As 58 percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend over the next 12 months, the amount of content created and published will continue to grow. With that, content optimization is becoming increasingly important, as even great content can’t produce results if your audience doesn’t find it.
However, many publishers struggle with content optimization and finding the balance between optimizing your content for search and for the audience the content is intended for.
I’ve asked 9 experts to weigh in on their number-one tip for content optimization, as well as the top optimization mistake they see publishers make. Here is what they had to say:
1. Alan Bleiweiss
Alan Bleiweiss is a forensic SEO consultant specializing in site audits.
#1 Tip: At this point, I’m a broken record in regard to the top tip for optimizing content: QUART. Everything you do for SEO needs to be held up against the QUART test: Quality, Uniqueness, Authority, Relevance, Trust.
At a bare minimum, every signal needs to reinforce quality, uniqueness, and relevance. Authority and Trust are more elusive, and absolutely need to be worked on; however, they’re generally more of a byproduct of the other work you do.
#1 Mistake: The number-one mistake I see people make in their efforts to optimize? They become fixated on individual signals — inbound links, keyword usage, crawl efficiency, content depth… or any of several other signals.
They become myopic in what they work on rather than understanding the need to spread their energy/effort/resources around. The end result is an imbalance that creates an unhealthy pattern — too easily identified as “artificially forced” — that leaves them vulnerable to competitive efforts.
2. Eric Enge
#1 Tip: Do some keyword research so you can determine what language users use most often when discussing the topic matter of your content. Use this to help you better determine the focus of the content and to influence the title of the article.
But, then, let good writers write. Let your subject matter expert write great stuff without clouding their mind with complicated targets for using different keyword variants. Creating content that meets the user’s needs should be your number one goal.
#1 Mistake: Many marketers really over-think what goes into each piece of content. They try to make sure that many different keyword variants are used, and that the main keyword is repeated multiple times. This is a surefire way to create subpar content that does not meet the user’s needs, and meeting their needs has to be goal number one.
If you do what I said in my tip, and let good subject matter expert writers write, they will naturally use semantically rich content. Avoiding over-optimization also allows you to get more volume as well, because the writer is focused on doing what comes naturally to them.
3. Melissa Fach
Melissa Fach is the President of Internet marketing company SEO Aware and an associate at Moz.
You have to have SEO and business goals, for the overall site and for each individual page. Then you need to start thinking about strategies to meet those goals.
Once you understand what your goals are, and have possible strategies, you can begin to create content to meet these goals. Goals give direction and effective strategies give results.
A critical part of your content strategy should be focused on making sure that each piece of content develops trust, meets needs and creates urgency.
- Without trust, you have nothing
- If you don’t meet a need, you are not needed
- Urgency doesn’t allow customers to slip away
It is critical that the content be focused on converting a website visitor into a customer. Getting more traffic accomplishes nothing without conversion.
4. Rand Fishkin
Rand Fishkin is the Wizard of Moz, an inbound marketing and SEO software company.
#1 Tip: Survey your audience. Gather a representative sample set of folks who you suspect are interested in the topic of your content and ask them what they’re most curious about, what they wish someone would address, and whether any creative ideas that you’re already planning to execute resonate with them.
When people you’re trying to reach tell you they’re desperate for some form of information or excited about what you’re building, you’ve struck gold. If your ideas aren’t resonating or a content gap doesn’t exist, it’s probably wise to go back to the drawing table.
#1 Mistake: Assuming that just because you’ve built it, they will come. I see far too many marketers and brands giving up on content investments because they’ve tried and failed.
Until and unless you’ve failed for years in a row, and poured in effort again and again, you haven’t truly invested in content. This is a practice that requires a tremendous amount of investment over a long period, and unless you’re extremely talented and lucky, your initial efforts aren’t likely to be well received.
5. AJ Kohn
#1 Tip: Readability. Don’t make your users work for your content. People don’t generally read. They scan. So use a strong font hierarchy with interesting subheads. Use short paragraphs. Break things up with images. Make it easy for them to remember.
#1 Mistake: Giving up too soon on the hard stuff. Whether it’s blogging, social or content marketing, many people try it for a few months and then throw in the towel, kicking the proverbial ground and muttering “doesn’t work,” or reporting back to their managers that it “doesn’t produce the appropriate ROI.” Success comes slowly and then overnight.
6. Dr. Pete Meyers
Dr. Pete Meyers is a Marketing Scientist at Moz, an inbound marketing and SEO software company.
#1 Tip: It sounds basic, but too many people don’t put time and effort into their page titles — or, just as bad, they keyword-stuff them to the point of insanity.
Google is showing fewer characters now (safe bet is about 55, by my research), and characters toward the beginning probably matter more and definitely have more impact on visitors.
Put aside old-school SEO considerations, and think about titles/headlines that can really drive relevant clicks. If you have to repeat title elements across your site (like a category or site name), put the unique elements first.
#1 Mistake: Especially on larger sites, people want every single page and variation indexed, in the vain hope that everything will rank. This leads to dilution, at best, and ranking problems (including Panda) at worst.
The same goes for internal linking. Odds are that 20% of your pages/products drive 80% of your visits/sales. If you try to focus on everything, you end up focusing on nothing.
7. Mat Siltala
Mat Siltala is President at Avalaunch Media, an Internet marketing company specializing in visual content, search and design.
#1 Tip: If you are going to make me pick one (because there are sooooo many contenders), I’d have to say that right now, at this moment in time, make sure all of your content is set up correctly to positively impact your Google Authorship. All content you publish — videos, slide decks, graphics, plain old “written content,” etc. — needs to be associated with your Google Authorship and set up correctly from a technical standpoint.
#1 Mistake: I deal with a lot of “visual” content, from infographics to videos, and I often see people posting this visual content with no actual text on the page to go along with it.
Although a good graphic will tell a story visually to keep people engaged, you still need to include accompanying text content to help the search engines know what the graphic is about.
8. David Wallace
David Wallace is the CEO of Search Rank, a search and social media marketing company.
The first step in optimizing content would be to conduct keyword research. It’s not that keywords in and of themselves should dictate what the subject matter of your content should be; but if it is at all possible, utilize keywords and/or phrases that are either popular in search or trending.
I myself do not always worry about keyword research when creating content, but it can certainly help in ranking a piece of content as well as driving actual traffic and social shares toward it.
Another important optimization step is likely obvious to most, and that is optimize the title tag of the piece. Believe it or not, this is often neglected by many who are publishing content! Whether or not branding will be part of the title tag is completely up to the individual but if including branding, I prefer for brand names to follow whatever the title is.
Beyond this, using imagery has become extremely important, not only as an optimization tactic but to engage visitors, as well. Having imagery will easily attract Pins to Pinterest or postings to Tumblr, both of which are image-based social networks.
Be sure to utilize title and alt attributes within the images themselves. If the content piece is an infographic, be sure to include an Embed Code. If your publishing platform is WordPress, you can use this handy Embed Code Generator to add an “Embed This” code to your post.
9. Monica Wright
#1 Tip: Content is about the people you want to attract. It is meant to be experienced, whether its purpose is to entertain, or to teach, or to empathize. Do not create content for the sake of needing a “strategy.” A blog, for example, is not a content strategy.
If you can understand your audience’s needs, it’ll be a lot easier to create and optimize content. We do this a lot in terms of optimizing for search, but answering these questions can give you a good assessment of what kind of content to create:
- How do I…
- What is…
- Where can I find…
- What’s the best…
- Who is…
#1 Mistake: One of the biggest mistakes is creating a design first, then plugging in site content as an afterthought. Content is a commodity; it is an asset. I had a boss who would always ask me during the product development phase, “Is that a feature, or a benefit for the user?” Think of content as the benefit, and the backbone of a content marketing plan is pretty much taken care of.
Frankly, this very recent debate of “killing the blog category” surprises me. Content has structure. It defines how you organize a site. Not everything needs to live in a category, but having topical landing pages as resources is a good thing. It also helps define what your site is about. People don’t like to think, you need to show them.
Lisa Barone wrote a response this week that aligns more with how I’d approach organizing content. But what it comes down to is you have to do what works for your site. I certainly would not ever recommend removing categories from an editorial site.
What is YOUR number-one content optimization tip? What is the most common mistake YOU see? Let me know in the comment section below.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.