How to Optimize Content for SEO (16 Best Practices)

This search engine optimization (SEO) guide explains how to optimize content for SEO.

Below, you’ll find a list of the top content optimization tips you can use to improve the rankings and traffic for your website based on SEO best practices in digital marketing.

There’s also a section with additional resources that explain more about the fundamentals of SEO content optimization to help you create a better search engine optimization strategy.

How to Optimize Content for SEO

How to Optimize Content for SEO

1. Optimize for Relevant SEO Keywords

The first way for how to optimize content for SEO is to choose the most relevant keywords for the web page. This consists of selecting both primary and secondary keywords to use inside the content and within important HTML elements as explained throughout this guide.

Using a keyword research tool like SE Ranking, Mangools, or Semrush can help you discover a cluster of relevant SEO keywords to target for a particular page. These tools group together similar and related keywords that your target audience is looking for on a specific topic that should be used on the same web page: not as individual pages on the website.

2. Optimize for User Search Intent

Another best practice for content optimization is to make sure the content on the web page matches the user search intent for the target SEO keywords. Your content must satisfy user search intent, otherwise, it won’t rank high in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for very long.

Google’s algorithm in particular is constantly testing web pages against each other to reward content that satisfies the user’s search query. Therefore, you need to create and optimize the content in a way that accurately addresses the user’s needs and helps them achieve their goal.

This could include having statistics, facts, graphs, charts, tables, images, audio, videos, an FAQ section, etc, that a user expects to find on the page for the relevant search query.

By analyzing the top-ranking pages in the SERPs for your target SEO keywords, you can get a better idea of the type of content to include on your web pages to meet user search intent.

3. Optimize Meta Title Tag

Using your target keywords the right way in the meta title tag is a powerful way to optimize content for search engine optimization. The meta title tag is one of the top-ranking factors for SEO because this HTML element is what’s displayed to users in the SERPS for your website’s listing.

Good meta title tag optimization techniques include:

  • Front-loading your primary keyword.
  • Including secondary keywords without repeating too many of the same words.
  • Making the title clickworthy in the SERPS by adding a call-to-action (CTA) or including emotionally driven words.
  • Keeping the meta title tag under 65 characters.

4. Optimize the Meta Description

You can also improve content optimization by including your main and secondary keywords in the meta description. Although the meta description is not a direct ranking factor for SEO, it does influence which listings get clicked on in the SERPs.

Studies show that website listings in the SERPs that get higher click-through rates (CTR) tend to increase ranking positions for their target keywords. Therefore, it’s important to write compelling meta descriptions that entice users to click on the listing to get more information while also including the primary and secondary keywords.

Search engines like Google will bold the SEO keywords in the meta description that match the user’s search query; making it more likely that the person will click on the listing (i.e., increase the CTR).

5. Optimize the URL

If you want to optimize your content for better search engine optimization, you can always include your primary keyword in the URL. The URL is crawled by search engines and analyzed by the algorithms to help determine the relevancy for specific search queries.

Therefore, you can easily increase the SEO ranking signal for the URL by making your web page’s URL the exact match keyword phrase with dashes (-) between the words. Do not use underscores (_) because they are not recognized as word separators by some search engine crawlers. See the URL for this content optimization guide to get a good example of how to optimize this element correctly for SEO.

6. Optimize the Page Title (H1)

Optimizing the page title, which is typically coded in HTML to be the H1 header tag, is another top way to optimize content for SEO. In fact, many SEO experts agree that the page title (H1) is the third most important ranking factor for on-site SEO followed by the meta title tag and URL.

The easiest way to optimize the H1 title tag for search engines is to copy the meta title tag information. This SEO practice also ensures that Google and other search engines will display the correct title for your web page in the SERPs.

If the H1 tag and meta title do not match, Google may display either of them in the SERPs depending on which element the algorithm thinks best matches the search query. Therefore, you should not leave this up to chance because it can impact your website’s CTR in Google Search, which can impact the long-term rankings and traffic.

7. Optimize the Header Tags (H2-H3)

Another content optimization best practice is to include your primary and secondary keywords in the H2 and H3 header tags. These subheadings send relevancy signals to the search engine crawlers about the topics on the page, which helps increase the relevancy of your target SEO keywords.

Good H2 and H3 header tag optimization techniques include:

  • Use your primary keyword in the first H2 on the page.
  • Use your secondary keywords in other H2s on the page in a natural way to describe subsections of the content.
  • Include variations and synonyms for your target keywords in the H3 tags to avoid over-optimization for the exact match keyword phrases.
  • Place your main keyword in the last H2 on the page, which is typically the summary or conclusion section.

Another thing to keep in mind when optimizing content for SEO is to not repeat your target SEO keywords more than two times in the H2 tags. Doing so could cause an over-optimization penalty. Using partial keyword matches for other H2s is perfectly fine; just don’t repeat the exact match keyword phrase too much in these header tags.

8. Optimize the Content for SEO

Optimizing the written content for search engines is another key element for SEO. This includes using your target keywords in certain places throughout the copy on the page and optimizing for Featured Snippets.

The three areas you want to place your SEO keywords in the content include:

  • Once in the introduction; within the first 100 words.
  • Two to three times in the middle of the content; scattered throughout.
  • Once in the summary; within the last 100 words.

To optimize the content for Featured Snippets, you’ll want to make the first H2 on the page the answer target by including the keyword phrase or question in this HTML header. Then, follow the H2 with the appropriate content that Google wants to display in the Feature Snippet. See the top-ranking content in the SERPs to find out what type of content you need from the list below.

  • Text: A sentence or paragraph of text between 40 to 60 words that provide a definition or answer to a query. It can also be accompanied by an image.
  • List: A list of items, ordered or unordered, often in response to a query for instructions or getting a list of relevant products.
  • Table: A table of information, often used for comparing data.
  • Video: A video that can be viewed without clicking through to the hosting site.

Note: For the Featured Snippet List, Google may choose to pull the first H2 on the page followed by the H3 subsections. Analyze the top-ranking result to see if this is the case. If it is, then you want to structure your content by having the target keyword phrase in the H2 tag followed by H3 tags with their own text descriptions. Google will then reformat this HTML hierarchy into an ordered or unordered list in the Featured Snippets position.

9. Optimize Word Count

If you aim for a particular word count range, then your content will be better optimized for SEO. Although word count is not a direct ranking factor for Google, Yahoo, and Bing, there is a strong correlation between the number of words the top-ranking results have in common.

For example, if the top web pages in the SERPs have between 2,000 to 3,000 words of content, it may be difficult (or impossible) for your web page to rank high for a keyword phrase if it only has 300 words of content. The same thing is true if your content has 10,000 words while the top competitors have around 1,000 words.

In these cases, the ranking algorithms have determined a general range of word counts that tend to cover the topic in enough depth to meet user search intent. Therefore, you should analyze the word counts of the top-ranking web pages in the SERPs to get a general idea of the length you should aim for in your content.

10. Optimize the Content Quality

Optimizing content quality is another important factor for SEO. This process consists of several strategies:

  • Eliminating fluff and only including key information.
  • Prioritizing the important information for the user by placing it at the top of the page.
  • Including quotes by relevant experts and sources.
  • Including statistics and facts that help improve the accuracy and depth of the content.
  • Backing up data points with outbound links to trustworthy websites.
  • Writing clearly, concisely, and grammatically correct.
  • Following journalistic ethics and best practices.

11. Optimize Images

Image optimization is also part of optimizing content for SEO because images affect the page load speed and are indexed by search engines. Optimizing images consists of several tactics:

  • Compressing the files to make them smaller and load faster.
  • Adding keyword-rich text to the image ALT text, filename, and metadata information.
  • Optimize one image per keyword on the page.

12. Optimize Structured Data

Search engines like Google use Structured Data markup to gain additional information about the content so it can be organized and indexed correctly in the SERPs. It also enhances a web page’s listing in the SERPs by displaying rich results.

The key to optimizing Structured Data for SEO is to choose the correct elements to include for each web page, then mark it up correctly using JSON-LD. Google has a free Structured Data Markup Helper you can use to get started with this process to enhance your listings in the SERPs.

13. Optimize for Semantic SEO

Another way to optimize your content for search engines is to optimize for semantic SEO. Modern search engines are now semantic search engines, meaning the systems use advanced artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to understand the intent and context of search queries as well as use natural language processing (NLP) techniques to analyze and interpret the meaning of a query and the relationships between words. Semantic search engines then use this information to find the most relevant content for the user. 

Although optimizing for semantic SEO may sound complex, it’s not as difficult as it may seem. To improve your content’s optimization for semantic search engines, you just need to follow these basic practices:

  • Only use keywords and phrases that are relevant to the target topic.
  • Include related words and synonyms on the page to help search engines understand the context and intent of your content.
  • Create clusters of content around the same topic.
  • Connect related content with keyword-rich internal links.
  • Organize the site’s navigation structure in a way that makes it easier for search engines to crawl and understand connected pages.
  • Use Structured Data markup.

14. Optimize Internal Anchor Text

Content optimization also consists of optimizing the anchor text for internal links to help improve the keyword relevance of the page for search engine algorithms. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use the anchor text to help understand and verify the main topics for the linked page. Therefore, you should always use keyword-optimized anchor text for each internal link you create to a web page.

A good anchor text ratio to follow for internal links includes:

  • 60% Phrase Match Anchors: The clickable text includes a few words before or after the exact match keyword phrase to reduce over-optimization.
  • 30% Exact Match Anchors: The clickable link includes the exact match keyword and nothing else.
  • 10% Partial Match Keywords and Variations: The clickable text includes only a portion of the target keyword phrase (e.g., drop a word or two) or a variation of the main keyword (e.g., a reordering of the words or swapping out common words with synonyms).

15. Optimize for Backlinks & Shares

An often neglected form of content optimization for SEO is to make the web page more linkable and shareworthy. This makes it easier to generate organic backlinks to improve the off-site SEO signals for the ranking algorithms.

The best ways to optimize content for backlinks and shares include:

  • Producing original research.
  • Making controversial statements.
  • Adding tables, charts, and graphs.
  • Putting social sharing widgets at the top and bottom of the content.
  • Embed tweetable text blocks.
  • Including quotes by industry experts and influencers.
  • Adding information that can’t be found in the other top-ranking results.
  • Asking readers to share or link to the page if they find it useful. Sometimes all it takes is a simple ask.

16. Optimize for Conversions

A final way for optimizing content for search engine optimization is to focus on improving conversions. Every web page should have a specific conversion goal in mind, otherwise, there’s no real advantage to ranking high in the organic search results.

Your ultimate goal with content SEO should be to make your users take a particular action that benefits your organization. You can do that by optimizing your content in the following ways:

  • Creating clear and concise call-to-action.
  • Using persuasive copy and persuasive design.
  • Including customer testimonials and reviews.
  • Including trust signals such as security logos and badges.
  • Featuring social proof such as the number of followers/customers.
  • Testing different versions of the page, and specific elements, to find the most effective layout and design that leads to the highest conversions.

Learn More About Content Optimization

The links below explain more about content optimization and how to use it correctly for better SEO. Use these resources to expand your knowledge on the subject.

Optimize Content In SEO Best Practices Summary

I hope you enjoyed this guide explaining how to optimize content for SEO.

As you discovered, there are many content optimization tips you can follow to improve your website’s search engine optimization, with the top SEO best practices including optimizing for relevant SEO keywords, meeting user search intent, placing keywords in specific HTML elements, analyzing competitor word count, optimizing content quality for links and shares, using semantic SEO techniques, and more. Following these guidelines can help improve your overall SEO strategy for higher rankings and traffic.