Imagine a near-distant future where we’re all gathering together freely once more. 🙏
You and I are attending the year’s biggest content marketing conference.
Before we head to the event center for talks, presentations, and meet-and-greets, we agree to meet up at that quaint little coffee shop on the corner near our hotels.
We sit at a table by a window looking out onto a sunny city street. Bright-eyed, early shoppers pass laden with bags, and businesspeople in suits and blazers hurry by on their way to their first morning meetings.
We sip our coffees and chat idly about the upcoming events of the day. We even indulge in a little gossip.
After my last sip of espresso, I ask, “So, how is your company’s blog doing?”
You reply with a pained sigh, and lifelessly mutter:
“It could be doing so much better.”
I lean in and give you my full attention while you lay out a laundry list of problems:
You can’t keep up with the consistent blogging schedule you need to get anywhere.
You’re hyper-focused on quantity and obsessed with pushing out content just to get it out there. Ergo, much of your content is just okay, while most of it is downright rushed and bad.
You haven’t even thought about SEO.
Writing isn’t your forte, nor is it the specialty of anyone else on your team, so you struggle mightily when it comes time to create content.
Your main competitor, on the other hand, has an incredible blog and is jumping ahead of you by leaps and bounds with the audience they’re drawing in.
And the list goes on.
You sit back in your chair, rubbing your temples. Just thinking about the situation gives you a headache.
You know what I’m going to say.
I say it anyway.
“You need a content writer.”
You Need a Content Writer: 5 Reasons to Invest in Your Content
Even though this is an imaginary situation, the point still stands. If you’re like most small brands, some or all of this is ringing true.
In a survey on the state of content writing in 2020, Mantis Research and Typeset found most small business owners, marketers, and communications professionals experience a disconnect between knowing what successful writing looks like and actually achieving it.
76% say they know what successful writing looks like, but only 45% think their content is extremely/very effective.
Nearly half of all business communicators struggle to understand what their audience wants to read.
Those with only moderate success with content writing struggle with most aspects of the process: writing and publishing consistently, maintaining quality over time, writing headlines, writing for SEO, writing concisely, getting the words to flow, and meeting deadlines.
As you can see, you’re not alone in your struggles.
But there IS a solution.
You need a content writer, and I’m here to tell you why. (Imagine me giving you this advice over that same cup of coffee from our hypothetical friendly chat. ☕)
1. You Don’t Have Time
I talk to business owners and even marketing specialists every day who respond to my question about their web content the same way you did.
Sometimes, I just want to reach through the phone, shake them, and ask “Why do you think you’re not doing better?! It’s because you don’t have time!”
I want to, but I don’t. At any rate, the reason you can’t keep up with a busy writing schedule is simple: You don’t have time. You’re too busy actually running your business.
Thankfully, the solution is pretty simple, too. Hire a content writer.
Not only do we have the time to develop your content for you (because this is our job and what we spend our days doing), but we do this all the time, so we can make it happen more quickly than you can.
You don’t have the workflow down. We do.
2. Content Writing Is More Than Writing
When you hire a content writer, you’re not getting someone who will write generic content that may or may not apply to your business. You’re hiring a team member who will take an interest in your business and will be eager to learn how you work, who your audience is, and where your big successes and failures are now.
Once we have all the information we need, we’re going to be doing more than writing – we’re going to be communicating with your audience on a level you’d never have time to maintain.
Not only that, but content writers are experienced with writing for SEO — including keyword and topic research — as well as editing, writing for social media and other content formats, and more.
Content writing means we have to be good at a little of everything – and that’s good for you.
A common mistake of CEOs and business owners who also do their own marketing and advertising?
They’re just too close to their own products. They can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.
Your content writer, on the other hand, is coming to the table with no biases and a fresh perspective. They’ll look at your product with zero prior knowledge of its existence, in many cases.
A content writer who’s worth his or her salt will take an interest in your business and will work tirelessly to understand it while maintaining their clear-eyed objectivity. It’s this objective stance that helps them write creative and innovative content that doesn’t rehash the same old tired clichés plaguing your industry.
That’s our job. We take your product, look at it in a fresh new way, and sell it to new customers with a novel perspective on what makes it so great. We take your tired content topics and breathe new life into them, illuminating and showcasing your brand voice in the process.
If your sales language and content writing are bogged down in jargon and marketing-speak that don’t really mean anything, then you most definitely need the help of a content writer.
4. Fresh Content, Consistently, Means Better Results
It should go without saying at this point, but I’m saying it anyway. (Do you see a theme emerging, here?)
Search engines love fresh content.
They also love quality content.
To rank well, to stay on Google’s page one, you need both.
Keeping your site’s pages filled with ever-changing, fresh, keyword-optimized content that isn’t spammy, that’s written for humans, and is fun and engaging for an internet audience to read, is going to be the best dang thing that ever happened to your website. Period.
The best content writers do that. ALL of it.
Your content writer will have his or her finger on the pulse of your web traffic in a way you never could. They know how to write consistently great content while using SEO techniques – all without sacrificing readability, customer engagement, or accuracy.
I get it. You have overhead, and hiring even one more person will make your budget that much tighter.
No worries. You don’t need a sky-high budget to get stellar content writing.
Even companies on the barest of budgets should be able to afford the services of a freelance content writer for a project or two, and if the content is effective, then your bottom line will start looking up, enabling you to bring that freelancer on board regularly.
Content writing is an integral piece of the marketing puzzle. Without the right, skilled expert in your corner, content creation and publishing will be much, much harder than they need to be. They’ll take more time, more money, and cause more headaches.
You get it. You need a content writer.
If you’re ready to dive in, we’ve got you. ❤
If you need a content writer, like, yesterday, Express Writers has a literal writer army at your disposal. Check out our Content Shop and find out what we can do for your business.
The right words, whether in the form of copy or content, can make a huge difference for your marketing.
If you can speak to your audience in a way that moves them, inspires them, informs them, or clarifies complicated ideas for them, you’re far more likely to be successful.
Good writing serves as a foundation for any brand voice. Without that foundation in place, you’ll never move leads to become loyal customers.
Here’s the question: Do you even have TIME to pull off that kind of writing consistently?
Most marketers don’t – and that’s okay. Instead, they rely on copywriting services and expert talent. They delegate and outsource to people who write for all types of audiences in all types of industries persuasively, day in, day out.
Don’t put your hands in too many pots at once. Don’t forfeit writing quality in favor of just “getting it done.” Your entire content marketing strategy will suffer. ❌
Social media content forms the base of any promotion plan. It’s a key part of a content strategy because it helps you connect, engage, and build relationships with your audience and followers.
While you can and should hand the social media copy reins to an expert, one aspect you should never outsource or automate is personal engagement with your audience.
When it comes time for interacting, building relationships, networking, and engaging, this should always be personal. Whether you’re responding to comments, taking part in a Twitter chat, or commenting on someone else’s post, your personal interaction is essential. Don’t rely on a copywriting service to do this for you.
The basic tasks of writing solid social posts, however, can and should be delegated. Here are the main types you need as a marketer:
1. Social Media Copy for Each Platform
Average price per post: $4 – $6+
For promoting content and building brand awareness, social media copy is essential. You not only need to post regularly on each platform you invest in, but also create social content that uses your brand voice and tone to connect with your target audience.
Of course, writing for each platform requires different standards, types of posts, and copy. All of this can be a headache and a half to juggle, which is why it’s a fantastic idea to invest in copywriting services.
Here are just a few basic, current standards for the top platforms:
On Facebook, short posts with cleaner copy (think: 0-1 hashtags and 0-1 emojis) are proven to work well, according to data from CoSchedule. Including an image or link with your posts is a given, and video content is huge for engagement. Too many overly promotional posts are a no-no.
On Instagram, you’d think the emphasis would be on the photo you post, but the caption actually matters a ton, too. The written copy here is a great place to tell stories, engage with your followers, and generally provide added value with your images.
Example: Tagging other accounts related to your post, especially influencers/brands, as well as using relevant hashtags both encourages discovery and helps your followers find more content like yours. (A good copywriting service will know and use all the current best practices.)
On Twitter, your post copy should be engaging but strategic. Each post should include an image for 150% more engagement, according to data Buffer collected, not to mention a few well-chosen hashtags. When relevant, you should also tag partners, influencers, and related accounts.
On LinkedIn, a slightly more professional tone is needed, but posts can still retain your brand voice – just dialed back a little. Longer posts and articles about industry news, events, and developments are great fodder for engagement.
On Pinterest, much like Instagram, it isn’t necessarily all about the images. Captions will help users find your pins, not to mention give your pins more context. In particular, writing captions that will stay relevant for the life of a pin (which can be a long time!) helps encourage pinning and re-pinning, not to mention continued clicks to your content from that pin.
Express Writers offers copywriting services for ongoing social media posts on the platform(s) of your choice. Our social media writers are up-to-date with best practices for every type of post and know how to create engaging copy that wins.
As you may have noticed, images play a huge role in your social media posts. You need a corresponding image for posts on almost every platform, in most cases.
Here’s an example of a branded image from one of our own blogs:
Express Writers offers custom branded images along with our social media posts so you get the best of both worlds. Find this add-on option for social media copywriting services on our social media plans page.
Onsite Copywriting Services: Blogging
Blogging is the cornerstone of content marketing. In fact, blogs are now the 5th most trusted source of information on the internet! However, to earn your place among the cream of the crop, your blogs need to be consistent, high-quality, and authoritative in tone to build trust and rankings.
Can you honestly say you have the time to devote to this kind of blogging? It can get pretty rigorous without help, and many marketers throw in the towel far too soon to see the type of ROI that can and will happen with consistency.
Bottom line: If you can’t commit to blogging with your heart and soul, you won’t see results – unless you outsource.
These are the major blogging tasks and copywriting services to invest in for stronger results.
1. Keyword Research
Average price for one keyword research report: $175 – $250
Reaching your SEO goals is a lot harder without strategic keyword research. The right keywords targeted in an expert, thought-leadership-style blog can mean the difference between content success (traffic, page views, engagement, backlinks) and content failure (cue crickets chirping).
Generally, keyword research for your brand (or your client’s brand) involves:
Searching for broad industry terms related to what you do/sell
Finding long-tail keyword variations of those broad terms that hit the right balance for three metrics:
Keyword difficulty (KD, or the competitiveness of that keyword)
Relevancy (to your brand, industry, products, or services)
Search volume (high numbers are not necessarily better)
Keyword research requires some knowledge of your industry, an understanding of what high-ROI keywords look like, and an ability to analyze keyword data to find the richest opportunities for rankings.
Needless to say, keyword research is a valuable copywriting service, but lots of writers simply don’t offer it.
At Express Writers, that’s not the case. We offer done-for-you keyword research and strategy that includes comprehensive keyword and topic reports using top tools like SEMrush and BuzzSumo. We analyze the data for you and come up with the top keyword opportunities to use in your content.
2. Audience & Topic Research
For brand awareness and audience reach, you need the double-whammy of audience and topic research. These actions help solidify the direction of your onsite blogging, giving it the power it needs to reach your ideal buyer on a personal level.
Without these types of research, you’ll have no clear idea of who you’re writing for, not to mention what you should write about.
Audience research is a process that helps you figure out your main target audience as well as what moves them, their pain points, where they come from, where they want to go, and who they want to be.
Topic research is how you find blog and content topics your audience actually wants to read. Instead of pulling random ideas out of thin air, you start with what you know about your industry, your brand, and your audience. You work outward from there to find relevant topics that connect to your brand goals.
Writing content that uses both audience and topic research as a foundation ensures two things:
You’re always writing to the right people.
You’re always writing about topics that move you closer to your success benchmarks.
Average price for four 500-word blogs per month: $300 – $400
The blogs you publish, whether on your website or your clients’, are fundamental to content marketing. Onsite blogging is the #1 way to build authority, trust, and backlinks. Continuously and consistently publishing great content drives more traffic and brings in more leads.
In specialized industries, expert knowledge behind your content matters. To be high-quality and high-authority, written blogs and articles need the most cutting-edge, up-to-date knowledge behind them. That should include current strategies, statistics, and studies.
In short, industry expert blogs need writers who can:
Slip into different brand voices seamlessly
Speak on a personal level to different target audiences
Write with authority and accuracy about in-depth industry topics
Great expert blogs are readable, informative, useful, and speak to your readers’ most pressing pain points. The right copywriting service should cover all of that.
Express Writers offers industry expert blog packages for niches across the board including health & wellness, technology, finance, real estate, SaaS, SEO/digital marketing, and more. We also offer ongoing topic research as an add-on service so you’re never left scratching your head wondering what to publish next.
4. Authority Blogs – Skyscraper Pieces
Average price for a long-form, 2,000-word blog: $600 – $900
Authority behind your content matters more than ever in this age of information overload. People often don’t know who to trust or which sources are legit, just because there are so many scams, tricks, and fake news cycles out there.
In fact, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer report, trust in most online information sources has declined across the board, which includes search engines, traditional media, owned media, and social media.
Authoritative, long-form blogs are therefore essential trust-builders that help shape your online gravitas positively. These aren’t just blogs; they’re MEGA blogs:
Content is written by an authority in your industry
Content aligns with your brand voice, tone, and style
Content is backed up with compelling facts, studies, and current research
Content is written around a high-opportunity, long-tail keyword that will rocket you into the search engine rankings
Long-form content provides depth and breadth on a relevant industry topic
In short, authority blogs aren’t just content pieces – they’re content assets. These powerful blogs will work to draw in traffic and leads for months, maybe even YEARS, after they’re published. Even more importantly, they will help build trust and loyalty with your audience.
Express Writers offers authority content for entrepreneurs, marketers, and agencies who want to level up their content. You KNOW what authority blogs can do if you invest in this level of content creation.
I created this copywriting service after a year spent listening, watching, and studying content trends. I saw a winning formula emerge, and I wanted to offer that to our clients – the BEST content possible that will stand tall in a swamp of billions of blog posts.
Think of your onsite content – your web pages, about pages, service pages, landing pages, etc. – as bridges and roads.
Each of these pages has the potential to lead your audience to that ultimate destination, the conversion. Of course, if you build your roads and bridges with weak materials and shaky foundations, fewer people will want to cross them.
Here are the copywriting services you need to invest in to build the best web pages possible, ones that will serve to welcome your audience and guide them to action.
1. SEO Keywords for Your Web Pages
Average price for one keyword research report: $175 – $250
You don’t just need the right keywords in your blogs. You also need web pages optimized for industry terms and phrases that your ideal customers are typing into Google. This is how you get organic traffic and leads from search to land on your main site pages.
Average price for one optimized, 800-word web page: $170 – $200
Web page content is one of those copywriting services most marketers can’t do without, as each page must be unique and persuasive to pass muster with Google AND users. Web pages can run the gamut from home pages to “about us” pages to service pages optimized for local SEO.
Much like blogs, industry expert web pages need to be consistent with brand voice and tone, convey authority, help your audience find the information they need, and use keywords strategically for high search engine rankings. The best copywriting services should deliver all of the above.
Whether you need unique, keyword-optimized web pages for your site or you have a lot of service pages that need local SEO and/or some fantastic copy, Express Writers can help with our custom industry expert web pages.
3. Service-Specific SEO Landing Pages
Average price for one 500-600-word page: $75 – $120
SEO landing pages are simply designated places where your visitors land after they click one of your links. Service-specific landing pages usually direct traffic to your site from local search. Here’s how that works:
A user opens Google and types in a keyword for a local service they want to find (i.e. “dentists in Austin”).
On the results page, your webpage pops up as an option because it’s optimized for that location-specific keyword.
The user clicks your link and is taken to your local service landing page, where they can learn more and potentially book an appointment/hire you. Here’s an example of a service landing page in action:
For best results with service landing pages, it’s essential to hire an expert writer who knows your industry. Express Writers hires specific field experts for this exact purpose from industries like legal, finance, marketing, and more. When you order copywriting services like web page copy, we match you up with one of these experts to write your pages.
Average just doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to web content. Every single page on your site needs to be optimized for search and expertly written to stand out from the pack.
However, these results only happen when your emails are targeted, well-written, persuasive, and valuable to your user base. To hit all of these bullseyes, these are the types of email copywriting services to delegate to the experts.
1. Email Sequences
Average price for an email sequence of 5 emails: $450 – $600
Launching new products? You need an email sequence. This is a series of targeted emails sent out at specific times over the course of a few days or a few weeks. Usually, the sequence is triggered by a customer action:
Signing up for your newsletter
Downloading a PDF
Abandoning a shopping cart
Browsing your site
An email sequence tells a continuing story. Each email builds upon the last email sent, culminating in a whammy-punch that ultimately moves the reader to follow your call-to-action (whether you want them to download an ebook, sign up for a webinar, or buy your new product).
This is an example of an email from a sequence I sent to my own list:
Only an expert writer who truly understands persuasive, conversion-focused copy has the chops to create a successful, conversion-driving email sequence.
Express Writers’ copywriting services include done-for-you email sequences. Our email experts will write your sequence to appeal to your readers and gear them up for that all-important CTA.
2. Single Emails to Your List
Average price for short single emails (200-400 words): $75 – $200 (The American Writers and Artists Inc. copywriting price guide also mentions average pricing for standalone sales emails, which can run as high as $2,000 – but that’s because they’re conversion-focused and expected to be high-performing.)
For email marketing, single emails can be just as effective as email sequences, but for different reasons.
Single emails are a fantastic way to build trust and rapport with your audience. Think of it as another way to connect with them and build a relationship. Additionally, single emails are perfect for sharing new content. Who better to appreciate your new blog post than your list?
Here is an example of a single email promoting a new blog post for the Write Blog:
EW’s writing staff includes email experts who can take care of this copywriting service for you. Whether you need on-brand single emails or irresistible email sequences, we have you covered.
Ad Copy/Sales Pages
To nab the sale or ace the conversion, not just any kind of copywriting will do. Instead, you need expert copy written by a pro who understands the sales process. Enter conversion copywriting.
Average price for one conversion-oriented sales page: Industry experts rate this copywriting service as extremely high-value – $1 per word at minimum is the going rate.
Conversion copywriting is all about creating copy that engages a specific audience and pulls in the buyer’s interest. Conversion copy can be found on web pages, Facebook/social ad copy, and emails. Most of all, it has the potential to make you serious $$$.
With that in mind, not just anybody can write conversion copy that actually delivers. Only a serious copywriter will do, one who understands buyer awareness, the marketing lifecycle, and how to appeal to the decision-making process.
For a good example of conversion copy, take a look at this landing page from Grove Collaborative. Every sentence is aimed at making their offer irresistible:
What types of marketing copy should you delegate, and which types can you write yourself?
In general, these are the copywriting services you can hand off for excellent ROI.
1. Ebooks & Lead Magnets
Average price for one designed ebook, 3-5 pages: $300 – $550
Lead magnets are high-value content pieces that you offer exclusively to your audience in exchange for a few personal details, such as their name and email address. Lead magnets are often created in the form of ebooks to pack in a lot of useful information – bonus points if they’re beautifully designed.
Much like blog content, ebooks and lead magnets build your authority and expertise in your industry, not to mention trust with your audience.
Watch me explain lead magnets and ideas for lead magnets in this video:
We offer both ebook copy and design at Express Writers. Let one of our industry expert writers whip up a high-value ebook for your brand that will help build your clout AND your email list.
Average price per page:$90 – $200
Whitepapers are great content assets to have on hand for any brand. These in-depth reports provide thorough information about specific problems and step-by-step information about how you solved it.
The most common types of whitepapers showcase client testimonials. For example, a good whitepaper will present the client’s problem clearly and effectively, then show how your brand (or your client’s brand) solved that problem and went above and beyond for the customer. Most importantly, these types of whitepapers showcase client satisfaction and serve as powerful social proof for other potential buyers.
Another type of whitepaper that’s pretty common: thorough, well-researched guides to industry problems. HubSpot has a good example of this type:
Whitepapers can be incredible authority-builders for any brand. EW offers this copywriting service, whether you just want whitepaper copy or a fully designed product.
Average price for one slide: $30
Slides for PowerPoint or SlideShare can be surprisingly difficult to write and create. Which key points about your topic should you include? How do you make slides attention-grabbing yet easy to read and understand?
Include this type of content in your list of copywriting services to delegate and you’ll get high-quality, expertly written slides that accomplish all of these goals.
To drive home how effective slides can be, check out this example of a SlideShare created from one of our blogs here at EW:
If you’ll be advertising your brand locally (think tradeshows, events, etc.), flyers and brochures are a great print marketing asset. They are:
Easy and fast to distribute
Effective for in-person marketing events
The most successful flyers and brochures will have copy that’s succinct, to the point, and impactful. They will clearly explain your products/services/offers in a way that appeals to your target audience.
If you want an expert creating your flyer/brochure copy, add that to the long list of copywriting services we have available at Express Writers.
5. Press Releases
Average price for one press release: $200 – $300
For announcing key news and happenings at your company, nothing does the job better than a professionally written press release.
Of course, when we say “professionally written,” we mean written by a professional journalist. With this kind of expertise behind your press releases, your news is more likely to be distributed through a network or picked up by a news outlet.
For expert, journalist-written press releases, check out this copywriting service from Express Writers.
6. Video Scripts
Video is huge these days online. According to Wyzowl, 87% of marketers say video brings them positive ROI.
The secret to producing successful, attention-grabbing videos? A clear message conveyed with confidence. How can you do that? With a well-written video script.
It’s true: Even though video is hot, hot, hot. You won’t get anywhere by pushing out low-quality videos with lots of awkward pauses and stammering. Your video production will be much smoother with a script.
Average price for one 100-250-word product description: $20 – $25
Product descriptions are an essential copywriting service for ecommerce businesses selling their wares. These descriptions not only persuasively sell the online product, they also describe it in a way that answers customer questions and overcomes any objections to clicking “add to cart”.
A worthy product description is both visceral (i.e. you get a good feel of what it would be like to use/wear/try the product) and practical (including dimensions, settings, features, etc.). Ideally, it should also be optimized for search so buyers can find that product when searching on Google.
For a tried-and-true example of product descriptions that fit all of these criteria, look at ModCloth, the online women’s clothing store. This PD for a hooded yellow coat includes both fanciful details that will appeal directly to its young target audience, not to mention practical details about the coat material, fit, and sizing.
If you need product descriptions that both tell and sell, let our writing team at Express Writers take care of them for you with our copywriting service for product descriptions.
How to Work with Copywriting Services to Produce Content That Wins
A huge part of winning marketing has to include winning copy. To put it bluntly, there’s so much to write and so little time. As you can see, copywriting services can lift a lot of that pressure off your shoulders.
Whether you’re a time-crunched marketer, an entrepreneur striking out with a new product/business, or an agency strapped for good writers, getting help is always a good idea. It WILL 10x your marketing!
To wrap up, here are a few tips to make your copywriting services go the extra mile:
1. Invest in Quality
Expert, amazing writers charge more for their services because they’re good. Their work gets consistent results and ROI. Period. If you want those results, you need to invest in expertise.
2. Provide Instructions, Guidelines, Ideas, Etc.
For copywriting services, you can’t provide too many details. Give your writer the best starting point by giving them all the information you can about what you need. Examples, style guides, links to content you want to emulate – all of it will help your writer produce a better end product.
While working on your content or copy, your writer might have questions pop up. They might need you to clarify an instruction or help them refine the voice and tone you want them to use, for example. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep communication lines open. Be responsive and work with your writer if you want the best from them.
Copywriting services can lighten your to-do list, but more importantly, they can improve your marketing by leaps and bounds.
SEO optimizing your blog posts in WordPress is a must-do for earning rankings, wooing targeted traffic, and nabbing blog ROI.
After all, if you spend all that time producing a wonderful piece of content, you need to give it legs to stand on.
Without SEO, you’ll put that blog at a disadvantage from the start.
On the other hand, optimize correctly, and Big Things are more likely to happen. (See our case study below of ranking for a super-hot keyword in 30 days.)
If your blog is set up in WordPress, SEO optimizing a blog post before publishing is incredibly easy to do.
You just need to know what to do.
Here are the 8 steps to use every single time you publish a post to thoroughly hit all those “SEO check marks.” As you’ll see, you can optimize every single element of your blog — from top to bottom – and get more out of every blog you publish.
(Note: While this how-to applies to WordPress, specifically the classic editor, you can take these general steps and use them with whatever publishing platform you please.)
How to SEO Optimize Blog Posts in WordPress: 8 Steps
1. Edit and Proofread Your Blog Post
2. Add Relevant Images to Your Blog
3. Format Blog Content for Readability and SEO
4. Add Easy One-Click Social Sharing Codes
5. Check Your Links
6. Include a CTA
7. Optimize and Add Meta Title and Description with Yoast
8. Optimize Your Blog for Social Sharing with Yoast (Yes, Yoast Does That!)
Why SEO Optimize Your Blogs in WordPress? A Case Study
Why take all the trouble to search engine optimize your blogs?
Like we referenced earlier, Big Things Will Happen.
Case in point.
We have over 1,300+ blogs published on the Express Writers’ Write Blog across ten years, which have earned over 21,000 keyword positions in Google (case study here). 90% of the blogs I write and publish here start with a keyword search. If I can map the keyword to ROI, we take it into the blog creation stages.
Here’s a specific blog post example. We have earned a #1 organic ranking and featured snippet for the keyword “how to build a digital content strategy.” (Even our custom-designed images for the blog are ranking in Google Images!)
One key player for this blog’s ranking power is the work we did on optimization before publishing. From the title to the copy to the subheaders to the images, CTAs, links, metas, and more, everything is optimized for search engines.
Search success is a big deal, but I don’t need to tell you. Over and over, brands that edge into top positions on SERPs get the lion’s share of the spoils, including higher click-through rates and more traffic.
Need great content to fuel your blogging presence? We offer packaged blogging plans. See pricing here.
According to Advanced Web Ranking, the CTR for organic position 1 on Google is 38.02%. Meanwhile, the CTR for position 10 is 1.13%.
Google alone processes over 40,000 search queries every second. If your brand isn’t present on the search landscape, you’re missing out on a huge piece of the traffic pie.
After editing, it’s time to add and optimize relevant images.
If you’re working from a draft, you should be able to add them into WordPress without a problem. Just place your cursor where you want the image to go, then drag it straight into the editor.
Once you’ve got pictures placed within your post, optimizing them goes like this:
Make sure they’re inserted correctly. Don’t place images so they mess with your paragraph formatting, and keep your image placement consistent (e.g. centered, in-between paragraphs).
Images should be original size to ensure they’re clear and crisp. Only size down if they’re huge or the file size is bloated (anything over 4-5 MB usually can be scaled back without sacrificing quality).
Add alternate text to every image. This is important for rankings! Alternate text is a descriptive text that provides context for people who are visually impaired or need to use a screen reader to browse the web. Alternate text (or “alt text”) describes your images to search engines, as well, so they’ll potentially show up in image searches. This is exactly what we saw with our own blog post from the aforementioned case study we talked about.
To add alt text to an image in the WordPress editor, click the image. A toolbar will pop up – click the “Edit” icon (the pencil) to add image properties like alt text.
Another must-do for SEO is formatting your blog posts for readability. These are the top considerations so people (and search engines) can read and understand your post easily:
Above all, be consistent. If you use auto-formatted bullet points, use them every time you need a bulleted list. If you format your subheaders with numbers, keep doing it throughout the post. Formatting consistency keeps things looking neat and clean, not to mention easier to read.
Fix your spacing. Remove double spacing after periods, add more paragraph breaks where your text looks dense, and ensure spacing around images is consistent.
Make sure all H2s, H3s, etc. are coded correctly (use WordPress’s formatting!).
For us at the Write Blog, Twitter is a huge platform for engagement. We’ve kept up a Twitter chat, #ContentWritingChat, for years now on Twitter that has helped us grow a solid Twitter presence.
So, knowing Twitter is a hot platform, we’ve chosen to use a plugin that enables us to add “Click to Tweets” to every post — which we do. These are punchy phrases or takeaways from the blog that readers can share to Twitter with one click.
Step 1: Know your platform (for us, that’s Twitter).
Step 2: Add a plug-in to your blog that will allow you to add manual shortcodes to every blog post that makes sharing super easy.
Step 3: Avoid sharing CTTs too early in a blog. I’ve seen this directly negatively impact us earning a Featured Snippets ranking! Don’t put too much code, or “stuff” above your first H2s and H3s.
To add your social-sharing codes, this couldn’t be easier – we use the Better Click to Tweet plugin for WordPress. This adds a little Twitter bird icon to the top of your WordPress editor. Click it to pull up this generator:
It will add Click to Tweet boxes to your blog post drafts with the correct code. When you publish, it will look like this:
Some tips for adding Click to Tweets to your posts:
Get creative! Sure, you could copy a bit of text straight from the blog, but why not reword it to make it more impactful, punchy, and/or powerful?
Make sure your tweets are readable. Eliminate any clunkiness.
Need great content to fuel your blogging presence? We offer packaged blogging plans. See pricing here.
6. Include a CTA
After you check the links, scroll to the end of your blog and make sure a CTA (call-to-action) is there.
At least one CTA in this location is key because it tells the reader what to do after they’ve finished consuming your awesome content. If you managed to build trust along the way, you don’t want to let that fly out the window. The CTA helps you capture the trust you’ve built and leads the reader into your marketing lifecycle.
On the Write Blog, every single post gets its own CTA. Sometimes it’s a text version with a link to one of our product pages, and sometimes it’s a clickable banner CTA, like the one below:
This one links to our pricing page. As long as you draw the reader further into your circle and the link is relevant to your post topic, your CTA can point to any internal page you want.
We’ve reached the last few steps for optimizing your blog for search. Don’t get lazy, though: These final ones are major.
At this point, it’s time to add a strong and unique meta title and meta description.
The meta title WILL show up in Google search results. Make sure it includes your focus keyword so the term you want to rank for signals straight away.
The meta description may or may not show up in search results. It’s still important to create one that’s the right length, properly summarizes the post, and includes your focus keyword.
A great way to add metas to all your posts in WordPress is to use the Yoast SEO plugin. We use this to optimize all our posts on the Write Blog.
Once the plugin is installed, scroll all the way to the end of your post in the WP editor. There you’ll find the Yoast SEO options, including a snippet preview of what your post will look like in Google SERPs. To edit the metas, head to the section called “Google preview” (you may need to click on it to expand it).
Now you can add:
Your optimized SEO title (also called the H1 or header)
A URL slug (a short string of text that describes the page – this text string follows the domain extension in the URL, e.g. https://yoursite.com/page-description-goes-here)
A meta description (a short summary, up to 158 characters, of what the page/blog is about – it’s a good idea to use the focus keyword in this description and put the most important text at the beginning)
I get plenty of questions constantly about WordPress categories and tags. Should you use them? Do they matter?
Yes and yes, but with caveats.
In general, categories and tags help you organize your blog posts on your site. They’re good for internal organization and optimization. That simply means, when you categorize each of your blog posts and add a few relevant tags, you help users on your site navigate your blog, find topics they’re looking for, and find related blog posts.
Since categories and tags are so helpful for the user, in theory, they’re also good for SEO. In the same way these elements help users, they also help search engine crawlers by providing information about related content, your site’s structure, and more.
Don’t overthink them, and don’t put too much emphasis on them.
In my experience, after lots of testing and experimentation, they barely affect SEO much, if at ALL. That’s why I say, when dealing with categories and tags, the simpler the better.
Categorizing your posts helps users and Google find what they’re looking for, so don’t skip it. Create overarching categories that describe the topics your blog covers. For each post, choose one category that fits the topic best. For example, for our post on how to build a digital content strategy, we filed it under the “Content Strategy” category.
Tagging your posts with a few relevant tags based on your keyword research helps with SEO, according to Theme Grill. In my experience, it’s good practice and can’t hurt. For the Write Blog, we keep it super simple and add our focus keyword as a tag, plus one or two additional related keywords as tags. (You do NOT need 10+ tags for each post! It’s overkill and just wastes time.)
8. Optimize Your Blog for Social Sharing with Yoast (Yes, Yoast Does That!)
Final step! Ensure the right image is shared with your post link on social media by completing this step. This is especially important if you’ve created custom, share-worthy graphics to accompany the post.
In the Yoast SEO options, click on the “Social sharing” icon.
Skip over the title and description fields – Yoast will pull the information for these from the main snippet fields you already filled out in step #7.
Scroll to “Facebook image” or “Twitter image.” Upload your custom image here to make sure it’s shared with your link when people click one of your social share buttons.
Make sure the image you use has an alternate text and a title specified. You can add these by selecting the image in your media library.
This step keeps all of your social shares looking snazzy and professional, no matter who shares your post. This could be the difference between zero clicks and lots of clicks, so don’t skip it!
Just Publishing Your Blog Isn’t Enough: SEO Your Blog Posts for Better Results
Taking care of all these small pieces of your blog post may seem like busy work, but it’s not.
Instead, each step is essential for making your content the best version of itself. Attention to detail may be the differentiator between two posts vying for the #1 or #2 spots on a SERP. If your post has better signals, both readers and Google will take note.
The devil is in the details. A sharp eye and a few extra minutes of your time before hitting “publish” could make all the difference.
Need great content to fuel your blogging presence? We offer packaged blogging plans. See pricing here.
Google is anything but transparent. As such, its algorithm inner workings have never been easy to interpret.
How do we properly interpret “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization), if that’s the case?
Well, SEOs dedicate themselves to a sort of “algorithm watch.” They spend eons of time poring over search metrics. They write novel-length blog posts analyzing the changes they can only guess happened, and how these changes may or may not affect search rankings. 😣
(This is why I love being a content marketer with a focus on great content first — hacks, never. Techniques, yes. Strategy, yes. But never does watching the algorithm come first for us. We notice that when we put our audience first, and ditch hacks in favor of people and trust-building, the algorithm works in our favor.)
In the world of SEO, you may have heard about Google’s “Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.” This MASSIVE document finally gave SEOs massive clarity on what Google actually looks for in their ranking algorithm. It’s also where EAT, YMYL come from.
Way back in October of 2015, The SEM Post got a leaked copy of Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, and their interpreted version went viral. In response, Google broke the internet by releasing the entire guidelines.
Since then, Google has released multiple updates of these guidelines across the last five-plus years.
While Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines don’t lay out exactly what we need to know to rocket to the top of the rankings, they do provide some valuable information:
What kind of pages are viewed as high quality
Which factors influence high- and low-quality ratings (SUPER important, as these factors may be similar to how Google measures page quality for SERP rankings)
We’ve taken an inside look and studied the document as they relate to your SEO and on-page site content, including those fresh updates. 🔍
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of key points in this major SEO document for your online content writing and publishing.
Source: Page 5 of the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Google’s search guidelines document is over 170 pages long and broken into an overview, an introduction, three separate parts, and an appendix.
The major parts are as follows:
General Guidelines Overview
Introduction to Search Quality Rating
Part 1: Page Quality Rating Guideline
Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs
Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline
Appendix 1: Using the Evaluation Platform
Appendix 2: Guideline Change Log
In addition to focusing heavily on mobile search, Google’s search guidelines also focus on the importance of building trust and a good reputation for websites and/or content creators.
This isn’t hugely surprising – it’s simply a variation on what Google has been saying for years: The best websites are ones that deliver relevant, trustworthy, quality information to users.
We all know Google focuses heavily on experimentation and adjusting their algorithms to improve web quality. These guidelines provide specific instructions on what the Google engineers want people to do to improve individual site quality.
Needless to say, the Google search guidelines are dense. They cover everything from important definitions to duplicate landing pages and all the places in between.
For those of you who want to read through the guidelines on your own, you can find the static link here. For everyone else, here’s a breakdown of key points we’ve found inside this document.
12 Key SEO Content Factors in the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
For SEOs who have dedicated themselves to keeping up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms, this document will serve mainly to reaffirm what you already know, with a few goodies thrown in here and there.
For SEO newbies, though, this document offers an expansive guide to Google’s preferences and the future of SEO. The guidelines lay out specifics about Google’s algorithms and how, exactly, SEOs can better predict changes to it in the future.
1. Beneficial Purpose
One of the newer additions to the guidelines circa the 2018 update is the concept of “beneficial purpose.” This term defines websites with pages created, first and foremost, for the user’s benefit.
On the other hand, many pages are created solely for the purpose of ranking on Google or are created with no intention of helping users. In Google’s eyes, these pages have zero beneficial purpose.
According to the guidelines (part one, section 3), raters are supposed to give these pages the lowest rating:
“Websites or pages without any beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating.”
In stark contrast, pages with beneficial purpose are the very definition of high-quality:
“High-quality pages exist for almost any beneficial purpose, from giving information to making people laugh to expressing oneself artistically to purchasing products or services online.” – Part one, section 4.1
According to Google, high-quality pages not only have a beneficial purpose; they also achieve that purpose.
In other words, if you’re not writing to help your audience in some way, your page will have little overall value to the search engine. Thus, “beneficial purpose” is the ground-floor factor that affects your page quality.
Page quality has always been a bit of a mystery. Google uses hundreds of ranking factors and it’s often unclear how they all relate to one another.
We’ve always known unique, relevant, well-written content helps produce a high-quality page, but the guidelines have some additional insights to offer on this topic.
According to the guidelines, it’s not just high-quality main content (MC) that matters. In fact, Google created an acronym for what every high-quality page needs: E-A-T.
Introduced in 2018, E-A-T stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.” As we know from official Google liaisons like Danny Sullivan, E-A-T in itself is NOT a ranking factor. It’s a tool search evaluators use to determine the quality of web pages.
However, it does approximate many different signals the algorithm uses to determine page quality.
Our systems aren’t looking for EAT. Our raters are using that to see if our systems are working well to show good information. There are many different signals that, if we get it right, align with what a good human EAT assessment would be. See also: https://t.co/1fs2oJ9Gtlpic.twitter.com/GBbnYEjJUV
So, while the algorithm doesn’t look for E-A-T, it does look for signals that amount to E-A-T.
(Still confused? Think of it this way: The Google algorithm and system for ranking pages is a machine, so it looks for signals a machine understands. Search evaluators are humans, so they look for E-A-T. It’s two different languages for the same concept.)
Pages that are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy will be viewed as higher-quality than those that aren’t.
But what does that mean, exactly?
A. High-Quality Pages
Google’s guidelines state that the search algorithm ranks websites on a sliding scale from lowest, low, medium, high, to highest.
Source: Google’s Guidelines, Section 3.0
According to Section 4.1 of Part 1, high-quality pages possess the following characteristics:
A “satisfying amount” of high-quality MC, including a title that’s appropriately descriptive/helpful
“Satisfying website information” or information about the website’s owner/creator (shopping or transactional pages need satisfying customer service information, conversely)
The page and its associated website have a high amount of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
The website (or the MC creator) has a good reputation
It’s worth noting that Google doesn’t specify how much content a page needs to be considered “satisfying,” only that the “right” amount of content depends on “the purpose of the page.”
Google provides this page as an example of high-quality content (partial screenshot):
According to Google, this page has high-quality, humorous MC. Plus, the website has a positive reputation and displays expertise in farcical humor.
B. Low-Quality Pages
According to the Google search guidelines (part one, section 6.0), low-quality pages feature the following:
Poor, low-quality MC
An inadequate amount of E-A-T
Unsatisfying amounts of MC for the purpose of the page (a dense topic with little information, for example)
A page title that is essentially clickbait (“exaggerated or shocking”)
An author that doesn’t have the level of expertise needed to write about the topic
A website or content creator with a “mildly negative” or mixed reputation
Unsatisfying information about who created the content/who’s behind the website
Page content that distracts from the MC, like intrusive ads/interstitials
Google goes on to say that you can land yourself in low-quality content land by making things up, not editing material enough, buying papers, using obvious facts (“A German Shepherd is a dog”) or over-complicating simple facts.
Here’s an example Google provides of a low-quality page (partial screenshot):
According to Google, this page has low-quality MC, is lacking in E-A-T, and has a misleading page title.
Google also says that pages will be considered low-quality if they’re created “without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill.” This is a broad statement, but it’s safe to say that it encompasses everything from poorly designed and scraped content to content that’s written by unskilled or unknowledgeable writers.
The Google search guidelines close by saying that low-quality content is reason enough for a quality rater to grant you a low page rating.
The takeaway: Make sure you’re always creating content with a high level of E-A-T. If your site doesn’t have the E-A-T that raters are looking for, you need to dedicate some time and effort to increase it.
C. How Can You Increase E-A-T on Your Pages?
One of the main ways E-A-T standards have been tweaked within the last few years: A bigger emphasis is now on the author/creator of your content.
The guidelines make it clear that any content needs to be created in an authoritative and expert manner. While there are “expert” websites in all niches, including food, industry, fashion, law, and medicine, Google makes no bones about it: When “expert” content is needed, true experts need to write it. 👩🔬👨🏫👩⚕️
This means the following:
Any high-quality medical advice needs to be written by individuals and communities with appropriate levels of medical accreditation.
Complexfinancial advice, tax advice, or legal advice needs to come from highly qualified, expert sources and must be updated and maintained on a regular basis to accommodate changing information, laws, and statutes.
Medical advice must be written in a professional fashion and, once published, must be edited, reviewed, maintained, and updated regularly in order to keep up with changing medical consensus and beliefs.
Pages addressing topics that can cost consumers thousands of dollars(investment platforms, for example) or that may affect the health of a family or individual (parenting sites, mental health sites, etc.) must be written by expert/experienced sources that readers can trust.
Pages with scientific information must be written by people/organizations with relevant scientific expertise. For topics where scientific consensus exists, producers should represent that consensus accurately.
News articles need to be written with journalistic professionalism and contain factually accurate information.
Pages on specific hobbies, like horseback riding or hockey, must also be written by people who are knowledgeable about the topic and can provide sound advice.
Recent updates to the guidelines also stipulate the content creator must have a positive reputation and adequate experience in relation to the topic about which they’re writing. In short, page authors/creators must also have a high level of E-A-T. (According to Mark Traphagen, two pages with basically the same information might be ranked differently based on the reputation and authority level of their authors.)
A. What Does It Take to Be an Expert Content Creator?
Now, upon reading all that, it’s likely you’ll wonder what constitutes an “expert.”
No, an expert doesn’t always have to be a credentialed, highly trained person (the exceptions: when they’re writing about medicine, law, finances, taxes, or other YMYL topics).
Google makes it clear that, in some cases, first-person experience can be a form of expertise, especially in settings where you don’t necessarily need formal training to have an extensive knowledge base, such as on hobby pages.
In fact, Google states that “for some unusual hobbies, the most expert advice may exist on blogs, forums, and other user-generated content websites.”
In these instances, what Google is looking for is a display of expertise.
Example 1: Say you’ve lived with diabetes for 22 years. You may be qualified to offer tips about coping with the disease (YMYL content) because you have extensive first-hand experience. However, at the same time, you would not be qualified to write a high-quality medical blog about the symptoms and onset of diabetes.
Example 2: On the hobby site The Spruce Crafts, expert crafters teach all kinds of techniques in informative blog posts. These are highly ranked because each writer has plenty of personal experience that qualifies them as experts. Take this post on “How to Knit the Garter Stitch”:
The author is an expert because of her years of personal experience. Her bio reflects this perfectly:
The Reputation of the Website/Creator
Finally, reputation plays a role in expertise, too.
There’s a whole section dedicated to this facet of expertise in the guidelines (under part one, section 2.6):
This information is not about how creators or websites describe their own credentials and expertise. It’s how the wider web (“reputable external sources”) views these things.
According to Google, these external sources that provide independent reputation information about a website or MC creator may include:
Ratings from independent organizations
Customer reviews (for these, content matters as much as the number of reviews available – one negative review or one positive review are not good sources unless you have a number of other reviews to compare it to)
B. Why is Google So Stringent About Expertise?
The search engine wants to ensure deep, broad, important topics get the necessary treatment so searchers can find accurate, useful information about them.
If the search results served up low-quality, untrustworthy content constantly, we would quickly begin to distrust and stop using Google to fulfill our information needs.
Example 3: Most kids in the U.S. learn about World War II in school. However, it would be absurd to believe this type of broad knowledge qualifies anyone to write an informative page about what it was like to live through it.
In the end, it’s important to think about what constitutes an expert for different topics:
How much expertise do you need to possess to write about a subject in a way that’s useful and valuable to others?
How much expertise do you need about a topic so you don’t lead readers astray or negatively impact their lives?
5. Supplementary Content
The importance of supplementary content (such as sidebar tips) is one of the most interesting features of the Google search guidelines. This content is supportive because it provides additional information to users alongside the MC.
Supplementary content can also include links to similar articles or anything else that can help the reader understand your page’s information. Pages with high-quality, useful supplementary content may be generally ranked higher than those without.
Allrecipes has good examples of pages with supplementary content (SC). On their recipe pages, you get the ingredients and instructions (the MC) as well as photos, recommended recipes, user comments, reviews, and serving information (the SC).
6. Lowest-Quality Pages
Some pages receive the “lowest” rating from search quality evaluators on principle. These types of pages are created with the intent to misinform or deceive users or may potentially harm them or spread hate.
Here’s the full list of types of pages that automatically get rated as the lowest quality possible:
Pages that promote hate or violence towards other people (like a specific group)
Pages that encourage harming oneself or others
Malicious pages (scams, phishing, malware, etc.), or pages with a malicious/extremely negative reputation attached to the creator/website
Pages that could spread misinformation, including content that’s obviously inaccurate, YMYL content that contradicts the consensus of experts, and content that propagates debunked/unsubstantiated conspiracy theories
Pages meant to deceive users, including deceptive page design (e.g., ads that look like MC)
“Lack of purpose pages” that have no MC, MC that is “gibberish,” or content with no apparent purpose
“Pages that fail to achieve their purpose”
These have the lowest possible E-A-T
May include copied or auto-generated content
May have content that’s inaccessible or obstructed
May have unsatisfying information about the website/MC creator
May have unmaintained pages, hacked pages, defaced pages, or spam
Google’s example of a page with lowest-quality is this deceptive site designed to imitate the ABC News homepage:
A. Copied Content
Google also specifies what they mean by “copied content” in this subsection (part one, section 7.2.4). Naturally, any content that is not original will get the lowest quality rating from a search evaluator.
What many people don’t know, however, is that Google doesn’t consider rewritten content original if it relies too heavily on its source. Google puts it like this in the guidelines:
“The Lowest rating is appropriate if all or almost all of the MC on the page is copied with little or no time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users. Such pages should be rated Lowest, even if the page assigns credit for the content to another source.”
Content creators who like to “spin” content should thus tread carefully here.
7. Mobile Optimization
One of the first things SEOs who consult the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines notice is no less than ¼ of this huge document is dedicated to mobile search.
Check out this chart from “Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs”:
The chart underscores just how much people turn to their mobile phones for different tasks.
These tasks vary from simple to complex. As such, the Google guidelines are careful to lay out information about how algorithms understand and interpret mobile queries.
This focus on clarifying search queries is indicative of Google’s leaning toward voice search, which is becoming a search optimization priority. (In 2020, nearly half of all searches were voice searches. By 2024, 8.4 billion people will use digital voice assistants.)
Mobile search is one of the most important trends in digital marketing right now. Every page on a website needs to be optimized for mobile platforms to do well in search (but you already knew that, right?).
8. User Experience: “Needs Met” Ratings
In the user experience portion of the Google search guidelines (Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline), we circle back to mobile platforms. In this section, Google asks raters to evaluate the results of various search queries.
For example, the guidelines ask raters to consider mobile user needs and how helpful the result is for those mobile users. This chart in the guidelines illustrates the rating scale, from “Fully Meets” all the way down to “Fails to Meet”:
These ratings help Google understand how search queries are related to user intent, and how their search results are measuring up. For example, if a lot of low-quality pages that “fail to meet” user needs are showing up for a certain query, Google obviously needs to work on delivering better, more relevant and useful results for that query.
9. E-A-T Versus Needs Met
The guidelines make a clear distinction between “needs met” ratings and page quality ratings. The difference is important to understand.
“Needs met” ratings are based on both the search query and the result.
Page quality (E-A-T) ratings are only based on the result and whether it achieves its purpose. This means useless results for a particular query are always rated “fails to meet” – even if they have outstanding page quality ratings.
Think of it this way: A high-quality page with fantastic information about sea lions is useless to you if you actually want information about otters. If you searched for “otters” but got search results featuring pages about sea lions, your search needs would be unfulfilled.
Conversely, when considering page ratings, the search query is unimportant. This means high E-A-T pages can still have low “meet” scores if they are deemed unhelpful for a query or do not fulfill a user’s search needs.
According to Google’s guidelines, this page about sea lions would receive a high page quality rating, but may not necessarily receive a high “needs met” rating – that depends on the page’s relevance to the user’s search query.
The guidelines also state that when a user is searching for very recent information (like breaking news, for instance) a site can earn a “fails to meet” rating if the content is stale or useless for the user’s particular query. This means pages appearing in search results for time-sensitive queries featuring content about past events, old products, or outdated information will be marked useless and given a “fails to meet” rating.
While fresh content is important, older content can have a high E-A-T rating without sacrificing usefulness. This is true for evergreen content and “timeless” information.
For example, users who search for information about Ronald Regan will find biographical information useful, even if it was written many years ago. This is not true, however, for unmaintained or abandoned websites that feature infrequently updated or inaccurate content.
10. “Fails to Meet” Pages
“Fails to meet” content is a boat you don’t want to be in.
According to the guidelines, “fails to meet” content is helpful and satisfying to virtually nobody. The content results are unrelated to the query, filled with incorrect facts, or in dire need of additional supporting information. Because of these things, this content doesn’t meet a user’s search intent or need.
The guidelines go on to state that content may also be marked “fails to meet” when it’s low-quality, stale, outdated, or impossible to use on a mobile device. The guidelines also specify that it’s possible for sites to earn in-between ratings.
Here are a few examples of “fails to meet” content results for different queries:
As you can see, in the second example (for the query “American beauty”), the result is actually directly related/relevant to the topic of the search. However, because the result has unsatisfying content, it gets the lowest possible “needs met” rating.
In the updated guidelines, Google makes plenty of references to clickbait. Specifically, they don’t want to see it. Ever.
That’s because clickbait builds up a user’s expectations and then fails them spectacularly. This leaves the user dissatisfied, confused, and frustrated/annoyed, all things Google does not want associated with its search results.
In the section on “Low-Quality Main Content” (part one, section 6.2), the guidelines specifically mention raters should pay attention to a page’s title, as it “should describe the content.” If the title doesn’t properly do that or creates unrealistic expectations of the MC, Google says the page should be rated “Low.”
Here is Google’s example of a clickbait title that helps the page in question earn a low “needs met” rating:
“Planet Nibiru has appeared in the sky and DOOMSDAY is on the way” – clickbait much?
12. Medium-Quality Pages
In the guidelines, we have seen that raters may rank page quality anywhere from highest to lowest.
Google defines each rating and which characteristics exemplify that rating. One of the most interesting is the definition of “medium” quality pages (part one, section 8).
Google states there are two types of medium-quality pages:
Nothing is wrong with the page, but then again, there’s nothing special about it, either.
The page has high-quality characteristics mixed with some low-quality characteristics.
The first type of medium-quality page goes straight to the heart of what it takes to stand out in content. You can do everything right SEO-wise, but if there is nothing unique or special about your page/content, you can’t expect it to rank well.
From Google, here is an example of a medium-quality page. The website is a trusted source, but the content is merely “okay”:
3 Major Takeaways from the Updated Google Search Guidelines
Two of the biggest takeaways from the guidelines are the importance of mobile optimization and producing and publishing content written by an expert.
1. The Need for Expert Content Is HUGE
As Google made clear with their discussions on both E-A-T and YMYL, the need for expert content is huge.
Google values pages with high levels of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Websites and content creators who champion these things by hiring and staffing expert writers will be rewarded for their efforts. This is especially true for YMYL pages.
Because YMYL pages are so important and have big potential to positively or negatively affect a reader’s life, Google puts them under heavy scrutiny. That means websites specializing in these pages absolutely need to hire expert writers and content creators. The price of not doing this is too high for both websites and readers alike.
Fortunately, when websites hire expert writers to improve their page’s E-A-T and to write important YMYL pages, more than likely, they will enjoy both higher rankings in Google’s index and a position as an industry leader.
2. Reputation Matters
The recent updates to Google’s Search Evaluator Guidelines underline the importance of website/MC creator reputation when determining page quality.
Google exhaustively goes over the different ways reputation can affect a page’s quality and stipulates the best ways to research this vital factor. For example, the guidelines recommend using third-party websites and sources to do research about websites and content creators/authors.
A few they particularly mention include Wikipedia, Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Amazon reviews, and Google Shopping.
Here’s the section mentioning the power of Wikipedia (part one, section 2.6.4). Google calls it a “good source,” and throughout the doc, mentions the linking of Wikipedia to other sites as a quality factor:
Google respects these sites’ opinions and will consider content low or high-quality based on BBB ratings, Wikipedia links and claims, and outside reviews/evaluations.
3. You Must Be Mobile-Friendly
Sites that aren’t mobile-friendly have a 0% chance of ranking well. Obviously, Google cares more now than ever about mobile-friendly pages – after all, nearly a quarter of their search evaluator guidelines are dedicated to mobile user needs.
Great content isn’t enough, so be sure that your entire website is optimized for mobile users.
4. You Must Create Content That Benefits Users
Imagine the inclusion of the concept of “beneficial purpose” in these guidelines as a huge flag waving in your SEO landscape.
It’s clear that Google is looking at it as the main determiner of a page’s quality. If a page has no apparent beneficial purpose for users, it automatically gets a low rating from search evaluators. That tells us a lot about Google’s user-first mentality, and also how we should be treating each and every piece of content we create.
Plus, the concept is reflected across Google’s other guidelines, including the brief but pointed Quality Guidelines in Search Console Help:
Take this as a sign you should be asking yourself, “What’s the beneficial purpose of this page?” for each content piece you create.
To Be SEO-Savvy, Don’t Stop at Reading This Blog Post
Look up industry content marketing and SEO authors, too, for some must-read books. For a few solid marketing reads, I recommend anything by Ryan Holiday, Jonah Berger, Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, and Mark Schaefer.
As you upgrade your skills (with more skill comes more confidence), remember, people-first, never algorithm first — and it turns out, you’ll please both. Satisfy your users, make them delighted, and you’ll feel less like a confused marketer… and more like a winner.
To your mental clarity and success in the world of Google and all things content! 🥂
Maybe it’s chillaxing on the beach with a laptop and a martini while typing up your latest adventure? Yeah, that stereotype is about as old and tired as the content best practices from the last decade. (Not to mention unrealistic. Also, don’t take your laptop to the beach.)
Maybe it’s the endless to-do list-slash-content calendar that’s one more dismal thing you have to do to make your business run – and what’s it even do, again?
Oof. Hand me that martini.
Here’s a bit of news: if your ideas about blogging fall into either camp, you’re doing it wrong.
Here’s what blogging looks like in the 2020s, plus how to create long-form blogs that work FOR you (rather than being WORK for you).
Like a lot of things in the content world, the idea of long-form comes from journalism. There, it referred to a story that ran over the typical length – about 500 words (or about 14-16 inches depending on the paper’s formatting).
In content writing, long-form similarly refers to content that is longer than your typical content.
It’s hard to pin an exact number on that average because it changes.
In particular, it’s growing.
Let’s paint a picture. The phrase long-form content has floated around on the internet for a long time – the first mentions start around 1998. This was the early days of Google before we’d really figured out the true magnitude of the search engine’s power. In those days, long-form content referred to anything over 300 words.
That’s about the length of this section.
However, by 2018, the average had crept up to 1,100 words. Blog posts that went over that frequently ranked higher, got more engagement, and enjoyed more widespread sharing on social media.
And guess what? Marketers noticed. By 2020, HubSpot found that the average blog post was 2,164 words – almost double what it’d been two years earlier.
Blog posts have been trending longer for some time. Blog post length is creeping up over 2,000 words. Source: Orbit Media.
According to HubSpot, it’s anything between 1,000 and 7,500 words – buuut you want to hit 2,500 words minimum to get the most shares and backlinks.
However, according to Core DNA, your content doesn’t get to wear the badge of long-form until it’s a whopping 4,000 words (about 2.5 times the length of this article).
This brings us to another point…
When to Use Long-Form Content
If longer articles catch more eyeballs, win more clicks, and result in more shares, then longer is always better. Right?
Like everything, long-form content is a tool with some very good applications. Use it when:
You’re building pillar content. One meaty, well-researched article full of links to articles that deep-dive into subtopics can transform your content. Long-form content is excellent here.
You’re trying to outrank competitors with long-form content. If your competition is routinely posting 2,000-word articles, your little 1,100-word work of art won’t cut it. In these cases, long-form content combined with the skyscraper technique can work wonders.
The topic needs it. What’s worse than bad content? Content that fails to fully address the topic. If the topic needs 2,000 words, don’t try to squeeze it into an 800-word blog article simply because you have to publish four articles per month. You’re better off having your writer do one 2,000-word article that really delves into the topic than four 800-word posts that scratch the surface.
The content will land in front of the reader in the deeper stages of the buyer’s journey. A 35-minute read might be intimidating to a casual browser or someone with a short attention span. Target serious seekers with your long-form content.
You’re building authority or thought leadership. Long-form content helps improve a site’s Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness – or EAT, one of Google’s quality guidelines.
How to Create Long-Form Blogs That Everyone Will Love
So, you’ve got pillar content planned that will position you as an authority in your industry. Great! Here are four tips to follow when creating long-form blogs that will impress both your readers and the search engines.
1. Break Out the Statistics!
Did you know that blogs are considered the fifth-most trustworthy source of information? And having statistics in your blogs is one of the easiest ways to boost that trustworthiness rating.
Statistics have a lot of benefits, especially when they’re unique to your business. They give your readers some brain candy, and they prove to Google that you’re an expert in your industry.
Compile unique statistics to give to your writers whenever possible.
Emphasize fresh statistics (within two or three years, depending on your industry).
2. Diver Deeper into Topics
Are there 26 blog posts already on the topic you want to write about? Think about another way to attack the topic.
Differentiating yourself in the search engine does more than just give your readers something fresh. It also sets you apart from the competition by showing original thought leadership – you aren’t just rehashing what someone else has already said.
Take advantage of revision policies to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want.
4. Plan Your Content
Remember: quality and consistency are better than quantity.
Consistent quality over time brings success. There’s no other way to do it.
Publishing long-form content is a powerful way to outrank your competition in the SERPs, but nothing will save you if you’re publishing inconsistently.
However, inconsistency becomes a bigger threat when you’re publishing longer pieces. That’s because they take longer to research, write, and edit than shorter pieces. In my experience, that catches a lot of people off guard.
You may be used to writing 800-word blog posts every Tuesday and Thursday. However, turning one of those into a 2,000-word post is the same amount of work as adding a third post for the week.
The easiest way to get around this? Planning.
Account for word count in your content planning so you know exactly how much work you’ve really got. Likewise, it will help you figure out when you need to hire a writer and accommodate their work pace plus any revisions that need to happen.
Even better? It’ll help you see where you’re headed with your content over time … but hopefully, you already know that because you’ve got a content strategy.