How To Write The Best SEO Content
Today’s Google algorithm rewards websites that provide the best answers to the questions inherent in searchers’ keywords. The task of an SEO team is to create the best page on the Internet for each commercially valuable keyword they’re targeting.
But what constitutes the “best”? In this article, I will break down that concept.
Defining The Word “Best” In The Context of SEO Content
Have you ever asked someone a question and they responded “Well, it depends”? That’s the opposite of what you should do if you’re trying to write the best SEO content. The goal is to address the searcher’s query with specificity and clarity, plus a sprinkle of originality to keep it interesting.
Here’s how I define the “best” SEO page for a given keyword:
|The “best” SEO page is the one that gives the user exactly what they need to satisfy their search query—and nothing more.|
Getting exactly what you need and nothing more is like being served a meal that satisfies your cravings and is the ideal quantity. There are three concepts here, which conveniently all start with the letter “p”: (a) precision, (b) personalization, and (c) portion size.
Precision refers to how perfectly you satisfy the searcher’s craving for information with your content. In the same way that a person craving peanut butter doesn’t want to be served dry peanuts, cashew butter, or another similar-but-not-quite-right food, your content should satisfy the searcher’s exact interests. There are usually enough clues in the search query to indicate what the searcher really wants.
Let’s look at an example. If your keyword is “salesforce vs hubspot crm”, the searcher is asking for a comparison of the two CRM platforms. If they were to pose the question meant by that keyword at a conference, they’d hope to hear from a person who has tried both CRMs and can clearly express the differences.
Imagine if, instead of that, someone stood up and told them why Salesforce is great and they should buy it. Or, why they should really consider Zoho instead. While not unrelated to the question, those answers would be far from precise. In the same way, the Google results are filled with unsatisfying pages that don’t properly interpret the intent behind the search query. As such, marketers with good “listening” skills have a real opportunity to produce high-ranking content.
Properly interpreting the search intent of a keyword is half the battle. The other half is producing a page that responds to that search intent. That brings up the question of form. How should we present the information the searcher wants?
Searchers want the answer to the question as quickly as possible, meaning the “best content” is everything that addresses their query and nothing more. This is where simple graphics — tables, charts, diagrams — become necessary. In the example above, where the searcher wants to compare two CRMs, you’d probably want to have a well-designed table with Hubspot and Salesforce side-by-side, and CRM features going down the left-hand column. Like so:
There are other ways to visually compare CRMs, such as with a venn diagram or a scorecard, but these sacrifice information in the name of visual appeal. In this case, the simple, side-by-side comparison chart offers the best balance of comprehension and visuals.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the final call as to what will make the searcher feel satisfied as quickly as possible. As a rule, stay away from long paragraphs (unless you’re an amazing storyteller), and include at least one visual on every “scroll” down the page. Even formatting elements as simple as bulleted lists or bold section headings can keep the searcher engaged.
An enormous bonus to creating precisely satisfying content is that, in addition to causing Google to rank your page higher, it’s also good for conversion.
With precision addressed, we now move to personalization. Given that you’re writing to a target audience, it is vital to use the language of both their industry and their level within the organization. Use jargon, allude to situations they find themselves in, and offer examples they’d immediately recognize. In general, individual contributors seek more tactical information, and managers and executives seek more strategic information. The two most common mistakes in SEO writing are talking to high level decision makers as if (a) they’re amateurs, or (b) they’re involved in the day-to-day minutiae of their direct reports.
Besides speaking in your target audience’s language, the main challenge marketers face in personalizing content is dealing with keywords that don’t offer clues about the industry or situation the searcher is in. For instance, a keyword like “marketing strategy guide” leaves the door open to many different use cases. Here are 2 ways of handling this problem:
- Create a section dedicated to common use cases and/or industries. For the search “salesforce vs hubspot crm”, after the comparison table you could create a section that recommends one of the two CRMs in various situations like “Best CRM for agencies”, “Best CRM for enterprises”, “Best CRM for sales”, etc.
- Present case studies covering different situations the searcher could be in. Even if the case studies are just a paragraph long, you will still be creating a valuable opportunity for the searcher to see themselves in one of the situations. Including a logo or graphic with each case study is also a good idea, both for skimmability and conversion.
If the keyword being targeted is truly industry-agnostic, it may not be necessary to personalize. But more often than not, you’ll gain valuable trust and engagement from the searcher for putting in the extra work.
The last aspect of the “best” content definition has to do with portion size. This idea refers to the amount of time it takes to consume your content compared to the amount of time the searcher wants to spend consuming it. If you’re searching Google to find out if soy sauce is gluten-free, the best page is one that gives you the answer in under 30 seconds. If you’re searching Google to learn how blockchain technology works, the best page is one that gives you the answer in 3-7 minutes (most people couldn’t grasp the concept in less than that, but would be overwhelmed by more than that). If you’re searching Google to compare SUVs before making a purchase, the best page is one that shows you your options in 5-12 minutes.
Google measures the amount of time that elapses between when a searcher leaves the search results page to visit a website page and when they come back. They also maintain benchmarks for each type of search users perform — from quick reference queries to heavy research queries — and judge a page’s quality partly on how well the searcher’s Time on Page matches the benchmark. They judge newly-published pages via experiments in the search results, where they allow these new pages to rank highly at random so they can see how much time users spend on them compared to the benchmark for the search query type.
You’ll find a list of search query types and their corresponding Time on Page benchmarks in the table below.
|Query Type||Examples||Time On Page Benchmark|
|Short Reference||“how long to cook rice”||10-30 seconds|
|Short Research||“parks near me”
“best torque wrenches”
|Definition||“what is a covalent bond”||1-3 minutes|
|Tool||“retirement savings calculator”||3-5 minutes|
|Long Reference||“passover customs”
|Transaction||“maritime shipping software”||4-9 minutes|
|Research||“cash accounting pros cons” “asana review”||5-12 minutes|
|Long Research||“seo strategy guide”||7 – 15 minutes|
Note: The only query type not listed here is the Branded Search, where someone Googles the name of a company to navigate to its website. This query isn’t in the realm of SEO.
Other Technical Considerations
The “Benchmarked Time on Page” metric has gained prominence in Google’s algorithm in the last several years. However, it isn’t the only factor Google uses to determine a page’s quality. The search engine also “reads” the content on your page, looking for several elements:
- Original language not found (whole or paraphrased) elsewhere on the web
- Original research in the form of tables, charts, or graphs
Google also considers the link popularity of your domain in deciding its ultimate ranking. Link popularity is kind of like your site’s reputation in the world of Google. (Note: There are several tools out there that take educated guesses at link popularity such as ahrefs.com’s Domain Rating and Moz’s Domain Authority.) While content that genuinely satisfies the searcher is more important to Google than link popularity, the search engine still uses it to gain an initial idea of where to rank newly-published pages, and also to settle close cases where two pages are equally satisfying to searchers.
The “Best Content” Concept In Google’s Search Algorithm
This article’s purpose is to explain how Google decides an article is the best response to a particular keyword, which likely will result in it achieving a top ranking. However, that concept exists within the larger system of how Google ranks search results. We’ll now zoom out to place the content of this article into context so you can put the entire concept of achieving high SEO rankings into practice.
When Google is deciding which page should rank #1 for a keyword, it begins by looking at the meta title tag of all pages on the Internet to see which are actually targeting the keyword. It then places those pages in a results set and ranks them based on two factors:
- A page’s potential to satisfy the searcher’s intent (the subject of this article)
- A website’s overall reputation, or Trust Score
Since hopefully you now understand the first factor, here’s the breakdown of the second: A website’s Google Trust Score is based roughly 60/40 on (a) whether your site is classified as a consistent producer of great content and (b) your website’s link popularity.
|Google Trust Score =
Consistency of Publishing High ‘Benchmarked Time on Page’ Content (.60)
Link Popularity (.40)
In other words, if Google knows your site to be a regular, reliably high-quality publisher of content that is both useful to searchers and cited on industry blogs and news sites, your website will have a high ranking floor and can outrank even pages with better Benchmarked Time On Page and more original language and reference materials.
I liken their process to one you might experience when selecting an attorney for a specific use. Let’s say you need a medical malpractice attorney. You might “know” that you’d be in good hands with a major firm like Latham Watkins, but you’d likely favor a smaller practice that has deep experience with medical malpractice and can answer detailed questions on your specific issue. Perhaps the most perfect outcome, price notwithstanding, is to find a star attorney at Latham Watkins who specializes in medical malpractice of the exact variety you’re dealing with.
The Google algorithm behaves similarly: It seeks to match its searchers with the best and the most well-reputed page addressing their query, putting a little extra weight on the best.
Creating A Process Around Producing The Best SEO Content For Your Audience
You should now know what is meant by the word “best” in the context of SEO content. The next step is to implement a content program at your company that produces excellent content regularly.
Doing so involves selecting keywords within a hub & spoke framework, and then, for each keyword, breaking down the target audience; identifying the searcher’s likely intent; matching the keyword to an appropriate page type (landing page vs article); and outlining the plan to make the page the best response to its keyword on the internet.
This process is complex and companies often seek an SEO partner who can build the strategy and execute the program. Our firm specializes in doing both. If you’d like to speak with us to see if we might be a good match for your company’s marketing and lead generation objectives, feel free to reach out to us here.