UNIQUE PROVEN TACTICS FOR CREATING CONTENT SEARCH ENGINES LOVE
Does Google ever
Sometimes it feels like
they’ve got us gagged, strapped to a chair, and at the mercy of whatever
demands they want to make.
“Do this to rank!”
“Oh no wait, we’ve
changed our minds…. Do this instead.”
I know how you feel –
it’s definitely something that has got to me in the past.
It’s easy to take no
responsibility ourselves and blame the big guy – especially when they’re
super-secretive about everything that goes on behind the scenes with search
engine rankings.But how about instead of
throwing stones, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work?
Google’s intentions are
better than you think
At the core of any
change Google makes there are two motivations:
They want more revenue,
and often make changes to their search makeup to achieve this goal. You can
relate to this, right? After all, you’re trying to make money online too,
2. User experience
Believe it or not,
Google actually care about their users. They want you (as a searcher) to come
back over and over again. With other search engines beginning to circle (I’m
looking at you, Bing), they recognize if they give up on their users someone
will eventually swoop in and take them.
I don’t know about you,
but I certainly can’t fault them for those two motivations.
And you know what? It
actually helps us understand what we should be doing better in order to rank
But let’s stick a
pin in revenue motivations for a moment…
The future of SEO is ALL
about user experience.
The better experience a
visitor has once they click on a page/article/blog post in a Google search, the
more likely they are to go back and search for something again.
That’s why search
And for you? Well, the
better experience someone has on your site once they find you, the
better the chance they will return.
That’s why YOU should
care. (Plus your content is more likely to rank!)
Alright, enough with all
the hypothetical mumbo jumbo. What can you dowith this information?
Let’s talk cold hard
What EXACTLY can you do
to improve the user experience on your blog and rank your content?
To help you figure that
out, here are 20 things that might be stopping your content from
ranking. Plus, I’ll throw in some examples of what you should do instead.
20 Reasons Your Content
Doesn’t Do Well In Search Engine Rankings
Let’s get a couple of
things clear from the get go…
All of the tips I offer
in this post are trying to improve the user experience on your site, as well as
more effectively communicate with search engines. They aren’t overnight SEO
strategies that will have you popping up on page one by Saturday.
It’s a long-term
investment into high-quality, one-of-a-kind content that will get you there.
(And you WILL get there if you follow these 20 tips every time you create a new
There are a whole bunch
of factors that compound together in the search algorithm to make a piece of
content show up on a search results page. Today I’m going to talk about the
elements that are within your control – the on-page elements – that you can
directly influence by optimizing your website and content. I’m not going to
discuss things like link building, which are out of your direct control.
For ease of consumption,
let’s bucket these into two broad sub-headings:
1.Quality – first and
foremost your content needs to be good. Google doesn’t want to send traffic to
poorly written, hard-to-read content.
2.Tech – at the end of the
day, we are talking to a robot. So there are factors that help communicate with
this robot, and improve your user experience at the same time.
Let’s get into it…
When it comes to
creating quality content that search engines WANT to rank, it’s all about
getting someone to click, and then keeping them on your site for as long as
All of these “quality”
factors are essentially about keeping people on your site for longer.
The longer they stay,
the more credibility you build with search engines (not to mention everyone
else) and the better results you will see.
Reason #1: Your headline
The first thing you need
to be worried about is your headline… The importance of your headline can’t be
Because 80% of people will read a headline, but only 20%
will read the rest of your article.
So if your headline
sucks, no one is going to bother clicking on your article. And if no one clicks
on your article – it will quickly become insignificant.
No views = no shares =
no links = poor ranking.
Your headline needs to
slap me in the face and make me take notice. It’s out there amongst a sea of
other headlines, popup windows, tools, calendars, emails, games, videos – all
competing for your reader’s attention.
In fact, there are over
14 million search results for “How to write a perfect headline” on Google.
However, I will go
through a few shortcuts with you. Here are 5 quick tips for making your
·Write more headlines for
every article – jot down 10-15 alternatives on a piece of paper (your first one
will almost never be the best)
·Use numbers (preferably
odd numbers) because they’re 36% more likely to be
they get 38% more clicks
·For SEO, keep it to 55 characters so
it shows your whole headline in a search:
Reason #2: Your WHY has
Early in your article
you need to make it extremely clear WHY someone should keep reading.
They’re not reading your
content as a favor… They want to know what they will get out of it.
You need to make them
feel the pain of a common challenge they face, or inspire them to push towards
Content that gets below
the surface and influences people to take action is the type of content that
Google wants to send traffic to.
After the headline, your
introduction and the big WHY is the only thing standing between your reader and
the rest of your article.
If you’re not crystal clear
on the benefit someone will get from each and every article you write, and you
don’t articulate it in a way that makes them keep reading – they won’t.
Another bounce. Another
lost opportunity. Another red mark on your site’s chance of ranking.
Try and ask open-ended
questions and tap into universal problems or desires. This will bring more
people along the journey with you.
Reason #3: You’re on a
Sounding smart is fun
for about 10 seconds…
Until you realize that
no one understood anything you had to say and they’ve run for the hills.
Writing great content
that will rank in search engines isn’t about sounding smart and packing it full
of jargon. It’s about being so ridiculously helpful that people KNOW you are
They know you are smart
because you’ve overcome the exact challenge they are trying to overcome. And in
that moment you’re intelligent enough to explain it in a way that helps them do
exactly the same.
Filling up your content
menu with jargon and ten-dollar words will scare people away because they won’t
get any value from it. In the end, you’ll sound like you’re covering something
up – not exactly the outcome you were hoping for, is it?
Stop confusing your
readers and start creating an experience for them.
Reason #4: You’re all
over the place
It’s easy to get in the
flow with writing (I’m as guilty as anyone) and start drifting off topic.
Before you know it,
you’re down a rabbit hole talking about something so far from the objective of
the article it feels like you’re in a different climate.
Your article needs to
have one overriding message you want readers to leave with. Not two, three,
four or five… ONE anchor point the rest of the article can revolve around.
Every other point you
make needs to contribute to that main point.
You should introduce the
main point up front and then design the rest of the article to build a
compelling case for whatever point it is you’re making. Then at the end,
revisit the main point and convince people to finally take action.
Each building block of
your article should link and flow together – and you should subtly mention the
overriding topic at every opportunity you can.
reminds the reader again and again – 1) what the article is about,
and 2) what they are expected to do once they finish reading it.
Remember, the whole
point of keeping your article “on topic” is to encourage readers to keep
reading and take action once they finish.
When readers stay
on your article long enough to take action, the more credibility you build
with search engines. (Especially if they decide to navigate to another page on
your site AFTER reading the article.)
There are two things you
can do to make sure your article is staying on track:
1. Force yourself to
revisit the main point in every section
Before you hit publish,
run an acid test on every part of the post; do you reinforce the overriding
message? Do you talk about something off-topic?
2. Link to other content
I’ll mention this in
more depth in the tech section, but if you feel yourself drifting off-topic
try linking to another blog post on your site that expands on the
Both internal and
external linking improve user experience and are considered quality factors by
the big search engines.
Reason #5: It’s boring
The best content has a
way of challenging the status quo and taking a unique viewpoint.
It revs up interest in a
stale topic by looking at it through a different lens. Or, it flips a trending
topic on it’s head, taking a new and interesting stand on something.
You could just
grab a clickable headline, turn it into a list post, and drive some nice blog
But eventually you’ll
get found out if there’s no substance underneath it all.
The further you push
yourself to be one-of-a-kind, the more people will stand up and take notice.
The more people take notice, the more links, shares, comments ,and kudos you
More and more Google is
becoming an “experience” network. They want users to love what they see once
they click a link in a search. If you can deliver something unique and
interesting, people will come back for more. And that will make you cool in
Reason #6: It’s all
about you (or not enough about you)
Your readers have to
want what you have, and it is up to you to deliver it in a way that connects
Talking about how great
YOU are is not going to inspire anyone.
People want to feel like
you care about them and you have put together this article with the singular
goal of helping them do something.
This one’s not black and
white, though. You do need to build credibility.
There is a subtle art to
showing people what you’ve done, but without directly telling them you did it.
Illustrate points with
case studies, examples, or results you have seen. But do it in a way that makes
them feel like you are only showing them these things because it is going to
HELP them understand something a little better.
Brian Dean is a genius
at doing this – he regularly publishes user case studies on his blog.
Reason #7: You don’t
talk about fairies
When we use metaphors
and stories, they help us engage people in ways statistics never can.
They help your readers
access meaning you never thought possible, and accelerate the time it takes for
someone to understand complex topics.
Metaphors also have a
way of helping you, the writer, thoroughly understand what you are talking
about – they force you to get crystal clear and deliver your message with
The big kicker with
metaphors is they are extremely memorable.
Think about it for a
When you’re writing an
article and want to mention a helpful resource to your readers, are you more likely
to remember “The 9 Best Ways to Get Backlinks” or “The Skyscraper Technique”?
Most people are more
likely to remember the metaphor, which means they are more likely to
link back to it. Memorable content get more backlinks and, inevitably, better
metaphors go hand-in-hand, and an additional benefit to them is they keep
people on your page for longer. (Remember – this is a good thing.)
Alex Turnbull from Groove
HQ ran a split test on their blog, where they published the same
blog post twice: one that began with a story and one that did not…
The average time on page
for the story article increased by a whopping 520%!
Reason #8: You make
loads of assumptions
Take one step back… and
then another… and then another…
This is most likely
where your readers are at the moment.
Too much content out
there is riddled with assumptions about what people already know.
Your goal is to educate,
teach, and guide people to take action and overcome a challenge.
To do that you need to
meet them where THEY are right now, not start from where you are at the
moment. You have experience and hindsight they do not yet have.
The brutal reality is
that if you’re not meeting the needs of your site visitors – by explaining
topics in a way they understand – they’ll leave and never come back.
That means your site
will experience more of that “bouncing” stuff Google doesn’t like.
Some things are
universal: freedom, life, shelter, water…
But as soon as you start
referencing esoteric topics, you’re going to lose segments of your
Reason #9: Your
paragraphs are bulky
Forget about what your
high school English teacher told you about grammar.
is useless when you’re trying to get content ranked online.
Your best chance to keep
people reading your content is with short, punchy sentences. And line spacing –
lots and lots of line spacing.
You’ll notice throughout
this whole post I’ve barely written a paragraph with more than one or two
And since you’ve made it
half-way through the post, it must be working.
Reason #10: You forget
We’re a generation of scanners…
If you’re lucky, your
web visitors will read beyond the headline. (Then some drop off.)
If you’re REALLY lucky,
they’ll make it into your introduction. (Then some more drop off.)
Just about no one will
make it all the way to the end. It’s a tough reality check, but it’s true.
So you could get your
knickers in a twist worrying about it, or you could focus on user experience
and play right into the search engine’s hands.
Porterfield showing us how it’s done:
Help your readers scan
as much as they want with bold text, italics, bullet points, colons, and
dashes… Anything you can do to draw their eyes to the most important
information on the page.
Reason #11: There are no
Do I even need to
They keep readers
engaged, interested, and glued to the screen amongst a wall of text and
Skyword found that
blog posts with visuals get 94% more views.
Plus, visual content helps people retain more information and
is 40 times more likely to
get shared on social media.
Here’s what analyzing over 100 million articles told
OkDork and BuzzSumo:
If you want social media
shares, an increased user experience (time on page), and more backlinks… visual
content is a good idea.
All those things
contribute to how well your content ranks in search engines, so try to use
images, screenshots, gifs, infographics, and videos as much as you can.
Now for the technical
It’s not as sexy as the
“quality content” jibber I just rattled off, but it’s VERY important.
After all, we’re talking
to a robot remember?
Reason #12: You’re not
running a bus tour
Another thing the big
search engines consider when it comes to user experience is the links you
include on your page (I mentioned this earlier).
Let’s start with
Where do you want the
reader to go after reading your article? (Or whilst reading it?)
importantly, where SHOULD the reader go to help them with the next steps?
It’s your turn to be the
tour bus guide and take your readers on a journey of your website.
You want them hopping
from page to page, finding the most relevant content on each topic they are
This not only improves
user experience, it boosts the time spent on your site.
But if you’re strategic
about it, you can nurture readers on a natural journey from stranger to
If they’ve just
discovered who you are, what information do they NEED to get closer to a
purchase? Or click an affiliate link? Or whatever it is you’re trying to get
them to do.
Linking internally also
sends a signal to Google. It tells them that the page you are linking to is
important and that they should take notice.
Reason #13: You’re not
sharing the love
Just like linking
internally, you need to share the love too…
If you link to credible
sources on other websites, you’re benefiting the user and helping them
find the most appropriate information on your chosen topic.
The added bonus of
mentioning cool people (and resources) in your content is it makes it easier to
Don’t just name drop for
the sake of it, but if it adds value to your reader and contributes to the
objective of your article why NOT link to a resource? (Especially when
it’s a resource belonging to someone with an influential following?)
Once you hit publish,
you’ve not only pleased the search engines by sharing the love, but you’ve just
primed yourself to amplify the reach of your content by mentioning an
Reason #14: You left
your keywords at the corner store
The boring old
keyword/search term drama…
Do they still matter?
Unfortunately, yes they
As far as Google’s
algorithm has come in recent years, it’s still a robot. We need to effectively
communicate to that robot in a way it understands, and keyword terms are the
best way to do that. (For the moment at least.)
Try and get your primary
keyword in the title, the first 100 words, and in your H1, H2, and H3 header
Here’s Derek Halpern
from Social Triggers showing us how to do it:
But don’t stuff
keywords for the fun of it.
Write for humans, create
a connection, and engage your readers – those are your primary duties.
Then if and when it
makes sense to do so, use your keywords.
Conducting keyword research will also help
you spot opportunities for knocking some “first-pagers” off their perch with
better and more informative content.
Reason #15: Your page
loads about as quick as I run
Page loading speed and
the general speed of your site are big user experience components, and whilst
not directly related to your content, they will influence whether or not it
ranks in search engines.
The PageSpeed Insights tool from Google
Developers will help you analyze your site and identify ways you can speed it
If you’re not a techy,
or can’t justify the budget for a fully fledged developer I’d consider getting
a service like WPCurve or Automation
Agency. Both give you access to developers from their offshore teams
for a very reasonable monthly investment.
Reason #16: Your
permalink is complicated
When it comes to the URL
of your page, simplicity is better.
Try and take away as
much of the “filler” text as you can.
An SEO friendly
permalink is literally just the keywords you want to rank for, with no other
distracting stuff. It pretty much just cuts out any confusion, making it very
easy for search engines to index your page.
Plus it looks nicer!
Kevin knows what I’m
Whether or not you can
do this will depend on your link setup on your site. And if you’ve had them
going for a while, you may be stuck with the old-school, date-stamped URLs that
are just about longer than the entire browser bar.
But don’t worry too
much. This is a nice-to-have more than a necessity.
Reason #17: You’re
scaring people away
Time on site…
I know I keep harping on
about it, but it’s becoming more and more important.
That’s one of the main
reasons everyone is writing longer and longer content, because even if people
read 20-30% of it they’ve probably stayed on your site for longer than they would’ve
done for a 500-word brain dump.
But it doesn’t matter
how good your content is if your site design and navigation are a mess.
46% of people say a
website’s design is the number one factor in determining its credibility (over
Focus on brand
congruency, consistent colors, white space, and clear navigation. Do anything
you can do to make life simpler and more enjoyable for your visitors.
Reason #18: Your meta
description forgets about the user
The meta description is
the mini paragraph that users read in a search result.
Ask yourself why the
user is finding your content? What have they just searched for?
The closer you can align
your description to that intent, and the better you can solve the query they
have, the better chance they will click on your article rather than
The more clicks you get,
the better you will perform over time – but ONLY if they stay on your site.
Yes, clicks matter to
Google, but the click may have a reverse effect if they bounce off your site
straight after getting there.
So, yes, you need to
make sure your meta description is enticing enough to attract a click, but
you also need to make sure it’s as closely aligned to the content in your
article as possible so the user doesn’t bounce immediately after arriving.
Yoast SEO is a great tool for optimising
this if you are using WordPress:
Reason #19: You’ve got
short blog syndrome
Short content can come
across as a little offensive these days.
People scoff at a 300 or
400 word blog post…
“That’s all I’m worth to
Obviously there are some
exceptions that have been doing this since the dawn of blogging, like Seth
Godin and the like.
But for the rest of us
who are fighting for attention in an over-crowded world of epic content, short
posts won’t cut it.
Google also considers
longer content to be higher quality (in general at least), with most high
ranking articles having over 2,000 words:
Longer content also gets more social shares
Reason #20: You don’t
like cell phones
Lucky last on the list
for search optimization is making your website mobile-friendly…
Once again, this is not
specifically related to your content, but it is a big contributor to where you
will rank in search results.
With more and more of
our time being spent on mobile phones,
this will no doubt continue to have an effect on your search performance.
The easiest way to
diagnose how Google rates your website in terms of mobile-friendliness is to
test your site on Google’s own mobile-friendly testing tool:
After entering your URL
into the tool it will provide you with a bunch of helpful tips for improving
the mobile-friendliness of your site.
Or you might just get a
nice little “thumbs up” like this!
It can all be a little
overwhelming at times… Especially if you’re just starting out.
But in reality, the
calmer and more deliberate you are with your content strategy, the better your
long-term results will be with SEO.
Pick a few important
topics that you’d love to rank for, and create some content that is BETTER than
anything else already out there.
Then spend your time
If you’re patient and
willing to put in the hard work, the results will find you on the other side.
Just remember: it’s not
about you, it’s about the user. How can you help them? How can you make their
experience more enjoyable?
If you want to improve
your search engine rankings, focus on the user – because that’s what Google’s