Content Optimization: The Complete Guide

By admin
The number of times this article was shared on

Twitter
ORG

.

Shows estimated

monthly
DATE

search traffic to this article according to

Ahrefs
ORG

data. The actual search traffic (as reported in

Google Analytics
ORG

) is usually

3
CARDINAL

-5 times bigger.

Shows how many different websites are linking to this piece of content. As a general rule, the more websites link to you, the higher you rank in

Google
ORG

.

Content optimization is the process of improving aspects of content to increase its reach or make it more engaging. It involves such techniques as aligning content with search intent, adding missing subtopics, and showing how your product/service can solve users’ problems.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to optimize content for SEO, conversions, and social shares.

But

first
ORDINAL

, let’s make sure we’re on the same page…

Why is content optimization important?

Content optimization dramatically improves your content’s performance and helps you meet your marketing goals.

Without it, you may be missing out on visibility, rankings, traffic, leads, and sales.

How to optimize content for SEO

Before you think about attracting email subscribers or leads for your business, you need to start from the top. So, let’s look at the different ways you can optimize your content for SEO and get traffic to your site consistently.


1
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. Make sure you’re targeting a keyword with traffic potential

Optimizing for a keyword that nobody searches for is pointless. Even if you rank #

1
MONEY

, you won’t get any traffic.

To identify keywords with high traffic potential, here’s what you should do:

Go to

Ahrefs
ORG

’ Keywords Explorer. Enter

one
CARDINAL

or multiple broad keywords related to your topic. Hit Search.

For example, when you enter “content marketing” and check the

Matching
PRODUCT

terms report, you’ll get

over 21,500
CARDINAL

keyword ideas with search volumes,

Keyword Difficulty
PRODUCT

(KD), and other valuable data:

To ensure that you’re finding keywords with the potential to attract traffic from organic search, add a minimum

Traffic Potential
ORG

filter. This metric shows the estimated

monthly
DATE

organic traffic to the current top-ranking page, so it’s a reasonable estimate of how much traffic you can get by ranking in pole position.

If your website is new and has low authority, it also pays to filter for low KD keywords to unearth less competitive topics.

Further reading How to Do Keyword Research for SEO


2
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. Make sure it aligns with search intent

If your content fails to answer searchers’ questions, this is a signal that it’s a poor match for the query and doesn’t deserve to rank. That’s because

Google
ORG

prioritizes search intent.

The easiest way to understand search intent is to use the current top-ranking results as a proxy. Specifically, you can analyze them for the

three
CARDINAL

Cs of search intent:

Content type — The type of content on the SERPs (e.g., blog post, product page, landing page, category page). If the top

10
CARDINAL

positions for your keyword show blog posts, stick to blog posts. Don’t try to shoehorn your product page into the SERPs, it likely won’t work. Content format — The content format in the search results (e.g., how-to, step-by-step guide, listicle, review). The top-competing posts will indicate what the searcher predominantly wants to know. If the

first
ORDINAL

page of

Google
ORG

shows listicles, go with a listicle. If it shows guides, go with a guide. You get the idea. Content angle — The unique selling point of the competing content on the SERPs (e.g., discounts, inexpensive strategies, free shipping). While it’s crucial to stand out from the competition, you should still consider the similarities between top-ranking posts.

For example, if we look at the search results for the keyword “seo statistics,” we see that the content type is blog post, the content format is a listicle, and the dominant content angle is traffic freshness:

If you want to stand the best chance of ranking for this query, you should follow suit — that’s what we did with our list of SEO statistics.


3
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. Make sure it covers everything searchers want to know

Does your post stack up against the competition? Conduct a content gap analysis to see how you fare.

The idea here is to identify potentially missing subtopics that searchers want to know and brainstorm how you can do better.

You can do this quickly by examining the top-ranking posts most similar to yours (i.e., you may want to ignore that random landing page at the

second
ORDINAL

spot if you’re writing a how-to guide):

Open Ahrefs’ Competitive Analysis. Enter the URLs of the top

three to five
CARDINAL

posts for your keyword.

Click Compare
ORG

.

For example, for the query “content marketing,” searchers may be looking for a definition and actionable advice for creating a content marketing strategy.

Our guide doesn’t rank for these keywords because it either doesn’t cover these subtopics well enough (the definition part) or doesn’t cover them at all (the strategy part). So now we know what to fix.


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. Make sure it’s easy and enticing to read

Most people don’t read web pages from beginning to end. Instead, they scan the main points and pick out phrases that jump at them.

Here are

four
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practical ways to make your content more enticing and easier to skim:

Eliminate fluff — Clichés, low-impact adverbs, and hard-to-read sentences repel users. Before publishing your post, use the

Hemingway Editor
WORK_OF_ART

, Grammarly, or ProWritingAid to catch these errors.

— Clichés, low-impact adverbs, and hard-to-read sentences repel users. Before publishing your post, use the

Hemingway Editor
WORK_OF_ART

, Grammarly, or ProWritingAid to catch these errors. Increase visual comprehension — Long walls of text overwhelm readers. Use short paragraphs and bullet points (like what we’re doing here), have bold key takeaways, and include relevant images to make your post more reader-friendly.

— Long walls of text overwhelm readers. Use short paragraphs and bullet points (like what we’re doing here), have bold key takeaways, and include relevant images to make your post more reader-friendly. Add a table of contents (ToC) in long posts — The ToC offers easy navigation and tells readers the list of topics covered.

— The ToC offers easy navigation and tells readers the list of topics covered. Prioritize important information — A well-optimized post makes valuable information accessible. Don’t make readers dig through them! Put your best ideas at the top. Leave the nice-to-know information at the bottom.

You’ll notice that we’re doing many of these things in this post. For example, if you’re reading this on desktop, there should be a floating ToC on the left:


5
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. Make sure it has a compelling title tag and description

The title tag and meta description is the

first
ORDINAL

thing searchers see on the SERPs.

Ideally, they should describe what your content is about at a glance. It’s a bonus if they set your post apart from competing posts. (This goes back to our point on content angle earlier!)

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when writing them:

Match search intent — It should be clear that your page matches what the searcher is looking for from your title tag and meta description alone.

— It should be clear that your page matches what the searcher is looking for from your title tag and meta description alone. Keep them short and sweet —

Google
ORG

truncates title tags and meta descriptions after a certain length. This is usually around 70 characters for title tags and

120
CARDINAL

characters for meta descriptions, although it varies.



Google
ORG

truncates title tags and meta descriptions after a certain length. This is usually around 70 characters for title tags and

120
CARDINAL

characters for meta descriptions, although it varies. Include your keyword — This helps searchers see at a glance that your page is a relevant match to their search.

— This helps searchers see at a glance that your page is a relevant match to their search. Highlight specificity — Specific data points increase credibility and respect. Compare “How to Attract Customers in

a Month
DATE

” with “How to Attract

2,738
CARDINAL

Customers in

a Month
DATE

on a Shoestring Budget.” Which compels you to click more?


6
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. Make sure it has enough backlinks

Backlinks help you get into

Google
ORG

’s good books, as they’re one of the top

three
CARDINAL

ranking factors.

Our search traffic study discovered that the more backlinks a page has, the more organic traffic it attracts. The graph below shows the trend between

monthly
DATE

organic search traffic and the number of backlinks from external websites (referring domains).

So if you want to rank high on the SERPs, you’ll need to build links from authoritative and relevant websites.

Here’s an easy way to find the number of websites that link to your page:

Go to Site Explorer. Enter your page URL. Hit Search.

You’ll see the number of referring domains on the Overview report.

You can then plug your target keyword into

Keywords Explorer
PRODUCT

and check the

KD
ORG

score to see if you have anywhere near the estimated number of referring domains needed to rank in the top

10
CARDINAL

:

If this number is way higher than the number of referring domains to your page, that may be what’s holding you back.


7
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. Make sure you’re eligible for rich snippets

Rich snippets are search results that highlight structured data embedded on web pages. Here’s an example:

Rich snippets likely won’t make your page rank higher, but highlighting key information on your page will make it more eye-catching — and this can result in more clicks.

Just compare these

two
CARDINAL

results — which one would you rather click?

To be eligible for featured snippets, you need to apply a simple code called schema markup. There are basically

two
CARDINAL

ways of doing this:

Use your

CMS
ORG

or a plugin (like

Yoast
ORG

or All in

One
CARDINAL

Schema). Just fill out some information, and it’ll add the code for you.

(like

Yoast
ORG

or All in

One
CARDINAL

Schema). Just fill out some information, and it’ll add the code for you. Use a schema markup generator. There are plenty of these around (e.g.,

Merkle
PERSON

’s Schema Generator). The benefit here is that you can probably better customize your schema than in the

first
ORDINAL

option. The downside is that you have to add the code yourself.

Finally, make sure to use a schema validator that will make sure the code is applied correctly.

Use Google Rich Result Test or Schema Markup Validator to validate select pages.

For a sitewide check, use

Ahrefs’ Site Audit
ORG

(free with an

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools
ORG

account). If there’s an issue with the schema, the tool will show you exactly what to fix like this:


8
CARDINAL

. Try to win the featured snippet


Google
ORG

uses featured snippets to answer the searcher’s question in a short form directly on the results page.

Typically,

Google
ORG

pulls these from pages that rank

2 – 8
CARDINAL

and puts them on top of any other organic result. So you can think of featured snippets as a shortcut to the top.

Here’s how to find the best featured snippet opportunities:

Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and enter your domain. Open the Organic keywords report. Filter for Position 2 – 8 and SERP features where the target doesn’t rank. Sort the results by Volume high to low.

Once you find the best opportunities, try to provide a superior answer to what

Google
ORG

is already using for the snippet. You may need a few attempts until you get it right because it’s never obvious what

Google
ORG

will deem a better answer.

This depends on the case and might be something like making your content more succinct, providing it in the right format, or providing a more specific answer. We’ve got a full guide to featured snippets that will help you leverage this technique.


9
CARDINAL

. Make sure your pages aren’t sluggish and offer good UX

In order to rank your web pages on search results,

Google
ORG

considers a range of page experience signals. This means that apart from the information on your pages,

Google
ORG

will also look at their “technical side”.

Here are some of the known signals and what to do about them:

Connection security — basically, get an

SSL
ORG

/TLS certificate.

— basically, get an

SSL
ORG

/TLS certificate. Core Web Vitals — the speed and visual stability of the pages on your site. To begin with, it’s important that your website is not slow and elements don’t move too much as they load. It’s worth optimizing for a good score but don’t strive for perfection.

— the speed and visual stability of the pages on your site. To begin with, it’s important that your website is not slow and elements don’t move too much as they load. It’s worth optimizing for a good score but don’t strive for perfection. Mobile-friendliness — use a test like this one and fix any issues. You may need to get help from a front-end developer.

— use a test like this one and fix any issues. You may need to get help from a front-end developer. Intrusive interstitials, dialogs, and ads — just avoid them except those required by law (e.g., age verification).

How to optimize content for conversions

SEO may bring you lots of targeted traffic, but that traffic will be useless if your content doesn’t convert.

The trick to doing this is to pair product-focused content with snazzy copywriting skills that pack a punch. So let’s go through how to do that.


1
CARDINAL

. Make sure it targets a keyword with business potential

The true mark of content marketing success is not ranking on the

first
ORDINAL

page on

Google
ORG

. It’s ranking and attracting a steady stream of leads and sales.

Unfortunately, many businesses create mountains of blog posts without considering the business potential of their keyword or topic.

You’ve probably seen these posts lurking around. They’re often about topics that have nothing to do with the business’s product, and they always end with a pushy call to action (CTA) that serves

zero
CARDINAL

value to the reader.

That’s why it’s crucial to target keywords or topics that align with your product.

Here at

Ahrefs
GPE

, we always consider a keyword’s “business potential” score. The higher it is, the better the opportunity to position our product as an irreplaceable solution to the reader’s problem.

Here’s the scale we use:

This brings us to the

million-dollar
MONEY

question: How do you position your product as the best solution so that readers will choose you over your competitors?


2
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. Make sure it shows your product in action

As marketers, our job is

only half
CARDINAL

done if we target keywords with business potential but fail to educate prospects on how our product works. After all, that’s the whole point of choosing topics with high business potential.

But you shouldn’t just tell readers how your product works — you need to show them.

That’s what we’re doing in this post. Notice how we demonstrate how our SEO toolset helps you optimize your content? You’ll probably hit the “X” button if we make a blatant statement like “

Ahrefs
GPE

optimizes your content with a few clicks” without backing it up with proof.


3
CARDINAL

. Make sure it includes a persuasive call to action

It’s a pity to leave readers hanging after they read a post, especially when it drives massive value.

Include an irresistible CTA to encourage readers to take action toward solving their problems — whether it’s subscribing to an email list, booking a free consultation call, or even something as basic as leaving a question in the comment box.

What makes a

CTA
PRODUCT

powerful? We boil it down to:

Emotion — Conversion-driven CTAs speak to the prospect’s pain or goals and immediately trigger action. Your CTA should make them go, “This company gets me.”

— Conversion-driven CTAs speak to the prospect’s pain or goals and immediately trigger action. Your CTA should make them go, “This company gets me.” Credibility — With trust comes sales. Appeal to skeptical buyers with social proof like specific data, testimonials, and expert endorsements.

— With trust comes sales. Appeal to skeptical buyers with social proof like specific data, testimonials, and expert endorsements. Timing — Effective CTAs align where the prospect is in the buyer’s journey. Don’t be afraid to pepper them throughout the post.

Here’s a powerful

CTA
PRODUCT

from Cognitive

FX
ORG

that ticks all the boxes:

Note how the treatment center adds an empathetic touch to a post about concussion memory loss in its

CTA
PRODUCT

. It also leverages its impressive results (“on average, our patients improve by

75%
PERCENT

”) to instill confidence.

Furthermore, look at the strategic placement of the CTAs.

Cognitive FX places them after setting the stage for the patients’ recovery journey, which strikes an emotional chord with readers.

Further reading

RADically Rethink
ORG

Your CTAs

How to optimize content for social shares

The more people share your post, the more eyeballs it gets. Let’s look at how you can increase exposure on social networks.


1
CARDINAL

. Include expert quotes

Unique quotes from subject matter experts boost distribution.

When you feature a source in your post, odds are they will want to share the post when it gets published. Plus, not only do you bake organic distribution directly into your content, but you also back up your claims without conducting additional research.

When

Fio Dossetto
PERSON

, creator of

ContentFolks
ORG

, was writing a guide on content marketing for

Ahrefs
GPE

, she approached

14
CARDINAL

marketing leaders for their insights. Many of these leaders shared the post with their followers after it went live.

Here’s

Louis Grenier
PERSON

, founder of

Everyone Hates Marketers
ORG

, sharing it on Twitter:

My advice to create successful content in

2021
DATE

(or

any year
DATE

, really).

Thank you @content101 and @ahrefs for the feature.

👉 https://t.co/3jKS5ZK4w2 pic.twitter.com/FbMd3wTyMW —

Louis Grenier
PERSON

(@LouisSlices)

January 27, 2021
DATE

Tip Even if the experts you feature have a smaller following, you can still replicate this technique.

Databox
PERSON

, a business intelligence platform, tags them on

LinkedIn
ORG

, further amplifying the reach of its posts. To make this work, you must

first
ORDINAL

identify the right experts. Even though platforms like HARO connect you with sources, it’s best stay careful. Some of the responses can be low-quality so it pays to focus on finding subject matter experts. A better approach is to look for subject matter experts using

Ahrefs
ORG

: Go to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer. Enter your article’s topic. Click the Authors tab. Identify experts who have written extensively about the topic and have a lot of followers. For example, we may reach out to some of these authors for a quick quote if we’re writing a piece on content marketing strategy.


2
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. Share unique insights

Readers are more likely to share content that contains unique insights, whether it’s original case studies, data studies, surveys, or just relevant personal experience.

When we published an original study analyzing

more than a million
CARDINAL

websites, we earned

over 205
CARDINAL

shares from a single

LinkedIn
ORG

post. The data was brand new, and readers were excited to read it—and crucially, be the

first
ORDINAL

to share something so valuable with their networks.


3
CARDINAL

. Use more visuals

Visuals can increase shareability it

two
CARDINAL

ways.


First
ORDINAL

off, visuals make educational content easier to comprehend, and entertaining content more fun. Simply put, they can make your content a better, more immersive experience — an experience people may want to share with others.


Secondly
ORDINAL

, when shared on social media, images themselves may help you reach more people because users find them engaging. According to

Sprout Social’s
ORG

study, images are the

second
ORDINAL

most engaging form of content on social media, giving way only to short form videos.

For example, we used a visual summary of an article on

LinkedIn
ORG

, and this turned out to be one of the most engaging posts we’ve published:

Here are some more tried and tested ideas:

Break up the text with images that visualize key points or takeaways you want the reader to remember.

Visualize processes, comparisons, and workflows. In other words, things that are harder to follow in a text-only form.

Use infographics to translate dry, boring data into something your audience can quickly grasp and relate to.

Note Images — You can optimize images to stand a better chance at ranking in

Google
ORG

image search. This includes techniques like optimizing alt tags, image file names, and image compression. We’ve got a full guide to image SEO that will introduce you to some of the best practices.

— You can optimize images to stand a better chance at ranking in

Google
ORG

image search. This includes techniques like optimizing alt tags, image file names, and image compression. We’ve got a full guide to image SEO that will introduce you to some of the best practices. Video —

YouTube
ORG

is another search engine you can optimize for. Check out our step-by-step guide to

YouTube
ORG

SEO put together by

Sam
PERSON

, who grew our channel to

almost half a million
CARDINAL

subscribers. Interested more in ranking videos on

Google Search
ORG

? We’ve got a guide on that, too. Text isn’t the only content type that can be optimized.

What to avoid when optimizing content

The web is full of optimization advice. But don’t fall into the trap of throwing every possible technique at your content. Some will be a waste of time, and some can even hurt your performance. So here’s what to avoid:

SEO over-optimization — yes, you can over-optimize, or actually quasi-optimize, for search engines. Keyword stuffing is an example of that. We’ve listed every SEO over-optimization issue you should steer clear of.

— yes, you can over-optimize, or actually quasi-optimize, for search engines. Keyword stuffing is an example of that. We’ve listed every SEO over-optimization issue you should steer clear of. The longer-is-better approach —

first
ORDINAL

and foremost, content needs to serve the intent behind the search. So don’t artificially inflate your content.

Google
ORG

and searchers don’t look for the longest answer to every search query. If you’re curious about this topic, we ran a few studies to see what the data says.

Aggressive sales tactics in copywriting — if you put too much pressure on the users, they will run away.

— if you put too much pressure on the users, they will run away. Overly sensational headlines — this may backfire because some people simply avoid titles that look like clickbait.

Further reading

10
CARDINAL

SEO Myths You Should Ignore

Content optimization tools

Be it for reach or engagement, these tools will help you go through the optimization process:


Ahrefs
PERSON

: allows you to find keywords with traffic potential, find content gaps, monitor your ranking performance, and more. Also, check out our free AI writing tools.


ChatGPT
PERSON

: allows you to generate ideas for more engaging headlines, rephrase any text for clarity, and beat writer’s block.

Surfer: allows you to find words and phrases your articles might be missing compared to the top-ranking content.

Visual Website Optimizer: allows you to A/B test pages with different variants of the copy. Most useful for conversion optimization on product feature pages and lead generation pages.


Brand24
NORP

: allows you to monitor your content’s reach and engagement on social media.


GTMetrix
PERSON

: allows you to test and monitor your site speed, including

Core Web Vitals
ORG

.

Final thoughts

It’s okay if your

first
ORDINAL

attempts won’t bring great results. It takes some trial and error to get these techniques right.

Case in point: as I’m writing this, I’m actually trying to optimize the article for SEO.

The original version of the article ranked at position

6
CARDINAL

. Which means, there was room for improvement.

Data via

Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker
ORG

.

After running through every point on our list (the same one I’m sharing in this article), we found that our take on the topic may be missing some helpful information (e.g., what to avoid and a few tips in the SEO section), so we decided to add that.

What’s more, we saw there was a featured snippet opportunity.

Data via

Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker
ORG

.

Will we win it? If not, we’ll definitely come back and try again. And that’s the point.

Got questions or comments? Find me on X.