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7 Ways To Tweak Your Content For Better SEO

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7 Ways To Tweak Your Content For Better SEO

Every marketer will tell you – creating high-quality content is no easy feat and getting page views, shares, and conversions is even harder.

But useful, engaging, and easy-to-find content is critical to successful digital strategies – so where do we start?

Defining high-quality in this space is essentially about the balance of two things: the art of the writing itself and the approach to optimization.

Each piece of content designed for your company’s website should be considered with an SEO lens before you publish.

Applying a search lens atop your content strategy helps to ensure that the content you create supports not only the customer journey (the starting point for your content strategy), but also creates cost efficiencies.

How?

Focusing on SEO from the outset can support improved Google Adwords scores. This results in lower cost-per-click (CPC) rates for paid search marketing, for example; and cost savings are something the C-suite always loves.

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In this article, we’ll share seven tips to help you make the most out of your content.

1. Ensure Great Content And Structure

Ensuring great content is all about planning.

Do your homework first.

Think about what it is your customer wants to know, and where you are (the expert who can provide them value). From there, decide what you want to say, and where, when, and how your customers will engage, then map out your plan.

An editorial calendar is a great way to get and stay organized. Amid the constant change that defines the current consumer environment, pivots will be needed, but that’s no reason not to plan.

Once you’ve got a calendar that sets out your content needs, you’ll want to set your writers up for success.

Detailed content briefs that outline the user intent or inquiry you’re seeking to address are a good standard practice to adopt.

Process, supported by clear and distinct roles and responsibilities, is important here, too.

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Subject matter experts are not necessarily writers; writers may make for great editors, but self-editing is problematic. In short, ensure you’ve got a plan for publication that lets your people do what they do best.

Content comes in many forms and creating content in a variety of formats will help you reach a wider audience.

Check out this article for 100 types of content you can create (with examples).

Format aside, your structure should be simple and intuitive; an introduction followed by a body (where the main content is) and a conclusion sets the standard.

A simple way to think about this is the news approach to content: Say what you’re going to say (introduction), say it (body), and say what you said (conclusion).

2. Show Your Layout Some Love

You’ve thought about structure already, but have you considered the visual experience?

Visual variety is a key component of high-quality communications across platforms and channels.

From text layout and use of whitespace to headings, paragraphs, and imagery, make sure you think through the visual experience of your customer as well.

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Paragraphs and headings with a clean layout help readers scan through text, and the use of subheadings throughout will further simplify navigation for your reader.

A good clean layout will supplement the intuitive structure you’ve already planned.

But remember, a sentence does not make a paragraph no matter how you feel about the look of a new sentence on a new line! Each paragraph should cover a single idea or subject, keeping things concise and linking out for more on the topic wherever it makes sense (more on links later!).

From the image perspective, the advice is simple: Use them.

A picture is worth a thousand words, or a bar chart, a graph, a process diagram, a quote of particular importance given prominence through varied font size and script … you get the idea.

In short, use images wherever they help to simplify subjects and as a good way to break up text-heavy content.

Whenever you use images, make sure to optimize them. Here are a few simple tips:

  • Add alt text: Supporting accessibility for customers using assistive screen readers, alt text also helps search engines to identify content on your page.
  • Apply logic to your image names: Image filenames should be readable and simple. They can also be used as alt text.
  • Size does matter: You want to keep your site simple and agile to ensure your pages load quickly. Keep your images under 500 KB and page sizes to less than 5 MB.

3. Optimize The Right Way

Images, of course, aren’t the only part of your page that needs optimization.

The structure and layout already outlined give way to lots of optimization options and the right kinds.

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Back in 2011, Google launched the Panda update with the aim of eliminating black hat SEO tactics.

What exactly that means is a long story. Click through for a summary of the why, what we know about the algorithm and a complete timeline.

But the short version is that black hat SEO tactics are ones that aim to increase a site or page’s rank in search engines by violating search engine guidelines (think dirty tricks like invisible text for a simple example).

The right kinds of optimization are in fact simple enough, so there’s no need to get crafty.

Once you focus on optimizing your site information (think site title, site description, page descriptions, and page and title formats), you’re on the right track.

You want to keep things clear and concise. Fifty to 300 characters should provide a relevant readable description of the content on the site and each of the pages using simple and relevant terms.

Length is another key consideration for optimization and not just within your site information sections.

Google likes long articles, but remember, your customer should be at the center of your strategy, so think about their needs and go from there.

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We’d suggest a minimum of 300 words for a topic, which can make for a 1,000-word article easily. What you don’t want is something so long it scares readers away.

Nobody wants to read 2,000 words of keyword-stuffed filler (and again, Google won’t thank you for it). Your content should provide value to the reader and need to be fit for your purpose.

4. Use The Right Keywords & Topical Alliance

Speaking of keywords, do your homework.

SEO insights represent the best real-time representation of your customer’s voice, so before you start writing keyword research is critical.

Users search for all sorts of different reasons.

By figuring out what terms your audience is searching for and the intent behind their search, you can customize your content to bolster your search results.

You will want to ensure that you use a mix of long-tail keywords, as well as head terms.

Long-tail keywords address searcher intent while tending to have low search volume, associated low competition, and high conversion.

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Conversely, head terms are popular search words representing a broad topic.

Going back to our previous notes on optimization, using focused keywords together with simple substitutes and related terms is an easy win.

Search engine algorithms assess the topic of your content by recognizing your content’s keywords, their associated synonyms, and related terms (back to Panda here – it’s essentially about ensuring that the content you’ve developed has real value to it).

You can think about this as an ingredient list versus a recipe. Your ingredient list might be all the search keywords you need, but it won’t get dinner made without associated instructions, while your step-by-step recipe is the content that provides real value to the reader, bringing much-needed context.

For more information on how best to use keywords, check out this advice from Google.

And if you’re looking for more detail on search intent, we’ve got you covered here.

A quick reminder: Search intent is all about focusing on the why (informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional).

So by first researching keywords broadly and then seeking to understand how the content you’re developing will serve your user’s needs, you’ll be better positioned to maximize value (both for your customer and your Adword budget).

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Understanding intent and combining that knowledge with other keyword metrics like search volume, CPC, and difficulty will enable you to serve up the right content at the right times.

How?

Take note of search engine results pages (SERPs) features by keyword, and from there, match your content to compete with the top ones.

5. Master The Art Of Meta Description Copywriting

Displayed on SERPs below the title of the page, meta descriptions don’t directly influence rankings, but they are a key piece of optimizing click-through rates.

Make sure yours are used to accurately describe the content on your page clearly and concisely and make them engaging. Treat your meta descriptions as copy, just like you would ad copy.

A well-written meta description can entice your audience to click on your listing over others that may not be quite as interesting, thereby improving click-through rates.

Let’s be clear here: Well-written is always important, and getting it right across the board (that is across your entire website and each of its pages) is the goal.

But with quick wins in mind, optimizing meta descriptions (which are short in nature at somewhere between 156 and 165 characters recommended) is a must.

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Plus, a site-wide review can be a great place to flex your writing and editing muscles, ensuring a consistent brand character and tone across your site in the process.

For a deeper dive on meta descriptions, why they’re important, and how best to approach them, including some winning examples, check out this article.

The TL;DR version: Keep these seven tips top of mind:

  • Know what your competitors are doing.
  • Map your customer’s journey.
  • Use your brand voice.
  • Incorporate the right keywords.
  • Take advantage of trends.
  • Target specific intents.
  • Refresh your copy.

6. Make Sure You’re Relevant

Discussing keywords and synonyms, as well as search intent, we’ve touched on relevance already, but let’s take a moment to dive deeper.

After all, doing so has the potential to increase our credibility as an expert in our field, and thus the source and top search hit.

Bringing us back to basics, let’s agree that search engines analyze web content to assess whether a particular page contains information that might be relevant to a user based on that user’s search term.

Once we take that simple statement as the basis for the use case, we then must place ourselves in the mind of our users and their needs.

To do the job efficiently, a search engine must assess a user’s search term based on certain key factors.

That being the case, relevance becomes situational in nature; therefore your optimization goals should be, too.

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The short version: You cannot be all things to all people.

In general terms, key ranking factors are openly shared by Google and include the meaning of the query (think intent, determined using language modeling), content quality and usability, as well as context and setting.

The specifics (well, don’t get us started on the challenges of SEO), but broadly speaking, let’s just say that you should think about your content and its relevance in the same way you’d want your search results to respond to your personal needs.

Be your own artificial intelligence. Assess the environment, and then lean into the places you are most relevant to maximize your ROI.

Ranking systems are designed to sort through all available content and serve up the most useful to the searcher, as such, they are not one single algorithm, but rather made up of a whole series of algorithms.

In addition to seeking the terms used in your search entry, ranking systems will evaluate source expertise and consider geographical location, for example.

As a basic relevance criterion, location information provides an incredible opportunity for niche businesses with great content to maximize ROI.

By establishing a site as a reliable source within a certain radius, a credible thought leader in their space with the right blog content (read timely in nature and regularly providing thoughtful commentary on trending topics), an organization can focus content development dollars on a targeted area with the aim of local brand awareness with demonstrable impacts, leveraging click-through as a key performance indicator.

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7. Leverage Your Links

Straight off the bat, let’s agree that it’s possible to perform well in SERPs without backlinks, even Google’s John Mueller says so himself.

That’s out of the way, so let’s align that Domain Authority (which predicts how likely a website is to rank in SERPs) is impacted by the credibility granted to your content by other credible sources linking to it.

You can measure your Domain Authority with SEO tools like Moz and Ahrefs.

We’ve been talking about external promoters, but let’s not forget the importance of internal links, as well.

Ahrefs has you covered here, too, with internal backlinks reporting supplying a measurement of your internal linking efforts.

Your site structure should be set up to optimize internal links.

It makes sense from not just an SEO perspective, but from the client experience perspective that a well-structured site will enable your user to click through your site in line with their information appetite.

Conclusion

Great content is key to an ever-growing list of client experience strategies.

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From broad marketing strategies to targeted client acquisition and public relations plans, to search across sectors and specialties, great content has a role to play in every business’s digital strategy.

For your content to attain higher rankings, you need to consider every area of optimization.

If you’re only focusing on body copy, you’re missing out.

While the setup may seem time-consuming, an investment in SEO optimization – truly knowing your audience and delivering accordingly – is well worthwhile.

Outside of the knowledge that planning effectively will yield better customer-centric content, you can rest assured that doing the thinking around SEO optimization will also provide value to your digital budgets.

In time, and through great effort and consistency, following tried-and-tested optimization tips, your new (and improved) content may just appear on the first page of your soon-to-be newest clients search.

More Resources:


Featured Image: VectorMine/Shutterstock

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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

Creating and selling educational courses can be a lucrative business. But if you already have a product to sell, you can actually use courses as a marketing tool.

Back in 2017, about two years after joining Ahrefs, I decided to create a course on content marketing.

I had a very clear understanding of how an educational course would help me promote Ahrefs.

  • People like courses – Folks like Brian Dean and Glen Allsopp were selling theirs for $500 to $2,000 a pop (and rather successfully). So a free course of comparable quality was sure to get attention.
  • Courses allow for a deeper connection – You would basically be spending a few hours one on one with your students. And if you managed to win their trust, you’d get an opportunity to promote your product to them.

That was my raw thought process going into this venture.

And I absolutely didn’t expect that the lifespan of my course would be as interesting and nuanced as it turned out to be.

The lessons of my course have generated over 500K+ in total views, brought in mid-five-figures in revenue (without even trying), and turned out to be a very helpful resource for our various marketing purposes.

So here goes the story of my “Blogging for Business” course.

1. The creation

I won’t give you any tips on how to create a successful course (well, maybe just one). There are plenty of resources (courses?) on that topic already.

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All I want to say is that my own experience was quite grueling.

The 10 lessons of my course span some 40K words. I have never attempted the feat of writing a book, but I imagine creating such a lengthy course is as close as it gets.

Scripts of the course in Google Docs.

I spent a tremendous amount of time polishing each lesson. The course was going to be free, so it was critical that my content was riveting. If not, people would just bounce from it.

Paid courses are quite different in that sense. You pay money to watch them. So even if the content is boring at times, you’ll persevere anyway to ensure a return on your investment.

When I showed the draft version of the course to my friend, Ali Mese, he gave me a simple yet invaluable tip: “Break your lessons into smaller ones. Make each just three to four minutes long.”

How did I not think of this myself? 

Short, “snackable” lessons provide a better sense of completion and progress. You’re also more likely to finish a short lesson without getting distracted by something. 

I’m pretty sure that it is because of this simple tip that my course landed this Netflix comparison (i.e., best compliment ever):

2. The strategy

With the prices of similar courses ranging from $500 to $2,000, it was really tempting to make some profit with ours.

I think we had around 15,000 paying customers at Ahrefs at that time (and many more on the free plan). So if just 1% of them bought that course for $1K, that would be an easy $150K to pocket. And then we could keep upselling it to our future customers.

Alternatively, we thought about giving access to the course to our paying customers only. 

This might have boosted our sales, since the course was a cool addition to the Ahrefs subscription. 

And it could also improve user retention. The course was a great training resource for new employees, which our customers would lose access to if they canceled their Ahrefs subscription.

And yet, releasing it for free as a lead acquisition and lead nurturing play seemed to make a lot more sense than the other two options. So we stuck to that.

3. The waitlist

Teasing something to people before you let them get it seems like one of the fundamental rules of marketing.

  • Apple announces new products way before they’re available in stores. 
  • Movie studios publish trailers of upcoming movies months (sometimes years) before they hit the theaters. 
  • When you have a surprise for your significant other (or your kids), you can’t help but give them some hints before the reveal.

There’s something about “the wait” and the anticipation that we humans just love to experience.

So while I was toiling away and putting lessons of my course together, we launched a landing page to announce it and collect people’s emails.

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The landing page of the course.

In case someone hesitated to leave their email, we had two cool bonuses to nudge them:

  1. Access to the private Slack community
  2. Free two-week trial of Ahrefs

The latter appealed to freebie lovers so much that it soon “leaked” to Reddit and BlackHatWorld. In hindsight, this leak was actually a nice (unplanned) promo for the course.

4. The promotion

I don’t remember our exact promotion strategy. But I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

I also added a little “sharing loop” to the welcome email. I asked people to tell their friends about the course, justifying it with the fact that taking the course with others was more fun than doing it alone.

Welcome email with a "sharing loop."

I have no idea how effective that “growth hack” was, but there was no reason not to encourage sharing.

In total, we managed to get some 16,000 people on our waitlist by the day of the course launch.

5. The launch

On a set date, the following email went out to our waitlist:

Course launch email.

Did you notice the “note” saying that the videos were only available for free for 30 days? We did that to nudge people to watch them as soon as possible and not save them to the “Watch later” folder.

In retrospect, I wish we had used this angle from the very beginning: “FREE for 30 days. Then $799.”

This would’ve killed two birds with one stone: 

  1. Added an urgency to complete the course as soon as possible
  2. Made the course more desirable by assigning a specific (and rather high) monetary value to it

(If only we could be as smart about predicting the future as we are about reflecting on the past.) 

Once it was live, the course started to promote itself. I was seeing many super flattering tweets:

We then took the most prominent of those tweets and featured them on the course landing page for some social proof. (They’re still there, by the way.)

6. The paywall

Once the 30 days of free access ran out, we added a $799 paywall. And it didn’t take long for the first sale to arrive:

This early luck didn’t push us to focus on selling this course, though. We didn’t invest any effort into promoting it. It was just sitting passively in our Academy with a $799 price tag, and that was it.

And yet, despite the lack of promotion, that course was generating 8-10 sales every month—which were mostly coming from word of mouth.

A comment in TrafficThinkTank.
Eric Siu giving a shout-out about my course in TTT Slack.

Thanks to its hefty price, my course soon appeared on some popular websites with pirated courses. And we were actually glad that it did. Because that meant more people would learn about our content and product.

Then some people who were “late to the party” started asking me if I was ever going to reopen the course for free again. This actually seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy at the time:

7. The giveaways

That $799 price tag also turned my free course into a pretty useful marketing tool. It was a perfect gift for all sorts of giveaways on Twitter, on podcasts, during live talks, and so on.

Giving away the course during a live talk.
Me giving away the course during a live talk.

And whenever we partnered with someone, they were super happy to get a few licenses of the course, which they could give out to their audience.

8. The relaunch

Despite my original plan to update and relaunch this course once a year, I got buried under other work and didn’t manage to find time for it.

And then the pandemic hit. 

That’s when we noticed a cool trend. Many companies were providing free access to their premium educational materials. This was done to support the “stay at home” narrative and help people learn new skills.

I think it was SQ who suggested that we should jump on that train with my “Blogging for Business” course. And so we did:

We couldn’t have hoped for a better timing for that relaunch. The buzz was absolutely insane. The announcement tweet alone has generated a staggering 278K+ impressions (not without some paid boosts, of course).

The statistics of the course announcement tweet.

We also went ahead and reposted that course on ProductHunt once again (because why not?).

All in all, that relaunch turned out to be even more successful than the original launch itself. 

In the course of their lifespan on Wistia, the 40 video lessons of my course generated a total of 372K plays.

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Play count from Wistia.

And this isn’t even the end of it.

9. The launch on YouTube

Because the course was now free, it no longer made sense to host it at Wistia. So we uploaded all lessons to YouTube and made them public.

To date, the 41 videos of my course have generated about 187K views on YouTube.

"Blogging for Business" course playlist.

It’s fair to mention that we had around 200,000 subscribers on our channel at the time of publishing my course there. A brand-new channel with no existing subscribers will likely generate fewer views.

10. The relaunch on YouTube [coming soon]

Here’s an interesting observation that both Sam and I made at around the same time. 

Many people were publishing their courses on YouTube as a single video spanning a few hours rather than cutting them into individual lessons like we did. And those long videos were generating millions of views!

Like these two, ranking at the top for “learn Python course,” which have 33M and 27M views, respectively:

"Learn python course" search on YouTube.

So we decided to run a test with Sam’s “SEO for Beginners” course. It was originally published on YouTube as 14 standalone video lessons and generated a total of 140K views.

Well, the “single video” version of that same course has blown it out of the water with over 1M views as of today.

I’m sure you can already tell where I’m going with this.

We’re soon going to republish my “Blogging for Business” course on YouTube as a single video. And hopefully, it will perform just as well.

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The end

So that’s the story of my “Blogging for Business” course. From the very beginning, it was planned as a promotional tool for Ahrefs. And judging by its performance, I guess it fulfilled its purpose rather successfully.

A screenshot of a Slack message.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 

The fact that my course was conceived as a promotional tool doesn’t mean that I didn’t pour my heart and soul into it. It was a perfectly genuine and honest attempt to create a super useful educational resource for content marketing newbies.

And I’m still hoping to work on the 2.0 version of it someday. In the past four years, I have accrued quite a bit more content marketing knowledge that I’m keen to share with everyone. So follow me on Twitter, and stay tuned.



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