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Everything You Need to Know



Everything You Need to Know

Blog writing is a content marketing format that started as an online diary, and has since gained traction and found its way into business websites. It is one of the more accessible formats of content marketing, the strategic approach which aims to provide relevant and valuable information to one’s audiences and build a relationship with them.

According to OptinMonster, 77% of internet users read blogs. If you don’t know where to start and how, this comprehensive guide is for you.

    1. How does blog writing help with SEO?
    2. Why you should prioritize evergreen content
    3. Do publish dates affect rankings?
    4. How to generate blog topics
    5. How to set up for blog writing
    6. How to write a blog post
    7. How to optimize your blog
    8. How to apply a how-to schema on your blog posts
    9. How to update and enhance old blog posts
    10. Key takeaway

How does blog writing help with SEO?

Think of it this way—when your target audience asks a question related to your niche, you would want to be the one answering the question, right? You can’t answer their questions when you don’t include a means in your website to answer them.

That’s what blog writing does for you. It gives relevant and useful answers to your target audience. And if you’re answering those questions well, the search engines have more reason to index your site and put you at the forefront of the SERPs.

Hence, according to Tech Jury, sites that produce blogs have 434% more indexed pages than sites that don’t. That means these sites generate more traffic, potentially generating more leads and revenue as well.

Companies that have blogs also get 97% more backlinks than other company websites, meaning they also get promoted through other people’s content because they took the time and energy to provide value and answer their target user’s questions.

Why you should prioritize evergreen content went live for the first time in April 2010—which means it’s been almost 12 years and I’m proud to say that we’re still going strong. Every year, our website traffic grows because most of our old articles are consistently generating us traffic as we produce more fresh content.

The secret behind this is age-old SEO advice: evergreen content. And even though publishing evergreen content is such a classic SEO and marketing strategy, I assure you that it works up to this day.

Don’t believe me? Check out the top 10 pages from January 10, 2021 to January 10, 2022 according to Google Analytics:

Google Analytics for Blog Writing

Most of the articles listed there were published a few years back and yet they are the ones that garner the most traffic even up to this date.

That is the power of evergreen content. It’s a strategy I’ve used for my own websites and I’ve used it to make our clients’ website successful as well.

What is evergreen content

Evergreen content is a piece of content about a topic that is still relevant even after a long time regardless of year, season, or trends. Compared to news articles and writing about trending topics, evergreen content will consistently bring your website traffic over time because there are people always searching about it.

Evergreen content is such a crucial SEO strategy because it keeps your audience engaged and gives your website continuity. It should definitely be the backbone of your SEO strategy as the gains are far greater than the costs.

What evergreen content brings to the table

Long-term gains

Think of evergreen content like an investment. When you initially publish an article that is evergreen, you may not get traction immediately in your article. But as you rank higher, you would notice that traffic will increase slowly

If we compare evergreen content to news and other trending topics, you would see that as time goes by, evergreen content can still generate traffic while news and hot topics will fall off a lot faster.

Here’s an example. I wrote an article a few years ago about the easiest way to apply aggregate rating schema. Years later after its publishing, it is consistently getting traffic and is even my top article for the past year.

easiest way to apply aggregate schema

Let’s compare it to a news article I published two years ago. I wrote about Google’s announcement of the June 2019 algorithm update. After publishing the article, its traffic spiked up and immediately died down after a month.

June 2019 algorithm update

That is why it’s important to focus on evergreen content in blog writing. And as you add more evergreen content on your website, you will be able to see that your traffic increases and is on an upward trajectory.

Take note that while it does seem that publishing evergreen content is a far better use of your time than publishing news doesn’t mean you should put 100% of your focus on it. Writing about recent events and trending topics is a different strategy on its own and it does have benefits as well so make sure you have a good mix of both.

Attracts backlinks

As your content rank and get traffic, there is a high chance of it getting backlinks without you having to work too hard for it. Of course, when you publish an article, you would have to do a little link building to make it rank. But once it does and your content gains consistent traffic, you would notice that your article is getting backlinks without you proactively doing anything.

Check out the backlinks of my YouTube SEO article.

YouTube SEO backlinks

I published this article about seven years ago, did a little link building, was able to get on the first page, and there you go. Years later, it’s still getting backlinks on its own.

This is because people find my blog writing as a good resource and if they write an article about YouTube SEO as well, people usually link back to it. This can be applied in any niche. Since evergreen topics usually target high-volume keywords, ranking for them on the first page may let people see you as an authority which brings me to my next point…

Evergreen content is good for E-A-T

It goes without saying that as you get more backlinks, your website’s authority increases. But this isn’t just about PageRank, evergreen content is also great for E-A-T.

Google quality raters measure the E-A-T of a website using various criteria but the content of a website is definitely one of the main things that they check. If you publish evergreen content that is well-written and well-researched, it is a great sign of expertise, authority, and trust. It gives you more credibility and it is also great for your brand.

Sample evergreen content you may consider

How-to guides and tutorials

  • How to fix blue screen of death
  • How to properly clean your car
  • How to cook fried chicken

Informative articles

  • Best ways to lose weight
  • Money-saving tips
  • Resume writing tips

In-depth guides

  • Everything you need to know about diabetes
  • In-depth guide on dog training
  • Complete guide to link building

Important tip: Update your evergreen content

Although the content you published is evergreen, it doesn’t mean that new information is not going to be available in the future. That is why it is also important to go back to the evergreen content that you publish and update the information in them if applicable. It is also a good practice that when you update a piece of old content, your website should properly label it with the date it was last updated.

Reminder: Take note of the difficulty

One of the biggest hurdles in being successful with evergreen content is that topics and keywords tend to have high difficulty.

If you are just starting out, the best advice that I could give you is to stick to your niche and try to find low-hanging fruits. Regardless of the volume of traffic that it brings, as long as it is consistent, it’s already a win.

Do publish dates affect rankings?

Every day, millions of people are looking for fresh content on Google. For us SEOs, this means that when we publish content can be as important as what content we publish.

We’ve already tackled what kind of content we should be focusing on; now, let’s focus on the when.

Do dates on your blog posts affect rankings?

To simply answer the question, yes, publishing dates may affect rankings. When a user performs a search, Google will try to provide the most relevant and recent search results. These are especially true for news, recent events, and other trending topics.

Let’s say you Googled “best smartphone 2022.” It wouldn’t be right for Google to serve you a search result written in 2019 or 2018. Let’s look at the search results. The top stories for the keyword “best smartphone 2022” was published two days ago as of writing:

best smartphone 2022

The next couple of results were published five days ago and more. Some of these articles were published last December, but because they still answer my question, Google saw them to be relevant enough to put in the first page of the SERPs.

best smartphone 2022 SERPs

To further explain how dates affect rankings, Google released an algorithm update way back in 2011 called “Google Freshness Update.” The update aimed to improve Google’s algorithm called Query Deserves Freshness or “QDF” which identifies if a user is looking for up-to-date articles or not.

Now that Google improved its system of identifying if a user is searching for the most recent content, articles that talked about recent news and events were highly impacted by the time and dates they were published.

But what does this mean for months and year old content?

At that time, the algorithm update affected about 35% of search results according to Google. This means old content is still useful and relevant. Remember that Google will only serve a user content that was recently published if it is applicable to their query.

So let’s say you have a website that talks about cars. If you have articles about how to take care of cars that are well-written even though they were written several years ago, Google may still serve your content to users. That is why evergreen content, as mentioned earlier, is extremely important to your website.

Google’s guidelines on dates

Have you noticed that there are times Google shows the date an article was published in the search results and sometimes it doesn’t?

According to Google’s guidelines, Google will choose to show the publishing date of an article if it is useful for the user, especially for news. So how does Google find out when an article was published?

Google uses multiple ways. Here’s what they say on their guidelines:

“Google doesn’t depend on a single dating factor because all factors can be prone to issues. That’s why our systems look at several factors to determine our best estimate of when a page was published or significantly updated.”

How does Google identify publishing dates

The visible date on time on the page

There are two types of dates you can show on your articles: the exact publishing date or the date the article was last updated.

According to the guidelines, the dates should be clearly visible to the users and should be properly labeled such as:

  • Published: January 11, 2022
  • Last Updated: January 11, 2022

Check out this example. I wrote this article back in 2010 and I recently updated it.

how to build backlinks to your website

Structured data

Google can use structured data on your articles if you have any subtype of CreativeWork schema implemented such as Article and BlogPosting schema. It will use the datePublished or dateModified in the markup.

XML Sitemap

Your XML sitemap should also include the publishing or last updated dates for your articles. It should look like this:

xml sitemap

Note: According to the Guidelines, the publishing date is required and the time is not.

When should you change the publishing dates on your blog posts?

In my opinion, the only time you should be changing the dates on your blog posts is when you make noticeable changes in existing articles. Maybe there is new data on surveys you cited or you have updates on your case studies.

And when you do make changes make sure that you label it properly as “updated” not published again. This is a big thing for users as it is a sign that they can trust that you provide up-to-date information.

How about completely removing the dates from blog posts?

Some websites remove the dates from their articles to show that their content is evergreen. Although it may look suspicious, some studies have shown that it can have a positive impact.

Check out these case studies by ShoutMeLoud and UFO.

Remember: Blog post dates is for user experience

When implementing publishing dates on your blog posts or changing the dates to when an article was last updated, keep in mind that you are doing this for the user. I would also say that if you have evergreen content, it might not be necessary to update them at all. Some topics may have a higher click-through rate if dates are visible, while in some topics, age may give you more credibility. I would recommend testing it out and finding what works for your niche.

How to generate blog topics

Content is king. There’s no doubt about that, but there are challenges when you have to continuously publish content regularly—you’ll run out of topics to write about. This is a challenge most bloggers, content marketers, and even SEOs will face at some point in their careers.

Since the web is filled with competitors, there’s a high chance that a good number of them can produce content faster and more frequently than you. Knowing that, how do you reach a level where producing a topic that your readers will surely love can be achieved in the fastest time possible? Let’s find out.

Tools aren’t your best friend

If you’ve been in the industry for a considerable amount of time, you might have come across some tools or products that market themselves as the only tool you’ll ever need when generating and researching topics. You’ve probably tried out some of them as I have and you’ll quickly realize that they’re only effective at the start. As time goes by, you’ll not only realize that it’s not helping you generate topics anymore but they’re not even giving you the inspiration you need to come up with a topic on your own. All of these are especially true when you’re writing about a niche topic or industry.

So what exactly should you do?

Write about topics that people actually read

All of the experts in content marketing, blogging, and SEO will always tell you to research your audience. This is true. Understanding what your audience likes is the first step to generating a topic that will gain traction.

If you’re only beginning to write about a certain topic or niche, chances are, you won’t have data to use. The best way to mitigate this is to empathize with your audience and try to find out why they’re looking for your specific topic or industry.

  • Are they just curious?
  • Do they specifically need something in your topic or industry?
  • What problems would lead them to find your blog/business?

All of these questions lead to just one goal: Deepening your understanding of the audience that you’ll be writing for.

What I’ve mentioned will still hold true for experienced, veteran writers but their advantage is that they have the data to further refine their understanding of their audience. I was blog writing even before I started SEO and haven’t stopped since. So, I’ve had my fair share of writer’s block and inability to generate topics that I can write about. But one helpful strategy I’ve learned is to use Google Analytics and check to see which of my past blog posts do my audience frequently visit.

GA blog writing results

In the screenshot above, it shows me the top 10 pages that the SEO Hacker blog visitors showed the most interest in. We can safely eliminate the homepage, then by checking the topics that gained the most views, I can conclude that these are the kinds of topics that my visitors are looking into. So, I can branch out and generate topics that are related to the top 10 posts.

This is one great way to quickly come up with topics that you can write about. Not only does this help save you time and energy, but it also improves the chances of your audience actually reading the content you’ve written since they already showed interest in another related piece.


Quickly generating your blog topics isn’t enough since you need to make it more accessible and searchable for users that might be interested in the topic you’re writing about. It’s important for you to engage in blog writing for your current audience, but tapping possible audiences to increase your reader count is just as important. So, it’s your job to make the topics you write about to be more accessible and searchable for potential audiences. How do you do that?

Research the keywords you will be targeting.

There are a variety of tools available in the market for you to use to research keywords like Semrush.


You can use this tool to find the best possible keywords that perfectly fit into your content, but there is a limit to how accurate and reliable the numbers shown in keyword research tools are. At the end of the day, you also have to have empathy for your audience and experience in the search industry.

I’ve had countless experiences where I’ve targeted keywords that didn’t have enough numbers shown in keyword research tools—but I know, based on my understanding of the audience and user search behavior—that it’s a “search-worthy” keyword.

It’s important to have a balance between the topic you’ve generated with the keyword you want to target. A good balance enables you to write for humans and for search engines.

How to set up for blog writing

Now that you know what kind of content you want to write about, it’s time to set up your blog.

You will need three things:

  1. A domain name
  2. Web hosting
  3. Blogging software

Domain name

The first thing you should do is think about what you want your website to be called. My first blog was called God and You, where I wrote about my reflections as a Christian and how God impacted my life. At some point, that blog was subsumed under my personal website,

The domain name of this website is called because that is my company’s name. I have another website called for my podcast titled—you guessed it—Leadership Stack.

When you pick your own domain name, you can choose your own name, your business name, or something that describes concisely what your audience can expect to see on your website.

Web hosting

As I’ve written in my web hosting provider post, “Web hosting is a service that lets people and businesses have their website be accessible on the world wide web.”

Basically, imagine that you want to give your address to a friend so they can visit you sometime. Before you can do that, you need the land first on which your house is built. Web hosting is the land that enables you to have your house.

It’s important that you choose your web hosting provider carefully, as web hosting plays an integral part in the success of your blog. If it’s faulty, then it would really cause a lot of headaches as it could lead to unwanted crashes and other issues.

Arguably the best web hosting provider I ever tested was Liquid Web. It’s a fully managed hosting service, meaning after you pay for their service, they pretty much take care of everything and you don’t need to worry about having to DIY anything else.

Blogging software

Lastly, you’ll need a blogging software. It’s no secret that we at SEO Hacker are huge fans of WordPress; in fact, it’s what we use!

wordpress for blog writing

The good thing about picking a CMS like WordPress is that you can build your website without having to interact with code. It’s great if you’re the type of person who wants to build your website and just blog, but you either don’t know the technical aspects of building a website, or you don’t really want to go in depth on those parts even if you know how.

In fact, if you check the comments in the WordPress blog that I linked above, you’ll see that there are people saying that it’s beginner friendly and that they didn’t look back once they picked WordPress.

You can start using WordPress here.

How to write a blog post

Now that you have set up your blog, it’s time to start writing.

When you finally engage in actual blog writing, you want to ensure that your final product is well-researched and well-written. After you’ve done your keyword research and generated your topic, make sure you include the following in your writing:

Sources and statistics

Remember, when you’re engaging in blog writing, you’re building yourself and your website as the authority figure in your niche. The best way to do that is to ensure that you consistently produce high-quality content.

Thing is, 32% of audiences agree that accuracy is an important factor in creating quality content. It would be difficult to do that when all your content is conjecture or mere opinions, that’s why it’s important that you add statistics and even cite your sources through outbound links.

what is in-house marketing

For example, here’s the article I wrote on in-house vs outsourcing marketing. To illustrate to the readers the situation, I gave a statistic.

However, just because we want your blog writing to be well-researched, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo adding…

Your personal experience

Your personal experience is one of the most important things that you can add to your blog. As someone immersed in SEO for example, I can give tips, tricks, and techniques that I have learned and picked up over the years.

I can share what has worked for me and what hasn’t, what I’ve experimented with, the best tools I’ve found, and what I think of SEO trends that pop up or Google algorithm updates. In the same way, you have your own experiences of your niche, and you have your own valuable insights that you can share with your audiences.


Blogs with images get up to 94% more views than articles that don’t. That’s a pretty high number. And it’s also understandable.

Imagine that plenty of long form content out there are around 2,000 words or so. Now, imagine that they are all just plain text. They would make reading pretty troublesome, and could make understanding for your audience a challenge especially if the topic you’re writing about involves instructions.

And remember, when you engage in blog writing, you have to keep your audience in mind. Not putting images in your articles (especially the longer ones), can make reading your content a bad experience because it’s boring, and you don’t want that.

Internal links

Internal links are the links you create between the pages of your website. When you create your first blog post then you won’t really have a page you can link to (unless if you’re promoting a service or whatnot), so this one is more for when you’ve written a couple of posts.

When you add an internal link, you’re referring your readers to another relevant page on your website. For example, I linked to my outbound links article and my dynamic website article, among others. That’s because they are relevant to this topic and I believe that you can get something valuable from those posts as well.


Sections make reading your post a lot easier for your audience. When you add sections, you break down your article into more digestible content. Plus you make navigation a lot easier as your readers can skim the section titles and go directly to what they believe is the most relevant part of the article for them.

Your keyword

Lastly, we can’t forget your keyword. Whether you believe that keyword density still matters to SEO, it’s a good idea to give the search engine a chance to know what you’re talking about.

Of course, keyword density is just one way to do that. I’ll discuss more about keywords in the next section.

How to optimize your blog

Next, we go to optimization. You just have to keep in mind a few things here:

  1. Keyword placement
  2. Alt texts
  3. Headers
  4. URL slug
  5. Meta description
  6. Rel=”nofollow”

Keyword placement

First, make sure your keyword is in the following:

  • Title tag
  • Some of the headers
  • Some of the image alt texts
  • URL slug
  • Meta description

It’s important that you make sure the placements aren’t awkward or forced. You’re optimizing for search engines, yes, but you’re also optimizing for your readers.

Alt texts

Make sure you add alt texts to your images. Alt texts are the descriptive texts embedded in images that are read by the search engines so the images can show up when people perform an image search. They also appear when images are broken, and they are read by screen readers for those who are visually challenged.


Since your article consists of sections, it’s important that you format the section headers properly. For example, H3 would be under H2, H4 would be under H3, and so on and so forth. Proper header formatting allows search engines to understand your content better, and they also ensure that screen readers can help disabled users navigate your blog easily.

URL slug

Next, we have the URL slug. The optimal URL length is around 50-60 characters, with longer URLs negatively impacting SEO.

For example, the URL for this post doesn’t need to be /blog-writing-101-everything-you-need-to-know. It can just be /blog-writing-101.

Meta description

Lastly, we have the meta description. The meta description is the short text that appears on the SERPs that help describe the content of your page. Considering that there are plenty of other websites out there that probably talk about the same things as you do, your meta description can help your blog stand out and get clicked by your target audience.

Here are some examples of meta descriptions:

meta description in blog writing

A good length for your meta description is around 120 to 150 characters. What you want to avoid is for SERPs to truncate them because they’re too long, as seen in the third and fourth blog posts above.

How to apply a how-to schema on your blog posts

Now that you have written and optimized your blog post, it’s time to learn how to apply a how-to schema.

This is, of course, applicable to your articles that are instructive in nature, hence the “how-to.”

How-to articles are one of the best forms of evergreen content (remember what we talked about earlier?). And the thing about how-to articles is that you can basically write about anything and you can be sure that there are at least a handful of people searching for it.

But the work doesn’t end there. Once you are able to get on the first page of Google, you could further improve your article by making it eligible for Google’s Rich Results using the how-to schema.

Google’s guidelines on how-to schema

Rich Results are special types of search results that look far different and more interactive from the traditional blue links. If your content appears in Rich Results, you can expect a higher click-through rate.

To be eligible for Google’s Rich Results, you need to have the right structured data on your page and in this case, we need the how-to schema. Adding how-to schema to your articles simply tells Google that your article is a how-to article. However, before you start deploying how-to schema on all of your articles, make sure that you are following Google’s guidelines first.

  • Advertising: Don’t use HowTo structured data for advertising purposes.
  • Ineligible Content: How-to rich results may not be displayed if the content is obscene, profane, sexually explicit, or graphically violent; or if it promotes dangerous or illegal activities or has hateful or harassing language.
  • Source: All HowTo content must be visible to the user on the source page. The how-to should be the main focus of the source page. Don’t include more than one HowTo for a certain page.
  • Materials and tools: Add structured data to all materials and tools necessary to complete the task.
  • Steps: Each HowToStep must include the entire contents of the source step. Don’t mark up non-step data such as a summary or introduction section as a step.
  • Step images: If the steps are best represented visually, ensure the images in these steps are marked up for each HowToStep. Only mark up the instructional step images that are specific for each step and don’t use the same image in multiple steps for the same how-to. Use the same images that correspond to the content on your page. Don’t use images that don’t reflect the how-to content, or use different images to optimize the rich-result.
  • Final image: If the end result can be accurately described by an image, ensure this image is present on the page, and your HowTo markup includes it using the image property. This image may be the same as the one marked up for the last step.
  • Content: Don’t use HowTo markup for recipes. Recipes should use the Recipe structured data instead. Articles and general advice content that is not a specific set of instructions are not appropriate for HowTo markup.

Applying how-to schema on your blog writing

Understanding the how-to schema objects/elements


  • Name – title of your article
  • HowToStep or HowToSection – full instructions of each step in the How-To article


  • description – further description of the How-To step
  • estimatedCost – the estimated cost of completing the guide
  • image – a photo of the step for better details
  • supply – an item needed that is consumed to complete a step
  • tool – an item needed but is not consumed to complete a step
  • totalTime – the total time needed to finish the guide
  • video – the full video of the guide
  • video.hasPart – a clip of the full video that indicates a single step
  • video.hasPart.endOffset – the end time of the clip from the beginning of the video
  • – the full name of the clip
  • hasPart.startOffset – the start time of the clip from the beginning of the video
  • video.hasPart.url – a link to the specific time of the clip in the full video

Prepare the code and fill in the details

To save you time, you could simply copy and paste this code that I did for the Comprehensive SEO Audit Guide I wrote. There are also a bunch of schema generator websites available or you could also copy the code in the how-to schema guidelines.

Take note that this sample code only has 2 steps in it which is the minimum required. You’ll need to copy and paste the “step” lines of code for each step in your how-to article.

<script type=”application/ld+json”>
“@context”: “”,
“@type”: “HowTo”,
“name”: “SEO Audit 2019: A Comprehensive Guide”,
“description”: “An audit is a part of any SEOs regular duties. Here’s how to do it in 2019.”,
“image”: {“@type”: “ImageObject”,
“url”: “”,
“height”: “406”,
“width”: “305”},
“tool”: [{ “@type”: “HowToTool”,
“name”: “Google Analytics”
{ “@type”: “HowToTool”,
“name”: “Google Search Console”
{ “@type”: “HowToTool”,
“name”: “Screaming Frog”
{ “@type”: “HowToTool”,
“name”: “SEMRush”
“step”: [
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“url”: “”,
“name”: “Check your Website Traffic”,
“itemListElement”: [{
“@type”: “HowToDirection”,
“text”: “Do a regular check of your traffic in Google Analytics. Check for sudden drops and investigate what is the cause of the drop.”
}, {
“@type”: “HowToTip”,
“text”: “It is recommended to do it twice a week.”
“image”: {
“@type”: “ImageObject”,
“url”: “×300.png?x45231”,
“height”: “406”,
“width”: “305”
}, {
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“name”: “Check your Google Search Console Coverage Report”,
“url”: “”,
“itemListElement”: [{
“@type”: “HowToDirection”,
“text”: “Check your Submitted Sitemaps”
}, {
“@type”: “HowToDirection”,
“text”: “Check Submitted and Indexed Report”
}, {
“@type”: “HowToDirection”,
“text”: “Check Indexed, Not Submitted in Sitemap Report”
“image”: {
“@type”: “ImageObject”,
“url”: “×486.jpg?x45231”,
“height”: “406”,
“width”: “305”
} ],
“totalTime”: “P1D”

Test your code and deploy

Once you are done filling in all the details, you now need to check your code for errors. I recommend the Google’s Rich Results Test.

The Rich Results test can verify structured data either via a URL or code snippet. It can give you a preview of how your website will look like in the search results.

rich results

Once everything is perfect, you can now deploy your code! Since the how-to schema is placed in a specific page, I would recommend putting it at the start of the <body> of the HTML code.

Resubmit in Google Search Console

This step is not really required because Google will eventually crawl updates on your page within a few days but just to make sure it gets indexed, you can use the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console and request for reindexing of the page/s you updated.

How it would look in the SERPS

In the Rich Results Tests, you could click Preview and it will show you how your content will appear in the search results for a How-To Rich Result.

rich results serps for blog writing

Monitor how-to schemas in Google Search Console

Once Google is able to crawl the how-to structured data on your blog posts, you will notice a new section under “Enhancements” in your Google Search Console account labeled “How-To”. This is where you can see all the valid how-to pages in your website and should they have any errors or warnings.

Always remember that Rich Results are not guaranteed. Do not get frustrated if you are not seeing How-To rich results for your website since it depends on Google’s algorithm if it is going to show Rich Results for a specific search result.

How to update and enhance old blog posts

Let us say that you finally have a lot of blog posts as you’ve been consistently writing over the years. It’s important that you don’t leave those blog posts alone, but to go back and update them when necessary and applicable.

Knowing which blog posts to update

The first step to updating and enhancing old blog posts is knowing which blog posts to update or enhance. This is applicable for all webmasters but is especially true for publishers where the main source of attracting traffic is through their content, like this website.

The problem happens when you have blog posts dated to 5+ years back. This means that you’ve published hundreds of blog posts or maybe even thousands. So, there has to be a large number of old, underperforming blog posts in your arsenal. How do you choose the blog posts that you will update and enhance?

Through their rankings and traffic. Easy enough, the primary way to determine which of your blog posts needs updating is to check Google Analytics and Google Search Console (or rank tracking SaaS). Here’s how you can do it:

  • On Google Analytics account, go to Behavior → Site Content → All Pages. There you’ll see your top 10 viewed pages for the timeframe you set.

google analytics

  • You can further refine it by searching for particular blog posts you have in mind through the search bar. Though you have to remember to search using your blog post’s URL slug only. If you accidentally include the domain name, it won’t show the results for the specific blog post.
  • If you want to check the pages they visited to enter your site, go to Behavior → Site Content → Landing Pages. Here you’ll see which pages they see first when they enter your site. This is also a great way to check which pages are attracting the most visitors from various sources.

google analytics landing pages

  • To view which blog posts are performing well organically, you can use Google Search Console’s Performance page. Just go to your Google Search Console property, then go to Performance → Search Results → then scroll down until you see the QUERIES table → click on PAGES.

google search console pages

  • Here you’ll see the blog posts that are garnering the top clicks/impressions on Google search results. You can even search for a particular blog post by clicking on the inverted triangle on the upper right side corner of the table to filter the results.

From these two essential tools alone, you’ll be able to determine which blog posts are underperforming and have them updated AND enhanced immediately. So, how do we do it?

Updating posts as blog writing

Now that you’ve determined which blog posts you’ll be updating, you will need to know where to start. I’ve actually written in the past about content augmentation and how to improve an old blog post’s reach. So, I’ll only be including recent and timely strategies that I haven’t written about yet in my other posts.

Serving intent

Intent should now be the primary focus in blog writing when you’re trying to make your posts rank. Historically, keyword optimization was more technical and straightforward where you just needed to put in the keywords in the title tag, meta description, H1, and the body of your content. But as times have changed and Google has continuously improved their machine learning algorithms and content understanding capabilities, serving the right intent for your target keyword is more important than ever.

The buzzword for the industry in recent years is “LSI keywords” while this may hold some importance to some extent, it doesn’t necessarily help you with serving intent. Why? Because in a nutshell, latent semantic indexing keywords are terms that are conceptually related to your target keyword—so if you’re already writing about your keyword topically—which you should, not focusing on the particular keyword, but the overall topic it covers, you’re automatically targeting LSI keywords without having to research, think, focus, and write about them.

Knowing semantic search and serving intent—through manually checking what kind of pages is Google ranking for your target topic or keyword—will not only help you save time and effort but will also help you in determining if you will rank well. There have been many instances in the past where my team and I wrote about a specific keyword or topic while not checking the search results for them. What happened was we were not able to rank well for a considerable amount of time because the search results were serving category and product pages instead of content-heavy pages. If we had just understood the right intent to serve, we wouldn’t have had to rewrite and repeat efforts which took more time and energy.


Republishing (and updating) sounds simple but is still an underrated tactic for updating old blog posts. Blog writing doesn’t always have to be about completely new topics, it can be about republishing articles. There are some blog posts that are so outdated that their contents are not even applicable to today’s day and age.

Republishing and updating the information contained in that blog post does not only improve its freshness signals but it’s also an opportunity for you to gain more valuable traffic by having otherwise useless blog posts turn into a traffic-attracting one.

For example, here’s a blog post I updated a while back:

10 things you need to stop doing in your marketing emails

This was published in 2015 and I noticed that some of the things I wrote about were already outdated. So I added two more factors and updated the content to be more relevant and accurate.

Technical factors

This is the easiest and most used tactic for updating old, underperforming blog posts. If you believe that the information of your old blog post is still sufficiently applicable to today’s time, then maybe it just needs a refresher. Maybe your title tag isn’t attracting clicks? Or your meta description doesn’t necessarily imply what the page is about which is why users don’t click on your search results. Changing them to become more appealing and adding timely and informative content will sometimes do the trick.

Through tactics like the ones I’ve mentioned and the ones I’ve written about before, we’ve achieved more traffic count. One of the best examples I can show is an old and underperforming client blog post that jumped right into their top 10 most visited pages over the course of a year:

We did a mix of the tactics I’ve mentioned and optimized the page to be eligible for the featured snippet position. In a matter of a few months, it already gained traffic that’s immensely better than the numbers it used to have. Once it reached the featured snippet spot, it only enjoyed a larger number.

Key takeaway

Blog writing can be quite the challenge, but it is absolutely one of the most important and most rewarding things you can do for your website (and yourself). It involves a lot of research and preparation, but it works well for SEO and it helps you provide valuable information to the people you want to reach.

Let me know how this blog writing 101 guide has helped you!

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What Are They Really Costing You?




What Are They Really Costing You?

This post was sponsored by Adpulse. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

As managers of paid media, one question drives us all: “How do I improve paid ad performance?”. 

Given that our study found close variant search terms perform poorly, yet more than half of the average budget on Google & Microsoft Ads is being spent on them, managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in ROI. 

“Close variants help you connect with people who are looking for your business, despite slight variations in the way they search.”

Promising idea…but what about the execution?

We analyzed over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions to answer this question: With the rise in close variants (intent matching) search terms, what impact are they having on budgets and account performance? Spoiler alert, the impact is substantial. 

True Match Vs. Close Variants: How Do They Perform?

To understand close variant (CV) performance, we must first define the difference between a true match and a close variant. 


What Is a True Match? 

We still remember the good-old-days where keyword match types gave you control over the search terms they triggered, so for this study we used the literal match types to define ‘close variant’ vs ‘true match’. 

  • Exact match keyword => search term matches the keyword exactly. 
  • Phrase match keyword => search term must contain the keyword (same word order).
  • Broad match keyword => search term must contain every individual word in the keyword, but the word order does not matter (the way modified broad match keywords used to work).   


What Is a Close Variant? 

If you’re not familiar with close variants (intent matching) search terms, think of them as search terms that are ‘fuzzy matched’ to the keywords you are actually bidding on. 

Some of these close variants are highly relevant and represent a real opportunity to expand your keywords in a positive way. 

Some are close-ish, but the conversions are expensive. 

And (no shocks here) some are truly wasteful. 

….Both Google and Microsoft Ads do this, and you can’t opt-out.

To give an example: if you were a music therapist, you might bid on the phrase match keyword “music therapist”. An example of a true match search term would be ‘music therapist near me’ because it contains the keyword in its true form (phrase match in this case) and a CV might be ‘music and art therapy’.

How Do Close Variants Compare to True Match?

Short answer… poorly, on both Google and Microsoft Ads. Interestingly however, Google showed the worst performance on both metrics assessed, CPA and ROAS. 

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Want to see the data – jump to it here…

CVs have been embraced by both platforms with (as earlier stated), on average more than half of your budget being spent on CV variant matches. That’s a lot of expansion to reach searches you’re not directly bidding for, so it’s clearly a major driver of performance in your account and, therefore, deserving of your attention. 

We anticipated a difference in metrics between CVs and true match search terms, since the true match search terms directly align with the keywords you’re bidding on, derived from your intimate knowledge of the business offering. 

True match conversions should therefore be the low-hanging fruit, leaving the rest for the platforms to find via CVs. Depending on the cost and ROI, this isn’t inherently bad, but logically we would assume CVs would perform worse than true matches, which is exactly what we observed. 

How Can You Limit Wastage on Close Variants?

You can’t opt out of them, however, if your goal is to manage their impact on performance, you can use these three steps to move the needle in the right direction. And of course, if you’re relying on CVs to boost volume, you’ll need to take more of a ‘quality-screening’ rather than a hard-line ‘everything-must-go’ approach to your CV clean out!


Step 1: Diagnose Your CV Problem 

We’re a helpful bunch at Adpulse so while we were scoping our in-app solution, we built a simple spreadsheet that you can use to diagnose how healthy your CVs are. Just make a copy, paste in your keyword and search term data then run the analysis for yourself. Then you can start to clean up any wayward CVs identified. Of course, by virtue of technology, it’s both faster and more advanced in the Adpulse Close Variant Manager 😉.


Step 2: Suggested Campaign Structures for Easier CV Management  

Brand Campaigns

If you don’t want competitors or general searches being matched to your brand keywords, this strategy will solve for that. 

Set up one ad group with your exact brand keyword/s, and another ad group with phrase brand keyword/s, then employ the negative keyword strategies in Step 3 below. You might be surprised at how many CVs have nothing to do with your brand, and identifying variants (and adding negative keywords) becomes easy with this structure.

Don’t forget to add your phrase match brand negatives to non-brand campaigns (we love negative lists for this).

Non-Brand Campaigns with Larger Budgets

We suggest a campaign structure with one ad group per match type:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers – Exact
    • General Plumbers – Phrase
    • General Plumbers – Broad
    • Emergency Plumbers – Exact
    • Emergency Plumbers – Phrase
    • Emergency Plumbers – Broad

This allows you to more easily identify variants so you can eliminate them quickly. This also allows you to find new keyword themes based on good quality CVs, and add them easily to the campaign. 

Non-Brand Campaigns with Smaller Budgets

Smaller budgets mean the upside of having more data per ad group outweighs the upside of making it easier to trim unwanted CVs, so go for a simpler theme-based ad group structure:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers
    • Emergency Plumbers


Step 3: Ongoing Actions to Tame Close Variants

Adding great CVs as keywords and poor CVs as negatives on a regular basis is the only way to control their impact.

For exact match ad groups we suggest adding mainly root negative keywords. For example, if you were bidding on [buy mens walking shoes] and a CV appeared for ‘mens joggers’, you could add the single word “joggers” as a phrase/broad match negative keyword, which would prevent all future searches that contain joggers. If you added mens joggers as a negative keyword, other searches that contain the word joggers would still be eligible to trigger. 

In ad groups that contain phrase or broad match keywords you shouldn’t use root negatives unless you’re REALLY sure that the root negative should never appear in any search term. You’ll probably find that you use the whole search term added as an exact match negative much more often than using root negs.

The Proof: What (and Why) We Analyzed

We know CVs are part of the conversations marketers frequently have, and by virtue of the number of conversations we have with agencies each week, we’ve witnessed the increase of CV driven frustration amongst marketers. 

Internally we reached a tipping point and decided to data dive to see if it just felt like a large problem, or if it actually IS a large enough problem that we should devote resources to solving it in-app. First stop…data. 

Our study of CV performance started with thousands of Google and Microsoft Ads accounts, using last 30-day data to May 2024, filtered to exclude:

  • Shopping or DSA campaigns/Ad Groups.
  • Accounts with less than 10 conversions.
  • Accounts with a conversion rate above 50%.
  • For ROAS comparisons, any accounts with a ROAS below 200% or above 2500%.

Search terms in the study are therefore from keyword-based search campaigns where those accounts appear to have a reliable conversion tracking setup and have enough conversion data to be individually meaningful.

The cleaned data set comprised over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions (over 30 days) across Google and Microsoft Ads; a large enough data set to answer questions about CV performance with confidence.

Interestingly, each platform appears to have a different driver for their lower CV performance. 

CPA Results:

Google Ads was able to maintain its conversion rate, but it chased more expensive clicks to achieve it…in fact, clicks at almost double the average CPC of true match! Result: their CPA of CVs worked out roughly double the CPA of true match.                 

Microsoft Ads only saw slightly poorer CPA performance within CVs; their conversion rate was much lower compared to true match, but their saving grace was that they had significantly lower CPCs, and you can afford to have a lower conversion rate if your click costs are also lower. End outcome? Microsoft Ads CPA on CVs was only slightly more expensive when compared to their CPA on true matches; a pleasant surprise 🙂.

What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

ROAS Results:

Both platforms showed a similar story; CVs delivered roughly half the ROAS of their true match cousins, with Microsoft Ads again being stronger overall. 


1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Underlying Data:

For the data nerds amongst us (at Adpulse we self-identify here !) 

1718772963 88 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024


Close variant search terms consume, on average, more than half an advertiser’s budget whilst in most cases, performing significantly worse than search terms that actually match the keywords. How much worse? Read above for details ^. Enough that managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in account ROI. 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Adpulse. Used with permission.

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How To Uncover Traffic Declines In Google Search Console And How To Fix Them




How To Uncover Traffic Declines In Google Search Console And How To Fix Them

Google Search Console is an essential tool that offers critical insights into your website’s performance in Google search results.

Occasionally, you might observe a sudden decline in organic traffic, and it’s crucial to understand the potential causes behind this drop. The data stored within Google Search Console (GSC) can be vital in troubleshooting and understanding what has happened to your website.

Before troubleshooting GSC traffic declines, it’s important to understand first what Google says about assessing traffic graphs in GSC and how it reports on different metrics.

Understanding Google Search Console Metrics

Google’s documentation on debugging Search traffic drops is relatively comprehensive (compared to the guidance given in other areas) and can, for the most part, help prevent any immediate or unnecessary panic should there be a change in data.

Despite this, I often find that Search Console data is misunderstood by both clients and those in the first few years of SEO and learning the craft.

Image from Google Search Central, May 2024

Even with these definitions, if your clicks and impressions graphs begin to resemble any of the above graph examples, there can be wider meanings.

Search Central description  It could also be a sign that…
Large drop from an algorithmic update, site-wide security, or spam issue This could also signal a serious technical issue, such as accidentally deploying a noindex onto a URL or returning the incorrect status code – I’ve seen it before where the URL renders content but returns a 410.
Seasonality You will know your seasonality better than anyone, but if this graph looks inverse it could be a sign that during peak search times, Google is rotating the search engine results pages (SERPs) and choosing not to rank your site highly. This could be because, during peak search periods, there is a slight intent shift in the queries’ dominant interpretation.
Technical issues across your site, changing interests This type of graph could also represent seasonality (both as a gradual decline or increase).
Reporting glitch ¯_(ツ)_/¯ This graph can represent intermittent technical issues as well as reporting glitches. Similar to the alternate reasons for graphs like Seasonality, it could represent a short-term shift in the SERPs and what meets the needs of an adjusted dominant interpretation of a query.

Clicks & Impressions

Google filters Click and Impression data in Google Search Console through a combination of technical methods and policies designed to ensure the accuracy, reliability, and integrity of the reported data.

Reasons for this include:

  • Spam and bot filtering.
  • Duplicate data removal.
  • User privacy/protection.
  • Removing “invalid activities.”
  • Data aggregation and sampling.

One of the main reasons I’ve seen GSC change the numbers showing the UI and API is down to the setting of thresholds.

Google may set thresholds for including data in reports to prevent skewed metrics due to very low-frequency queries or impressions. For example, data for queries that result in very few impressions might be excluded from reports to maintain the statistical reliability of the metrics.

Average Position

Google Search Console produces the Average Position metric by calculating the average ranking of a website’s URLs for a specific query or set of queries over a defined period of time.

Each time a URL appears in the search results for a query, its position is recorded. For instance, if a URL appears in the 3rd position for one query and in the 7th position for another query, these positions are logged separately.

As we enter the era of AI Overviews, John Mueller has confirmed via Slack conversations that appearing in a generative snapshot will affect the average position of the query and/or URL in the Search Console UI.

1718702762 996 How To Uncover Traffic Declines In Google Search Console AndSource: John Mueller via The SEO Community Slack channel

I don’t rely on the average position metric in GSC for rank tracking, but it can be useful in trying to debug whether or not Google is having issues establishing a single dominant page for specific queries.

Understanding how the tool compiles data allows you to better diagnose the reasons as to why, and correlate data with other events such as Google updates or development deployments.

Google Updates

A Google broad core algorithm update is a significant change to Google’s search algorithm intended to improve the relevance and quality of search results.

These updates do not target specific sites or types of content but alter specific systems that make up the “core” to an extent it is noteworthy for Google to announce that an update is happening.

Google makes updates to the various individual systems all the time, so the lack of a Google announcement does not disqualify a Google update from being the cause of a change in traffic.

For example, the website in the below screenshot saw a decline from the March 2023 core update but then recovered in the November 2023 core update.

GSC: the website saw a decline from the March 2023 core updateScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

The following screenshot shows another example of a traffic decline correlating with a Google update, and it also shows that recovery doesn’t always occur with future updates.

traffic decline correlating with a Google updateScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

This site is predominantly informational content supporting a handful of marketing landing pages (a traditional SaaS model) and has seen a steady decline correlating with the September 2023 helpful content update.

How To Fix This

Websites negatively impacted by a broad core update can’t fix specific issues to recover.

Webmasters should focus on providing the best possible content and improving overall site quality.

Recovery, however, may occur when the next broad core update is rolled out if the site has improved in quality and relevance or Google adjusts specific systems and signal weightings back in the favour of your site.

In SEO terminology, we also refer to these traffic changes as an algorithmic penalty, which can take time to recover from.

SERP Layout Updates

Given the launch of AI Overviews, I feel many SEO professionals will conduct this type of analysis in the coming months.

In addition to AI Overviews, Google can choose to include a number of different SERP features ranging from:

  • Shopping results.
  • Map Packs.
  • X (Twitter) carousels.
  • People Also Ask accordions.
  • Featured snippets.
  • Video thumbnails.

All of these not only detract and distract users from the traditional organic results, but they also cause pixel shifts.

From our testing of SGE/AI Overviews, we see traditional results being pushed down anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 pixels.

When this happens you’re not likely to see third-party rank tracking tools show a decrease, but you will see clicks decline in GSC.

The impact of SERP features on your traffic depends on two things:

  • The type of feature introduced.
  • Whether your users predominantly use mobile or desktop.

Generally, SERP features are more impactful to mobile traffic as they greatly increase scroll depth, and the user screen is much smaller.

You can establish your dominant traffic source by looking at the device breakdown in Google Search Console:

Device by users: clicks and impressionsImage from author’s website, May 2024

You can then compare the two graphs in the UI, or by exporting data via the API with it broken down by devices.

How To Fix This

When Google introduces new SERP features, you can adjust your content and site to become “more eligible” for them.

Some are driven by structured data, and others are determined by Google systems after processing your content.

If Google has introduced a feature that results in more zero-click searches for a particular query, you need to first quantify the traffic loss and then adjust your strategy to become more visible for similar and associated queries that still feature in your target audience’s overall search journey.

Seasonality Traffic Changes

Seasonality in demand refers to predictable fluctuations in consumer interest and purchasing behavior that occur at specific times of the year, influenced by factors such as holidays, weather changes, and cultural events.

Notably, a lot of ecommerce businesses will see peaks in the run-up to Christmas and Thanksgiving, whilst travel companies will see seasonality peaks at different times of the year depending on the destinations and vacation types they cater to.

The below screenshot is atypical of a business that has a seasonal peak in the run-up to Christmas.

seasonal peaks as measured in GSCScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

You will see these trends in the Performance Report section and likely see users and sessions mirrored in other analytics platforms.

During a seasonal peak, Google may choose to alter the SERPs in terms of which websites are ranked and which SERP features appear. This occurs when the increase in search demand also brings with it a change in user intent, thus changing the dominant interpretation of the query.

In the travel sector, the shift is often from a research objective to a commercial objective. Out-of-season searchers are predominantly researching destinations or looking for deals, and when it is time to book, they’re using the same search queries but looking to book.

As a result, webpages with a value proposition that caters more to the informational intent are either “demoted” in rankings or swapped out in favor of webpages that (in Google’s eyes) better cater to users in satisfying the commercial intent.

How To Fix This

There is no direct fix for traffic increases and decreases caused by seasonality.

However, you can adjust your overall SEO strategy to accommodate this and work to create visibility for the website outside of peak times by creating content to meet the needs and intent of users who may have a more research and information-gathering intent.

Penalties & Manual Actions

A Google penalty is a punitive action taken against a website by Google, reducing its search rankings or removing it from search results, typically due to violations of Google’s guidelines.

As well as receiving a notification in GSC, you’ll typically see a sharp decrease in traffic, akin to the graph below:

Google traffic decline from penaltyScreenshot by author from Google Search Console, May 2024

Whether or not the penalty is partial or sitewide will depend on how bad the traffic decline is, and also the type (or reason) as to why you received a penalty in the first place will determine what efforts are required and how long it will take to recover.

Changes In PPC Strategies

A common issue I encounter working with organizations is a disconnect in understanding that, sometimes, altering a PPC campaign can affect organic traffic.

An example of this is brand. If you start running a paid search campaign on your brand, you can often expect to see a decrease in branded clicks and CTR. As most organizations have separate vendors for this, it isn’t often communicated that this will be the case.

The Search results performance report in GSC can help you identify whether or not you have cannibalization between your SEO and PPC. From this report, you can correlate branded and non-branded traffic drops with the changelog from those in command of the PPC campaign.

How To Fix This

Ensuring that all stakeholders understand why there have been changes to organic traffic, and that the traffic (and user) isn’t lost, it is now being attributed to Paid.

Understanding if this is the “right decision” or not requires a conversation with those managing the PPC campaigns, and if they are performing and providing a strong ROAS, then the organic traffic loss needs to be acknowledged and accepted.

Recovering Site Traffic

Recovering from Google updates can take time.

Recently, John Mueller has said that sometimes, to recover, you need to wait for another update cycle.

However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active in trying to improve your website and better align with what Google wants to reward and relying on Google reversing previous signal weighting changes.

It’s critical that you start doing all the right things as soon as possible. The earlier that you identify and begin to solve problems, the earlier that you open up the potential for recovery. The time it takes to recover depends on what caused the drop in the first place, and there might be multiple factors to account for. Building a better website for your audience that provides them with better experiences and better service is always the right thing to do.

More resources: 

Featured Image: Ground Picture/Shutterstock

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Barriers To Audience Buy-In




Barriers to audience buy-in with lead generation

This is an excerpt from the B2B Lead Generation ebook, which draws on SEJ’s internal expertise in delivering leads across multiple media types.

People are driven by a mix of desires, wants, needs, experiences, and external pressures.

It can take time to get it right and convince a person to become a lead, let alone a paying customer.

Here are some nuances of logic and psychology that could be impacting your ability to connect with audiences and build strong leads.

1. Poor Negotiations & The Endowment Effect

Every potential customer you encounter values their own effort and information. And due to something called the endowment effect, they value that time and data much more than you do.

In contrast, the same psychological effect means you value what you offer in exchange for peoples’ information more than they will.

If the value of what you’re offering fails to match the value of what consumers are giving you in exchange (read: their time and information), the conversions will be weak.

The solution? You can increase the perceived value of the thing you’re offering, or reduce the value of what the user “pays” for the thing you offer.

Want an exclusive peek into tactics we use when developing our own lead gen campaigns? Check out our upcoming webinar.

Humans evaluate rewards in multiple dimensions, including the reward amount, the time until the reward is received, and the certainty of the reward.

The more time before a reward occurs, and the less certain its ultimate value, the harder you have to work to get someone to engage.

Offering value upfront – even if you’re presenting something else soon after, like a live event, ebook, or demo – can help entice immediate action as well as convince leads of the long-term value of their investment.

It can even act as a prime for the next step in the lead gen nurturing process, hinting at even more value to come and increasing the effectiveness of the rest of your lead generation strategy.

It’s another reason why inbound content is a critical support for lead generation content. The short-term rewards of highly useful ungated content help prepare audiences for longer-term benefits offered down the line.

3. Abandonment & The Funnel Myth

Every lead generation journey is carefully planned, but if you designed it with a funnel in mind, you could be losing many qualified leads.

That’s because the imagery of a funnel might suggest that all leads engage with your brand or offer in the same way, but this simply isn’t true – particularly for products or services with high values.

Instead, these journeys are more abstract. Leads tend to move back and forth between stages depending on their circumstances. They might change their minds, encounter organizational roadblocks, switch channels, or their needs might suddenly change.

Instead of limiting journeys to audience segments, consider optimizing for paths and situations, too.

Optimizing for specific situations and encounters creates multiple opportunities to capture a lead while they’re in certain mindsets. Every opportunity is a way to engage with varying “costs” for time and data, and align your key performance indicators (KPIs) to match.

Situational journeys also create unique opportunities to learn about the various audience segments, including what they’re most interested in, which offers to grab their attention, and which aspects of your brand, product, or service they’re most concerned about.

4. Under-Pricing

Free trials and discounts can be eye-catching, but they don’t always work to your benefit.

Brands often think consumers will always choose the product with the lowest possible price. That isn’t always the case.

Consumers work within something referred to as the “zone of acceptability,” which is the price range they feel is acceptable for a purchasing decision.

If your brand falls outside that range, you’ll likely get the leads – but they could fail to buy in later. The initial offer might be attractive, but the lower perception of value could work against you when it comes time to try and close the sale.

Several elements play into whether consumers are sensitive to pricing discounts. The overall cost of a purchase matters, for example.

Higher-priced purchases, such as SaaS or real estate, can be extremely sensitive to pricing discounts. They can lead to your audience perceiving the product as lower-value, or make it seem like you’re struggling. A price-quality relationship is easy to see in many places in our lives. If you select the absolute lowest price for an airline ticket, do you expect your journey to be timely and comfortable?

It’s difficult to offer specific advice on these points. To find ideal price points and discounts, you need good feedback systems from both customers and leads – and you need data about how other audiences interact. But there’s value in not being the cheapest option.

Get more tips on how we, here at SEJ, create holistic content campaigns to drive leads in this exclusive webinar.

5. Lead Roles & Information

In every large purchasing decision, there are multiple roles in the process. These include:

  • User: The person who ultimately uses the product or service.
  • Buyer: The person who makes the purchase, but may or may not know anything about the actual product or service being purchased.
  • Decider: The person who determines whether to make the purchase.
  • Influencer: The person who provides opinions and thoughts on the product or service, and influences perceptions of it.
  • Gatekeeper: The person who gathers and holds information about the product or service.

Sometimes, different people play these roles, and other times, one person may hold more than one of these roles. However, the needs of each role must be met at the right time. If you fail to meet their needs, you’ll see your conversions turn cold at a higher rate early in the process.

The only way to avoid this complication is to understand who it is you’re attracting when you capture the lead, and make the right information available at the right time during the conversion process.

6. Understand Why People Don’t Sign Up

Many businesses put significant effort into lead nurturing and understanding the qualities of potential customers who fill out lead forms.

But what about the ones who don’t fill out those forms?

Understanding these values and the traits that drive purchasing decisions is paramount.

Your own proprietary and customer data, like your analytics, client data, and lead interactions, makes an excellent starting place, but don’t make the mistake of basing your decisions solely on the data you have collected about the leads you have.

This information creates a picture based solely on people already interacting with you. It doesn’t include information about the audience you’ve failed to capture so far.

Don’t fall for survivorship bias, which occurs when you only look at data from people who have passed your selection filters.

This is especially critical for lead generation because there are groups of people you don’t want to become leads. But you need to make sure you’re attracting as many ideal leads as possible while filtering out those that are suboptimal. You need information about the people who aren’t converting to ensure your filters are working as intended.

Gather information from the segment of your target audience that uses a competitor’s products, and pair them with psychographic tools and frameworks like “values and lifestyle surveys” (VALS) to gather insights and inform decisions.

In a digital world of tough competition and even more demands on every dollar, your lead generation needs to be precise.

Understanding what drives your target audience before you capture the lead and ensuring every detail is crafted with the final conversion in mind will help you capture more leads and sales, and leave your brand the clear market winner.

More resources:

Featured Image: Pasuwan/Shutterstock

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