Introduction to content optimisation
Why are there so many myths surrounding content in SEO? Where did they all come from?
Well unsurprisingly, it’s historical.
Many of the myths you may have heard did work at one point. Take keyword stuffing – which is adding multiple copies of your main keywords. It was relevant at one point in SEO. It just isn’t today.
Let’s find out what works today.
What is content optimisation in SEO?
Search engines want to provide their users with the very best content to solve their needs.
For transactional intent search queries, the actual words on the page may matter less than whether you can satisfy their request, but for all types it is important.
So, content optimisation is about taking a piece of content and improving it, in order to improve your ranking in Google.
From keywords .. to topics
Today, Google cares much more about full topic coverage than it does about words on a page. It understands the connections between words and phrases, and it looks to see which piece of content seems to fully cover a topic.
So, let’s say you wanted to write a piece a content on the topic of “SEO optimised content”, it would likely rank similarly for a number of other phrases too:
- How to write SEO optimised content
- Content optimisation techniques
… and so on. This is because – internally – Google assigns a piece of math called a vector to phrases like this, and the vectors for each of them are fairly similar.
When working out how to rank a piece of content, Google “fans out” from the original vector. But that’s all technical stuff which you don’t really need to know too much about.
It’s just important to get your head around the fact that you don’t need to have all of the words and phrases on your page that you want to rank for.
Is keyword density relevant in SEO today?
No! So, stop thinking “I don’t have every copy of my words and phrases on a page”. It doesn’t work like that any more. So there’s no optimal density for web content or anything like that any more.
And you certainly don’t need to stuff your keywords onto a page.
Full topic coverage – the new King of Content
If you don’t need to have all of the words on your page, what do you need instead?
You need “full topic coverage”.
A jigsaw slowly builds a picture
Let’s take the example of a jigsaw, which I used in another article.
If you have a partly done jigsaw, you might realise that there’s a picture of a house. With several more key pieces, you might realise it’s in a forest. When it’s complete, you might realise it’s a single level cabin with a red door in a pinewood forest.
Have you covered the entire topic?
Google considers full topic coverage in a similar way.
It knows, for example, if you’re talking about “dog walking” that don’t know what you’re talking about if you don’t mention “lead” or “leash”, and it might start to gain some trust in your content on the subject if you mention “straining on a leash”.
Be the expert on a topic!
Now, my knowledge of dog walking stops at straining on a leash, but a little bit of keyword research shows me that there’s all sorts of topics in dog walking, such as “dogs walking round in circles”. If you talk about each of those, maybe you really are an expert!
And that’s what Google really wants. They want to know you’ll satisfy the user with everything they could want to know about dog walking.
Google isn’t interested in keywords .. it’s interested in satisfying users
How can I know if I’ve fully satisfied a user?
There’s a fairly simple test for this. If someone comes to your page from Google and they don’t need to go back to Google to look at other articles or pages, you have fully satisfied that user.
This is why the bounce rate of your pages isn’t so important in SEO. Someone could come onto your page and leave your site because you’ve given them the answer they needed, which would count towards a high bounce rate.
Headings in SEO – structuring your content
Do headings help SEO?
Yes, we think it still does, since it allows Google and users to understand the structure of the content which you’ve produced more effectively.
Headings should be seen as encapsulating the content below them. They create a hierarchy of content.
Heading HTML labels
Headings are labeled as H1 to H6, with H1 being the top heading which should describe the entire article. H2’s should sit neatly under H1’s and should fully cover the topic that the H1 describes. H3’s sit underneath each H2, and they should together fully cover the topic that each H2 describes.
Now, in reality, that’s impossible to do perfectly, and also somewhat unnecessary, but that’s the theory. You should just try to follow this structure roughly.
Poor quality headings – don’t use follow ons!
Many copywriters will use what I tend to call “follow on headings”, and this is a poor practice for SEO. For example they may have a piece of content and then a heading which follows on from the content.
For example they may have been talking about the need to wash your car and then suddenly they’ll throw in a heading like:
“But why?” is a poor quality follow on heading!
^ “But why” is an example of a follow on heading. It tells me nothing of the content below it which it’s covering.
I think some writers believe it adds a sense of mystery, or it helps the flow, but it’s generally poor for SEO and users, because people use headings to navigate to the piece of content they want.
A video to explain headings in more detail
This video will explain how to use headings better than I can in text:
Outlining an article & writing the copy
How can you know what you should include in an article? Well, you first need to generate an outline.
An outline is a structure, often using indentation, and which shows the hierarchy of the article using the heading tags.
Why should you outline your articles?
It ensures that you will fully cover the topic because you’ll be focusing on the top level of the content, as well as reducing the chance that the writing the copy will cause follow on headings.
How to outline an article correctly?
You should first start with keyword and topic research. The goal is to find out everything you can about that topic.
Keyword research will help you to understand the searches that people perform surrounding that topic, and the questions that people ask. It’s best done with a tool like SEMrush, which can save you hours. You can get a longer 14 day free trial via me.
Topic research can be done by looking at other peoples articles, youtube videos and even images. The key is to make sure you’ve provided all of the important information on the topic.
Don’t copy other peoples content!
But! The number one rule in producing high quality content is not to get too much inspiration from other peoples content.
Google may spot the similarity and think “well I already have an article which seems to cover these topics in these ways .. I don’t need another” and your rankings aren’t likely to be amazing.
Finally, finish with the copy
Once you have the outline, you can write everything you need to under each heading.
You can and should include some of the most important keywords which are relevant for your content, but more important is that you really satisfy the user with your writing.
The final copy production is, these days, the least important element of SEO because if you’ve done everything else right and you’re the expect, the right words and phrases will come out just as you’re writing.
How many words should an article be?
There’s no clear answer for this. It should be as many words a possible to fully cover the subject. If that’s 500 words, so be it. If it’s 20,000, that’s fine too.
However, to give you some kind of idea, most articles should be over 1,000 words, and most landing pages over 500.
The writing assistant (below) gives you an estimate of the length that your articles should be, should you choose to use it.
SEMrush SEO writing assistant
If you need help with any of SEO writing, you can use the SEMrush writing assistant, which gives you topic and keyword ideas and helps you to ensure you’ve covered the key topics.
You can get a longer 14 day free trial via me.
For years, SEOs and SEO copywriters have been focused on keyword density and keyword stuffing. However, this simply isn’t how Google works any more.
They want to satisfy users, and have found ways to mathematically calculate which content is most likely to do that.
Because of this, part of SEO these days is ignoring Google and thinking more and more about users. Yes, do have an understanding of SEO and the things to avoid doing, but really .. just get out there and make amazing content for your users.