So You Think You Can Write? Advice from Our SEO Experts

, July 31, 2014

So, you think you can write good SEO content?

Much like the performers on “So You Think You Can Dance,” writers need to have a routine planned out before they begin. If you often find yourself staring blankly at your computer, hampered by a major case of writer’s block, then this post is for you. Learn from the best and most experienced SEO bloggers and writers SEMrush has to offer. Get to know their writing secrets, how they measure their efforts, and read their advice on how to avoid content strategy mistakes.

Our Panel of SEO Experts:

  • Larry Kim
  • Takeshi Young
  • Demian Farnworth
  • Ian Cleary
  • David Amerland
  • Adam Connell

Check out our SlideShare and interviews after the jump!

 

 

SEO Expert Larry KimLarry Kim, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of WordStream

Twitter/Google+/LinkedIn

What are the top 5 reasons your content strategy might fail?

Sometimes, our content simply isn’t as interesting as we thought. On the other hand, we’ve all experienced tremendous success with stories that we didn’t expect to do so well.
Content promotion also plays a vital role in the success of a project. Even if a post or article is compelling, without sufficient promotion, it simply won’t reach a receptive audience. Therefore, creation and promotion are both equally important.

Preparation and organization are crucial to the success of any content strategy. It’s easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the larger objectives. Similarly, it pays to ensure that you have the agility to act quickly on developing stories.

Achieving a balance between an overall strategy and the freedom to seize emerging opportunities is key.

Walk us through your writing process. How do you discipline yourself?

Personally, I focus more on analyzing the stories using data. Many industry blogs and publications focus on reporting the news, rather than interpreting it. Of course, straight-up reporting is invaluable, but few people take the time to delve into the story behind the story. When it comes to actually writing a piece, I typically like to quickly complete a loose outline before going back and tightening it up. I also think about the overall structure and message of a piece before I sit down to write it, which makes the actual writing process much more streamlined.

Assessing your own efforts can be tough. How do you measure the success of your article or blog post? How do you figure out whether or not your content is changing consumer behavior?

I can usually predict how successful a piece will be before we publish it. In terms of measuring specifics, we focus on the usual suspects — social shares, thoughtful discussion and questions in the comments, and metrics such as time on page. We also monitor the external influences of a piece carefully, such as inbound links, press pickups, citations, enthusiastic fan mail, phone calls received, and social media connections added.

I’ve definitely noticed several trends that seem to have emerged shortly after the publication of a successful piece. It’s difficult to truly measure whether your work is influencing opinions, but we’ve observed changing attitudes toward certain topics in our industry — such as the importance of Quality Score in AdWords — after we’ve covered it.

 

SEO Expert, Takeshi YoungTakeshi Young, SEO team leader at EntirelyPets

Blog/Twitter/Google+

What are the top 5 reasons your content strategy might fail?

1. Your content sucks

There is more content created every day than can be consumed in an entire year. But simply creating content is not enough; you need to create content that stands out from the rest. You can differentiate your content in a number of ways: writing quality, expertise, length, comprehensiveness, graphic design, etc. But unless your content stands out somehow, you will fail.

2. You aren’t doing enough targeted outreach.

Creating good content is not enough to get people to read it; it also needs to be promoted. Unless you already have a massive audience, you need to do a lot of outreach in order to get your content in front of potential readers.

This outreach can involve mailing friends and partners, reaching out to influencers on social media, and expanding the reach of your content through paid social media.

3. Your title isn’t compelling enough

One of the keys to getting your content out to a wide audience is to have it shared on social media. Unfortunately, this won’t happen if your title isn’t compelling enough, even if you have a great piece of content. On the other hand, if your title is compelling, people will often share your content even if they don’t read it. So make your title compelling, and make sure that your content can back it up.

4. You’re not using compelling visuals

Marketing on social media is all about visual appeal. You need compelling images to capture people’s attentions in their news feeds or to entice them to pin your content on Pinterest. Creating content with lackluster visuals (or worse, no visuals) can hamper its viral potential.

5. You don’t have clear content goals

There’s more to an effective content strategy than creating great content — you also need clear goals behind the content you create. People that are new to content marketing often flounder because they create content for content’s sake, without measurable goals. So make sure to have a clear set of objectives, whether that’s e-mail signups, sales, backlinks, etc., and make sure your content supports those goals.

Walk us through your writing process. How do you discipline yourself?

Personally, I have the easiest time writing in the morning, when my mind is clear of distractions. Give yourself an uninterrupted block of time in which you can write. Then revise, revise, revise.

If you aren’t a strong writer or a subject matter expert, hire one. And have a good editor go over your work.

Assessing your own efforts can be tough. How do you measure the success of your article or blog post? How do you figure out whether or not your content is changing consumer behavior?

Hire a good editor to go over your work; that will take care of grammatical and stylistic errors. As far as measuring the success of content, make sure you start off with clear KPIs, such as the number of new e-mail leads, backlinks, sales, etc. Then measure your content by those KPIs, and identify the kinds of content that produces the best results, and create more of that.

SEO Expert Demian FarnworthDemian Farnworth, Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter

Copybot/Twitter

What are the top 5 reasons your content strategy might fail?

There are not five top reasons. There is only one: you do not know your customer. Everything else just makes the matter worse.

There is one reason your content strategy may fail – you don’t know your customer.

 

Walk us through your writing process. How do you discipline yourself?

Every morning I read for about two hours. Then I sit down and work on the hardest or most important piece of writing. I write and push until I’ve gone as far as I can with that piece. This may take one hour or four. It depends on the complexity and size of the project. I rarely take bathroom breaks. Getting the work done is all that matters. I eat lunch, usually take a nap, and then work on a fun project. In the late afternoon I work on emails and other busy work. Then I take a long run. In the evening, it is all about family and books. I try to go to bed at a reasonable time.

Because I enjoy what I do, it is easy to do the work. Actually, sometimes it‘s hard to keep from overworking.

Assessing your own efforts can be tough. How do you measure the success of your article or blog post? How do you figure out whether or not your content is changing consumer behavior?

Vanity metrics like social shares are a quick indicator. I also rely on a combination of page views, time on page and, more importantly, conversions (subscriptions, sales and so forth). Comments and emails are also helpful. In other words, what’s my level of interaction with readers? Did I reach new people? Influential people? Did I bring exposure to the brand?

SEO Expert Ian ClearyIan Cleary, founder of RazorSocial

Twitter/Google+/LinkedIn 

What are the top 5 reasons your content strategy might fail?

1. Not delivering content on a consistent basis.

2. Not researching enough to find out how you can differ from your competitor. There are some great competitor research tools that can help.

3. Not considering Google. Most of your traffic will still come from Google, so you have to consider it.

4. Not promoting your content. You need a good promotional strategy.

5. Not building relationships with relevant people. On its own, a blog is not much use; you need to build a network through social media and other channels.

Walk us through your writing process. How do you discipline yourself?

When I have an idea for a post, I enter it into WordPress using the status “pitch.” When I decide to write a piece of content based on an idea in pitch, then I’ll change the status to “assigned.” When I start writing, it will be changed to “in progress.” I’ll then change the status to “draft needing images” and pass it on to another team member to complete. After this, it will be passed on to an editor for a final review, and then it will be scheduled out.

After I have decided to write an article (in-progress stage), I’ll do some competitor and keyword research using tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Keywordtool.io and SEMrush. For content optimization, I use the WordPress SEO plug-in Yoast.

I discipline myself by writing every morning from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. I put on classical music and start writing. If I get stuck on a post, I’ll move on to another, but I always write for two hours.

Writing is a habit!

Assessing your own efforts can be tough. How do you measure the success of your article or blog post? How do you figure out whether or not your content is changing consumer behavior?

My main goal is building an audience. My audience keeps coming back because my content is relevant. For specific blog posts, I want to see that I rank in Google on page one, so that I get ongoing traffic. I also check page views so I know how relevant my post is to other posts. Finally, I measure the email conversion rate of each post.

SEO Expert David AmerlandDavid Amerland, author, speaker, analyst

Website/Twitter/Google+

What are the top 5 reasons your content strategy might fail?

1. You fail to take into account the peculiarities of each social media platform you post on.

2. You create content because you have to, as opposed to feeling you absolutely must.

3. You still have not found a “voice” and, as a result, you post content in ways that fail to resonate with your audience.

4. You are producing content in the wrong medium. For example, some written content would do better as a slideshow, video or podcast, and vice versa.

5. You think of your audience as a metric you count with page views, instead of realizing that your audience is made up of real people with real concerns.

Walk us through your writing process. How do you discipline yourself?

There is always a tremendous demand placed on my time. I use deadlines as an absolute, inviolable guide to help me stay focused. I simply cannot miss them. I also write every day. It keeps me disciplined, and it also keeps my skills sharp.

Assessing your own efforts can be tough. How do you measure the success of your article or blog post? How do you figure out whether or not your content is changing consumer behavior?

The metrics you use should will depend on your own goals. If you’re looking, for instance, to add credibility to your blog, CTR scores are really important. If you want to create “popular” content, page views and re-shares are critical. Choose what fits in with your current strategy and use it consistently. The only way you can decide if your content is having an impact on consumer behavior is through the “conversation.” Comments, emails, responses, re-shares (and the comments that go with them) are very much part of the  sentiment we generate around our brand.

SEO Expert Adam ConnellAdam Connell, Founder of Blogging Wizard
Twitter/Google+

What are the top 5 reasons your content strategy might fail?

Aside from the biggest mistake — not having any sort of strategy to underpin your content marketing efforts — here are five of the main ones that stand out to me:

1. You dont understand your target audience well enough

Do the leg work and figure out what makes your audience tick. Then map your content to personas of your target audience.

2. Your content strategy is based on shoving your product/service down peoples throats

You need to sell your product/service, but you will do better when you focus on helping people first.

3. Your strategy is all me, me, me

Make your content strategy about your audience and you will get better results.

4. Give your audience something new or a fresh perspective

So many pieces of content are a dime a dozen. Think about where you can add value.

5. You dont have a clear call to action

You need to make it clear what you want your audience to do after they get to the end of your content; otherwise, you are missing a huge opportunity to accomplish your campaign goals.

Walk us through your writing process. How do you discipline yourself?

I have a systematized process I use whenever I write a piece, right from coming up with topic ideas and headlines, to the minor details I look at when formatting content to maximize engagement. We all work a bit differently, so it helps to have your own process in place.

Before I work on any piece, I focus on understanding who the content is for and how its going to help them.

As for the discipline, there are a number of things I do to keep focused:

  •  Fine-tune my writing process (this evolves constantly as my writing develops);
  •  Map out an outline for the content I’m working on;
  •  Take regular breaks from the computer (I set a timer to go off every 30 minutes);
  •  Do any research from a fresh browser with no other tabs open, just the ones I need;
  •  Remove external distractions (this usually means turning my phone off).

I also find that I work better while listening to music. I’ve recently started listening to mood-related playlists on Spotify.

Assessing your own efforts can be tough. How do you measure the success of your article or blog post? How do you figure out whether or not your content is changing consumer behavior?

Achieving a campaign’s goals is the main metric I consider. Whether it be inquiries, product sales, orders or email subscribers, etc. And each individual piece of content (e.g. article or blog post) might have a slightly different individual goal (or desired action for users to take) that will support the campaign’s key goals.

These goals will vary, but ultimately they have to lead to one thing: ROI.

There are plenty of other supporting metrics to look at:

  •  Traffic;
  •  Social shares;
  •  Rankings;
  •  Mentions; and
  •  External links from referring domains.

And while metrics can be good for assessing the reach of a piece of content, they don’t always equate to ROI.

Also, it’s important to remember that content marketing is a long-term strategy. While focusing on conversion goals and ROI is essential, it’s also about building trust, visibility and helping people.

  • http://searchsimplicity.com/ Gregory Smith

    I would love to include this post, in this weeks best of google plus, but i’ve already picked one of your other posts! :) cheers!

    • KGarvin

      Awesome, Gregory! We’ll be on the look-out. :)

  • Leigh-San Mo

    Great post — thank-you! It’s definitely important to have promotional strategies if your own audience on your blog/website isn’t big enough.

    • KGarvin

      For sure, Leigh-San! Thanks for commenting.

  • http://www.TheSocialMediaHat.com/ Mike Allton

    Fantastic advice all around! I particularly liked Demian’s focus on attacking the hardest project/writing first, and then moving on to more enjoyable tasks. But fortunately, when you love to write, it’s all enjoyable!!

    • KGarvin

      Same, Mike. I should work on tackling harder projects first, myself!

  • http://www.mychicagotherapist.com John D. Moore

    Helpful and insightful post with lots of concrete advice. Thank you!

  • http://www.fleive.com/ Marcos Flávio Carreiro Silva

    Awesome article, thanks

  • http://about.me/nirajbariya nirajbariya

    Great post ! Thank you for wonderful advice !