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One of the key benefits of starting a business blog is improving your site’s ranking on Google.
In theory, it’s easy. You write an article, the search engines put it at number one, people read and love the post and then become lifelong customers.
Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Because of the huge competition online and the stacks of information already out there, it can be hard to get any traction.
This article is going to look at this common problem and then suggest a few tried and tested methods for overcoming them, helping you to rank for popular search terms.
A crowded space
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
– Chinese proverb
There’s an astounding amount of information on the internet. According to former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, every two days as much information is put online as was created from the dawn of civilisation up to 2003.
Another way of looking at this was put to us by Smart Insights and GT Web. In 2016, there were 1212 new blog posts published every minute (which is more than 72,000 every hour, 1.7m every day and more than 637m over the whole year). On social media in 2019, every 60 seconds there were more than 3m Facebook likes, 65,000 Instagram posts and 16,666 TikTok views.
With all this information online, there’s almost certainly something that overlaps with what you want to say. So how do you stand out in such a competitive space?
Common search results
Almost all Google search result pages fall into one of two categories: either you’re looking at a list of irrelevant and unhelpful answers or you’re looking at lots of articles, blog posts and videos that are more than capable of helping you out.
When you think about your own business blog, the first scenario is ideal. If you write something relevant for a term that isn’t being widely discussed elsewhere, it’s likely that you’ll rank well because you have little or no competition.
The other option is that there are already loads of great results for a term, in which case things are a lot harder.
In general, there are two strategies to rank for these competitive keywords. Either you write something that’s better than what’s already there or you write something that’s more specific.
Writing better blog posts
It should go without saying that you should always aim to write well. Both your target market and Google itself like high quality content, and this covers everything from spelling and grammar to the topics you write about and how the article is laid out.
If there’s already competition, you really should think about how you can improve on what’s already available to attract an audience.
In most cases, you can achieve this either with quality, quantity or timeliness.
Speak to anyone about blogging (or content marketing in general) and the rule you’ll hear is that you need to provide something that’s good, that’s unique and that’s published on a regular basis.
While this isn’t bad advice, some experts are pushing for more than this.
Rand Fishkin has written extensively on why “good, unique content” is no longer enough. His opinion is that everyone should be aiming to write content that’s ten times better than what’s already available.
Here’s a screenshot from his Whiteboard Friday talk on the matter:
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He then followed it up with a post on how to create 10x better content, which included a handy six-point checklist.
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Essentially, 10x content should:
- give a great user experience
- provide great content
- be different
- provoke emotions
- solve a problem
- be delivered in a pleasant way.
Providing a great user experience means different things to different people. Things to prioritise are that your site is mobile-friendly, that your page loads quickly and that important information stands out (by using relevant headings, for example) to make your pages easy to read and scan.
Obviously the content has to be of high quality, but ideally it should also combine some of the following traits:
- being trustworthy
- being useful
- being interesting
- being remarkable.
The more value you can provide in a blog post, the more likely it is that you’ve created great content.
Considering there’s already a lot of content out there, you should think about how you can do something different to stand out. This could be by posting something that only you – or someone in your organisation – could write, or by tackling a topic from a different angle. There are more examples later on in this post.
To get something that’s truly 10x better than what’s out there, you need to provoke an emotional response from your audience. That can come in a number of ways, but really you want to create awe, admiration or appreciation in your readers.
This may depend on what you’re writing about, but it’s likely that people will be on your site because they have a problem. Your article should give them an answer or give them guidance on how to solve that issue, as this will help to build up trust in your brand.
Some people may be wary of giving away their top secrets, but if you can teach someone how to do your job in one article, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to keep that job for long before someone better takes over or someone else reveals the same secrets.
You may have created the best content out there, but if it’s written in a hard-to-read manner, or recorded in poor quality in the case of a video or podcast, you’re going to lose a lot of your audience very quickly.
The easier you can make your content to digest, the more likely people are to stick around to the end, meaning you haven’t wasted your time creating the piece.
Quantity and quality are often pitted against each other as rivals, but as you’ll see, sometimes going for more can lead to better things.
As an example, a search for a term like ‘google ranking factors’ brings up more than a million search results, with many players in the SEO industry keen to show off their knowledge.
Until recently, a lot of the top results were quite generic or a list of some of the most important ranking factors. Because Google doesn’t publish a list of everything it’s looking for, many of these ranking factors were pure speculation.
In 2013, Brian Dean from Backlinko did what no one had previously done. Rather than publish 20, 30 or 50 things Google likes (or might like), he went out and found everything that the company had confirmed, everything they’d hinted at and everything that people speculated over. He came up with more than 200 ranking factors and his article far surpassed anything that had been written before.
Not long after it was published, this article revealing Google’s 200 ranking factors went to the top for that search term and it’s stayed there ever since. People in the SEO community loved it, and it’s become the go-to guide for almost everyone.
On top of that, Brian has kept it relevant. As I write this, the page says it was last updated in April 2016. Whenever there are new developments, the article has been updated to keep it relevant and to stop other people trumping its total.
In a lot of cases, articles, tutorials and problem solving pieces can quickly go out of date. This can be caused by many things – statistics go out of date quickly, laws can change and updates to software alter troubleshooting guides. The release of Windows 10 caused a big space for updated guides, thanks to all of the problems it caused on computers around the world.
During your search, if you notice that articles are outdated for whatever reason, writing something that’s still relevant can be seen as a great resource. As noted above, updating your own posts helps to stop other people doing this to you, and can keep you top of the rankings.
Writing more specific blog posts
If the idea of shooting for gold seems daunting (how do you top that Backlinko article, for example?), then it may be in your interests to shift your focus slightly.
By shunning the more popular generic term for something more specific, you may find it easier to get your piece to rank. This is another way that helps you rank for long-tail keywords.
There are three main ways you can narrow your focus:
- by location
- by audience
- by issue.
By limiting your scope, you’ll find that you have a smaller number of people searching for you, but that those people are either closer to making a purchase (because they know more about what they want) or they’re closer to being in your ideal target market.
Because there’s less competition for these long-tail searches, you’re also more likely to rank on the first page (or even right at the top) of Google. It’s much, much better to be visible for these search terms with less traffic than it is to be deep in the nether for a more popular term.
Think about location
Focusing on your local market (whether that’s suburb, city, state or country) can be hugely beneficial. Some search terms may not lend themselves to this, but when possible you can help people in your area by providing information that’s relevant to their surroundings. Think of the times you’ve looked for information, only to find articles that have nothing to do with your local area.
One of the most popular posts on our blog is about Australia’s most popular social media sites.
There’s a lot of information online about social media sites in general (or focused on US stats), but little about Australia. By adding in that geographical filter, we’ve managed to add something of value to the internet – and it was even deemed good enough to be mentioned in a student’s final piece for their Master of Arts in Journalism degree.
If that post was just about social media in general, it’s unlikely anyone would have found it.
Think about audience
A generic article has its benefits in that it can help almost everyone a little bit. However, it’s unlikely to help any single person a lot.
By thinking about who might read your article, or who might search for advice on a particular topic, you can tailor your post to their needs.
If you were going to write an article for the ‘google ranking factors’ example above, you might want to think about those factors for people of different skill levels, with different kinds of sites or in different industries.
Examples might include targeting beginners or new businesses, ecommerce stores or WordPress sites, car dealers or non-profits.
Each of these articles should be a lot more beneficial for people it’s targeted towards, and although you’re looking to help a smaller number of people, you’re much more likely to actually be helpful.
Think about issues
Being more specific with the issue you’re addressing (or the solution you’re providing) can also be useful.
In terms of the Backlinko article mentioned above, while having 200+ ranking factors is a great resource, it can be overwhelming and hard to take actionable steps from.
There are several ways you can make this easier to digest and more useful for readers:
– Offer a quick solution. Many people are time poor and a list of 200 things is going to put them off. Come up with a list of items that can be implemented/fixed in a short time (either individually or as a collection) and you’ll be able to offer a better alternative.
– Offer a free solution. While there are plenty of ways to get something done with money, not everyone wants to shell out straight away. Letting people know a few free ways to help themselves out helps them now, and helps build your brand. You can also use this to lead into sales – a free solution to help with a small problem, then a paid solution for better results.
– Offer a specific solution. With the SEO example, consider certain aspects of the practise to focus on – on-page SEO elements, for instance – as this can be another useful way to help out people with a particular idea in mind.
Ranking for more specific search terms using long-tail keywords is a much easier way to increase your front page listings, your visitor numbers and the trust Google puts in your site.
Hopefully this guide has covered a lot of the ways to help your site rank for popular keywords and search terms, but if there’s anything that hasn’t been covered, feel free to let us know in the comments below.