It surprises me how much effort companies put into writing and promoting their content without looking at competing sites and pages. I don’t mean business competitors, I mean organic search competitors. Utilizing a tool like Semrush, a company can easily do a competitive analysis between their site and a competing site to identify what terms are driving traffic to a competitor that should, instead, be leading to their site.
While many of you might think backlinking is the primary strategy for ranking content and driving more visitors, I would disagree. While backlinking may result in greater rankings in the short term, the problem is that better content will always win in the long run. Your goal should be to create infinitely better content than a competing site has published. When you do a better job than they did, you’ll earn links beyond what you could manipulate manually.
Ross Hudgens of Siege Media has a detailed post on how to increase website traffic by 250,000+ monthly visits with an infographic on how to rank content better. I don’t care as much about getting tons of visitors to the site as I do about quality visitors who will subscribe, return, and convert. But the infographic is a nugget of gold because it spells out how to rank your content better. This is a strategy we always deploy in our content strategies with clients.
How to Rank Content Better
- Post Slug – edit your post slug and make your URL shorter. Notice how this URL is our domain in addition to how-to-rank-content-better, a simple, short, and memorable URL that search engine users will be more apt to click on and even share.
- Content Types – audio, graphics, animations, interactive content, video… anything you can do that makes your content stand out and easily shareable will earn more attention. It’s why we love and develop micro-graphics sized for social media. Ross even added this video to his article to enhance it… after it took off!
- Page Title – Utilizing keywords is essential, but creating a title worthy of clicking on is a great strategy. We often publish a page title different from the article title, specifically optimized for search. If you’re using WordPress, I recommend Rank Math’s plugin for this. Please don’t bait search users with titles that aren’t relevant, though. You’ll lose credibility with your visitors.
- Simple Writing – We avoid complex vocabulary and industry acronyms as much as possible – unless we include definitions and descriptions to help our visitors. We’re not trying to win a literary award with our content; we’re trying to make complex topics easier to understand. Speaking on a level every visitor can understand is critical. I recommend Grammarly to assist in improving the readability of your content.
- Readable Fonts – Adjusting your font size relative to the device is essential. Screen resolutions are doubling every few years, so fonts are getting smaller and smaller. Readers’ eyes are tired, so take it easy on them and keep your fonts large. The average font size for a Page #1 ranking is 15.8px
- Page Structure – Content ranked first had bulleted lists 78% of the time. Organizing your page into easily scannable sections allows readers to comprehend it. Readers love lists because they’re researching and can easily remember or check off the items they need or have overlooked.
- Faster Load Times – Nothing kills your content like slow load times. There are a ton of factors that impact your page speed, and you should constantly be striving for faster and faster load times.
- More Visuals – The average article ranking first had nine images within the page, so including images, diagrams, charts, and videos that are compelling and shareable is critical. The most important image you should spend time on is the featured image displayed when your content is previewed in an email, text message, or social media post… invest in it!
- Photos – grabbing the same stock photography as a thousand other sites doesn’t help you create a unique message. When we hire a photographer for our clients, we also have them take a hundred or so extra shots. We want compelling photos that distinguish the client from their competitors. High-quality images get 121% more shares.
- Break It Up With Visuals – Ross recommends including an image every 75 to 100 words to make your content easy to digest and scan. Those articles are shared the most (which is a great indicator that they’ll rank better).
- Floating Share Buttons – Creating great content isn’t enough if you don’t make it easy to share that content. We make it simple with tailored buttons to the left, at the beginning, and at the end of every piece of content. And it works! The Easy Social Share plugin is great if you’re using WordPress. And it works!
- Infographics – Big screens demand beautiful, large images or aesthetically pleasing infographics. We don’t produce wide infographics because they’re difficult to share on other sites. Producing amazing infographics that are tall and highly visual helps us both attract, explain, and convert many more visitors. It also provides us with graphical content that we can use in presentations and social media updates.
- Links – Many publications avoid outbound links at all costs. I believe that’s a mistake. First, providing a link to valuable content your audience needs increases your value as a curator and expert. It shows that you pay attention and appreciate great content. Second, with the updated algorithms on search, we’ve seen no drop in our authority with tons of outbound links.
- Content Length – We continue to push our writers for more descriptive, wholesome articles on topics. We may start with some simple bullet points for the reader to scan and then use subheadings to divide the pages into sections. We sprinkle strong and emphatic tag usage throughout to capture the reader’s attention. Our goal is never more words, though… it’s ensuring we have the most comprehensive article available.
- Share Socially – We don’t just share our content just once; we share our content many times across our social channels. Social media is like a ticker that people often discover in real time. If you’ve published an article outside the time a follower pays attention, you’ve lost them. Promote your content frequently and you’ll garner more attention.
How to Rank Content EVEN Better
We love this list, but want to share even more strategies that we incorporate to garner more attention, better ranking, and deeper engagement.
- Pitch Your Content – A significant portion of our audience are people who do not frequent our site – but they read our newsletter or responded to a pitch of the stories they found interesting. Without a newsletter or public relations firm pushing our content to a relevant audience, we wouldn’t get shared as much. If we’re not being shared, we’re not being linked to. If we’re not getting linked to, we’re not going to rank.
- Author – Add your author bio to your pages. As readers scour articles and share them, they want to know that someone with expertise wrote the article. An authorless piece of content isn’t distinguished as much as one with an author, a photo, and a bio that provides why they should be listened to.
- Mobile Formats – If your page isn’t easily readable, like it would be with Google’s Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) format, you’re probably not going to rank in mobile searches. And mobile searches are dramatically on the rise.
- Primary Research – If your company has proprietary industry data that may be valuable to your prospects, dig through it and provide a public analysis. Primary research is a goldmine and is shared constantly online. Timely, factual data is in high demand by industry publications, influencers, and competitors.
- Curated Secondary Research – Look at the bottom of this infographic and you’ll find that they did their research – finding over a dozen sources of primary research that paints a clear image of what needs accomplished. Sometimes, just organizing and pulling out the gold provides all the information your prospects seek.
- Pay for Promotion – Paid search promotion, paid social promotion, public relations, native advertising… these are all solid, targeted, investments these days. If you’re going through the trouble of creating great content – you best have some budget left over to promote it!
- Optimize – Never abandon an article driving rank, shares, views, and conversions. I review my content that’s a year or older all the time and update it with new statistics, new advice, new references, etc. If you research this article, you’ll see that Ross continues to update it through the years – even enhancing and improving the infographic. If you can enhance a once-popular article, you can revive it, optimize it, and garner even more attention!
It’s not related to creating better content, but one last tip: Don’t forget to incorporate a call-to-action (CTA)! You’ve got the traffic… now tell your visitors what they can do next. This could be subscribing to a newsletter, scheduling a free consultation, or even making a purchase. Tell them what to do and you’ll drive more leads into a buying journey.