Content written on Passle tends to be digestible, timely, specific, and written by a professional such as a lawyer or consultant. While this content is exactly what clients and prospects find most valuable, it can be lost in the volume of content when search engines try to deliver the right page to the target market.
In this post we'll take a look at how you can use your content to rank for targeted search terms and drive more readers.
In this article, we will focus more on the actual content than on the technical aspects of search engine optimization such as page load speed or domain authority, as the vast majority of these technical points are enabled by Passle's Saas infrastructure. Technical SEO problems are automatically fixed across the Passle network by our team as they are identified or as best practice guidance changes.
SEO for expert content: The plan at a glance
Search engine optimization (SEO), is a fuzzy topic. Google and other search engines do not disclose the full details of how they provide the results that they do. Because of that, advice around SEO tends to be varied and complicated, making it hard to see a clear path forward.
We've worked with hundreds of firms and tens of thousands of authors to find out what works. We've simplified our findings here and also included two of our own examples.
- Choose keywords to target that are neither too broad nor too specific and show the right intent.
- Create winning content
- Place your keywords correctly
- Test, build & refresh
The key throughout this whole process is to avoid analysis paralysis. A rough and ready execution of this plan is infinitely more useful than getting stuck on a small detail you are unsure of.
It's also important to note that we are not aiming to be first for every search straight out of the gate. We want to appear on the first page, ideally in the first 5 results, and then build from there.
Some content can find its way naturally to the top of search results. But in competitive searches, where multiple sites are competing for attention, success begins by knowing which keywords to target.
There are many tools online that will give you an idea of what your clients and prospects are searching for. Some of the best are:
Whatever tool you choose, you will be able to find a list of words like the example above, with an estimation of monthly search traffic. These lists are not typically 100% accurate. The above comes from Google Adwords, which has made this data less and less specific over the last few years (which is why you see lots of “50” and “500”). The data is good enough for what we need, but take this data with a grain of salt.
With this in mind, we need to choose keywords. Here's what to keep in mind:
1. Avoid keywords that are too broad. In the example above, the red keywords have the most traffic, but they are too broad. Broad keywords like “law firm marketing” are likely to be highly competitive, hard to create the right content for, and mostly searched by people that can't or won't purchase your services.
2. Avoid keywords that are too narrow/specific. In the example above, “SEO for lawyers Washington DC” has no searches. The time and effort to rank for this search term is not worth the potential uptick in traffic.
3. Pick words that suggest the searcher is a buyer. Some search terms are clearly used by people not interested in the service that you provide. Typically, these can be students or consumers looking for free information. In the example above, the yellow searches are for courses or for family law, both areas we are not targeting at Passle - so you should avoid these.
Creating winning content
Now that you know what keywords to target, we are going to look at how to create content that will rank well. Again, some content can naturally achieve a good ranking, but we are going to try to ensure that search engines do not miss our content.
To create content that will rank well, go to the search results for your keyword and look at what is already ranking. Look to see if there are any patterns. How long are the posts? Do they include video or embedded content? Do lists rank well? Are there images, and if so, what are they?
The most important question to ask is: can you do better?
Creating winning content can be as simple as seeing what Google is providing, and doing a better job than what already exists. Stay within the format that Google is providing, but be more useful for readers in as many ways as you can. What that means is if the posts that are ranked are all around 300 - 500 word reads, do not write a 3000 word post. But could you write a 300 - 500 word post that was more specific to the audience, more up-to-date and had better links away for more reading. So the answer to this important question is, probably, yes.
NB: In some cases, this job may be better suited to marketing or BD combining and repurposing existing content into a single longform post than a busy expert writing a longform post themselves.
In the example here, we wanted to rank for “professional services marketing podcast”. The top results were (before we ranked there):
- Google's Knowledgegraph results. We can appear here by ranking higher on the list below.
- A podcast with the same name as our search term. We don't want to change the name of our podcast, so we may not be able to do better here, but let's see the rest of the results.
- Two summary lists of podcasts. These indicate that Google thinks searchers want a list. By clicking into the listings, we can see that they miss some of the best podcasts for professional services marketers (including the CMO Series), they also don't all have up-to-date links and some of their podcasts are not embedded on the page.
We can definitely do better than that.
In other cases, websites like large consumer brands, government websites, Wikipedia, popular news sites, and any other mass appeal pages are going to be difficult to dislodge. Consider another keyword or crafting a more in depth SEO approach than what we are detailing here. (Reach out to email@example.com if you'd like to talk about this).
Place your keywords correctly
Search engines understand content based on keyword placement and density (among other things). Think of your content like a book. Google is the librarian giving that book out to people that ask for it.
To let the librarian know that the book is available, we need to:
1. Write our keyword in the title
2. Have paragraphs and chapters titled with that keyword
3. Include the keyword in the body content (ideally around 3% of the words)
4. Include the keyword in any image text, videos or other embedded content
In another post that we are trying to rank for the search term “legal marketing research”, the post includes the keyword 10 times in its 400 words, including in the title, multiple images, the tags for the post and many of the titles.
It's important that the content still reads naturally, so do not “stuff” keywords into your content. A 3% density for your keyword is enough to be clear about what you want to rank for, but not so dense as to sound robotic or look as though you are gaming the system.
Test, build on and refresh
Content, no matter how much better than existing high ranking content, will take weeks or even months to rank. Share your new content to syndication networks like Lexology, Mondaq and JD Supra, as well as social networks, for the fastest way to get immediate traffic and also to get noticed by Google.
Linking to your content from other relevant posts is also an excellent way to improve the ranking.
Check in on your content every couple of weeks. You can see if Google can see your content by adding “site:” in front of the URL and checking if there are any results.
Your content should improve rapidly from outside the top 100 listings to inside the top 20 in the space of a few weeks. Progress from there to the front page can be slower, and can be in the form of two steps back and one step forward. Generally speaking, one to two months later your post will stabilize at the final ranking.
From there, you can add to that post, link to it from more places on your site and from other posts. It's recommended to review the posts that you'd like to rank every year or so to bring them up to date.
If your content does not break into that top 5 ranking, assess whether the keyword is too broad and competitive, see if it is more useful than the content already there, see if it includes the right keyword density. If all of the above look correct, there may be some other underlying problem, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your Passle Client Success contact.