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Step-By-Step Content Marketing Optimization With the Semrush Content Marketing Toolkit

step-by-step content marketing optimization with the semrush content marketing toolkit

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If you want to drive business growth and opportunities, especially online, you need written content.

But not just random content.

Strategic, targeted SEO-friendly content that has the potential to rank high in search engines and drive conversions.

Whether you are a content writer or a marketing manager evaluating content from your writers, ensuring you have such SEO content means you need to do content marketing optimization for all your brand and marketing messages.

What is content marketing optimization?

Content marketing optimization is the process of creating high-quality content that is valuable to your target audience, and optimizing and distributing it to increase its visibility and engagement.

The ultimate business goal of content marketing optimization is to increase sales or leads, but the primary goals of content marketing optimization are:

  • Create content valuable to your target audience.
  • Get the content seen by as many people as possible.
  • Encourage them to take action, such as sharing it or visiting a website.

Content marketing optimization can be used for any type of content, including blog posts, infographics, videos, and more.

How to get started with content marketing optimization?

The key to successful content marketing optimization is to create high-quality, relevant content that resonates with your audience.

To do this, you need to know two things:

1. Know your audience

Have a clear understanding of who your target audience is and what their needs, challenges, desires, and interests are.

A great way to start is to create a buyer persona.

Once you know this, you can create content that speaks directly to them, and helps them engage with your brand.

You can download a free template here

2. Create a brand story

You can of course jump to creating and optimizing content based on the product/ service business you have. 

But then you would be competing with any business that has the same products and services.

That is why before you start, you need to create a brand story, to identify your main brand messaging pillars and topics that you should create content on.

Brand Story Step-by-Step Guide Final

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3. Create a content strategy

A digital content strategy is an approach to creating and managing digital content that meets the needs of both your audience and your business goals.

So once you know your audience and have a brand story, you need to create a content strategy for your small business website that merges the two.

You can create a plan for how to best meet their needs with the kind of content that will be most useful or engaging to them. This might include blog posts, articles, infographics, ebooks, or even just short social media updates.

You also need to have a system in place for measuring the success of your content strategy so that you can make necessary adjustments along the way.

Otherwise, you’ll never know if you’re really meeting the needs of your audience or achieving your business goals.

Why is content marketing optimization important?

Simply put, content marketing optimization helps you achieve your business and content goals.

Here are three reasons why content marketing optimization is so important:

1. Get a higher return on investment.

By optimizing your content marketing, you ensure that it is working as hard as possible to achieve your goals.

You can avoid wasting time and money on tactics that don’t work, and instead focus on creating high-quality content assets that speaks to your audience.

2. More content visibility.

When you optimize your content and distribute it, when people are searching for topics related to your business, your content is more likely to show up in the search results.

3. More content engagement.

By understanding how your target audience consumes and responds to content, you can create material that is more likely to grab their attention and hold it.

This means more website visitors, more social media engagement, and ultimately, more customers or clients.

4. Gain audience trust.

When people see that you are constantly putting out high-quality, optimized content, they will be more likely to trust you as an authority on your subject matter. In turn, this can lead to more customers and sales down the line.

Content marketing optimization is an essential tool for any marketer who wants to get the most out of their content assets. By taking the time to optimize your content, you can achieve better results while also building trust with your audience.

How to do content marketing optimization?

The content marketing optimization process involves 7 essential steps to creating content that is search engine friendly:

  • Research
  • Write
  • Optimize
  • Promote
  • Track
  • Audit
  • Update

How you plan and implement the exact steps may vary depending on your industry and business goals.

1. Research

The first step to content marketing optimization and ranking high in search engines is to conduct market research to identify what topics and keywords your audience is searching for.

What are their pain points? What are their interests? Answering these questions will help you determine what type of content to create.

This will help you create content that is relevant and helpful to them.

Once you find a content topic, you need to research how you are going to rank high on Google for it.

So besides knowing your audience, you also need to identify your SERP competition, which are the pages currently ranking in the top 10.

You need to understand their success factors, how they are using which keywords, and where they get their links from.

Simply put, you have to be better than them.

2. Write

Once you know what topics to write about, it’s time to start writing!

Be sure to keep your audience in mind as you write and focus on content creation with a goal to help, inform, and support.

Some elements of helpful content are:

  • Well-researched and accurate
  • Clearly written and easy to understand
  • Includes information that can help your readers to improve their lives
  • Up-to-date and relevant; no one wants to read outdated information.
Pro tip:Always provide a good SEO content brief to your content writers so you get targeted, SEO-friendly content.

Start your content writing with a content outline to make sure it is optimized for both search engines and humans.

3. Optimize

Is your content ready? Don’t hit publish yet!

Optimize it for search engines so that people can easily find it when they’re searching for relevant topics.

Some essential steps to optimization are:

This includes adding keywords throughout your content and making sure your imagery is optimized for search engines as well.

  • Add relevant and semantic keywords
  • Optimize for on-page SEO
  • Add alt attributes to images
  • Optimize readability and text length
  • Add internal links

After you publish, try to get as many links to the content piece as you can, to indicate its relevance and authority to search engines.

4. Promote

After your content is published, it’s time to start promoting it!

Share it on social media, send it out in email newsletters, and post about it on relevant forums and websites.

The more people who see your content, the more likely they are to become customers or clients.

5. Track

Be sure to track your results so that you can see how effective your CMO efforts are. This includes tracking things like website traffic, leads generated, and sales made.

By tracking your results, you can adjust your strategy as needed to achieve better results over time.

6. Audit

Periodically auditing your CMO strategy is also important so that you can identify any areas that need improvement.

This includes assessing things like your overall strategy, individual pieces of content, and your promotion efforts.

By auditing regularly, you can make sure your CMO efforts are always as effective as possible.

7. Update

Finally, don’t forget to regularly update your content so that it stays current and relevant.

This means adding new information as needed and making sure that old information is removed or updated as needed.

Semrush Content Marketing Toolkit Overview and Features

The Content Marketing Toolkit from Semrush helps you with all the aspects of content marketing optimization, from research, writing, optimization, and auditing.

The toolkit has 5 key tools:

  • Topic Research
  • SEO Content Template
  • SEO Writing Assistant
  • Post Tracking
  • Content Audit

Semrush Content Marketing Toolkit

1. Topic Research

The Semrush Topic Research tool helps you find popular topics in your niche to create content on.

You can enter a seed keyword and receive a list of related topics.

2. SEO Content Template

The Semrush SEO Content Template provides a step-by-step guide for optimizing your content for maximum search visibility.

It analyzes the winning factors of the top 10 pages in the SERP for a keyword, and gives you content optimization ecommendations to win against these 10 pages.

3. SEO Writing Assistant

The Semrush SEO Writing Assistant tool helps you write SEO-friendly content that has good readability, is keyword-rich, and optimized for SEO.

4. Post Tracking

The Semrush Post Tracking tool helps you track your content’s performance over time, so you can see how well it is doing in terms of traffic and engagement.

5. Content Audit

The Semrush Content Audit tool allows you to audit your content regularly to identify any areas that need improvement.

Related: What is Semrush

Step-by-step content marketing optimization with the Semrush Content Toolkit

The Semrush Content Marketing Toolkit can help you take your content marketing optimization to the next level.

Here is a 7-step process based on the 7 steps I mentioned earlier.

1. Access the Semrush Content toolkit

You can access the Semrush Content Marketing Toolkit with the Guru plan of Semrush.

If you don’t have a Semrush account yet, sign up for a free trial.

Usually, the free trial is for 7 days. You can get an exclusive 30-day trial period only with this link.

Get more details in my full post about the Semrush Guru 30-day trial or Semrush free trial.

2. Find a topic

Based on your digital content strategy, start with a topic that is relevant to you.

For example, I help small business owners with their blogging and SEO and realized that sometimes the hardest part for them is to get started.

So when I needed ideas and keywords for my content piece ‘how to write your first blog post‘, I just entered ‘blogging topics for beginners’ in the Topic Research Tool.

The tool gives you ideas in 4 ways:

  • Cards
  • Explorers
  • Overview
  • Mind Map

Content Marketing Optimization - Find topics with the Semrush Topic Research tool

In this case, from the Explorers tab, I saw the tab ‘writing your first blog post’ seemed to be very popular, so I decided on that to be my topic.

Pro Tip:

Before finalizing a topic, I did check out the topic suggestions on all 4 tabs first, and I recommend you do the same.

Check out all the suggestions, and the questions people ask, and plan out the topics you want to cover, especially if you want to build topical authority.

To cover this step in detail or to find ideas and keywords for your content, Read my other post on what to blog about to rank higher in SERPs.

2. Choose your focus keyword(s)

Now that you have your topic, you need to find the keywords best suited for it.

Go to the Semrush dashboard, and click on SEO -> Keyword Magic Tool, to get your focus and related keywords.

Related keywords are also called semantic keywords. So they are related to your topic/ keyword but are not exactly the same.

So I entered ‘writing your first blog post’ in the Keyword Magic Tool, and from the suggestions that came up, chose ‘first blog post’ and ‘how to write your first blog post’  as my focus keywords.

Content Marketing Optimization - Choose focus and related keywords

Pro Tip: You need to do thorough research to find the right focus keyword.

I didn’t just enter the first keywords I saw, I followed a process. When I chose these keywords 2 years ago, the difficulty level was much lower.

If you are a relatively small site, I would recommend choosing a target keyword with a difficulty level lower than 30 in Semrush.

Here are some elements to consider when choosing your focus keyword.

  • Search Volume
  • Keyword Difficulty
  • Top-ranking pages
  • Search intent

Read more details in my keyword research checklist post. Do your topic and keyword research on Semrush for 30 days with a free Semrush Guru account.

3. Get content optimization recommendations

So you have the focus keyword, and now you need to know the best keywords to include in your content, which you can get from the SEO Content Template.

Go to the dashboard, and then to Content Marketing -> SEO Content Template.

Semrush SEO Content Template


Put your target keyword in there, and click Create SEO Template.

As I mentioned earlier, the Semrush SEO Content Template gives you suggestions of keywords to include in your content based on the keywords and topics of the top 10 pages that rank for the keyword.

In other words, your top 10 in Google SERP.

For you to rank in the top 10 and drive website traffic and business growth, you need to beat at least one of those pages. Who cares about the 2nd page of Google anyway?

But to beat them, you know what they’re doing and how you can do better.

The first section of the SEO Content Template shows you these pages. Check the results that I got, below, for the keyword ‘first blog post’.

keyword research SERP

Pro Tip:
You can just click on the blue arrow next to the URL and check out each post.

This really helps in competition analysis, especially when you want to check which URLs rank for more than one keyword.

Without the SEO Content Template, you would have to enter the URLs in Domain Overview, list the keywords they rank for, export the top 10 in an Excel sheet, and then compare the results.

The next section of the SEO Content Template is where the fun begins because you get recommendations to optimize your content.

seo content template key recommendations

This section includes 4 types of recommendations for your content marketing optimization:

3.1. Related and semantic keywords

You can get recommendations for additional keywords to include in your content.

You can, of course, go to SEO -> Keyword Magic Tool, enter your target keyword, and do the research for semantic keywords as you may have done already. 

However, unlike the Keyword Magic Tool, the SEO content template is that the latter gives you recommendations specifically based on your top competition, for all the keywords you entered.

3.2. Backlink opportunities

You can see the websites that link to the top 10 pages, so you could also try to reach those websites and ask them to link to you.

It is really a hit-and-miss with this one. Some of these recommended sites could be in your own or a related niche, and links from them could be really useful. Some of these, however, may not be very relevant for you.

So you have to click on each site and see if that’s a site you would like to do a link-building campaign for.

Pro Tip:

Without this section, you would have to look through the backlink profile of each of your rivals and note down all the sites, which will take a LOT of time.

The SEO Content Template actually does that work for you, almost like an assistant, so you can directly start analyzing the sites and start your link-building.

I did both processes for my keyword. The template saved me 2 hours to find a handful of sites.

Once you have selected some relevant ones, check out their domain rating and traffic to see if their links to you could help drive your traffic and boost your SEO. Sites with low domain rating/ traffic may not be worth investing your efforts in.

3.3. Readability

Analyze how easy or hard it is to read the content from your top 10 competing pages.

You can try to keep yours at a similar level, but it is more important to write in a way that suits the topic and your brand story. 

When you actually start writing the content or evaluating content written by someone else, you can check your readability score. We will cover this in the SEO Writing Assistant section.

3.4. Text length

Based on your competition’s content, this section recommends an average text length. But again, it is more important to write as per your blog post topic. 

In fact, Google loves long-form content. So if you have a longer piece of content, it’s really okay, as long as what you write makes sense, it’s not just fluff.

My blog post is 5000+ words when the recommended length here is about 1200.

4. Optimize your content

Now that you have ideas on how to optimize your content, you need to write your content with real-time feedback from the Semrush SEO Writing Assistant.

Pro Tip:
Though it is called the ‘Writing Assitant’, the SEO Writing Assistant does not actually help you write the content.

You may want to use an AI writing tool like Jasper to help you with that.

The Semrush SEO Writing Assistant helps you to check that your content is optimized and make edits where necessary.

So it could also be a fantastic help, for example, if you are not actually writing the content, just ensuring your content marketing optimization based on the content provided by a freelance writer.

Go to Content Marketing -> SEO Writing Assistant.

You can choose to use this tool within Semrush itself, as an add-on for Google Docs, or as a WordPress plugin.

seo writing assistant add-ons

Choose the one you feel comfortable with, and install it.

The Google Doc add-on pops up to the right of the screen.

You can see it when in the Google Docs menu you go to Add-on -> Semrush SEO Writing Assistant -> Show.

seo writing assistant google docs


You can check your content optimization scores for 4 key criteria:

4.1. Optimize your content SEO

The SEO section gives you recommendations to optimize your written content for SEO, which includes entering your focus and related keywords.

The focus keyword you entered in the beginning.

In case you didn’t include it in the content, it will not be in green and you can add it to your content.

The recommended ones come from the SEO Content Template, so you don’t have to go back and check one by one from a list. Just add them to your content, and they will be highlighted here.

seo writing assistant seo recommendations of content

4.2. Improve your content readability and tone of voice

You get an analysis of your post’s readability and text length vs. the average of the top 10 on Google.

Semrush SEO Writing Assistant Readability Recommendations

Check how your content scores as per the recommendations.

If it’s not, you as a writer can fix it yourself in a way that suits your content, or as a manager, can ask your writer to make the relevant edits.

There are some recommendations on the structure and form of writing, which are worth checking out, just to make sure that your writing fits your content topic.

seo writing assistant content issues

Evaluate your content for the tone of voice, to see if you want to edit some parts, like some passive voice parts to active ones.

seo writing assistant tone of voice

Pro Tip:
Remember, these content marketing optimization suggestions are just that – suggestions.

You have to determine the balance between what works for your brand and the suggestions from the SEO Writing Assistant based on the averages.

4.3. Optimize on-page SEO

The Semrush SEO Content Template will give you recommendations to improve your on-page SEO elements like title, meta description, and H1 tag, based on your focus keyword.

seo content template basic recommendations

Pro Tip:

You can choose to export all the data and analysis from the SEO template to an MS Word Document. It helps in different ways:

1.  If you are a writer:  You can get the Word Document if you’re more comfortable with that format or want to be able to access it offline at any time.

2.  If you are a marketing manager: You can simply hand over the Word document to your writer, who may not have access to this tool.

The SEO Writing Assistant checks your content for on-page SEO and alerts you if you need to make edits to make it more SEO-friendly.

seo writing assistant readability of content 2

Pro Tip:
You can also use the SEO Writing Assistant along with a WordPress SEO plugin like Yoast or Rank Math to get the maximum content optimization recommendations.Check out my post on Yoast vs Semrush to see how the SEO plugins compare and can work together.

4.4. Add alt text to images

The SEO section also gives you helpful alerts to add alt attributes to images if you have missed them, so just go ahead and add them now.

You need to add alt text to all the images in your post. This is just a reminder. seo writing assistant alt text of image

4.4. Add internal links

If you have not added an optimal number of links to your post, you will also get a reminder here.

Some parts may be relevant when nofollow links are pointed out, so you can make them dofollow if you need.

seo writing assistant link issues

4.5. Check your content for originality

The Semrush SEO Writing Assistant lets you check your content for plagiarism.

This could be very helpful, especially if you’re reading content from an outsourced writer. Run it for a plagiarism check, to ensure your content is unique.

Semrush Plagiarism Checker - Check for Originality in Google Docs

5. Promote your content with other Semrush tools

Content creation is only a part of the process of content marketing optimization.

Now you need to maximize the content distribution and then update it regularly for SEO. Check out my post on an ongoing SEO maintenance checklist

There are many ways to promote your content, and Semrush also offers a few tools to increase your content visibility.

5.1. Marketing Calendar

The Semrush Marketing Calendar helps you plan and track your content marketing campaigns.

5.2. Social Media Toolkit

The Semrush Social Media Toolkit helps you to easily schedule and publish your content across all of your social media channels, track the performance of your posts, and measure your results over time.

5.3. Link-Building Toolkit

The Semrush Link-Building Toolkit helps you identify websites for link-building opportunities and also create outreach campaigns to request links back to your own content.

Get more details on this in my full post about the Semrush Plagiarism Checker.

6. Track content performance

So your content is researched, created, and distributed.

The process of content marketing optimization does not end there. It’s ongoing. You need to check what’s working, and what can be improved.

The Semrush Post Tracking tool lets you track the performance of your topics and individual posts over time, for up to 50 articles per project.

The key metrics it provides information on are:

  • Referral traffic
  • Keywords
  • Shares
  • Backlinks
  • Estimated Reach

You can measure the performance by post or topic, which is very helpful when you are building topic clusters.

Set up groups with your topic names, and add all the posts under that topic within the group.

Now you see metrics for your entire topic, as well as for your individual posts.

Content Marketing Optimization - Track post performance with the Semrush Post Tracking Tool

7. Audit your content regularly

The Semrush Content Audit tool lets you analyze your website’s content performance and identify the pages that need to be updated, refreshed, or even removed.

Set up your website as a project in the Content Audit tool and select the subfolders you want to analyze.

In the Guru plan, you can optimize up to 20,000 pages per audit.

Based on your content date, the content sets of the Content Audit tool will show you 4 groups of content:

  • Rewrite or remove
  • Need to update
  • Quick review
  • Poor content

You can analyze each post under each category and add them to a list of to-dos to update or refresh your content.

Content Marketing Optimization - Audit your content with the Semrush Content Audit tool - content sets

I personally prefer the table view of the Content Audit tool.

You can connect Semrush to Google Search Console and Google Analytics to check the performance of each post.

Then you filter them as per your goals and decide which content you need to update.

Content Marketing Optimization - Audit your content with the Semrush Content Audit tool - table view

8. Update and refresh content

Now that you have done your content audit and decided which content you need to update and how, it’s time to get cracking.

Unfortunately, Semrush cannot help you here. Semrush only provides the data.

Content editing is the job of a content writer or brand copywriter, but you can use AI tools like Jasper AI to help you.

Content marketing optimization tips

Regularly publishing blog posts and articles is a great way to attract attention to your website and build up an audience.

But in order to make the most impact, it’s important to optimize your content for search engines. Here are five tips for doing just that:

1.  Choose your keywords carefully.

When you’re writing content, it’s important to choose keywords that are relevant to your topic and that have a good search volume.

2.  Make your titles catchy.

The title of your article or blog post is what will show up in search results, so it’s important to make sure it’s eye-catching and includes your chosen keywords.

3.  Use proper formatting.

Search engines like Google give preference to articles that are well-formatted and easy to read.

Breaking your text up into short paragraphs with headings and subheadings is a good way to format your content for both search engines and readers.

4.  Include images and videos.

Adding images and videos to your content can help break up the text and make it more visually appealing.

Articles with images also get more social media shares than those without.

So including multimedia in your content can help increase its reach and engagement level.

5. Follow a structured plan.

The key to success with content marketing optimization is to carefully plan and execute each stage of the process, from content creation and curation to distribution and promotion.

Additionally, it is important to regularly monitor and measure the results of your efforts, in order to course-correct and improve ROI over time.

Content marketing optimization with the Semrush Content Toolkit – Conclusion

The Semrush Content Toolkit is a powerful set of tools that can help you continuously optimize your content for maximum reach and engagement.

However, it is not complete in itself.

You also need to work on effective keyword research, SEO techniques, and refining your own content approach.

Have you tried the Semrush Content Marketing Toolkit or any others for your content marketing optimization?

What have been your experiences? Would love to hear in the comments!

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