If you’ve read my article, Topic (Keyword) Research & Analysis Insights for Publishers, you’re probably ready to put your optimization efforts into action. Quite possibly the most important part of Publisher SEO is content creation, and the optimization of that content. In this article, I’m going to offer some insider tips on how to optimize your content and prepare it to rank well in Google and drive the traffic that you’re seeking. Let’s dive in.
1. Metadata Optimization
Often the most discussed content element to optimize is metadata. The most common form of metadata include a page’s page title and meta description, which are used along with a page’s URL in search engine results pages (SERPs) to help the user decide if your listing is of interest to them. Here’s an example of my About page, where I’m targeting “Denver SEO expert” along with variations, including “consultant” and “veteran”:
As you can see, there’s very little real estate to optimize the SERP listing for the user to make a decision to click. There are three elements: page title, URL and the meta description. That’s it, for the typical SERP listing.
While many SEO articles cover the basic approaches to optimizing metadata, I’m going to dig into a couple more advanced tips that you can use as needed to better influence potential rankings and clicks in the SERPs.
Slight Variations Between Page Title & H1 Title
Many publishers, especially those using WordPress, do not customize the page title and instead leave it the same as the H1 title (which is visible to the user on the page, above the body content). While this helps to create consistency in the user experience when clicking from search results to your webpages, it also leaves a bit of optimization on the table. By using as much of the recommended 50-60 character range (per Dr. Pete of Moz), you may be able to use synonyms for secondary keyword phrases.
Heading 1 Title
The Heading 1 (H1) title below (“Which vs. That”) is from Writer’s Digest, a publication that I worked with by providing SEO training for 8 editors. The author, Brian Klems, did a good job keeping it simple and focused on the keyword phrase that it’s targeting.
Stepping outside the publishing industry, the H1 title example shown below is from a travel agency’s landing page for destination weddings in Costa Rica. It’s a good example of an H1 title that is simple and focused.
Page Title (Metadata)
The (meta) page titles shown below (from Google’s SERPs for the examples given above) offer a bit more detail and keyword focus to help the pages better rank for a wider variety of topically relevant search queries.
The addition of “Grammar Rules” to the page title below adds some variation to the page’s H1 title, which only focuses on “Which vs. That.”
In the example below, the addition of “getting married,” “packages,” and “planner” add some more keyword variation that the H1 title doesn’t target.
Taking this approach can help influence search engines to rank your pages for a wider range of keyword phrases. Just remember to keep them directly relevant to your H1 title and page topic. Synonyms and alternate search phrases are excellent approaches to choosing keyword variations between your meta page title and H1 title.
Using Numbers & Emotional Sentiment in Page Titles
I highly recommend Brian Dean’s article titled “How I Got 45.5% More Traffic (In 7 Days).” It’s a quick read. His article titled “201 Powerful SEO Tips (That Actually Work)” is a much longer read and offers lots of effective optimization tactics. There are two takeaways (out of many) from these two articles that I want to point out.
Use Emotion in Page Titles
Emotion gets people excited. It gets people to buy things. It gets them to click. If users get excited when they see your search result, you’re going to get more clicks. More clicks = more traffic. More traffic = more sales potential.
Use Numbers in Page Titles
Numbers add specificity to a message, and that’s a good thing when you want your title to appear anything but generic. They help set expectations for your content to deliver upon. These are good things for the search engine user, and using numbers can increase your click-through-rate (CTR).
Take a look at how Brian combines both of these tactics to create a single, powerful SERP listing.
2. Body Content Optimization
The first rule of body content optimization is to prevent it from being noticeable. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using keywords in today’s SEO. However, they cannot be forced. If you create an outline for your content that touches upon specific elements of your page’s topic, and get into specifics, opportunities to use your researched keywords will naturally arise. Here are some specific page elements to use your keywords where possible:
- Paragraph content
- Image URLs
- Image alt tags / title attributes
- Image captions
For an example of body content optimization, keep reading this article!
3. Create Your Outline from Questions
This suggestion is my favorite, and it’s not really an SEO tactic. More importantly, it’s an effective marketing tactic. No matter whether the query is informational or transactional, the searcher has questions, and it’s your content’s job to answer them. Building trust and credibility is an important part of the conversion process, whether you’re looking for email subscribers or e-commerce purchases.
One of my favorite blog posts of all time is a post by Tanner Christensen titled “How to Blog Successfully About Anything.” In it, he states:
“With the power of questions in mind, we can start evaluating nearly any topic and turning out ideas for successful blog posts…
…The first step for any blogger (when covering any topic) should be to simply ask a lot of questions. If you’re not sure where to start with the questions, focus on the 5 Ws: who, what, where, when, and why (and occasionally, how)?”
By asking questions, and writing them down, you are putting yourself in the mind of the reader and preparing an outline for your article that is focused on satisfying your reader’s needs. That’s not only going to make the content more interesting and helpful for your reader; it’s also going to allow the content to attract more social shares and links. Make this tactic a pillar of your on-page optimization efforts, even if it’s not an SEO tactic.
4. Having a Focused Call to Action
Every page needs a purpose. If you give the user a clear next step, you’ll increase the chance that the user stays on your site and takes an action that benefits your business in some manner. Common calls to action (CTA) can include the following (some of which can be combined into a single value-packed CTA):
- Make a purchase
- Download free content
- Subscribe to a list
- Enter a contest
- Print a page
Keep in mind that not every page needs to have a CTA that is going to pay the bills. If you want to build some sense of community around your brand, don’t always go for the sale.
Consider ways of offering downloadable content in exchange for an email address, which can be used to further nurture the fan of your brand. Heck, even having a CTA to print off a page (for recipe sites) can make it more likely that users will continue coming back to your site. You make their life easier, and thus, better. Brand affinity can benefit your website in profoundly intangible ways!
5. Internal Link Building
Link building can be difficult when building links from other websites. However, link building on your own website is a piece of cake. You’re in complete control to harness your site’s current link equity and make the most of it by building keyword-rich internal links from other pages on your website that are topically relevant. This will not only show value to search engines (and help improve your SERP rankings), but it will also help to keep your reader engaged (and increase chances of conversion).
Here’s a suggestion: when publishing new content, identify at least 2-3 existing pages that are topically relevant and build links from them to your new content. Here a sample Google query for my own site, identifying some immediate internal link building opportunities for this very article. As you can see below, there a lot of potential pages to link from! I can also use “on-page optimization” (and variations) as the anchor text.
If you do this consistently, you’ll create an effective web of internal linking throughout your own site that will both help your SEO and your engagement, which in turn can help your SEO.
Time to Take Action
By implementing these on-page optimization tips in your SEO and content marketing efforts, you’re bound to increase organic search traffic over time. The key word, though, here is “time.” Even with bigger brands, don’t expect the traffic to roll in right away. It can take a few months for Google and other search engines to rank your content as well as it should initially rank. With a little patience and continuous optimization, the efforts will pay off and your traffic will grow. For more tips, visit my guide to on-page optimization best practices.