Content creation is the life-blood of any content marketing campaign.
The problem? Content creation can be difficult.
If you don’t use the right strategies, you can waste time and money.
There’s no shortage of companies who’ve tried to do content marketing themselves or hired someone to do it that didn’t get great results.
The question is – how can you make content marketing and SEO work for your business?
How do you know what content to create?
How can you invest in content creation and ensure you get a return on investment (ROI) — even though this is harder to track than metrics like cost per click?
If you’re opting to work with an agency, how can you be sure they’ll deliver?
This guide is meant to be the end-all-be-all when it comes to creating content for your business.
Before we go deep into strategy, you have to get this next part right. In fact, the next section alone will make or break your success.
The Mindset You Need to Become a Content Creation Expert
People don’t talk about this often.
It’s easy enough to read blogs about content marketing.
Doing it and doing it well is a different story.
The funny thing? Content marketing isn’t hard, per se. It’s time-consuming, requires consistency, and only works after you spend a lot of time, effort, and money creating content.
Even if you don’t write the content yourself and hire an agency do to it, realize that not all agencies are created equal.
In fact, the sad truth is that many of them will write “me too” content that doesn’t move the needle. Agencies can be just as guilty at failing to live by the rules of successful content creators.
Rule # 1 – Write 10x, World-Dominating, Head And Shoulders Above the Competition Content
Here’s a guaranteed hack that’ll help you rank better on search engines:
Write content that’s 10x better than your competition.
How can you do this?
Make your content longer and more in-depth:
Add media to your blog posts to make them stand out:
Add novel insights and contradict the advice of your competitors:
Use this Simple Framework to Beat Your Competition:
- Study all the competitor results on the search engine results page (SERP)
- Note what the ranking pages do well and implement the same techniques in your content
- Note what’s missing from your competitor’s content and add it to your content
- Aim to create a piece of content that’s 10x better than your competition
This technique is known as the Skyscraper Technique.
Again, this is about the mindset behind SEO. You can think all you want about using a strategy like the Skyscraper Technique, but actually doing it is about 100x harder than reading a blog post about it.
Rule # 2 – Prepare For Obstacles in Advance
Roadblocks are inevitable.
You’ll write content constantly without getting the results you expected.
You’ll invest money that doesn’t pay off in rankings and traffic right away.
At a certain point, you’ll wonder if content marketing is right for your business.
Spoiler alert: it is, but you need the right mindset to make it work.
Here are some simple ways to prepare for these roadblocks in advance:
- Plan, plan, plan – From keyword research to creating a content strategy, to adding time-blocks on your calendar to work on content, the more you prepare, the easier content creation will be.
- Wait – If you decided to commit to content marketing for a year, wait a year before you judge the success of the campaign. Sure, make adjustments along the way, but commit to seeing the strategy out first before you throw in the towel.
- Why – Remember why you started creating content (or hired someone) in the first place. You wanted to grow your business, build your brand, and connect with more people. Focusing on your “why” can help you persist when times get tough.
Rule #3 – Quality and Quantity
As mentioned in Ahrefs guide about the top SEO creators, they had this to say about Natan Gotch with Gotch SEO:
He consistently puts out HUGE, in‐depth guides. Some are even custom designed.
I’ve seen at least one of his posts garner 750+ comments.
The downside? Putting together such massive guides clearly isn’t the easiest job ever, as Nathan only publishes one post per month on average. Regardless, Nathan is undoubtedly one to watch.
On the flipside, blogs like Search Engine Journal produce multiple blog posts per day.
Both strategies work. Not only that, but quality and quantity don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
A few dozen posts per year provide excellent quantity if all the posts make up for it in quality. Also, you can create great-but-not-insanely-long guides at a faster pace and rank well, too.
There are no one-size fits all solutions.
Use these benchmarks instead:
- The harder it is to rank for a keyword, the longer and more in-depth your content should be
- The higher your site authority, the more chance you have of ranking for competitive keywords
- The lower your site authority, the more you want to focus on creating lots of content that target low to medium competition keywords
Don’t “Try to Become a Thought Leader” Do This Instead
What does it mean?
If you’re a thought leader, it means you’re one of the “go-to experts” in your space.
Content creation is a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader, but not if you focus on becoming one.
Right now, you should focus on creating the best content you possibly can.
You should promote your content and connect with people in your niche.
Do this for a long enough time, and you’ll earn the right to be called a thought leader. It will be self-evident.
Content marketing has created an awesome path for anyone to demonstrate their expertise.
Sadly, the majority of content creators focus on the prize instead of just doing the work.
Just do the work. Do it often.
The traffic, sales, and admiration will come later.
Don’t worry about those for now.
Now, stick with us to learn about the nuts and bolts of a solid content creation strategy.
Keyword Research 101
Keywords are the life-blood of a content creation campaign.
Have you ever typed something into Google looking for an answer, a location, a service, etc? Those phrases you type in are keywords.
When you do keyword research, you’re looking to find the right phrases to use in the content you create.
So what qualifies as a good keyword?
Here are some good benchmarks to follow:
The keywords you target your content around should match a goal you have for your business. You want to make sure that someone who types in that keyword will be happy to find your site and you’ll be happy they landed there.
We’ll use an example from our industry. We could create content around the keyword “SEO” but it’s a broad and vague keyword. Someone searching for the keyword SEO might be a curious browser, not someone who’s serious about working with an SEO agency.
Something like “content marketing services” matches our goals better. A person searching for that is at least interested in learning about a service we provide.
Or take this blog post, which we targeted around words like “content creation” and “quality SEO content.” Not everybody who reads this post will want to work with us, but that’s not the point. We provide education about SEO and content marketing so that you either:
- Decide to work with us
- Decide to take our recommendations and use them on your own
Both are good options because they meet our overall goal: being a leader in content marketing and SEO. Helping people for free is a big part of reaching that goal, so creating quality content for free is part of our strategy (and will likely be part of yours too)
Different niches have different levels of competition.
Marketing is, to say the least, a very competitive space. We’re competing with all the marketing blogs in the world.
If you’re a local plumber in, say, Wichita Kansas, your strategy will be different because your competition will be different.
We will talk about the steps to keyword research shortly, but let’s look at some of the ways you can size up the competition as part of your content creation efforts.
Google doesn’t outright tell us who’s site is the most authoritative.
There are third-party tools that give you a pretty good idea though.
Here’s a screenshot from a tool we like to use, Ahrefs:
Authority Score 101
Take a look at the two numbers on the right, UR and DR. Here is the explanation of what these scores measure directly from Ahrefs:
Domain Rating is a proprietary Ahrefs’ metric that shows the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile (in terms of its size and quality).
URL Rating (UR) shows the strength of a target page’s backlink profile on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100, with latter being the strongest. Both internal and external links are taken into account when calculating this metric
Every page on your website has the same Domain Rating (DR) that are based on a few things:
- Linking root domains – This just means the total number of websites that link to you. 3 links from three different websites are better than 3 links from the same website. Make sense? Ok good.
- Authority of the linking root domains – Quality beats quantity here. 1 link from a high authority domain can be more important than many links from low-quality websites
- Link profile – A link profile is all the links you have on your website + how they are linked. A good example to help you understand: a link from a medium authority domain that links out to a handful of other websites can be better than a high authority domain that links out to a ton of other sites. The authority of the whole site, in a way, gets split up by the total number of links. This concept is called “link juice.”
Each page on your website has its own unique URL rating (UR).
Here’s how to think about this. Website pages show up on Google, not entire websites.
Here’s a page on our website that ranks on page one in the search engine results page (SERP):
Google wants the best pages to show up on the SERP for a query (what people type into the search bar). In this case, it’s providing results for people who search for things like “Minneapolis SEO” “Minneapolis SEO company” “Minneapolis SEO agency” etc.
So instead of looking for which websites have the best information about these topics, Google chooses individual pages to show up on the results page.
One of the factors it uses is the authority of individual pages that are targeted for “Minneapolis SEO.”
This authority is measured by UR.
Some of the factors that affect UR are:
- Linking root domains to the page – Each website that links to this exact page – https:/www.mltgroup.com/minneapolis-seo.php boosts the authority of the page itself
- Linking root domain authority – You want to get links from pages with high DR and UR pointing to pages you want to rank on Google
- Internal links – Internal links are links from one page of a website to another page of a website. Why is this important? Internal linking tells Google, “Hey, this page is important!” When you create a page you want to rank, you should link to it from lots of other pages on your website. This screenshot shows how this structure can work
How to Use These Scores
When you’re doing keyword research, you want to think about the authority of the pages who rank for the keywords you’re trying to target.
It’s not an exact science, but here are some rough guidelines:
- Low authority sites/pages – If you have a newer website that doesn’t have much authority yet, you want to first focus on keywords that have low to medium authority themselves (low = 10-30)
- Medium authority sites/pages – As you create and promote content over time, your site authority increases, making it easier to rank for more competitive keywords (medium = 30-50)
- High authority sites/pages – If you publish and promote great content over a long period of time, you can start to rank for highly competitive keywords. High competitive keywords usually get more total traffic volume, which means the number of people who search for that keyword in a month. You will need to write the best quality content possible to rank for these terms (high = 50+).
Other Site Authority Considerations and Tools
Site authority is just one of many metrics you can use to gauge your chances of ranking a page on Google.
Just because your site pages have lower authority than others doesn’t mean you can’t rank them. You just have to go the extra mile to beat out the others.
Here are some ways you can do that:
- Write 10x content
- Get a handful of top quality backlinks. Nathan Gotch has an excellent backlink guide you can use to get started
- Use smart outbound links. We will talk about this in more depth, but the quality of the links you put on your pages that link to other sources can help your page rank, too
- Be bold. You won’t succeed in content marketing unless you’re willing to do what others won’t. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box and over deliver. A great example of this: Neil Patel spent tens of thousands of dollars and essentially wrote a book worth of content to rank for “online marketing“
Keyword Research Essentials
Keyword research is a topic that can go into great depth. Here are the cliff notes of a great keyword strategy and some excellent resources you can use to learn more:
- Steal your competitor’s keywords – With tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and SEM Rush you can plug your competitor’s URLs into their dashboards to see what keywords they already rank for. Then, you can create better versions of their content to outrank them 🙂
- Good old fashioned brainstorming – You know what products and services you sell. You also have an idea of what words people might use to search for products and services in your niche. Start with those as a baseline. Take a pen and pad, write ideas down, and cross-check with keyword research tools
- Make up your own damn keywords – If you have a unique strategy or insight that helps people in your niche, create content about it and make up a name for your strategy. It’s a nice hack you can use to get on page 1 fast. Some people go as far as to give their companies a unique name. As their brand gets recognized, they create a total keyword volume out of thin air! Remember earlier when we said to be creative? This is an example of what we meant.
Keyword Research Resources and Tools
The basics are enough to get you started, but if you’re looking for more in-depth resources to start your content creation campaign, these guides will be a ton of help:
- Keyword research for SEO: the Definitive Guide
- How to Do Keyword Research: the Beginner’s Guide to SEO
- How to do Keyword Research for SEO
Here are some keyword research tools that we didn’t already mention:
Remember those unique ‘thin air’ keywords we talked about earlier? Here are some cool examples you can model:
Market Research 101
On top of doing keyword research, you can perform market research to make your content even better.
Part of this research involves studying your competition.
The other part involves studying your potential customers and people in your target audience.
Study the SERP
We wanted to rank this post for keywords like “quality content” and “SEO” content.
When studying the SERP and the blog posts we found, we noticed a few things in common between the posts and saw ways to create something better.
First, we noticed most of the posts used short tips and tidbits on how to create quality content that was a bit vague:
If you wanted to create content using these tips, you’d have a general idea, but not a step by step process or useful resources.
That’s why we put together step by step information with screenshots, resources, and concrete processes you can use right now to create quality content yourself (and if you don’t have the time, our company will use this exact process for your business.)
We also noticed the posts talked (mostly) about ways to impress Google.
Yes, you have to optimize your content for search engines, but your number one goal is creating content your visitors find useful.
In a later section, you’ll see our step by step process for creating user-focused content.
A final, and really important item, we saw missing was a lack of focus on the content creators themselves.
Nowhere did we find tips on the mindset and tools you need to be a successful content creator.
Or, for business owners looking for content creation help, we didn’t see any tips on finding the right type of agency or content marketer to work with. We included sections on both in our guide.
Studying the SERPs is just one of a few important tasks for content creation.
Stick with us to discover the true keys to content marketing success…
Use The World’s Largest Customer Research Center
If your business doesn’t have a product, service, or content related to something on Amazon, you have a very obscure niche.
Amazon reviews offer great insights you can use to create content.
We looked at some books on content marketing to see what readers thought about books on creating quality content:
Even though we’re writing a single post, we can use insights from book reviews to help make our post more useful.
We looked for 3-star reviews, which usually have a good mix of praise and criticism. We found some interesting insights.
Some readers were looking for relatable ideas for their kind of business instead of the “create epic content to grow a massive company” style content you often see:
This led to us creating a section with examples and scenarios for normal small and medium-sized business owners.
We also noticed many comments about formatting and ease of use for finding information:
We added a table of contents, FAQ section, and worked to make our in-depth guide as simple to read as possible.
We also noticed a theme where readers didn’t feel the content was catered to their experience level:
In our tips section, you’ll see sections for different skill levels.
Customer Research With Quora
Quora is a question and answer platform. Users ask questions about a wide range of subjects. You can plug keywords into Quora to see what questions people are aking in your niche. You can use these insights to create content that answers people’s questions, which can help your posts rank better on Google (remember Google likes user-focused content).
Digging through Quora, we found this question, which led to us creating a section with our top recommended tools:
With the keywords and insights in hand, you can start to plan for the different types of content you can create for your business’s website.
Different Types of Content You Can Create
Different types of content require different strategies to be successful.
If you’re a content marketer (or you’ve hired an SEO agency to help you out), it’s important to know what goal each type of content serves.
If you want to get technical about it, there are lots and lots of different categories content can fit into.
For this guide, we’ll focus on the basics (pro tip: mastering the basics is often better than trying all techniques at once.)
You’re reading a blog post right now.
Why? Probably because you’re looking for information to help you create your own content or insights you can use to get somebody to do it for you.
Either way, you’re here because you need or want information.
If you don’t think this post is going to deliver what you want, you’ll leave.
If you think the post does deliver want, you’ll read through the whole post, maybe sign up to get even more marketing tips, or reach out to us directly because you want our help.
We write blog posts to educate people about content marketing and SEO.
We want our content to be so in-depth and useful that you can implement the strategies on your own.
Why? Because we’re building our brand as content experts. Getting every single person who reads our posts to buy our services would be nice, but that’s not our goal. Done strategically, creating a company blog can help your business stand out as an industry leader.
Blog Post Best Practices
If you want your blog to be successful, it has to hit certain benchmarks like:
- Content length – Studies show a correlation between blog post length and rankings. The longer your post the better – as long as the content is useful. (As Rand Fishkin points out in his Whiteboard Friday Episode there is no *perfect* content length)
- Intent – Search intent means people who visit your blog post get what they’re expecting. Study the posts that rank well for your target keyword to get insights on intent.
- Optimized – Each blog post you write must be optimized for a certain topic or keyword to rank on Google.
- Media – Pictures, videos, infographics, and other forms of media keep readers on the page longer. “Dwell time” is a ranking factor search engines use.
With these benchmarks in mind, focus on the content marketing done in your industry. Blog styles and formats vary from industry to industry.
A simple recipe that works for any industry, though: study the blog posts your competitors create and make your content undeniably better.
Services and product pages have a simple goal: get people to buy or request more information.
Your service and product pages should be more focused and, for lack of a better word, aggressive than your blog posts.
Each services page should include:
A Unique Selling Proposition or Tag Line
You have to provide reasons why your product or service is better than the others and communicate it well.
Look at content marketing expert Neil Patel’s service page for his agency, Neil Patel Digital:
He does a couple things well here. The call to action at the top of the page is simple, straightforward, and compelling at the same time. Who doesn’t want more traffic?
On top of that, he displays logos of the companies he’s worked with. Why? Two persuasion techniques are used here: social proof and the power of association.
Social proof is basically evidence of why something is good, e.g., positive book reviews. Us humans like to know other people trust a brand or product before we purchase it. Then there’s the association bias.
Whenever you can, it’s smart to associate yourself with other trusted brands. Who doesn’t know Facebook, Google, and eBay? Neil leverages his partnerships with these companies and it’s persuasive because they’re so well known.
Highlight the Benefits of Your Product/Service
Content creation often boils down to one question:
What’s in it for me?
All the content on your product and services pages should answer that question.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a second. Say they visit one of your services pages and the first paragraph they see is something boring about how your company “was founded in 1965 in a one-room shack” or whatever.
Does that information really drive decision-making? Perhaps, but more often than not business owners use their service and product pages the wrong way – to talk about themselves and talk about the features of their services instead of the benefits.
Nobody cares about the fact your riding mower has x, y, and z capabilities. They care that your lawn mower mows lawns faster!
Focus on the benefits your product or service provides.
As the famous saying goes, “People don’t buy drills, they buy holes.”
Look at this example from Legion Athletics. On a product page for one of their supplements, they start the page by addressing the problem and providing solutions in the form of benefits:
They list all the features of the product on the bottom of the page. Much more time is spent on highlighting the benefits of the product and the transformation it will provide people who buy it.
This is how smart marketing works.
Many of the guidelines for creating great blog content apply to creating product/service pages:
- Content length – Your content has to be as long or longer than the competition to rank. For product/service pages, use images to “break up” the words on the page
- Media – See how the video was used in the example above? Adding media to your product/service pages can make them more persuasive and keep people on your pages longer.
- Optimization – You’ll need to do keyword research and optimize your product/service pages, too. You can use modifiers to get more clicks like “Buy” “Discount” “20% off” “Free Trial” etc.
- Calls to Action – Make sure to prompt readers to either buy or learn more about your product/service in an overt way (see screenshot below)
When we use the phrase landing pages, we’re talking about highly-target pages that provide readers two options:
- Engage by signing up or buying
You won’t see menus on these pages. You won’t see any links pointing you somewhere else.
These pages are focused.
Landing pages are often used to get e-mail subscribers.
Let’s say you’re running Facebook Ads to get more customers. The last thing you want is to spend money, have them click on your ad, and then leave without subscribing.
This is why most landing pages make it crystal clear what they want you to do next:
She used this call to action at the end of the post, which directed people to the landing page shown above:
The page itself displays benefits and has a dead-obvious call to action.
How to Write Copy for Landing Pages
You only have a split-second to get someone’s attention when they visit your landing page. If your offer doesn’t compel them fast, they will leave.
How do you get them to convert?
You have to make an offer so good they can’t refuse it.
You can do this in a few ways.
Create a Compelling Headline
This example uses the word “free” highlights how valuable the offer is (16 parts) and speaks to the results you’ll get from signing up and using it:
Use Bullet-Points to feature the persuasive benefits your offer provides:
And Make Sure You Make it Clear What to Do Next:
Other (Optional) Forms of Content
Content means more than the written word.
Other forms of content exist and are useful. We focused on written content creation for this post because it’s a core type of content you must master.
Once your content marketing campaign is in full swing, you can try other formats to pour gasoline on the fire.
Video can be an excellent content marketing tool. Some people prefer visual content to written because…they don’t like to read all that much! No worries, video is a great way to repurpose your content. Each blog post you publish can be transformed into a video. Each video can be broken up into smaller pieces and shared on platforms like Instagram. You can take one video and feature it across multiple platforms like Youtube, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Some great in-depth guides on using video are:
- Video SEO: The Definitive Guide
- The Secret Guide to Video and SEO
- How to Repurpose Video Content Across Multiple Platforms
One blog post can be turned into several content pieces you can use on social media.
Some examples are:
- Sharing links to your post across all social channels
- Making quote-cards with visual displays of quotes from your content
- Sharing video content across social media platforms
- Adding click-to-tweet buttons from your content that share highlighted quotes instantly
There is a lot you can do with social media and content marketing. So much so that there are awesome guides solely dedicated to that process. Check them out:
- How to Repurpose Top Content for Social Media Posts
- 12 Social Media Promotion Ideas You’re Not Using
Content creation can help you grow your business, but only with the right strategies, tools, insights, and effort.
What do you think?
Leave your most “important keys” to content creation, promotion, and marketing below.