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Writing longer content that ranks

There are ethical and unethical ways of gaining backlinks. Creating website links with white hat methods seems like a daunting task. I have seen the power that exact match anchor text link could have on ranking websites, even those that had lower quality content or poor perceived niche authority. How was I going to rank pages with ethical link creation methods? Just how was I going to create content that could rank on its own merit and then earn those backlinks?

I needed to go back to basics and put my SEO content marketing training wheels on and do a deep dive on what makes good content rank. Long-form content tends to rank much better than short-form, given that there is a lot more scope for:

  1. Explanation – longer word count lends itself to a more thorough discussion and those details make it more useful as a resource to link to and share.
  2. Semantic language use – as an extension of the above, giving a thorough explanation of all points that are possibly related to a keyword makes Google’s job of understanding it easier.

But, writing good content is time-consuming. I needed to come up with a repeatable, scalable and sound process to identify what good quality content that would appear on page 1 contained. Something that didn’t force me to read thousands and thousands of words.

I came up with a process based on the following principles:

  1. While we need to ‘write for humans’ Googlebot is still a piece of software, so there are going to be some on-page text content elements that make its job easier when it comes to reading and understanding the content.
  2. Content should of course, still read amazingly well for humans!
  3. Some content ranks highly with very few links, so creating brilliant content that satisfies user intent and fits in with how spiders ‘read’ pages can jump-start rankings.

With this in mind, I sought to develop a process that would allow me to create content strategically, saving time and effort on guessing what Google might find attractive. I wanted to ensure that my content creation has direction and based on a strategy to prevent all the common activity of content for content’s sake which wastes business resources and doesn’t improve SEO.

How To Develop Your Content Plan

To get yourself a copy of WebSite Auditor, or a similar tool like Ahrefs. The paid versions of these allow you to crawl your whole site, the free version may not crawl everything you need it to.

Step 1: Create Your Content Outline Document

In order to ensure that you can piece together the content into a logical flow, create a content brief document that will contain everything you need to write the piece – all your meta, keywords, heading tags and so on.

Using a simple table will be enough. As an added bonus, you can use a modified version of your table as an asset for briefing clients if they are going to be doing the physical writing.

Step 2: Analyse the Competition

With your brief document sorted, it’s time to boot up WebSite Auditor. Enter your setup details of choice. You will need to add a domain to analyse, so put in your website’s URL. This won’t matter too much, as will be seen later.

Once the Auditor has set up the project go to Content Analysis and click on TF-IDF. You will need to add a page here.

For our purposes, the page doesn’t need to be related to the keyword you are trying to rank for. We aren’t trying to optimise a page that already exists on the site, we are trying to create a new one and are only interested in the content on our competitors’ pages for now.

Once you have selected the home page, you can add in the primary keyword you are trying to target into the window that pops up. As an example, I have used “free SEO tools”.

Then run the audit. It may take a little while, WSA is powerful but can be a bit slow.

Click Content Analysis on the right-hand pane, then click TF-IDF which will display a table and a graph. For a quick snapshot of our competitors’ content, review the graph first.

Deselect your page in the bottom right-hand corner. We are after an analysis of your competitors’ content so you can uncover what Google may be picking up on from a language and semantic perspective to know what to include in your content.

In the same section, select all the URLs of the competitors you want to analyse and review the results as a quick snapshot in the graph pane.

Aha! Look at those groupings!

We can immediately see that for the top 5 competitors, there are some keywords that are mentioned by all of our competitors, and in a higher frequency than some of the other keywords. These will be ideal topics of discussion in our content piece given how frequently they appear in top-performing content pieces.

The results are also displayed in a tabular format, which you can manipulate and filter.

Step 3: Pull the Keywords and Themes

Now that you have a list of all of the keywords that should be included, pull the vital keywords, like those circled in the graph above and add them to your planning document. These should be the basis of heading tags as they highlight the main themes that high-ranking content includes.

In our example, Google Analytics and Search Console are mentioned by all of the websites that we analysed, so these must be relevant to the kinds of audiences that our piece will be targeting and will form great headlines to our article.

To get an understanding of the semantic of high performing pieces, we can also see that we should be mentioning certain words and phrases that might not be tools, but that Google will use to understand we are talking about “tools that don’t cost anything that we can do search engine optimisation with”.

It’s not quite an analysis of Natural Language Programming use, but by discussing these themes within the context of the headlines that we pulled from WebSite Auditor your article should contain all the necessary references and language structure use needed for machines to get a good grip of your content as well. In your briefing document, add these semantic/thematic keywords so that you can be sure your content nests within itself in a logical format.

Step 4: Get Writing!

This should seem like the obvious step; you can’t do content marketing or SEO without the content. By utilising this method, you can significantly cut down on the time it takes you to create a brief that will be keyword focussed, data-informed and relevant not only to human users but readable to search engines like Google.

For some more tips on content writing check out these recent articles:

  • 10 Tips for Writing Effective Advertising Copy
  • Tips For Writing An Online Style Guide
  • Here’s How an eBook Helps Achieve Content Goals
  • Content Personalisation and Interactivity as Part of Your Digital Marketing Strategy
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