Creating content for your website is a lot like building a house. You want to lay a strong foundation, then build up according to the plans laid out ahead of time.
You should approach your blog content the same way. You want a strong base for your website and you need to have a game-plan for how you intend to build content going forward.
Over the years, I’ve developed my own strategy that I put into every new site I build. It’s pretty simple and can be done with free or cheap tools.
Here’s what’s working for me, which hopefully you can put into use today. It takes a little bit of research and some work, but you’re not in this to take the easy way out, are you?
- Keyword Research
- Content Creation
- On-Page SEO
- Assess and Revise
Note: I’ll be going into more detail for each step in future posts. I’ll update with links once those posts are available, but for now, this will stand as a high level approach to content development.
Unless it’s a true passion project, every website you build should begin with keyword research. This is doubly true if you’re building your first site.
I’ve seen many people start off in a super competitive niche, then quit because they weren’t seeing any results. Hell, I’ve done this myself on many occasions. This doesn’t work and will only make you angry. And I wouldn’t like you when you’re angry.
My goal is to get you results early, which will help keep you excited and motivated (and not angry).
In order to properly do keyword research, you need to start with a tool. Like most things of value, the better they are, the more they will cost, though there are certainly some ways to work around paying high costs to start.
SEMrush, KWFinder and Serpstat are all paid tools that I recommend (and have used) and they each offer free searches or trials.
SEMrush limits you to 10 daily searches 10 results per search, though they also offer a free two week trial.
KWFinder allows 3 searches daily and 50 related keywords per search when you register for a free account.
Serpstat offers a limited number of free searches when you register a free account. Serpstat is my current go to tool for keyword research. I have a paid account with them and use it often.
Whichever route you take, make the most of it. Use the trial as much as you can and if you’re sticking to daily searches, use them daily and track your results in a spreadsheet.
Pick a keyword you discovered in Keyword Research. I like to start with something that is an entryway into my subject. Now google that keyword.
Look at the top ten results and make note of the following:
- Number of words in each article
- Topics covered
- Headlines used
Now get to creating your content. Make it better than those top ten results. Make it longer and more thorough. Use images, video, and infographics as needed. I’ve said it already, but make your content the best piece of content for your keyword.
You can do this over and over for each keyword you want to target.
This seems pretty simple, right? Obvious too? Yes to both, but this is often overlooked. You really need to write great content. I don’t know of any tricks to rank bad content, so take your time here and do it right.
Your task isn’t over once the writing is complete. Now you have to shape it into an On-Page SEO success. So how do you do that?
Craft a great post title. Use your keyword near the beginning of the title. Use modifiers such as “2018”, “Best”, “Top” and “review” if they’re relevant. Keep your title to 57 characters or less to make sure the full title shows in google results.
Use your keyword near the beginning of your post (first sentence or two) and use variants of your keyword throughout the content. Do not force or overuse your keyword. Get creative here. Use synonyms. Google knows when keywords are related and are looking to see this more than they are the same keyword used over and over again.
Optimize your image names. If its an image of a blue footed booby, name it blue-footed-booby. Make sure to change these before you upload them, as WordPress limits some of what you can change once its uploaded to your site.
Give your images a descriptive alt text. Again, a blue footed booby picture should have the alt text “Blue Footed Booby”. This is what shows when you hover over an image with your mouse and is also seen by the search engines that crawl your site.
Link to external resources you used to write the post (only the best sites though and limit this to one or two per post at most). It’s always good to link to a credible site.
Link to internal resources. If you mention blue herons on your blue footed booby page, link to the blue heron page. You can also mention a related post in your closing paragraph to keep reader on your site.
Link from internal resources. If you mention the blue footed booby on your blue jay page, go ahead and link to your new page.
Use headings (Heading 1 or H1, Heading 2 or H2) throughout. Put some keywords in these and use them to outline your post. This lets readers know what to expect in a quick glance while telling the search engines the important aspects of your post.
Use catchy and informative headings, videos, and graphics to keep users engaged and improve the time they spend on your page.
On-Page SEO is often overlooked, yet can have a major impact in getting more eyeballs on your site.
Assess and Revise
After your content has been out in the wild for some time, you want to see how it’s doing. There are few things you want to monitor.
Search Engine Rankings
You can use tools like SEMRush to see how you’re doing. They’ll show you what keywords you rank for and where you rank (numbered position).
You’ll want to look for content that is moving up the rankings. This is a great place to start, as it shows that google sees some value in your page. Look to see how you can improve this page through content upgrades, internal linking, or improved visibility on your site (sidebar links).
You’ll also want to look for content that has stopped moving up the rankings. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but you’ll want to improve this content. While you’re at it, look for opportunities where you can link to this content from another post or page.
Looking for content that is dropping in rankings is also important. Are there new competitors for that keyword? If so, check them out and revise your post.
Another thing to do at this point is to create some related content for your posts that are starting to rank. Find a good related keyword that you’ll be able to link from and create a new post following the guidelines above.
This part of the process should never end. You want your content fresh and current and doing so will help grow your traffic.
You should have Google Analytics set up for your site. If not, stop reading, go set it up and come back. All set? Good, let’s move on.
Log in to your Google Analytics account and take a look around. There’s a lot of data here. Don’t be intimidated though. There are a few easy things to check out that could help to improve your rankings and traffic.
Navigate to the Audience section and click on Overview. This will show you some high level information. Keep an eye on your Bounce Rate (percentage of visitors who leave after view one page on your site) and Pages / Session (average number of pages viewed by each visitor).
You’ll want a low bounce rate (under 55%) and a higher Pages / Session (1.8 or above). If you’re not hitting these, check out your site and see what can be improved. Is your content clear? Is it structured well with good use of headlines and images? Do you provide related links near the end of your post or below your post?
Next, click on the Mobile section under Audience. Here you can see how visitors are accessing your site. If most are on mobile, make sure your site is optimized for mobile viewers.
If you click on Page Timings in Site Speed under the Behavior section, you’ll be able to see any pages that are loading slowly or slower than your average page.
You’ll want a fast time (around 2 seconds), so if it’s anything above that, review the page to see if you can fix anything. Known culprits are large or un-optimized images, and plugins or code. Trim whatever fat you can. A fast site will rank much better than a slow site.
These are a few easy targets to look for in Google Analytics. There are many more things you can look to improve but these few will get you moving in the right direction.
And that is my content strategy in a nutshell. The four steps of Keyword Research, Content Creation, On-Page SEO, and Revise and Assess are essential to make it as a content marketer in 2018.
In future posts, I’ll go deep into each pillar and show you how build websites that rank. Let me know what you think and hit me up with any questions!