How to get more people to read your content with content optimization

How to get more people to read your content with content optimization

7 minute read

How to get more people to read your content with content optimization

7 minute read

How to get more people to read your content with content optimization

Masooma Memon

Freelance writer
Try as you might, well-written content won’t magically reach its target audience. Instead, you’ll need to take the right steps to signal Google your content is worth ranking while convincing readers it’s worth the read.

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In short, you need to focus on content optimization.

Not sure how to get started? This guide has the answers for you. We’ll dig into the benefits of content optimization and look at both essential and advanced optimization tactics.

Let’s get on with it.

What is Content Optimization?

A formal definition: Content optimization is the process of creating content that reaches the widest possible target audience.

This means you write, refresh, or update content to improve its odds of ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

That said, content optimization isn’t limited to improving search rankings. Instead, it’s a lot about making content useful for readers – you’ll see how as we dig into the key areas to focus on when optimizing content.

Where Does Content Optimization Fit Within Your Content Workflow

Content optimization happens at various stages of content creation.

Essentially, keyword research is the first step to writing new content. As writers dive into drafting content, using those keywords naturally becomes an essential step of the optimization process.

Next, writing keyword-rich meta descriptions, headlines, and title tags as you finalise content is another essential aspect of the process.

Need to Know: Use a templated brief in GatherContent to ask writers to draft a post's meta description, headings, and title tags. In your draft template, for example, have a dedicated section for meta descriptions and headlines so writers don’t miss it.
Create a meta description section in your content briefs in GatherContent.
Create a meta description section in your content briefs in GatherContent.

💡 Pro tip: If you haven’t been paying attention to content optimization so far, you can create a checklist of optimization steps to take and add them to your content marketing calendar. This way, you can dedicate time to what matters.

Finally, content optimization can happen post-publishing as well, as you pencil in content updates and refreshes in your editorial calendar.

In short, content optimization is a crucial part of your content workflow from the start through to the end and beyond.

Why is Content Optimization Important?

Content optimization is crucial for making sure the content you’re creating is useful, accessible, and valuable to its target readers.

Not only that but optimized content is content that checks off all the essential ways you can signal Google that your content is worth the high search engine rankings.

In short, content optimization is essential for optimizing content for the SERPs as well as your readers.

But why is improving content for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) not enough? Why should you focus on making your SEO content reader-friendly too? Because that’s the key to improving your rankings.

The reason: when readers find that your content answers their search query adequately, they end up spending more time on your page (technically known as the dwell time). It also reduces bounce rates (as people spend more time on your page). Both of these SEO metrics signal the search engine that your content is rank-worthy.

Benefits of Content Optimization

By now, you might have a fair idea about how essential optimizing content is for content marketing. Here’s a primer to the benefits of optimizing content:

  • Ensures your content ranks better so you can drive more traffic to your site.
  • Offers more value to your readers so they remember your business, spend more time on your site and, ultimately, enter your content marketing funnel.
  • Makes sure your content is accessible so everyone can drive value from it.

All this helps with better conversions in the long haul.

Key Focus Areas for Content Optimization

Now, for how to optimize content. Focus on the following:

1. Content readability

Content that’s easy to read is content that’s read. To make your content easily readable:

  • Use active voice for clarity
  • Write short sentences and paragraphs
  • Break text into bullet points where possible
  • Use simple language that resonates with your audience

You’ll also want to structure your content for readability. Let’s talk about that next.

💡 Pro tip: Use Hemingway Editor and Grammarly as your content optimization tools. Both help improve content readability by highlighting passive sentences, hard-to-read sentences, and redundancy. Grammarly also helps catch typos that slip your attention and integrates with GatherContent as well.

2. Content structure

Create a content structure that makes it easy for:

  • Readers to understand what’s covered in the post
  • Search engines to crawl your post

To this end, write direct subheadings (H2s and H3s) that educate the reader, telling them what’s covered but not fully revealing everything to encourage them to read. This way, you can provide value to people scanning your content for answers.

And to make it easy for search engines, add keywords to your subheadings including your target keyword and long-tail keywords.

💡 Pro tip: Create your content’s structure based on what people are searching for on the topic. Find that from the 'People Also Ask' section in Google and what other ranking posts have covered on the topic.

Use the People Also Ask section in Google to create your content structure.
Use the People Also Ask section in Google to create your content structure.

3. Keywords  

This includes your main keyword, secondary keyword as well as long-tail keywords and synonyms.

💡 Pro tip: Add a content optimization tool such as Clearscope to your toolkit. For any keyword you enter, the tool gives you a list of words that the content currently ranking for the keyword use. Add these to your content as you write or refresh content.

The question now is: where should you add keywords for improving your position in organic search? Add keywords to the following:

  • Post headline and title tag to show your content has the answer to the search query.
  • Meta description to encourage readers to click to read your content.
  • In H2 and H3 subheading tags to send relevancy signals to Google.
  • In the content introduction (first 100 words) to tell Google your content covers the keyword you’re targeting.
  • Throughout the content to continue signaling Google you’ve covered the keyword-based topic thoroughly.

4. Visuals

Visuals such as images, screenshots, infographics, and videos break text, making it readable.

The key, however, is to make sure visuals supplement the content, either helping explain the topic or visualizing data.

Visual assets also boost content’s shareability, encouraging people to share it on social media. Helpful and engaging visuals also pick up backlinks as other content pieces link to them.

For the visuals you add, make sure you:

  • Add short but descriptive alt texts (technically, alt tags). This improves content accessibility as the alt text displays when images don’t load.
  • Include keyword-based file names. This provides Google contextual information on how the visual relates to the content on your page.
  • Credit the site you source any external visuals from.

5. Internal and external linking

Linking helps you pass authority from one (relevant) ranking page to another. But there’s more: adding external links shows you’ve done your research – adding links to back data and studies you've shared.

On the flip side, internal links point readers to related resources that can help them expand their knowledge on the topic. This, in turn, boosts the time users spend on your site.

As you add links though, make sure you’re writing topic or keyword-focused anchor texts.

6. Link building

Building backlinks for each piece of content is crucial to boost its ranking.

These backlinks indicate to the search engine your content is valuable enough to be linked to. Therefore, helping SEO. So how can you build links strategically? Try the following:

  • Collaborate with other businesses who serve a similar audience such as yours on guest posting.
  • Write link-attracting posts such as posts sharing industry trends, rounding up statistics on a particular topic, providing a comprehensive guide on a topic, and so on.
  • Cover original research, experience-backed strategies, branded data visualizations and infographics. All these are frequently linked content types.

7. Click-worthy headlines

Another area that needs your attention: the headline as it is what encourages searchers to read your content.

Apart from adding keywords to your headlines, make sure they are:

  • Clear, short, and written in simple language.
  • Include power words that psychologically push people to read.
Need to Know: Use your brief template to ask writers to submit their headline recommendations. Be sure to embed instructions so writers know exactly what’s expected of them and you can be consistent with your headlines.
Add embedded instructions in your GatherContent template briefs.
Add embedded instructions in your GatherContent template briefs.

8. Content quality and depth

As mentioned, in-depth, high-quality content attracts more links. In fact, long-form content gets 77.2% more backlinks than short articles.

It also helps you cover a topic thoroughly, which explains why pieces ranking on the first page of the search engine have 1,447 words on average.

💡 Pro tip: For pieces above 1,500 words, add a table of content (TOC) to help readers navigate. This helps you get jumplinks in SERPs too.

Need to Know: Use comments within GatherContent to share feedback with writers, like specific sections in the article that needs more detail.
Share feedback with writers by commenting in GatherContent brief templates.
Share feedback with writers by commenting in GatherContent brief templates.

Advanced Content Optimization Tactics

While these were the basics of content optimization, here are three more advanced tactics to add to your content workflow:

Plan content updates

Every six months or so, schedule content updates in your content strategy. Make sure you update:

  • Content formatting.
  • Old statistics and research.
  • Visuals such as screenshots, their file name, alt text, and sizing.
  • The headline in instances that share time-specific content (example: content marketing trends 2021).
Need to Know: Create a checklist of steps for writers to follow as they update or refresh content. This ensures they don’t miss any vital steps while optimizing content.
Content guidelines in GatherContent
Embed your content style guide in your editing environment to improve content quality and consistency.

Refresh content as needed

Use Google Analytics to identify content that previously gained good traction but has hit its content decay stage.

Then assign content refreshes to your team to get more mileage out of the content you've created.

Need to Know: In GatherContent, you can assign tasks to your content team as well as set due dates for them to keep up with your editorial schedule.
Assign tasks to your content team in GatherContent
Assign tasks to your content team in GatherContent

For the refresh itself, identify what the content currently ranking in SERPs for the keyword covers. Then, list some ways you can make your content better.

At the same time, update old research and statistics. Plus, improve content’s heading, readability, on-page SEO, and calls to action (CTAs) too. Don’t forget to make sure the content matches the search intent.

Work on improving user experience

The easier it is for site visitors to use and navigate your site, the more time they’ll spend on your pages.

So here are some ways to improve user experience:

  • Use a plugin like WP Rocket to improve page load speed.
  • Optimize images by compressing their size using a tool like TinyPNG so images load fast.
  • Design pages for better readability, for instance, by adding more whitespace and using an easy-to-read font.

Remember, optimizing content not only helps you rank better but also helps you offer more value to your readers using the content you create.

Ready to get started? Put together your content optimization toolkit today by signing up for a free GatherContent account.

In short, you need to focus on content optimization.

Not sure how to get started? This guide has the answers for you. We’ll dig into the benefits of content optimization and look at both essential and advanced optimization tactics.

Let’s get on with it.

What is Content Optimization?

A formal definition: Content optimization is the process of creating content that reaches the widest possible target audience.

This means you write, refresh, or update content to improve its odds of ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

That said, content optimization isn’t limited to improving search rankings. Instead, it’s a lot about making content useful for readers – you’ll see how as we dig into the key areas to focus on when optimizing content.

Where Does Content Optimization Fit Within Your Content Workflow

Content optimization happens at various stages of content creation.

Essentially, keyword research is the first step to writing new content. As writers dive into drafting content, using those keywords naturally becomes an essential step of the optimization process.

Next, writing keyword-rich meta descriptions, headlines, and title tags as you finalise content is another essential aspect of the process.

Need to Know: Use a templated brief in GatherContent to ask writers to draft a post's meta description, headings, and title tags. In your draft template, for example, have a dedicated section for meta descriptions and headlines so writers don’t miss it.
Create a meta description section in your content briefs in GatherContent.
Create a meta description section in your content briefs in GatherContent.

💡 Pro tip: If you haven’t been paying attention to content optimization so far, you can create a checklist of optimization steps to take and add them to your content marketing calendar. This way, you can dedicate time to what matters.

Finally, content optimization can happen post-publishing as well, as you pencil in content updates and refreshes in your editorial calendar.

In short, content optimization is a crucial part of your content workflow from the start through to the end and beyond.

Why is Content Optimization Important?

Content optimization is crucial for making sure the content you’re creating is useful, accessible, and valuable to its target readers.

Not only that but optimized content is content that checks off all the essential ways you can signal Google that your content is worth the high search engine rankings.

In short, content optimization is essential for optimizing content for the SERPs as well as your readers.

But why is improving content for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) not enough? Why should you focus on making your SEO content reader-friendly too? Because that’s the key to improving your rankings.

The reason: when readers find that your content answers their search query adequately, they end up spending more time on your page (technically known as the dwell time). It also reduces bounce rates (as people spend more time on your page). Both of these SEO metrics signal the search engine that your content is rank-worthy.

Benefits of Content Optimization

By now, you might have a fair idea about how essential optimizing content is for content marketing. Here’s a primer to the benefits of optimizing content:

  • Ensures your content ranks better so you can drive more traffic to your site.
  • Offers more value to your readers so they remember your business, spend more time on your site and, ultimately, enter your content marketing funnel.
  • Makes sure your content is accessible so everyone can drive value from it.

All this helps with better conversions in the long haul.

Key Focus Areas for Content Optimization

Now, for how to optimize content. Focus on the following:

1. Content readability

Content that’s easy to read is content that’s read. To make your content easily readable:

  • Use active voice for clarity
  • Write short sentences and paragraphs
  • Break text into bullet points where possible
  • Use simple language that resonates with your audience

You’ll also want to structure your content for readability. Let’s talk about that next.

💡 Pro tip: Use Hemingway Editor and Grammarly as your content optimization tools. Both help improve content readability by highlighting passive sentences, hard-to-read sentences, and redundancy. Grammarly also helps catch typos that slip your attention and integrates with GatherContent as well.

2. Content structure

Create a content structure that makes it easy for:

  • Readers to understand what’s covered in the post
  • Search engines to crawl your post

To this end, write direct subheadings (H2s and H3s) that educate the reader, telling them what’s covered but not fully revealing everything to encourage them to read. This way, you can provide value to people scanning your content for answers.

And to make it easy for search engines, add keywords to your subheadings including your target keyword and long-tail keywords.

💡 Pro tip: Create your content’s structure based on what people are searching for on the topic. Find that from the 'People Also Ask' section in Google and what other ranking posts have covered on the topic.

Use the People Also Ask section in Google to create your content structure.
Use the People Also Ask section in Google to create your content structure.

3. Keywords  

This includes your main keyword, secondary keyword as well as long-tail keywords and synonyms.

💡 Pro tip: Add a content optimization tool such as Clearscope to your toolkit. For any keyword you enter, the tool gives you a list of words that the content currently ranking for the keyword use. Add these to your content as you write or refresh content.

The question now is: where should you add keywords for improving your position in organic search? Add keywords to the following:

  • Post headline and title tag to show your content has the answer to the search query.
  • Meta description to encourage readers to click to read your content.
  • In H2 and H3 subheading tags to send relevancy signals to Google.
  • In the content introduction (first 100 words) to tell Google your content covers the keyword you’re targeting.
  • Throughout the content to continue signaling Google you’ve covered the keyword-based topic thoroughly.

4. Visuals

Visuals such as images, screenshots, infographics, and videos break text, making it readable.

The key, however, is to make sure visuals supplement the content, either helping explain the topic or visualizing data.

Visual assets also boost content’s shareability, encouraging people to share it on social media. Helpful and engaging visuals also pick up backlinks as other content pieces link to them.

For the visuals you add, make sure you:

  • Add short but descriptive alt texts (technically, alt tags). This improves content accessibility as the alt text displays when images don’t load.
  • Include keyword-based file names. This provides Google contextual information on how the visual relates to the content on your page.
  • Credit the site you source any external visuals from.

5. Internal and external linking

Linking helps you pass authority from one (relevant) ranking page to another. But there’s more: adding external links shows you’ve done your research – adding links to back data and studies you've shared.

On the flip side, internal links point readers to related resources that can help them expand their knowledge on the topic. This, in turn, boosts the time users spend on your site.

As you add links though, make sure you’re writing topic or keyword-focused anchor texts.

6. Link building

Building backlinks for each piece of content is crucial to boost its ranking.

These backlinks indicate to the search engine your content is valuable enough to be linked to. Therefore, helping SEO. So how can you build links strategically? Try the following:

  • Collaborate with other businesses who serve a similar audience such as yours on guest posting.
  • Write link-attracting posts such as posts sharing industry trends, rounding up statistics on a particular topic, providing a comprehensive guide on a topic, and so on.
  • Cover original research, experience-backed strategies, branded data visualizations and infographics. All these are frequently linked content types.

7. Click-worthy headlines

Another area that needs your attention: the headline as it is what encourages searchers to read your content.

Apart from adding keywords to your headlines, make sure they are:

  • Clear, short, and written in simple language.
  • Include power words that psychologically push people to read.
Need to Know: Use your brief template to ask writers to submit their headline recommendations. Be sure to embed instructions so writers know exactly what’s expected of them and you can be consistent with your headlines.
Add embedded instructions in your GatherContent template briefs.
Add embedded instructions in your GatherContent template briefs.

8. Content quality and depth

As mentioned, in-depth, high-quality content attracts more links. In fact, long-form content gets 77.2% more backlinks than short articles.

It also helps you cover a topic thoroughly, which explains why pieces ranking on the first page of the search engine have 1,447 words on average.

💡 Pro tip: For pieces above 1,500 words, add a table of content (TOC) to help readers navigate. This helps you get jumplinks in SERPs too.

Need to Know: Use comments within GatherContent to share feedback with writers, like specific sections in the article that needs more detail.
Share feedback with writers by commenting in GatherContent brief templates.
Share feedback with writers by commenting in GatherContent brief templates.

Advanced Content Optimization Tactics

While these were the basics of content optimization, here are three more advanced tactics to add to your content workflow:

Plan content updates

Every six months or so, schedule content updates in your content strategy. Make sure you update:

  • Content formatting.
  • Old statistics and research.
  • Visuals such as screenshots, their file name, alt text, and sizing.
  • The headline in instances that share time-specific content (example: content marketing trends 2021).
Need to Know: Create a checklist of steps for writers to follow as they update or refresh content. This ensures they don’t miss any vital steps while optimizing content.
Content guidelines in GatherContent
Embed your content style guide in your editing environment to improve content quality and consistency.

Refresh content as needed

Use Google Analytics to identify content that previously gained good traction but has hit its content decay stage.

Then assign content refreshes to your team to get more mileage out of the content you've created.

Need to Know: In GatherContent, you can assign tasks to your content team as well as set due dates for them to keep up with your editorial schedule.
Assign tasks to your content team in GatherContent
Assign tasks to your content team in GatherContent

For the refresh itself, identify what the content currently ranking in SERPs for the keyword covers. Then, list some ways you can make your content better.

At the same time, update old research and statistics. Plus, improve content’s heading, readability, on-page SEO, and calls to action (CTAs) too. Don’t forget to make sure the content matches the search intent.

Work on improving user experience

The easier it is for site visitors to use and navigate your site, the more time they’ll spend on your pages.

So here are some ways to improve user experience:

  • Use a plugin like WP Rocket to improve page load speed.
  • Optimize images by compressing their size using a tool like TinyPNG so images load fast.
  • Design pages for better readability, for instance, by adding more whitespace and using an easy-to-read font.

Remember, optimizing content not only helps you rank better but also helps you offer more value to your readers using the content you create.

Ready to get started? Put together your content optimization toolkit today by signing up for a free GatherContent account.

Ready to get started?
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About the author

Masooma Memon

Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer for SaaS. When she’s not writing actionable blog posts or checking off tasks from her to-do list, she has her head buried in a fantasy novel or business book. Connect with her on Twitter.

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