In the past few years, the requirements for ranking high in search results has continued to change. Today, it’s all about user intent. Great content is useless if it doesn’t appear in the search results and your pages don’t convert. Take a look at what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to creating content and optimising your website for SEO.
What is web content optimisation?
Web content optimization is making sure that the content on your website is SEO-friendly and easy for Google to find and rank. The content on your website refers to all the words that you can find on a website. This includes everything, from the 50-word introduction paragraph on your About page, the side panel product page information, the long blog article that is filled with keywords and everything else.
Why it’s important to optimize web content
There are many good and valid reasons for you to optimise your web content. Most of the important ones include being seen and ranked by Google and in return, gaining a name for yourself in your designated field of expertise. All of this improves the chances of increased sales and revenue on your website.
Here are some of the top reasons to optimise your web content:
- Higher ranking on Google and being on page 1 of the search engine results page (SERP)
- Increase traffic and revenue
- Authority and thought leadership
- Better quality link building strategies
- Social signals and shareability
- Give your company the competitive edge
What does content mean in terms of SEO?
Content is probably the single most important factor on your website to get it picked up and ranked by Google. For your website to do well in the world of SEO, the content on your website should include keywords that you want to be ranked for.
Before, content was an easy thing to get ranked for as all you had to do was populate your page with as much of the keyword as you could and voila – Google had you on page 1 of search queries! Old SEO practices were all about quantity, as opposed to quality.
Now, content not only needs to include the correct keywords, but it needs to be written in a way that keeps the user engaged and interested. Optimised web content needs to be user-friendly and be a place for the user to find exactly what they are looking for.
For example, you could get ranked for the word ‘domestic flight deals’, but if a user clicks on your page and finds that your article is actually about skydiving meerkats, they will close your website page as this is not what they were looking for! This will then tell Google that the user did not find what they’re looking for and Google will lower your ranking for these keywords.
SEO content should be based around the user and should be created in a way that it attracts a bigger search pool for specific keywords. This, in turn, creates a higher readership on your website, which could easily be turned into bookings or sales as the user navigates from good content to the Call to Action that your product pages have.
Why should keyword research define decisions/ topics of interest?
Keywords are essentially words and phrases that users type into their search engine to look for certain topics and products. These words all have a monthly search volume relating to the number of times that the topic/phrase is searched for.
By researching which keywords are popular with regards to your product and choosing to write content around it, you’re making your website more visible to the search engine (Google) and the user. In return, when users search by these keywords, your web page will (hopefully) appear on the first page as Google recognises that the content on your page matches what the user is looking for!
Don’t forget about voice search!
More and more people are using voice commands on their phones, and smart speakers are gradually finding their way into more homes. Younger people, who are more than likely growing up with voice tech, will be among those you’re trying to reach. The queries involved with voice search tend to be longer than two or three-word phrases since users tend to make them more conversational. Some may say “what’s the best time to visit London?”. Test longer keyword phrases with keyword research in mind to help you improve your page’s ranking.
What does optimised SEO content look like?
Websites that have content around popular searched for keywords do well on Google. For content to excel, it should contain:
- At least 1 – 2% of the keyword
- Proper headings – H1 for main article headings, H2 for sub-headings, etc
- Relevant and correct information
- Informative meta descriptions that include your company name and a clear CTA
- Bullet points and numbers
- A good length, ideally between 1000 – 2000 words
- Properly-sized images with alt tags
- Links to internal and external web pages
Which type of content should be optimised for your website?
Ideally, you will need to optimize ALL of the content on your website. This way, each of the pages on your website can rank for different keywords. Your optimised content should be included all across your website, including the following pages:
- Packages and promotions
Can you update (optimise) existing content?
Yes, you certainly can. Old content can be refreshed to include relevant keywords and fresh, up-to-date information on a certain topic. With the updated optimized content, Google relooks at your content and if it matches what users are looking for, it will increase your ranking for that particular article/ page.
Formatting and Page Design
The layout and design of your page are equally as important as the content on it. In order to do great in search engine listings, it is imperative to include SEO principles in your web design. By improving your web design, you are also improving your brand’s visibility. The more that the users are engaged, the more they’ll consume your content, interact with it and most likely share it.
What is an SEO-friendly website?
A website that is designed and developed with SEO best practices, including design layout and website coding. It means that search engines will be able to crawl your website efficiently, interpret the content effectively and index it. Your chance of ranking on the first page of the search results increases as you implement these SEO best-practices.
Part 1: On-Page Optimisation
The following SEO strategies must be implemented to make sure search engines can crawl your content and understand it:
1. Indexable content
Your most important content must be in HTML text format. This way your words and phrases are visible to search engines.
2. Keyword usage and targeting
First, you will have to conduct thorough keyword research and select the appropriate keywords to attract your target audience. The search engines measure how the keywords are used on the pages and determine if it is relevant to a user’s query. Make sure you place your keywords in different places on your web pages, including the H1, H2 and H3 tags, in the first 100 words of your copy, title attributes on links, website slogans, meta descriptions, meta keywords, navigation, breadcrumb trails, footer links, file names and internal links.
Use your keyword phrase:
- In the title tag at least once. If you can, try and place the keyword phrase as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible.
- Once boldly near the top of the page and heading.
- In the body copy on the page, including variations of the keyword phrase.
- In the alt attribute of the image(s) on the page. This can also help with the image search and bring valuable traffic.
- Once in the URL.
- At least once in the meta description tag.
Avoid using the primary keyword in the link anchor text which points to other pages on your site – this is referred to as keyword cannibalization.
3. Anchor text and internal linking
The anchor text is the phrase/ words that are hyperlinked to another page. Make sure you choose the anchor text smartly with the keywords you are targeting for that specific page you are linking out to. E.g. “Click here for flight specials” is a poor way to link to your flight specials page. Rather place your anchor text more naturally → “See what amazing flight specials we have in store this month”. Try to place as many relevant internal links as possible to keep people engaged with your website.
4. How to improve engagement with your content
- Have sub headers: People don’t like to be overloaded with text. Rather break up the information into more manageable pieces.
- Short paragraphs: The short paragraphs break up the information further. Short paragraphs are vital for mobile readers and to scan information.
- Bullet points: This allows you to put an idea in a single word. Bullet points are great for listicles.
- Trim sentences: Simplify your sentences and make sure your content is easy to read.
- Use bold and italics smartly: Bolded words can help readers scan the article which can keep them interested in what is further down the page. Italics help give emphasis.
- White space: Too many ads on your page can affect the user’s experience. Add white space so that your reader’s eye can rest.
- Line length: keep the line length between 50 – 75 characters. If it is any longer, the rapid back and forth eye movement may get disorienting to read. If it is shorter, readers jump from line to line which can also cause discomfort to the eye.
- Images: Pictures attract the reader’s eyes and make your page visually attractive. Images lure the reader to your content just as much as the title. Consider using infographics as part of your content to help better explain what you’re trying to say.
- Guide the reader: The purpose of the content is to guide your reader to perform an action. The content should lead to the CTA e.g. sign up for newsletter, contact form, comment or use the search bar, etc. Make sure your search bars/ sign-up boxes are visible at the top and directly underneath your content.
- Additional information: All additional links and tiles should be placed beneath the text. Allow the reader to consume your content, and further down the page suggest similar articles that they might like. Internal linking also strengthens your website’s authority.
Part 2: Off-Page Optimisation
1. Crawlable link structures
Search engines need to see links in order to locate the content. Make sure you use a crawlable link structure – one that allows the crawlers to browse the pathways on your website. The structure of the navigation of your links must be correct so that your pages can get listed in the search engines’ indexes.
2. Title tags/page titles
The title is an accurate, crisp description of the content on a page. Keep the following in mind for optimising title tags:
- Watch out for the length: search engines will only show the first 65-75 characters of a title tag in the search results.
- Place the important keywords closest to the front: the closer to the beginning of the tag, the more helpful it will be for ranking and the more likely it will be for a user to click on it in the search results.
- Include brand: end your title tag with your brand name. This will help with brand awareness as well as create a higher click-through rate (CTR) for people who like and are already familiar with your brand.
- Readability and emotional hook: the title tags must be descriptive of the content and most importantly, readable. The title tag is the reader’s primary introduction to your content so create an emotional connection with the reader and compel them to click on the title and read further.
3. Meta description
The meta tag is a short description of a page’s content. It is the text used in the snippet displayed beneath a listing in the SERP. The meta description is the reader’s first impression of your web page, so its copy should draw the reader to your site. The meta description should contain your primary word and must not exceed 160 characters.
4. User-friendly URL
If your URL is not SEO-friendly it won’t rank that highly. Your URL must be optimised for both users and search engines. The URL should allow the user to predict what the content is about. It should also include the keyword you are targeting. Keep URLs short and avoid long pieces of code.
6. Fast-loading content
Make sure your content loads within three seconds or less. Check that the images and other media files do not slow down the page and content’s performance.
7. Optimise for mobile
Your content should work well on mobile too. Make sure that the forms and call to actions can be clicked through. The content and images should be centre-aligned on mobile. Consider that you might need to reposition your content so that the mobile version does not display as content heavy. Place the essential information at the top of the page – title, search bars, main ideas etc. The reader should not have to scroll endlessly to read your content.
When applying these SEO best practices, you are enhancing your chance of ranking and establishing trust with your reader. It shows that no matter how great and unique your content may be, you need to ensure that it is discoverable. Make your online presence known!
Why is a blog good for SEO?
Google and its ranking factors
As we’ve explained, whether a website ranks in the SERPs and how high up it ranks is determined by ranking factors.
Industry leaders and experts have been debating about just how many there are since 2009. Some say Google uses over 200 in their algorithm (source: https://backlinko.com/google-ranking-factors), others disagree. But what everyone does agree on is that there are certain ranking factors that are more important than others.
These shift as algorithms are updated, but valuable, optimized content has been one of the most important ranking factors for a while. It reigns as king in the SEO world.
Note: An algorithm is basically a complex mathematical process that helps Google sift through all the web pages on the internet and decide which ones will be displayed to users in the SERPs.
Content is king
Although having an optimized website with great content will get websites into the search engine results, it takes a whole lot more to outrank competitors and get to the top. A blog is an essential part of any content marketing strategy because of the power it can wield in the search results.
Blogging is good for SEO because it helps with a number of things that are important ranking factors. So, when a blog is updated regularly with high-quality content on topics relevant to the audience, it can make a huge difference to how the website performs in the search engines.
- Businesses have a 434% higher chance of being ranked highly on search engines if they feature a blog as part of their website (source: http://www.techclient.com/blogging-statistics)
- Businesses using blogs as part of their content marketing mix get 67% more leads than those who don’t (source: https://www.stateofinbound.com)
The 6 main ways a blog impacts SEO
1. It keeps the website fresh and relevant
Google wants to provide its users with the most relevant and up-to-date information. If new content is posted regularly it signals to the search engine that the website is active and has fresh content to offer. And the more often new content is posted, the more often Google must return to that website and index those pages. This keeps the website on Google’s radar.
And of course, the more pages that are indexed, the greater the chance of dominating the SERPs.
2. It attracts inbound links
For Google to see a website as trustworthy and authoritative, and reward it with higher rankings in the SERPs, it needs to have inbound links from other respected websites. The more good quality and useful content a blog has, the more chance there is of other websites linking to those pages. Having a blog is an easy way to share the kind of content that other websites and blogs will link to.
3. It creates opportunities to target more keywords
SEO is extremely competitive and ranking for generic terms such as “cheap flights” can be tough. And because it is so broad, the chances of a user clicking on a page with that keyword and converting are low. Long-tail keywords, such as “cheap flights from Cape Town to London”, on the other hand, may not get as much traffic, but are more targeted so the chance of someone clicking on that page and converting is much higher.
4. It keeps people on the website for longer
Google’s number one priority is giving its users the information they are looking for so they will keep using its search engine. If a user clicks on the first search result, doesn’t find what they are looking for and leaves, this signals that the information on that page was not helpful. But if a user stays on a website for a while, it signals that they found the content relevant and useful. People are more likely to stick around if a blog has content that captures and keeps their attention.
5. It creates more opportunities for internal linking
Not only is internal linking a great way to get people to stay on a website longer, it is also important for SEO. Internal linking helps search engines better understand and navigate a website, it passes value from one page to another, and it improves the overall usability of a website. Strategically placed internal links can also strengthen the connection with target keywords in how the algorithm sees it.
6. It helps businesses connect with their audience
If a user stumbles upon content and finds it useful or really likes it, they are more likely to share it on social media, drive traffic to it, return to the website to see more content, engage with the content, and possibly sign up for a newsletter. More traffic and repeat visitors signal that people like a certain website and raises the authority of that website in a search engine’s algorithm.
So, in a nutshell…
√ Develop a content strategy
Before you start writing, decide on what you want the content to achieve. Ultimately, you’re trying to add more value to your reader. Will your content answer the searcher’s query?
√ Do keyword research
Keyword Planner from Google Adwords is a good tool to find out how well the existing keywords you rank for do. Or use the tool to find out which new keyword phrases you can target. Doing keyword research is essential in helping you create content that ranks well in search results, reaching more users.
√ Optimize the content for search engines
A clear page title and meta description with the primary keyword displays relevant information to users, increasing the likelihood of people clicking through to your page.
√ Place your keywords carefully
When placing your primary keyword phrase, make sure to only insert into the text where it will make sense to the reader, i.e. heading, sub-headings, CTA, images, URL.
√ Focus on user-friendliness
Make sure that your content is easy to read. Not only are you catering to your readers but you’re also increasing your chances of ranking well, and search engines check for that when ranking a page.
√ Optimize your images
Make sure your file name and alt text describe the image and includes the keyword. Also, test different sizes to see how they affect your page’s loading time (three seconds or less should be the benchmark). If you’re using multiple images, it’s best to keep them under 100 kilobytes each.
√ Link back to yourself
If you see an opportunity to link to another page on your site, do it. Search engines need that to help navigate your site. Good internal linking will let Google be able to find all the pages on your website.
⊗ Let the loading time of your page lag
Keep image sizes under 100 kilobytes and high-quality videos in MP4 format.
⊗ Overuse external and internal linking
Watch out for how many times you link internally and externally, particularly if you are trading links between external websites. Also, users don’t want to see content stuffed with links.
⊗ Keyword stuff
Your primary keyword count needs to be relative to the size of your content. Think around 1%. Content management systems like WordPress include plugins which help you determine your keyword’s density. Always make sure that your keyword’s placement makes sense.
⊗ Focus on text only
While your content’s goal is to inform readers, you’re also trying to convince and inspire them. Think about how your page looks. A page consisting of only text is not only not great to look at, but it will also make most users hit the back button immediately. Make sure to add images and videos where it’s relevant and that you don’t use too many that they end up distracting users from the content.
⊗ Duplicate content on your website
Google penalises websites for doing this. Always focus on creating unique content. If you have two pages with the same content, it will cause you to lose out on traffic, as visitors end up going to one or the other. If you have multiple language options for your website, implement Hreflang tags on your pages to tell search engines which page to serve as a result to users.
⊗ Stop updating your website
That means content creation needs to always continue. A lack of new material eventually leads to fewer visitors, which in turn will decrease your rankings.
Now that you have the lowdown on the best SEO practices to boost your content on your website, start tracking the traffic, user behaviour and conversions on your pages with Google Analytics.