What good is quality content if it does not rank well and does nothing to drive traffic to your site or improve its trustworthy status?
Content is a huge part of a successful digital marketing strategy. Ensuring that your content is high-quality and well-optimised is essential to achieving great ranking results. In this article, we will focus primarily on how to create content that ranks well on Google, although these guidelines will also benefit ranking in other search engines such as Bing or Yahoo.
Once you have a greater understanding of content best practices, you’ll have your content marketing pieces ranking in no time, so let’s dive in. Here are the most vital steps and real-life examples for creating content that ranks.
Content strategy: Define your target keyword
The first task in content strategy and writing content that ranks high is to determine a target keyword for the article.
When it comes to SEO, every piece of content marketing you create should focus on a minimum of one target keyword. Writing content around keywords or phrases is vital to any good content marketing strategy.
Ideally, all content should contain four or five keywords that closely relate to one another. This may seem easy, but some topics make this harder than others. The best keywords and phrases to get content ranking are low competition/ low keyword difficulty (KD) words and phrases with a high search volume (SV). There are a variety of affordable and free tools that you can use to assist you in finding good keywords to use in your content. Some examples include:
Google Keyword Planner
At Seene, we use and recommend Ahrefs. Here’s an example of the process of finding a keyword to target for a blog post.
Example of finding a target keyword using Ahrefs’ keyword explorer
In this example, we’re looking for a fruitful keyword for an estate agent based in the UK. They are currently looking to attract more house sellers to their website, so we’ve typed in a simple phrase into Ahrefs’ keyword explorer:
You can see that the keyword “selling house” has a keyword difficulty of 50, which means it’s a hard phrase to rank for. It also has a search volume per month of 250, which isn’t bad, but it’s not a big amount of traffic.
However you can see below Ahrefs has given us some term suggestions based on our initial keyword suggestion that are getting more searches per month.
Through clicking on all of these keywords, we have found a winner! “What not to fix when selling a house uk” has a search volume of 900 and a keyword difficulty rating of 1, and it suits the target audience we are writing for.
In other words, if we write high quality content, we can win 900 hits per month through organic search. If we then find more relatable terms to this keyword, we can increase our traffic potential even further.
Another good way of finding a keyword for a blog post is to use Ahrefs’ related terms and filter related terms by KD (keyword difficulty).
Through looking at the screenshot above, you can see there are some topics that you could win some quick and easy traffic with, while giving some useful advice to readers on an estate agent’s blog. For example:
Once you have your target keyword or phrase, it’s time to research and analyse the user’s search intent related to it. Including keywords and phrases in your content is only the first step, as failing to write content that aligns with the intention of the user’s search will likely result in poor ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Search intent relates to the purpose of the online search – what is it that the user is attempting to find? The four common search intents are
Navigational – login pages, home pages, contact information, etc
Transactional – online grocery shopping, home insurance quotes, etc
Most of the time the search intent for a keyword is obvious, but the best way to discover the search intent that typically lies behind a keyword is to google the keyword and analyse the SERPs.
The primary category that the search engine results falls into will inform you as to what the main search intention of the keyword typically is; Google’s auto-suggest feature is also auto-generated based on what users typically search after the initial keyword inquiry.
Let’s look at our keyword “What not to fix when selling a house uk” using the above advice:
As suspected, users searching for this phrase are looking for useful information, which is why blog posts with content marketing advice are coming up first. It’s worth looking at the top few results to see what you’ve got to compete against – and how you can ensure that your article beats off the competition to take the top spot in the SEPRS.
Include all keyword variations
When researching to find keywords, you will likely have come across multiple variations of the target keyword you want your content to rank highly for. There are usually several variations to the way that keywords and phrases can be entered into a search engine, and these can be easily discovered by using a quality keyword research tool.
When creating content, every variation of your target keyword or phrase should appear throughout the text to maximise the SEO opportunities of each one.
Ensure related entities are also woven in
In the world of SEO, the term ‘entities’ refers to anything that is definable; a person, place or thing. Until recently, entity-based SEO practices were of little consequence, but the concept is gaining more interest as its importance becomes clear; when content includes related entities throughout the text, Google (and other leading search engines) has an easier time categorising your content’s topic and ranking it accordingly.
One way to understand entities and how they differ from keywords, is that keywords alone may relate to a variety of interpretations. However, by combining keywords with related entities, we give search engines a greater chance of accurately indexing the topic we are covering. Other examples include:
The word ‘Paris’ could relate to the city, the Louvre, romanticism, Paris Hilton, and so on – but when combined with the corresponding entity ‘France,’ search engines know you are discussing the location
The word ‘Apple’ could relate to the tech brand, the type of fruit, or even the poisoned apple in Sleeping Beauty – but when combined with a corresponding entity such as, ‘iPhone,’ search engines know you are discussing the technology brand
It may appear that related entities would inevitably appear as content is written about a particular subject, and that may largely be true. Still, it is essential to ensure that a good number of related-entities are woven into your content to ensure the best optimisation.
Create unique page titles
Your content’s page title (also known as the meta title) is an essential element to HTML (HyperText Markup Language), informing both Google and its users of the topic that a specific web page relates to.
The page title you set for your content is the title that will be displayed for your URL listing in the SERPs. The more unique and attention-grabbing your title is, the more likely it will attract the attention of users and entice them to click through to your content.
Emphasis key content with heading tags
Headings create the framework for your content that not only makes it more readable, but it also makes it easier for visitors and search engine crawlers to assess and navigate.
For the most efficient use of heading tags:
Only use one H1 tag
To reduce the chances of Google rewriting your titles, use the same title in the H1 tag and the meta page title (ensure your primary keywords appear in both HTML locations for optimal SEO)
Break up your content into sections using H2 tags
Inject your target keywords into H2 tags
Divide these sections into subsections using H3 tags
Only use heading tags as needed to efficiently break your content up; just the right amount to assist readers in digesting the flow of the piece.
Write great meta descriptions
Another key HTML element is the meta description tag. Meta descriptions provide search engines with a concise summary of the content, giving users a convenient way of considering whether the content fits what they are searching for. Meta descriptions appear as short summaries in the SERPs.
There is no guarantee that Google will use the meta description you provide with your content; if a section of your content appears more relevant to matching user searches, it may be used instead of your set meta description. Nevertheless, you should always take the time to write high-quality meta descriptions that are well optimised for SEO to improve the content’s organic rankings – the better the meta, the more likely it will be used.
To write high-quality meta descriptions, you should:
Take the time to accurately summarise the content
Create unique meta descriptions for every piece of content – never duplicate
Use your primary keyword at the start of the meta description tag and add secondary keywords wherever it can be achieved naturally
Aim to keep your meta tag to under 160 characters to avoid having it shortened in the SERPs
Craft trustworthy content
These days, it’s simply not enough to throw together subpar content jammed with keywords. As search engine technology becomes more sophisticated, it’s more important than ever to create trustworthy content. When ranking content in SERPs, search engines take the quality of the user experience into account, and the more trustworthy the content, the better.
How to create trustworthy content will depend upon the style of the piece, but some general pointers include:
Ensure your website’s connection with HTTPS is secure.
Avoid including any pop-ups or other ads that obstruct the view of the content.
Provide comprehensive, well-written information on your About Us page.
Include a Contact Us page that includes an email address, and if you’re a local business, a name, address and phone number.
Summarise key takeaways from the piece in the intro.
Include information as to who publishes your site’s content
Publish expert, authoritative content
Trustworthiness doesn’t stop at being a legitimate source of information; in combination with other SEO strategies, the more that you make your expertise clear, the higher your content will rank.
The reason acclaimed journalists, leading news publications and other professionals rank highly on search engines is because their content is backed by a wealth of authoritative sources. These sites typically include detailed biographies outlining the qualifications and other expert prowess of the authors and editors that approve the content they publish.
So, include as much authoritative information on your website as possible to position yourself as a trustworthy place to find well-informed, expert content.
Keep the content length just right
When it comes to crafting the perfect content piece for maximum ranking potential, the length of the piece needs to be just right – not too short, not too long.
How do you know what the right length should be? Firstly, it’s vital to avoid either extreme; writing too much content and covering too many topics above and beyond the scope of the search intent, or not writing enough to sufficiently satisfy the search intent.
When it comes to SERP ranking, there can be a bit of a fine line between content that is too complicated or wordy, and content that is too short or vague. Writing a piece that is too short and basic for the subject it’s covering is a poor SERP ranking strategy, but so too is jamming in extra words that serve no valuable purpose.
Optimal SEO practice for content creation is to cover the topic as comprehensively as you can, in as concise a way as you can. Be sure to provide the right amount of complexity for the intended reader, and include any necessary additional information such as tables or images.
It is also good practice to research the SERPs to identify what content your competitors are publishing and whether there are any gaps in the current offerings that you can fill.
At Seene, we use SurferSEO which will actually give you an indication of the exact number of words your article should be if you want to rank as high as possible for your content.
Include both internal and external links
By including internal links in your content, you help to keep visitors on your site longer by directing them to other content relevant to the topic – this also enhances their experience of your site and content by providing a more comprehensive take on whatever it is they are researching. By adding internal links, you help to rank the page more highly on SERPs.
Additionally, including external links in your content is advantageous for several reasons. Firstly, adding external links such as citations to original sources of data or links to suggested resources improves the user experience, helps to gain their trust in your site, and creates a heightened sense of legitimacy and expertise in your content. Secondly, adding external links assists search engines in determining the quality, usefulness and expertise of your web pages – at the most basic level, it demonstrates to both users and Google algorithms that other sites are in agreement with your content.
It’s important to note here that the quality of your external links matter. Make sure that any external sites that you link to are trusted sites with authoritative stature – anytime you link to a low-quality site or one with a bad online reputation, you risk your own content ranking suffering.
Include structured data markup
To further structure your content in a way that makes it easier for search engines to identify and organise, you can add special codes to help to describe the individual elements of your page. Structured Data (sometimes known as Schema Markup) are used by search engines to display a site’s content in user-friendly ways; these are often referred to as ‘Rich Results’ or ‘Snippets.’
Examples of Structured Data include:
Business hours and phone numbers
Event location and dates
Recipe ingredient information
Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
Not only is it sensible to make your site mobile-friendly given that we are all glued to our phones these days, but Google preferences mobile-friendly sites when indexing sites. If your content is not optimised to be mobile-friendly, there is no way it will rank as highly in the SERPs as it could.
To optimise your site and content for mobile-friendly use, ensure that your design elements will work well and load quickly on a mobile screen.
You can test how well your content performs on a mobile by checking it manually, otherwise Google has a mobile-friendly testing tool you can use.
Optimise any included images
Images can also be optimised to improve ranking. Whenever you include an image in your content, be sure to give the image a descriptive filename, as well as an ALT text attribute. Additionally, wherever possible, include your keywords in these fields.
ALT attributes are designed to provide an alternative text for images that, for whatever reason, cannot be viewed or seen. Good Alt text should be short and descriptive. There is no need to add phrases such as ‘image of,’ just a description of the image itself, for example, ‘tourists pose outside the Louvre’ or ‘fixing grouting in bathroom’.
Alt text is entered into an HTML field that provides indexing information to search engine crawlers, which is why optimising it can positively affect how well your content ranks.
Track your content’s performance
Creating quality, optimised content is only the first step – to truly improve your content ranking, you need to keep your finger firmly on the pulse and monitor its performance.
The primary ways to monitor and analyse the performance of your content are via:
Google offers a web analytics service that tracks and reports upon your website’s traffic, allowing you to monitor metrics such as:
Sessions (the period of time that a user is active on your page/site/app)
Bounce Rates (the percentage of site visitors that leave after only viewing one page)
Users Flow Report (the paths users take through your site, i.e. which pages in which order)
Google Search Console
Google also offers a web service called ‘Google Search Console’ in which you can monitor and troubleshoot your site’s Google search result presence by checking such data as search queries, indexing status, and any crawling errors, which you can then fix.
By utilising both SEO tools, you can consistently monitor and improve upon your content’s performance. When used diligently, these optimisation services will provide you with the necessary insights to consider making changes such as content structure, SEO elements, meta descriptions, and more.
There is a science to creating and optimising content that ranks highly. While it takes strategy and perseverance, following guides such as these for content-optimisation best practices is a sure-fire way to get your content ranking well.