Secrets Of The SERPs: Get Your Content To Rank Quickly
When it comes to writing content that helps you get to the top of search engine rankings, it can feel as though you’re wading through mud (or sinking). Where should you start, and what should you include?
In this blog, we break the process down into clear steps that you can apply to your content writing, so that you see results faster. You’ll learn:
- Why is content important?
- How do I start creating content?
Why is content important?
Writing content can help you to...
- Prove yourself as a knowledge base and authority in your industry niche
- Attract a steady stream of fresh visitors to your website
- Solve the challenges that your customers face, and lead them to buy your solution (if it’s appropriate to them)
- Generate conversions
- Stay up to date. All the research you do for your article means that you’ll be on top of the latest trends and developments in your sector
- Show off your brand personality, and your own personality too
- Create something to share: on social media, with clients and prospects…
- Remain relevant for content that is outside of your website’s products or services
- Generate backlinks
And of course, content creation is crucial for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Query Deserves Freshness.
The best place to start is with your buyer personas - these are a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
You’ll want to identify what your persona’s paint points and challenges might be, and from this you should be able to come up with a list of topics you can use to start informing your content.
Developing a real picture in your mind of your ideal customer will help you to define your tone of voice (TOV) as well as give you more of an understanding of who you're selling to. Ask yourself: what problems are your buyer personas experiencing? What are they trying to achieve both personally and professionally, and what challenges are in their way? What frustrations might they have with their existing products or services? What do they need help with?
Search Term Research
In order to truly understand your persona's pain points, you‘ll want to conduct some search term research (STR). Search Term Research or Keyword Research is a method that allows you to gauge what people are searching for in Google.
STR is a two way process, so the research might throw up content ideas that you hadn’t thought of, and topics you thought were sure-fire might be barely represented in the search.
An effective way to gather the phrases relevant to your product or service is in a group brainstorm. Note down all the ways of phrasing this particular term: remember, the words you use to describe something may be completely different to how your buyer persona searches for the same product or service. Using supplier-centric terminology as opposed to customer-centric terminology is a common mistake businesses make when positioning their messaging.
Some of the tools you should use as part of your arsenal are:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Answer the Public
- Google Trends
- Google autocomplete (for a rough idea of phrases)
- Uber suggest
An example of Google autocomplete results for "Content marketing"
Another great way to discern searcher’s intent is through the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) themselves. Simply Google your keywords and search phrases (in an incognito or private browsing window) and see what comes up!
Most of the time, Google will try to match the intent of searchers, and do a good job of it, too. You can gather information about what searchers really wanted by looking at the pages that are already ranking for the topic. If you thought your search term was an enquiry about a service, but all the results are job boards, you might be barking up the wrong tree!
How do you actually conduct Keyword Research?
- Look at that list of your persona’s pain points and relevant topics you’ve made. These are the words and phrases that you want to rank for. While it’s called “keyword” research, it’s really more like phrases. In fact “long tail” phrases (more specific, longer phrases) tend to be easier to rank for than “head” phrases (very common, shorter phrases).
- You also want to take a look at what pieces of content your competitors have, particularly those that enjoy a lot of visibility; you’ll want to add these topic ideas to your list when conducting keyword research. (Don’t worry, we’ll come onto this in more detail later).
- Pop some quite general, unspecific terms into one of the keyword tools, and take a look at the related terms it generates.
- Identify the terms that come closest to the subject you’re working on, and put them back through the tool. The terms should be getting closer and closer to the topic you’re working on.
- You’re probably getting streams and streams of phrases. Save them all in a spreadsheet and start working these down to phrases that your buyer personas might be searching for, or questions they might be asking Google.
- You should do step 4 for all of your ‘seed’ words, using the tools that give you the best results. You want to try and explore almost all the ways that your personas are describing your topic.
- From here, you should be able to cut down these streams of phrases to a concise list of queries that your personas are searching for in Google. You will end up grouping up closely related synonyms and treating them as one single topic.
- These are the topics you want to create content about!
NB: Answer the Public is an amazing tool that will give you pre-packaged questions to answer in blog posts or other forms of content. For a more thorough search term research process, Adwords Keyword Planner will give you thousands of search terms.
Content campaign structure
Now you’ve got some topics and themes focused around your buyer persona’s paint points, you’ll need to think about how you’ll structure these individual pieces into a campaign. Focus your content strategy around a campaign model that has a main, central topic with a downloadable content offer (such as a guide), with supporting topics that feed into and link to this download. It’s all about looking at your content campaigns as a whole and how you’ll schedule it into a content calendar, as well as how this will be structured on your website. Find out more about how to create a digital marketing strategy here.
So you know what you’re going to write, that’s that isn’t it? Not quite.
Next, you need to work out what form of content will be the best vehicle for answering your persona’s question. You’ll want to take into consideration the different stages of their buyer’s journey.
The Buyers Journey explained
Let’s take the topic of SEO as an example. In the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, your target audience will be wanting to understand the problem they are facing, so they’ll likely be searching for an answer to a question such as “Why has my organic traffic gone down?”. In the consideration stage, they are more likely to search for comparisons such as “SEO vs PPC” so they can evaluate whether your product or service is a good fit for them. Finally, in the decision stage, your target customers will be closer to a purchasing decision so content such as “Average SEO Costs in the UK” will be most valuable.
Always have the buyer’s journey in mind in content creation as it will inform the type of content you create (blog, webinar, comparison tables, and so on). You’ll also want to consider how your persona will be digesting your content. Will they be looking it up on the tube, for example? A whitepaper may seem like the right idea, but have you ever tried reading a PDF on your phone? It’s not ideal. A podcast may therefore be a better option, or perhaps a whitepaper in html form, if podcasts aren’t popular in your industry.
Making use of existing content
Before you panic about needing to write hundreds of thousands of pages of content, take a look at the resources you already have. Do you have anything that could be updated rather than being written from scratch? Whether they’re already published such as old blogs, or even internal guides that you’ve used amongst your different teams, these could still be relevant to your audiences today.
If you’re stuck for future ideas, you could also consult previous content pieces and brainstorm what you could create from it. What’s next in the story? What are the next questions that someone asking this question is likely to ask?
Why not repurpose videos or webinars and transcribe them into a blog? Like this 👇
A Business as Unusual webinar blog post with a transcript
When looking at your existing content, note down what could link to each other. Try to link your blog posts back to the main pillar and landing pages that are relevant to the content. This helps Google to decipher the structure of your site so that you can give the most important pages on your site the highest link value. In a less technical sense... linking to other useful pages on your website is also going to be more helpful to your audience.
Learning from previous efforts
While you’re scouring your old content for new opportunities, it's a great time to take a look at what went right, or wrong. Use reporting tools such as Google Analytics, or if you’re a HubSpot user, the HubSpot analytic tools. You could even review native social media analytics such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see what received the greatest engagement from your audience. Use this information as part of your strategy to improve.
What content have you got that should have done well, but just didn't? Can you tweak or improve it to start driving traffic? What about your content that is doing OK, but not great? What improvements could you make to give it that extra edge? Who is beating it? What does their content have that yours doesn’t? Maybe the information is great, but it’s generic, written without a sensitivity for the particular problems of your persona in mind? Whatever issues you might uncover, unlocking the potential of your existing content is a huge win. Putting processes in place to review the performance of your content is just as important as producing new content, and it is a much more sustainable long term strategy than expecting to nail it first time with each piece of content you produce.
You could also take a look at what is working for your competitors. Where do you fall short? Where do they fall short? Could you pick up the slack (or the rankings)?
This kind of review process is a vital and oft missed element of Content SEO. Ensure that your content calendar includes not just milestones and dates for the production of new content, but evaluation of old topics.
Joining the conversation
So you’ve already taken a look at how your old content is doing in comparison to your competitors, but seeing what is being said about a topic by others in your industry is also a great way of coming up with new ideas.
- Have you identified the main influencers in your industry?
- What topics are they talking about?
- What content is currently in abundance on the topic?
- Who created it?
- Do you have equivalent content?
- Does yours answer the question better than theirs?
- If you don't have it, how could you do it better?
Once you’ve established this, brainstorm how you could come at the topic from a different angle to them. What value could you add to the existing conversation? Reconcile these ideas with the topics in your content plan and make sure you're not missing any tricks.
Before you go ahead and get writing, here’s just a couple of things to reflect on:
- Do the topics you’ve chosen have commercial intent? i.e. is the person reading your content likely to become a lead or even a customer? If not, is it worth your time?
- Are your topics clearly different? You don’t want similar topics and content offerings to have to compete with each other for the same spot in rankings.
- Where are you going to link this piece of content to? You want to guide readers that have landed on your website to another useful page, and increase your chances of converting them to a customer. Create CTAs that link to relevant gated content offerings or service pages. If you don’t have something relevant to offer, why are you creating the content?
Ok, so you're ready to get writing. But how do you fully optimise the content to really climb those rankings? Download the guide below to find out.