The “How-to” for SEO Content That Ranks

Discover how to recognize metrics for content goals, perform keyword research that drives SEO value and develops your content calendar.

Content is king and everyone is perfectly clear about this by now. However, just because something is written does not mean it’ll push qualified traffic to your site. It doesn’t even ensure that your content will show up in search results: 90% of content on the web gets no traffic from Google, according to 2020 data from Tim Soulo of Ahrefs.

The key to effective content is preparation. There are plenty of people who just type out fireworks from their stream of consciousness, but those writers are undeniably few and far between. The rest of us depend on planning and careful execution. So how do you project SEO content that actually ranks?

At SMX Create this year, Aja Frost, head of English SEO at HubSpot, went over just that. Her chief suggestions are shared here to help you make your content higher in search engine results.

Identifying measurable metrics for your content objectives

Frost proposes imagining a chart like the one below and asking, “What do I want to see on the Y-axis?”

Step 1. “Figure out what would make your boss [or] your client over the moon on the Y-axis,” she said. It’s likely not traffic, but something more like leads, appointments, purchases—which should be your ultimate goal. The traffic goals will lead to these end targets. “This is why we start with demand goals and back those into our traffic goals by [dividing] by your historical or expected conversion rates.”

Demand goals ÷ historical (expected) conversion rates = traffic goals

And what do you do if you have no idea what your expected conversion rates are? Here’s what you do: “Take your demand actuals from the last 12 to 24 months… and then compare them to your traffic actuals from the same time period,” Frost said. “Sum up the demand metric of your choice divided by your organic traffic, and there you go. You’ve got your CVR.”

Step 2. Next, determine the demand you want to drive over the next year and divide those 12 months by your historical or expected CVR. That gives you traffic goals.

With these goals, you should also assess where you’d land if you did absolutely nothing. “Unless you have zero content right now, your traffic is going to grow regardless of what you do,” warned Frost. “So, by figuring out where you’d land if you did nothing, and the gap between that and what you need to grow, you can figure out how much additional traffic and conversions you need to generate.”

Step 3. After that, you need to establish how much monthly search volume you have to aim for to make up the difference between your projections and how your content would grow by doing nothing. Frost advises a CTR curve analysis and creating estimates by SERP positions 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10th position on the first page of search results. “You can multiply your weighted CVR by the traffic you need to generate to find your MSV [monthly search volume] estimates by positions,” said Frost.

How to execute keyword research based on personas

Initially, create or refine your personas. “When I talk to advanced SEOs, this is often a step they skip,” said Frost. But she highlights that SEOs of all skills levels to not forego this step. “The more deeply you understand your personas and the more detailed your insights, the more comprehensive and accurate your list of seed keywords will be.” All of your target keywords in the research process drive from these personas.

Persona questions:

• What Is your industry?

• How big is your department within the company?

• What tools are needed to do the jobs?

After answering these questions, clean the list up based on what you know about each persona and determine what’s relevant and what may not be worth your time. “Filter, categorize, and group your keywords together so you can efficiently create content,” advised Frost.

With seed keywords, you will upload them into the tool of your choice and find your search suggestions.

Next, Frost categorizes queries by intent: informational, transactional, and navigational. “Informational queries contain modifiers like ‘who, what, where, when, why,’ transactional queries contain questions related to price, cost, and promotion, and navigational queries are specific to the brand or product you’re doing research for,” advised Frost.

Build an editorial (or content) calendar

Locate the editorial calendar tool that works best for you and that you’ll actually use — whether it’s Trello, Asana, Monday, or just plain Google Sheets. Next, Frost advises adding the following to your content calendaring tool of choice:

The basics: Like target keyword, URL recommendations, headers and more

Internal linking opportunities: Products, offers or signup pages

Level of effort: The average of keyword difficulty of target keyword(s) multiplied by competitor content quality score

Expected traffic: Multiply search volume by the CTR of your expected position

Competitive advantage: Something that will differentiate your content (original data, a strong point of view, etc.)

You may want to group keywords by theme (as opposed to persona) and total up how much search volume targeted for each theme. Lastly, start writing target high-quality content based on these goals and data points.

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