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How to Create Relevant Content That Ranks

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How to Create Relevant Content That Ranks

Google aims to rank the most relevant results for searchers. So if your content isn’t relevant, it won’t rank.

But relevance isn’t just about including your keyword a bunch of times. In fact, it isn’t about that at all.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to create relevant content that Google wants to rank.

How does Google determine the relevance of content?

It does this in a variety of ways. 

1. Does your page mention the search query?

According to Google, the most basic relevance signal is whether your content contains the same keywords as the search query. 

Passage from Google's How Search Works page, explaining how Google analyzes whether a piece of content is relevant

2. Does it mention related things?

Relevance goes beyond simple keyword matching. Google also checks to see if the page contains other relevant keywords. 

For example, if a page is about Apple, then the page will also, inevitably, include relevant things like iPhone, iPad, App Store, iOS, MacBook, and so on.

Passage from Google's How Search Works page, explaining how Google analyzes whether a piece of content is relevant

Recommended reading: Google’s Knowledge Graph Explained: How It Influences SEO 

3. Do searchers seem to find it useful?

On the same page, Google also mentions this:

Passage from Google's How Search Works page, explaining how Google analyzes whether a piece of content is relevant

This is partly why the top-ranking results for “apple” are about the technology company and not the fruit. Google knows from interaction data that most searchers are looking for the maker of the iPhone.

Google SERP for the query, "apple"

In the same vein, this is one reason why freshness can be important. For queries that are dependent on freshness—for example, football transfers, election results, etc.—searchers want to see the latest news. And Google prioritizes those results over the rest

Google SERP for the query, "transfer news"

Recommendation

Relevance here does not apply to local queries. While relevance is still important for local SEO (alongside distance and prominence), it means something else entirely. 

According to Google, relevance (in terms of local rankings) refers to how well a local business profile matches what someone is searching for.

How to create relevant content

Relevance is specific to each query. So before you can create “relevant” content, you need to make sure you have keywords you want to target.

If you have not done this step, do it now. You can follow the process in this video to find keywords you want to rank for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMJQPqG2Uas

Recommended reading: Keyword Research: The Beginner’s Guide by Ahrefs 

1. Figure out search intent

We’ve established earlier that a key aspect of relevance is whether searchers find the search results useful. That means Google is constantly figuring out why searchers are looking for that query, i.e., search intent. Google then serves results it thinks fulfills that intent.

This means if you want to rank high on Google, you need to find out what the search intent for your target keyword is. And since Google works to show the most relevant results, we can actually look at the top-ranking pages to figure out the three Cs of search intent:

  • Content type – Is there a dominant type of content on the SERP, such as blog posts, product pages, videos, or landing pages?
  • Content format – Is there a dominant content format on the SERP, such as guides, listicles, news articles, opinion pieces, or reviews?
  • Content angle – Is there a dominant angle on the SERP, such as freshly updated content or content aimed at beginners?

For example, let’s say we want to rank for “best frying pans.” Let’s analyze the three Cs for this keyword:

SERP overview for "best frying pans," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
  • Content type – They’re mostly blog posts.
  • Content format – They’re all listicles.
  • Content angle – The main angle is 2022, which means freshness is an important angle. 

To rank for this keyword, you’ll likely have to create a “best frying pan” list post updated to the current year.

Recommended reading: What Is Search Intent? A Complete Guide for Beginners 

2. Cover everything the searcher wants to know

To deserve a place on the first page of Google, you’ll need to cover all the things searchers expect and want to know.

How do you do this?

Again, we’ll turn to relevant top-ranking pages to find out what we should be covering.

Look for common subheadings

Subheadings offer quick insights into what searchers are looking for, especially if there are the same or similar ones across the top-ranking pages.

For example, if we look at the top-ranking pages for “guest blogging,” it’s likely we’ll have to talk about subtopics like these:

  • What guest blogging is
  • Benefits of guest blogging
  • How to find guest blogging opportunities

And more.

Content report showing headings of an article, via Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar

A quick way to view all the subheadings in a post is to install Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar and use the free content report (what I did above).

Look for subtopics among keyword rankings

A page can rank for hundreds of different keywords. Most of them will be different ways of searching for the same topic, whereas some will be important subtopics you’ll want to cover. 

Here’s how to find these subtopics:

  1. Paste a few top-ranking URLs for your main topic into Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool
  2. Leave the bottom section blank
  3. Hit Show keywords
  4. Set the Intersection filter to 3 and 4 targets
Common keywords a few articles are ranking for, via Ahrefs' Content Gap tool

We can see the pages also rank for subtopics like these:

  • What are guest posts
  • What is guest posting
  • Why guest blogging
  • Guest blog opportunities
  • Guest post for SEO
  • Guest blogging strategy

And more. 

Look at People Also Ask boxes

In recent years, Google has introduced the People Also Ask (PAA) box for most queries:

People Also Ask box for the query, "guest blogging"

These questions offer insights into other things searchers may want to know. You can use a tool like AlsoAsked to pull all the PAA questions related to the topic you’re targeting:

Results from the tool, AlsoAsked.com

Look at the top-ranking pages manually

Finally, there’s no better substitute than simply going through each page manually to see if you’ve missed out on anything.

Once you’re done with your research, get cracking and create your content. 

Other ways to demonstrate content relevance

Besides creating content, there are a few more ways to demonstrate to Google that your content is relevant. 

Here’s how:

1. Get your basic on-page SEO down pat

You’ve done the hard part—creating a thorough, relevant piece of content that Google and searchers want to see. Now, it’s time to put the “icing” on the cake and make it doubly clear to Google and searchers your page is relevant. 

You’ll do this by optimizing the “technical” stuff, i.e., the page’s on-page SEO. Here are the basics you need to do:

  1. Include your keyword in the titleGoogle confirmed the importance of headings in 2020. If it’s not possible, don’t try to squeeze in the keyword. Use a close variation instead.
  2. Use short, descriptive URLs – Compared to URLs like ahrefs.com/blog/36778, the URL ahrefs.com/blog/seo-copywriting helps searchers to understand what a page is about before clicking. 
  3. Write a compelling meta description – While not a ranking factor, Google does bold words and phrases closely related to the query. It also helps further entice searchers to click on your results. 
  4. Optimize your images – Filenames and alt text help Google understand images better. So make sure you name your images appropriately and write alt text that’s descriptive.
  5. Link to relevant internal and external resources – Linking to relevant internal and external resources helps visitors navigate your website and find more information.

Recommended reading: On-Page SEO: The Beginner’s Guide 

2. Consider building content hubs

Content hubs (also known as topic clusters) are interlinked collections of content about a similar topic. They consist of three parts:

  1. Pillar page – A high-level guide about a broad topic.
  2. Subpages – In-depth guides about parts of the main topic.
  3. Internal links – They connect the pillar page and its subpages in both directions.
Illustration of how a content hub looks like

Google looks at links and their anchor text to understand a page’s content and, therefore, relevance. 

Illustration of how relevant pages cast stronger votes on a page

For example, if a site about coffee links to your page about coffee, it “affirms” to Google that your page is about coffee. Makes sense, right? 

It works the same way for internal links too. 

So by connecting your pages using relevant internal links in a content hub, it helps to build semantic relationships between your content. 

Furthermore, because of the perceived value of a hub—as people usually prefer to link to the best, most useful resource on a topic—content hubs tend to attract a lot of backlinks. Not only does this improve relevance, but it can also help to boost rankings (links are an important Google ranking factor!).

I recommend following the guide below to learn more about how to create a content hub.

Recommended reading: Content Hubs for SEO: How to Get More Traffic and Links With Topic Clusters 

3. Build links

If links help to establish relevance, then the logical next step is to build more of them. 

Link building is a whole topic on its own, so I recommend watching this video to get started:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5ddo63kHHI

We have tons of resources about link building on our blog too, so you should check them out:

Learn more

Want more resources on how to create great, relevant content that ranks? Check these out:

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.



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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

Content marketing has become one of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to get traffic to a website. When done right, the traffic keeps coming long after you stop actively promoting it.

If you own an e-commerce website and want to learn how to utilize blogging to grow your brand and increase your sales, this is the guide for you.

I’ve personally grown blogs to over 250,000 monthly visitors, and I’ve worked with dozens of clients in the e-commerce space to help them do the same. Here’s an overview of my seven-step process to starting and growing an e-commerce blog. 

But first…

Why start a blog on your e-commerce site?

Creating a blog has a whole host of benefits for e-commerce websites:

  • It can help you move visitors along your marketing funnel so they eventually buy.
  • You’re able to rank highly for keywords on Google that your product pages could never rank for but that are still important for building brand awareness and finding customers.
  • It can help you grow your email list.
  • You’re able to continue to get traffic without constantly spending money on ads.
  • It provides many opportunities to link to your product and category pages to help them rank better on the SERPs.

If you don’t know what some of these things mean, don’t worry—I’ll explain them along the way. But for now, let’s take a look at some e-commerce blogs that are working well right now so you can see the end goal.

Examples of successful e-commerce blogs

Three of my favorite examples of e-commerce websites using blogging are:

  1. Solo Stove
  2. Flatspot
  3. v-dog

Solo Stove comes in at the top of my list due to its excellent use of videos, photos, and helpful information on the blog. It also does search engine optimization (SEO) really well, bringing in an estimated 329,000 monthly visits from Google (data from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer).

Overview of Solo Stove, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

In fact, it’s grown its brand to such a level of popularity that it even created search demand for keywords that include its brand name in them, then created blog posts to rank for those keywords:

Ahrefs' keyword report for Solo Stove

But that’s not all it did. Its blog posts also rank for other keywords in its marketing funnel, such as how to have a mosquito-free backyard or how to change your fire pit’s colors.

E-commerce blogging keyword examples

Then on its blog posts, it uses pictures of its fire pit:

Solo Stove blog post example

Ranking for these keywords does two things:

  1. It introduces Solo Stove’s brand to people who may eventually purchase a fire pit from it.
  2. It gives the brand the opportunity to promote its products to an audience who may not have even known it existed, such as the “mosquito free backyard” keyword.

Moving on, skater brand Flatspot also does blogging well, with a cool ~80,000 monthly visitors to its blog just from search engines.

Overview of Flatspot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

One of its tactics is to piggie-back on the popularity of new shoe releases from major brands like Nike, then use that traffic to get readers to buy the shoes directly from it:

Flatspot promoting Nike SB shoes in blog post

Finally, let’s look at v-dog—a plant-powered kibble manufacturer that gets ~8,000 visits per month.

Overview of v-dog, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

My favorite post it’s done is its guide to making wet dog food at home, which ranks for the featured snippet for “how to make wet dog food”:

Google search results for "how to make wet dog food"

This guide directly promotes v-dog’s product to make wet dog food. So people who search the query will be introduced to its brand and potentially buy its product to make their own wet dog food at home.

And there you have it—three examples of blogging for e-commerce that’s working right now. With that, let’s talk about how you can start your own blog.

Seven steps to start and grow an e-commerce blog

In my 10+ years as a professional SEO and freelance writer, I’ve worked with over a dozen e-commerce stores to help them grow their website traffic. I’ve also run several of my own e-commerce websites.

In that time, I’ve distilled what works into an easy-to-follow seven-step process:

1. Do some keyword research

I never start a blog without first doing keyword research. Not only does this make coming up with blog topic ideas much easier, but it also ensures that every blog post you write has a chance to show up in Google search results and bring you free, recurring traffic.

While we wrote a complete guide to keyword research, here’s a quick and dirty strategy for finding keywords fast:

First, find a competitor who has a blog. Let’s say you’re selling dog food just like v-dog—if I search for “dog food” on Google, I can see some of my competition:

Google search results for "dog food"

At this point, I look for relevant competitors. For example, Chewy and American Kennel Club are good competitors for research. But I’ll skip sites like Amazon and Walmart, as they are just too broad to get relevant data from.

Next, plug the competitor’s URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and click on the Organic keywords report to see the keywords its website ranks for on Google:

Organic keywords report for chewy.com

In this example, it has over 700,000 keywords. That’s way too many to sort through. Let’s add some filters to make things easier:

  • First, set the KD (Keyword Difficulty) score to a maximum of 30 to find easier-to-rank-for keywords.
  • Then we can exclude brand name keywords using the “Keywords” dropdown, set it to “Doesn’t contain,” and type in the brand name.
  • If the website has /blog/ in its blog post URLs, you can also set a filter in the “URL” dropdown to “Contains” and type “blog” in the text field. In Chewy’s case, it doesn’t do that, but it does use a subdomain for its blog, which we can search specifically.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Ahrefs keyword filters

In the case of chewy.com, this only shaved it down to 619,000 keywords. That’s still a lot—let’s filter it down further. We can apply the following:

  • Minimum monthly search volume of 100
  • Only keywords in positions #1–10
  • Only show keywords containing “dog,” since my example website only sells dog food, not all animal food

Here’s what it looks like with these new filters applied:

Filtering down Ahrefs' Organic keywords report

Now I can find some more related keywords like “what to feed a dog with diarrhea” or “can dogs eat cheese.”

Data for keyword "what to feed a dog with diarrhea"

In addition to picking interesting keywords, you can also get an idea of how to become a topical authority on the topic of dog food by searching “dog food” in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Overview for "dog food," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This keyword is extremely difficult to rank on page #1 for. However, if we go to the Related terms report and set the KD to a max of 30, we can see keyword ideas that are still relevant but may be easier to rank high in the search results.

List of keywords related to dog food

Go through and click the gray + sign next to any keywords you may want to target to add them to your list of potential article ideas. 

2. Create templates for future blog posts

One of the first things I do when I create a new blog is to establish a repeatable template that I use for every post. Typically, it looks something like this:

Blog post template example

It has breadcrumb navigation to help with SEO and navigation, the article title and the date it was last updated, then a short intro with an image on the right to make the lines shorter (and easier to skim). Finally, I include a clickable table of contents to help with navigation, then get into the article.

Within the article itself, I will use headers (H2s) and subheaders (H3s) to make my content easier to skim and to help Google understand what each section is about.

You can make templates for every kind of post you plan on creating—such as list posts, ultimate guides, tutorials, etc.—and reuse them for every post you ever create. It’s a huge time-saver.

While you’re at it, you should also create a standard operating procedure (SOP) that you go through for every article. This could include writing guidelines, what to do with images, formatting, tone, etc.

3. Outline your article

I never dive into writing an article without outlining it first. An outline ensures the article is well structured and planned before you start writing, and it bakes SEO right into your writing process. It’s another big time-saver.

Typically, you want this outline to include:

  • Potential title or titles of the article
  • Target keyword
  • Brief description of the article angle
  • Links to competing articles on Google for research
  • Headers and subheaders, with brief descriptions of the section as needed

Here’s a look at part of an example outline I’ll either send to my writers or write myself:

Content outline example

I wrote a guide to outlining content, which you can follow here for the full step-by-step process.

4. Write, optimize, and publish your post

Next up, it’s time to write your article. As you write more articles, you’ll find what works for you—but you may find it easier to fill in the sections then go back and write the intro once the article is finished.

Here are a few writing tips to help you become a better writer:

  • Ditch the fluff – If a word isn’t needed to bring a point across, cut it.
  • Keep your paragraphs short – Two to three lines per paragraph is plenty, especially for mobile readers where the screen width is shorter.
  • Use active voice over passive voiceHere is a guide for that.
  • Make your content easy to skim – Include photos and videos and make use of headers and bulleted lists to share key points.

Once you’ve written your article, do some basic on-page SEO to help it rank higher in search results:

  • Ensure your article has one H1 tag – The title of the article.
  • Have an SEO-friendly URL – Include the keyword you’re targeting, but keep it short and easy to read.
  • Link to other pages on your site using proper anchor textHere’s a guide for that.
  • Ensure your images have alt text – This is the text Google uses to read what the image is about, as well as what is shown to readers if the image can’t render.

Finally, publish your post and give yourself a pat on the back.

5. Add product promotions, email opt-ins, and internal links

Before you promote your content, there are a few things you can do to squeeze more ROI from it—namely, you should add a way for people to either push them through the funnel toward purchasing a product or subscribe to your email list. I’ll give an example of each.

First, Solo Stove wrote an article titled “Ambiance Is A Girl’s Best Friend,” where it promotes its tiny Solo Stove Mesa as a way of improving a space’s ambiance: 

How to promote your products in a blog post

Beyond directly promoting your products in the articles, you can also add email opt-ins that give people a percentage off their orders. You may lose a little money on the initial order. But once you get someone’s email address, you can promote to them again and get multiple orders from them.

For example, Primary sells kids’ clothing and uses this email pop-up to promote money off its products after you spend a certain amount of time on its website:

Email opt-in pop-up offering a discount on first order

Just make sure your discount code only works once per unique IP address. You can learn more about how to do that here if you use Shopify.

Finally, when you publish an article, you should make it a point to add internal links to your new article from older articles. 

This won’t be as important for your first few because you won’t have a ton of articles. But as your blog grows, it’s an important part of the process to ensure your readers (and Google) can still find your articles and that they aren’t buried deep on your site.

Refer to our guide to internal linking to learn more about this step.

6. Promote your content

At this point, your content is live and optimized for both conversions and search engines. Now it’s time to get some eyeballs on it.

We have an entire guide to content promotion you should read, but here are some highlights:

  • Share the article on all of your social media channels
  • Send the article to your email list if you have one
  • Share your content in relevant communities (such as relevant Reddit forums)
  • Consider running paid ads to your article

There’s a lot more you can do to promote a piece, including reaching out to other blog owners. But I won’t cover all of that here.

The other important piece of promoting your content is getting other website owners to link to your new articles. This is called link building, and it’s a crucial part of SEO.

There are many ways to build links. Some of the most popular include:

Link building is an entire subject on its own. If you’re serious about blogging and getting search traffic, it’s a crucial skill to learn.

7. Scale your efforts

The final step in blogging for e-commerce is scaling up your efforts by creating repeatable processes for each step and hiring people to do the tasks you yourself don’t need to be doing.

You can hire freelance writers, outreach specialists, editors, and more. You can put together a full SEO team for your business.

If you’re not in a place to start hiring, there are still things you can do to squeeze more output from your time, such as creating the SOPs I mentioned earlier.

Final thoughts

Blogging is one of the best ways to increase your e-commerce store’s traffic and sales. It costs less than traditional paid advertising and can continue to provide a return long after a post has been published.

This guide will hopefully help you start your e-commerce blog and publish your first post. But remember that success with blogging doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes three to six months on average to see any results from your SEO efforts. Keep learning and be patient.

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

Looking to launch a successful digital marketing campaign for your business?

How do you select the best SEO keywords to expand your brand’s reach?

What can you do to determine the most effective ways to allocate your marketing budget?

Facing these tough decisions can put you on your heels if you’re not equipped with the right information.

Luckily, there’s a new way to leverage your company’s data to estimate your ROI and take the guesswork out of your next campaign.

With a simple mathematical formula, you can predict the amount of traffic and revenue you’ll generate before even setting your strategy in motion – and you can do it all in just five steps.

Want to learn how?

Join our next webinar with Sabrina Hipps, VP of Partner Development, and Jeremy Rivera, Director of Content Analysis at CopyPress, to find out how to analyze specific keywords and forecast your SEO results.

Not too fond of math? Don’t worry – we’ll provide access to free tools and a downloadable calculator to help automate this process and save you time.

Key Takeaways From This Webinar: 

  • Learn how forecasting your SEO can help you build better campaigns and choose the right keywords.
  • Get step-by-step instructions to predict revenue and website traffic for your next SEO campaign.
  • Access a free handout, resources, and online tools that will save you time and supercharge your content strategy.

In this session, we’ll share real-life examples and provide guidance for the decision-makers within your organization to start getting the most out of your marketing efforts.

By better understanding the market potential of your product or service, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions and effectively maximize your ROI.

Sign up for this webinar and discover how you can secure a sufficient marketing budget and use SEO keywords to forecast the results of your future content campaigns.



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Google SEO Tips For News Articles: Lastmod Tag, Separate Sitemaps

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Google SEO Tips For News Articles: Lastmod Tag, Separate Sitemaps

Google Search Advocate John Mueller and Analyst Gary Illyes share SEO tips for news publishers during a recent office-hours Q&A recording.

Taking turns answering questions, Mueller addresses the correct use of the lastmod tag, while Illyes discusses the benefits of separate sitemaps.

When To Use The Lastmod Tag?

In an XML sitemap file, lastmod is a tag that stores information about the last time a webpage was modified.

Its intended use is to help search engines track and index significant changes to webpages.

Google provides guidelines for using the lastmod tag, which could be used to alter search snippets.

The presence of the lastmod tag may prompt Googlebot to change the publication date in search results, making the content appear more recent and more attractive to click on.

As a result, there may be an inclination to use the lastmod tag even for minor changes to an article so that it appears as if it was recently published.

A news publisher asks whether they should use the lastmod tag to indicate the date of the latest article update or the date of the most recent comment.

Mueller says the date in the lastmod field should reflect the date when the page’s content has changed significantly enough to require re-crawling.

However, using the last comment date is acceptable if comments are a critical part of the page.

He also reminds the publisher to use structured data and ensure the page date is consistent with the lastmod tag.

“Since the site map file is all about finding the right moment to crawl a page based on its changes, the lastmod date should reflect the date when the content has significantly changed enough to merit being re-crawled.

If comments are a critical part of your page, then using that date is fine. Ultimately, this is a decision that you can make. For the date of the article itself, I’d recommend looking at our guidelines on using dates on a page.

In particular, make sure that you use the dates on a page consistently and that you structured data, including the time zone, within the markup.”

Separate Sitemap For News?

A publisher inquires about Google’s stance on having both a news sitemap and a general sitemap on the same website.

They also ask if it’s acceptable for both sitemaps to include duplicate URLs.

Illyes explained that it’s possible to have just one sitemap with the news extension added to the URLs that need it, but it’s simpler to have separate sitemaps for news and general content. URLs older than 30 days should be removed from the news sitemap.

Regarding sitemaps sharing the duplicate URLs, it’s not recommended, but it won’t cause any problems.

Illyes states:

“You can have just one site map, a traditional web sitemap as defined by sitemaps.org, and then add the news extension to the URLs that need it. Just keep in mind that, you’ll need to remove the news extension from URLs that are older than 30 days. For this reason it’s usually simpler to have separate site map for news and for web.

Just remove the URLs altogether from the news site map when they become too old for news. Including the URLs in both site maps, while not very nice, but it will not cause any issues for you.”

These tips from Mueller and Illyes can help news publishers optimize their websites for search engines and improve the visibility and engagement of their articles.


Source: Google Search Central

Featured Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock



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