Learn how to optimize your content for SEO with this complete guide

Content creation not showing the results you were promised? Coming up with new ideas taking up too much of your time?

Are you currently a stressed, middle-aged marketing manager staring at your Google Analytics dashboard and trying to hide the coffee stain on your shirt?

A steady 30-day dosage of website content optimization can help.

This guide will walk you through why marketers are pivoting from creation to optimization and what you need to know to get more eyes on your content.

What is content optimization?

Content optimization is making sure that your content is appealing to both humans and search engines. You can call this high-quality content, or as some prefer SEO content.

It’s unlikely that every page on your website is 100 percent optimized for search engine ranking.

With Google processing, 63,000 searches per second and making thousands of algorithm updates each year, optimizing content to align to the latest changes is a continual process.

Content that’s search-friendly one day may be stale and outdated the next. With that being said, there is an ongoing need for optimization that is built into standard digital marketing operations.

It’s the defining purpose of SEO to help websites rank better in search results.

Why search engine optimization is so important

Search engine optimization ensures that search bots easily index your content and that it’s formatted optimally for user consumption.

Thin, fluffy content is penalized by Google for not meeting its SEO criteria. Google rewards comprehensive, relevant content with higher rankings in search results.

Structured data and technical site markup are necessary for any website to appear in search results.

SEO is essential beyond these basic practices because it helps businesses add value to their bottom lines.


More than 82 percent of marketers state their SEO effectiveness is increasing (i.e., search presence competition is more heated than ever). Another 61% of marketers say SEO is their top in­bound marketing priority.

These trends make sense, as SEO is proven to generate:

  • More clicks: Searchers are 8.5X more likely to click on organic results than paid ads.
  • More traffic: SEO brings 85 percent more traffic to websites than PPC.
  • More purchases: Consumers are 131 percent more likely to purchase after reading a piece of content.
  • More leads: Inbound marketing produces 3X more leads than outbound.
  • More conversions: Content marketing prompts 6X more conversions than traditional marketing.
  • More visibility: Companies with updated, optimized content has 434 percent more search-indexed pages.

Of equal importance is understanding how both on- and off-page SEO factor into the effectiveness of your content.

What’s the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO?

On-page SEO refers to any copy and metadata that can affect your site’s ranking. That’s the focus of this post.

Off-page SEO includes everything that influences organic rankings that occur outside the parameters of your website or content management system (CMS), including link building, brand mentions, social media, and influencer marketing.

So how do you optimize on-page content?

On-page SEO

Here are the primary factors that web admins, content managers, and online marketers consider when optimizing their website content:

  • Title tags.
  • Meta descriptions.
  • Alt tags.
  • URL structures.
  • Media (images, videos).
  • H1, H2, and H3 tags.
  • Internal linking.
  • Outbound linking.
  • Mobile-responsiveness.

These are the first steps to take when optimizing your site for search engines. However, the content – i. e., blogs, images, and videos – that populate most of your web pages must also be optimized for search.

Optimizing older posts instead of creating new ones can significantly impact organic rankings and your search presence.

Content optimization priorities: Where to start and what to do

You should optimize the entire page for a single keyword when optimizing content.

Secondary and latent semantic indexing (LSI) words will help. Still, they need to be clear to both search engines and consumers about the blog post and how relevant the content is to the topic, the title, subheads, metatags, and keywords. To do that, laser-focus on an individual keyword.

(For this very post, ours is “website content optimization,” so we’re attempting to tackle this topic from all logical angles. Long-tail keywords between three and four words long tend to produce better results.

Pinpoint pages for improvement

First, use Google Search Console to determine which pages are already performing reasonably well. Then, use Moz Keyword Explorer to determine which pages are close to ranking on page one for specific keywords.

For example, if you currently rank in position number 12 for content strategy consulting, you probably need to jump just two positions to appear on page 1, where most of all clicks happen.

If your page is appropriately marked up on the backend and all of your metadata is keyword relevant, you’ll need to update the depth of your copy to be more specific. We call this “content depth.”

Perform a content depth audit

Your blogs aren’t ranking as well as they should because there are some gaps in your content that other companies exploit. They cover topics more thoroughly than I am, so naturally, Google associates their posts with a more excellent value for users.

A content gap analysis helps you identify the ideas you need to add to your existing copy to serve searchers’ needs better. It’s a step-by-step blueprint for what to keep and what to change.

With these new ideas, you must write each one carefully enough so that they add value to the reader. Don’t skip over any critical parts of the keyword.

And these ideas must flow into the larger narrative, and they must be relevant to the root keywords you’re targeting. It means expanding the content length by several hundred to a thousand words. If you extrapolate this step across every single sub-optimal page of your site, you can see how it could take a long time and be quite tedious. The benefit is that fully optimized content helps your content marketing results snowball because each updated page confers additional value upon any pages to which it is linked.

Consider additional on-page elements

Once the content has been written, several ways to improve its readability include custom images, social sharing buttons, logical call-to-actions, and appropriate subheadlines to break up the text. You may also want to add social media elements like Instagram posts or Twitter tweets for additional context.

To reap the rewards of such a strategy, you don’t need to change existing metadata every time (title tags and URLs, specifically). Open the old post within your CMS, make content changes directly, then republish.

For pages where you include additional inline images (such as featured images), leverage the benefits of image captions and alternative text. These elements are ripe for inserting a targeted keyword if you feel like you’ve practically said all you can with a pure copy! This technique, known by some as image SEO, is microscopic in terms of its impact on your overall marketing strategy. Still, it can add significant semantic relevance to your web pages.

With each subsequent post, you can dive deeper and further into posts that aren’t performing well, ultimately aiming to improve as many posts as possible.

Every piece of content has some inherent value. After all, you devoted resources to create it in the first place. Circle back to it, optimize, and track performance metrics. You’re only halfway done, but you’ll never finish if you don’t get back to work right away.

Website content optimization tools to use

Any SEO marketing tool (or plugin) should be capable of telling you what needs to be optimized and how to do it, but in practice, not all tools are equally effective at doing so. Those tools may include:

  • Ahrefs.
  • Moz.
  • SEMrush.
  • Searchmetrics.
  • Raven Tools.
  • Yoast SEO.
  • Optimizely.

In practice, we’ve found the most efficient and cost-effective optimization tools to be MarketMuse and trusty ol’ Google Search Console.

These tools provide the exact data we need, actionable takeaways on what to improve, and the likelihood of us outperforming others once content updates are made. Find a tool that suits your vision and fits your budget.

What does successful optimization look like?

So you’ve optimized a piece of content on your site, and the new version is life. What now? Did it work?

Run a Fetch as Google, which prompts the search engine to reindex your post within seconds and see what your new SERP position is. More specifically, use an incognito window to ensure you’re viewing bias-free results. If you’ve followed your content gap analysis as closely as possible, you should see a ranking improvement.

In our experience, it’s possible, after republishing, to jump dozens of positions in a matter of seconds. Google’s algorithms work that fast.

The only metric, on the surface, for a “successful optimization” is your SERP position. Up is good; down is nearly impossible.

But looking further into what it means to rank higher shows that there are tangible benefits to successfully optimizing your website content, which we outlined above (e.g., more clicks, conversions, traffic, etc.). You can measure the click-through rate in Google Analytics to better understand whether those higher SERP positions are paying off, too.

Once your content is ranking well, you can move into more sophisticated practices, such as conversion rate optimization, to identify how to push site visitors further down the sales funnel.

This end-to-end organic optimization strategy should increase the chances of converting readers into customers.

Be sure to pair your great content with social media and email promotion. By distributing your optimized content across several channels, you can deliver additional referral traffic and ranking signals to your site. It indirectly ups the likelihood of arresting the search position you seek.

Content ranking factors

9 Google Ranking Factors You Shouldn't Ignore

You can use an SEO tool to help you write about a target keyword; however, you still need to perform the actual updates (i.e., write the darn thing). The output is a list of sentences that are paraphrases of the input.

When writing, you must still follow the core content ranking factors used by search engines.

The Google ranking factors that matter most are right here in this great infographic:

Provided you have a mobile-friendly website, don’t have many inhibitive site errors (e.g., duplicate content), and are consistently tweaking your content for search. You, by and large, have executed the foundational SEO tasks you must conduct to own SERPs. For more please visit Seobea.