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What Is Content Optimization? Checklist for Optimized Content

By: Brandon Woods — December 28, 2021

You want to make your content the best it can be. After all, it is a significant part of your brand. Content optimization can bring you new visitors and lead to more conversions.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best ways to do that. The following guide teaches you all about SEO and what it has to do with content optimization. Learn why optimization is important for your content marketing goals. To learn more, check out our complete on-page SEO checklist of all the elements of SEO to consider when optimizing your content.

board game pieces stacked to spell SEO

What Is Content Optimization?

Content optimization is the process of making your content more appealing to search engines. Google and other search engines look for specific qualities on the pages they index to figure out where they should appear in the results for different search terms. Optimized content is built with those qualities in mind, to increase its search rankings.

When pieces of content appear higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), you receive more organic search traffic. And the higher, the better. Most people (as many as 75%) never click past the first page of search results. Nearly 60% of searchers only look at the top three results.

Optimizing content for search engines increases the chances of your website onto the first page and into those top results. That gives you more organic traffic, boosting your brand awareness and conversion rates.

Why Have a Content Optimization Strategy?

Any content marketer should have a content optimization strategy. Fully optimized content comes from a holistic look at your pages’ copy, metadata, and technical elements. Without creating content for SEO, your content will fail to rank.

That’s where a content optimization strategy can help. When you develop a strategy, you build a plan that covers how you’ll accomplish every SEO task and achieve your goals. A good optimization strategy will cover how you create optimized content from start to finish. As a result, you’ll get genuinely optimized content and appear higher in SERPs for your chosen keywords.

The Ultimate Content Optimization Checklist

So, what are the keys to content optimization? There are quite a few factors you should incorporate in your content creation process. The checklist below lists everything you should include in your plan.

Develop a Content Strategy

The first step of your content optimization process is putting together a content strategy.

Establish content goals and determine what content marketing strategies you’ll use to achieve them. Find out what types of content you want to create, and the reason for making it. Some reasons for content creation include:

  • Increasing organic traffic
  • Improving sales
  • Raising brand awareness

Set SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound. A SMART goal is easier to achieve because it’s clearly defined and built for easy monitoring.

With your SMART goals in place, determine Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track your performance. These metrics include new conversions, site traffic, or returning visitors. A good KPI is directly related to the goal it’s tracking, so it gives you a clear idea of your progress.

SMART goals and KPIs give your content optimization strategy a purpose. They will steer your decisions for the rest of the process.

Strategy Checklist

  • Determine your goals for your content
  • Make your goals SMART
  • Develop KPIs for your content to monitor how you’re doing on your goals

Get the Right Tools

The next preparatory step is to collect the tools you’ll need to optimize your content. If you want to perform SEO, it’s essential to see your content the way computers do. SEO tools scan your content to help you do this.

The best tools for marketing content optimization in SEO include:

  • Google Analytics: This tool tracks where you’re getting site visitors from and how they found your site, including the search terms they used to get to it
  • Search Console: This platform scans your site to figure out how well it will perform in Google. Search Console, and it helps you with keyword research
  • PageSpeed Insights: By running your web page through this site, you can check how quickly it loads and get tips on improving the speed

You should also get an SEO plugin that lets you track and adjust important SEO factors before posting content to your site. If you have a WordPress site, you can use plugins like Yoast or SEOPress to improve your content’s SEO.

Tools Checklist

Write High-Quality Content

Now, start creating amazing content. The best way to write relevant content that your audience cares about is to do research and focus on user intent. Spend time with Google Analytics to figure out why people come to your site. You should also study your competition to learn what kinds of topics they cover. Once you know what your audience likes or what they’re searching for, you can choose topics they’re more likely to read.

People who find your website through search engines are often looking for the answer to a question. Structure your articles as answers to these questions. This makes it easy for the reader to find the information they need. Search engines also rank pages best on how well they meet the search intent, so answering the question helps your rank.

Content Checklist

  • Research your target audience’s preferences
  • Choose topics for your content that your audience cares about
  • Write or commission well-written content that answers your audience’s questions

Optimize for Keywords

Keyword optimization is the cornerstone of content optimization. In keyword optimization, you research relevant keywords for your content. These are the words you’ll highlight in your content to get search engines’ attention.

Each piece of content you write should have a target keyword that’s the article’s main subject. Ideally, only write one piece of content focused on each primary keyword, or you could compete with yourself for traffic. You can also include secondary keywords that are related to the main topic. These are also less common search terms and long-tail keywords. By using these terms, you can target traffic that other pages aren’t yet catering to well enough.

During or after the writing process, go through your content and include your keywords in the right places. Your primary keyword should appear in the title, URL, meta description, one or more headers, and the first paragraph of your copy. If you have images, include keywords in the pictures’ alt text, as well. Secondary keywords can appear in headers and throughout your copy.

More keywords aren’t necessarily better, though. Google penalizes pages it views as “keyword stuffing,” or using keywords too many times just to earn traffic. On average, your main keyword should make up less than 2% of your total word count, and secondary keywords 1% or less.

Keyword Checklist:

  • Perform keyword research to determine the search terms you should include in your articles
  • Add keywords to your title tags, URL, meta description, headings, body text, and image alt text
  • Avoid keyword stuffing by checking your keyword density with tools like SEO Review Tools

Encourage Engagement

Google gives priority to sites that search engine users engage with more. One item that’s often correlated with user engagement is the use of pictures. At a minimum, include a header image that’s relevant to each piece of content. Add other photos throughout the content if they’re pertinent to keep your readers’ attention.

If you have the time to moderate a comment section, that would be a valuable addition as well. A well-managed comment section encourages people to engage more in your content. It also gives Google more information to index on your page, like customer questions that you answer.

Another method of engagement is generating social shares for your content. Post content on social media and provide social share buttons or other methods for your readers to share your content to their pages. This can potentially increase traffic and search rankings.

Engagement Checklist:

  • Include header images and relevant pictures throughout your content
  • Offer a well-moderated comments section
  • Provide social share buttons

Create Authoritative Content

Google and other search engines want to guide their users to reliable sources. That’s why they look for signs of authority on the web pages they index.

A page looks more reliable if it has a named author instead of being anonymous. Adding author bios that name the writer and give their background makes your pages more appealing to search engines. Make sure you link to the writer’s other works, if they have a portfolio, and always include authoritative titles and degrees the writer has.

Search engines also prioritize pages that clarify if and when they’ve been updated. If you regularly update a page, include a “last updated” date. This tells Google you’re presenting the most up-to-date information to your readers.

Authority Checklist:

  • Include an author bio that states the writer’s expertise
  • Link to the author’s portfolio or other writing
  • Use titles like Doctor for author names when relevant
  • Include the date the article was posted and/or last updated

Revise for Readability

Google prefers pages that are easy to read. That means pages without typos that are generally grammatically correct. More importantly, it means that your content should be written in a clear voice that won’t confuse visitors.

There are many programs you can use to rate the readability of your website according to grade level. If your site is aimed at the general public, aim for a 6th to 8th-grade reading level on your pages. This is high enough to include valuable details without having too much jargon. If your site is for more advanced visitors, you can aim for a 10th to 12th-grade level.

Either way, use plenty of paragraph breaks and structure your content, so it’s easy to skim. Use frequent headers to help people find the part of the article that matters to them.

Readability Checklist:

  • Perform a grammar and spellcheck with a program like Grammarly
  • Run your content through a readability program like Readable or plugins like Yoast

Manage Technical Optimization

The final step for optimizing your content is managing the technical, behind-the-scenes elements. With your content ready to post, you should take a few final steps to make sure it’s accessible to Google and other search engines.

For your content itself, you should make sure you use standard HTML markups for your headings. Google looks at tags like “<h2>” to identify the most critical parts of the text. These are also often style elements that improve your content’s readability, which helps as well.

Also, include internal and outbound links in your content. Internal links send readers to other pages in your site, giving the rest of your site more backlinks, which in turn increases those pages’ search engine rankings. Outbound links to reputable sources show your trustworthiness. Try to include one link every 100 to 200 words — exceed that, and search engines may suspect your site of trying to overload on backlinks to cheat their algorithms.

You can also give Google Search Console a robot.txt file and a site directory. Giving these files to Search Console makes it easier for Google to crawl and index your site. That helps it rank your content quickly and effectively.

Finally, spend some time improving your site speed. Use PageSpeed Insights to look for page elements slowing down your loading times. Not only does Google prioritize fast sites, but also every extra second it takes to load your page can cut into your traffic. In the first five seconds, each second drops traffic by over 4% on average, and after that, you still lose more than 2% per second. Speeding up your site helps it rank much higher.

Technical Checklist:

  • Follow standard HTML markups to make your website easy to crawl
  • Include relevant internal and outbound links in every post
  • Submit a robot.txt file to Google Search Console
  • Submit a site directory to Google Search Console
  • Increase your website speed

Begin Optimizing Your Content Today

Following these checklists should lead to an increase in your organic rankings. It can be difficult creating optimized content, which is why some brands rely on SEO services to consistently produce optimized content for them. It’s an effective way to increase your online presence without hiring a team of content writers yourself.


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