Content Optimization: What It Is and How To Do It
Seeing that initial traffic spike post-content launch is awesome, but things start to get really depressing when it flattens out. Which is why content optimization is critical.
Recent research published by Animalz shows more evidence about the importance of content optimization, or "content refresh" as part of your content strategy for organic search. Your content might rank high for months or even years, but it will naturally decay over time as new competitors cover the subject.
For this reason, you should not only keep track of your search engine rankings but also strategically refresh articles as they decay.
(Traffic with vs without content refresh)
In a hurry? Jump into a specific section:
- SEO keyword research vs. content optimization
- Optimizing content with the Skyscraper Technique
- How content optimization tools could speed up your Skyscraper content creation process
- 3 AI-powered tools for content optimization
- How to make content optimization work for you
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SEO keyword research vs. content optimization
The difference between SEO keyword research and content optimization has been widely discussed. All sources point to the fact that ranking in Google requires not only picking the right target search queries (SEO keyword research), but also understanding how to fulfill user intent with the best topics for your target audience (content optimization).
Each research workflow requires a different mindset and tools. Typically, you will be doing two types of research:
SEO keyword research: What search query should I target?
At this stage, you will use tools like Google Search Console to identify search terms that present opportunity, such as those with high impressions. Keyword tools like KwFinder and Keyword Planner can give you good data in terms of search volume, related searches, page authority and keyword difficulty.
Content optimization: What topics should I write about to rank 1st for a given search query?
Once you've figured out good target search queries, you have to worry about actual content creation. At this stage, you have to spend time understanding user intent so you can create authoritative content. This is where content optimization tools leverage topic modeling to analyze SERP (i.e. your query's top search results) and reverse engineer the way search engines rank content relevance.
It is worth noting that in addition to topic optimization, you will always have to take care of other technical aspects of SEO, including title tags, meta description, appropriate HTML markup, responsive mobile design, etc.
Optimizing content with the Skyscraper Technique
The process of optimizing content typically involves analyzing what your competitors have said. Many content marketers use the skyscraper technique to create high-ranking content. The skyscraper method means gathering information from all the existing articles covering a topic you’re going to write about. The end goal is to make your guide or article even more detailed and helpful than the current top-rankers.
A post published in the Ahref blog back in 2017 demystified the impacts of the skyscraper technique, stating:
"If bloggers could post successful case study after case study, they would. The reason they post case studies rarely is that there aren’t many."
That said, case studies published by Backlinko and HubSpot explain successful experiences:
"This approach helped my brand new post hit the #1 spot in Google… within weeks."
"After Google reindexed a few posts that I updated recently, all my posts (even ones I did not update) experienced an immediate drop in traffic of about 30-40%."
Brian Dean talks more about how he uses the Content Optimization and the SkyScrapper Technique in the video below:
"In creating something that’s even better, you have the potential to topple that older piece of content, outrank them, and drive in more traffic -- especially if you win those high-quality backlinks by reaching out."
"If you stumble upon a blog post from a competitor on a topic that you’d love to cover, perhaps you could make an infographic, video, or even a more in-depth guide that could deliver more value."
How content optimization tools could speed up your Skyscraper content creation process
New content optimization tools automate the process of reading top results for a search query, while providing insights around key topics you should consider. We refer to these tools as "AI-powered" because they leverage various NLP techniques to automatically extract topics and measure their importance in a given context. This AI approach provides a new type of value proposition compared to traditional "SEO Lite" tools, which mostly focus on ensuring your meta-tags are in good shape.
AI-powered content optimization tools should at least assist during the following workflows:
1. Crawl and process top results
The capability to extract information from top search results. Key data points such as word count, links and topics will rely on an accurate clean text extraction system (i.e. this includes ignoring ads, menus, widgets, comments, etc.).
2. Extract topics
This refers to the capability of automatically extracting and classifying topic mentioned in your clean text. At a minimum, this system should be capable of extracting concepts, organizations, people, locations and products.
3. Score content and recommend topics
Most tools will provide a content scoring function according to topic coverage (i.e. how are your topics compared to top performers?). In addition to topic scoring, related topics should be suggested to help the user dig deeper and find ways to incorporate new content into your document.
These tools can be typically used in two workflows:
- Before publishing an article: As part of your editorial review process, you can ensure that your content is topically relevant for a target search query. This can be particularly important when working with external freelancers and setting up SEO strategy.
- During a content refresh effort: Given the direct relationship between content refreshes and search ranking, you should periodically look back at your archive and optimize decaying content.
3 AI-powered tools for content optimization
Features: Frase is an AI-powered Research Assistant for content creators (for full disclosure, I am the co-founder & CEO at Frase). We currently provide assistance in various content research workflows, including content optimization. In addition to scoring your content and recommending topics, Frase also recommends and summarizes related sources that should be considered as part of the content refresh.
Pricing: Frase charges $25/month for unlimited content optimization documents. Certain features like full website content audits are also accessible at a premium price.
Features: The MarketMuse Suite features a robust set of workflow specific applications that provides every member of the team with the data they need to plan, analyze, create, optimize, and assess best-in-class content on a granular level.
Pricing: Not publicly available on their public website.
- How MarketMuse Content Optimization Software Helped Neil Patel Double His Traffic and Rankings
- Content Optimization vs SEO: What's the Difference?
Features: Clearscope makes it easy to get more out of the content you're already producing. For any keyword, the tool analyzes top-performing organic content and gives you a breakdown of all the relevant terms in order of importance.
Pricing: $300/month for 50 content optimization reports.
- Clearscope makes it easy to improve organic search with Watson AI
- How to Bring Content and SEO Together
How to make content optimization work for you
While content optimization has proven to be required to maintain your search rankings, content marketers frequently struggle to identify content that needs to be optimized and why it needs to be optimized. In order to make content optimization a more structured process, content marketers must properly leverage tools like Google Search Console to continuously monitor the health of their search rankings and refresh content sooner than later.
For example, if Google Search Console shows content with high impressions, but a low CTR, that could mean you should update the headline and description. Or if you have low rankings for highly trafficked queries, you may want to optimize your content for those. Having a process in place to periodically review Google Search Console is key to make content optimization work at scale.
You should ideally be answering the following questions on an on-going basis:
- What content are worth refreshing?
- What new content are needed to target up and coming queries?
- What content should I delete?