How to Optimize Content for SEO: A Quick Guide

How to Optimize Content for SEO: A Quick Guide

White hat vs. black hat SEO, LSI keywords, SERPs — what do these terms mean, and more importantly, how do they interconnect within the vast universe of SEO? As we venture into 2024, the landscape of search engine optimization continues to evolve at a breakneck pace. But what does optimizing content for SEO entail in this rapidly changing environment?

From unraveling the mysteries of SEO jargon and revealing the best practices to steering clear of the antiquated tactics that could tank your rankings, we’ve compiled everything you need to know to optimize your content for SEO.

SEO and Content Marketing

Search engine optimization (SEO for short) is intricately linked to content marketing. Quality content is essential for good SEO because it attracts search engines and readers alike. Without optimizing your content with the right keywords and SEO practices, you’ll likely end up in internet limbo. Optimized content reaches more people and establishes your site as a valuable resource, improving your rankings and visibility online.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO is the art of making your site and content more discoverable on various search engines. Google Search is the most common, with all SEO pros pining for the top-ranked position. Generally, the higher your content ranks on the SERPs, the larger the share of search traffic you get.


Written content, such as blogs and general web copy, is the most common and recognizable home for optimized text. But you can apply SEO to almost any platform with a search function. YouTube, Amazon Marketplace, the App Store — you can use SEO on each one to help hoist your content to the top of search results.

Many tactics go into SEO (more than we can get into here), but there’s one central tenet: Well-optimized content is the most valuable ranking factor out there.

And it makes sense. Google wants to show searchers the best possible content to help them satisfy their search intent. It’s all part of Google’s quality rater guidelines; Google prioritizes content that showcases experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. So, above all, people-first content is where it’s at, and Google keeps tabs on your application of E-E-A-T principles using search engine spiders (web crawlers).

Google thinks more and more like a website visitor with every core update. So, with that being said, your content needs to be thoughtful and helpful to actual readers. Don’t write for the algorithm; write for human beings.” 

Joshua Pelletier, Content Director, BarBend

What are search engine spiders?

There’s no need to start spinning out over the next iteration of Matrix Sentinels — search engine spiders are entirely benign. Also known as “web crawlers,” search engine spiders are bots that filter through website content. For example, Google predictably calls its web crawler Googlebot, while Bing chose to name its standard web crawler Bingbot.

These autonomous programs sift through endless content and use a massive list of criteria to determine the best content. To make them happy, create quality content that comprehensively covers the search intent you’re targeting. Crawlers are ultimately trying to determine what human readers find most valuable, so in simple terms, you need to give the people what they want.

Why Optimize for SEO?

In the 21st century, consumers use the internet and, more specifically, search engines to find and buy products and services. To compete in the online marketplace, your site has to appear in the SERPs when people type relevant keywords into the search engine.

Imagine you go to Disneyland. The park is packed, and you mistakenly told friends you’d meet them “by the kiosk selling mouse ears.” That doesn’t exactly narrow things down, does it? SEO is like dropping a giant pin with your location. But instead of giving the roadmap to friends, you’re giving consumers everything they need to find you ASAP — before they find other friends and forget about you entirely.

The top-ranked site on the SERPS receives almost 40% of all the clicks. The site in position No. 2 gets 18.7%, and the third-ranked site walks about with just over 10% of the SERP traffic. After that, numbers fall off considerably.

The more SEO-optimized pages on your site, the more opportunities you have to earn significant traffic. So, creating optimized SEO content covering all the topics and search terms your buyers use is incredibly valuable.

SEO Stat

SEO Best Practices

It’s time to dive into SEO content strategy. These are the legitimate techniques you can use to make your high-quality content stand out in the SERPs.

Start with a great SEO content strategy

Excellent SEO content doesn’t come out of nowhere. To optimize content for SEO, you have to start with a strong SEO strategy. Far too many otherwise talented people create articles and blog posts on the fly and try to optimize them afterward. More often than not, they end up with clumsy content.

You can avoid this inelegant scenario if you plan ahead, use proven keyword research tools, and weave SEO into your content as you go along.

  • Research your audience before you begin. You can use a survey provider such as SurveyMonkey or Typeform to find out what your target consumer base wants.
  • Conduct exhaustive keyword research. Once you know what your audience wants, determine their search terms. This can be as simple as using Google’s Keyword Planner or more advanced through SEO tools such as MozSemrush, or Ahrefs. You should know all the keywords your audience uses and what stage of the buyer’s journey they apply to. 
  • Focus on creating comprehensive content. Your keywords should help you develop a list of core topics to be covered, but take it a step further and look at latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords to discover related topics that are almost, if not equally, as vital. Say your primary keyword is “Las Vegas.” Conceptually related semantic keywords might include “Sin City,” “casinos,” “hotels,” and “Super Bowl.” For a shortcut, check out tools like Ink and MarketMuse that provide all-in-one, AI-driven research, audit, and optimization interfaces.
  • Write long-form articles. Blog posts should ideally be between 1,500 and 2,500 words long. But that number can shift depending on search intent, the topic demands, and your content goals. Pieces that top 3,000 words get the most organic traffic, but that length isn’t always ideal for other formats. Use tools like Ink, MarketMuse, or Surfer SEO to determine the word count you need to hit to compete with existing search results.
  • Stay on task. Longer articles rank well, but only if they’re thorough and avoid fluff or filler. Writing for the sake of writing won’t win you an audience. Writing a shorter piece packed with value is better than fluffing your way to the maximum word count.
  • Create supporting visuals. Your content shouldn’t be a wall of text. That’s as daunting for readers as it is boring. In fact, content is reported to be 43% more persuasive when accompanied by visuals. Content with infographics or illustrations increases the overall appeal, legibility, and value. Images can even rank with Google Image Search if you optimize the file name and alt text.
  • Include a clear call to action. Readers need to know what to do next, so point them in the right direction with a prominent call to action. This can help drive leads and conversions, while keeping visitors on your site and indirectly boosting your SEO.

Use keywords effectively

Keywords are critical to SEO. Forget everything you learned in 2003, including the idea that keyword stuffing has any place in modern times. Instead, follow widely agreed-upon basics:

  • Use your primary keyword within the first 100 words and in one H2.
  • Repeat the primary keyword a few more times in your content, but don’t go overboard.
  • Include your primary keyword in your meta title, meta description, and page title.
  • Work in 1-2 mentions of secondary keywords and related terms as naturally as possible. (Using one of these in an H2, too, doesn’t hurt.)

NOTE – Remember your primary keyword is the one that best represents the topic and search intent for which you’re crafting your content.

Today’s Google algorithms recognize synonyms and ignore stop words (a, the, which, at, on, etc.), so you can modify your search terms to make them more readable.

  • “Piano lessons Philadelphia” becomes “piano lessons in Philadelphia.”

You can also change keywords in other subtle ways without losing Google points, like this:

  • “Shortest route New York to San Diego” becomes “shortest route between New York and San Diego.”

Effective keyword use extends to image text, including alt text and captions.

“Don’t forget about secondary keywords. Secondary keywords allow search engines to further categorize text. They provide additional semantic information that helps algorithms make judgements about relevancy and topic.”

Kim Smith, Digital Marketing Manager, Clarify Capital

When looking for LSI keywords and additional topics needed to make your content comprehensive, you’ll find more than you can realistically focus on. Many SEO tools simply check to see if you’ve included these keywords because there seems to be a correlation with improved rankings. But the smarter way to approach this is to identify the subtopics they represent and create content to address them.

This hub-and-spoke approach adds value for the reader and naturally gets your related keywords in. Content strategists map this out by creating master pillar pages linked to cluster content that supports the main idea. Your pillar page might be about DIY weddings, while cluster pages cover hiring entertainment, making our decorations, and sourcing flowers.

Create high-quality content

Readers stay engaged with high-quality content. You might call it “sticky” content — it’s unique, entertaining, inspiring, and educational enough to keep your target audience glued to the page.

High-quality content usually comes bearing a few trademarks. 

  • Relevant to your product or service
  • Comprehensive and trustworthy
  • Filled with practical advice
  • Error-free and easy to read

“Get specific with your content and the value it delivers to your specific audience.”

Marin = Perez, Director of Content Marketing, Kajabi

If that sounds like a callback to the E-E-A-T standards we discussed earlier, that’s no coincidence. Googlebot can tell the difference between churnalism and content created by a thought leader. To ensure you make the grade:

  • Pay attention to structure. Dynamic headers and subheads containing strategically placed keywords speak volumes.
  • Meet your audience on their level. Lose the industry jargon, and speak plainly to your readers.
  • Make your content shareable. Put social media buttons in a prominent place to make sharing easier.
  • Use bullets and numbered lists. Organize your content and make it snackable with bullets, numbered lists, and other typographical elements.
  • Compare your article with current SERP winners. Beat your competition by comparing your new content with Google and Bing rankings. Look for content gaps, and create content to fill them.

Use on-page content optimization 

High-quality content and SEO are decent on their own, but use them together and on-page content optimization can turn masterful prose into a true moneymaker.

  • Use keywords organically. Don’t overdo keywords. Instead, use them naturally within the body of your content and in H1s and H2s.
  • Know that location (and local SEO) is everything. Include location-specific phrases in H1s and your body content to optimize your site for local readers. Once Googlebot notices, your site will appear in geo-specific SERPs.
  • Create scannable content. Break your body copy into digestible chunks to keep readers interested. Avoid excessively long paragraphs, avoid complex language, and keep sentences under 25 words. Organizational assists, including bulleted lists and H3 subheaders, can help with scannability, too.
  • Don’t confuse the bot. Headings are essential, but you need to use them properly. You only need one H1 on your page, and headers should always follow the numerical hierarchy — H1, H2, and H3s when needed.
  • Apply schema markup. When you publish, take the time to add schema markup to your content. This structured data gives you a better shot at getting your content into Google’s featured snippets.
  • Interlink appropriately. Your content should be organized in topic clusters, and eventually, you should have content for every topic. Include keyword-rich internal links between these pages.

“Add structure. Use structured markup (schema) to ensure your classes and related product pages, as well as business information (name, address, phone number), is properly formatted for Google and other engines to index properly.”

Kent Lewis, President and Founder, Anvil Media

Outdo The Competition

Every piece of content you publish competes with a slew of content from other brands that are targeting the same search terms you are. You need to create the best possible content on a topic to stand out.

When looking at the competitive landscape, evaluate what the current top search results feature in terms of:

  • Word count
  • Topics covered
  • Content types (text, images, video, etc.)
  • Schema markup

Several tools can automate this research and score your content against your competitors so you know how you’re doing. The best ones to check out include MarketMuse, Ink, Content Harmony, and Surfer SEO.


E-E-A-T considerations

Google’s E-E-A-T update has been an industry-wide game-changer. For content to rank, it needs to showcase:

  • Experience: Highlight first-hand, real-world experience related to the topic at hand. If you’re writing about pet health, you should have a pet and have gone through some of the things you discuss on the page.
  • Expertise: Google will love your pet health page even more if the author has relevant expertise — perhaps a byline from an actual veterinarian or a well-known pet health guru.
  • Authoritativeness: Position yourself as the go-to source for pet health. How your page is put together and the content you share should feel reliable. In other words, do readers believe you’re legit?
  • Trustworthiness: Content can’t be purely editorial. Use proper attributions, source citations, and linked statistics to prove your site is informative, accurate, and safe. (Up-to-date site security certifications can help with the latter.)

You might demonstrate E-E-A-T by:

  • Writing a detailed writer bio that demonstrates why you’re an expert on the subject
  • Including links to authoritative sources in your content
  • Seeking out quotes from other experts 
  • Featuring data points from reputable sources
  • Having your content fact-checked by a subject matter expert to ensure 100% accuracy

Optimize for domain authority

Domain authority looks at the quantity and quality of links to a website to determine that site’s importance. Every site gets a score ranging from one to 100. The higher your score, the more likely you’ll rank at or near the top of the SERPs. 

To improve your DA score, you must integrate links as you create content and find ways to encourage people to link back to your pages.

  • Include internal links to web pages on your site, such as backlinks from cluster topics to pillar pages.
  • Embed social media posts with links to your site in your content, encouraging people to share them. Tools like Click to Tweet help with this.
  • Create graphics with embedded codes so people can easily add them to their site.
  • Encourage people to use your imagery as long as they link to your site.
  • Format your content to make it easy to reference. Tables, charts, and FAQs make your content easier to reference and link to.

By effectively interlinking all the pages on your site, you pass the authority from page to page, lifting all their search rankings.

Be accurate

Inaccurate and poorly written content can be a brand killer. Mistakes make you seem untrustworthy. To paraphrase Google Search Advocate John Mueller, Google won’t penalize you for sloppy writing, but your audience might.

Never publish content without:

  • Proofreading your work
  • Including outbound links to reputable sources
  • Double-checking your links are correct and lead to active pages

Running your article through a plagiarism checker like Copyscape

Go live SEO checklist

Technical SEO Optimization Tips

While we’re primarily focusing on how you can optimize content for SEO, it’s important to note a few technical SEO optimization tips you should address.

  • Check your site on a wide range of mobile devices. Responsive layouts tend to flow between gadgets, so check forms and links to ensure they stay clickable. Your content should be easy to digest and legible regardless of whether someone is scrolling on an Android tablet or flicking through on their iPhone.
  • Play around with images to decrease your site loading time. Large, high-resolution images look great, but they slow websites down. Use optimized JPGs to display photos, and go for lossless PNGs if you need to incorporate pictures with text or transparent backgrounds.

Periodic site maintenance can enhance your search engine ranks, too. Check that all pages appear on your site’s XML map and that internal and external links are current.

Finally, ensure your site pages have succinct and descriptive URLs for a possible lift in your rankings.

SEO Techniques to Avoid

Every dog has its day, and that applies to SEO content strategy. Stay far away from the following tactics in 2024:

  • Keyword stuffing: Often tied to keyword density, avoid cramming your targeted keywords in your content as often as possible. Keyword stuffing is ineffective, and if you do it anyway, you could get flagged by Google for having low-quality content.
  • Duplicate content: Google doesn’t officially penalize sites for duplicating content, but when the search engine finds multiple sites serving up the same text, it decides which to rank and which one to bury. Embracing original content — even when producing hundreds of local SEO city pages or product descriptions — can keep you from cannibalizing your site.
  • Spinning. Spun articles are the cheap designer handbags of content. They don’t rank well because they’re basically plagiarized and often read awkwardly. Google recognizes spun content as spam-like and subpar, so it’s best to skip it altogether.

SEO Content Optimization: Keeping It Real

To summarize that deep dive into all things content SEO optimization, here’s a summary of what we’ve discussed: 

  • SEO optimization tactics are smoke signals for search engine bots or spiders.
  • Search engine spiders crawl the web to index and evaluate content.
  • Effectively optimizing your content for specific search terms and topics could result in high search rankings and organic traffic.
  • SEO content creation best practices include on-page optimization techniques, careful keyword use, and informational accuracy.
  • Evaluate your content’s competitive landscape and outdo the competition.
  • Help boost domain authority by encouraging people to link to your content.
  • Steer clear of antiquated SEO content tactics such as keyword stuffing or article spinning.

Optimizing content for SEO has a learning curve, but if you stick with the tips in this guide, you could scale to the top of a SERP like a total pro. Too busy to write your SEO content? Crowd Content has a team of 6,000-plus writers waiting to help. Our freelancers know SEO and can tackle everything from blogs to web copy to category descriptions.For more information, contact our managed services team or sign up for a self-serve Marketplace account today.

Posted in SEO
Carlos Meza

Article by

President and Chief Executive Officer at Crowd Content.

Carlos is a guiding voice in an SEO and content creation industry brimming with turbulent growth. He has leveraged his past experience as a technology executive, engineer, and corporate financier to bring innovative end-to-end content creation solutions to SMBs and enterprise clients around the globe — delivering high-quality, scalable products through the marriage of human talent, technology, automation, and artificial intelligence.

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