content is all about? If not, here are a few ways to revise these elements for more engagement:
Create a strategy for both internal and external links in your optimizations if you don’t already have one. With internal linking, content relevance and authority pass between pages, encouraging search engines to crawl and index your site more easily. As teams optimize older content, review internal links for topic relevancy, quality, and value to the reader. Linking just to link doesn’t help your SEO and can actually harm your optimization efforts.
External links can give readers more context on content topics, too. They prove to search engines your brand’s content is as valuable and authoritative on similar topics as expert sources. You’re also giving readers more value with external links to resources that your brand either can’t provide or doesn’t provide in its products and services.
Your content is more than just words on the page. And readers typically get bored as heck with just text. So when you approach basic SEO optimization, make sure you’re including a healthy combo of text and visual design elements. Think about it this way: have you ever read an article that was an abominable wall of text? How long did that hold your interest?
Yeah, even digital and content marketers don’t want to wrestle with too much text. In fact, studies show that sharing an image every 75 to 100 words doubles the number of shares an article gets compared to pieces with fewer visuals. These pieces also get more shares than content with more images. That’s why you’ll see content marketers slip cool infographics into their written pieces, like this:
Image via Local SEO Search Inc.
There are more visuals than just static images. Semrush found that articles with at least one video attract 83% more traffic than those without. The same report found that content with three or more videos earns about 55% more backlinks than pieces without. Stock photography, infographics, custom illustrations, video clips, and screenshots are all helpful visuals to add to your content.
Just remember that the more media you use, the slower your content load times can become. User experience is always the key to success, so if you see that adding too much media negatively affects page speed, jump on this in your optimization with fewer visuals or back-end adjustments with the dev team.
Speaking of technical aspects, page speed isn’t the only factor to consider for off-page SEO. We’ve talked extensively about on-page SEO so far in this guide. But that technique only takes you so far to help your rankings. You also have to consider the facts you can’t see that take place behind the scenes in links, code, and metadata. Here are a few quick and easy technical SEO tricks to look out for when conducting content optimization:
It’s best practice to optimize right from the get-go to give content time to start ranking. But what counts as “optimized content” changes over time. For this reason, it’s crucial to review previously published content frequently and make updates when necessary.
Take every time Google releases an algorithm or core update, for example. When this goes down, SEO rules change, even in subtle ways. When you have a plan to review old content, you can adjust for these changes to keep content relevant and in top SERPs. Your brand can even boost rankings with optimizations to older content. Plus, recent updates can result in more organic traffic, as audiences are more likely to follow links to current insights rather than outdated sources.
CopyPress understands the impact SEO has on your content and your conversions and sales. That’s why we build optimization best practices right into the content creation process. Our strategists put in the work to find the right topics to push you ahead of the competition. Then, our creatives help you develop and scale engaging, valuable pieces that help your clients boost rankings and increase traffic. Schedule your free introductory call with our team to discuss your goals and how the CopyPress content creation method works for your brand.
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