How to Optimize Content for SEO

Writer:
Brianna Anderson
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Published: Apr 11, 2024
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Google currently uses over 200 ranking factors to determine what appears at the top of the search results page. When you improve your content with search engine optimization (SEO), you give your blog posts and articles a better chance of ranking at the top of search engines. That visibility expands your reach and makes it easier to connect with your target audience.

You can optimize content for SEO in 12 simple steps. These content optimization techniques can improve the ranking of your most valuable target keywords and drive more organic traffic to your site.

What Is Content Optimization?

Content optimization is the process of writing, structuring, and editing content to improve its online presence and visibility. This approach aims to increase the content’s search engine ranking so it reaches a larger audience.

Search engines consider many factors when ranking web content, including:

  • Presence of keywords relevant to the user’s search query
  • Quality of the content
  • When the content was published or updated
  • Trustworthiness
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Loading time
  • Internal and external links pointing to the web page

Creators use a broad range of strategies to optimize their content and check off as many of these criteria as possible. For example, they can improve trustworthiness by citing reputable sources. They can also structure the content with headings and lists to make it easier to read on mobile devices.

If you optimize your content effectively, it’s more likely to appear in the top-ranking pages of search engine results. That means users will discover it and engage with it more frequently.

Search engines want to give users the freshest, most relevant, and reputable content. They frequently update the algorithms—or formulas—they use to rank content to provide the best search results. You’ll need to stay up-to-date with the latest ranking criteria to optimize your content effectively. 

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.

Why Optimize Content for SEO?

SEO content optimization is one of the most effective ways to increase the impact and value of your content. This strategy has many benefits for digital marketers and businesses.

According to some studies on SEO, most internet users depend on search engines to find new content, so they’re unlikely to stumble across your website randomly. They also tend to click the top search results and rarely scroll past the first page. After all, no one wants to waste time digging through dozens of search results if the top one has the information they need.

Content optimization increases the chances that your content will appear near the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). High-ranking content drives more organic traffic and gets more engagement from users. It also has a higher return on investment, because you aren’t wasting resources on content that few people see.

An optimization strategy also improves the user experience. Your audience gets more value from your content when it’s accessible, high-quality, and relevant. Optimized content also has a clear structure and organization that's easy to navigate. All this helps users feel more satisfied with their experience, and they may be more eager to buy your products or services.

Finally, content creation for SEO enhances brand awareness. Your target audience becomes more familiar with your brand as they repeatedly encounter it near the top of their SERPs. This visibility improves long-term brand recognition and helps you stand out from competitors. Users will also perceive your brand as more credible and authoritative, helping you grow a loyal following.

12 Tips To Make Your Content SEO-Friendly

Content optimization can seem intimidating even to experienced marketers. You may worry that you’ll need to use expensive tools or spend hours rewriting all your content. Or maybe you’re afraid your optimized content will sound robotic and inauthentic.

Don’t worry. Anyone can create quality content for SEO with the right knowledge, attention to detail, and practice. Follow these simple tips to improve your content’s search engine optimization performance.

1. Understand Your Target Audience

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 for 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 SERP features, such as People Also Ask and Related Searches.

Conducting thorough research will help you understand your audience’s interests and needs. Start by using Google Analytics, Instagram Insights, and other tools to gather data about your audience. These tools can provide valuable insights into user demographics, browsing behavior, and purchasing habits.

This data will allow you to identify the types of queries your audience might input on search engines. Say your brand sells custom art for pet owners, and you learn that most of your audience owns dogs. You might predict that your audience will search for terms like “custom dog paintings,” “senior dog portraits,” and “how much is a personalized dog painting.” You can optimize your content to target these phrases and other relevant keywords.

You can also use focus groups and surveys to learn more about your existing customers' interests or how they discovered your brand. Use this feedback to tailor your optimization strategy.

2. Perform Keyword Research

Once you've pinpointed your target audience, you'll move on to keyword research 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.

There are four categories of keywords based on the search intent:

  • Informational: The user is gathering information about a specific topic. These queries are often phrased as questions. For example, the searcher could ask, “What is urban camping?” or “What’s the difference between white beans and black beans?”
  • Navigational: The searcher already knows the company and wants to locate a specific web page. They may search for something like “Netflix login” or “Walmart pickup.”
  • Commercial: The user is researching products or services they plan to purchase. Potential searches include “best vacuums” and “laptop reviews.”
  • Transactional: The searcher has a strong intention to make a purchase or perform a specific action. For example, they could search for “subscribe to Hulu” or “order grocery delivery.”

Look at the SERPs for your target keywords to understand the search intent. If you Google “dog toys,” the top results include websites that sell dog toys. However, the People Also Ask box includes questions like “What toy do dogs like the most?” and “What toys make dogs happy?” These results show that people may have a commercial or informational intent when searching for this keyword.

Screenshot of Google Search results for dog toys
A screenshot of the Google SERP for "dog toys." Source: Google.

Create different types of content for each keyword based on the search intent. For example, you can create how-to guides and listicles for informational keywords and design landing pages and product guides for navigational keywords. This approach allows you to create an entity around each target keyword.

You could also write a blog post about the best durable dog toys and develop a landing page for your company’s dog toys. Include related keywords related to the FAQs, such as “toughest dog toy” and “toys dogs like.” This strategy will improve your visibility and establish your authority on the topic.

Don't forget to consider keyword difficulty. Some keywords get a high search volume but have a high level of competition, so it’s more difficult to create top-ranking content. Targeting less competitive keywords can help you achieve higher rankings and target users searching for more niche topics. Keyword research tools provide insight into keyword difficulty and suggest secondary keywords.

Domain authority also affects keyword ranking by influencing the likelihood that a website will rank on SERPs. There are many ways to increase domain authority, including creating high-quality content and getting backlinks from credible sites. Use Moz’s Free Domain Authority Checker to see how your website scores.

Here are three more best practices for optimizing content for a keyword:

  • Use your target keyword naturally: An old SEO myth is that the more you use your keyword in the post, the higher the likelihood it ranks. That's not the case. Always avoid keyword stuffing. 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 often 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. 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 Content That Satisfies E-E-A-T

Google assesses the quality of content based on E-E-A-T, which stands for:

  • Experience: Does the content reflect the creator’s personal experience?
  • Expertise: Does the creator have relevant credentials and knowledge?
  • Authoritativeness: Does the creator and website have a good reputation?
  • Trustworthiness: Is the content factually accurate and evidence-based?

There are many ways to create content with strong E-E-A-T. Focus on content in your niche and incorporate your personal experiences. You may also hire thought leaders to contribute content in their areas of expertise. Include author bios and reference credible sources.

4. 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 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 you structure these headers with the appropriate HTML tags so they're read correctly by search engine crawlers.

Again, avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. Using the same keywords repeatedly decreases the quality of your content and may lower your ranking.

5. Apply Best Practices for Internal Linking

An internal link connects one page of your website to another. It helps you create quality content for SEO by improving the user experience and allowing search engine crawlers to understand your website’s structure.

Follow these best practices for effective internal linking:

  • Add hyperlinks to relevant anchor text so users understand the page’s context.
  • Create pillar pages about a central topic you can create a cluster of content around.
  • Focus on quality over quantity to avoid spamming the reader.

6. Add Compelling Images and Videos

Images and videos make your content more engaging and encourage readers to spend more time on your website. Always use high-quality media that reflects your brand’s personality and values. For example, if you prioritize diversity, your multimedia should include people from different backgrounds.

Optimize your images and videos with descriptive alt text, captions, and transcripts. Writing alt tags improves accessibility for users with hearing and visual impairments. These tags also help search engines understand the context of your images and videos.

7. Optimize Your Meta Tags

A meta description is a short blurb visible on a search engine result page describing what the linked content is about. Search engines will display your meta description to inform readers about your page’s 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 with 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.

Remember to include a compelling meta title of 60 characters or less that describes your content. Search engines will display this title in the SERPs.

8. 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. Optimize your website and increase its page speed to improve your ranking.

Some things you can do to improve your core web vitals include:

  • Optimizing and compressing your images
  • Minifying JavaScript and CSS files with plugins
  • Allowing browser caching
  • Hosting your website through a faster service
  • Leveraging page caching
  • Using a mobile-friendly design
  • Regularly monitoring your website’s performance with PageSpeed Insights and other tools

9. Include Structured Data

Every web page contains invisible, behind-the-scenes code that search engine crawlers use to interpret your content. Structured data allows you to context so search engines can rank your content more effectively. This data consists of embedded HTML tags that identify specific content on your page.

Examples of structured data include:

  • Breadcrumbs: Hierarchical links that help mobile users navigate websites
  • Image markup: Image captions and URLs
  • Author markup: Author’s name, bio, and other relevant information

You can use Google’s free Structured Data Markup Helper to generate structured data for your website. Select your data type and enter your URL. The tool lets you add data tags to different page elements and creates a schema markup that you can add to the source code of your web page.

10. Optimize for Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are boxes that appear at the top of some Google SERPs. They contain excerpts from web pages that answer the searcher’s query. If the user clicks the featured snippet, they are taken to the spot on the web page where Google extracted the information.

These strategies can help you optimize your content for featured snippets:

  • Use a “What Is” or “How To” heading.
  • Include a clear and concise definition of your target keyword.
  • Write in the third person instead of using “I” or “we.”
  • Research frequently asked questions and answer them.

11. Encourage Social Shares and Apply Backlink Strategies

Backlinks are hyperlinks from other websites that lead users to your content. Earning backlinks is one of the most effective ways to boost your website’s credibility and reputation.

Leverage social sharing to improve your off-page SEO. Use social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to share your content with your target audience. If readers find your content valuable, they may link to it from their own social media profiles and websites. You can also create content on trending topics that may attract attention from industry leaders.

Websites can use do-follow and no-follow backlinks. Most backlinks are do-follow and boost your search ranking, but creators may use no-follow backlinks if they don’t want to endorse the website. Focus on earning do-follow backlinks for the most impact.

12. Frequently Review and Update Your Content

Industries and technologies evolve rapidly, so even the best content can quickly become outdated. Schedule regular updates as part of your content-centric SEO strategy to keep your materials fresh and relevant.

Review your content at least once a year to replace broken links, refresh outdated information, and reference new trends. This simple process ensures your content doesn’t provide inaccurate information and keeps delivering value to readers long after you publish it.

The Best Tools To Streamline Your Optimization Efforts

  • Frase: Frase generates outlines with optimized headings, analyzes your competitors’ content, and produces full drafts of content. However, you’ll still need a human to fact-check and edit the information.  
  • Browseo: This is a free web browsing app that highlights page elements important to SEO, letting you view your site as search engines do.
  • ContentKing: It's not free, but ContentKing's 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.
  • 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. It also offers suggestions that make the text more interesting to read. There are paid and free service tiers.
  • Hemingway App: The Hemingway writing app evaluates the reading level of your writing and corrects common grammar mistakes. The paid plan also includes an AI editor to improve your writing and achieve a consistent tone.  
  • 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: The readability tool scans your content to see how hard it is to read and suggests ways to make it more approachable.
  • SEO Review Tools: An SEO writing tool suite can help you check everything from keyword density to backlinks through different widgets.
  • Soovle: Keyword research tools like Soovle check 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.
  • Internet Marketing Ninja: This website includes free tools to detect broken links, analyze images, generate meta tags, and compare your content with a competitor’s. 

How Compose.ly Can Help You Simplify SEO

Improve your visibility and position yourself as an industry leader with SEO content generation. With a little effort and the right tools, you can start creating top-ranking content that will help you meet your marketing goals.

Compose.ly’s team specializes in delivering quality SEO-optimized blogs, case studies, social media posts, and many other types of content. We’ll develop a content optimization strategy that aligns with your brand’s mission and engages your target audience. Contact our content specialists today to request a free sample.

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