How to Write Content that Ranks

You can’t rank for content that doesn’t exist. Even if you do have content, in today’s competitive landscape, having mediocre content that is not optimized for search engines will not help your chances at ranking. In this lesson, we’ll share with you the step-by-step process for creating amazing content that ranks in Google.

58 minutes

Key points you can
learn in this lesson.

How to Create Content Topics

Understand how to use prior research to formulate winning content topics

How to Find Writers

Learn how to find great writers and create a content brief built with SEO in mind

How to Publish Content

Acquire working knowledge of the entire content process from topic ideation to publishing content in a CMS

Our key metrics increased. More importantly, we implemented a lot of new tactics and test scenarios, which will boost our company’s future prospects.

Dave McCue
Digital Marketing Manager at Allstate

Lesson Preview

In this lesson, we’ll be focusing on how to create quality content that has the best chances of ranking for the right keywords. We will be reviewing every step of the content process from planning, to execution, down to publishing. 

It’s important that you follow the necessary steps within the process so that you have a better chance to get your content to rank. 

Why is Content Important for SEO?

“Content is King.” If you’ve done research into SEO then you’ve most likely seen this phrase being thrown around. Without content, it would be extremely difficult to hit your digital marketing goals. Creating new content on a consistent basis can greatly impact your chances of bringing in new organic traffic, which can lead to organic conversions or purchases on your site. 

Let’s review 5 key reasons why content is one of the most important pillars of SEO:

1. Keyword Rankings

It’s important to continuously increase your keyword rankings because the more relevant keywords you rank for, the more opportunities you have to bring in new traffic. 

If your entire domain only ranks for less than 100 keywords with low monthly search volume, then you can’t expect to generate much revenue from that. However, if your domain ranks for thousands of valuable keywords, you automatically increase your online visibility and you now have a wider reach to a larger audience; thus, bringing in more people to your site. 

2. Brand Awareness

The best way to let people know that your business exists is to create quality content geared towards your target audience. If you’re not being consistent with your content creation, it becomes more difficult for you to attract new customers. 

If you’re just starting your business, creating a blog can be difficult but extremely rewarding in the long run. You’ll need to build an audience slowly, which helps generate brand awareness simultaneously. The goal is to create content that your audience relates to and can share with their following so that your brand reaches far and wide. 

3. Digital PR + Link Building 

Digital PR, link building, and content are the ultimate combination for effective SEO. If you don’t have quality content on your site, then how will you get good press or backlinks to your site if there is nothing to reference? 

Creating quality content will not only help you make a name for yourself, but you increase your chances of acquiring a backlink from a reputable and authoritative domain that can pass on significant link equity to your domain and page (more on this in the next lesson!).

4. No Content = No Ranking 

If you have no content on your site, Google will have nothing to serve in its search engine. Content gives Google something to serve. That’s why we believe it is the most important SEO pillar. Every target keyword requires a corresponding page with content to satisfy that keyword search intent. The more quality content you have on your site, the higher your chances of gaining visibility within search engines. 

5. User Intent

Google is getting smarter every day. Their bots and algorithms are constantly getting better at recognizing a user’s search intent. It’s important that you create content for all types of search intents including educational, decision making, etc. This way, you’ll reach your audience at all levels of the sales funnel (Awareness, Evaluation, Decision/Conversion).

What you’ll need:

Below we’ve listed some of the tools and templates required for this lesson. 

Here is a list of tools to utilize for content creation (some of which have been previously mentioned in other lessons)

We’ve created some templates and checklists to help you along the content creation process: 

  • Template: Writer Outreach Pitch
  • Template: Target Personas
  • Template: Content Calendar
  • Template: Competitor SERP Analysis
  • Template: Content Outline
  • Checklist: Writing Content with SEO in Mind

The Process:

To help walk you through the entire content production process, we’ve broken up key action plans for you to follow which include:

  • How to Find Writers
  • How to Come Up with Topics
  • How to Create an Outline
  • How to Write Content with SEO in Mind
  • How to Publish Content

How to Find Writers

You may not always be able to create every piece of content for your website yourself. That’s where hiring a freelance writer comes into play! 

A freelance writer can save you a lot of time and is fairly easy to manage since it’s all done digitally. We’ll provide step-by-step instructions on finding writers in your vertical. There are two options: find a writer through a freelance platform or manually by research. We’ll show you how to do both!

Find a Writer Via UpWork

Step 1: Sign Up for UpWork

Visit https://www.upwork.com/ to sign up. 

Depending on the size of your company, you’ll need to select the appropriate plan for your business. However, we recommend starting off with the Basic plan and going from there. You most likely won’t feel the need to upgrade. 

Here are the plans for your reference:

Step 2: Post a Job

Next, let’s create a job listing! 

Here is a replica of a job listing that we’ve published: 

Here are some tips for your job listing:

  • Be as specific as possible.
  • Add at least one screening question to make sure you’re getting qualified candidates who apply. 
  • Add as many relevant skills as necessary to reach a wider pool of candidates. 
  • Set a realistic budget. 
  • Always offer a trial run prior to hiring full time to make sure the writer has good communication skills, can hit deadlines, and can produce quality content. 

After posting your listing, you can either wait for candidates to respond to your listing or you can invite freelancers by searching through the recommendations. You’ll have the opportunity to review their profile, see their previous work, and read reviews on them.

Note: Remember, you can only invite up to 3 freelancers with the Basic plan so be selective with your candidates. 

Don’t forget to ask for writing samples prior to the trial run! 

Step 3: Trial Run

Once you have selected a candidate, it’s time to put them to the test. 

Give them one content assignment with a reasonable deadline. We recommend assigning them a shorter piece, maybe 750 words, with a one-week turnaround. Keep it simple so you can make your decision sooner and start assigning them the rest of your content calendar. 

Give them all the information that they would need including:

  • Details about your business/products/services 
  • Tone and style guide 
  • General writing guidelines you want them to follow 
  • What they should include as far as the content goes
  • How many images 
  • Which pages they should source
  • Etc. 

Pay attention to how receptive they are. You’ll also want to note how communicative they are via UpWorks chat. Are they responding in an appropriate time frame? Are they asking the right questions? Are they short and standoffish? Use your best judgment and remember that you want to have a good ongoing relationship with your freelance writer to ensure a positive experience and the utmost quality. 

Step 4: Hire the Freelancer!

Hopefully after the trial run, you are satisfied with the work of your freelancer, their ability to take direction, and their communication skills. It’s time to hire them and start assigning them more topics!

Finding a Writer Via Research

If you’re looking to find a more authoritative writer that has written for bigger publications in your industry, then this is the method you should use to find a writer. 

Keep in mind, this might be the more pricey option since you’re locating established writers within your industry. 

Step 1: Do a Google Search

The first step is to do a simple Google search. 

You can try two different ways.

Think of a popular keyword surrounding your business. For Directive, we’re going to choose “content marketing.” 

Method 1: News

The first method is searching the term and clicking over into the “News” area. 

Here you will find the most recent articles published surrounding the searched topic. If you find an article you like, take note of the author’s name. Then, search that author and review other pieces of content they have published in the past. If you like what you see, move on to Step 3. 

Method 2: Popular Industry Publications

Navigate to the top publications in your industry. For Directive, we would check Search Engine Journal or Moz

From there, scope out the articles and locate an author who has written a lot of content on topics that are most relevant to your business. If you like what you see, move on to Step 3. 

Note: For both methods, be sure to review more than one sample of a writer’s work to check for quality. Additionally, make sure they are actually freelancers and write for multiple publications. You don’t want to waste your time on someone who is hired by a single publication and unable to write for anyone else. 

Step 2: Search on LinkedIn

You can leverage LinkedIn to locate writers in your space as well. 

Go to LinkedIn and type in the search bar “your topic/industry + writer.”

We searched “content marketing writer.”

Scroll down to the “people” section:

Here, you will find freelancers on LinkedIn who advertise themselves as writers on that particular topic. 

From there, you can scope out their profile and see their work history or writing samples. If you’re interested, then try and connect with them. Always add a message when you connect because it’s more likely they will accept the invitation if a message is attached. 

Try to do your best research around them on the SERP so you can read live articles written by them. 

With this route, you can skip Step 3 since you can communicate via LinkedIn. However, if you also want to locate their email to reach out, then follow along to Step 3. 

Step 3: Retrieve the Freelancer’s Email

For this step, you’ll need to have downloaded the Hunter extension. Hunter allows you to locate emails associated with the website that you’re viewing.  

Try to narrow down your list to 3 – 5 freelancers (We always recommend finding more than one to reach out to since it’s not certain that they will respond or be willing to accept the offer.)

Now, it’s time to find their email so you can pitch to them the writing opportunity. 

Navigate to an article that they’ve written. I’ll use this one as an example: Get More Traffic Now: 5 Secrets of the Most Popular Blogs

Continue to click the Hunter icon in your extension bar. It should look like this: 

As a note, the author’s name is Jessica Foster.

Once you click the extension, you should see the following screen pop up: 

Look for your writer’s name/email. If you are unable to find it, do a search of their name. Hunter provides you with the email pattern associated with the domain so they make an educated guess. 

Please note that some of these emails may not be 100% verified and Hunter will let you know by saying:

In this particular case, it looks like SEJ doesn’t create emails for contributors to their site. However, they do include a link to Jessica’s LinkedIn so we can try reaching out to her via that route. 

If you want to continue to search for the writer’s email, your best bet is to do a Google search of their name + “writer”.

From there, we were actually able to find the company that Jessica works for, which displays her email for direct contact: 

Be diligent in your search! You won’t always get lucky and find the writer’s email on the first try. So it’s important to keep searching using all different avenues until you find something that works. There will be rare cases where there is absolutely no indication of their email so in that case, just resort to reaching out via LinkedIn. 

Step 4: Reach Out to the Freelancer 

Now that we have identified the best way to contact the writer, it’s time to reach out with your pitch!

It’s extremely crucial that you’re clear, professional, and respectful when reaching out. That’s why we’ve crafted a basic template that you can follow! 

You can find a link to that template here → Writer Outreach Pitch Template

We like to keep it short and sweet. Keep in mind that you’ll want to shorten it up a bit more if you’re reaching out within LinkedIn. 

Step 5: Negotiate Pricing & Contract

Negotiating can be a little scary at first but having a clear budget set can greatly improve the negotiation phase. 

We suggest doing some research on the cost of writers prior to setting your budget. You don’t want to offer the writer significantly less than average and insult them. Similarly, you don’t want to shoot too high and lose money. 

For digital marketing, a good benchmark is about $0.15 – $0.20 per word. So if we’re assigning a 1,250-word article that would total between $187 and $250 per article.

Here are some other helpful tips:

  • Get a fixed price, not an hourly.
  • Having high-volume content is your friend because it means more money for the writer and they may give you a discounted rate when you offer them X amount of guaranteed pieces. 
  • Always start at the lower end of your asking price. Then work your way up to the maximum budget you’ve set. Never start negotiations with your maximum budget. 

Once you and the writer are set on pricing and details, we recommend drafting a small contract/agreement. It doesn’t need to be too official unless you really want to protect your business and the writer.  

Write down every detail of the contract including:

  • Deliverable amount (Ex. 20 articles)
  • Length of contract (6 months, 12 months, etc.)
  • Deadlines (if you have them already)
  • Rounds of revisions allowed (Typically two is a reasonable amount)
  • Guidelines the writer should follow (Ex. word count, image use, etc.)
  • Agreed payment (both the price per article and the form of payment)

Get the writer to sign it and you’re ready to get started with content creation for your business! 

How to Come Up with Topics

Topic creation can be a time-consuming task but it’s extremely important to find the right topics for your business and target audience. Follow the steps below to ensure a smooth process for creating solid content topics. 

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