SEO 101

Three Paths to a Top 10 Content Piece

Over at the WordStream blog, we typically publish a list of our most popular content at the end of every month and every year. This is more than a way to drum up a few more views for those blog posts – it’s an opportunity to learn from our own successes and apply those lessons to our content creation strategies moving forward.

We recently posted our top 10 most popular posts of 2011, and three features stand out that led these posts to rise to the top (out of nearly 300 posts in total). These are the elements that worked for us in 2011, and will probably work for us – and for you! – in 2012 too.

Path #1: Answer a Question that No One Else Has Answered

The problem with most blog posts of an informational nature is that your audience can find that same information elsewhere. There are a few ways to beat our your competition with informational articles:

  • Be more thorough – You can do what others have done, but do it better. (Time/effort alert.)
  • Be more timely – Sometimes a particular question has been answered all over the Internet, but not recently. You can rise to the top of the rankings by providing the most up-to-date answer – but inevitably, someone else will take your place in the future.
  • Be more authoritative – In other words, have a PageRank 9 site, guaranteeing first-page results regardless of who else has answered the question. Good luck with that!

OR … you could just write something that no one else has written before. It’s hard to come up with an idea like that out of the blue – a better approach is to pay attention to when you are looking for an answer and can’t easily find it. For example, Lisa Barone recently posted a list of 31 places to change your address when your business moves. She couldn’t find a checklist of that nature, so she wrote one herself.

That’s what we did when we published our infographic on the most expensive keywords in AdWords, our #1 content piece of the year. I’d searched for that information before, but never found a satisfactory answer, just speculation.

Path #2: Be Provocative

Nothing, and I mean nothing will get you more page views in a short period of time than a provocative article (assuming you promote your content). That early burst of traffic and links can have lasting effects, floating your article to the top of the SERPs for relevant queries.

Here are a couple of provocative posts that I saw in other blogs’ best-of roundups or “most commented” widgets:

Many bloggers play it safe and avoid controversial content. My advice is to take a risk now and then – go against the grain. I only ask that you be sincere in your provocativeness – don’t pretend to hold a view that you don’t, just for traffic’s sake. Save your impassioned rants for when you actually feel some passion.

Path #3: Write a Series

Two of the posts in our top 10 were the first in a series. Series are (relatively) easy on the author because you can spread out your effort over time, writing the content in 500- to 1000-word bursts instead of all at once. Some additional benefits to writing a blog series:

  • A series can bring you a nice return audience. If someone likes your first post, they’ll naturally come back to read the rest.
  • You save time on brainstorming topic ideas – Come up with one complex idea and flesh it out instead of having to think of 10 separate topics to write about.
  • Series give you an excuse to do some internal linking – Link back to the previous posts in the series in each new post. If you do a 10-part series, the first post in the series will include 9 links back to it (which partially explains why the first post always gets the most views).

I hope you’ll look for patterns like these in your own top content. What worked especially well for your site this year?

 Three Paths to a Top 10 Content Piece

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is the Content Development Manager at WordStream Inc., a provider of AdWords solutions and other tools for PPC and SEO. She manages the WordStream Internet Marketing Blog. Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.

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4 thoughts on “Three Paths to a Top 10 Content Piece

  1. Answer a Question that No One Else Has Answered – Yes, that’s what I try to do. But it’s difficult. Almost the questions are answered. I just try to make a best answer for it. Can you share us some ways to find out a question with no answer? I have two ways: join other forums and read the comments.

  2. I really dig writing in series. This is the best way to actually complete the job and be able to hit publish, at least for me. If a piece is too long, I will probably never be able to have it ready.

    And the additional pageviews are a nice bonus, too.

  3. I’m with Dirty Seagull. The idea of it sounds nice, but I think it’s been over emphasized here. What are you passionate about right now? Stick with that. It probably has little to do with an unexplored question. Remember, you do not want to come across as disingenuous. Research and expertise is the key. Answer a question in acute detail, with more compelling content and better graphic displays. Present your material in a way that perhaps nobody else has done before (get creative). That should be your focus.