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 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.
  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.

google medic update

The Lowdown on Google’s 2018 Core Update, The Medic Update (5 Ways to Maintain Rankings)

Did you know Google came out with yet another core update in August 2018?

It happened during the first week of the final month of summer.

As you can surmise from the name, SEOers (especially Barry Schwartz of SEO Roundtable) believe this update mainly affected content in the health, medical, and wellness industries.

seo roundtable's blog post about the google medic update

That said, sites in other industries took a rankings hit, too.

That makes sense because Google’s core updates are global (meaning they affect all pages across the internet, no matter the industry affiliation).

So, what could the Google Medic update possibly mean for your website, content, and rankings?

Does it mean anything at all? 🤔

Let’s find out.

#Google rolled out the Medic Update in August 2018. @JuliaEMcCoy gives us the lowdown on this core update and what it means for marketers. #SEO Click To Tweet

google medic update guide

How Does the Google Medic Update Affect Marketers?

Google officially announced the Medic update via Twitter on August 2nd:

The main key to remember here is this was a “broad core algorithm update,” as Google terms it.

According to Google, that means:

  • It’s routine – they do these types of updates several times per year.
  • It affects websites and web pages internet-wide.

Most importantly, though:

  • Google says sites and pages that take a ranking hit because of updates like these have nothing wrong with them!

How do I know?

Because in the above tweet announcing the Medic update, they reference the March 12, 2018 guidelines. These specifically state that: “There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well.”

screenshot of tweet about update that may or may not affect sites

In other words, if you saw a rankings shuffle because of this update, it’s not because you’re doing anything wrong. Instead, it’s because other pages better than your content in the first place are now being ranked correctly.

So, now that you understand it’s not you, it’s them

What should you do about it?

What to Do Now: 5 Ways to Continue to Rank Well in Google Search

There’s no question about what to do now.

Google already laid it out for us.

So, how do you offer “the best content you can”?

1. Play by the Rules

According to Google, there was/is no “fix” if your site rankings dropped because of this update (or any other “broad core algorithm update”).

Instead, they continually advise marketers and SEOers to keep focusing on great content.

Of course, to create great content, you must continue to play by Google’s rules.

What is “great content” as Google sees it?

That’s the question you must continually ask yourself. And then, you must fulfill it.

Hint: The Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines give us a good idea of what the search engine looks for in great content. These guidelines recently got an update of their own – check out our analysis where we cover the most important points.

2. Win Your Readers’ and Customers’ Trust

Another facet of great content:

It effortlessly wins your readers’ and customers’ trust.

It does this a few ways:

  • Great content provides concrete examples of your E.A.T. (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)
  • Great content seeks to help, entertain, inform, or guide the reader FIRST
  • Great content is factually accurate, and claims are backed with proof
  • Great content benefits the reader

What all this means is if you focus on producing great content, you will naturally win your audience’s trust as a byproduct. You won’t have to bend over backwards to do it, either.

3. Avoid Bad UX

definition of user experience

If your website and its pages make users want to tear out their eyeballs, or if your site is so cluttered with intrusive ads it’s hard to use, the quality of your content won’t matter.

A bad UX (user experience) makes the presence of great content a moot point. It might as well not exist if it’s hard to read, confusing to navigate, or inaccessible.

Google rolled out another update in August 2018: the Medic update. Does it mean anything at all for your website? Let's find out in this new blog post by @JuliaEMcCoy. Click To Tweet

4. Don’t Take Shortcuts

If you believe you can game Google and get away with it, you’re reading the wrong blog.

Instead of helping your rankings, SEO shortcuts are the quickest route to getting dumped onto page 5.

This is what Moz has to say about SEO tricks:

“The problem with SEO tricks is that they’re about getting a site to the top of the SERPs regardless of whether it deserves to be there. That’s the kind of trick that search engines have a vested interest in continuing to combat, which leads to algorithmic updates like Penguin.

Over-reliance on SEO tricks is what causes your rankings and traffic to be completely wiped out overnight by these updates.

Without a foundation of quality SEO in place, you’re going to spend a lot of your time fixing stuff and doing stuff over every time the search engines catch on to your latest trick.”

Shortcuts are the reason many sites’ rankings get knocked down overnight.

Even if they appear to work at the outset, they WILL come back to bite you. You can count on that the next time Google rolls out a broad, global update.

Just say no.

5. Create the Right Kinds of Content

In a recent marketing email from Brian Dean, he revealed that he always smiles when he sees Google announce an update.

Why a smile and not a cringe?

As he says, “My traffic almost always goes UP after Google rolls out an update. And this update was no exception. My organic traffic is up 25.2% compared to pre-Medic.”

He goes on to explain that there’s a better way to do SEO that works both short-term and long-term, a way that makes those updates your friends instead of your enemies. In particular, Brian emphasizes creating the right types of content.

How do you do that?

  • Start with a content strategy. I go over how to set one up quickly and easily in this post on Search Engine Journal. I also teach a comprehensive Content Strategy & Marketing Course!
  • Know your audience. If you’re not talking to the people who could easily become your followers, customers, and loyal fans, your content will never work.
  • Know your expertise. What makes you an industry expert? What knowledge do you have to share? Lean on that for your content topic area.
  • Know your content differentiation factor. What will make your content stand out in your industry? How can you help your audience better than anyone else to solve a unique problem?

content differentiation factor meaning

  • Use the right keywords. These spring from your unique topic area and expertise, but they also map to your buyers and the information they’re searching for to solve their problems.

As you can see, the right types of content are not the same for everyone. Each brand out there has a different audience to please, and each audience has their own set of problems.

Before you can create the right content for YOUR audience, you need to do the upfront legwork and research, first.

However, if you can create the right content, you will more easily create great content. Win-win.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Google will roll out algorithmic updates. The way forward is not tricking Google into thinking you're #1: rather, focusing on being #1 for your readers. #SEO #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Moving Forward After Google’s Latest Algorithm Update

You can bet your bottom dollar that algorithmic updates will continue to roll out over time. It is the nature of the Google beast.

nature of the beast

Instead of trying to trick Google into thinking you’re #1, focus on being #1 for your readers.

Instead of trying to trick Google into thinking you’re #1, focus on being #1 for your readers. @JuliaEMcCoy on the #Google Medic update #SEO Click To Tweet

Benefit them. Earn their trust. Be useful. Produce great content for them.

This is how you roll with the punches of Google’s various updates. That way, when the next one comes around, you’ll actually gain rather than lose.

seo trends for 2019

5 Essential SEO Trends for 2019 You Can Put into Practice Immediately

As the final months of 2018 loom ahead, it’s time to start thinking about our strategies for next year.

It’s that time of year to already start asking our marketing selves…

How can we begin 2019 with a pop, sizzle, or a bang?

Better yet, what can we do right now to ensure we get nothing but positively sparkling results (like the fizz in champagne) as we think about a new calendar year? Achieve the ROI we’ve been looking for? Make sure our online content hits the mark?

How about finally earn more killer organic Top Three spots in Google we’ve been hankering for, for months?

Today, I’m sharing with you five key SEO trends for 2019 that I think will be big.

In fact, I think they’ll play a major role in content ranking success (or failure). Follow along and let’s see what tactics, strategies, and more will help you have a banner year, including SEO tips from today that are still relevant.

1. Be Mobile-Ready for Mobile-First Indexing 2. Featured Snippets Rankings Will Go Up in Value ...these & 3 other top #SEO #trends for 2019 by @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

seo trends for 2019

5 Must-Do SEO Trends for 2019 to Follow Today

Unsurprisingly, SEO trends in 2019 are all about keeping up with technology, staying on top of Google’s latest developments, and reinforcing your commitment to content. Let’s get right to it.

1. Be Mobile-Ready for Mobile-First Indexing

Our first trend is one that’s continuing from recent SEO trends in 2018.

Back on March 26, 2018, Google announced they were rolling out mobile-first indexing on their Webmaster Central Blog.

Previously, Google web crawlers looked at the desktop version of your pages and content to populate the SERPs. However, with the switch to mobile-first, this means that Google will be looking at the mobile version of your pages for indexing and ranking.

So, what if you don’t have a mobile version of your website? (Oh, the horror.)

What happens?

Google will still look at your desktop site version to rank your pages.


Your pages probably won’t display properly for users on mobile devices (or they’ll be difficult to navigate, read, and use).


Your page rankings will most likely suffer (if they haven’t already).

In other words, why haven’t you updated your website for mobile browsing yet?

Top #SEO trends for 2019? @JuliaEMcCoy got you covered in this information-packed, ROI-focused blog. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

To be as mobile-friendly as possible for all shapes, sizes, and types of devices, Google first and foremost recommends using responsive design.

image showing a website with responsive design

However, if you have two versions of your website (a desktop version and a mobile version), the search engine has some best practices you can follow for good results (via the Google Developers guide):

best practices for dynamic serving and separate urls

These best practices include:

  • Making sure your mobile and desktop sites have exactly the same primary content
  • Including metadata like titles and descriptions on both site versions
  • Including structured data for both site versions

For best results, ensure you have all of the above items checked for your site. What worked for technical SEO in 2018 will roll over to 2019.

Lastly, consider updating your site design so it’s responsive – it’s a better practice for the overall mobile user experience (UX).

2. Featured Snippets Rankings Will Go Up in Value

Overwhelmingly, featured snippets are taking over the top spot in Google rankings for lots of keywords.

screenshot of a featured snippet for a Google query

This is a big deal – users see these results at the top of the page, where the #1 ranked piece of content used to appear. In other words, that prime real estate is no longer guaranteed. Many marketers are thus calling this highly desirable snippet spot “position zero.”

Naturally, you should want key pieces of your content to shoot to top placements in featured snippets – but how?

A. Create Content that Ranks on Page 1

Before you can even think about getting your content in featured snippets, first, you need it to rank on its own.

According to Ahrefs, most featured snippets come from content that ranks in the top 10 results, or on the first page.

graph showing the Google ranking of featured snippets

In particular, the majority (90.1% of featured snippets) tend to get pulled from content pieces that rank in the top 5 positions.

It’s all about choosing the right keywords, writing great content for your audience, and providing value. (See trend #4).

B. Focus on Answers to Questions

According to a SEMrush/Ghergich & Co. study of 6.9 million featured snippets and 80 million keywords, only around 7% of generic keywords include featured snippets in the results.

In comparison, 41.59% of keywords with questions include featured snippets in the results – a 480% increase!

graph showing that questions can yield a 480% increase in the percentage of keywords with featured snippets

In particular, question keywords almost always include paragraph featured snippets. These types of snippets include a chunk of text that answers the question the user searched for (according to the study, these average out to about 46-84 words in length with a maximum of 370 characters).

imaging showing the paragraph length of featured snippets for question keywords

You can thus earn your ranking content a featured snippet by framing short, succinct paragraphs of text as authoritative answers.

For example, when I type the question/keyword “how many counties are in Iowa” into Google, the results show this featured snippet that directly answers that question AND provides supporting details:

featured snippet featuring the user's question and providing an answer

Question/keyword: How many counties are in Iowa?

Answer/featured snippet: “There are 99 counties in the U.S. state of Iowa.”

C. Use Numbered and Bulleted Lists, Especially for Subheaders

To get your content in list-style featured snippets, always make sure you use properly formatted subheaders (H2s and H3s) to break up and organize your text.

Google often uses subheader information to populate list-style snippets, like this result for “what countries are the Disney princesses from”:

imaging showing a list-style featured snippet

image showing the subheaders used to populate featured snippet lists3. Create the Highest-Quality Content

In August 2018, Google confirmed a major core algorithmic update that took a full week to roll out.

According to SEOers like Barry Schwartz and Glen Gabe, this update was all about quality. It particularly affected sites that had low E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness).

Barry Schwartz studied over 300 affected sites and found that 41.5% of those belonged in the health, medical, wellness, and fitness industries. He nicknamed it the “medic” update as a result.

image showing the medic update pie chart

Why were these sites hit hard?

Most health pages belong in the YMYL category – pages that Google says can affect the health, income, happiness, or financial stability of users. Low-quality content on these pages can directly impact people’s lives.

With this update, Google underlined their commitment to serving users the highest-quality content. If you’re not creating the best of the best, you will miss the mark and end up on page 3, 4, 5… or worse.

Featured snippets will dominate #SEO in 2019. @JuliaEMcCoy explains how content gets to star in Google's featured snippets in this information-packed blog post. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

4. Keep Voice Search on Your Radar

Another SEO tactic for 2018 that we need to keep on our radar for 2019 is voice search optimization.

As voice search technology improves and becomes more accessible, it will become even more common.

According to Stone Temple’s most recent voice usage trends survey, more people than ever are comfortable using voice commands and voice search on their mobile devices.

image showing the results of voice usage trends survey

And, a study Google commissioned found that 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search multiple times a day, every day.

mobile voice study results

It’s pretty safe to assume these numbers will continue to go up as time goes on, too.

To stay ahead of the game, optimize your content for voice search where it makes sense.

A. Optimize for Local Search

Most voice searches are local. According to Bright Local’s Voice Search for Local Business Study, 46% of those who search via voice are looking for local businesses on a daily basis.

voice search and local businesses

If it makes sense for your brand, use geo-targeted keywords, build up your positive customer reviews, and make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are consistent across all of your online business listings.

B. Use FAQ Pages

To rank for questions as well as answers, create high-quality FAQ pages to compile the most common ones you encounter regularly.

C. Make Sure You’re Mobile-Friendly

Finally, to rank for voice search queries, you have to make sure your pages are mobile-friendly. Google will not pull voice search answers from sites lacking in this area!

5. Improve Your UX (and Understand RankBrain) – a MAJOR SEO Trend for 2019

One of the major SEO trends for 2019 is the emphasis on RankBrain. This is the part of Google’s core algorithm that uses machine-learning to serve users better search results based on their search intent.

(Back in 2015, in an interview with Bloomberg, Google revealed that RankBrain is their third most important ranking signal.)

According to Danny Sullivan for Search Engine Land, it works like this:

screen capture of an explanation of what rankbrain is

RankBrain helps the algorithm interpret complex, long-tail search queries and the intent behind them. It can “see patterns between seemingly unconnected complex searches to understand how they’re actually similar to each other.” Additionally, it can “understand future complex searches and whether they’re related to particular topics.”

In other words, it’s smart, and the more data it collects, the smarter it gets about user search intent.

Specifically, RankBrain looks at the context of user searches.

  • What are synonyms/related terms for the original search query, and which pages containing these synonyms have relevant information for the user’s search intent?

To figure out if the algorithm returns good search results, it looks at how users respond to them:

  • Which user actions indicate the search results satisfy them?
    • Low bounce rates (users are staying on the page after clicking the link in the SERP)
    • Longer dwell times (users are staying to read more than the first few paragraphs)
    • Higher click-through rates (more users are clicking on results in the SERP)
  • Which actions indicate the search is unsatisfying or the results are not what the user had in mind?
    • High bounce rates (users are bouncing back to the SERP after clicking on results)
    • Low dwell times (users aren’t staying on pages to read past the headline or introduction)
    • Low click-through rates (users aren’t clicking on results)

To simplify it further, let’s borrow a good comparison from Backlinko’s detailed RankBrain guide.

Before RankBrain, Google looked at instances of keywords on a page with zero context. It guessed at whether the results it returned were in the realm of what you meant:

google search results before and after rankbrain

After RankBrain, Google knows what you mean when you enter search queries that could have more than one meaning. It gets your intent behind the search:

image showing that google now understands the intent behind the search

Understanding RankBrain is one thing. Using that knowledge to your advantage is another. The savviest content marketers will be on top of this for their SEO strategy for 2019.

A. Optimize Your Metas and Headline to Be More Enticing

Since RankBrain looks at the actions and context surrounding a search, use that to help boost your rankings.

For example, what can you do to increase click-throughs on your search engine listings? Pay attention to your meta titles (your H1/main headers) and your meta descriptions for each page. If they’re descriptive and enticing, you may pull in more clicks, which can equal votes for your content in the SERPs.

Understanding RankBrain is one thing. Using that knowledge to your advantage is another. This and more #SEO insights as @JuliaEMcCoy talks about the top 5 SEO trends for 2019. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

B. Pay Attention to Page Usability

Once users click on your result in a search, you want them to stay on the page. One way to do that is to improve your page usability. In other words, make it as easy to use as possible.

To learn more about usability, user experience, and how to make it better, the resource is a great starting point.

screenshot image of the site

Guide Your SEO from 2018 to 2019 – and Beyond

SEO trends are constantly changing, so it’s important to stay updated – and stay relevant.

In 2019, some SEO trends will roll-over from 2018, but others are based on the future of technology and Google’s recent updates.

Keep ahead of the curve and update your 2018 SEO strategies so you’re ready to face 2019 with a bang! 🎉

Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines SEO guide

Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines: Here’s What They Say About SEO & Content

Originally published December, 2015 and completely updated October, 2018.

Google is anything but transparent. As such, its algorithm inner workings have never been easy to interpret.

In fact, SEOs dedicate themselves to a sort of “algorithm watch.” They spend eons of time poring over search metrics. They write novel-length blog posts analyzing the changes they can only guess happened, and how these changes may or may not affect search rankings.

So, when Google threw everyone a bone, the SEO community latched on. Back in October of 2015, The SEM Post got a leaked copy of Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, and their interpreted version went viral.

In response, Google broke the internet by releasing the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines in their entirety.

Since then, Google has released multiple updates of these guidelines. The most recent hit the internet on July 20, 2018, and we’ve updated this post to reflect all the major changes

While Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines don’t lay out exactly what we need to know to rocket to the top of the rankings, they do provide some valuable information:

  • What kind of pages are viewed as high quality
  • Which factors influence high- and low-quality ratings (SUPER important, as these factors may be similar to how Google measures page quality for SERP rankings)

We’ve taken an inside look and studied the document as they relate to your SEO and on-page site content, including those fresh updates. 🔍

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of key points in this major SEO document for your online content writing and publishing.

Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines guide

Still not clear on how Google ranks pages? Here's everything you need to know, dissected by @JuliaEMcCoy from Google's 200+ page Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. #EAT #YMYL #Google #SEO Click To Tweet

What Are Google’s Search Guidelines All About?

google's search thinks like a human

Screenshot from page 4 of the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

Google’s search guidelines document is over 160 pages long and broken into an overview, three separate parts, and an appendix.

The major parts are as follows:

  • General Guidelines Overview
  • Part 1: Page Quality Rating Guideline
  • Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs
  • Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline
  • Appendix: Using the Evaluation Platform

In addition to focusing heavily on mobile search, Google’s search guidelines also focus on the importance of building trust and a good reputation for websites and/or content creators.

This isn’t hugely surprising – it’s simply a variation on what Google has been saying for years: The best websites are ones that deliver relevant, trustworthy, quality information to users.

We all know Google focuses heavily on experimentation and adjusting their algorithms to improve web quality. These guidelines provide specific instructions on what the Google engineers want people to do to improve individual site quality.

Needless to say, the Google search guidelines are dense. They cover everything from important definitions to duplicate landing pages and all the places in between.

For those of you who want to read through the guidelines on your own, you can find the link here. For everyone else, here’s the breakdown of key points we’ve found within them.

12 Key SEO Content Factors in the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

For SEOs who have dedicated themselves to keeping up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms, this document will serve mainly to reaffirm what you already know, with a few goodies thrown in here and there.

For SEO newbies, though, this document offers an expansive guide to Google’s preferences and the future of SEO. The guidelines lay out specifics about Google’s algorithms and how, exactly, SEOs can better predict changes to it in the future.

1. Beneficial Purpose

One of the newer additions to the guidelines is the concept of “beneficial purpose.” This term defines websites with pages created, first and foremost, for the user’s benefit.

On the other hand, many pages are created solely for the purpose of ranking on Google or are created with no intention of helping users. In Google’s eyes, these pages have zero beneficial purpose.

According to the guidelines (part one, section 3), raters are supposed to give these pages the lowest rating:

content must have beneficial purpose to rank well

“Websites or pages without any beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating.”

In stark contrast, pages with beneficial purpose are the very definition of high-quality:

“High-quality pages exist for almost any beneficial purpose, from giving information to making people laugh to expressing oneself artistically to purchasing products or services online.” – Part one, section 4.1

According to Google, high-quality pages not only have a beneficial purpose; they also achieve that purpose.

In other words, if you’re not writing to help your audience in some way, your page will have little overall value to the search engine. Thus, “beneficial purpose” is the ground-floor factor that affects your page quality.

High-quality pages not only have a beneficial purpose; they also achieve that purpose. This and more takeaways on @JuliaEMcCoy's post on Google's Search Quality Guidelines #googlerankings #serpsranking #googlesearch Click To Tweet

2. Page Quality (E-A-T)

Page quality has always been a bit of a mystery. Google uses hundreds of ranking factors and it’s often unclear how they all relate to one another.

We’ve always known unique, relevant, well-written content helps produce a high-quality page, but the guidelines have some additional insights to offer on this topic.

According to the guidelines, it’s not just high-quality main content (MC) that matters. In fact, Google has created a name for what every high-quality page needs: E-A-T.

EAT YMYL Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

E-A-T stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness,” and it may be one of the major factors Google is using to rank pages.

screenshot showing google's guidelines on eat content

Screenshot via Google’s Guidelines, section 3.2

Pages that are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy will be viewed as higher-quality than those that aren’t.

But what does that mean, exactly?

A. High-Quality Pages

Google’s guidelines state that the search algorithm ranks websites on a scale of lowest, low, medium, high, and highest.

screenshot of quality ratings scale google uses

Via section 3.0

According to Section 4.1 of Part 1, high-quality pages possess the following characteristics:

  • A “satisfying amount” of high-quality MC, including a title that’s appropriately descriptive/helpful
  • “Satisfying website information” or information about the website’s owner/creator (shopping or transactional pages need satisfying customer service information, conversely)
  • The page and its associated website have a high amount of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
  • The website (or the MC creator) has a good reputation

It’s worth noting that Google doesn’t specify how much content a page needs to be considered “satisfying,” only that it depends on “the purpose of the page.”

Google provides this page as an example of high-quality content (partial screenshot):

google describes what quality content looks like

According to Google, this page has high-quality, humorous MC. Plus, the website has a positive reputation and displays expertise in farcical humor.

B. Low-Quality Pages

According to the Google search guidelines (part one, section 6.0), low-quality pages feature the following:

  • Poor, low-quality MC
  • An inadequate amount of E-A-T
  • Unsatisfying amounts of MC for the purpose of the page (a dense topic with little information, for example)
  • A page title that is essentially clickbait (“exaggerated or shocking”)
  • An author that doesn’t have the level of expertise needed to write about the topic
  • A website or content creator with a “mildly negative” or mixed reputation
  • Unsatisfying information about who created the content/who’s behind the website
  • Page content that distracts from the MC, like intrusive ads/interstitials

Google goes on to say that you can land yourself in low-quality content land by making things up, not editing material enough, buying papers, using obvious facts (“A German Shepherd is a dog”) or over-complicating simple facts.

Here’s an example Google provides of a low-quality page (partial screenshot):

website example of google's definition of low-quality content

According to Google, this page has low-quality MC, is lacking in E-A-T, and has a misleading page title.

Google also says that pages will be considered low-quality if they’re created “without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill.” This is a broad statement, but it’s safe to say that it encompasses everything from poorly designed and scraped content to content that’s written by unskilled or unknowledgeable writers.

The Google search guidelines close by saying that low-quality content is reason enough for a quality rater to grant you a low page rating.

The takeaway: Make sure you’re always creating content with a high level of E-A-T. If your site doesn’t have the E-A-T that raters are looking for, you need to dedicate some time and effort to increase it.

C. How Can You Increase E-A-T on Your Pages?

One of the main ways E-A-T standards have been tweaked with the recent update to the guidelines: A bigger emphasis is on the author/creator.

According to Larry Alton for ProBlogger, you can make sure your content meets current E-A-T standards in a few ways:

  • Enlist high-authority content contributors
  • Include author credentials alongside content (A.K.A. author bylines)
  • Update author bios and “About me” pages
  • Create publicly visible profile pages

All of these actions help establish your expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (and your contributors’, if you have them).

No matter what you choose to do, ensuring your E-A-T level is high is one of the best ways to earn high page rankings.

3. YMYL Content

YMYL Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

Leaked copies of the guidelines have been making the rounds on the web since as early as 2007. The concept of YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages was first introduced during one of these leaks.

According to the full guidelines, these pages are the ones that Google pays the most attention to because they’re the ones that can most profoundly impact a person’s life.

how google defines your money or your life (ymyl) pagefs

Screenshot via Google’s 2018 Guidelines, section 2.3

Google says YMYL pages are the ones that can “impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.” These pages include:

  • Shopping or financial transaction pages
  • Medical information pages
  • Legal information pages
  • Financial information pages
  • News articles and/or public/official pages important for informing citizens
  • Any other topics that can deeply affect users’ lives, i.e. child adoption or car safety information

Because of their importance, these pages have high, high page quality standards.

They must be authoritative, factual, and written by experts.

4. Expert Reputation, Credentials and/or Experience

The guidelines make it clear that any content needs to be created in an authoritative and expert manner. While there are “expert” websites in all niches, including food, industry, fashion, law, and medicine, Google makes no bones about it: When “expert” content is needed, true experts need to write it.

This means the following:

  • Any high-quality medical advice that gets published needs to be written by individuals and communities with appropriate levels of medical accreditation.
  • Complex financial advice, tax advice, or legal advice needs to come from highly qualified, expert sources and must be updated and maintained on a regular basis to accommodate changing information, laws, and statutes.
  • Medical advice must be written in a professional fashion and, once published, must be edited, reviewed, maintained, and updated regularly in order to keep up with changing medical consensus and beliefs.
  • Pages that address topics that can cost consumers thousands of dollars (investment platforms, for example) or that can affect the health of a family or individual (parenting sites, mental health sites, etc.) must be written by expert/experienced sources that readers can trust.
  • Pages with scientific information must be written by people/organizations with relevant scientific expertise. For topics where scientific consensus exists, producers should represent that consensus accurately.
  • News articles need to be written with journalistic professionalism and contain factually accurate information.
  • Pages on specific hobbies, like horseback riding or hockey, must also be written by people who are knowledgeable about the topic and can provide sound advice.
  • Recent updates to the guidelines also stipulate that the content creator must have a positive reputation and adequate experience in relation to the topic about which they’re writing. In short, page authors/creators must also have a high level of E-A-T. (According to Stone Temple, two pages with basically the same information might be ranked differently based on the reputation and authority level of their authors.)
Google pays special attention to the fact that YMYL pages are authoritative, factual, and written by experts. This and more on @JuliaEMcCoy's blog post discussing Google's Search Quality Guidelines #googlesearch #searchmarketing #seo Click To Tweet

A. What Does It Take to Be an Expert Content Creator?

Now, upon reading all that, it’s likely you’ll wonder what constitutes an “expert.”

No, an expert doesn’t always have to be a credentialed, highly trained person (the exceptions: when they’re writing about medicine, law, finances, taxes, or other YMYL topics).

First-Person Experience

Google makes it clear that, in some cases, first-person experience can be a form of expertise, especially in settings where you don’t necessarily need formal training to have an extensive knowledge base, such as on hobby pages.

In fact, Google states that “for some unusual hobbies, the most expert advice may exist on blogs, forums, and other user-generated content websites.”

In these instances, what Google is looking for is a display of expertise.

  • Example 1: Say you have lived with diabetes for 22 years. You may be qualified to offer tips about coping with the disease (YMYL content) because you have extensive first-hand experience. However, at the same time, you would not be qualified to write a high-quality medical blog about the symptoms and onset of diabetes.
  • Example 2: On the hobby site The Spruce Crafts, expert crafters teach all kinds of techniques in informative blog posts. These are highly ranked because each writer has plenty of personal experience that qualifies them as experts. Take this post on “How to Knit the Garter Stitch”:

how to knit the garter stitch blog post

The author is an expert because of her years of personal experience. Her bio reflects this perfectly:

screenshot of expert author's biography

The Reputation of the Website/Creator

Finally, reputation plays a role in expertise, too.

There’s a whole section dedicated to this facet of expertise in the guidelines (under part one, section 2.6):

screenshot of google's guidelines on the reputation of a content creator

This information is not about how creators or websites describe their own credentials and expertise. It’s how the wider web (“reputable external sources”) views these things.

According to Google, these external sources that provide independent reputation information about a website or MC creator may include:

  • News articles
  • Wikipedia articles
  • Magazine articles
  • Blog posts
  • Ratings from independent organizations
  • Forum discussions
  • Customer reviews (for these, content matters as much as the number of reviews available – one negative review or one positive review are not good sources unless you have a number of other reviews to compare it to)

B. Why Is Google So Stringent About Expertise?

The search engine wants to ensure deep, broad, important topics get the necessary treatment so searchers can find accurate, useful information about them.

If the search results served up low-quality, untrustworthy content constantly, we would quickly begin to distrust and stop using Google to fulfill our information needs.

  • Example 3: Most kids in the U.S. learn about World War II in school. However, it would be absurd to believe this type of broad knowledge qualifies anyone to write an informative page about what it was like to live through it.

In the end, it’s important to think about what constitutes an expert for different topics:

How much expertise do you need to possess to write about a subject in a way that’s useful and valuable to others?

How much expertise do you need about a topic so you don’t lead readers astray or negatively impact their lives?

5. Supplementary Content

The importance of supplementary content (such as sidebar tips) is one of the most interesting features of the Google search guidelines. This content is supportive because it provides additional information to users alongside the MC.

Supplementary content can also include links to similar articles or anything else that can help the reader understand your page’s information. Pages with high-quality, useful supplementary content may be generally ranked higher than those without.

Allrecipes has good examples of pages with supplementary content (SC). On their recipe pages, you get the ingredients and instructions (the MC) as well as photos, recommended recipes, user comments, reviews, and serving information (the SC).

screenshot detailing where supplement content can be found on a website

6. Lowest-Quality Pages

Some pages receive the “lowest” rating from search quality evaluators on principle. These types of pages are created with the intent to misinform or deceive users or may potentially harm them or spread hate.

Here’s the full list of types of pages that automatically get rated as the lowest quality possible:

  • Pages that promote hate or violence towards other people (like a specific group)
  • Pages that encourage harming oneself or others
  • Malicious pages (scams, phishing, malware, etc.), or pages with a malicious/extremely negative reputation attached to the creator/website
  • Pages that could spread misinformation, including content that’s obviously inaccurate, YMYL content that contradicts the consensus of experts, and content that propagates debunked/unsubstantiated conspiracy theories
  • Pages meant to deceive users, including deceptive page design (ads that look like MC)
  • “Lack of purpose pages” that have no MC, MC that is “gibberish,” or content with no apparent purpose
  • “Pages that fail to achieve their purpose”
    • These have the lowest possible E-A-T
    • May include copied or auto-generated content
    • May have content that’s inaccessible or obstructed
    • May have unsatisfying information about the website/MC creator
    • May have unmaintained pages, hacked pages, defaced pages, or spam

Google’s example of a page with lowest-quality is this deceptive site designed to imitate the ABC News homepage:

example of a page google ranks as lowest-quality

A. Copied Content

Google also specifies what they mean by “copied content” in this subsection (part one, section 7.2.4). Naturally, any content that is not original will get the lowest quality rating from a search evaluator.

What many people don’t know, however, is that Google doesn’t consider rewritten content original if it relies too heavily on its source. Google puts it like this in the guidelines:

screenshot of rating awarded to copied content

“The Lowest rating is appropriate if all or almost all of the MC on the page is copied with little or no time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users. Such pages should be rated Lowest, even if the page assigns credit for the content to another source.”

Content creators who like to “spin” content should thus tread carefully here.

7. Mobile Optimization

One of the first things SEOs who consult the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines notice is no less than ¼ of this huge document is dedicated to mobile search.

Check out this chart from “Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs”:

image showing the needs of a mobile user

The chart underscores just how much people turn to their mobile phones for different tasks.

These tasks vary from simple to complex. As such, the Google guidelines are careful to lay out information about how algorithms understand and interpret mobile queries.

This focus on clarifying search queries is indicative of Google’s leaning toward voice search, which is becoming a search optimization priority. (According to Gartner, by 2020, 30% of all searches will be voice searches.)

Mobile search is one of the most important trends in digital marketing right now. Every page on a website needs to be optimized for mobile platforms to do well in search (but you already knew that, right?).

8. User Experience: “Needs Met” Ratings

In the user experience portion of the Google search guidelines (Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline), we circle back to mobile platforms. In this section, Google asks raters to evaluate the results of various search queries.

For example, the guidelines ask raters to consider mobile user needs and how helpful the result is for those mobile users. This chart in the guidelines illustrates the rating scale, from “Fully Meets” all the way down to “Fails to Meet”:

google's needs-met ratings explained in a chart

These ratings help Google understand how search queries are related to user intent, and how their search results are measuring up. For example, if a lot of low-quality pages that “fail to meet” user needs are showing up for a certain query, Google obviously needs to work on delivering better, more relevant and useful results for that query.

9. E-A-T Versus Needs Met

The guidelines make a clear distinction between “needs met” ratings and page quality ratings. The difference is important to understand.

“Needs met” ratings are based on both the search query and the result, while page quality (E-A-T) ratings are only based upon the result and whether it achieves its purpose. This means that useless results for a particular query are always rated “fails to meet” – even if they have outstanding page quality ratings.

Think of it this way: A high-quality page with fantastic information about sea lions is useless to you if you actually want information about otters. If you searched for “otters” but got search results featuring pages about sea lions, your search needs would be unfulfilled.

What are Google's E-A-T and needs-met ratings? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines in this blog post #searchmarketing #searchrankingfactors #googlesearch Click To Tweet

Conversely, when considering page ratings, the search query is unimportant. This means that high E-A-T pages can still have low “meet” scores if they are deemed unhelpful for a query or do not fulfill a user’s search needs.

quality content that fails to meet your specific search needs fails the needs-met rating

According to Google’s guidelines, this page about sea lions would receive a high page quality rating, but may not necessarily receive a high “needs met” rating – that depends on the page’s relevance to the search query.

The guidelines also state that when a user is searching for very recent information (like breaking news, for instance) a site can earn a “fails to meet” rating if the content is stale or useless for the user’s particular query. This means pages appearing in search results for time-sensitive queries featuring content about past events, old products, or outdated information will be marked useless and given a “fails to meet” rating.

While fresh content is important, older content can have a high E-A-T rating without sacrificing usefulness. This is true for evergreen content and “timeless” information.

For example, users who search for information about Ronald Regan will find biographical information useful, even if it was written many years ago. This is not true, however, for unmaintained or abandoned websites that feature infrequently updated or inaccurate content.

10. “Fails to Meet” Pages

“Fails to meet” content is a boat you don’t want to be in.

According to the guidelines, “fails to meet” content is helpful and satisfying to virtually nobody. The content results are unrelated to the query, filled with incorrect facts, or in dire need of additional supporting information. Because of these things, this content doesn’t meet a user’s search intent or need.

The guidelines go on to state that content may also be marked “fails to meet” when it is low-quality, stale, outdated, or impossible to use on a mobile device. The guidelines also specify that it is possible for sites to earn in-between ratings.

Here are a few examples of “fails to meet” content results for different queries:

examples of content that fails to meet user expectations

As you can see, in the second example (for the query “American beauty”), the result is actually directly related/relevant to the topic of the search. However, because the result has unsatisfying content, it gets the lowest possible “needs met” rating.

11. Clickbait

In the updated guidelines, Google makes plenty of references to clickbait. Specifically, they don’t want to see it. Ever.

That’s because clickbait builds up a user’s expectations and then fails them spectacularly. This leaves the user dissatisfied, confused, and frustrated/annoyed, all things Google does not want to be associated with its search results.

In the section on “Low-Quality Main Content” (part one, section 6.3), the guidelines specifically mention that raters should pay attention to a page’s title, as it “should describe the content.” If the title doesn’t properly do that or creates unrealistic expectations of the MC, Google says the page should be rated “Low.”

Here is Google’s example of a clickbait title that helps the page in question earn a low “needs met” rating:

example of content with clickbait headline

“Planet Nibiru has appeared in the sky and DOOMSDAY is on the way” – clickbait much?

12. Medium-Quality Pages

In the guidelines, we have seen that raters may rank page quality anywhere from highest to lowest.

Google defines each rating and which characteristics exemplify that rating. One of the most interesting is the definition of “medium” quality pages (part one, section 8).

Google states that there are two types of medium pages:

  • Nothing is wrong with the page, but then again, there’s nothing special about it, either.
  • The page has high-quality characteristics mixed with some low-quality characteristics.

The first type of medium-quality page goes straight to the heart of what it takes to stand out in content. You can do everything right SEO-wise, but if there is nothing unique or special about your page/your content, you can’t expect to rank well.

From Google, here is an example of a medium-quality page. The website is a trusted source, but the content is merely “okay”:

example of content that gets a medium-quality rating from google

3 Major Takeaways from the Updated Google Search Guidelines

Two of the biggest takeaways from the guidelines is the importance of mobile optimization and producing and publishing content written by an expert.

1. The Need for Expert Content Is HUGE

As Google made clear with their discussions on both E-A-T and YMYL, the need for expert content is huge.

Google values pages with high levels of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Websites and content creators that champion these things by hiring and staffing expert writers will be rewarded for their efforts. This is especially true for YMYL pages.

Because YMYL pages are so important and have big potential to positively or negatively affect a reader’s life, Google puts them under heavy scrutiny. That means websites that specialize in these pages absolutely need to hire expert writers and content creators. The price of not doing this is too high for both websites and readers alike.

Fortunately, when websites hire expert writers to improve their page’s E-A-T and to write important YMYL pages, more than likely, they will enjoy both higher rankings in Google’s index and a position as an industry leader.

2. Reputation Matters

The recent updates to Google’s Search Evaluator Guidelines underline the importance of website/MC creator reputation when determining page quality.

Google exhaustively goes over the different ways reputation can affect a page’s quality and stipulates the best ways to research this vital factor. For example, the guidelines recommended using third-party websites and sources to do research about websites and content creators/authors.

A few they particularly mention include Wikipedia, the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Amazon reviews, and Google Shopping.

Here’s the section mentioning the power of Wikipedia. Google calls it a “good source,” and throughout the doc, mentions the linking of Wikipedia to other sites as a quality factor:

screenshot of google's guideline on website reputation

Google respects these sites’ opinions of other sites and will consider content low or high-quality based on BBB ratings, Wikipedia links and claims, and outside reviews/evaluations.

3. You Must Be Mobile-Friendly

Sites that aren’t mobile-friendly have a 0% chance of ranking well. Obviously, Google cares more now than ever about mobile-friendly pages – after all, nearly a quarter of their search evaluator guidelines are dedicated to mobile user needs.

How are pages rated? How much value does Google put on the mobile-friendliness of a website? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines in this post #googlesearchguidelines #searchmarketing #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

image showing website content on a smartphone's screen

Image via Google Search Guides

Great content isn’t enough, so be sure that your entire website is optimized for mobile users.

4. You Must Create Content That Benefits Users

Imagine the new inclusion of the concept of “beneficial purpose” in these guidelines as a huge flag waving in your SEO landscape.

It’s clear that Google is looking at it as the main determiner of a page’s quality. If a page has no apparent beneficial purpose for users, it automatically gets a low rating from search evaluators. That tells us a lot about Google’s user-first mentality, and also how we should be treating each and every piece of content we create.

Plus, the concept is reflected across Google’s other guidelines, including the brief but pointed Quality Guidelines in Search Console Help:

screenshot of basic principles to follow when creating content

Take this as a sign that you should be asking yourself, “What’s the beneficial purpose of this page?” for each content piece you create.

To Be SEO-Savvy, Don’t Stop at Reading This Blog Post

My favorite SEO and content marketing resources include Backlinko (Brian Dean), BuzzSumo, Moz, and Content Marketing Institute. You can also subscribe to our Write Blog for the latest in content marketing, SEO and content writing.

Look up industry content marketing and SEO authors, too, for some must-read books. For a few solid marketing reads, I recommend anything by Ryan Holiday, Jonah Berger, Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, Mark Schaefer.

I’ve also written two books on content marketing and copywriting, and a course on content strategy as well as SEO writing that you might find useful.

Dr. Seuss said it best:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

SEO content creation

SEO Content Creation: Your Actionable Guide to Writing For the Rankings

Today and in the future, our audiences are changing the way they consume information and discovering new ways of accessing answers to the questions that drive them.

(Bob Dylan was right — the times, they are a-changing!)

bob dylan

And their evolving questions are the ones you — or your company — want to provide an answer to.

So, how do you let people know you’ve got the answers they seek?

Through recognizing the importance of SEO in content creation and negotiating the ever-changing landscape of the content economy.

Here’s the thing…

SEO has always led the way in driving traffic to websites.

Yet, like other online phenomena, SEO content creation is evolving to meet the needs of a new generation of online consumers.

SEO content creation is evolving to meet the needs of a new generation of online consumers. Learn how to create future-proof SEO content in this guide from @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

This change is, in part, pushed by trending technology like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home and a literal explosion of tablet and mobile device usage.

So, how is the modern online user changing the landscape of SEO?

Let’s jump right in with the two most impactful trends in the industry, and then we’ll go into a super actionable, nitty-gritty guide on how to create SEO content this year in a way that boosts your traffic and end profits. Ready?

SEO content creation guide

The Top 2 Trends in SEO Content Creation Today 

1. Voice Search

Now that people no longer have to key in search terms at a computer, the way they are searching is changing.

For example, if I want to know what’s playing at my local movie theater and I’m on my phone, I might key in “Movies Cinemark,” because I know Google will use the closest theater to me named “Cinemark.”

However, if I’m using Alexa, Amazon’s assistant, I’d ask using more natural language, like I’m talking to a person, “Alexa, what movies are playing at the Cinemark in Austin, TX?”

quote for SEO Content Creation

This is voice search, and it’s one of the leading trends in content marketing this year.

To optimize SEO writing in the past, we used to take out all the “filler” words from a search query.


“Where can I find the best coffee beans in Texas”


“best coffee beans Texas”

Targeted, yes.

Easy to fit into a smooth-flowing piece of SEO content? Definitely not.

Fortunately, the new, natural-language search terms are making SEO copywriting easier and more compelling — a winning combination.

But, it’s more than search itself that is changing.

People are also changing the way they consume content.

2. Video Content

According to Wyzowl, video marketing has surged, with 81% of companies using it to market their audience.

And there are many reasons to include video in your online content creation campaign, including:

  • Allowing customers to form an emotional — and trust-building — bond with you and your product through voice cues, facial expressions, and dynamic content.
  • Providing content versatility through a range of possible video content — quick demos, longer courses, hands-on tutorials, and more.
  • Encouraging engagement with touch-of-a-button sharing and embedding engagement options.
  • Keeping up with current technology — such as tablets and mobile devices — and the changing ways people are devouring content.

This isn’t the first time that marketers pivoted when video brought consumers a more engaging form of content.

The Buggles wrote “Video Killed the Radio Star” back in 1979 in response to MTV’s popularity with the music-consuming crowd who was turning from songs on the radio to videos of songs on television.

We all know how that turned out.

Despite all the fear, there was no apocalypse, no sudden loss of musical talent. The savvy merely repositioned themselves and moved on.

So, if you’re a creating SEO content for your website — get ready to pivot.

Video content is growing as mobile usage takes the lead over desktop for the first time in 2017.


And what better example of a website using video content to drive SEO than SEOmoz?

What started out as a simple whiteboard video became so popular that they were renamed Whiteboard Fridays and offered on a regular basis.

Here’s a great example of how they produce engaging SEO content from their list of topics of advanced SEO techniques — Using the Flowchart Method for Diagnosing Ranking Drops.

This screen capture, below, shows you just how fresh and personable this low-tech the video is while appealing to high-tech on-the-go users.


Neil Patel notes that one Whiteboard Friday video drew 402 links and more than one thousand social shares.

Of those links and shares, over 37 different domains participated in spreading love for the SEOmoz blog — proof that good video content encourages engagement.

3 Keyword Research Strategies That Deliver

Let’s be careful not to get ahead of ourselves.

Building great, truly compelling content is only possible after proper keyword research. As Backlinko so aptly puts it:

“Without keywords, there’s no SEO.”

Content is not something you should attempt willy-nilly. You need a strong plan of action in place before you spend time — and money — on SEO content creation.

quote quote for SEO Content Creation

That plan of action is keyword research.

The good news is, there are lots of brand-new strategies out there to help make your SEO content strategy even more on-target. All you have to do is engage them.

Let’s start with the basics.

1. Focus on Niche Topics

If you want to know how to write SEO content that points directly to your audience’s pain points, their natural curiosity, their need for spot-on information, you’ve got to put in the research.

Your first order of the day should be to determine your niche topic — your product or service’s unique standing in your industry and the things related to your product that your customers are interested in.

Understanding how to turn your customers’ interests into content will help you narrow keywords with laser-focused efficiency.

This, in turn, will contribute to the creation of compelling SEO content that tugs are your customers’ heartstrings — and wallets.

So, let’s say I’m running a business that sells coffee, because, you know — who doesn’t dream of an unending supply of java?

You can probably come up with some niche topics right off the bat. How about:

  • Coffee mugs
  • Coffee roasting guide
  • How to grind coffee at home
  • Best coffee beans for roasting
  • Espresso machine basics

There are probably over a million choices of niches, so concentrate on those that are important to your audience.

And there’s no better way to do that than to pin down exactly who your audience is, in the form of a persona.

How to Find Niche Topics

Learn how to find hot niche topics for better results with your SEO and online content, using @BuzzSumo's updated Content Analyzer tool (via @JuliaEMcCoy) Click To Tweet

Susan Moeller, Business Development Manager at BuzzSumo, gave me a few inside tips on how to run a content analysis that will help you discover how much traction a topic is getting inside BuzzSumo.

When we ran a few “coffee” topic ideas into the BuzzSumo Analyzer, it was a clear choice – How To Grind Coffee is a hot topic!

coffee-mugs__buzzsumoHere’s how to get to this section of BuzzSumo:

After you’re logged in, click on the Content Research tab at the top, and then on top of the search bar, switch the tab from “Search” to “Analysis.”

Under Analysis, you’ll find the new content analyzer tool.  When BuzzSumo added the comparison tool, they changed up the configuration a bit. (See the product announcement here.)

buzzsumo content analyzer

I love BuzzSumo and use it on a regular basis for content insights. The Analysis feature is a great way to get your hands on some trending niche topics.

2. Focus on Your Audience Persona

A persona is a representation of your target audience’s likes, dislikes, pain points, and more all rolled into one “Everyperson” whose opinions you can use to help focus your content.

Creating a persona is a necessary part of developing content for your website that really packs a punch.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, underscores the need for laser-focused personas in order to create actionable, effective marketing when he says:

“If your content marketing is for everybody, it’s for nobody.”

So how do you create a persona?

You go through a series of questions that delve ever deeper into your fictional Everyperson’s goals, responsibilities, lifestyle, and more to uncover what really makes them tick.

You can find online persona creators that will walk you through the basics, but don’t stop there.

You need to interview some of your prime audience members in-the-flesh and incorporate their feedback into your targeted Everyperson.

Just like Pinocchio became a real boy through Gepetto’s love and attention, your persona will become more real — and more useful — the deeper you can go with your research.

Here’s a screenshot of a persona example featured on

I chose this one because coffee is the lifeblood of most successful geniuses.

quote quote for SEO Content Creation

If you don’t believe me, check out this article in Entrepreneur.

Click To Tweet


Look at the detail in this mini-biography. You’ve got her habits, her fears, what motivates her, and what can help her achieve what she wants in life.

That’s information that gives you a perfect way to produce SEO content that’s laser-focused to suit her needs and attract her — and others like her — to your website.

3. Find Long Tail Keywords

Creating content around long-tail keywords is the shortest way to a big payout. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

quote quote for SEO Content Creation

Let me explain with the following analogy:

Do you wait until there’s a huge jackpot before buying a lottery ticket?

It’s not the smartest move since with everyone opting in, there’s even less chance that you’ll be going to Disney after the winning numbers are chosen.

Yet, many marketers treat writing SEO content in much the same way. They reach for those top three search terms that bag 60% of the organic traffic.

You know – the ones everyone is targeting.

But what they’re missing is this — the remaining 40% of traffic is prime real estate for savvy content creators.

The trick is to use long-tail keywords to divert that traffic to your site.

For beginners, you can start with the Google Keyword Planner. (I don’t recommend this tool for advanced SEO content marketers because if you can afford a tool, you’ll get better results – Google can actually skew their results and hide truth about search volume on keywords, to influence you on on buying Ad spots.)

I typed in “content creation” to get this list:


I took a high-ranking term from this list (social media content creation) and re-entered it.

That gave me these:


Now, I have a more in-depth group of long tail keywords from which to choose.

And the more specific you can get with what your persona wants and needs, the more traffic you’ll drive to your site.

This screenshot from says it all:


Look at that keyword grow — from “shoes” to “men’s shoes” to the one that holds the key to customer interaction — “red Nike mens running shoes.”

quote quote for SEO Content Creation

So, don’t waste your marketing dollar on keywords that everyone is using. Expand your reach with in-depth, long-tail keywords. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Long Tail Keywords Just Got Longer: The Debut of the Long Tail Keyword Phrase

If you’ve been creating effective SEO content, you already know about long-tail keywords.

But did you know that in 2018, just like the Grinch’s heart, these keywords grew two sizes? Enter the world of long-tail keyword phrases, brought to you by the changing face of search.

Powered by devices such as Alexa, Google Home, and smartphone assistants, voice search is becoming increasingly familiar.

In fact, ComScore indicated that voice will account for 50% of searches by the year 2020, so optimizing your keywords for this phenomenon now is critical.

So, what’s the difference between search input through a console and voice search?

Simple. Voice search adds back in what fast, to-the-point typing leaves out.

For example, if I want to learn about optimizing my content, I might type

“effective content creation”

on my keyboard if I’m at my computer.

But, if I’m talking to Siri, Alexa, or another virtual assistant, I’d speak as I would to another person, saying, perhaps,

“Alexa, how can I optimize my online content?”


“Alexa, what kind of content creation is effective for coffee sales?”

Cool, right? Now, how can you take advantage of this trend?

One executable tip is to meet your customers where they live — online and in person.

Simple ways to get in touch with the pulse of your customer’s queries include:

  • Conversations – face-to-face or through email
  • Forums – check out Reddit, comment threads, and other chat spaces relevant to your product or service
  • Social media ­– LinkedIn, hashtags, product pages on Facebook, your competitor’s social media
  • FAQs ­– frequently asked questions pages on competitor’s websites or sites related to your audience or industry.

For most of these, just type in the group and add your keyword. For example, forum + coffee gives me these results:


I can click on to any of those sites to find out what’s got my customers talking right now.

Now, if I want to delve into social media chatter, my search might look like:


This gives me:


Not only can these results help super-focus your keywords, but they can supply ideas that may not have come up in a standard search.

For example, see that hashtag on the second result above? #ethicallysourced? Those words represent a perfect idea for a page built around the niche topic of ethically-sourced coffee.

You could also expand this into a long-tail phrase such as:

where to find ethically sourced coffees

Basically, anywhere you can get a feel for the way people are asking questions about your product or service is the golden ticket to long-tail keyword phrases that convert.

Leverage New Search Trends to Build Powerful SEO Content

Remember those natural-language search terms we talked about earlier?

Here’s your chance to incorporate them into your keyword strategy to build powerful, on-target content.

Don’t let this new way of doing things throw a wrench in your SEO strategy — have some fun with it! There are some pretty neat tools out there to help you generate ideas.

For example, click over to Answer the Public for some awesome visual (or data-oriented, if you’re so inclined) cues for long-tail keywords that will set your SEO writing on fire.

Check out this screenshot of the “answers” I got when I typed in the phrase “content creation.”

For those of you who prefer simple data, the same information is available like this:


And Answer the Public’s riffs on your content go deep.

Here’s a screenshot of yet another way they generate responses, the “Comparisons” chart.

The even give suggestions by alphabet, one list for each letter. That’s 26 lists of ideas to get your content idea mill churning!

Now, if Ask didn’t generate what you need, you can move over to Soovle, another sweet content idea generator that lists top autocomplete terms for major online platforms — Google, YouTube, Amazon, Wikipedia, and

Here’s Soovle’s contribution to our “content creation” idea list.


While Soovle’s lists aren’t as extensive as Ask the Public’s, they are more focused.

Because Soovle’s response pulls directly from the most-searched terms closest to your input word or phrase, it can help you narrow down the key phrases that may be most likely to draw attention.

So, now that you’ve found your niche, your persona, and done your keyword research, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start SEO copywriting your little heart out!

Creating Strong Search-Optimized Content: 3 Killer SEO Copywriting Tips

SEO content creation is not just about optimization — it’s about writing, too. So, let’s start there, with the writing.

You may have a fantastic SEO content strategy ready to roll, but you’re not quite sure how to arrange your topic so that it makes sense and is readable.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Here’s a quick trick that I learned from nonfiction authors I know who check out bestsellers in their genre and use the table of contents to help them organize their own thoughts on a subject.

Great SEO copywriting examples are everywhere — if you know where to look. Backlinko recommends, and I concur, that you check out Udemy for inspiration.

You’d type in whatever your audience interests were, but I continued to riff on coffee for my example. When I typed “Java” into the search bar, it gave me the following results:


Look at that top class — over 50,000 people thought this was the mother lode of knowledge, and they shelled out money to prove it.

Now, click on that top course and scroll to “Curriculum.” There it is — what my author friends would call the “Table of Contents.”

Let’s look.


This snippet gives you the perfect outline for an article, blog post, or content series that you already know resonates with your audience.

Plagiarism is a no-no, as I’m sure you understand, but you can use this strategy to fire your creativity in a way you know will resonate with your persona.

1. Use Latent Semantic Indexing in Your SEO Writing

If you want to rank higher, you’ll need to give search engines a little boost. That’s where latent semantic indexing (LSI) comes into play.

Also known as semantic keywords, LSI helps Google and other search engines understand what your content is really all about. You’ll need to sprinkle these throughout your article to be effective.

But how do you find them?

There are two ways I like. One is through Google itself. Simply type in your keyword (I used “ethically sourced coffee”) and you’ll get a series of snippets for results.

Here’s mine:


Notice those bolded words in the snippet — ethical sourcing and coffee sourcing? Those are your LSI words. You can comb through all your snippets until you get a nice handful to add to your content.

The second way is to use a free online tool, like I typed in my search term, and got this:

While some of the results generated here can be off-topic, you can see there’s a rich variety of material to be used as an SEO content strategy template.

2. Get Social with It

It’s not just enough to learn how to write SEO-friendly content — you have to share it, too. Every article should have a call-to-action (CTA).


Because you’re always selling something — your website.

Each article should, at the very least, have a CTA that encourages readers to share — through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites where your target audience hangs out.

Brian Dean of Backlinko did this with one of his posts, which got 2900 tweets by adding a Click-to-Tweet button as a CTA at the end of the post.

It’s free at Just sign in with your Twitter account, post your message and generate a clickable link for the end of your content, like so:

And many readers will share without even reading the article.

Why? One reason is that sharing takes less time than reading and it still garners interaction from friends and the online community.

But what attracts those readers to share an article they haven’t read? The headline.

3. Create SEO Headlines that Increase Engagement

The headline is the most critical part of your SEO copywriting template. It’s the thing that draws the reader even when they don’t read the article.

As influencer Jayson DeMers says in an article for Forbes:

“The body copy of your content is still important, but these days, 

headlines are the true kings of content.”

SEOMoz breaks this down nicely into five actionable steps:

  • Determine your audience and your goals.
  • Optimize your headline for the channel that’s most demanding.
  • Write a simple, no-frills headline.
  • Now write one that’s optimized for clickability.
  • Now combine Steps 3 and 4 and include appropriate keywords.

Now, I’m going to throw in a little extra for all of you looking for a hard-and-fast SEO copywriting template — a couple of great little headline analyzers to help you nail that shareable title.

First, the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer. Select your category — I’m still all about the beans, so I’ll choose Food & Dining.

Now, input your proposed headline, like so:

And get your results.

The best headlines have intellectual, empathetic, and spiritual elements, but that, of course, varies according to your audience.

The next tool is Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer. Input your headline and click “Analyze Now.”

And get your results.

Looks like my headline could use a bit of work, and Coschedule’s told me exactly where I can improve. Here’s one that fared better, even without the emotional twist.

But watch what happens when we add a dollop of emotion — kablam!

Now that’s a clickable headline that can drive traffic to your site and garner shares and engagement — just what you’re looking for when creating unique SEO content.

6 Tips for Writing Down the Line: How Authentic Content Wins Readers

Finally, one of the most tried-and-true SEO content writing tips is to write with passion and with the aim to share something valuable with your reader.

Authenticity and relatability are important, and valuable content drives traffic.

Adweek notes that more than 80% of consumers research before they buy, and your site can offer the information they need.

Or, you can offer a platform for engagement, which draws social sharing readers to you.

Suttida Yang, CEO of Fastmarkit, distills the formula into easy, bite-sized pieces.

1. Create a content calendar.

An SEO content strategy always involves a calendar to help your team coordinate toward a singular content goal. A calendar gives guidance for deadlines and helps with advance planning of strategic releases of pivotal content.

2. Know your audience and segment them into reachable groups.

We already talked about the importance of knowing your audience. If you have more than one persona that typically buys your product or services, then you’ll need to divide your content production efforts among each persona.

3. Make sure your content is evergreen — meaning always useful.

Once you’ve got solid cornerstone content going on, break it up into different pages for each segment of your audience. This can be separate landing pages or by categories in your header or blog.

4. Spread your content around by diversifying.

Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other platforms to share with your audience. The more diverse your content, the more likely it will be seen — and shared.

5. Consistency is key.

Make a style guide and ensure that your team sticks with it. Have one “voice” across all content — whether that’s witty, fun, professional, serious, intellectual, or whatever resonates with your audience.

6. Check and analyze your data.

This will allow you to see what content is working — and what’s not. If something’s not engaging your audience, pivot and try something else.

And finally, because it bears repeating — be authentic with your audience. Give them value and transparency in your content and you’ll win not just readers — but fans.

The SEO Content Creation Roundup

You can’t live in Austin, Texas without throwing the word “roundup” in an article every now and then. It’s authentic — and it just fits.

If you’re looking for a quick recap of all the bright, actionable ideas inside this article, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve explored the basics of SEO copywriting and content creation:

  • Developing a niche target
  • Creating a persona
  • Getting a keyword strategy that performs

Building on that, we looked at great new ways of creating SEO keywords that can grab some of that organic traffic for your website:

  • Long-tail keywords
  • Keyword Phrases
  • Semantic (LSI) keywords
  • Getting keywords from online forums where your audience chats

We’ve looked at new trends in search that are driving changes in SEO content:

  • Voice search
  • Semantic keywords

There’s no denying the importance of content in SEO. We’ve discovered new ways of producing content that wins audiences and encourages sharing:

  • Video content
  • Click-to-Tweet and social media sharing links

And we’ve outlined a few of the most important — and critical — elements of an SEO content creation strategy that should help you drive traffic more effectively once you implement them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the down-low on this year’s most interesting changes in the SEO content creation environment — I know I’ve enjoyed pulling them all together for you.

More importantly, I want you to take what you’ve learned and use it.

SEO copywriting tips aren’t meant to just be shared and forgotten.

They’re meant to take your website — and your SEO content — to a whole, new shareable level.

Need great content? Our team can help. Over 16,500 content projects completed to date, with a 99% client happiness rate. View our pricing here.

SEO experts

31 Interesting SEO Experts to Follow & Learn From On Twitter

SEO can be a tangled web to navigate.

Google updates its algorithm every single day, while regulations for data-sharing and best-practices for ranking change as quickly as the weather.

Who has time to keep track of all that?

Lucky for you, there are credible SEO’ers out there keeping their finger on that pulse, tweeting helpful resources and news articles regularly, and talking about SEO in a down-to-earth way.

It can be immensely helpful (and entertaining, and informative) to follow the top SEO digital marketers.

That way, you’ll know what’s happening in the search engine world – and get real-time updates (guides, trend alerts, Google changes) on Twitter.

Check out these SEOers and follow them so your Twitter feed is more powerful and helpful than ever:

SEO experts

31 Must-Follow SEOers on Twitter (In No Particular Order)

1. Eric Enge


@ericenge and @stonetemple

Eric Enge heads up the award-winning marketing agency, Stone Temple.

Why you should follow: Eric regularly tweets interesting SEO news, articles, and updates under his personal handle and Stone Temple’s account. That includes studies and articles from his own brand, complete with goofy-yet-fun header images starring himself.

2. Rand Fishkin



Rand Fishkin is pretty well-known in the marketing and SEO communities – he co-founded Moz (and now headlines SparkToro) and shared his know-how on Moz’s Whiteboard Fridays.

Why you should follow: Rand regularly tweets about SEO hot topics, but also has dived into entrepreneurship/start-ups, the psychology of web users, and even nerdy-fun topics like his secret passion for Dungeons & Dragons.

3. Jeff Deutsch



Jeff Deutsch is a HubSpot/ contributor and has worked in digital marketing for over 10 years.

Why you should follow: Jeff shares slices of SEO along with interesting tips, tidbits, and resources that are pertinent for any marketer (plus a joke or two).

4. Olga Andrienko



Olga Andrienko is the head of global marketing at SEMrush, which is one of the top SEO tools on the web.

Why you should follow: It’s readily apparent that Olga is super-passionate about SEO and helping people optimize their websites and content. She also posts lots of behind-the-scenes glimpses from SEMrush and notes from SEO conferences.

5. Danny Goodwin



Danny Goodwin is SEJ’s own Executive Editor. He has over 10 years of experience in marketing and has been an editor for Search Engine Watch and Momentology.

Why you should follow: Danny tweets a ton of timely, high-quality articles about SEO and search marketing from around the web. Follow him and get ready to add to your daily reading list.

6. Michael King



Michael King is the founder of iPullRank, a digital marketing agency and consultancy. He’s also an influencer, keynote speaker, and marketing consultant to major brands.

Why you should follow: Michael regularly opens up his twitter posts to chat and answer your most burning questions. He also tweets about hot SEO topics and adds his professional two cents, which makes for interesting reading.

7. Casey Markee



Casey Markee is an SEO writer, speaker, trainer, and marketer. He writes for Search Engine News and is the founder of Media Wyse, an SEO firm.

Why you should follow: If you’d like some SEO smarts with a big side dish of humor, Casey is your guy.

8. Marie Haynes



Marie Haynes is an SEO consultant and an expert on the Google algorithm and its related penalties.

Why you should follow: Since Marie is a self-professed algorithm obsessive, her Twitter feed is chock-full of advice, articles, news, and updates that are ultra-helpful if you want a better understanding of Google search.

9. Bill Slawski



Bill Slawski is the Director of SEO Research at Go Fish Digital, a digital marketing agency. He also runs, a blog for learning absolutely everything about SEO.

Why you should follow: Bill tweets about fresh SEO topics, SEO job opportunities, and engages in conversations with other top SEOers. You’ll learn a ton just by following along.

10. Jenny Halasz



Jenny Halasz is an SEO strategist, the President of JLH Marketing, and a regular speaker at events like Pubcon, SEJSummit, and SMX.

Why you should follow: Jenny isn’t afraid to share her opinions on everything from basic SEO to ranking factors to politics.

11. Nik Ranger



Nik Ranger isn’t an SEOer – rather, she’s a self-described SEO nerd (she’s also a front-woman and electric violinist for her band, Dada Ono).

Why you should follow: If “electric violinist” and “front-woman” weren’t enough for you, Nik also geeks out about SEO regularly, which is fun to follow.

12. Barry Schwartz



Barry Schwartz is the CEO of RustyBrick, a custom web software and digital marketing company. He’s also the founder of the reknowned Search Engine Roundtable and is the News Editor at Search Engine Land.

Why you should follow: Barry keeps tabs on all things Google so you don’t have to – including the latest algorithm updates.

13. John Mueller



John Mueller is Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst. As such, he’s often an important point-of-contact and go-between for Google’s engineers and SEO marketers.

Why you should follow: John is incredibly active on Twitter and what he says is taken very, very seriously concerning Google’s inner-workings. Follow to hear directly from the horse’s mouth (though answers to SEO questions are often notoriously round-about).

14. Danny Sullivan


@dannysullivan and @searchliaison

Danny Sullivan is Google’s official search liaison go-to – that means he’s always working to help people understand search.

Why you should follow: Danny’s tweets @searchliaison continually debunk myths, announce updates, and clear up misinformation concerning Google search.

15. Lisa Barone



Lisa Barone is the Chief Marketing Officer at Overit, a digital marketing agency with high-profile clients.

Why you should follow: Lisa heads up marketing, SEO, social media, content, and more at an extremely successful agency, and her wit and insights are worth adding to your Twitter feed.

16. Jono Alderson



Jono Alderson is a leader in the SEO world, a keynote speaker, and recently joined the team at Yoast.

Why you should follow: Jono often tweets his expert thoughts and opinions about news in tech and SEO, and they’re worth your attention.

17. Brian Dean



Brian Dean is an SEO expert who throws down his advice at Backlinko, which is one of the most popular, informative SEO hubs on the web.

Why you should follow: Brian’s M.O. is “teach[ing] people to get higher rankings in Google.” Follow him to get updates on new blog posts and to read his tips and tricks.

18. Mike Blumenthal



Mike Blumenthal is an expert on local search marketing. He shares his know-how at Local University, which is an organization that teaches 4-hour local SEO seminars and holds SEO events.

Why you should follow: If you need to understand local search marketing better, Mike should be on your “following” list.

19. Mary Bowling



Mike Blumenthal’s counterpart at LocalU is Mary Bowling. Together, they run the “Last Week in Local” video series and podcast. She’s also the co-founder of Ignitor Digital and is a local search expert.

Why you should follow: Mary shares and retweets all things local SEO – follow her to add lots of great articles to your daily industry reading.

20. Cyrus Shephard

cyrus on twitter


As the former Director of SEO at Moz, Cyrus is an absolute wealth of SEO knowledge. His tagline is “Hard SEO made easy.” He blogs and speaks on SEO.

Why you should follow: Cyrus shares blogs and articles that are comprehensive guides on SEO tactics, trends, and best practices.

21. Glenn Gabe



Glenn Gabe is the founder and president of G-Squared Interactive. He’s an expert in SEO, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and more, and has over 20 years of experience in the industry.

Why you should follow: Glenn often takes the time to analyze Google algorithm changes with real-time stats. He’s also one to follow for tweaks to make your SEO better.

22. Joy Hawkins



Joy Hawkins is a contributor for Moz and Google My Business, is a speaker and SEO educator, and runs Sterling Sky, a local SEO agency.

Why you should follow: Want tips to make sure you’re making the most of Google My Business? Follow Joy.

23. Colan Nielsen



Colan Nielsen is a local search expert and the Vice President of the SEO agency, Sterling Sky.

Why you should follow: Colan shares news and articles related to all-things local search – great if you’re a small business depending on SEO to help local customers find you.

24. Darren Shaw



Darren Shaw is the founder of Whitespark, a local SEO services and software company. He also fronted the local search ranking factors survey, where over 40 SEOers weighed in about how to rank in local search.

Why you should follow: Darren is a top voice in the local SEO community, and regularly shares his expertise.

25. Michelle Robbins



Michelle Robbins is the Editor-in-Chief at Search Engine Land, MarTech Today, and Marketing Land. She also heads Third Door Media, and is a keynote speaker who often throws down knowledge at industry events and conferences.

Why you should follow: Michelle tweets news and articles straight from the SEO front lines. Plus, she’s an inspiring leader in the tech and SEO worlds.

26. Anna Crowe



Anna Crowe is an SEO consultant and a writer at SEJ. She also heads her own SEO and digital marketing business, Anna Branding & Co.

Why you should follow: Anna is another great example of a savvy woman in SEO land. Besides SEO news and info, she also tweets funny and relatable slices of life.

27. Christine Churchill



Christine Churchill is an online marketing and SEO guru who knows her way around keyword research. She’s also the President of KeyRelevance, a search engine marketing agency.

Why you should follow: Along with SEO insights, Christine also tweets dispatches straight from industry events, conferences, and meet-ups.

28. John Doherty



John Doherty is the CEO of both Credo and Single Geared, and is an SEO consultant who works with big clients Like The New York Times and Hired.

Why you should follow: John tweets tips and advice from his place in the SEO hot seat, and frequently lets loose an expert opinion or two about the search marketing industry.

29. James Finlayson



James Finlayson is a former lawyer-turned-SEO expert. He’s the Head of Search at Verve Search with regular speaking gigs.

Why you should follow: James is knowledgeable and involved with the SEO community, and his posts and tweets reflect that perfectly.

30. Debra Mastaler



Along with her role as the Features Editor at Search Engine Land, Debra Mastaler is also a link-building consultant at her company, Alliance-Link.

Why you should follow: Debra shares lots of timely SEO articles and keeps her followers updated with her industry speaking engagements.

31. Julie Joyce



Julie Joyce is the owner of her own link building company, Link Fish Media. She also co-founded SEO Chicks and regularly contributes to Search Engine Land.

Why you should follow: Lots of link building humor (yes, it’s a thing), plus witty commentary and sharing of SEO link building articles and resources.

Have a favorite SEO expert not listed? Tell us in the comments!


how to find seo keywords

Your Nutshell Guide: How to Find Killer SEO Keywords for Your Online Content

What’s one way to make sure your content gets search engine-indexed, ranked, and, ultimately, discovered by users in your target niche?

I’m sure you already know the answer from the headline – you need SEO keywords.

More importantly, you need to know how to find SEO keywords.

Why? Because the benefits are incredible.

When you target the right keywords and use them to optimize your amazing content:

  • You’ll start ranking for those keywords.
  • You’ll hit desirable top spots in the SERPS.
  • You’ll drive much more profitable traffic to your website.
    • Take a look at this chart from Ignite Visibility that shows how much your click-through rate increases as you climb into the top 5 spots on Google for a keyword. When you hit #1, your CTR makes a huge leap from 13.32% to 20.5%.

  • More clicks and more profitable traffic will lead to:
    • Leads
    • Conversions
    • Followers
    • Sales
    • Unicorns and rainbows (not literally, but you’ll FEEL just as magical as these things – like you’re an SEO wizard)

That’s a LONG pathway of benefits.

And with Facebook ad costs up 43%, and 30% of all internet users using adblockers, it’s even more important than ever to make sure you’re honing on the right keywords and building great onsite, organic content.

In essence, you’re building content people want to find.

It’s an investment for your future.

So, how do you find the right ones that will amount to traffic boosts, lead boosts, and conversion boosts?

I’m going to show you, step-by-step, using two of my favorite tools for keyword research and discovery (KWFinder by Mangools, and SEMrush).

Let’s do this.

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how to find seo keywords

How to Find the Right SEO Keywords for Your Online Content in SEMrush

The right keywords are ones that give you opportunities to break into the rankings – and maybe even climb past all the other results to hit that coveted #1 position.

These high-opportunity keywords all follow a specific formula. Usually, they:

  • Are specific (A.K.A. long tail keywords)
  • Have low search competition (don’t confuse this metric with keyword difficulty – competition shows how many advertisers are bidding to show up in paid spots in results for the keyword)
  • Have relatively high search volume (people are actually typing them into Google)
  • Have low keyword difficulty (a score that rates how hard it is to rank for a keyword)
    • Most keyword tools have their own method for calculating difficulty scores. For example, here’s how KWFinder does it:

If this is a lot to take in, I get it. These criteria seem like a lot to juggle at first.

But that’s what I’m sharing today – I’m answering the ultimate question:

How do you find SEO keywords that fit ALL of these factors?

Let’s see what that process looks like in SEMrush.

1. Start with a Relevant, Broad Search Term with Potential

To narrow down keywords in SEMrush, start by searching for a keyword you think has potential.

For example, if I sell graphic t-shirts in my online store, I would research the term “graphic t-shirts.”

As you can see, this keyword has an average organic search volume of 6.6K searches per month. But, check out the competition.

We’re looking at .93.

That’s almost 100% competition, which means you’re up against tough luck.

Another thing to consider is that even though you may net many of these numbers in search volume, few will be qualified to buy. The search term is too broad: They’re probably at the early stages in the buying cycle, and haven’t made a decision on what to buy yet. So, this traffic potential is useless for your bottom line.

For even more proof, when I plug “graphic t-shirts” into Keyword Explorer, it rates 44 on a difficulty scale of 1-100. In general, scoring 50 or above means it’s impossible to rank for the phrase.

While this ranks below 50, it’s a best-practice to only use keywords that rank at 40 or below. Lower difficulty = lower competition = higher ROI.

So, we’ve ruled out using this keyword in our SEO. We need to get more specific to find a better option.

We need a long tail keyword.

2. Use Your Broad Term as a Root, and Go Long Tail

“Graphic t shirts” is too broad. How do we make this root keyword more specific?

We add to it.

Let’s try “women’s graphic t shirts.”

Search volume is 5.4K for this one. That’s better, but still too high. Let’s look at the “related keywords” to see if there’s an option with lower competition.

“Womens graphic tee shirts” has an average monthly search volume of 210. I would need to do a little more research on keyword difficulty and brand competition, but this could be a good option for SEO.

3. Dig Deeper – Check Keyword Difficulty and Search Volume

To dig deeper, I could click on “View full report” to view all the related keyword possibilities. Then I could sort them by keyword difficulty and search volume to find my sweet spot.

The sweet spot, where a keyword is balanced between low keyword difficulty, low competition, and high search volume, is ultimately what you’re looking for.

Tip: Use More Than One Tool to Find Great SEO Keywords (How to Use KWFinder)

One of my number one tips for how to find SEO keywords is to NEVER rely on one tool exclusively.

Instead, use multiple tools to double-check your research and compare how each tool rates keyword difficulty, measures search volume, and more.

Here’s what I mean:

In SEMrush, “women’s graphic tee shirts” looks like a solid SEO keyword option with high potential.

To make sure I’m on the right track, I’m going to turn to another one of my favorite SEO tools, KWFinder, to double-check.

As you can see, KWFinder gives this keyword a difficulty rating of 37, or “still easy.”

Plus, the search volume is 260/month, but many of those searchers could be in a later stage of the buyer’s journey.

There’s definitely potential here.

Now that I’ve double-checked the results for this keyword, I’m 101% confident I can use it in my content advantageously.

How to Find SEO Keywords: Research, Research, Research

To find profitable, high-ROI keywords that can net you fantastic results, you need to dig in and do the research.

These keywords are not going to fall out of the sky and into your lap. You won’t magically come up with them through brainstorming, either.

For the best results, you have to make sure the keywords you use are backed up with data.

Look at the numbers (keyword difficulty, search volume, and competition) and try to find the best balance of all three metrics for every keyword you go after.

This is the road to help your content not only hit the SERPs, but also climb to the top of page one.

It’s not magic; it’s just smart, consistent, and sometimes grueling research.

Do the work, learn as you go, and that SERP mountain won’t seem so daunting anymore.

seo writing

SEO Writing in 2018: 6 Features of High-Ranking, High-Traffic Content

I’d bet you that SEO writing is on 99.99999% of marketers’ minds these days.


Well, in our current atmosphere of content shock, internet users are bombarded with a mountain of new SEO blogs and articles, each second.

In SEO content and ALL brand content, you must stand out on every level to get read.

On WordPress alone, over 86.4 million posts are published each month.



If you can’t position yourself advantageously for the search engines, you may as well throw the rest of your content marketing out the window.

And, if you can’t get people to read your content, you will chuck any potential leads and sales into the trash, too.

So, yes: SEO writing and all online content is a big deal, and we all want to know how to do it the best way.

seo writing

“What does SEO writing look like in 2018?”

Someone recently asked this great question in my group:

“I’ve done research, and I cannot seem to get a defined answer/list together. It’s about ‘SEO-Friendly’ Content/SEO Optimized Content.

One SEO Consultant told me just yesterday blog posts should be more than 1k words, another last month said it was 750+. From a separate angle, one individual said I needed to have a keyword density of 5%, the other said 10% and someone else said to only use a keyword 5 times per 500 words of text!

So, my question is to you all is this: What does SEO-friendly/optimized content look like in 2018, what does it mean to you to produce SEO Opt. content, and what are the ideal lengths of posts right now?

Thanks, Elizabeth Madison!

Lining up with what Elizabeth said, you’ll see SEO guides all over the internet telling you different things to do.

Every single marketer offers a different answer, and it’s all conflicting information.

A prime example: blog length for SEO. What’s the right amount of words to appeal to the masses?

Here are recommendations from various authority sources:

  • Yoast says you should always post blogs with more than 300 words. They also say experienced writers should shoot for over 1,000 words with every post, while less experienced scribes can stay around the 700-800 mark.


  • Meanwhile, HubSpot focused on research that says posts with an average 7-minute read time are the biggest attention-grabbers. If the average reader goes at a pace of 300 words per minute, that means your blogs should be 2,000-2,500 words in length.


  • And then there’s Neil Patel, who makes post length recommendations based on industry. For instance, those in retail should aim for 1,500-1,700 words per post, while brands in finance should go for 2,100-2,500 words.

With all the conflicting posts out there with various recommendations, it’s no wonder so many marketers are scratching their heads.

What’s the right answer?

First: There Is No Perfect, Definitive SEO Strategy

It’s incorrect to assume there’s one “be-all, end-all” answer to doing SEO.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one secret formula, one so-easy-it’s-stupid hack, or even one sure-fire, fail-safe method.

If an SEO gives you what they say is the definitive answer, they’re completely ignoring a vital factor.

SEO content that’s highly-ranked and high-traffic is complex and layered. It doesn’t fit one mold.

Why isn’t there one perfect way to do SEO?

Because SEO will always look different depending on the audience you’re serving.

Your specific audience determines the keywords that will work for your content. They also determine the most successful length for your blog posts, the type of content that performs well, and how it all ties together.

Your SEO is going to look different from Joe Shmoe’s because you are not keying into the same targets.

THAT is why you can find so many different answers for SEO best practices all over the web. SEO is audience-specific!

Second: Good SEO Writing Is Written for HUMANS

So there’s no perfect SEO formula – it looks different for every individual situation, site, audience, and purpose.

Now that we have that out of the way, the second thing to remember is SEO algorithms are built to work, think, and rank the way humans would.

It’s truer than true. The ultimate goal is for algorithms to ape human logic. As they get smarter, they get closer to miming human cognition (though, thankfully, this isn’t The Matrix… yet).

the matrix

In fact, according to The Conversation, Google’s tech experts have been tapping neuroscientists to help them understand the human brain better.

They want to apply that knowledge to the search algorithm. If it can search more like a human, then it will serve user search intent better. (There’s a reason they call it “RankBrain.”)

We have to remember, ALWAYS, that Google’s purpose is to serve the end user the content they want – the stuff they want to click.

We have to align ourselves with this thinking to perform better. We have to create human-centric content.

Even though Google’s algorithm is a robot, we cannot write for the robot. We have to write for the humans the robot is trying to serve.

4 More SEO Writing Techniques That Will Help Your Content Rank Higher

Let’s reiterate:

  • There’s no perfect SEO method. Your best SEO practices must be yours: tailored to your audience’s search needs.
  • You have to write content for humans, not machines.

What other content features will not only make your people want to read it, but also help Google find it and serve it to them?

Over the years, I’ve tested and published thousands of blogs. From my experience, I’ve come to these conclusions.

You must:

1. Choose Keywords Carefully

When you find the right keyword to use, your ranking potential skyrockets.

You can’t just pick one at random, however. You have to evaluate each possible keyword and understand how it could (or couldn’t) work for you in your content.

For example, most keyword tools rate the difficulty of a keyword on a scale from 1-100. (A score of 100 basically means the keyword is impossible to rank for.) I never choose a keyword that’s rated over 40.

An example of a keyword difficulty rating in Moz Keyword Explorer. Breaking onto Google’s first page for a broad term like “content marketing” is pretty much impossible.

2. Use High-Opportunity Keywords with Potential

Your SEO writing will be a waste if you try to rank for a keyword that’s already tapped out.

“Tapped out” means somebody else has created the absolute best content piece out there for that keyword.

You have to comb through the search results and analyze the high-ranking pieces to find out if this is the case. You also have to know what awesome, definitive content looks like.

If someone has beaten you to creating AMAZING content for a keyword, move on. There’s no potential for you there. Trash that keyword and find something else.

3. Create Long-Form Content, i.e., Content That’s Thorough

Content that’s exhaustive on a topic, well thought-out, and chock-full of great information is thorough – and it’s usually long-form.

Comprehensive content ranks.

2,000 words is often the minimum length for thorough content, according to Neil Patel – though this can change a bit depending on your topic or the audience you’re serving. (Remember, the right content length for good SEO is RELATIVE, not a static, rigid metric.)

4. Add Quantifiable Value to Your SEO Writing

Adding value to your content marketing copy is a must for your human readers and SEO. Those 2K words of content are useless if you don’t add valuable, teachable insights to them.

What does value look like?

For starters, it’s not just your thoughts and opinions.

It’s data.

Data includes:

  • Facts
  • Statistics
  • Studies
  • The point of view of experts
  • Supporting information in general

Here’s an example of one of our blogs ranking in the top 3 for “blogging statistics“.

One of the main reasons it’s ranking well is because we deep-researched to find credible stats. This took weeks of work.

But that effort more than paid off. Adding that value helps content rank, and in this case, we dug deep to find relevant, useful, accurate stats and figures.

That’s quantifiable value you can point to in a post and say, “Yes, this is informative and helps/teaches/enlightens my audience.”

Here’s How to Give Your SEO Copywriting for Content Marketing Its Best Shot

At one of the most basic levels of successful content marketing, your posts and content need Google and other search engines to pick them up.

How do search engines pick up content, and how does that content start ranking?

Effective SEO writing.

The Catch-22 about effective SEO writing, though, is it’s not written for the search engine robots. Nor does it adhere to one set of rules.

It’s written for humans, and it’s audience and site-specific.

Keep these two biggies in mind when approaching your copywriting in content marketing, and the rest should fall into place with far more ease.

The end result:

You’ll be giving your content every chance it deserves to rank well and get read.

Need more insights, tips, tools, and information about how to create content marketing gold? You need my all-access course. You’ll not only learn about SEO writing, you’ll also learn how to build your content marketing strategy from the ground up, brick-by-brick. Sound good? Let’s get started together.

content strategy course cta