I’m going to start by saying that SEO ranking on Google isn’t difficult, but it takes effort and hard work. The method itself is easy, but you must be willing to put in the time required.
I’m going to walk you through step-by-step on how to rank high on Google by writing valuable content.
Over the years, Google has frequently made significant (but secretive) algorithmic changes like Hummingbird back in 2012. The one constant has been the importance of valuable content.
Therefore, even though Google uses over 200 ranking factors, I’m going to focus this article on the most important aspect: content creation.
In fact, a survey by Ascend2 has shown that 57% out of 256 marketers around the world state that content creation was their most effective SEO tactic.
It doesn’t matter how many changes Google makes to the algorithm, this one will never change. Can you really imagine a post-valuable content algorithm where the worst articles came to the top for your search? *shudder*
I’m going to show you exactly what valuable content means and the formula on how to achieve it every single time.
Valuable content can be broken down to one important question: Is my content bringing value to my target audience?
The heart of writing good content is knowing that Google’s priority is user experience.
It’s vital that a user gets the best search results for their query. When my search query is ‘How to fix a leaky faucet’ I definitely do not want search results about what you want. I definitely don’t want a plumber to try and sell me something. I want a step-by-step guide on how to fix it.
Think of it this way, you should be writing the kind of content that makes someone feel like they owe you a drink at an expensive bar after reading it.
What Does Google Have to Say?
The search engine does provide guidelines for how to rank on Google.
Here’s what Google has to say about ranking:
Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
Again, Google is stating that the most important factor is human connection with your readers. Always remember that both you and the algorithm are there to help humans.
The search engine wants a voice that appeals to people, not a robotic one. We will be discussing this more in-depth in the formatting and organisation section.
Another really important point it the last one:
Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
Google is now paying more priority to the value of an overall website, not just one piece of content.
Writing one piece of good content, while the rest of your content is sub-par won’t cut it. Instead, your content should align with your overall content strategy.
Topic Clusters Instead of Keywords:
The easiest way to have cohesion with your content is creating topic clusters.
With Google’s Rankbrain update, it became vital for the algorithm to find a user’s true intent.
While keywords are still important, since Google’s priority is looking at the quality of your overall website, topic clusters have gained importance.
In an article by Hubspot, they described topic clusters as the new SEO strategy.
Instead of just ranking for individual content, this also helps create inbound links with your content, connecting your articles together.
Identify the main categories/themes of your website
Create topics that work together within those categories
Market Research: Find Out What your Target Audience Wants
By finding out what your target audience’s pain points are, you can easily identify the topics you need to write about and which keywords to use.
This way, before you even start writing your article, you know exactly who you are targeting.
Ask Yourself: What is my aim with this piece of content?
Who are you helping with this content? Are they a college student, a retiree, what are their ambitions, fears etc.
Based on the type of person they are, what kind of concerns, worries, information are they going to need?
You can find out this information in two ways:
In-Person: Go to events where your target audience hangs out, ask them what they’re struggling with in their industry/niche. Ask them general questions about what they need help with the most.
Online: You can always gather data by using Facebook groups where people air their concerns, conduct a survey, ask on social media, or simply see what problems the competitors in your industry are asking/answering.
You are looking for one or more of these things:
- The user wants to know something
- wants to do something (take action)
- or the user is looking for a specific website/webpage.
Find out what you love to write about and will also create a transformation for your readers. Always include clear actionable steps they can follow.
How Important are Keywords for Ranking on Google?
For the topics you want to rank on Google for, you need to ensure that you’ve chosen topics based on keywords people are actually searching for.
Therefore, keywords are still a vital tool for ranking on Google. However, they need to be used correctly.
There’s a popular myth that to rank on Google your article needs to be littered with your keyword, but this is counter-productive.
With valuable content at the helm, keywords should supplement the article, but shouldn’t become the article.
As this graph by EcoConsultancy shows, articles with fewer keywords actually tend to rank higher.
A useful tip is to ensure that your keyword is being used in your headline and the introduction of your article.
After that, if the keyword works naturally in a sentence, by all means use it.
Latent Semantic Indexing:
As we’ve discussed previously with the RankBrain update, LSI means that a search engine not only wants a direct keyword, but related content and synonyms too.
You can find semantic keyword in a number of different ways. You can do this by making a Google search of your keyword and scrolling to the bottom of the page.
You’ll find a list of synonyms and similar terms to your keyword that people are searching for. You can then implement these words into your article.
There’s also LSIGraph which you could use.
Another tool you could use is SERP’s Keyword Research Database. You’ll be able to see the CPC and volume of searches.
What Keywords Could I target?
There are several, incredible tools to help you find the perfect keyword for your article. One of the most popular is Buzzsumo. It also shows you the amount of shares that an article has.
Find Your Competitors For that Keyword:
Once you’ve decided on your keyword, do a quick Google search for it and see the top-ranking search at the moment. Your article needs to be better than that.
And how do you do that? By dissecting these top three ranking articles and finding where you can do better. The algorithm used the elements within that article when deciding to rank it as #1.
It also shows you what you need to do to rank higher than it. Bump it off that top spot!
When looking at the top article for your keyword, note these factors:
the word count
Visuals and images
Now we’re going to go into why each of these items are so important for SEO ranking.
Your headline is the make-it or break-it part of your article. If your headline isn’t enticing or solving a problem who’s going to click on it?
Why did you click on this article? Why do you click on any of the headlines you see and feel that you just have to read the entire story?
According to CopyBlogger:
“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.”
Every time you find yourself clicking on a headline just mentally (or physically) jot down the reason – why did that headline make you want to read the article? See what other sites most popular posts are, what worked?
A great tool is the Coschedule headline analyzer which allows you to see the emotional impact of your headline.
Your content should match your headline in its transformation. For example:
- A focused piece of content in a given direction “15 Must-See, Hidden Places in Rome”
- The content should have a specific outcome for your user. In this example, by the time the user has finished reading the article they should now know obscure, unknown places in Rome that they just have to make time for on their trip.
There’s another great, and completely free tool for analysing your headlines for intellect, empathy, and spirituality, headed by the advanced marketing institute. However, it’s not the be all, end all of writing good headlines. There are top SEO searches which have low scores. However, if you struggle with knowing whether you have a good headlines aim for a score of at least 30% and above.
What made you click on this article you’re reading right now? According to the advanced marketing institute this article headline appeals to all three of your sensibilities: intellectual, empathetic, and spiritual.
This appeals most to any content that is educative. Intellectual impact words are great for those in the field of education, medicine, law, research etc. These headlines positively influence this field and create a higher possibility of a click-through.
Headlines with more empathetic words appeal to more gentle, caregiving content. These words have an impact on strongly maternal and nurturing people the most. By using more empathetic words in your headline, it appeals to people’s true human nature.
Spiritual words have the most deep impact especially if you’re writing for any kind of health, religious, New Age content. Of course, you’re not limited to these fields. Strong spiritual words will resonate powerfully with many other niches.
Why not write a listicle?
Numbers are a great way to attract readers. If we have a look at some articles I’ve written for other websites you’ll see that I’ve written a couple lists.
Here are some of my examples/other examples:
- Matador Network: The 8 Most Amazing, Sustainable Restaurants Around the World
- Mental Floss: 12 Things You Might Not Know About Grace Jones
- NocturnalThrive: 7 Tips to Grow your Instagram Following that Nobody Shares (2019)
- Fast Company: 5 Things that Resilient teams do Differently
Another useful tactic is withholding information until someone clicks. I know this works because I saw an article titled “This Book Genre Will, Without a Doubt, Change Your Life” – now, I knew that if I clicked on the article the answer would be “self help” (who hasn’t binged on a on of self help books at least once?)
But you know what? I still clicked on the article. However, it’s important that if you do this your audience still wants to read the article.
You must deliver on your promise.
The Body of your Article:
What about Storytelling?
Begin your introduction with a story.
Humans are hard-wired for story telling, all those myths and legends, all those anecdotes you tell your friends at dinner.
It’s our main motivator and inhibitor, so get emotional and introduce storytelling to your business.
This is something I will be going more in depth with in another article, but storytelling has been proven time and time again to drive sales. If you want your brand to grow, emotional storytelling is the biggest driving force.
Use Simple Language:
In Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guide, it mentions that you should use short sentences with simple language.
Do not use over-complicated jargon, unless, of course, your industry calls for it.
Use Power Words:
Using power words like “free” and “you” don’t talk to your readership in a passive voice.
You need to keep readers engaged by asking questions.
Most importantly your content needs to be actionable so that readers continue reading and refer back to it as an important source of knowledge.
Use the word “For example” because when dealing with an audience of different skill levels, this is a great way to diffuse a lot of the confusion that someone may have.
Make your Copy Readable:
There are a couple of amazing tools to help with this. One is HemingwayApp which analyses your writing for convoluted sentences and more.
The other is Grammarly for both grammar and spelling.
Yoast SEO also discusses the importance of transition phrases like ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’, and ‘because’ as they make your reading feeling connected. There are many different transition phrases you could use.
They also prepare the reader for the next sentence, ensuring that they move from one sentence to the next all the way to the end.
If you use the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress users, it also checks the readability of your content.
Beak up your points because nobody wants to read or begin to process a huge chunk of text.
Format by using visuals and breaking up your points with subheadings and bullet points.
Do not use run-on, complex sentences where the meaning of your content is lost between all the words.
Always ensure you use sub-headings. Otherwise the algorithm sees it as one long text, let me know which of these makes you want to read it and which makes you want to turn away and run for the hills?
Using Anchor Text within your Content:
An anchor text is the text that you use for your link. Therefore, do not use anchor text that says “click here” or “you can find it here.”
Instead, in the Developer Documentation Style Guide, Google states the importance of using descriptive link texts.
Use a keyword anchor text, such as, you could also “Hire me to write content for your website.”
How Long Should your Article Be?
The short answer is longer than your competitors.
The long answer is that statistics have shown that longer articles tend to rank higher. This means writing articles between 2,000-2,500 words.
Word count is really important, because research by Hubspot has shown that longer articles not only rank higher, but they are also shared more often.
And what’s more organic than not even having to use a CTA (call-to-action) before your readers want to share what you’ve written because its invaluable?
Of course, it’s not always feasible to write 2,500 article, and not all industries call for 2,000+ word count. Just make sure your articles are longer than the top ranking article based on your keyword.
Another bonus is that having longform content keeps the reader on your website for longer. This reduces your bounce rate and make the algorithm know your content is of higher value.
Using Yoast SEO to Edit your Data:
If you use WordPress you can download the free Yoast SEO plugin.
This is the easiest way to edit your articles title, URL, and meta description.
Title: Your SEO title must contain your target keyword.
Make sure your SEO title is short and that people viewing on mobile can see the title.
Your click through rate (CTR) is a signal to Google that you should be ranking for your keyword.
Your title must include:
- Your target keyword
- Contains a CTA
- Under 70 characters long
Make sure your target keyword is also in the meta description of your article.
Bill Gates once declared that “content is king” and while this is still true – nowadays, visual content is just as important, if not more so.
Breaking up your article with relevant photographs, screenshots, and data is a great way to make your content more appealing.
The use of visual data also backs up your points with examples, and makes your content more credible.
Add Alt Text to your Images
Alt Text is a way of describing your image for the algorithm. Since it can’t read images, it’s important you describe them in a few keywords.
You can do this by filling in the ‘alt text’ box when uploading a photo.
If you made it this far, I know you’re going to implement this strategy and ace your SEO ranking.
But, before you leave, it would mean a lot to me (emotionally) if you could hit the share button.
Think of it as the equivalent to buying me a drink at an expensive bar.