Below is a guide to making sure new content is optimized as well as optimizing existing content for SEO.
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For content marketing professionals, the primary goal of search engine optimization is to create branded content that will reach as many sets of eyeballs as possible. Ultimately, then, the point of optimizing online content is for your brand’s material to perform well when users—potential customers—are looking for information related to your product or service offerings.
SEO content optimization is the process of doing keyword research and then applying those insights to create targeted, branded content that will generate interest. The process of creating and optimizing content ideally will produce valuable prospective customer leads. When we talk about “content optimization,” we’re actually talking about optimizing content for search engines, not necessarily the humans initiating the searches.
While the main objective of content optimization is to make your content relevant and connect with human beings looking for information, content optimization actually works on a deeper, more technical level as well.
A number of compelling benefits come with content optimization. By catering to how search engines process and understand content, content optimization increases traffic from organic search—which steadily accounts for over half of web traffic. Not only do higher organic search rankings connect potential customers to your site, they also improve brand awareness, which helps build familiarity and trust with potential customers.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of where your website ranks in search engine results. The top 3 links in organic search results get 75% of all clicks. But would it surprise you to learn that over 90% of webpages receive no organic search traffic from Google at all?
With a foundation of effective keyword research, content marketers can set themselves up for success in implementing a comprehensive content optimization strategy.
The keys to content optimization—and getting the most ROI on your content efforts—are effective keyword research and the development of a targeted content strategy. Key facets of strategy include:
Content optimization starts with keyword research—so that’s where we’ll start our exploration of the keys to content optimization.
Effective keyword research provides the foundation for content optimization. Through the process of identifying commonly-searched keywords (including keyword phrases and questions), a brand gains a better understanding of their target audience (and what’s most important to them). They also develop an appreciation for the common questions related to your product or service offerings, and the competitive landscape—all of which help drive website traffic.
Keyword research takes a number of different forms, but it all comes down to understanding who your audience is and what topics matter to them.
You can start by simply experimenting with running some Google searches. Start typing a keyword idea (e.g., your brand name, or a specific product or service), making note of Google’s autocomplete suggestions—these are based on actual searches being run by real users. Following some of those suggestions, then, you can click on some of the “People Also Asked” snippets, and scroll through some of the top webpage results.
You can also use keyword generator tools. There are many, many keyword generator options available online—many of which are free, or have trial versions. Or, you can look to more sophisticated content marketing and attribution platforms like DemandJump (that’s us!), which also provides one-click content outlines and data-backed content strategies.
The next step is to narrow your keyword list to a manageable size. There are a few different ways to categorize keywords, and once you understand the types, you can make the right decisions about which keywords to include. An effective keyword strategy incorporates a mix of short-tail, mid-tail, and long-tail keywords, as well as an appropriate mix of intention-targeting keywords.
Keywords are categorized as either short-, long-, or mid-tail keywords, based on the keyword phrase’s length. Each of these keyword types has its uses:
Here’s a fun fact: Around 70% of search queries are asked with long-tail keywords.
Another area in which you need to achieve a balance in keyword types centers around searcher intent. When you understand not only what people are searching for, but why (and even when) they’re doing those searches, you can tailor the content accordingly (more on this in the Readability and Structure section, below).
Search intent is typically categorized into one of three buckets, indicative of where the searcher is within the potential decision/buying process. These are informational, navigational, and commercial or transactional.
Once you have the right keywords selected, it’s time to put them to use! By strategically incorporating keywords in your content (not just in the main body text, but also in headers and titles, meta descriptions, and more), you can start rising up in the search results.
Before you start loading up your text with keywords, pump the brakes. There is such a thing as too many keywords, and search engines are smart enough to tell when content is guilty of “keyword stuffing.” It also just makes your content read like spam—far from a credible authority. Use keywords both strategically and naturally. In other words, incorporate them without disrupting the general tone and flow of the writing.
When someone searches for a particular word or phrase in a search engine, the headline is the main/first thing they’ll see—and it’s what they’ll click on if they believe the content will be relevant (based on your headline). The headline may or may not match the webpage’s title.
The meta description, then, is the snippet or blurb of smaller text beneath the heading. Meta descriptions are generally best if they’re only a sentence or two long—while they can be longer, they’ll be automatically truncated at around 160 characters (shorter for mobile).
This may surprise you, but the content of your site’s URL also contributes to content optimization. Relatively simple, orderly-looking URLs are best, generally—using words, separated by dashes or underscores, for example, as opposed to random-seeming, spammy-looking gobbledygook.
Alright, so you’ve done keyword research and assembled a great list of keywords. You’ve done the right things with regard to the page’s headline, meta description, and URL. What does that mean for your content? It means it’s now smack-dab in front of your audience. This is where the importance of good content becomes apparent.
Once they start reading, will they like what they’re finding? Will the page be what they expected? Will it provide the information they were looking for? Is it easy to understand?
By applying a few principles of readability and structure to your content, you can help to ensure that your audience finds exactly what they’re looking for.
If your content isn’t structured well, it’s likely to turn readers away. No one wants to read an uninterrupted wall of text—it’s an awful reading experience, and it can be difficult to suss out the pertinent information within the text wall. Remember, most web searchers are looking for specific information, so you don’t want to make that information like a needle in a haystack. Keys to a good reading experience include:
Using headings and subheadings that are clear, descriptive, and well-organized helps indicate both to search engines and human readers that your content is credible and well-organized.
For readers, headings make content much easier to read and digest. In the case of searchers who are after very specific information, clear and descriptive headings make your content much easier to skim for that info.
It used to be that including keywords in headings was a reliable method for moving up in the search rankings. That’s less the case now, however, as—like with many strategies and best practices—once more and more brands loaded their headings with keywords, it became a less reliable way to impact your ranking. It’s great if you can use keywords in your headers, sure, but only if they make sense. The more important consideration is making information readable and well-organized.
Including images within your content can also help improve readability, by breaking up the text and potentially illustrating or reinforcing key ideas. When visual content is especially effective, it can lead to greater circulation for your content, as readers might share particularly useful visuals—infographics, for example—with colleagues and/or social media.
Including visual elements also provides additional opportunities for content optimization through image names and alt tags.
Even though visitors to your page won’t see the file name associated with the image, giving the file a descriptive name communicates valuable information about what the image depicts.
While it may sound illogical at first, you can actually reap additional SEO benefits from the images you include in the content. This is done by attaching descriptive text to an image. Sometimes called “alt text” or “alt tags”, visitors to your page won’t see the actual text. When you assign alt text to an image, you’re basically trying to tell Google exactly what the image depicts. In some cases—like if a searcher is blind, for example —the alt text is what would be said by accessibility tools in place of their viewing embedded image.
Another crucial piece to the larger “content optimization strategy” puzzle is linking. There are a number of different aspects of linking and interlinking that can be helpful as part of a content strategy. A few of the most common are authority links, internal links, and pillar or topic links.
From keyword research to one-click outlines and pillar strategy, DemandJump provides a one-stop shop for content marketers looking to enhance their content marketing strategy with data-backed insights and recommendations.
Get started optimizing your content today with DemandJump!