How to Write & Publish Authority-Building SEO Blogs in 2019 (SEMrush Webinar Recap)

How to Write & Publish Authority-Building SEO Blogs in 2019 (SEMrush Webinar Recap)

A few weeks ago, on February 11, I gave a talk for SEMrush on one of my favorite topics – writing and publishing authority building blogs and SEO content.
We had hundreds of viewers live, and lots of great questions!
To help out those of you who couldn’t attend, and for those who were just too busy for the almost-two-hour talk I gave (!!), we’re recapping the entire webinar here on the Write Blog. 📺📝
I cover everything you need to know, including why inbound content ROCKS, and how to create strong content that gets results, step-by-step.
Ready to learn? Let’s get into the nitty-gritty, including why ads are dying and why inbound marketing/blogging is the way forward in 2019.
Read the recap of the live talk @JuliaEMcCoy gave for @semrush in February, on #authority building #SEO content 🔥 Click To Tweet
authority building SEO blogs

The Talk: Secrets to Writing Authority-Building SEO Blogs in 2019

Like video content better? Watch a replay of the 1.49 hour session on YouTube:

The Recap: Secrets to Writing Authority-Building SEO Blogs in 2019

As promised, here’s our written recap of the top takeaways from my talk!

Why Blog? The State of Advertising is Dismal

The state of advertising is pretty bad when you look at the conversion numbers.
Compared to 3 years ago, conversion rates on advertising have dipped ridiculously low. In 2016, the average return on ad spend (ROAS) was 11.88x. Today, that number has dropped to 0.66x.
(Read all about the dreary state of advertising in this recap of The Ad Strategist’s report.)

By comparison, blogging and content marketing look awesome.
Seriously: Inbound is THE future of marketing.
For instance, did you know Google is the most-visited website in the world? YouTube and Facebook hold the next two top spots, but they still aren’t anywhere close to Google’s traffic numbers (nearly 3.5 billion searches per day!).

When you build authority SEO content on your website, you build your Google authority simultaneously. That’s because Google will crawl your blogs and rank them, giving them a position in the search engine results. Since Google grabs so much traffic, that could be beyond powerful for growing your web presence.
To build authority, your content has to be amazing, strategic, researched, and well-crafted. Your content platform (your website) must be user-friendly and well-designed.
You have to do it all (or, if you’re a smart delegator, make sure it all gets done).
Don’t worry, though – where there’s a way, there’s a will. And there IS a way. Follow me!
To build authority, your content has to be amazing, strategic, researched, and well-crafted. Your content platform, your site, must be user-friendly and well-designed. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

How to Write and Publish Authoritative, GOOD Content: 6 Strategic Steps

It’s time to dive into authority-building content creation. Get ready for greatness!

1. Make Sure Your Website is Right

A useful, user-friendly website needs to be the bottom layer of your online presence cake. Without this crucial piece in place, you won’t see any real results from your content.
A strong website is what makes your content eligible to rank in the first place. Our site at Express Writers gets nearly 4,000 organic visitors daily from our blog and content rankings (we currently rank for over 16,000 keywords). Those numbers wouldn’t be possible without a strong website serving as the foundation.
What does a strong website look like? Using our site as an example, the top 5 elements are illustrated below.

  • Strong sites are built on trusted platforms, like WordPress, which is one of the most robust SEO blogging tools out there.
  • They load quickly – under 2 seconds is ideal. According to Google, as page load time increases from one second to 10 seconds, a site visitor is 123% more likely to bounce.
  • The page copy is simple, clear, and easy to read. CTAs are also clear, strategically placed, and stand out.
  • Sites should have cohesive branding and design that don’t mess with site speed and page load times (no heavy images or videos!).
  • Communication apps, pop-ups, and chatbots are minimized so they don’t annoy your visitors.

2. Map Your Blog Topic to Your Goals

Before you even start writing or outlining, your goals should mark your content trajectory.
Before you even start writing or outlining, your goals should mark your content trajectory. @JuliaEMcCoy #blogging Click To Tweet
How will your blog help you advance to your goals? Will it increase your brand awareness? Build trust and loyalty with readers? Capture leads and grow your following?
Whatever you hope to achieve, make sure each blog you put out aligns with either an overarching goal or a smaller goal that paves the way to bigger successes.

Answering the following questions can help further nail down your goals for each blog you write:

  • Who are you writing this blog to? What questions can you answer for them on this topic?
  • What format will this content take? Is it suited for a long-form, in-depth blog post, or does it lend itself better to a visually stunning infographic? Remember, blogs aren’t your only option for content creation.
  • When will you publish the blog? Can you strategically tie it to a season or holiday?
  • Where will you publish? To build authority, you should focus on publishing most blogs to your website. However, posting to guest blogs from time to time can give your brand more exposure.

3. Do Strategic Research

After mapping your blog content to goals, the next step is to dive into strategic research.
First up, that means keyword research.

Don’t start with any random industry keyword, though – begin with your audience’s pain points and research keywords that hit on their problems. You want to find keywords that tie to the questions they’re asking in Google so you can position your content as a solution they’ll find in search results.
Using a tool like SEMrush during keyword research is immensely helpful. It will give you vital data about your keyword including keyword difficulty (KD) and related keywords you can use in your blog.

Some tips:

  • For the KD metric, you want to make sure you’re avoiding a number that’s too competitive. Keywords rated at 50 and above are generally super-hard to rank for unless you already have mountains of domain authority built up.
  • When we initially went after the “blogging statistics” keyword, the KD was right around 30-40, or still “possible” to rank for. Now, the KD has shot up to around 65!
  • With that in mind, don’t do keyword research once and call it done. Metrics like KD and search volume are constantly changing. Do continual, ongoing research and keep yourself up-to-date.

Next, after you find the right keyword, it’s time to do some competitive analysis. This just means typing your potential keyword into Google and studying the top search results.
For example, at EW, we wanted to rank for the keyword “blogging statistics”. When we looked at the competition in Google, we saw some opportunities:

  • Every single blog was comprehensive, with word counts averaging 2,000. One blog even had 5,200 words. That meant our blog needed to be long-form and in-depth, too. Creating a blog that sat right around 2,500 words was a good idea.
  • None of the blogs were current, or were messily formatted. These represented chances to create something better.

Don’t start with any random industry keyword when researching your #keywords – begin with your audience’s pain points and research keywords that hit on their problems. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

4. Invest in Blog Quality

To create a better blog than the competition, you need to invest in quality during the content creation phase.
To create a better blog than the competition, you need to invest in quality during the content creation phase. @JuliaEMcCoy on #powerful #blogging Click To Tweet
For our piece targeting the keyword “blogging statistics”, we particularly focused on a couple major keys to ensure we ended up with a killer blog, one that would outrank the top 5 position-holders on Google:

  • Well-written
  • Well-formatted
  • 2,500 words, comprehensive
  • A minimum of 50 statistics, pulled from research, so marketing readers would have an incredible list to use to get buy-in from their bosses or clients
  • Custom images to break up the text, including shareable quote cards
  • The quote cards gathered together into a free, downloadable PowerPoint presentation so we could build our list from the traffic coming in from a desirable Google search position

Once we planned on these must-haves for quality, all that was left to do was invest in the creation itself:

  • Enlisting the help of one of my writers at Express Writers
  • Having my designer do the quote cards
  • Getting the piece proofread by my editors
  • Doing my own read-throughs and edits

All told, the timeline for a high-quality blog like this is approximately 2 weeks from start to finish.

Why is blog quality such a big deal?
Besides the fact that you’re trying to outrank the competition, quality is one of the major ways Google evaluates your website. It’s not just about great design – it’s about depth and breadth of content.
As Eric Enge said recently in an SEO trends roundup on Search Engine Journal,

“The sites that provided exceptional depth in quality content coverage literally soared in rankings throughout the year. Sites that were weaker in their content depth suffered in comparison.”

5. Leverage Authority Content in Multiple Ways

When you finish up a high-quality, high-authority, investment-worthy blog, you will probably have a lot of different “items” that go with the text itself.
For example, for our “blogging statistics” piece, we ended up with:

  • The 2,500-word blog
  • Supporting images to break up the text and share on social media
  • The free downloadable (all the quote cards gathered together in a PowerPoint)
  • The landing page we created for it to capture leads

Each of these items is valuable on their own AND when put together in the finished blog. Once the initial creation is over, we can repurpose these pieces to maximize our ROI.
That said, don’t be fooled. It takes TONS of work to produce a blog that’s accurately researched, expertly written, and designed with extras. For busy marketers and entrepreneurs, delegating tasks is essential to getting it all done in a timely manner. (To do it all alone, you would need about 8 sets of hands. Nobody is an octopus, we’re human and we all need help. 🐙)
To reiterate, here are all the steps broken down for your review. This is truly what it takes to create a high-ranking SEO blog in 2019:

  1. Know your SEO content goals.
  2. Publish on your site consistently. Make sure your site is awesome.
  3. Research your audience’s pain points.
  4. Look for low-competition keywords to target.
  5. Study the competition in Google to see what you need to do better to edge into the rankings.
  6. Invest in blog quality – think long-form and comprehensive.
  7. Add different formats to your blog to make it go the extra mile.
  8. Set a strategic time to publish the blog.
  9. Delegate blog creation or write it up yourself.
  10. Round up the finished pieces and schedule to publish inside your WordPress site.

Want to Build Your Blogging Authority? Put in the Work!

Yes, to really and truly build your online authority, you need to put in the planning, strategizing, research, and work to get it done.
Here’s the thing: It’s all worth it in the end.
Once you have those authority-building steps down, you can repeat them for every blog you create. They will become your second nature, and it will get easier to get that work done. You’ll learn as you go, getting better and better at putting out incredible, ROI-building, authoritative blogs.
Pretty soon, the expert will be you!
We now do slide presentation and design at Express Writers. See our rates!
slide content express writers

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

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.
Facebook ad costs are up 43%. 30% of all internet users using adblockers. It's never been a more critical time to build #SEO content that works. Learn how to do it in @JuliaEMcCoy's guide Click To Tweet
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.

Why Keyword Research is Vital to a Strong Content Presence Online & Our Favorite Tools

Why Keyword Research is Vital to a Strong Content Presence Online & Our Favorite Tools

Ongoing, consistent keyword research is critical to a strong online presence.
While keyword research has seen its share of changes over the years, it remains a useful part of content creation.
Keyword research is online ROI. 
Real, true, return-on-investment: find the right keywords, and you can create content with the potential for high Google rankings inside the next year (remember, content is a long-term investment). Using the right keywords allows you to use the direct terms of your customers and target audience.
Keyword research is the tool you use to spread your message and stand out in your field. Every content developer worth his or her words knows it is a piece of the bigger picture when it comes to ranking and reaching.
Understanding why, and how, will add vitality to your brand’s presence. Skimp here, and you’ll find yourself stuck in the same place with the same results. But there is a way to dive in, find the right keywords, and strengthen your online presence. Let’s discuss!
keyword research and discovery

Why Consistent Keyword Research Is Fundamental to a Strong Online Presence

Let’s dive in with three big reasons why keyword research is vital to a strong presence.

1. Consistent keyword research helps you get to know and understand your ideal target persona.

Focusing too much on specific keywords without a focus on the user behind the screen is a big mistake.
Keywords are the words we are trying to rank for, but your buyer persona doesn’t really care about the “keyword” itself. What they care about is finding the best results for their search term.
When you type something into a Google search, you have a purpose. Your goal is to find out more information about a new restaurant, read a news story, or look for a local service.
This means that one simple change in a word can produce far different results.
It’s all about intent.
Example: When someone searches for “hire a gardener” on Google, the first results are fairly generic and include results from sites like Home Advisor, WikiHow, and Gardens Illustrated. These are general how-to guides aimed at anyone who wants to know how to plant a flower, when to weed, and what type of fertilizer works best. The results are not specific to location or service type.
google general results
But change that search to “hire a gardener in Austin,” and the results are much different.
google search on gardeners
With the addition of just a few more words, we see the best gardeners in the Austin area based on reviews from other customers. These are meant for those searchers who are far into the process and want real answers.
There is intent behind this specific search.
By understanding how a user will search, you can narrow your focus and dive deeper into keyword research, rather than just stringing words together. This will allow you to craft focused content, target your persona, and see results.
Content creators often make the mistake of spending too much time on specific phrases and terms while neglecting to understand the user intent behind the words. Rather than try to guess what your audience means by a search query, keyword research helps you understand the intent behind the language.

2. Consistent keyword research keeps it natural.

How we search on the web has changed significantly over the past few decades. The rise of voice search and advanced technology has contributed to the way we look for everything from pizza delivery to books on Amazon.
Today, users are more likely to phrase a search as a question, as if they are talking to a friend, rather than searching with just two or three words.
Or in some cases, they search online the same way they ask Alexa or Siri a question. It’s natural and less stuffy.

This trend toward more natural language is due to a few factors, including:
Search engine capabilities: No one wants to sit and string together a bunch of keyword combinations, especially as they search through a mobile device. We are searching quickly, and we don’t have time to wait around for an answer.
Search technology: Google welcomes complex questions, as explained in this blog post, and the search engine understands more specific queries. Technology is keeping pace, and the faster it answers, the faster the user expects it to be.
Search through digital assistants: Ask Alex, Cortana, or your smartphone, and you’ll get an answer. Here is what Will Oremus from Slate had to say about the future of search in the wake of these popular devices:

In the beginning, computers spoke only computer language, and a human seeking to interact with one was compelled to do the same. First came punch cards, then typed commands…the 1980s brought the mouse click and the graphical user interface to the masses; the 2000s, touch screens; the 2010s, gesture control and voice. It has all been leading, gradually and imperceptibly, to a world in which we no longer have to speak computer language, because computers will speak human language—not perfectly, but well enough to get by. And the implications…will be tremendous. (Slate)

Using long-tail keywords in a natural way will reach your audience quicker as they search, which will make your communication more effective and specific. 

3. Consistent keyword research brings relevancy and leaves an impression.

When content creators take the time to find the most relevant and meaningful keywords for their target group – which happens when we understand our audience – it changes everything. Relevant, long-tail keywords contribute to successful SEO and more qualified traffic.
Here is the truth: if someone is searching with a long-tail keyword in the form of a question, and you have optimized for shorter keywords that don’t hold meaning, your results will not be as relevant.
We can challenge ourselves here to go even beyond just relevant content and strive to produce amazing content. Relevance combined with amazing equals results that will go beyond our expectations.
How do we find relevant terms, those that our target audience is searching for? With consistent keyword research.

3 of Our Favorite SEO Search Tools

When you’re ready to dive into keyword research, here are some of our favorite tools you can use right now. Check ‘em out!

1. SEMrush

This killer SEO tool performs keyword research, tracks keyword strategy used by your competition, runs an SEO audit of your blog, and looks for backlink opportunities, just to name a few of the features. SEMrush houses a database of over 46 million domains and 120 million keywords while tracking the organic position of a domain and competitor analysis.

 2. KWFinder

This keyword research and analysis tool offers real-time keyword SEO difficulty and generates long-tail keywords related to your niche that your competitors may be missing. Perform a search on a keyword and the site will analyze, providing you with an SEO competition score out of 100, giving you the keyword difficulty based on comparison across the market.
Also, one reason I love this tool is the absolutely gorgeous UX. I mean, what other tool is this pretty?
 kwfinder 2017

3. AnswerThePublic

This cool search tool grabs and maps keyword suggestions and predictions with a free visual report. The common Google and Bing autosuggest reports show you what is actually being searched for based on the keyword you enter.
A recent AnswerThePublic search for “online content writing” resulted in this visual and alphabetical list.
The site works to automate the gathering of questions related to your keyword, creating a visualization of the data so you can answer more effectively. The insight you can gain is invaluable and may serve as a jumpstart to relevant long-tail keyword creation for content writers.
answerthepublic 2
Of course, you can only use this tool if you’re comfortable doing so while having a stranger stare at you and, at times, pick his teeth. 😉

Are Keywords Still Relevant? The Big Ticket Question Discussed

 When it comes to keyword research and its effectiveness for online content, the opinions are as varied as a can of fruit cocktail.
I talk about this question more in-depth in my recent post, Is Keyword Density Dead?
TL;DR: keyword density is certainly dead. But keywords themselves are certainly not.
While keywords may not be the only factor we now consider, they remain an important part of content development in a world of ever-changing SEO and technology.
In fact, long-tail keywords (those with more than four words) still account for 50% of search queries, which reminds us that it’s important to use them in page titles and content, in internal links, and in user-generated reviews.


Keyword research has changed, but the goal of creating quality content remains the same.
When brands and website owners commit to understanding their audience, keeping the word flow as natural as possible, and staying relevant, the results will be a solid offering that meets the reader right where they are.

Are you ready to build the cornerstone of great content? Our Content Strategists are trained to do just that in our Keyword Strategy service! Connect with us today and let’s get to work.

The Write Podcast, Episode 7: Best SEO Research Practices for Your Online Content with Michael Stricker from SEMrush

The Write Podcast, Episode 7: Best SEO Research Practices for Your Online Content with Michael Stricker from SEMrush

Have I ever mentioned that I love SEMrush? Seriously, it’s my favorite SEO and digital marketing software (and it’s a favorite among lots of other people); they have an amazing weekly Twitter chat, #semrushchat, that attracts hundreds of people discussing everything from content marketing to SEO; check out their software at
So, you can imagine how honored I was to have Michael, the US Marketing Director at SEMrush, join me for an episode of The Write Podcast. He’s amassed quite an expert background as a lead consultant on SEO, SMM, ORM, CRO, and inbound marketing for clients ranging from national brands to Fortune 500 companies. Michael has been an international expert speaker for PubCon, AdTech, SMX East and many other marketing events.
In today’s episode, Michael discusses overall strategies on SEO keyword research techniques, and here’s the cool part—he’s thinking of a busy person with not a lot of time on their hands to spend solely on keyword research. So, these tips are for just for you!
Michael is a savvy, well-versed SEO expert who’s fun to talk to and even more fun to listen to. You’ll enjoy this episode!
michael stricker best seo practices for online content

In Episode 7 of The Write Podcast, I’ve asked Michael’s insights on:

  • How would you invest just 10 minutes and do really effective SEO research?
  • How would you specifically suggest using SEMrush for SEO research?
  • How can businesses find real topics that their prospects might be searching right now?
  • How can businesses add SEO to their content marketing effectively?
  • Name a few trends for better content marketing and SEO in 2016

As always, the full transcription is provided below. Enjoy!
If you like what you hear, I’d love it if you would leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show and it’s ranking in iTunes. I appreciate it—enjoy the show!

Episode 7 Best SEO Research Practices for Your Online Content with Michael Stricker from SEMrush

Julia: Welcome to episode 7 in The Write Podcast.
This is your host Julia McCoy. And I’m here today with Michael Stricker, the US Marketing Director at SEMrush, which is the leading tool for competitive intelligence online. Michael is an international speaker. He’s appeared in the LinkedIn Sophisticated Marketer Podcast, he’s spoken at Pubcon, AdTech, Hero Conference, and SMX East, just to name a few.
Michael, I’m really excited to have you on today.
Michael: Julie I’m thrilled to be here, thanks for inviting me.
Julia: Absolutely. So a good topic to pick your brain on would be SEO research techniques, content marketing for businesses. To start that off, give us some insights. How to invest a short amount of time and do really effective SEO research.
Michael: Sure. This thing about techniques that you can apply, that only take a few minutes because my impression is that, your listeners are largely gonna be content marketers, content writers?
Julia: Right. Right.
Michael: Copywriters, and so for that audience, correct me if I’m wrong, but these people don’t wanna spend all day swimming around in a data analysis tool such as SEMRush.
Julia: [LAUGH] Exactly. [LAUGH]
Michael: They got jobs to do, and maybe even some of them are piecework, and so they need to write, and the point is to get to that as rapidly as possible. But to be effective so that when you finish the job and a week or so goes by, and somebody sees that their traffic acquisition is going up, maybe their rank for particular keywords is going up, and especially if they’re delivering a good experience for users, and actually converting business, then they’re gonna call you back.
And they’re gonna say, hey, I want that copywriter again. So just to cut to the quick, I wanna talk about the way that a content writer should understand what stage of a path to purchase that they’re writing for. And it sounds maybe a little daunting to some people. But basically, you’re thinking about like four or you call them five stages.
One is an issue. You got a problem. You see the questions that people ask, and you can look this up in key word research, and people are asking questions literary like I have a stain in my clothes. Or I have ring in my sink, or whatever, and they’re looking for a possible set of solutions for that.
The next thing is they’re comparing solutions and it’s okay. Would I rather hire a plumber, or get some Ajax, or what would I do about this ring in my sink? And then if they get to the point where they’re actually thinking about replacing the sink and hiring a plumber, they are gonna want to qualify.
So they are gonna wanna qualify different kinds of plumbers, and are they in their area, and oh. Now the final stage. How much does it cost? And that’s the final transactional stage and if you can catch people at those four or five various points through their journey to buying, and aim your content at one of those four points or five points, then you’re gonna be that much more effective.
The thing is to have a sense for what’s called the funnel. Oh, there’s a word, there’s term. So probably know what the funnel is, but know what stage of the funnel you’re writing for. And so as a content writer you might have to talk to the website owner, you might have to talk to the client if you’re working with an agency, or something like that.
You wanna get as close to the final decision maker, the stakeholder if you will, get as close to that person as you can. And they may actually be impressed if you ask them, am I writing for top of funnel, people with issues, am I just trying to acquire traffic, or am I trying to help you close a deal with a particular product or service in mind? And that’s gonna affect what it is that you’re looking for when you do the keyword research.
Julia: I think that’s a great breakdown.
And going back to that first step addressing topics that people search for, I love that. That’s one of the ways that we create content that seems to really answer big questions out there. And going back to that finding those initial topics would you say that long tail keywords play into that? Which type of keywords?
Michael: Yeah.
So the keywords at the top of the funnel are the short keywords, the issues, oh, bathtub ring, or sunhat or something. By the time you get down to the bottom of the funnel you’re talking long tail because the searcher has a lot more information, and now they are actually maybe using a brand name, a product name, a size, accessories, colors they’re using all of this words, and it can be five or more words long.
And the longer the term, the longer the keyword, usually the closer somebody is to some form of transaction. So yes. If you’re at the bottom of the funnel you’re looking for longer keywords. And if all you wanna do is bring traffic in, you can think a little shorter. But I think that the lie, sort of, in SEO is that some day you’re gonna be ranking number one for a single keyword, like the word hat, and the chances of you ranking number one for hat against companies that have sold nothing but hats for 100 years, and have 55,000 of them in their catalog, it’s pretty slim.
Google has a sense for the riches of content that people have. So I will just say started at two, and work your way up.
Julia: That great advice, to add on to that how would location keywords plan? I know sometimes whenever we research that it’s challenging because there isn’t a law of data on how many people search inside a location.
But can it be as simple as adding a location on? What are you thoughts about that?
Michael: Yeah, sure, absolutely. So thinking about whether location plays into your keyword set and the kind of content that you gonna write is an enormous boom. And if you think about that, going in, and starting to write for a client, you’re gonna do so better for them.
And you wanna do this on your own maybe un-coached. So the kinds of businesses that are local, restaurants, and taverns, and contractors, and service area businesses, and professionals like doctors, dentists, lawyers. All these people serve a particular area. So as soon as you see that.
A natural starting point would be to start including city and state name pairs like citations in your content. It’s gonna make Google imagine that this may actually apply to the specific area that you’re naming. The searchers themselves may not enter the city name or the neighborhood name when they search, but Google has so much metadata about searches.
Based on your IP address they know where you are. Based on your smart phone, and your geo-location. They know where you are so, so much of it is aimed at local searchers anymore that you should make an effort to include that. And on the other side of the equation, when you’re thinking about local keywords, some tools excel at giving you some of this data.
So, you’re gonna have to let me say [LAUGH] a little bit about SEMrush.
Julia: Of course, please. [LAUGH]
Michael: Okay [LAUGH] good. So there is something called position tracker in SEMrush, and what it enables you to do is to go in, and set up your domain, and competitor domain. So you know whose coming up against your clients, say, in the market.
And to either enter keywords or let SEMrush suggest them for you. And then scope how you’re gonna track the rank or the position, in Google, by State level or right on down to the City level. When you do this, overtime, it’s going to surface better and better keywords for these particular Domains.
So like you said at first, you maybe a little slim on the kinds of local keywords that are really working. Overtime you’re gonna see better and better information about just what those keywords are used locally, and like a frequent example that I refer to is that, here I am in the Northeast of the US, and we call carbonated beverages, sodas.
Julia: [LAUGH] Right.
Michael: I go flying down to Florida, or Raleigh, or something like that, and they’re calling it coke.
Julia: Right.
Michael: And what do you mean, it’s like grape soda, and you’re calling it coke? Well, that’s just what they call it. And then out west, in California, they’ll call it pop.
Julia: Exactly I was going to say pop.
Michael: Yeah, so if I want to talk the language of my readers, I gotta be a little sensitive to that.
Julia: So that’s a part of using synonyms within keywords, like just branching out beyond one keyword instead of focusing on just one word. Adding in synonyms, what relates, and that is a natural process of creating SEO content. Which I think is great.
Michael: Yeah. Absolutely, a lot of people and I’ve spoken about this for several years now, are accustomed to using the auto suggest part of Google, and using various tools to get that information. But you know how it works. You go to Google, you start typing in a term, and Google makes helpful suggestions for you in a little list to choose from. Oh, did you mean, and it gives you alternative suggestions and tools like Ubersuggest. There are some that did a great job of putting this information out for you, as you say, to give you some variant of the original keyword, the original phrase.
Part of the problem now is that Google is shutting down their auto suggest API. So you’re not gonna be able to get at that information any longer, at least in a free way. Maybe somebody will start buying the API, and sort of reselling it to users, but some people have built a lot of SEO on that process. And what you need for now is you need an independent process that, for instance, SEMrush uses something called the phrase report and related terms to arrive at something very similar to the auto suggest.
But it doesn’t use auto suggest to get at this. It uses semantic relations between words. So Google, hey. Knock yourselves out. Go ahead. Close one door, one more door [LAUGH] in the faces of SEOs, and thank goodness that there is other ways, other workarounds that are out there available now.
Julia: So true. One thing to add to that, I’ve heard of using Quora as a way to find really good topics that your people are searching for, and we’ve done that too. So that’s a good resource.
Michael: Yeah, that awesome. I don’t know if I saw it on your site, but I may have seen it actually in a blog post of yours, how you were doing that and I’m accustomed to thinking of Quora, with its Q and As, and all of that as an awesome place to drive some traffic from offsite. But using it as a place to look up related topics is great, it’s wonderful.
Julia: Yes, it’s very similar to the Google suggest which as you said Google’s doing away with so it’s great to have that.
I also wanted to talk briefly about prepositions within keywords, just some of your keyword advice there. That’s a question I have seen, and I’ve seen it change through out the past few years. In 2011, people were like don’t use preposition, say words like a service, and then the location, and don’t put anything in between that, and it looked so unnatural.
And it was like “credit card company Los Angeles”. And it looked just so bad, [LAUGH] and that was being stuffed in the content. So prepositions, does that matter? How does that change keyword research if at all?
Michael: Well, you’re right. It has changed because in the past it wasn’t so much that you had an ideal technique when you left this stuff out, and actually, Google got to the point where it could easily eliminate articles, and prepositions, and things that it thought were not the main to defining the meaning of what you are typing in.
That the search terms, they would sometimes strip them down to their basics, and that’s why you get, unemployment lawyer, Arizona, or something like that. But recently, especially since Hummingbird, Google’s done a much, much better job of figuring out just what people are looking for, and some of this is definitely based on sentence structure.
And as soon as you start saying that, the prepositions come back. And there’s yet another development that encourages you, for instance to, use lot’s of the w words, the who, what, when, where, and why. We talked about Quora. We talked a little bit about questions, but if I go to Google, and I make a search for a question, or an object, or something, there’s a good chance that, I think it’s almost 80% of the time now based on certain kinds of searches, I’m gonna see an answer box.
And it’s gonna take up a good section of that search engine result page. And it’s gonna give me the answer there. Now If I can answer a question for people in what I write, I state the question, and I state the answer, and therefore, I could earn that space in that answer box for my client or for myself.
So I would say, don’t worry about the about the prepositions. Be as natural in your language as possible, include both the query and the answer, if you can, in your writing, without over-stuffing. The point of it is to be natural, readable, and realize that Google has, some time now, used human raters that they send to look at sites and judge quality, and you’ve probably seen where Google has finally released—
Julia: Oh yes. A 160 page doc. Yes we wrote a blog about that, and I tried to actually keep the blog short, but it turned out to be around 4,000 words [LAUGH]
Michael: [LAUGH]
Julia: So we really take a look at it. [LAUGH]
Michael: That’s awesome. What a great resource that it is.
Julia: Oh, thanks.
Michael: So yes, it’s nice to have it kind of boiled down for people.
Julia: Yes.
Michael: And it’s very, very interesting to see, and it is all about, speaking directly to people, providing something actionable, making what you say conclusive, avoiding being slim, shallow, and-
Julia: Right.
Michael: You know? Of those things that used to be more Panda problems, but just to be as genuinely helpful as possible.
Julia: Right, exactly, that kind of sums up that monster guidelines doc that was released. It’s all about being helpful, useful, and having expertise when you speak.
Michael: Yeah, yeah.
Julia: So I wanted to move on to talking about businesses, adding SEO into the content marketing mix, which can sometimes be challenging, just all the SEO tactics that they should be using.
And your tool, SEMrush is, it’s one of our favorites. We’ve tried different tools, and I think that everything is so comprehensively inside SEMrush, for so many different SEO needs. So, maybe talk a little bit about how to use SEMrush to bring in SEO into your content marketing.
Michael: Yeah. So content marketing, from my point of view and from the point of view of many, started when HubSpot started talking about inbound marketing, and how important it was to have content, and the importance of answering people’s questions.
And when you can dig into a keyword phrase report where related terms around a particular set of keywords you can start to see, literally, deep in this list of available keywords, long tail phrases that are the expression of questions as they were typed in by living, breathing, human beings. Doesn’t get anymore genuine than that. So you find these things, and you say I can imagine this person. And they’re interested in this particular thing. If I buy this will it fit me, thus, and so? Or whatever the question is. So digging deep into a phrase report that’s 1,500 keywords sounds like a lot of work.
However, if you dive in to the 5th page, 6th page, or something like that, and you start to see the questions, you can ignore, a lot of times, the shorter terms and phrases upfront to get at these longer tail phrases. And that’s gonna help a writer arrive at their topic more rapidly, and get a direct kind of question to answer. That’s one way of getting at it. Another thing is that a lot of websites, a lot of people who are stakeholders in their own websites, get all caught up in their own set of keywords, and where their traffic is coming from, and what have we been doing lately.
And you can get a lot of that information out of their analytics, and you’re gonna actually get some of their keywords, say out of their Google search console, which is all well and good. But when you compare keyword sets among the best competitor out there, and you see the phrases that they’re using, and that are driving them the most traffic, you have a leg up.
You have a way that you can avoid overworking yourself, you can avoid the risk of experimentation, you can meet the needs of your audience, and I’m not saying that you would write what they wrote, although you could click through and read it if you wanted to. But the point is that you know what is being searched frequently in Google, so there’s a good way of getting some traffic, and you can see what is actually delivering traffic to, say your competitors’ websites.
And when I say competitors I mean, you may be a more of a boutique outfit let’s say, and you’re selling particular items of clothing, yoga clothing or something like that, and you might be interested in what a Modell’s, or a Macy’s, or what other larger retailers are using to sell your kind of clothing.
So when you see their much larger keyword sets, might be a big eye opener, and so there you go. So SEMrush gives you a way of comparing keyword sets between your own sets, say, and those of a competitor. Let me see what’s unique to my competitor. Oh. That’s a good opportunity. If it’s working for them, there is a good chance it will work for me. Let me find the key words that are overlapping that we share. Could be a case where there’s lots of competition for these keywords, maybe I wanna double down on some of them, or maybe I’m looking for an alternate route. I wanna find other key words that I can do. If you find key words that are unique to you, and unused by a competitor there is your strength.
Work on those kinds of key words, and attract as much traffic as you can, while the sun shines, until somebody else discovers those particular key words.
Julia: That’s excellent. I think that competitive keyword research or competitor keyword research is something that not a lot of businesses are doing enough of. And it’s easy to skip over that part. But I call that inspiration. You look at what others are doing, what they’re doing successfully, and also maybe how you can do it a little better. How you can answer the question a little deeper. So I think that’s really good description of the process.
Michael: That’s awesome. I mean, the word inspiration that you said, to me that’s perfect because it really is not a matter that you’re going to copy it or anything, that’s the last thing that you wanna do. But I think without thinking of it the way that you did, and using the word inspiration, some people might get caught up in this thing like I’m gonna do what they do.
Do things that they do but do it better.
Julia: Exactly.
Michael: Do it with a tone that, now this goes for copywriters, if you know the personas, or the people, the audience that you’re writing to, you can be authentic and genuine in how you phrase things, and the tone that you take, and all of that.
And that can be often be overlooked. I mean given the opportunity to have a little sense of humor and lighten things up, I mean you’re gonna have a much more engaged audience for your writing if that goes with the brand zone like sort of self image or whatever. So, important to know that stuff going in, do you wanna be casual or maybe even a little irreverent, or you might have to keep it buttoned down pretty tight if you’re doing something technical.
But there’s always room for a little personality, I think.
Julia: I agree. [LAUGH] That’s something I try to keep within my blog, direct voice, that’s my favorite type of style. I just try to be really direct, and if that includes, hey let’s get our heads out of the sand, including something like that. That’s just part of our voice.
Michael: It’s good. I’m gonna be reading your blog more.
Julia: Oh good. [LAUGH]
So, to wrap this up Michael, I wanted to get your thoughts on just a few trends for where SEO and content marketing might be headed in 2016.
Michael: Okay. Well, thanks for asking. Nobody has a looking glass.
If I read a lot that’s going on, and you mentioned this yourself, live streaming video, it’s expected to be huge now. We’ve had false starts in the past, there have been some social video tools that were out there, tried to build an audience, and even Vine. You had the chance to do 6 seconds, and then somebody did 15 seconds, and then somebody did 30 seconds. And the idea that you can stream it live now, seems to lower a lot of the obstacles that get between you and actually getting started doing it. So think of your idea about small businesses, if they can just have the courage to do the first few. Start building a library of these things, they’re gonna be on the upper trend for producing that kind of media, and I’m not even sure.
I mean, it’s just gotten so casual. Not even sure that the word media might be a little too [LAUGH] fancy for it.
Julia: [LAUGH] That’s true. It really has gone casual. The direction of that is that could that be a good direction or could that be lowering quality sometimes? What do you think?
Michael: Yeah.
Well, some of my favorite content in say YouTube, has been content that it is kinda low brow, if you wanna think of it that way. So to explain that a little bit more, there was a company called, and this is a very, very common example so pardon me if you’ve heard it before but Blendtec. And Blendtec did videos of blend this, and they would do this really hokey read in, and will it blend? It’s an iPhone, and they throw an iPhone into one of their blenders, and they turn it on. As soon as they did that it’s like, I just wanna see this.
Julia: [LAUGH] Right.
Michael: Yeah. And they grind it into powder, and it’s amazing, and so you say well that’s one heck of a blender, but it’s just this funny thing to see what the heck are they gonna throw in there next? And genuine, interesting, yeah it gets at a strength of the product.
The blender can’t be stopped, all of that, but for its audience, largely men it turns out, just chopping crap up [LAUGH]. It turns out to be enormously popular, and they have billions of views as people shared that stuff. So, if you do something a little out of the ordinary, and you have a different take on things, don’t think it has to be complicated, and the production value was not good.
It wasn’t lovingly lit, or they didn’t have perfect lenses and stuff, but it’s just awesome stuff.
Julia: That’s a good point, yeah. It sounds like it’s more about appealing to your audience. If you can hit on what they would like to see, it doesn’t have to be top-notch quality.
Michael: Right.
I’m sitting in a studio here, and I have lights, and a green backdrop, and all of these things that you can do whatever you wanted in here. I could be sitting on the screen, and I could be looking like I’m skiing down a hill behind me or something, but is that gonna really help me deliver a more entertaining video, or does all of this, going for quality, actually just provide you an excuse not to get started?
Julia: Well, thank you so much for joining me today Michael, on The Write Podcast. I really appreciate it.
Michael: I really appreciate being here. You’re a lovely host, and I really appreciate being here, and I’m hopeful that you can join us on an SEMrush webinar perhaps podcast soon.
[MUSIC] For more online content, tips, and strategies visit [MUSIC]
Julia: Michael is continually appearing in the SEO niche, and I think the advice he shares is excellent. You can go follow him on twitter at @RadioMS. Also, be sure to check out SEMrush. I love and use this tool daily for my SEO.
Also, Michael will be appearing as an upcoming guest host on our Twitter chat that happens every week. Join us at #ContentWritingChat. Follow the chat on twitter, @writingchat.
Be sure to keep an eye out for my book! I’m really excited about it. I’m publishing it by the end of this March. It’s called, So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide To Successful Online Writing, and I’m sharing everything I’ve learned over the past five years as an online writer, marketer, and blogger. I’m putting this together as a guide for both writers and the business owner that wants to create great online content. It will be out on Amazon. You can search for it, So You Think You Can Write.
Thanks for joining today’s episode of the Write Podcast. For more episodes go to

#ContentWritingChat January 26 2016 Recap: Best SEO Practices With SEMRush Strategist Elena

#ContentWritingChat January 26 2016 Recap: Best SEO Practices With SEMRush Strategist Elena

As you might already know, we recently launched our Twitter chat, #ContentWritingChat. We had our second ever chat on Tuesday, January 26th at 10 AM CST, and our topic was Best SEO Practices for Online Writers. We had such a great turn out that we went “viral” on Twitter, trending at #50 in the USA on Twitter–again!

#ContentWritingChat January 26, 2016: Best SEO Practices With SEMRush Strategist Elena

For this week’s chat, our lovely guest host was was Elena Terentyeva, strategist at SEMrush, the leading SEO software online. Elena joined us to chat all about SEO. We’re thrilled that so many of you have been joining us for the chat, but we’ve compiled some of the best tweets just in case you missed it. This week’s chat had so many amazing content creators and SEO experts ready to share their best advice!
Let’s dive into the recap.

Our CEO, Julia, couldn’t have described SEO any better! It’s all about creating quality content and optimizing it so search engines can rank you higher. As Elena (our guest host) pointed out, SEO is not an extra activity. It’s essential to your online presence and something you should always do!
We love Netvantage Marketing’s example of PB & Jelly (SEO + the writer), and Ryan put it point-blank!

A quick note to all the content creators out there: SEO is a must! Good words from Julia and Ecreativeworks.

High-quality content is essential! Focus on writing something great and then add in those keywords, headers, ALT tags, and more. Remember: no keyword stuffing! Use keywords in a way that’s natural. Grenae brings up being good at editing your content, a great point.

What skills do you need to have? First and foremost, you need to focus on strengthening those writing skills. Then, make sure you know how to effectively do keyword research to find the right keywords for your content. Don’t forget that SEO is always changing, so you have to stay updated!
Alejandro says it well: know your objectives. And Elena’s example of Backlinko was superb!

Make sure you’re using the right keywords to attract the audience you want!

Do SEO keyword research every single time you create new content. You need to make time to optimize your content if you want it to get noticed!

How many of these SEO tools are you using? Our participants gave some great suggestions!

We look forward to seeing you at the next #ContentWritingChat. Be sure to join us (@ExpWriters) on Tuesday, February 2nd at 10 AM CST!