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  • How to Tune Your Content for SEO

    You already know that content is important for search engine optimization (SEO).

    It’s an opportunity to create new pages, optimize for specific keyword terms, and cater to your users.

    Creating new, better optimized pieces of content can help you achieve higher rankings and take advantage of new ranking opportunities.

    Unfortunately, many optimizers take this as a reason to exclusively focus on new content creation.

    They want to create as many onsite blog posts as possible, viewing each one as a new opportunity and a way to reach new people.

    There’s certainly nothing wrong with creating new content, and you should do it on a regular basis. But if you want to see better SEO results, you also need to focus on improving, updating – or tuning – the content you already have.

    How exactly do you “tune” your content for SEO?

    And why is it so valuable?

    What Is Content Tuning?

    What Is Content Tuning?

    There are many different ways to think about optimization of content for search engines.

    During the content development and on-page SEO process, you’ll likely choose one or more keywords to serve as the target for the new content you create; this is a form of optimization. You may also optimize your content by including certain sections, peppering in semantic variations of your target keyword phrase, adding more descriptive sections, and including links to authoritative sources.

    But content tuning is a bit different.

    Think of it this way. If you pluck a guitar string on a guitar that hasn’t been properly tuned, it will probably ring out with a note that isn’t in tune, but it’s close to the note it’s supposed to be. On a tuner, it might register as E, but it might be so flat that any song you attempted to play on the instrument will sound horrible.

    To correct this issue, we have to tune the string. If it’s flat, we must tighten the string gradually, checking the note with each incremental change. And if we tune it too far in one direction, we might end up with a sharp string that we then need to tune back down.

    Content tuning is similar. We already have a piece of content in place. It’s already close to performing as we need it to perform. We just need to make small, incremental adjustments until it falls in line with our vision for the content.

    When we practice content tuning, we’re interested in improving the overall performance of a piece of content. That means we need to think about how the piece of content is ranking, what types of users it’s attracting, the organic traffic it generates, and even the behavior of users who visit the page.

    Ultimately, even a few small changes could be enough to take a mediocre page seated deeply in your blog and make it a total star on the SERPs.

    The Core Principles of Content Tuning for SEO

    If we want a piece of content to be successful in an SEO campaign, we need to tune it with the following core principles in mind:

    The Unique Process of User Intent

    • Optimize for user intent. User intent is a way to determine the goals and mindset of an individual user searching for a specific keyword term. For example, a person searching for “bike tune-up near me” is probably searching for a bike shop where they can take their bicycle for a seasonal tune-up. In contrast, a person searching for “bike tune-up tutorial” is probably more interested in learning how to do a bike tune-up by themselves. These are simple and easily understood examples, but user intent gets far more complicated.

    One of your goals in content tuning is optimizing for user intent. Instead of optimizing for one or a handful of specific keyword phrases, you’ll be optimizing your piece of content to fulfill user desires, according to their intent when searching.

    This is valuable for several reasons. For starters, user intent is arguably Google’s biggest priority; if you can satisfy user intentions with your content, it’s likely to rank higher. Additionally, optimizing for user intent increases dwell time on your page, while increasing the likelihood that each user will take action on your website.

    • Develop content with users in mind. Next, we need to develop our content with users in mind – and that means human users, not search bots. Too often, content developers and search engine optimizers develop their content with algorithms in mind. They try to include just the right number of keywords, just the right structure, and just the right semantic patterns to trick search engines into ranking their content favorably.

    Ironically, this is usually counterproductive. It’s usually much better to write for human beings, serve them well, and capitalize on the benefits of providing a good user experience.

    • Increase page relevancy. Another goal of content tuning is to increase page relevancy. In other words, we want to make our existing piece of content more relevant for more queries.

    Historically, SEO professionals have recommended creating content with a singular keyword focus; you create one piece of content (and one page) for each target keyword or phrase in your strategy. But in today’s era of semantic complexity and advanced machine learning algorithms, such a narrow focus is problematic.

    Instead, it’s often better to have monumental pieces of content that can address many different keywords and many different user intents simultaneously.

    • Revisit ranking factors. This is also an opportunity to revisit ranking factors as they apply to this individual page. As you add new content sections, delete sections of content that aren’t working for your strategy, and optimize for conversions, see if there are any technical tweaks you can make to increase the likelihood of this page ranking in SERPs.

    With those core principles in mind, what steps do you need to take to tune your content for SEO?

    Step One: Look for Opportunities to Tune Your Content for SEO

    First, you need to decide which pieces of content or pages of your website you want to tune for SEO. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could attempt to tune every page of your website – but this is usually unnecessary and unwise, as not every page of your website is going to have equal potential.

    At the very least, you should analyze the content of your website so you can decide which pages are the most valuable, and are therefore the highest priorities.

    Pay attention to the following:

    • Current positions. Where are these pages ranking? If you have a piece of content that’s been at rank one for its primary target keyword for the past two years, and it’s never been challenged, there’s no reason to tune it. It’s already functionally perfect. At the same time, if you have a piece of content that never got any momentum, your best option might be to delete it entirely or incorporate it into a bigger piece of content.

    The best options for content tuning are usually pages near the bottom of page one or on page two. These pieces of content already have some optimization momentum, but they need some extra work to fulfill their potential.

    • Current traffic. Similarly, you’ll want to look at current traffic volume for each page worth considering. If you’re already seeing a decent stream of organic traffic, but you know rates could be higher, the page is a worthy candidate for content tuning.
    • Current conversion rates. Look at current conversion rates as well. Pages with a high propensity for converting users are excellent candidates for content tuning. This suggests a page is especially good at serving user intent, which means it should be able to climb the rankings faster; also, if this page generates more traffic and maintains its relatively high conversion rate, it could be quite profitable for your organization.
    • Other user behavior metrics. You may also want to study other user behavior metrics. For example, how long do people stay on this page? Is this a “gateway” page that leads users to other pages of your website?

    Once you have a handful of potential targets for content tuning in mind, look at:

    • Position. Where is this page currently ranking? What is your target rank? Obviously, you want your page to rank as highly as possible, but achieving rank one may not be realistic in some scenarios. The lower its current ranking is, the more work you’ll have to put in to make an impact.
    • Queries. Next, look at the queries that are associated with this page of content. There will likely be some queries that the page is already serving well – but there will also be some queries with user intent that aren’t fulfilled by your current content offering. These are low-hanging fruits; make note of them, so you can tune your content to address them specifically.
    • Competition. Content marketing is a competitive field. That’s why it’s important to be aware of your top competitors and strategize around them. Which of your local competitors have pieces of content that are currently outranking you? How do those pieces of content address user intent? What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of those pieces? And how can you make a piece of content that’s even better than what they’ve made? Look for any competitive advantage you can get.

    Step Two: Add More Content for Strategically Valuable Queries

    Add More Content for Strategically Valuable Queries

    Next, be ready to add more content to your page so you can address strategically valuable queries.

    In the last section, we advised you to look at queries associated with each page of content that you want to tune. Among these queries should be at least a few targets that you aren’t sufficiently addressing in the body of your work.

    Create new sections of content within your main piece designed to address these queries, and follow these tips to make them even more impactful:

    • Use headers (and tags) to identify new sections. Headings are an excellent opportunity to optimize for specific keywords, increasing your relevance for those user queries. Make sure you include headers and tags for those headers to identify the new sections you include.
    • Ensure relevance and a smooth flow. Be careful not to shoehorn irrelevant content into your target pages. It’s important to ensure relevance and a smooth flow through readers; remember, you’re not writing for search bots – you’re writing for human beings. Addressing many different search queries simultaneously isn’t going to help you much if your piece of content is too jarring for the average person to read.
    • Write for humans. In line with this, avoid saturating your text with unnatural keywords or adding filler content for its own sake. You should be writing for humans, using simplistic vocabulary words, basic sentence structures, a friendly tone, and easy to follow formatting.
    • Do your research. At the same time, it’s important to come off as authoritative and knowledgeable. Even if you’re an expert in this subject already, it’s important to do some extra research and back up your claims with citations. The more definitive your content is in addressing user questions and fulfilling their needs, the more likely it’s going to be to rank.
    • Be the best among competitors. Finally, do whatever it takes to be the best among your competitors. If there are pieces of content competing directly with yours, find a way to make yours more detailed, better researched, better written, or more specifically targeted to the right demographics.

    Step Three: Cut What Isn’t Working

    SEO can be expensive, but part of the reason companies end up spending so much money is because they’re constantly adding new things. They want to write new articles, build new links, add new sections, and expand their online empires.

    There’s nothing wrong with this desire in the general sense, but sometimes, SEO is more effective if you make cuts and remove things, rather than adding them.

    You can tune your content for SEO by removing whatever isn’t working in your piece.

    That includes things like:

    • Irrelevant sections. Are there any sections of this content that aren’t relevant for user intent? Are there paragraphs that don’t seem to align with any of the queries leading to this page currently? Get rid of them or work them into a different piece of content.
    • Outdated material. Review this piece for any outdated materials. Are there obsolete claims that you make? Are there cultural references that now fall flat? Are there pieces of data that need to be updated? Remove or replace these instances.
    • Broken links. Comb the piece for any broken links. These are usually easy to fix with a replacement link or a simple 301 redirect.
    • Redundant or repetitive sections. Are there any sections that are redundant or repetitive? Also think about any sections that might be redundant between this piece and other pieces of content on your website.
    • Fluff. Content writers are sometimes guilty of including fluff for the sake of artificially expanding a piece or making it seem more thorough. But if there are any sections that aren’t serving a specific purpose, you can probably cut them.
    • Poor calls to action (CTAs). Content tuning isn’t just about ranking higher; it’s also about motivating actionable user behavior. Accordingly, you should scout for any calls to action (CTAs) that aren’t performing well in your piece so you can eliminate them or replace them with better ones.

    Step Four: Optimize for SEO

    There are more than 200 SEO ranking factors that Google uses in its ranking algorithm. In addition to writing better content and optimizing for user search intent, this is a good chance to see whether your content meets all the right standards for high-ranking content in the search engine.

    The best way to approach this is to use a third-party tool that specializes in analyzing content for SEO. But no matter what approach you choose, you should focus on variables like the following:

    • Text length. The best content for SEO is usually long without being overwhelming; longer isn’t always better, but you’ll need a beefy word count if you’re going to outcompete your biggest rivals.
    • Headings. Each piece of content you tune for SEO should have several headings and subheadings. These subsections are opportunities to rank for new keywords and appeal to new types of user intent – and they make your content easier to organize.
    • Images. It’s usually a good idea to include several images in each piece of content you tune, complete with alt tags that are optimized for specific user queries.
    • Page speed. Your entire website should be optimized for loading speed and performance. While it’s not the biggest ranking factor you’ll need to consider, it can make a significant impact on the performance of your individual pages.
    • Keyword density. Thanks to semantic search, keyword density isn’t as important as it used to be in content tuning – but it’s still worth considering. Make sure your most valuable target keywords and phrases (including close variants) are adequately represented in your work.
    • Referring URLs/domains. It’s also a good time to evaluate your referring URLs and domains; are there opportunities for development here?
    • Meta data. Don’t forget about your meta titles and descriptions. Optimize these for both search crawlers and human users seeing these descriptions in SERPs.

    Step Five: Optimize for Action

    Content tuning also suggests that you should optimize this page of your website for action.

    By this point, you fully understand the purpose you’re serving with this piece of content. You’ve optimized it to appear for specific user search queries and you understand the intent behind those queries. Now is the time to serve that intent while simultaneously guiding users to a specific, meaningful action.

    As an example, let’s say you’ve produced a piece of content designed to help people understand why their website has seen a massive drop in traffic. You can use this as an opportunity to address all the possible reasons why this drop occurred, then use calls to action (CTAs) to encourage readers to sign up for an email newsletter, download a premium piece of content, or even contact you for a consultation.

    Conversion optimization is its own independent topic, so we won’t elaborate much here. The bottom line is that you should be directing the behavior of your users to a strategic, logical endpoint.

    Step Six: Measure and Repeat

    A/B Testing for PPC Optimization

    A/B tests, sometimes called split tests, are designed to help you isolate variables and better understand the performance of two different versions of the same ad (or landing page, etc.). In a way, each round of content tuning you apply to a specific piece of content on your website produces the second half of an elaborate A/B test.

    After applying a round of content tuning changes, pay close attention to the following metrics and see how your page performs:

    • Rankings. Is your page ranking higher than before? Wait a few weeks and see if you begin to climb the SERPs for both new and old target queries.
    • Organic traffic. Is your organic traffic to this page increasing? And if so, by how much?
    • Conversions. How is this page converting? Is your conversion rate climbing steadily? Which conversion opportunities are performing best?

    If your page demonstrates better measurable results in all three categories, then congratulations – your content tuning has been a massive success, and you can apply the lessons you learned with this round of content tuning to future rounds.

    If any of these categories are lacking, it’s probably a sign you should revisit the page yet again and apply another round of tuning with a different focus.

    If you don’t see amazing results right away, don’t panic. Just as tuning an instrument is usually a process that requires a few attempts, it may take you several iterations before you end up with a page that fits perfectly with your content and SEO strategies.

    How to Tune Your Content for SEO: Let Us Help

    Are you interested in tuning your onsite content to see better SEO results? Or are you in the process of overhauling your existing content or SEO strategy entirely?

    Whatever your SEO goals are, and wherever you are in the game, SEO.co can help.

    Contact us for a free consultation today!

    Chief Revenue Officer at SEO Company
    Industry veteran Timothy Carter is SEO.co’s Chief Revenue Officer. Tim leads all revenue for the company and oversees all customer-facing teams for SEO (search engine optimization) services - including sales, marketing & customer success. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & Digital Marketing, assisting in everything from SEO for lawyers to complex technical SEO for Fortune 500 clients like Wiley, Box.com, Qualtrics and HP.

    Tim holds expertise in building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams.

    When he's not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach...preferably in Hawaii.

    Over the years he's written for publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, ReadWrite and other highly respected online publications. Connect with Tim on Linkedin & Twitter.
    Timothy Carter