2 billion blog posts are published every year. In case you’re wondering about the importance of content optimization, you have 2 billion reasons to do it now.
Speed read for the busy folks
Content optimization comes into the picture once you’ve completed your keyword research and finalized your target keyword phrase. There are two types of optimization:
It’s vital to ensure both for every single piece of content to have a successful strategy. This article refers to blog posts and webpages when it says content. It might not make sense for all the other kinds of content types.
Why is content optimization important?
Content optimization is important because it ensures search engines and users can understand your content easily. The benefits of content optimization are high quality, search engine-friendly content that is easy to use and easy to find. If you don’t optimize your content, no matter how good it may be, there will always be a barrier between what you intended and what Google (or other search engines) delivers to the user.
Between Big G’s (for the less hip, Big G stands for Google) constantly evolving algorithm and the sharp spike in content production, publishers are left with no choice but to create high-quality, optimized content. Learn how to create content that ranks with my guide to the SEO editing process.
Optimized content creation is a two-pronged approach.
- The first, and the most critical step, is optimizing your content for good user experience.
- The second step is technical SEO to make sure your content shows up in search results.
I’ve mapped them to two buckets for ease, but both complement and overlap each other.
Optimizing content for search engines (Google or Bing) involves a few technical aspects beyond keyword research.
Topic coverage and on-page SEO (search engine optimization)
This step aims to cover your topic in its entirety rather than focusing on a single keyword because it makes for a better user experience. When the end-user finds good content that satisfies their search intent, they will spend more time on your page. Once you establish yourself as a subject matter expert, this signals the search engines you have great content and improves your search result ranking. You can use tools like Marketmuse, Frase or Surfer SEO to make this step easier.
Selecting the right search terms is a critical step in your content marketing strategy. If you have a new website, then your potential customers won’t find you if you’re trying to rank for competitive terms that bigger brands are going after. It’s better to create an SEO strategy that aims to dominate long-tail keywords with low search volume and low competition.
You should also ensure that you’re using the focus keyword and the related terms to optimize your text. Important phrases occur naturally when you cover your topic in depth; if it doesn’t, get a little creative. Be careful with this step; you don’t want to overdo it and stuff random phrases everywhere. Use relevant terms where the natural flow of words allows it.
Use the focus phrase once in the page title tag, page URL, and the article’s first paragraph. The rest of the body copy should focus on satisfying the user’s intent of the search query. The meta description doesn’t directly help your ranking, but you can improve your click-through rate by enticing the searcher to click. So get creative with your meta description and give them a reason to click on your page. It goes without saying that your description and title should match the content.
Clickbait description and title tags might temporarily increase the click-through rate, but it can destroy your credibility in the long run. Imagine you see a Google search result that says “Top 10 workout clothes,” but when you navigate to the page, you find the title, and the page itself talks about the top travel destination. Would you be happy? That’s a terrible user experience, so the users bounce from your page and hop to the next search result, which tells the search engine you have low-quality content.
It’s also preferable to keep the title tag between 40 -60 characters overall.
The ideal meta description length is 110-230 characters.
Have your primary keyword in your URL and page title. Try to include secondary terms as headings and subheadings.
Use alt tags (alternative text) or image tags to describe an image’s appearance and function on a page. This is an important piece of web accessibility because alt text is used by screen readers to convey the context of images on a webpage. Try to be descriptive about your image rather than trying to use your target term on every image.
Alt text gives context about your images and helps in indexing them efficiently. You can read more about alt text and image optimization in this article.
Internal and external links
Hyperlinks referencing credible sources of information can boost your SEO performance. Don’t be hesitant to link out to other sources, even if it’s your competitor. Internal linking within your site will help you create authoritative content. You can read more about linking strategy in this guide by Ahref.
Most users browse the web using their mobile, so Google considers this an important SEO factor. Most modern themes are device responsive, but this should on your theme selection checklist. Google has a tool to check the mobile-friendliness of your site.
User experience optimization
Satisfy user intent
Google pays a lot of attention to see if the user is satisfied with the information provided on your page. While Google might not calculate the time spent on your webpage, the speed with which the user goes back to the SERPs (search engine results page) well shows your content quality. If Google notices many users bouncing from your page to the next (pogo-sticking), your content won’t rank — even if it’s keyword-rich — because it doesn’t satisfy the user intent.
The easiest way to identify search intent is to see what is already ranking in the SERPS. If your content matches what is already ranking, it shows content relevance from a search engine perspective. If all the top results are informational pages, it won’t be easy to rank a product page because it doesn’t have content relevance. Tools like Frase will help you identify user intent and create high-quality content matching the goal.
Structure and styling
If you’ve been creating content for a while, you’d know that most people skim your text. So you need to make your content skimmable. Below are the best practices that you can follow.
We live in an age where people have brief attention spans. Use a mix of quizzes, video content, and interactive media to make your content fun and to drive up user engagement.
Keep it short and snappy
Keep your sentences short and punchy. Your audience will most likely be a mix of people with varying education and even different first languages if you’re a global brand. Longer sentences usually mean more complex language.
Structure your content
Use headings and cross-headings, so your audience understands the logical structure and the story you’re trying to tell. Proper formatting also makes it easier for internet crawlers to understand your content. Use H1 for your page title. H2s for the most essential crossheads and H3-H6 for the remaining sub-points.
Break up your text
It’s hard to read an enormous block of text, no matter how good the content is. Break up the text and format it into smaller chunks, so it’s easily consumable. You can use quotes, bullets, images, graphs, and text formatting to break up your text and make it easy on the eyes.
Keep it simple
Some people use complex language to establish themselves as an expert. In most cases, this backfires, especially when you’re speaking to a general audience.
Avoid jargons and technical speak.
You can calculate your content readability using the Flesh reading ease formula:
206.835 – 1.015* (total words/total sentences) – 84.6* (total syllables/total words)
Keep it natural
Talk like you speak. People connect with people, not robots (unless it’s the movie HER). Quality content doesn’t mean formal or dull; in fact, it’s the opposite. Address the reader directly with ‘you’ or ‘yours,’ so your content has a direct impact on your target audience.
Proofread and fact check
Content riddled with typos or inaccurate stats can quickly lose its credibility, so proofread and fact-check your content. Don’t be afraid of the grammar fanatics; there is no harm if you start your sentences with ‘but’ and add a couple of exclamation points where needed.
The number one rule in content marketing is to be generous. Be strategically generous.
Make sure the sources you’re linking out to excellent and accurate information.
Outdated content will eventually drop from organic search because your bounce rate will be high. Create a system where you identify and make updates to your most important pieces of content.
You can always run through a checklist before publishing your content. Always write for actual people first and then for robots. Every successful content writer balances the two.