12 Jul 2016

12 Content Optimization Tips to Avoid Common SEO Issues

A strong SEO foundation is essential for first page search engine rankings. The great thing about on-page content optimization is that you are in control. With most content management systems, you can easily implement the 12 on-page optimization tips listed in this article.

What is on page search engine optimization?

Optimization involves a number of considerations and techniques. Some are ‘proven’ basics that will enhance rankings and there are some newer aspects to consider. I’ll break these down into 2 areas:

  1. SEO Fundamentals
  2. The NEW SEO

The fundamentals are just that. They are the techniques that we know work and should be baked into your content marketing system. They are steps in the process of good optimization. Many webmasters wonder if spending the time, trouble, effort, along with resources is really worth it. Let’s start with talking about the elements of SEO fundamentals.

You must master #SEO fundamentals and bake them into your daily routine. Click To Tweet

Want to learn more on this topic? Join our webinar Thursday, July 21st with Mike to dive into how to proactively improve your SEO to avoid common problems. Register here!

What is a first page search result worth?

There is a direct correlation between ranking on page one of the search engines and traffic to your site. If organic traffic is important to you, content optimization should be a top priority. Optimization improves rankings and drives more traffic.

To determine the value of organic traffic, you can do the math based on what paid ads will cost indexed against the clicks you get from organic traffic from your top keyword phrase. You can even take that a step further and determine what sales you made from the organic clicks.

For example, if it costs $1.50/click using Adwords for your keyword phrase, then 1,000 organic clicks have a value of $1,500.  So, rather than paying another $1,500 for clicks, the organic links are ‘free.’  Imagine if you had 10, 100, or even 1,000 keywords ranking on page one of the search engine results. What those clicks would be worth?

If you want to learn more about how to calculate the value of organic traffic, check out Clay Cazier’s post that includes a detailed walk through. The key is: organic traffic should (and can) drive sales.

What are SEO Fundamentals?

There are a number of on-page optimization techniques you should perform for every piece of content you publish. We oftentimes find these things are not completed, even though they are simple to do and don’t take much time. The key is to make them part of your system so they become a best practice.

Meta Tags

These tags are in the code behind your page. These tags help the search engines better understand what your page is about.

Titles

This is one area that comes under constant dispute. Should you write a title that will draw your audience in or should you write a title for the search engines? The answer is neither. You should write a title that you know your potential customers are searching for. Do the research and write a title that people are already searching.

Your customers are looking for answers and learning more about how services and products will solve their problems, and the search engines want to provide them with the best answer.

answer the public image

We use a number of tools to help us understand what people are searching for and then we write titles around those searches. For example, using Google Suggest with the search auto-complete, we often find great titles. We’ll take it a step further and use a tool like Answer The Public, which will create a data list of keywords and questions that can be turned into headlines. The tool creates an interesting visual and the data can be exported.

Here are 5 tips on creating great titles from Zack Jones at Vertical Measures from his post, Why the Title of Your Content Is Everything:

  1. Brainstorm in a group
  2. Optimize content titles for search intent
  3. Use tools to generate content and title ideas (see above)
  4. Answer questions
  5. Be the authority and show your passion

If you want even more information on title tags, check out: http://searchengineland.com/nine-best-practices-for-optimized-title-tags-111979

H1 Tags

Search engines still consider these tags as important elements of a page. If used properly, they can be effective in improving your rankings. The biggest mistake webmasters make is writing long H1 tags and not including relevant keywords.

Stay focused with your H1 tags. They should reflect the main purpose and focus of your article.

Example: Poor H1 tag:

“Check out this awesome blog post with SEO suggestions on improving your site.”

Example: Good H1 tag:

“The Top 5 Content SEO Optimization Best Practices.”

Sub Headers

Think about what the user is trying to accomplish with their search, and build content around that intent. Your sub headers should help you organize your post into ‘chunks of content’ that help break up the post and make it look less like homework, while allowing for the reader to quickly scan for the information they need.

Using H2 tags

With that in mind, we often go back and review our content and freshen it. One such post was about the cost of content marketing. We researched what people were trying to learn about costs associated with content marketing and came up with a number of questions that were being searched.

When we updated the content about a year after it was originally published, we incorporated these questions into the sub-headers in the content. Right now, the article ranks #1 in Google for the exact title and check out (below) the rankings for the sub-headers in the article.

Keyword Phrase Rank
How Much Does Real Content Marketing Cost? (title) 1
How much does content research cost? 1
How much does a content strategy cost? 1
How much does content development cost? 12
How much does content optimization cost? 9
How much does a content promotion cost? 1
How much for content marketing education and workshops? 1
Don't be in a hurry to publish and not take that extra 5 minutes to optimize your images. #SEO Click To Tweet

Image Optimization

Many webmasters miss this opportunity because they’re in a hurry to publish and don’t take that extra 5 minutes to optimize their images, videos and graphics. Here are four things you can do to optimize your images.

  1. Image name: Don’t use the default name from your camera like 2342dsn.jpg. Change the name to something that relates to the image and the content. This allows the search engines to better understand the image and how it relates to the surrounding text.

Example: Non Optimized – DL00213.jpg,

Example Optimized – animas-river-sunset-by-andy-barbour.jpg

  1. Alt text: Give a short description of the image or graphic, which again should include keywords and what the image is about, and be in line with the context of the article.
  1. Image Title: You can also give your image a title. This is what you see when you roll your mouse over the image and it’s just one more thing you can do for optimization. Use keywords in the title.
  1. Image compression: Don’t use full file size images. Compress your images so they’ll load faster.

You can use the above techniques for images, graphics and in similar ways, video.

How to use alt text in WordPress

Source: Marie Leslie

Meta Descriptions

You’ve already done all the hard work optimizing your page and getting it to rank. So don’t forget to optimize meta descriptions to get searchers to click on your listing. The meta description is what the searcher sees when they’re on the search engine listing page while their trying to decide what listing to click on. If you don’t include a meta description, the search engine will pick one for you based on the content of the page. It’s better to be in control of that by writing a good one.

A good meta description can make the difference of the searcher clicking on your link or a competitor.

Not optimized

poorly written meta description

Optimized

well written meta description
Notice how the optimized meta description causes you to lean in and would prompt a click more readily than the non-optimized one above it.

URL

Avoid using URLs that don’t represent what the post is about. For example, many content management systems will create non-search friendly URLs by default.

  • Non-search engine friendly URL – http://www.mywebsitename.com/?p=54382
  • SEO-Friendly URL – http://www.mywebsitename.com/how-to-optimize-your-content/

Create URLs that include keywords, mirror your title and are user-friendly. These user-friendly URLs are called semantic URLs and are meaningful to both the user and search engines.

The NEW SEO

Now that you know the basic SEO fundamentals that have been around for years, let’s dive into the present state of SEO as well as where it’s headed in the future.

SEO is constantly evolving. The above techniques have been around as long as there have been SEOs. In the last couple years, there has been a dramatic shift from desktop to mobile devices when accessing the Internet, so algorithm updates are focusing more and more on the mobile user experience. The following SEO techniques will help with your mobile rankings while also improving your desktop positions as well.

#SEO is constantly evolving. Focusing on single keywords is no longer necessary. Click To Tweet

In addition, focusing on single keywords and simple phrases is no longer necessary.  The search engines are smart enough to know what your content is about, so moving forward you should be implementing a broader approach to targeting keywords.

A Semantic Keyword Approach

While keyword research is still very important, developing a more holistic approach is now necessary. Google is considering user intent in search queries. Rather than focusing solely on a particular keyword or keyword phrase in a one-to-one relationship, consider developing content themes and topics. Here is what a few experts have to say on the topic:

Jayson Demers

“If you think about it, at the heart of every search on Google, there’s some kind of intention. A user wants answers, resources, information, reviews of a product, and much more. Content that is crafted to meet this expectation will connect with the user immediately. Content that makes only a passing reference to what the user is looking for, on the other hand, is much less likely to connect.”

– Jayson DeMers, HubSpot

Tim soulo

“And besides, we’ve all noticed that pages often rank on the front page of Google without even having the target keyword mentioned anywhere in their content.”

– Tim Soulo, ahrefs

Andy Crestodina

“As search evolves, so does optimization. Search results are less about phrases (combinations of words and letters) and more about topics (semantic meanings and entities).”

– Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media

Christina Hecht

Semantic keywords are the supporting cast members to your content’s headlining target terms. Using synonyms, close variants and topically-related keywords on a page can help build up – or “proof” – the relevance of the page, as well as match up content to the searcher’s intent.”

– Christina Hecht, Vertical Measures

Important Ranking Factors in 2016 and Beyond

Page Speed

Page speed became a ranking factor in April of 2015. There are a number of tools available to check your page load speeds. Google provides one of the best tools and also includes recommendations and areas you need to focus on to improve your speed. https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com

Good Page Speed Test

Structured Data: What is it and why does it matter for SEO?

Structured data or schema markup is simply code (tags) that you put on your site within your HTML markup. This allows search engines to know more clearly what the page is about and allows them to display a richer, more informative listing for the searcher. This usually results in better click-throughs. Schema.org is a collaborative effort between Google, Yahoo and Bing to improve search results by providing a common vocabulary.

There are a number of tools to help you implement schema. For example, Google provides a markup helper.

Structured Data

What is Facebook Open Graph?

Implementing Open Graph on your site won’t necessarily improve your SEO, but it will help users share your webpages and provide some control on the way your images and content looks on 3rd party promotional or distribution sites.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

According to Facebook, loading an article using a web browser on a mobile device takes over 8 seconds on average. Enter Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP. Both are designed to help mobile pages load lightning fast. Waiting 8+ seconds for a page to load on a smartphone seems like an eternity and these markups can reduce that time by 4x.

What are AMP pages?

The AMP open-source initiative aims to improve the mobile web through web pages that load instantly on mobile devices. Amplified pages load 4x faster and use 10x less data.

If you use WordPress, there are plugins that you can use to implement AMP. You can also code AMP into your pages.

Here are two examples of how quickly a Facebook Instant Article and an AMP page can load.

 facebook instant article example  amp accelerated mobile page example

Another reason why AMP pages are important – AMP pages now appear in the Top Stories carousel in 15 countries. According to Google, “Mark up your articles with structured data, providing details such as headline, images, publish date, and description. Top Stories with AMP is a Google Search results feature that displays articles and video pages from sites using the AMP specification for their web page. The carousel allows users to quickly find and consume AMP content with Google.”

To learn more about the AMP project, check out this video.

Conclusion

Spend that few extra minutes optimizing each time you publish a page, and it will result in better rankings over time. Make it part of your process so it becomes second nature. You’ll be surprised at the change in your mindset as you start to think more and more about optimization as part of a comprehensive process, rather than some incidental add on.

Remember, optimization can be simple. Plus, it’s essential.

Old SEO is more about tactics where the new SEO is about strategy. As search moves more and more to mobile, you’ll want to continue to optimize at the page level while keeping your eyes on new techniques that will improve the mobile and overall search experience.

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