After reviewing some of the key factors of creating high-quality content for your audience and for search engines, we asked marketers to share examples of their top-performing posts — this is the content that was successfully optimized to rank high in the SERPs.
In some cases, the position yielded success for their business. Instead of paying to target a keyword through AdWords, one small business now gets $1,000 worth of free inbound web traffic each month. Other businesses even landed new customers from their high-ranking content. (We love seeing content marketing in action!)
Here are examples of high-quality content and what the marketing pros did to get their content at the top of search results.
Native Advertising, Outbrain
Liraz Postan, SEO Manager
Key SEO factors: Comprehensive, good user experience, researched, promoted, consistently updated for freshness
This was an old-looking landing page used for our past paid media activity, but we made these changes to optimize it for search:
- Design changes: We completely changed our page design and made it mobile responsive.
- Content changes: We conducted keyword research and competitor research to create a comprehensive guide for native advertising. We wanted to make sure our readers could fully understand how and why native ads can work for their business.
- We included it in our main blog posts and content pages as well as in the navigation as internal links.
- We shared through social media channels and on Outbrain.
- We are constantly editing and refreshing this page with new resources and research.
It got picked up after three months and we improved from position 78 to four on all long-tails as well. We earned natural backlinks to this piece and now we’re getting a lot of citations from this page as a link credit naturally.
Contractor License Requirements, TrustedPros
Nicole Silver, PR & Digital Marketing Specialist
Key SEO factors: Fills a content gap, answers a question, deeply researched, comprehensive
My team discovered that there was little-to-no information that answered the question, “Is my contractor licensed?” We figured that we should create some pages that satisfied this need. For us, it wasn’t so much a matter of blowing any content out of the water or writing content that was better than existing pieces. We just needed to provide a well-researched answer to a question that people were asking but had no actual aggregated resource for.
I produced the content by doing some intense research on skilled trades qualifications. I called trade boards and government agencies. I looked at every trade industry webpage I could. If there were inconsistencies in the information online, I would call a representative. I combined all that research into one page per province in an organized matter. I made sure that we had answered for every relevant trade in the home improvement industry. It worked. These pages still rank on the first page — even the first result — of direct and indirect Google searches.
How to Keep Jewelry Safe at Home, Hidden Door Store
Jon Harris, Marketing and Business Development Lead
Key SEO factors: Researched, linked to quality sources, targets long-tail keyword, image optimization, consistently updated for freshness
We created a top-ranking SERP result that really surprised me — it wasn’t intentional! And it wasn’t just any term, but rather the highly valuable and targeted “home jewelry safe” (rank two) and even “jewelry safe” (rank four). Each click costs over $3.50 with equivalent AdWords listings, so we’re essentially getting $1,000+ worth of free inbound traffic to our website monthly. For a small company, that’s a lot.
Our one-year-old website, with very few resources and backlinks, was able to achieve this unintentionally, as I was aiming for the longer-tail, less-searched and less-valuable keyword: “How to Keep Jewelry Safe at Home” (50 searches per month).
We have an extremely unusual product: We sell complete secret door systems — bookcases and mirror doors that can easily be installed in place of a closet door, for example, turning a walk-in closet into a beautifully hidden and elegantly secure area. People find it fascinating, but to find actual buyers we have to reach highly targeted demographics — those who care about securing valuable jewelry at home is a great example.
Here’s how we generated the content:
- Used Google Keyword Planner to see what people were searching in the first place
- Did a lot of Google searching on the topic of securing jewelry
- Found actual surveys of burglars’ responses
- Highlighted key facts and phrases from articles — I could fill in the rest of the content based off of that
Here’s how we (accidentally) ranked for these great terms:
- The term “jewelry safe” happened to be contained in the longer-tail keyword we were targeting
- Linked to high-ranking sources like news articles
- Repurposed existing file images and renamed and tagged them for our page’s keyword
- Created relatively long page content (compared to most product pages!) of 500+ words
- Submitted the page directly to Google
- Rewrote 25 percent or so of the content every three months
- Put the page in our main navigation
- Linked from internal pages to this page, using our target keyword (“jewelry safe” once I realized it was ranking)
- Waited six to nine months!
The Photographer’s Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing, FeedbackWrench
Eric Johnson, Digital Content Creator
Key SEO factors: Written for a specific audience, answers questions, comprehensive, visuals
I wrote a piece that surged toward the first page on Google for the search term “Digital Marketing for Photographers.” The post was written as a result of some significant mistakes I was seeing personal friends make while attempting to market their photography businesses. Soon after sharing, these friends told me that the content answered lots of their questions. And then I found it on page one for the corresponding Google search.
I came to the conclusion that no keyword optimization method will work as effectively as a great post that’s extremely relevant and niche focused. Immediately after posting the article, I got great feedback from photographers I knew and photographers that I’d never met. My company even brought on a photographer as a client as a direct result of the post.
Even so, the success in the SERPs was a surprise. It’s my theory that the page won on relevancy alone. There was just enough of a keyword focus to help Google understand the topic, and the rest of the results came from the value that the post provided. When it reached page one, it had no backlinks and no other significant off-page signals. According to Moz, our site didn’t even have a high domain authority at the time. Since writing this post, I’ve redefined my strategy to focus on relevancy first.
How Much Time Do People Spend on Their Mobile Phones in 2017?, Text Request
Kenneth Burke, Marketing Director
Key SEO factors: Answers a question, in-depth research, charts and visuals, appropriate readability for targeted audience
If you search for something like “How much do we use our phones?” the average article is from a major news source covering one recent study or announcement. The really good content covers a new report and some historical data. They answer the question, but they aren’t memorable.
To create something 10X better, I covered several recent and in-depth studies, gave a historical breakdown, put it all into layman’s terms, and gave our audience actionable next steps. I also included charts and other helpful visuals throughout the article. That article now shows up at the top of search results and gets around 15,000 hits a month.
Best Luxury Outdoor Furniture Brands, Decor Interiors
Bill Ferris, President
Key SEO factors: Keyword and competitor research, answers questions, semantic terms, image optimization, linking strategy, promotion
Decor Interiors is an e-commerce retail outlet that operates in the highly competitive industry of upscale home and office furnishings. We carry a number of high-end outdoor furniture brands that are not as prevalent online as their indoor counterparts, but still command a high bid for top placement in Google AdWords.
Rather than spend a lot of money on paid search and try to compete with large competitors with deep pockets like Wayfair, we decided that it would be better to create and promote robust content that would attract organic traffic as a result of top SERP performance and hopefully generate a Featured Snippet.
Topic Generation: Initially, I simply entered “outdoor furniture” into Answer the Public to see what relevant questions and phrases are most often searched. I then plugged these questions into Google search to see which ones generated Featured Snippets.
Keyword Research: I used Answer the Public, Google AdWords, Ahrefs and Google search results to identify keywords and their relative search volume. When a query resulted in a Featured Snippet, I looked to see which words were bolded in many of the results — an indication that Google found value in them.
Content Creation: Using the questions and phrases that were identified, I created an article that listed the top high-quality brands in patio furniture. A competitor had the top spot and listed their top 10, so I upped the ante and developed the top 15 (later expanded to 20). I made sure that the name of the blog post answered one of the key questions that generate a Featured Snippet — “Best Luxury Outdoor Furniture Brands.” Other questions were asked and/or answered in many of the header tags in the article.
In this particular instance, I made sure to include semantic terms like patio, deck, garden, poolside as well as high end, expensive, high quality, premium, etc. I also added many images whose filenames included the relevant keywords or brands. In addition, I made sure to have outbound links to relevant authoritative websites and internal links to other blog posts that answered additional questions or solved problems.
Promotion: Once the article posted to our main website, I elevated awareness by posting it to a variety of resources. I did promoted posts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as posted a link to the article on Google+, Reddit and industry site Houzz. Additionally, I included backlinks to the article in guest posts that we have commissioned on other authoritative sites and made comments in various forums with backlinks to the article.
Result: After a few weeks, we saw a dramatic improvement in our keyword performance and SERP of the article itself. Once we were on the first page of the Google SERP, I continued to tweak and add to the article until we replaced the previous Featured Snippet. This has generated substantial increases in organic and repeat traffic to our site and has resulted in new sales of outdoor furniture.
How Long Does It Take Google to Index a New Site?, Leverage Marketing
Eric Ysasi, Online Content Specialist
Key SEO factors: Expert sources, custom graphics, optimized load time, promotion
Leverage Marketing had success with this article, in which we explored what we know about the indexing process for Google and what can be done to ensure that your new site (and new pages) get indexed legitimately using white-hat SEO techniques and Google-recommended procedures.
The piece was written with the specific goal of providing more accurate, updated and stronger information than our competitors. Internal knowledge of SEO and our own experiments helped us solidify the piece with experience-based information rather than secondary research. It was also one of the first pieces for which we started creating custom graphics. We then added meta information, defined focus keywords and “minified” data to optimize load times in our content management system.
Promotion was minimal at first. We pushed the piece out to our usual social channels, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. What unexpectedly seemed to garner the most attention and increase in backlinks and engagement was our comments section. We diligently replied to nearly every comment, and the piece organically expanded to include even more comprehensive coverage of the topic.
It now ranks number one for more long-tail keywords than we can count, and is slowly creeping in on famously difficult short keywords such as “google indexing.” We’re excited to see where it can go, but our approach for now is to leave it be until it reaches its full potential.
Hotel Blogging: Everything You Need to Know, Otium Boutique
Jase Rodley, Principal
Key SEO factors: Header tags, comprehensive, answers questions, good user experience and readability, linking strategy, visuals and media
In this post, we ticked almost all of the boxes of the criteria listed below. At over 3,000 words, it’s long, but if we promise to the user it includes “everything you need to know,” it should be!
Though not all hard-and-fast rules, it’s good to tick most of these boxes:
- Blog post SEO 101: Use a compelling/descriptive title tag, a concise meta description tag and make sure the keyword is in the H1 tag of the website.
- Write a minimum of 1,250 words: There is no room for good content, let alone mediocre content. If we are writing on this topic, we need to answer every conceivable question our user could have.
- Use correct heading hierarchy: Correct headings allow users to skim through posts and navigate to sections they want to read. It also helps those using screen readers.
- Use external links: Abundance mindset — we’re not concerned about losing traffic, we’re concerned with backing up our claims.
- Use internal links: Where possible, link to existing content to show we are an authority in the space.
- Use mixed content: Bullet lists, numbered lists, images (ideally unique, with alt text tags), embedded videos, etc.
The best part is, awesome content promotes itself. We’ve had plenty of retweets and inbound links to the piece after a small amount of initial promotion via social media and email. The end result? A nice big featured snippet at the top of Google.
Spatial Awareness Difficulties: Does Your Child Have a Problem?, Kars4Kids
Varda Meyers Epstein, Editor and Writer
Key SEO factors: Covers a niche topic, comprehensive
My manager let me take over the company blog. I didn’t want it to be just another parenting or mommy blog, but actually educational for parents, with science-based, evergreen material. I began writing a series of pieces on learning difficulties and wrote one about spatial awareness difficulties.
It seems that with this post, I had found a niche no one had covered. Three years later, the post gets thousands of unique hits each week, consistently. And if you search the term “spatial awareness difficulties” on Google, there’s a knowledge graph that draws on my piece.
It’s a phenomenon that people in SEO dream about happening, and it only happened because of a carefully crafted article meant to enlighten and educate parents.
[Note: This post was originally published February 2018 and has been updated for relevancy and clarity.]
This post is part of the Brandpoint Quality Content Series, which analyzes how Google assesses quality content and how you can get your pages to appear higher in search results.
Part 1: What is High-Quality Content?
Part 2: Google Search Quality Guidelines: What is E-A-T?
Part 3: Are High-Quality Links Important for SEO?
Part 4: How to Create Readable Content
Part 5: How to Create Comprehensive Content
Part 6: Duplicate vs. Original Content
Part 7: Latent Semantic Indexing and Long-tail Keywords
Part 8: How to Optimize Images and Visuals for SEO
Part 9: Content Freshness and Generating New Topics