What good is captivating content if it can’t be found? Getting your content found by Google and, more importantly, by your audience, is why content optimization must be an essential component in your marketing strategy.
Google has stated that 'high quality content' is one of its top three ranking factors for organic search, but what makes content good from an SEO perspective? Sorry to say, but Google has not been more specific for what it considers to be “high-quality content.”
Before we get to Content Optimization, let’s review.
The basic factors that go into on-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Alt tags
- URL structures
- Media (images, videos)
- H1 tags
- Internal and outbound links
Content Optimization is IN ADDITION to on-page SEO. The content – i.e., blogs, images, videos – on your web pages must be optimized too
When you optimize content, you provide essential information that search engines will use to determine what your content — and your business — is all about. Search engines rank optimized content higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) than content that hasn’t been optimized.
Optimizing Content Doesn't Have to be Difficult
1.) Write Great Content.
Since you know your business better than anyone, writing content that describes your products and services should come naturally.
Your content should be written so that
- it is clear so your readers can relate to it
- it is written for your website
- it is relevant to your business
- it helps readers solve a problem, i.e., it’s practical
- it is error free and grammatically correct
- it answers audience questions, i.e., it’s educational.
If your content doesn’t help your intended audience solve a problem or better understand your products and services and how it relates to them, then it’s not optimized.
2.) Provide New Content Frequently.
You have to post fresh content frequently. It can be tricky to find the right balance in terms of how often is “often”. Is one blog post a week enough? Is three blog posts a week too many?
If you publish too infrequently, your readers might not come back. If you publish too often, they might get overwhelmed.
There is no right or wrong answer, but the point is that content optimization isn’t just about what’s being published, but how often it’s published. Google loves fresh content, and your readers will, too. Just not too much of it.
3.) Write for People, Not Search Engines.
People don’t read anymore; they scan. Since smartphones came along, the average attention span of humans has been getting progressively shorter.
Armed with this info, your content should be able to be scanned quickly. Use headings and sub-headings, short paragraphs, callouts, bold text, bullet points, numbered lists and quotes to make text easy to quickly scan.
Don’t link to every other word. Write for people, not bots.
4.) Don’t “Stuff” Keywords.
Keywords are important, and they should be included in your content. But keyword stuffing is a no-no. To get keywords in, you can use all its variations, especially synonyms.
Graphic from Intechnic.com
5.) Create Trust.
You can establish trust with users and search engines by citing and linking to authoritative websites. Not only is this practice good technique, it’s also good SEO —outbound links show that you know what you’re doing.
Not to over-simplify, but essentially you can get and earn links to your content if they are 10x better than what your competitors are offering.
In what other ways can content be optimized? A great many, as it happens.
Optimize the Text
By adding a few content optimization devices -- title tags, H1 tags, meta descriptions and URLs – you can effectively get your content noticed by search engines.
Page Title Tags
Title tags continue to be an important ranking factor in Google, and when you make your title descriptive, your readers might be enticed to click through to your website.
The title tag is used to tell your audience what the page is about in just a few words.
In our example below, we searched for “content optimization.” The first line in blue is the title tag. This is a clickable link to the article. The title tag also appears at the top of the browser when the page is viewed.
Your primary keyword should be included in your title, and it should be placed close to the beginning of the title.
The H1 is an HTML tag that’s an important element of a page because it can work toward improving your search rankings.
The H1 tag will be similar to your title tag and should reflect the main purpose of your article. It gives the reader a good idea of what he or she is going to read.
Whenever you write a piece of content, you want to be asking the question: “what does the user want when they open my article? What is their intent?” Your H1 should satisfy that intent.
The meta description presents a synopsis of what your audience will find when they click thru to your content. The meta description appears beneath the blue clickable links in a SERP.
In our example of optimized copy above, the Meta Description begins with the date and includes two lines of text. Also notice that Google bolded the words “content optimization” because that’s the term we searched for.
In the examples below, we searched for “Burgers in Lancaster PA.” The un-optimized example we found was on page 6 of the SERPs. The optimized example appeared on page one.
Example of un-optimized meta description
Example of optimized meta description
Notice how the optimized meta description makes you want to click, as opposed to the non-optimized one above it. It also makes you want to go get a yummy Texas Burger!
Here’s another example of a piece of content that's been optimized very well. Notice how many different variations of their primary keyword – SEO -- they worked into this description. Synonyms and variations are acceptable uses of the primary keyword.
An optimized URL gives search engines a description of your content. So, in addition to optimizing the tags in your articles, your URL structure should be optimized, too. It also should contain keyword(s) that is/are relevant to your content.
Here’s an example of an optimized URL that appeared when we searched for “How to optimize URL.” Notice how they worked “URL” into their URL. Also - you use hyphens or dashes between words when optimizing the URL.
Just as you optimize your text, so you should optimize the images in your content. Did you ever do a search on Google images? Those photos appear because they are optimized for search.
Here’s how to do it.
Filename. Don’t use the default file name from your camera. Change it to something that relates to the image and the content of your article to allow the search engines to better understand the image and how it relates to the surrounding text. Be sure to include a keyword.
Example Not Optimized: 23494935886_d18fc78d8e_z.jpg
Example Optimized: traditional_white_painted_kitchen_cabinets.jpg
Alt tags. When you hover over an image with your mouse and see a tan box appear with text describing the image, that’s the Alt Tag. These tags improve the user experience, making it easier for people to see what’s in a picture. If you shop on Amazon, you are very familiar Alt tags. We were shopping for a man's bathrobe and the alt tag description on one available robe read: “Comfy Robes Personalized Men’s Deluxe 20 oz. Turkish Cotton Hooded Bathrobe L/XL Navy.” That pretty much tells the whole story.
The Alt tag text also appears if, for some reason, the photo cannot be displayed.
Optimizing Videos. Videos should be optimized, just as you did for your photos and other images, as search engines use those tags to understand video content and context.
It’s easier than ever for anyone -- and we do mean ANYONE -- to produce video content. They don’t necessarily need to be professionally produced to be successful, they just need to be interesting, enjoyable and/or useful.
Here’s how to optimize:
Video Titles. Your video title should contain relevant keywords but should also appeal to your audience’s interests. Make it catchy.
Video Description. Clearly say what the video is about, and let viewers know what they will see by watching.
Like your title, the description should include keywords, but it should be written in a way that appeals to your audience, not just to search engines.
YouTube and Vimeo provide embed codes that you can paste into your website’s HTML so visitors can watch videos right on your page, rather than having to visit the video site.
Miscellaneous Content Optimization Considerations
Content must load quickly – in three seconds or less. It’s typically images and other media files that slow things down, so make sure everything is sized properly. Google has placed a significant amount of weight in speed as a ranking signal. They want everything to be fast, particularly for mobile users.
Which leads us to: Your content must display well and work correctly on mobile devices. Most people are doing this properly, but make sure forms and C-T-As are live links that can be tapped on and that images are center-aligned.
Optimization can be simple, especially when it’s done regularly and becomes second nature. Plus, it’s essential to your business success. By spending a little time optimizing whenever you publish a page, you will see better search results.
Sources used in this article and for further reading
Content Marketing Institute: Guide To Content Optimization
Search Engine Land: Complete Guide to Optimizing Content
Kaiser The Sage: Content Optimization Tips
Intechnic.com: Easy Tips to Optimize Your Content