There are a couple of things that we understand about SEO, one is that to rank you need to get some links to your content: the more, and the better the quality the better your chances. We also know that doing a little bit of old-fashioned on-page SEO can help things along.
**But the days when those were the most important bits of the puzzle are long behind us
Sure, if you really go all out on the link building you might force your “so so” content onto page one, but it probably won’t stay there for long and you’re just as likely to get your website penalized instead.
No, now-a-days the single most important thing is that your content is great; In short, your content needs to actually deserve to be in that coveted top spot. Get that bit right and the supporting activities (like link building) suddenly become more of a “helping hand” and less of an uphill struggle.
So To Write It…
Ok, so the fact that you need to write good content isn’t exactly a new idea, but in this post I am going to talk about how you actually go about creating that content. It’s not fool-proof, but if you have a system your odds of success are that bit higher.
Ready? Ok, let’s get started:
Choosing A Topic
First things first, in this post I’m talking about writing, so implicitly we are aiming to rank for topics where text content makes sense. So try to write a blog post to rank for a query that doesn’t really demand text content. Use some common sense:
If you want to rank for car insurance, a blog post isn’t going to help you because when a user searches for “Car insurance” he almost certainly isn’t looking for a blog post, he’s looking for a quote.
However, if you happen to run an insurance search engine and you want your home page to rank for “Car insurance” you can certainly create some blog posts or content pages to rank for related phrases and over time use those to build some authority. Of course ranking for that phrase will take a lot of work, but you see where I’m coming from…
So maybe you will target some phrases like:
- How to save money on car insurance
- How to save money on motoring
- Why is car insurance so expensive?
[Note from Ann: Mind that this guide is on writing good content in general. For writing guest posts (especially in “boring niches” like car insurance), you may want to come up with more FUN ideas. We discussed brainstorming for content marketing and guest blogging earlier; that article lists some tips on coming up with topics that could catch blogger’s attention.]
These are queries that imply a desire for information, so they are probably well suited for blog posts. If in doubt though, Google your target keyword phrase and see what the top results look like.
[From Ann: Onw tool I can’t recommend enough for keyword research in Google is “Google Bing Youtube and Amazon Suggest tool“]
If all or most of the top results are article type pages then you are good to go. If not then reconsider your topic because Google obviously thinks that a blog post isn’t a relevant way to serve that query (and that’s a strong hint).
Picking A Title
Once you have a topic, picking a title should be fairly simple, although coming up with a new way to approach that topic may be harder. There is no simple way to do this, but start by writing your topic in the form of a blog title.
Google variations of your target phrase to get ideas for what titles work best and try to come up with something that fits the following criteria:
- Is Reasonably Unique
- Is Fairly Long
- …But No More Than 70 Characters (Google’s Title Limit)
- Contains Your Main Target Phrase
Picking a title is often a compromise between SEO and clickability. If you want your post to get maximum social shares you might go with something slightly offbeat, whereas if you want to rank in Google you need to go for simplicity and serving the implicit needs of the searcher.
Do Your Research
The next step is writing your content, but before you start just writing, you need to plan what you will actually include in your post. The first step is simple, Google your key phrase and open up the first 5 or 6 results.
Read all of them and make notes on the key points that they raise. They will all be different and chances are good that no one will be totally comprehensive. But your post will be!
Distill what you read into logical groups and sub-headings and then try to add a few ideas of your own. The result will be the outline of a post that is more comprehensive than anything that is currently ranking.
Now all you have to do is follow through on the writing and you should have a post that is more valuable, more comprehensive and better than the competition – and therefore that deserves to rank at the rank.
The Marketing Part
I believe two things when it comes to Google:
- If you write the best content, ranking will be much easier
- But great content alone is not enough, you need links
In spite of what Matt Cutts would have you believe, Google isn’t clever enough to find the best content without a little prompting, so unless your blog already has stacks of readers who are ready to link and promote your content, you’re going to have to do it yourself.
This post isn’t about marketing, but suffice to say that a large part of your content strategy needs to address how you will actually get people to it.
Whenever I plan a really great post for my own blog, I also try to write 2 or 3 great posts for other blogs. Moz, My Blog Guest, SEJ are all great places in this niche and they have the ability to send you some good traffic and social shares.
If you don’t have your own shortlist of places that can send you traffic then you are wasting effort that could be driving you more traffic, links and rankings.
Hi there, my name is Adam. I am an SEO and digital marketing consultant, I work at an SEO agency called Digivate. I love working with small businesses online and I love writing about marketing. I also have a passion for web development and coding. Want to read more? Check our latest blog post about integrating Social Media, Content and SEO.
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