It’s that time of year when we start making personal goals — the dreaded resolution season. Maybe we want to lose a little weight, drink more water, or think big on our next career move.
When you work with content every day, there’s definitely one thing you can resolve to do better next year — or even starting today: optimization.
What does optimization mean in the online content world? Let’s take a look.
A good SEO strategy involves optimization — and reoptimization
If you run a website for yourself or a client, you’re no doubt familiar with the term SEO: search engine optimization. Obviously, “optimization” is in the acronym, but how can you make sure you’re employing the right SEO strategy for your content?
All content needs a facelift every now and then, no matter how great you thought your SEO was when you posted it. The biggest mistake you can make with your landing pages is to never update them.
Some people think in order to update a webpage or blog post, you need to have new information. Not true. While it may help, you want to take a deep dive into what your readers are doing with your content and adjust your strategy around them. You know the old saying, “content is king?” Well, really, readers of that content are king.
If you have no readers, you have no content. No matter how good you think it is.
Below, I’ll go over 10 ways you can update your content — whether it’s a business “about” page, guest article, or profile listing — to get more readers, more clicks, and rank better in Google search results.
1. Choose your metrics
Your first step in making sure you have the best SEO you can have on your website’s content today, six months from now, and so on is to figure out what set of metrics you’ll be using and learn how to use them. Perhaps you use Google Search Console (Google Webmaster Tools) and Google Analytics. It’s often smart to use more than one system of analytics to view how your landing page strategy is working. You may also want to choose a plug-in for your website that allows you to view a slice of your SEO strategy in real time, like Yoast SEO for WordPress. Yoast will give you a breakdown of how often you’ve used a keyword, for example (as overuse is possible), or if your URL is a tad too long, and more.
Below is an example from one blog post of “problem” areas (how big of a problem they are is up to you); linking to another page that already has that focus keyword is a bigger issue than how long or short your sentences are.
P.S. – Yoast isn’t paying us for this, we just like them that much.
2. Understand your chosen metrics
Navigating Google’s metrics is relatively intuitive, though you may have questions or not be able to find what you think you need right away. That’s OK! It just requires practice.
A few things you want to know if you’re using Google Search Console, for example:
1. Click on the Property (website), then head over to Search Traffic>Search Analytics.
2. Once there, you can sort your metrics in several ways. The main ones you’ll review are:
- Queries (what search terms are leading readers to your page)
- Pages (what pages are getting the most clicks)
- Clicks (self-explanatory)
- Position (where your page ranks on Google search)
3. As you play around with your metrics, you’ll also notice different ways to combine them for different results. Maybe you want to see what queries people are looking for on a specific page, and that will help you incorporate more of those keywords into your rework of that page. Or, you want to see in general how queries are leading people to your website and if you should be incorporating more specific keywords throughout multiple pages and link them together. You also can see how queries rank in terms of position, in addition to pages.
Note that some analytics programs are limited, so it’s a good idea to view more than one. For example, Google Search Console only goes back to the past 90 days of traffic, while Google Analytics has all the data since your website was born, including average time on page and more.
3. Look at your metrics — often
It can be easy to say you’ll check on something in a month, but pretty quickly, one month goes by, two, three. Although SEO results certainly don’t appear overnight, you can figure out if your page is gaining traction online within a few weeks. Take a look at the queries your readers are searching for. Does the SEO match up? How is your use of long-tail keywords? Have you secured any of the coveted snippets on Google for your page? Has your position for your website overall improved? How many clicks are you getting this month versus last month? Do you need to incorporate more evergreen blog posts to sustain organic growth?
These are just a few of several questions you’ll need to ask yourself for every piece of content before you can get started reworking it.
See also: Law blog tips for law firms
4. Look at the keywords you want to rank for — and find new ones
We talked about queries briefly above, and many can end up being great for long-tail keyword rankings. Study the rest of what readers are searching for, and how that may different from what you’re optimizing. For example, if your readers are searching for “Ohio motorcycle accident lawyer” and you’re instead optimizing for “Ohio motorcycle accident attorney,” that’s an easy fix. If you already have a page that is ranking for “Ohio motorcycle accident lawyer” and this one isn’t it, then you may want to adjust the SEO on both pages.
Finding new keywords, as readers tastes and needs change often, is key. If your keyword research six months ago led you to some dull ones, you can find new keywords the same way you got them in the first place using any sort of keyword planning tool, such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner or Moz’s Keyword Explorer. Though not as in-depth, my personal favorite to get a quick glimpse of how well a keyword has done in the past few years is to use Google Trends. Google Trends is a great merge of journalism and marketing, taking into account obviously what’s trending and what has staying power. Trying to rank for a keyword that has a ton of searches (value of 100 in Google Trends) and is very popular might not be your best bet, so sticking to the mid-level searches (value of 50) for your local SEO will get you higher in search results, faster.
5. Set up Google Alerts for your most-used keywords
We use a lot of Google here, but that’s because it works. Google Alerts will help you in your journey of planning by letting you get a head start on what readers may be searching for, particularly if a trending story hits on one of the keywords you or your client uses often on your website. For example, for a birth injury lawyer, there may be a new breakout study on cerebral palsy that several news outlets begin to pick up that you noticed after making a “birth injury” Google Alert. If you hop on the trending news cycle and come out with your own piece about the study, it’ll only improve your chances of rising in Google’s rankings. This is a bit of a tricky area if what you’re covering becomes too popular; as mentioned above, it may be difficult to get your site to rank within the first page of results if everyone is talking about the keyword.
If you don’t hop on a Google Alert right away, reading what others are writing on the web may still help you come up with new content ideas. Did a news story or blog post you came across forget an important angle? Write about it!
6. Read your content
This seems like a no-brainer but something that should be mentioned: re-read your content. Sure, you may be able to get away with updating a few headers, your SEO title, and meta description and call that optimization, but a good re-optimization effort involves a long scrub. Think of it like taking a 30-minute bath versus a 10-minute shower. You’ll want to spend the extra few minutes reading through the whole blog post, or the whole webpage, in order to spot any typos, fix grammatical errors, and overall, figure out if parts or all of the piece should be rewritten. In some instances, particularly if you are working with a new client and their previous marketing company did some SEO no-nos, you may find that some blog posts or pages need to merge with each other, or be deleted. You can do this, and efficiently, using rel=canonical tags.
Taylor gets into the nitty gritty of what rel=canonical is and its benefits in this post: Rel Canonical: How to Optimize Your Content with Page Merges.
7. Update any outdated information
If you begin reading a blog post or a page that has the year 2016 on it, or even 2017 at this point, that’s a bit of a red flag that that page will need to be updated now or some point later on. If you can avoid dating your content, it’s better, but sometimes readers are looking specifically for a certain year’s information. Take for example a bankruptcy law firm is writing about bankruptcy exemption dollar amounts, which tend to get updated every couple of years to keep pace with inflation. If a reader comes across your blog in 2017 and you have information from 2014 in it, they’re going to probably want to look for something more current to be sure they’re getting the most accurate information.
Make sure to take special note of pages that have dated information or statistics, and keep them on a calendar to be updated regularly. Important: Unless your page is totally tanking in terms of clicks, make sure you update the same page and don’t start over from scratch. Do not change a crappy URL without a 301 redirect, either! A lot of blog posts may have related content, but if you’re writing about accident statistics for a personal injury law firm, give those statistics a refresh on the same page so you can keep and continue to grow your audience.
8. Find your expert voice
While you’ll want to use a conversational tone when writing for the web, it definitely helps to have an expert lend an opinion every so often. Now, this could actually be an expert interview, where you incorporate information from someone who is trusted and knowledgeable on the topic you write about on your page or blog post. Guest authors can be invaluable. Readers are looking for facts, plain and simple, and giving your site authority should be a priority. If you can’t physically talk to an expert, quoting them or linking to studies hosted on reputable websites (think a .gov or .edu; try Google Scholar for solid research), that will help build your authority.
As important as internal links are in building a good site crawl, don’t discard external links. It may take your reader away from your web page — or, better yet, it may instill in them the trust that you know what you’re talking about and have done your homework on this topic.
9. Add some length
Three-hundred-word blog posts? No. Don’t even think about it. Make sure that you are adding pages of value to your website and keep your content as rich as possible. In Taylor’s post on rel=canonical tags linked above, he brought up a successful experiment we did with a client on page merges. Some of these pages are looooong, but, they’re hitting all the keyword targets we want, citing tons of studies, and giving readers more information than they need, rather than less. Remember, the longer your post or page, the more time readers will spend on it, which is another metric to measure: time on page. Longer time on page equals greater user experience, and more users can increase your spot in Google rankings.
10. Find the proper time to revise
One might say that there aren’t too many times you can fix something, but you should plot out on your content calendar (yes! a calendar!) a monthly or quarterly check-in of that new blog piece, depending on how much you want or expect it to resonate with readers. Then, you can decide how much time you want to focus on revamping this piece of content. Even a seasonal item — for example, a blog post about the top holiday hazards for a personal injury law firm’s website — can still be revised more than once a year, but definitely should be planned in advance to get the most readers at peak times.
Once you’re done with your re-optimization efforts, you’ll want to go through the process of submitting the page to Google and annotating the changes, so you can see how all your hard work pays off and track the improvements in just a few short weeks!
Phew. Got all those tips? Now for the fun stuff: results.
Here’s a quick example of a recent re-optimization effort we did using the above strategies. I’ll be using Safe Birth Project, like Taylor did in his post, as this client’s site really has taken off in the past year (30% year-over-year organic growth — trading nearly all of our social traffic for organic).
We want to compare similar periods of time so that our results aren’t skewed by any seasonal highs or lows, and keep in mind any paid campaigns that may have been done during this time period. I’ve chosen one blog post on Zoloft and pregnancy, which was reworked on March 31, 2017.
As you can see, a near 4,000% increase in sessions is a huge improvement. And none of that was paid.
How did we do this?
We employed a lot of long-tail keywords in this post of what users were searching for, like “What birth defects are linked to Zoloft?” and changed our meta description and SEO title to match some of the better queries. We also increased our number of internal links and made sure our headers were the appropriate hierarchy.
This is just one tiny example of a little bit of work going a long way.
However, analyzing metrics, researching keywords, updating outdated stuff, and looking up studies or other expert information to breathe new life into a page can all take a lot of time. A solid re-optimization effort could mean 2 hours, while some take only 30 minutes.
If you don’t feel like investing that time or keeping track of your content, we can do it for you. Drop us a line today for a free content audit of your website.
Amber is an editor and SEO specialist at JSO Digital. She has a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield and resides in Austin, Texas.