CEO of Letterdrop, former Product Manager on Google Search
Key Components of Good Content: Understanding search intent, providing unique information, and following technical SEO are crucial for Google ranking.
Meeting Search Intent: SEO-optimized content should answer search queries effectively and minimize "pogo sticking" between articles.
Google Ranking Factors: Addressing search intent, offering new insights, technical SEO, and content quality are among the important ranking factors.
You're a Content Marketer, and after months of SEO efforts, your content is still struggling to rank at the top of Google. This can be extremely frustrating — and worrying. You've used all the right keywords and even sprinkled in some backlinks. So why aren't you ranking?
There may be some finicky SEO rules and tactics that are slipping under your radar. This is fixable, though. You just need to understand the three components of good content for Google:
Understanding search intent and what kind of answer the user is looking for.
Bringing net new information to the table and not saying the same stuff that everyone else is saying.
Following best practices for technical SEO so that Google's bots can read and understand your page.
If you're not bringing in qualified traffic, you're not contributing to the top line through conversions. Cue awkward questions from your VP of Marketing. Best to avoid.
Why SEO Optimize Your Content?
Content is valuable for customer education and will help your customers buy from you.
But unless it's seen, it's useless. Makes me think of that saying, "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
You can and should distribute via email and social, but those are ephemeral channels. You don't want one-hit wonders.
You've already spent the money and time creating the content. The best chance at getting it seen is with SEO. SEO-optimized content is evergreen and can attract visitors forever from Google.
The Goal of a Page Optimized for SEO Is to Answer Search Intent
What is Search Intent?
Search intent comes down to finding out why someone searches and what they are looking for. Search intent falls into four buckets:
Informational. They're looking for specific information and answers to questions.
Navigational. The searcher is looking for a specific website.
Commercial. They're researching products for future buying decisions.
Transactional. They're looking to buy something.
If you're creating content, you probably want to focus on Informational and Commercial searches. Product pages best serve transactional queries, and Navigational queries are just people forgetting the website's URL.
Google tries to rank content that is best at answering search intent.
Your Goal Is to End the User's Search Journey By Answering Search Intent
The first link that a searcher sees on Google should, in theory, have all the information they're looking for and effectively end their search.
But if a user bounces from the page and "pogo sticks" between other articles, it means the content failed to answer their search.
While this isn't a Google ranking factor, your goal is to answer search intent as best as possible. Focus on creating content that ends the search journey. At that point, you can intercept and drive visitors to action like clicking links to other pages on your site, subscribing to your newsletter, or booking a demo.
What Are Google Ranking Factors?
There's a lot of speculation on what are actually ranking factors. This leads to confusion and the spread of misinformation in SEO land. Here are some confirmed factors that influence ranking:
It's important to note that some of these factors are outside your immediate control, like your website's authority. It's best to focus on what is in your control.
How to Optimize a Blog Post for SEO
There are eight steps to writing and optimizing your blog for SEO.
Identifying your keyword
Understanding search intent
Outlining your content
Writing your content
Differentiating with information gain
Technical SEO optimization
1. Identifying Your Keyword
You should target keywords that will drive new business for you through conversions (either today or later). There's no point in high-traffic keywords that do absolutely nothing to move the needle for your company.
How to Pick a Keyword
1) Listen to Customers and Communities
The best way to find keywords that prospects care about is through your customers. This is a great way to find "zero-search" keywords that you can't find in keyword research tools.
Listen to sales calls and chat with them directly to learn what questions they're asking and what they might be searching for.
Look at the questions asked in online communities where your ICP is active, like Reddit, Slack, and LinkedIn.
2) Use Keyword Research Tools
Tools like Ahrefs, Letterdrop, and Semrush are great for figuring out your keywords and save you from manual searching.
Here's how to use keyword research tools:
Put in the primary term you think is relevant to you.
Look at related terms and narrow down what's most relevant using modifiers like "how," "best", and "what."
Focus on long-tail keywords with lower competition and more nuanced search intent. You won't rank for competitive keywords unless you're a big site with high domain and topical authority. For example, a person searching for "what is customer support?" is not ready to buy a tool like Zendesk. Someone searching for "how to automate customer support responses from knowledge base" is.
Don't read too much into search volume. Use it as an order of magnitude estimate. Especially for niche topics, it's unlikely there's any keyword data available. We repeatedly see companies drive unqualified traffic because they index on search volume over the relevance of their product to the audience.
2. Understand Search Intent
Once you choose the keyword, you need to figure out how to best answer the question the searcher is asking.
Here's How To Figure Out Search Intent Manually
Put your targeted keyword into Google.
Go through the top pages to see what they're talking about.
Determine whether the search is informational, navigational, commercial or transactional by taking note of modifiers. Example: "How to" searches are informational. "Login page" is navigational. "Best X software" is commercial. Any search that features the word "buy" is transactional.
Take note of the dominant format. Are the top results mostly lists or video content? You want to use the same format to stay competitive.
Look for a Featured Snippet to figure out how to write an even better one.
Here's How Letterdrop Can Help Determine Search Intent, Fast
Letterdrop's SEO tool has a Search Intent feature that can help you eliminate the need for manual search intent analysis.
Input your keyword and click "Analyze."
The results tell you the probable search intent in plain English, and whether your search is informational, navigational, commercial or transactional.
The tool scans top pages and tells you the right format to use: text, images, or video.
If one is present, the tool suggests an answer to the Feature Snippet, which you can automatically add to your content.
If you've provided a company description in Settings, the tool gives you a score for the likelihood of conversion.
3. Writing the Outline
Now that you understand what the user is looking for, you can begin outlining your content. You may want to jump straight into a draft, but in good business writing, articles are 80% outline and 20% writing. Think of an outline as a plan of attack on what to cover. They help establish the logic and organization of a piece, allowing you to reason through a topic.
Starting with headings for sections — H2s, H3s, and H4s for example — lets you lay out the thought process of what you want to say.
Here's what an article structure might look like:
H1 — Main title
H2 — Introduction
H2 — Question about the topic
H3 — List item that strengthens argument
H3 — List item that strengthens argument
H3 — Takeaway
H2 — Question about the topic
H3 — List item that strengthens argument
H3 — List item that strengthens argument
H2 — FAQ
H2 — Conclusion
How to Figure Out Outline Structure for Your Keyword Manually
When researching the outline structure of top pages, it's important to remember that just because they show up in top results, it doesn't mean they're good. They might just be the best out there that's indexed by Google. Your job is to do better and to close any information gaps.
Read through the top pages and study their structure. See how they answer search intent and understand what they do well or poorly.
Understand what these pages have answered for searchers. Think about how you can answer the same questions better.
Figure out what they're not covering and what angles you can take. Spot information gain opportunities to differentiate your content.
Write down your headings and organize them in a way that flows logically.
Don't just copy what everyone else is saying. I can't stress this enough. Your copycat content is unlikely to rank, especially if a bigger site than you with better domain authority has already covered the topic well.
This has been true for a while now, but in the wake of Google's Information Gain patent, SGE and Perspectives, it's become even more important that you differentiate content.
Letterdrop Shows You What's Covered and How to Stand Out with Your Outline
Going through top articles section by section, trying to take note of what's been covered and what hasn't... it's a lot of work.
There's no need for that manual effort with Letterdrop. The tool scans top pages and tells you:
1. What has been covered on the topic in the "Tablestakes" section
2. What else searchers are looking for in the "People Also Ask" section
3. How you can add net new information to cover gaps in topic coverage with the Information Gain feature. These are your best bet at ranking since you're covering topics that:
answer search intent
haven't been explored extensively on the SERP yet
You can automatically generate any of these suggestions into a first draft section in your content.
Work backward from search intent when outlining to understand how to answer the reader's question ASAP. People have no patience; give them what they want, detail, and examples.
4. Writing Your Blog Post
Now that you've got your outline, it's time to get writing.
Here are some tips for writing your blog post:
Write succinctly and be structured. No novel-writing. Your reader shouldn't need a search-and-rescue team to find key information. The goal is to get important info across and answer their question. Your content should be easy to skim.
Let AI tools help you write. ChatGPT can give you examples of how to write a section and help you expand on ideas if you're feeling uninspired. Use it intelligently as an assistant and not in lieu of thinking for yourself. It's prone to fluff, hallucinating, and rehashing information that's already out there.
Use frameworks. Examples include PASO and TAS. Scout for good business writers and see how they use frameworks to improve your writing. Get inspiration on good writing from top writers. At Letterdrop, we get inspiration from Fenwick, Animalz, and Paul Graham for business writing.
Be engaging. Remember that your reader is human. Sure, maybe they're googling "how to pay corporate taxes" and just looking to get on with their day. But if you can help them while putting a smile on their face or inspiring them, they might be more inclined to share it with a friend (or potential customer). There's still a place for good storytelling and humor in business writing. It doesn't have to be boring.
How Letterdrop Can Help Streamline Writing
The Letterdrop AI can help you:
Write individual sections
Summarize and turn video transcripts into different formats
1. Letterdrop Can Write for You
1 . Type '/' in the editor and select "Write for me."
2 . Enter your prompt.
3 . Generate your result.
2. Letterdrop Can Use Help You Write Better with Frameworks
1. Type '/' and pick whether you want to write an introduction, conclusion, or individual section.
2. Choose a framework. Letterdrop offers frameworks like PASO (Problem Agitation Solution Outcome), TAS (Thesis Antithesis Synthesis), AIDA (Attention Interest Desire Action), and BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front).
3. Fill in all the fields as prompted.
4. Hit generate.
3. Letterdrop Summarizes Web Pages
This is useful for quick read-throughs of blog posts and for repurposing existing content for your article.
1. Copy the link of the web page and paste it into the editor.
2. When prompted, click "Summarize." You can optionally specify what format you're looking for in the output. Save a template for later use.
3. The results will be generated in the editor and notification tray so that it's easy to copy the text to your clipboard.
4. Letterdrop Can Summarize Video Transcripts into Different Formats
1. Paste your video link into the editor.
2. When prompted, fill in the desired structure of your output. In this case, I used the default layout.
3. Click "Summarize." You can optionally specify what format you're looking for in the output once again.
5. The "Topic Coverage" Feature Checks that You've Covered Top Page Topics
The tool analyzes your keyword, compares your content to top pages, and provides comparative data on:
% of terms you've covered
Images and media
It offers a list of the most common topics and orders them by importance. You can automatically add headings and keywords to your content by clicking on them. We recommend using this as a quick sanity check to see that you're actually on topic.
5. Making Sure Your Content is Unique
I've already touched on this, but I'll repeat it: if you're rehashing what's already been said, you won't rank. You must seize any opportunity for information gain and find ways to add unique perspectives to your content.
Conduct original research that Google will cite. Use charts, tables, and illustrations to present your findings.
Interview experts and customers so that you have defensible unique information from primary sources that others can't copy.
Cite statistics. You can pull them straight from the across web using Letterdrop.
For example, Gong analyzed their email campaigns and used the data to write a unique guide on creating cold emails that convert. Proprietary data is impossible to copy, and readers have been given information that they can't find anywhere else.
For statistics, you can use tools like Letterdrop to pull stats from across the internet.
6. Search Rater Guidelines
If you're in SEO, you may have heard of EEAT, which stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. If your content doesn't abide by EEAT guidelines, it may not rank as high in search results.
Experience refers to how much first-hand experience the author of any content has with the subject matter. For example, you're better off taking advice from a former Google Search PM who helped worked on Google Search (that's me!) and has helped hundreds of companies drive traffic through SEO.
Expertise refers to the level of knowledge and skill that you have in the field. It's better to take medical advice from a physician than a freelance writer.
Authoritativeness refers to the level of recognition you've earned in your field or industry. For example, you wouldn't get SEO advice from a travel blog.
Trustworthiness refers to the level of reliability that you have established with your audience. Is the site a sketchy anonymous forum or a prominent and widely cited resource?
You want to keep this evaluation criteria in mind while creating your content. You can use tools like Letterdrop to provide suggestions on how to adhere to EEAT for you.
7. Technical Optimization
Clean site structure allows you to tailor what you want Google, and visitors, to see.
It helps Google understand and index your pages. This increases the likelihood of ranking well on the SERP.
It also makes navigating your pages a more user-friendly experience because it's easier for people to find the information they're looking for.
How to Do Structural Optimization Manually
You need to go through your content to make sure you follow all of these rules (and more):
Keyword use in introduction to make it clear what this article answers.
Keyword use in conclusion to make it clear what this article answers.
No keyword stuffing.
Going through all those rules manually would drive anyone crazy, and there's no guarantee you'll get them all.
At Letterdrop, we have over 60 different rules we look for. The SEO Optimizer tool runs your content through them and alerts you if you break any.
Letterdrop can automatically identify and even fix some of these for you:
It can auto-add alt text and captions.
It can naturally insert your keyword in a sentence to the intro and conclusion as a suggestion with AI.
It can auto-generate a TL;DR for you with AI to make it easier for readers to skim.
It can auto-generate FAQs with AI to answer People Also Ask Questions.
It can auto-generate answers to the Featured Snippet if available and insert a section for you with AI.
8. Add Internal Links
Internal links help search engines and users understand how your pages relate to one another.
Here is how to use internal links:
Include 3-5 internal links per blog post.
Use relevant anchor text when hyperlinking, including keywords of the target page instead of generic phrases.
Direct readers from high-traffic pages to high-conversion pages, guiding users through the conversion funnel (only where relevant of course).
Regularly check existing blog posts for broken links before publishing your page, ensuring that all links are functional and lead users to the intended destinations.
You can create a spreadsheet to track your links across all pages, but it does get difficult once you've published even a few dozen pages.
Suggest relevant internal links per blog post, which you can add in one click.
Suggest and publish internal links in bulk across your pages.
9. Monitor and Refresh Published Content
Even once your content is published, your SEO housekeeping continues.
Sprucing up existing content for SEO can drive more traffic, and it costs a lot less than pushing new content campaigns. You want to refresh your existing content regularly. It's often the highest ROI activity for your SEO efforts.
How to Do Content Refresh Monitoring Manually
You can use tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics to find and fix pages that need an SEO refresh:
1 . Check Google Analytics (Reports -> Engagement -> Pages and Screens) to find pages that previously brought in traffic but have declined.
Solution: See if ranking has dropped or if general interest in the topic has declined.
2 . Use Google Search Console (Search Results -> Pages) to identify pages that rank low for their target keyword but rank for unrelated keywords.
Solution: Consider splitting the page into multiple more targeted pages.
3 . Use Google Analytics (Reports -> Engagement -> Pages and Screens) to find pages with high engagement rates but low views.
Solution: You need to make sure you're distributing enough to the right channels.
4 . Use Google Search Console (Search Results -> Queries) to identify pages that are close to ranking in the top positions but need a final push.
5 . Perform a Google search using the syntax "site:yoursite.com (topic)" to identify any instances of keyword cannibalization where multiple pages compete for the same keyword.
Solution: Think about combining very similar pages.
Letterdrop Automatically Identifies Pages Needing an SEO Refresh
Monitoring content with GA4 and Google Search Console can take a day or two of effort every month. Letterdrop cuts it down to minutes.
It integrates with Google Search Console to give you an overview of page performance.
It can alert you to pages that are:
need to be split
are facing keyword cannibalization
have low traffic despite high engagement
At the End of the Day, You're Just Trying to Help People with Content
Yes, there's a whole bunch of technicalities around SEO, but it mostly boils down to answering people's questions well. Remember to write for people first, bots second.
If we can help you focus on your customers and abstract away the technicalities of SEO, reach out. Letterdrop is built by a team that formerly worked on Google Search. We want to encourage people to think about SEO in a healthy way that makes the internet a better place AND helps you get in front of your customers (in a way that makes you look smart so they trust you).