Written by Robert Phillips –
- By using a range of techniques to optimize your content, you can make it easier for both search engines and users to consume your written text
- Taking the time to plan your content topics and conduct extensive keyword research can make a big impact when it comes to performance
- You should always write for the user first, but you can still implement SEO best practices while doing so
- Understand the role of accessibility in written content and the importance of providing as much contextual information as possible
Content optimization is essential because it helps users and search engines to easily understand your written text. In addition to this, there are a huge number of other advantages you can gain by optimizing content. You can increase engagement rates, obtain links, generate brand recognition, and appear as an expert in your field. All while improving your organic search rankings.
Sounds good, right?
Let’s find out how you can benefit from all this, and more, by effectively optimizing your content.
Think about your topic
Before you write content, you need to decide on the topic you’re going to cover. This might sound obvious, but it’s worth thinking about. Spending some extra time planning will help you to identify specific subjects and talking points you can discuss. This will help shape your keyword research, which plays a huge role in creating SEO-friendly content.
At this stage, it’s worth thinking about what you want to focus on. You want the topic to be broad enough that you can produce detailed content about it, but not so broad that you won’t be able to cover it all. It might be the case that you need to split the topic into multiple articles. Or if your topic is too vague, you may need to home in on something more specific.
Conduct detailed keyword research
Keyword research is and always has been an essential part of producing good content. It’s the basis for content production and making sure you’re ranking for relevant keywords that you have a good chance of competing for. When performing keyword research, you should be on the lookout for several different types of keywords.
Also known as the head or main keyword, short-tail keywords are made up of a maximum of three words. These keywords will typically have large volumes, but because of this, they have high search difficulties and therefore are highly competitive.
Because these keywords have a broad search intent, they should be used alongside more precise keywords to make it clear to users and search engines exactly what your page is about.
Long-tail keywords are terms made up of more than three keywords and are much more specific than short-tail keywords. These keywords generally have lower volumes, but they also have lower search difficulties, which means they are less competitive.
These keywords are important because they allow you to target a user’s exact search intent. A user who searches for the short-tail keyword ‘motorbike’ might be trying to buy a motorbike, find more information about a model or simply look at a picture of one.
A long tail variation of this search might be ‘Motorbike helmet with Bluetooth speakers’, which narrows down the user’s search intent to a very specific product.
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are keywords that are loosely related to your head keyword. While these keywords are relevant to your main keyword and the overall topic, they’re not necessarily directly related.
Instead, they’re used thematically to build broader topical depth and make it clear to both search engines and users what the overarching topic of your content is. If your short-tail keyword is the trunk of a tree and your long-tail keywords are the branches, then the LSI keywords are the twigs.
LSI keywords branch out from the main keyword but are still relatable enough to provide additional context and information. These can be a bit trickier to find, but by using the suggested search feature in search engines, you can get your hands on them.
These keywords won’t always be relevant, but if you’re looking to boost your rankings for local terms, then including local keywords is essential.
Luckily, this is a lot easier than implementing other keywords. You simply add your location into your content along with your main keyword. But remember, don’t stuff in keywords for the sake of it! Try to mix it up, using different variations wherever possible.
People also ask (PAA) key phrases
Like the suggested search function, the people also ask feature is an excellent way to obtain relevant keywords and phrases. These are phrases that users have searched for before, so we know that they hold value and have good search volumes.
So, how can we use this to our advantage?
By creating content that targets these queries, you’ll be increasing your chances of appearing in Search Engine Results Pages for these terms.
And the best thing is, these questions are often different to the main keywords you would normally target. This means your content will be more varied and unique and will specifically target pain points that your audience is looking for.
Always write for the user first
People skim content more than ever these days, so it’s important to keep it short, snappy, and engaging. The days of writing solely for search engines are long gone, and Google’s recent helpful content update has really cemented this.
This update emphasizes the importance of writing for the user first. Your focus should be on creating engaging, informative and easy-to-digest content. You can always go through your work afterward and make tweaks and edits to optimize for SEO best practice.
Just be careful not to make it too robotic as search engines can spot keyword stuffing from a mile away! Keep it free-flowing and try to insert keywords in a natural way; both users and search engines will appreciate it.
Include alt-text for your images
If you’re including images in your articles (which you should be) then it’s essential that you add alt text. Alt text is the written copy that describes an image to users who can’t see them or if the image fails to load.
First and foremost, alt text is a core principle of web accessibility for visually impaired users. Its secondary function is to provide additional context and descriptions to search engine crawlers, allowing them to index an image properly.
As some images contain critical information or provide context for the rest of the page, it’s crucial to take the time to write appropriate alt text. By doing this, you are adhering to accessibility standards and improving your SEO at the same time.
Remember internal and external links
Another way to optimize your content is to include internal and external links.
Internal links can be used to take users toward relevant, closely related pages that will provide them with further information they might be looking for. This makes it easier for users to navigate your website and helps to create a strong site structure.
External links are also useful because they can be used to point toward external data and sources of information that back up your content. In the eyes of a search engine, the use of valuable external links improves the authority of your content.
Just make sure you have a healthy balance of follow and no-follow tags on your external links.
Consider site speed
Site speed is always important when it comes to performing well in search engines. No one likes a slow website, and users are more impatient than ever when it comes for waiting for things to load. Even an extra second’s loading time could put some users off and cause them to bounce from your website.
You should regularly review your site speed and make sure your website is performing well. Consider removing unnecessary code and compressing large images as these are common factors that contribute to slow site speed.
Break up your content
Imagine you land on a webpage and the first thing you see is a wall of text with no paragraphs, headings, or subheadings. It’s not exactly going to draw you in, is it?
Users are more likely to consume your content if it’s broken up into digestible chunks. This makes it much easier for them to quickly take in the information they’re looking for.
It also provides you an opportunity to weave keywords into your headings and subheadings, which are strong signals for search engines. It’s a win-win!
Keep things up to date
Remember, even when you’ve produced a well-written, SEO-friendly article, the hard work doesn’t stop there. Google LOVES it when you go back and update existing content because it shows you’re keeping your website up to date.
Has there been a new development that affects the topic of your post? Or perhaps some new data that you could use to explore a new angle? If there is some way that you can update your article and add information that will benefit your users, then it’s worth taking the time to do so.
Enjoy the benefits of optimized content
Now that you know how to optimize your content, you’ll have a better chance of ranking for your chosen keywords. In addition to this, your users will be more likely to stay on your website for longer, increasing your engagement rates and the time spent consuming your content.
As a result of consistently producing high-quality content, you may well find that your site is attracting more links from external sources. This will boost your domain authority and help you to appear as a trustworthy and authoritative source of information.
So, if you’re looking for ways to give your content a little boost, consider implementing some of these techniques into your writing. It won’t always be possible to include everything we’ve mentioned here, but if you write for the user first and take care with your keywords, you’ll be on the right track.
Rob Phillips is Digital Manager at Coast Digital.
Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.