You can employ as many different ways to optimize content, just as you can to cook certain recipes. However, there is always a certain “recipe” if you will, that lends itself well to proper content optimization. I would like to examine six ways you can better optimize your content in order to help improve its reach, amplification, and overall exposure.
Consider Increasing the Average Word Count of Your Articles
Tests have recently shown an improved performance in articles that are longer in length, usually around 1.700 or more words. The jury is still out on this however, because it seems to depend on the competition and what they are doing within the SERPs for a specific industry. If your competition is only writing 400 word articles on their websites, then they shouldn’t be too difficult to beat with a 2,000 word article. Saying a blanket statement like “write 2,000 words to beat everyone” without paying attention to quality is asking for trouble.
Let’s hypothesize for a minute. What if you were in an industry that is known for writing 300 word blogs – and that was the average word count among your competitors every day of every publishing week since the dawn of time. Well, you would want to consider writing lengthier articles right? Let’s say 800. You start writing 800 word articles, and start to see your rankings move upwards. But, your competitors can see that performance increase as well. They will want to follow the leader of the industry now: you. They will want to write 800 word articles too. But, alas, this also tends to get into the sticky area of affordability for some. Some competitors will drop off, not because they aren’t doing it right (although it is possible), but the likelier reason is that they just can’t afford it.
There really isn’t much of a lesson here except: you can increase the average word count of your articles but don’t just increase it for the sake of increasing it. Increase the quality of your articles too. Increase the quality of writing, your topic ideas, everything. That is what is going to give you that competitive edge: how much quality is built into those articles that make your buying public whet their appetite. Do people care enough about your articles to share them across their social networks? Do people want to read the kind of content you are publishing?
Use Keyword Phrases Sparingly Yet Equally Throughout Your Article
If you are fairly new to the SEO industry, you may have figured out that keyword phrases are in. Yes, they are important, and you may also have figured out that keyword stuffing is out. So what, you ask, is the right way to add keywords into your content? You want to use keyword phrases sparingly, around 2-3 times per page. Don’t stuff them into every other word or every three words. And don’t fall into the trap of keyword density. There really is no such thing as keyword density. The effectiveness of this ranking factor was eliminated during the Google Florida update of 2003, so it is worthless to focus on it, but you should have a general “point of relevance” ballpark to aim for so that you can make sure Google knows what you’re targeting as part of that article.
This rule also applies to using keyword stuffing at the end of the page. You folks know who you are: those people who have decided that they want to stuff hundreds upon hundreds of keyword phrases at the end of the page (in the meta keywords tag, and just about everywhere else). You may have heard, or more than likely have just heard about “Keywords” and figure that “the more the better”. That is further from the truth than you may realize. In fact, if you engage in such reckless abandon when it comes to optimizing your site for the proper keywords, you can find yourself in the middle of a Panda penalty or worse (like a manual penalty).
So, to recap: Use keyword repetition sparingly, but don’t ignore it either. It is still important from a relevance standpoint moreso than anything, but it can get you in trouble if you abuse it. A great rule to follow in this regard is: when in doubt, do not keyword stuff!
Do Not Use Substantially Significantly Similar Content From Page to Page
When you write content, especially for local sites, and especially for sites with easily similar content from page to page, it can get very easy to get in the trap of writing too much similar content. “Oh,” you might say, “this information is not necessary. I’ll just change bits and pieces out here and there and ‘voila!’ a unique page”. However, while that is all well and good from an efficiency point of view, Google can and does monitor webpages that engage in this behavior with their algorithm. If you engage in too much of this kind of thing, you may find yourself in a Panda penalty.
“But wait, I thought Google likes ‘longer content’!” you may say. While that is true, they also want content that is 100% unique. While there are varying sliding scales out there that say if you do this much similar content you won’t get into a penalty (say 80% similar or 60%), none of those are correct and could actually get you into more trouble should the amount of duplicate content site-wide exceeds certain thresholds. Unfortunately, we don’t know what those thresholds are, because, surprise surprise – we would need massive resources to perform this kind of algorithmic testing. So, I like to err on the side of caution every time and produce 100% unique content – every page, every time. This way, the amount of duplicate content being replicated on the site remains at a minimum.
Use Links to External Resources throughout Your Content
Using outbound links to external resources throughout your content is a good way to help support your viewpoint when such support is needed. Or, if you want to expand on a certain topic, it is a great way to link to resources that are already readily available, without trying to re-invent the wheel. If your content is good enough, you could potentially earn links back from those that you link out to. You never know what this kind of external linking could result in for you.
But (and there is always a but, isn’t there?) don’t link out excessively and create link farms of hundreds of links. Use outbound links to external resources sparingly. As a general rule, Google has placed a limit on links from pages (including navigation). That limit is 100 links per page. After 100 links per page, linking out gets messy and it becomes increasingly difficult for Google to crawl your site effectively.
Images Are Worth a Thousand Words
This has to be the most overused cliché in modern marketing, but it is true: when you use images effectively to tell your story you increase its impact. A lot. Images can evoke additional emotions when intermingled with the proper words in a context that elicits a strong emotional response. When that happens it’s only a matter of time before your reader is your putty full of jelly and you can mold their actions into whatever you may desire. Of course that is a tad melodramatic but the better and more effective a writer you are, the more you can get your readers to perform the kinds of conversion actions you want them to take on your website.
With the addition of images comes proper alt text and title text optimization that must be made in order to increase your website’s UX quality along with making sure that your site is cross browser and cross platform compatible. This also helps your images appear properly in Google image search, which is yet another source of good traffic that you can obtain as a result. Major benefits also come to people with disabilities who may use screen readers and other technologies that utilize alt text and title text coding. Without this coding, you may end up cutting off a large subset of your reader base if you haven’t done a deep dive into your analytics data carefully.
Don’t overlook important points of optimization because you want to be efficient. These points of optimization are invaluable and can help drive traffic to your site from other sources that you may not otherwise have thought of.
Use Header Tags With Targeted Keyword Phrases
Header tags by themselves are important, yes – but keyword phrases are especially more important. But, this doesn’t mean that you can use your targeted keyword phrase AS the actual header tag every single time. Nope. Google has foiled your ideas of easy optimization strategy yet again young Skywalker. Indeed, while it is necessary to use header tags to provide structure and further points of relevance to your masterpiece, it is also crucial to use keyword phrases in an appropriate, white hat, non-spammy way. You wouldn’t use “California personal injury lawyers in los angeles sue California car accident victims for California car accident negligence” as a headline would you?
Then why do you think it would be an appropriate headline anywhere? Don’t be an SEO idiot. Use proper headlines with targeted keywords sparingly, naturally, and where it makes sense. Don’t overburden the reader with confusing keyword phrases that make sense only to the search engine and/or to you.
Optimizing your content in a white hat, non-spammy way is not that hard. All it takes is following Google’s webmaster guidelines, and a desire to create quality content for your readers. As you write more, and continue to use the techniques above, you will be able to write posts for your blog that you can be proud of. Every time.