Our Top 20-ish Content Optimisation Tips Post Google’s 'Helpful Content Update'
5 Min Read
Our Top 20-ish Content Optimisation Tips Post Google’s 'Helpful Content Update.'
People often refer to search engine optimisation (SEO) when talking about content optimisation. However, this doesn’t mean you should optimise your content for search engine bots.Instead, the opposite is true; optimising your content for humans then becomes search engine friendly. In this guide, we’ll talk about how you can optimise your content to improve performance and explain why this is so important.
What Is Content Optimisation?
Content optimisation ensures that your content has the best possible chance of achieving its intended goal, whether to rank in a search engine or turn leads into conversions.You can implement several basic, time-tested methods to achieve these goals, but it’s not just about performing technical tasks and ticking boxes. Significant marketing and editorial elements of web content optimisation need to be covered, too.
Why Is Content Optimisation Important?
Let’s say that you’ve written an excellent top-of-the-funnel blog that’s related to your core product or service, and you want to get as many views as possible. Two to three months after publishing, you check the post's performance only to find that nobody has seen it.Why? Well, maybe:
The keywords you have used have little to no search volume
You haven’t covered the topic in any real level of detail
You haven’t used a coherent heading structure, so Google’s bots have had a hard time making sense of your article
Your title tag doesn’t accurately reflect what the article is about
If you don’t optimise your content, your piece might disappear into the Google vortex. You might have written the best article in the world, with unique insights and helpful advice. But, if search engines can’t find it, nobody’s interested in it, or it’s pitched at the wrong audience, it’s unlikely to help you achieve your content marketing goals.Content optimisation today should combine a user-first approach with a good grounding in SEO. But how do we find the right balance? Google’s 'helpful content update' has finished rolling out. While the impact was not as expected, it’s undoubtedly turned our attention to reviewing and improving the content on our website and those of our clients.We have determined that Google is making more steps toward serving content written for people by people. With this in mind, optimising content for people and search engines should be possible. That is why we have created a list of our top content optimisation recommendations to use when you publish your next piece. These recommendations include:
Online information is processed differently than traditional print media. Short, simple sentences are easier for us to digest, making it easier for us to retain the information. Our general guideline when producing online content is to aim to produce something that is clear and easily understandable. The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics Research shows that 80% of people prefer sentences written in plain English. This includes expert users with a high level of specialist knowledge. The more complex the issue, the greater the preference for plain language.Putting this into practice is harder than it sounds and is often overlooked. Search engines love “readable” content too. They use natural language processing (NLP) to process language based on linguistic rules to understand the relationships between words.The intended meaning can easily be lost if these relationships are too complex. Using tools such as Yoast on WordPress, the Hemingway Editor or Grammarly can give you a view of how readable your content is before publishing online. Following on from readability, it’s best to keep your language as accurate and succinct as possible. Remove any unnecessary or complex words. Do your best to write things in their simplest form while maintaining pace and rhythm to keep things interesting. This will help readers to follow your content and help search engines to process it.
Use Related Keywords and Synonyms
Repeating the same terms or phrases isn’t a good idea. It creates keyword-stuffed, over-optimised content that’s boring to read and can appear untrustworthy to a discerning audience. Optimise your content by changing recurring keywords to their equivalent alternatives. This will make a much more interesting and engaging reading experience that will feel more natural to the user. By utilising these related terms and synonyms, you can provide search engines with more contextual information and avoid the temptation to overuse certain keywords that could result in poor search performance.The use of related keywords solidifies the topics you’re writing about by providing lots of different points of reference. It can give you wider ranking opportunities, too, as you will be ranking for not only your primary keyword but other variants of it too.
Structure Your Content
Make sure your content follows a logical, ordered structure. This makes it easier for readers to digest and for search engines to interpret. For example, our blog “what causes high bounce rates and how to fix it” is structured simply and effectively. It covers an explanation of what a bounce rate is, its importance and what causes high bounce rates before moving on to how to fix them. Other competing articles cover either the causes or the fixes with little explanation beforehand of the importance of the subject. While useful, their structure isn’t as logical and easy to follow.
Make Use of Heading Tags
The proper use of a heading structure is key for both the user and the search engine. Clear, descriptive headings help readers scan your text and read the parts they’re most interested in. Properly structured headings are also key to website accessibility. They are used by assistive technology, so proper use of headings allows screen readers to navigate effectively and understand your content as intended.The use of headings is not just key to the user. Search engines use them too. Clear H1, H2 and lower-level headings, such as H3 and H4, help search engines to understand what your page is about, what each paragraph covers, which topics are important and how they relate to each other.
Format Your Content Correctly
Formatting your content correctly can have a big impact on its flow and meaning. For example, a numbered list might be a step-by-step process or a ranking system. Bullet points usually indicate a list of items with equal importance. The use of bold or italic text helps items stand out and gives them emphasis. For example, in our recent blog on Google E-A-T, we made use of bullets and numbered lists to indicate either questions or points of importance to the reader. The correct use of formatting will help people to read your content as it was meant to be read It will also make it easier to scan and process. But it helps search engines too, as they also recognise these formats and their common meanings. For example, some formatting will suggest a classification like an address. Other items, like tables, imply certain relationships. Charts can show averages and ranges.
Use a contents section and jump links
When producing long-form content, like this article, adding a contents section with jump links to each main section can be a helpful optimisation.This will help users move between sections easily, accessing the information they need. It improves user experience and makes your content more digestible. From an SEO consultancy perspective, these unique internal links help clarify the focus of certain passages, which can boost the passage-based ranking of long-form articles. In the 2020 article How AI is powering a more helpful Google, Prabhakar Raghavan explained:"Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page. We've recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to better understand the relevancy of specific passages. By understanding passages in addition to the relevancy of the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you're looking for."So search engines can identify useful passages and match them with queries, but it certainly doesn't hurt to point them in the right direction with a clear contents section, like the one we have used above.
Evaluate your Content on its Usefulness, not its Word Count
When you're writing or optimising content, aim to cover what is useful to your users rather than hitting a word count. Most people can see right through content that's written to hit a word count. And search engines can, too. The content becomes empty and lacks meaning.Google's 'helpful content' guidelines ask:"Are you writing to a particular word count because you've heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don't)."So clearly, they have their eye on this, too. If you focus on providing enough depth to satisfy your target audience, they will genuinely find it useful. You'll avoid empty words and information that's there just for the sake of it. To help improve the usefulness of your content, we would recommend the use of Google’s FAQs section and websites like Also Asked to find frequently asked questions relating to your topic that you can cover to give a fuller answer to the proposed question or subject, therefore, adding more value to the user.
Do Your Keyword Research
Great content should always be based on research. Often, we think we know how users search for topics, the terms they use and the volume of people who are interested in certain topics. But this is not always the case. This is where search query data comes in. It's a valuable source of information about what people are actually searching for and how they are searching for it. While it's important to use this information carefully, it shouldn't be disregarded. Awareness of how users search for the topics we're writing about is essential for content optimisation. Readers will find that your content is more aligned with what they searched for and the intent of their search to discover your content, and search engines will serve your content in the right context
Know the Scope of Your Content
Consider your content, is there enough information? Can it be combined with another blog? Or should it be broken down into more readable parts?An extremely long in-depth blog might be easier to read and comprehend in parts or sections that interlink. Breaking it down could create a series of more focused pieces of content that perform better in search because they're more defined. The scope is a key component of content for both search engines and the user, Something very short might be considered thin content from Google’s perspective and not contain enough detail to give the user a full answer to their question. This brings us to our next suggestion.
Answer The Question
If you ask a question in your content, provide a direct answer. Don't beat around the bush, the user will get bored and click off. Make use of frequently asked questions on the topic you are writing about to ensure that you are giving the best possible answer to the question. Think about the answer you'd like to see and make it!For example, this passage directly answers a question simply and effectively:
People are visual learners, so consider updating or increasing your images to optimise your content. Strong creative content helps to emphasise your content in a way that will make it easier to understand and remember. Great visuals improve your search performance too. They can boost click-through rates, appear in image searches and increase your real estate in SERPs. The key is to make sure your imagery is really adding value to your content.
Does it help to illustrate something difficult to understand?
Does it make a key point more memorable or emotive?
If so, it's likely to be enriching your message.
Videos Improve the Experience
In 2020, over 3 billion internet users were consuming online video content. This is expected to reach 3.5 billion by next year based on Statista's figures. So, where videos are suitable for supporting or enhancing your content, they're well worth considering as part of your optimisation plan. Many people prefer watching rather than reading, so video content improves their overall experience.You'll only get real search benefits if you produce original video content yourself. If your budget doesn't stretch this far, embedding useful video content from other producers is still an option.Overall, creating a better content resource is the aim, which could result in secondary benefits like more shares and backlinks.
Internal Linking is Useful for the Reader
When you're optimising content, make sure you consider internal links.Does your content link to other useful internal resources? And do other internal pages link to it?Improving internal linking enhances the experience for readers as it allows them to find out more about a topic of interest. It's also critical for search engines, helping with content discovery, importance and topical relationships. Earlier this year, Google's John Mueller explained:"It's something where internal linking is super critical for SEO. I think it's one of the biggest things you can do on a website to guide Google and visitors to the pages you think are important. And what you think is important is totally up to you. You can decide to make things important where you earn the most money, or you can make things important where you're the strongest competitor, or maybe you're the weakest competitor. With internal linking, you can really kind of focus things on those directions and those parts of your site."
External Links are Important
Adding relevant external links can help to improve, validate and optimise your content for the user. It may seem like an odd option, sending your users to another website away from your content. But, there are many benefits if it is done correctly. People will find your content more trustworthy and useful if you back up claims, statistics or quotes with authoritative external sources, as we have done in this article. They also add value by giving your audience a fast route to access further valuable information.But these need regular checking to ensure you're still sending your readers to the most relevant source. Clear, relevant sourcing also demonstrates knowledge and expertise within your field, something that search engines value. They provide context that helps strengthen the relationship between your content on a certain topic and other expert or authority sites that also cover it.
Give Examples of “Real World” Experience
A great tip for enhancing your content is to provide real examples. Are there areas that could be explained better by showing how something works rather than trying to explain it in words? Showing a representation of your idea in action adds credibility and makes it more useful and engaging.
Get the Opinion of the Experts
If you are creating thought leadership pieces, the insight of an expert in the field can help boost your authority on the subject. Combining clear quotes on the subject from experts on the subject matter will enhance E-A-T signals for search engines by demonstrating that you have qualified subject matter experts involved. Readers will get the benefit of a more balanced argument, as well as the recognition of industry expertise.For more information on Google E-A-T, read our article “Google E-A-T what is it and why is it so important for SE0”You may even gain the benefits of gaining backlinks and social mentions from the experts themselves or other experts in the field.
Incorporate Data to Back Up Your Point of View
When producing content, consider whether your point of view could be backed up with data. Providing hard facts builds trust and shows readers that you have really researched your topic.From an SEO perspective, adding relevant data might also provide external linking opportunities. You can reference useful data published on authoritative sites within your niche. If you are including your own unique data, there's a strong chance that others writing on a topic will link to your resource to back up their own claims in the future.
Keep it Up-to-Date
Content optimisation is a never-ending job. It's essential to keep your content fresh and your asset's current. By regularly reviewing your content, you can avoid people accessing outdated information that could provide outdated advice. In the ever-changing world of SEO and search, this is key, as we have seen with the changes in SEO strategies and tactics over the last few years.
Write About What you Know.
Make sure you are writing about something you know and understand, ensuring that the topic of your content is highly relevant to your area of expertise.Users reading content that's detached from your main topic area may find this confusing and unhelpful as there is no indication that you know what you are talking about Search engines are working toward a better user experience, so they mirror this. Assessing a site's content as a whole usually reveals a lot, but one of the predominant findings has usually been that relevant content performs much better than unrelated content. There are several reasons for this. In most cases, the content is likely to be better quality if subject matter experts create it. But the relationships between pages matter, too.Content clustering displays a breadth of knowledge about a topic that interlinks, which can help you build up topical authority over time.
Keeping the Balance between humanity and SEO
It's never been more important to get the right balance between enhancing content for search engines and people.An ideal mix is a user-first approach with a good grounding in SEO.Neither should be ignored when you're optimising content.Search engines are crucial for driving an audience to your content, but you don't want your readers to be disappointed when they get there.Keep both in mind, and search engines and your readers can work hand in hand to deliver exceptional results.