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What It Is & How to Do It Successfully

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What It Is & How to Do It Successfully

Digital content creation is the process of creating and publishing content on digital platforms, like websites, social media, and more.

In this post, you’ll learn how to create digital content that people want to see.

Why is digital content creation important?

The online world is made up of content. Whether you’re searching on Google or scrolling through TikTok, you’re consuming content. 

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So if you want to build online visibility and drive traffic to your website or business, you need to create digital content. This will allow you to reach your target audience online.

Also, creating digital content allows you to build an audience and develop trust with them. You’ll become the go-to authority for anything related to your niche and topic of choice. 

For example, we publish frequently on YouTube. Here’s an example of the type of comments we get:

YouTube comment praising Sam Oh

Finally, you can actually earn a living from it. You could be paid as a content creator for your digital content creation skills, or you could monetize the audience you’ve built—ads, product placements, affiliate marketing, consulting, selling your own products, and more.

Here are some examples of digital content you can create:

  1. Blog posts – You’re reading one now. They’re one of the most common types of digital content. Learn how to write a great blog post here.
  2. Videos – They could be longer-form ones (like those we publish on YouTube) or short-form videos (like TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and more). 
  3. Podcasts – Audio content that can range from short-form (<5 mins) to long-form ones (I’ve seen seven hours and more). These days, podcasts also come in video formats.
  4. Photos, images, and GIFs – One of the most common types of digital content on social media. They could be real or AI-generated. This category also includes custom illustrations, charts, diagrams, graphs, infographics, memes, and more.
  5. Social media posts – These are content published on popular platforms like Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and more. There may be specific formats for each platform (e.g., carousels on LinkedIn, threads on Twitter, and more).
  6. Newsletters – Emails sent to an audience at a particular frequency. These can be long-form essays, curated links (like our newsletter), or more. 
  7. Courses – A structured series of videos (sometimes together with text and worksheets) intended to teach a subject or topic, like our SEO course for beginners.

The digital content creation process

The process of creating digital content is similar for every channel. 

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Here’s how to do it:

1. Decide on your main type of content

Making a video is different from writing a blog post. So each type of digital content requires you to possess different skills.

However, even if your ideal goal is to be able to create any type of digital content, you’ll want to begin by prioritizing. At this stage, getting started and doing the real thing is more important than dreaming about being able to create all types of content. 

So choose the one type of digital content you wish to excel at creating and get started. 

As writer Scott Young says:

Attempting several pursuits at once is a recipe for accomplishing none of them. Progress requires priorities. We need to tackle projects one at a time—not try to juggle them all at once.

I recommend starting with the content type you have the most affinity with. These can result from your natural strengths or simply the platform you spend the most time on. 

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For example, if you find yourself wasting spending hours on YouTube, then making videos could be up your alley. For me, I enjoyed reading books and blog posts, so I ended up choosing writing as my main marketing skill.

2. Find proven topics

No matter the type or platform you’re creating content for, you’ll want to ensure you’re creating something that appeals to your target audience.

Nothing beats the good old-fashioned method of asking your target audience what they want to see.

Find friends and family that match your audience profile and ask them what they’d like to see or what type of content is missing/neglected on the internet. For example, I breakdance as a hobby. So if I were to start a YouTube channel about breaking, it would be as easy as hitting up my regular practice spot and asking my fellow breakers some questions.

If you’re a business and have existing customers, reach out and ask them. You can join online groups on Facebook, Reddit, Discord, and Slack and ask them questions. 

Beyond that, you can use tools to see what type of topics already performed well. This is an indicator that people are interested—and will continue to be interested—in those topics.

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For example, if you’re creating blog posts, you’ll want to know the topics people are searching for on Google. Since they’re searching for those topics, then it’s likely they’ll want to read about them.

To find these topics, you’ll have to do keyword research. This is the process of finding the words and phrases people search for in search engines.

The easiest way to do this is to use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter a word that’s relevant to what you want to create content about (e.g., basketball)
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. Switch the tab to Questions
Matching terms report with "Questions" tab toggled, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This report will show you all the questions containing “basketball,” sorted by search volume. Look through the report and pick out the questions you want to write about. 

Other examples:

  • Reddit – Find a relevant subreddit (e.g., r/tennis if you’re making tennis videos) and select “Top” and “All time.” This will show you the most upvoted posts in that subreddit.
  • Twitter – Install a Chrome extension like Twemex, which will show you a user’s most popular tweets of all time.
  • YouTube – Use tools like TubeBuddy or VidIQ to do keyword research for YouTube.
  • Podcasts – Use a search engine like ListenNotes to see which episodes in your niche are trending.

3. Create the content

There are three main steps involved in the process of actually creating the content:

Flowchart showing how to plan, create, and publish content

Let’s take a deeper look.

Planning

Before you put pen to paper, you’ll want to have a clear idea of what it is exactly you want to say. Otherwise, there is a real risk of going off-track, missing the main points, and making your audience fall asleep.

You may get away with simply throwing your thoughts out as a tweet or IG story. But even then, those types of posts can benefit from planning and rewriting:

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So this stage means creating an outline (or a storyboard if you’re making a video). For example, this post began as an outline:

Outline of the post on digital content creation

To create the outline, I combined a mix of:

  • My own personal experience and knowledge.
  • Looking at what the top-ranking pages have covered.
  • Running a content gap analysis.

Here’s how to do the last one:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter your target topic
  3. Scroll to the SERP overview
  4. Select a few of the top-ranking pages
  5. Click Open in and choose Content gap
SERP overview for "how to get better at basketball," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This report shows you all the common keywords the top-ranking pages are ranking for. These could make potential subtopics we could cover. However, we only want to see the most relevant ones, so let’s set the “Intersections” filter to 3, 4, and 5:

Content Gap report

Scrolling through the list, we can see a few subtopics to include:

  • how to learn to play basketball
  • how to be better at basketball
  • tips for basketball
  • basketball techniques
  • how long does it take to get good at basketball
  • how to get the ball more in basketball

If you’re making an educational video on YouTube, this script format has worked well for us:

  1. Problem – Lead with the problem your video is solving.
  2. Teaser – Show that there’s a solution to the problem without giving it away.
  3. Solution – Teach how to solve the problem.

Once you’re done with your outline or storyboard, I recommend getting a friend or colleague to give feedback. We do this for all our outlines (and drafts too). At this stage, this feedback will be invaluable in helping you identify what’s missing and what could be improved, especially with regard to the structure.

Creating

No matter what you’re creating, this part is really about hunkering down and just making the content. 

You’ll have your own quirks and fancies here (for example, I enjoy a cup of strong coffee while writing). But from experience, it’s seriously about blocking out a chunk of time and working on the content with no distractions.

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This could mean:

  • Creating a non-negotiable block of time on your calendar and committing to it.
  • Putting your phone on “airplane” mode or in another room.
  • Letting others know you don’t want to be disturbed during that time (especially important if you work from home).
  • Using a webpage-blocking Chrome extension.
  • Logging out of all social media and team chat software, like Slack or Teams.
  • Forcing yourself to create without editing (this pertains especially to writing).

When you’re done creating, you should (again) get feedback from a friend or colleague. Doing this will help reduce inaccuracies, logical loopholes, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes.

Publishing

This is the easiest part. Once you’re done, it’s really just a matter of formatting, finalizing, and uploading your work onto the target platform.

4. Measure and monitor performance

Content creation is all about the feedback loop. You’ll want to create content and publish it, and you’ll also want to know if it’s hitting the target. 

Are people consuming it? Do people like it? What can you improve on or do less of?

Answering these questions will require you to measure your content’s performance. Besides getting qualitative feedback from your audience, you can also use tools to see said performance.

For example, if your main digital content type is blog posts, you’ll want to check Google Search Console and see if you’re generating any search traffic.

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Ahrefs' Google Search Console performance report

You’ll also want to add your main keywords to Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker to see if you’re ranking high on Google:

Ahrefs' Rank Tracker showing keywords and their metrics (position change, volume, and traffic)

For other platforms, you’ll likely be able to see your analytics via the platform itself. For example, if you’re creating content for YouTube, you’ll want to go to YouTube Studio and check your analytics. 

When you see something working, consider doubling down and making more of the same. But don’t be afraid to experiment too. Use the scientific process—if something doesn’t work, can you try a different approach? Perhaps a different hook, structure, or format? 

It’s all about playing around, experimenting, and figuring out what works along the way.

Final thoughts

There are two main factors behind successful digital content creation:

  1. Consistency – Two things here: First, to be good at something, you need to practice consistently. Second, it’s hard for your audience to become a fan of someone who creates once and disappears. So make sure you’re always showing up. Do this by publishing at a frequency you can commit to. But don’t be overly ambitious—you can always ramp up in the future.
  2. LongevityAccording to SEO Jacky Chou, publishing 21 podcast episodes puts you in the world’s top 1% of podcasts. This stat is not telling you how easy it is to produce a podcast but how quickly most people give up. You can win the game simply by outlasting everyone.

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.



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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

Understanding the impact of your content at every touchpoint of the customer journey is essential – but that’s easier said than done. From attracting potential leads to nurturing them into loyal customers, there are many touchpoints to look into.

So how do you identify and take advantage of these opportunities for growth?

Watch this on-demand webinar and learn a comprehensive approach for measuring the value of your content initiatives, so you can optimize resource allocation for maximum impact.

You’ll learn:

  • Fresh methods for measuring your content’s impact.
  • Fascinating insights using first-touch attribution, and how it differs from the usual last-touch perspective.
  • Ways to persuade decision-makers to invest in more content by showcasing its value convincingly.

With Bill Franklin and Oliver Tani of DAC Group, we unravel the nuances of attribution modeling, emphasizing the significance of layering first-touch and last-touch attribution within your measurement strategy. 

Check out these insights to help you craft compelling content tailored to each stage, using an approach rooted in first-hand experience to ensure your content resonates.

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Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or new to content measurement, this webinar promises valuable insights and actionable tactics to elevate your SEO game and optimize your content initiatives for success. 

View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords your rivals rank for in Google’s search results. They may rank organically or pay for Google Ads to rank in the paid results.

Knowing your competitors’ keywords is the easiest form of keyword research. If your competitors rank for or target particular keywords, it might be worth it for you to target them, too.

There is no way to see your competitors’ keywords without a tool like Ahrefs, which has a database of keywords and the sites that rank for them. As far as we know, Ahrefs has the biggest database of these keywords.

How to find all the keywords your competitor ranks for

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report

The report is sorted by traffic to show you the keywords sending your competitor the most visits. For example, Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword “mailchimp.”

Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.

Since you’re unlikely to rank for your competitor’s brand, you might want to exclude branded keywords from the report. You can do this by adding a Keyword > Doesn’t contain filter. In this example, we’ll filter out keywords containing “mailchimp” or any potential misspellings:

Filtering out branded keywords in Organic keywords reportFiltering out branded keywords in Organic keywords report

If you’re a new brand competing with one that’s established, you might also want to look for popular low-difficulty keywords. You can do this by setting the Volume filter to a minimum of 500 and the KD filter to a maximum of 10.

Finding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywordsFinding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywords

How to find keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter your competitor’s domain in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis reportCompetitive analysis report

Hit “Show keyword opportunities,” and you’ll see all the keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap reportContent gap report

You can also add a Volume and KD filter to find popular, low-difficulty keywords in this report.

Volume and KD filter in Content gapVolume and KD filter in Content gap

How to find keywords multiple competitors rank for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter the domains of multiple competitors in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis report with multiple competitorsCompetitive analysis report with multiple competitors

You’ll see all the keywords that at least one of these competitors ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap report with multiple competitorsContent gap report with multiple competitors

You can also narrow the list down to keywords that all competitors rank for. Click on the Competitors’ positions filter and choose All 3 competitors:

Selecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank forSelecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank for
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Paid keywords report
Paid keywords reportPaid keywords report

This report shows you the keywords your competitors are targeting via Google Ads.

Since your competitor is paying for traffic from these keywords, it may indicate that they’re profitable for them—and could be for you, too.

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You know what keywords your competitors are ranking for or bidding on. But what do you do with them? There are basically three options.

1. Create pages to target these keywords

You can only rank for keywords if you have content about them. So, the most straightforward thing you can do for competitors’ keywords you want to rank for is to create pages to target them.

However, before you do this, it’s worth clustering your competitor’s keywords by Parent Topic. This will group keywords that mean the same or similar things so you can target them all with one page.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Export your competitor’s keywords, either from the Organic Keywords or Content Gap report
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
Clustering keywords by Parent TopicClustering keywords by Parent Topic

For example, MailChimp ranks for keywords like “what is digital marketing” and “digital marketing definition.” These and many others get clustered under the Parent Topic of “digital marketing” because people searching for them are all looking for the same thing: a definition of digital marketing. You only need to create one page to potentially rank for all these keywords.

Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"

2. Optimize existing content by filling subtopics

You don’t always need to create new content to rank for competitors’ keywords. Sometimes, you can optimize the content you already have to rank for them.

How do you know which keywords you can do this for? Try this:

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  1. Export your competitor’s keywords
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
  4. Look for Parent Topics you already have content about

For example, if we analyze our competitor, we can see that seven keywords they rank for fall under the Parent Topic of “press release template.”

Our competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" clusterOur competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" cluster

If we search our site, we see that we already have a page about this topic.

Site search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templatesSite search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templates

If we click the caret and check the keywords in the cluster, we see keywords like “press release example” and “press release format.”

Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"

To rank for the keywords in the cluster, we can probably optimize the page we already have by adding sections about the subtopics of “press release examples” and “press release format.”

3. Target these keywords with Google Ads

Paid keywords are the simplest—look through the report and see if there are any relevant keywords you might want to target, too.

For example, Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter.”

Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

If you’re ConvertKit, you may also want to target this keyword since it’s relevant.

If you decide to target the same keyword via Google Ads, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see the ads your competitor is using.

Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

You can also see the landing page your competitor directs ad traffic to under the URL column.

The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”

Learn more

Check out more tutorials on how to do competitor keyword analysis:

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Google Confirms Links Are Not That Important

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Google confirms that links are not that important anymore

Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed at a recent search marketing conference that Google needs very few links, adding to the growing body of evidence that publishers need to focus on other factors. Gary tweeted confirmation that he indeed say those words.

Background Of Links For Ranking

Links were discovered in the late 1990’s to be a good signal for search engines to use for validating how authoritative a website is and then Google discovered soon after that anchor text could be used to provide semantic signals about what a webpage was about.

One of the most important research papers was Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment by Jon M. Kleinberg, published around 1998 (link to research paper at the end of the article). The main discovery of this research paper is that there is too many web pages and there was no objective way to filter search results for quality in order to rank web pages for a subjective idea of relevance.

The author of the research paper discovered that links could be used as an objective filter for authoritativeness.

Kleinberg wrote:

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“To provide effective search methods under these conditions, one needs a way to filter, from among a huge collection of relevant pages, a small set of the most “authoritative” or ‘definitive’ ones.”

This is the most influential research paper on links because it kick-started more research on ways to use links beyond as an authority metric but as a subjective metric for relevance.

Objective is something factual. Subjective is something that’s closer to an opinion. The founders of Google discovered how to use the subjective opinions of the Internet as a relevance metric for what to rank in the search results.

What Larry Page and Sergey Brin discovered and shared in their research paper (The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – link at end of this article) was that it was possible to harness the power of anchor text to determine the subjective opinion of relevance from actual humans. It was essentially crowdsourcing the opinions of millions of website expressed through the link structure between each webpage.

What Did Gary Illyes Say About Links In 2024?

At a recent search conference in Bulgaria, Google’s Gary Illyes made a comment about how Google doesn’t really need that many links and how Google has made links less important.

Patrick Stox tweeted about what he heard at the search conference:

” ‘We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.’ @methode #serpconf2024″

Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted a confirmation of that statement:

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“I shouldn’t have said that… I definitely shouldn’t have said that”

Why Links Matter Less

The initial state of anchor text when Google first used links for ranking purposes was absolutely non-spammy, which is why it was so useful. Hyperlinks were primarily used as a way to send traffic from one website to another website.

But by 2004 or 2005 Google was using statistical analysis to detect manipulated links, then around 2004 “powered-by” links in website footers stopped passing anchor text value, and by 2006 links close to the words “advertising” stopped passing link value, links from directories stopped passing ranking value and by 2012 Google deployed a massive link algorithm called Penguin that destroyed the rankings of likely millions of websites, many of which were using guest posting.

The link signal eventually became so bad that Google decided in 2019 to selectively use nofollow links for ranking purposes. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the change to nofollow was made because of the link signal.

Google Explicitly Confirms That Links Matter Less

In 2023 Google’s Gary Illyes shared at a PubCon Austin that links were not even in the top 3 of ranking factors. Then in March 2024, coinciding with the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update, Google updated their spam policies documentation to downplay the importance of links for ranking purposes.

Google March 2024 Core Update: 4 Changes To Link Signal

The documentation previously said:

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“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

The update to the documentation that mentioned links was updated to remove the word important.

Links are not just listed as just another factor:

“Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

At the beginning of April Google’s John Mueller advised that there are more useful SEO activities to engage on than links.

Mueller explained:

“There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time doing things that don’t make your website better overall”

Finally, Gary Illyes explicitly said that Google needs very few links to rank webpages and confirmed it.

Why Google Doesn’t Need Links

The reason why Google doesn’t need many links is likely because of the extent of AI and natural language undertanding that Google uses in their algorithms. Google must be highly confident in its algorithm to be able to explicitly say that they don’t need it.

Way back when Google implemented the nofollow into the algorithm there were many link builders who sold comment spam links who continued to lie that comment spam still worked. As someone who started link building at the very beginning of modern SEO (I was the moderator of the link building forum at the #1 SEO forum of that time), I can say with confidence that links have stopped playing much of a role in rankings beginning several years ago, which is why I stopped about five or six years ago.

Read the research papers

Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment – Jon M. Kleinberg (PDF)

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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