I've written quite a few articles for our blog already, and more often than not I mentioned there that "Content is king". And to tell you the truth, it did not go further than that. So, the time has come to dig deeper into those factors that make content His Royal Majesty.
Feeling a boost of sweeping inspiration, I created the infographics where I placed all the factors that I consider important for creating THE content. Below, you will find a more detailed explanation, in the form of content, of course.
But, first, a brief history of SEO writing
You do not even need a time-machine to peek at how content was created two decades ago. And you surely remember that level of frustration you felt when searching for something at those times. Search engines were young, and people totally made use of that situation.
However, I've seen the comparison of different SEO writing periods made by Rand Fishkin, and I fancy sharing its summary with you:
|2001 (or Archaic period)||2008 (or Middle Ages)||2018 (or Modern period)|
|Keyword stuffing — a really effective tactic back then.||Keywords are still important in strategic locations.||Solving the searcher's query — search engines are teaching themselves to solve our queries in the most agreeable way, so SEOs have to do that as well. If they want to rank higher and for longer, of course.|
|A bunch of pages targeting closely related terms — exact keyword matching was in vogue back then.||Exact keyword matching is still working — the flourishing of practices to create a bunch of pages for keywords with the same intent.||Not keywords matching, but intent matching — now we do not match separate keywords, we match the whole themes (aka a group of keywords with the same intent).|
|Keywords in tags and domain/subdomain names — easy and effective.||Keywords in domains/subdomains got less power, but still influential.||Keywords in just a few strategic tags — title&body. And if you are in a mood: headers, URL, meta description, and image alt attribute.|
|Writing for search engines and trying not to piss off users — SEOs showed one set of content to search engines and the other one to users. SEOs were dangerous people back then.||Killing for backlinks — those dangerous SEOs worked out a new efficient practice — to do everything to get links, which mattered a lot back then (still do, but in a different way).||Trying to enhance user experience — search engines dig pleased users, so you have to tune in.|
Step 1. Do your keyword research.
So, it is as clear as day that now it is not necessary to create a million pages targeting theme-related keywords. Instead, we can actually create just one page that includes all the keywords you have on a particular subject.
I won't dive into the whole process of keyword researching, filtering, and segmenting, because not so long ago, we did the detailed guide on keyword research. Here, I will give you the highlights.
- Find all the keywords for a particular subject.
Think of a few keywords that broadly describe your future content. Download Rank Tracker tool, open it, create a project for your site, and go play with your keywords in the Keyword Research module.
You can make use of 20 keyword research methods (keyword suggestion tools, autocomplete tools, related searches, etc.) Plus, do not miss the opportunity to know what keywords your competitors target right now as well as their performance metrics (Keyword Research > Ranking Keywords).
As a result, you will have lists of keywords in separate dashboards that you can move to the Target Keywords module for further analysis.
- Go for long-tail keywords.
The reality is like that. People who go beyond the first page of search listings are really desperate. Desperate people constitute a really small percentage of those who are engaged in search. So, the first page attracts all the attention, and you have to aim for it.
Unless your brand is strongly associated with high-volume short-tail keywords, you have to squeeze into the first page of search listings with the help of long-tail keywords. They usually bring few visits, but those visits are usually from the audience you target.
I would recommend to build your content around those queries that users put in the search box. What's more, imagine that you optimize for the queries that come by voice search. Those are your true long-tail keywords.
Pay attention to two tools for your keyword inspiration:
1) Rank Tracker's Related Questions research method. It shows the most popular questions that people ask in search engines:
2) People also ask — this is the section in Google SERPs where you can see those questions that are related to your query in the search box.
When your ideas are consolidated, you can proceed building your content around those questions that your potential visitors are likely to ask.
Step 2. Solve search intent.
Once you have a brushed-up list of your keywords, you have to think what search intent those keywords pursue (within a particular topic).
There are three major types of search intent:
|Keywords of a broader category. People use them when they need some free information. At this point, users are very far from converting.||At this stage of search, people need more specific information. They start to compare, so this is a great opportunity to help them make a decision.||With these keywords, people are more or less ready for some action favorable for you. They are either want to buy or sign up to your email list, or whatever you want them to do.|
|What to do?||What to do?||What to do?|
|When people land on your site with an informational query, they usually lack knowledge on a particular topic. What you need to do in this situation is provide visitors with the information, both basic and more profound. A blog works ideally for this purpose. Plus, you can keep visitors on your site by showing related articles, pop-up windows that offer to download training materials, etc.||If you want to target investigational keywords, then you need to show what advantages your products or services have (especially comparing to similar ones). Here you can write compilations, reviews, comparison charts, blog posts with highly specific content, etc. Pop-up windows can now offer some of your products/services, promotions, or discounts.||People have come for some action. You have to create perfect conditions for that. It means no empty talk, no blog posts, no comparisons. Give them landing pages where visitors can easily buy your products/services.|
The most common words and phrases for the three intents are:
|best ways to
i need to
how do i
how do you
how to … with [product name]
how to build
how to get rid of
how to make
where can i buy
where to buy
where to shop for
with credit card
Once you see the difference between different types of search intents, experiment with the queries in the search engine itself. Type in one of those that, in your opinion, should bring visitors to you, study the first page of search listings, and find out what search intents your query pulls out.
Understand which intent appears near the top of search results. If you realize that this intent does not match the one you pursue, consider reshaping your content strategy: include this top intent or target other queries.
Step 3. Be AI-friendly.
Yes, here is where I'm going to talk about semantic search. Thing is, Google has a child called RankBrain, an algorithm learning artificial intelligence system. The child that is constantly learning to distinguish the context of queries and solve search intent. This way, with the help of semantic search, one piece of content can rank for multiple keywords once it matches the intent of related search queries.
As Google looks more and more at user signals when determining whether the intent was matched, in the long run (or maybe not that long), this interaction of users with the search results will be valued much higher than backlinks and technical SEO. Thus, we have to start learning how to optimize for these changes.
- Create topical clusters.
To put it simply, you have to make sure that all your topically-related pages are interlinked in a way that promotes seamless navigation, on the one hand, and on the other hand, makes the most important pages (or cluster pillars) even more prominent by directing a flow of link juice to them.
Such pages are usually able to answer an array of questions that are related to your main topic, which means that they will rank for multiple keywords.
What's more, with the help of these prominent pages, it is possible to leverage weaker (for example, new, but no less valuable) pages by linking to them.
So, when creating new content for your site, think how to build it in a hierarchy of related topics and subtopics. Look for gaps that exist in your topical clusters and try to fill them. Step by step, you will be satisfying the user's intent from different perspectives, which also means that you will be ranking for many keywords.
If you've just realized that you have a great deal of pages on a related topic, but they are not quite connected, I'd like to suggest a way to cut on this link juice waste.
Note that you have to download WebSite Auditor for that. Create a project for your site, then go to Site Structure > Pages, search for the topic that has lots of related content on your site, and tag those pages appropriately.
Then go the Visualization dashboard, color your graph by tags (in my case, yellow), and analyze the connections between those pages.
- Write like a human.
As user experience is considered a part of RankBrain algo, writing naturally for people, not machines, equals optimizing for RankBrain. Gary Illyes confirms that it really matters to create content that sounds human.
Well, it is true that such recommendations from Google actually go in line with their own interest. However, if you please your users, it cannot be bad.
At the same time, I would pay attention to SEOs who try to understand how this machine learning works and where it lacks human behavior. The trick here is to reach the balance: create content that pleases your visitors and works well within machine learning operations.
While the SEO community investigates how to reach the balance (which I will follow closely as well), I would recommend to read aloud the content you create. Of course, it only makes sense when your site is content-based, you do not have to read your product pages aloud.