[Semrush Research]: 15 Content Optimization Practices

Olga Smirnova

Nov 13, 20185 min read
Content Optimization Practices

If your goal as a content writer is to have a piece of content show up in Google's top 10 results, you have to know SEO best practices and be aware of a variety of variables that could impact rankings. For example, the need to focus on specific locations and devices, the text’s readability for target customers, article length optimization, and plagiarism issues; this is a lot to think about, but there is one tool that can help you with all of these issues. 

Using the SEO Writing Assistant tool, Semrush has analyzed more than 22,000 articles to determine the most common practices of content gurus. This research helps you to take a look at the best practices of content writers throughout the world, not from the theoretical side, but in how people are creating and optimizing their content.

We also give some specific recommendations for content optimization based on actual content from Google Top 10 rivals for target keywords. It is worth noting that a fourth of all the pieces of content analyzed in this study that was optimized with the SEO Writing Assistant tool is displaying in Google's top 10.

research-eng3-01-01.jpgContent Optimization Practices - Research

About the SEO Writing Assistant Tool

The SEO Writing Assistant Tool is a Google Docs add-on and a WordPress extension that can quickly analyze any text online and give you information about keywords targeted, how well the post is optimized for them, the number of words within it, readability score, and plagiarism hits. It has access to a large library of top-rated content for each keyword, and it can show you how your top competition is writing about the same topic.

Using Keywords

According to the study, editors use an average of two target keywords per articles. And yet a large number of content writers — more than 50% of editors using the SEO Writing Assistant tool — don’t fully understand the importance of targeting more than one keyword in their text.

Optimizing an article for more than just one keyword gives you the opportunity to appear in searches for more than just one query. The average number of target keywords and semantically related words that SWA recommends to include in articles is 15, according to the study. This advice is based on the top 10 ranking pages for given keywords in a given location.

More often, Semrush’s Writing Assistant recommends including even 20 different but relevant keywords in one article. Take note, semantically related words are okay, but all writers need to avoid keywords stuffing — this can lead to a Google penalty.

Targeting Devices and Locations

The study revealed that more than 95% of editors prefer to target their content to Google’s desktop version. Unfortunately, only 5% of recipients chose a mobile device. Needless to say, many opportunities have been lost! After all, more than half of worldwide traffic comes from mobile devices.

Your optimization and content strategy needs to be focused on reaching your target audience on either mobile or desktop; the articles you see at the top of the SERPs can vary on different devices. And we all know the same goes for locations.

Concerning target locations, we found that most writers using the SEO Writing Assistant tool see Houston, Texas as their ideal target. In second place was Sao Paulo, Brazil, then St. Louis, the USA, Toronto, Canada, and Sydney, Australia.

Improving Text Readability

The average time that users spend on overall optimization tasks for their articles, according to the study, is 2 hours 32 minutes; it is time-consuming because it is difficult. And one of the most challenging tasks during this time is optimizing the text’s readability.

Readability is one of the most critical metrics for content. The tool evaluates text difficulty based on the recommended Flesch-Kincaid reading-ease scale. The higher the score, the easier the text is to read. For example, if your score ranges between 90–100 points, it means that the content can be easily understood by the average 11-year-old student. If your score is between 0–30 points, then your content is more difficult to read, and perhaps only university graduates will be able to understand it.

According to the study, almost half of the users’ content before editing is very difficult to understand. However, more than 80% of writers that used the tool listen to our recommendations and optimize their articles’ readability.

It is worth noting that more than 60% of edited content that hit the Google top 10 results have a readability score higher than 60 (easy to read), according to our study.

Measuring Text Length

It is important to know how long it will take a reader to read the article. The average for analyzed content in our study was 3 minutes.

According to the study, the average length of articles is 810 words. However, the average length for content we recommend is 1137 words; this advice is based on rivals’ articles that have appeared in Google’s top 10.

And 89% of our SEO Writing Assistant users listen to our recommendations and optimize their articles’ length.

Structural Elements

In addition to the text itself, other elements are also critical for content writers. For example, a third of users are concerned with the optimization of meta-description. Most writers are also focused on other elements such as keywords, a hook, the date of publication, and the author.

Checking for Plagiarism

Duplicate content is the greatest enemy of a strong online presence. In some cases, this is a necessity, but more often it is unethical behavior and one of the biggest SEO mistakes you can make. To avoid Google’s penalties, the author should create unique content and always check the text for plagiarism. In our research, 70% of the writers of analyzed articles used just a small piece of duplicate content, this can also be in the form of quotes or terms.


Content optimization might be challenging and time-consuming, but the results you’ll get are worth the invested effort. Nowadays, most brands and business owners make sure their website content is search-optimized and answers their audience’s needs. This means that to be on a par with your competitors or stay ahead of them you should always fall back on two things:

  • Give your audience valuable content

  • Heed the best practices for content creation and keyword optimization

These two things will help your articles to be both valuable and competitive, and your website to be more visible and get more traffic.

Author Photo
Product Marketing Manager at Semrush.