Mastering the Art and Science of Content Optimization in 2023

A recent college graduate, Sarah, had just secured her first job at an AI startup in Silicon Valley. Brimming with passion for her industry, she was eager to prove her worth as a new employee.

But as Sarah delved deeper into her role, she realized that her job was more than crafting website copy and posting on social media. She was tasked with optimizing her company’s website and digital content for search engines and users, a concept she never heard about in college.

Undeterred, Sarah took it upon herself to explore this new thing called content optimization. She researched relevant keywords and phrases and wove them into her work. She utilized free content optimization tools like MarketMuse, SparkToro, and Google Search Console. When she ran out of free options, she signed up for 7-day free trials and did her best to get the needed information.

She worked with internal design teams to ensure a user-friendly experience with clear CTAs, new creative, and a new UI that enticed visitors to engage and stay longer on the website.

In the next few weeks, Sarah began to witness the fruits of her labor. Organic web traffic increased, leads came crashing in, Google rankings increased, and content performance spiked on social media.

So the moral of the story rings true–it is crucial to recognize the importance of content optimization. If you can optimize content for search engines and people, you can be the catalyst for driving more traffic, engagement, and potential revenue. And you get to look like a rockstar.

Learn from Sarah. Read on.

Learning Content Optimization is Like Learning a New Language

Content optimization involves using keywords and phrases and understanding how people use search engines. Just as you would learn a new language, you need to become familiar with the structure and grammar of search engine algorithms.

The key to mastering content optimization is understanding how search engine algorithms interpret various elements of your website or digital content. The process requires an in-depth analysis of keyword usage, page loading speed, and backlinks, among other factors.

Content optimization refers to improving the quality, relevance, and usefulness of every marketing and communications channel you use to communicate with customers.

Always Start with Keyword Research, Always

The most critical component when optimizing content is keyword research. I know, there are literally thousands of blog posts that say the same thing but keep reading.

Keyword research involves identifying the words and phrases that your target audience uses to find you or a product or service you offer. You always want to start with unbranded keywords first. These are the search terms that you want to target. For example, if you work for a Generative AI company like OpenAI, you’ll want to research terms such as “generative AI,” “machine learning algorithms,” and “AI-driven technology.”

Once you have identified the right keywords, you can integrate them into your content. This includes titles, headings, meta tags, body copy, and images. From there, you can focus on branded terms like your company name, specific products, etc. It will always be easier to rank for branded terms than unbranded ones.

When conducting keyword research, it’s essential to consider the keywords’ relevance and search volume. Relevance refers to how closely the keyword aligns with your content’s topic, while search volume refers to how many people search for that keyword monthly.

Aligning your content with search queries will increase visibility in Google and discovery apps like TikTok and Instagram.

You may not have access to an enterprise social media platform if you’re a consultant or just starting your career. I have good news. Talkwalker is one of the leading social technologies in the space, and they have a free version. It can help with keyword research and so many other things. See for yourself.

Structure Your Content Like a Boss

Structuring your content is another critical component of content optimization. People scan content, so adding headings and subheadings helps them find what they need quickly. This also improves the user experience, leading to higher engagement rates and increased time spent on the site.

In addition to headings and subheadings, it’s essential to use short paragraphs and bullet points to break up the content and make it more digestible for users. Including high-quality creative assets will also increase your KPIs.

Content structure is also important when crafting newsletters, blogs, and social copy. For my content, I use the Smart Brevity Framework. It’s changed my life. A gamechanger.

Optimizing Content for Social Media Storytelling

This isn’t new. It’s not thought-provoking or breaking news.

Optimizing content for social media needs to be done. We all know that social media usage continues to skyrocket from every generation using the internet. You need to do it, and here’s how:

  • Use the hashtags that your audience uses; don’t create random hashtags with your brand name unless you have paid media to back it up
  • Use creative assets like videos, animations, and infographics
  • Writing compelling captions to clarify the intent of your story
  • Post at optimal times, not at 2:00 AM unless you’re targeting another country
  • Analyze your content performance

In every movie or TV show, there’s something called a plot. The plot is what ties the entire story together. Within the plot are short stories (or subplots) called setups and payoffs. The setup is a problem or opportunity. The payoff is the outcome.

Did the guy win the girl’s heart? Did the football team beat the odds and win? Did the FBI catch the criminal?

Shows like Blacklist or 9-1-1: Lone Star have setups and payoffs, each playing out as an individual episode. You can watch one episode and understand it. But to understand the entire season, you have to watch every episode. On the other hand, it would be challenging to try and watch Breaking Bad or The Last of Us mid-season because each episode depends on the last one. The story builds from episode to episode.

A setup gives hints about what will happen later in the story. It makes the viewer excited about what’s coming. It makes them curious. The payoff is when everything becomes clear. It clicks. Other words for payoff are discoveries, surprises, or even a plot twist.

When telling a joke, the payoff is the punchline. In social media, it’s good content.

Let me explain.

For social media content, the setup is the creative asset–the video, image, animation, or infographic. The payoff is the post copy or caption. Your goal is to entice audiences to stop scrolling, get curious and excited, and then read the copy. That’s the payoff.

In other words, good storytelling on social media requires a marriage between the post copy and the creative asset. Looking at each individually won’t make much sense, but they can tell a compelling story together.

The Balance of Writing for Google and Humans

Google is smarter than you think. I remember when adding 50 keywords in your metadata or adding white text on white background worked. Ah, those were the times.

Today, the Google algorithm can now understand user intent with more accuracy. As a result, you need to write content that is optimized for both Google and humans.

Google will always prioritize well-structured content and properly optimized assets. However, you must also write in plain language and use natural keywords that make sense and provide context. You want your users to find what they want and keep them engaged. There’s debate today about using generative AI in marketing because it’s almost like cheating.

The best approach is to write helpful, accurate content that answers questions and educates readers. Also, don’t write like you’re writing a research paper unless you’re actually writing a research paper that you’ll gate behind a form. I like to read the content out loud. It helps me identify where I might want to add certain words, transition statements, make it shorter, or elaborate.

Be casual yet professional with your tone. Use visuals to create visual appeal, headings, and subheadings to make reading easier on mobile devices with slower connection speeds. It’s mostly common sense.

Utilizing Text Analysis for Content Optimization

Text analysis can work wonders for content optimization.

It uses natural language processing to understand the meaning, patterns, and trends of a bunch of text. As a result, it can provide contextual insights when analyzing social media content, media coverage, call center transcripts, and just about anything.

Text analysis can help find hidden keywords and phrases about a topic, industry, or field. Including these keywords in the content can boost its visibility and importance in search engine results. However, in some cases, the results of a text analysis might reveal confusion about a topic. This could be the trigger for creating new content or pivoting your messaging strategy completely.

Here’s a real example.

We all know that ChatGPT is exploding, with new use cases and potential applications of generative AI showing up daily. But, with so much information out there, how can you separate insights from the noise? And, what’s noise to some might be insights to another and vice versa.

Using text analysis, we identified critical topics related to generative AI and the conversations around it. Then, instead of analyzing what everyone was saying, we segmented two audiences–ITDMs (IT decision makers) and Gen Z. The results are starkly different, and it’s what you’d expect.

ITDMs are more interested in the technical innovation and use cases of generative AI–Intelligent Document Processing, LLMs, problem-solving, prompt engineering, and AI ethics.

For Gen Zers, it’s about content creation, digital art, access, and music.

Using text analysis, we identified key topics related to generative AI and adjacent topics.

Depending on your target audience, you can use text analysis to identify and uncover hidden narratives and then use them to create content. For example, if you notice specific questions or issues that are top of mind for your audience, wouldn’t addressing them through content and engagement make sense?

The Role of Content Optimization in Public Relations

Before you even think about content optimization, you need to ask yourself if you have a compelling story that will interest the media. If not, optimizing content 24/7 won’t do you any good.

Writing a strong narrative with supporting messages will take you 75% of the way to media coverage. Using a data-driven media list and building relationships with critical journalists will do the rest. Of course, I am way over-simplifying public relations and the hard work it entails. It’s not easy.

Content optimization is critical to every PR strategy, and there are a few things you can do immediately to make an impact. And the truth is, it’s not any different than what I’ve already covered. But I will repeat it anyway because repetition increases understanding and retention.

  • Creating newsworthy content. It’s Storytelling 101. You need to have an interesting story that will capture the attention of journalists, influencers, or the analyst community. What impact are you making in the world or industry, and why should anyone care?
  • Optimize for SEO. Utilize targeted keywords in headlines, body copy, press releases, bylines, URL structure, and meta descriptions of your blogs and newsrooms.

Moreover, the content should be clear, concise, and easy to understand, with messaging that conveys the purpose of your story. And your pitch to the media must be concise, snappy, and persuasive.

Continuously Optimize Content Using Google Search Console

I spend way too much time in Google Search Console, but it continues to pay dividends.

Google Search Console is free, giving you detailed insights into your website’s visibility in the search results. It provides insights into search performance, identifies queries driving traffic to specific pages, and detects technical issues that could impact your site’s visibility.

Take a look below at this example. On the left, you see the top URLs’ impression count in the search results and the corresponding click-throughs. On the right is a drill down into one of the URLs, showing me all keyword combinations, impressions, and click data.

Optimizing existing content using Google search console will drive more visibility in the search results.

I go into these pages weekly and re-optimize the content to account for new keyword phrases driving high click-through rates. I’m obsessed with it, but my traffic numbers continue to increase weekly and monthly.

AI Content Optimization: Generative AI

If you are unfamiliar with Generative AI, stop right now and Google “Chat GPT.” Come back when you’re up to speed.

Generative AI is artificial intelligence that can create new content, including text, images, and music. This technology is exploding and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It is revolutionizing the creation, marketing, knowledge sharing, and, yes, content optimization. Here’s what it can do for you:

  • Improve content quality: Generative AI can help you develop higher-quality, more engaging content by providing improvement suggestions, generating new ideas, and refining existing content. As you learn about using tools like ChatGPT, you’ll quickly understand that prompting will become the new “Googling.”
  • Keyword optimization: Generative AI can analyze and identify the most relevant keywords for a given topic, ensuring that content is well-optimized for search engines. All you need to do is ask.
  • Desktop research: need to get up to speed on a new topic or industry? Generative AI can help.
  • Content personalization: Generative AI can help create personalized content that resonates with specific audience groups, personas, and generations.

What are The Keys to Content Optimization?

As someone who has spent considerable time optimizing content, I believe that if you want to truly excel in this field, the keys to content optimization are data and generative AI.

Now, of course, plenty of other important elements to consider–keyword research, structured content, and on- and off-page optimization. But these things are the “what” of content optimization – they tell you what to do, not necessarily “why” you should do it.

That’s where data and generative AI come in. By analyzing text data, you can better understand people’s words and language when discussing their favorite topics. This can help you identify common themes and adjust your editorial approach accordingly.

As for generative AI, it’s important to recognize that while tools like ChatGPT can be incredibly helpful for generating ideas, they can’t replace human insight, experience, and cultural context. Rather than outsourcing your entire content engine to a machine, it’s best to use AI as a starting point and then leverage your knowledge and expertise to create content that truly resonates with your audience.


Q. What does content optimization mean?
A. Content optimization is the process of enhancing content’s appeal, usefulness, and actionability. It involves refining content quality, relevance, and structure and boosting its visibility to search engines.

Q. Why does content optimization matter for brands?
A. Content optimization boosts a brand’s visibility on search engines, amplifies user engagement, and escalates conversions.

Q. How is content optimization linked to SEO?
A. Content optimization is a pillar of SEO. It involves using pertinent keywords, high-quality content creation, and user experience enhancement, enabling brands to climb higher on search engine results pages and draw more organic traffic.

Q. What are the critical components of content optimization?
A. Essential elements of content optimization include keyword research, high-quality content creation, meta tag optimization, image optimization, and internal linking. In addition, ensuring the content is mobile-friendly and quick to load is also crucial.

Q. How can content be optimized for an audience?
A. Content can be tailored to an audience by understanding their needs, preferences, and search behavior. This involves crafting content that answers their queries, solves their issues, and delivers value.

Q. What part does keyword research play in content optimization?
A. Keyword research is vital in content optimization as it helps brands comprehend the terms their audience uses to seek information. Incorporating these keywords into content can enhance a brand’s visibility on search engines and draw more relevant traffic.

Q. How can content be optimized for mobile users?
A. Content can be mobile-friendly by ensuring it’s responsive, quick to load, and easy to navigate on a small screen. In addition, considering the mobile user’s context, such as their location and time of day, is also beneficial.

Q. What are some common hurdles in content optimization?
A. Typical challenges include pinpointing the right keywords, crafting high-quality, standout content, and staying abreast of changes in search engine algorithms. In addition, accurately measuring the impact of content optimization efforts can also be a hurdle.

Q. How can the success of content optimization efforts be measured?
A. The success of content optimization efforts can be gauged through various metrics such as organic traffic, search engine rankings, user engagement, and conversions. In addition, tools like Google Analytics can provide additional insights.

Q. What are some good practices for content optimization?
A. Good practices for content optimization include focusing on user needs, crafting high-quality and original content, naturally using relevant keywords, and regularly updating content. Optimizing all content elements, including the title, meta tags, images, and structure, is also vital.

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Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.