To get more traffic to your blog, experts say you need quality content.
That's what ranks highly in searches and generates reliable website traffic, they say. True advice, but pretty vague nonetheless.
The trouble is, we’re all different and content is subjective. What’s super-valuable to one person is nothing but rubbish to another.
So, what do the experts mean by quality content?
Does it mean word count? Subject matter? Copywriting ability? Or something else entirely?
Often you can’t tell how good a piece of content is going to be until you’ve already hit "publish," which is why I’ve got a safety plan for you.
Today, I’m going to show you how you can use a simple 3-step strategy to work out how your readers are actually using your existing content. Once you have this information, you’ll then be able to tweak your published work and make a better fit your for fans.
The result of which should be improved SEO success.
As an aside, this little SEO hack will also indirectly highlight the importance of click-through data in determining where a piece of content ranks in online searches.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Just to confirm, my strategy comes into play after publishing a piece of content. Suppose you’ve written an article. It’s good, but it’s not delivering any results.
Yeah you had a little spike in traffic when it was first published, but it’s nowhere near page one (despite targeting a seemingly easy keyword).
Sound familiar? Then you’re not alone. In fact, I was there just a few short weeks ago.
A while ago, I wrote an article about trade marketing. Trade marketing is a broad subject area and it’s something that’s searched for a lot. Plus, the term “trade marketing” appeared to be fairly easy to rank for.
Because there are lots of subject areas for this topic, my initial thought was to create some sort of ultimate guide. Nothing else existed that covered every base and I wanted to publish something all encompassing.
Now obviously, I’m not a mind reader. In the beginning, it’s impossible to predict exactly what your audience will use your content for.
My initial approach to content marketing was like anyone else’s:
1. Research a popular topic
2. Source a valuable keyword
3. Write an entertaining and informative article
4. Optimize your article for search
5. Promote your piece
I created something decent and waited for the shares, links and rankings to roll in.
Unfortunately, all I heard was crickets.
I had ticked every content marketing box but it still refused to budge.
It was demoralizing. From research to writing, interviewing to promoting, the piece took 3-4 weeks to put together. All in all, it was some effort so to draw a blank was annoying.
So annoying in fact, that about 3 months after publication, I felt that it was time to do some investigating. I discovered that people didn’t actually want an ultimate guide; instead, the evidence seemed to indicate that they wanted something else.
Here’s the 3-step strategy to use if you want to learn how people are engaging with your content.
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google to all website owners. Once you install a little piece of code onto your website, it’ll give you all sorts of information about how your site is performing in searches.
Considering this data won’t cost you a dime, it’s a pretty powerful tool.
Once you’ve installed the code and you’ve waited a day or two for Google Search Console to start collecting information, you’ll be able to get going.
As per the image below, go to Search Traffic and then to Search Analytics.
Now you can see the data that can tell us a lot about how your content is performing. At the top of this page, make sure the checkboxes for clicks, impressions, CTR and position are all ticked:
What we’re analyzing is the relationship between the number of impressions that a piece of content gets and the corresponding click-through rate.
In other words, is your content showing up in some search results? And if it is, out of those times, how many people are actually clicking on your content?
As you can deduce, if you have a piece of work that’s displaying for a popular keyword but isn’t getting clicks, the issue could be to do with the angle you’ve taken with your content.
Ranking for a keyword but not getting clicks? The issue could be the angle of the post. @splashcopy
And by contrast, if you’re getting a lot of clicks, you know you’ve done a good job with your content. Staying in Search Analytics, scroll under the graph and you’ll see some numbers. Here’s what I saw:
You can see from a few of the underlined examples that the keyword “trade marketing” achieved a lot of impressions, but resulted in few clicks.
The main keyword used to get loads of impressions, but the CTR was disproportionately low.
This told me that the piece as it originally stood (as a general ultimate guide), wasn't relevant.
However, there were a number of terms where the click-through rate was extremely high.
Terms that focused around trade marketing strategies and examples had click-through rates above 25%. This told me that my audience was more interested in that side of the topic.
Much of the content of my article was highly relevant, but the way I had framed it was putting an unnecessary barrier around achieving any progress.
In short, people weren’t using my content in the way I had intended. The job now was to make a few changes.
Armed with this knowledge, I changed my meta title and meta description to:
The headline of the article was also changed to:
This piece of content is very different from an ultimate guide – now, it specifically refers to strategies and examples.
It’s suddenly a much better fit for my audience and it hits their pain points more accurately – in that the copy calls out trade marketing strategies and examples.
And the all-important result?
The piece hit page one about 10 days after making these changes – the impact was practically instant.
The article is in second place on page one and has garnered clicks in their droves ever since.
Okay, so what have we learned?
That actually, achieving SEO and content marketing success is a pretty logical process. Contrary to popular belief, Google doesn’t care about which website has the longest articles.
Or who has the most backlinks.
Or who has the most social shares.
It cares about who provides the most value.
"SEO and content marketing success is a pretty logical process" @splashcopy
And basically, this little 3-step strategy above can better align your content with what your readers need. Do you need to breathe new life into your content? If you put it into practice a while after your publish something, I’m confident that it will make your work stand out more.
My trade marketing article was lengthy. That was deliberately so, but it didn’t need to be. The only metric that really matters is that people weren’t using the post in the way that I had envisioned.
The trade marketing audience didn’t need a massive guide. Maybe there’s a reason why there are no trade marketing guides out there – there’s no requirement for one. And just like the old business saying goes, we shouldn’t try and create a demand for something that isn’t there.
Those who did click on my original article didn’t hang around for long, so although the piece contained many valuable pieces of information, I clearly had an alignment issue that needed sorting.
I’ve always said that a good content marketer must be a detective too. You need to know everything about your audience. From what they like to how they like to consume their content, the more information you have to hand, the greater your chances of success.
If you understand the needs of your audience, you’re going to be able to create more clickable stuff. Not only that, but your readers are likelier to stick around once they’re on your site.
Rankings and engaged traffic. That’s what successful content marketing is all about, right?
In addition, we’ve also learnt another important SEO lesson:
Clicks affect ranking positions immensely.
Google is using engagement data more and more. Which makes perfect sense, because Google’s job is to provide the best search results and clicks are a good sign.
If Google is trying to work out what people are using content for, so should we.
So, do you have a bunch of old blog posts sitting around on your website gathering dust? Then try out our strategy. Do some digging and see if you can better align your content for your particular audience.
Or maybe you’ve got one or two killer pieces of content that you really need to work harder for your business?
If that’s the case, then one or two little tweaks could make all the difference. It’s worth a shot, right?
Vicki & Matt Press are experienced copywriters who have written words for some of the UK’s biggest brands, such as Sky, Three and Vodafone. They now help budding copywriters find jobs.