If you want to be on top of your SEO game, you need to have great content. But simply putting out lots of crappy blog posts that no one reads or cares about won’t help you cozy up to Google. According to an SEO “Food” Pyramid I constructed, your site architecture is still the base of great SEO – but next on the list is quality, authoritative, relevant content.
To demonstrate this, I put together a case study of how a SaaS startup grew their blog traffic to over 100,000 visits/month using content marketing as an SEO strategy.
A Case Study
One of the posts we did at my last company, When I Work, back on March 6, 2014 – is still the post that drives the most organic traffic to our site. When we first published it, we saw only 319 visitors to the post for the entire month. This slowly started to climb, and as the topic become even more relevant, it skyrocketed to a high of 1,706 page views in one day.
The post has now generated over 89,000 pageviews for this blog post alone, many of whom have gone on to subscribe to the blog, and even become paying customers (I want to note that roughly 300 of those visitors did come from paid promotion).
So let’s dissect this post to see what we can learn from it and how we can do this again with other posts. What are the parts of this post that have allowed it to gain in SEO popularity?
It starts with a good idea. Not an idea that you think is good, an idea that your ideal audience thinks is good. Take a look at the Seven News Values: Impact, Timeliness, Prominence, Proximity, Bizarreness, Conflict, Currency. The more of these your idea can touch, the more likely your post will do well.
For our post about minimum wage, we were able to hit on:
- Impact: Almost everyone’s life will be impacted by a minimum wage discussion. Either you make the minimum wage, you manage people who make the minimum wage, or your friends, loved ones make the minimum wage.
- Timeliness: It was being discussed during election/political chatter – which works out nicely for a post about minimum wage.
- Conflict: There are heated debates on both sides of the minimum wage issue – there always will be.
- Currency: Obviously, the minimum wage deals with money. And people talk about money.
Moz already has a great guide about keyword research, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here – but my favorite tool is still the AdWords Keyword Planner.
We did some research trying to figure out what the best words were to use for the title, for the body, and for the intro paragraph. Keywords are not as fashionable, but they are still important – the goal has just shifted away from using keywords to trick Google, to using keywords in a natural conversation that makes the post easier to read by human beings.
We used the Keyword planner to find different ways of saying the same thing – maybe even ways that we didn’t realize other people used to describe what we were writing about. There can be a lot of regionality in how you talk about things – sort of like the word pop versus soda versus coke.
The keyword planner helped us see the different ways people phrased things so we could fit them into our content naturally and provide a better reading experience for more people.
Ask For Engagement
By asking people to comment we were able to increase the time people spent on the page. The title wasn’t misleading so visitors weren’t prone to bouncing when they landed on the page. A lot of times it seems like people want to use link bait, or social media “psych out” titles to encourage people to click and visit – but when they get there, the content sucks or is completely different from what the title suggested. That’s annoying in any industry.
Think of it like internet dating – if your Tinder picture is completely different from who you are, people will get ticked off and your credibility will go down. If your Tinder picture is shot by a professional photographer, using the right light, the right editing and enhancements so that it still looks like you – but the best version of you – then you are going to get much more action than a crappy iPhone selfie.
Google looks at things the same way. If you inflate your post too much people will bounce, which tells Google that your content (and site) aren’t relevant which will lower your SEO. If your post is ugly and boring, then your content will get “swiped left”. You need to find the sweet spot of honest and polished.
Google likes seeing people spending time on your site, reading to the bottom, caring enough to comment, enjoying it enough to share it – these are all things that Google is using to evaluate the content on your page – perhaps even as much as the keywords.
The Rest of The Site
The SEO value of the rest of your site will impact the SEO value of your individual posts – that’s obvious. So what are things you can do to improve the overall SEO value of your domain? Look at your architecture. Can you clean up the code, speed up the load time, improve your alt tags, etc.?
What about links? We haven’t entered the era of linkless SEO just yet – good links are still relevant. If you have good content, you should make sure people know about it. We were able to reach out to some other websites to let them know about our article – which helped them link to the article in posts they were writing about similar topics.
And don’t forget about internal linking. Do you have other posts on your blog that are relevant? Make sure you link them together. You should make it as easy as possible for human beings (and Google) to know how your content fits together.
Content marketing is going to be the SEOs best friend in 2015. Not junk guest blog posts on irrelevant sites with bad writing – high quality, relevant content that actually improves the lives of real human beings. This is what Google has been pushing for and will continue to push for. Does your content help anyone in the real world? If it does – great, write it. If it doesn’t, then stop writing right now, close the computer, go for a run, come back and try again.
I’m sure I didn’t hit everything that is necessary – just the ones that we actually used. What else would you add to this list?
Featured image credit: Shutterstock.com. Used under license.