CONTENT DRIVEN SEO

Matthew Carter
Hello friends, my name is Matthew Carter. I’m a professional link builder for a large SEO agency in New York City.

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However, in my experience, companies leave organic search opportunities on the back burner because investing in SEO seems daunting.

For example, Optimizely recently used this process to choose 10 high-opportunity, low-ranking content pieces out of their roughly 1,000 blog posts and glossary articles. Then they updated those posts, using SEO data as a guide to make them rank better on Google.

Organic search is one of the most powerful customer acquisition channels, and a well-implemented search engine optimization (SEO) strategy can become a central source of traffic and revenue for consumer content hubs and B2B companies alike. HubSpot is a prime B2B example. Their ranked blog posts and product pages were a cornerstone of their strategy to become the leading voice in inbound marketing.

What’s beautiful about SEO-optimized content is that the up-front investment pays off throughout the lifetime of your company, unlike paid search ads, which create ongoing costs.

We’ll go into more detail on Takeshi’s optimization project toward the end of this chapter. But first, I’ll walk you through my start-to-finish process for creating content that ranks.

The process I’m about to share with you was manual at first; I patched together tools and personally combed through top search results to learn their tricks. Since then, I’ve streamlined the steps and built a product, Clearscope, to automate some of the work for me. You won’t need Clearscope to follow my instructions, but I’ll show you how it works to illustrate that data plays an important role in content creation. I’ll also demonstrate how to use my favorite SEO tools. Most of them are free and some are paid, so if you’re on a budget, poke around for free or affordable alternatives. I’ll recommend a few as well.

“Investing in content isn’t easy for B2B SaaS companies,” says Takeshi Young, Web Marketing Manager at Optimizely. “The content topics tend to be more technical and difficult to produce, and they’re often shifted to the back burner because it’s a challenge to correctly attribute leads to organic discovery articles. But that doesn’t make ranked content any less effective at generating leads and affirming brand authority. I use SEO data to make my content creation process easier and ensure that I’m spending time on high-impact content only.”

It’s designed so you can just try it yourself. A starting point for your B2B SEO strategy might be to create five to ten pieces—like blog posts or landing pages—that are most relevant for your business, and see how it goes. But the same process can be used to reliably generate hundreds of effective SEO content pieces. You can hand the playbook to an SEO consultant, content marketing team, or writer to execute it for you.

When everyone’s got experiences like that, it’s no wonder most marketers are suspicious and confused about SEO. Where are you even supposed to start?

As the co-founder of Mushi Labs, where I’ve been an SEO consultant for dozens of high-growth companies, and as a Growth Entrepreneur-in-Residence at 500 Startups (where I advise hundreds of budding companies), I hear SEO war stories like these.

The 10 pieces saw an immediate bump in search traffic when they were republished. And one month later, they showed an average 28% improvement in impressions, 52% more clicks, and 52% more sessions. They showed clear rank improvements, such as a piece that went from rank #11 to rank #4 on page one of Google for [lead generation ideas], which is a “head term” (a popular keyword with high search volume). And another post jumped from #7 to #3 for a head term. On average, rankings improved 29%. Those are just the early results.

In this chapter, I’ll share my playbook for creating content and product landing pages that are SEO-optimized and specifically designed to capture high-quality leads from organic search traffic. I’ve refined it for years with my clients, advisees, and several of my own startups, and it’s been highly effective.

This process also works for B2C SEO, but in this guide we’ll focus on creating the two most important types of content for B2B marketing and SaaS SEO: product landing pages and educational content, such as blog posts, white papers, longform articles, case studies, and books like Data-Driven Marketing.

They don’t have to be anything special. You’ll notice that a lot of our posts on the Ahrefs Blog include annotated screenshots like this one:

If you sell baking supplies online, then this might be recipes for baked goods, cookware reviews, or other things related to baking .

In other words, nobody wants to link to poor or mediocre content; they link to content that’s valuable for their visitors.

But, these pages account for less than 4% of search traffic to our site:

This is why our studies usually get tons of links:

6. Make your content visually appealing.

Following a proven SEO framework to write content makes sense, and it certainly improves your chances of ranking. But it’s important to remember that things don’t always work out, even if you do everything “right.”

Send your draft to a friend, tell them to be honest, iron out any creases.

The answer is to take clues from the top-ranking results by analyzing what we call the three C’s of search intent.

If we didn’t do this, we’d be leaving a lot of money on the table because potential customers aren’t always searching for our products directly.

Take a short break after 25 minutes, then repeat.

But here’s the thing with search volume: it can be misleading.

It’s a proven topic, the post aligns with search intent, and it covers the topic comprehensively… yet it doesn’t even rank in the top 100.

It’s 7,600 words long, has been shared over 50,000 times, has fantastic illustrations, and is super well-written. It’s a masterpiece.

… and 32,000 from video results:

Not at all. We published these posts to bring new insights to the SEO community—not to rank in Google.

Content type.

So, if you want your post to get organic traffic, you need to write it around a proven SEO framework.

For that reason, that’s what we’ll focus on in this guide.

Right away, we see some good topic ideas like banana bread recipe, apple pie recipe, and pizza dough recipe, each with tons of monthly searches.

One post even ranks for 10,000 keywords and gets over 57,000 monthly organic visits:

Most of the best blog posts are written in an informal, conversational tone, so there’s no need to agonize over every word. Just write as you speak.

We did this with our guide to Google search operators, which has attracted backlinks from over 560 websites:

Either way. SEO is not just about rankings, but also getting clicks from searchers.

1. Make it the go-to resource on a topic.

If you don’t use Ahrefs, then you can do the same thing by looking at the top-ranking pages and using some common sense.

The two more important pieces of metadata are your meta title and description. Both of these show up in Google’s search results, and they’re effectively your sales pitch to searchers. Use them to explain why they should click and read your post.

Some SEOs believe that clickthrough rate also impacts rankings, but Google says this isn’t the case because the metric is too noisy.

For that reason, it pays to know which other keywords the top-ranking pages also rank for when creating your outline—so you can rank for them too.

Are the top-ranking pages blog posts, product pages, category pages, landing pages, or something else?

Good. Now let’s talk about how to actually write this stuff.

What is that framework? It looks something like this:

How? Because we’ve also written hundreds of pieces of SEO content for our blog.

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