Content marketing is a powerful strategy for building traffic, both by generating links and social shares and by harnessing the power of long-tail traffic. Unfortunately, it is the latter aspect that a lot of people forget about. People tend to believe in strange thing like getting rank in competitive keywords is easy as easy pie but the reality is vastly different.
If you have been building content for any period of time then you almost certainly have some low-hanging fruit that you can take advantage of.
If you don’t already have much content then you really need to start by rectifying that. But once you have even a little bit of content built up you can start to look for opportunities to boost your traffic as they arise.
Create Lots Of Content
The first step is to create lots of content. Unfortunately, this bit isn’t instant, but if you have already done it, feel free to skip to the next step. If not, read on…
It’s not enough to just churn out half-baked content, you need to create content that actually provides some value to your potential readers, so taking the time to do it properly is important.
Start With Keyword Research
The first step is to start with some keyword research. In this instance though, we are not going to agonize over which keywords to select, and we are not going to assign keywords to pages as such. We simply want a big list of viable keywords that we COULD build relevant content for.
Remember, we are building long-tail traffic, so don’t worry too much about high volume keywords, focus on the lower volume, niche phrases which might only get 20-100 searches per month. Anything up to a few hundred is fine too, but the point is that we are looking for specific phrases, nothing generic and high competition.
Think of long tail traffic as the bottom of a pyramid, if you can quickly build a few dozen blocks of low volume traffic, they will eventually support higher volume keywords above them. You have to build your foundations before you can target high value phrases.
Tools To Use
The best tool to use of course is Google’s keyword tool. Although that can give you too much data sometimes, so be careful to only take the most relevant ideas. All you need to do is sign up and put in some seed keywords. Enter one seed keyword at a time for best results.
And then add a keyword filter to show ideas with a search volume of less than about 300 searches (the best number to use depends on your niche, so use your best judgement). Then, make sure ideas are sorted by relevancy, and start manually looking through the ideas.
Copy your favorite ideas into an Excel sheet
As you go, hopefully you will find some more ideas that you can use as a new seed phrase too, so re-run your search with those phrases and get as many different ideas as possible.
Another good tactic is to Google a few of the phrases you come across, find the sites that are ranking and then plug those into the URL field of the keyword planning tool.
There are of course dozens of ways that you can come up with new ideas, you just need to spend a little time thinking creatively about what sorts of content your readers might be interested in.
Generating Content Ideas
Once you have compiled your list, you should hopefully have at least a hundred or so keyword ideas. You might well have several hundred, although try to limit your list to only the most relevant ideas, and keep in mind how much content you can actually create.
Now is the time to start writing!
Go through your list of ideas and treat each one as a search engine user. What are they looking for when they search for that phrase? Google the phrase and see what comes up, and think about whether you could create a suitable piece of content.
The actual content creation process is a post for another day…
As you go through your list, hopefully you will be able to create a content piece for each keyword idea. Some ideas won’t be conducive to a content piece, so you can remove those. Each time you write a new piece, add the title and URL to your spreadsheet next to the relevant phrase.
Once You Have The Content
If you have written it well, and put in the work, eventually your content will start to rank. Ok, if your site is a brand new one you will most probably need to do some link building work to build some traffic, but sooner or later, traffic will start to trickle in.
Now is the time to find out where you have been successful and try to improve upon that success.
This next part is based on something called the Pareto Principal:
The top 20% of the work produces 80% of the results
In this context what this means is this:
The top 3 positions in Google get 80% of the traffic
The traffic boost when moving from page 10 to page 2 is minute compared to the boost when moving from page 2 to page 1, and the difference between positions 4-10 and positions 1-3 is bigger still.
Your biggest opportunities are the ones where you have a real chance to reach the top positions.
Discover Your Rankings
The first step is to figure out what you are already ranking for. For this I use Microsite Masters, as their data is pretty reliable. It’s worth noting that no ranking data is 100% because most search results involve some amount of personalization these days, but it’s good enough as a guide.
If you did the keyword research at the start of this process, then stick all of those keywords into a new project. I tend to create a separate project to keep these keywords separate from my main target phrases…
If you didn’t do the keyword research part, go and do it now. This time you are simply brainstorming long-tail phrases that you think you MIGHT be ranking for. The more ideas you can find the better, because you never know what you might be ranking for already.
- Next, log in to Analytics (you’re using that right?)
- Go to “Acquisition”
- All traffic
- On the main area, below the graph, click “keyword”
This will give you keyword data for every visitor to your site. Unfortunately, most of this data these days is “not provided” but you will probably find that about 5-10% of your visits will give you some keyword data.
To make sure you get the most data you can, scroll up to the top right and adjust the date range. Set the “from” date as far back as you have data and the “to” date to today.
Finally, export the data into a CSV so that you can open it up in Excel.
Now, open up your CSV, and all you are interested in is the actual keywords, we won’t worry about any of the other traffic data, and you can of course remove the “not set” and “not provided” keywords too.
Go through your CSV and remove any keywords which are not relevant, any which are extremely long tail (the sort that are probably searched for once a year) and any which include your brand name – because you should already be ranking just fine for that.
With the remaining list, add them to Microsite Masters.
Analyzing Your Rankings
Once you have put in all of your potential phrases, you will need to give Microsite Masters some time to crunch the data, but once that is done, you can come back to your project and export your data. There are two ways to export data, but you need to use the “Report Export Wizard”, because this gives you a more detailed report.
Run through the options and set the type to CSV, then, once your report is ready, export it. What you now have is a list of all of the phrases you already rank for, along with which page on your site is ranking for that phrase. Now to find your opportunities!
Finding Low Hanging Fruit
With your new CSV, remove the following columns:
- And then sort by “Google” (ie, rank position)
- Any with a rank of “N/A” are not currently ranking, so you can remove those.
- Next, sort by “Volume” and remove any with a volume of zero.
- Finally, sort by URL and then by rank (Google)
Hopefully, you now have a list of phrases you rank for, sorted in a way that you can digest the data. By sorting by URL, you can see all of the phrases each page ranks for. So, you might notice that a give page is ranking for two or three phrases to varying degrees of success.
?As you look through your list, you are looking out for the best performing phrases and content. Start by looking for anything where you are in the top 10 (first page) but not in position 1.
These are your biggest opportunities!
Obviously, volume matters too, so try to focus on the opportunities with the most searches, but remember that in many cases a quick ranking boost will be fairly easy to achieve, so even a small amount of traffic is worth the effort.
When you find a good opportunity for a ranking boost, you will simply visit that page and have a look at how you could improve it. The best opportunities are when you find that you are ranking for a phrase that you didn’t originally optimize for, as a simple tweak to your headings and page title can quickly bump you up the rankings.
If on the other hand you have already optimized your page… Consider going back and improving it. Do things like Googling that phrase and seeing what the competition has done to rank. You might be able to point a few more internal links at your page, update the content and re-optimize the meta tags and image alt tags. Alternatively, you may decide that you need more external links, in which case you can decide to focus your link building on that particular page for a little while.
Conclusion & Final Tips
Hopefully you can see the potential power in this technique, especially for sites which already have a lot of content. If you find every phrase where you are already ranking in the top 10 and you can nudge that up to the top 3 you will gain a lot of traffic.
And the best thing is, that in many cases it will be a quick win. A tweak here and there might give you a traffic boost almost immediately. It’s certainly much faster than trying to rank for a phrase that you don’t even appear in the top 100 for!