Key Elements of Every Effective Content Optimization Strategy

If the internet is an information superhighway, then Google is a cab driver nimbly weaving through millions of lanes of traffic at lightspeed. There wouldn’t be much point to navigating so adeptly without a passenger in the back seat, though. So between trips from the search bar to spaghetti recipes or cat videos, Google’s internet cab is just waiting for you to tell it where to go.

The only problem is none of us give Google a specific address like we would with our cab drivers. It’s not “33 W. Roosevelt St.,” it’s “That blue house I saw that one time.” But as a great cab driver, Google really wants to take you to that blue house. So instead of relying on users’ vague inquiries, Google relies on the destinations for more specific directions. 

To rank in the top search results, your content has to tell Google exactly who you’re trying to reach so it knows who to drop at your doorstep. But it’s not enough to just match what users are looking for anymore; you also need to match why they’re looking in the first place. These are the two basic tenets of content optimization. And if you know how to nail them, you can turn into a stop for the gravy train along the information superhighway.

What We’ll Cover:

1
Optimizing Content with SEO
2
Pillars of Content Optimization
3
Practical Applications
Chapter 01

Optimizing Content with SEO

Most businesses are at least acquainted with SEO. But in case you haven’t met, search engine optimization is how you make Google like you. Plain and simple. And when it comes to content, SEO strategy helps you drive organic traffic to your website by targeting a specific audience or user group.

The word “strategy” is important here because these days it takes more than including a keyword to optimize a piece of content. Keywords provide a great foundation for discoverability and can help guide you toward topics your target audience is interested in. They don’t, however, address what search engines (especially Google) are most concerned with: the user experience.

Search results are refined just as much, if not more, by search intent as by keywords. Search engines want to provide users with the most relevant and valuable information on the internet, so they’re looking for clear answers from authoritative sources. To make it to the top 10 results, you have to prove your site not only has high-quality content, but that it’s addressing the purpose of the user’s search query.

Sounds tricky, but it’s not rocket science, I promise. Optimizing content is a process just like any other marketing tactic. So let’s take a look at the building blocks of every great content optimization strategy and how they can help you show up in an organic search.

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Chapter 02

Pillars of Content Optimization

To create truly great content that not only generates leads but can help convert them too, you want to combine a few different aspects of SEO in every article you post. This creates a higher-level of optimization, which gives you a better shot at success. 

When it comes to content creation and planning, there are a few key aspects of SEO you should pay close attention to.

Keyword Research

Keywords certainly aren’t everything, but they are still something. You need keywords as part of your optimization strategy to appear in relevant search results, but you also want to make sure they’re worth the effort. To help you find and evaluate potential target keywords, you can use SEO tools like ahrefs or Semrush.

When you’re digging through lists of search terms, remember that you don’t need power as much as relevance. The right type of content and information will do you more good than a highly visible keyword. Picking the right keywords is based on a mix of factors:

  • Keyword difficulty – How hard is it to rank for the keyword? For most small to medium businesses, sticking with easy keywords is best practice. Your ideal keyword difficulty is based on your business’s overall search engine ranking.
  • Search volume – How many people are searching for this keyword each month? The search volume can help you to choose keywords you know users are searching for, even if in small numbers. A large search volume is great, but it doesn’t matter if the content isn’t what the user is looking for.
  • Search engine results pages (SERPs) – What information does Google show when people search for this term? Check the top ten search results to see what type of content is offered (blogs, videos, lists, etc.) and what question it’s answering. The SERPs are a great indicator of search intent.

Ideally, you want to find a keyword with a low difficulty, high search volume and SERPs that match the type of content you want to create and the question you’re prepared to answer.

You can use the same tools you use to find keywords to evaluate your own business. Enter the URL for a specific web page to see how it’s performing against the competition. Checking your ranking can help you set reasonable and attainable goals for your content. 

Search Intent

This is arguably the most important part of creating optimized content. First, because if your content doesn’t match the information a user wants, they won’t click your link. Second, because if Google knows searchers won’t click your link, it won’t even show it in the first place. So, yeah, addressing search intent is key.

That being said, you’re not a mind reader. But you don’t have to be to figure out why people are using the keywords they do. You don’t even have to use tools like in keyword research. All you have to do is look at the SERPs. I’m a learning-by-doing type of gal, so let’s work through a little example.

Let’s pretend you own an ice cream parlor and you’re trying to create content for the keyword “making ice cream.” When you look at the search results for that term, you’ll see a list of recipes and how-to articles all about (you guessed it) making ice cream. This tells you that when people are searching for this keyword, they’re looking for articles about how to make ice cream at home. 

making ice cream serps

To match this search intent in your own content, you want to create a blog that teaches people how to make ice cream at home. This would be a great piece if your business also sells things like ice cream salt or other special ingredients. You could address the search intent of a valuable keyword while also encouraging sales.

Google does an excellent job of catering to search intent by running sentiment and data analysis on content to evaluate if it’s a match. To give your content the best shot at generating lots of organic traffic, you have to cater to this criterion. 

Content Format

Indulge me by returning to our ice cream example. When you type that phrase into Google, your search results aren’t a clean white list of blog articles. Instead, there are three different content types on the page. It starts with a slide bar of ads for ice cream makers, then a list of videos about making ice cream, then the People Also Ask Box, then the blog posts. So which type of content do you think most people click on?

This is a great example of how format comes into play when optimizing content. As you look for search intent in the SERPs, you should also pay attention to what kind of content the search engine is presenting. Is it all videos? Blogs? Infographics? News articles? A mix? You want to focus on finding keywords associated with the same type of content you’re aiming to produce.

So if your goal is to create blog content for your ice cream shop’s website, “making ice cream” might not be the perfect keyword. You could potentially rank a blog for that search term, but you’d still be listed below all those featured videos. In this situation, it would be better to go back to the drawing board to find a new keyword that features exclusively blog content in the search results.

Linking

Links are the holy grail of establishing authority. More specifically, links that send people to your content. It could be internal links on your website or backlinks from other sites. The key is that it directs people across the whole internet back to you as a source of valuable information. 

How does it work, though? Think about the last time you were reading something on a website and you clicked every hyperlink as you scrolled through the post. Before you know it, there’s seven tabs of the same site open and you’re so far down the rabbit hole that someone is welcoming you to Wonderland. For you it’s a never ending adventure, but for the website it’s a view on every page.

When Google sees this, it knows that you’re continuously providing value to users. Your original post might have been about how to make ice cream (I’ll let the example go as soon as I get some Blue Bell), but you included links to posts like “Tools to make ice cream home” and “Best strawberry ice cream recipes.” By effectively anticipating and answering your reader’s next questions, you keep them on your site and establish yourself as an authority.

The process is similar for backlinks. Except instead of establishing authority yourself, you let other websites do it for you. As more people are driven to your content from a third-party site, Google will start to recognize that people are flocking to you for answers.

The easiest way to utilize internal linking is to start using pillar pages when you create new content. A pillar page is a longer-than-average blog that broadly covers a topic. As you write your post, your sections can address specific aspects of the topic and link to other blogs you’ve created about those individual aspects. This builds a tree of information that brings value to users, keeps them on your page and establishes your site’s authority in your space.

If you’re looking for more link building opportunities, then programs like Moz might be a good place to start. They typically offer backlink analysis—how many websites are diverting users to your pages—and some even have other SEO capabilities.

Metadata

Search engines don’t just scan your content...they scan everything. Metadata is all the information within your content that describes what it is and why it’s there. It’s kind of like your website’s underwear. People won’t see it, but you should still put it on.

The most common type of metadata is a meta description. This is that little featured snippet under your URL that gives users an idea of what your web page is about. Google can auto populate a portion of your text, but it’s generally better to create a description yourself. Here’s some quick guidelines to writing a great meta description:

  • Utilize your primary keyword in the description. This helps to show the user and Google that your article is relevant to the search term.
  • Use active voice to speak directly to users and give them clear instructions on what you want them to do. “Click the link to learn more!”
  • The ideal length is between 150-175 characters, and 165 is optimal.

Although it’s the most popular, meta descriptions aren’t the only kind of metadata you should be thinking about. Commonly overlooked metadata includes:

  • Title tags and headers: You can use headings and titles to create SEO content by strategically including keywords. This is the initial blip on a search engine’s radar that your content might be relevant.
  • Anchor text: Search engines like to use anchor text as a general indicator of what the linked resource is about. Choosing anchor text wisely can help you establish authority.
  • Meta tags: This type of metadata is buried in your content’s code. It’s a brief description of your post that only the computer will be able to see.
  • Alt text: Alt text exists for programs like screen readers to describe images and graphs. The text won’t appear directly on the page, but search engines still consider it part of your content.
Chapter 03

Practical Applications

These tactics are all really easy to implement if you’re starting from scratch, but few businesses are in that position. For the most part, businesses have some type of content marketing strategy in place and they’d rather make adjustments than start over. You’ll be happy to hear that’s exactly what you should do. No need to reinvent the wheel.

If you already have lots of content, the best way to start optimizing is to do an audit of what’s on your site. Look at the metrics for each blog and see which are performing well. This might mean they’re generating the most traffic or facilitating the most conversions; it depends what your goals are.

Next look for the pages that aren’t performing well. See if you can find a clear reason why these pages are struggling and establish if they’re worth salvaging. Poorly performing pages can actually drag down your overall ranking, so you don’t want to hold on to content that isn’t working for you.

Once you’ve assessed both, it’s time to do some trimming. Choose which pages you can keep, which you can revamp and which you should cut. These decisions should be based on your content marketing goals and which pages are doing the most to help you reach them. 

As you reoptimize existing content and start creating new posts, remember the pillars of optimization. Make sure you’re choosing valuable keywords, matching the search intent and content format, including internal links and filling in all your metadata. All of these can contribute to SEO success.

Whether you’re not confident in creating a winning strategy or just don’t have the time to write blogs, sometimes partnering with an agency can be the best way to start crafting optimized content. Our content services cover everything from writing a blog to developing a strategy. So if you need a little help with your business’s blog, come chat with us!

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