Content marketers face more than their fair share of challenges: strategic analysis, ideation, content creation, optimization, distribution, and measuring performance, just to name a few. Because of all this, content creation can be a chaotic process. Often, content is created simply for the sake of creating more content. Processes fall by the wayside, and we end up with results that are neither predictable nor measurable.
If you establish a solid workflow, use data to make your content decisions, and automate some of your efforts, you can create better content more efficiently, and produce measurable results showing how all your work has paid off.
The Semrush Content Marketing Platform can help. Below, we’ve collected 7 highly actionable ways (you might not have known about) Semrush can help you take your content marketing to the next level.
1. Auditing Your Existing Content
A content audit is a process by which you evaluate all of the content in your library — or a predefined segment — so that you can better understand how it’s performing, where your content weaknesses are, and which next steps you should take with your content strategy.
Performing a regular content audit is crucial for any content marketer who wants to stay on top of their game. It can help you identify existing pieces that could potentially bring you better results when updated. Updating content often requires less effort than creating new pieces of content and can earn more visibility. In fact, studies suggest that updating and repurposing old content can increase organic traffic by up to 111%.
Using instruments like the Semrush Content Audit tool can help save time by automating this process, giving you all the data you need to move forward and build a solid content strategy. The Content Audit tool takes a deep dive into your site’s content and essential data.
Content Marketing → Content Audit → Add new project → Enter your domain and project name → select the subfolders to audit or manually upload a list of URLs.
To use it, you will first need to select the subfolders you want to audit. Semrush finds this info in your sitemap.xml file. Alternatively, you can manually upload a list of URLs you’d like to audit.
Once you run the Content Audit, it will report back on factors that could be impacting your content’s success, such as:
Date when your content was last updated.
Webpage’s HTTP code.
Each page’s metadata (title, meta description, H1).
The number of words in the text.
Shares (on Facebook and Twitter).
The number of backlinks linking to an article.
Data regarding the user experience (number of sessions, average session length, and bounce rate) by connecting Google Analytics.
The page’s search queries number by connecting Google Search Console.
With all this in hand, you’ll be able to make data-driven strategic decisions about your content strategy, targeting your efforts to where they will pay off most.
For example, by fixing any pages with HTTP errors and making sure all of the metadata is up-to-date and correct, you could improve user experience.
And if you notice that a certain word count performs best, you could go back to some of your older content that needs an update anyway, and expand on it.
Identify Content That Needs to be Updated, Rewritten or Deleted
Identifying content that you need to spend time working on is the primary goal of your content audit. The Content Audit tool breaks this down into four categories, each displayed in its own widget:
- Rewrite or remove: pages that most urgently need to be redone or deleted entirely.
- Need to update: pages that don’t need a total rewrite, but may need significant updates.
- Quick review: pages that need attention, such as smaller-scale tweaks or updates.
- Poor content: pages that are too short and need more content.
You can find these within the “Content Sets” section in your Content Audit. Each set is customizable according to your needs and preferred workflow. For example, you could set filters based on when each category was most recently updated, the amount of traffic the page receives, the word count, and more.
If you want to view a more detailed analysis of individual articles, click the “Show me” button within the appropriate widget. Here, you can view each individual URL that was analyzed, and see how sessions and pageviews were changing for this article and discover the top 20 search queries for the last 30 days.
If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can also review your content manually to find the pages most in need of updates. If you choose to do this, the first step is to identify your goals, and which metric is most relevant to each goal. Then use this info to evaluate each page, so you know exactly what to look for.
For example, here are a few suggested metrics to use when reviewing content, and how you might use them:
- Pages with low social shares or backlinks might not be getting enough attention, and may need a better promotion strategy.
- Sort your pages by oldest content update to identify pages that might have outdated research, or just generally need an update.
- Sort pages by lowest word count to find pages that might need more substantial content.
- Pages with decreasing organic traffic probably need stronger SEO.
Once you’ve identified which pages need to be updated and how, then assign a writer and send them a brief detailing what you need them to do.
It’s a good idea to prioritize those pages that present some value, such as a history of high traffic volume and lots of backlinks, and yet show a downward trend (such as decreasing organic traffic).
Quick tip: Сlick on “Save today’s data” button to track how the article’s metrics are changing when this article is updated.
User Review: Gill Andrews, Copywriter and Web Consultant
Many business owners (myself included) don’t optimize their content often enough because we simply don’t have the time. Running reports on several tools, creating spreadsheets, digging through endless columns of numbers — this sounds like some major undertaking you would need to take 3 days off for.
But what’s the point of this number crunching? You just want to know what content pieces you could optimize to get more organic traffic, right? And that’s exactly what the Content Audit tool tells you the very first time you use it.
It looks at your Analytics and Search Console data but doesn’t present you with some different set of numbers. Instead, it shows you several subsets of your pages based on the main questions you want answered: what to remove or rewrite, what to update, and what looks like poor content.
The only thing left for you to do is to go and optimize those pages, and the Content Audit tool even tells you what queries each page is ranking for.
You can also set your own filters to create the subset of the posts based on other metrics (word count, bounce rate, number of search queries, etc.) and track your progress while you optimize them — a small but important feature, because if the last time you analyzed your content was a month ago when you sit down to do it today, you may not remember what you’ve already done.
The Content Audit tool makes analyzing your content so simple; you have no more excuses not to improve it.
To find out how to audit your content in-depth, read this article: How to Perform a Website Content Audit to Guide Your Content Marketing Strategy
2. Finding Ideas for Creating New Content
Once you have gathered the data you need from the Content Audit tool and improved your existing content, the next step is to brainstorm ideas for the types of new posts you’d like to write.
Strong ideas for new content can come from:
- Trending topics
- Related search queries to your target keywords
- Recent articles everyone is talking about or sharing
- Common questions
All of these can provide essential insight into what your audience is interested in the most.
You could choose to do this research manually — by exploring what content your competitors and peers are putting out and how it resonates with your audience — or you could automate the process with Semrush’s Topic Research tool.
Here’s how you use it:
- Enter a topic you want to explore into the Topic Research tool
- Choose if you want to narrow by country, region, or city
- Review the popular related topics, questions, and article titles suggested by the tool
When exploring topics, you are free to choose the most comfortable view: Cards, a list, an overview, or a mind map.
Once you’ve entered all of your search criteria and narrowed it down, you can sort the results a few different ways, depending on your priority:
- By volume to view the most popular topics first.
- By difficulty to see the keywords that are the hardest/easiest to rank for.
- By topic efficiency to find topics with higher search volume and lower difficulty.
You can also identify trending topics, which have been popular over the last 60 days.
Once you find a suggested topic you’re interested in, select it to view titles, questions, and related searches. If you see a bullhorn icon beside a title, that shows you its success in terms of backlinks — the green icons signal pages that most people link to.
After curating your list of topics to cover, you can also use the Topic Research tool to structure your content. Try using suggested questions to build out your articles, and even to get ideas for your headlines.
Analyze Your Competitors’ Content
Next, check for content gaps between you and your competitors. A content gap is anything your competitors are covering — especially if it’s getting a lot of attention and success — that is missing from your website. This can be an excellent source of new ideas for your content plan, because you already know there’s a relevant audience interested in it.
One way to analyze your competitors’ content is to enter their domain into the Topic Research tool along with your target keyword. This will show you all the topics your competitor is writing about that appear in the top 100 of Google’s search results.
If you notice that they’re gaining traction by writing on relevant topics you’re not covering, make sure to add those topics to your plan.
Boost the Efficiency of Your Content Plan
Now that you have all this information in front of you, you can use it to build out your new content plan. The Topic Efficiency metric is especially useful here, because it shows you which topics will bring you strong results with less effort on your part. By prioritizing highly efficient content, you can help your team be more productive without compromising on quality or results.
Topic Research is also useful for developing content hubs. A content hub contains specially curated content around a specific topic. Since Topic Research generates suggestions based on your seed keyword, you can quickly collect related content ideas to build out a hub or content cluster.
Quick tip: If you plan to create an article that will provide an answer to a user's question, make sure to include a question word or add a ‘how-to’ into your title to get more engagement and shares. This strategy could increase your chance to win a featured snippet, expanding your presence on Google's SERP.
User Review: Hana Bednarova
As a content marketer, ideas and coming up with ideas is something I do (and have to do) every day. There is so much content out there that campaigns we create are competing with.
It is not about just being unique anymore, but understanding what is popular at the moment, what has been done and when (and how), and knowing the right time and ways to release our content.
I absolutely love Semrush Topic Research. It helps me understand what is out there, what are popular searches, and what are the most popular articles related to my topic. I use Topic Research almost every day when searching for ideas and validating campaign topics that I would like to focus on. I like the advantage of saving your favourite topics, so you can filter out those that you find interesting without creating an additional spreadsheet — it’s all in one place. I really like filtering out my favourite topics and getting back to them, researching more about what has been done and why particular topics are popular.
I work with international clients so it’s great that Semrush Topic Research lets you choose the country you’d like to explore your topic in. Very handy!
To find out how to find content ideas, read this article: How to Generate Content Ideas with Topic Research
3. Developing an Editorial Plan
Now that you have a list of ideas for your content, it’s time to turn that list into a formal content plan. As Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing, planning is everything,” and planning is crucial in content marketing.
On a very basic level, developing a content plan means laying out what you’re going to post and when.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve included any important information for each task, such as essential questions to answer, target word counts, the type of article you want to write, or the writer responsible for completing it.
You’ll want to think about:
- How often you want to post and when.
- What types of content you want to create.
- Which topics you want to include — and what type of content you want to use to cover them.
- When, specifically, you want to post each article (plus other relevant deadlines, if necessary).
- Which writers (and editors, if relevant) you’re assigning to each article.
- How you want to promote each piece of content.
Typically, teams will lay all this information out on a marketing or content calendar. If your team isn’t already using one, you might be interested in trying the Marketing Calendar offered by Semrush. This tool can help Content Marketing specialists meet their deadlines and oversee their workflows in real-time, without having to leave the Semrush interface to do it.
Here’s how you do it:
- Assign colors to each campaign for easier tracking
- Add the main actions you are planning for each campaign
- Tag each item for rapid filtering
- Attach relevant materials like content briefs or completed drafts
- Share the calendar with your colleagues and anyone else you need to collaborate with
To make sure you never miss another deadline, you can even set up notifications to remind you two days before the final deadline of a task you have been assigned.
User Review: Jason A. Howie, Director of Demand Generation & Marketing Operations at Ambra Health
Having to manage and coordinate an agile marketing team is hard enough as priorities shift constantly from one opportunity to another, add in the element of being a remote manager and having multiple remote employees and you’ll need a marketing calendar that adapts as quickly as you do.
With the Semrush Calendar, we’re able to adjust our due dates with a click and drag, as well as quickly reassign and update project statuses with as few clicks as possible. Not having to use Google Sheets anymore saves my marketing team time and energy every day. Further being able to share the marketing calendar with external departments enables transparency and visibility into upcoming campaigns and programs.
Quick tip: Once you’ve posted your new content, you can connect Google Analytics to track your marketing campaign performance by UTM directly in the calendar.
To find out how to solve collaboration and planning issues, read this article: How to Organize Your Marketing Campaign with Semrush
4. Create an Optimized Content Brief
SEO is one of the most efficient channels to make your content visible for your target audience. In fact, 53% of web traffic comes from organic search results. However, it is not easy to reach Google’s top ten results, so it’s important to make SEO part of your content strategy from the very beginning.
One way to ensure all of your new content is SEO friendly is to create an optimized content brief. A content brief provides writers with all the information they need to write an SEO-friendly article. It helps you to make sure your writers truly understand the task at hand, including not just what you want them to write about, but also the specific keywords you’re trying to target, your main competitors, and the strategy you want to use.
Some of the information you might want to include in an SEO-friendly content brief:
- Important keywords to target (both primary and related keywords).
- Target word count and complexity.
- Information about content structure.
- Suggested page elements (such as including a video).
Semrush can help make this process a little easier with our SEO Content Template. All you have to do is enter your chosen combination of keywords to obtain a list of recommendations for producing your text.
The recommendations are based on the top 10 Google results for your selected keywords, which are linked directly from the tool, so you can analyze exactly how they are using the keywords. After all, if something works for them, it might work for you too.
The SEO Content Template tool provides recommendations on:
- Semantically related words
- Text length
It also allows you to see your top 10 rival articles in Google for each target keyword you’ve typed in.
Find Semantically Related Keywords
When you’re doing SEO, one of the first steps is to identify the most important, primary keywords you want to target on a page. But if you want to conquer the SERPs, that can’t be the only one you include in your content. That’s where semantically related keywords come in.
Semantically related keywords are search terms, topics or phrases that are closely related to your primary keyword, even if they don’t align with it perfectly. For example, somebody searching for “SEO” might also be looking for “marketing strategy” and “technical SEO.”
These keywords provide additional insight into the types of things your audience wants to know, and can help you build out an article with all of the pertinent information your audience might be looking for. They also help Google understand how your article is structured, what information is included, and where, on the page, that information is.
Identify Backlink Opportunities
Next, take a look at the potential backlink opportunities for each article, and include the ones you’d most like to target on your content brief. Why? Considering backlink opportunities this early in the process gives you an opportunity to tailor your new content and make it more backlink-friendly for the ones you most want to go after.
Make sure you take a careful look at each opportunity, including the type of content they’re publishing and the context in which these backlinks are provided, so that you can focus on the ones you feel are best.
The SEO Content Template can help you identify backlink opportunities. These domains are typically already providing a backlink to your competition for this topic, meaning they might also be willing to link to you.
Once you’re happy with your template, you can export it, and continue working with it using SEO Writing Assistant (keep reading to learn more about it).
Quick tip: You can get recommendations for a specific location (country, region, city) or device (desktop or mobile) to create content with high local SEO potential.
User Review: Andrew Bruce Smith, Pr, Social Media, SEO & Analytics Consultant
Semrush’s Content Template and SEO Writing Assistant are great, practical tools for helping to focus content creation efforts on things that are more likely to deliver higher expected value.
Assuming you have been diligent in doing your keyword research, you then clearly need to begin writing content. But where do you start? The SEO Content Template provides a framework rooted in evidence — namely, why is Google choosing to reward certain pages with the highest rankings for a given term? If you want your content to outrank them, you need to be aware of what you are up against. Fight the battles you have a chance of winning.
Armed with a rational brief, using the SEO Writing Assistant should keep you focussed on making sure your content is taking into account the on-page factors that are more likely to play a role in whether or not the page will be considered for high ranking. Having an idea of where you should prioritise your backlink outreach efforts is also helpful.
In short, I have trained literally hundreds of people in SEO over the last several years. Since the SEO Content Template launched in 2017, I’ve advised everyone to consider using it as part of their SEO content approach. The feedback I’ve had from trainees has been very positive in terms of time saved on thinking about content and for focussing people’s minds on creating material that is far more likely to deliver real SEO and business value.
5. Optimize Your Copy for SEO and Engagement
Once you’ve used your content template to write your new content, the next step is to make sure that new copy is fully optimized. That means checking the article structure, content, readability, keywords and meta information and making any necessary revisions before you post.
This can take some time and effort, but you can automate part of the process by using Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant, which is available as a Google Doc add-on, a WordPress plugin, and as a part of the Semush interface. It can analyze your copy and make recommendations to improve based on your top rivals in the Google results.
And best of all, any writer you invite to collaborate with you on the document will also have access to these resources via the plugin.
The SEO Writing Assistant can help you optimize copy more quickly by providing targeted recommendations addressing specific issues that could impact your organic search performance:
- Overall optimization status — ensure your text is perfectly structured for a target keyword and written in an SEO-friendly style before publication.
- Recommended keywords — enrich your text with these keywords to get better SEO results; the tool will show you which keywords are already present in your text, assess their density, and showcase which semantically related keywords you still didn’t use.
- Title recommendations — don’t forget to use your target keywords in the title, and get other suggestions on length to optimize it.
- Linking — find the optimal number of links for your text, detect broken links, and links without anchor text in one click.
Of course, just because readers can find your article through organic search doesn’t mean your work is complete. You can also boost engagement by addressing the following recommendations:
- Readability — analyze your copy’s complexity and ensure it is close to an average score for your top 10 rivals on Google.
- Number of words and reading time — check if your text matches the average number for your top 10 competitors.
- Tone of voice consistency — make sure your content piece complies with your overall brand voice, whether it is casual, neutral, or formal.
- Originality — detect the total percentage of copied words in your text and find original sources of content from across the internet. Avoid plagiarism.
Using the SEO Writing Assistant, you can quickly and easily find and address any issues in your content that could impact SEO or readability. The metrics and recommendations are interactive and will update in real-time based on the changes you make to your copy. Overall, these recommendations will help you make your copy friendlier for crawlers and bots, and will help your audience spot your article in an endless Google list.
Targets for readability and text length are defined based on an analysis of the top 10 Google results for the keywords you’re targeting, but if you want to change them, just click on the pencil icon.
Quick tip: The SEO Writing Assistant targets for readability and text length are defined based on your top 10 Google rivals analysis, but if you want to change them, just click on the pencil icon.
User Review: Andy Crestodina, Speaker, Content Marketer, Co-founder of Orbit Media
To find out how to create optimized content, read this post: How to Create SEO-friendly Content with Semrush
6. Tracking Your External Content Performance
Now that you’ve created new content and promoted it across the web, the next step is to track its performance. Tracking external content performance — be it guest posts or sponsored publications — is crucial to maintaining your content strategy.
This way, you can see the impact your partnerships and collaborations make over time, and use that data to tweak your content or promotion strategy as needed.
This is especially important when it comes to guest posts. Tracking the success of each guest post helps you to evaluate that partnership. If a certain platform frequently brings a high amount of referral traffic, for example, then you probably want to work with them even more. Similarly, if the posts you wrote as a guest on another website did not bring positive results for you, then your time might be better spent elsewhere.
Setting Up Post Tracking
Many marketers successfully use Google Analytics to track performance. However, this can be a challenge if you’re trying to track posts you’ve made on domains other than your own. Luckily, the Semrush Content Marketing Platform offers Post Tracking, which allows you to track your performance both on your website and third-party sites in a matter of seconds, all without leaving the Semrush interface.
To start tracking posts in the Post Tracker:
- First, make sure you have a Project set up for them.
- Then all you have to do is select the correct project within Post Tracking
- Enter the URLs for any posts you want to track, whether they’re on your domain or spread all across the web.
- If you want to see data on certain keywords for a given post, you can click on “Add keywords” and track your article’s position.
The Post Tracker can tell you a lot about your content’s performance, including:
- How much referral traffic is being generated to your website
- How many times your article was shared on Facebook or Twitter
- How many backlinks you’ve accumulated
- Your estimated reach.
By tracking your posts, you can learn from your success and rethink your content promotion strategy if needed
Content Marketing is recognized as one of the most effective digital marketing techniques. Today, most companies are producing digital content, so to stand out from your competitors and make your business more profitable, your content has to be exceptional in quality and valued by your readers.
It is a tough job, but a systematic approach and a powerful content platform like Semrush can make your Content Marketing efforts easier and more effective.
If you want to learn more about our Platform, sign up for our Content Marketing Toolkit Certification Course — watch free video tutorials, get tips from content marketing pros, and earn a certification.