• Tony Grant

Content Marketing Course: 4 Strategies to Rank Your Keyword

Updated: May 8

Scan, leave, scan, leave, scan...click!


This is how people read your content. People judge us on a few words, so winning that valuable click is only half the game.


'79% of our test users scanned any new page they came across' Nelson Group


When users land on the blog, we believe they then move to services, about pages. It doesn't happen.

Image: Google Analytics Behavioural Funnel - Landing Page

The primary purpose of a blog is to boost credibility, build links and authority. This means your service, about us (more transactional) pages, will rank higher, leading to increased leads. The blog is a bridge from Google to your thank you page. You need to have high ranking service pages.


Although not a 'direct' lead generation source, if you don't attract links, you won't gain authority. Meaning you won't rank and thus, won't attract qualified leads.



About The Course - Content Strategy For Lead Generation

The course is provided by CXL Institute. The leading digital marketing online course platform. The content strategy course is extremely valuable and relevant. Providing you with actionable tasks you can do whilst studying. Here is what I learnt and want to share with you:

  • Learn how to plan your content marketing strategy

  • Understand SEO best practises

  • Actually executing the plan, to build at scale and longevity

  • Tactics to promote your content

  • Learn how to measure, repurpose and improve your content


Whilst the course outlines a more B2B focus, it is clear these methods and best practices can be used for B2C across SaaS and eCommerce. You can also apply these learnings for the 3 main content sources, email, social and organic.


I have split methods into 4 categories:


1. How to Plan Your Content Marketing Strategy

2. Improving the Quality of Your Content

3. Executing Your Content Plan

4. Measuring, Analysing and Repurposing Content


Learn more about content strategy here


You can also learn about acquiring higher quality leads here


1. How to Plan Your Content Marketing Strategy


You can just start a blog, get your head down and start writing. To be honest, if you do that you are ahead of a lot of companies/people. However, if you plan ahead your efforts will be maximised exponentially.


When writing new content, we ultimately have the goal of attracting new customers and/or building authority/credibility. To do this we need to understand rank potential:


4 Key steps:

  • Keyword Research

  • Competitor Analysis

  • Quality Gaps

  • Building a Topic/Specific Keywords


When planning content, the first place to start is keyword research. There are a few things to consider when researching keywords; volume and keyword difficulty.


Some resources you'll need for keyword research:

Free Sites

Free Plugins

Paid (and well worth the investment)

All these platforms have free trial periods (so well worth signing up and using them for a solid week a the very least).

You can get more SEO Tools and resources here.

Some sources you may not have thought about

Another good source for keyword research is listening to whoever talks to the prospects.

  • Sales

  • Customer Service

  • Customer Success

  • Customer Experience


Another, and admittedly I hadn't thought of before is your email.


'Never waste a conversation in private; put it on your site'

Andy Crestodina, Orbit


You may get asked multiple questions in an email. If you start seeing trends with questions in your email, add to your website, where it makes the most sense. It could be other people want to know the information too, but can't be bothered to ask. Make it easy for the customer.


Pros for adding content on the site

  • Consistent sales message across the team

  • Keyword and relevant content Google can crawl

  • Accessible to the mass

  • Increased productivity

Cons

  • Lose the personal touch

...That's it. But even then you can be personable when signposting the customer to the right page.

But something to consider.



Keyword Research

Let me take you through step by step to planning your content marketing strategy

1. Build a List of 'Seed' Topic


What exactly is a seed topic? There are 3 things to consider when identifying a 'seed' keyword.

  • Broad intent - E.g. Digital. Extremely broad and no demonstration of intent whatsoever.

  • It needs to have a high volume

  • Get creative to explore different areas. Personally I like to get a pen and paper to formulate a mind map (excuse my handwriting). You'll begin to see topics form.

Image: Content Marketing Seed Topic Mindmap. Tony Grant


At this point, you should create a google sheet or excel file. Here's a template taken from CXL Course. I recommend 10-15 seed topics. If start to run out of ideas, recycle other seed topics.


Then we need to add volume, here is where your resources start to come into their own.


Take the tool of your choice to get an idea of volume. I use Ahrefs but any of the above resources will help you.


Image: Ahrefs Keyword Explorer


Add all your seed topics, don't worry about keyword difficulty right now, we will get to that (I'm guessing we aren't going to rank for 'digital').


REMEMBER seed topics are broad, they don't show certain intent (that comes later)


At this point, you should have a document looking like this...

Image: CXL SEO Driven Editorial Calendar



Start to Build Specific Topics

Search for the keyphrase using Google Search, or paid tool like Ahref and simply see what results return. Couple of techniques I've learnt.


1. Add your seed topic and press space. Google then presents a list of frequently searched topics adding to your seed topic.

Image: Google Search


Yep, you can start to add these to your sheet. If you haven't already download keywords everywhere.


You'll get more bang for your buck. Keywords Everywhere provide you with a list of 'related Keywords' and what 'people also searched for.

Image: Google Search with Keywords Everywhere


You can also use other tools to help build more topics and flesh out your list



Image: Answer the Public



General Rules of Thumb

  • Keyword phrase needs to have some search volume

  • Volume can be 10, this can transition into more later

  • Keyword should imply a more specific topic or content

  • Needs to have good ranking potential - look at keyword difficulty using Moz, Ahref or SEMRush.

  • Avoid topics you won't rank for like digital ;)


Idea of Saturation

A quick way to determine content saturation is taking you topic keyword phrase type it into google and see if the page title match. If they don't you may hit gold, however, if there are a lot of page titles with that search term, chances of ranking are slim. Although, not definitely a show stopper (we'll come onto domain authority soon).



Resource

Now that you have an extensive list of topics, you need to determine the ability to deliver. Consider the following:

  • Company has experts

  • Access to writers

  • Assets already

Prioritise

Using your Google Sheet or Excel, you can now easily prioritise your topics.

  • Filter - medium to low saturated, remove High because might be hard

  • Are you able to fulfil?

Content Competitor

This step I find is the most laborious blog, however, it is an essential step to maximising the result of your blog and ranking.


Somethings to consider:

  • Not a direct competitor in terms of service or product, this is because they might not have a blog or regularly publishing content

  • Find a niche site

  • Not a big site, but specific to seed topics

  • Find a weakness in relation to your site, Bad UX, outdated copy, rubbish copy, domain authority.


If you haven't download Moz bar plugin


You can see your domain authority (DA) using the Moz Bar. I'm not an expert here, but my understanding is DA is a quantitative figure built by Moz to determine the authority of a domain. Scoring your site 0-100.


Image: Moz.com


Take seed topic and search in Google and determine the domain authority

Let's say your Domain Authority is 60. We will need to look for domains around 60 or lower to easily rank.

Image: Google Search with Moz Bar


So naturally, we may need to look for lower DA sites. Although this isn't the only criteria you should look at.


Consider the following:


Ranking gaps (criteria to determine if topics will rank)


  • Is there a relevance gap - top-line number 1 metric of success (google said this Paul Harr from Google) Search engine isn't doing their job is this is not done well

  • Domain authority - is a little more subjective, because you need to measure who you are going against. Need DA less then what you are, otherwise really hard to rank. If you are a new site, this is where long-tail keywords come in(above 5 words in a phrase typically.

  • Quality - Possibility you can outrank, bad UX, bad writing, not experts

  • Site topical authority - if the big guys are ranking, there might be room for a niche (topical authority)


Image: CXL Course Orbit Media

Building Out Content Calendar: Aligning Keywords to Pages


Content Types

There are 6 types of content on the internet.


Type 1 Topic/subject

  • Broad = low intent, really unknown what they want to do (avoid this topic type).

Type 2 Tips & Tricks (or Hacks)

  • Facebook ad tips, example, techniques, skills

  • The key plural noun (tips, ideas, skills)

  • This is intent what the users want (easy to form headlines)

Type 3 Object or thing

  • Books, memes, product, apps (plural noun)

  • They want to to find x…

  • Heres the key differentiator, provide data to the user. Essentially its a database presented as a post (price, sites ) this can take a lot of research and data collation. Hugely valuable to the user and worth the investment

Type 4 How to or Process

The key with these blogs is to avoid long definition and whys, benefits etc. The idea here is that you are teaching the user something new, or a required skill they want.

Type 5 Versus Keywords

A really easier content type is switching your seed topics into the opposite forming a versus. Have an honest opinion, be authentic and show charts and tables, even compare 3 things.

  • Marketing vs digital marketing

  • Productivity vs (type into google)

  • Show the pros and cons

Type 6 Yes or No - questioning

  • Google needs a snippet with yes-no and adding the why…

  • Is digital marketing important yes….why

  • Pretend you got asked why to any question

There are 3 approaches to each of the content types above and only 1% marketer do this.

  1. Observation - Pick a data set, gather data

  2. Aggregation - combine data from other sources

  3. Survey - Mass outreach, to research piece (become the primary source)


The key is to what do people in our industry often say but rarely support?

Find the missing stat and become the go-to source.


“Don’t take shortcuts, they take too long” - Soni Simone

2. Quality Best practises for SEO and UX

Great, so now we have our topics, we know the audience we are going to reach, now how to keep them engaged.


Here are the topics we will cover:

  • SEO

  • Blog best practice tips

  • Website UX

  • Headlines

  • Testimonials


Here are some key terms to start becoming familiar with

  • Key phrase - what did they search for

  • Rank - do you have a relevant page

  • Click - did that visitor come to the site

  • Visit - did the site instil confidence

  • Action - Did they buy or perform the desired action


Getting Your Pages to Rank

There are essentially two pieces to this puzzle; on-page and off-site. Here's how Google works...

Image: CXL Content Strategy Course


Any idea? Nope me either. However, what we do see is simple. Pages & links. Pages with relevant engaging content and links connecting those pages. More links equal more authority (links from higher DA than yours) means higher DA and more traffic.


Link Types

  • Internal links - Other pages on your website, make sure it's relevant content

  • External links - Like I have done in this post, linking to relevant pages, or source pages. This tells Google 'this content is associated with them' However, this doesn't mean more DA for you necessarily and some SEO experts might frown at this. However, if it's relevant put it in.

  • Back Links - This is the goldmine. If you can earn links from other web pages, Google likes this. (Basically, Moz has had a great time from this post).


Technical SEO

Before we go into some best practice tips, I want to briefly cover some technical SEO. Admittedly, this is NOT my bag, so please do your due diligence and read up in more detail.

  1. URLs vs Tabs - Always use URLs instead of accordions or any element which may hide copy from Google

  2. Discoverable, crawlable - Make sure you are crawlable in Google. This means you will have the chance to be indexed.

  3. Duplicate Content - Ensure you avoid duplicating your content, Google will penalise you. You may want to look into canonical tags for this.

  4. Speed - If you have a slow site, this is a ranking factor. Compress images.

  5. Say NO to PDF. Google can't crawl them.


Onsite SEO

Ok, here is the stuff you can really control. Here are some key practices to ensure your page is optimal for search.


1. Page Title Tag

Image: Page Title for ASOS.com


This is an example of a page title tag. Ensure it contains the keyword, key topic covered and value to the user. Avoid words such as home, about and contact.


This is also how your page will appear in Google Search.


Image: Google SERP


2. Meta Description

The text beneath the page title is called the meta description. Whilst this isn't a ranking factor, it plays a key role in enticing the user to click to your page, which is what we want. You have to make this short and snappy as you have only 60 characters before Google cuts the text off.


You can use a nifty tool called SERPSim. It enables you to type in your page title and meta description to see how it will look in SERPs.

Image: SERPSim


It also tells you if your meta description is too long.

Image: SERPSim


Some more tips and tricks for you:

  • Use a custom URL - This allows you to keep the keyword and topic. Google has said keeping the URL short and memorable is the best practice.

  • Images - Ensure you add Alt Tags. 30% of searches on Google are images. Ensuring you have the right keywords will help you to rank. Its also good practice for accessibility. Ensure images are below 150kb to avoid high page load.



UX Best Practice For A Blog

  • Structure - determine what the aesthetic structure is. If you were to zoom out, are headers and images easy to determine the context of the blog?

  • Headers - SHould directly state the subject and if its scan worthy

  • Text structure, not big blocks of paragraph no bigger than 4

  • Bullets, to break it up (mobile and desktop)

  • Use images, through the scroll depth

  • Break flow and engagement

  • Checking writing for readability, using Hemingway. The tool provides quick feedback on your copy

  • Avoid a passive tone and long, hard sentences

UX Design

Keeping a website design simple is crucial to improve the UX of a site. You read more about key principles here.


Elements to look out for

  • Fonts - Don't make your font to small. Aim for around 16-17px

  • Line width - Aim for about 75 characters for container width

  • Line height

  • Contrast font of background and font

  • Navigation

  • Link your content (Categories)

  • Add related blog post

  • Don't add popular posts, this makes it all about you and not the customer. They don't care what is popular, they want specifics to them

  • Link colour - Ensure the links visually stand out by underlining them, people might be colour blind

  • Layout and UX

  • The first sentence appears above the fold Google has above the fold algorithm

  • Content interruptions - avoid pop-ups, ads.

  • Add meta information author, published, last updated date


Some ideas to format your content

  • Format Text - articles, guides, ebooks

  • Images - Infographics, diagrams, memes

  • Video - How to, explainers

  • Collaborative - Interviews, roundups

Headline Best Practice

Headlines are arguably the most important aspect of a blog and one of the more difficult elements to get right. That's why I wanted to give headlines the respect they deserve by separating them out as a stand-alone.


Headlines are used everywhere in marketing, emails, H1, infographics and it may be the only piece of content a user has with your brand. So we need to make it count.


Essentially people do cost-benefit calculation before they click, is it worth it?


  • Write a number of headlines 5-10

  • 80-90 characters


Headline Formula

Target Keyphrase + Colon + Number or Trigger Word + Promise


Great headlines do the following:

  1. Make a promise

  2. Trigger curiosity

  3. Use numbers

  4. Ask a question

  5. User power words

  6. Keyword first

3. Execute - Let's do it

I know what you are thinking, there is A LOT of work to do. There is, really there is. So fo this section keep the phrase in mind the 2P's & 2D's. Process, productivity, delegate, do.


Before you add to your content calendar, we need to work out how many posts are you going to do


  • How many pieces can you do? A good piece takes about 10hrs to do, and aim for 1500 words or above.

  • How often can you publish content


Plan your time wise

We all have the same amount of time in a day, the difference is how we use it. Personally, I dedicate at least 2 hours in the morning writing, before I do anything else like pen emails etc. If I do that 5 times a week I know I can publish one quality piece a week, which seems fair for me on my own. It is also amazing how you get inspired by everything around you for content, like the conversations you have.

Productivity

Structure You day and be disciplined, allocate time to do the following:

  • Promoting

  • Sharing

  • Talking


Delegation

Learn the art of delegation, can you find a freelancer or VA to do the hard yards

  • Title opening, outline

  • Use Ghostwriter if you have the budget

You'll need to share editorial guidelines

  • Length

  • Tone

  • Formatting

  • Images

  • Quotes

  • Stats & research

The next step is to write down your method for content writing. I'm still working on mine.


Promotion

Nearly there, you know have a great piece. The final step is to promote it.

  • Social

  • Collaborate


Here are 5 ways to reach new audiences. These do take a bit of planning but well worth the effort:

  1. Quote and mention in the article

  2. Ask for a contributor quote

  3. Include them in an expert roundup

  4. Invite them to guest post

  5. Deep dive interview


Image: CXL Content Strategy Course

4. Measure, Analyse, Repurpose

I won't go into too much detail here as you can learn about measurement with Google Analytics course. But I wanted to show you an example of what good will look like once you get your blog post right.


Here we noticed a gap for golf travel bags (obviously way before COVID-19). So we decided to write an article to compare different brands. We had a low DA so we had to be extremely clever, utilising some of the facts and strategies above. The results speak for themselves.


Image: Google Analytics


As you can see, traffic keeps increasing and increasing. We are monitoring analytics because when we see a dip, we will need to update or repurpose the blog.


This IS NOT best practise, we missed a huge trick and didn't post on social media. What you will find with different channels is something like this.

Image: Google Analytics


Social media - is erratic, because people are emotional and tend to be bored

Email - You can see spikes when a newsletter or email campaign is sent out

Search - Is your Goldust. Look at how it can grow organically without any extra work


All the steps may seem a lot and a lot of work upfront. If you do it, you will be rewarded in the long run.

Final Tip to Leave You With

Focus on your headlines. They are so hard to do. I wrote 20 headlines for this post, and I know it can be better. Even this one was better than the original. My point is to write a lot of headlines then pick 1.


Orbit Media provides a great formula


Target Keyphrase + Colon + Number or Trigger Word + Promise


Most importantly, have fun.

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