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[SEMrush Research]: 15 Content Optimization Practices

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[SEMrush Research]: 15 Content Optimization Practices

This post is in English
Olga Smirnova
This post is in English
[SEMrush Research]: 15 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.

SEMrush Content Platform

Content optimized on the go with SEO Writing Assistant!

Please specify a valid domain, e.g.,

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. 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.

SEMrush Content Platform

Content optimized on the go with SEO Writing Assistant!

Please specify a valid domain, e.g.,

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Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush.
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Olga Smirnova, Thanks for this wonderful article. The points you have mentioned are really important for any Search Engine Optimization practise because SEO and Content Optimization go hand in hand.
I wish I could print this is PDF.
Thanks for the great tips! I love it when people back up their tips with stats, and your images are awesome!
Simon Cox
Good article - but I do worry that if everyone is writing for the percentages then it all starts to look and sound the same! Like cars do these days, and websites of course. Writers need to be encouraged to create something unusual and interesting to enchant the reader - even if it is a product description for a plant pot. Using flowery descriptions for mundane items though may backfire, so just good descriptive prose please! I tend to use Hemingway writer app when creating content as I can slap down thoughts and then worry about the grammar etc later when i come to edit it. I am going to use your averages as a directional steer next time!
It's wonderful Olga Smirnova. I have read this article carefully. I have watched you on the semrush.
Are these advices also valid for text part of product cathegory pages?
Its really difficult do this job for SEOs of commercial pages.
it's helping me in my mobile app development services or, it's good for products based websites?
Olga Smirnova
Hi! Well, it mostly will be helpful to you if you write and publish articles, first of all on your blog, or on external resources.
Nikola Roza
Thanks for this article Olga. I learned things I didn't know before, which is great!

I like your point about targeting multiple keywords with one page. It truly is a waste to target just one or two when one article can rank for a thousand.
However, there's a caveat.

It's very hard to write content while consciously trying to include certain keywords a set number of times. Therefore it's much better to try and naturally include every keyword you can, and in verbatim, and then build authority to that page so it ranks for as many as possible.

Keywords and content are not enough. Links are as always, needed.

Nikola Roza
Olga Smirnova
Nikola Roza
Hi Nikola! Thanks for sharing your experience. You are right, links are important. That's why content lifecycle doesn't end after publication, it has to be supported with a well-planned distribution strategy.
The research is pretty impressive. It can help businesses in upgrading their content marketing strategies in a way that it generates more engagement by offering the audience the content that they find valuable, interesting, and worth spending their time on. After all, without our audience; without the people, there will be no sale, no traffic, nothing.
Olga Smirnova
Thank you for sharing your thoughts! You are right, audience interests and needs stand in the center of content marketing, and we should plan our actions based on it.
Red Turtle
Wow. this is an amazing analysis of content optimization. thank you so much. will surely try on Our Website
Olga Smirnova
Red Turtle
Hi, thank you very much! Go ahead and let us know what are your results :)
Thanks, an interesting and helpful article. I’ll definitely check out the tool. What do you mean by targeting devices though? How would content target devices? Are you referring to the website being responsive for mobile?
Olga Smirnova
Maria Bird
Hi Maria. Thanks for your comment. Yes, it is about websites being responsive, but also about mobile copywriting best practices, such as headline length, usage of shorter words, length of paragraphs and so on.
I see that using long keywords today will be less competitive and have the opportunity to top. However, duplicate content should be avoided to influence other topics
Olga Smirnova
Hi! Thanks for your comment. There are different tactics you can follow. Check out our article on this -
Hey Olga,

I was looking for this only as I am working on a website [link removed by moderator] and I write about 1200-1500 words in it and my readibilty score is also 50 which is good according to this article.

Thank you for giving such wonderful information.
Have a great day.
Olga Smirnova
Siddhant Saharam
Hi Siddhant. Nice that you've found some answers in our research. Check out our guide on How to create optimized content, I think you may find interesting points -

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