January 2020 core update guide

January 2020 Core Update: All You Need to Know (Plus Tips on How to Survive It)

On January 13, Google announced a core algorithm update called the January 2020 Core Update.

Immediately, site owners took to social media to express their dismay on (yet another) major change that could affect the years of hard work they’d put into reaching a top spot on Google’s SERPs.

Some posted despairing memes. Others begged Google “not to be cruel.” Yet others worried how their keyword rankings would be affected as the new update rolled in.

So, what is the January 2020 Core Update?

Should you be worried about it? Most importantly, what changes should you make to your site so you don’t lose your Google rankings?

Let’s explore this massive update in today’s brand new blog. 👇

Should you be worried about @Google's January Core Update? 🤔 What should you do to maintain your rankings? 📈 Find out in this new guide by @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

January 2020 Core Update: All You Need to Know (Plus Tips on How to Survive It) – Table of Contents

January 2020 Core Update, Explained

Experts and Content Creators Speak Up about the January 2020 Core Update

The Top Sites Impacted by the January 2020 Core Update

How to Optimize Your Site to Survive the January 2020 Core Update

5 Aspects of Content That Ranks Well on Google

1. Originality
2. Comprehensiveness
3. Expertise
4. User-Friendly and Trustworthy Presentation
5. User Value

5 Tips to Update Your Content and Continue Ranking Well Despite Major Google Updates

1. Write Content You Can’t Find Elsewhere
2. Improve Content Found on High-Ranking Sites for Your Keyword
3. Proofread to Perfection
4. Step into Your Audience’s Shoes
5. Forget Keywords

Moving Forward after the January 2020 Core Update

January 2020 core update

January 2020 Core Update, Explained

Google’s number one goal is to provide value to users. Because of this, it has made thousands of changes per year in recent years.

However, not all of these changes are noticeable. Most of them are tiny tweaks.

The January 2020 Core Update is different. According to Google, this update will have more noticeable and actionable effects for content producers and webmasters.

Google Webmaster Central blog

source: Google Webmaster Central Blog

The January 2020 Core Update is different. 🤯 According to Google, this update will have more noticeable and actionable effects for content producers and webmasters. Click To Tweet

What it boils down to is Google making a brand-new list of the top sites with the most value in 2020.

If your site takes a hit and falls in the SERPs, it’s not because it’s a bad site. It’s simply because users are changing. There are a ton of new sites online. And there are sites which have been online for some time, but whose value was never fully discovered.

SEJ - core update advice

Source: Search Engine Journal

Overall, the January 2020 Core Update is going to shake up the SEO world. Let’s look at what webmasters and content creators have to say about it.

Experts and Content Creators Speak Up about the January 2020 Core Update

Users reacted differently when the news of the January 2020 Core Update was released. Some were dismayed.

Others were confused.

Still others decided to laugh it off.

Of course, top marketers and SEO experts had their own opinions.

Rand Fishkin’s interest was on the bolded ads, favicons, and brand icons featured in the update.

SEMrush listed three prominent changes the update included.

A few days after the release of the update, Glenn Gabe tweeted his findings on the “volatile” splash it had made.

Will this update affect you? According to Danny Sullivan, it will, no matter where you live.

The Top Sites Impacted by the January 2020 Core Update

In the few days since the January 2020 Core Update rolled in, various sites in different sectors showed significant change in SERP rankings. Let’s look at the winners and losers (so far).

1. Sites with Improved Rankings Since the January 2020 Core Update

According to data from Sistrix, sites in the health sector enjoyed gains since the update rolled in. OnHealth.com and verywellhealth.com saw a 37.7% and 34.72% change, respectively.

January 2020 Core Update winners

Source: Sistrix.com

Other sites with improved ranking include a football site, a movie tickets site, and two news sites. Could this have to do with trending news (the British Royal Family and the Holocaust) and entertainment content?

2. Sites with Lower Rankings Since the January 2020 Core Update

The sites which took the biggest hits since the update are carmagazine.co.uk and boxofficemojo.com.

January 2020 Core Update losers

Source: Sistrix.com

The data shows car buyer and finance sites also taking hits since the update rolled in. Could this be because of the pricing information within the sites? It’s interesting to note that boxofficemojo.com (a movie site just like fandango.com) also shows information related to money.

How to Optimize Your Site to Survive the January 2020 Core Update

Like tons of content creators and webmasters, you’re likely scratching your head over all this information. Luckily, Google has some advice on how to optimize your site for the update.

Google 2020 update - focus on content

Source: webmasters.googleblog.com

Clear as mud?

Let’s go deeper into what it takes to create the kind of content Google always ranks well, no matter what changes it makes to its algorithms.

5 Aspects of Content That Ranks Well on Google

When you add these killer components to your site, you don’t have to spend hours analyzing why one movie site enjoyed gains since the January 2020 Core Update, while another movie site took a serious hit.

5 aspects of content that ranks well on google

1. Originality

Take a look at this piece on cats purring by WebMD.

WebMD cats purring

The article is informative, plus it comes from a trusted domain. On the other hand, look at this one from WHISKAS.

Whiskas why cats purr

A piece like this isn’t counted as plagiarism, as nothing is copied word-for-word from WebMD. However, almost everything is the same. There’s no originality and nothing new added to it.

The result? Although WebMD ranks 422 on Google global engagements, Whiskas ranks 1,752, 296.

2. Comprehensiveness

Comprehensive content dives deep into a topic rather than merely scratching the surface. It provides statistics, charts and graphs, guidelines, and relevant images. After readers go through the article, they feel they’ve gained an insider view into the topic.

Length is an important factor to consider when it comes to content comprehensiveness. It’s almost impossible to dive deep into a topic with a 500-word blog. According to various sources of data, the best length is between 2,000 and 3,000 words.

Average engagement by content length

3. Expertise

When searching for medical advice online, what would you prefer to read? A blog written by a well-known doctor or one by an anonymous person who simply rewrites information they find online?

Expertise is important to Google rankings. Sites owned by people who’ve established authority in their industry do much better than random sites without clear credentials.

4. User-Friendly and Trustworthy Presentation

Imagine reading through a site teaching you how to use English grammar and noticing typos and the misuse of adverbs. Even if this site were owned by an authority in language, you’d still click the back button to look for something else. This shows how important it is for content to be free of sloppiness and errors.

Presentation also affects user experience. For instance, think of how annoying it is to read a blog and have a ton of distracting ads crop up. Or imagine opening a site on your mobile device just to find it’s not optimized for mobile users.

5. User Value

Google’s number one goal, as mentioned, is to give real value to real people. This is what all the updates boil down to.

So, ranking well on Google isn’t about keywords. It’s not even about meta data, rich snippets, and title tags (although they help). What ranking well on Google IS about is making people’s lives a little better each time they visit your site.

Content that continually ranks well on Google has these 5 killer components: 1) Originality 🦄 2) Comprehensiveness ☑ 3) Expertise 👩‍🏫 4) User-friendly, trustworthy presentation 👍 5) User value ❤ Click To Tweet

5 Tips to Update Your Content and Continue Ranking Well

So how do you take the five aspects of good content mentioned above and add them to everything you write? Use these smart tips.

5 tips for updating your content

1. Write Content You Can’t Find Elsewhere

Choose a blog on your topic that ranks highly on Google. Read it thoroughly. Then, ask yourself this question: “What can I add to my blog that isn’t dealt with here?”

For instance, look at this piece from Wired titled Why Do Cats Love Boxes So Much?

Wired - Why do cats love boxes so much

To add unique information to your blog on this topic, you could dive a little deeper and do some research on how cats in the wild “withdraw and hide.” Provide information and details beyond what everyone else has already written about.

2. Improve Content Found on High-Ranking Sites for Your Keyword

Type your keyword into Google. Then, go through the sites that rank highest on the SERPs. Are they good? In-depth? As a reader, what satisfies (and dissatisfies) you about each article or blog? Your next step is to find ways to make your content an improved version of the highest-ranking content on Google.

3. Proofread to Perfection

Follow this five-step guide to ensure your content sparkles every single time.

  • Go over your content quickly to get a first impression.
  • Scrutinize each paragraph to see if it supports your big idea.
  • Attack your blog’s organization – ruthlessly pull sentences and paragraphs apart until they flow well.
  • Read it out loud to nail your tone of voice.
  • Read it again, this time from bottom to top.

4. Step into Your Audience’s Shoes

Why did users look up your topic? What do they fear, dream, desire? When you know your audience, you’ll know what they’re looking for in your content.

5. Forget Keywords

Write naturally. Use keywords because you’re dealing with the topic they surround, not because you need to reach a 3% keyword density.

Want to survive @Google updates? 1) Write content you can't find elsewhere. 🔥 2) Improve on high-ranking content. 🥇 3) Proofread to perfection. 💯 4) Step into your audience's shoes. 👟 5) Forget keywords. 💃 ✅ Click To Tweet

Moving Forward after the January 2020 Core Update

The bad news is the January 2020 Core Update is huge.

The good news is it doesn’t matter.

Yes, your site can take hits and lose rankings. But in the long run, if you focus on becoming your users and knowing what they need, your site will always do well in Google search. You’ll rise above the January 2020 Core Update, or whatever updates rock the SEO world in the future.

Looking for expert blogs, articles, and more that are original, trustworthy, and comprehensive? We write content that ranks well in Google, no matter the updates. Check out our pricing.

Get Google and reader-friendly content



how to update old content

How to Create Massive Content ROI: Your 4-Step Guide on How to Update Old Content

You’ve done it! You have a great site, and you’ve had a ton of traffic.

… But lately, your viewership has begun to slip. 😬

The anxiety starts to sink in as you rack your brain for that funky-fresh new content. And you wonder, “What do I do now?”

No need to panic! It turns out, you’re in luck.

If you need time to get those creative juices flowing before you start on that awesome new piece, there is a solution you probably should be doing already.

(No, it’s not another clickbait-y technique.)

It’s something far better. Your own, already-published content.

That’s right! There’s a gold mine right beneath your feet — you could be sitting on content that is just waiting for you to help it shine like new again.

You might ask, “But how do I update old blog posts?” Fear not. It’s easier than it sounds.

In today’s blog I’ll show you, step by step, the best ways to republish your old content to create massive ROI. Ready? Let’s get into it.

Your 4-Step Guide on How to Update Old Content

How to Create Massive ROI: Your Guide on How to Update Old Content

1. Why Should I Update My Old Content?

2. Digging for Gold: How to Audit Your Content

3. So You’ve Found Your Gold, How Do You Make It Shiny Again? 4 Steps to Updating Old Content

1. Check for Broken Links & Outdated Research

2. Craft a New Headline

3. Update Images and Copy in Your Post

4. Finesse Meta Content & CTA

4. Republishing: How to Show Off Your New Bling

Extra Ways to Make Your Post Sparkle

It pays to focus on planning how to create irresistible new content. 😍 But never forget -- your old content deserves some extra loving too! @JuliaEMcCoy lays out her 4 steps to a flawless old content makeover - 10x better than ever. 💅✨ Click To Tweet

1. Why Should I Update My Old Content?

You might be thinking here — “But, my content is already perfect and I’ve had a ton of views. Why should I change it?”

The truth is, if you’re not updating your old blogs, you are missing out on potential new readers, heightened traffic, and reducing the chance that your old ones will return.

Returning to those killer posts you’ve already spent time and money on is an essential part of improving the ROI and the quality of your site.

According to Hubspot, blogs are now the 5th most trusted source for online information. By staying up to date on the latest information and revamping your old content, readers know they can count on you to keep them in the loop.

And, by keeping your readers up to date and engaged, it lets Google’s crawlers know that you’re still super hip and worthy of a high ranking. Win-Win!

But what about your old readers? Trust me, they will thank you for being a reliable resource for the latest and greatest content.

Besides, you’ve already invested the time and effort to create them, why not make them all that they can be?

Source: Andrea La-Rosa

Think of it this way…

You know that super sweet hairstyle you’ve rocked for years, the incredible bangs or maybe those stylish bleach blonde tips? They were super fly once.

But today? They may not be quite on trend anymore.

Blog posts are a similar situation. You can still love them, but times have changed and so has the information online.

It’s likely that, no matter the topic, there exists new and potentially better information about that subject you so diligently researched.

So, stay on trend! Schedule in the time for researching and updating, and see what else has surfaced since you posted.

Blogs are now the 5th most trusted source, according to @HubSpot. 🙇 One way to keep your old posts alive and kicking 🔥 today and in the future is to simply clean and update them. 🧹 Here's how you can do this. Click To Tweet

2. Digging for Gold: How to Audit Your Content

Okay, I’ve convinced you. You’ve decided to refresh your old blog posts.

But should you start now and if not, when?

Everyone asks me this question! The answer is if you have 2 or more years of content, and you haven’t updated them, you are missing out on valuable leads that could become conversions.

Make it a priority to schedule time to update your blogs every quarter. I recommend updating at least 5-10 of them for optimal results.

This can result in some serious ROI if you make the commitment to updating the content you’ve published.

Alright, you’ve decided the time is now. Have you got your editing pickaxe in hand? ⛏️ Let’s take a look at your previous masterpieces.

A great place to begin is Google Analytics.

There you can find metrics like bounce rate, social shares, and time-on-page. These will help you determine which previous posts are the best performing.

Think of Google Analytics as a stick of dynamite instead of a pickaxe. 🧨

To start, open your Google Analytics account. On the left-hand side, go to Behavior.

Then, click the Overview button. Next, navigate to the bottom right of the page and click view full report in the bottom right-hand corner.

On the next screen, there will only be 10 posts by default. You can change this by going to the bottom of the page and editing the Show rows option to any number you like: 100, or even 5,000.

Then, return to the top of the page and click Export.

Boom! You now have a perfectly organized list of your posts.

From here, look closely to determine which posts have the highest conversion rates, the largest amount of traffic, and the lowest bounce rate.

These are your golden nuggets that keep visitors engaged.

But what if you don’t use Google Analytics or what if your posts have similar stats?  Not a problem, there are other ways to determine which posts you should focus on.

One way is deciding which content is evergreen.

Evergreen content is content that will provide unique value for your visitors, generate traffic, and result in conversions for the foreseeable future.

If you’re unsure what falls into that category, think about the pieces that took you some time to craft. Examples include how-to guides, frequently asked question posts, and resource lists. While you may love that super in-depth post about Blu-ray collecting, it may not be the best choice.

Learn more in our guide on creating evergreen posts that build your business here.

Ready to go deeper? Let’s keep digging.

How do you know which old content needs some makeover? 🖌️ Here's a quick and easy tip to get right into it with the help of Google Analytics. 👨‍💻 Click To Tweet

3. So You’ve Found Your Gold, Now What?

After the sifting and searching, you now have a handful of great posts ready to be updated.

And, wow! What a treasure trove you’ve discovered.

Although the hard work may seem like it’s over, don’t stop there. It’s time to refine your posts into something even better.

To begin, choose the first blog to update and read it carefully.

Do you still love it? Are any of the facts outdated?

Did you cringe at any of your wording?

Are there any typos?

If so, start the process by fixing those small imperfections. These minor changes can mean the difference between conversions and a high bounce rate.

Also, keep in mind that your writing style may have changed over time. Try to edit the piece so that it reflects your current style.

And as you read, don’t forget to take formatting into consideration.

If your blog was a bit clunky or if there were a few too many large blocks of text that don’t exactly scream “Read me!”, think about breaking those sections up.

By creating easier-to-digest sections, it will pull your reader through your piece and encourage them to keep reading.

If you’re unsure about how to do that, head on over to our 6 simple tips for writing clear sentences article for more ways to get the most out of your blog’s structure.

Once you’ve accomplished the basics, it’s time to dig even deeper.

What else should you check in your old blog post before hitting update? 🤓 Make sure to look for typos, format errors, outdated stats, broken links, and see to it that the piece reflects your current writing style. ✔✔✔ Click To Tweet

The 4-Step Checklist for Updating Older Content (Correctly)

4 step checklist on how to update old content

1. Check for Broken Links & Outdated Research

A few issues that can happen with older blog posts: You might be linking to content that no longer exists, or the topic and discussion may not be as relevant as when you originally posted. This can increase your bounce rate and citing outdated research can significantly hurt your position as an “expert” in the field.

To see if this is the case for your piece, try checking for broken links by using tools like this free broken link checker.

If you find any links that lead you to a 404 page or to outdated posts, update them with the relevant content or simply remove them.

This lets Google know you’re on top of it and makes it more likely that your content will rank higher.

If your links are still as bright and shiny as when you first posted, consider adding new external ones.

  • Can you find new research that wasn’t available before? If so, linking to those articles can boost your credibility and increase your viewership.
  • Better than adding external links is adding internal links to your content. You likely wrote another article that relates and can help provide additional resources. Add that link in! It just might be the information your readers were looking for.

I know when I’m reading a piece that has already grabbed my attention I almost always click on their links to check out what other gems they have waiting for me. By adding internal links, you not only encourage your readers to remain on your site but it also increases the likelihood that they will share your work.

First thing to check on that old blog post? All those links! 🔗🔗🔗 You'll want your post to be clear of links leading to 404s and outdated pages. 🌟 Read more tips here on how you can update old content. 👌 Click To Tweet

2. Craft a New Headline

According to a recent study by Microsoft, the average attention span has fallen to a mere 8 seconds. 8 seconds is all you have to captivate your audience and convince them to stay.

For this reason, it’s imperative to examine your title to ensure it’s the best it can be — it’s your first and sometimes only opportunity to engage your reader.

If your post was titled, “6 Ways to Wow Your Audience,” why not add a seventh or even an eighth? Once you think you’ve got something eye-catching, don’t simply trust your gut, give it a test run.

To do so, try the AMI Institute’s Headline Analyzer. It’s a useful tool for any writer that ranks your headline according to how well it resonates with your audience based on three key types of appeal: intellectual, emotional or spiritual.

It also gives you a percentile score which indicates how powerful your title is. Most professional copywriters’ headlines will fall between 30%-40% range, while the most talented will have a 50%-75% score. Test yours to see where you land. If it’s not quite right, keep trying.

Here’s an example of a Write Blog headline hitting a 40% score:

headline analyzer

If you’re stuck and need more help, check out my video on writing killer headlines for more tips.

How you write today can be wayyy different than how it was years ago. To make sure that all your copies reflect your latest awesome writing style, power up those headlines. 🔋 🆙 There's even a tool to help you craft the best one! 🔧 Click To Tweet

3. Update Images & Copy in Your Post

If your blog is mostly text and there are little to no images, you may want to consider adding a few more. Images help the reader stay actively engaged by breaking up content.

In fact, they’re so important that one study found that when asked after three days, participants could only recall 10-20% of written information provided to them during the test but were able to recall a whopping 65% of the visual information.

This is why images are a huge component of any successful blog’s goal to maintain viewership.

Infographic from Ethos3

And, what’s better than an image? An infographic.

Infographics can help you show off incredible statistics, like the one above, in a simple format that will impress your readers and make them more likely to share your content.

If your blog is fun and lighthearted, you might try adding GIFs. They make a perfect pair to content that makes readers laugh out loud.

Just keep in mind that page load time is also a factor. If your post already takes a moment to pop up, you may want to reconsider using them.

Very few readers will wait a full 10 seconds to begin reading.

Think about the copy itself, too. If you have typos, content and quality issues, now is the time to address all of those. Quality in writing goes a long way in convincing and converting a reader.

Enhance your old content's readability 👁️‍🗨️ by adding attractive yet informative images. 🦋 Besides keeping those long posts easier to read, they help readers recall information better. 🧠 Click To Tweet

4. Finesse Your Meta Content & CTA

There are two final components of any successful content update. These are your meta content and your call to action or CTA.

Make Sure to Add or Update the Meta Title and Description

Your meta content is a combination of two items — your meta title and meta description.

The meta title is the headline that appears on search pages when users search for you or any content related to your site.

Your meta description is the small blurb beneath your site’s title on Google’s search page which tells readers what they are about to click on.

The critical meta title and description are a ‘must’ for optimal SEO and can also be the deciding factor between a user clicking on your site or choosing one of the thousands of others available to them.

While there are many strategies regarding how to optimize, the main goal is to be specific.

In the example above, our meta title is Why Blog? 52 Incredible Blogging Statistics to Inspire YouThis is highly specific to our topic and interesting to the reader. Bonus: It has numbers! Numbers are great to draw readers’ eyes.

If your post is about options for gardening services in Southern California, the meta title should not be something generic. For example, “Gardeners for Your Home” is an extremely weak meta title. A better option is one that is not only location-specific, (e.g. Southern California) but one that also includes keywords. “How to Find the Best Gardener in Southern California: 5 Steps to a Great Partnership” is not only specific but contains all of the keywords associated with your content.

This lets both the reader and search engines know precisely what your site contains. By using targeted language, it increases the chance that you will rank higher and viewers will choose your site.

Your meta description should also be similarly crafted. It is an extension of your title and should contain a small snapshot of carefully selected keywords and phrases that relate to your page’s topic.

If this is all new to you and you want to learn how to write powerful meta descriptions, check out our guide on how to write meta content.

Never leave your snippets unedited 🖋️. Be sure to add or update that old meta title and description and feel free to rewrite them until you're sure that they have the right length that perfectly tells what your content is about. 💯 Click To Tweet

Add CTAs Too When Updating Old Content

The last and arguably one of the most important factors to creating conversions is your call to action or CTA.

These can be placed within a sentence, like the one above, a button on your site or a pop-up window within your blog that encourages the reader to take action in some way.

Businesses spend countless dollars each year researching how to effectively leverage the color, position, and wording of their CTAs so they can get their customers to the next section of their funnel.

Here’s an example:

Each of these two buttons is a CTA, but they both have one goal: Transform a visitor into a consumer. The only difference is the wording. One focuses on stoking enthusiasm and curiosity, “Everyone loves us.” The other acts as a mirror encouraging you to try the thing everyone loves and to do it now.

While tactics like using scarcity to induce a feeling of FOMO like “Buy now before we run out,” are effective, what’s more effective is knowing your audience. While some companies would cringe at a CTA that says, “Get yo goods,” for another, it’s the perfect CTA for their clients.

Why? Because it fits their brand and their product. By knowing who your readers are and what they want, you can craft CTAs that are lightyears ahead of the average “Buy now,” button. Then, sit back and watch the conversions roll in.

By creating an enticing CTA within rather than just hoping a reader will take action, the chances increase exponentially that they will like, subscribe, or purchase that ebook you worked so hard on.

While we could spend pages talking about how to write a CTA — and we have — if you need some inspirational tips on how to write a CTA that’s guaranteed to generate conversions, head over to our piece about how to write a sensational CTA after you finish here.

See what we did there?

🏁Never miss adding call-to-action aka CTAs 🏁. CTAs invite readers to go to your next desired step such as subscribing to your newsletter 📰, purchasing an item 🛒, or just reading another post to keep them hooked on your site! 🪑 Click To Tweet

4. Republishing: How to Show Off Your New Bling

Congratulations, you’ve done it!

You braved the journey into your content gold mine and came out with some incredible pieces. After a bit of hard work, they are now gleaming.

Now comes the fun, reposting.

When you repost, I recommend including a small note at the top stating when the piece was updated. This lets readers know that it’s hot off your fingertips and worthy of reading. Here’s an example of how we’ve done that:

If you’re worried your audience won’t respond because they have already seen the post, it’s important to remember that it’s not the same content you had before. You’ve transformed it into something trendy and relevant.

It’s also good to keep in mind that the value of your blog is not in the immediate viewership achieved but in the potential thousands who will visit in the future.

By following our simple steps above to keep your blog updated, you’ll boost your visitor count and earn consistently higher traffic numbers to your content.

Before you hit that Update button, leave a small note at the top that tells when the post was originally written and when it was updated. 🧽✨This lets the readers know your old post is refreshed and has new details not to be missed. 🐣 Click To Tweet

Extra Ways to Make Your Post Sparkle

If you’re still looking for new ways to update your old content after doing all of the tips above, consider a few of the extra options below.

Do you have a podcast or will you be featured in one soon? Think about how you can integrate your piece into the recording.

Try rewriting it as a script or mentioning a small snippet to encourage listeners to give it a read.

If you have an active email campaign that keeps your readers engaged with your site, use it to show off work they may not have seen yet.

Take an excerpt from the posts you’re revamping and include it in your next email campaign. Then, create a CTA that encourages readers to “Check out the whole article” and provide a link.

If you’ve read all of this and think, “gee this is just too much,” that’s okay too! Our goal is to make creating content easy. If you need more inspiration, check out my Write Blog for kicka$$ ideas that can help you get the most from your content.

how to update old content CTA

5 steps to get Google BERT ready

Worried About Google BERT? How to Make Sure You’re Ready in 5 Steps

Google’s done it again. On October 25, 2019, Google BERT hit the scene. Boy, it has been a rollercoaster.

Within the first few days of its release, many people saw sizable fluctuations in their keyword performance, page ranks, and site traffic. Others saw almost no change at all. Still others questioned whether Google BERT was actually that big of a deal.

Yet, this rather innocent-sounding update is described by Google as “one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search.” It’s expected to affect one in 10 organic searches (yikes!).

Google releases almost nine algorithm updates each day. So, what makes BERT so important? And what do marketers (and site owners) need to do to prepare or recover from the effects of this update on their site?

Those are great questions! Let’s explore.

5 steps to get Google BERT ready

Google BERT Explained, Plus 5 Ways to Make the Most of Google’s Latest Search Innovations

What Is Google BERT and Why Is Everyone Freaking Out?

Why You Saw Site Traffic and Keyword Fluctuations

How to Make Sure Your Site Is Ready for Google BERT in 5 Steps

1. Optimize for Humans, not BERT

2. Keep Calm and Continue E-A-T-ing!

3. Revisit How Your Site Captures Informational Searches

4. Avoid the Keyword Superstitions That Are Currently Everywhere

5. Get Ready with Those Featured Snippets

Saw something weird happened in your current site rankings? 📉 😨 Maybe it's the latest Google BERT doing its job. @JuliaEMcCoy explains what happened and some easy tips to keep your site afloat. 🚣🏿‍♀️ Click To Tweet

What Is Google BERT and Why Was Everyone Freaking Out?

There’s been a lot already written on what BERT is and what it is not, but it’s worth revisiting exactly how Google BERT works.

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. This mouthful of neurolinguistic terminology basically means that it’s now easier for the search engine to understand the context of words in a search string.

Google BERT meaning

Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), BERT helps the search engine understand the significance of words like “to” or “for” (transformer words) in the context of a search. These would have been previously ignored by the search engine, leading to frustrating goose chases while someone tried to find the right combination of words or phrases.

For example, before BERT, Google results for “math practice books for adults” would have included hits that – while technically keyword matches – were irrelevant:

Source: Google

By emphasizing transformer words, the search engine can now understand that “for” is an important part of the sentence grammatically. Previously, it would have ignored the word, returning results involving math books for any demographic with adult in the term – such as young adults.

Google BERT doesn’t change any rules for keywords and the update didn’t change any of the metrics the search engine uses for determining page rank. Nonetheless, it’s still going to have a pretty big impact on site traffic and page ranks.

In fact, it already has.

What is Google BERT? BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. 😅 To simplify: BERT helps the search engine understand the significance of transformer words like 'to' and 'for' in the keywords used. 🌞 Click To Tweet

So, You Saw Something Spooky With Your Site Traffic? Here’s What Happened.

Within 24 hours of Google BERT going live in English, people started reporting chaos in their analytics as the changes took place. Some people reported significant drops in their site traffic and page ranks, while others witnessed surges to the top.

Nutrition and supplement review site Examine, for example, saw a return to normal traffic from the July update:

Source: Twitter

Other sites saw a significant drop in their traffic and page ranking, with some claiming they’d been de-ranked or had pages de-indexed altogether. Given the way BERT affects searches, a few reasons exist as to why this might have happened:

  • You were getting a lot of traffic from keywords, but your information was irrelevant. For example, if you had a site selling young adult math textbooks, you would have previously gotten traffic from “math practice books for adults” because your keywords matched. That’s not happening anymore.
  • You’ve been pushed down by a competitor with a stronger keyword game. This is proving to be especially true for local SEO, where searches rely more heavily on transformer words like “at” or “in.”
  • You don’t have a lot of content that would turn up in informational searches. Informational searches – the type of Google query where a user is seeking specific information about something – are the most common type of Google search out there. They’re also what BERT primarily affected because they’re the types of searches most likely to use transformer words or include conversational wording.
  • Your site is optimized for search engines, not people. Google has been pushing content quality for years now, but some sites have stubbornly clung to SEO oriented to the search engine rather than human readers. If you’re using outdated SEO techniques, you might have seen a plunge in traffic.

There are three types of Google Searches. Google BERT primarily affects informational searches.

If anything, BERT reveals just how important it is to stay up to date with Google’s major algorithm updates. Google can – and does – merrily overhaul the way search engines rank pages. (Remember Panda and its 2015 update? I sure do. Sheesh.)

With the release of Google BERT, we’re going to see another one of those overhauls, albeit a less traumatic one. Those who have been lagging behind the times with their SEO strategy are the ones feeling the most negative effects.

Fortunately, I know a few tricks to help correct any downturn you might have experienced and get the most from the release of BERT.

After the Google BERT update, there were significant drops in site traffic and page ranks. 😱 But don't worry. If you have a content strategy in place, you're more likely to be unaffected. You might even see better results! 📈 Click To Tweet

How to Make Sure Your Site Is Ready for Google BERT in 5 Steps

Wondering how to optimize your SEO for Google BERT? Don’t. Google has already told us it can’t be done.

Source: Unearthed Comics

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do in the light of BERT to boost your SEO game. These include:

1. Optimize for Humans, Not BERT

Great content is all about focusing on your human reader. With the release of BERT, Google is driving that home.

BERT empowers the search engine to understand searches conducted using “natural language” (i.e., they’re conversational sounding) rather than “keyword-ese” – the use of strings which don’t resemble human speech but are designed to get Google to spit out the info what you want.

If you’re writing for humans, you’re already covered here. If you’re still keyword stuffing like it’s 2009, it’s now time to make sure your content makes sense to people, not machines.

2. Keep Calm and Continue E-A-T-ing!

EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness – three elements of Google’s quality metrics for determining page rank.

Most of Google’s biggest algorithm updates have centered around addressing the SEO gaming which occurred in the late 2000s and early 2010s. It’s no longer possible to churn out hundreds or thousands of poorly written but perfectly SEO-optimized articles (thank heavens). Google will simply push them down, if not de-list the site altogether.

The rules of the SEO game haven’t changed with BERT. Now, it’s simply more likely that the helpful, quality content you’ve produced already will be even more effective in the search engine because the algorithm uses NLP.

So, keep calm and keep focusing on what you EAT. 🌮

3. Revisit How Your Site Captures Informational Searches

One of the biggest negative effects seen with BERT is a drop in organic search traffic. This suggests that your pages were ranking in searches that weren’t applicable to your niche.

BERT is designed to return more relevant searches to its users. What you need to do now is:

  1. Identify what keywords or pages have stopped performing as well.
  2. Search those keywords and see what sort of other content appears alongside (or instead of) yours. You may find it has changed.
  3. Tweak your content to match the content that ranks or add more content which reflects these changes.

It may be worth it to connect with a content strategist to discover the best options for content adjustment.

4. Avoid the Keyword Superstitions Currently Everywhere

Almost as soon as BERT was announced, SEO gurus sprang into action to dispense advice on how BERT is changing the landscape of SEO. Some of the advice included:

  • Keyword density will become less important.
  • Stop words are now vital.
  • Long-tail keywords will become more important than short-tail keywords.
  • BERT makes the “conversational level” of content a quality metric.

Don’t listen to anyone who claims to have the “ultimate BERT SEO optimization strategy.” BERT doesn’t change any rules around SEO.

Do I sound like a broken record yet?

5. Get Ready for Those Featured Snippets

One neat thing about BERT is that it will make Featured Snippets much more valuable. Rolled out way back in 2014, they provide a way to quickly browse a site’s content. Now, even if you’re not the top-ranked page in results, there’s a chance you might get featured in the coveted “position zero” if nobody above you is optimized. The same is true if you’re more relevant than other results based on the use of transformer words.

You can’t create your own featured snippets, but you can do a few things to increase the likelihood that your site will appear as one (and thus at the top of the page):

  • Organize your content in lists. Google can create an outline.
  • Sum up your answer to a question in 40 to 50 words. Google will create a paragraph.
  • Use tables to display data.
  • Make more video content.

There's nothing much to fix after the Google BERT update. ⚙️ Just be sure to create for humans, continue E-A-T-ing, revisit your content strategy, avoid keyword superstitions, and consider optimizing content for featured snippets. 🛠️ Click To Tweet

SEO in 2020: Writing for People, Not Search Engines

Although Google BERT caused quite a splash, it’s not the game-changing event that we’ve come to expect when Google claims something is the “biggest update in years.”

Google BERT is just the latest search innovation put into place to make Google more useful for everybody. By being able to understand contextual words such as “for” or “to,” we can now all get our fingers on information faster and easier.

Make Google notice you with in-depth, expert content and masterful SEO. See our pricing for expert, search optimized blogs.



seo and content trends

5 SEO and Content Trends That Will Be Worth Your Time & Focus in 2020

2020 is coming at us, whether we like it or not.

To stay ahead of the curve as knowledgeable marketers and website owners, what are the most important factors you need to know about content and SEO trends?

As it turns out, a LOT.  😮

As fast as technology changes, content marketing changes, too. What was relevant, best practice, or trendy last year may not hold water in 2020.

Read my blog today on what I consider next year’s major SEO and content trends headed our way. 🔮 Don’t let your content and SEO fall behind.

top seo and content trends

5 SEO and Content Trends That Will Be Worth Your Time & Focus in 2020

1. Amazing, Niche, Expert Content Which Meets or Exceeds Google’s E-A-T Standards

2. Content Optimized for Voice Search

3. More Long-Tail Keyword Searches and More Content Targeting Them

4. Richer, SEO-Ready Imagery in Content

5. Interactive Content

As content marketing continues to evolve, we find ways to keep our content relevant and ranking. 🌱 So for 2020, why not go further and create better, unbeatable content? 🏇 @JuliaEMcCoy reveals 5 upcoming SEO and content trends. Click To Tweet 5 SEO content trends for 2020: 🔮 1. Niche Expert Content 2. Content Optimized for Voice Search 3. More Long-Tail Keyword Searches 4. Richer Imagery See all 5 from @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

1. Amazing, Niche, Expert Content Which Meets or Exceeds Google’s E-A-T Standards

Content continues to amaze and astound us on the regular. It can do SO much for small and large brands alike.

  • It taps into the major traffic potential stemming from Google search (70.6% of ALL web traffic originates there, according to Backlinko/Sparktoro).
  • Publishing strategic content generates 67% more leads than NOT publishing strategic content, says a HubSpot study.
  • Meanwhile, 71% of B2B buyers read blog content during their buying journeys (3-5 blogs is the norm).

If you’re on the receiving end of those stats, ready and waiting with amazing content, the rewards are huge. More people are getting wise to how well it works, and so we’ll see more content from more brands in 2020.

The word to focus on, however, is “amazing.” Without that qualifier, you don’t have a chance.

In 2020, it’s not just bad content that won’t cut it. Even mediocre pieces will fail to land, including “not bad” and “good enough” content that makes you shrug halfheartedly after reading the first paragraph.

To rank with Google and readers, your content has to go far beyond “not bad” and inch into “exceptional,” “amazing,” and “wow” territory.

The only caveat? The bar for amazing content keeps rising. Marketers who have been doing content forever know this beyond a doubt, so they’ll up their game in response.

The result: Content in 2020 will be better than ever – especially from major players!

How can you keep up to rank in 2020? The shortlist:

  • Hit Google’s definition of quality. Over and over, in their Webmaster Guidelines, the search engine references helping the user, being useful, and including the words for which users are searching in your content.

From Steps to a Google-friendly site

From Webmaster Guidelines

  • Prove you’re an expert in your industry/topic area. Google highlights the importance of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) in its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. Google itself called these guidelines a good indicator of how they define high-quality (and low-quality) content. That hint is from an article published in August 2019 on the Webmaster Central Blog.

  • Create & publish amazing-quality content consistently. Inconsistency in content is a recipe for catastrophe. Failing to update your content regularly (whether that means tweaking older articles or pages or posting new ones), as well as failing to maintain your quality standards, will ultimately hurt your search visibility.
    • At Express Writers, we consistently rank at the top of Google because of our commitment to consistency and quality in content.
    • Case in point: For 8 years (yes, years), without missing a beat, we published one blog/week. We stuck to this rigorously, and it has paid off. Today we rank for over 23,000 keywords in Google, and 99% of our prospects come to us through organic search.

Summing up, content isn’t going out of style. (Never.) Plenty of great content is going to come out of heightened knowledge and a better understanding of what it takes to rank in 2020.

Need help learning how to write SEO content that meets the tried-and-true fundamentals of ranking in Google and earning your reader’s attention? Grab my free SEO cheat sheet below. ⬇️  

seo cheat sheet

If you've been following Google's E-A-T standards, good work focusing on useful content for online readers. If you're not sure you're updated with the latest guidelines, check out @JuliaEMcCoy's quick 3-item checklist. 📑 Click To Tweet

2. Content Optimized for Voice Search

Is anyone surprised this is a 2020 trend? Me neither.

Voice search is continuing to grow, both in usage and popularity. According to the Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research, 16% of Americans owned a smart speaker as of January 2018.

One year later, that number shot up by 78%.

Naturally, with more people owning and using smart speakers, it follows that more will be using voice search to ask their devices to find information.

The data backs this up: eMarketer predicts by 2021, over one-third – 36.6% – of the entire U.S. population will use voice assistants.

What this means for SEO and content is pretty big.

Content optimized for voice search must be (and will be) on the agenda for most content marketers.

What does this look like? Short answer:

  • A bigger focus on long-tail, question-and-answer, and phrase keywords with natural language (that means weird, unnatural-sounding keywords are out)
  • Careful formatting of these keywords within the content (bullets, short paragraphs, bolded text, and other signifiers that tell Google, “Hey, this is important”)
  • More marketers optimizing their content for SERP features like Featured Snippets and People Also Ask – because voice search pulls from these spots! (Specifically, SEMrush found that 70% of answers returned from voice search came from SERP features, and 80% came from the top three results.)

In 2018, there are 118.5 million smart speakers in US households -- a good reason to start optimizing your content for voice search. How do you do this? @JuliaEMcCoy has a few key tips for you. 🥇 Click To Tweet

3. More Long-Tail Keyword Searches and More Content Targeting Them

So, more long-tail keyword searches are coming from voice search in 2020. Along with that, we’ll also see more people generally using long-tails in an attempt to cut through the noise and get closer to specific results in Google.

If you target long-tail keywords in your content and nail the user intent behind them, you’ll appeal to people looking for better, more relevant search results.

That will be big in the year ahead – those who focus on the long-tail will bring in more conversion-ready prospects and will pull ahead of marketers still putting all their eggs in the broad, “head” term keyword basket.

4. Richer, SEO-Ready Imagery in Content

Gone are the days when you could slap a semi-relevant stock photo in the header of your blog post and call it done.

In 2020, relevance and usefulness will be key – not putting images in content just to have them, but putting images in content to deepen meaning and facilitate understanding of the content’s topic.

That means the relevance of the images to the textual content will matter greatly as well as the engagement factor. (If you took away the images, would your readers be more, less, or equally engaged with the content?)

Useless stock photos of random people typing on computers aren’t good enough anymore. Content in 2020 will call for richer imagery that adds to a piece’s usefulness and interest for readers.

In addition, this imagery will be SEO-ready, meaning:

  • Smart marketers will make use of alt tags to describe their images with relevant keywords.
  • They’ll name their files logically, including focus keywords.
  • They’ll choose the best file format for the type of image (i.e. JPEG for large photos, PNG for images with transparent backgrounds, etc.)
  • They’ll reduce their images’ file sizes for faster loading.

5. Interactive Content

A focus on better images in content brings me to interactive content – specifically, interactive imagery and infographics.

According to a 2017 study from Ion Interactive and Content Marketing Institute, 87% of marketers either “strongly agree” or “agree” that interactive content grabs readers’ attention better than static content.

Plus, interactive infographics were the top type of interactive content that year, with contests and calculators following close behind.

For example, look at this infographic from Goldman Sachs. Parts of it are animated, and as you move down the image, you get various opportunities to click on buttons and text to reveal deeper data about Millennials.

In 2020, more marketers will be getting creative and innovative with imagery like this. Additionally, they’ll be looking for fresh ways to engage audiences with short attention spans without resorting to video content, which involves a slightly higher investment in time, equipment, and money.

A key question for next year: How do we engage readers better in our text-based, written content? Interactive content represents just one solution.

📌SEO and content trends to follow in 2020: niche and expert content that meets Google's E-A-T standards, voice search optimization, more long-tail keywords, more SEO-ready images, and interactive content. 📌 Click To Tweet 5 SEO content trends for 2020: 🔮 1. Niche Expert Content 2. Content Optimized for Voice Search 3. More Long-Tail Keyword Searches 4. Richer Imagery See all 5 from @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

top five seo and content trends

Content & SEO Trends in 2020 Are All About the User

Did you notice another trend within the trends we discussed? (#inception)

Every single one of them focuses on our users and readers.

We might as well go ahead and dub 2020 “the year of the user” – that’s how much they matter now and in the future of content marketing.

If you want to grow online with content, you have to forget about your brand in that equation. Instead, you have to focus on how users can benefit from your expertise. Give away your knowledge, treat it like the renewable resource it is, and, in the process, give your readers the value they crave.

The side effects of that approach, as all of us in content marketing know deeply, are incredible for growing a business.

So, with 2020 in our sights, if you haven’t yet, it’s time to pull up a chair to the table and grab a slice of that content pie. It’s best served warm, so get it while it’s hot.

keyword cannibalization

Keyword Cannibalization: What It Is & How to Avoid It Completely (Video)

Does creating SEO content to build your brand online and grow your inbound traffic sometimes feel like a vortex of same old, same old?

If you find yourself wondering, “Did I just create too much content on the same topic…?,” you’ll want to stick around for today’s video.

In today’s new YouTube video, I explain keyword cannibalization: what it is (the good, bad AND ugly), how to avoid it, and three measures you can take to prevent it completely.

Finally, which tool to use to see if you actually do have keyword cannibalization happening. Let’s get into it!

keyword cannibalization blog

Keyword Cannibalization: What It Is & How to Avoid It Completely (Video)

My Fall Update

This fall, I’m head-down working on the developmental edit stages for my third book, a narrative nonfiction memoir. Every single day, I’m going in my content hermit hole and writing! I’m super excited about this book, and cannot wait to share more updates with you. It’s the story of how I left my dad’s cult in the middle of the night at 21 years old and built a life I love — including several businesses! Bonus: We’re full blast at Express Writers, keeping our writers and team busy with tons of great content creation projects for our clients. We have several work-from-home positions open — a part-time editor and a part-time support specialist. Get in touch with us by emailing [email protected] if you want to hear more about our opportunities.

Thirdly, even though I said I’d take on less, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of an amazing invitation I received to co-write Ryan Stewart’s new book on SEO, this fall. Ryan Stewart is a friggin’ amazing expert I’ve been a fan of for years. He’s built and sold multiple businesses from scratched and consulted for leading businesses. He and I share the same growth-focused marketing mindset. Look for our updates on that new book coming soon! This made wonder if you’re wondering how I get all my writing done. 😆 Maybe that should be another video!

Okay, let’s get into today’s topic.

What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization is when a site has more than one page with the exact same focus keyword — typically unintentionally.

When this happens, you’re diluting your page authority and potentially eating your own ranking potential (oops). Thus the name for this issue: “keyword cannibalization.”

Instead of you telling Google, “Hey, this is my single awesome killer page for this focus keyword,” you’re throwing a bunch of pages at Google hoping one of them sticks. And that doesn’t work.

Keyword cannibalization is when a site has more than one page on the exact same keyword. Watch @JuliaEMcCoy explain keyword cannibalization and measures you can take to prevent this from happening to you. 💀 #SEO Click To Tweet

Why Keyword Cannibalization Is Not Good for SEO

Eric Enge, one of the lead writers of “The Art of SEO”, says that keyword cannibalization is like writing a really good book, but each chapter is on the exact same thing. That wouldn’t be a page-turner, would it?

He has this illustration to show how keyword cannibalization kills site SEO, and what should be done instead:

The only thing I would clarify on this concept is that when you create a bunch of pages on the same keyword — subconsciously or by accident — you’re not confusing Google. Google is pretty smart with how they rank content, so Google will make their best choice from your content based on the searcher’s intent.

But what happens…

When you create too many content pieces on the same topic you can cause an ICKY page to rank above an AWESOME page (i.e., the one you really want to rank).

Take a look at this example from Ahrefs, in this blog by Joshua Hardwick on the topic of keyword cannibalization.

If you Google the phrase “competitor backlink analysis, you’ll see two different blogs of theirs ranking in positions #6 and #7:

keyword cannibalization example ahrefs

The result in position #6 was published 4+ years ago, contains a ton of screenshots showing a very old Ahrefs UI, and is a short post compared to the mega-guides they publish nowadays.

The post they wanted to rank highly, #7, is a better blog. It’s more up-to-date and offers better advice. But, because they’ve already written on this topic, they’re cannibalizing their position.

When Keyword Cannibalization Isn’t An Issue

There are a few instances when you don’t have to worry about keyword cannibalization.

For example: if you rank in positions #1 and #2 for a very valuable keyword pulling in ideal traffic, and the content in those rankings are valuable, long-term positions for you, then you don’t need to worry about keyword cannibalization.

Example: Bodybuilding.com currently holds the #1 and #2 spot for “back and bicep workout.”

keyword cannibalization example

Look at the two content pieces. Each features a different workout, by a different expert. So if you’re an ideal audience for this site, and let’s say you’re seeking a back and biceps workout and you’re interested in one of these experts (you already know them by name and are excited they’ve put together a workout online), you’re going to click on the one you like the most. So, bodybuilding.com is not cannibalizing their own rankings because both of these rankings serve a purpose. Different workouts by different experts.

The other example of keyword cannibalization not being an issue is when you have many pages around a central two-word phrase, but your rankings and focus keywords are long-tail versions of that two-word phrase.

As long as you create a unique content piece to compete for a different long-tail phrase each time, the long-tail phrase itself can have the same word or couple of words repeated.

Example: blogging statistics, best blogging service, blogging packages for law firms

Three different keywords, three different content pieces, three different search originations… all containing the same core term, blogging. Not keyword cannibalization.

How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization

So, let’s say keyword cannibalization is happening to you. What do you do? Here are three measures you can take.

1. Merge & Update Old Content

Updating old content is one of the best ways to tell Google, hey, look! I just made this old, icky piece of content better! Now it’s worthy of search user’s eyeballs.

So if you have two pieces of content on identical keywords and topics, pick the better one, merge any content that’s worth merging from the other duplicate content, and finally, it’s best to go over the whole piece, refresh, update, write a new meta title and description for optimal results.

After you update an old piece of content, 301 redirect the URL of the old post you updated to the new one, then delete the old post.

2. Delete the Worst Version

If you have one content piece that is amazing and one that is horrible, just throw the horrible one in the trash.

Don’t even try to save it, if it’s not worth showing to your ideal audience. Don’t try to merge and update and use it, if it’s straight up cruddy. Don’t forget to 301 redirect the URL to another relevant blog before you trash it, so you don’t lose any clicks from possible anchor texts that could be linking to it.

3. No-Index

This is a situation that would work if you have a product page, for example, that a user or shopper absolutely must have, but isn’t going to help you in search because you might have two of them.

Simply no-index the page when you publish it, and avoid search crawlers completely. Not recommended if your goal is inbound traffic – I would recommend one of the other two instead – but absolutely an option if you don’t care as much about SEO and you already have great sources of traffic.

Tool Recommendation

If you have tons of content and you’re not sure what’s duplicate and what’s not, use a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl your site and export it. If you paste the Screaming Frog export into Excel, for example, you can use filtering to see how many pages talk about a given topic and get going on content cleanup. Think about how to organize main pages that link to sub-pages, if you have a lot of similar topics.

More Recommended Resources on Keyword Cannibalization

I also recommend these resources for learning more on this topic. Very useful!

Rand Fishkin: Keyword Targeting, Density, and Cannibalization – Whiteboard Friday (2014, but still extremely relevant)

How to Find and Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues by Joshua Hardwick (Ahrefs)

That’s a Wrap for Today’s Video!

Thanks so much for joining me on today’s video. Don’t forget to subscribe for my new videos, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions on this topic!

how to rank in the top of Google

How to Rank in the Top of Google, Win Traffic, Prospects & Buyers (Bonus: Free Checklist)

Ranking in the top of Google is the dream of every brand with a blog and every SEO expert.

Why do we care so much?

Because reaching the top of Google is like winning a gold medal in the Content Olympics. 🥇

With a few perks thrown in. More traffic? Yours. More clicks in the SERP? Yours. More qualified leads coming in? Yep, that too.

How do we know this will happen? Well, 70.6% of all traffic on the web originates from a Google search (Backlinko and Sparktoro). What’s more, 71% of B2B buyers are reading blogs during their buying journeys — at least 3-5.

Positions #1, 2, or 3 on a given search engine results page (SERP), on average, get over 54% of the clicks from that page’s overall traffic.

Considering the average click-through rate for paid search is 1.91% across all industries… well…

(Tell me again why you’re bothering with paid search?)

Knowing how to get to the top of Google (for free, without paying a cent for ads) doesn’t qualify as information that’s simply “nice to have.”

Instead, in this dog-eat-dog world of content shock and bro marketing and dying ads

In an internet era where more than 70% of all human traffic online now originates from a search engine…

It’s essential.

Ready to learn how to improve your Google search results, AND repeat that success over and over?

This is what it takes. ⬇️ Bonus: Download your free ebook checklist we created on today’s topic.

how to rank in the top of Google blog guide

How to Increase Your Google Rankings: Table of Contents

How to Rank in the Top of Google: Content is Key

1. Quality Over Quantity in Content Really Matters

2. Content Consistency Wins the Day

3. Content Doesn’t Rank in the Top of Google Without Relevancy and Usefulness

How to Rank in the Top of Google: 3 More Important Factors

1. Quick Site Speed and Page Load Times (Under 3 Seconds)

2. Good Internal Linking Practices

3. Excellent Usability

Wrapping Up: How to Rank in the Top of Google Every Time

We dream of ranking top 1 in Google -- but how is that possible? @JuliaEMcCoy shares how you can get your content to the top of Google with real case studies + a bonus FREEBIE checklist 🔥 Click To Tweet

How to Rank in the Top of Google: Content is Key

Content is one of the key factors that drive search rankings. In a nutshell, it’s about quality, consistency, and relevancy.

1. Quality Over Quantity Really Matters

Want to know how to rank higher on Google? Prioritize content of the highest caliber.

From the direction Google itself has given about what quality content looks like, we know:

  • Quality content is relevant to what the target reader is searching. It’s the answer they’re looking for when they type in a question or keyword phrase.
  • Quality content is easy to read and easy to understand for the target audience. (That doesn’t mean the content is simple. It means it’s well-written, well-formatted, and well-researched. It means the content is written to the level of whatever audience it’s meant for.)
  • Quality content serves a purpose. It teaches, informs, entertains, or guides the reader.

So, if you have a ton of blogs that don’t quite hit the mark for this level of quality, you’re not going to rank as well as a competitor with fewer blogs who absolutely NAILS this definition of quality with every single post.

Need great content? We can help. See our pricing.

To further demonstrate how & why quality matters, let’s dive into a case study.

Case Study: Content Hacker

Content Hacker is my new site, launched on June 28, 2019 – less than two months from writing this ebook/blog post.

The site is basically a newborn baby, but… we already have a top 10 spot in the rankings.

content hacker case study rankings

Three months later, right before I published this piece of content, I checked again. As of early September, we’re ranking for a total of 2,500 keywords, bringing in 345+ organic visitors. This amount goes up weekly. Just four weeks ago, we were at 85 keywords present!

content hacker rankings

How did we do it?

By focusing on content quality > quantity.

We only have 11 blogs and 14 pages total published on the site. However, the average word count for all of our blogs is 4,500. Our longest blog clocks in at 5,000 words.

[email protected] grew @content_hackers from nothing to more than 2,500+ keyword rankings in Google in less than three months. 🔥 How? She focused on content quality, not quantity, with just 11 5,000w mega-blog guides. Click To Tweet

Before creation, I spent days on ideation. I picked out focus keywords like ergonomic home office, remote freelance writing jobs, and wrote mega-blog outline complete with synonymous keywords.

Guess what we’re starting to rank for in Google, with this brand new site?

Each one of our mega-blogs are starting to rank for their focus keywords in Google.

Content works, guys.

But you have to do it right.

Each of our mega, 5,000-word blog guides are deeply researched, thoroughly outlined, takes days (or even weeks!) to write, and includes plenty of supporting images, facts, graphs, GIFs – you name it.

It’s no coincidence that the keywords we’re winning are within those ultra-long-form guides. Our steady growth on Content Hacker is mainly thanks to quality content.

Just look at that solid, upward-trending line from our SEMrush trackings for proof:

content hacker semrush

2. Consistency Wins the Day

Here’s the thing:

You can’t just depend on one factor to buoy your content to the top of Google because the search engine doesn’t look at one factor – it looks at many.

awesome cta free ebook rank in google

That’s why consistency, along with quality, is so important when it comes to content.

You can’t publish an exceptional blog once and let the rest slide. Let me say it louder, for the people in the back: Every. Single. Content. Piece. Must. Be. Exceptional.

Think of it this way: Each content piece is like a building block. They stack on top of each other, one by one, to create a wall. That wall represents your reputation and authority.

Do you want a strong, towering, solid wall that will stand up to storms? Then you can’t add even ONE weak brick to the structure because it will undermine the strength of the whole.

Every single brick needs to be strong on its own. Every single content piece needs to be consistently good for better results in the rankings. Let’s look at another case study to demonstrate what I mean.

Case Study: Express Writers

At Express Writers, our growth over time is due to the one-two punch of quality + consistency.

Check out how our growth shot up and kept a steady pace after I implemented a commitment to those two factors as part of our content strategy:


  • 99% of our prospects come to our agency through Google search.
  • We rank for over 23,000
  • We get 90K organic visitors coming in per month.
  • We have earned over $4.5 million in sales from over 5,000

It’s all thanks in part to one fact:

We have NEVER missed our goal of publishing one blog post per week for eight years.

That’s right. For eight years, we have managed to publish at least once every week. That’s 416 straight weeks where we had a post researched, outlined, written, designed, edited, and ready to go.

The consistency part of the equation has always been there for us. When I finally added a commitment to quality around 2016-2017, we took off. More than that, we keep growing. Take a look at our keyword positions from December 2018:

  • 504 keywords ranking in the top 3 positions in the SERPs.
  • 1,024 keywords ranking in spots #4-10.

Now look at the data from August 2019:

  • In just eight months, 30 keywords climbed into the top 3 of Google.
  • Another 193 keywords made their way into positions 4-10 (which is nothing to sneeze at – ALL of these are on the first page!)
  • Another 355 are still gradually climbing and have moved into the second-page territory in positions 11-20.
  • Last but not least, an astonishing 2,749 keywords started ranking. They’re not in the top of Google yet, but given time, we’ll probably see plenty of them move upward, too.

We see a similar trend when we examine our backlink data and referring domains using Ahrefs. The middle graph, in particular, shows that slow-yet-steady incline I’ve been talking about this whole time:

Steady, constant, upward-trending growth.

That’s what consistency helps you achieve. It’s a major part of how to rank in the top of Google.

Don’t get me wrong, though – it requires a major, CRAZY amount of investment of not necessarily dollars, but time and effort. For the Write Blog content alone, I lead a team of < 5 content creators and a designer to produce what you see here every week. Each blog has a lead time of about two weeks.

But – the investment pays off in dividends. It amounts to daily, qualified leads coming in on autopilot.

It’s worth every penny, every drop of sweat, and every tear shed.

3. Content Doesn’t Rank in the Top of Google Without Relevancy and Usefulness

The final major content factors you need to rank higher on Google?

Content that’s topically relevant to your target audience and useful for their needs.

Even if you post amazing, wow-worthy blogs consistently, they won’t rank well unless they relate to the target reader and are topically on-point.

What do I mean by that?

Your blog topics should cover information that’s important to your target audience.

Depending on the length you want the end result to be, you need to either drill-down into your subject or provide a broader overview.

For an example of a blog that’s topically off the mark, look at this post from CNET:

It’s about 700-800 words, but it’s all over the place. Within a few paragraphs, the author covers composting, lawn care, smart technology for gardeners, and gardening for the apartment-bound.

Huh? Who is the author actually writing to, here? Each of these topics could make a great 800-word post taken by themselves. Plus, they could all be targeted to different people: apartment-dwellers, the eco-conscious, tech junkies, and busy homeowners.

Instead, they’re all included in a post that seems disjointed and, ultimately, unhelpful for a specific user coming to this blog with a specific gardening question.

Pop quiz:

Where do you think this blog is currently ranking in Google? (Hint: It’s a well-written, optimized post on a well-known website. It’s accurate and well-formatted. The only issues: It’s scattered, provides a broad array of information vs. diving deep into one topic, and doesn’t quite jive with the user intent of a person searching for “gardening tips.”)

I’ll give you a few seconds to come up with a guess.

Give up? 🤔

It’s on page 3.

The takeaway: Relevancy and usefulness matter if you want to rank in the top of Google.

To show you a successful example, let’s look at FreshCap Mushrooms, an EW client. *cue case study*

Case Study: FreshCap Mushrooms (EW Client)

FreshCap Mushrooms is a brand on a mission to change people’s lives with the power of mushrooms. They specialize in educating people on how mushrooms are grown, and how functional mushrooms can be used to improve health and wellness, and sell an array of mushroom extracts and powders in their shop.

Positioning themselves through fact-based educational content serves as a great way for FreshCap to differentiate from the other mushroom extract producers, and helps them build authority in the niche.

Needless to say, their blog is a huge part of their online presence. This is where they do the brunt of their teaching on the subject of mushrooms plus related health + wellness topics.

Once this brand committed to consistency and quality in their blog posts on topics relevant to their target audience, they have seen a lot of success that continues to grow. They now have 14K organic keyword positions on Google.

See that noticeable upward curve at the end of the graph? That’s when their content strategy really started making an impact.

That’s the power of relevant, useful, high-quality content. Remember, this is content with the following attributes:

  • It addresses the user’s needs. When they’re typing the target keyword into a Google search, the user most likely has a question or problem to solve, or a pain point they want to alleviate. The content helps them do it.
  • It’s in-depth. Each piece of content focuses on ONE topic (or topic facet) and explores that subject fully.
  • It serves a purpose. The purpose can be to entertain, inform, or teach your readers – it’s up to you to determine the goal. Whatever you do, make sure it serves a purpose for the audience.
[email protected] says it's worth remembering that CONTENT is the key to rank in the top of Google. Prioritize your content's quality over quantity, consistency, and relevancy and usefulness. 🎩 Click To Tweet

awesome cta free ebook rank in google

How to Rank in the Top of Google: 3 More Important Factors

The “how to rank in the top of Google” question isn’t solely answered with content. Along with exceptional blogs, articles, and the like, you also need some supporting website factors in place.

Don’t neglect any of these – they’re all equally important to build the reputation of your site (and thus your content).

1. Quick Site Speed and Page Load Times

Want to rank? A laggy site may kill your chances.

If your pages take eons to load, well, nobody has time for that. ⏳

As you know, waiting for a slow page to load is like watching paint dry. We’re nearing 2020 – we expect speed!

According to Think with Google, as page load time slows down, bounce rate increases.

If your page takes over 5 seconds to load, the likelihood your visitor will immediately bounce increases by over 100%.

Yikes. That person will never become a lead. And, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Google isn’t into that, either.

Faster website = better user experience = better rankings.

To speed up your website, check out this guide from Moz with best-practices.

2. Good Internal Linking Practices

Along with consistently good content and a speedy site, the structure of your pages matters for getting your website to the top of Google.

Think of this factor as the overall organization of your site pages. Are they cluttered, haphazard, and difficult to navigate? Or do they seamlessly link to each other?

When your site structure is on-point, Google search bots can:

  • Crawl and index your domain and content more easily
  • Understand the relationships between pages, including:
    • Which pages are more important/less important in the grand scheme of things
    • Which pages are topically related

Here’s a good example of a clean, organized site structure (also called site architecture) from Single Grain:

The concept of good site structure applies to internal links in your blog content, too. When you link to your other, relevant content pieces inside a blog post, you:

  • Help Google make connections between them
  • Help your readers get additional, related information on whatever topic they’re perusing

Helpful is good. Aim to be helpful as you structure your site links between pages, and your rankings will improve, too. Think of this as a foundational aspect of how to rank in the top of Google.

3. Excellent Usability

If you’ve been reading the Write Blog for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me mention the concept of usability before.

It means your website shouldn’t be merely beautiful to look at – it should ALSO be beautiful to use for better Google rankings.

What do I mean by that?

Think of some tool or object in your life you love using. Maybe it’s your fancy coffee maker, or your iPad, or the new tech gadget you just bought. It can be as simple as your favorite pen or a specific website.

If you love using something, that object is probably extremely usable. The same goes for websites. The ones you love using will more than likely check the boxes for the principles of good usability, which contribute to a beautiful user experience.

The Daily Egg sums them up like this:

  • Availability and accessibility – This just means the website works and you can access it. (For people with disabilities like hearing or vision impairment, not every site is usable on this basic level unless the brand, company, or designer addresses their needs.)
  • Clarity – The “how” and “why” of the website are clear – you know what it’s “for” just by looking at it. It’s not confusing to use.
  • Learnability – You don’t need instructions to use the website. It uses familiar concepts like different colors for links, larger text for headings, and a highly visible area containing the main navigation, for instance.
  • Credibility – The website is trustworthy. It includes markers of authenticity like an about page, correct spelling and grammar, a logo, contact information, reviews, testimonials, or credentials.
  • Relevancy – The site owners know their target users and cater their content so it’s relevant to this group. The website addresses the needs and problems of those users.

A great example of an exceptionally usable website is Airbnb.

It’s fast, responsive, and effortless to use because Airbnb knows exactly why you visit them: You want to find a rental for your next trip to a specific city.

Once you enter some broad details, you’re taken to pages that narrow down your search successively:

It’s all easy and intuitive. You don’t have to think too hard about how to find the rental that suits your needs – you just do.

THAT is the essence of a usable website: When its expected function performs as expected, and you’re able to complete your desired task without any effort.

To learn more about usability and how to make your site as user-friendly as possible, check out this overview from the Interaction Design Foundation and this usability testing guide from Hotjar.

Don't forget these 3 other important factors to rank at the top of Google: quick site speed and page load times, good internal links, and excellent usability. @JuliaEMcCoy explains how to achieve all three (+ free checklist!). 📈 Click To Tweet

Wrapping Up: How to Rank in the Top of Google Every Time

If you want to know how to improve your Google search ranking, go back to basics.

Look hard and deep at three things:

  • Your content
  • Your reader
  • Your website

Learn what your ideal reader wants, needs, or craves from your content. In your content, provide those answers exceptionally and consistently. On your website, help your reader do what they came to do with as few roadblocks as possible.

Finally, make the process you implemented to rank in the top of Google repeatable. Build a workflow. Build a team. Make it happen.

You can do this. I believe in you. 🌈

google core update

Google Core June Update: How It Rocked Search Visibility & What You Can Do to Rebound

From June 3 – 8, Google rolled out a broad core algorithm update that is now called the 2019 Google Core June Update.

This update shook the SEO world because a few big-time sites took big-time hits (The Daily Mail, anyone? 😱).

One site that looked pretty darn reputable even had to shut its doors because the loss in search visibility cut their revenue by as much as 90%. (That’s not a typo. More on that later.)

So, what the heck happened? What did this Google Core June Update do, and who did it affect?

More importantly, how can you rebound from this Google update if your site tanked in the SERPs?

We’re exploring all of that today.

Google Core June Update: Table of Contents

What Did the Google Core June Update Do?

  1. The Google Core June Update is Broad and Not Specific to One Area
  2. It May Have Affected Site Relevance to User Searches

What Sites Did the Google Core June Update Impact?

  1. Cryptocurrency News Sites
  2. Health, Travel, and General News Media Sites
  3. Retail and Image Sites

How Can Site Owners Recover from the Google June Core Update?

  1. Double-Down on Quality…
  2. …But Understand What Quality Actually Means to Google
  3. Think of Your Users First, and Strive to BE Useful

Takeaways from the Google Core June Update: What Can We Learn from This?

what google core update is

Big-time sites dropping their search visibility big-time this 2019?! Oh no! 😨 @JuliaEMcCoy explains more about what happened in the 2019 Google Core June Update and how site owners can recover. Click To Tweet

What Did the Google Core June Update Do?

We can only speculate as to what aspects of ranking the Google Core June Update actually affected. That said, there have been rumors and guesses aplenty circulating the web.

1. The Google Core June Update is Broad and Not Specific to One Area

The Google June 2019 Core Update was largely broad and not specific to one area of SEO or search, according to statements from John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, and Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison.

That means rushing to add more biographical information to your content or cutting out intrusive ads to improve your site’s E-A-T isn’t the answer for regaining rankings.

2. It May Have Affected Site Relevance to User Searches

More specifically, Mueller said there was “nothing to fix” for site owners or SEOs – instead, the Google Core update had more to do with a broad range of factors outside of what webmasters can control, including their content’s relevancy to user searches.

As Mueller said in a Google Webmaster Hangout summarized by Search Engine Journal, user expectations for searches change all the time. Google is trying to make sure they meet those expectations:

“Sometimes what users expect evolves and similarly, sometimes our algorithms are, the way that we try to determine relevance, they evolve as well.”

Danny Sullivan also plainly stated on Twitter that the Core June Update was broad, and that people should think more broadly about how their site could improve:

What does a “broad” update mean in this context? SEOs like Roger Montii have posited it means your site and content aren’t to blame for any rankings you lost. Instead, perhaps user search intent has changed for the specific queries you’re targeting, and your content is no longer relevant or useful for the questions people are asking.

SEJ article explaining on how some Google ranking issues are external to the website, but just a change on user interest and habits

“…it’s not a problem with your site, but rather a change in user habits that may be reflected in the kinds of pages that Google shows in the search results.”

What did the Google Core June Update do? Rumors say that 1) the update is broad and not specific to one area of SEO and 2) it may have affected site relevance to user searches. 🤔 It's not your content or website, it's just Google. Click To Tweet

What Sites Did the Google Core June Update Impact?

This update affected several BIG sites in a major way. What happened, and which sites were hit hardest? Here’s what we know and what SEOs are speculating.

1. Cryptocurrency News Sites

According to CCN, major sites that saw the brunt of hits from the Google June Core Update were news media sites centered on cryptocurrency. In fact, CCN itself has been forced to close its doors because of the steep, dramatic decline in search visibility they saw after the update rolled through. Their mobile traffic from Google searches dropped by over 71% within 12 hours.

Sistrix.com's Visibility Index shows mobile traffic from Google searches dropped by over 71% within 12 hours.

Other cryptocurrency news sites affected include Cointelegraph, U.today, and CryptoPotato, according to CCN and Forbes.

The 2019 Google Core June Update affected cryptocurrency sites such as CCN, which dropped its mobile traffic for over 71%! 😐 Check out @JuliaEMcCoy's post about Google's latest shocking update. #SEO Click To Tweet

Here’s a chart showing other domains with major drops in search visibility from the data Sistrix gathered:

a chart showing other domains with major drops in search visibility from the data Sistrix gathered

2. Health, Travel, and General News Media Sites

Other websites that saw a major impact from the Google Core June Update include those publishing news media for industries like health, travel, and general topics.

As you can see in the chart above, the second website in the column of names is The Daily Mail, which saw up to 50% decline in search visibility.

Other major publishers affected include NFL.com, Conde Nast Traveller, Mercola, Dr. Axe, Mind Body Green, and Prevention.

According to Sistrix, NFL.com’s search visibility dropped by 24%.

According to Sistrix, NFL.com’s search visibility dropped by 24%.

Travel news media sites like CNTraveller.com dropped by 18%.

Travel news media sites like CNTraveller.com dropped by 18%.

Health news sites like Prevention and Mind Body Green dropped by 29% and 30%, respectively.

Health news sites like Prevention and Mind Body Green dropped by 29% and 30%, respectively.

Popular sites like The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller, and Mind Body Green dropped their search visibility too after the 2019 Google Core June Update! 😵 Read what @JuliaEMcCoy thinks about this update and how to recover from it. Click To Tweet

3. Retail and Image Sites

Retail and image sites were also among the domains with reported drops in search visibility. Just a few examples include Vimeo, Humble Bundle, Find Me a Gift, and Mountain Warehouse.

Retail and image sites were also affected by Google's latest 2019 update. Know what happened and learn what you can do to recover from the Google Core June Update with @JuliaEMcCoy's easy tips. Click To Tweet

How Can Site Owners Recover from the Google June Core Update?

The Google June Core Update rocked lots of sites and created a major rankings shake-up for many. How can you recover? Here are some tips:

1. Double-Down on Quality….

I can’t say it enough: quality, quality, quality. If your site is high-quality, from the UX to the design to the content and links, you’ll never get penalized when Google rolls out a huge broad core update.

However, you can’t just fall back on what quality means to you. Instead, you must understand and implement what quality means to Google.

2. …But Understand What Quality Actually Means to Google

What does “quality” mean to Google when defining a high-quality site?

During the Google June Core Update, we got lots of hints from Google’s minions.

For one, John Mueller advised site owners to look at an old Google Webmaster Central blog by Amit Singhal called “More guidance on building high-quality sites.”

In particular, this line stands out from the blog:

“Our advice for publishers continues to be to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals.”

“Our advice for publishers continues to be to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals.”

This point is so important, it’s mentioned twice in the same paragraph:

“Search is a complicated and evolving art and science, so rather than focusing on specific algorithmic tweaks, we encourage you to focus on delivering the best possible experience for users.”

“Search is a complicated and evolving art and science, so rather than focusing on specific algorithmic tweaks, we encourage you to focus on delivering the best possible experience for users.”

In other words, don’t focus on what you think Google is doing with the algorithm – focus on providing a stellar user experience for your audience. THAT is the kind of quality Google is prioritizing.

For more on how Google thinks with “quality” of content, see my blog on Google’s E-A-T and Y-M-Y-L standards.

Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines guide

3. Think of Your Users First, and Strive to BE Useful

What makes up stellar user experience (UX)? Well, you have to think of your users first when building your site and creating content.

It’s not “will this page rank if I do x, y, and z?” – it’s “how can I make this page as amazing as possible for the user coming to it with questions?” It’s “how can I answer their questions entirely, satisfactorily, and clearly?”

Further down in the Google Webmaster Central blog, Google tells us what else makes up great user experience, including questions you can ask yourself to see if you’re on the right track. A few key questions from this list:

  • “Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?” – Content should be original, unique, and targeted for user search intent.
  • “Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?” – In other words, would you trust this site with your most confidential information?
  • “Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?” – Are the content topics user-driven or rankings-driven?
  • “Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?” – If you want to be the best page there is on a particular topic, you need to outdo your competitors and make your page better and more relevant to the user search query.

Bottom line: Thinking of your content in terms of UX is a very, very smart idea.

To learn more about the intersection of UX and content (and why it matters a LOT), check out these great posts:

• The Role of Content in User Experience by Sarah Saker for Uxmatters

Finally, this infographic by G.1140 is another good reference for why the user experience is essential to content:

UX infographic by G.1140

How can site owners recover from the 2019 Google Core Update? Three things: 1) Double-down on quality BUT 2) Understand what 'quality' is for Google, which is *drumroll* better UX! and 3) think of your users first 🍮 Click To Tweet

Takeaways from the Google Core June Update: What Can We Learn from This?

The Google June Core Update resulted in massive changes in search visibility to a number of high-profile sites. From this big rankings shuffle, we saw sites with content that looked pretty darn good lose traction in the SERPs.

This begged the question from many SEOs and site owners: What went wrong? (Or, more accurately, huh?)

Google, of course, wasn’t exactly forthcoming with explanations (surprise, surprise), but from what they gave us, we can safely assume:

  1. The update was a broad update, so attempting to change or improve aspects of your site or content won’t do anything. You can’t fix what isn’t broken.
  2. You need to reframe your thinking about ranking and algorithm-obsessing. Your goal shouldn’t be to rank; it should be to provide users with the information and UX they need to fulfill their Google searches with the least amount of effort. Period.

That may require a BIG shift in thinking for lots of people, but as we’ve seen with our own content at Express Writers, when you focus on the user, magical things can and do start happening. ✨

Were you affected by the Google Core June Update? Got any insights? Let us know in the comments. 👇

google core update writing services

SERP features to score for in Google's search results page

5 Google SERP Features You Need to Know About & How to Create Feature-Worthy Content

Ranking in position #1 on Google is no longer a guaranteed win.

Even if you manage to hit the top spot, you will often (not always!) get upstaged by SERP features.

Well, that begs the question…

First, what are SERP features?

They’re special snippets that Google displays to help users find the information they’re looking for faster and easier.

Prime example: I want to know how far the sun is from the moon.

I open Google and ask:

How far is the sun from the moon?

"How far is the sun from the moon" typed in Google's search box.

Google answers, not just with a list of search results, but with more information presented in SERP features like Knowledge Cards, Related Questions, and Rich Snippets:

The SERP Features you'll see in the first results page for the keyword "sun" including a Knowledge Card, Knowledge Panel, Related questions, and videos.

Some of these features edge out the regular search results – the Knowledge Card, for instance, is in the top-left position on the page, where the #1 result would usually appear.

Here’s the thing: Your pages, content, and information can show up in these highly visible, highly desirable spots in SERPS. In many cases, a SERP will have multiple features that take over the page. These essentially become position #0 and will be the first things users see.

Position #0 is like the gold at the end of the rainbow for us SEO content creators.

By now, your main question has probably morphed into “How do I rank for a SERP feature?” along with “Which features are worth aiming for?” In today’s blog, I’ve got you covered with a list of the SERP features you should care about and tips to rank for each type. Let’s go.

5 Google SERP Features You Need to Know About

5 SERP Features You Should Know + How to Rank for Them

1. Featured Snippets

2. Related Questions (“People also ask”)

3. Local Packs

4. Knowledge Cards/Panels

5. Rich Snippets

How to Find and Track Your Ranking SERP Features in SEMrush

Last But Not Least: Organic Search Results Are Still #1

How can your content be worthy enough to sit in the throne of @Google's SERP features? 👑 @JuliaEMcCoy shares these 5 SERP features you should know and the best ways to rank for them. Click To Tweet

Why Scoring a SERP Feature Can Seriously Boost Your SEO Results

It’s self-explanatory why scoring one of these positions is AWESOME, but, here are some facts on the matter:

Ahrefs' Average CTR of Featured Snippets. It shows that 8.6% of clicks goes to the Featured Snippet.

  • From the same study, Ahrefs found when SERP features appear on a results page, clicks on that page drop overall – probably because people are getting the information they need from the SERP features!
  • A related study found that the above is especially true for pages with Knowledge Graphs, Related Questions, and Featured Snippets.
  • Most importantly, winning SERP features isn’t only for pages in the #1 spot. As long as you rank in the top 10, you have a chance at winning one of these covetable spots on the page.
Scoring a SERP feature can steal those clicks from the #1 organic position. For example, Featured Snippets steal away 8.6% of clicks from the search result below it. 🤯 Know more about how ranking for a SERP feature can help you. Click To Tweet

To sum it up, SERP features do all of this:

  • They’re super visible on search results pages.
  • They steal clicks from the #1 organic position.
  • They lessen the number of clicks on the page overall.
  • They aren’t just for the top 3 ranking pages, or even the top 5 – if you rank on a page, you can edge into a SERP feature.

Sounds good, right? Okay, let’s get into the “how.”

5 SERP Features You Should Know + How to Rank for Them

1. Featured Snippets

The Featured Snippet is probably the SERP feature with which you’re most familiar. This one shows up at the tippy-top of the page and features an answer to the search query pulled from the text of a web page (usually, the page also ranks for that query).

A featured snippet for the search "what do pangolins eat" typed in Google's search box.

Express Writers currently ranks for a bunch of Featured Snippets, including this one pulled from our post on the Top 100 content marketers:

A featured snippet from Express Writers for "the 100 top content marketers" typed in the Google search box.

Featured Snippets are @Google's SERP Features you're most familiar with. They feature an answer to the search query pulled from the text of a web page. @JuliaEMcCoy shares more about these features and how you can rank for them 🙋 Click To Tweet

How Do You Rank for a Featured Snippet?

Since Featured Snippets usually appear as answers to search queries framed as direct questions (“What do pangolins eat?”, “How far away is the sun?”, or “What is SEO?” are good examples), you need to frame your written content as a definitive answer. Here are some tips:

  • Research long tail keywords phrased as questions to use in your content. These are often great related keywords to include along with your focus keyword.
  • Include those question keywords directly in your content, then answer them. (You can see we used this exact tactic for this sub-section.)
  • Aim to help people in your content. Be informative, factual, and accurate.
  • Format your content to help Google detect your answers. Bold the most important information, or put the answer to the question on its own line.

2. Related Questions (“People also ask”)

Another opportunity on the SERPs for ranking is the Related Questions snippet. This SERP feature lists other questions related to your original query that users have asked Google.

You’ll find this snippet under the heading “People also ask”.

A People Also Ask bow showing the related questions available about pangolins.

How Do You Rank for Related Questions?

Ranking for Related Questions means you’re trying to get featured as an answer that appears when users click the question they want to know more about. Example:

An answer about "how much does a pangolin eat?" question listed in the People Also Ask box.

Typically, Related Questions are 30 words in length. To rank for this feature, a good practice is to craft a 30-ish-word answer that definitively addresses the biggest question users may have about your main topic. For best results, do this fairly early on in the copy.

To rank for the Related Questions SERP feature, better create an answer that addresses the biggest questions about your topic. Answers should be around 30 words only. 🧗 Read more of @JuliaEMcCoy's tips in ranking for SERP features. Click To Tweet

3. Local Packs

If you’re a business that depends on local customers, ranking in a Local Pack is a big deal.

In the SERPs, a Local Pack appears when you use location-based keywords (e.g. “pediatricians in austin tx”) and displays the top 3 local search results below a map.

A map with pinned locations and a list of top three results with details like star ratings, addresses, and phone numbers for the search keyword "pediatricians in austin tx"

How Do You Rank for a Local Pack?

To be featured in a Local Pack SERP feature, you need to be a top-3 result for the keyword in question. That means:

  • Your brand needs to be listed in Google My Business with a verified address.
  • Your Google My Business listing should be optimized.
  • Make sure your website and content are optimized for local search. This local search guide from Search Engine Journal is a helpful resource.
  • Monitor and maintain your business reviews, photos of your business, and your NAP data (name, address, phone number).
The Local Pack SERP feature appears when you use location-based keywords. To start ranking, your brand should have an optimized Google My Business listing. 📍 Know more of @JuliaEMcCoy's ranking tips in this post. Click To Tweet

4. Knowledge Cards/Panels

Google’s Knowledge Graph has been around since 2012. However, this is one of the main SERP features since 2018 to gain more visibility. Its primary function is to give users access to Google’s search engine knowledge of more than 500 million entities and how those entities connect.

When your Google search accesses the Knowledge Graph, you’ll see Knowledge Cards and Knowledge Panels pop up in the SERP. Here’s an example of a Knowledge Panel from a search for “vanilla ice cream”:

Search results for the "vanilla ice cream" keyword with images, a short text from Wikipedia, and Nutrition Facts. Below the results are the other types of ice cream and ice cream toppings under "People Also Search For"

It includes a Wikipedia entry, nutrition facts from the USDA, photos from around the web, and related terms people also searched for.

Knowledge Cards are unique from Knowledge Panels because they usually appear in the left-hand column on a SERP and display one specific piece of information (versus the many types of information you see in a Knowledge Panel).

This graph showing the population of New York City over time is a good example of a Knowledge Card:

A Knowledge Card that shows a graph as an answer to the search "what is the population of New York City"

Note that none of the knowledge Google displays in Knowledge Panels/Cards comes from Google itself – it’s pulled from reputable sources across the web. (The source Google is pulling from is usually listed in small text under the bottom-right corner of the Card or Panel in question.)

Knowledge Cards and Panels give users access to Google's search engine knowledge of more than 500 million entities and how those entities connect. 🗃️ @JuliaEMcCoy shares the ways you can rank for this @Google SERP feature. Click To Tweet

How Do You Appear in a Knowledge Card/Panel?

Generally, having your site appear in a Knowledge Card/Panel isn’t a matter of ranking. Instead, it’s more about claiming your entry in Google’s virtual encyclopedia.

For example, when people search Google for your name or brand name, what shows up? If you want the SERP to include a Knowledge Panel on your brand with photos, links to your website and social profiles, or even links to your products, there are a few things you can do.

Google details it all in this help guide, but here’s a rundown:

  • First, claim your Google My Business listing.
  • Search for your name or brand on Google. If a Knowledge Panel shows up, scroll to the bottom of it and click “Claim this knowledge panel.” Follow the instructions on the next few screens.

Where you can see the "Claim this Knowledge Panel" button in a Google search results page.

  • Add Schema.org structured data markup to your website. This is code that pinpoints the information Google should pull from your site to fill in your Knowledge Panel entry.

Aleh Barysevich for Search Engine Journal wrote a great guide that goes more in-depth on showing up in Knowledge Panels, so be sure to check that out, too.

5. Rich Snippets

The last SERP feature you can get into with in-depth content: Rich Snippets.

What are Rich Snippets? They look extremely similar to regular search results. The difference?

Rich Snippets contain extra information that regular results lack. Here’s a comparison between a normal search result and a Rich Snippet result for the keyword “pasta salad recipe.”

Normal search result:

Normal search result in Google for the keyword "pasta salad recipe"

Rich snippet result:

A rich snippet search result in Google for the keyword "pasta salad recipe". It shows ratings, the number of reviews, calories, and cooking time.

Note how the Rich Snippet is “richer” with more information. It includes a star rating, the time it takes to prepare the recipe, the number of reviews, total calories, and a snippet of the directions.

Rich Snippets can appear for a variety of types of search results:

  • Recipes
  • Reviews
  • Products
  • Music
  • Events
  • Videos
Rich Snippets are SERP features that include a star rating, the number of reviews and other details that can appear for recipes, products, reviews, etc. ⭐⭐⭐@JuliaEMcCoy shares how you can rank for this + other SERP feature tips Click To Tweet

How Do You Earn Rich Snippets?

To earn Rich Snippets for your content, the main action to do is to ensure you’re using structured data markup. This won’t guarantee you’ll get any, but it will improve your chances.

As we already mentioned, this is code that tells search engines like Google specific information about your content. It helps Google decide what information to pull to populate rich snippet results.

If you’re sharing a recipe, for instance, the code tells Google which part of the text is the ingredients list, which part includes the directions, and which part includes the cooking time.

You can add structured data to your content directly in the HTML code, but if you’re not tech-savvy, there are other ways. (If you use WordPress, there are plugins for that!)

How to Find Your SERP Features in SEMrush

Did you know SEMrush has a tool that tracks your keywords, rankings, and the SERP features your content stars in?

Tracking is vital to understand how far you’ve come and what you need to do to improve. Here’s how to find these features in SEMrush, a top SERP tool.

Did you know @semrush has a tool that tracks your keywords, rankings, and the SERP features your content stars in? Here are three steps you can do to find these features. Click To Tweet

1. Create a New Project

First, if you haven’t already, create a new project for position tracking.

  • In the left menu, go to Projects >> Create my first project.

The "Create My First Project" under the Project tab in SEMRush's left menu bar.

  • On the next screen, enter your domain name and give the project a name.

The Add new project" dialog box in SEMrush where you type project name and domain.

2. Set Up Position Tracking

After you create a project, you’ll be taken to the Projects Dashboard. This is where you set up position tracking.

  • Navigate to the Position Tracking tool and click Set It Up.

In SEMRush's Projects dashboard where you can find the Position Tracking tool with the Set It Up button

  • Enter your domain settings, choose your device and location, add some competitors, then enter the keywords you want to track.

Tabs where you can enter your domain settings, choose your device and location, add some competitors, then enter the keywords you want to track.

3. Find the SERP Features You’re Winning

After position tracking is set up, to find SEMrush SERP features, navigate to your project and click Position Tracking.

The SERP features box where you’ll see a simple bar graph with SERP feature icons representing each type of feature.

Scroll down the page to find the SERP features box. You’ll see a simple bar graph with SERP feature icons representing each type of feature. Hover over each bar for more information.

The SERP features box where you’ll see a simple bar graph with SERP feature icons representing each type of feature.

This acts as a handy Google SERP checker, giving you a high-level overview of how you’re doing with your SEO at a glance.

Last But Not Least: Organic Search Results Are Still #1

Getting your site highlighted in SERP features can give it a big boost. That said, the #1 way you should be aiming to appear in search is in the top position – the good-old number 1 spot.

Just a few reasons why:

  • Even though SERP features steal clicks away from organic results, organic results still get more clicks (Ahrefs).
  • Ranking organically is often the #1 way to get pulled into SERP features! Best of all, this holds true whether you rank #1 or #5. As long as you make the first page, you have a chance.
  • When you rank #1, you get the highest CTR (31.9%) according to an Advanced Web Ranking study.

A line graph from an Advanced Web Ranking study showing that when you rank #1, you get the highest CTR (31.9%).

  • Some SERPs don’t have any SERP features. In that case, ranking #1 for the keyword is the best bet.

For example, Express Writers ranks in the top 5 organically for the keyword “how to write an ultimate guide.”

The search results for the keyword "how to write an ultimate guide" with Express Writers taking the top spot.

Besides the “People also ask” box, there’s no other SERP feature for this keyword. Ranking #1 is the best way to stay the most visible on this page.

When all else fails, focus on ranking well – at #5 or better – for high-volume keywords that are possible to edge into.

SERP features are not a 100% guarantee, but there ARE formulas, processes, and techniques to shoot your content to #1. After all, you can’t run before you can walk. The same goes for your content.

Get feature-worthy content from our SEO-savvy writing team. See pricing.

how to seo optimize your blog posts

How to SEO Optimize Your Blog Posts in WordPress: 8 Easy Steps You Can Follow

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, you can take these general steps and use them with whatever publishing platform you please.)

wordpress tutorial how to seo optimize your blog posts

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!)

Get more traffic and pull in more customers by ranking in Google's top search. Here's the checklist you've been waiting for -- 8 steps on how to SEO optimize every blog post in @WordPress, via @JuliaEMcCoy 🎯 Click To Tweet

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 1,100+ blogs published on Express Writers’ Write Blog across eight 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 recently earned a #3 organic ranking and featured snippet for the keyword “how to build a digital content strategy:”

Express Writers is Google's featured snippet for the keyword “how to build a digital content strategy”

Express Writer's blog post "How to Build a Strong Digital Content Strategy in 2019 & Beyond"

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.

Advanced Web Ranking chart shows the CTR for organic position 1 on Google is 31.19%. Meanwhile, the CTR for position 10 is 1.12%.

According to Advanced Web Ranking, the CTR for organic position 1 on Google is 31.19%. Meanwhile, the CTR for position 10 is 1.12%.

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.

[email protected] 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. Click To Tweet

So, that begs the question: Are you covering all your SEO bases? Are you optimizing everything you can optimize to give your blogs their best chance?

How to SEO Optimize Blog Posts in WordPress: The “How-To” of Each of Our 8 Steps

how to seo optimize your blogs in wordpress guide

1. Edit and Proofread Your Blog Post

First up: Make sure your blog is edited and proofread for typos.

You want a clean, error-free blog post for obvious reasons. (Google says the quality of your content directly impacts your rankings. More on their EAT, or Expertise Authoritativeness, and Trust factors.)

A quick scan with your two eyeballs will usually suffice, but if you’re not the best editor, hand this task off to a trusted second party.

Or, install the Grammarly Chrome extension to check your grammar and spelling right inside the WordPress editor.

Grammarly Chrome extension correcting the "what" typo in WordPress Editor

'First up: Make sure your blog is edited and proofread for typos. ✔️ You want a clean, error-free page for obvious reasons.' - @JuliaEMcCoy on how to SEO optimize blog posts Click To Tweet

2. Add Relevant Images to Your Blog

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.
    • 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.

You can use "Edit Image" by clicking the pencil button that shows up when you click an image.

The alternative text box under WordPress editor's Image Details dialog box.

'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). ✨' - @JuliaEMcCoy on how to SEO optimize blogs. Click To Tweet

3. Format the Content for Readability

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!).

How headings and subheadings are applied based on hierarchy.

To make your blog posts SEO optimized, make them readable! @JuliaEMcCoy's top 3 readability tips include being consistent in formatting, using spaces properly, and ensuring all headers are coded correctly. 📖 Click To Tweet

4. Add Easy One-Click Social Sharing Codes

For us at 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:

Better Click to Tweet Shortcode Generator dialog box where you can type in yout Tweetable Quote, Twitter username, and checkbox to include username below the tweet.

It will add Click to Tweet boxes to your blog post drafts with the correct code. When you publish, it will look like this:

A "click to tweet" snippet inserted in the blog post.

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.
  • Add emojis. A split test by Larry Kim of WordStream found that including an emoji in tweets increases engagement by 25.4%.
  • Don’t add them too early in your blog post to avoid messing with blog post SERP readability.
SEO optimize your blog posts by adding easy one-click social sharing codes. For clickable Click to Tweets, @JuliaEMcCoy advises to creatively reword blog quotes, make them readable, and add emojis. 🐦 Click To Tweet

awesome cta

5. Check Your Links

Next up: Check those links.

  • For every link in your blog – whether it points to another site or links internally to your other blogs or web pages – make sure it works.
  • Broken links are a BIG no-no.
  • After that, make sure all links pointing off-site are set to open in a new window. That way, you won’t be directing readers off-page.

To edit a link in WordPress, click the link text. A toolbar will pop up. Then click the “edit” icon.

Your link will become editable text and a gear icon will pop up. Click it to access “Link options.”

When you click on a link, a toolbar appears that gives you the option to edit the link. Click on the pencil button to edit the link and allow it to open in new tab.

Make sure the box next to “Open link in a new tab” is checked.

An "Open Link in a New Tab" checkbox in WordPress Editor's edit link dialog box

Links are essential in every blog post you want to be SEO optimized. But don't forget to be sure they're all working and set to open in a new tab. 🔗 Check out more of @JuliaEMcCoy's tips in getting those blog posts SEO-ready. Click To Tweet

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:

A clickable image CTA with social media buttons (for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) below it that you can see at the end of a blog post.

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.

CTAs are always a must in every blog post! They tell readers what to do after consuming your content, and guide them to your marketing lifecycle. ⛳ Learn more about @JuliaEMcCoy's tips on how to SEO optimize your blog posts. Click To Tweet

7. Add Metas

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, click “Edit snippet.”

The Edit Snippet button in the Yoast SEO plugin you'll see below the blog draft in WordPress Editor

Now you can add:

  1. Your optimized SEO title (also called the H1 or header)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)

Text boxes for SEO title, slug, and meta description in Yoast SEO plugin's Snippet Preview

To get your blog posts #SEO ready, make sure to add meta titles and descriptions. @JuliaEMcCoy shares how you can best do this using the @Yoast SEO plugin + other optimization tips. Click To Tweet

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.

Social sharing upload box in Yoast SEO plugin

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!

Get your blog posts shared on social media to keep their professional, custom, share-worthy graphics using @Yoast's Social Sharing feature. Know how you can do this + other SEO tips on @JuliaEMcCoy's 8-step guide. 🎯 Click To Tweet

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.

awesome cta

how to update old blogs

You Can Teach Old Content New Tricks: How to Update Old Blogs for Increased ROI

Did you know you’re sitting on a veritable goldmine of content right now that’s just waiting to be rediscovered?

Hundreds, maybe thousands, of old blog posts could be languishing on your site — still vital but unnoticed.

Think about it. You’ve spent hours — maybe even days — carefully crafting these masterful pieces of content and now they’re relegated to the dust heap.

That’s unfortunate because they’ve got a lot of life still left in them. In fact, if you’ve been serious about content creation, those old posts probably dovetail nicely with your newer material.

In this nutshell guide, I’m going to show you how to update old blogs using just a little bit of TLC to add value for visitors to your site, drive organic traffic your way, and hit your return on investment (ROI) out of the ballpark. Ready?

Learn how to update old #blogs for huge returns in @JuliaEMcCoy's guide: 📈traffic, rankings, and profits. #contentmarketing #audit Click To Tweet

how to update a blog post for seo

How to Update Old Blogs — And Why You Should

In keeping with our subject, I’d like to refer back to one of our earlier posts that addressed why republishing old blog posts is a genius idea.

In this particular piece of content, Rachel (our head of social media) recapped and wrote about our #ContentWritingChat episode where the founder of Orbit Media, Andy Crestodina, gave us lots of good reasons to update old blog posts including this important point:

screenshot of andy crestodina's tweet about quality and efficiency in writing

So, if your editorial calendar is looking a bit hard to manage, update a few old posts and put them back in circulation while you whip up some clean, new information for future visitors.

Don’t be shy about serving up the older material, either. As Andy says:

screenshot of andy crestodina's tweet about old topics

And, we’ve always taught that you should focus on producing evergreen content — you know, the stuff that stays around forever because it’s that good?

Evergreen content is meant to be present — and useful — long after you first posted it. And from what industry voices say, this is true:

When I look at the traffic stats of any of my blogs, the vast majority of traffic each month goes to old posts. They’ve been shared more over time, have attracted more links and attract a lot of organic search traffic. —Neil Patel

We’ve increased the number of monthly organic search views of old posts we’ve optimized by an average of 106%. —Hubspot

If words aren’t enough to convince you, feast your eyes on this:

graph indicating that hubspot's "old" posts get lots of leads and views

Image from Hubspot

Who says old posts don’t have some tricks left in them? This statistic is literally screaming at you to revamp your old posts — tout de suite!

old content is your money content quote by julia mccoy

Quote: Content Strategy & Marketing Course

That’s right. Old content means money.

Are you ready to dust off those old posts yet? If so, read on for the how-to.

Why should you update your old blog posts? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses the benefits of breathing new life into old content for increased ROI. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

The Old Blog Shuffle — Your 11-Step Checklist to Breathe New Life Into Old Posts & the 1 Thing Not to Change

Are you ready for the remodel? I’m going to walk you through a few important points and strategies for how to optimize old blog posts, so it will be totally intuitive for you by the time you get to the end of this article.

First, before we get into the eleven key points I’ve outlined, let’s jump right into the fire with a discussion on whether or not to use the original date of the post.

Save the Date?

You can find plenty of sites out there that advise you to change the date on a blog post once you’ve renewed it.

I disagree.

If you’ve got repeat visitors, they’re going to know your material isn’t really “new” because they’ve read it already — particularly if it’s the kind of impactful, high-quality content I’ve been teaching you to write.

It’s critically important to always be transparent with your audience. Transparency fosters trust and authority — and there’s nothing better than that for creating a strong relationship with your customers.

Besides, apparent dishonesty — like when you update old blogs and then pretend its brand-new material — can hurt you.

Google’s Gary Ilyes has this to say about date manipulation on blog posts:

“From our perspective, from Core Ranking perspective, I’d like to believe that in some way that will hurt you.  At least from, let’s say, we will not believe your dates anymore.”

Google's own .methode says date manipulation could 'hurt you.' More on how to update older #content in our guide Click To Tweet

If Google’s opinion on this isn’t strong enough for you, here’s a screenshot of a response to Airbnb’s fake dating process:

tweet about airbnb putting date in meta to fake content freshness

Image: Search Engine Journal

Besides, my advice to be transparent and publish with the original date works.

How do I know?

We’ve updated old content transparently and achieved serious ROI from doing so, like with this recent gargantuan SEO guide I updated:

how to update old blog posts screenshot

We earned nine new backlinks and more than 20 new comments on this piece alone. When we hit publish on the new content, we were transparent both about the new date and the original date we created the piece.

how to update old blog posts screenshot

So, when it comes to fudging the dates — let’s not, okay? Be honest, be truthful, and reap the benefits. Alright then, moving on to the mechanics.

Republishing old content? Before you do, read this post. @JuliaEMcCoy shares best practices and expert tips to follow when updating old blog posts. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Nip and Tuck or Complete Facelift? 11 Factors to Know About How to Update Older Content (Correctly)

Want a handful of ways to update old blogs like a champ? Choose one or more of these to take your posts from boring to blockbuster in no time.

1. Use Your Metrics

The best way to determine which content pieces will give you more bang for your buck is to take a close look at your metrics using SEMrush.

Their Content Analyzer feature will allow you to compare the performance of various posts, so you can choose the most productive content to repurpose.

You might also want to check posts with declining engagement, as these can be updated and remade to increase their performance.

Look carefully at trends. Did a post start off like gangbusters and slowly lose engagement over time? These are prime candidates for a blog post redo.

2. Improve Your Image

The featured image on your post is the thing that shows up when it’s shared, so make sure it’s relevant, eye-catching, and current.

Include alt-tags on images that help define the material covered in the post, too, for extra ranking power.

3. Manage Your Meta

They’re short, then they’re long, then they’re short again.

While you have no idea what Google’s going to do next, you can refresh your meta descriptions for improved click-through. Not to mention, refreshing your meta is a fast and easy way to give a boost to your site’s rankings.

4. Nail the Headline

Lots of blog posts have a number in the headline, such as, “5 Tips for Keeping Your Site Relevant” or whatnot. If you’re updating your content by adding tips to your list, make sure you change that number.

Also, make sure your title hooks the reader by letting them know you’ve got something they are definitely going to want to read. Adjust the title and character length as necessary for best results.

screenshot highlighting the significance of the post's title

Image: Neil Patel

And, if you’re using a different keyword strategy, then change up your headline with your updated keyword(s).

5. Update SEO

Updating SEO is a great way to breathe new life into those old posts. When learning how to update a blog post for SEO, consider redoing a keyword search on your post to make sure your old keywords are still ranking.

Perhaps your old post ranked for a short-tail keyword and a long-tail version suits your purposes better. Rewrite your content to reflect this change and give yourself an SEO advantage with more targeted content.

6. Make It a Series

A great way to update old posts is to make them the first in a series, following each up with high-quality new information that packs a punch.

screenshot of series posts on wired

Image: Search Engine Journal

Serializing posts also lets you reuse your original title (with “Part 2” added) to build momentum on your old, evergreen content sources.

7. Grab ‘Em with Graphics

Has your company been rebranded? You might need to change your color scheme or logo on your old posts.

Do some of your graphics look, well, vintage (and not in a good way)? Sharpen them up with a quick makeover using up-to-date techniques.

Or, take the whole article and turn it into an infographic for a fantastic redo that’s not only attention-grabbing but useful for visitors who want snackable content.

screenshot showing the effectiveness of infographics

Image: Quicksprout

And if you want to be remembered, infographics are the way to go. It must be why they’re shared three times more than other content on social media.

8. Leverage Video

Statistics show people love embedded videos — and so does Google. In fact, blog posts that include video can garner three times more inbound links!

And you don’t have to shoot your own videos — just embed them.

chart showing video rankings

Image via Stone Temple

This chart confirms that 88% of the videos for pages with Google rankings 1-10 come straight from YouTube. This is an incredibly easy way to boost your ranking and update old posts at the same time.

9. Internalize the Info

You’ve created a whole lot of content since you first wrote your old posts.

Add some internal links to other, relevant info in your blog or in updated site pages to keep readers engaged with your other content.

10. But Be Outgoing, Too

Did you use new research or information in your update? Link to it to refresh your connections.

Above all, make sure your content doesn’t have any broken backlinks in it that can hurt your Google ranking. There are several free tools to help you correct this issue on your site, including this one:

check for broken links screenshot

There’s also a free broken link checker tool you can add to your Chrome browser to help you find and correct these links.

How often should you republish old blog posts? @JuliaEMcCoy answers this and other questions in this information-packed how-to blog post. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

11. Reconfigure Text

Depending on how long ago you wrote your post, you might want to break up long blocks of text that make it harder for visitors to read.

12. Charge Up That Call-to-Action (CTA)

Now’s the time to amplify your CTA or at least be sure it’s still relevant. You may have created new gated content since the blog was first published, so this might be an opportunity to feature it.

When we revamped one of our blog posts, we added our new CTA at the bottom:

new express writers cta

Choose a graphic element that sets off the CTA even better and grabs interest as well.

The One Thing Not to Change: The URL-y Bird Gets the Worm

Now that you’ve updated that content, should you change the URL?

I typically recommend not to, just because you don’t want to inadvertently create any broken links anywhere.

However, here’s what you should know.

If your post drove lots of traffic, you can benefit from leaving the URL as it is in order to retain the SEO advantage.

But, if your post views are low, a new URL could rejuvenate traffic, as a shorter URL tied to stronger, high-volume keywords can be beneficial.

How Often to Plan on Republishing Old Blog Posts

Every site has those rock-star posts that drive engagement.

But even if they’re still flying high, it’s important to keep old blog posts updated if the material begins to lose relevance. That means revisiting posts on a yearly basis to keep your data shiny and new.

Don’t go crazy, though. You want to have a nice mix of seasoned and brand-new material online to give visitors a feel for your site’s longevity to bolster authority.

Be smart about the ratio of republished blogs versus original blogs. There needs to be a balance of new and updated posts, so don’t stop publishing original content while you update your old stuff.

It’s still critical to publish posts frequently to get the most out of traffic, so remember to keep your posting frequency high for best results.

graph showing the effect of posting frequency on leads

What Can You Expect from a Blog Post Makeover?

Learning how to refresh old blog posts is the perfect way to squeeze even more ROI from your high-performing posts and evergreen content.

Not only that, but revitalizing your old content helps keep your site up-to-date, on-trend, and in plain sight of Google’s site crawlers.

Keeping your content evergreen by updating facts and figures helps establish authority, and being transparent about your publishing date fosters trust — letting your visitors know you’re a safe, knowledgeable source of the information they want and need.

And remember, updating old posts isn’t just a chore — it’s a vital part of content strategy, so don’t ignore it.

quote on content strategy by julia mccoy

Quote: Content Strategy & Marketing Course

And hey, if you need some help coming up with new keywords or breathing some life back into your old content, we’ve got a crazy-good team of content professionals standing by.