In this post, you will learn what is content SEO and how to optimize your content for search engines and users using best practices.
What is SEO Content?
Content SEO is about creating and optimizing your content so that can it potentially rank high in search engines and attract search engine traffic.
To understand what we mean by SEO content, you first need to have clear in your mind what is the main purpose of SEO, what types of content are there, and what is content optimization.
What is SEO? Search engine optimization or SEO is the process of optimizing your website for achieving the greatest possible visibility in search engines.
The SEO process involves a number of steps that are usually grouped into the following: technical SEO, On-Page SEO, and Off-Page SEO.
Content SEO is part of On-Page SEO. Here is an overview of the On-Page SEO process highlighting the role of content SEO.
As you can see, on-Page SEO starts by optimizing the page title and h1 heading, and then it’s all about the content found on the page.
Your overall goal with content SEO is to write SEO-friendly content so that it can be understood by search engines but at the same time satisfy the user intent and keep them happy.
SEO Content Types
Before we get into how you can optimize your content, let’s see what we mean by content.
Content can have different forms. It can be text, images, videos, audio, infographics, or a combination of these.
In general, the different types of content are:
- Blog Posts: The most widely used format. It can be a combination of text, images, and video. Can be news types of articles, lists, how-to guides, press releases, or general information.
- Static Pages: Content found on static pages of your website like the ‘About us’
- Product pages: Pages promoting specific products or services.
- Landing pages: Pages designed specifically to be used in PPC campaigns or as the first page users see when they visit your website.
How to Optimize your Content for SEO
Follow these guidelines every time you publish content on your website to ensure that is SEO optimized.
- Start with keyword research
- Use keywords in the title, heading, and body of your content
- Always use text to accompany your non-text content
- Satisfy the user intent and make it clear from the beginning
- Write long-form content
- Add internal links to other related content on your website
- Add external links to other high-quality websites
- Make it easy to read
- Optimize non-text elements
- Use schema markup to describe your content to search engines
- Group related pages together into categories
- Always provide users with a CTA or exit point
1. Start with keyword research
Before you get your hands dirty and start thinking about your introduction, you need to do your homework first and in this context, we mean to perform keyword research.
Knowing what keywords are typed by users in the search box can serve two main purposes:
- You will know what type of content to create to make users happy
- You will know how to optimize your content and increase your chances of getting noticed by search engines. In the long run, this means higher rankings and traffic.
The outcome of your keyword research should be three things:
- A decision on what is the main keyword you are targeting
- A set of long-tail keywords related to your main keyword
- A set of LSI-related keywords related to your main keyword (more on this below)
You will use these as part of the content SEO process. To be more specific:
Your target keyword should be included in your URL, page title, and h1 heading.
Long-tail keywords can be included in your subheadings
Other related keywords (LSI) can be included in your subheadings and the body of the content.
2. Use keywords in the title, heading, and body of your content
Use your main keyword above the fold
Everybody knows that your main keyword should appear in your title and h1 heading but what is equally important is to mention your keyword once or twice in the first couple of paragraphs.
There is a rule of thumb stating that the important content of a page is the one found on the top part of the page (above the fold), so make sure that within that content you give search engine spiders more clues on what the rest of your content is all about.
Here is an example from one of my posts. The target keyword was meta description.
Use long tail-related keywords for subheadings
When you are targeting a specific keyword, you don’t just repeat that over and over again but you use variations of that keyword in your content.
A great way to do this is to find out long-tail keywords that are related to your main keyword and use those in your sub-headings.
Start typing your main keyword in the Google search box and take note of the different suggestions. These are great keywords to include in your subheadings and content.
Another way to find out related keywords is to search for the main keyword in Google and look for the ‘People Also Ask’ section.
Use LSI keywords in your content
LSI stands for Latent Semantic Index and in simple terms, these are word phrases that have the same meaning as your main keyword.
Why are LSI keywords important? With the introduction of Rank Brain (Google’s machine learning technology used as part of the ranking algorithm), Google is trying to understand the broader meaning of keywords and this is taken into account in rankings.
How do you find LSI keywords?
The easier way is to search for your main keyword in Google and take a look at the “related searches” section.
Another way is to use a tool like LSI Graph to get suggestions for LSI keywords to include in your content.
3. Always use text to accompany your non-text content
Search engines can understand text content more than any other type of content so make their life easier by having text content on your page, even if you are promoting other types of content.
For example, let’s say you created a nice infographic about a topic and you want to publish it on your blog. Don’t just add the infographic and hit publish but try to have text content on the page explaining what the infographic is all about.
You can follow the same concept when publishing images, videos, or audio. For example, if you are running a podcast you can have the description of the podcast and even a text transcript so that both users and search engines can get a better understanding of what the audio is all about.
4. Satisfy the user intent and make it clear from the beginning
Before publishing any type of content on your website you need to understand the user intent. In other words, what type of content do users want to see for a given search query.
The easiest way to do this is to take advantage of Google because (Google) has already done a great job in understanding what users like for different searches.
Here are the steps to follow:
Let’s say that you are writing an article about ‘what is off-page SEO’. The first step is to search google for this term and look for the featured snippet and the meta descriptions of the first 10 results.
If you take a closer look at the above screenshot, you will notice that Google is trying to give a direct answer to the question “What is off-page SEO” in both the featured snippet and in the description of each snippet.
This pattern tells us that if you want to rank high for this term, you need to give a direct answer to that question.
In other words, the intent of the user for the particular query is to read a definition of what we mean by ‘off-page SEO’.
If you take a look at my post, which is ranking in the featured snippet and in the top positions, I’m giving an answer to the question in the first paragraph.
What you should learn from this?
For search queries that are related to questions, how-tos, or lists, try to give the answer on the top part of your page, and then you can give more details within the post and not the other way around.
In the past, we used to write long introductions so that readers can spend more time reading them before getting to an answer but this is no longer the case.
Give the answer first, satisfy the initial user intent, and then expand your article to give more information.
5. Write long-form content
There are a number of studies showing that long-form content performs better in search and social media networks.
While this is true, it does not mean that you should write thousands of words for the sake of getting to a word limit.
The quality of the content is always more important than quantity. If what you write is good and attracts shares and links, it can rank high in Google even if there are other posts that are longer in length.
I prefer to publish long-form content because it makes sense for SEO articles. This is what readers want and this is what my competitors are doing.
Optimize long-form content
A nice tip for optimizing long-form articles is to use a table of contents at the top of the post to help users navigate through the content.
Besides making navigation easier you also increase your chances of getting sitelinks to appear with your snippet in the Google search results.
For example, my SEO tutorial post is 5000 words long because it covers all aspects of SEO. To help users navigate through the content, I have included a table of contents.
6. Add internal links to other related content on your website
Another element of content SEO is internal linking. Within your content, link to other pages of your website to help users find out more about a certain topic and search crawlers one more reason to index more pages from your website.
Internal links create what is called ‘content relevancy’ something that helps Google understand the meaning of the content better.
When adding internal links use meaningful anchor text so that crawlers can get a good idea of what the linked page is all about.
7. Add external links to other high-quality websites
Besides linking to your own articles, it’s a good practice to link out to other high-quality websites or sources provided that:
- They will help users read more about a topic
- You trust the website you will link to
- You do it with getting a compensation (that’s selling links and it’s not allowed)
Don’t overdo it with external links but don’t be afraid to link out when it makes sense.
8. Make it easy to read
Make your content easy to read. Don’t just throw text on a page but apply formatting styles to make reading easier, especially for users who like to skim-read.
- Use short paragraphs
- Use bold and italics to highlight parts of the content that matter
- Use lists to outline steps
- Use short sentences
- Use a font that is easy to read (and large enough) on all devices
- Add enough white spacing between your paragraphs
9. Optimize non-text elements
As I have mentioned above, content can have many forms and is not necessarily text. When adding other non-text elements to your content, make sure that is optimized. The most common is images and all images included in your content should:
- Have a friendly filename (i.e. LSI-keywords.jpg and not 345afg.jpg)
- Have an appropriate ALT Text
- Include a line of text below the image to describe what the image is all about.
Here is an example:
10. Use schema markup to describe your content to search engines
In addition to the above, you can make use of structured data to describe your content to search engines in a way they can understand.
There are a number of schemas you can implement depending on the type of content you are publishing. There are schemas for articles, videos, podcasts, products, recipes, reviews, and more.
Structured data is gaining more importance in the last couple of months and according to Google, it’s here to stay for the long term.
11. Group related pages together into categories
While this is not directly related to content SEO it is good for your overall SEO.
Google when crawling a page is primarily interested in the content found on that page but it also takes into account where the page belongs.
In other words, you should create categories and group your pages together making sure that your site structure is reflected in your menu and breadcrumbs.
Follow these simple rules:
- Create a number of categories
- Add articles to categories
- Optimize your categories
- Add categories in your main menu (you can name them topics or anything else you want)
- Make sure that your breadcrumb menus allow users to navigate to the parent category.
For example, look at the screenshot below from my nutrition blog, all articles are grouped into topics and this is clearly indicated in the main menu and breadcrumbs.
12. Always provide users with a CTA or exit point
I have mentioned above that the main goal with content SEO is to satisfy the user intent but equally important is to satisfy your goals as a publisher.
Every piece of content published on your website should have a purpose. By purpose, we mean “what do you want users to do once they read your content?”
Do you want to get more email subscribers? Then make sure that below your posts you have a sign-up box.
Do you want people to buy your products and services? Then make sure that within your content you add CTA (call to action) to direct traffic to your sales pages.
Do you want to get clicks on your ads? Then make sure that ads are visible while users are reading the content.
Do you want users to engage and stay on your website for longer? Add a related articles section below the post.
Whatever your purpose, it should be clear to users what’s the next step in continuing their journey.
What’s your SEO Content Strategy?
You should follow the above best practices every time you publish new content but at the same time, you need to have a content strategy in place.
What do we mean by content strategy? To have a plan that will include the following:
- What type of content to publish
- Which keywords to target
- When to publish it
- How to promote it
- To whom to promote it (The target audience for each piece of content)
When discussing content SEO, it is important to understand that it’s not enough to optimize your existing content, you need to have a way to produce new content on a regular basis.
The competition is tough and if you want to reach or bypass your competitors then you need to create a content marketing plan and follow it without excuses.
Consistently publishing high-quality content is the best way to improve your ranking on google.
It is also proven that companies that blog on a regular basis get more leads than those that do not.
So, what’s next? You know how to optimize your content and you have a content marketing strategy in place. That’s great but definitely, it’s not the end of the story.
Your ongoing SEO process should include:
- Ways to promote your content
- Link building strategies
- Monitoring rankings for keywords and individual pages
- A plan to do content enhancements (on existing posts)
- Rinse and repeat
Content SEO is a very important component of the on-page SEO process. Your overall goal is to give both users and search engines the content they are looking for. As stated by Google, know what your readers want and give it to them.
The process starts by finding out what users are looking for and creating content that satisfies their intent.
Before hitting the publish button, you should make sure that your main keywords are included in the top part of the page and related keywords (including LSI) in your subheadings and body.
Beautify your content, make it easy to read, and navigate and then promote it to get in front of the eyes of as many people as possible.
Don’t worry if some of the above concepts are difficult to understand now, as you get more experienced with SEO, everything will make better sense.
Saqib Irfan says
Very in depth and detailed post Alex.
I am just interested to know if you have written a full article on Schema and Structured Data and how to apply that on ones website?
Alex Chris says
Here you are: https://www.reliablesoft.net/how-to-boost-your-seo-with-schema-markup/
Vishwajeet Kumar says
Content still plays a great role in on page SEO. Creating long and quality content is both helpful for users and search engines. I have also implemented these strategies and it works great for me. Thanks for sharing these helpful insights.
Have a Great Day 🙂
Alex Chris says
Thanks for your comment and all the best with your Content optimization efforts.
I am a beginner in SEO and your blog is very helpful for me. I follow all the tips that you share here.
Alex Chris says
Stay tuned (subscribe to my newsletter) for even more SEO tips and advice.
Navin Rao says
Cool thoughts Alex,
onpage optimization was always been so crucial for content to rank. Ignored most of the time.
I realized, most of us in the online world has some misconceptions about In page SEO, thinking it’s all about inserting keywords… Your have covered the topics well. A, reliable source to go through..
Thanks, have a great day!
Alex Chris says
I’m glad that the post helped you understand the importance of content SEO.
All the best
Brain Pundits says
On-page seo is the one the most important aspect to SEO. I also think link building would always be the first priority.
Keep up the good work
Alex Chris says
Yes, link building is important but without the right type of content, you cannot achieve high rankings, even if you build links.
Thanks for commenting
Govind Waghmare says
Most informative article … You have solved all my doubt… And to maintain good rank
Alex Chris says
Thanks for your comment.
Lắm Nguyễn says
“Content optimization starts with keyword research”.
I completely agree with this. If you write without the keyword in mind, you won’t be able to optimize it for SEO.
Alex Chris says
Thanks for commenting. It’s true that SEO content starts with keyword research but this should not be confusing with keyword stuffing or writing content for search engines only. You should always have users in mind and what content they want to read.