Why is content optimisation important?
It all depends on whether you see ranking highly in the search engine results pages (SERPs) as important or not. We're assuming you do, in which case, the broad and simple answer is "because without optimised content, your website won't rank well in the search engines."
Done correctly, optimised content is literally one of the most important ranking actors in SEO and (assuming all other SEO ranking factors are in hand), this is the biggie. 'Content is (still) King'.
The library analogy
A simple analogy to help illustrate this point is an old school library (yes, actual books on actual shelves). Imagine you're at your local library, searching for some information on a certain subject. You see a book on the shelf that's exactly what you're looking for - the title on the spine of the book has got your attention. You remove the book from the shelf, flip it over and read the description on the back cover - excellent, this again describes what you're looking for. So far so good...
Based on the title and description of the book, you decide to rent the book from the library, settle down and start to read the content. You soon realise that the 'content' of the book is dreadful. It's badly written, not in any way relevant to the 'title' and 'description' of the book, and to top it all off - it's cluttered with irrelevant images and hardly any actual content. The content that is there is written in a huge illegible font and there are only 50 words per page. Not only that, the book itself is very heavy and not at all easy or comfortable to read. Not your best library rental and you're never going to write a good review, but you may well write a bad one. A poor user experience indeed.
Here's where the analogy comes in. Consider the 'library experience' from the perspective of a search engine - not pages in a physical book in a library, but pages on your website and the library is the search engine index on 'The Internet'. The title and description of the website pages (meta data) are great, so the search algorithms are, so far, happy. Now on to indexing the content, remembering that the search engines want to give the users 'genuine, relevant' results for the search term. Upon discovering the page content, which is in no way related to the title or description of the web page, what do you think your chances of ranking highly are? Not only that, it's likely that you'll get the equivalent of a 'bad book review', which can mean that you're pages are removed from the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Book removed from the library. Gone.
The importance of optimised content
Considering the above 'library analogy', the importance of content optimisation is now hopefully abundantly clear to you.
Your website won't rank without good content
You can't fool the search engines, so don't try to. Make sure that the content on the pages is well written and directly relevant to the title and description of the page. Fail to do this and you've failed at the first hurdle.
Think about your audience - what's your message?
People are more time poor than ever, so make sure your content is concise enough so it's easily digested, but not so concise that it's too sparse or doesn't deliver what your users are looking for. Treat Google as customer #1.
Stay ahead of your competition
Research your competitors regularly. Keeping up to date with what your competitors are publishing can help you when optimising your own web content. Check their websites for content quality, what keywords they're using, how many backlinks they've acquired and where they've acquired the backlinks from.
Is your website content optimised for SEO?
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