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Feb. 28, 2019

137: How To Optimize Your Blog Posts For Higher Search Rankings And Stay Ahead Of The Competition

137: How To Optimize Your Blog Posts For Higher Search Rankings And Stay Ahead Of The Competition

Getting to the front page in the search rankings is a battlefield - you're fighting a war! The struggle to stay relevant and compete with an ever growing number of competitors requires the right tools and the right approach to revitalizing existing blog content and strategically creating new content.

If you are approaching content from a social media marketing perspective, or from a blogging perspective, today's podcast is going to really resonate with you because I want to give you a hopefully new and really holistic way of thinking about search engine optimization and therefore the content that either you already have  on your site or new content that you are going to blog in the future as part of your content marketing and social media marketing efforts

Key Highlights

[03:39] What drives traffic?

[03:47] Why Search Engines Are Relevant And Powerful

[04:46] The Concept Of Freshness

[05:36] Data-driven Approach

[06:19] Why Some Content Outperform And Some Underperform?

[06:57] Minimum Number Of Words for Blog Posts

Notable Quotes

  • At the end of the day search engines is what drives traffic.
  • I still think at the end of the day, you know, people read emails, people read blogs, but people do a heck of a lot of searches.
  • Search engines are still there and are still as powerful and as relevant as ever. And therefore, when we think about content, we should be thinking about search engines.
  • Why does some content outperform and some underperform? Well, what I've found some of the underperforming content is actually competing with good performing content on your websites.
  • If you blogged about the same thing over and over again, Google is just going to try to find the best one if you're trying to target the same keyword.
Transcript

Neal Schaffer:

What's up, y'all? Let's go. Welcome to the maximize your social podcast, follow me discover the latest social media marketing techniques from the world's leading experts from top to bottom. This is the podcast where business professionals come together to master social media without all the confusing mumbo jumbo. With no further ado, turn it down. Here's your host, the one and only Neal Schaffer. Hey, everybody, this is Neal Schaffer, welcome to a another exciting episode of maximize your social. So I have been spending the last several weeks finally migrating my maximize social business.com website to my flagship mother, whatever you want to call it, the final destination for all of my content. And for those bloggers that have collaborated with me, my own site, Neal schaffer.com, I hinted at this move in previous podcasts and blog posts, it all began with rebranding my digital presence, and the belief that people become more emotionally attached to people, rather than brands. So instead of trying to create a brand, in digital media, for lack of a better description, which was maximize social business, I believe going forward to yield more influence to become more memorable, and at the end of the day, create that emotional attachment, I felt that content from Neal schaffer.com is going to have the best chance for success. So wow, the last several weeks, I have been buried in 301 redirects in correcting 404 errors. And I don't want to get too nerdy with WordPress and SEO talk here. But, you know, going through this migration process, I have just realize so much about search engine optimization. And I've learned a lot along the way, learned a few tips and tricks here and there. But you know, I have a very, very different approach to this. And if you're approaching content from a social media marketing perspective, or from a blogging perspective, I think that today's podcast is really going to resonate with you because I want to give you a hopefully new and real holistic way of thinking about search engine optimization, and therefore the content that either you already have on your site, or new content that you are going to blog in the future as part of your content marketing and social media marketing efforts. So let's talk about content. Let's take a step back. So, you know, I've brought this up when I speak on many occasions. But at the end of the day, even though you've seen how active I am in social media and how I evangelize and teach and engage, no matter how much I do that I still find over time. And there are days where Twitter drives a lot of traffic where Pinterest drives, Facebook, LinkedIn, we used to have stumble upon there were some great days from Google Plus, but day in and day out from a long term perspective, especially because I have so much content, it's been around for so long. At the end of the day search engines is what drives traffic. And I know that there are some studies that have been done by Shareaholic used to do one back in the day, you know, what drives traffic on the internet? Is it search? Is it email? Is it social, I still think at the end of the day, you know, people read emails, people read blogs, but people do a heck of a lot of searches. And one thing I look at when I look at trends in marketing, I look at new generations. And I look at my kids, for instance. And it still comes down to searches. Now, more and more searches have been done in social media. There's more and more searches being done on YouTube. But search engines are still there and are still as powerful and as relevant as ever. And therefore, when we think about content, we should be thinking about search engines. Now. I run a blog and my I myself as a blogger never cared about search engines, I always blogged about content that I think would be relevant for my audience. timely content, resourceful content. Sure, there were some times where I was sharing content that was more directly related to books or, or speaking events or what have you. But it was always thinking about the content and the audience. And it was never thinking about the search engines. And I still think that's really the best way to think about it. But as I began to go through all, you know, 1000s, few 100 blog posts to migrate. And I started to realize that wow, some of this content is outdated. Now, for those of you that want to hear more about this, I did a separate podcast on this topic, how fresh is your content? I'll make sure that there's a link to it when you look at the show notes on Neal schaffer.com. So there's the concept of freshness. And it was really when I was doing that where I started to, you know, delete out content that was completely irrelevant, and you need to do this on a regular basis. Just recently Google Plus said they're shutting down. Do I still need to have coffee Then about Google Plus, I probably don't right now I take a multifaceted or multi angle approach here. When I look at the freshness of my content, I will just do a, you know, a holistic approach that says, go through my posts from beginning with 2008. And something that seems outdated. If I can revise it and refresh it. And if it's still potentially relevant, and there's still a lot of content that is relevant, believe it or not, from a decade ago, I will go through and revise it. But if it's completely irrelevant, because the social network just simply doesn't exist, like Foursquare, like StumbleUpon, and now Google Plus, I need to outright delete it. The other approach I'll take is the data driven approach, which is looking at my Google Analytics, and what is content that's driving a lot of traffic? And what is content that isn't driving a lot of traffic? And I'll start with obviously, the the the content that's not driving a lot of traffic, and I'll look at it and I'll go hmm, you know, why isn't this driving the traffic? It should be and, you know, whenever you blog, or you publish content in your blog, it's it's a roulette wheel, right, the roulette wheel of the search engines, what content? Is the search engine going to index for popular search queries? Are you going to end up on the first page, the second page? And, you know, yes, there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting higher search engine rankings. And I'm going to get to that in just a second. But you know, why do some content outperform and some underperform? Well, what I've found some of the underperforming content is actually competing with good performing content on your websites. If you blogged about the same thing over and over again, Google is just going to try to find the best one if you're trying to target the same keyword, right. So that, you know, part of it is internal competition. Part of it is external competition, because everybody's doing content marketing now, and everybody is trying to outperform all the other blog posts that have been written before it. So if your content wasn't long enough, I think I've mentioned this before on podcast as well. But on Neal schaffer.com, if if I bring on a guest blogger, they need to publish at least 1500 words, I think that's almost the minimum these days to have really resourceful content that has a better than average chance of beating out the competition of those companies that still use these content writing farms that push out 350 word 500 Word blog posts, you can imagine just how vague and how little depth that type of word count get into when we talk about something. So that comes into play. And you know, there are other things that come into play, obviously, the freshness of the content. And I think, you know, I see some content that I published where immediately, it gets a lot of traffic, right, there are others that maybe it takes a few weeks, others take a few months. But after a year, if your contents been out there, what I've found is it's very, very difficult. If you haven't got a lot of buzz around that content, it's going to be very, very difficult to get a lot of traffic coming your website for obviously, yes, there are things you can do from a search engine optimization perspective. But that is one indicator that I look at without a doubt. And at the end of the day, Google, you know, can only deal with the search queries on hands and the content that you have on hand, you may have content that just people are not searching for enough. I found a lot of this actually. But what I've also found is with content that people do not search for, by tweaking a few keywords here and there, or tweaking a few things in your post, it's very, very easy to start ranking for keywords that people are searching for that are basically your content is 99% the same. So let me go through this process with you. And I just want to start by saying and I really should have started this entire podcast by saying this. But the fight for search engine visibility is a battle, right? You are competing against companies that are spending a lot of money on Pay Per Click ads, you're competing with companies that spend a lot of money on content, a lot of money on search engine optimization, this is something you cannot take lightly. This is the ultimate global battlefield. It is war. Okay, you know, what I found and going back into my process, and I'm gonna introduce you to tools will hopefully you've heard of both of them. But it all begins with sem rush. Okay, there's a number of SEO tools out there. I am a big fan of sem rush. There's also a Moz there's a H refs, or RS however you want to pronounce it. And there are others, there's maybe 10 to 15 Different SEO tools out there, find one that works for you and stick to it. What I love about sem Rush is extremely comprehensive. It's very, very complex, but they do offer you a dashboard and a certain amount of automation that allows you to get started very, very easily. So here is the process I want to introduce to you if you are looking at getting started or revising this process of really ranking for more and more of your content in the search engines. So first of all, okay, I had done no SEO, this was blogging purely for the content, not for the search engines. And I still think that's the best way to do it. What I'm recommending you do here is use the same content that you've used and tweak its go back and tweak it for the search engines retaining 99% of your content. And in many times, you can do it in as little as five or 10 minutes per post. This is what we call on site, SEO, we're not talking about off site in terms of generating backlinks for your content, I'm sticking purely on site foreseeable future, because with 1000, and a few 100, blog posts, there's a lot of on site optimizing, but what I can do, but you know that let's take another step back and look at the type of content that Google indexes and Google prefers to share in top results in search engine queries. And if you do a little bit of research, you'll find out about what Google says is good content coming from a good website. It is part of this eat or 80 framework that they have that I think it was mentioned in a blog post by Eric Schmidt who's like head of Google search many years ago, and I know there's going to be an SEO expert that's listening to this, that's going to correct me. So go ahead, comment on the post and correct me. But this is really the best sort of framework or best concept, I should say, that guides me in not only my own content, but also who I will bring on as a guest blogger. Because if you've been blogging, and you've gotten any sort of visibility in the search engines, you probably have tons of people reaching out to you saying, I'll provide you free content. And basically, what they're trying to do is they're trying to get a backlink from your website. And they're trying to improve their own SEO by using a specific anchor text link, you know, anchor text in the link back to their own website, or to the website of their clients to higher rank for a keyword. That's what drives that industry. And in fact, I had a conversation with one of my alumni bloggers, Joel Dawn, who blogged about social business trends. And he said, Neil, I'm getting contacted by all these people saying they, you know, interview me for free for a blog post, or they want to link to my post, or can I accept their their content, and you know, what's going on here, and it's all about the fact that it is a battlefield to rank in the search engines and people are looking for creative ways to get a link on your site just the other day, there's so many different tactics that these people use to try to get links, Hey, I just want to let you know that we link to your posts on our website, do you want to link to our content, your website, even some people who said they didn't link but they really enjoyed this content, they found it so awesome. They're sharing it on social media. And you know when to be great if you link to our content, because it could provide a resource to your readers. And, you know, if you're not in here, you're probably in the same boat I am and getting tons of this email almost on a daily basis. So let's get back to eat right? Expertise, authority, trustworthy, right? Are you an expert? If you are blogging about a certain topic over a period of time, you would expect that other people would recognize that and content creators would link to you, right. But getting back to the linking. And I think that's where we start talking about authority when more and more people link to you that shows authority on the internet, with the expertise, you know, how often how many times have you talked about this subject? And how much expertise do you show in your content. And I think this goes into that minimum 1500 words ties into this, because if you're an expert, you number one probably have blogged a lot about that content. Number two, within the content, when people go to read it, they are encapsulated. They stay there a long time. They're very engaged, they're going from one post on the subject that you're an expert on to another post, right. And that's what gets into that expertise and gets into defining your content. And this is why, you know, I take on guest bloggers for a number of different sort of categories of content. I think I'm currently at 40 categories. One of the things I did when migrating my site was to reduce that from 80 categories to 40 categories. And at the end of the day, there's some categories that I rank better for than others. LinkedIn. I've been blogging about LinkedIn for 10 years. I have expertise in that and I think that search engines see that and therefore in general something about LinkedIn is going to get better rankings then something about a another topic that I just have not blogged or guest bloggers have not blogged a lot about now, there have been topics that I have tried to build expertise on by bringing in more guest bloggers or blogging more about I mean Case in point Instagram or Facebook, or influencer marketing, right. So you know, if you want to get higher search engine rankings, you need to be an expert in the subject, obviously, but you need to show your expertise by blogging more, more frequently more content. and having you know more of this content pertaining to these types of keywords or category keywords. And over time, Google in undoubtedly notice that you have certain expertise in that subject. So most of what I'm talking about here is focusing on the expertise. The authority is really when you start to generate backlinks to that content, from content creators, from businesses from other people in social media, that's not this online or on site SEO, but the offset, so we're going to tackle that at a later stage. Because I think there's so much you can do from an on site SEO. And once you start to an off site SEO, it can become a little bit fishy, especially if you start to generate backlinks from irrelevant websites, right, which a lot of SEO Services will do. I don't know how much that's gonna benefit you in the long term, you know, outside of the expertise and authority, we have the trust, worthy aspect. So you know, our people, like I said, stayed on your website a long time, I think that also will hopefully generate a little bit more trustworthiness for you, when people come to your website, are they bouncing around? This also, I think, ties into advertising. Are you showing you know, these full screen pop ups? Are you bombarding readers with advertisements, so they can't see your content? You know, there's no written rules about SEO, otherwise, everybody's going to try to dupe Google and all the other search engines. But I think from a very, very holistic and just practical perspective, if you think about it, those are things that take away the trustworthiness of your site and have your content. So this is something that you'll want to think about. I look at the trustworthiness, obviously, there's something about the expertise and authority, there's interrelationship between all these different pieces. But in my perspective, or from my experience, that trustworthiness, really, a lot of it is going to come down to the architecture of your site, and how you display and build trust with that content with prospective readers. So that framework that Google has said, if you want to rank for content, you need content that has, you know, you're an expert on the subject, you're an authority, and you're trustworthy. So taking that one step further than when I look at sem rush for the first time. And it can be quite overwhelming. If you haven't done this, like I said, even if you have been doing SEO, what I want you to do is do a search for keywords that you already rank for. And sem rush will provide you an easy way to do that. Because you may be ranking for keywords, if you haven't been serious about SEO, that you had no idea about. And this is really your first step is really these are the keywords that Google is saying that you are an expert of right. So you already have the expertise, you want to leverage that. In fact, you want to make sure you don't drop in the rankings for those posts by revising posts or tweaking them over time. This I think should be your starting point. I know this isn't a strategic starting point in terms of your business and your content marketing strategy. But from a search engine strategy, this is where it is a no brainer to start with. And then to leap frog off of. And once you start to do this, you're going to notice that certain categories of your content or certain keywords, already have really, really good search engine rankings, right. So this is where you begin to set up your keyword dashboard. So I have 40 different categories of content, I'm not going to tackle everything at once I'm going to I'm going to tackle this holistically. That says, I want to continue to build up my presence, my visibility in search engines with all the content I have. So I am approaching this from a one category at a time starting with the category that I already seem to have a lot of success with. Okay, the next thing I'm going to do, and once again, this is within sem Rush is I am going to go through and do a keyword research analysis. This is something there's tons of tools that allow you to do this. But when I do the keyword research analysis, and obviously I'm gonna start with the keywords in descending order in terms of what people are looking for, obviously, the more popular the keyword, the more competitive it's going to be for you to rank for it. But if there are keywords where I see that are related, that are category that I think are important for my business to rank for, even if it's not a top three ranking, I want to try to work my way up the chain. So I'm going to add that to my list of keywords I don't currently rank for but in an ideal world I should rank for and I find I believe the the plan that sem Rush has that I am on limits me to 300 keywords which for 1000 Something blog post, if I can rank number one for 300 keywords for 300 different blog posts, I'd say that's awesome. That's gonna generate a lot of business. So you don't have to do if you only have one category, or one type of keyword or affiliated set of keywords that you're trying to rank for. Yes, you could do 300 different variations. But for me, I'm starting with maybe 50 to 100 depending on the category and depending on if I think that keyword is relevant to the type of content that I already have, and obviously To my business objective. So by doing this, you're going to add a number of keywords to your dashboard. Now, what sem Rush is going to do is provide you a search visibility index number, if you rank number one for all those keywords, you're going to be at 100%. Now when you do this, you need to start looking at your competitors. Once again, sem Rush is going to give you a competitor's discovery tab, that's going to show you what competitors on average are ranking higher for the same keywords that you rank high for. And some of these are going to be no brainers that you're going to consider your competitors, some are going to be competitors that you may not have heard of. So like I said, I'm going back to the plan that I'm on, I think I have the ability to add 20 competitors, which I think is enough, because you find that you're competing with the same competitors over and over again, in my experience. So this is where you want to put in your competitors. And yes, there's going to be some that you're never going to be able to compete with. But you want to see how you're doing compared with them. You want to keep up with the Joneses, you want to look for opportunities where they don't rank and you do rank. And therefore, you might be able to rank even higher, because it's a keyword that for whatever reason they overlooked. In terms of my industry, I find a lot of my competitors are either big companies that provide tools, think HootSuite think buffer thing Sprout Social, it should come as no surprise, if we're talking about social media marketing, or other media sites like a social media today, business to community, etc, etc, etc. Interestingly enough, I find there are very few people that rank high. And this I think is is actually an opportunity because I think from the trustworthiness perspective, I think it's easier for people to build trust rather than a blog post coming from a tools company from a person that someone might not have ever heard of before. So that's my take on that. So once you have this, you begin to have a dashboard. Now I'm all about processes. And one of the processes that I've added to my daily list of things that I do is number one, if I find that search traffic is falling, I want to look in and see if there's any old or non relevant blog posts that I need to weed out. And I do this on a periodic basis, just a little out of time. The other thing I do is I will try to target more and more keywords a little out of time. So this is the process I have. And you know, like I said only do a few a day. But once you have your search engine rankings, what you're going to find is on a day to day basis, things are going to change. So how do I use this, I do it in two ways. Number one, I try to improve the SEO of old content and obviously for content and I'm already number one I don't worry about but I start with content where I am ranked twice number two in the rankings or below. And what I do is every day I'll go through a few posts, and I will revise them I'll revise them to rank higher for that keyword. And the way to do this is probably a lot of you blog or create content on WordPress is to use the free Yoast SEO plugin, Yoast SEO has a paid version which I actually use, you do not have to use the paid version to be able to do what I'm about to teach you to do. But basically, once you put in the targeted keyword, Yoast will tell you what you need to do and what I find. And Yoast is obviously optimizing their algorithm frequently. And what I find is even if I had optimized for keyword in the past, it still wasn't properly optimized. As we go through time, that way of optimization changes as well. So you know, invariably, there are a few different areas that I need to optimize on my posts. This is going to be different for every one of you, I find the areas I need to optimize. Sometimes it's I didn't mention the keyword in the first paragraph. Sometimes the distribution of that keyword is uneven. Sometimes I didn't mention that keyword enough. In alt images. I didn't bring that keyword to the beginning of my title. I didn't mention the keyword or synonyms enough in h3 and h2, subheadings, etc, etc. etc. Yoast will obstinately work you through this process. And what you're going to notice is an I tag the fact that I revised this content, I'll put a tag like, you know, 119 or 219, or 120 to say that, hey, in January of 2020, or February 2019. I'm trying not to age this podcast, obviously, if I given you dates across different years is that you can begin to track your efforts of revised content versus content that you didn't revise, your next going to come into finding areas where you rank high for the same blog post over different keywords. I prefer right now in my stage to only rank high for one keyword and if the others come, that's great. So now you're going to go through sem rush and you're going to look at the average volume or estimated volume of keyword search queries for those keywords and decide which is going to be the most strategic, I will then delete the other keyword combinations off that dashboard. So I can optimize for more and more blog posts. So you're going to have to go through and find the blog post where you have multiple keywords ranking for, and I would just pick one now I'd go for the most strategic one, or the most relevant ones to your business and stick with that. And you basically keep repeating this process. And once you find that you have no more results that are in the top 100. That's when you may want to consider adding other category keywords and beginning the same process over and over until hopefully, for the 300 keywords that you want to rank for you're at least from the top 100. That's really the initial goal here. So that is the way that I have been tweaking and revising my content for the search engines, even though it was not originally written for the search engines. So what is the other approach that I take when I want to rank for keywords? Well, this is where I go through, I mentioned that I added all these strategic keywords to the keyword dashboard that I want to rank for, what about all those keywords that I don't rank for? That is where I look for ideas to blog about. So I look for an intersection of things that I have experienced recently working with clients or questions that I get from clients, or on my blog or on social media, I look for an intersection of those topics with topics that I am passionate and excited about talking about at the present, like this topic, together with those sorts of topics that are appearing as popular search query is that I do not have any content that speaks to. So what I found is, especially because I'm blogging from topics that are categories that I'm already ranking higher for that I you know, within a few days, I see myself in at least the top 100 search results. And obviously, the goal is to get onto page one and get into the top one or two or three search results. And, and that's going to take some time. But I know with this approach over time, that search engine visibility percentage that may start under 1%, as you try to work your way up to, you know, 1235 1015 should get higher and higher over time if you're doing things right, and that you're an expert building authority, and your content and your website and you as a content creator are trustworthy. Alright, that was a lot of content for you to consume for today. And I try to keep these short and sweet. But I just wanted to share with you my own process. And just the realization that I had that really we all should have. It's all about the search engines when we have content on our website, and it is a war, it is a battle. And you need to fight that battle a little bit more smarter. With more and more competition, more and more companies doing content marketing. So start with sem rush, start with doing the things that I did, make sure you're using Yoast SEO, you know, there's other tools out there, but you need to have a tool, and you need to have a process. And I really do think you need to do this on a regular basis if you want to be successful over time. Alright, everybody, I hope you enjoy this podcast. Like I said, I try to keep them short and sweet. But there are some that require a little bit more attention. I thought this was one of them. My voice is always hoarse at the end of these. It got more horses, I mentioned that at the end of these podcasts. Because I'm giving you all my energy and all my passion and I don't care, my voice gets ours. These are the things that I wanted to talk with you about today that I'm hoping you find resourceful and that add value to your company. Alright, that is the end of another exciting episode of maximize your social. I do hope you enjoyed this and that you reward me with comments on the show notes on my blog, Neal Schaffer calm. Or if you are an iTunes subscriber, you throw a rating up there and a comment that'll help other interested professionals find out about this podcast and this content. Alright, I'm gonna stop there. Hey, wherever we are in the world, make it a great social day. Until next time, everybody. Bye bye. Thanks for listening to the maximize your social podcast major killer. Don't forget to subscribe and rate the show on iTunes so others can enjoy it to continue the conversation and empower your business through social media. Visit Neal schaffer.com right now. Have a great week. Let's go we'll see you on the next episode.