When you think “content optimization,” chances are you’re still thinking about creating content that gets all the bot love. After all, if the algorithms don’t love it, they won’t serve up the traffic.
For some, this is a conscious belief. In others, a subconscious influence in the recesses of the mind drives a bad optimization strategy. Either way, it’s blocking traffic from the excellent content you’re destined to unleash on the world.
To open the traffic floodgates, we need to say it again: Content is for humans. When you create content that humans love, the bots follow suit.
Content optimization is an art as much as a science. And great content comes from humans like you.
Let’s get optimizing!
1. Target Searchers with the Right Keywords
Did I pull a bait-and-switch?
Here I was saying to forget about the bots. And yet, we’re back on a keyword research kick.
Let’s take a deep breath.
Here’s what keyword research is not. It’s not manipulating SERPs or stuffing in as many related topics as possible.
So, what is keyword research? Keywords (or phrases) represent what people seek in search engines. Yes, humans, not bots. You want to create content that people are looking for, right? Targeting a keyword is getting your content in front of the humans who search for that.
How to Do Keyword Research
Use a keyword research tool. You want a search that gets traffic with a competitiveness level where you can hold your own. These tools will deliver several suggestions so you can choose the right one. If the keyword you are searching for is not “the chosen one”, look for one with more traffic or less competition.
The magic happens when you find both.
Consider search intent. Why are people searching for this? They won’t click on your content if it doesn’t match their “why”.
Review top competitors. This is what Google algorithm believes is most relevant to this search. It’s based on what people click and interact with, not what Google wants to show you.
Choose secondary keywords. Secondary keywords are often subtopics competitors are covering. To create valuable, in-depth content, you must also cover some of these topics!
2. Build a Structure They Can Count on
Again, this sounds all sciency. But the structure is critical to on-page optimization (what people see on a page).
And, yes, it’s an art, too.
Humans know when the order you present information in seems illogical, fluffy, unhelpful, or incomplete. A lousy structure will send people fleeing. It looks like they’re in the wrong place.
So, back button. Swipe left. Get me out of here!
We’ve got to get visitors to actually read your article. The longer people stay on the page, the more invested they become in your content.
They’re sharing, commenting, linking, liking, exploring your site, and showing Google you produce high-value content.
All of this drives more traffic to the website.
What Does Optimized Structure Look Like?
It has ample headings that communicate what people will find on this page.
Think about what people want to know and how you can communicate topics in a way that progresses the conversation. What do people need to know first and second to understand the topic?
Now, here’s where some people may focus on headings and how they help Google bots understand what a page is about.
And they’re not wrong! But the flow you’re creating makes content readable and accessible to humans first.
Headings also give people a sneak peek at your brand voice and tone. They break information into digestible chunks and make it easier for someone to skim around if they want something specific.
How to Build the Optimal Content Structure
A mind map is valuable for breaking down complex topics and organizing your structure.
Start with your primary keyword (topic). Depending on the article’s length, determine 5 or more central ideas you need to cover. These become your H2 headings.
Secondary keyword research and a review of what’s already ranking for your primary keyword help you nail it.
Now, bullet out ideas you need to cover beneath each of these sub-topics. Depending on the depth you intend to go, these may be paragraphs or H3 headings. If your topic is an abyss of complexity, keep breaking things down into H4s.
If you’re starting to feel like you’re in 7th-grade English class, you’re not alone. Congratulations, you just created an essay outline.
Read your outline aloud. Does reading the headings alone communicate the essence of your content? If the answer is “no,” try again.
3. Use Keywords as Tools, not Weapons
Those of us who’ve been in the game for a while have watched the evolution of search engine optimization (SEO). We’ve taken part in shenanigans like non-grammatical keywords because that was how the game was played in the time before. Did writing sentences like “if you’re looking for lawn care Seattle Washington contact us” make sense to humans instead of bots? Of course not.
Fast and loose with the rules. In it to win it.
Things like wonky keywords that you had to use multiple times per paragraph were the banes of our existence as content creators but were necessary to some extent.
No more. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
An optimal balance of keyword usage still exists on a page. Understanding it can dramatically improve your chances of ranking in high-traffic searches.
Both keyword density and semantic use of keywords matter. Where you put keywords in the content on and off the screen impacts ranking.
At the end of the day, people who search expect to see what they’re searching for in the search results. They click when they see the keywords they are looking for.
They stay on a page when they see you’re talking about what they came here for.
Where Do Keywords Belong?
- In headings (in moderation)
- Within the first 100 words
- In the title of an embedded video
- In the URL slug. Example.com/benefits-of-care
- In the title
- In the meta title and description
- In an alt image title for a relevant image
- In social media headlines, emails, and ads during promotion
- In variations with semantically related terms
- Where they make sense
- Always with finesse. Make the topic and sub-topic clear without sounding repetitive. Read it aloud. You’ll know!
- Using proper grammar.
Here’s another very human nuance in content optimization that makes this an art. We don’t always use 100% correct grammar on the Internet. But people can tell when you’re using “bad” grammar to be conversational versus trying to earn Google’s approval.
So, the searcher asks for “Auto parts”. This exact phrase doesn’t have to be anywhere in your content for Google to deliver traffic to your website.
4. Be a Link Tour Guide, not a Link Builder
Any link within content deserves to be clicked. It should generate traffic between pages. It should further the exploration of your audience — whether that link is to your site, from it, or internally connecting related topics.
A link is a user experience (UX) feature. It encourages people to explore your website to learn more.
It’s a road that’s meant to be traveled.
And from an SEO perspective, the more traveled that link becomes, the stronger the perceived connection between those two pieces of content.
Done right, you’re increasing a page’s “organic” traffic when you create a link people will follow.
How to Use Links in Content Optimization
Fully intend people to follow that link. Use them to enhance user experience and move people deeper into your website.
Further the buyer’s journey — whether you’re selling ideas or physical or digital products or services.
Make your link a call to action (CTA). Whether subconsciously or intentionally, more people will click it.
5. Think Audience Experience
There’s user experience, as in, does your webpage load quickly? Do links work? And so on.
Then, you have the experience your content creates for the right person.
And who is the right person? It’s the audience you’re trying to attract to your content.
How to Build an Audience Experience
Research who your audience is to know what they want to see on the page. This insight may guide your:
- Brand persona / Archetype
- Voice and tone
- Use of comedy… or lack thereof
- How you use visuals
- Video content
- Short-form or long
- How you cover a topic
- Use of acronyms or jargon
To optimize content, it must meet your audience’s expectations. Nothing else matters if it doesn’t.
And once again, you can get a good idea about what your audience expects by looking at what’s ranking for that topic.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be true to your brand. Don’t just float where the winds of the all-mighty algorithm carry you.
But do find brand-aligned, audience-aligned ways to incorporate the elements your audience needs to see. This is the art of content optimization that drives traffic.
6. Facilitate Social Interactions
People want to connect. They love to share and support each other. In a B2B setting, business decision-makers share content as they decide what to buy.
Sharing is caring, even if you’re sitting in a cubicle doing it.
Optimized content doesn’t live in the vacuum of a single person’s experience. Think broader to reach more people with your content.
Bottom line: Optimized content is shareable content.
How to Create Shareable Content
Share your audience’s values. Understand where they’re coming from and why they’re here.
Make the sharer feel like an expert for sharing this by publishing factual, helpful information.
Make it relatable. When you publish highly relatable content to your audience, they want to share it with similar people. You’ll create more vital content this way.
Get that content out there. Create multi-channel experiences through social media, email, influencers, and, yes, paid advertising. If you want to make friends with new audiences, you’ve got to put yourself out there.
Build your social brand. You need a platform from which to get content out there. Invest in this direct channel to your audience.
7. Bring in the Experts
No, not me. I’m talking about influencers, of course.
Influencers are called this for a reason. What they say resonates with their audience.
Aligning your brand with those in your niche allows you to reach more people. It strengthens your credibility.
It really is “who you know”.
How to Work with Influencers
Respect their “authority”. They aren’t your employees. If you’re uncomfortable with them sharing your content in their way, that’s not the right partner for you.
Get the most out of your influencer relationship by letting go and letting them do what they know works.
Build relationships with niche micro-influencers. Micro-influencers have smaller audiences. But these followers are highly engaged.
You’ll gain more high-value traffic when 10 influential people share your content with an overlapping audience.
Why’s everyone talking about your content all of a sudden? People will want to find out.
Get creative. Inviting influencers to share quotes and insights for your content and then promoting content they’ve contributed to reaching their audience is a clever way to leverage influence indirectly.
8. Know Content Optimization Is a Journey
Optimization doesn’t end when you’ve applied all the best practices. But they sure can get a slow-starter, no-traffic website moving in the right direction.
Set goals. Track performance. Test and optimize. Show your audience you’re building content for them to grow your traffic.