As a content marketing strategist, one of my biggest responsibilities is optimizing content for search engines. For some reason, people assume a content strategist and a search engine marketer live in two separate worlds, but that’s just not true. Good content must be optimized for search, and search engine marketers must create good content. The two roles are intertwined.
Because much of my work is in SEO, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to educate my clients to maintain their content’s optimization with and without my assistance. My job should be to lay the foundation and provide a roadmap for my clients to take on the day-to-day tasks themselves (agency fees, amirite?). As such, I’ve been presenting an SEO infographic-like framework recently, and I thought it’d be worth sharing on the blog, too.
On-Page Optimization Framework
To be clear, this SEO infographic framework covers just on-page optimization. Off-page SEO carries with it its own set of rules and tactics, and it’s a subject worth discussing in a future post.
Click for full-size SEO infographic.
Embed the SEO Framework on Your Own Site
How to Use the SEO Infographic
The framework breaks on-page SEO into three equally important but distinctive attributes: Intent, Content, and Call to Action. These three components must exist for your content to stand a chance at ranking well.
To optimize for user intent, we’re talking primarily about how your site appears on the search engine results page (SERP). More than ever, the intent of a user’s query matters much more than the literal keywords used in the query itself. SEO experts have been writing on this for years. And they’re still writing about it today.
Google knows so much more about the person searching than it did when SEO first began. The information Google has formed on its users is so detailed and deep, that two different people can use the exact same query phrase and receive completely different results.
But even subtle changes to a query can reflect different intentions a user may have.
Google understands that someone searching for “restaurants near me” is hungry and looking for a place to grab a bite immediately, and they likely don’t care whether the restaurant is a sit-down joint or a fast food joint. But simply by adding the word “best” to their query, the searcher is communicating to Google something different about their desires.
And the results subtly change to reflect this newer intent: The searcher is now someone who’s still hungry, but they’re a little more particular about where they eat. They won’t settle for just a fast food joint; they also want something with strong review ratings.
Notice how in the screenshot for “best restaurants near me,” the map expands to cover a bit more territory than simply “restaurants near me.” Again, Google understands that even though the user is hungry, they may be more willing to travel a bit further for the “best” food nearby.
So when it comes to selecting your keywords, think about the persona you’re targeting and where they are in the buyer’s journey. A financial service’s persona will expect different results for “wealth management services” vs. “wealth management firms” depending on the phase of the journey. The former phrase seems to suggest the searcher is educating themselves while the latter suggests the searcher is looking for actual providers.
To execute Intent properly, you need to consider the following optimization tactics:
1. Title Tag: This is the content within the HTML
<title> tags. This is also the title users see first in SERPs. Don’t just stuff your titles with keywords. Write strong copy that responds to intent.
2. Meta Description: This is the content within the HTML
<meta name="description"> tag. This is usually the second thing a user reads following the title. Put on your copywriter hat: Be specific and use compelling language to convert the click. Don’t forget a call to action.
3. Structured Data: This content is a little trickier, but vital for improving your SERPs. Depending on the keywords, personas, and journey phase, you can make your site stand out with Featured Snippets, Knowledge Graph, Reviews, Events, and more. If you’re not familiar, read all about it on Google’s Developer site.Google’s Developer site.
Each of these SERP attributes will influence how Google ranks your pages and whether a user clicks through to your site. You must ensure each of these attributes reflects the intent of the query and the one doing the querying.
Have you ever received a nondescript, plain white envelope in the mail addressed to you? Your curiosity is piqued, so you open it, only to discover it’s a promotional flyer for a credit card you’ve been pre-approved for. If you’re like me, you immediately trash it and say a few unsavory words under your breath.
If someone clicks through to your website because of your compelling title tags, meta descriptions, and structured data, but then discovers the content on the page is just a bunch of rubbish, you’ve essentially done the same thing as the shameful credit card company. And trust me, when the user clicks the back button on their browser, they’re muttering unsavory words about you.
From a user experience perspective, bad content is bad. But from an SEO perspective, it’s shooting yourself in the foot.
Google and other search engines take into consideration how long a user stayed on your site after clicking through from the SERPs. They also monitor if the user returned to the SERP page to look for better, more relevant results. Google is checking to make sure your content satisfied the intent and need of the user. A short time on site or a click on the back button signal to Google your web page isn’t valuable for the queried keyword and will, in turn, lower your ranking.
Don’t send misleading direct mail, and don’t write bad content. Simple write?
With that out of the way, let’s assume you are writing good content. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure you optimize your page properly. Take a look at the diagram below as a guide for on-page optimization.
Let’s break this chart down:
1. Headings and Subheadings: If written well, your content will incorporate headings and subheadings. These are useful tools in any writer’s kit for making content easy to comprehend and read quickly. But they’re also essential SEO attributes.
<h1> tag is one of the most important SEO signals: It tells search engines what your content is about; therefore, it must contain the keyword(s) you’re hoping to rank for. I cannot stress this enough: If you do not include your keyword phrase, in some shape or form, you are doing yourself an SEO disservice.
<h3> tags are also important, but you could be forgiven for not using keywords within them.
Be clever and concise with your subheadings. Make sure they’re easy to understand on their own while leaving enough unsaid to ensure a visitor reads on. Also, consider the question queried in the search engine and try to reflect that in your headings and subheadings. If you use the heading, “Why Do People Run for Political Office?,” you may rank number one whenever someone searches similar queries.
2. Keyword Infusion: Throughout your content, you should be writing on the keyword-rich topic for which you’re hoping to rank. It’s only natural your content will include the keyword phrases, but never assume you’ve done something until you’ve checked twice.
Your paragraphs and subheadings should include the keyword phrases naturally (don’t over-stuff), and you should look for different variants so your writing doesn’t sound redundant. If you’re hoping to rank for “content marketing services,” you’ll want to try phrases like “content strategy services,” “content marketing writing,” “content marketing planning,” etc.
3. Image “Alt” Tags: One of the most commonly overlooked optimization tactics, the HTML
<img alt> tag allows users to find your content through different channels: namely, image searching. (Side note: The “alt” attribute on
<img> tags is necessary for ADA compliance, so keep that in mind.) If you’ve used relevant and strong keywords in your alt tag, whenever someone searches for images using those keywords, they’ll likely click through to your website.
Like all things, don’t overstuff your images with keywords, and don’t mislead searchers. If your image is of a dog chewing a bone, don’t tag it with “Content Marketing Services”—that phrase has nothing to do with the image, and a user isn’t likely to click on a dog image when searching for “content marketing services” images. Make sense?
While we’re on “alt” tags, make sure you keep the file name of your images in mind as well. Uploading “IMG_557054.jpg” isn’t very helpful to searchers.
Call to Action
I’m assuming if you’re reading this post, you’re a business or have a business in mind you want to improve. You want to improve your brand, increase leads, nurture prospects, etc. At the end of the day, you have a business objective in mind, and I doubt that objective is “attract people to my site and then have them leave without ever connecting with my business.”
If you’re able to attract someone through the SERPs and keep them engaged through valuable content on the web page, then you need to provide a next step for the visitor. In other words, you need a call to action.
Not all calls to action have to be hard conversions (e.g., Request a Demo, Get a Quote, Buy Now, etc.). Depending on the persona and the phase of the journey, you may ask someone to subscribe to your newsletter for more great content or to download an ebook that covers the topic on your web page in greater detail. Depending on the goal of the page, your call to action should support your business’s objectives while also meeting the needs of the user.
Those are down-funnel calls to action, but you can also include what I call “lateral” calls to action. “Related Blog Posts” are a common example of these. They don’t require a visitor to submit a form, but they do bring a visitor closer to your brand. By clicking on these lateral calls to action, the visitors are beginning to learn more about you and your expertise.
I recommend including both down-funnel and lateral calls to action, especially for top-of-funnel content, as many visitors are likely not quite ready to hand over their information if it’s their first time visiting your site.
Regardless of your approach, you need to include a call to action that addresses the needs of the user (e.g., to educate themselves on a topic, to answer a quick question, to discover a solution, to find a solutions provider, etc.) and one that aligns with your business objectives (e.g., to increase subscribers, to capture new leads, to convert qualified prospects, etc.).
Conclusion: Download the SEO Infographic
SEO can be complicated and can require a great amount of research and attention to detail. But to do well in search, you shouldn’t need a master’s degree. If you follow the SEO infographic framework provided, spend a little bit of time finding valuable keywords, and always keep your persona and their needs in mind, you’ll find search engine marketing is manageable and a successful part of your digital marketing strategy.
If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below, or take it offline by contacting me.