On-Page SEO: A Template for Optimizing Existing Content
Is your content not performing as it should? Or do you want to boost a high-ranking page to capture even more traffic?
We often talk about optimizing content in terms of creating new content, but it’s vital to revisit and revamp the content on your website every year or even every few months.
One reason for this is that, although we may optimize a page for a certain keyword, Google doesn’t always agree. Your page originally optimized for the keyword “discount car parts” may be getting some traffic for that keyword, but is ranking on the second page of Google for “buy discount auto parts online.” By optimizing for the latter keyword, you have the chance to push that page to the first page—and get more traffic for a longtail, bottom-of-the-funnel keyword.
This easy-to-follow on-page SEO template breaks down everything you need to optimize pre-existing content to improve its performance.
Optimizing Existing Content
1. Primary Keyword On-Page Optimization
The primary keyword should appear in the…
For existing articles, you can edit an existing article’s meta-title without changing the URL slug.
- Shorten titles over 48 characters. You can test the length here.
- Where possible, start the title tag with your primary keyword and add modifiers to your titles. Read more about title modifiers.
- A 230-character description of the article.
- Include the primary keyword as close to the beginning of the meta description, while still making sure it is natural, readable, and attractive to readers. This is the “hook” that should convince search engines to rank your page, and visitors to click on your link.
- You should include an H1 heading near the top of your article that contains the primary keyword. This can be the same as or similar to the title of the article.
- Ideally the primary keyword should appear within the first 100 words of the body of your article.
- Include the primary keyword in at least one outbound link (that is, a link to another site).
- Your primary keyword should appear in the alt text of the first image (and/or featured image) of your post.
…if it doesn’t appear these places, then add it!
2. Adding LSI Keywords
LSI keywords are related or supporting keywords. These are often long-tail keywords as well. For example, if the primary keyword of a page is “project management plan,” the LSIs could be “advanced project management plan,” “project management plan for writers,” “project management plan software,” etc.
All LSI keywords should be incorporated naturally into the article.
While your primary keyword should appear in your first H1 heading, LSI keywords can be added into subsequent headings, usually H2 headings.
If it can be done well, you can also include your top LSI keyword into your meta description alongside your primary keyword.
3. Content Formatting
Once you’ve done your keyword optimization, it’s time to focus on the content.
First, check the formatting. People don’t like to read anymore—they SCAN. Make the content easy for people to read quickly. See if you can implement any of the following:
- Break up giant walls of text, and give information in short micro paragraphs and succinct sentences.
- Add lists. Google loves lists! Are there any paragraphs or sections that could be turned into a bullet-point or numbered list?
- Add more sub-headings. Break up content with sub-headings. Be sure to use multiple types of headers (H1s, H2s, H3s) and include your keywords!
- Bold key phrases throughout your article. This article has some great examples! We’ve bolded the key phrase or number of each point. Use it sparingly—one bold per paragraph, and keep it succinct. Bold the important text, not an entire sentence or line. (Pro tip: You can also italicize text!)
4. Internal Links
Add 2-3 internal links to other relevant pages on your website. Please keep your hyperlinked text (“anchor text”) short. Do not link whole sentences—3-4 words at most.
As mentioned above, ideally one of these internal links should be the primary keyword.
5. External Links
Good external links serve good purposes. Google will give more weight to a page that has good external links.
Check all outbound links for quality and relevance. Make sure you have at least 2-3 external links to relevant pages with high DA (domain authority). Replace any links of lower quality with a higher-quality outbound link.
Images should be of high-quality and high relevance to the article. Don’t just pick the first image you find on Shutterstock or some other free stock photo website. Image search technology can recognize and rank specific details of the image itself!
However, the biggest ranking factor for images is still associated with keywords, which is why it’s important that every image as appropriate alt text. Alt text is a one-sentence description of the image that includes the article keywords.
For the first featured image, use the primary keyword. For the second image, use the first LSI keyword. For the third image, use the second LSI keyword, and so on.
Want to learn more about alt yexts? Check out this great guide from HubSpot.
Expanding Your Content
In addition to optimizing your content for the correct keyword, you should also consider adding more content. While people may have short attention spans, long-form content is more likely to catch the eye of search engines.
When you optimize an article, try to get the word count above 1,500 words. At the very least, add 500 new words to the article. This will signal to Google that this content is both new and relevant.
1. Writing New Content
Adding new ideas to an existing article can be touch. Here are a few “tricks” to expand your content:
- Follow the formatting! You can use the content formatting guidelines above to identify places to expand. For example, if you want to add a list to your article, don’t turn an existing paragraph into a bullet-point list—write a new one! Reiterating your content in a different format actually makes it more readable.
- Use your LSIs. LSI keywords not only help your page’s performance, but they can also give you ideas on what else to write about! Rather than trying to figure out how to adapt a current heading to your new LSI keyword, create a brand new heading and write 2-3 paragraphs specific to that keyword.
- Reading level. Keep the language at a 7th-grade reading level. The best content is easy to read and understand, not dense and impregnable! When editing your content, spend more time (and more words!) explaining complex terms in simpler language.
Add at least one new image to your revamped content, along with the relevant alt text.
Here’s a good guide as to how many images your article should have (based on word count):
- 500-700 words: 2-3 images
- 750-1000 words: 3-4 images
- 1000-1500 words: 5-7 images
- 1500-2000 words: 6-8 images
On-Page SEO Template for Featured Snippets
The above guidelines are focused on optimizing your site based on keywords, and this is still important—keywords remain the best way to gain, improve, and maintain your rankings.
However, there’s a way to go beyond keywords and gain the coveted “position zero”—by optimizing for answers.
What Are Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets appear in Google when people use search queries starting with who, what, when, where, and how. Featured snippets allow users to see an answer directly on the search results page:
The “answers” in featured snippets typically appear in short paragraphs or lists (pictured above) with a link to “Read more” or see “More Items.” In some cases, there is also an image that usually—but not always!—pull from the same page, and can be clicked as its own link.
For now, Google presents the answer on the search results page, but in the future, as voice interfaces improve, Google will use a voice interface to read the answers so users can have a satisfying experience right then and there.
How to Optimize for Featured Snippets
The key to understanding featured snippets is that Google wants to give a rapid response to the search query. This means that your content needs to address the keyword quickly and concisely as possible.
Paragraphs snippets have an average of 272 characters, which means that when optimizing your content, you should provide a 50-60 word answer to the search query/keyword at the beginning of your content (first few paragraphs).
You don’t need to answer the entire query, of course. Provide an answer that also encourages people to click on your page to learn more.
Also be sure to include a variation of the same answer in list format with more than 6 list items. This will also encourage people to click through to see the full list, as Google will only display the first 4-5 listed items.
When it comes to subheadings, on average a page with a featured snippet uses 22 headers and subheadings. In short, the more headings, the better!
Combine these tricks with the optimization and formatting guidelines above, and you have a recipe for featured snippet success!