Developing content with the purpose of growing an organic audience is something that is a lot more complex than simply publishing 1,000 words on a specific subject matter. There are no guarantees that you will be awarded a first page or top five ranking with an approach like this and the amount of time that is wasted on writing about something that has a potentially short shelf life is an unfavorable outcome for anyone. In order to avoid this type of scenario, in-depth SEO research should be conducted before any words are written.
From my personal experience I have found that the following three step framework has been the best way to conduct SEO research and provide you with a higher probability of ranking on the first page of search engines. In the following sections, I will breakdown each step and how they should be executed in order to maximize the efficiency of your content writing.
1. Keyword List Generation
There is no faster way to generate keyword ideas and search query estimates than using the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. This free tool is the foundational element of the framework as it provides us with accurate estimates of keyword search volume, competition and relevant keywords that may not have come to mind in your initial research. All of the information provided by the keyword planner is integral in crafting content topics and keyword themes that will have the most relevance to what our audience is searching for.
The best approach to take with this step is to take a group of ten keywords that contain a common theme and run them through the “keyword ideas” section of the AdWords Keyword Planner. When using the tool, be sure to set the keyword options filter to “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” and use the right geographic range as this will give you the most accurate estimate of monthly search volume for a specific keyword.
The resulting list that is generated from your seeded keywords will contain the average search volume for each keyword, as well as a paid search competition ranking. While you may think at first that the paid search competition metric has zero relevance to organic searches, you will be surprised to know that is actually a good guide for how competitive it is to rank organically for that term.
When you first go through this list you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of keywords that were generated, but after scanning through the list you will notice that many keywords are fairly ambiguous or contain less than 100 searches a month. These types of keywords are bad targets and should be removed from any consideration. After you have eliminated that noise, you should find a combination of keywords that contain moderate to high search volume and low to medium competition. It is fine to go after high competition, but understand that ranking for a term that has a combination of high volume and competition is extremely difficult and typically not worth the effort. When determining keywords that fit the moderate to high search volume category, use the minimum and maximum search volume keywords to establish a range. This approach should leave you with a list of about 15-20 keywords that will be tested with the next two steps of our framework.
(Example of analyzing the keyword list for "indoor pools")
2. Social Sharing Analysis
Social sharing doesn’t seem to be a likely next step when crafting content for ranking organically on search engines, but by observing how competing content has fared on social media, we will have a good indication of potential virality and shareability of our content. Social impact is not only becoming a larger factor in search engine ranking signals (see Google & Twitter partnership), but the backlinking possibilities as a result will help drive up rankings.
A good tool that I use to conduct this analysis is BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo is a content marketing platform that provides reports on the most shared and backlinked content for any keyword or brand name. This tool has a free tier, but I find the tool to be worthless without the premium features that you must pay to use. As a result, some might skip this part of the framework, but for those who are a subscriber or who want to test this framework out with a trial, then take your keyword list and run keyword queries to see how related content has performed with social audiences. Make note of the influencers who were sharing the content and what websites that were linking to it, as these results will give you a good list of people and websites to reach out to when your content is finally published.
(Example of analyzing the social virality of published articles containing "indoor pools")
3. Domain and Page Authority Check
Now that you have a list of keywords that you feel confident in ranking for and a list of names and websites for content outreach, it is time to check out the competition that you are trying to outrank in search engine rankings. The information produced in this last portion of the framework helps in two ways; One, it helps with understanding our competition’s domain and page authority, which are major search engine signals. Two, based on these ratings, we are able to gauge our ranking expectations and choose our battles wisely.
In order to gather this information you need to install the free MozBar extension from Moz. This browser extension overlays detailed metrics on the results pages with information on page authority, domain authority and backlinks. As a rule of thumb, If you see domain authorities of 90 or more, then I would shy away from thinking that you have any chance of outranking those links. In most cases, these domains will be .edu, .org or one of the most trafficked websites in the world. These types of websites are some of the most trusted publishers by search engine standards. Anything below that score will give you a better shot of outranking a competitor, but you should understand that there is a higher level of difficulty in outranking domain authorities closer to 90 than that of a 10 rating.
(Example of analyzing the competition currently ranking for "indoor pools")
After scanning the top 10 rankings for each of our targeted keywords and making note of the links and SEO metrics, it is time to combine our findings and make a decision on the keyword we should target with our content. In some instances, there will be a clear winner, but for the majority of the time you just have to go with your gut instinct. Remember that this doesn’t mean that we are throwing away the other keyword considerations, but for the purpose of driving first page rankings for a specific keyword, we want to make sure that we build content with a single focus in mind.
Now that you have a framework to reference when you are developing content, go out and try it for yourself. It would be unfortunate if you wrote 2,000 words on the rise and fall of the Dodo bird without anyone reading it. I would also love to hear some feedback from your trial runs so feel free to reach out to me to start a discussion. connor [at] connordphillips.com on email, @connordphillips on Twitter or @connordphillips on Snapchat.