Content Optimization

  |  February 27, 2008   |  Comments

Ensure your content has a chance to be found for all the right words with keyword research.

A search-engine-friendly Web site can generate qualified traffic through the search engines naturally. The long-term marketing cost is far lower for SEO (define) than paying for advertising to promote a site, because over time SEO tends to give, and give, and give.

If we boil SEO down to its three fundamental elements, we'd focus on building a crawler-friendly site with great content and diversity of inbound links not only to the home page but deep into the site as well.

Content optimization is a key focus of any SEO campaign. After all, you're constantly adding to and updating your site and blog, so there are always new opportunities to optimize site content.

Content optimization is about prominently incorporating targeted keywords and keyword phrases into the copy on each page to appeal to prospects searching for your goods and services. Doing so ensures your content has a chance to be found for all the right words. Ideally, these are highly searched terms and phrases that convert. That's where keyword research comes into play when optimizing your site's content.

Before you dig into keyword research to determine how well targeted your content is and what the size of your keyword market is, there are a few basic skills to add to your repertoire. Fundamental content optimization skills include:

  • How to compile keyword research.

  • How to measure content optimization efforts.

  • Some basic copywriting knowledge.

  • Basic HTML coding and basic SEO knowledge.

  • A commitment to optimizing content -- efforts will pay off!

Most keyword research experts use spreadsheets to collect data, rank popularity of specific terms and phrase, and easily sort keywords for use in different site areas. Of course, a more elegant desktop database is much more fun to work with. But spreadsheets will do for starters.

Your site's metrics package is a great place to start compiling a master keyword list. You don't want to mess with the parts that work. The goal is to earn your fair share of search engine referrals for targeted keywords and phrases.

There are myriad ranking tools available. Web CEO is probably one of the easiest and least expensive. Set-it-and-forget-it features allow you to readily monitor your rankings in the search engines for specific words and phrase over time. There are other tools available, too. No matter which you use, make certain you capture baseline data before spending time and money on keyword research and subsequent content optimization efforts.

Of course, basic writing skills are necessary for optimizing content and incorporating keyword richness into body copy in a reader-friendly manner. A little rudimentary SEO knowledge will go a long way, too. It's important to understand the differences between on-the-page, behind-the-page, and off-the-page SEO fundamentals.

Important on-page elements include visible site navigation, page templates that influence the site's overall structure, permanent and temporary body copy, internal anchor text links in the body copy, and each page's heading tag hierarchy. This is where a little HTML knowledge really helps.

Understanding your CMS (define) is a good idea, too. It makes it easier to analyze SEO elements behind that page, such as what information is used to compile each page's title tag and meta description.

Two of the most important written elements of content optimization include the title tag and the H1 heading. All other written elements work in tandem to complement anchoring keyword themes for the site. If your title and H1 tags agree, the two will work together to send very strong contextual signals to the search engines.

Normally, users only see the title tag and meta description SEO elements used in forming the search engine snippets for your site. In most cases, your site's indexed search results use part of the content from your site's meta descriptions. If no unique meta description content is available, search engines may display the site navigation, which doesn't make for a very compelling presentation to potential visitors.

Sometimes, the home page snippet in Google is defined by your site's listing in the Open Directory Project (DMOZ), a directory Google utilizes to supplement its listings. Other times, information from the Yahoo Directory may be presented in the home page snippet. The best way to control what's displayed is to create unique meta descriptions for each page within the site. You can always use NOODP (define) or NODIR (define) meta tags if you want to eliminate snippets from suboptimal directory listings.

Using the type of words people search for in the title tag and meta description helps improve the click decision, which in turn will help improve your site's overall search referral traffic.

The goal is not only to have a first-page listing in all major SERPs (define), but also to get people to click on that listing. For that to happen, a compelling meta description is in order. Good keywords and well-constructed sentences help present optimal search engine snippets.

Yet a good snippet doesn't always guarantee results. It takes more effort to attain and maintain top positioning in search results. These efforts include link building, which is considered an off-the-page SEO factor.

To be found for the right words on any site, you must undergo regular, extensive keyword research to understand what words people use when they search for your goods and services.

You must also understand how many searches are taking place for targeted words and phrases to evaluate the size and competitiveness of specific keyword markets. Toward this end, we'll discuss some common tools used for keyword research and how to get started next time.

Join us for SES New York March 17-20 and for the training day on March 21.

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P.J. Fusco

P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.

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