Content Marketing Drives Search Engine Optimization; Now You’ll Know How
A total eclipse of the sun is a rare event. Content that drives traffic by the thousands, endlessly engages users and propels your page to the top of SERPs might be equally rare. Both are beautiful, powerful and something you want to appreciate.
Creating content like this is only slightly easier than seeing a full eclipse. It makes sense, because if creating such compelling content was simple, it wouldn’t be all that special. Some might even consider this to be unicorn content.
But while no surefire ways exist to create unicorn content, by building a content marketing strategy it is possible to create high-quality content that drives traffic, boosts your rankings and just might transform into the mythical SEO beast every inbound marketer dreams about.
On an ever-competitive SEO battlefield, where thousands of pieces are published daily and the majority die in obscurity, the most successful content (the best-performing of which gets dubbed unicorn) exhibits certain characteristics:
- Data-driven and audience-directed
- A rich and engaging experience
Thanks to a little strategy and creativity, on the strength of one piece of content a tiny five-person company managed to outrank the big-box titans and pellet grill brands, all while converting interest in a grill we didn’t sell into sales for the one we did. Let me explain in detail exactly how we did it.
Traeger: Trying To Rank For A Hot Brand
When you write for e-commerce, as I previously did, there’s nothing better than creating content around an emerging brand that big-box stores don’t yet carry. It’s easy to rank for the top keywords and drive a ton of organic traffic. However, once that brand becomes hot and competition increases, it can be a struggle just to land content on page one.
That was the case with Traeger, which has become the hottest brand in outdoor cooking. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Traeger name, you’ve probably seen its ubiquitous half-hour infomercial for the Traeger Renegade Elite, one of its pellet grills. In a few short years, Traeger went from being sold in specialty online and brick-and-mortar stores to being available in every big-box store and major online retailer.
We sold Traeger Grills and knew more about them, and pellet grills in general, than anyone. Yet due to the sheer number of powerhouse competitors, we couldn’t crack the top 10 for any of the big keyword targets, until I discovered an untapped SEO opportunity. Creating a blog post built on those aforementioned characteristics, I was able to turn that opportunity into an SEO powerhouse.
Data-Driven, Audience-Directed Content
The best content is born from data. That sounds cold and artless, until you realize that the data is actually people’s wants and desires.
Every writer wants to write a piece worthy of literary praise, but if nobody is searching for the topic, none of that beautiful and insightful prose will matter — it will never be found or read. When you’re looking at keyword data and search trends, you’re intuiting what questions the user wants answered and you’re asking your audience what they want to read about.
I regularly pored over Traeger keywords, looking for a golden opportunity. I knew that more people searched the term “Traeger” than the term “pellet grill,” and that the term “Traeger Renegade Elite” was searched more than both (Google Trends had it listed as a breakout term). However, some months the term was searched far more than others. Why?
My guess was that it tied to how often the infomercial was aired. What I intuited from the data was that every time Traeger ran its infomercial, people searched for the Traeger Renegade Elite. During months that it aired a lot, the search volume went up. The trend also showed that, after a downturn, searches were climbing from month to month. Better yet, only Traeger had created any content around the Renegade Elite, because only Traeger sold it.
The keywords that offer the most opportunity often hold challenges that require a little creativity to be overcome. For instance, one of the challenges with writing about the Traeger Renegade Elite was that we didn’t carry it. Only Traeger did.
So how do you sell a product you don’t carry? My answer was to leverage the power of the keyword to sell another Traeger grill, the Pro Series, a superior Traeger model that we did carry. My gut told me that people wanted to know if the Renegade was as cool as it looked. I’d tell them it was, but that the Pro Series was even better.
Another challenge was that the Renegade was offered as an attractive bundle, and customers love bundles. They didn’t care about better as much as the perception that they were getting a deal. So we created a similar bundle with better freebies that cost less than the Renegade and called it the Outlaw.
It’s one thing to know the questions people are asking. It’s another thing to be able to answer those questions in a compelling piece that people will read from beginning to end and then share with a friend.
In the past, marketing writers weren’t exactly revered for their craftsmanship, and rightfully so. For many years, digital marketers relied on 200-word blog posts written at an eighth-grade level and stuffed with keywords. Writing skill played no part in the Google rankings and popular convention stated that people didn’t actually read online.
Recently, though, that thinking has undergone a sea change, spearheaded by Google’s evolving algorithm and new statistics on content length. Increasingly, Google is placing an emphasis on user preferences. With its AI program RankBrain, Google measures engagement and time-on-page to help determine what content best satisfies specific search queries.
Furthermore, new statistics show people prefer quality long-form content that answers their questions in a comprehensive way to short superficial content that never goes beyond the keywords it’s trying to rank for. Whereas blog posts previously never exceeded 500 words, the most successful ones now target 2,000 words.
The desire for compelling, longer content requires skilled writers with a feel for storytelling and the ability to organize information.
For my Traeger piece, I wrote a comprehensive article comparing the Renegade Elite to the Pro Series. Those searching the term had just seen the infomercial and were looking for more info on this cool new grill. Was it as good as it seemed? My piece would provide the answer.
Written in an edgy straight-shooting tone, the piece read like a trusted friend giving in-the-know advice. The no BS tone was apparent from word one, starting with the headline: “The Traeger Renegade Elite Is Good, But…” Once the page opened, it revealed the rest: “There Are Better Traeger Options.”
A Rich And Engaging Experience
Good writing isn’t the only way to keep users on the page and interested. By integrating such elements as images, charts, infographics, videos and related resources, you can engage users and better their desire for information.
For the Renegade piece, I complemented the writing with images and a comparison chart. Believing that the average visitor’s first introduction to pellet grills was the Renegade infomercial, I also showcased and linked to a pellet grill FAQ and an article on choosing a pellet grill.
The characteristics discussed to this point, when done right, can easily be adopted to create content that will garner enough traffic to make it worth the time it takes to make. But unicorn content, the type of traffic-driving content that turns your site into a destination, often requires something else: a little luck.
Think about it: How often do you find topics with eye-popping search data but little competitive content? It’s rare, but it happens. Sometimes you have the good fortune of writing about a topic before it gets hot and are able to stake an early claim atop the SERPs. Maybe a major media outlet links to it. Or perhaps the right influencer likes it and shares it with their followers.
Interlink Content To Channel Your SEO Power
Imagine that your content does its job and starts drawing in traffic, maybe even a lot of traffic. Sometimes your visitors hit the page, go further down the funnel and then convert. Mostly they exit, happy to have the answer they came for and more likely to return if and when they’re ready to buy.
But if you really want to harness all that new traffic, anticipate what other questions your visitors might have. If you already have content that answers those questions, link to it. Otherwise, create content that will keep them on site rather than searching for the answers elsewhere.
My Traeger piece blew up on a modest scale. It became the most-visited page on our site, the first time any page other than the home page accomplished that feat. It pulled in 6,000 visitors a month. Despite being a top-of-the-funnel page dedicated to educating customers, it directly converted over $20,000. It also unseated Traeger for the number one spot in organic search results, and it’s nearly impossible to outrank a manufacturer for its own product.
But none of that compared to what the piece did for our overall SEO once we figured out how to harness its power.
Early on, I realized that many of the people reading the Renegade piece had no idea what a pellet grill was, and they had questions. How do pellet grills work? How do they compare to gas grills and charcoal grills? Are there other pellet grills besides the Renegade? Do they come in different sizes?
To answer these questions, we prominently featured and linked all of our pellet grill content and resources throughout the Renegade piece. The idea was to keep them engaged by provide more of the information they desired. The thought was that all that interlinking of content would increase engagement and time-on-page and help the page’s organic rank.
It did all of that, and quite a bit more.
Linking to all our pellet grill content sent visitors down the proverbial rabbit hole. They’d come for the Renegade, then visit our FAQ and “how to choose a pellet grill” article. Next, they’d end up on the Traeger landing page, as well as those for other pellet grill manufacturers. Then, they’d hit the Pro Series and Outlaw product pages before eventually going back to the Renegade.
The result was a huge spike in traffic through what we called our “pellet grill ecosphere.” Google took notice. Not only did we shoot to the top of the rankings for “Traeger Renegade Elite,” we landed on page one for the term “Traeger” and hit number two for “pellet grills,” not to mention dozens of other keywords.
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