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Certainly it wouldn’t make sense to try to increase SEO results without looking at how to measure SEO! But it’s easy to overlook for some content creators, which is another reminder why we need to build a team and roles in line with these five pillars of the Content Performance Culture.
There are several ways to do that and I share in this article, how I normally go about measuring SEO impact.
In this article, I discuss:
- Accidental SEO strategy and how to move forward from it
- Using the right tools during production
- Using Google Search Console to measure SEO results
SEO is when we create content with what people are searching for in mind. For example, if people search for content marketing storytelling but not authentic storytelling why would I ever write about authentic storytelling? I should refocus the content to content marketing storytelling. For example.
Sometimes new content is ahead of the search engine volume. For example, when Nike released the Colin Kaepernick commercial, that drove searches for the brand and ultimately sales, too. And keep in mind that 15 percent of all searches on Google each day have never been searched before. So there’s room to hit those in your SEO strategy – accidental or not. Of course, it’s a bit of a guessing game. But you can use Google Trends to find ideas.
At the most basic level, SEO means that we keep what people search for and what terms they use in their searches while we create our content.
Of course, at the end of the day it only matters when we can measure it and it helps us increase our brand footprint.
To measure SEO results you’ll have to do this first!
You have to create content and keep in mind what people are searching for. I use the Keywords Everywhere to research what people are searching for. Jessica Foster shared on this podcast episode what keyword volumes to go after.
In addition, once you know the keywords, you’ll want to follow basic best practices. I use the Yoast plugin which tells me how my content is currently looking. It’s kind of addictive to work toward getting the green in readability and SEO.
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Hamlet Batista of Ranksense.com joined me on the livestream to share that to make SEO truly work it needs to be integrated into the workflow. Very true. This is also why I believe content creators need to work in the CMS or related system. It’s hard to make it all come together in a Word document.
Sometimes SEO success just happens. I’ve called that the accidental SEO strategy before. When that happens, capitalize on it.
An accidental SEO strategy is more common than people would probably like to admit. I’ve run accidental (but highly performing) SEO strategies too!
What’s accidental SEO then?
Usually, here’s how that happens: Somebody told you to blog, maybe me! And you even followed my multi-step process.
And you start:
- covering a topic
- having some solid and thorough articles
- interviewing people and quote them (which prompts them to share it, usually)
- maybe find some research from a credible source to include here and there
- have a point of view
- solve people’s problems with your article. My article on Instagram Live did on when Live would actually roll out was a great example. 100,000 pageviews! All because it was answering people’s questions.
I had no idea so many people would search for Instagram Live and I had no clue I would grab 10 percent of that massive search traffic! I was just writing about a topic I spotted in the wild and that I thought would be interesting to you – business storytellers! Follow me on Instagram here: Instagram.com/ChristophTrappe
Common current state
Let’s say you create content, are a decent journalistic storyteller and share somewhat in-depth solutions and ideas in your content. At some point, one of your articles will show up in search engine searches. Even without any formal SEO strategy and research.
I’ve seen it happen over and over and over.
Of course, sometimes the articles that rank aren’t the ones we want to rank the most. I say “the most” because if we didn’t want it to succeed why did we even write it?
They may not attract the audience we are actually trying to go after. But because people are searching for the topic and we have an in-depth article that appears to answer the question, we rank.
So there’s reason to take it up a notch and also look at what we can learn from the existing content and how we can maximize it.
Measuring SEO results – the false positive
Mark Asquith of Captivate.fm joined me on this livestream and shared what a false positive looks like.
A false positive appears to be a success when it comes to measuring your SEO results, but it’s not. For example, this could mean, people are finding your article or podcast but it’s not actually matching up to the topic. It’s the closest answer perhaps but doesn’t really fit.
Another example is when it comes to ranking No. 1 for something nobody searches for. I’ve had this happen in meetings where somebody would excitedly shared that something is ranking at the top. That’s awesome, but then when we dug into the numbers we found that there was no search volume for the topic.
Building on an accidental SEO strategy
1. Look at why an article is working
Try to find out why it’s ranking. Then build on that strategy. Learn from it. What other articles can be produced that use this model that you were able to do by accident.
2. Maximize the article
My favorite way to do that is to link from it to other content. In a nutshell, when you have an article that gets a ton of recurring traffic, link from it to other places.
Content creators write and produce new content! Some call it the content marketing arms race. There’s some truth to that, of course. But don’t forget about internal linking to drive traffic to those new articles.
Fresh content works and stories happen around us daily that are worth sharing. But older evergreen content often also draws traffic. When we do content well – do our keyword research, write useful stuff, etc. – evergreen content should lead the charts. All. The. Time.
Of course, many teams still look more at today’s posts. We just talked about it and published it. How is it performing? Has it gone viral? (Of course not, but you know what I mean.)
We talk about what’s top of mind. Of course. This is particularly the case on teams that are heavily made up of former journalists. Journalists often are good storytellers on a daily cadence. Of course, they’ll want to see how today’s story performed.
One way to drive up traffic to new articles is by linking to them from old articles that already get a decent amount of traffic.
I have maybe a dozen articles on this blog that consistently draw traffic from search engine users. Day after day they show up and get read. They aren’t new at all.
Meanwhile, some new articles – ones I often find much more interesting – are puttering along.
Sure, I push them on email and social media, but going back and linking to them from old rock-star articles can easily be a forgotten strategy.
Of course, many teams link from new articles to old articles. The new ones are top of mind! I’ve heard goals of adding at least three outbound links to new stories. Some of those might be to external sites and some might be to related pages. Whatever makes sense!
I’ve worked on some high-stakes projects and traffic matters in those. Especially relevant traffic. And even when the stakes are lower(ish), seeing our audience grow and engage more is awesome.
With that I’ve started this process:
- Produce content as I have. (Idea, uniqueness factor, keyword research – sometimes – etc.)
- Then figure out what high performing articles are related
- Go to them
- Link back to the new one
Yes, it’s a bit like trying to grab some of that article’s traffic. But really, if it’s of interest to the people reading that article you are adding value!
You can also consider creating story ads that are inserted within articles and then link back.
We will see how that works and – more importantly – if I remember to add the links. The Related Content plugin (part of Jetpack) here on WordPress does some of that by adding links to the end of the article automatically, but who knows if people skim to the end anyway? ?
Digital marketing is not a print publication. Ones something is published it can continue to compound interest, relevance and drive business results.
If you have a designer at hand or can design ads yourself, consider doing inline story ads that are added to high performing content and link to other content.
3. Move forward
It’s impossible to catch up anymore! So instead of catching up, look at spikes in traffic, look for ideas and then keep turning articles that try to duplicate the success.
4. Do NOT try to rank for the same keyword again on purpose
I have one article that ranks highly for AirPod microphone issues and another that shows up when people search for guidance on how to thank people for wishing them a happy birthday on Facebook:
Those articles rank well already. The click-throughs could be even higher. So I could take a look at the meta description to see if I can drive them up that way. (Clicks on the left, impressions in search on the right).
It’s tempting to write about the same topic again, but what will I say that’s different? A lot of times I wouldn’t recommend doing more articles on the same topic because the two articles can rank against each other.
Now, one idea is to write about how to thank people on LinkedIn for sending you messages, for example. Conceptually speaking.
If you stumbled into SEO success, don’t feel bad! Celebrate the success and then try to learn and move forward with it even better in your next content production or optimization project, which can be as early as now if you are in content marketing or are some kind of other business storyteller.
Measure SEO results – the tools
To measure SEO results I use ahrefs which sends me a monthly report letting me know how many keywords I have in the top 3 positions and other lower positions. It also tells me the trends. This is super helpful to see how the strategy is working overall.
Related ahrefs research: [Podcast] How important are meta descriptions and does Google even use them?
Ubersuggest offers a similar service. Just like with ahrefs you enter the keywords you are trying to rank for and the tool tracks them. For example, in this article I’m targeting “measure SEO” so once the updated article publishes I would go to either of these tools and add it.
Other tools like Moz, SEMRush, Alexa and more also exist.
Check out my article on the Alexa blog: Why do SEO in-house
Google Search Console
A free version to measure SEO would be the Google Search Console. Once set up, you can see what terms are ranking for specific positions.
In addition, you can easily see comparisons and see if things are trending up or down.
Measure SEO wrap
At the end of the day, we want to be strategic with our writing and content creation. Sometimes that means we produce content with a gut feeling. It’s okay to do that and try things. But don’t just blindly create stuff because output matters more than outcomes.
Be strategic and then get on a good rhythm and don’t forget to set up the right tools to measure SEO and other related KPIs. Once you’ll make progress you’ll want to be able to share those successes.
Don’t miss my new book
Move your content from happening to performing. The 2020 textbook: