We’ve all heard someone say it. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard several people use the cliché.
Whether it was in a meeting, on a conference call, or by the water cooler, we’ve all heard that one guy swear that “content is king.”
And it’s true. Content is critical.
One great content piece by itself won’t get you the rankings you want so badly, though.
But if you combine that content with marketing efforts, such as outreach and content amplification, you can create a strategy that will boost your site traffic and rankings.
Outstanding content can be the distinguisher between you and competitors, ultimately helping you snag a spot at the top of SERPs and catching the attention of customers.
Everyone is ready to get on board with content.
So how exactly do you get started with creating game-changing blog content? That’s what I’m going to show you today.
Blog post quantity versus quality
The root of outstanding blog content is simple. It’s all about serving your customers and meeting their needs.
So, how well are you serving your customer base with your content?
Your company should ask:
Does our blog cover a wide range of topics? Are we answering questions that potential and existing customers are asking? Do our blog posts answer them in-depth?
These are the types of questions that you need to ask to gauge the quality of a blog.
At the same time, you also need to take a look at the quantity of the blog posts.
How many blog posts are we publishing each month? What is the ideal frequency or quantity? How many do we need to create each year to make a significant improvement in rankings and traffic and thus make the investment worthwhile?
Quality and quantity are both important. But there is a huge debate over which is more important.
If you had to choose between writing ten low-quality blog posts or one high-quality blog post, which would be more beneficial?
Industry findings on posting frequency
Researchers at HubSpot gathered blog data from 13,500+ Hubspot customers and analyzed it carefully.
They sought answers to the ongoing question of how many blog posts a company needs to publish each month.
The conclusion was that in nearly every case, more monthly blog posts inherently led to higher inbound traffic.
The research shows that publishing more will only increase your inbound traffic.
Hubspot broke down the ideal number of blog posts per month based on the following sizes.
Companies with 1-10 employees: Small companies that published 11+ blog posts per month had significantly higher traffic than those that posted fewer than 11.
Compared to those posting one post or less per month, these companies had three times the amount of traffic.
Compared to those posting two to five posts per month, these companies had double the traffic.
Companies with 11-25 employees: When companies with 11-25 employees published 11+ blog posts per month, they experienced three and a half times more traffic than those posting once a month or less.
Companies with 26-200 employees: Companies in this range experienced a little more than double the amount of traffic compared to those posting once a month or less.
So quantity is clearly important.
But these results don’t tell the whole story.
With this data alone, you might want to charge ahead and write as many blog posts as you can with no concern for their quality.
And if we stopped here, that would be a sound conclusion.
But the problem is that the data from the HubSpot study doesn’t discuss the quality of the blog posts.
The notion that writing more will boost your traffic and rankings only rings true if you don’t sacrifice quality.
If you want the benefits to last in the long run, you need more than sheer numbers.
Google heavily weighs the quality of the content and how well it serves the people online.
Brian Dean of Backlinko has proven this by analyzing the word count of top-ranking content.
And almost all the way across the board, he found that longer content out-performs shorter content.
Why is this the case?
Is longer content inherently higher in quality than shorter content? Not always.
But the reason is that long-form content tends to solve the problems of users better than short-form content.
And Google wants to put content that will serve its searchers best at the top of the results.
So don’t simply create as many blog posts as you can.
If you want to reap long-term benefits, then create high-quality content that is genuinely helpful to your audience.
Hone in on the topic, do proprietary research and analysis, and offer exclusive information that others cannot.
But don’t let your content calendar rule the day (or strategy).
Getting swept up in the content calendar
With the exciting, forward-moving energy that comes with creating a new content approach, it’s easy to get maniacal with the details and get pulled away from what really matters.
Companies often have a rigid idea of what they want their content topics to include and they want their scheduling to work like clockwork.
“For this month, our blog posts will be A, B, C and D. We’re going to publish these each Monday at noon.”
The drive to publish content on a regular schedule can sometimes compete with the need to create content that will actually serve your audience.
In these situations, we find ourselves in the dilemma of quality versus quantity. What is more important: routinely posting fresh content or crafting high-quality content?
Consider the value that your blog would offer if you were to stay up-to-date with the questions that came up online and tailor your topics accordingly.
You’d be able to supply more relevant content and increase the opportunity for new visitors.
Have a plan for your overall image and the purpose of the blog.
Determine a general posting schedule.
But, remember to leave room for flexibility and creativity. You need to remain audience-centered.
Too often, we forget the most important aspect of writing: producing content that speaks to your audience.
You should supply the audience with information they seek, provide them with resources related to their typical interests, and meet them where they’re at.
That should be the intent.
The quality of the content comes first.
Quality is more valuable than providing content on a set, high-frequency schedule.
In terms of importance, quantity is a close runner-up.
But you shouldn’t sacrifice quality just because it’s Monday and your content calendar says that you must publish a blog post every Monday.
Conduct in-depth research before writing
Research your audience before you begin writing. Understanding your target audience is key.
Ask questions like, “What types of people are we talking to?”
This may seem like an obvious step, but bloggers skip it too often.
Dig deep to identify what your target audience is asking about online, their interests, their habits, demographics, and more. You can do this in a minute or less with Ubersuggest.
Start by entering your seed keyword and clicking “Search.”
From there, click “Keyword Ideas” in the left sidebar for a results page that looks like this.
Now, since you want to know what your audience is asking about, click “Questions” above the results.
For the keyword phrase “content marketing” you’re provided 64 questions that your target audience is asking. This gives you insight into their thought process.
The more you learn about your audience, the more effectively you can create content that will resonate with them.
You can get information by digging into your analytics and insights, reviewing previously-collected data from studies, and interviewing customers.
All of these methods will help you gauge what types of people come to you and why they choose you.
Use analytical tools
There are many tools available to help you learn about your visitors.
One of the most common tools to use is Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides you data about your audience like age, gender, affinity categories, and in-market segments.
You can also view metrics like bounce rates, transactions, and revenue by segment and then download the reports to share with your content team.
Review collected data
Don’t forget about the data you’ve gathered over the years from past studies.
You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you already have data that you were planning to get through new interviews.
Reviewing past findings is a great way to be resourceful, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Interviews are an excellent way to get current data on your audience.
Ask open-ended questions to give participants space to speak their minds. And make sure that you are unbiased in the phrasing.
The same goes for pointed questions. Avoid asking questions like, “What is your favorite thing about [company name]?”
Instead, ask something like, “How would you describe your relationship with [company name]?”
Interviews allow you to get a third-party perspective of the company and help you identify your unique selling propositions(USPs) that set you apart from the competition.
What is quality content according to Google?
To get a clear set of guidelines to follow for “quality content,” you can evaluate how Google has determined whether content is high-quality or substandard.
Google rolled out several algorithm updates to re-evaluate pages that bloggers designed for search engines rather than users.
Let’s take a look at Panda.
In early 2011, Google announced the Panda algorithm update, which was a game-changer that forced everyone online to reevaluate their approach to web content.
Panda penalized thin content, duplicate content, low-quality content, content farming, high ad-to-content ratios, poor content tied to affiliate links, and more.
Google demoted pages for lousy content and sneaky SEO tricks.
Marketers needed to re-evaluate their content and create new strategies.
Pages that ranked in the top results for “how to train for a marathon” in March disappeared from the rankings by August.
Why did this happen?
Those pages contained lists of generic tips like “buy a good pair of shoes.” Higher-quality content sources, such as Runner’s World Magazine, replaced them in the rankings.
Was the Panda update a good thing? Overall, it was.
It penalized black hat SEO and low-quality content, and it benefitted users as it made marketers consider the needs of users first.
This update took a hard toll on many sites, but it showed us clearly what Google deems as “quality content.”
Let’s go over the characteristics of high-quality content and how to incorporate them.
Natural in its setting
No more keyword stuffing. Instead, strengthen your topical authority.
Work-related terms into the copy in a natural way.
Tools like the MarketMuse Content Analyzer can provide you with content scores to rate your coverage of the topic as you write your content.
No duplicate content
You may have multiple blog posts that cover the same topic, and one is essentially a paraphrase of another post.
Google penalizes duplicate content, so go through your pages and remove any content that Google might categorize as duplicate.
Black hat SEO refers to the tactics that marketers use to gain high search ranks in ways that circumvent or break the terms set by search engines.
Marketers have used black hat SEO as long as the Internet has been around. But algorithm updates help to demote pages that use them.
Content needs to be primarily for users, not for search engines. So don’t use shady, spammy techniques in your content.
If you make sure that your content has these three characteristics, it will be far higher in quality overall.
It’s also worth mentioning that Google introduced a new type of SERP element for “in-depth articles” in 2013.
The purpose of long-form content is to provide useful and thorough answers to the broad questions that millions of people pull out their phones to find every day.
The fact that Google allocated a new portion of the search results page to “in-depth articles” speaks to the importance of producing long-form content.
For decades, marketers defaulted to short-form content as the best form of communication.
Best practices in 2013 told us that the ideal blog post was approximately 350 to 600 words.
This makes sense in a society where attention spans are short, and multitasking is common.
But according to the study from Backlinko that we looked at earlier, that isn’t the case anymore.
After analyzing one million Google search results, they found that the average results that ranked in the first position contained 1,890 words.
So if you want your content to rank high, it should have nearly 2,000 words.
While there is still a demand for short-form content in certain contexts, long-form content produces better results in search.
And the length of long-form content has even been increasing. Many people are writing long-form content between 3,000 and 10,000 words.
But with this shift toward longer content, SEOs have found several techniques that you should avoid.
Many of these techniques fall under black hat SEO. And some of them are simply manipulative in nature.
Google set specific webmaster guidelines on techniques to avoid, which include:
- Automatically-generated content
- Link schemes
- Not incorporating original content
- Sneaky redirects
- Hidden texts or links
- Scraped content
- Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
It makes sense that Google dislikes these techniques.
Your goal is to make content about the user and not about the rankings. And these techniques are not in the best interest of your audience.
Include calls to action
To get the most out of blog posts, each one should have a call to action (CTA), and it should be easy to find.
CTAs will help increase conversions in transactional contexts.
And in informational contexts, they’re valuable because they help the reader find further information about the topic.
CTAs serve as an opportunity to offer more to the visitor.
When you prompt the reader to proceed to other pages for further information, you can provide them with more value as an expert and get them to explore other parts of your site.
This can lead them to find details about what they’re searching for, the company culture and values, contact information, and so on.
Overall, the visitor may get a better idea of what the company is about.
This is a great way for the visitor to get a solid impression of what you offer, so be smart about your linking. You want to place the CTA where readers can see it.
First and foremost, you want to work the CTA in where it naturally works best. It must suit the context.
While you can place a CTA anywhere, studies have shown the placements that have the highest conversion rates.
Here are three top placements for CTAs:
CTAs above the fold
According to Chartbeat, many people to don’t scroll all the way through a blog post.
And out of those who do, most will only read about 60%.
This goes to show how important real estate above-the-fold is.
CTAs within the copy
CTAs within the copy (or in-line CTAs) are effective ways to catch the attention of readers. HubSpot reports that they generate 47-93% of their leads through CTAs within their copy.
CTAs at the conclusion of the blog post
Ending a blog post with a CTA is also a solid way to encourage a visitor to take action.
At this point, they’ve finished reading the post and are ready for next steps. They may be wondering, “What’s next?” And you should have an answer ready.
Like this one from HubSpot:
You should also keep in mind that the type of CTA should reflect the purpose of the blog.
Let’s take a look at three types of effective CTAs.
In-line CTAs are hyperlinked text located in a sentence. You can format them to stand out from the copy around them.
You can use these to link to other pages of the site. For example, you could send the reader to an article that goes into further depth with the topic at hand.
You should also optimize the anchor text, the clickable text that directs you to another page, as much as possible.
“Comment below” CTAs
Asking readers to leave a comment allows you to end the blog post with an actionable next step. The purpose of this CTA is to get readers to engage with you.
You can explicitly ask the reader to comment:
“Comment below on what you believe will be the next big content marketing trend in 2018.”
Or do so indirectly by asking a question that pertains to your post:
“Have you seen these trends affect your niche?”
“Smart CTAs” are calls-to-action that you determine based on the lifecycle stage of your reader.
These differ from the previous CTAs because you’ll want to use them for transactional blog posts.
Blog posts are either informational or transactional in nature.
Informational posts will be just that – informational about a topic with the goal of sharing expert knowledge with others and showing an excellent level of detail around a topic.
Transactional blog posts will contain a great amount of information as well, but will also have an underlying theme of converting the reader.
These blog posts will also typically include information about the product’s features.
By planning your smart CTAs according to the lifecycle stage, you’ll show everyone what is relevant to them.
Show visitors to convert them to leads, show leads to convert them to customers, and show customers to convert them to promoters.
If this is the first time that the visitor has been to your website, you would want to make the Smart CTA a lead-generation offer.
Popular lead-generation offers include free white papers, case study reports, and templates.
Leads, on the other hand, have more familiarity with your site. They’re at the point in the lifecycle stage where they are ready to get started.
Therefore, you would typically want to offer your leads free trials. The whole point is to give them a taste of your products and services.
Finally, you want to have content that’s relevant to your customers.
Your customers are those who are actively using your product. You want to give them a resource to share with others or use on a team.
Hubspot offers “The SEO Optimization Worksheet: A Guide to Optimizing Keywords, Increasing Traffic, and more!”
Picture a marketing professional downloading this worksheet.
They may print the worksheet and make copies to share with coworkers.
Or, they may email the worksheet to a client who is interested in SEO optimization but doesn’t have the budget to hire a marketing agency at the time.
Months later, when the client does have the budget and is ready to hire an agency to do the SEO work on their behalf, who do you think they’ll go to?
They’ll go to Hubspot – the agency they’ve heard of and have mentally archived as an expert in the field.
Content marketing could easily become the best thing you’ve invested time and money in. It may turn into your best marketing channel.
But if you want to find success, make your blog better than those of your competitors and position yourself as an expert in your field.
There are at least two great benefits to having a strong blog section on your site.
First, you can make the content on your site robust for SEO purposes. And second, you can provide value in the form of knowledge as a thought leader.
These go hand in hand.
If you show up as one of the first results on the search engine result for a query, people will assume you are a big dog in that arena.
And likewise, if you have a large supply of content surrounding a topic and you’ve optimized it for excellence, you’ll be able to rank in the top SERP results.
Make a point to produce the highest-quality content you can. And second to that, try to publish regularly and as often as you can.
Research (and process) the needs of your target audience, be flexible to accommodate unique topics, create in-depth content that dives into the topic at hand, optimize your content without spammy techniques, and encourage readers to take the next step.
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to producing high-quality content.
What steps do you take to make your blog top-notch?