How to Optimize Great Content for Search Engines to easily Crawl, Index and Rank

by Jason Acidre on July 5, 2012 · 59 comments · Search


Content optimization is getting trickier these days, as users’ behavior toward how they use the web tend to grow over time, plus the fact that a lot of web content providers on different niches are pushing out tons of “great content” in a steadily growing rate.

This progression on web usage has allowed search engines to identify more data that they can use to assess webpages that should be ranking well on their search results (based on usability, social, authority and so many other factors).

Miguel Salcido recently asked 17 experts on what on-site ranking factors they think are most important to optimize this year, which inspired me to write this post – and I also think that it’s worth checking out too.

Anyway, content marketing is making a trend, proving its power as a very effective marketing tool that can tremendously grow a brand’s audience, following and customer base. And empowering your content marketing efforts with basic know-hows on optimizing your content for search is just practical to yield more results to your campaign.

So in this post, I will mostly discuss content optimization techniques that you can implement before and after launching your piece to increase the likelihood of your content in ranking better on search results, even without the help of link building.

Accurate Page Titles

Title tags still remain as one of the most important ranking factors when it comes to on-site SEO, based on many experts’ experience. Using your target keywords in the content’s page title can help improve its search rankings.

It’s also important that the title of your web page will meet – or exceed if possible – your target audience’s expectations from the content that they’ll see to improve visitor retention to that page. Other helpful tips when constructing your content page titles are:

  • Make the title actionable to increase click-through rate when targeting users who’ll see your content showing up on search engine result pages (don’t just use your targeted keywords to rank higher on search engines, but rather write your titles with the intent for humans to click on your listings).

  • Apply a different post title or headline to optimize your site for different semantically related or more long-tail search phrases.

  • You can also choose to use your content’s other target keywords in the page’s URL, as Google is also using URLs to display as the title on search results, when it’s found to be more relevant for search queries closely related to your content’s initially targeted keyword. AJ Kohn and Ruth Burr have discussed this recently here and here.

Use LSI keywords within the content

LSI or latent semantic indexing is a process being used by search engines to identify patterns in the relationships between terms and concepts contained in an unstructured collection of text (as defined by Wikipedia). Basically, this process allows search engines to evaluate the context and relevance of content to a search query based on the related terms being contained by a particular content.

The more a content use highly-related/synonymous terms/words, the more search engines understand where the content should be tagged or categorized in their indices.

A good trick on determining which words you can use for your content, to make its context look more relevant and particularly targeted about the industry-specific keyword, is the use of the tilde (~) when searching for your “root keyword” in Google search.

Authorship Markup

Soon enough, Google may start implementing AuthorRank into their list of ranking factors (or maybe they are already using it) in measuring if a page is worth being prominently displayed on their search results. That’s why building a strong author profile using Google+ is deemed necessary these days to prepare your strategy for future game-changing events.

Implementing Authorship markup in your site/blog is not that hard actually, and there several tutorials out there that you can check out, like from AJ Kohn, Joost de Vaulk and from this blog as well.

Nikko Marasigan, one of our in-house SEO strategists (at Xight Interactive), also tested how far can authorship markup help in terms of rankings, which somehow proven how this simple optimization technique played a big role in making a site/page rank without links from other sources (with only a single Google+ profile linking to it). Just imagine how much more power can it produce if you have solid authors contributing content to your site.

Another advantage of having authorship markup applied in your site/blog is that it increases the click-through rate of your site’s pages on Google’s SERPs, as your listings will look more trustworthy and credible to searchers.

Length of Content

It’s undeniable that longer and in-depth documents are ranking very well on search results. Make your content more comprehensive than what your competitors are offering to push your rankings above them.

Thought it is also important to ensure that the quality of information within the content will not be over-saturated or be out of substance for trying too hard to lengthen it. 800+ words will do.

Interactions and engagement in content (UGC)

Encourage your visitors to join the discussions happening within your site’s content (user generated comments, product reviews, star ratings, upvotes, etc…).

Building interactions within your content is very vital, as Google also depends on this factor in evaluating how useful your content is, especially if the amount of relevant comments in your content is high and offering value to the discussion.

There are many ways to improve interactions in your content, such as:

  • Incentivizing interactions, like organizing a comment contest or offering do-follow links to trusted commentators.
  • Making it a call-to-action at the end of your post(s), like adding “would love to hear your thoughts below, at the comment section”.
  • Responding to comments to initiate conversations.

Shareability and ability to collate social signals

As I’ve mentioned above, search engines are strongly dependent on social data these days in detecting pages that are relatively popular, authoritative and up-to-date.  So if you can drive more social signals to your site’s content, you’ll also be building a solid chance for them of ranking better on search results.

Below are few tips on getting more social shares to your content:

  • Make sure that your content is really useful and share-worthy. You can check out this post on the common types of content that make it well on social media and on how you can effectively promote them as well.
  • Make social sharing very easy for your page visitors by making your social sharing buttons visible. You can place it above the fold or at the end of the content, as visitors are more receptive on taking actions from those areas of the page.
  • Do manual social outreach, particularly to people who are really interested and more likely to share your content.
  • For more tips, you can also visit my old post on how to generate more social shares.

Link out to other credible external sources

Linking out to other sites, particularly to known trusted sites (not just Wikipedia), is a strong signal that search engines can use to see if the page is topically relevant and if it is using/citing credible sources for its content.

This action builds up the trust search engines see in your content, since it somehow aligns itself, in terms of information, to the sources that it has mentioned.

Use of rich-media content

Including rich-media content like rich and visually attractive images, cinemagraphs, screenshots, videos, slide presentations and/or data visualizations alongside your text content can also improve its search rankings.

These page elements can help improve the depth of your content and can also enhance user experience, which is another factor that search engines look into in ranking webpages.

You can also optimize their attributes to make your content more relevant to your content’s targeted search phrases, such as using your targeted keyword(s) on your rich-media content’s filenames, alternate texts (for images) and descriptions.

Implementing Schema and Microdata

Schema could really play a big part in the future of search engine optimization, and many experts believe that this optimization process has already been giving some sites the advantage of getting better rankings than other websites that haven’t applied these markups on their sites yet.

Schemas are set of tags that can be used by webmasters to their websites, which is specifically made for search engines, for them to better understand web-based documents and to eventually provide better and more relevant search results to their users (since by that time they’ll have better understanding of what a particular content is about through the help of microdata/schemas).

Learning how to code schemas can be real tricky at first. But the good news is that Raven has recently launched a browser-based tool that allows its users to generate schemas called Schema-creator.org.

You can easily create Schema.org markups using this tool and copy the generated code to your website.

Think Conversions

Every page of your site is a landing page that’s capable of generating you revenue. And Google is also looking at this kind of ability from your content to determine if it can satisfy your site’s visitors.

Implementing conversion-oriented optimization to your site’s content is definitely advantageous in so many ways, not just with rankings, but as well as in business perspectives. Some of the most common ways that you can apply to your content to increase the chances of converting its page traffic are:

  • Improving the page’s loading speed – you can use Google Lab’s Page Speed Online to see the elements that make your page load time slower and this web-based tool will also provide suggestions on how you can optimize these page or site-level elements.
  • Improving your content’s call-to-action – make sure that your site offers are visible to your new visitors (you can place it above the fold or below after the content, and continuously test where it works best). It’s also best to make your offers relevant to what your content is about (basing the products, services, newsletters, ebooks or webinars you want to upsell on the topic of the content).
  • Internally linking to other relevant and useful content of the site – promote your site’s other popular/authority content through internal links, and make these links very visible (by placing them within the content and using longer strings of texts for their anchor texts), as this can increase your site’s average page visits and site visit duration/time on site. The more your visitors see your other content, the more you can funnel them to subscribing or returning to your site.

Build strong internal links to your “great content”

Lastly, once you have published your new content, you can then start building internal links to it from your other strong content (old related blog posts/articles). Vary the anchor texts that you’ll use for internal linking and try to make the linking contextual to entice clicks from visitors on these pages.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and you can follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre and Google+.

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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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Miguel@ProfessionalSEOConsultant.com July 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Jason, great points regarding content marketing and thank you for helping me with and referencing my recent post regarding on-page SEO factors. It was a great tie in and example for this post too!

One thing that I’d like to add is that I was able to promote the post better because I’ve been guest blogging alot lately and building relationships through that. This allowed me to get my post quite a bit of traction and shares amongst my new contacts. I also gained alot of followers through guest blogging lately. And lastly, once a post is well received like this you can submit it to publishers that do weekly roundup post to get even more link love to the post!

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Mark @ TheBitBot.Com News, Views, and Reviews July 6, 2012 at 4:04 am

Jason,

I think you definitely nailed the document length with this one.

With respect to your point about “Accurate Page Titles”, I have personally found that the right page title can make the difference between ranking on the first page for keywords with ten million plus competing results or not at all.

If there is anything I do keyword research for, it the title.

Additionally, I find that writing naturally helps greatly with LSI as natural writing tends to fill your content with a variety of related search terms automatically.

Great writeup.

Mark

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Nandkishor July 6, 2012 at 6:14 am

One can start searching semantic search terms with ~keyword. In the initial process of keyword research, we do not have an idea of which other query similar to the selected word can produce more searches. In this case, ~ helps a lot. e.g. when I searched ~Kitchenware, I found two more queries used semantically for Kitchenware, and those are – Cookware and Bakeware, it is an awesome tip one can use for keyword research. Thanks Jason!

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Tom Andrews July 6, 2012 at 7:10 am

Excellent points made, I wish more websites would realise it is a good thing to link out to the great content elsewhere about your site without thinking it will be detrimental to performance.

Have come across sites where even linking out to articles in respected national newspapers is deemed as a bad thing to do!

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Malcolm Gibb July 6, 2012 at 8:19 am

Brilliant article Jason, with content being indexed faster than ever authorship and social engagement is more important than it has been. I’m seeing my articles being listed in the top 10 results as soon as I publish due to following points you mentioned above such as using LSI keywords in my meta and content and properly using authorship tags. I then believe Google gives a limited amount of time to fresh content to enable sharing/engagement and content then falls to natural positions in the SERPS. Great stuff, keep up the good work!

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Pavel July 6, 2012 at 10:40 am

I haven’t really considered linking out to credible sites since i thought that doesn’t help ranking much. Your explanation makes sense though, if you associate you content with a relevant topic from a credible sources it help rank better for that topic. Your point on authorship was also new to me. Very informative post Jason

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RonLeyba July 7, 2012 at 3:01 am

Great share Jason! Been reading and learning things about content marketing nowadays. Good to see that Nikko Marasigan is kicking ass as well below your immense prowess.

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polen July 7, 2012 at 8:45 am

Hi Jason
Can you write Latent Semantic Analys article?
Thank you.

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Chris @ NPI July 9, 2012 at 3:13 am

Hi Jason, nice tips.
Do you use LSI in your daily writing (and if yes – how do you do it ;) )?
BR, Chris

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Dave@Do It With WordPress July 10, 2012 at 6:15 am

I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to SEO. I’m not one to read too much into all the “expert advice” that you can get online about optimising your site. However, I find this to be a pretty well thought out and middle-of-the-road article, using sensible methods to improve your pages. While I would never go to all of the lengths that you have discussed, I have implemented many of them. I would also note that some of these tactics are clearly not for every site. So don’t go adding schema if it’s just not appropriate for your site. People tend to go a little overboard when it comes to SEO, so I try and stay on the other side of the fence, just to help balance things out.

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Martin July 10, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Nice article Jason. But how importent is the Authorship Markup?

i should share by tweet :-)

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wajahath ali July 12, 2012 at 7:23 am

Hi Jason, indexing the content properly is one of the important factors in getting organic traffic and you have listed some very important points to follow. Using schema is one of the things that i will be concentrating as i am planning for redesign of my blog but the semantic search is also one of the important things to consider as the search engines are using the data and displaying related searched and other stuff, so how do you implement semantics in your blog and what can be done in this department?

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Anton Koekemoer July 13, 2012 at 1:12 am

Hi Kaiser,

What a compelling and informative post. Especially on the importance of authorship (author tags, keywords, title, email etc.) when it comes to displaying search engine queries and better rankings in the SERPS’s. The part of using LSI keywords in content is not a new technique , though there are so little people who makes use of this method.

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Sanjib Saha July 16, 2012 at 3:12 am

Hi Jason,

Sanjib here. A very helpful article for many of us who are into writing content and blogging too. I agree with all your observations. I too feel that presenting good content , optimization and build links will have a lot of advantage in gaining the top rankings of search engines. All these are decisive factors in your ratings .

Thanks a lot,

Sanjib

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Julian King July 16, 2012 at 5:17 am

I’ve never tried to come up with creative titles, as I considered I had only one option: to follow the lead and target the same keywords. Nevertheless, I’ve seen that Google discourages keyword targeting, therefore we have to write for our readers and not for search engines.

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Astro Gremlin July 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Jason, this is a nice summary of tips. Since any given post is competing against millions, even the slightest edge seem worth pursuing. In short, the second page of Google is not even second place. I’m very interested in LSI and believe I do it fairly organically — it’s nice to know that a search engine can appreciate synonyms and related terms that also break up the boredom for a human scanner.

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Rajnish July 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Indexing article is going harder day by day, previously in 2008 when I started blogging my content get indexed withing 5 seconds but now on new blogs it some times take a week or more. God knows what is going to be next !!

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Andrzej August 1, 2012 at 5:16 am

Schema-creator is cool thing

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Joan @ SEO Manchester August 2, 2012 at 6:03 am

Great in-depth article. I think it’s quite a skill to write an informative, comprehensive piece of content that will be useful for both SEs and visitors these days. The more well written the content is I find the internal links and anchor text comes more naturally. Good point made about exceeding expectations with creative titles, this is overlooked I feel.

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Shalu Sharma September 2, 2012 at 2:27 am

These are classic tips. I think you have covered most if not all of the things required to rank higher. I did not particularly understand the role of schema and microdata which I need to understand more off. There is no doubt that internet is getting ore visual and more of us are tuning into images and videos and makes sense to use them in our posts. You mention about length, I think most readers loose concentration after a while but we also have to cater for the search engines hence I am not sure what an appropriate length should be? But anything around 800+ is more than enough but to be honest most people don’t read all of it.

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Meena Thakur September 3, 2012 at 5:55 am

Brilliant article Jason.Liked the schema creator.Kudos to your efforts!!

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Sai Krishna September 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Wow, your theme is really very clean and attractive. Your content optimization tips was very clear and useful. Thanks for sharing, will improve my blog with your tips.

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erda September 12, 2012 at 8:17 am

Jason, great points regarding content marketing.
A very helpful article for many of us who are into writing content and blogging too.
Your explanation makes sense though, if you associate you content with a relevant topic from a credible sources it help rank better for that topic.

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Justin October 16, 2012 at 2:04 am

That’s the whole idea when optimizing your content. Everyone says that you have to write for you readers and not for search engines. I think that there is a misconception about that because this is what Spammers do. Use “black hat” techniques and other tactics to manipulate results. This is to me what writing for search engines really is.

The way I do it is I just write and write until I am satisfied that the message I want to say gets across. Once that’s done, then I optimize my post by editing a few things here and there.

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Matz October 23, 2012 at 3:15 am

Haven’t heard about this schema creator before but sounds interesting. Great post!

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terry knight November 8, 2012 at 7:12 am

Thanks Jason for your words i have not heard about this schema till i read this will definitely try this

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Adam Beaumont December 3, 2012 at 9:56 am

Excellent tips that I think help especially the LSI tip which i will start to use. I have been over-optimising my site for a while now and rankings have dropped so I need tips and here you have provided me with some. Thanks

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Bhupendra January 15, 2013 at 4:40 am

Nicely described Jason, Now that’s what we call a detailed post.
I am gonna work in it.
Thanks for sharing

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Noyal Dasot April 17, 2013 at 12:20 am

Hey I am a new blogger and I’m looking forward to best article which is really knowledgeable for me. Finally I feel happy that I got your post. I’m going to check out all these things for my site. Your article certainly makes lots of things up for me. Thanks and keep writing.

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Pedro Pereira May 30, 2013 at 7:05 am

Excelente article! Cheers!

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Jordan J. Caron@SEO Victoria September 26, 2013 at 10:33 am

Jason,

The authorship markup has been great for my CTR’s. I’ve had clients say that was the main reason they clicked on my site. So I highly suggest everyone make sure they had the authorship markup tied to their website.

I’ve done the same to my clients site and added microdata for their local businesses. We will see how well this helps their rankings.

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Spin Academy December 24, 2013 at 9:43 am

Thanks for these tips. We’re trying hard to focus on how we can better optimize our content to get more website traffic and convert them into sales. We need to perhaps focus on creating longer blog posts as they tend to be nowhere near the 800+ words you suggest.

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Cerita Lucu April 29, 2014 at 6:21 am

I’ve never tried to come up with creative titles, as I considered I had only one option: to follow the lead and target the same keywords. Nevertheless, I’ve seen that Google discourages keyword targeting, therefore we have to write for our readers and not for search engines.

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