How to Optimise your Existing Web Content [a quick guide]
A quick guide to content optimisation covering SEO basics, why you need to update your content, and what to do when your content just isn't working.
Published: 19 May 2021
6 minutes read
With so much content being published online every single day, trying to get heard above the noise is a near-impossible task. Not only this, but content can become outdated very quickly.
With more and more businesses investing heavily in content marketing, how can you be sure your content will be seen above the rest?
Simply publishing content and leaving it live while hoping for the best isn’t viable. To attract attention, your content needs to be optimised and updated on a regular basis - whether it’s tweaking information so it’s up to date, optimising for SEO purposes, or even removing the content altogether when it’s no longer relevant.
Knowing when and what to optimise is key. That’s why I’ve put together this handy guide - giving you an overview of content optimisation, and how you can go about improving your content.
What is content optimisation?
Put simply, content optimisation is the process of making sure your content is written in a way that appeals to search engines and engages your target audience. But this doesn’t mean all optimisation is done before go-live.
True content optimisation is ongoing (never-ending, to be honest), and involves continually updating and fine-tuning your content to match ever-changing user intents.
Is content optimisation important for SEO?
Content is the backbone of any marketing strategy and is arguably the most important element of a plan to focus on when trying to engage visitors online. What users see, as well as where and when they see it, can be the difference between securing a new customer or losing a potential sale.
If your content isn’t optimised for SEO, it won’t perform well. It’s that simple.
Highly optimised content that’s valuable, relevant and user-friendly is much more likely to appear in the top results of search engines, as it targets the right keywords, it’s clear that your content matches the search intent.
These factors are about to become more important, too, as Google’s Core Web Vitals update is coming to us very soon, focusing mostly on the user experience. Throw the continued emphasis on web accessibility into the mix, and you’ve got a rather big challenge on your hands if you want your content to stay relevant.
Now more than ever, content optimisation is the key to ensuring your business isn’t surpassed by competitors, or penalised by search engines.
How can I optimise my content?
There are a number of ways you can optimise your content, either before or after it has gone live (ideally, you should be doing both). When I talk about ‘content optimisation’ here, I’m referring to how you can improve your content for SEO, as well as how to update your content so it remains relevant.
Here are my top tips for content optimisation that you can execute fairly easily, right now.
First, analyse your content to see what’s working
The first step in any content optimisation activity should always be to analyse your content to see what is and isn’t working. This involves looking at the data, interpreting it and coming up with trial-and-error ways to improve it.
To do this, you’ll probably need the help of some tools. There are hundreds of SEO tools out there, but you can also stick to using Google Search Console, or other, on-page user behaviour-focused tools such as Hotjar.
Whatever tool you use in your organisation, it’s best to have a plan in place for how you will approach the analysis, as well as the actions that come out of it as a result.
When using a tool like Search Console, you can get a high-level overview of what pages are performing well, or drill into the detail. By looking at what pages are performing well, you might gain some insight into how you can improve the content that isn't working.
The analysis you conduct will form the basis of how you will optimise your content - for example, if it simply needs updating from an SEO standpoint, if it needs to be repurposed, or if it needs deleting altogether.
Once you know which pieces of content could do with a refresh, you can start optimising based on the following tips.
Optimise the SEO basics
Generally, when looking to optimise your content you should start with the SEO basics: your URLs, headings, page titles, meta descriptions and alt text - ensuring each is optimised for keywords and makes sense for your users.
Your content URL should match exactly what the content is about - this seems simple, but it’s often forgotten by businesses in a rush to publish as much content as they can.
URLs help users understand what information they’ll get from a page, as well as confirming that they are in the right place. Long, complicated URLs with lots of random numbers or conflicting words are off-putting and don’t make your users feel at ease. Take a look at your URLs and make sure they match the content on the page, and that there are no duplicates.
Meta descriptions are often the first thing a user sees before they enter your site, and are often the difference between gaining or losing a visitor. No matter how optimised your content is, if your meta description doesn’t accurately reflect this, you could lose all your hard work.
Make sure that all your meta descriptions explain what your content is about, and contain the keywords you’re trying to target. This will help users understand what the content is before entering your site, and you’ll get top marks from the search engines.
Think about any web page you’ve ever visited - what jumps out at you the most?
That’s right, the title. Your headline is the first thing that users see when they click on your content, and yet you may not be taking advantage of the benefits a great title can offer.
Many businesses get so caught up trying to fit keywords into their content that they forget to make it engaging. It’s true that your headlines (or H1s) should contain one of the core keywords you’re trying to target, but it should also be interesting and relevant. Your title tags should match the user intent exactly.
For example, if a user searches for “sales training courses”, they should be able to see that you offer what they’re looking for without having to read your content - though they will if your page title is good enough!
Remember, your content needs to engage users before they actually enter your site.
Much like title tags, alt text is often something that is accidentally left out when publishing content, even though it’s extremely important.
Whether or not your images have alt text can significantly impact your SEO. Without it, search engines have less context around what your content is actually about. This could impact your rankings significantly. Not only this, but images without alt text, or poorly written alt text, are inaccessible.
If users are experiencing a bad internet connection, using an assistive device, or an old browser, alt text contextualises what the image is, and aids their understanding. Without alt text on any images, you risk alienating a large portion of potential customers.
Check out the content on your site, and see if you have optimised the basics. You’ll likely be surprised (and perhaps a tad embarrassed) at how many go accidentally unnoticed. But not to worry, it can be sorted fairly easily. Go!
Add links to your content
Another way to optimise your content is through adding links to your and third party content. Again, not only is this good for SEO, but it aids the user experience. Third-party links are great for providing evidence in blogs, but they can also elevate the value of your content, and subsequently the user experience.
For example, if you are a business in a heavily compliance-based industry, linking out to third party sites such as HSE, or GOV.UK not only validates your content but gives users the information they need - regardless of whether or not you’re providing it. This makes users trust you more, and they may even come back to your site for more information.
Linking to your own pages is also incredibly important for SEO, as it gives search engines a more complete understanding of a piece of content. The more of your own content you link to, the better - it gives your business authority, and makes users more likely to click through your site to find what they need.
When done right, internal linking not only massively improves your SEO but can help you generate more customers.
Keep your content up-to-date
Often, businesses will publish lots of content, only to never look at it again. This is bad practice, especially in fast-moving sectors where regulations are always being updated, or industry news is consistent. You should put time aside on a regular basis to update content, checking for inaccuracies and out of date statistics, facts or figures - in addition to the work you’re already doing to improve SEO.
Continually updating content so that it is factually accurate can also help you climb the rankings. Search engines tend to favour content that is relevant and valuable, and you’ll almost certainly be rewarded for devoting the time needed to keep your content fresh.
For content such as blogs on topics that are constantly evolving, you could expand them into long-form blogs with additional updates, research and advice. Not only will this do wonders for your SEO, but it will keep users engaged.
Change your CTAs
Chances are the goal of your content is to get your users to take action - be it downloading a guide, booking a free demo or signing up for a service. This means you need a strong, persuasive CTA to entice users to do what you want them to - but if yours aren’t working, it might be time for a change.
There are a thousand potential reasons why your content isn’t serving its intended purpose, but your CTAs are a good place to start. If you’re concerned that your CTA isn’t strong enough, change it. If you have a feeling another CTA might work better, then run an A/B test to see if it gets more clicks from users.
A huge part of optimising your content is trying different things, testing them, and most importantly, learning from your mistakes or successes to inform content in the future.
Switch up your content format
Where you have content that you believe to be important, but users simply aren’t engaging, why not change the format?
Often, businesses will continue trying to promote the same content, even when it clearly isn’t working. But part of optimising your content is realising that it isn’t a fixed entity - the same piece can be re-worked in a number of different ways to re-engage your users. Just because you’ve spent time on a piece of content, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change it.
For example, you could take an existing blog you have created and turn it into a video, which can then be shared across your site or on social media. Studies show that 80% of all traffic will consist of video by 2021 (Cisco), so it’s great for SEO, too. It also appeals to users who are more engaged by visual aids.
Even better, before publishing a piece of content, you should re-work it in multiple different ways, and make it available through alternative access points. By doing this, you offer a great experience for your users that accommodates the way they wish to engage with content - not the way you’re telling them to.
Never stop experimenting with your content
The lesson to take away here is that content optimisation is not something to do once, and never again. To truly reap the benefits of highly optimised content, you do need to put the work in.
Of course, there will be instances where your content has served its purpose, and can’t be re-worked or changed because it’s no longer relevant. That’s fine. It’s actually good practice to remove content that no longer provides use for your target audience - the key is getting the most out of your content before it’s time to retire.
As for content that has the potential to go further, optimisation is all about experimentation - whether you’re trying to climb the search engine rankings or generate more leads. Only by trying new ideas will you see what works, and what doesn’t.
[I could insert a cliche about failure here, but I’ll spare you]
These are just a few tips on how you can optimise your content for the better - there are many more. So many in fact, that I can’t fit them into this blog alone. That’s where you come in. Do your research, analyse your content, see what’s working and improve. Repeat this process until your content has served its purpose, and can be retired.
You might want to attempt it yourself, or request the help of an agency - but no matter what you choose, your content is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating a great experience for your customers.
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