Optimization Prime - Content Edition: Part 1 of 7
"There’s a thin line between being a hero and being a memory." — Optimus Prime
The same can be said for content. There is a thin line between good content and optimized content.
First up in our seven-part optimization series—content.
Not to be confused with content marketing, content optimization is a process rather than a strategy. Content marketing has long solidified its power in digital marketing. It can grow a company's brand, generate awareness, capture leads, and build an audience base. It’s a powerful tactic, but it is even more powerful when the content you market is optimized.
What is Content Optimization?
Content optimization is a method to improve a site’s digital assets and pages through optimization to make it more attractive, unique, useful, and actionable to its intended users. The treatments can include on-page SEO, fixes, and improvements on technical performance (eg., page speed), user experience, content editing, and conversion optimization.
A very close ‘cousin’ to content optimization is authoritative content. These two terms are often intermingled and interchanged as they both involve many of the same beliefs, practices, and results.
Authoritative content is relevant and newsworthy, developed with a solid understanding of your companies target market, is unique, informed, and filled with valuable insight. Authoritative content can drive organic search traffic, but most importantly, can build trust—and we all know that trust can convert customers.
Both have the same end goal to make all of your content assets perform and rank higher on search engines, and to be well-received by your target audience.
Content Optimization Best Practices
Keyword and User Intent
Always begin your optimization and authoritative content development with your keyword research and user intent. Who you feel your audience is, where your audience is, which keywords to optimize, and the topic you are going to write about are the pillars of optimized content. This may seem overwhelming, but when broken down into a few activities, it isn’t as daunting as you might think:
Audience research: Identify the intended audience you feel is interested in what you have to offer, research, and identify where they are online. Take it a step further and focus group tests—talk to them or survey them. Understand their demographics and behaviors. Check out this great guide on audience research from Marketing Land.
Keyword research: First, find relevant, profitable keywords that relate to your expertise, your products and services, and your audience’s search intent. There are several tools you can use, such as Google’s Keyword Planner or Moz’s Keyword Explorer to find your keywords. Alternatively, looks at your competitors to see what keywords they are using. At a minimum, average two target keywords per article. Second, establish what type of content you are creating—pillar or original content (or those which are a cluster or supporting in nature). Which keywords you choose and how you integrate them into your article will be influenced by this decision. Again, as a lower limit, you want to optimize your content with at least two keywords. Articles can be optimized for up to ten or even fifteen keywords each but be careful not to fall into the trap of ‘keyword stuffing’. When searching for keywords and terms, think of the four ‘Ws’:
- Who your audience segments are
- What kind of information they need
- Why they need that information
- Which keywords they’re using to find it
Topic research: Come up with content topics based on the targeted keywords you discovered and what your audience wants to learn and know about your products and services.
Checklist — your most effective content topics:
- Are based on an understanding of your audience, as well as keyword and user intent research.
- Help the reader complete one specific task.
- Features an enticing call to action or a clear next step.
- Are not stuffed full of the primary keyword.
- Organize thematic subsections by primary related keywords.
- Make natural use of keywords and variants in content.
- Make natural use of keywords in image text.
- Make natural use of keywords in titles.
- Make natural use of keywords in the URL.
- Make natural use of keywords and variants in the first 100 words.
Content that reaches the tops of SERPs is an impressive feat, but its one heroic standout? Readability! Simply put—it’s content that’s accessible and easy to read. However, it is not as straight forward as you might think. Several elements and metric go into creating content that is readable and obtains a good readability score. This can include—but not limited to—sentence length, ‘scanability’, use of headers, vocabulary level, and active versus passive voice. Your article should have a readability score of at least 60. To determine your readability score:
Multiply the average sentence length by 1.01, then multiply the average word length by 84.6, then add the two numbers, then subtract this sum from 206.835
The balance is your readability score. Or just use a tool like Readable to test your score.
Checklist — your content has strong readability when it:
A trend that many marketers are seeing in SEO this year is creating content that dives deeper and farther—due mainly to Google’s focus on content quality. On average, most articles that are optimized are 1100–1200 words in length, but this is shifting to an increase to 2,000 words or more. Writing long-form content may seem discouraging, but think about exploring topics that include many different angles that you can speak to, choose a topic and interview multiple experts, develop case studies, or create ultimate guides. And because we love our tools, go beyond the simple Google search or alerts and try a search in Google Scholar or JSTOR to assist you in crafting long-form content on deeply researched items.
Get the Need for Speed
We all loathe a slow loading site, so you can imagine your consumers’ frustrations when your content loads slowly. Research from the Nielsen Norman Group revealed that most users would leave a page within ten to twenty seconds. Quick tips to improve page speed include:
- Is written to its audience, not your peers.
- Is shareable.
- Can be scanned quickly by the reader.
- Uses strong titles and H1s
- Features ideal results, common objections, and time frames in sub-headers.
- Is better than current SERP winners.
Invest in Media Assets
Content is more than just words on a page—it is also media such as images, videos, infographics, audio, and more. In fact, according to a study completed by Skyword, articles containing relevant images receive an average of 94 percent more views than articles without images. Do your best to stay away from stock photos and invest in some well-designed, quality, and original media assets. This will help further your brand by making it more personal and authoritative, plus, it’s a good booster for SEO.
Deepen Your Trust with Trusted Resources
What’s the saying? Oh, yes! ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ Becoming an authoritative content leader—or expert—in your field doesn’t happen overnight, but with the optimized and authoritative content, you will get there. Research! Research! Research! Invest the time to look for quality and supporting resources that can reinforce your content as well as differentiate yourself from the others.
Don’t SNIP the Snippet
The ‘featured snippet’, that is! This is the small, two, or three sentence description of information that will show up on a results page when people search. The key importance? They take the first spot at the top of the page. In fact, featured snippets actually steal traffic away from the number one spot according to this Ahrefs study. Try incorporating these tactics to reach the featured snippet spot:
- Upgrade to better performing hosting
- Reduce HTTPS calls
- Include the trailing slash
- Enable compression
- Enable browser caching
- Optimize media files
- Prioritize Above-the-Fold Content
- Utilize Caching & CDNs
- Answer questions definitively in your content.
- Make sure your content is the highest quality as possible.
- Always include a numbered or bulleted list (or both).
- Include stats, data, and links – remember that ‘Deepen your trust with trusted resources’ line.
- Structure your content logically. Check out this guide from Moz.
Now, go forth and create optimized and authoritative content. Autobots! Roll out!
Join us for part two of our Optimization Prime series—Websites—next
Monday, June 24, 2019
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 (updated).
Catch up with our Optimization Prime series:
Lynette Sawyer is a Web Project Manager for Falcon-Software, a digital web agency founded in 1994. For the last 13-years Lynette has been in various digital capacities and her expertise goes beyond Project Management. Lynette brings experience and knowledge in graphic design, marketing communications, project management, product management and engagement.