It surprises me how much hard work companies put into a content strategy without ever looking at competing sites and pages. I don't mean business competitors, I mean organic search competitors. Utilizing a tool likeSemrush, 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 be thinking backlinking should be the strategy, I would disagree. While backlinking may result in greater rankings for the short term, the problem is that better content will always win in the long run. Your goal should be to create content that's infinitely better than what a competing site has published. When you do a better job than they did, you'll earn links beyond what you could ever 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. Personally, 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 deploy all the time 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, 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 is going to earn more attention. It's why we love and develop micro-graphics sized for social media.
- Page Title – Utilizing keywords is important, but creating a title worthy of clicking on is a great strategy. We often publish a page title that's different than the article title, specifically optimized for search. 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 of them 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.
- Page Structure – Content ranked first had bulleted lists 78% of the time. Organizing your page into easily scannable sections allows readers to comprehend it easier. Readers love lists because they're researching and can easily remember or check off the items they need or have overlooked.
- Readable Fonts – Adjusting your font size relative to the device is important these days. 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
- 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.
- Visuals – The average article ranking first had 9 images within the page so including images, diagrams, and charts that are compelling and shareable is critical.
- Photos – grabbing the same stock photography as a thousand other sites doesn't help you create a unique message. When we get our photographer to do a shoot with the companies we work with, we also have them take a hundred or show shots around the office and building. We want compelling photos that distinguish the client from their competitors. High quality images get 121% more shares
- Floating Share Buttons – creating great content isn't enough if you don't make it easy for that content to be shared. 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!
- 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.
- Links – Many publications avoid outbound links at all costs and I believe that's a mistake. First, providing a link to valuable content that your audience needs increases your value as a curator and expert to them. 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 up the pages into sections. We sprinkle strong and emphatic tag usage throughout to capture reader attention.
- Share Socially – We don't just share our content once, we share our content a multitude of times across our social channels. Social media is like a ticker where people often discover in real-time. If you've published an article outside the time that a follower is paying attention, you've lost them.
- 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.
How to Rank Content EVEN Better
We love this list, but want to share a couple of items that were overlooked but very, very critical:
- 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 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 even your 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 are seeking.
- 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!