In 2015 Moz surveyed 150 marketing experts over Google’s ranking factors, listing the 90 most relevant ones and scoring them based on their impact.

seo content moz ranking factors

[Source: Moz Search Engine Ranking Factors]

If you didn’t have the time to go through the entire list, don’t worry.

We deep dived into the list and:

1 – Identified the 3 main areas you can work on to improve your SEO

2 – Found the most effective tactics you can use to impact each of them

3 – Created 5 actionable worksheets to share with your team and start improving your ranking.

So let’s get it started.

seo content


The Number 1 Ranking Factor

According to the survey, the raw quantity of backlinks from high-authority sites is the most impactful factor among the factors analysed.

seocontent backlinks

Don’t know how to start earning valuable backlinks?

Simple: guest blog.

At this point you may be wondering:

With so much competition out there, how can I stand a chance to get my content featured on high-authority sites? 

To answer this question, we reached out to Sam Hurley, who shared with us the step by step process he used to become one of top content marketing influencers worldwide.

Sam Hurley's top 6 tips for winning guest blogging opportunities. @Sam___Hurley Click To Tweet

Here’s his answer.

Let’s face it – the world loves vanity metrics. Unfortunately, it’s tough to get places without them.

So, don’t expect to just jump right into guest blogging from the off and acquire coveted features on Inc, The Huffington Post or Fast Company! It’s never going to happen that quickly unless you know ‘people’.

You’re going to need a respectable social presence and utmost credibility within your niche…THAT breeds relationships – and knowing people finally becomes a reality.

Work your way up just like I did, step-by-step; combine the powers of personal branding with guest blogging to maximise your chances of authoritative features.

Check out the amount of links to my single-page website, which has NEVER been fully live!

seo content stats

seo content graph

Links include highly regarded sites like Muck Rack, Linkdex, IBM, Alexa, The Next Web, Inc (so far)!

Crazy, right?

Here are my top 6 tips for winning guest blogging opportunities:

1. Become a great writer

Easier said than done…but essential, nonetheless.

If you can’t communicate your message in a way that resonates with your audience, nobody is going to give you the time of day.

Practice as much as you can. Read other blogs in your niche; learn from the best and be flexible. Find your own style and build character. Stand out. Be remembered.

Here’s a couple of great resources for learners:

“Find your own style and build character. Stand out. Be remembered.”

2. Brand yourself uniquely, attractively and consistently across the web

Social media, a website, pro imagery…get it done.

Package yourself as a brand and communicate your expertise with every opportunity you get (bios, LinkedIn recommendations, imagery, blog comments etc.)

seo content

Be yourself!

Present as you would like to be perceived.

3. Identify 25 lower-level blogs to target

Once you areeffectively packaged, now’s the time to pursue some easy-entry opportunities.

How do you find suitable blogs?

Simple: perform quick searches on Google and Social Media like this:

  • “your niche here” “blog” “tips”
  • “a topic within your niche here” “blog” “guide”

Some of those searches may just return sites that don’t allow guest posts…that’s when you can apply searches like this:

  • “your niche here” “guest post”
  • “your niche here” “write for us”
  • “your niche here” “blog” “contributor”

Check out the competition. See who’s already been featured. What’s their calibre? Are they well-known or first-timers? If the latter…BOOM! This is your chance.

Forget typical SEO metrics like domain authority and trust flow. That’s irrelevant at this stage.

All that matters is:

  • The sites look credible
  • The sites present useful content
  • The sites will display your photo
  • The sites have adequate social followings (5k+ on at least one network)

Once you have 25 targets…discover the relevant people to contact.

By all means, send a message through the sites’ contact forms…but that may take a while or get lost in admin.

To really increase your chances of getting featured, find out who works there and contact the people who matter – this could be the editors or the owners.

Note: a personal greeting on social media is far better than a faceless, random email.

Get to know them…don’t just bluntly ask for guest features…although later on after gaining a presence, you WILL be ableto be that blatant.

It’s worked for me on multiple occasions.

Don’t expect to win all of them. In fact, expect to win 5-10.

“A personal greeting on social media is far better than a faceless, random email.”

Once you have bagged at least 5 features, it’s time to go for some bigger boys.

Guest Blogging Tips: the first step to get your content featured by top sites! @Sam___Hurley Click To Tweet

4. Identify 25 mid-level blogs to target

Using the same techniques listed above, source blogs that are more well-known. I’m still not talking Moz or The Next Web status…

Think:

20k+ engaged social followings on at least one network and those that display more reputable guest bloggers, including regular feature writers.

Leverage your other features to capture the attention of editors there. Indicate your worth.

As you begin to gain these features, you’re slowly but surely forging the path to solid ‘street cred’.

Then, it’s time to…

5. Identify 15 prestige blogs or publishers to target

Yes, the big boys.

NOW I’m referring to the Moz and Next Webs of the world!

These are the types of sites you don’t even need to search for; you just know about them through sheer prominence in your industry.

You may even end up in their magazines!

seo content magazines

The most important take-away here is: do not get disheartened if you get rejected. It’s really not uncommon!

Keep ploughing on until you bag at least 1 feature on a prestige site. The rest will be history you’ll be telling your grandkids one day…take it from me.

Relationships you gain from these features will evolve your journey beyond imagination.

Guest Blogging Tips: do not get disheartened if you get rejected. It’s not uncommon! @Sam___Hurley Click To Tweet

6. Rinse and repeat

Keep chipping away. Eventually, everything will snowball and you won’t have to pursue guest post opportunities anymore.

They will come to you.

That’s the beauty of the guest blogging pinnacle.

Once you reach a certain point, everything becomes within reach – the world turns into your oyster.

Remember to include a tasteful link or two back to your website, whether that’s in the bio or body content of your guest posts. Aim for a balanced mix and apply varied anchor text.

guest blogging worksheet

Pro Tip: 2 backlink enhancer factors.

To increase your backlinks effect, pay attention to: topical relevance of linking pages / domains and position / context of the inbound link

Backlink Generation: topical relevance of linking pages + position & context of inbound link… Click To Tweet

The Secret To Get Found Organically

Keywords are the way your target readers search for what they need, and their presence signals search engines your content contains what users are looking for.

But…are keywords still a thing?

Let’s hear more from Sam:

There’s been a lot of recent debate on the relevancy of keywords.

I believe this is mainly due to the perceived extent to which Google has evolved…gone are the days of stuffing a page full of 1,000 keywords and ranking!

However, keywords are still a massively important factor of content – just not in the traditional sense.

#Keywords are still a massively important factor of content – just not in the traditional sense.… Click To Tweet

These days, Google incorporates many metrics when calculating search query relevancy:

  • Latent Semantic Indexing (deeper, contextual, collective meanings of content and keywords)
  • RankBrain (Google’s machine learning algorithm) and
  • Impacts of other signals (CTR, backlinks, quality, user experience and schema, for example)

That said…let’s  strip the complexity and go right back to basics.

How do search engines foundationally work?

By understanding words.

How do search engines present content?

By relating your search query to written content.

Yes – I can see your expression right now as you reach this epiphany!

seo content epiphany

Keep those points in mind when crafting content and they will retain your focus.

Just know the importance of placement.

And for that, let’s take another look at MOZ survey.

seo content keyword ranking factors

The 5 best places to put your keywords

seo content yoast

1 – Title tag: keywords presence in the title is considered a key ranking factor, which signals both search engines and target readers what your content is about, consequently increasing surfers CTR.

Note: relative CTR is also considered a relevant ranking factor.

seo content ctr

2 – URL: surprisingly enough, embedding keywords in URLs is not only a signal for search engines.

Readers pay more attention to URLs than one may think, research has in fact shown that the URL is one of the most prominent elements searchers consider when selecting which site to click (i.e improves CTR)

Accordingly, embed keywords, keep it short (below 100 characters) and clear.

urls-clarity

3 – Main content area: it goes without saying you should include keywords in the body of your content.

This is worth repeating: avoid keyword stuffing.

Build a list of keywords that indicate the same intent and pass it to your editor so that she can embed them during the editing phase.

This way, not only you’ll avoid keyword stuffing, but will also stand a chance to rank for multiple queries.

Pro tip: check out this video and learn how to leverage semantic connectivity for more results.

4 – Images Alt Text: since search engines can’t read images, you need to help them understand what they are about. Embedding your keywords in alt tags will strengthen the message towards search engine spiders and improve the accessibility of your website.

5 – Meta Description: while the meta description doesn’t directly impact your SEO, a well written one can improve your posts CTR, since that’s what surfers are presented with on SERP. Make it clear, compelling and embed your main keywords.

seo content meta-description

The 5 best spots to place your #keywords @Sam___Hurley Click To Tweet

If you’re a WordPress user, YOAST plug in will help you big time.

Click here to download the actionable worksheet to share with your team. 

keyword optimization worksheet


How To Keep Your Readers Coming Back

Collecting valuable backlinks and leveraging keywords the right way will help you drive readers to your content.

But what happens next (readers behaviour) will also impact you SEO, so the question is:

How do I keep my readers engaged and have them coming back? 

You need to create great content and provide a great reading experience.

Yes, the answer couldn’t be more vague.

The good news is, there’s much more science to it than one may expect.

How readers behaviour impacts your SEO and 4 ways to optimize your content for that. @Sam___Hurley Click To Tweet

Based on Moz survey, we put together a list of factors that impact your readers’ experience and tactics you can use to improve those factors.

seo content content quality factors

A) Content Uniqueness. 

seo content content uniqueness

Put simply, there are 3 main ways to create unique content:

  1. Use original data: run customer surveys or experiments and use the results, data and insights you get to produce original content.
  2. Leverage what’s out there:
    1. combine data and information out there to reach new conclusions.
    2. Create comprehensive, end-to-end guides grouping existing resources and materials.
  3. Challenge dogmas: add a new perspective to an existing discussion (controversial opinions are always welcome).

Rand Fishkin explains the concept perfectly in the video how to create 10X content.

Pro Tip: keep your content constantly updated.

Page age and content freshness are factored inby google and other search engines. Content on older URLs has proven its value already and updating it will signal search engines it’s still relevant, thus worth ranking.

How to make google love your old content @Sam___Hurley Click To Tweet

B) Mobile Friendliness

content uniqueness mobile friendliness

If you haven’t made your website mobile-friendly, you should. The majority of users coming to your site are likely to be using a mobile device.” – Google

There’s not much to add to this statement from Google, so let’s move straight to practice.

First off, verify if your site is mobile friendly, using Google’s Test 

mobile friendly seo content

If the test’s result looks like the one above, congrats.

If not, keep reading.

According to Google’s guidelines, there are three ways to grant your readers a great mobile experience.

mobile friendly options seo content

[Source]

Using a responsive design is considered the most effective tactic, so let’s not waste time reinventing the wheel and go with it.

a) If you’re a Wordpress user, look no further: here’s a list of 55 responsive and FREE WordPress themes.

Just pick one and install it, it will save you a ton of time.

b) If your are using other content management systems, click here to access the guides.

c) This is the least recommended option, but in case you want optimize your site manually, here you can find google’s guide for developers.

mobile optimization worksheet

C) Page load speed

page load speed seo content

Nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. (Kissmetrics)

Data is clear: a slow blog will cost you money.

First, measure your site speed, use Google page speed tool and Gtmetrix for even more insights.

seo content gtmetrix

Then, pass the report over to your developers, they’ll know what to do.

To help them out, share with them this list with 22 fixes to increase your website speed.

page speed optimization worksheet

D) Overall Reading Experience

Search engines main goal is providing users with the highest quality content that offers the best reading experience.

To do that they analyze your pages design and formatting and pair it up with users behaviour.

seo content users behaviour

The factors above are deeply related to one another: improvements in the reading experience will lower bounce rate and increase dwell time, tactics aimed at improving dwell time will also impact the reading experience and so forth.

That’s why you want to approach this area holistically.

9 pieces of advice to offer your readers the best experience @Sam___Hurley Click To Tweet

9 pieces of advice to offer your readers the best experience

1 – Keep the page clean: avoid annoying pop ups and make sure content is at the core of the page.

2 – Refine CTAs: design CTAs so that they fit harmonically in the page and within the text.

3 – Keep sentences short: avoid lengthy, dense paragraphs: keep sentences short.

4 – Use Images: they break the text and make the experience more dynamic.

5 – Leverage subheads: make your subheads interesting and appealing, they will help you turn skimmers into readers and keep them on the page longer.

6 – Frontload: let your readers know they landed on the right page with short and on point intros. This will keep them reading extending their dwell time and lowering bounce rate.

7 – Highlight relevant statements: use bullet points, quotes and boxes to highlight step by steps and impactful statements.

8 – Use Internal Links: keep readers on your site by linking to related content of yours. Also add a list of the most relevant posts in a lateral box and a “related posts” section at the end of the post.

9 – Install a search box: this will help your readers find what they need, fast and improving their overall experience.

Click here to download a list with examples and benchmark you can follow.

reader experience worksheet


CONCLUSION

Content and SEO are two faces of the same medal: you can’t succeed at one without the other.

From backlinks, to keywords and content quality, we’ve been through some of the most effective content and SEO tactics you can use to improve your content results.Just two last considerations:

1 – Always Measure: use the worksheets we shared with you to identify and keep track of your actions and success metrics. This will help you understand what’s working and will add up to your knowledge base.

2 – Be Patient: the content & SEO game is a long term one. So don’t despair and go ahead, results will come.

It’s go time: pick the action that best suits your current needs and skill-set , share the worksheet with your team and start climbing up the SEO ladder!

seo content


sam-hurley-headshot

Sam Hurley is a lateral-thinking digital marketer holding 6+ years’ self-expedited experience in both agency and client-side settings before launching his own digital consultancy venture: OPTIM-EYEZHe has achieved success for SMEs, national to international blue chip organisations while being ranked as the world’s #1 digital influencer by Webinale and #2 most influential digital marketer by Onalytica. He was also recently commended as one of the top 3 content marketing influencers of 2016 by ScribbleLive. Catch him on Twitter for heaps of helpful tweets on entrepreneurship and marketing