Not all businesses should do content marketing the same way. To help give your company some direction, we're publishing a series of articles about different content marketing strategies, and how to know which one to use. This is our second installment in the series.
The three growth content strategies we're covering are based on three levels of visits and Domain Authority:
- Phase 1: Authority Building - Fewer than 1,000 visits per month and a Domain Authority of less than 20.
- Phase 2: Keyword Cultivation - From 1,000–25,000 visits per month and a Domain Authority from 20 to 50.
- Phase 3: Sales Growth - Greater than 25,000 visits per month and a Domain Authority from 50 to 100.
They work—we’ve used them to help our clients and ourselves grow the number of organic visits and leads, as well as customers.
Our first article detailed our proven content strategy for companies that have fewer than 1,000 organic visits monthly to their website. In this one, we’ll talk about how to grow your visits using content if you currently have 1,000-25,000 organic visitors per month.
First Things First: Determine Your Visits & Domain Authority
How To Determine Visits
Here’s how to determine your organic visitors a month:
- Find your sessions per month. In your marketing automation platform (like HubSpot) or Google Analytics, check the number of “sessions” for your site.
- Subtract returning customer sessions by removing the people who go to a login page. For example, if you have a software platform with 3,000 visits per month, but 2,800 go to a login page for existing customers, you only really have 200 true visitors per month.
The number you end up with is your number of visits monthly.
How To Determine Domain Authority
Download the MozBar and check your website’s Domain Authority (DA), a number from 0 to 100. The numbers indicate what Google thinks of your website’s authority, from least authoritative to most authoritative. When you buy a domain for the first time ever, your Domain Authority is zero; Twitter, on the other hand, has a score of 99.
You Should Be Reading This Article If
- You have success getting people to your site organically, meaning you get between 1,000 and 25,000 organic visitors per month (or in that general ballpark).
- You have a domain authority of 20-50. This means you probably have at least a few blog posts bringing in 1,000+ visits per month, and you’re likely ranking for specific topics related to your industry.
It’s Time For Keyword Cultivation
You’re in a great position for growth. Here are five growth content tactics we recommend:
1. Rewrite old, formerly high-performing posts.
Numbers can be misleading when you look only at holistic results of blogging efforts. While general trends may paint a pretty good picture about your posts, unless you’re taking the time to look at each blog specifically, you may not notice that your old, previously high-performing posts are now dropping in traffic. That’s because your new posts are doing well enough to offset the underperforming ones. You need to look at your results on a page-by-page basis to see important details like these!
How To Do It
To find out which posts you should rewrite, first compare time periods for the old posts. How many views was the post getting in 2015 vs. 2017? Because recent posts are a factor Google likes, any posts older than 1.5-2 years will start slipping on their rankings. Keep tabs on your archives to make sure you’re not losing ground because your old posts are slipping.
If, during this audit, you do see your high-performers starting to decline, it’s easy to fix the problem. Just refresh the posts, add new content where necessary, and republish them, and your posts will likely regain their former rankings, visits, and leads.
We’ve used this strategy ourselves (check out our article, How To Grow Website Traffic By 37% With Your Existing Blogs, for more information). As an example, take a look at the arc of a high-performing post for one of our clients over a three-year period. You can see that in phase three, the post lost 38% of its views. Rewriting it helped the article to grow to its peak.
Phases 2 & 3:
We rewrote this post after about two years because we had been experiencing steady declines in views.
- From our peak around the two-year mark, we were getting 43,000 views per month.
- After a few months, views eroded to 27,000.
- That chopped off 16,000 views and hundreds of leads per month just because Google called us old.
With this post, we saw results actually increase after the rewrite—even though our goal was simply to regain its former glory:
|Original Post||Rewritten Post|
|Timeframe||May ’15 – Aug ‘17||Aug ’17 – Mar ‘18|
|Average Time On Site||5:28||6:28|
|Best Three-Month Period||117,000 views||141,000 views|
2. Combine blog posts and add new content to existing posts.
In the keyword cultivation phase, if you have blog posts ranking on page one of Google, you’ll probably also have posts ranking on pages two through five. The bad news? You’re not getting anyone to your site unless the content is ranking on page one. The good news? Ranking so high (even if it’s not on page one) means you’re showing progress—already ranking 12th (for example) out of a million results—so use that to your advantage! Instead of writing a new article on a new topic, mine your posts to see what’s ranking between pages two and five, and combine these existing posts to potentially boost your rankings.
We call this creating a “combination” post, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: Combining your existing blog posts on a common subject into one large post. If your current blog has several smaller posts with a common subject (e.g. top keywords in an industry), you may find in your analysis that two (or more) blog posts on the same keywords are both ranking on page two of Google.
Why does this work? If you have two blog posts on a similar topic both ranking on page two, the posts are cannibalizing one another: They are both doing OK, but not well enough to get to page one, where the majority of your audience will find the post—and you.
How To Do It
Instead of allowing this cannibalization to continue, find out which of your articles are currently ranking on pages two through five of Google; then, combine these posts into one.
Using Google Search Console
If you’re doing keyword tracking using Google Search Console:
- Go to Search Traffic, then Search Analytics.
- Check the box for “position.”
- Download the list.
- Sort the keywords ranking between spots 11 and 50 (pages two through five).
You can also use SEMrush to find out which posts you should combine:
- Go to Organic Research under Competitor Research.
- Enter your domain into the search bar.
- Apply advanced filters to include keywords in positions between 11 and 50.
Use this data to see if multiple articles on a single topic are ranking in that range. After combining the articles, post the combination article on the URL of the article with a higher ranking, and redirect the lower-ranking URL to the higher-ranking one. Ta-da! You will likely end up with the new combination article on page one.
For example, in the image above, our company had two pages ranking for the same keyword, (ranking at 11 and 15 respectively). When one dropped out (where you see the dotted line), the other jumped to 8. One article on page one is better than two on the middle of page two.
3. Write about topics that match phrases you’re already ranking for.
The goal here is to identify the keywords you’re already ranking for, find phrases related to them, and then write about those related keywords in order to scoop them up.
How To Do It
1. Use phrase match searches.
Use SEMrush or keywordtool.io to find exact matches in keyword search. For example, if you add the highest-level phrases you rank for, like “sales” or “sales tips,” the tool will return any search phrases that include those terms.
Another example: If your company ranks for “sales tactics” but not “CRM,” look for phrases related to the term “sales tactics.” Then, devote effort and content each month to dominating those related keywords.
2. Use related (or LSI) keywords.
Use a tool like Keywords Everywhere (a Chrome plugin) to find keywords related to ones you already rank for. If you rank for one, you'll have a much higher chance of ranking for the others.
4. Write a pillar page to build authority.
To grow your visits, you’re going to have to write about new topics. One of the struggles with writing about new content is that you don’t have authority on the topic yet, thus making your content less valuable to Google. To combat this, you can write a pillar page (what we call a reservoir post).
Pillar pages are very long articles (around 4,000 words) that target bigger keywords in your industry. Pillar pages give you an opportunity to rank for competitive keywords you would not be able to rank for in normal-length or long-form blog posts.
One note: The only way you can compete is to make your pillar page the absolute best resource available on the topic. By doing so, you can get traction for more in-demand keywords and more competitive topics. Pillar pages are not a good short-term strategy because they often take several months to gain traction, but they are a good long-term play if you have the resources to create them and are committed to high quality.
Factors for a successful pillar page include word length, tightly related keywords, and quality. Longer content length is correlated to higher rankings in Google, because the more high-quality, extensive content you can provide, the longer people stay around to read it. Time on site is the second most important factor to Google because it indicates quality—the longer someone stays around to read your article, the higher quality it is.
If you do reservoir posts the right way, people will stay on your page longer than they will on sites with a higher Domain Authority; over time, you will have a chance to outrank those sites simply because your content is better.
Here’s one example of a successful Pillar Page from our clients:
Bonus tip: To drive traffic to your pillar pages, be sure to write guest posts on other websites and supporting posts on your own website that point to the page.
5. Write social list articles.
A “social list article” is simply a list your persona would find value in. It may highlight experts, tools, statistics, quotes, links, or books of interest to your persona.
We’ve created social list articles for nearly all our clients as well as our own company and seen some excellent results. ClearPoint’s article The Top 8 City Managers To Follow On Twitter now has 5,000+ all-time visits, and most of those visits are from Twitter and sites referring to it. ClearPoint also got three links from government sites to this article, which is extremely valuable for ranking.
How To Do It
As noted in our article 7 Inbound Marketing Examples You’ll Want To Try Yourself, the most difficult aspect of creating a social list article is gathering the information you need. After all, your persona is going to find value in this article simply because they don’t have to do the leg work—you’ve done it for them! Here are a few tips to get you started in your research:
- Help A Reporter Out (HARO): HARO is a platform that allows companies to gather information for articles, while providing thought leaders an opportunity for media coverage. It is often used by journalists, but it holds a great deal of value for inbound marketers.
- Twitter is the main platform for sharing this information—so consider starting your search there! Try searching relevant hashtags that may help you compose your list.
- Ask your clients or customers for their perspective on your list—they may provide you with some industry insight that would otherwise be overlooked.
Don’t write social articles that list a bunch of people who aren’t subject matter experts. Take care to use people who really know what they’re talking about—otherwise you’re sacrificing quality, and your readers will be able to see through your list.
You've done the hard part to get over the authority battle (as we discussed in part one). Now, you need a targeted approach to maintain the success you built from your past work, nurture content that is close to success, capitalize on keywords you have a high likelihood of ranking for, and expand into new topics with pillar pages.
You can do this on your own, but if you’d rather partner with a team of experts who can help you optimize your company’s content marketing strategy, talk to us. We’ll have an honest conversation about how to get meaningful business results for your company using growth content.