Content Planning & Optimization
Essentially, content optimization, or SEO (search engine optimization), is the process of optimizing your content to make sure that it’s more visible through the web. Search engine robots will rank highly optimized content higher on a search engine page than non-optimized content. Optimizing a website involves many nuanced details, and search engine robots are weighing everything from content to HTML to backlinks.
It’s important to note that Google is responsible for the majority of the search engine traffic in the world. This may vary from one industry to another, but it’s likely that Google is the dominant player in the search results that your business or website would want to show up in, but the best practices outlined in this guide will help you to position your site and its content to rank in other search engines, as well.
Beginner can improve their search engine ranking by referring to the following:
Write Great Content: While content alone isn’t everything, it is a big part of the picture, and great content can dramatically improve your chances of a great SEO ranking. When writing content, make sure it’s relatable to the user/reader, is original, and is written for your website and your purposes. Since you know your business better than anyone, writing content that describes your product, your services, or your business updates should buy right up your alley.
Keep New Content Coming: Another tip for optimizing your content is to be constantly posting new content. Search engine robots love new content, and your readers will, too.
Use Headings: Another thing that search engines love is big text, so make sure you use headings and subheadings in your writing and make sure you make the text larger or bolded. Another tip: use keywords within the heading, which will kill two birds with one stone.
Optimize the Text: You can optimize existing text simply by adding a few key content optimization devices. Title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords, and URLs are all a great way to get your content noticed by search engines.
Optimize Images: People love images, and consumers often spend as much time searching for photos as they do text. As such, make sure you’re up to speed by optimizing all images within your content. Add alt tags, which serve as alternate text; use image tags, which are the words that show up when a user scrolls over an image; and make sure the file size of your images has been adjusted properly to ensure that all images load and view properly.
Optimize Videos: Like images, great headings, and other graphics or bold colors, videos grab the readers’ attention and help to keep them hooked. If you don’t have your own videos to upload, you can use websites such as YouTube to find great clips that can be embedded into your site. As always, use good keywords in your videos’ title, descriptions, and tags; share videos on social media sites; and use a video as a call to action or another way to drive sales.
Stop Writing for Search Engines: Believe it or not, most search engine robots can tell when you’re writing content specifically for search engine optimization and not for the user, which hurts your ranking. Instead of focusing exclusively on keywords, over-linking, or creating content that’s low quality just for the purpose of publishing, relax, take a breath, and back-off from over optimizing. Focusing on content that is natural sounding and useful will get you a long way, and then optimizing after that by doing the things mentioned above is key.
Use Social Media: If you posted your blog to Facebook or Twitter once and then gave up on it, you’re not doing your best to optimize your page. Social media is very important when it comes to content optimization, and simply posting a link isn’t enough. Rather, build relationships with relevant users and connections through social media sites, share other users’ content too, provide feedback, and use your social media site for more than just posting.
Keep it Clean: Finally, know that a search engine won’t publish anything that’s hard to find or illegal to post. As such, make sure you keep your code clean and organized, using HTML and CSS layouts, which help search engines, find your content efficiently. Additionally, know that anything illegal (unlawful use of copyrighted content) won’t be published. For best results, use your own content, and be creative to avoid raising any red flags.
Google’s algorithm is extremely complex, but at a high level:
Google is looking for pages that contain high-quality, relevant information relevant to the searcher’s query.
Google’s algorithm determines relevance by “crawling” (or reading) your website’s content and evaluating (algorithmically) whether that content is relevant to what the searcher is looking for, based on the keywords it contains and other factors (known as “ranking signals”).
Google determines “quality” by a number of means, but a site’s link profile – the number and quality of other websites that link to a page and site as a whole is among the most important.
Search Volume: The first factor to consider is how many people are actually searching for a given keyword. The more people there are searching for a keyword, the bigger the potential audience you stand to reach. Conversely, if no one is searching for a keyword, there is no audience available to find your content through search.
Relevance: A term may be frequently searched for, but that does not necessarily mean that it is relevant to your prospects. Keyword relevance, or the connection between content on a site and the user’s search query, is a crucial ranking signal.
Competition: Keywords with higher search volume can drive significant amounts of traffic, but competition for premium positioning in the search engine results pages can be intense.
While Google is working to better understand the actual meaning of a page and de-emphasizing (and even punishing) aggressive and manipulative use of keywords, including the term (and related terms) that you want to rank for in your pages is still valuable. And the single most impactful place you can put your keyword is your page’s title tag.
While the title tag is effectively your search listing’s headline, the meta description (another meta HTML element that can be updated in your site’s code, but isn’t seen on your actual page) is effectively your site’s additional ad copy. Google takes some liberties with what they display in search results, so your meta description may not always show, but if you have a compelling description of your page that would make folks searching likely to click, you can greatly increase traffic.
The actual content of your page itself is, of course, very important. Different types of pages will have different “jobs” your cornerstone content asset that you want lots of folks to link to needs to be very different than your support content that you want to make sure your users find and get an answer from quickly. That said, Google has been increasingly favoring certain types of content, and as you build out any of the pages on your site, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Thick & Unique Content: There is no magic number in terms of word count, and if you have a few pages of content on your site with a handful to a couple hundred words you won’t be falling out of Google’s good graces, but in general recent Panda updates in particular favor longer, unique content. If you have a large number (think thousands) of extremely short (50-200 words of content) pages or lots of duplicated content where nothing changes but the page’s title tag and say a line of text, that could get you in trouble. Look at the entirety of your site: are a large percentage of your pages thin, duplicated and low value? If so, try to identify a way to “thicken” those pages, or check your analytics to see how much traffic they’re getting, and simply exclude them (using a noindex meta tag) from search results to keep from having it appear to Google that you’re trying to flood their index with lots of low value pages in an attempt to have them rank.
- Engagement”: Google is increasingly weighting engagement and user experience metrics more heavily. You can impact this by making sure your content answers the questions searchers are asking so that they’re likely to stay on your page and engage with your content. Make sure your pages load quickly and don’t have design elements (such as overly aggressive ads above the content) that would be likely to turn searchers off and send them away.
- “Sharability”: Not every single piece of content on your site will be linked to and shared hundreds of times. But in the same way you want to be careful of not rolling out large quantities of pages that have thin content, you want to consider who would be likely to share and link to new pages you’re creating on your site before you roll them out. Having large quantities of pages that aren’t likely to be shared or linked to doesn’t position those pages to rank well in search results, and doesn’t help to create a good picture of your site as a whole for search engines, either.
How you mark up your images can impact not only the way that search engines perceive your page, but also how much search traffic from image search your site generates. An alt attribute is an HTML element that allows you to provide alternative information for an image if a user can’t view it. Your images may break over time (files get deleted, users have difficulty connecting to your site, etc.) so having a useful description of the image can be helpful from an overall usability perspective. This also gives you another opportunity outside of your content to help search engines understand what your page is about.
Your site’s URL structure can be important both from a tracking perspective (you can more easily segment data in reports using a segmented, logical URL structure), and a shareability standpoint (shorter, descriptive URLs are easier to copy and paste and tend to get mistakenly cut off less frequently). Again: don’t work to cram in as many keywords as possible; create a short, descriptive URL.
Schema & Markup
Finally, once you have all of the standard on-page elements taken care of, you can consider going a step further and better helping Google (and other search engines, which also recognize schema) to understand your page.
Schema markup does not make your page show up higher in search results (it’s not a ranking factor, currently). It does give your listing some additional “real estate” in the search results, the way ad extensions do for your AdWords ads.