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Content Optimization: How to Optimize Content for SEO and Link Building

Content marketing has already solidified its stature as a powerhouse in the digital marketing realm.

In growing a brand’s audience and customer base, it’s certainly proved how formidable the practice is, especially when integrated with other data-driven disciplines (like SEO).

It’s no longer a trend. It has already forced its way to stay.

The Evolution of Web Content: 10x Content

The competition for attention has been taken to new greater heights. With the fact that a vast amount of publishers from different verticals have already bought in to the concept of pushing far more “great content” in a steadily growing rate (2 million blog posts are published every day).

What is 10x Content?

“Content that is 10 times better than the best result that can currently be found in the search results for a given keyword phrase or topic.” – Rand Fishkin

Great content is not as great when it is not well optimized. And optimizing content to be far more competitive for Search has tremendously evolved over the years.

Content optimization is basically the process of improving the aesthetics and performance of a site’s assets or pages that provide unique value to its intended users through on-page SEO, conversion optimization, UX, design, content editing and more.

Content Re-optimization as a Path to SEO Success

In my experience as an SEO, I think that there are 2 major strategic approaches to achieve success in SEO.

path-1

The first path is focusing the campaign in the technical side of search optimization. Ecommerce sites that have thousands of pages typically thrive in this kind of approach.

path-2

Whereas the second path to SEO success is relentlessly focusing resources on creative link acquisition campaigns – in which, honestly, our agency genuinely thrived for the past 3 years.

The last path, which I personally prefer these days, is focusing on making the most of what the site already have – through systemized Content Re-Optimization.

path-3

 

Where to Start?

This process focuses on page-level audits and enhancements, which makes it distinctive to what common technical on-site audits look like (which mostly focuses on sitewide changes on the onset).

It starts with assigning and interconnecting multiple goals for each of the page you’ll be optimizing, such as:

1. Making a single page rank for multiple search terms.

multiple-search-rankings

2. Owning Rank #0 in Semantic Search.

rank-0

3. Increasing the likelihood of pages to earn links for informational queries.

link-earning

 

Below are the necessary steps, once you know what you want to achieve for your campaign.

Step 1: Start with your site’s top 20 pages.

top-20-pages

Get data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console to determine your site’s high performing pages.

Note: Prioritize those that are already helping the site generate leads/conversions – and most importantly, pages targeting keywords with medium to high monthly search volume.

 

Step 2: Analyze what your competitors are doing right for each query/page

competitor-analysis

Start with those you’re confident you can easily compete with.

 

Step 3: Update & Re-optimize content to compete

update-reoptimize

A well-planned content relaunch campaign can massively impact your site’s organic traffic (see what Brian did here).

 

Step 4: After working on your top 20 pages, move down the list and reoptimize your site’s other existing assets.

The goal is to have more pages that’s capable of attracting thousands of highly qualified visitors to your site. That’s how you can build a fortress out of your website.

17 Actionable Tips for Content Optimization

Accurate and Highly Descriptive Page Titles

Title tags still remain as one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Title Tag Optimization

  • Optimize your page’s titles for click-through rate (CTR)
  • Use your primary keyword(s) within the title – preferably placed closer at the beginning of the title tag.
  • Align content (body) with titles to match searcher intent.
  • Compare titles with your competitors.

 

LSI and Secondary Keywords

Strategically place other keyword variants and semantically related terms within titles, descriptions, subheadings, images’ alt text & content body.

lsi-and-keyword-variants

Note: It will also help if you use more relevant Nouns and entities in your writing. (Read more on Search Entity Optimization)

 

readability

People don’t read on the web. They scan.

The average attention span of humans has been increasingly getting shorter since the mobile revolution. It’s best to optimize your content for different sets of users – those who intend to learn and those who want to get to the answers fast.

Example:

readability-sample

  • Optimize content for skimreaders
  • Use shorter sentences and break long paragraphs.
  • Make the more interesting parts of the content look prominent (through appropriate use of subheadings, bold and whitespaces).

 

Over Deliver with Unexpected Hooks

Provide unique value in your content by including ideas or other content elements that your readers will rarely find elsewhere.

This is what will make your content more linkable.

 

educate-or-be-useful

Providing freemium content is one of the best ways to make your content assets a link building machine.

html-cheat-sheet

Explore and learn from other industries.

For instance, other verticals don’t invest that much in interactive content. Be more competitive by taking your assets a step ahead than your competitors.

educate-or-be-useful-sample

The same principle can also be applied to product pages – if you are running an ecommerce site, include the following elements:

innocent

  • Quick Buyer guides
  • “Did you know” or fun facts section about your products
  • Benefits
  • How the product works (visuals)
  • Then make detailed information optional and/or scannable

Lastly, it’s also imperative to learn how to design content for eductors. Study the types of content/pages that top .edu sites link out to in your space.

stanford

 

Content Depth

Wikipedia has been successful as a website, not just because of the length of their content, but also because of the depth of the information they provide for each of their content.

This is what makes thousands of their pages so powerful (searchable, shareable & linkable). Focus on topic depth, not just length.

Be better than the wiki of your industry’s web space.

wikipedia-model

Use “last updated” timestamps when reoptimizing and continuously upgrading your content’s depth. The recency of content can help boost SERP CTR, and eventually its search rankings.

last-updated-timestamp

 

tldr

Place the summary, conclusion, key takeaways or TL;DR version of your content where visitors can almost instantly see them – above the fold. 

satisfaction

Providing quick and direct answers to users (who most of the time prefer to see the answers as fast as they can) can also exponentially improve visitor satisfaction.

This in turn can help your pages compete and rank for the Google Answer Box results.

 

Google Answer Box

15% of queries globally display featured snippets. There are 3 types of Google Answer Box results: Paragraphs (63% of all displayed featured snippets on Google search results), Lists (19%) and Tables (16% – according to the data gathered by STAT).

paragraph

Currently, I have a very primitive process in optimizing pages for these rich snippets.

I use Google Search Console to manually identify queries that display Google Answer Boxes (based on the top 20 landing pages I choose to work on reoptimizing).

Search Console > Search Analytics > Click on Pages’ Filter > Click a Page > Click on Queries’ filter

queries

Once I’ve determined which pages/queries have displayed rich snippet results, I can then restructure key sections of the content to match the type of Answer Box results being shown for each target query:

  • Provide logical and the most accurate answers to these queries and Answer Box types.
  • Provide the best definition to “what is” queries – to steal weak paragraph snippets.
  • Create data-driven tables to steal weak “lists” rich snippets (not “how to” lists).
  • Get more content/keyword ideas to work on from “People also ask”

also-ask

Recommended reading: How to Earn More Featured Snippets – by Rob Bucci

Schema / Structured Data Markups

Structured Data makes it easier for search engines to better understand what your content is about. This is increasingly becoming more important in today’s search optimization (as Mike King mentioned, it’s the future of organic search).

It has also become easier to apply these extra markups. Google have made it very simple to webmasters by offering free tools for implementing structured data markups: Structured Data Markup Helper and Rich Snippet Testing Tool.

schema

If you’re using WordPress, there are a few plugins that can help you implement this (such as Schema Creator by Raven and All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets).

Useful Guides on implement Structured Data:

 

Visuals / Rich Media

Optimize your content assets for better engagement with branded visuals and rich media content, like:

  • High quality images
  • Infographics / data visualizations
  • Videos
  • Interactive content (HTML5 landing pages)
  • Memes

As these content elements can also boost conversions – especially on transactional pages (ex: product size charts).

mvmt

 

link-out

Establish trust to users and search crawlers by citing/linking out to other authoritative websites and entities.

Cite credible sources within your own writing, especially those who will most likely help amplify your content promotion.

tweet

You can also make your content assets more robust by collaborating and seeking help from others (co-creation & co-marketing).

builtwith

 

Internal Linking

Pass more link equity and improve the crawlability of your key content assets by contextually linking your site’s other deeper pages to it.

internal-links

Take advantage of your internal links by using highly descriptive (or even partial match) anchor texts. This will help your important content assets rank better for the keywords they are targeting.

 

accessibility

Pass on more ranking value to your key pages by lessening the # of clicks from homepage. Including these pages to your navigation links (or any type of featured links visible to first time site visitors) are great examples.

navigation-links

 

Dwell Time & Conversions

What is Dwell Time?

Dwell time, in a sense, is an amalgam of bounce rate and time-on-site metrics – it measures how long it takes for someone to return to a SERP after clicking on a result (and it can be measured directly from the search engine’s own data). – Dr. Pete Meyers

The longer the dwell time (or the length of time that a search-driven visitor stayed within the website), the better. It implies that the searcher has been satisfied with the result it clicked from the listings displayed by Google for a query.

The following are several ways you can do to optimize your content assets for better dwell time (and conversions).

1. Provide clear Calls-to-action (CTA)

  • Make sure the CTA is relevant to your content asset
  • Prominently placed within the page (at the bottom, sidebar, header, or pop-up).
  • Continuously test and improve your CTAs

cta

 

2. Establish authority with trust signals & social proof

 

trust-signals

3. Internally link out to related pages to boost dwell time on site

Your content assets should also serve as content layers that can funnel visitors deeper into your transactional pages (services or products).

related

4. Encourage social sharing.

social

 

page-speed

Google has clearly put a significant amount of weight in speed as a ranking signal. They’re continuously obsessing about how they want everything to be fast in this modern age of the web (particularly for mobile users).

page-speed-insightsQuick tips for speeding up your website (via VentureHarbour):

  1. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  2. Use a very fast hosting company
  3. Use a caching plugin (WP Total Cache)
  4. Add Expires headers to leverage browser caching
  5. Compress your images (use WP SmushIt for WordPress)
  6. Clean up your database
  7. Compress your site with Gzip
  8. Fix all broken links
  9. Reduce your redirects
  10. Minify CSS and JS files
  11. Replace PHP with static HTML where possible
  12. Link to your stylesheets, don’t use @import
  13. Turn off ping backs and trackbacks in WordPress
  14. Enable Keep-Alive
  15. Specify image dimensions
  16. Specify a character set in HTTP headers
  17. Put CSS at the top and JS at the bottom
  18. Disable Hotlinking of images
  19. Switch of all plugins you don’t use
  20. Minimize round trip times (RTTs)
  21. Use CSS Sprites
  22. Use the rel=”prerender” directive (learn more here).

 

Build Links

Links are still very vital to rank better these days (and definitely one of the top 3 core ranking factors).

It should be a lot easier to get and earn links to your content assets if they are already 10x better than what your competitors are offering.

Reach out to people/publishers who have already shown interest on the topic covered by your content – especially those who have linked/shared similar content in the past.

Useful link building resources:

 

Mobile First

Google recently began experimenting on “mobile-first indexing”.

In which Google will primarily look at mobile versions of pages for its ranking signals and fall back on the desktop version when there is no mobile version.

With this upcoming big change to how Google will treat pages for ranking evaluation, considering to have mobile versions for your site’s key content assets in place could help improve their search visibility.

But there’s no need to worry if your site doesn’t have a mobile version, as per Google:

“If you only have a desktop site, we’ll continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if we’re using a mobile user agent to view your site.”

Here are some of the recommendations from Google on what webmasters could do to prepare:

  • If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.

  • If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.

      • Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version. Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.
      • When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document.
      • Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
      • Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; we’ll continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
  • If you are a site owner who has only verified your desktop site in Search Console, please add and verify your mobile version.

This also means fully optimizing some of your important pages for mobile users (optimizing for local search, speed & structured data).

Final thoughts.

I still think that there’s a bit of truth in the saying “if you build it, they will come”. Success will always follow you when you’re consistently great at something.

Reoptimizing your content should be a good start.

Liked this post? Follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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11 replies
  1. Dean
    Dean says:

    This is a great guide, thank you for writing it, and thanks to whoever brought me here by sharing it. I’m starting a website right now, 3 actually, 2 for services and one as a blog. Will try to optimize it myself, I’ve been working with SEO for some time, as a copywriter, so I know what it’s about but don’t know how it works exactly. I try to read as much as I can about it.

    What are your thoughts on autocomplete suggestions? They seem like cool keywords to use. I found out about them (as a source of keyword ideas) on producthunt, https://www.producthunt.com/tech/serpstat-2 not sure if you allow links here. I’ve been playing with Serpstat to find autocomplete suggestions and some of them seem good, would you advise using this a source of long-tail keywords?

    Reply
  2. Chiro
    Chiro says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing this impressive and informative post. I always love to read your articles and I’ve learned many important things in your articles. Please keep writing.

    Reply
  3. Ali Imran
    Ali Imran says:

    Hi Jason,

    I really enjoyed reading this post, being a newbie it is really difficult to rank. There are millions of blogs publishing content, and it is a really tough fight. I wonder how to add the mobile site to Google Search Console. I added my blog, but I do not know how to add my mobile version. I will try to search and find answers.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Wilson Smith
    Wilson Smith says:

    Wow! It’s the complete guide for content optimization. All beginners can gather enormous knowledge from this article. Here you have proven that the SEO friendly killer content will help a lot to increase brand awareness and customers for generating leads and sales.
    Great Post!
    Keep On Updating!

    Reply
  5. Conrad Cooper
    Conrad Cooper says:

    Thanks for the in-depth article about content optimization. Most people just scratch the surface of the topic which leaves me wanting more information (and usually very confuses.) It’s a nice change of pace when somebody takes the time to write a comprehensive article.

    Thanks!!

    Reply
  6. lee
    lee says:

    Hi Jason,
    Great article, many thanks for taking the time to compile such an extensive read. Owning rank #0 sounds like a great way to catch so much more traffic. I guess Google will reward you with this for having great 10x content. Over delivery on content too is key, you are dead right there. Nothing keep people coming back like the feeling of being though of.
    Again thanks for the great article, I will keep coming back to this as my new frame of reference

    Reply

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