Content optimization remains a time-honored strategy for attaining and maintaining top performance in search results. In my last column, I outlined initial steps for launching a goal-oriented content optimization strategy. Even though successful content optimization tends to keep producing positive results over time, it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it process. It takes patience and practice.
Once you have completed your keyword research, captured benchmark data, set up to monitor your Web site’s search referral positioning and performance for targeted words and phrases, and established metrics to measure your content optimization goals, it’s time to determine how well your Web site’s content matches up with your targeted words and phrases.
It’s not enough to drive higher levels of search-referred traffic to your site. It’s critical that your content optimization initiatives help convert clicks and visits into desired actions and transactions. To achieve your goals, you must understand the significance of words found on the page and how to accentuate these phrases behind the page.
Important on-the-page factors include, but aren’t limited to:
- Web site navigation
- Web site structure
- H1 tags
- Paragraph or body copy
- Internal links
Successful content optimization strategies embrace the idea of themes. When you understand what signals your site’s content sends to the search engines, it’s easier to analyze and optimize your content, one theme at a time. It doesn’t matter if you’re optimizing a large, contextually diverse site or a small, singularly focused site; there are bound to be different themes entrenched in different parts of your site’s content. By analyzing each page’s content, you can find opportunities to emphasize each page’s unique theme as stemmed from a primary thematic concept.
Ask yourself this question when reviewing your site’s content: does the site navigation and structure support or detract from each page’s theme? Let’s say a series of your targeted phrases includes “toys” as the primary theme. Does the site navigation and structure support this theme?
I once worked with a client that wanted to be on page one of the SERPs (define) for “toys.” When we started, no pages within the site ranked in the first 10 pages of results for the targeted phrase. By analyzing the content used for the toy category within the site, we were able to create opportunities for adding a few instances of “toys” in the site’s subnavigation (without wrapping the text in the navigation). But tweaking the site’s navigation only got us to the first five pages of SERPs. For such a competitive phrase, we had to work harder.
Next we went to work on site structure, ensuring that we could help place emphasis around the word “toys” by improving the H1 tags. We complemented the targeted themes in the headings, permanent body copy, and visible internal links. We were well on our way to page-three results for “toys,” but we had to complete the process by focusing some effort on behind-the-page factors, such as:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Alternative attributes
Of all the behind-the-page factors, the title tag is the most critical. Not only will it be used as the link in the search engine snippet for the page, it also helps emphasize a page’s theme because it sends such a strong signal to the search engines as to what the page is all about. A well-optimized title tag must also appeal to users to get them to click on the results, so proper English is always in order.
While meta descriptions play little or no role in determining search results and rankings, they play a critical role in enticing would-be visitors to take that next step: click on the result. By optimizing the title tags and meta descriptions for “toys” and targeted iterations therein, we were able to move the client’s content upward into page-one and page-two results just by focusing on supporting the primary theme of “toys” on the page and behind the page.
Do keyword-rich URLs still play a role in the content optimization process? Not as much as they used to. Since URL rewrites can be painful for some organizations, we usually recommend rewriting the URLs to be simple keyword constructs positioned close to the root domain. If your site is already well indexed, then URL rewrites won’t help move the needle all that much. But if you have a dynamic URL structure and your core products or services are seven folders deep in your site’s architecture, URL rewrites can help dramatically change your Web site’s positioning in the search engines.
Will tweaking your site’s alternative attributes on images change the paradigm of your site’s current positioning? The answer is no, not alone. But embracing a keyword-rich alternative attribute tactic is never a bad idea because these attributes can still contribute to a page’s overall theme and can certainly add context for photo and image searches. Just remember that image-based search referrals don’t convert like Web search referrals. Only you can determine if this particular tactic is worth the effort.
By uniting these elements on one central keyword theme and accentuating parts of your site’s content around different iterations of the same theme, you should be able to move the needle on your site’s performance in the search engines for targeted words and phrases. It took us about three months to get our client’s site to page-one results for “toys.” With a little persistence and patience, you too can produce such goal-oriented results.
When does implementing a goal-oriented content optimization strategy work? It works when you make a commitment to the goal and have the patience to measure your site’s performance step by step. Yes, the process may take some tweaking and require minor adjustments along the way, but if you remain committed to the process of producing goal-oriented content optimization, your efforts will pay off.
Meet P.J. at Search Engine Strategies Chicago December 8-12 at the Chicago Hilton. The only major search marketing conference and expo in the Midwest will be packed with 60-plus sessions, multiple keynotes and Orion Strategy sessions, exhibitors, networking events, and more.
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