Optimizing Content – Avoid Going Overboard

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The ways for optimizing content are always evolving. With constant Google updates, such as Penguin and Panda, there is a real possibility of going overboard and getting smacked down for your over-zealous use of keywords. Keyword stuffing is a big no-no from an SEO perspective today.

This post covers the basics of content optimization. Here is the rundown of what we will be talking about in the continuation of the text.

Post highlights:

  • Optimization game changed drastically – keyword stuffing gets you nowhere
  • Keyword research is the building block of all your efforts
  • Get to know your topic and write like an expert
  • Make your content valuable and insightful
  • Optimization basics – don’t skip them

Optimizing content – Then and Now

In the past, search engines would spit up results based on something called the ‘exact match’. Basically, when someone would search for ‘optimized content’ they would most likely get served a page that had the most occurrences of the said phrase in the text. That was not the only factor, but it was one that Google cared about, deeply.

Enter shoddy webmaster tactics. Pages were littered with keywords that would make the reading experience a pure horror. The content was created for the algorithm, and not for the reader. Even if the page was not overstuffed visibly, it would contain invisible text whose only purpose was to make it rank better. As a result, people would often get mislead into thinking that the #1 result on the search page was the most relevant, which was often very far from the truth.

Today, search engines use something called the ‘topical match’ to find the best possible result. This means that the keyword you type in will signal to Google the topic you want to find, but the results will depend on a great many things, from social signals, page authority, use of auxiliary terms that are related to the topic, links leading to your page, and a lot more. Today, Google is running a tight ship and they do not disclose what exactly makes pages rank better, in an effort to prevent webmasters from playing the system yet again.

1. Keywords Still Matter

With all that said, it is important to note that keywords still do matter. Not as much as they did in the past, but you still want to make clear which subject you are tackling in the text.
However, let’s start at the beginning.

Keyword research

The most important thing you need to master is choosing your keyword wisely. This is step one. Having a clear idea of what topic you are writing about gives you focus and direction and it’s much easier to set on that path when you have a keyword picked out. Writing an article and then trying to retrofit a keyword in it is a pain.

Look for low-hanging fruit when choosing a keyword. What does this mean? Some keywords have tens of thousands of searches in a month. They may look like a great idea, but you will not now until you’ve checked out the competition. If you are targeting a high-volume keyword that has medium to high competition score, chances are you won’t rank well for it. You are competing with the big dogs, the established publishers that are difficult to de-throne.

Screen shot of highly competitive keyword from Google Keyword Planner* Fancy trying to get to first page for this one? Didn’t think so.

So, set your sights to keywords that have lower monthly search volume instead. Sure, there are fewer people searching for them, but the competition is not that fierce and it will be easier to land on the first page for those. Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to help you along.

Keyword density

Now, opinions vary but most advice out there states that a keyword density between 1% and 3% is what you should be aiming at when writing. Hell, even Yoast – a dedicated WordPress SEO plugin – recommends that! That means using your keyword 10 times at least in a 1000- word article. That’s a bit too much if you ask me.

What I’ve discovered is that natural keyword density occurs when an expert is writing on a topic they are familiar with. Sometimes that means repeating a certain keyword only 2-3 times in a space of a couple of pages! Their content still ranks great, however. So what do they do differently? They use ‘niche vocabulary’!

Think about it. When you read a piece of content you will notice a lot of synonyms for the same thing, or rather, a lot of concepts that relate to it. In the example of this text that might be SEO content writing, content search optimization, blog post optimization, and a lot of other terms. Using niche-related content signals Google that you’re familiar with the topic enough to use the words actual experts are using when describing it. It also makes for a heck of an easier read.

When you find a topic you want to write about, type in your keyword and see what others have to say about the subject. Focus on the first three results. Read through them and notice the words the authors are using. Now, you can do it manually, but I recommend a tool called SEOQuake to check the densities on a particular page. You will see that the keyword appears a bunch of times but not as frequently as other related concepts. Use that as a guideline and make sure you sprinkle that niche vocabulary throughout the piece you will be writing.

2. Add Value to Your Content

No amount of SEO wizardry will help you if your content is not valuable to your readers. You can optimize until you keel over; if people are not reading and sharing it, you’re doing it all for nothing. Make sure you’re not just rehashing old information you pulled from the web – it’s not always possible but give it your best try. Add your own take on things and tell the readers what you think about a given topic. Your insights might be unique and therefore, something that pushes you over the top.

If that is not possible, then try to deliver a different perspective. Look things from a different angle and try to approach the subject from a particularly interesting standpoint. One way of doing this is being the voice of dissent. If you can challenge an established idea and back it up with clear-cut reasoning, go for it.

3. On-page SEO One on One

Before you hit that ‘Publish’ button, make sure your text complies with some basic on-page SEO rules:

  • You have your keyword in the title
  • Your keyword is appearing once in the first paragraph
  • It also appears somewhere else in the text
  • You have a meta description
  • You are using outbound links
  • Your post has a pertinent photo or a video embedded in it

These are some general guidelines you would do well to follow. Now, I’m not saying that doing all of this will launch you to the first page of Google’s results, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.