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What drives your website content strategy?

It's simple enough to set up a site based on what you think it should be about and how it should look, but optimizing it for SEO is a whole different ballgame.

Why Optimize Your Website Content for SEO?

Put simply, by optimizing the very signals that communicate your website's purpose, you send Google a clear message of what your site is all about.

Though Google and other search engines can be surprisingly accurate, search engine crawlers don't evaluate your site in the same way that a human does, so optimization is also about including the correct coding and keywords: focusing on the meta title, creating a good description that invites people to your site, adding headers that make sense, and writing content that accurately describes what it is you do.

In aggregate, those small modifications can improve not only the site's performance in organic search results but also the user experience.

All that's on the surface. But, really, even basic onsite content optimization involves much more.

Keyword Research

We know that keyword research is important to determine what people are searching for that could potentially lead them to your website. Creating a good list is essential. You will refer to that list (editing it over time) to know how to best optimize each section of your site.

Keyword research isn't rocket science, but you do need to get it right. Aside from Google Analytics, tools like SEMRush can be helpful to see which terms generate traffic and which ones are generating buzz in your industry. It's a chance to brainstorm, pop in words, and see what makes sense in the online world. You'll also develop an understanding of how people search for you or your product—which words and phrases resonate with them.

There are various scientific ways to carry out keyword research, but the basic premise is this: Make a list of relevant keywords and record the search volume for each one. You can then narrow down your list, and, finally, using your good judgment, assign one or two keywords to each category on your website.

Also, check out your competitors. If a competitor is ranking for a certain keyword you'd like to go after, determine whether their onsite content is helping their cause. You can check the page source to see what they are using for their meta titles and H (header) tags, but even just a quick hover over their meta titles can show you what they are targeting on each page, and whether they are optimizing their page content strategically.

Writing for Humans

Google recommends writing and basing "your optimization decisions first and foremost on what's best for the visitors of your site." This is a kind of a buffer, if you will, a free pass to step away from the cold hard statistical analysis and ensure your website always looks visitor-friendly.

It also means no keyword-stuffing or taking the easy way out (see below for more on avoiding over-optimization). Your meta titles should be written for humans to read—making them easy for the eye to take in and easy for a person to understand.

The H1s and H2s on the page should make sense, as they are the titles and subtitles within the content. They are not places to simply fill up with keywords or pop in a search engine-relevant phrase just because it has a high search volume.

Think of meta titles that not only contain a keyword and tell shoppers what they are looking for but also address their intent.

"Modern Mirrors to Brighten Up Your Home—Shop Now." That meta title will be more effective, and less spammy than an antiquated title that's simply a list of keywords, like this one: "Modern Mirrors | Square Mirrors | Round Mirrors."

There's an Art to It

Writing optimized content takes a light and thoughtful touch. You have to find a balance between writing for your audience and adding strategic keywords here and there. Doing so involves analysis and common sense.

When going through the meta tags and page content for the various pages, ask yourself over and over: Does that make sense? Does the keyword belong there, or am I going out of my way to put it in there? Does this accurately describe, in an artful way, what my page or site is about?

For the content modules on each page: Do they give the reader the information they need? Also, is the information clear and concise? Finally, is the content correct?

Now is the time to edit and correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues. Your website needs to instill trust in the reader, and mistakes simply have no place on a professional website. Go on, get help, have the best grammar expert on your team go through the content with a fine-tooth comb.

Avoiding Over-Optimization

In the interest of driving as much traffic as possible to a website, many eager site owners will add as many keywords as possible to a certain page. It's hard to avoid—you may have just one page and one shot—to use two or three or four relevant keywords, and you want to make their presence known. Or you may be writing naturally, and, without meaning to, there are those keywords listed over and over again.

Tip: After writing a paragraph, highlight your keywords in red. If they are listed numerous times, consider paring them down until they are present but not overbearing—two or three keyword mentions within a piece of text is a good guide.

Over-optimization may simply result in a spammy-looking page, but even more dangerous than that is that you could be affected by a Google Panda Update. Introduced in 2011, it is used by the search giant to keep sites with poor quality, or over-optimized, content from gaining traction in the search results.

Character Limits and Content: A Simple Checklist

Though Google recently introduced some leeway for the character count of meta titles and descriptions, the results are yet to be seen across all search terms; Google admits it is always trying and testing, so it's best to stay on the safe side:

  • Meta titles: 50-60 characters
  • Meta descriptions: 150-160 characters
  • Keywords in content: 2-3 mentions on each page.

With all that in mind, it's time to optimize your website! Use these necessary website elements to your advantage in SEO. You may be amazed how much more strategic your thought process becomes when it is time to add new pages to your site or to analyze keyword rankings.

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image of Nyima Bieber

Nyima Bieber is the project operations manager at digital marketing agency TrafficSource. She works to obtain quick optimization wins as well as long-term organic search results.

LinkedIn: Nyima Bieber