What Is Content Optimization? A Bulletproof Guide

In this article, I’ll explain what is content optimization and why you should optimise your content and how you can do it.

I spent several months optimizing over 300 articles on my site, Become a Writer Today. As a former content manager on a global digital marketing team, we also regularly overhauled and updated old pieces of content for the company’s websites and various blogs.

Content optimization is a key task for any content website owner because it can increase website traffic. It helps with determining what to create more or less of. And content optimization can unlock more revenue opportunities on your site. And it’s is easier than ever thanks to software and a little know-how.

If, for example, you’re running a niche website and traffic dipped recently, spending a few days or even a few weeks on content optimization may help you turn around this drop in traffic and improve the health of your website.

Step 1: Perform An 80/20 Content Marketing Analysis

A content optimization project can take a few hours, days, weeks, or even months. As a website owner, you may not necessarily have the time, resources, or the inclination to invest months in a massive content optimization project.

With some fundamental 80/20 analysis, you can quickly spot pieces of content to focus time and resources on.

Let say you have a hundred pieces of content on your site, some of which rank … and some of which are languishing on page 37 of Google. Now, you can approach 80/20 analysis in three different ways.

Option 1: Optimize the Top 20%

Using Google Analytics, identify the 10 or 20 pieces of content driving the most traffic to your content website. As these pieces of content are a success, you’re going to focus your efforts by fixing content errors, adding conversion elements, and improving internal links.

Google is telling you what content to create next, too. So, you’ll spend time commissioning or writing supporting content as part of your editorial calendar.

In short, this method is useful for increasing revenue and conversions.

Option 2: Fix the Bottom 20%

Review the bottom 20% of your content in terms of traffic. Then, you’re going to evaluate what’s wrong with these articles.

Perhaps your approach to keyword research was off … or out of date? Or perhaps these articles lack enough information, or your site lacks topical authority.

Your job is to fix these articles, combine them, and delete and redirect the outright stinkers and old landing pages.

In short, this method helps prune a larger site and refine a long-term content plan.

Option 3: Iterate the Middle 20%

The third approach involves identifying pieces of content that are ranking but not on page one or position one for your preferred keywords.

Using this method, you will select content to overhaul, rewrite, expand on and build links to. With a little push, you can achieve page one or position one.

This method is useful for reversing a traffic decline and leveraging existing content.

Step 2: Determine Your Content Optimization Resources

When overhauling content for my site, I rewrote some 100 articles, many of which were thousands of words long. That took about two months and involved writing the equivalent of a short book. And I still had another 200 articles to go, i.e., two more books!

I knew I’d never complete the project alone. So, I enlisted the help of freelance content writers and editors to address these articles.

Ask yourself how much money and time you have for content optimization. You could roll up your sleeves, write, edit and improve the top articles on your site.

If revenue increases or you can already afford it, hire an editor for $20-$25 an hour and ask to help. You could also hire freelance content writers to rewrite the bottom 20% of underperforming articles.

Think of it as an investment that frees you up to work on other parts of your content optimization project or even new content.

Step 3: Review Searcher Intent

Searcher intent describes the purpose of a search, and it evolves.

A good piece of content concludes the organic search journey for readers. For example, a few years ago, the search term “Bitcoin” surfaced lots of articles explaining the purpose of digital currency.

These days, that search term provides the latest pricing information and resources for buying BTC.

If you wrote an article a few years ago introducing a concept, perhaps it’s time to overhaul it. Does your existing article match the latest searcher intent?

You can determine the searcher intent for your most valuable content via Google search engine results (SERPS) desk research. If you’ve lots to get through, content optimization software can speed this step up. It helps identify the latest themes and topics for content (more on that in a moment).

Step 4: Prepare Your Content Optimizing Plan

Prepare your content optimizing plan
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

If it’s a small project, roll your sleeves and get to work. But if you’re overhauling dozens or even hundreds of pieces of content, try to build a plan for you and your team.

How many pieces of content will you rewrite and overhaul each day or week? What’s the deadline for your content optimization project?

Like with a creative plan, I recommend using lead and lag measures as part of your content optimizing plan.

A lead measure describes something you can influence or control. In this case, it’s “the number of updated pieces of content per day, week or month.”

On the other hand, a lag measure describes the results of your content optimization project. In this case, it’s usually traffic, conversion, or revenue metric.

Use both to track how your content optimizing plan is progressing. A good plan will help you budget accordingly for freelancers and set clear deadlines for team members.

Step 5: Assign A Purpose For Each Piece Of Content

Years ago, a blogger could write about whatever they wanted and expect traffic to roll in. A few years later, a social media marketer could post whatever they wanted and expect lots of juicy traffic … for free.

These days every piece of written content needs a purpose if it’s going to attract traffic. That starts with keyword research and ends with creating something high-quality that ticks off several technical boxes.

  • Who is this piece of content for?
  • What’s the objective, i.e., traffic, leads, or conversions?
  • Where does it sit in the customer or reader buyer journey?
  • What does your high-quality content say that’s different from similar articles?

Deciding on a purpose helps with creating content briefs for freelancers.

I typically assign each piece of content a keyword and determine where it sits in the customer or reader journey. For example, an article explaining “What is AI writing software” sits higher up the reader journey than an article comparing two types of AI writing software.

I’d expect less traffic for the second type of content but more affiliate commissions.

Tip: The same methodology applies to podcast episodes and videos. Try and connect a series of podcast episodes or videos so that they address a single theme.

Step 6: Use Content Optimization Software

During my content optimization project, I used content optimization software to identify underperforming pieces of content and figure out why they weren’t working.

This type of software can help you determine the searcher intent for a topic more easily. It also helps figure out what topics or teams your content lacks … and if you should creating supporting content. As a result, it’s a key tool for building an effective content strategy.

You don’t need to use a content optimization tool on every piece of content. For example, I publish shorter articles on a niche website targeting uncompetitive long-tail keywords with relatively low search query volume. Content optimization tools are overkill for this SEO strategy, as my goal is to publish content at scale and monetize via display advertising.

However, I also publish software reviews. Here content optimization software is critical as it helps me address gaps in my articles and ensure my target audience gets what they want.

If you invest in competitive content at scale or regularly work with freelance writers, this software can save hours during the briefing and editing stages.

These days, I mostly use Clearscope and Marketmuse to optimize content. However, other more affordable options exist for website owners.

Use content optimization software
Clearscope helps with editing and addressing searcher’s intent

Read my guide to the best content optimization software.

Step 7: Copyedit Your Content

Now comes the writing and editing stage.

When in doubt, don’t bury the lead. Answer the reader’s question or query or summarize the article … in the introduction and not five hundred words in. Cut the fluff.

Next, check if your primary keyword is used correctly in the introduction, sub-headings, and conclusion too. I also like adding an FAQ and table of contents.

Check and fix:

  • Boring headlines
  • Boring introductions
  • Typos and grammar mistakes
  • Out-of-date statistics
  • Long blocks of text
  • Meandering sentences
  • Missing sub-headings

You can either hire an editor to copyedit your most visible pieces of content or do it yourself with the help of AI writing software like Grammarly (read this Grammarly review).

If an article isn’t getting much traffic, typos and mistakes don’t matter … that much. But if you’re attracting thousands of visitors, these grammar mistakes will put off readers from converting. If you’ve hundreds of articles to fix, deciding how much time or money to spend depends on your approach to 80/20 analysis.

Step 8: Address SEO And User Experience Issues

Next, attend to technical housekeeping. I always check the headline and introduction use the primary keyword. I also add these to the meta descriptions, although Google tends to generate this automatically these days.

To improve the user experience, ensure all images have ALT tags for images.

  • Add missing alt tags to your images
  • Ensure title tags contain your primary keyword
  • Add other relevant keywords to secondary headings
  • Set videos and images below the fold to lazy load
  • Add correct FAQ schema
  • Review your permalink structure
  • Target feature snippets for specific queries

Step 9: Add Conversion Elements

The most valuable piece of real estate is anything that sits above the fold for new visitors. Consider how you can improve conversions. Here are some suggestions:

  • Add a comparison table above the fold for product reviews
  • Fix broken Amazon Associates links
  • Add multiple call-to-action buttons with contrasting colors to content further down the funnel
  • Add affiliate links to images
  • Set up exit intent on high-traffic content
  • Add video advertisements
  • Implement infinite scroll
  • Add sticky side-bar widgets

Improving conversions on content without compromising traffic or the user experience is a project in itself. It requires lots of testing. For example, will you track the click-through rate or CTR for your affiliate content? And if so, how?

If you need help with this part of your content strategy, Mushfiq has created the Easy Wins database for content creators. He’s bought and sold over 150 content websites, and I’ve several of his strategies from this database to increase revenue for my sites.

Add conversion elements
Mushfiq’s Easywins database

Listen to my interview with Mushfiq.

Step 10: Improve Site Speed

Check how quickly your money pages load using the Google Pagespeed score, focusing on mobile. My site achieved many red scores, and I spent hours scratching my head about what to do.

Thinking back to that 80/20 analysis, I realized my time was better spent writing and editing than on painful tech issues.

So, I hired a developer for approximately $1000. His team rolled out a series of technical fixes and introduced lazy load for content elements below the fold, all of which improved the page speed score for my site.

Improve site speed
Get your page score to green for mobile

I loathe link building and the dozens of random emails that pop up in my inbox without context every day from outreaches looking to insert their infographic and links into my content.

Sometimes they offer money … and yet somehow manage to spell my name wrong. But buying for links is toxic in the eyes of the Google algorithm.

That said, building links is vital for competitive web pages. For example, you can build links by writing guest posts, taking part in podcast interviews, and featuring other content creators on your site as part of a roundup.

If your content website has grown quickly, add relevant internal links between articles with context. This step helps reduce the problem of orphan web pages that have no internal links. A tool like Ahrefs or a plugin like Link Whisper both help with managing internal backlinks.

Also, review your external links. Again Ahrefs or Moz can help here. Perhaps you linked out to several different external sources, which are now broken or out of date? You may need to disavow spammy backlinks to key pages.

You can also hire a link-building agency that’ll create and promote skyscraper content for your site. I spend less time on external link building than other website owners, as I’d rather invest in the next step.

Step 12: Publish Supplemental Content

By the end of your content optimization project, you should have a clear idea about what pieces of content are driving the most traffic to your website and which ones are underperforming.

For the next few weeks, review if your efforts resulted in an increase in search engine rankings and traffic for key terms and content. When in doubt, create and publish more frequently.

Commission supplementary pieces of great content so you can build topical authority in the eyes of the Google algorithm.

An Optimized Content Plan: The Final Words

Content optimization isn’t just for digital marketers; it’s for anyone who publishes written content frequently on a site they own. The scale of a content optimization project depends on the size of your website or sites.

Remember, you don’t need to fix every piece of content. Instead, ask yourself what will move the needle the most in terms of traffic, conversions, and revenue.

As a content creator, ultimately, your time is better spent on content creation and publishing. When in doubt, focus on that.

FAQs About What Is Content Optimization

What are the benefits of content optimization?

Content optimization will help you:
Improve website traffic and conversions
Fix broken pieces of content
Improve existing great content
Determine how to invest in content creation more strategically
Increase revenue on your website


  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.