Posts

plan content that ranks

#ContentWritingChat Recap: How to Plan Content That Will Rank, Drive Traffic, & Produce Business Results with Dan Shure

Would you like to know how to plan content that ranks, drives traffic, and produces business results?

If so, you’re in the right place!

That’s exactly what we talked about during the November edition of #ContentWritingChat! But if you missed out, we have this recap that’s jam-packed with valuable tips you can use.

Prepare yourself to become a master of quality, purpose-driven content!

#ContentWritingChat Recap: How to Plan Content That Will Rank, Drive Traffic, & Produce Business Results with Dan Shure

Our guest host for this month’s chat was Dan Shure. Dan is an experienced SEO consultant and has worked with some well-known brands like Sumo and Ring. He’s also podcasts on SEO as well, hosting Experts on the Wire! Throughout the chat, he shared some great tips with us, so let’s go ahead and dive in!

Q1: What factors does Google consider when it comes to ranking a piece of content?

It’s safe to say all content creators want their work to rank highly on Google. But what’s the secret to getting your blog posts to the first page? These are some factors that Google considers, which you’ll want to keep in mind:

As Dan said, relevance is incredibly important to Google when it comes to ranking content. Google will be looking for signs that your content is an authority on the subject you’re discussing, as well as the code and schema behind the content itself.

If you aren’t aware, Google actually has a 200+ page manual called the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. This shares how they rank content and it’s worth checking out! But to save you some time, Julia read it and is giving you the scoop in this post.

Julia also mentioned Google’s EAT And YMYL acronyms. Your content needs to be expert, authoritative, and trustworthy. Make that a top priority every time you create.

This is a great list to check out from Opt-in Monster!

Readability, quality, authority! These are just a few of the factors that Narmadhaa knows are important to Google.

Sarah knows incoming links are still crucial. As she said, it’s like a vote of credibility for your work.

Ben said it’s all about keywords, backlinks, readability, relevancy, authority, and more.

As Sabina said, it’s important to find a balance between including keywords without stuffing and creating content that people are interested in, and being trustworthy and helpful.

Q2: How do you plan your content around your audience’s needs and SEO?

When creating online content, you can’t be solely focused on your audience without considering SEO if you want to rank in search results. And you can’t be so focused on SEO that you completely forget what your audience needs! How do you find a balance? With these tips:

It all goes back to your keywords! Dan suggests finding the best keywords by researching and analyzing for traffic potential, competition, and matching them with your goals.

He also said to find queries that not many people have answered or those that are low quality. Find unanswered problems and craft a solution so people will find you when they turn to Google for answers.

Lexie’s advice is to ask your audience what they need first. It helps to know as much as you can about them. And from their responses, you can form questions and do keyword research for your content.

Gene loves using Answer the Public to find questions from his audience. It’s a great way to see what they need help with.

If you really don’t know where to start with getting to know your audience, create a survey and send it to them. You can also host a Q&A on social media. The options are endless, but you have to be willing to seek the information you need.

Social listening is crucial! Your audience is on social media, so it’s smart for you to be there too and pay attention to what they’re saying. From there, use their conversations to craft your content.

Q3: Are there any quick fixes you can make to improve the ranking of one of your blog posts?

Let’s say you have this blog post that’s really good, but it’s not ranking the way you hoped. What can you do to give it a little SEO boost? These tips will help:

For Dan, it’s not really about quick fixes. Your best bet is to give the content a complete overhaul if you truly want to see results.

Julia knows it’s so important to keep older content updated. In fact, it’s something we do regularly here at Express Writers! If you need some tips, this #ContentWritingChat recap will help.

Sarah’s advice is to interlink new and older blog posts. If you can link relevant pieces of content to one another, it’s a great way to keep people on your site longer. Plus, it gives them plenty of content to consume as they start building a relationship with you.

Q4: How can you determine if your content is actually helping you achieve results in your business?

We all want our content to help us reach our business goals, right? You might be trying to grow your email list, increase your conversions, or something else. But how can you be sure your content is actually getting the job done? Well, you’ll want to remember this advice:

As Dan said, the first step is to actually establish your business goals. What are you trying to achieve with the content you create? This will let you know which metrics you should keep an eye on.

As Lexie said, you have to set goals first. You can’t plan your content without knowing your goals beforehand. She also said you shouldn’t be too pushy with sales if that’s your ultimate goal with your blog content. It’ll turn your audience off fast.

Create a strategy, define your audience, define your KPIs, and your objectives and goals. From there, you have to get to work. Then, your next step is to track your results and make adjustments as needed.

Don’t forget to set goals during the content planning stage! You can’t plan content and they choose your goals. Your goals need to come first so you can choose content that will help you achieve your desired result.

Make sure you spend time with your analytics! As Sarah said, you have to measure your results.

This is a great tip from Warwick. You can set up goals in Google Analytics to keep yourself on track.

Q5: How important is it to keep your blog’s archives refreshed for SEO purposes? What can you do to ensure they still rank highly?

Do you have archives that are collecting virtual dust? If they’re still getting traffic, it would be wise to update them so you can deliver fresh content to readers. So, what steps can you take to ensure they’re high-quality and still getting attention? Here’s what you need to know:

When updating blog content, Dan does a number of things to give his posts a refresh. He makes sure to fix images and links, add internal links, make copy and aesthetic improvements, and more.

Dan also feels that sometimes it’s necessary to delete content that isn’t performing well. He suggests doing an audit to look for posts that get little to no traffic, are low quality, don’t have backlinks, are a poor reflection of the brand, etc.

Your archives represent your brand and can solidify your authority. Make sure they’re giving people a good first impression by keeping posts updated, including images, links, and information.

As Lexie pointed out, stale content will send your audience running away! You don’t want that to happen, do you?

Warwick has actually deleted pages that are no longer relevant and he’s taken the time to optimize his work for proper keywords. He’s seen some tremendous results thanks to Julia’s guidance.

If all of it seems a little overwhelming, don’t let it get you down. Make sure you schedule time for updating your older content. That’s what we do here at Express Writers! Aim to update a certain number of posts per quarter to stay on track.

Q6: Do you have any go-to tools, tips, or strategies on SEO that everyone should know about?

It’s time to spill some secrets! These are the things our audience relies on to master SEO:

Dan loves using tools like SEMrush, Screaming Frog, and Moz, just to name a few.

Julia wants to remind everyone to research and write around your keywords!

Lexie and the Netvantage team love using SEMrush’s topic research tool for finding popular questions. She also uses Answer the Public to find questions as well.

These tools are definitely worth checking out!

Kathryn enjoys testing out her headline writing skills with CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.

Make sure you invest your time and effort into planning an editorial calendar. Ankitaa says your content should be focused on your audience’s needs and support your brand message.

Always track your results and pay attention to what works for you and what doesn’t.

Sarah wants to make sure you know the importance of linking relevant blog posts to one another. If you aren’t doing this, go do it now!

Q7: What should we keep an eye on regarding SEO in 2019?

2019 is right around the corner and it’s time we start preparing! Which SEO trends are at the top of the must-watch list? These are the ones to keep an eye on:

Dan’s advice is to watch how Google is treating keywords, but translating them into entities or intent.

Julia is keeping her eye on mobile-first indexing, featured snippets, and making sure she creates quality content. She shares some more trends in this blog post.

As Sarah said, artificial intelligence and voice search are key things to watch!

Don’t forget about voice search too!

Jakub is watching out for voice search, featured snippets, and search intent.

Want to join the next #ContentWritingChat? Our Twitter chat takes place on the first Tuesday of every month at 10 AM Central. Mark your calendars and follow @ExpWriters and @writingchat for the latest!

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.

HOWEVER:

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

THUS:

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 Usability.gov is a great starting point.

screenshot image of the site usability.gov

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! 🎉