“We need a blog.”
That’s what pretty much every business thinks these days.
No wonder that the hype of content creation is steadily growing, as more and more companies are creating blogs in an attempt to promote their products and services to the potential buyers.
There are roughly 4M posts published per day. Four million! To connect to your target audience through content, you’ll need to do much more than just start posting. Gaining attention requires doing an above-average job to stand out from the crowd. And that means optimization, distribution, and promotion.
To prove this point, let me show you some stats about the most read online newspapers in the US.
According to SimilarWeb, these are the most visited sites in the Newspapers category in the US:
And here’s how many posts they publish on a daily basis*:
- NY Times — 665
- Washington Post — 385
- Daily Mail — 849
- The Guardian — 774
- CBS News — 145
(* The data comes from the BuzzSumo tool that allows you to analyze the number of posts that any site publishes on a daily/weekly/monthly basis)
Every day, the newspapers publish thousands of stories! They simply have no time to optimize every article, however, they don’t really need to. Having high authority in Google, the newspapers get a priority place in the Top Stories, which grants them more visibility than high organic positions. Even if only 1% of their posts gets into the top, they are going to generate a great deal of traffic.
But a company’s blog is not an online newspaper. Creating hundreds of posts per day is a waste of time and budget for any non-media business. So, instead of conquering by numbers, one should win traffic with quality, and by quality I mean optimization for a particular target audience.
In this post, I want to share with you the three major steps of a content strategy for a business blog, which, if taken, will bring in organic traffic.
Always do keyword research
We, at AccuRanker once had a client who was running a blog to support his home design business. He was publishing content regularly, and it was ranking very well in Google. However, the blog received almost zero organic traffic.
After a quick content audit, we discovered the reason: most of the keywords that our client’s content was ranking for had less than 100 searches per month. With such little keyword volume, even the highest positions in Google can’t guarantee sustainable traffic flow.
Many marketers see keyword research as a vague process with unclear target results. If that is your case, here are the tips that will help you make sense of it all and find the best keyword ideas faster than before.
- Besides a well-known Google Keyword Planner, I recommend using KeywordTool.io. It allows you to speed up the keyword research process by suggesting multiple long-tail keywords, which are usually less competitive. And in comparison with other keyword analysis tools, it allows you to export as many results from a report as you want.
- Always check your organic competition. That means, investigate what kind of domains are currently appearing in SERPs for your target keywords and if there’s a real chance of outranking them. If you’re competing with very authoritative sites that have tons of backlinks, it makes sense to review your target keywords list.
- If you are optimizing your site for a location in which you’re not currently based, there’s a free tool from the AccuRanker team that allows you to check the SERPs in any country. It allows you to further specify the location, such as a city, for more precise targeting. The results can be also clustered by device (desktop or mobile).
- Plan your content accordingly to the search demand. Some topics are broader than the others and require more content to cover them in detail. Traditionally, such topics are elaborated by comprehensive guides and well-structured how-to’s, but the key to high ranking is clear internal navigation.
To check what kind of topics users are interested in, I highly recommend AnswerThePublic. This tool scrapes Google autocomplete suggestions and visualizes them in a diagram:
On this screenshot, we see the most popular user questions related to the phrase “handmade shoes”. The phrases are grouped by question words such as how, where, what etc.
Propel on-page SEO
The competition for user attention is vicious, so in order to reach your viewer’s eyes your content needs to be optimized extremely well. One of the first things to do is distribute your target keyword across the page. Your target keywords must appear in the page title, meta description, URL and the first paragraph of the post.
Though it might seem as an outdated technique, there are many ranking factor studies that confirm that including keywords into the main page elements is important for page visibility.
As a matter of fact, using the correct titles and meta descriptions is important not only for SEO, but from a user’s perspective, too. When checking out the SERP, we select the most appealing search snippets. If we like how it looks — we click. Accordingly, if you make a great search snippet — you win your viewer’s attention.
To get perspective on your efforts, it’s useful to check what other websites put into their titles and metas. And don’t forget about the limited number of characters in those tags. When a meta description is longer than 160 characters, it gets shortened in the search snippet, which sort of shuts you off in the middle of a sales pitch.
Another factor that is vital for your search appearance is the way your text is structured. Using H2/H3/H4 titles and additional markup elements might seem as an obvious advice, yet it’s very important to add navigation to your post so that the search bots can identify it’s structure and — possibly — represent it in the search snippet.
For example, if your page appears in the top results, Google might transform your navigation items into the so-called “jump to” links that appear after the meta description.
Another way to structure your post is to use jump links right inside the text (this is another type of a “jump” link). An interactive table of contents would be an example of such link. Here’s a quick how-to about adding jump links using html.
And last but not least, it’s crucial to add links to your page from other pages of your website. Very often, a sufficient amount of internal links is what helps the page to start ranking high in Google, especially if the link is added site-wide. For example, a page will have significantly more value if you include it into the site navigation.
Here you can read how HubSpot completely rethought their content strategy, organising content in topic clusters and making completely new internal linking structure, helping them to dramatically increase content ROI.
Links are essential, and without them your website won’t survive. Even Google admits it, though they are usually very careful about making unambiguous statements. Yet, Google’s Gary Illyes had his face printed on a T-shirt stating that “ranking without links is really, really hard.”
Link building, if done properly, takes tons of time and is closer to a full-time PR job than SEO. But even if it’s only one of your responsibilities, it is possible to manage with less effort if you automate the job.
In case you have no idea where to begin, let me share a simple working outline with you:
- Start with building a list of the websites that you’re going to reach out to. They can be found with the help of Majestic: it shows what sites are referring to your competitors and industry leaders. These are the sites you should target first.
- Next, find the right people to contact. If you’re working with a company, not a single blogger, it’s important to find the person responsible for content marketing within their team.
Tip: To find contacts of the right people to connect to, I use Hunter.io. Apart from the email list, it shows the template that is used in a company to create email addresses. For example, this is the Hubspot’s template:
Even if you don’t know the exact email, but know the name of a person to contact, you can easily guess the rest. To find that name, you might need to look into the blog’s authors and do some digging in LinkedIn.
- Before reaching out, think through how exactly they can benefit from linking to your content. It might be a discount to your product, or a promotion of their services among your audience — whatever it is, you need to have the offer ready in mind once you type “Hello!”.
- Write a good pitch. There are thousands of books out there on how to create a successful sales pitch, but I will only mention one thing: personalization. The key to a positive reaction is adding a balanced amount of personal information to your message. For example, if you’re reaching out to a person who has just published a post, you can mention the most interesting fact from it and express your opinion on it. Don’t pretend to be more interested in their activity than you actually are, but make it clear that this outreach is not exactly the same as twenty others.
If one day you want to see your content on the first page of Google’s search results, and what’s even more important, if you want it bringing you enough traffic, then keyword research is a crucial step. It allows you to uncover what your target audience is actually searching for and what topics attracts them the most.
There’s no room for guesswork here. Anything but a thought-through strategic approach will result in zero traffic, as the competition for the top search results is vicious.
Also, don’t forget about structuring your content and adding internal navigation, as well as supporting your pages with internal and external links. All those elements are pieces of a big puzzle, and if you miss one, your plan to win the traffic won’t work.