If you want to drive organic traffic to your website, you’ll need to optimise your content for search engines.
This isn’t always a simple process. The process of content optimisation can include keyword research, competitor analysis, search engine results page (SERP) analysis, grammar and readability checks, plagiarism checks, conversion rate optimisation (CRO), and title and meta description research.
This is an intimidating list! But here’s the good news: There are now dozens of tools that can help you optimise your content. Some are cheap; some expensive; but they can all help you to create content that Google (and your human readers) will love.
Let’s dive in and help you find the right tool.
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Content optimisation is the process of improving your content to make it more likely to appear on the first page of Google.
Content optimisation is a sub-field of search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO is a broad field that includes everything from your website’s technical setup to encouraging inbound links. Content optimisation, though — also known as on-page SEO — covers just the words and images on the web page itself.
On its face, this sounds a lot like ‘writing for algorithms.’ But this isn’t necessarily true. At its heart, content optimisation is simply about making sure that your content meets the ‘search intent’ of the human users who are typing their query into Google.
Note that the days of keyword stuffing are over. Google largely rewards high-quality, in-depth content that meets the needs of human users — after all, its business model depends on it.
You should optimise your content if you are writing content that has the primary aim of ranking in Google. This might not be all your content — but if you are aiming to grow your organic traffic, it will necessarily be a portion of it.
SEO, however, might not be part of your content strategy — and that’s entirely fine. Google is increasingly competitive, and there are other ways to generate traffic to your website, such as investing in shareable editorial content and organic social media.
To produce search-optimised content, you will need to start with an SEO strategy that lays out exactly how you plan to win. Remember: SEO is fundamentally competitive, and only one page can rank #1 in Google. Build out this strategy before you start to invest in content optimisation software.
Once you have your strategy in place, you will need to develop a repeatable workflow for each piece of content. This workflow will start from ideation and research, and flow through to identifying target keywords, producing briefs for your content writers, and editing drafts, and then publishing in your CMS. Post publication, you’ll want to add internal links and distribute to your target audience.
If you are just getting started, you might find that the best place to start is by optimising your existing content. While new content can often take months to rank, updated content can rank in days. You can find which pieces to rewrite and update by undertaking a thorough content audit.
Finally, you’ll want to develop a reporting template to share your results with your key stakeholders. Identify the metrics that matter and report on them regularly.
Clearscope is an SEO content optimisation tool that leverages Natural Language Processing machine learning to provide detailed recommendations for ranking in search.
Clearscope is best known for providing a list of recommended semantic keywords — that is, keywords that are semantically related to the keyword you want to rank for. These keywords help signal to Google that you know what you’re talking about. Clearscope also notes which keywords are typically used in headings.
Clearscope's competitive edge lies in the quality and effectiveness of its recommendations. While it is not as feature-rich as some other tools on our list, it does offer a keyword research tool, a Wordpress plugin, a Google Docs add-on, competitor mapping, and a content inventory.
Price: Starts at $170 per month
2. Surfer SEO
Surfer SEO is another powerful content optimisation platform that provides data-driven insights to boost your content's search engine performance. With features such as a content editor filled with relevant keyword suggestions, SEO audit tool, and a built-in plagiarism checker, Surfer SEO can help tailor your content to your audience's needs.
Surfer SEO also integrates with Jasper, a popular generative artificial intelligence (AI) platform. If you are looking to create SEO-optimised content at scale, this might make Surfer SEO your best bet.
Price: Starts at $59 per month
MarketMuse is another established content optimisation tool. Like other tools on this list, it uses AI and Natural Language Processing to analyse content and provide insights for improved SEO performance.
MarketMuse helps writers optimise their content by suggesting relevant topics, identifying content gaps, and providing recommendations for better search rankings. It offers a range of features such as keyword research, content planning, and competitive analysis.
Price: Starts at $149 per month with a limited free plan.
Frase is an AI-powered content optimisation tool that helps streamline the content creation process. It’s often considered as a premium tool alongside MarketMuse, Surfer SEO, and Clearscope.
Frase can assist with the entire content optimisation process. It can help create briefs for content writers at scale, and its content editor suggests improvements based on SEO best practices and readability. The tool also has a content scoring feature, which evaluates the quality and effectiveness of existing content.
As Frase has expanded further into AI, it has built a Chrome plugin called the ‘article summariser’, which can help with the competitor research process.
Price: Starts at $14.99 per month for individuals and $44.99 per month for teams
Dashword is a content optimisation tool that uses Natural Language Processing (like many of the most useful tools in this list) to provide recommendations for optimising your SEO’d content.
Dashword also offers a well-regarded content brief tool. For users on its Business Plan, it also offers a content monitoring tool, which tells you how well your content is performing in search. This can help guide future content updates.
Price: Starts at $99 per month.
Semrush is a well-known SEO and content marketing platform. Unlike some of the other products on this list, Semrush is a fully-fledged, soup-to-nuts SEO platform. It offers keyword search volume, content gap analysis, competitor content research, insights into audience interests, relevant and trending topic information, a content calendar… and quite a lot more.
As part of this suite of tools, Semrush offers an SEO writing assistant which provides semantic keyword suggestions, as well as a range of other recommendations for optimising your content.
Pricing: Starts at $129 per month
Ahrefs is a well-known competitor to Semrush. While the tools aren’t identical, for their main use cases — primarily around SEO-research, rank tracking, and site audits — they are very similar tools. It's one of the best tools for higher-level keyword research and backlink research.
While Ahrefs doesn’t have a standalone content optimisation tool, its keyword data can be used to inform any SEO writing you do.
Pricing: Starts at $99 per month
8. Hemingway Editor
For the rest of this list, we’re going to look at some tools to help optimise your content for humans, not just algorithms. While ranking in search is important, it’s just as important to focus on the experience you give your human readers once they click through.
With that in mind, the next tool on our list is the Hemingway Editor. This is an online writing tool designed to enhance the readability and style of your writing. It provides suggestions for simplifying complex sentences, reducing the use of passive voice, and eliminating unnecessary adverbs. It's a free-to-use tool that can significantly improve the quality of your content.
Pricing: Starts at $19.99 per month
Grammarly is a popular online language editor that corrects grammar mistakes and provides advanced suggestions to improve your writing. It integrates with MS Word, Google Docs, and other platforms, correcting your writing in real time.
Grammarly also provides explanations for grammar rules, allowing users to learn from their mistakes. Another useful feature is the plagiarism checker, which detects any instances of copied content and provides suggestions for proper citation.
Price: Grammarly offers a free version with basic features, and its premium plan costs $29.95 per month.