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Boost SEO Performance With These Content Optimization Strategies

11 min read

Is your organic traffic not where you want it to be? There’s no doubt that optimizing for organic has never been more challenging. Google updates, the monetization of search results, and the rise of generative answering have all impacted traffic. But there’s another issue, too. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is often viewed as a tactic. It’s left to an individual writer or person handling layouts to optimize an individual blog post. Or, worse, it’s viewed as a means of gaming a system. 

But as a content strategist or content marketer, if your job is to increase brand awareness and increase traffic to your site, you need to create a content optimization strategy. This will ensure that your content, first and foremost, is meaningful and useful to your audience. And secondly, that your pages will rank well. 

From understanding search intent to leveraging semantic SEO, mastering content optimization strategies is essential for crafting SEO-friendly content that not only ranks well but also resonates with your target audience. The key is to create a systemic process that applies to every piece of content — not just one-off articles. In other words, your content doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and your optimization approach shouldn’t either.

Here’s how to effectively create a content optimization process that will get the results you want. 

Content Optimization – the Wrong Way

Too often, people want to start content planning by doing keyword research to see which ones get a lot of traffic, and create content accordingly. This is a colossal waste of time and resources, and likely not going to get you the audience you want — if indeed you could even get your pages to rank. 

Here’s a simple illustration of why planning around traffic volume for target keywords alone won’t work. The volume for the word “SEO” is 110,000 searches a month. But trying to win a ranking for that keyword would be incredibly difficult. Further, who is searching for that phrase? It’s most likely people who don’t know what the acronym is about and want to learn more.

On the other hand, “Content Optimization” has a volume of 880. Since the article is for content marketers and content strategists, I am assuming you know all about SEO – and are really looking for insights on how the content can be optimized. And while its volume is less than 1/100th of the word SEO, it is a topic that is much more in keeping with our audience. 

This is part of understanding the intricacies of search intent – and how that plays a key role in content optimization.  

Content Optimization Strategy:  On-Page SEO

There are three critical factors for SEO: 

  • On-page SEO, which focuses on on-page optimization that will improve the content.
  • Off-page SEO, which focuses on creating inbound links and promotion of content.
  • Technical SEO focuses on crawling and indexing ‌a site’s pages.

We’ll start with On-page SEO — which is really all about the content — the blog post that the user will see. It begins with figuring out what topics relate to your product and service, and how those topics relate to one another. Finally – what are the topics that a customer might be interested in — to find your product. 

This is an important nuance. If you are selling a commodity that everyone is aware of then it’s not an issue. But if you are selling a product or service that’s unique then you are going to have to include topics that will eventually cross-over and map to the topics you want them to search on. Think of it like topic stepping stones that guide your audience on a journey from what they are searching for to what you uniquely offer.

For example, let’s say I sell Omega-3 supplements. I can create all sorts of quality content around Omega-3, but if people are looking to solve joint pain — you’ll want to create topics around that as well. You can see how relevant content includes stepping aside from keyword search and into the realm of Semantic SEO. More on that in a bit. 

Let’s break this down a bit further. 

Leveraging Semantic SEO or Topics

As noted, a content optimization strategy should focus on topics and topic clusters, or what’s called Semantic SEO.  By structuring blog posts and articles around topic clusters — and the relationship between them — you can enhance SEO efforts and improve search engine visibility.

As search engines like Google and Bing evolve, they put an increased emphasis on serving audiences quality content that satisfies their search intention. Of course, technical issues, well-formatted HTML, backlinks, and site performance all play a role. But the onus is on creating comprehensive, credible, high-quality content.

This is how small domains can punch above their weight with authoritative content clusters that rank highly for competitive terms. 

The first step is to identify and produce an authoritative page, the pillar page, on a core topic. You also need to create multiple content pages (cluster pages) related to that topic. The pillar page should link to the cluster pages and vice versa. A content cluster should cover a topic across all phases of the buyer’s/user’s journey — by persona.

As a company selling a content optimization tool – MarketMuse creates pillar content around Content Optimization, for example. By understanding the relationships between words and phrases, we can align topics with user queries to create valuable content that resonates with search engine users.

Sometimes it helps to map it out. 

Ultimately, when a person has an intent to buy, they might ask the long-tail question “What is the best content optimization tool”

But before they have intention to buy — they have intention to learn. And those questions might be: 

For dev audiences, I might have an article on

So part of my content optimization strategy revolves around finding topics and aligning them with specific audience queries — be it educational or ready-to-buy. This ensures that my articles meet my target audiences’ search intent and generate organic traffic. This targeted approach forms the foundation of my content strategy, driving results and visibility online.

Remember, too, the questions people ask will vary by their background and level of knowledge. Coming out of a B2B company, I had to think in terms of what would the subject matter expert be asking vs a line manager vs the tech team that needed to implement it. 

Understanding Search Intent

I like to use tools like MarketMuse and Answer the Public to understand what people are asking about on any given subject.

Understanding search intent lets the content team create content assets that satisfy user needs and boosts engagement. 

Next I leverage the concept of topic clusters to organize content around specific themes, aiding search engines in comprehending the context of my website. This approach enhances SEO efforts and helps in establishing authority in the industry.

Friendly Formatting for All Visitors

User-Friendly Formatting plays a crucial role in enhancing the user experience – which in turn impacts SEO performance and user engagement. Your layouts need to include a hierarchy of headings as well as images and call outs – that pull a reader’s eye through your content. Your content should be interesting both substantively and visually.

Use short paragraphs, bullet points, and subheadings, all help with both user experience and SEO content optimization. Make sure you use alt-tags that  provide descriptions of images for inclusivity and accessibility. Your brand guidelines should include allowable color combinations that ensure individuals who are colorblind can still discern the information. 

If you are using audio and video, determine whether or not it should automatically play (and don’t forget subtitles). Encourage the art team to compress images so the pages will load quickly. 

Use internal links. This not only pulls your target audience through the site, but is key to let search engines know which pages are semantically linked.

All of this not only boosts SEO rankings but also prolongs user dwell time on the site. 

Compelling URL, Title Tags, and Metadata

Having great content is key – but it has to be packaged with the right URL and metadata. Meta tags, including the title tag and meta description, serve as the gateway to your content. By strategically incorporating topics and relevant keywords, you ensure that the tags accurately reflect the content of blog posts and articles. This not only improves SEO but also entices users to click through to my content.

Too often people rely on the default metadata that your CMS will generate versus carefully creating your own. The URL is how search engines will categorize your content. You won’t want to use the default url if the title of your story is “Are Your Turning Off Your Customers” when the story is about how poor content marketing is impacting the customer journey. You’d want the ability to create a URL that’s something like content-marketing-impacts-customer-experience. 

Further, the Title tag and the meta description are what will appear on the search engine results page (SERP) to tease visitors to click through to your blog post. You want to treat the title and the description like an ad. 

I like my descriptions to capture the psychology of the piece. “You might be surprised how content is actually turning off your customer. Here’s what to look for.”

The Title Tag does NOT have to match the title of your story. In fact, if you find your blog post ranking high — but has a dismal click-thru, consider changing up your title tag.  

Google Search April 2024

Content Optimization Strategy: Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO includes programs to get backlinks and off-site promotions like social media and directories. Backlinks are links that come from external websites. Getting backlinks is hard, because you want them from credible and authoritative sites – not from link farms. In fact, link farms can harm you

Building backlinks can be a slow process that takes discipline and some creativity – and other members of your organization. Here are things I have done in the past to build links for organizations.

  • Develop original research and issue industry reports. You can announce the report in a press release, and media companies will link back to original and worthy reports. 
  • Make sure you have a wikipedia page that’s up to date. 
  • Look for opportunities to link back from directories and associations
  • Create links from sponsorships and tradeshows
  • Offer to trade links with partners
  • Do customer case studies with your vendors, in exchange for links
  • Create guest blog posts on third-party sites.

Also, there are legitimate ways to secure back links through SEO agencies, who will look for opportunities to have you quoted in blogs. 

Content Optimization Strategy: Technical SEO

There’s a lot for your tech team to be aware of when addressing the technical side of SEO. Search engines want to make sure that the result a visitor clicks on will offer a great user experience, so they penalize pages that will frustrate visitors. Your team will be looking for broken links, missing pages, missing metadata, and performance load time. 

Marketing Operations like to use all sorts of tools that track visitors or engage with chat bots. But every snippet of java can add to the page load time, so be judicious. Does every page need a chatbot? As a content strategist you should be helping to make the call. 

They also should be tagging your pages so you can effectively look at your tracking tools like Google Analytics (GA4). 

As you can see, wanting to increase visitor traffic requires a tremendous amount of attention and discipline by numerous stakeholders. Your SEO strategy should include optimizing content by adhering to the tips above will help you become a strategic member of your organization.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Diane Burley has three decades experience creating high-impact content at scale. As a published author and seasoned technologist, she translates complex concepts into clear, engaging messaging that connects with audiences. She can help you build a content factory that drives results.