Creating Quality Content in 2019 (For Search Engines and People)
Think back to the last question you typed into Google. Did you find a blog post on the search engine result page that attracted your attention? Did you find the content on the page helpful? Did the page offer a relevant next step to continue learning and engaging with your brand?
If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then the author who wrote this piece of content did their job very well: They created a piece of content that fulfilled your intent. In 2019, that’s what search engines like Google care about — solving for their searcher’s intent.
Read on to learn how to solve for searcher intent to create successful, quality content that makes people (and Google) happy.
Effective content comes with a blueprint
Before we dive in, you may be asking yourself: “How do I solve for searcher intent?”
You can start by creating an experience for website visitors that tells a practical story. That story should educate and inspire them to make a transformation and put their interests and needs above your bottom line. Yes, you want to inform your visitors, but doing that alone is not enough. To really help them transform, you need to make their experience a meaningful one, and that means you need to help them apply what they’re learning. When done correctly this builds trust, and if someone trusts you they’re more likely to do business with you when they’re ready to make a purchasing decision. This is effective content.
Luckily, all effective content like this has a blueprint. You may not easily see it, but it’s there, and it’s meant to help you, the reader, through your journey to making a well-informed, confident decision— whatever that decision may be.
When getting started with creating blog content, you want readers to easily comprehend what it is you’re trying to tell them. If your content is too complicated and unengaging, then chances are readers will abandon it and go elsewhere. There are thousands of blog posts being published every minute, so it’s safe to say you’re not the only resource out there competing for attention.
Let’s review 10 tips that will help you start drafting a successful blueprint for your next blog post.
1. Choose a topic to write about
At a high level, write educational content.
I’m not saying you can’t write about your business when it makes sense, but in order to attract someone to your blog, you need to answer the questions and problems that they’re searching for answers to. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience (aka buyer personas):
- What will they be searching for?
- What do they want to know about?
- What will resonate with them?
Consider what you know about your buyer personas and their interests while you’re coming up with a topic for your blog post.
And when it comes to a topic, make sure to write about your industry, not yourself. Remember, you’re trying to attract strangers to your blog who have never heard of your company before — so they’re not going to find you through search engines if you’re just blogging about yourself. You have the rest of your website to provide that information.
If you’re looking for a place to start with creating content that’ll positively impact your audience, then ask your co-workers from other teams like sales and services for some ideas. Here are a few questions that you could ask and they could answer:
- What are the most frequently asked questions you hear?
- What do our prospects and customers need help with?
- What do you wish people knew about our industry?
- What are industry bloggers, social media, and even our competitors talking about?
Before you write anything, you need to pick a topic to write about. The topic can be pretty general to start with. For example, if you provide running shoes, then it might be a good idea to write about the topic of running. Expand off of this topic — in other words, iterations or different ways of approaching that topic to help you focus your writing. For example, you might decide to narrow your topic to “best running shoes for marathons” or “lifetime of running shoes.”
2. Do keyword research
Keywords are the words and phrases typed into search engines. They’re the topics that people are trying to learn more about. Which keywords do your buyer personas use? Which are associated with your industry?
If you’re looking for a place to get started when doing keyword research, then check out Moz’s Keyword Explorer. Keyword Explorer is a time-saving keyword research tool that helps you find profitable keywords and organize work.
Optimizing your blog posts for keywords is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible. Nowadays, this actually hurts your search engine optimization because search engines consider this keyword stuffing.
Mention your keyword at a normal cadence throughout the body of your post and in the headers when it makes sense. That means including your keywords in your copy but only in a natural, reader-friendly way. Don’t go overboard, though, at the risk of being penalized for keyword stuffing.
Whenever you create content, your priority should be to educate and inspire your audience, not how many times you can include a specific keyword on the page. Instead of writing the same words over and over, write synonyms of it to keep it fresh and readable. For example, digital nomad is a topic I write about often, but instead of repeating that keyword, I change it up with synonyms like “remote worker.”
3. Form a long-tail keyword
A good rule of thumb is to focus on one long-tail keyword per blog post. A long-tail keyword is a very targeted search phrase that contains three or more words. It often contains a head term, which is a more generic search term, one or two words in length. The head terms you choose should align with the topics that you want your business and website to be known for and build authority around. For example, if you want your business to be known for SEO terminology like “featured snippets,” then a blog post on “How to Optimize for Google’s Featured Snippets” is a great example of a long-tail keyword in support of this topic.
And why should you focus on long-tail keywords for blog post titles? These longer, often question-based keywords keep your post focused on the specific goals of your audience. Website visitors searching long-tail terms are more likely to read the whole post, and then seek more information from you. In other words, you’ll attract the right type of traffic to your website.
If you’re brainstorming ideas to write about, there’s a good chance you’ll create a long list of ideas for topics you can cover and posts you can create. This will help create a longer-term blogging strategy, making a list of topics that support a specific conversion. For example, if you have an ebook or guide that you want to create and promote, then consider making a list of blog ideas that support this guide’s content. This way, if someone finds your blog post and finds the content helpful, that increases the chances of them wanting to click a call-to-action, aka CTA, to access a relevant offer.
If you’re looking for assistance with blog ideas, then check out HubSpot’s blog ideas generator. This free tool will help jump-start your creative process.
4. Expand long-tail keyword into a working title
Think about how you read things online. You read the title first before you commit. It needs to catch your interest, especially since it’s the first thing that will catch a reader’s attention.
Start by creating a working title for your blog post.
A working title is something to “work” off of as you begin to write your post. Start here to narrow your topic down and focus on one angle. A broad term, like “social media,” could breed multiple blog post ideas. A working title, like “top social media channels for live video in 2019” is now long-tail and specific.
Once you finish the piece, you’ll come back to this title and refine it to be more aligned with the direction you ended up taking in the post.
For almost every piece of content, come up with at least 5–10 different titles. Make it a rule that you spend a minimum of five minutes of brainstorming titles. And once you make a list, send to a co-worker to get their opinion.
Also, make the value of the post clear in the title. Your title should help readers and search engines understand what your post is about. Set the right expectations — what is the reader going to get out of your blog post? What information is covered? What format is the blog post going to take?
In this example, the blog post title explicitly tells you that you’ll be reading about how to create an infographic. Not only that, but it sets the expectations that it only takes an hour to do, and there’s also free templates included. You know exactly what you’re going to get from this blog post — how it’s valuable to you and how much information it contains.
When it comes to the art of the perfect blog post title, HubSpot did some research and looked at how our own titles have performed. Here are the consistent principles that were found:
- The ideal blog post title length is 60 characters.
- Headlines between 8 and 12 words are shared most often on Twitter.
- Headlines between 12 and 14 words are liked most often on Facebook.
HubSpot also found that headlines ending with a bracketed clarification — like the earlier example with “15 free infographic templates” in brackets at the end of the post — performed 38% better than titles without that clarification.
If you’re having trouble trimming down the length of a title, run it through Moz’s Title Tag Preview Tool to see how the title will appear on a search engine results page. Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag. If you keep your titles under 60 characters, you can expect about 90 percent of your titles to display properly.
Title too long? That’s okay! Make sure to create a title for your reader first. When you have a lengthy headline, it’s a good idea to put your primary keyword (aka the head term) at the beginning of the title since it might get cut off toward the end on a search engine results page. In this example, the title got caught off, but the focus keyword, “data visualization,” is at the front.
5. Shorten your URL
The URL doesn’t have to match the title of the blog exactly. Instead, make it a best practice to shorten the URL without losing context to what the page is about. For example, notice how the URL of this blog post is shorter than the title. This way, Moz can update the content over time without updating the URL.
Here’s a pro tip: Don’t include numbers in your URL, like year or steps. This way, if you update the content in the future, you won’t have to update the URL. Updating the URL creates a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. Making updates to URLs hurts your SEO, and you don’t want that.
6. Optimize image alt-text
Search engines don’t just look for images. Rather, they look for images with alt-text. Because search engines can’t “see” images the same way humans can, an image’s alt-text tells them what an image is about – which ultimately helps those images rank in the image section of search engine results. Consider optimizing your images with different descriptive variations of your long-tail keyword.
7. Create a compelling meta description
Your meta description is meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post’s content. The maximum suggested length of a meta description is 150–160 characters. Anything longer than that will most likely be cut off.
While meta descriptions might not directly impact your SEO, keep in mind that copy matters a great deal for clickthrough rates because it satisfies certain readers’ intent. The more engaging, and the more context you include that backs up your title tag, the better. In addition to being reader-friendly (compelling and relevant), your meta description should include a variation of your long-tail keyword for which you’re optimizing the post around. But keep in mind that a search engine may not choose to use your meta description as the descriptive text in search results. Search engines are funny that way.
8. Insert links strategically throughout your blog post
As you attract more and more visitors to your blog, that increased traffic means an increased opportunity to build a relationship, gain trust, and generate more leads and eventually customers.
Let’s review some best practices when it comes to using links effectively in your blog posts.
First, link to external content when it’s helpful or supports a stat or claim you’re making.
It takes a lot of work to attract someone to your site and gain their trust. The last thing you want to do is send them off your site unless it’s something that supports your content. I’m not saying you shouldn’t link to content that’s not your own, but just do so thoughtfully and make sure it provides value.
Here’s a pro tip: When linking to external websites, consider having that content open in a new window. This way, you’re being helpful without redirecting people off of your site.
Next, link to other helpful blog posts on your site.
If you find yourself typing a sentence or paragraph that can be explained in more detail on another blog post, then link to it. This helps in two ways: It solves for the reader, allowing and encouraging them to continue bingeing your content; and it solves for the search engine as it communicates to them that there’s a cluster of related content on your site. And if search engines deem your cluster of web content around a specific topic as a credible source, then that can help boost your visibility on the search engines.
Which brings me to my last point: Link to important content on your site that supports conversions.
When it comes to deciding on where to insert CTAs on your blog posts, here are four places to consider. Let’s review each.
First, consider inserting a CTA after the first few paragraphs. To avoid looking too pushy too soon, try including a passive CTA through hyperlinked text as opposed to using an image. It’s important to include these passive CTAs near the top, as you can’t always count on your visitor reading your entire post to take the next step. Think about it: Do you read to the end of every blog post that you click on? Probably not.
HubSpot performs CTA tests all the time. From image and text CTAs to placement of the CTAs, we’re always looking for ways to improve clickthrough rate. Interestingly enough, we found that text CTAs near the top of blogs posts produce the highest clickthrough rates— something you might want to keep in mind and test on your blog posts.
I recommend linking to pillar pages with CTAs at the top of the page as the content is not gated, meaning you’re not forcing someone to give you their email address just yet in exchange for something. Instead, you can lead with educational content, which solves for your reader first. Plus, your educational site pages should support one, if not multiple, conversions so that you can help the reader through their journey accordingly while gaining their trust along the way.
Next, include an image or text CTA near the most relevant content in the body of the post. The best time to support a conversion is just after educating someone. For example, Townsend Security, a full-service data security provider, included an image CTA to a relevant podcast download in this blog post. Notice how the CTA content is similar to the content it’s paired with.
Next, include an image CTA at the end of each post. If someone reads your post to the end, then you want to offer them a helpful next step. This is a CTA at the end of a post titled “Data Visualization 101: How to Choose the Right Chart or Graph for Your Data,” and at the bottom, there’s a CTA for an ebook on how to present data people can’t ignore. When it comes to image CTAs at the end of blog posts, I recommend linking these to a relevant landing page with a form.
Another option, which brings me to the last CTA placement, is a pop-up form that the reader sees as they scroll down the page. This is a great way to have your offer stick around so that the reader can’t just scroll past it.
If you really want to engage your users and have a helpful conversation, then consider offering live chat or a chatbot. A chatbot is a computer program that automates certain tasks, typically by chatting with a user through a conversational interface.
Most bots follow a set of rules programmed by a human via a bot-building platform. It’s as simple as ordering a list of if-then statements and writing canned responses, often without needing to know a line of code. The benefit? A bot will guide you, the visitor, through the various options available and help you get from point A to point B quickly. Behind the curtain, the bot is leading you through a series of dependent questions to collect the necessary information to understand your intent, and then deliver the right content to satisfy your needs.
9. Include other forms of media to keep your visitors engaged
I always save the best for last. If you want to keep people engaged, then offer other forms of media like a quiz or video.
Adding a video to your website can increase the chance of a front-page Google result by 53 times. This is especially helpful if you include a video near the top of the page. Why? Because if people take the time to watch your video, then it’ll reduce bounce rate. Your website’s bounce rate is the percentage of people who land on one of your website pages, then leave. They don’t click on anything else. They just get to one of your pages, then leave quickly. Having a low bounce rate is a strong indicator to Google that people find value in your content. And if Google thinks your content provides value, then that can lead to first page rankings for the topics you want to show up for. For example, this page ranks #1 on Google for a list of high-volume terms related to a truck camper.
When you click through to the page, you’ll notice there’s a YouTube video embedded at the top that’s 4 minutes and 13 seconds long. In most cases, the majority of people who visit your site — 79% to be exact — would rather watch a video to learn, than read text on a page. That’s exactly why I included a video at the top of this page to engage the visitor with video content first. In case you’re curious, the average time a visitor spends on this page is five minutes.
Moz has been optimizing their content with video effectively since 2007 with their Whiteboard Friday segment. What I love most about Moz’s Whiteboard Friday series is how they transcribe the content underneath each video — very smart and efficient. For example, the below Whiteboard Friday segment video is eight minutes and two seconds long, which equates to 1,477 words.
This might be something to keep in mind if your business creates video content, and wants to find a way to maximize your content output.
10. Work with industry thought leaders to create a compelling story
Even if you’re not a subject matter expert on a specific topic, that doesn’t mean you can’t create something memorable… And I don’t mean just regurgitating what’s already being said online. If you did that, then you’d just be creating noise, and not adding anything new to the conversation.
Instead, when performing research look for people who author content on a given topic and put your journalist hat on. What do you find interesting about their content? Is there anything you think would be helpful to dig into deeper? Asking questions like this could lead to a new angle for a blog post idea — adding something new to the conversation.
Once you find a few thought leaders, consider connecting with them to see if you can collaborate on a piece of content. By talking to the people you want your blog posts to speak to, you’re able to find out exactly what is on their minds, what they want to know, what they are concerned about, how they feel on pressing issues and all sorts of other important-to-them topics that may make for brilliant blog posts.
And that’s it! 10 tips you can use to create the next blueprint for. Keep these tips in mind when creating and optimizing your blog posts, as it will ensure you’re getting the most out of your business blogging efforts.
If you’re feeling inspired and want to get started on your next blog post, then check out this helpful resource to learn a few more tips and tricks.