Best Practices for Content Optimization

Time for another round of SEO tips from the fine folks at SEOMoz…

Is it possible that in all the years we’ve been writing at SEOmoz, there’s never been a solid walkthrough on the basics of content optimization? Let’s fix that up.

First off, by content, I don’t mean keyword usage or keyword optimization. I’m talking about how the presentation and architecture of the text, image and multimedia content on a page can be optimized for search engines. The peculiar part is that many of these recommendations are second-order effects. Having the right formatting or display won’t necessarily boost your rankings directly, but through it, you’re more likely to earn links, get clicks and eventually benefit in search rankings. If you regularly practice the techniques below, you’ll not only earn better consideration from the engines, but from the human activities on the web that influence their algorithms.

Content Structure

Because SEO has become such a holistic part of website improvement, it’s no surprise that content formatting – the presentation, style and layout choices you select for your content – are a part of the process. Choosing sans serif fonts like Arial and Helvetica are wise choices for the web; Verdana in particular has received high praise from usability/readability experts.

Font choice is accompanied in importance by sizing & contrast issues. Type smaller than 10pt is typically very challenging to parse and in all cases, relative font sizes are recommended so users can employ browser options to increase/decrease if necessary. Contrast – the color difference between the background and text is also critical – legibility usually drops for anything that isn’t black (or very dark) on a white background.

Content length is another critical piece of the optimization puzzle that’s mistakenly placed in the “keyword density” or “unique content” buckets of SEO. In fact, content length can have a big role to play in whether your material is easy to consume and easy to share. Lengthy pieces often don’t fare particularly well on the web, while short form and easily-digestible content often has more success. Sadly, splitting long pieces into multiple segments frequently backfires, as abandonment increases while link-attraction falls – the only benefit is page views per visit (which is why so many CPM-monetized sites employ this tactic).

Last but not least in content structure optimization is the display of the material. Beautiful, simplistic, easy-to-use and consumable layouts garner far more readership and links than poorly designed content wedged between ad blocks that threaten to overtake the page. I’d recommend checking out The Golden Ratio in Web Design from NetTuts, which has some great illustrations and advice on laying out web content on the page.

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