On today’s hyper-competitive digital landscape, using content to outrank your competition is essential. Consider these statistics:
- Content generates more than 300% more leads than conventional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less. (Source: DemandMetric)
- Businesses that publish content in their blogs enjoy 126% more lead growth than businesses that don’t. (Source: HubSpot)
- Content is by far the most effective and affordable SEO technique. (Source: TechClient)
- 61% of customers say that they are influenced by content. (Source: Dragon Search Marketing)
- Conversion rates are nearly 600% higher for businesses that publish content vs. businesses that don’t. (Source: Aberdeen)
And so, the big question to answer is: how do you create content that outranks your competition? It all boils down to these 8 keys:
- Ensure that your content is original.
- Make a bold and relevant promise in your headline.
- Deliver on your promise and provide practical value.
- Establish credibility by referencing credible sources.
- Focus on readability and don’t hesitate to add length.
- Make your content visually appealing.
- Regularly publish content.
- Promote your content.
To help you master the fundamentals, let’s look at each of these keys:
1. Ensure that your content is original.
The first key to creating content that outranks your competition is that it must be original. Why is this so vital? It’s because search engines take a very dim view of duplicate content. Here is what the biggest search engine of all, Google, has to say about this (*cue the horror movie music*):
In cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we'll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.
If you aren’t familiar with Google-speak, then here is the translation: if Google’s algorithm (i.e. their multi-billion dollar AI bot that scans and scrapes sites) finds duplicate content on your site and believes that you’re doing this manipulate search engine rankings, then there is a very good chance that your site will get knocked way down the rankings. For example, you might get hurled from page 1 to page 20. In some extreme cases, Google may be so irked that your site may be completely erased from the search ranking landscape.
And to make things even worse, Google doesn’t have a Court of Appeals. Once your site is in the doghouse, you can expect to stay there for a long, long time. You’re better off just buying a new domain and starting from scratch.
With this being said, it’s perfectly fine to publish snippets of content from other sources when it is appropriate to do so. For example, above we quoted directly from Google’s website (and linked back to Google accordingly). But as you can clearly see, this isn’t the same as re-publishing an entire article.
2. Make bold and relevant promise in your headlines.
The next contestant on The Content is Right (come on down!) is making a bold and relevant promise in your headlines, so they immediately generate interest and connect you with your target audience.
Keep in mind that your headlines don’t have to be over-the-top or hyper-dramatic. Rather, they need to stand out and communicate a promise that says: “If you spend the next few minutes with us, you’re going to learn something valuable that will help you solve a problem or achieve a goal.”
3. Deliver on your promise and provide practical value.
As noted above, it’s critical for your headlines to make a compelling and relevant promise. However, it’s up to the body of your content to deliver on the promise.
As such, your content must educate your target audience in an interesting and agreeable way and provide practical value. Otherwise, while people may click on your content if the headline captures their attention, but they won’t stick around. Within a few seconds, they’ll conclude that the promise isn’t being kept, and they’ll head to the competition.
This leads to another important question: how do you find out what’s relevant, meaningful and interesting to your target audience? There are a few ways:
- Ask them! Typically, current and potential future customers are happy to share what matters to them — i.e. the problems they want to solve and the goals they want to achieve.
- Scan your competition to see what they’re focusing on. Obviously, you aren’t going to copy anything, but it’s perfectly legitimate to conduct market research to see what’s generating traction and interest in your marketplace.
- Use a keyword analysis tool to see what your target audience is searching for. Often, people want answers to questions such as “should I install solar panels?” or “how do I get rid of raccoons in my attic?”
Speaking of keywords: to outrank your competition, you also want to optimize each piece of content with one (and in some cases two) keywords. Just make sure that you do this properly and strategically, and that the focus is on impressing human visitors and not just search engine robots.
4. Establish credibility by referencing credible sources.
One of the characteristics of great content is credibility, which means appropriately and accurately referencing authoritative sources. For example, in this article all statistics and quotes are cited accordingly:
Since creating great content can be time consuming and there is unending pressure to publish (we’ll look at this more in key #7), some businesses are tempted to skip this element — not necessarily because they’re trying to cut corners, but because they’re trying to be efficient. However, this is a big mistake! Customers reward businesses that are thought leaders, and accurate referencing is part of this reputation. What’s more, search engines pay close attention to outbound links and reward sites that point to credible, authoritative sources.
5. Focus on readability and don’t hesitate to add length.
Saying that content should be readable sounds, well, kind of pointless. After all, restaurants don’t advertise their food as “edible,” and airlines don’t go around publicizing that their planes are “fly-able.” So, shouldn’t it go without saying that all content is fundamentally readable? In theory, this is true. But in practice, it is false. Most content out there – we’re talking 70, 80 or even 90 percent — suffers from a lack of readability. And some stuff is just outright impenetrable and pain-inducing.
Highly readable content doesn’t feel like reading at all. Rather, it feels like listening to a trusted friend who is authentic and wants to share something that is in your best interests to learn. Professional content writers know how to use words, rhythm and tone to create this dynamic. Like gourmet cooking and interior design, it’s both an art and a science.
What’s more, don’t be reluctant about adding length if doing so is justified, and helps you convey a more complete, compelling and convincing message to your target audience. Consider the following:
- Articles with word counts between 2,250 and 2,500 earn the most organic traffic. (Source: HubSpot)
- Articles on page #1 of Google contain an average of 1,890 words. (Source: Brian Dean)
- Readers spend more than twice as much time with articles over 1,000 words than they do with articles under 1,000 words. (Source: Pew)
Pro tip: We are seeing a rise in what we would call “Epic Content”. This is content that may be 5,000 words or more and provides a very in-depth look at a specific topic. This type of content, when written well and promoted, is performing very well in boosting many keywords. This could be a game changer for a business and help it to dominate in the local rankings.
6. Make your content visually appealing.
How your content looks is just as important as what it conveys. Here are some of the ways to make your content visually appealing, so that it impresses your target audience and outranks your competition:
- Add high quality relevant photos. Research by BuzzSomo has found that articles with an image once every 75-100 words received 200% the social media shares as articles with fewer images.
- Use sub-headings, bullet points, and font/typography combinations that create a sense of spaciousness and openness. Here is how content marketing expert Neil Patel explains this: “When your visitors open your web pages and see long blog posts with ornate, small text that has no breathing room, this can immediately drive them to leave the site and find something else that’s easier to follow.”
- Make sure that your content loads quickly. Consider the following:
- Sites that load in five seconds see 70% longer average sessions vs. sites that load in 19 seconds. (Source: Google)
- A 100-millisecond delay in page load time can cause conversion rates to drop by 7% (Source: Akamai)
- Pages that load within 2 seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%, while pages that take 5 seconds to load have a bounce rate of 38% (Source: Pingdom)
- Google has confirmed that page speed is a significant factor in SEO ranking for both mobile and desktop searches.
7. Regularly publish content.
“Regular” isn’t the most exciting word out there. In fact, it’s pretty boring. But do you know what? Sometimes boring is beautiful, and this is one of those scenarios. You want to publish great content on a consistent basis, rather than once-in-a-while. We recommend at least 3-4 times per month, though more frequently is even better. Research by HubSpot found businesses that published at least 16 blogs posts per month enjoyed 350% more traffic than businesses that published fewer than four posts per month.
8. Promote your content.
Just following the first seven tips will not likely allow you to outrank your competition. Unless you have a large, active following for your blog that puts a lot of eyes on your content and that gets your content shared and referenced frequently. Most likely you will need this critical 8th step, promote your content. This is the case for most of us. Promoting your content can take on many forms but of few of them could include sharing your articles on your social media accounts, developing backlinks to your articles, sharing your articles with other thought leaders in your industry in hopes they will reference and link to your content and syndicating your articles on popular news sites.
To learn more about creating content that outranks your competition and keeps you ahead, contact the Noble Webworks team today. We can provide you with targeted and practical advice on what to do (and what not to do!), or manage your entire content program from start to finish. Your consultation with us is free, and there is never any risk or obligation.