At their best, content and SEO create a strong bond that can propel your website to the top of SERP rankings. So, what happens when they are not at their best? They can lead to Google penalties, which are almost impossible to recover from.

The main objective of this post is simple—to give you a clear understanding of the importance of content in SEO, and also show you what you should do to ensure that they work together. As we delve deeper, you will start gaining a better understanding of content, its SEO value, and how you should create optimized content that can make your website rank better.

What is content?

It might be a challenge to give a precise definition of content, one which is agreed by all online marketers.

However, despite this challenge, Lee Odden, TopRank Marketing CEO managed to gather several definitions of content from different marketers across the world—and these definitions will definitely give us a good starting point.

Heidi Cohen, an actionable marketer defines content as:

“High quality, useful information that conveys a story presented in a contextually relevant manner with the goal of soliciting an emotion or engagement. Delivered live or asynchronously, content can be expressed using a variety of formats including text, images, video, audio, and/or presentations.”

Even though these descriptions are clear and precise, you should also note that not every content found online is useful and of high-quality. Today, there’s a lot of poor quality content out there, which doesn’t even provide any form of usefulness or relevance to the reader.

Derek Halpern, the founder of social triggers has a similar definition, which is more simplified. According to Halpern:

“Content comes in any form (audio, text, video), and it informs, entertains, enlightens, or teaches the people who consume it.”

Here, we can see that Halpern is describing content that’s useful and relevant to its target audience. When we choose to avoid the description of “quality content,” then we can opt to take a direct approach by checking different formats of digital content.

By now, you should have a good idea of what content is, while understanding the different formats where the content can be presented. However, what’s the exact value of content to SEO, and why is it essential for content and SEO to work together?

The SEO value of content

Today, Google remains to be the best search engine, processing over 3.5 billion searches each day. Because we are discussing search engine optimization (SEO), it means that Google is in a better position to answer that.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page co-founded Google back in 1998, and they had one mission while doing that: to organize the world information, and make it universally useful and accessible.

That mission hasn’t changed up to today. However, the way in which Google organizes information has changed over the years. As we have seen, Google’s algorithms continue to change with the aim of delivering “…relevant and useful results in a fraction of a second.”

These “useful and relevant results” that Google wants to deliver are different pieces of information that can be found throughout the website. Google ranks these pieces of content according to their relevancy and usefulness to the person doing the search.

This means, your content needs to benefit the searchers for it to have SEO value. So, how can you ensure that your information is beneficial? Google has also provided that answer. There are some guidelines from Google that you should follow before you start creating content. Before creating content, always make sure that it’s:

  • Informative and useful – if you are creating a website for your business, you can opt to include its location, contact information, hours of operation, products and services, as well as a blog to share important information.
  • More useful and valuable than in other websites if you are writing about how to design a website, ensure that your content provided a different perspective or more value than all other content talking about web design.
  • Credible – always show the credibility of your website. You can do this by using original research, links, citations, testimonials, and reviews. Using testimonials from your customers or an author’s biography can assist in boosting the reputation and trustworthiness of your website.
  • High-quality – the content on your website should be specific, high quality, and unique. It shouldn’t be outsourced from other websites or mass-produced. Always note that you are creating your content to primarily give your visitors the best user experience, not to rank better in search engines.
  • Engaging – always make your content is interesting and engaging by adding images about the products or services that you provide, your team, and any other image relevant to your business. Ensure that your visitors aren’t distracted by factual, spelling, or stylistic errors. Excessive amounts of adverts in your content can distract your visitors, creating a bad user experience. You can also engage your visitors by interacting with them, vial regular updates, social media widgets, or comment boxes.

Now, when you put all these factors into consideration, you maximize your content’s potential SEO value. However, your content won’t be of much value when you fail to put all these factors into consideration.

Also, you should note that creating valuable and useful content is not the only piece of the puzzle. You should also note that there is a technical side of it that you should be aware of. But for now, we can say that a content’s SEO value depends on how informative, valuable, useful, engaging, and credible it is.

Why should you optimize your content?

The answer to this is pretty simple—you cannot rank in search engines without optimized content. However, as we have already highlighted, it’s important to note that there are several factors that determine this.

First, there is content creation.

Optimizing your content while creating is done by making sure that the content is audience-centric, and it also follows all the recommendations that we’ve highlighted in the previous section.

So, what’s the meaning of audience-centric? How does it differ from all other forms of content?

The basic meaning of audience-centric is that you are concentrating on what your audience needs to hear, instead of what you want to discuss in your content. And, as we’ve said, your main objective here is creating relevant and useful content if you want to rank better in search engine results.

Optimization equation, on the other hand, is the technical aspect of SEO. This involved things like meta titles, URLs, keywords, and meta descriptions. In the next section, we shall be talking about how you can create optimized content.

Creating optimized content

There are a few things that you should put into consideration if you want to write optimized content. These things include:

Do keyword research and come up with your topic

Although we have said that your main objective should be creating audience-centric content, keyword research is vital as it ensures that users can find your content in search engines. Here are a few things that you should put into consideration when selecting your topic and keywords:

  • Use a well-known keyword research tool
  • Ensure that your keyword and topic match
  • Avoid using high-competitive keywords with high search volume
  • Concentrate on long-tail keywords

Create your outline and format for best readability

As you create your outline, ensure that you format your primary content to make sure that you’ve broken it down into small portions. One thing you need to understand about online readers is that they have very short attention spans—which means they will not stay if you create an article of one big paragraph.

The best thing to do is to create paragraphs with 2 – 3 sentences, but you can also create paragraphs with 3 – 4 shorter sentences. Also, you will need to make sure that you insert sub-headings or visuals after every 150 – 300 hundred words. This will assist you to break up your content.

Readability is vital for anyone who wants to boost engagement. With good content formatting, you can easily increase the average time visitors spend on your website.

Don’t deviate from your target keyword and topic

When you start writing your content, don’t forget the importance of following the target keyword and topic that you’ve chosen. Never attempt writing about anything and everything in your content. Lastly, avoid targeting many keywords.

Doing that has two negative impacts:

  • Prevents you from creating useful and relevant content
  • It ends up wasting your time

Therefore, you need to put more emphasis on the topic that you’ve selected, and also make sure that you remain relevant to the topic, as well as its supporting keywords.

Add backlinks to your content

Google continues to reiterate the importance of credibility, which makes it a critical aspect of SEO. Linking to trustworthy, authoritative, and relevant websites play a major role in ensuring that search engines consider your content to be credible. However, you should ensure that the terms that use for the links are relevant to the website the reader will be directed to.

For instance, let’s take a look at this sentence:

“You should understand the importance of creating attractive headlines for your content.”

Now, if you wanted to link to another site showing readers how to create attractive headlines, you should link the bolded section highlighted below:

“You should understand the importance of creating attractive headlines for your content.”

When creating your links, ensure that they don’t pass the 6-word limit.

Optimizing your content after it’s been created

Now, this is the technical part of optimizing content. The most important areas that you need to optimize include:

  • The title tag
  • URL
  • Meta description

Now, let’s look at how you can optimize each of the above areas.

Optimizing your title tag

A title tag is the clickable part that users see at the top of every search result after performing a search. Title tags are essential because of a few reasons. First, they assist search engines to know what your page talks about. Moreover, they are the determining factor for which search result a user should choose.

Here is what you should do to optimize your title tag:

  • It should not be more than 60 characters
  • Avoid stuffing many keywords into the title
  • Specify what the content is all about
  • Insert your target keyword at the beginning of the title

Optimizing your meta description

A meta description is the small bit of text that appears just below the title tag and URL. Although Google says that meta descriptions do not directly affect rankings, they do determine whether a user clicks on your page or not. Click-through rates, on the other hand, do have an indirect impact on your rankings.

So, what how should you optimize your meta description?

  • It shouldn’t be more than 160 characters
  • Give a brief and specific overview of your content
  • Insert relevant keywords

Optimizing your URL

The URL structure of your page is another SEO component with an indirect impact on your SEO rankings, as it can also determine whether a user will click on your content or not. Here, readability is key, as it prevents search users from being scared off by the mysterious and long URLs. Therefore, you should make sure that you keep your URL short and readable.

What’s the importance of content in SEO?

The answer to this is pretty simple—optimized content can drastically boost your visibility. And, without visibility and exposure, your article will remain to be among the other million articles posted on the web every day, and no one will see it or share it!

However, it’s very easy to get your content visible—so long as you know what to do. At times, it can be small things like creating unique and optimized meta descriptions for your pages that can boost their visibility in Google.

Therefore, if you want exposure and visibility, you must commit yourself to always remain consistent in terms of creating optimized content.