Practical Ecommerce

SEO: Optimizing Your Content

This month, I’d like to build on what I’ve already covered in past issues regarding keyword research (November 2005 issue) and writing for search engines (December 2005 issue) and integrate them together into a plan for optimizing your site’s content.

A “SMART” goal is one that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Optimizing the content of a website containing dozens, or hundreds, and certainly thousands of pages may seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be. It just requires a “SMART” plan of attack and commitment to see that plan through. Otherwise, it just won’t happen, or it will happen very inefficiently. So let’’s get specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound with your content optimization. Here are some essential steps to the process.

Step 1: Draw up a Content Plan

Armed with keyword research, come up with a Content Plan that incorporates your existing content pages plus any new ones you plan to create. The Content Plan is your road map for which pages will get worked-on when and by whom. The columns of the content plan should include description of the page, content provider, writer/editor, due date, date completed, and priority. When determining each page’s priority, take into consideration how important that keyword market is to you and the likelihood that you will be able to achieve a high ranking for that targeted keyword. Consider sourcing some of the sought-after content from outside your company if you don’t have time to create all the content yourselves. For example, hire a ghostwriter, or license content and then hire a SEOsavvy editor to finesse that content into something unique.

Remember, every page of your site has its own unique “song” so the goal is to make each page “sing” for its own unique keyword focus. Each page should have one, maybe two, but certainly no more than three keyword foci. If, for example, you are only targeting 100 different keywords, the number of pages in your content plan should, at a minimum, number in the dozens. Pick your very best keyword opportunity for your home page, because your home page is the page that gets the most weight from the search engines.

Step 2: Assemble planned and existing content pages into a search-optimal ‘Site Map’ (site structure)

Certain pages of content you are going to want to have higher rankings, or given the opportunity to rank higher over others. The way that you favor some content over other content as far as search visibility is concerned is by placing it higher up in the tree structure of your site hierarchy. The less popular content that is targeting the more esoteric keywords should go lower down the tree.

Step 3: Sit down and start writing and editing!

Now that you have your Content Plan and Site Map, it is time to start editing your existing pages and writing the new ones, in order of priority as dictated by the Content Plan. Hopefully you recall that placement of keywords on the web page is key to your search engine rankings. The higher up on the page, the more weight the keyword receives. Whenever possible, try to ‘beef up’ the amount of content on the page to at least 200-250 words. And pay special attention to the page title as that is the most important element on the page – at least as far as the search engines are concerned. Finally, remember that the writing needs to be pleasing not only to search engines, but to humans too! In other words, you still have to be compelling, interesting, succinct, relevant and reader-focused. Hold yourself and your content providers accountable to the agreed-upon due dates specified in the Content Plan.

Step 4: Test and revise

Once you have a good base of optimized content indexed in the search engines, it doesn’t end here. A website is never finished. There are always things you can do to improve your site’s search engine visibility (and readability and conversion rate too, for that matter!). Treat your web marketing as a series of experiments. Make a hypothesis and test the hypothesis. For example, you might have an idea how to shuffle words around in the page title to improve your ranking for a particular keyword. Go ahead and give it a try and see if it works but don’t try to change too many variables at once because you won’t be able to identify the thing that actually worked.

Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer

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