Content Optimization
November 15th 2017

Content Optimization vs SEO: What’s the Difference?

5 min read

Is the keyword dead? No. But the game has changed over the past year. While the keyword is still relevant, SEO has gotten more complex as Google has gotten smarter. Gone are the days of pure keyword-optimization. Instead, we enter the days of rich content.

In essence, today you need to focus on covering a topic rather than zoning in on a specific keyword. Think “content strategy” rather than “keyword density”. Think content optimization.

But what is content optimization, exactly?

Topic Modeling: A Framework for Content

Keyword optimization is a framework for SEO. Similarly, you could say that topic modeling (how words and phrases are interrelated) is a framework for content optimization. With the rise of semantic search, you need to focus on specific topics and cover them in depth. Content optimization focuses on providing the best answers to any given query with elaborate content. That includes which subtopics you need to cover to build authority in that niche.

With content optimization, you still start off with a keyword. But you need to cover the entire topic encompassing that keyword very well. In short, you need to show you’re an expert.

How to Create Authoritative Content

To create authoritative content, you can use tools like MarketMuse. But if you want to go at it on your own, here’s what you should consider.

  • First, determine the goals of your content and decide what seed keyword your page will focus on. From a strategic perspective, start out with your most important pages.
  • Second, do your research. Identify who your target audience is and what it actually wants.

Here it’s a good idea is to group keywords that have a similar intent into one cluster. For example, let’s say you’re creating a page about omega 3. What are people searching for omega 3 looking for?

Look at the top 10 search results for that term, and see what topics they cover. TF-IDF analysis can give you a better grasp of keywords, but it won’t fully optimize your content.

If we analyze the page one results of “omega 3” — a generic query — this is what pops up:

We see a few common denominators right off the bat. Such as sources of omega 3, benefits, scientific information, and supplement information. You want to look at what those keywords signify and how they help cover the topic in a comprehensive way.

For example:

Once you have identified the searcher’s intent, create content around that, and build topic clusters with related content. Start with creating one pillar article that covers this topic broadly. Next, link out to specific articles that cover the topic more in depth.

  • It’s important that you cover every relevant angle. For this case, examples might be:
  • Definition of omega 3
  • Sources of omega 3
  • Benefits of omega 3
  • Best omega 3 supplements
  • Omega 3 reviews
  • Links to pages where you can buy omega 3 supplements
  • Links to pages where you can buy other supplements
  • Links to pages with healthy eating and lifestyle

Keep in mind, this is only scratching the surface. There are more things you should do to optimize your content, including improving UX/UI and A/B-testing, but it goes beyond the scope of this article.

To find the proper keywords that fill the gaps in your content, you might be wondering…

Do Traditional SEO Tools Still Cut It?

Yes and no.

Current SEO tools are still very useful for optimization. But they’re often not end-to-end solutions. Content optimization software, in turn, provides a complete solution from conception to analyzing results.

Tools like Moz and SEMRush offer powerful keyword research capabilities, but they don’t tackle the “topic” as much as they tackle the keyword. That is, they lack the semantic analysis to finds the gaps you need to fill to truly master a topic.

If you’re looking to fully optimize your content, you instead need to look at more holistic solutions. There are various options out there — aside from MarketMuse — that help you optimize your content. But many solutions focus on enterprise-level companies and don’t meet the need of more mid-sized businesses. We have briefly covered these before, and while there are a lot of great tools, few are truly complete, start-to-finish solutions.

Conclusion: Is the Keyword Obsolete?

No. The keyword is still very much relevant, but SEO has become more complex. Increasingly, you need to take the user’s full potential intent into consideration. RankBrain has helped ensure that comprehensive content that covers a topic extremely well ranks better than a disjointed page that is super optimized for a certain keyword.

And the takeaway? Think bigger. Content optimization won’t always help you rank your page as directly as backlinks will. But it helps search engines understand your intent and it helps you create better content. The latter in itself is key, irrespective of SEO, to build authority in any niche. It should also help boost your rankings along with traditional factors.

Understanding the intent behind a query and building comprehensive content around that is the best way to ensure your content stands the test of time. MarketMuse proved this with its in-depth case study on Neil Patel’s blog. See how topic optimization helped double Neil’s traffic and rankings, and how it can help you.

Download the full guide here.

Erik Van Buskirk

Written by Erik Van Buskirk ericvanbuskirk