This is a guest post from Sneh Ratna Choudhary, of Beaconstac.
If you’ve written SEO content, you’ve probably faced the same conundrum: Do you write for Google’s crawlers or your target audience?
You want to make sure you deliver value to your audience while making sure that search engine bots can easily find and rank your content.
SEO has had a facelift since it first came into existence. Earlier, it was enough if you mentioned the primary keyword 10 times in 1000 words but now that is a spammy tactic.
Google is continuously updating its search algorithms to improve user experience and weed out methods that manipulate the algorithm.
Last year, a major update was BERT that affected 10% of search queries in the US and took into account prepositions that were earlier ignored in search results.
This year, it’s the Core Web Vitals. It’s possible that by the time you read this, there may be a new update.
So, how do you keep up and where is the middle ground?
It’s simple. Work around a proven framework with a user-first approach.
Let me demonstrate with examples.
8 Steps to Produce SEO Content That Always Ranks
1. SEO keywords: High traffic vs High intent
I always like to separate keywords based on high traffic vs high intent. For instance, for our free QR Code Generator with logo tool, “QR Code Generator” is a high traffic keyword.
Since the search volume is 210K/month in the US alone, it is vital to rank for this high traffic keyword to get users to discover our comprehensive QR Code solution.
But high traffic keywords usually have high competition too. For this particular keyword, you can see that the keyword difficulty is 93 or ‘Super Hard.’
That’s where high-intent comes into play. To achieve the same goal i.e. get users to discover the QR Code solution, we optimized the main page or pillar page as its called for the keyword, “QR Code Generator with logo.”
This keyword has a search volume 2.3k/month in US.
In 4 short months, we were able to start ranking for this keyword on the first page and have maintained a position in the top 5 since then.
Whether you’re creating product pages, blog posts or website content to promote your website, always account for both high traffic and high intent keywords. You may want to create separate pages if the keywords are vastly different.
2. Pivot..pivot..I said “Pivot”
Another example of a high intent keyword that ranks well and drives sales is this restaurant blog post that talked about how QR Codes are a perfect way to elevate their marketing.
So, why does this deserve a special mention?
This blog post was originally published on May 14, 2019. At that time, QR Codes in restaurants wasn’t exactly a trending topic.
Cut to May 14, 2020 and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Based on local restaurant association’s and CDC’s guidelines, restaurants must provide digital menus or disposable menus. The cost of disposable menus quickly adds up not to mention the environmental effect. Thus, restaurants in the US are making the transition to digital aka QR Code menus.
Since this blog post was already a year old with great content, it ranked on the first page already. I made a few simple tweaks and optimized the heading and title tags, meta description, added a few specific lines about digital menus and voila.
This has been the featured snippet for the past several weeks and has driven direct sales.
The takeaway here is to keep iterating. Do not be afraid to make small tweaks to content to keep it fresh and add a new perspective.
3. Create a SEO template for success
There is no formula for hitting it out of the park every single time but there are templates that can guarantee that you optimize everything humanly possible.
I find Andy Crestodina’s website content template incredibly thorough and have adapted it for internal use.
All the tools and steps that you need to create stellar content can be found in this video.
Another genius when it comes to SEO is Brian Dean. He has some simple but effective tips on creating a framework for SEO.
4. Don’t stop updating: Search Console
Now while technically the title of this blog post is how you can write content that ranks, it would be completely remiss of me not to mention how important it is to regularly update content.
According to Databox, only 50% of companies monitor their rankings weekly. This is abysmal given how vital those numbers are.
Let’s say you wrote a blog post titled “How to write SEO optimized content that ranks.” (Blogception, anyone?)
You did all the research and you delivered value but on the Search Console, you see that it is getting more clicks and impressions for “improve ranking on Google.”
While that isn’t the primary objective of the article, you can always update the blog post by including this keyphrase and adding a paragraph to address this head-on.
Instead of creating new content, always make it a point to revisit old blog posts.
5. Orphaned no more
In SEO, orphaned content is referred to as content that does not have a sound internal link structure. This makes it hard to find for visitors and bots alike.
Even if your content has links from the homepage, sitemap or category pages, it is still orphaned.
Search bots care about contextual links. Your content must be linked from other webpages and blog posts with a relevant link in the text.
Make sure the anchor text isn’t overly optimized or repetitive.
6. Let’s get technical
75% of SEOs believe that content is the most important factor. While content may be king, technical SEO still has a major impact on rankings.
Let’s consider two pages – Page A and Page B.
Page A has great content, loads of visual stimuli, low page speed because of the elements, and a bad URL structure.
Page B has average to good content, some visual content, optimized page speed and a sound URL structure.
If you haven’t guessed this already, Page B will outrank Page A.
The BBC lost 10% of users for every additional second their site took to load.
Check your PageSpeed Insights and follow the recommended suggestions.
Apart from page speed, other technical aspects that must be considered are:
- Sound URL structure
- Use Breadcrumbs
- Resolve Coverage Issues
- Perform an SEO audit
- Create an XML Sitemap
- Use canonical URLs to prevent duplicate content
- Check for broken links
7. Set up structured data
Structured data is a part of technical SEO but it deserves a special shout out. It’s effective, efficient and easy to implement.
Structured data also called schema markup just helps search engines understand what the content is all about.
This has a cyclic effect. Adding a schema helps Google understand what your content means which helps it rank your content higher. Once you’re on the first page, it increases your chances of landing in the featured snippet or Google’s knowledge graph.
Since your content stands out, more users click on it and click-through rate influences ranking, thus completing the cycle.
My personal favorite schema type is FAQ. It occupies more space than a normal search result and can also have links in the answers which are beneficial.
8. Understanding search intent
In some cases, it is neither a high traffic keyword nor a high intent keyword that can deliver results. Understanding the user’s search intent is key.
I had read this insightful article by Healthline that outlines which search intent should fuel your digital strategy and it stuck with me ever since.
To explain how search intent is slightly different from high intent, let me dig up an example.
While doing my research, I came across a phrase “Are QR Codes dead?” in the ‘People Also Ask’ section.
If this were to be tackled as a high intent keyword, I would have addressed why QR Codes are not popular anymore because of a number of misconceptions.
But that’s not the actual search intent. The user wants to know if QR Codes still have a solid use-case and if so, where are they being used and what is the future of QR Codes.
With that in mind, I wrote “Are QR Codes dead? Do people still use QR Codes” and addressed all these queries. This was written as an opinion piece backed by facts and statistics and has maintained 1st position for over a year.
Here’s a quick summary of the 8 steps:
1. Keyword Research: High traffic vs High intent
2. Pivot to target new keywords
3. SEO writing template
4. Search Console updates
5. Orphaned content
6. Technical SEO
7. SEO structured data
8. Search intent for SEO
Incidentally, summarizing your blog post is also a good way to get in the bot’s good graces.
While the algorithms get minor and major updates, good user experience is a constant ask.
Always design content with the end-user in mind and for Ross’s sake, don’t forget to pivot.
Author: Sneh Ratna Choudhary
Author Bio: Sneh is a Senior Content Marketer at a tech startup, Beaconstac that creates robust end-to-end solutions for location-based marketing. She is passionate about marketing and design that attempts to improve customer experience. When I’m not online, I can be found reading a book, petting my dogs or listening to songs by Miguel. You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.