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7 Ways to Easily Set Up an SEO Content Strategy



SEO Content Strategy

I can’t imagine an army general ever won a battle by simply “winging it.”

Military leaders study their adversary, tracking their patterns and plotting their course.

They look for weaknesses and opportunities, and they use that information to devise a strategic plan of attack to increase the likelihood of a victory.

Creating search optimized content isn’t much different.

You can’t just write about any old subject, tuck in a few keywords, post it on your site, and expect it to deliver results.

Driving profitable traffic to your site and generating high-quality inbound leads takes in-depth research, careful planning, and developing a thoughtful SEO content strategy.

Once focused on using the right keywords, content marketing is now all about writing to solve the problems of your audience.

To provide meaningful and useful information, you need to understand who your prospects are and what they need from you. This insight guides you in creating content with a purpose.

Writing with intent enables you to increase the number of website visitors you gain through organic search.

This kind of traffic can net you thousands of quality leads and close tons of sales.

The question is, how do you create your own effective SEO content strategy?

As Baroness Maria von Trapp advised in the “Sound of Music,”

“Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

Focus first on the fundamental basics of creating content and keep SEO at the front of your mind as you continue to build on that foundation.

If all you hear are crickets after posting your content, it’s time to take action and begin strategizing.

Here are seven tactics to help you create winning content that maximizes SEO opportunities.

1. Identify Your Target Audience

SEO is all about creating a positive user experience and delivering the most relevant information possible.

To create content that resonates with your audience, you must first know who that audience is.

Here are some things to ask yourself to help zero in on your target market:


Who are your current customers?

Identifying key characteristics of your current customers can give you clues as to who your prospects might be.

Look at quantitative and qualitative data, from age and gender to purchase behavior and web page engagement. All of these can help paint a picture of whom you should be writing for.

Who is attracted to your competition?

Discover what kind of people are engaging with your competitors. Look at social media accounts, blog comments, and customer reviews.

Of the people who are satisfied, what is it that they like? For those who are disgruntled, are you able to meet their needs?

There’s a lot to learn from businesses like yours.

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What do you have to offer?

Think about the products and services you offer, and what they bring to your prospects.

Who would benefit from those results?

How are you perceived?

Do you really know how your prospects feel about you and your products?

Survey your audience to understand what you’re doing well, what you could improve, and what kind of information people want to learn from you.

Once you’ve gathered all of this data, segment your audience and develop personas to help you craft personalized content that meets target groups’ specific needs.

Personas represent ideal customers and provide a way to further categorize your audience for maximum impact.

2. Define Your Topic Area

Now that you know who you’re trying to reach and what they want to learn from you, you can begin to brainstorm ideas for content topics.

While your goal is to create content that people want to read, your purpose and expertise should be at the heart of everything you write.

What information can you uniquely provide to the target audience that sets you apart as a voice of authority?

This is your topic area.

It will guide your research for audience interest, keyword matches, and SEO content creation.

Ultimately, this is what will help you create content that converts.

Once you’ve identified your area of expertise (or core content), you can begin to incorporate your audience data to develop a variety of content topics.


These are subjects that are within your field and are material your viewers will want to read.

3. Pinpoint Keywords that Meet Your Audience Needs + Topic Area

Did you notice that finding keywords wasn’t even among the top two steps of SEO strategy?

That’s because, to create content that resonates with people, you must first know who you’re reaching and what information will benefit them.

Only then are you ready to start researching what words and phrases might direct your readers to subjects that are meaningful to them.

Here’s how to accomplish this:

Step 1: Begin with a broad search term that relates to your core content.

For example, if I sell baby clothes, I’d start with the root keyword: “baby clothes.”

Step 2: Narrow the scope by considering these factors:

  • Top sellers.
  • Keyword variations.
  • Product features.
  • Questions people might ask Google to find your brand and your products.

Step 3: Piece it all together.

You should now be able to construct a preliminary list of ideas to begin researching. Don’t forget to include long-tail keywords that allow you to dig into your topic area a little deeper.

More specific than other keywords, they help target content with laser focus.

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Regardless of what list you create, keep in mind, this is just a starting point. Still need ideas? Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and simply run some of your own searches on Google.

For example, when I search my broad term “baby clothes,” I come up with this list:

  • Baby clothes for boys (a top seller).
  • Baby clothing (a variation on the keyword).
  • Baby clothes embroidery (identifies a product feature).
  • What is the best website for baby clothes? (a commonly asked purchaser question).

Step 4: Use keyword research tools.

Now that you’ve got a rough list of words and phrases, you can run them through your favorite research tool. This will help to pinpoint the keywords that would yield the best results.

7 Ways to Easily Set Up an SEO Content StrategyThe keyword suggestions I receive when I enter “baby clothes” into

The more words and phrases you have to research, the more focused your keyword targets can be.

It’ll take more time to enter those words into your research tool but believe me – it’s time well spent.

4. Optimize at Every Turn

Now that you’re armed with keywords that will boost your ROI, you can incorporate them into your writing to create powerful content that performs.

As you draft your content, take advantage of every SEO opportunity by:

  • Including focus keywords in your H1, H2s, and meta description. Google will pick up on these more easily and use them to rank your page.

7 Ways to Easily Set Up an SEO Content Strategy

  • Putting your audience first and creating content with keywords that are relevant to their needs and deliver value.
  • Building brand identity and customer loyalty by publishing on a regular schedule. People will look forward to your posts and seek out opportunities to learn from your brand.

When you optimize your content at every turn, you increase the chances of higher search rankings, more visibility, and increased traffic.

5. Keep Information Up-to-Date

Optimization doesn’t end once your article has been published.

Since creating useful material is such a cornerstone of SEO content strategy, it’s important to remember to constantly update your articles.

Research findings and societal trends are ever-changing, and references to them can become outdated quickly.

Articles you may have linked to in previous articles may no longer exist.

A site that posts outdated information or broken links loses a reader’s trust. Keep in good standing with your audience (and Google).

Show them that your site is fresh, current, and a reliable source for the most useful information possible.

6. Host Your Own Content

To maintain full control of how your content is published, it’s best to host your material on your own platform.

Think of posting on social media and content sites as leasing real estate from a landlord.

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At any time and without warning, that landlord can change their mind and evict you from your space.

When conversions and sales are at stake, that’s a scary thought.

That’s exactly what happened to lots of guest writers (including myself) when Huffington Post pulled the plug on its guest contributor blogging program in 2018.

Without warning, any rankings those blogs had earned were suddenly gone.

Not only is that a waste of time and resources, but it’s also a loss of potential business.

The only way to guarantee the fate of your own publications is to host them on your own platform.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider partnering with other websites as an affiliate or serve as a guest writer for sites you trust.

But the priority for your content strategy should be posting your own articles on your own site.

7. Track Your Success

It takes a significant investment of time and resources to develop a well-planned content strategy.

And it’s totally worth it – if it’s yielding results.

To determine whether your efforts are worthwhile, you must constantly measure the success of your content strategy.

See if your plan is working by monitoring:

  • Organic traffic: a good web analytics tool or spreadsheet can help you determine whether you’re gaining unpaid search results.
  • Indexed pages: search engines are finding your content relevant and valuable.
  • Conversions: the more effective your strategy, the more conversions you’ll earn.
  • SERPs: higher rankings reveal a successful use of content.

Tracking metrics not only helps measure your success; it shows you opportunities for improvement, which can be equally (if not more) valuable.

Score a Victory with an Effective SEO Strategy

A content strategy built on the founding principles of SEO will drive traffic and profits to your business.

As you build your plan, the research you conduct will be instrumental in identifying your audience and your area of expertise.

You can use this insight to write with purpose.

In doing so, you’ll attract your audience and yield higher SERPs from Google.

And that’s what I call a win.

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, April 2021


DuckDuckGo Reaches 100B Searches, But Growth Is Slowing Down



DuckDuckGo Reaches 100B Searches, But Growth Is Slowing Down

DuckDuckGo celebrates a milestone of 100 billion total searches, but the search engine’s year-over-year growth is slowing down.

In an announcement on Twitter, DuckDuckGo highlights the fact it hit 100 billion private searches, noting:

  • Your search history wasn’t a data point
  • What you searched for stays with you
  • Users recognize their right to privacy and chose to use it

If you dig into the numbers, however, it’s evident the selling point of the private search engine is losing its appeal.

DuckDuckGo’s average daily search volume grew 17% from January 2021 to January 2022.

That’s the slowest rate of growth for DuckDuckGo in the past five years, and a steep drop from the growth it experienced in 2019 to 2020.

From January 2019 to January 2020, DuckDuckGo’s average daily search volume grew 52%.

In the years before that it was hitting over 60% growth.

Here’s a breakdown of DuckDuckGo’s growth in daily searches:

  • January 2021 to January 2022 – 17% increase
  • January 2019 to January 2020 – 52% increase
  • January 2018 to January 2019 – 62% increase
  • January 2017 to January 2018 – 61% increase
  • January 2016 to January 2017 – 30% increase

At the very least, DuckDuckGo sustained the growth it achieved from 2019 to 2020 and increased it by a small margin.

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That’s a positive thing compared to a year-over-year decrease in daily search volume.

More Evidence Of DuckDuckGo’s Waning Popularity

Last January, all signs were pointing to DuckDuckGo’s popularity growing like never before.

Not only was search volume up over 50% year-over-year, but it hit #1 in the iOS App Store in the Utilities category.

DuckDuckGo even cracked the top 10 in the iOS App Store among all apps.


It’s sitting at #18 in the Utilities category, and is so low among all apps that the data isn’t available.

Screenshot from, January 2022.

But Wait, There’s More!

Last year at this time, DuckDuckGo was the #2 mobile search engine in the US.

This year it lost the #2 spot to Yahoo. Now, DuckDuckGo is the third most popular mobile search engine among US searchers.

duckduckgo 100 billionScreenshot from, January 2022.

By all measures, DuckDuckGo is losing steam.

It’s possible that the search engine is suffering from lack of innovation.

There were no notable developments from DuckDuckGo last year, other than the company announcing plans to launch a desktop browser.

Another possibility is that protecting one’s privacy on the web isn’t of great concern to that many people.

The data suggests there’s a finite amount of users who care enough about privacy to change their search behavior, and perhaps DuckDuckGo has reached a majority of those individuals.

As much as DuckDuckGo touts the importance of online privacy, it can also be a hinderance when it comes to the quality of search results.

This is especially true when it comes to local searches. Since DuckDuckGo doesn’t know your exact location, its search results struggle to provide the same value as Google’s local SERPs.

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Let’s see if the 100 billion milestone encourages DuckDuckGo to continue building on what it has already created and offer more to searchers.

Sources: DuckDuckGo, Statcounter, SimilarWeb

Featured Image: Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock

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Are Local Citations (NAP) A Google Ranking Factor?



Are Local Citations (NAP) A Google Ranking Factor?

In local SEO, a citation is a mention of key business information – your name, address, and phone number (NAP) – anywhere else on the web.

Local citations might appear in directories, on social networking or review sites, in apps, and on all kinds of other websites.

Clearly, these are an important part of a searcher’s experience; NAP info is how a local consumer will find their way to your store or give you a call.

But do citations help you rank higher in Google Search results?

The Claim: Local Citations As A Ranking Factor

Some citations allow only for the location’s name, address, and phone number.

However, you may be able to add a website link, business description, photos, and more, depending on the directory or platform.

The idea here is that each of these optimizations will help you rank higher in local search results:

  • Having your NAP info appear on more external sites.
  • Ensuring the accuracy of your citations.
  • Optimizing each one by adding as much supporting detail as the fields on that site allow.

WhiteSpark’s industry survey on local ranking factors provides a good framework that illustrates the variety of considerations in play when we talk about local citation signals. Citations are evaluated based on:

  • Consistency.
  • Quality/authority.
  • Quantity.
  • Enhancement/completeness.

The Evidence For Citations As A Ranking Factor

Citations have long been widely accepted by SEO professionals as a key local ranking factor.

“Consistency of citations” came in at #5 in Moz’s 2020 industry survey of what SEO pros believe are local ranking factors. (They were ranked fifth in the 2018 survey, as well, for both Local Pack/Finder and Localized Organic search results.)

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However, what it is about citations that matter most has been the subject of debate over the years.

When BrightLocal surveyed the industry in 2016, 90% of respondents said citation accuracy was “very important” to “critical” for local search rankings. What’s more, 86% said the quality of those citations was more important than quantity.

In this video, Google confirms that local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence.

And while you cannot control all of these factors, they say:

“First, make sure all of your business information is complete. It’s important to have accurate information including your phone number, address, and business category.”

Google also recommends that in order to ensure the accuracy of your GMB listing and “help you stand out”, you should:

  • Double-check that hours of operation are accurate.
  • Use special hours for holidays.
  • Add photos of your location, services, or merchandise.
  • Verify your location to tell Google you are the correct owner of the business.

In their “Improve your local ranking on Google” help resource, the advice is clear:

“Local results favor the most relevant results for each search. Businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches.”

The Evidence Against Local Citations As A Ranking Factor

You could argue that citations are too difficult to maintain and therefore not a reliable signal.

And you would be right.

It’s incredibly difficult to ensure that all citations across the local search ecosystem are kept up to date.

With so many aggregators, user suggestions, manual errors, and other elements wreaking havoc with citation information, how can Google trust that the information they’re finding about any one business location is accurate?

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This is precisely why local listings management is so important, and providing Google a single source of truth through your GMB profile is key.

Monitoring for citation errors is essential so you can correct them before the wrong information is picked up by aggregators and more widely distributed.

Citation inconsistencies can happen for countless reasons:

  • Businesses move to new locations.
  • Brands open and close stores.
  • Staff and owners create listings without documenting them, and they grow outdated as the business evolves.
  • Consumers create duplicate listings by making spelling mistakes when trying to leave a review.
  • Google searchers suggest listing edits with the best of intentions but the wrong information.
  • And more. A lot more.

Google recognizes that all of these issues can impact citation accuracy, which is why it relies on such a wide array of sources to determine whether the information is trustworthy.

Local Citations As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Bottom line: It is all but confirmed officially by Google that Google uses local citations as a ranking signal in Local Pack/Finder and localized organic search results.

Google’s aim is to provide the best, most trustworthy answers to every searcher.

Citations are an important signal as to whether key business information is correct and that location is the best answer for a local searcher’s relevant query.

If you’re just getting started, check out John McAlpin’s Citations & Local SEO: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.

Ready to get more advanced? Make sure your citations are accurate and complete on as many relevant sources as possible. WhiteSpark’s free Top Local Citation Sources by Country finder enables you to pull a list of the top directories, networks, websites, etc. in 15 countries.

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And if you really want to step up your local strategy, you’ll want to download Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings.

Featured Image: Paolo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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Is It A Ranking Factor?



Is It A Ranking Factor?

Quickly gaining a lot of links from other sites sounds like it should be a positive thing for any website.

But could it actually hurt, rather than help, your rankings?

Or does link velocity not matter at all to Google? Is it, in fact, just some made-up SEO term?

Read on as we investigate the origins of link velocity and whether it’s something you need to be genuinely concerned about in SEO.

The Claim: Link Velocity As A Ranking Factor

Link velocity refers to a theory that the speed at which a website gains links has the potential to impact rankings, either positively or negatively.

Link Velocity = Good

Years ago, having a high link velocity in a short period of time was viewed by some as a good thing in the SEO industry, one that could positively influence your Google rankings.

Link velocity was mentioned in articles and during conference sessions – because in those days link building was more about quantity than quality.

Want to get a webpage to rank quickly? Build a whole bunch of links to it fast.

But the idea of quantity over quality changed after Google launched the Penguin algorithm.

Link Velocity = Bad

The belief here is that gaining links too fast can cause a website to get penalized or demoted in search results.

It is based on the idea that Google will interpret a quick increase in inbound links as a sign that the website is trying to manipulate its search rankings.

Understandably, the idea of link velocity can be concerning for everyone who is averse to getting inadvertently penalized for acquiring links.

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The growth of a website’s link profile is largely out of its control.

If a site publishes a great piece of content, for example, many other sites may reference it within a short time frame, resulting in a number of links gained all at once.

Were link velocity to work as SEO experts claim, the website in the above example could receive a penalty because it gained an influx of inbound links through no fault of its own.

The Evidence: Link Velocity As A Ranking Factor

The origins of link velocity in the SEO community can be dated back to the discovery of a Google patent that was filed in 2003.

The patent, Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data, includes ideas about how a search engine should treat a website based on the growth of its link profile.

In particular, the idea of link velocity can be traced back to this passage:

“While a spiky rate of growth in the number of backlinks may be a factor used by search engine 125 to score documents, it may also signal an attempt to spam search engine 125. Accordingly, in this situation, search engine 125 may actually lower the score of a document(s) to reduce the effect of spamming.”

Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti has picked apart SEO experts’ interpretation of this patent, noting how they ignore parts of the patent which disprove their own theory.

For instance, the patent goes on to define what a “spiky rate of growth” is and how it can be the defining characteristic of unnatural link building.

The patent isn’t about penalizing websites that see a rapid increase in inbound links.

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It’s about demoting websites that exhibit a pattern of unusual spikes in inbound links over extended periods.

According to Montti:

“What that patent is really talking about is the smooth natural rate of growth versus a spiky and unnatural rate of growth.

A spiky rate of growth can manifest over the course of months. That’s a big difference from the link velocity idea that proposes that a large amount of links acquired in a short period will result in a penalty.”

The evidence doesn’t add up to what experts claim about link velocity.

Link Velocity As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

There is no evidence to suggest that Google uses a signal known as link velocity that can negatively impact rankings.

Link velocity is not a term Google officially recognizes.

When asked about it, Google search representatives say a website’s links are assessed on their own merits, not by how many are gained in which length of time.

Here’s an example of such a response from Google’s John Mueller:

“It’s not so much a matter of how many links you get in which time period. It’s really just… if these are links that are unnatural or from our point of view problematic then they would be problematic. It’s like it doesn’t really matter how many or in which time.”

Google’s Gary Illyes put it more bluntly in a Reddit AMA, calling link velocity a made-up term.

Whether links are gained fast or slow, what really matters is the quality of the individual links and the manner in which they were acquired (naturally or unnaturally).

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Featured Image: Paolo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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