What you get out of this
This playbook was created in partnership with Clearscope.
We use Clearscope reports to rank higher in Google. It’s ridiculously easy: We take our blog post drafts, run a report on the keyword we’re trying to rank for, and…boom. Clearscope’s report gives us recommended edits that help our posts rank on the first page of Google.
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SEOs are an opinionated bunch, but they tend to agree on two things:
- Backlinks aren't as important as they used to be, and
- keywords aren't either
That's good news. It means you don't have to compete on the same dimensions as the big players in your industry.
From the start, Google's goal has been to serve users the most relevant results on the web. But the algorithm has fundamentally changed in the last few years—for the better.
The days of spamming your way to the front page are ending, and high-quality content is finally starting to get the respect it deserves.
How does SEO work in 2022
Google's mission is to give searchers the information they're looking for, presented in the most helpful way, as quickly as possible.
The nuances of Google's algorithm are too complex to dig into here, but we've distilled the process we believe Google uses to rank webpages into three phases:
Phase 1. Technical SEO helps Google access, understand, and serve your content.
Google can't rank your content if they can't find your content.
Healthy technical SEO makes it easier for Google-bot (Google's webpage crawler) to crawl your site, find important pages, and give them greater visibility in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Starting from a baseline of good technical health means your site loads fast, is free of errors, and has a logical site structure.
Phase 2. Topical authority helps Google determine where your content initially ranks.
Google associates websites with topics that are related to their site's identity and overall business objectives. The strength of these associations is commonly known as topical authority.
Google rewards sites with stronger associations (topical authority) with greater visibility in the SERP.
To build topical authority in your niche, Google needs proof that you're a credible subject matter expert.
There are two main ways to demonstrate this kind of expertise:
- Content helps Google understand what topics a page should rank for and whether it fulfills the search intent for those keywords.
- Links have been an important ranking factor since the beginning. They help Google determine the relative authority of domains and specific pages. The more links, the more authoritative the page or site is.
Phase 3. User engagement helps Google determine whether your content should continue ranking.
This idea is controversial, but many experts now believe the algorithm looks at user engagement metrics to determine which pages are helpful to users and which aren't.
We believe the most important indicator is whether a user has to return to Google to perform a subsequent search.
Let's look at two common scenarios to see how this works.
- Scenario 1. You Google [email marketing], and click into the first result for a "what is" guide to email marketing. It's exactly what you're looking for. So helpful that you poke around the site for more insights.
- Scenario 2. You open the same article but this time the content isn't quite what you're looking for. So you click "back" and search for something more specific: [how to do email marketing].
The behavior in Scenario 1 tells Google the first article was relevant to the search—it fulfilled the searcher's intent. Mission complete in Google's playbook.
The behavior in scenario 2—returning to Google to perform another search—makes Google lose confidence in how relevant the page is to the original query (email marketing). As a result, Google questions whether a more relevant page should take its place.
Key point: User behavior impacts rankings
Before, you could rank generic "SEO content" provided you had enough links and on-page optimization.
Now, unless you provide a premium content experience that ends the searcher's journey, you don't stand a chance of ranking for your target keyword in the top three positions.
This is a fundamental shift in SEO because people are now the final judge of whether content is valuable or not, not just algorithms. Let that sink in.
To succeed, your content has to appease the algorithm first (near-term ranking), then please the reader (long-term ranking).
In this playbook, we'll teach you how to produce premium content for search. The kind that's engineered to rank, resonate, and convert—the kind your prospects actually enjoy reading, not just tolerate.
Before we dive into the strategy, let's dispel a few common myths.
SEO myths and misconceptions
"More search volume means more conversions"
Most companies still fixate on driving as much search traffic as possible. Usually, this means targeting competitive, high-search volume keywords with low conversion intent (top-funnel content).
This approach is logical if you're a media company subsisting on page views and ad revenue. But for most businesses, it's an incredibly inefficient way to generate ROI from SEO. You'll drive more conversions targeting lower search volume, high intent keywords towards the bottom of the funnel.
"Bigger budgets drive better results"
Big companies tend to scale as fast as possible, usually by investing in a high quantity of posts at the expense of quality. This strategy worked well when backlinks were the dominant ranking factor, but it's starting to lose its effectiveness.
Today's dominant ranking factors are relevance and quality—the core of content-led SEO.
With the right content strategy, you can use your limited resources to produce less content and likely drive better business results.
"You'll never outrank the big players in the SERP"
Many businesses assume they'll never outrank sites with big, scary domain ratings. This assumption is false. In many cases, current rankings reflect past strategies that are now outdated.
You can often dethrone the incumbents by competing on dimensions with less competition—content and user experience.
Three things marketers need to know about content-led SEO
1. Think niche
Your goal with content-led SEO is to demonstrate topical authority in the core topics your website is—and should be—known for. In practice, this means focusing on product-related keywords with clear search intent.
To build defensible topical authority, cover the specific topic you want to be associated with from all angles and search intents.
2. Topics are the new keywords
It used to be best practice to target one keyword per page, and you could expect that page to rank regardless of other content on your site.
Now, it's best practice to target one topic per page—one unique search intent—and include relevant keywords (sub-topics and search perspectives) within that content.
3. Context is king
Your content needs to fit the particular context associated with your target keywords. But context isn't limited to words on a page—you must create content experiences that engage users on multiple dimensions (e.g., video, images, widgets, testimonials) to fulfill search intent.
What this playbook covers
This playbook teaches you how to execute a modern content-led SEO strategy. The nuances may evolve over time, but this strategy is evergreen.
We interviewed some of the best SEO's on the planet to bring you the most concise, actionable, and up-to-date playbook possible—the 80/20 of modern-day SEO.
And we sourced proven insights from SEO professionals at Grow and Convert, Minuttia, Graphite, among others, to get as close as possible to the source of truth.
If you implement what we teach in the playbook, you'll get most of the results by doing less but better.
You'll walk away knowing how to prioritize the next best action to take, whether that's performing targeted keyword research, creating original content, performing a content audit, or dialing in your site architecture—we teach it all. No fluff. Nothing that doesn't move the needle forward.
Quick note: The team at Clearscope provided insights for this playbook. They're some of the best in the business, and their quality-first approach to SEO matches our recommended strategy. Demand Curve readers can test Clearscope by getting up to 3 complimentary reports. Reports give you the info you need to have the best chance at ranking for your target keywords. Head over here to get your free reports.
The best SEO content strategy prioritizes quality and depth, not volume and breadth. When successful, SEO, just like great content marketing, can:
- Drive consistent, ongoing traffic and leads
- Develop brand reputation and authority
- Generate compounding results
You'll need to work diligently to build strong topical authority in your niche to achieve these kinds of results for your business.
Two kinds of topical authority to build:
- External topical authority: Involves activities that happen outside of your website. Also called "off-site SEO." Building external topical authority is an uphill battle; you don't have much control over the actions or the outcomes.
- Internal topical authority: Involves activities that happen on your website. Also called "on-site SEO." Building internal topical authority is high-leverage; you have complete control over the actions and, to a lesser degree, the outcomes.
This playbook teaches you how to build internal topical authority with content.
Content-led SEO is a quality-first, content-driven approach to building internal topical authority. And topical authority, as we discuss throughout the piece, is the key that unlocks rankings, search traffic, and ideally, conversions.
The strategy and examples we share are specific to B2B SaaS SEO, but they can generally work for B2C as well. The strategy looks like this:
- Resolve major technical issues
- Generate keywords
- Analyze the SERP to inform content angle and structure
- Write original SEO content
- Create a premium content experience
- Plan your internal linking strategy
- Optimize and maintain your content
- Track performance
1. Resolve major technical issues
Technical SEO is a big deal for 1000+ page websites, or sites with programmatic SEO components (think: generated listings on Zillow, software reviews on G2, restaurant reservations on Tock).
Fortunately, SaaS sites are uncomplicated. And most of you reading this are using modern CMS platforms and website builders that handle the basic technical requirements for you right out of the box.
For more details on optimizing your technical baseline, go read and bookmark our technical SEO quick start guide. We wrote the doc so you can implement the recommended actions yourself or hand it to a developer to do the work for you.
Here's a high-level overview of what's covered in the guide.
These factors let Google access and prioritize your library of URLs.
- Sitemap.xml: an inventory of URLs that lets search engines find, crawl, and index pages on your site.
- Robots.txt file: this text file instructs search crawlers on how to crawl your site.
- Internal links: links on your website that shape site architecture and help users navigate to other pages on your site.
- Site architecture: describes how your website is structured and organized.
Factors that tell Google which topics your content is associated with.
- Title tags and subheadings: HTML snippets that help Google understand what your content is about.
- Schema markup (structured data): snippets of code that give Google more information about how to represent your content in SERPs when added to your web pages.
Factors that signal user-friendliness, trust, and security.
- Mobile usability: use responsive web design, disable intrusive pop-ups, and optimize page speed.
- Security: always use "https://" > "http://"
- Site "cleanliness:" e.g., fix broken links, limit 301 redirects, remove 404s, 500s
- Core web vitals: page load speed, interactivity, visual stability.
Again, the technical cheat sheet covers these factors in greater detail.
2. Generate keywords
This is the longest section in this playbook but also one of the most important to get right.
In this section, you'll build a keyword roadmap for your content strategy.
The process has three steps:
- Step 1: See what keywords are already working for you
- Step 2: Generate a list of keywords
- Step 3: Sort and prioritize keywords
By the end, you'll have a list of high-opportunity keywords and content ideas to go after.
Pain point SEO: a conversion-focused approach to keyword research
Consider two different approaches to keyword research:
Approach #1: Top-down
The traditional "scorched earth" approach to keyword research.
You start at the top of the funnel, build out a giant list of TOFU keywords, then move down the funnel to keywords with higher conversion intent.
The top-down method is a volume play. It assumes you must create content that nurtures prospects from the awareness stage of the funnel to conversion.
Approach #2: Bottom-up
Start by identifying your prospects' main questions and pain points, then find relevant keyword opportunities that address those topics.
Grow and Convert coined this bottom-up strategy "Pain Point SEO" because it prioritizes intent—keywords with real business value.
Pain point SEO is ideal for B2B because it prioritizes mid and bottom-funnel keywords that indicate that the searcher is either:
- Researching a solution to solve a pain point
- Actively looking to buy a product
By focusing on high-intent keywords around customer pain points, your content will have a much better chance of converting people immediately, even if the search volume is low.
Before we move on, make a copy of this keyword research template. Open it in another tab so you can add keyword ideas to your spreadsheet as you go.
Step 1. See what keywords are already working
Note: This step is only helpful if you've already run Google Ads campaigns or you have several months of data accumulated in Google Search Console (GSC).
If you just launched a new website or haven't set up GSC yet, skip this step. But before you do, set up your GSC account for the future. It only takes two minutes.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is a free search analytics tool that shows which keywords you're already getting impressions and clicks for.
The keywords in GSC indicate the topics that Google associates your business with right now. Consider focusing on these topics first since it will be easier to gain more visibility for keywords you are already ranking for than starting with a new topic.
Here's what to do:
In GSC, click on your domain and then Performance to see real-time data around your site's key search metrics.
Set the date to Last three months and check the colored boxes for Total Clicks, Average Impressions, Average CTR, and Average Position.
Next, export the search data to a .csv file by clicking on the Export button at the top-right of the page.
Now, you have the list of search queries you're already ranking for.
Copy and paste your data into your "Google Search Console" spreadsheet column.
Step 2. Generate keywords
There are many ways to generate keywords. Here are the methods we'll focus on:
- Google hacks
- Customer research
- Competitive analysis
For the rest of this playbook, we'll use brackets when referencing a keyword.
For example, content marketing expressed as a keyword is [content marketing].
Step 2a. Brainstorm
Consider your customer persona and list all the ways they might search and discover your business on Google.
You'll find many more opportunities to create content on relevant topics that aren't limited to your product or service but are still tangentially related.
Use your intuition and ask questions like:
- What is your website content about?
- What would you ask a search engine to find what your website offers?
- What do you think other searchers would ask for?
- What are your most popular pages/items about?
For example, if your product is a content optimization tool, your target audience might search:
- [content optimization tool]
- [content optimization software]
- [content optimization system]
- [content optimization platform]
- [best content optimization tool]
- [seo content optimization tool]
- [content optimization tool in digital marketing]
Next, think about your product's value props and brainstorm ideas based on the problem your product solves.
Continuing with the above example, value prop keywords for a content optimization tool might include:
- [how to optimize content for seo]
- [how to create content that ranks]
- [how to write content for seo]
- [how do you write relevant content]
- [how to build topical authority]
- [how to write seo friendly content]
Once you have a list of potential keywords, add them to your spreadsheet's "Brainstorm" column.
Step 2b. Google hacks
Google Autosuggest is an incredible hack to discover valuable keywords you might not find in popular keyword tools.
Head to Google, enter some of the keyword phrases you previously generated, and see what autocomplete suggests. These suggestions are based on what users search, so you can easily find out other keywords related to your product.
NFTs are popular now, so let's use that as an example.
Let's say you built an NFT creation SaaS that helps people turn their artwork into NFTs on the blockchain.
An artist wanting to make NFTs out of her artwork might search for:
- How-to's: How do I make an nft out of my art? (Top-funnel, researching what the process involves)
- Comparisons: Ethereum versus Solana to make an nft (Mid-funnel, they likely have an idea and are deciding on a platform to use)
- Questions: What is the best software on Ethereum to create nft art? (Bottom-funnel, they likely already have artwork in mind and are looking for a SaaS to help turn it into NFTs)
Look for relevant keywords and add them to your spreadsheet's "Google hacks" column—these are the keywords you should target.
People also ask and Related searches
When you're exploring Autosuggest ideas, look at People also ask and Related searches as well. These features will give you a more layered understanding of the nuances around search intent for your topics.
Advanced search operators
Advanced search operators let you see the number of indexed pages from any domain, among other useful things. You can use search operators to determine how often competitors mention your target keyword in their content.
Search operators can also help you discover valuable keyword ideas.
For example, if your topic was link-building, you could search for link building Reddit threads in the r/SEO/ subreddit.
If you want to find out which pages include your target keyword in their title or URL, use the "intitle:" or "inurl:" modifier.
This hack can give you an idea of how many pages a given domain has targeting your specific topic. It also tells you how many pages you may need to compete effectively.
Step 2c. Perform customer research
Customer research is one of the best ways to uncover specific pain points.
Since these are usually mid-to-bottom funnel topics, they'll likely be some of the highest-converting keywords in your list.
Online forums and communities
Look for communities and forums where people discuss topics related to your product, like Reddit and Quora. Then enter their URLs into your keyword tool to find out what keywords they rank highly for.
For example, according to Ahrefs, one Reddit post at r/Entrepreneur ranks #4 in search results for the keyword phrase "starting a business with 50k".
Googling the phrase confirms this, showing Quora and Reddit pages at the top of organic search results.
There's a clear interest in this question—consider how many questions have been asked about it on two platforms—but few landing pages and blog posts dedicated to answering it.
Create an email autoresponder
Another way to get a steady flow of content ideas is to ask new email subscribers to share a significant pain point or problem they're trying to solve.
At Demand Curve, we ask new subscribers to reply and share their biggest growth problem.
This feedback loop helps us better understand our audience and informs our content. You can get a ton of quality feedback with barely any effort.
Talk to your customers
You can learn about your customers with research. You can also learn from them directly.
Here are some questions Grow and Convert recommends asking your customers via interviews, phone calls, and surveys:
- What was the problem you were looking to solve before stumbling across our product or service?
- If our product/service were no longer to exist, what product/service would you use as an alternative?
- How would you describe our product/service to a friend who knew nothing about us?
- What are the top 3 benefits you receive from our product/service?
- What would you search for if you were to research our product or service?
If you can't or don't feel comfortable interacting with customers directly, consider speaking with different departments in your organization to get closer to their pain points and feelings about your product or service.
Talk to your team
The best pieces of content you will create are often the ones you find yourself answering in sales calls and customer support tickets.
Here's a handful of questions to ask your team, organized by department:
- Can you give me some examples of your best customers? Who are they, and why do you feel like they're the best for you?
- Can you tell me the most common use cases for which people use your products/service?
- What do you feel like your competitive advantage is compared to all of the other alternatives out there?
- What are some top questions you get asked on customer phone calls?
- Tell me about a recent conversation you had with a prospect. What was the challenge they were trying to solve?
- What was the last prospect/company you had an easy time closing? What was the problem that person was trying to solve? Why do you think that person signed with you?
- What alternative products/services have prospects compared you to?
- Tell me about the competition. What do you think your competitive advantage is over other companies?
- Are there specific industries or customers you've noticed are an excellent fit for the product/service?
- What feature set and/or part of the service do customers use most?
- What are the most common use cases of the product/service?
Parse the data
When you're done, take notes on your collected answers and look for patterns, commonalities, and disconnects. Turn the most common use cases, questions, and problems customers try to solve into content ideas.
Once you have a list of topics and questions, search for keywords that tie into those pain points and intents.
Step 2d. Competitor analysis
Understand what content you need to create by assessing what terms your competitors are ranking for on Google.
Enter your competitors' URLs into your keyword research tool. This could be their homepage or any relevant blog posts. Your keyword tool will show a list of keywords your competitors' pages rank for.
For Ahrefs, you can do this with the Site Explorer feature under the Organic keywords section.
Export the data as a .csv file and add those keywords to the "Competitor analysis" column in your spreadsheet.
Repeat this process for every competitor that comes to mind.
Step 3. Sort and prioritize high-opportunity keywords
Step 3a. Sort keywords
You'll probably notice similar phrases as you go through your keyword data.
Since users search for topics using different wording, some terms are variations with the same intent. In which case, a single piece of content can target all of them—these are called topic clusters.
Here's how to organize your keyword data into topic clusters:
- Group related keywords. Keywords belong in the same cluster if the intent behind them is identical or very similar.
- In each cluster, identify the primary keyword. This keyword is the overarching theme of the cluster and is usually the keyword with the highest search volume.
- For the other keywords, categorize them as secondary and tertiary keywords. These keywords relate to the primary one but have lower search volume and relevance.
For example, check out this topic cluster about sending money abroad:
Based on this data, creating content targeting "send money abroad" as your primary keyword makes sense.
Related keywords like "how to send money abroad without fees" and "how long does it take to send money abroad" are less popular but still relevant, so they should be secondary/tertiary.
Recommended third-party tool: Keyword Insights
Keyword Insights is a premium tool that analyzes your list of keywords and groups them into topic clusters for you.
If you're managing a high volume of keywords, this tool can save you a ton of time.
For a tutorial on how to use it, check out this 8-minute tutorial video from Andy Chadwick, the creator.
Step 3b. Prioritize high-opportunity keywords
Finally, prioritize your list to surface keywords that will have the highest business impact based on monthly search volume, stage of the funnel, and intent.
If you're currently running a Google Ads campaign, copy and paste your long list of keywords into Keyword Planner and click on "Get search volume and forecasts."
The tool will sort your keywords by the estimated monthly search volume. Export the list, and copy and paste the "keyword" and "avg. monthly" columns into your spreadsheet.
If you aren't running ads, upload your keyword list to Keyword Explorer in Ahrefs or your tool of choice.
Export the data from Ahrefs, then copy and paste the "Keyword" and "Volume" columns into your spreadsheet.
As you sort through your list, pay special attention to high-intent and non-purchase intent keywords that indicate the right audience.
3. Analyze the SERP to inform content angle and structure
Now that you have a list of high-opportunity keywords to go after, you can figure out what types of pages you'll need to make for them.
In this section, you'll learn how to analyze the search engine results page (SERP) for key associations. You'll then use these associations to inform what type of content you should create to rank.
What does the search query deserve?
Google has gotten really good at predicting SERPs that users care about.
When considering which pages to surface, Google looks at factors like search intent, page type, and content.
Here's the SERP for the keyword [saas].
[Saas] is ambiguous, with no qualifiers whatsoever to help Google understand what the searcher is looking for.
However, through ongoing experimentation, Google understands that people searching for [saas] want broad, high-level informational content about SaaS, the concept, not product recommendations or help troubleshooting software issues.
Looking closer, we can make an educated guess that most domains in the SERP have topical authority in the software space (tech companies like Salesforce, Microsoft, and Red Hat).
You can use the site search operator we showed you earlier to get a sense of a website's topical authority—the strength of its association with a particular subject matter.
Using Salesforce as an example, the site search hack tells us how many pages on their site mention the keyword [saas]. 8,270 pages is quite a lot!
However, since [saas] is SO broad, we can refine our search to title tags only.
951 Salesforce pages have SaaS in the title—still a ton of pages.
Our initial SERP analysis for the keyword [saas] tells us we would need to meet the following hard associations to rank:
- Create the right content experience: a high-level blog or article talking about SaaS as a concept.
- Requires strong topical authority: we would need strong authority in the software category (hundreds, if not thousands of unique pages mentioning [saas] in the content and/or title tag).
We call these "hard" associations because they are the minimum requirements to rank. Without them, you will never rank.
Soft associations, on the other hand, aren't strict requirements. Soft associations are common elements that Google thinks provide the best user experience during the search.
Depending on the topic, soft associations could include:
- Title tag
- Topic perspective/angle
- Social proof
- Trust factors (e.g., reviews, credentials, data, citations)
- User-generated content
- Interactive content (widget, tools, quizzes)
- And more
Examples of soft associations for [saas] include:
- Page experience is a topic cluster (what is a SaaS, examples, how does it work)
- Page experience is a news article
- Content experience is video
- Content experience is written text
- Page includes "What is SaaS" in the title tag
- Page includes "Guide" in the title tag
Putting it all together:
Every result in the SERP for [saas] includes all of the required hard associations but only a handful of soft associations.
Four evergreen pages to focus on in your B2B SEO content strategy
B2B differs from other industries because recency isn't a factor; topics don't change very often. That means the range of content types is relatively small and predictable.
We see the following four page types repeatedly in B2B SaaS companies:
- Topic clusters
- Resource/article pages
- Comparison/review pages
- Product pages/use case pages
Many if not all of the high-opportunity keywords in your list should fit into one of these four "buckets."
Your job as a marketer is to pair the most relevant page experience with the correct SERP associations and plan your content accordingly.
Let's look at each example and analyze what they do well so you can learn from them.
1. Product/use case page (high priority - bottom funnel content)
Product pages are used to showcase your product's key features.
Common keyword variations include:
- "Best [use case] software"
- "[Use case] software"
- "[Industry] software"
- “[Industry] + [Use case] software”
- "[Use case] software for [Industry]"
- "[Industry] software for [Use case]"
These are high-intent, bottom-funnel keywords. Searchers are actively looking for a particular type of SaaS product.
In some cases, these keywords, and variations of them, might produce a SERP that includes both product pages and homepages.
For example, the SERP for the keyword [online booking system] serves a mix of both page types.
If your business is an online booking SaaS, you could create either page type and still rank, as long as you optimize the content according to the intent and provide a great user experience.
SimplyBook.me's homepage currently ranks in the #2 position for [online booking system].
When you see mixed results in the SERP, but both page types appear to satisfy search intent, here's how you might determine which format to choose:
- One core product feature/use case. If your product is a dedicated appointment scheduling SaaS—and will always be one— you could safely optimize your homepage for the keyword because it is unlikely to change over time.
- Multiple features/case cases. If appointment scheduling is one feature among many, or you plan on adding new features that aren't related to appointment scheduling, then you'd want to create a use case/product page.
It's essential to consider the long-term goals of your business and choose a page type that aligns with those goals.
Best practices for B2B product pages:
- Showcase the key features of your software
- Clear CTAs with request demo or pricing details
- Social proof with testimonials from key customers and logos
- Answer all the frequently asked questions about your software, specifically. Since homepages and use case landing pages are typically templates, the FAQ section is an excellent opportunity to discuss the details and answer questions.
2. Product comparison and review pages (medium priority - mid-funnel)
Comparison/review pages are usually list posts that compare and contrast products in your niche. They're meant to convince readers that your product is the one that they should talk to sales about.
Like product page keywords, comparison keywords tend to follow the same pattern over and over again.
Comparison keyword variations:
- "[competitor] vs [brand]"
- "[competitor] alternatives"
Review keyword variations:
- “Best [Use case] tools”
- “Best [Use case] apps”
- “Best [Use case] software for [integration]”
- “[Use case] software for [business size]” (SMB, enterprise, etc.)
- “[Business size] [Use case] tools”
These are some of the best keywords to target because the searcher already wants a product in your category. They're looking for a list of the best options to help them make an informed buying decision.
Insight: Don't be afraid to promote your product first
Most companies sneak their product in at the end of a (usually) very long list of competing products.
At some point, it became a best practice to downplay your product if you weren't promoting it on a landing page or product page. On blog posts, in particular, it's generally thought to be too salesy. We disagree for two reasons:
- Reason #1: Most people aren't going to read to the bottom of your page, which means you're missing out on potential leads by leaving your product for last place.
- Reason #2: People reading this type of content are actively searching for a product like yours. So why wouldn't you position yourself at the top of the list? If you sell a quality product and are honest about the factors it fulfills, there's no reason to dance around the subject. Put yourself first and own it.
Use comparison pages to communicate how your product is better than the alternative. To do it right:
- Be specific: Most comparison pages don't go into nearly as much depth as they should. This is your chance to cover the details and nuances that differentiate your product from competitors. If you aren't sure what points to emphasize, think about what you can say that your competitors can't. This will force you to flush out general benefits and points that any of your competitors could make. Be specific.
- Be honest: If your product has strong positioning and unique value props, and is genuinely differentiated from competitors, those are the points you should focus on when evaluating your product against the alternatives. Your product probably isn't right for everyone. If you're forthright about your product's strengths and limitations, readers will trust you for it.
Look at this example comparison page from Buddy Punch, which ranks #1 for the keyword [best employee tracking software].
This is one of the strongest comparison page examples we've seen.
Here's why we like it:
1. Engaging multimedia
Images and video can enhance the overall content experience for users, improving engagement signals and, ultimately, rankings. Instead of using stock imagery and product images from competitors' websites, Buddy includes high-quality multimedia like third-party video reviews, written user reviews, and many original in-app screenshots. Together, these elements make the piece vastly more engaging.
2. Relevant above-the-fold experience
People searching for this keyword have an advanced understanding of employee time tracking software. They know what this class of products does and why they need it for their business. At this point, they're looking for the best option. Buddy addresses two relevant pain points straightaway in the introduction and tells readers the post will help them decide on "the best… solution for your specific needs." And most importantly, the content delivers on the expectations they set at the outset.
3. Recommendations based on experience
People are looking for advice and a trusted recommendation, but most companies take a neutral stance for some reason. Listing the pros and cons of a bunch of products isn't as helpful as someone who knows the industry, guiding you through the options in a thoughtful, informed way.
4. Written for an advanced reader
Finally, the content is nuanced, specific, and comprehensive. Content is written in the first person, weaving in relevant experience and opinions on features, problems, and the space. This quality of content is rare because it is so specific, which is exactly what an advanced reader wants: an honest and comprehensive critique of competing products. This builds massive trust.
3. Resource/article (low priority - top funnel)
Resource pages are educational posts covering a specific subtopic within a broader subject.
You'll see these search modifiers over and over again in keywords where the intent is to learn something or solve a specific problem:
- Information: How, what, who, where, why
- Insights: Tips, examples, benefits, tactics, ideas, help, best, metrics, strategy
- Specific resources: Guide, tutorial, resource, process, template, cheatsheet, formula, framework
The main criticism of resource pages is that they don't convert well, which is valid. That's why we recommend starting with bottom-funnel pages first, then moving up to higher funnel topics later.
However, resource pages are still valuable because they help build topical authority. You can use educational blog posts and articles to support or "power-up" topic clusters targeting more competitive head terms.
For instance, a topic cluster targeting [content marketing] would benefit from 10-20 supporting resource pages, each expanding on a particular subtopic within the broader content marketing theme.
For example, Jobscan targets the keyword [ats friendly resume template].
Jobscan is a SaaS product that helps job applicants optimize their resumes to get in front of more job recruiters. Topic-wise, [ats-friendly resume template] is a good choice because the intent is so specific and relevant to Jobscan's core theme.
Here's what the page does well:
1. The content matches the dominant search intent. A quick SERP analysis tells us that the searcher is looking for free templates and/or advice on how to write an ATS-friendly resume. The dominant search intents are clear, and Jobscan fulfills both in their article.
2. Content is comprehensive. Jobscan digs into the nuances of proper resume formatting and includes 20 template options to choose from.
3. Serves a relevant above-the-fold content experience. This article gets straight to the point, like the Buddy Punch example from earlier. The writer doesn't bore readers with the basic information they already know (e.g., what is an applicant tracking system?).
4. Engages readers with multimedia. This is a short article, so there isn't much space to add media elements. However, Jobscan includes an original explainer video towards the top of the page, which helps engage the reader early on. This makes the visit more valuable to the business and more memorable to the user.
4. Topic clusters (low priority - top funnel)
As we mentioned, topic clusters are the ideal content type for competitive, high-level category terms (e.g., content marketing) because they address several different intents in one piece. They often have a "complete guide" or "ultimate guide" angle.
The strategy is to build topic clusters for high-level keywords and link out to separate resource pages that expand on particular subtopics related to those high-level terms.
Here's a great topic cluster example that ranks #1 for the keyword [applicant tracking system].
What Jobscan does well:
1. Content covers the broadest range of topics the user will likely care about within the topic cluster theme. This post is a collection of short sections, no more than a few sentences each, that start to cover a subtopic, then link to a relevant resource in case the reader wants to learn more.
This linking strategy is ideal for two reasons:
- It's genuinely helpful to the reader. The topic is extensive, and rather than overwhelm the reader with information, each section gives the reader a relevant resource to learn more about topics that interest them the most.
- It's more likely to end the search journey. Because contextual links are to relevant resources, users are more likely to explore Jobscan.co instead of clicking back to Google and visiting a different search result—a negative engagement signal. This example is what ending the searcher's journey looks like in practice. Give the searcher a rich content experience, anticipate the questions they'll have, and create linkable resources on your website that answer those questions.
2. Intent-specific sections link out to standalone pieces of content. All but a handful of links point to internal pages on jobscan.co. This section alone links out to seven relevant resource pages.
This is just one subheading out of many. The post links to ~20 supporting resources with a unique search intent.
Do you see how powerful topic clusters can be for building topical authority?
The internal linking strategy optimizes PageRank distribution and relevance throughout these closely-related pages, encouraging Google to associate the domain with the broader topic [applicant tracking systems].
To pull back the curtain even further, when we perform an advanced site search, we can see that Jobscan.co has 584 pages associated with the keyword [applicant tracking system].
Analyze the SERP for every keyword in your list to pair the most relevant content experience with the correct associations to fulfill search intent.
Here's a recap of the steps:
Step 1. Start at the top of your keyword list and type that keyword into Google
Step 2. Analyze the top 10-30 results and look for associations
- Which page types appear in the SERP?
- What is the dominant searcher intent?
- What are the hard associations?
- What are the soft associations?
Step 3. Identify the ideal page type and correct associations.
- What is the dominant page type in the SERP?
- What multimedia elements do you see?
- What intents are being serviced in the headlines and content?
- What trust or credibility factors do you see?
With practice, you'll be able to analyze the SERP faster and learn to make decisions using your intuition.
4. Write original SEO content
The SERPs are a dumping ground for "Google research papers" and what Grow and Convert calls "mirage content."
Mirage content is when content looks useful on the surface, but upon closer inspection, you realize it's nothing but high-level fluff. Most content on the internet is like this.
The hard truth about content marketing is that there are no shortcuts. No one has the patience for unoriginal, surface-level junk.
If you want people to read and convert on your content, it must stand out and be original.
How to write content that ranks and converts readers into leads and customers
It's beyond the scope of this playbook to teach you how to write well.
Julian's handbook, Write Well, is another exceptional resource :)
Between the three, you're getting a free masterclass in writing on the internet. Take advantage of the education.
If you already have basic content writing chops (or you have capable writers on board), then you can implement the following tactics immediately to turn a piece of generic content into standout content.
1. Fulfill the requirements from your SERP analysis
On-page optimization still matters, although its importance has diminished over the years.
Since this is SEO we're talking about, sometimes you still need to include general content to rank—the basic on-page requirements.
If, for example, during your SERP analysis, you notice that each of your competitors has a section on best practices, examples, and key metrics, then you should also include those sections.
Insight: When evaluating the quality of your content, remember that it's not about how good a post is in the abstract but how good it is relative to the other pages that are ranking.
Fulfilling the basic SEO requirements you determine via SERP analysis helps ensure that your content starts on equal footing.
2. Enhance content with specificity
Specificity is the critical element your content needs to impress a target customer, and including it will produce better content.
Most SEO content lacks specificity because it's written by content writers, not subject matter experts. You can't write nuanced content that goes deep into product features and comparisons when all your sources are Google articles. This makes for generic, surface-level content.
To make your content stand out, roll up your sleeves and dig into your topic's nitty-gritty details to show people you know what you're talking about.
3. Include "originality nuggets" to stand apart
If your content meets the basic requirements for your keyword and has specificity, then all you need is an element of originality to stand apart from the competition.
Adding originality to your content doesn't have to be some major undertaking. But you do need a handful of "originality nuggets"—small chunks of uniqueness—to stand apart.
Note: The following tactics are arranged from least effort to most effort. Depending on the topic and resources, you can choose accordingly.
3.1 Take a contrarian viewpoint
When every headline in the SERP has the same perspective, taking a contrarian viewpoint can demonstrate your expertise and help you stand out in the SERP.
If you take a contrarian position, make sure to fulfill the correct search intent and support your position with solid arguments and evidence. Otherwise, you're just click baiting people.
3.2 Share your unique perspective
As we mentioned earlier, most writers adopt a neutral position in the pieces they write. They don't take sides or voice strong opinions. This kind of content isn't memorable and doesn't help to build trust. You can stand apart by sharing a genuine perspective.
Buddy Punch does an excellent job of this. The example below is subtle, but notice how the writer speaks in the first person, sharing a specific experience and a genuine opinion on the topic—employee time tracking software.
This type of content can also be considered thought leadership content. They're sharing an earned opinion, not a borrowed one. When you write about your experience and expertise in the subject, the content feels more authentic, which builds trust.
Rather than discussing a topic in the abstract, weave in your unique perspective and experience.
- Why did you (or your founder/CEO) start the company?
- What experiences motivated you to build the product the way you did?
- What is your unique perspective on the industry you operate in?
- What problems are you/your product uniquely positioned to solve?
3.3 Interview an expert
If you can't come up with an element of originality yourself, find someone with original ideas or industry insights and interview them instead.
This article on patreon.com ranks for the keywords [best patreon business models] and [patreon ideas].
Yes, it helps tremendously that the article is published on Patreon, but that's not why we chose this example. We chose it because of its quality.
The article shares the same information about Patreon's different business models as the other articles, but this writer went further. Each section has a specific story attached to it. The writer interviewed someone at Patreon to learn about their business first-hand and get examples from successful creators on Patreon.
It takes more work, but your content will be more original and harder to replicate.
3.4 Conduct original research and share your findings
This type of originality takes the most work out of any of the nuggets on the list. It involves doing some work before you sit down to write.
For example, the CRO firm, Growth Rock, spent months analyzing client data to determine what percentage of ecommerce websites use certain features in their mobile checkout flow.
They analyzed data from over 40 clients and dumped it all into a spreadsheet that looked like this:
Then, they created colorful graphs and custom graphics to present their findings.
Growth Rock wrote the page over two years ago, but it still ranks #3 for the keyword [mobile checkout best practices].
Written content is the foundation of your SEO strategy, but you can't rely on text alone for a user-friendly experience.
You need to create a premium content experience that entices visitors to read, engage, and internalize the information on multiple dimensions.
5. Create a premium content experience
Remember, user engagement is the "make or break" ranking factor. It's also far less competitive than other dimensions like domain authority and written content.
In this section, we'll look at several on-page elements you can add to your pages to create a high-quality content experience.
Here are some of the highest-leverage areas to focus on:
- Jump links
- Author bios and about pages
- Content structure
- Multimedia and interactive content
Whenever possible, include jump links in your content. These are internal links that take users to a specific part of a web page. You can create them by assigning that particular location with an ID and using a # in your link:
- <a id="link-destination">where your link takes users</a>
- <a href="#link-destination">jump link</a>
Jump links are often used in tables of contents and make your content more easily navigable, especially long pieces of content.
Check out how Buffer formats its guides with a sticky table of contents.
From an SEO perspective, jump links help tell Google what your content is about. They may also appear in SERPs, giving additional info to users and making your content more enticing.
Another perk of including jump links, specifically in a table of contents: You can use a heat mapping tool like Hotjar to find out where users are clicking most often.
Based on this info, you could reorganize your content to place this info more prominently or add CTAs to those specific sections.
Author bios and about pages
Google looks at a website's E-A-T—the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of its creator—to evaluate its quality. This is one reason why articles from Mayo Clinic rank higher than no-name websites prescribing unverified medical advice.
Some SEOs have observed that including author bios with their degrees/certifications can lead to a ranking boost. This doesn't mean Google ranks sites based on author reputation, though. It's because users perceive sites with this information as more credible, which also makes them more likely to share.
Key point: Author info provides transparency to readers and builds your brand's credibility.
Even if you don't have a specialized degree, having an author bio builds trust—more than an authorless piece of content would.
Google's Quality Rater Guidelines even acknowledge that not all topics require formal expertise. For example, detailed restaurant or product reviews can be high quality even if they don't come from food critics or product experts.
Thoughtful formatting makes it easier for visitors to consume your content.
Use paragraph breaks every 4-5 lines to help readers scan for important content and takeaways.
Use these tactics to structure your content for scannability:
- Bullet points: Bulleted sections and lists help readers digest the information and remember it, which makes their experience more worthwhile.
- Subheadings: Subheadings are the section headers that break up your content. They're arranged hierarchically, with a single h1 title, h2 subheadings, followed by h3s, h4s, and so on.
- Narrow post width: Narrow columns are easier to read. Google recommends keeping the width of your content to 700 - 800 pixels (about 8 - 10 words, depending on font size).
- Comfortable font size: Choose a font size that's easy to read. Studies show that reading ability and comprehension increase in the 18 - 22 point range. Use WhatFont to check your font size and type.
Multimedia and interactive content
Images, video, and other forms of media help make a website more engaging than if it were purely text. Still, you should optimize these assets for a better overall page experience.
Consider experimenting with the following media elements to give readers more opportunities to engage with your content.
If you have the resources, consider producing a high-quality video version of the written content. Embed it towards the top of the page to engage visitors early on.
If creating an original video isn't an option, find a quality video on YouTube. You can safely add it to your page if it's relevant, and you credit the owner.
Jobscan produced a simple explainer video with the headline, "10 Ways to Beat the ATS." The article talks about how to write a resume that passes the ATS, and the video complements the topic, which enhances the experience and makes the visit more valuable.
Quizzes and assessments
Quizzes, evaluations, and assessments work because they're interactive, educational, and help the user make an informed decision.
These aren't as common in B2B, but they can work well as lead gen assets in the proper context.
Legion asks visitors about their diet and activity preferences to curate custom product recommendations.
Tools and widgets
People love shortcuts. If you can create an asset that saves people time, effort, money, or brain power, you're likely going to see a ton of engagement.
Tools are also hard to reproduce (most companies aren't willing to go above and beyond), which makes them valuable link bait.
Pilot learned their customers were interested in figuring out their burn rate. [Burn rate calculator] was a popular search term on that topic, so they designed and coded a simple burn rate calculator, complete with charts and descriptions.
The page currently ranks #4 for [burn rate calculator].
Images and graphics
Unique images and graphics are a medium-effort way to add more uniqueness to your content. Use them over stock photos as much as you can.
Buddy Punch is a SaaS we looked at earlier. They use unique screenshots to demonstrate that they've used the products in their employee time tracking SaaS comparison page.
Better Up creates original graphics to help readers retain key concepts and frameworks discussed in the content.
Including original media will make your content look sharper, and readers will value it more.
Use a service like Design Pickle to create custom graphics for your content.
6. Plan your internal linking strategy
This quote is long, but it's worth including in full:
"Backlinks are like the wires from a power plant to your house, and internal links are the wires from your circuit breaker to your outlets. No matter how many wires you have in your home, your lights won't work if you don't connect your house to the grid.
Similarly, if you build an extra bedroom in your home but forget to wire it, that room won't have any power even if the rest of the house does. In that way, broken links are a lot like wires too. If you cut a wire, or the circuit breaker gets tripped, power won't flow to the outlets on the other end." - Jonas Sickler
If you understand the wires metaphor above, you understand internal linking.
While this metaphor beautifully illustrates the concept of internal links in terms of PageRank (link equity), it doesn't fully convey the benefits of a well-designed internal linking strategy.
Here are four ways internal linking can benefit your overall SEO strategy:
- Site architecture: Internal links group related pages and sections together, which reinforces context and topical depth. Both of which help build topical authority.
- Content hierarchy: Internal links help Google understand the most important pages of your website. Search engines view pages with more links as more essential than those with fewer links.
- Context: Google understands what pages are about by reading on-page SEO elements like title tag, URL, and subheadings. This provides context. Internal links also provide context through anchor text, the context of the link within a sentence or paragraph, and the subheading of the referring page.
- Authority: Pages on your website that receive the most backlinks have the most PageRank value to pass to other URLs. If a page has lots of inbound links, you can use internal links to distribute that authority to other pages on your website.
A strong internal linking strategy distributes PageRank and topical relevance to the pages that matter most to your business. The strategy has three parts:
- URL architecture (site structure)
- Strong internal linking
- Natural and unbiased anchors
1. URL architecture
Strong URL architecture is the foundation of good SEO. It describes how a website is structured, which affects how both users and Google-bot explore it. A clear URL structure makes it easy to browse your site more efficiently.
Websites with poor URL structure are disorganized. Visitors get lost in them; it's not easy to find what they're looking for. There may even be "orphan" pages, which can be found in SERPs but not through any link on the website.
The ideal site architecture uses a hierarchical URL structure that's intuitive and easy to navigate. Pages are grouped as subcategories of broader categories, with pages just a few clicks from one another.
SEOs commonly refer to this hierarchical strategy as "siloing." Bruce Clay uses the analogy of a file cabinet to illustrate:
"For the file cabinet to be effective, everything must remain tightly grouped in its place and filed under the appropriate structured heading. Every distinct category has its own heading."
This means if you're an outreach software company, all of your email outreach pages would be grouped together, and all of your digital PR pages would be grouped together, plus any other use cases like content marketing, SEO, and link building would each be grouped together.
Silos generally follow this format:
Consider how Viral Loops organizes its pages under higher-level categories:
Industry use cases
Topic cluster (hub)
Topic cluster supporting pages
Template use cases
You should do the same for your site—create simple, vertical categories and subcategories to organize how your pages are laid out.
The exact process for creating this structure depends on your content management system (CMS), whatever platform you use to create and manage your web content, like WordPress, Webflow, Squarespace, etc.
In WordPress, for example, Page Attributes in your web page's settings sidebar allows you to categorize a page by nesting it under a "parent."
One last point on URL structure: Siloing does NOT mean you shouldn't internally link between silos. When it is contextually relevant to link between topics, do it.
It's convenient to think of topics as discrete folders, but there will inevitably be some horizontal overlap between vertical topics.
2. Internal linking best practices
Once your URL structure is mapped out, you need to plan your internal linking strategy—how and when pages link to one another.
Unless you have a massive website with 1,000s of pages, there's no need to over-complicate things with fancy formulas or log file analysis. Stick to best practices:
1. Use topic clusters
As you learned earlier, a topic cluster is a hub or pillar page that overviews a high-level topic and introduces relevant subtopics and intents. This page then links out to more detailed resource pages about those subtopics from relevant subheadings. Finally, each resource page links back to the topic cluster.
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2. Link out from authoritative pages
Assess the relative authority of the pages on your site based on the strength of their backlink profile. Link to your top URLs from these authoritative pages.
For example, your homepage may likely be the most authoritative page on your site.
Consider linking to your top blog posts, use case pages, and service pages from your homepage to pass along PageRank and relevance.
3. Use keywords in internal link anchor text
In Google's words, "the anchor text you use for a link should provide at least a basic idea of what the page linked to is about." In our words, try to include the target keyword within the anchor text, naturally.
Don't keyword stuff, and don't use text that is off-topic or has no relation to the content of the page linked to.
4. Mix up your anchor text
1.) Don't use the exact anchor text more than once per page. 2.) Don't use the exact anchor text for two different pages. 3.) Do write text that "makes sense" or "sounds natural." Use your intuition and mix it up. Use broad match variations, synonyms, and other longtail variations that help convey the target keyword's context or search intent.
For example, if you were targeting the keyword [internal links], you might use:
- internal links
- internal links for seo
- internal linking
- internal linking seo
- what are internal links
5. Prioritize relevance over location
Add links to the most relevant, useful place on your page.
Remember, context is king. So if you have a section talking about the value of SEO, that's the best place to link to a blog post about SEO ROI.
6. Add internal links from old content
This falls under the "content maintenance" category. It's easy to let old posts slip, so spend an hour or two a week going over old articles and updating them with fresh internal links to new content.
Finally, there doesn't seem to be a consensus on the "optimal" number of internal links per page. Some SEOs recommend using no more than 100, while others are sticklers for relevance and recommend using links sparingly (a handful per page, linking to highly-relevant pages only).
Our recommendation: Instead of counting links, just add them where you think they’re most relevant and will provide value for users.
7. Optimize and maintain your content
Recommended optimization tool: Clearscope
At Demand Curve, Clearscope is the last stop before every new post goes live.
Clearscope is our preferred content optimization tool because it automates much of the work you'd otherwise have to do manually to get the most out of your content and rank.
Clearscope takes the guesswork out of SERP analysis. It scrapes the top 30 search results and shows you relevant terms and keywords you should include in your content to rank. It also helps you outline and structure content to ensure you don't miss any pertinent search intents, subtopics, or citations.
You can write your articles anywhere, including in Dropbox Paper, Google Docs, etc. But it’s worth writing your content directly in Clearscope—or at least pasting your article inside Clearscope before publishing it.
That’s because Clearscope grades your content based on a few different parameters:
- Word count: Clearscope assesses other articles that use that keyword and provides a suggestion on ideal word count. Longer isn’t necessarily better. It depends on the keyword.
- Readability: Again, Clearscope assesses other related content and offers an ideal readability level. Harder—or easier—is not a given. Use the tool.
- Use of related keywords/terms: There are a number of terms that make sense to be included in the article, although the writer should not force this.
There are several content optimization tools on the market, but Clearscope is our favorite—we use and love it. And Clearscope's quality-first approach to SEO matches our recommended strategy.
Reminder: Demand Curve readers can test Clearscope by getting up to 3 complimentary reports. Head over here to get your free reports.
Content pruning is the process of deleting or merging content on your site that isn't providing value.
A piece of content has no value if:
- It receives little traffic
- It ranks for no keywords
- It has no valuable inbound links
It's important to routinely "prune" content (once every few months) because removing low-value pages makes it easier for Google to find the important high-value pages on your website.
It's counter-intuitive, but many SEOs experience significant increases in traffic after deleting low-value pages. Content pruning provides three main benefits:
1. Improves the overall quality of your content. Pruning low-value pages improves your pages:clicks ratio, which makes Google more likely to value the quality of your content as a whole. Let's look at a hypothetical example:
- If 100 pages are pulling in 1,000 search clicks, the pages:clicks ratio is 1:10, meaning your next page should pull in 10 search clicks.
- Now, imagine 90 of those 100 pages have no value. After pruning them, the number of pages reduces to 10, but they still pull in 1,000 search clicks. The ratio is now 1:100, meaning your next page should get 100 search clicks.
Google is more likely to favor a domain with 10 pages that get 100 search clicks each (high pages:clicks ratio) versus a domain with 100 pages that get only 10 clicks each (low pages:clicks ratio).
2. Optimizes distribution of link equity. The more low-value pages you have, the more link equity spreads through these weak pages, therefore diluting link equity to your higher-value pages. Pruning helps concentrate link equity distribution to your important pages.
3. Website de-bloating and speed improvements. This isn't as big of an issue for sites with < 1,000 pages or so, but if you make your site easier to crawl, Googlebot will crawl it more often, so you'll be able to make progress faster.
To figure out which pages to prune, perform a content audit.
Content audit framework
To make a truly informed decision, you should aim to pull in as many metrics as possible. We recommend pulling the following data points as a starting point:
- Sessions (organic and total)
- Number of inbound links
- Post date/last edited date
- Number of keywords ranking in the top 100, top 10, and top 3
- Click-through rate
- 12-month traffic trend
To perform your audit, choose an option below that matches your SEO toolkit, then follow the steps.
Option 1. Complete tool stack method
- Ahrefs subscription
- Screaming Frog subscription
- Access to the website’s analytics and search console
According to Andy, the entire process should only take about 15 minutes.
We recommend this option because it scales and does all the analysis for you in the spreadsheet—just pipe in your data from your tools.
When you're done, the spreadsheet will recommend one of four actions for every URL you include in your data dump. Here are the four possible actions, along with their decision criteria:
Action #1: Update content
- URL has lots of keywords ranking in the top 100, but not necessarily the top 10 or top 3
- Content hasn't been updated in a while
- Steadily declining traffic
- Lots of impressions but low CTR
- Low word count (~500 or less)
Action #2: Leave content as is
- Content was recently updated or published and hasn't had enough time/data for a decision yet.
- Content already performs well and the risk to updating outweighs the potential opportunity for reward.
Action #3: Delete content
- No backlinks
- Low/no keywords ranking in the top 100
- Time specific content (old sales pages, expired promotions)
- Low predicted traffic
- Low word count
Action #4: Redirect content
- Low traffic but has backlinks
- Low number of keywords ranking overall
- Time specific content
- Low predicted traffic
Redirect tip: If you decide to redirect a URL, don't arbitrarily redirect to the home page. Instead, perform an advanced search operator for the page's topic (e.g., "site:hubspot.com content marketing") and link to the most topically-relevant page.
Option 2. No Screaming Frog method
If you don't have Screaming Frog or access to Google Analytics, we recommend Siege Media's resource as an alternative. It gives you detailed step-by-step instructions for two typical setups:
- No Screaming Frog (only GA access and Ahrefs)
- No Google Analytics access (Ahrefs only)
Once you complete your content audit, make a decision to update your content, leave as is, delete, or redirect.
Note: Before implementing any changes, manually check every page to make sure it does not have business value. For example, you may have paid landing pages that aren't getting organic search traffic, but drive conversions via paid traffic.
Finally, when you're ready to start pruning, prune pages slowly, in batches (roughly 10% of total pages per batch). See how Google reacts after the first batch, then prune the next batch. Repeat this process until you're done.
8. Track performance
After you optimize and publish your content, you will want to keep track of its performance over time. When something's working well, you want to do everything you can to ensure it stays that way.
Here's what we'll cover:
- Keyword performance (rank tracking)
- Google Analytics (SEO aggregate, page-by-page performance)
- Google Search Console (search query performance for each page)
1. Rank tracking
There are lots of different rank trackers on the market. But they all accomplish the same thing: show you how individual keywords rank over time.
All you need to get started is a list of keywords and your domain URL.
If you notice a dip in performance or a competitor starts to outrank you, consider refreshing the piece, or updating it with new content.
Ahrefs and SEMRush have rank tracking functionality in case you don't want to add another tool to your stack.
Here's what Ahrefs' rank tracker looks like:
2. Google Analytics
To see how much organic search traffic your site is getting, log in to Google Analytics, navigate to Audience > Overview, and click "Organic Traffic" in the list of predefined segments.
This report will show you how much of your website's traffic comes from organic traffic.
Next, let's see how individual pages and blog posts perform.
To find page comparison data, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages (make sure to keep the segment for “Organic Traffic”).
Here we can see that the three most popular posts are about Instagram Stories, finding emails on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn influencers. They're bringing in about 50% of the total organic traffic.
This tells us the articles are doing well, traffic-wise, but it doesn't tell us anything about which keywords they're ranking for or how those keywords are performing.
3. Google Search Console
In GSC, navigate to Performance and click the Pages tab down below to see real-time data around your top pages' key search metrics.
Search performance by page
You can also drill into an individual page to see what people are searching for to discover the page, along with impressions in the SERP, Clicks, CTR, and Position.
Click on a URL and navigate back to “Queries.”
This view shows you all the queries contributing to your page's performance. This is a good way to discover how people are finding your pages.
You might find new keywords you hadn't thought of during your research. If that's the case, you can use this data to re-optimize pages for better performance.
Content-led SEO recap
To implement content-led SEO:
- Resolve major technical issues. Technical SEO helps Google access, understand, and serve your content. Run through this quick start guide and ensure your technical health is on point before proceeding.
- Generate keywords. Check GSC to see what keywords are already working for you. Then, generate a list of topically-relevant keywords and prioritize by intent and business value.
- Analyze the SERP. Analyze the SERP for hard and soft association patterns. Use these associations to inform what type of content you should create to rank (for B2B SaaS: product page, comparison page, article, or topic cluster).
- Write original SEO content. Fulfill SERP analysis requirements, enhance content with specificity, and include "originality nuggets" to stand apart.
- Create a premium content experience. Make content more user-friendly with elements like jump links, author bios, about pages, comfortable content structure, rich/original multimedia, and interactive content.
- Plan your internal linking strategy. A strong internal linking strategy distributes PageRank and topical relevance to the pages that matter most to your business. Plan a logical URL structure that supports crawl efficiency and site navigation, stick to linking best practices, and use natural and unbiased anchor text.
- Optimize and maintain content. Use Clearscope to optimize your content before publishing, and perform routine content audits every few months using Andy Chadwick's pruning spreadsheet or Siege Media's step-by-step process.
- Track performance. After you optimize and publish your content, you'll want to keep track of its performance over time. Track keyword performance in Ahrefs or a dedicated rank tracker. Measure traffic in Google Analytics (SEO aggregate, page-by-page performance), and monitor search query performance in Google Search Console.
This playbook was created in partnership with Clearscope.
We use Clearscope reports to rank higher in Google. It’s ridiculously easy: We take our blog post drafts, run a report on the keyword we’re trying to rank for, and…boom. Clearscope’s report gives us recommended edits that help our posts rank on the first page of Google.
Companies like Adobe, Shopify, Condé Nast, Deloitte, Intuit, and HubSpot use Clearscope to increase SEO traffic.
Clearscope is hooking Demand Curve readers up with 3 free reports.
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