Once you’ve put in all the hard work of creating new content, you probably want to do all you can to help the right people discover it through search. Content optimisation can help with that.
While your content must always be written mainly for the people you want to attract, optimising your content for search engines is a powerful way to help search engines discover, understand, and index what you publish. It can also help searchers quickly see what your website is about.
There are lots of different types of content that can be optimised for search and optimising video, audio, images, and text for search all require different approaches. For the purposes of this guide, though, we’ll focus on written content as this is still by far what Google pays the most attention to.
What is content optimisation?
Content optimisation is a broad term that covers the steps website owners can take to squeeze the best performance out of content by helping search engines and people discover it. When optimising content for search it’s important to first think through the purpose of each page and the type of people you’d like it to attract. The rest of the content optimisation process will flow from there.
Content optimisation focuses on the overall goal of discovery and getting website content in front of the right people.
How do you optimise content for search?
The specific techniques you should use to optimise content will depend on several factors that are unique to each business and website.That said, here are six main things that most websites can focus their attention on.
The title tag is the HTML code that tells search engines and searchers what a page is going to be about. When you search on Google, the title tag is the text in the blue link that you click on to visit a web page. As one of the most prominent aspects of search engine result pages (SERPs), titles have a big influence on how much traffic web pages see from search.
Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a title tag. To avoid some of your titles going missing on the SERPs, each title tag should be under 60 characters when possible. However, don’t be afraid of using a longer title if a page requires it. Google will still read longer titles and note all keywords, even if they end up being concatenated for searchers.
It’s best to avoid stuffing too many keywords into title tags. If there are any important ones you are targeting, placing them towards the beginning can help emphasise what your page is about.
The title tag is separate from the H1 tag that displays on the page. Whilst it’s not essential to keep them identical you should make them consistent and at the least very similar.
Sitting below the title tag in the main section of most SERPs is a meta description for each result. This is a slightly longer string of text that can be optimised to show search engines and searchers more detail on what pages are about.
Although meta descriptions are not thought to directly impact rankings, they can have a significant impact on other factors such as CTR and the quality of traffic. These could impact rankings.
Yoast suggests keeping meta descriptions under 155 characters, writing them in the active voice, and including a CTA that encourages people to click. They also recommend including your focus keyword in the meta description as this will be highlighted if it matches the search query that leads to the result.
It’s often a good idea to have a focus keyword for your content and build the rest of your page around it. This can help give you a clear direction as you work on optimising your content for search.
Using keywords strategically and making sure you avoid unnaturally cramming in keywords are both considered good practice. In fact, keyword stuffing is now frowned upon by search engines and can significantly damage website rankings.
Whilst it won’t make any difference to Google it does make sense, from a user point of view, to try and get your keyword in the first paragraph.
Some URLs are more search-friendly than others. It’s an easy fix because most websites have a lot of freedom to define URLs. A search-friendly URL will say what the page is about clearly and concisely. Less friendly URLs may include long strings of words, random numbers, and fail to accurately describe the pages.
ALT attributes are an important way of helping search engines understand images. Here’s an example of an ALT attribute:
<img src=”london.png” alt=”London City Skyline”>
They are an important way to optimise images on your website so they can also be discovered through search. In addition to helping with search, ALT attributes also make website images accessible for people who use screen readers.
Features snippets sit at the top of some of Google’s SERPs to offer quick answers to searchers questions without them needing to leave the search engine. Snippets include tables, lists, and definition boxes. Web pages can be formatted and optimised to increase the chances of showing up as a featured snippet. Featured snippets can help improve organic click-through rates and push websites to the top of the SERPs.