Google currently uses over 200 ranking factors to determine what appears at the top of the search results page. When you optimize content, you give your blog posts and articles a better chance of ranking at the top of search engines.
The following guide teaches you how to optimize content for SEO in 10 simple steps. By using these content optimization techniques, you can improve the ranking of your most valuable target keywords and drive more traffic to your site.
What is Content Optimization?
Content optimization, also known as search engine optimization (SEO), is the process of writing and editing your content to increase its online presence and visibility. By creating optimized, high-quality content, you can increase your search engine rankings and drive more organic traffic to your site.
Optimization is a core aspect of any SEO strategy. However, with constant changes and algorithm updates, it's difficult to determine the best method for optimizing content for search engines.
<div class="tip">Need help with your SEO strategy? Our SEO content briefs are the perfect guide for writing better, well-optimized content for both your readers and search engines.</div>
How to Optimize Content for SEO in 10 Steps
Optimizing content requires attention to many small details. By creating amazing content and following these steps, you can dominate the search engines and reach your content marketing goals.
1. Identify Your Audience Persona
The most important thing to do when creating any piece of content is to keep your audience in mind. When it comes to content creation, your goal is to provide value to the reader. Give them the information they need in an easily readable and digestible manner. Always prioritize creating content for people, not algorithms.
Well-optimized content should:
- Appeal to your brand's target audience: Your content should always be written and structured in a way your target audience likes. The exact structure and content will look different for a leisure brand targeting college students than a B2B brand targeting large enterprises.
- Be easily scannable: People should be able to quickly find what they're looking for. Avoid fluff, be concise, and provide more information should the reader need it.
- Match user intent: Most importantly, the content you write needs to answer users' questions. You can determine search intent by examining top-ranking pages for your target keyword. Examine other features in SERP such as "People also ask" and "Related searches"
2. Perform Keyword Research
Once, you've pinpointed your target audience, it's time to identify your primary keywords. Keywords are how your website ranks on search engines. You can determine the effectiveness of your optimization by how well your article or blog post ranks for its target keyword.
Some things to keep in mind when optimizing content for a keyword include:
- Use your target keyword naturally: An old SEO myth is that the more you use your keyword in the post, the higher likelihood it ranks. That's not the case. Always avoid keyword stuffing. Instead, use your primary keyword strategically, such as in your title tags, meta description, alt text, and subheadings.
- Include long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords are longer keywords that typically have a lower search volume. These keywords are easier to rank for and oftentimes have much more specific traffic.
- Be patient for competitive keywords: It can take several months for a well-optimized post to rank for a competitive keyword. Tools such as Ahrefs can give you an idea of how difficult it is to rank for a keyword. Improved rankings don't happen in a single day. Give it time, check your content's status periodically, and adjust based on the results.
3. Create Compelling Pieces of Content
Once you've determined your primary keywords, start writing. The key to well-written content is to write for both SEO rankings and audience engagement. Create posts that encourage social shares and backlinks from websites with high authority.
If you don't have time to write the content yourself, consider hiring a professional content or blog writing service. These are businesses that create content for your site at a steady pace.
Check out our list of the best content writing services for your business. Find the best service for creating compelling consistently.
4. Write an Engaging Title
The post title is one of the first places search engines and people alike check to decide if the content is relevant to their interests. Putting your primary keyword in the title is critical to winning attention. However, you also need to structure your title so it's interesting beyond that keyword.
There are several engaging title structures you can consider based on your keyword:
- Numbered titles: "Top 10 Reasons Why You Need a New Laptop," "7 Great Products for Dry Skin"
- "Guide to" titles: "The Simple Guide to Varnishing Furniture," "How to Get a New Phone Number"
- "Best of" titles: "The Best Way to Write Your Resume," "The Best Headphones of 2022"
- Comparison titles: "Apple Mac Books vs. HP Laptops: Which Is Better?," "Biking vs. Running: Health Benefits of Exercise"
- Question titles: "Is It Safe to Eat Raw Cookie Dough?," "Can You Improve Your Credit Score Without Credit Cards?"
- Benefit titles: "The Benefits of Egg Whites for Your Health," "Why Coffee Is Good for You"
These title structures attract attention while making it easy to include keywords.
5. Structure Headers Appropriately
Your title isn't the only important header in your text. Search engines also look at everything else tagged as a header before looking at the body of the text. Headers are the perfect place to include secondary and long-tail keywords that you want to have in a piece.
You'll have plenty of opportunities, too. Use headers frequently to break up long content and make it easier to skim. Try to use a header every 100 to 300 words. Start with H2 headers, then break up long sections with H3 and H4 headers. Make sure that you structure these headers with the appropriate HTML tags so they're read correctly by search engine crawlers.
6. Include Useful External Links
Links are helpful to your visitors and attractive to search engines — as long as your links go to valuable and authoritative websites. Search engines prioritize content that links to authoritative articles under the assumption that the content is more likely to be accurate and well-researched.
Links are helpful and should be used when providing statistics or other forms of concrete information to the user. Provide links from high-authority websites that readers can trust. Search engines prioritize content that links to authoritative content.
7. Add Images Thoughtfully
Image optimization is an often overlooked aspect of SEO. By optimizing your image tags, you increase the chance of ranking for both image and organic search.
A study done by marketing firm BuzzSumo found that content shared on Facebook with a picture saw 2.3x higher engagement, and articles with more photos received double the social media shares of those without. Images also allow you to include additional keywords through the picture's alt text, improving your SEO.
8. Optimize the Meta Description
A meta description is a short blurb visible on a search engine result page describing what the linked content is about. Search engines will look for the best excerpt from your page to give the reader an accurate understanding. However, search engines aren't always successful. You can provide them with something specific to display by adding a meta description to your content.
A good meta description should be fewer than 160 characters. It should also include your primary keyword and give a brief but engaging summary of the article. You can add meta descriptions to your content by using SEO plugins on your publishing platform. For instance, WordPress sites can use the Yoast SEO plugin to neatly add meta descriptions to pages and blog posts.
9. Make Your Content Authoritative
Before hitting "publish," think about how authoritative your content appears. How can people trust that the information you're posting is accurate? The best way to reinforce your authority outside of linking to authoritative sites is to include an author's name and biography on each post.
Include titles like "Doctor" or any academic titles if they're available. These titles demonstrate that they are indeed an expert in their field. Include the author's experience in the industry — phrases like "10 years of experience in" are helpful. Provide dofollow links in the bio to the author's other work, portfolio, or homepage to demonstrate their credibility to search engines and readers alike.
9. Improve Your Core Web Vitals
One of the more recent ranking factors for content optimization is core web vitals. Google now evaluates the responsiveness and page speed of your site when determining your rankings. Optimize your website and increase its page speed to improve the ranking of your page.
Some things you can do to improve your page speed include:
- Optimize and compress your images
- Host your website through a faster service
- Leverage page caching
The Best Content Optimization Tools for Your Content
A content optimization tool is vital for content creators who want to rank. These tools help with identifying keywords, optimization issues, broken links, and more. By making use of these tools, you can improve your content even further.
- Ahrefs Webmaster Tools: This is a free toolset that scans your site for optimization issues and suggests improvements.
- Browseo: A free web browsing app highlights page elements important to SEO, letting you view your site as search engines do.
- ContentKing: A paid real-time SEO monitoring solution tracks how well your content performs over time and alerts you if it's starting to rank poorly.
- Google Analytics: Google's powerful free analytics platform lets you track how your content is performing and where your traffic is coming from.
- PageSpeed Insights: This Google-powered tool checks how quickly web pages load and gives suggestions on improving page speeds.
- Google Search Console: This is another Google tool that lets you check and improve how well your site is performing on Google searches specifically.
- Grammarly: This grammar checker scans your writing to fix mistakes and offers suggestions that make the text more interesting to read. It offers paid and free service tiers.
- MarketMuse: This AI-based content planning and optimization software does your keyword and SEO research for you and checks your work to make sure it matches up.
- PrePostSEO's Readability Score Checker: This tool scans your content to see how hard it is to read and suggests ways to make it more approachable.
- SEO Review Tools: A free SEO writing tool suite lets you check everything from keyword density to backlinks through different widgets.
- Soovle: A free keyword research tool checks major search engines to suggest related terms you can target alongside your main keywords.
- Yoast SEO: This WordPress plugin scans pages and posts for technical SEO problems and gives you the tools to improve them, from adding keywords to altering meta descriptions.
Start Your Content Optimization Strategy Today
Content optimization takes attention to detail, but that's no reason to put it off. You can begin optimizing your content today by following the checklist above and using tools that create proven results. Taking the time to make your content stand out will pay dividends sooner than you'd think. If you're looking for an extra hand in optimizing your site, contact the content specialists at Compose.ly to produce optimized content for your brand today.