Your keywords are included. Your title tags and meta descriptions are set. Your links have been added. Your content is now optimized, right?
These are all necessary steps in the content creation process, but none of them qualify as content optimization -- at least not in my opinion.
Content optimization is a popular term these days, and one that’s on the minds of most marketing agencies. But it’s a term that is widely misunderstood and misapplied, with negative consequences for both agencies and their clients. So what is content optimization? Here are four things you need to consider when optimizing content:
Have you found the right balance in terms of publishing cadence? Some brands find that one blog post per week does the trick, while others determine three to be the magic number. Some aim to publish one premium piece of content per month (e.g., ebook or case study), while others strive for one per quarter. If it’s too frequent, you’ll overwhelm your audience. If it’s too infrequent, you run the risk they never come back. There is no right or wrong answer (unless you decide that no content needs to be created), but the main point is that content optimization isn’t just about what’s being published, but how often it’s published.
Of course, if the content subject matter isn’t relevant to its target audience, it could hardly be described as optimized. Here we find the key distinction between content optimization and search engine optimization. A piece of content could be well-tailored to search engines but completely miss the mark in terms of its intended audience. To ensure relevancy, a brand must be able to relate the content to one or more of its buyer personas. Does it address topics the audience is interested in? If the answer is "no," then your content isn’t optimized.
Relevance and usefulness should not be confused. A blog post, for example, can be relevant to its audience, but provide nothing of value. It’s important for brands to determine whether there are 100 pieces of identical content or if the content is truly unique. This relates back the point on frequency. A brand might produce content in high volume, but this offers the reader nothing new. If your content doesn’t help your intended audience solve a problem or better understand a trend, then it’s not optimized.
Does the content further the reader along the buyer journey? Does it get readers interested in a new product or service, even if it’s done indirectly? Does it generate leads? While thought leadership is certainly a noble and worthy cause, the content a brand produces must ultimately serve the business.
I hope to have shown that content optimization isn’t just about keywords and meta descriptions. It is more of an art than a science -- an ever-evolving process, not a series of checklist tasks.
How do you define content optimization? Looking forward to seeing your responses in the comment section!
Originally published Feb 5, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017