In times when more than 2 million blog articles are published each day, simple blogging is not enough to attract search traffic and draw attention to your brand. Marketers need to focus on content optimization strategies that drive discovery and conversion.
Leaving aside the webmasters’ job and complex SEO-tactics, every content marketer can take steps to increase the search engine visibility of content they create.
So how can marketers optimize their content strategy for higher keyword rankings? First, you need a consistent SEO strategy.
1. Create an SEO content strategy
Before you create any content or proceed to keyword research, you need to establish an optimized content marketing strategy. Up next, we’re going to cover the basics of research for a successful content SEO strategy.
Define your target audience and their interests. By understanding your potential readers, you’ll be able to discover new content topics and find targeted keywords.
Follow your competitor’s SEO strategy. To gather ideas and know what you’re competing against, use a research tool such as Alexa to see every competitor’s top high-ranking and paid keywords. You might want to include some of these in your own content and SEO strategy.
Create niche keyword bundles. After you’ve found 20 keywords you’d like to use in your content marketing, add them all to a spreadsheet. Next, use Google Keyword Planner and multiply keyword lists to get new ideas. Add up to 15 related keywords to each master keyword. Create a content plan that evolves around your top 20 keywords and use the related ideas to complement your master keywords.
See a Moz guide by Laura Lippay for categorized keyword research.
Find gaps and opportunities. Gaps are areas where there is content on the site for a term, but the referral volume is very low. That’s the content you need to improve and complement with further pieces on the same topic. Opportunities are areas where there is significant search volume for topics relevant to your target audience, but there is no content on your site to attract those searchers. Use opportunities to come up with new ideas for your content plan.
2. Find keywords for your content
After you’ve created a content plan and discovered new topics to cover, you can start to create content for your blog and website. To find keywords with a high ranking potential, conduct a multi-step keyword research with the help of Google.
Use Google Keyword Planner. Expand a list of related keywords to get more ideas and find new keywords with low competition and medium monthly searches.
Tip: Include long-tail keywords to your content marketing SEO to rank high for highly targeted search inquiries.
Google your keywords. After you’ve found 1-2 keywords you want to use for optimizing a piece of content, Google it. You’ll be able to see the format (video, article, listicle) of other high-ranking articles and evaluate the keyword difficulty. Make it your goals to produce more helpful and thorough content than the top 10 results.
3. Create quality content
What’s the best length for a blog article? According to Buffer, the ideal length of a blog post is 7 minutes and 1,600 words. Create content that covers a topic in-depth, but don’t get carried away with irrelevant add-ons.
Conduct research & gather ideas. To create a detailed and informative blog article, start by researching the topic on Quora. What are the frequent questions about your subject? Make sure to answer these in your article.
Next, move on to Buzzsumo. Use punctuation marks to search for a particular keyword combination and find the most popular articles on the topic. See the top 10 articles to understand what questions and subject are the most popular among readers. Adjust your content accordingly.
Write for users first. While you want to rank high in search engine results, you shouldn’t produce content for Google algorithms. Write for real people and help to solve their problems and answer their questions.
To rank high in SERPs, create content that’s EEE – engaging, educating and evergreen. If you’re running a blog, make sure your articles provide useful guidance, are fun to read and stay relevant over time. This way, they’ll rank high for years to come.
Understand the user intent. One of the cornerstones of optimized content marketing is the interpretation of user intent. When creating content to rank for a certain keyword phrase, try to match the questions and needs of people searching it on Google. According to Moz, there are three common types of search queries, use these to optimize your content for user intent.
4. SEO-optimize your content
After you’ve created relevant in-depth content and checked the grammar, move on to the more technical side of content optimization. This involves reviewing alt-tags and file names and using the right tools to fix smaller issues.
Create SEO-friendly headlines & URLs. Add a unique and compelling headline to every piece of content. Make sure you include your chosen keyword phrase in the headline. To come up with great ideas, use a headline analyzer to see how engaging words can increase the clicks to your content.
Use the same keywords in your web page URL as you did in the headline. Keep your URLs short but informative for search engines to understand what your site is about.
Add alt tags to images. Well-chosen images strengthen your message and when optimized correctly, also your keyword ranking. Every image can have an alt text that tells search engines what it’s about. Find quality images related your content topic and complement these with an alt tag containing the right keywords.
Include keywords close to H1 tag. The header tag, or the <H1> tag in HTML, is usually the title of a post, or other emphasized text on a web page. For search engines, the H1 tag is the core indicator of what your page is about. Just as important is the presence of keywords in the first couple of paragraphs of the article.
Make sure to include 1-3 principal keywords next to your headline (but do it without apparent keyword stuffing). Be consistent in using your target keywords throughout the article for optimal SEO results.
Link to related articles. If you’ve decided to create content about particular keywords, you likely have more than one article focused on a certain topic. Go back to your already published content and add links to the new piece.
As the anchor text, use multiple variations of your main keyword to grasp the full potential of interlinked content. Do not add anchor links that say “click here” as it does nothing to increase your search engine visibility.
Write a meta description. Use a WordPress SEO plugin to insert a unique and relevant title up to 60 characters to each web page. Don’t forget to write a meta description and add up to 2 keywords along the way. Make your metadata engaging and compelling because that’s the text that appears in search engine results (and you want people to click on the link to your site).
For optimized content marketing, both meta description and title should contain your exact keyword phrase. You can ignore the keywords meta tag, as no major search engine today supports it.
Use an on-page SEO grader. Right after publishing your content, you need to check whether it’s well-optimized. By using an on-page grader such as the one by Moz, you can discover small issues that might prevent your content from ranking high in SERPs.
Always aim for grade A. If you’ve followed each step of this content optimization guide, that’s the result you’ll get.
5. Get more links and traffic to your content page
It is common knowledge that search engines rank higher web pages with upper page authority and more inbound links. While gathering backlinks to your content might seem like a tedious effort, it is well worth your while. We’re going to cover some best practices to help you get your first backlinks.
Mention people in your content. When writing a piece on a certain topic, find industry experts and include their quotes. Even better, you can email them and ask for a comment for your article. After you’ve published the article, let people know that you’ve mentioned them in the article and kindly ask if they would share your content with their audience.
If you’re compiling a listicle of tools, you should let each brand know that you’ve mentioned them. You can do so by emailing the right person or simply tweeting them up.
Submit your content to directories. While these are not high-authority backlinks, you can still use directories for additional traffic. Depending on the topic and format of your content, submit it to Flipboard, Digg, Stumbleupon, GrowthHackers, Flickr, Pinterest and Youtube.
Answer questions in Quora. Just like you used Quora to do research for your content, you can share the knowledge with others as well. Find queries related to your freshly published content and write some thorough answers. In the end of your answer, include the link to your article for further reading. If you’re lucky, someone might even link to your answer or web page in their article on a similar topic.
Guest blog. This one should be taken with a grain of salt. Guest blogging can take a lot of time and provide low results. But if you’re consistent doing it, you can build brand awareness while also improving your page authority. Find blogs in your industry and make sure to include a few backlinks to your own content and website. Read a guest blogging guide for optimized content marketing by Kissmetrics.
Amplify your content outreach. After you’ve published your content, it needs to be found by the right audience. The easiest (and free) way of sharing your posts is through social media. People will find your content and if it’s engaging, they’re likely to reshare it. Make sure you have share buttons next to each piece of content, you can use Sumome for a quick setup.
Use social media ads to amplify your content outreach. Boost your most popular Facebook posts so that a highly targeted audience can find your content that’s relevant to them. Set up Outbrain campaigns to increase your content outreach even more.
6. After-publishing content maintenance
Don’t be one of those blogs that publish content and then just let it be forgotten. Occasionally find time to review your content SEO and improve your best-ranking articles with new relevant links and data.
Improve your content. There is no reason why you couldn’t improve your articles and other content after it’s been published. If you have a keyword ranking on top 10-20 SERPs, you can upgrade its ranking into top 10 search results by simply adding new information and images to the blog article.
Moreover, revisit your published articles to complement these with links to your latest content on a related topic. By increasing the pertinence of your article, you make it more attractive to search engine algorithms.
Resubmit for evaluation. After you’ve ma some updates in your content or added inbound links from other pages on your website, resubmit the content page for re-evaluation. You can add URLs for Google to reindex these in a matter of seconds.
Adjust your content marketing plan. After you’ve published content for a while, you start to see a certain pattern – some keywords draw more attention and rank higher in SERPs. And then there are topics that do not interest your target audience that much. Use Google Analytics to get insight about your web page visits and track which keywords bring in the most search traffic.
Keep track of relevant SEO metrics to monitor your content SEO performance and make improvements accordingly.
Now that you’re familiar with content marketing optimization framework, you’ll be able to grow your organic search traffic. The most important thing to remember is that it’s the real people who read, watch and experience your content. So in addition to focusing on SEO optimization, don’t forget to provide useful and relevant information throughout your content strategy.
About the Author: Karola is the Content Marketing Manager in Scoro, the business management platform for agile businesses. Her passion for superior writing combined with strategic thinking make her focus all her energy on becoming a successful digital marketer and creative writer. For more on Karola, connect to her on Twitter @KarolaKarlson.