This is a guest post by Lenny Johnson.
It’s never been harder to get your content seen on the web. There are over 2 million blog posts published each day, and that number is only expected to rise.
If you’re just starting out, with little authority and no influence, you’re fighting an uphill battle. 75% of users don’t even click past the first page of Google’s search results.
People are flooded with so much content that even after you manage to pull them to your post, keeping their attention long enough is another challenge on its own.
The good news is that even in the content crowded world we live in. It still is possible to create great content that ranks well on search engines and captures your reader’s attention until the end.
It takes a calculated approach but it’s what top bloggers have been doing for years and they’ve been getting amazing results.
In this post, I’ll provide you with a process for creating high ranking content like a pro.
#1. Find Popular Content in Your Niche
Here’s how most bloggers create content.
They wake up one day, get an idea on some topic they think their readers will absolutely love and then they start writing.
And while a few great ideas might emerge from your head. A lot of them will simply suck.
You’ve probably heard about putting your audience first right. Well, that means you can’t just bounce ideas in your head and hope they stick with your audience.
No matter how much you know about your niche, your ideas will never be as good as direct insights from the people you’re writing for. That’s why the first step to creating awesome high ranking content is knowing what kind of content your audience craves.
A bit of research is the best way to really get the best bang for your efforts when it comes to content marketing. You need to discover what your audience really care about.
If you learn what keeps them up at night and then provide a solution to that, you’ll never have to worry about poor performing content again.
Finding the kind of content your audience wants simply requires you to spy on what’s working for the top blogs in your niche.
Here’s how you find popular content:
Step 1: Run a Google search for long-tail keywords related to your niche.
Going long-tail narrows the results to websites that are truly invested in your niche, and not just single articles by top publishers.
For example, say I wanted to create content for a nutrition blog. I would input the search term:
“Benefits of omega 3 fatty acids”
Pick the top 3 results on the page. You can save their URL in a notepad or spreadsheet. We’ll come back to them later.
With those saved, use Buzzsumo to check the most shared topic for each website.
Input the URL in the Buzzsumo search bar
When you paste the URL into the search bar, Buzzsumo will provide you with their most shared content, and you can even set a timeline and get recent or older topics.
You can also use Buzzsumo to search for popular topics in your niche by simply searching long-tail keywords just like in Google.
Using the Moz OSE tool
Another way to see what’s worked for other websites in your niche is to use the Moz OSE tool.
Simply input the URL of the blog into the search bar and run. Then click on top pages.
You’ll be provided with their most linked to content on the web.
Knowing what other blogs in your niche have had success with, will help you create better content because now you know your audience has an active interest in these topics.
You can also find audience pain points by:
i. Studying comments in popular blogs especially for new topics.
ii. Searching product reviews on amazon
iii. Following groups and forums in your niche
You can also get killer ideas If you already have a large enough audience by creating surveys or a simple question in an email.
Copywriter Laura Loupuch does this well in her welcome email.
Get active in the community, ask questions and pay attention to what your audience is saying. That’s how you get winning content ideas.
#2. Craft a Great Headline
According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline. Only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of what you wrote.
A great topic won’t get read if your headline sucks. Most high-ranking contents have really good headlines.
Here are some examples of great headlines.
Good headlines don’t just lead to more clicks on Google, but they also get you social media shares and clicks.
Headlines are so important most copywriters spend hours obsessing over it. They can start with a list of 20 headlines and narrow it as they brainstorm.
But you’re not a professional copywriter, you just want more people to see your content.
Is there a way to cut the development time for great headlines?
The answer is yes. Your headlines might not win any awards but you can make them more appealing by using proven headlines formulas.
Copywriters keep swipe files of great headlines they can apply to their work.
It shouldn't be any different for bloggers.
Here are some proven headline formulas you can pull from:
You can read more about headline formulas from this post by Buffer.
Simply use the formulas to generate great headlines quickly.
#3. Produce Long-Form Content
The results of a study conducted by serpIQ revealed that the average content length of each of the top 10 results was more than 2,000 words.
The average number of words for content at the top of the search page was 2,416, and for the last on the page, the average number of words was 2,032.
Here’s a graph to put this in perspective.
Which makes sense because Google is focused on providing value for their users.
They don’t want people reading your post and then searching for hours to get more detailed instructions on how to carry out your advice. For this reason, Google will always put more comprehensive articles first.
I mean they practically said so themselves. Here’s a direct quote from a Google engineer.
"Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles"
A common reason why most bloggers don’t create long-form content is that they simply don’t know how to extend a post anymore. I know I had this problem when I first started blogging.
A great way to make content more comprehensive is to take a page from Neil Patel’s book. Neil’s blog posts regularly pass the 3,000+ words mark.
You can never read one of his articles and feel like you’re missing anything. He goes into detail into each and every step.
In fact, you might be overwhelmed by the level of detail at first, but search engines love the detail and his blog is reaping the benefits.
Ranking highly for almost every competitive keyword you can think of related to blogging.
Here’s how most of his articles are structured.
But making something comprehensive can be more than just giving step by step details. You can also add a case study, an experiment, comments from major influencers will also make your content longer and more valuable.
ConversionXL regularly features quotes from major influencers to make their content in-depth.
#4. Include Images (Screenshots, etc)
Images not only helps reader flow with what you've written, they improve engagement. Plus the shares and backlinks they get you will also help your rank on search engines.
But there’s a need for instructional content rather than just Stock photos used all over the Internet. Think back to Neil Patel again and his instructional images.
In fact, you can even see examples of helpful imagery in this post.
Images can also be a great way to make your audience share your post. By adding image sharing plugins like Monarch on WordPress, viewers can easily share pictures on your website by simply hovering on it.
As for making images more instructional, you can do that with Skitch or you can use Photoshop.
Just remember to compress images before uploading them so as not to slow down the loading time of your website.
Plugins like WP Smush-it are great for that.
#5. Add Plenty of Whitespace
Have you ever read a post that looked like it was cropped out of a newspaper?
Sentences practically glued together. I bet you didn’t stay for long.
Here's an example of poorly formatted text:
When readers see text clumped together, they’ll have a harder time reading because not only will they feel like it’s too long (even if it’s not), they’ll also have a hard time moving from line to line as they read.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve created the best, most comprehensive post on a subject if no one even reads to the first subheading.
Adding white space makes content easier to read. If your posts are easier to read then people will read them for longer. They’ll have a better chance of learning what you have to offer when they reach the end of your post and are more likely to share it.
Increasing white space is a psychological hack top blogs use to get their readers to the end of a post.
Here’s a good example from Unbounce:
Increasing your line spacing does more than just allow users to reach the end of your post. The longer people spend on your website the more relevant Google will think your post is and will bump you up the ranking.
But when people open your page and get slammed by a wall of impenetrable text. They’re less likely to read your article and more likely to go back to the search page.
Which increases your bounce rate or how many users leave your site immediately after clicking on it. Googles takes notice of this, and If it happens a lot, your rankings drop.
Just look at how highly bounce rate matters to SEO:
White space matters. You can fix this by increasing line spacing on your website. If you’re using WordPress some themes come by default with good line spacing and even give you options to adjust it.
You can also improve line spacing by keeping your paragraphs short. Ideally not more than three lines.
#6. Use Video
Videos have increasingly become a much-demanded form of content. Research conducted by the Aberdeen Group says:
And according to Google, half of 18 to 34 year olds would stop what they’re doing to watch a new video by their favorite YouTube creator.
Google adds that 40% of millennials trust YouTube for content and 60% say videos they’ve watched have changed their worldview.
The demand for video has also skyrocketed. According to Animoto, 55% of small and medium sized business owners have produced or outsourced video production in the last 12 months.
Content Marketing Institute also found that 34% of B2C marketers say video will be crucial to their success.
Videos are showing at the top of the search results.
And even as featured videos.
Google is clearly giving higher relevance to video and will only continue to push for it more.
But, is video entirely essential?
No, your posts can still rank highly without it. Not every topic deserves a video.
What you can be sure of is that videos will give you an edge over other blogs in your niche more focused on text and image-based content. It can be a major selling point for your blog, especially if you’re just starting out.
The pros are all investing in videos and there’s a reason for that. Videos will only become more important as times goes on, so start investing.
#7. Write a Compelling Meta Description
Meta descriptions are those sentences visible in the search result page.
They help give readers a sort of preview into what they’ll get by clicking. So, you can understand why getting them right is important for creating better ranking content.
Meta description is one of the most important factors behind a user’s clicks on a search page.
Meta descriptions go beyond search as well. They usually show as snippets in social media when your link is pasted. If you hope to get any ground on social media (and you should) then you should work on your Meta descriptions.
This used to require complicated code to get right but with a free plugin like Yoast SEO for WordPress. Creating meta descriptions couldn’t be easier.
Yoast will even give you instructions on creating good Meta descriptions.
In fact, if you’re serious about creating user and search engine friendly posts, you should install Yoast SEO now. It’ll make everything so much easier for you.
#8. Update Your Content Frequently
Once you’ve spent time creating epic content, you have to keep updating it. Google loves fresh content.
That way you can capitalize on all the backlinks a post has collected and still keep it at the top of the search results.
How powerful are frequent updates?
Well this post was created in 1998.
That's a million years in Internet time, and yet it shows up on the first page.
A closer look at the source code reveals why...
You can see it was last updated in 2017.
Part of making high ranking content is constantly keeping what you've done fresh.
#9. Make Your URL Keyword Readable
Too many people focus on content and completely ignore their URL. We already know that your URL is one factor Google uses to determine the relevance of your page to a users search query.
That’s why Google recommends your URL be readable.
Even users take into consideration your URL structure before clicking on a link.
If you were searching for hair treatment tips on Google and you saw a URL like “793335835.HTML” and another like “get-better-hair” odds are you’d click on get better hair.
All the top results on Google have a readable URL structure like the one above.
Don’t just change your URL structure though, it’ll just lead to errors all over your site and Google hates those.
Here’s a helpful resource for changing your URL structure on WordPress.
#10. Promote Your Content (Like Crazy)
Finally the moment of truth, You’ve created content based on what your readers love, you have a killer headline and your post is easy to read.
But I wish that was all it took to get your content to rank highly, but it’s not. A long time ago great content was all it took to get massive traction. Not anymore.
There’s so much content on the web that simply creating awesome content is no longer enough. You have to shamelessly promote what you’ve made for it to even stand a chance.
Jon Morrow has an analogy about content creation being like a woman giving birth to a child.
After all the pain she went through to birth the baby, she doesn’t just say “See ya later” and abandon it. She continues to support the child.
While creating a blog post is in no way as hard or painful as childbirth, there are some lessons to learn from it.
When you’ve put so much work into creating a great post you shouldn’t just hit publish and take a nap. All the pros don’t.
Derek Harplen recommends your content should take up 20% of your resources while promotion should take the remaining 80%. That’s how important it is.
Brian Dean does it for all his in-depth content. So does Neil Patel.
But before you start sharing your post on your Facebook page. There’s a better way to share your content.
You’ll have to go back to buzzsumo again.
Remember those blogs we analyzed to find top performing content the first time around?
Well if you wrote on any of those topics and you created better content than them. You can just reach out to everyone that shared or linked to that content and inform them about your more in-depth content on that subject.
If it’s good they’ll share or even link back to you.
Here’s how to get your content shared by influencers:
1. Find posts similar to yours by searching related keywords in Buzzsumo.
Using out original Buzzsumo example that would be "Benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids"
2. Simply click on the view sharers button to see who shared the post.
3. You'll be presented with a list of people who shared that post, and you can even organize them based on their number of followers.
4. Now go to the website of each of the top influencers and use their contact form to reach out to them.
Note that while you can send a direct message, this method is better.
5. Then craft your message telling them about your awesome content.
It should look something like this:
I noticed that you shared (or linked to) (article).
It was a great article, and even inspired me to write something similar. Only more updated and with greater detail (Your link).
I just think your readers will find it helpful.
Have a nice day.
And you’re done.
Don't ask them to share. If they like what you've done they will.
Wrapping it up
Getting people to see your content has never been harder but top bloggers show us that it’s possible.
Contrary to what most people think, expert bloggers don’t just make their content popular by winging it. They have a calculated approach that works.
You can produce the same results as them by:
Do you have any tried and tested method you use to get content to rank? I'd love to read about it in the comment section.