Content optimization makes your web content shine for search engines and target audiences with in-depth research, proactive content planning, SEO, and specialized tools. We created this guide to walk you through the entire process from start to finish.

Here, you’ll find everything you need to nail your content optimization strategy, including:

If “content is king,” then content optimization is your key to the throne.

Otherwise, even the most captivating content will get lost in the vast kingdom of the internet, unseen by the very audience (and search engines) it seeks to rule.

Zero views and rankings mean lost visibility and revenue — hardly the happily-ever-after you want for your brand.

Keep reading as Caroline Cox, senior content marketing manager at HawkSEM, helps us break down what content optimization is, how to perfect your approach, why it matters, and more.

What is content optimization?

Content optimization is the process of creating and updating website content to attract the maximum amount of visibility from your target audience. The primary tasks involved include search engine optimization (SEO), quality content creation, website audits, performance monitoring, automation, and more.

The goal is to make your website more visible on search engines. Do that, and you’ll see more traffic and higher conversions, especially when your content provides helpful solutions for your ideal customers.

To truly give your content wings, you’ll need a well-crafted content optimization plan.

14 tips for a solid content optimization plan

  1. Establish clear, measurable goals
  2. Define your target audience
  3. Target the right keywords
  4. Use links to boost credibility
  5. Research the competition
  6. Create a content style guide
  7. Structure content for better readability
  8. Maintain a content calendar
  9. Publish quality content that covers topics in-depth
  10. Optimize content for conversions
  11. Fine-tune your site architecture
  12. Aim for featured and rich snippets
  13. Leverage content optimization tools
  14. Stay agile with content marketing trends

1. Establish clear, measurable goals

Your goals are the framework on which your content marketing strategy is built. They help you evaluate the impact of your content optimization efforts and guide adjustments for peak performance.

They also help you pinpoint the best key performance indicators (KPIs). These are clearly defined metrics that reveal if you’re on track to achieve your goals.

For example, Cox keeps a close eye on content age, performance on search engine results pages (SERP), updates about that topic (like new features, etc.), and the performance of similar top-ranking pieces of content.

KPIs for content optimization

To gauge the performance of your content marketing plan, keep tabs on:

  • Organic traffic: how many visitors find your content via search engine results
  • Traffic sources: where visitors come to your website from (i.e., organic search, paid search, direct visits, etc.)
  • Keyword rankings: your content’s position for designated search queries
  • Conversion rate: the percentage of visitors who completed a desired action (e.g., made a purchase or subscribed to a newsletter) over a specific time
  • Bounce rate: the percentage of people who left your site after viewing only one webpage
  • Page views: the total number of visits to your site during a given time
  • Average time on page: how long visitors stayed on your website
  • Backlinks: links on another website that direct visitors back to yours
  • Impressions: how many times a piece of content was displayed to audiences on a given platform
  • Engagement: how many people interact with your content and for how long
  • Click-through rate (CTR): the percentage of people who click on a link to your content

We know, it’s a lot. Curious how we stay on top of it all and optimize to the fullest?

ConversionIQ, our proprietary tech, analyzes data sharply, identifies optimization opportunities, and offers actionable insights to boost return on investment (ROI).

Good news: when you partner with HawkSEM, you get full access to ConversionIQ.

2. Define your target audience

Your audience is the cornerstone of your content marketing strategy. After all, you can’t create effective content without knowing who you’re making it for, right?

For example, HawkSEM’s target audience mainly consists of marketers and business owners looking for top-tier marketing content or support from an industry-leading marketing agency to amp up their campaigns. Hello, you.

So, how do you figure out who your brand is talking to?

  • Use Google Analytics for demographic details (age, gender, location, etc.)
  • Consider your ideal customers’ interests, hobbies, values, attitudes, lifestyles
  • Analyze your current customers’ purchase habits and brand interactions
  • Peep your social analytics to see who engages with your content the most
  • Study your best- and worst-performing content to understand what resonates best
  • Create buyer personas and ideal customer profiles (ICPs).Pro tip: Streamline the process and cover all bases with our expert templates.

Get clear on your target audience, and you can curate content that hits the mark every time.

3. Target the right keywords

The right keywords match what your target audience types into search engines. The better these terms align with their queries, the more likely your content will reach them.

Keyword research

To hone in on these terms, you’ll have to do some keyword research. To start:

  1. Pinpoint your position on the SERP with Google Search Console and see which keywords you currently rank for.
  2. Think of broad topics or terms that relate most to your brand offerings (e.g., if you’re a CPA, you might think of “bookkeeping services” or “accounting firm”). These have high traffic potential but more competition, too.
  3. Now, get more specific — think of what your ideal customer might type into a Google search (e.g., “small business tax planning near me” or “virtual CFO services”). Consider long-tail phrases as well, like “Who is the best person to get tax advice from?” or “What is the difference between a CPA and accountant?” While these have less competition and search volume, they’re more targeted, meaning you have a better chance of reaching people who are specifically in the market for your offerings.
  4. Finally, size up your rivals. What keywords do other brands in your niche rank for? Are they worth investing in, or are there other keyword opportunities you should capitalize on?

Pro tip: Leverage keyword research tools like Ahrefs or Google Keyword Planner to streamline keyword research.

Keyword use

Once you’ve got your target keywords, it’s time to sprinkle them into your content.

Here’s where you’ll want to plug them in:

  • Website (and social media) copywriting
  • Headings and subheadings (H1s, H2s, etc.)
  • Title tags and meta descriptions
  • Alt text for images
  • File names (for images and other media)
  • Page URL
  • Anchor text for internal and external links (more on these later)
  • Calls to action (CTAs)

But don’t try to pull a fast one and overload your content with keywords. This is known as keyword stuffing; while it seems like a sneaky way to manipulate higher rankings, Cox warns the algorithm bots consider it a major faux pas.

In fact, Search Engine Journal says Google could penalize you with lower rankings or remove you from SERPs altogether. Hard pass!

4. Use links to boost credibility

Links in your content show Google that your site is credible. Why? They tell readers, “This backs up my claim” or “Here’s some supporting information.”

When it comes to content links, there are three formats:

  • Internal links distribute authority among your own content. For instance, say our hypothetical CPA from earlier writes an article about filing taxes as newlyweds. They might link to another article on their blog on ways to invest your federal income tax return.
  • External links add value to your content by linking to other websites, like trusted sources, thought leaders, or supplemental content that supports your own. Why would you want to direct readers away from your site? So, Google knows your content is trustworthy and links to valuable information, even if it’s not your own.
  • Backlinks are when other websites link to yours in their content to support or add more value to the subject matter of what they’re covering. The more authoritative the source of your backlinks, the more Google trusts your content.

Just ask our client, DesktopReady, a DaaS management platform. Their new site triggered a slump in organic traffic despite boasting millions of customers. We swooped in to reoptimize old and new content, target relevant keywords, build backlinks, and revamp their off-site SEO. The move paid off with 409% more users.

Building backlinks

So, how do you find opportunities for backlinking? According to Ahrefs, you can:

  • Manually add links to other sites (e.g., social profile creation, business directory submissions, review listings, online forums, etc.)
  • Ask for backlinks through outreach (e.g., guest blogs, influencer collabs, PR, local partnerships, etc.)
  • Buy backlinks from website owners (but be warned, Google’s not a fan of SERP-manipulating tactics like this)
  • Earn backlinks by publishing original research, building genuine connections with other thought leaders, and creating truly helpful content that other brands want to link to (the ideal way to garner backlinks)

5. Research the competition

Content optimization tends to follow a similar playbook across different industries. The key differentiating factor? The competitive climate within each industry sets them apart, says Cox:

“For example, HawkSEM’s industry is digital marketing, and there are a lot of agencies out there,” she explains. “So we have to be diligent about creating a lot of content that’s informative, high quality, follows best practices, and makes us stand out.”

That’s precisely why we kick off every new partnership with an in-depth competitor analysis to tell us where your business ranks against top rivals.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Identify your competitors
  • Analyze their content
  • Check their SEO strategies
  • Note how often they publish/update content
  • Study their site structure
  • Review their activity and presence on social media
  • Look for areas they haven’t covered and weak points in their content
  • Track their content performance over time

After you gather these insights, put them into action. Capitalize on your competitors’ weak spots, fill in the gaps, and leave ‘em playing catch-up in the SERP.

6. Create a content style guide

Consistency in style and voice across your content forms a recognizable brand identity. This builds trust and clarity for your audience. Without it, you risk confusing your readers with disjointed messaging. Cue the bounce rates.

One way to dodge this pitfall? Establish a detailed content style guide to steer all your content creation efforts. Share it with your team so all your content is in sync.

Your style guide should include:

  • Your brand voice and persona
  • Audience insights
  • Language and grammar
  • Formatting guidelines
  • Images and multimedia
  • Templates and examples
  • Handling of sensitive topics
  • SEO content guidelines

7. Structure content for better readability

Ever click a blog post only to be greeted by endless walls of text? They tire your eyes so quickly, you close the tab faster than Apple’s iPhone drops. That’s because how you structure your content also matters.

And it’s not just your audience who you might turn away, but search engines, too.

A while back, Google claimed they don’t use readability scores as a ranking factor.

However, they do rank based on how people interact with your content. Content that’s easily digestible and understandable can encourage positive engagement, which in turn can boost SEO indirectly.

To make sure your content is easy on the eyes, incorporate:

  • Simple, digestible language (avoid complex jargon)
  • Headings, subheadings, and bulleted lists
  • Short sentences and paragraphs
  • Supporting visuals (photos, videos, infographics, etc.)
  • White space to make content appear less crowded
  • Add a clickable Table of Contents for long-form articles
  • Accessibility (readable fonts, colors, descriptive alt texts)

8. Maintain a content calendar

Consistently publishing fresh content stimulates audience engagement. When you serve up interesting material, they’ll spend more time browsing and clicking through your site, as opposed to bouncing over to your competitors.

Consistent content creation also signals to search engines (and social media algorithms) that your brand is active and relevant, which boosts SEO. Plus, the more content you create, the more opportunities for internal linking (and social shares).

Thought leader status, here you come.

For a steady flow of fresh, optimized content, create (and stick to) a content marketing calendar that encompasses:

  • Writers and editors
  • Revision and publish dates
  • Themes and topics
  • Relevant keywords
  • Title tag and meta tags
  • Audience and search intent
  • Supporting internal/external links
  • Format and length (e.g., 1,300-word webpage or 1,200-word how-to guide)
  • Periodic audits
  • Revamps

…and anything else that helps you keep the content train rolling.

9. Publish quality content that covers topics in-depth

Okay, so you’ve got some good copy and just the right mix of SEO. Yet, your rankings are still in the dumps. What gives?

Google favors content that’s “helpful, reliable, and people-first.” In other words, if your content fails to offer REAL value and cater to your audience’s search intent (over just SEO), it could struggle to climb up the SERP.

And Google doesn’t just rely on AI or machine learning algorithms to spot low-quality content; it has a team of search quality raters, aka real people whose sole job is to snuff it out.

If you want to create content that’s truly helpful and audience-centric:

  • Understand your target audience’s needs
  • Prioritize their search intent and experience
  • Incorporate quotes from authority figures and trusted sources
  • Follow Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines (like E-E-A-T and YMYL)
  • Update your content regularly
  • Monitor and adapt to audience feedback

You also want to make sure you’re tackling each subject in-depth. When you discuss a topic, look at the SERP to see which articles are ranking well, then look at the outlines of those articles.

Ensure you cover the key points, but also look for opportunities to add your unique spin or any expertise you don’t find on the SERP that’s still valuable.

If Google likes the way you answer search intent, you might even win the featured snippet on top of other organic results (more on snippets later).

10. Optimize content for conversions

While your content should be valuable and SEO-friendly, it should also keep conversions in mind.

Here are a few tips to keep your content conversion-centric without diminishing quality:

  • Target high-potential keywords more likely to lead to revenue
  • Show your offerings in action (videos, photos, social proof)
  • Link your value propositions to audiences’ pain points
  • Share unique insights and quotes from trusted subject matter experts
  • Offer something in exchange for a desired action (free ebook, trial, etc.)
  • Use a strong, persuasive call to action (CTA)

These are just a few of the strategies HawkSEM executed to drive 250% more conversions for our client, Wyndham Capital Mortgage. (Imagine what we can do for your brand!)

11. Fine-tune your site architecture

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: amazing, top-tier SEO and content are a bust if your site isn’t technically sound and easy to navigate. Not only does this diminish your audience’s user experience (UX), but it also hampers your search engine rankings.

This is where technical SEO really gets put to work.

Technical SEO aims to boost search engine rankings through the foundational elements of your website, like loading speed, mobile-friendliness, website security, and so on.

Keep your site structure user- and search engine-friendly with the following practices:

  • Implement schema markup
  • Use clear, descriptive URLs
  • Test your page speed
  • Fix or remove broken links
  • Use canonical tags (to address duplicate content issues)

Let’s get back to those snippets…

12. Aim for featured and rich snippets

When people search for answers it leads to more questions. As they scroll through the SERP results, they find related FAQs and will likely click on a few. Those are featured snippets, and they’re Google’s way of saying it fancies your content (and data structure).

To earn this oh-so-treasured shortcut to your content, you’ll need to check a few boxes:

  • Answer search intent better than your competitors
  • Use headings and subheadings strategically
  • Apply schema markup to your content

(Pro tip: check out our guide on how to master SERP features.)

Then, there are rich snippets (or rich results), which are organic search results with additional context. These are much less elusive to achieve than featured snippets, as Google pulls these details from your webpage’s HTML.

Since rich snippets serve up more information to searchers, they tend to garner more clicks than typical search listings. The structured data code you use for these also helps Google better understand your content.

To have your content show up as rich snippets:

Now, for some tools to keep in your content arsenal.

13. Leverage content optimization tools

There’s an old adage that says a person is only as good as their tools; marketers are no exception. With the right tools, you streamline the content optimization process, stay organized, and avoid leaving openings for competitors.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Tools? Locked and loaded. Your final lesson: always be ready to pivot.

14. Stay agile with content marketing trends

Optimizing content is an ongoing journey, and truth be told, it never ends. Trends, algorithms, and audience preferences are constantly shifting. Meaning? Your strategy must stay nimble and adaptive to keep up with whatever’s on the horizon.

As for what that is, Cox says to trust your instincts:

“It’s tempting to be concerned or unsure of how to proceed from a content standpoint,” she says. “However, I think content marketers should trust in their abilities, keep an eye on the changing landscape, and see how these platforms can enhance or benefit them without removing the core of what makes good content.”

Because at its core, good content is:

“High-quality information explained in a way that keeps readers top of mind,” says Cox.

But if you lean too heavily on fully AI-generated content or neglect your audience’s preferences, Cox cautions you to think twice:

“You could find yourself trailing behind those who kept quality and the human touch at the forefront.”

So, how do you keep an ear to the ground on what’s ahead?

  • Subscribe to content marketing leaders’ and experts’ newsletters, podcasts, or videos
  • Analyze your data (and the market) regularly to see what works and what doesn’t
  • Continue to learn about content marketing strategies and tools through online publications, blogs, webinars, or conferences
  • Network with other content marketers in forums, events, and social media groups
  • Experiment with new content formats and channels to see what resonates with customers best
  • Keep an eye on social media for trending topics and discussions
  • Prioritize your audience, solicit their feedback, and truly understand their evolving needs

Why you need content optimization

At the end of the day, content optimization has one overarching goal: to drive more quality traffic to your brand. And with this level of competition, you need every advantage you can get.

Here’s what you can expect when you take a strategic approach to your content:

Soaring search engine rankings

Relevant keywords, optimized copy, and structured formats encourage search engines to prioritize your content over others. How else do you think we scored Escape the Room an all-time-high account-wide ad position of 1.1?

A surge in organic traffic

When you’re higher on the SERP, you get more eyeballs on your content, which naturally segues into more traffic from searchers on the hunt for offerings like yours.

Better audience engagement

Well-optimized content doesn’t just satisfy search engines; it prioritizes your target audience’s needs. Since it’s relevant and engaging, visitors stick around for longer.

Higher conversion rates

When you align your content to search intent and make it easily accessible and actionable, you pave the way for conversion-ready audiences.

More authority in your niche

High-quality, optimized content positions your brand as a leader, building trust and significantly shaping audiences’ buying behaviors.

That said, there are some pitfalls you’ll want to dodge along the way.

Mistakes to avoid in content optimization

Content optimization can come with a bit of a learning curve. While the benefits of getting it right are huge, one wrong move can land you on the wrong end of the SERP (or push you off them entirely).

According to Cox, the most common mistakes she comes across are:

  • Technical SEO that falls short
  • Dense competition for a specific keyword
  • Broken links
  • Bad, low-quality images
  • Keyword stuffing

But if you’re struggling to nail optimization, Cox shares a word of advice:

“Research and understand SEO best practices, create a well-rounded plan, and use a checklist to create and publish content, making sure you’ve done all you can to rank,” she says.

The takeaway

Every business wants to land as high as possible on the first page of the SERPs. With these content optimization tips and tunnel vision for your target audience’s needs, you’re well on your way.

Got enough marketing tasks on your plate?

Crafting a flawless content optimization plan can be daunting.

When you partner with HawkSEM, you gain the support of a team that ranks among the top 3% in the country. Our award-winning content marketers intuitively understand the intricacies of your business to create content that resonates with your audience and search engines.

It’s time to reclaim the crown — transform your content strategy with HawkSEM.



Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation