Since Google’s Hummingbird landed it would be fair to say that things have taken a very different direction where content writing is concerned. “Semantics” quickly became the new buzz word in SEO circles, but despite Google’s new semantic methodology, things really haven’t changed that much at all. Semantics have been thrown dramatically into the mixing pot, but it’s still all about the quality of the content and the information provided.
It had always been possible to achieve a very favourable ranking if you provided measurable quality (as my page one rank for the term ‘web programmer’ had always suggested) and the same applies today. The only difference between the Google of old and the current variant is that with today’s Google it has definitely become something of a pre-requisite.
But how do you provide measurable quality? Allow me to explain my process, albeit in an abbreviated form.
I’ll go back to my own experience using the search phrase “web programmer” as an example. As stated, I had a solid ranking for many years before curiosity got the better of me and I intentionally destroyed it. Why did I rank so highly at the time? I’d like to think it has much to do with my simple three step approach to quality content writing.
1. Understand the Competition
When performing the search for “web programmer” on Google, I spent many long hours researching what my competition was doing. I must have gone through the first 200-300 pages ranked and made a brief note of every subject they covered, also noting what I believed were the positive points and negative points of each article.
They were obviously covering topics that were of some interest and they were obviously doing it correctly since Google was delivering them as results, so I tried to gauge just why Google was ranking them as highly as they were (also looking at their backlink profiles to ensure it wasn’t a false representation).
Keyword/keyphrase research was also important. I’d carefully scan through the documents to ascertain keyword density, and just as importantly I’d hunt variations of keywords or phrases through a combination of both common sense and the Google Tilde method.
Sadly for research of this nature the little known and under-utilised Tilde method is now long gone, but you can still perform similar research by just taking a look at either what Google auto-suggests for you in the search box, or noting the highlighted variations in your search results (below).
For example, if I search for “web programmer”, my Google results are also full of “web developer” records and even “web designer” results of late, emboldened on the results pages.
As you would expect, the research step is vital. The more meaningful information you are able to collect and consolidate, the easier the following two phases become.
If you steal from one author it’s plagiarism, but if you steal from many they call it research.
2. Improvement is the Logical Form of Change
Once you have a good idea of what you’re up against, it’s time for some affirmative action.
By now you’ll be familiar with the bases already covered by your competition through the research phase, so there’s an obvious way to gain an advantage content-wise. You DO IT BETTER.
Expand upon your competition’s articles with your own posts and look carefully through the notes you made in step one, ensuring you are able to improve upon almost every single aspect of the competition’s posts.
Improve upon them with accuracy of facts, improve upon them with quality of writing, and make sure you throw in a healthy dose of semantic phrasing too (especially in page titles and H1 tags), since many of the high ranking articles aren’t consciously using this to rank due to their age.
Don’t forget to cite your sources too. Tangible/quantifiable data ranks very well – if Google is able to follow a link and see the data confirmed by an authority, it adds a little weight to your content.
Another area to look at is which of the articles you have researched can be amalgamated into one definitive article. Again, obvious really, but if you see an article that has the five main reasons you should become a web programmer and another article with five different reasons, your article should give at least ten. Articles of a similar ilk once fused into one definitive document now carry a much greater authority level than ever before, due to the nature of Google’s results delivery.
To clarify somewhat, Google tends to share the rankings much more generously than previously when it was possible to dominate the entire first page with one article after another. Today it has a tendency to just select the most relevant article from your website, meaning a consolidated article has a greater value since it covers a broader range of the relevant data.
The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.
3. Finding The Missing Links
Assuming you’ve now researched your competition and have blown them away with your own definitive articles, you’re ready for the final part of my approach – the ongoing discovery of new niches and angles.
If you’ve researched your genre correctly and you know your subject matter you will have no doubt at one time or another spotted gaps in the market – information that wasn’t frequently represented in the search data, or better still, information that just wasn’t there at all. Trust me, you’ve spotted those gaps, probably without even taking note, and now you just need to figure out the missing pieces of the jigsaw by looking over your earlier research notes and thinking outside of the box somewhat.
It’s this outside of the box thinking that can really pay dividends in the long run, due to the nature of social sharing today. Find a gap in the market or a new and unique angle of approach and provide as much information as possible, and in Google’s eyes you become the top of the tree. One of the founding fathers, so to speak. The grand daddy of them all, if you will. It’s a beautiful thing when you achieve this and the value of such an article really should not be underestimated. For many it’s still their holy grail.
This three step approach to content writing has served me well over the years, and continues to do well for clients that hire my writing services, post-Hummingbird. Even so, no matter how good your article is there is very little point taking the time to painstakingly research and deliver your masterpiece if it’s just going to sit on your blog with no-one to read it. Obviously this means that if you really want a tangible return for your hard work, you’ll also need to socially engage to spread the word. Do this correctly and with a little luck the results will continue to grow over time.
I’d appreciate your thoughts on these quality content keystones, and would love to hear your own methods and techniques for creating quality content.