Content Marketing

Creating a Content Optimization Plan for Organic Search

Last week I addressed the data involved in the content optimization process, and what to base content decisions on. In this post, I’ll get to the meat of creating a content optimization plan for driving organic search traffic.

There are three steps involved:

  1. Programmatic optimization of default fields,
  2. Creation of new content,
  3. Manual content optimization.

Many people skip straight to manually optimizing existing content because it’s the most obvious and usually the quickest to implement.

However, tackling the steps in the order listed below makes the entire process a bit shorter because you can set other teams in motion to complete their steps. If you have the personnel, the steps can happen simultaneously to move things along more quickly.

Programmatic Optimization

Programmatic optimization is just a fancy term for the act of modifying the default formula your platform uses to create the default title tags, meta descriptions, and H1 headings on each page.

For instance, if your product page has a title tag of “Fancy Blue Widgets | Widgets R’ Us,” then your platform uses a basic default formula for your product pages that creates that title tag by stringing together “{Product Name} | {Store Name}.” Defaults can be modified programmatically with new formulas to contain whatever information can be gleaned from the product database or content management system.

The process is pretty simple.

  • Keyword patterning. Completed by the SEO team. Using your keyword research, determine what types of search queries people use, and how they string the words together to form phrases. Do they typically use a color, product type, and feature, such as “blue widgets with wings” or “spinning vortex widgets”?

Based on those keyword patterns, document the formula you want your developers to create as a default formula. You might write it like this: “{Color} {Product type} with {Feature} | {Store Name}.” But consult your keyword research data. Maybe you’d get more value out of a pattern like: “{Feature} {Color} {Product type} | {Store Name}.” Your keyword research will help you determine which patterns are the most valuable.

  • Create technical requirements. Completed by the SEO team and the team that will be implementing the optimization. Talk with your business analyst or developer about which data can be pulled to display in your default fields.

Creating New Content

There’s a science to determining the content to create to maximize SEO potential. Like programmatic optimization, it relies on keyword research.

  • Keyword map. Completed by the SEO team. To determine the content to create, know what content you already have and where it resides. The keyword map for SEO starts with a list of every major navigational and content page on the site, excluding the product pages. Its goal is to chart the current and potential future performance by URL and keyword, for the pages on your site. With this powerful combination of data, you can make confident decisions about which content to create and optimize first.

Once you have all of the pages listed, identify the page name, URL, and current keyword targets, if you know them. If you’re driving natural search traffic with that URL based on Google Search Console data, also include the keyword that drives the most natural search traffic, how much traffic it drove last month, and the average ranking.

Then assign one to three keywords to every page from the keyword research, noting their average searches per month from the keyword research. Assign the highest value (and most relevant) keywords to each page. If two pages could be assigned the same keyword, assign it to the page highest up in your site architecture, closest to the home page.

Once that’s done, look for the holes. Do you have high-value keywords left over in your keyword research that don’t yet belong on a page on your site? Those are the topics to target to create new content that drives natural search.

  • Plan new content. Completed by the SEO team in conjunction with the marketing teams like branding, creative, user experience, and social. Using the learnings from your keyword map, work with the content team to plan out which new content can be created and how it would fit into the site for maximum relevance, strongest customer experience, and highest SEO value.

The content team would typically be the ones creating the posts. However, depending on your SEO resources and priority within the company, you may be able to outsource the content creation to an agency for faster results.

When the content has been completed, no matter who it was written by, make sure that an SEO professional on your team optimizes it based on the keywords assigned from the keyword map. You may find that it’s already optimized, but don’t assume that it will be just because you gave the creator the keywords to base the content on. Write a custom title tag, meta description, and H1 heading, regardless.

Manual Optimization of Existing Content

Pull that keyword map out again. All the pages that have keywords assigned to them are potential content optimization targets. Choosing where to start becomes a matter of analyzing the data to determine where the highest value lies.

  • Plan content optimization. Completed by the SEO team. Look for pages with target keywords that rank between places six and 15 in your most critical search engine — Google, in the U.S. It’s much easier to increase the position for keywords that you’re already in ranking for than it is to rank for something that you currently have no visibility for. Then identify which targeted keywords have the highest searches per month from your keyword research.

The intersection of those two data points is the sweet spot for content optimization. If you don’t have many of those, then start with the keywords that have the highest searches per month and go from there.

  • Optimize the content. Completed by the SEO team. Every page you want to rank and drive natural search traffic and revenue should have a manually-written title tag, meta description, and H1 heading. There may not be much you can improve on over the programmatic ones, but usually there’s a word or two you can tweak to finetune them in ways that add value.

When it comes to the text in the body of the page, don’t’ go crazy with keywords. Try to use the primary keyword once, as close to the beginning of the text as you can while still sounding natural. Readability and customer experience should be higher priorities than keyword repetition.

For more on content optimization, see my how-to guide on “Optimizing On-page Elements.”

Jill Kocher Brown
Jill Kocher Brown
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