If you have been following our series so far, we have stepped you through the process of identifying topics that you are very passionate about, researching these topics’ keywords, filtering them based on commercial value and potential traffic, and using WordPress as a blogging platform. We are only halfway through. Even if you have found decent paying, decent traffic, and low to manageable competition keywords that you are interested in and you have set up a WordPress blog with the appropriate SEO plug-ins, you are still left with having to put content on your blog. This guide walks you through the process of converting your keywords into high-quality content that search engines can rank highly.
Using Keywords for Content Inspiration
Most people write based on specific topics that come to their minds. They get an idea and then they write around that idea. SEO copy writing the way it is done by many practitioners proceeds along the same lines. They have an existing topic in mind and they massage their target keywords into the material they have written. We suggest reversing this process. Start with the keywords, draw inspiration from them and build your content accordingly. How do you draw inspiration from keywords? It is very simple. Keywords do not exist in a vacuum. They are always related to a category and they are always related to each other. The best way to have keywords “write articles for you” is to pair them with each other.
Making SEO keyword articles “write themselves”
The first step is to segregate your primary keywords. These are the keywords that you are hoping to rank with. This is your primary target. Remember, make sure to target keywords that have low competition, decent monetization value and decent search volumes. It is an added bonus that you are heavily passionate about these keywords. However, even if you are somewhat interested in them, at least at a 50% level, you should be okay. Put this under your primary key word list and put the remaining keywords under a column labeled “secondary keywords.” These are keywords that either get a lot of traffic but have too much competition and you have a lot of interest in them. However, due to competitive reasons, these are put in your secondary key word list. Now that you have two columns of keywords, the next step is to read each key word and see which keywords go with keywords from another column. Normally you would take one primary key word and try to draw connections from that word to two items under your secondary keywords column. Once you have made these tentative connections, make a new list clustering them together. These are called theme clusters. The clustering is based on their similarities, but it can also be based on what makes them different from each other. In essence, how they contrast from each other and by reading these clusters in terms of either support or contrast, a rough outline should appear in your mind regarding their connections.
Outlining your themes: Avoid superficiality
The next step is to draw up an outline and write out the key ideas that come to mind around these clusters. There should be at least three main ideas for each article. When you are looking at a cluster of keywords and you are trying to come up with a theme, divide the theme into three parts. A great way to organize and break down a theme is to apply the basic journalistic analytical tool of who, what, where, when, why and how. Beware of superficial questions/analysis. These lead to very superficial themes. You do not want to write your article on a topic discussing items that your reader already knows. For example, if your topic cluster involves aquarium supplies and you want to discuss a particular type of aquarium accessory and using two brand keywords as support. You do not want to use sentences like “an aquarium is a nice thing to have” or “you need a filter and a pump” and other inane sentences. They are inane and ridiculous because you are just restating the obvious. If somebody is going to your aquarium supplies blog, the overwhelming majority of your readers already know what an aquarium is. They already know what goes inside an aquarium and they sure do know that having an aquarium is fun. Do not restate information that is obvious. It will simply make your content looks spammy and truly raise doubts in the minds of the reader and also search engines using their own complicated software algorithms and tools regarding the overall quality of your blog.
Dig Deep inside your Theme Clusters
Focus on theme clusters that dig deeper into the consciousness of the reader. A good trick is to look for controversies. People like controversies and appreciate debates. They like to see battling trends, developments, or opinions within a particular body of knowledge. You do not have to go down the dramatic route and get all emotional, but definitely throw a lot of clues to the reader that you are aware of the current trends in the topic that you are blogging about, and that what they are reading is not a waste of time. Give them the feeling and the accurate impression that by reading your blog entry, they are enriching their knowledge about your topic.
Using keywords as Organizing Tools to manage your Bounce Rate
Now that you have broken down your theme clusters into an outline for your article, you should then put subheadings in your outline. This will help the reader process your article because nobody likes reading just a one square block of text. It is either they will close the window or they will not read it at all. There have been usability studies done where people would click a search engine listing and once they are confronted with this intimidating block of text, they would just bounce back out.
Post format and Bounce Rate
While this was quite harmless back in the day, ever since Google’s first Panda update of February 2011, this can be a kiss of death for many blogs. Google is rapidly evolving in terms of mimicking the behavioral patterns and preferences of its users. The same way as actual human beings do not like intimidating block of text especially I they just need quick information, search engine devices like the Panda update factor in this crucial piece of information. If your content is hard to read, intimidating to read or induces your users to bounce right back out, click the back button or close the window or go back to the search listing, you are just hurting yourself.
Invest time in organizing your content around your keywords. It is very easy to do. In your outline, use your keywords as subheadings. Try to use short choppy sentences as subheadings. Make sure that these subheadings are logical that you are not just using them in order to target a key word. They have to actually summarize or introduce specific idea that you will discuss in the portion below. At this point in our guide, you should have created an outline based on your primary and secondary key word theme clusters. You should also analyze your theme clusters to yield mid-level or really deep-level themes for your articles. You should be avoiding “easy topics” or shallow discussions. At this point, your outline should also be broken down into subheadings using your keywords. The next stage is to write out your content based on preferences detected by SEO consultants.
Google Panda and Quality Content
February 2011 was a sad month for many search engine optimization practitioners. At the latter end of that month, many web properties’ traffic volume started crashing. 50% drops in traffic volume were not unheard of. It was a very bloody month for SEO-focused websites and blogs. What happened? Google deployed their Panda update. Unlike previous updates that involved tweaking the overall algorithm of how Google ranks search results, Panda actually factored in content features. Previous algorithms factored in mostly backlinks and linking structures. It was relatively easier to do SEO before February 2011. All you needed to do was get backlinks from websites that had high page ranks, had do follow links and were thematically related to the category of topic you are blogging about or building your website around. It was quite easy using a variety of link building tactics and tools to rank on the first page of a key word after three months. Google Panda changed all that.
Panda pushes publishers to refocus on quality: Content Quality Factors
Panda now looks at several factors and even the brightest SEO minds could not fully agree as to what these factors are. At this stage of the game, we are left with a set of factors that reflect the general consensus of SEO consultants and also we have filtered these factors through the concerns that Google has publicly voiced for several years now. Google based on its public pronouncement is seriously concerned about content quality. You have to step into Google’s shoes. They are selling their credibility. Whenever somebody enters a key word into Google, Google’s credibility is on the line. The listing that they retrieve must reflect and serve the interest of the user who is doing the searching. If they retrieved a highly irrelevant and useless result, Google’s credibility is eroded little by little. It is in Google’s interest to make sure that search results are accurate or at least meet the needs of the searchers. With this in mind, we have listed five key elements that SEO consultants have isolated in the Google Panda update. Again these are educated guesses, but you should tailor your blogging habits to meet these so that your chances of getting free targeted traffic from Google are increased.
Length of Article
The length of an article is usually not a major factor. While the conventional wisdom tends to pet and “ideal” length at 250 to 450 words for blog post, this is more informed by concerns for the comfort of the reader instead of any hardwired requirement by Google. Interestingly enough, this concern for the comfort and convenience of the reader actually feeds in to the general conception regarding Google Panda. Since Google Panda’s focus is to replicate the concerns of the end user, then length of article is definitely in play. You have to step into the shoes of your readers and get into their minds and figure out what is a comfortable length that they would sit still for.
Managing Bounce Rate
This is where bounce rate comes in. Bounce rate measures the percentage of the time when a user comes from a search engine, goes to your page and clicks the back button to go back. In essence, they bounced off your pages. You should install Google Analytics and pay careful attention to your bounce rate. If you are noticing that most people bounce right back out, then it is probably a good idea to either shorten the length of your articles or paradoxically enough increase the length of your articles. Most of the bounce rate issues occurs in the mid range area. Either shorter easy to process articles or longer articles that have enough breaks, pictures, diagrams and other elements that make it easier to read. The key here is to keep the reader on your pages longer and using graphical elements can help keep them on your pages longer and reading further down your article. You should study your competition and see how they organize their pages. Look at other models and see how they organize their pages. You will expect to spend quite a bit of time experimenting regarding your page length and page organization until you can see substantial changes in your bounce rate. The lower your bounce rate, the better.
Factoring in Content Usefulness
One key element to bounce rate is the overall usefulness of the article that the reader retrieved off the search engines. Usefulness is the bottom line factor for most people using search engines. They ask this basic question:Did I get what I was looking for? You must answer this question satisfactorily or else Google Panda will eventually penalize you. Thankfully, usefulness is very subjective. At one level, it can be quite direct. If somebody is looking for an address or looking for a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no, then the usefulness analysis can be quite short. You can fix this problem if you see a high bounce rate to your page by looking at the search query string that was used to retrieve that page.
Write Content based on your users’ most common questions
You can then try to piece together a series of questions that particular searchers are looking for and answer them in the article that was retrieved. The drawback to this analysis is that you actually have to have a page existing already for you to do this analysis and fix. Most of the time if you are just planning your content, you have to anticipate key questions. The next most common way to address this issue is to blog with certain questions in mind. You should either list down the questions that your blog post answers or at least put enough subheading elements to give the reader enough of a visual cue to allow them to zoom in on the answers that they are looking for. Bullet points help a lot as well.
Tie in specific queries to a larger body of content
Another dimension to the question of usefulness is the question of how does the topic that you are blogging for relate to a higher or more generalized concern? For example, if somebody is looking for Air Jordan sneakers and they are looking for a particular feature, if you wrote an article and there is just one line regarding that feature, that user is probably going to bounce back to the search listing. What you need to do is to get them to stay on your page by tying in their concern to a larger concern. For example, if somebody is looking for cat food, then chances are you could get them to stay longer on your article if you tie in that request for specific cat food too, health warnings, nutritional advice and other key thematic clusters that make the reader curious. The key here is to keep them on your page, so if you just give them the information in one sentence or just a quick small block of information, they just bounce right out. That does not do you any good because they do not stay on your page.
Building loyalty with useful content
Why do you need people to stay on your page? Not only does a lower bounce rate help you with avoiding Google Panda’s penalties, but it also allows you more time to establish a rapport with the user in that they consider your website a useful resource and this builds loyalty. Loyal users mean a heavier amount of people who come back to your website without using search engines. They just bookmark you and come back to you. This loyal base can produce more ad clicks, can produce more sales and can produce more leads down the road. You are killing two birds with one stone here by focusing on usefulness. Not only are you avoiding search engine penalties, but you are also building a loyal following.
Appeal to Emotion: Writing to engage readers emotionally
While search engines use software programs called robots to scour your content, the people that search engines are leading to your website are flesh and bone human beings. Human beings by their nature are emotional. If you write your content in emotional terms, you are more likely to get people to stay on your pages and develop an emotional bond with your website. Many of these processes are subconscious. Accordingly your “emotional writing” should not be overtly emotional or manipulative. The key here is subtlety. Try to select your words in such a way that they elicit emotional responses. Avoid scaring off your users by coming off as sleazy, overly dramatic, or overly sensational. Similarly, do not be so “objective” as to give the impression that you do not care. This is a fine balancing act and there is really no black and white formula. If there was, it would be worth several billion dollars and be locked away somewhere. This method of writing can only truly be arrived at through a purely trial and error basis. Each and every blogger’s target market is different. Each and every blogger’s writing style is different, so it is a matter of time and continuous effort to come up with the right mix. It takes much effort. However, it should not be avoided and should be pursued systematically on a sustained basis. The rewards make it all worthwhile.
Pack in a Heap of Information in a Small Space
It is easy to tell worthless blog posts and articles from quality blog posts and articles. Low-quality posts just focus on one thing and attack it on a very superficial level. Oftentimes really badly written blog posts repeat the same information over and over and over. It is not bad spelling or grammatical issues that turn off readers. What truly turns them off is when they see that the whole post is actually meaningless because it just starts with a threadbare idea and just keeps repeating that idea. There is really no support. There is genuinely no hint of detailed research. In essence, there is absolutely no substance to the blog post.
Convey your content’s substance by arranging it right
When you pack a lot of information into a post, it does not necessarily mean that you spend so much time and effort finding all this information. Many of the research can just really be gleaned from one article and you are entirely rearranging, rewriting and reorganizing that article. However, the way you have organized it enhances the value to the end user. Also, by taking the time to pick the right article as a research base or as a source for your research, you have ensured better quality for your own article. At the most basic, whenever you make an assertion, always back it up with corroboration. This does not necessarily mean linking to a source, but it does involve explaining fully why you made that assertion. Avoid shallow blog posts. Shallow blog posts are all in all a long series of assertions and conclusions with no analysis and very little information backing it up. It is okay to focus on one idea and one question for a blog post as long as your outline is filled with corroboration and sensible explanations. This should be enough to get the end user thinking and appreciating what you have to say.
Write your blogs with “Word of Mouth” in mind
With the spread and proliferation of social networking sites like Facebook and social media sites like Twitter, it is now very easy to get your content in front of millions of readers the world over. As we have discussed here at ereviewguide.com, Facebook and Twitter have really automated the old human practice of spreading ideas through word of mouth. You want people to share your blog posts on their Facebook walls. You want people to re-tweet your links, but how do you do that? It is very easy. Just follow the four tips above. If you come up with useful content that is easy to read, that triggers an emotional response which actually gives something of value to the end user, your chances are much higher than average. Thankfully, most people who seek to make money blogging produce really low-quality content. It is quite obvious from their blog post that they just want to target a key word, rank for it and get traffic from search engines. Once the search engine delivers traffic to their blogs, they really do the search engine a disservice by serving up worthless, shallow, weak, badly researched blog post to the end user.
Rise above your competitors with quality content
By following the four tips above, you are making it easier for flesh and bone human beings to click the Facebook share button on your blog or the re-tweet button and share your link. The reason they are doing this is that they have had some sort of psychological payoff or reward from your content. You should research, organize and write your content with this emotional or psychological reward in mind. Even if you do not SEO your blog post, as long as you have your end user in mind, you are head and shoulders above your competition already. The competition only looks at how to get free traffic from search engines. You can blow away your competition by not only writing for search engines, but also making sure that your post delivers value to real human beings.
Always go for a WIN WIN WIN situation
By pursuing a humanistic blogging philosophy, you create a win-win-win situation. Search engines win because their credibility is maintained, if not improved, by sending traffic to your blog post which fills the need of the users. The end users win because when they go to your website, they actually get the information that they are looking for and their needs are met. You win because you obviously get traffic from search engines, but you also get traffic from the social networks–the Facebook walls and the Twitter feeds of users that are happy with your content. By seeking to serve others and putting yourself in the place of your users, you are actually benefitting yourself. That is the core of ethical blogging that produces results for all parties involved.
The Bottom Line
There are no secrets to high-quality blog content. If you focus on serving your target customers, you will always come out ahead. A large part of this advantage is due to the fact that many of your competitors are merely trying to get traffic from search engines by smart key word selection and writing their blog posts based strictly on keywords. The actual value of the post is quite low. By putting the end user first and looking at your blog through their eyes, you are able to run circles around your competition and create a win-win situation for all parties involved. This is not easy and this by no means will happen overnight. However, dedication to quality and persisting in building a fulfilling and satisfying experience in the minds of your target audience will definitely pay off in the future.