GPO’s Down ‘n’ Dirty Guide to All Things SEO Content
In today’s internet-obsessed world, you must meet customers where they’re looking. Shocker — they’re not flipping through a phone book or dialing 411 from a landline. With an estimated 8.5 billion Google searches made every day, search is one of the main places to be.
Potential customers can’t find you on Google and other search engines if you don’t have a solid search engine optimization (SEO) content strategy. But what exactly is SEO content? How do you create it? And how do you know it’s working? We answer these questions and more in this SEO content guide.
What Is SEO Content?
SEO is the process of optimizing your website to appear on SERPs (search engine result pages). Therefore, SEO content is web content created to rank on search engines; the higher the position, the better.
“Ranking #1 generates a typical CTR of 39.8%. That’s more than double the CTR for 2nd position, 18.7%, and nearly 4x the CTR for 3rd position, 10.2%,” reports SmartInsights.
Appearing high in search is the primary goal, but that doesn’t mean you should just cater to the algorithm. You need to keep the reader in mind. When readers find your content useful, it creates a better user experience and helps you rank better in the search results.
Types of Content You Can (and Should) Optimize for SEO
Almost every piece of website content can be optimized for SEO — and if it can be optimized, it should be optimized. Here are some different content types you can benefit from optimizing.
Blog content is one of the easier ways to gain organic traffic. You can cover a wide breadth of topics relevant to your brand to target traffic for various searches. Consistently posting quality blogs can earn you hundreds or thousands of visits per month in organic traffic. On average, companies with blogs produce 67% more leads a month than those without blogs.
A landing page is a single, standalone page on which a user lands after clicking an ad, email link, search result, or other online source. While you might not optimize a landing page for email unsubscribes, there are countless other landing pages ready for SEO.
For example, if your brand has brick-and-mortar locations, local landing pages are a great way to get hyper-targeted traffic to your site. You can also optimize landing pages for products and services offered, coupons, educational resources, contact information, about us information, and more!
Product pages are a type of landing page ripe for SEO optimization. However, Google won’t favor the one-description-fits-all approach. Google dings you for duplicate content, so you need unique descriptions for each SKU to perform well in search. If you have the same couch in four colors, but each color has its own SKU and page, then each page needs a different description.
When juggling hundreds or thousands of SKUs, a company like GPO can help you quickly create unique product descriptions at scale.
Images and Infographics
Did you know pages featuring images get 650% more engagement than text-only content? You can incorporate images and infographics into your landing pages or blog posts, but you still need to optimize them for SEO. You can optimize your images by resizing them so they load quickly and using keyphrases in the file name and alt text.
If you host your videos on YouTube, you can optimize them to show up in search — both YouTube’s search results and Google’s. Hubspot’s tips for optimizing your YouTube videos include using keyphrases in the video title and description, tagging your video with relevant topics, and uploading a custom thumbnail.
The number of views your video receives can help it rank higher, so embed your YouTube videos on relevant pages of your website. Note that a user has to intentionally watch a video for it to count as a view, so don’t try to game the system by implementing an autoplay feature.
Even recipes can be optimized for SEO! We’ve all had to scroll through pages of backstory about a cross-country road trip to visit great-great-grandma just to get to a sweet potato casserole recipe. Food bloggers include these stories in an attempt to land on the first page of search results. If the story is done well (meaning interested readers and Google find it useful) and the page has anchor links to the actual recipe, this strategy can work.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are a great way to gain SERP features like Featured Snippets or People Also Ask. You can have dedicated FAQ landing pages or include FAQ sections on blogs and general landing pages.
How to Create SEO Content That Attracts & Converts
You’re ready to turn your website into an SEO powerhouse, but how do you create content that gets you there? Whether you’re writing a landing page, product description, blog post, or other content on your site, you can follow the same general steps.
1. Pick a Topic
The first thing you need to do is select a topic (or topics, if you are creating a content calendar (which you should be doing)). Some ways you can find topic inspiration include:
- Products and services you offer
- Problems you help solve/needs you help meet
- Pain points you know your customers have
- Common questions your customer service or sales teams are asked
- Topics your competitors cover (make sure you cover them better)
- Reddit and other forums
- Google Trends
- Google Analytics to see what content/topics already perform well on your site
Brainstorm a long list of potential topics. You want to frontload as many ideas as possible — not every topic will be a viable option for a blog, landing page, etc.
2. Find Your Keyphrases
Once you have your Big Bad List of Potential Topics, it’s time to move on to keyphrase research. Select one of your topic ideas and use your favorite keyphrase tool (At GPO, we’re big fans of Semrush.) to look for relevant keyphrases that can help put your content in front of the right organic eyes.
Choose the Right Keyphrases for Your Content Type
Keyphrases will look different depending on what type of content you’re creating. A furniture store may target “living room furniture near me” for their local pages, “blue velvet couch” for a product description, and “how to tell if you need a new couch” for a blog post.
Evaluate Search Volume and Keyphrase Difficulty
During your keyphrase research, be mindful of search volume (how many times a keyphrase is searched for) and keyphrase difficulty (how hard it is to rank for a keyphrase). Short keyphrases with high volume, like “side table,” will be more difficult to rank for than long keyphrases with low volume, like “midcentury modern side table.”
Keyphrase Research Is a Cycle
If you can’t find relevant keyphrases with the appropriate volume and difficulty for your brand, don’t try to force it. Acknowledge that you may have to scrap some topic ideas — including ones you’re really excited about. Creating a huge list of ideas will help ease the brainstorm, keyphrase research, rinse, and repeat cycle.
3. Format and Organize Your Content
You have a topic. You have your keyphrases. Now, you can finally get writing.
Choose a Format
Before you really get into the flow of things, decide what format you want your content to have. Essay? Listicle? Pros and cons? Q & A? How-to? Once you have a format in mind, you can use it to guide your organization.
Subheaders (H2-H6) are big here. They help you organize your thoughts, provide a great spot to use your keyphrases, and make your content easier for readers to skim.
If you’re writing a listicle with the H1 (title) “5 Signs You Need a New Couch,” each H2 should be one of those signs. Or, if you’re writing “Pros and Cons of Buying Used Furniture,” an H2 could be “Pros of Buying Used Furniture” with each of the pros as an H3 under it.
Aside from subheaders, you want to keep your content skimmable with shorter paragraphs, shorter sentences, and bulleted and numbered lists where applicable.
4. Include Your Keyphrases
There’s no point in writing a piece of SEO content if you don’t include your carefully selected keyphrases. Keyphrases should be incorporated naturally throughout your content — but don’t overuse them! Google and other search engines will ding you for keyphrase stuffing.
Keyphrase stuffing is when you repeatedly use the same keyphrase(s). Search engines see this tactic as spammy and like you’re trying to trick your way into a higher ranking, even if that isn’t your intent. Just because you can use a keyphrase in a certain sentence doesn’t mean you should, especially if you’ve already used it in that paragraph.
Using long-tail and question keyphrases can help you avoid keyphrase stuffing. You can also write your content first and look for places to plug in your keyphrases afterward. When in doubt, use a keyphrase density checker to make sure you aren’t accidentally going overboard. The Semrush SEO Writing Assistant can help you check that you’ve used your keyphrases without overusing them.
5. Add Internal Links
Internal links are links to other relevant pages on your website. A good internal linking strategy can help users navigate your website, help search engines understand your site, and help the pages you link to rank higher.
Keep Your Links Relevant
When linking internally, you need to ensure you only use relevant links that fit naturally into your content. A blog about when to replace a couch could link to a category page for couches or another blog about tips for choosing a new couch. Don’t try to squeeze in something about dishwashers just to link to your dishwasher category.
Optimize Your Anchor Text
Another thing to keep in mind with internal links (and any other link) is the anchor text. Anchor text is the clickable text you hyperlink. This text should be relevant to the page you link to. Avoid “click here” language and find a natural way to point to the linked page.
Don’t: Think you need a new couch? Click here for shopping advice.
Do: If your couch is old or outdated, it may be time for a new one. Solid advice when shopping for a new couch is to pick something timeless that will stay in style for years.
6. Add External Links
Through E-E-A-T, Google has made it clear they favor accurate, trustworthy content. You can use quality external links to show your content is reliable.
External links are links from your website to other websites. When used properly, they can show you’ve done your research and help you gain trust from both the search algorithm and users. They also help curious readers continue their research.
Some external linking best practices include:
- Link to pages where you found interesting statistics, facts, infographics, or professional advice.
- Only link to reputable resources that are authorities in your industry. Spammy, unprofessional websites will cost you your reader’s trust and risk your ranking.
- Don’t link to competitors. You don’t want to send potential customers their way!
- Use quality anchor text (like mentioned above for internal links).
- Don’t overwhelm your reader with external links — use them wisely and use them well.
7. Add Relevant Images
Images are crucial for the user experience because they help make your content more engaging. They can also help you perform well on search. When you include quality, optimized images in your content, your pages can rank on the standard results page and the image results page.
It’s not enough to just plop an image on your page and call it good, though. Your image should:
- Be relevant to the page’s topic
- Be compressed so a large file size doesn’t kill your page speed
- Have a custom, specific file name so Google knows what the image is
- Have detailed, SEO-friendly alt text so the algorithm and visually impaired users understand the image
- Be mobile-friendly or responsive to changing devices
8. End with a Strong CTA
You optimize for search because you want users to land on your page. But all that traffic won’t mean much if users don’t take action.
Almost every piece of content on your site should end with a solid CTA (call to action). Your CTA could be signing up for a newsletter, shopping products, booking an appointment, requesting a quote, etc. You drew users to your website for a reason, and you now need to lead them in the right direction.
Remember that users will be more likely to take action on a high-intent page like a local landing page for an auto shop. Users might not take immediate action on pages that are more about building awareness, like a blog post. You should still use the CTA on these pages to remind readers of your products and/or services.
9. Write Click-Worthy Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
The title tag and meta description are what show in the SERP. The title tag is the very first thing searchers see, so you want to make sure it’s engaging enough to garner a click. It should also contain your primary keyphrase to signal to Google what the blog is about.
The meta description is a short (about 160 characters) summary of your content that appears below the title tag. Google overrides 62.78% of meta descriptions and replaces them with something they think is more valuable, but you should still spend time on your descriptions.
You don’t know whether Google will override your description or display your hardcoded one. An engaging, relevant meta description will entice the searcher to click on your page. Within the description, use action words to encourage the searcher to click. Learn more, read more, explore, make an appointment, and get started are all great options.
10. Optimize the Slug
SEO is all about the details, and you can’t forget to optimize your slug (the last part of your URL). It helps tell Google what your page is about. If you have a category page for couches, the slug will likely be /couches. The slug for a blog post about replacing your couch might be /when-to-replace-couch.
Keep the slug short and sweet (Don’t use your whole blog/page title!) and include one of your keyphrases.
11. Share on Socials
The SEO work isn’t done once you have your content written. The more people who view and engage with your content, the higher you’ll rank. Content promotion is an essential step to take once you hit publish. Write engaging social lead-in posts that will get more eyes on your content.
Social posts can also appear in the search results, giving you another chance to rank for the same search.
When Will You See Results?
SEO’s a triathlon, not a 100-meter dash. It’s all about working different muscles, dedicating time, and having patience.
How long it takes your content to perform depends on factors like your resources, the website’s history, and industry competitiveness. According to an Ahrefs poll, the majority of people report it taking 3–6 months for SEO to show results. But, we also see others respond with anywhere from 1–3 months to over 12 months.
Consistency is key for SEO. Regularly publishing quality content helps keep you trending up, and all that traffic goes away almost as soon as you stop your efforts. We’ve seen blog sites experience a 50% drop in traffic just two months after they stopped posting content.
Your available resources dictate how much time and effort you can devote to your SEO content strategy. With a big team, you have the bandwidth to consistently publish new content, audit and refresh existing content, and adjust your strategy. The more resources/brainpower you commit to your SEO efforts, the quicker (and longer) you can see results.
Your site’s age and SEO history play a huge role in ranking. Established websites tend to have more content, backlinks (which build authority), and ranking keyphrases. These advantages mean that older domains usually show results faster. However, an old website with tons of technical SEO issues or Google penalizations may not perform as well.
On the other hand, newer websites and content programs don’t have existing authority, and Google is still working to index the site and determine where it belongs in the SERP. A brand-new website could need a year of SEO content before it really takes off.
The initial investment in SEO content will pay off — especially as you continue to build on it. A history of great strategy gets you quicker results on new content. One client with a 20-year-old website has invested in years’ worth of weekly blogs. While it took time initially to get traffic to those blogs, a recent post received almost 20,000 clicks in its first month. Results like that aren’t possible on new sites or old sites that haven’t put the effort into SEO.
The more competitive your industry, the harder it is to rank and the longer it takes to see results.
Let’s say you run a small chain of bookstores. You’ll have some fierce competition with big players like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They have the brand name, domain authority, and SEO bandwidth to keep customers clicking on their sites, not yours.
You won’t be able to go after those in-demand keyphrases like “bookstore” or “books” (100% keyphrase difficulty). You’ll need to get a bit creative and go after super-specific keyphrases like “dystopian books for teens” (12% keyphrase difficulty). Targeting lower-volume keyphrases means reaching high organic traffic numbers will take more time (and more content).
Now, let’s put you in a different industry and say you sell emergency meal kits. While this industry still has some well-known brands, it won’t be nearly as competitive as books. You can go after some of those higher-volume, short-tail keyphrases like “emergency food ” (54% keyphrase difficulty) and receive a decent slice of the traffic pie.
How Do You Measure the Success of Your Content?
You have several ways to measure the success of your content; just keep your overall goals and the content type in mind. You might focus on conversions (like appointments made) for a local landing page and impressions and brand awareness for a blog post.
Some metrics to consider include:
- Organic Impressions
- Keyphrase Ranking
- SERP Features
- Organic Traffic
- Organic Conversions
These metrics can be found and tracked across different reporting platforms. At GPO, we rely on Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Semrush to measure the success of our content.
An organic impression is counted when a user has potentially seen your link on the SERP. The search engine served the result to the user, but we have no way to track if their eyes actually landed on it (yet). Despite not knowing if a user saw your link, impressions are a great way to measure that you are showing up on search results and gaining brand awareness and reach.
While you want to track changes in impressions over time, you’ll need to look below the surface to determine why impressions are increasing or decreasing. It could be due to a shift in content performance, or it could just be natural seasonal fluctuations or changes in search demand.
Ranking indicates your site’s position on the SERP for a specific keyphrase. The higher your position, the more likely you are to get a click. According to a backlink.io study, the top three search results receive 68.7% of the traffic, with the top result getting 27.6% of all clicks.
Keyphrase rankings are something you should monitor and track over time. As keyphrases fall or rise in ranking, it can help inform what content could use a refresh or what topics you may want to create more content about.
While ranking is important, don’t fall into the vanity metric trap. Ranking in the top 10 positions (aka page one) for a broad keyphrase won’t mean much if you don’t match the intent of the search and get the click. The broader the keyphrase, the harder it is to know and meet the intent of the search since intent can vary from person to person. In an extreme example, someone searching for “oil” could be interested in motor oil or cooking oil — two wildly different products and topics! Writing about one will have no overlap with the other.
You could lump SERP features in with ranking, but we believe it deserves its own spot. SERP features are organic results that go beyond the traditional blue link. Examples are Featured Snippets, People Also Ask sections, and image packs.
SERP features help your results stick out to users, and they can lead to more impressions and clicks. But the opposite can happen, too. For example, if the text in your Featured Snippet directly answers a user’s query, they have no reason to click through to your site. The brand awareness from the Featured Snippet is still extremely valuable, though.
Like rankings, tracking your SERP features and noting when you lose or gain them can help inform your strategy.
Organic traffic is the number of visits to your site from unpaid search results. If you have paid results alongside organic results for a query, only the clicks to the organic result will be counted toward the traffic.
The whole reason you want to show up in search results is to get users on your page. Organic traffic can indicate that you’re targeting and ranking well for the right keyphrases. Like impressions, traffic fluctuates, and you need to determine if it has to do with your content or the ebb and flow of search demand.
An organic conversion happens when a user lands on your site via an organic result and completes a desired action. So, if a user searches for “oil changes near me,” clicks on your local landing page in the organic search results, and books an appointment, it counts as an organic conversion.
Conversions can show you rank well for the right keyphrases and meet the needs or provide value to the user. Remember that not every type of content lends itself to decent conversion rates. Pages like blog posts are more about brand awareness and providing resources to users.
Backlinks are links from other websites to yours. They show other sites also believe your content is valuable, which can help increase your authority score (if the sites are of good quality). Backlinks can be a great indicator that you offer valuable info and meet search intent.
Not all backlinks are created equal, and bad backlinks can harm your authority. There are tons of spammy websites out there that will link to anything and anything. Perform regular backlink audits to check the quality of the sites linking to yours and disavow any spammy ones.
Remove Your Metric Blinders
One metric isn’t enough to tell a complete story. While you might mainly care about conversions, that’s not the only metric you should look at or report on.
Examine a variety of metrics to measure your content’s success. Find a mix of metrics that work for your goals, the content’s purpose, and the type of content. Track these metrics and continue to evaluate, refresh, and strategize.
GPO: Your SEO Content Partner
You need more than just one type of content for a solid, successful organic content strategy. GPO can take your organic traffic to new heights with a mix of blog content, local landing pages, and unique product descriptions. Let’s chat about what GPO can do for your brand.