Trouble Ranking? Here’s the Part of SEO You’re Missing

by Ashley Barnett
*Some of the links below may be from our sponsors. My full disclosure statement.*

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big part of blogging. Google has the power to send incredible amounts of traffic to your site. If you can get in the top three results of a popular keyword it could mean tens of thousands of page views per month (or more).

What is SEO?

SEO is the fine art of telling Google:

  1. what your article is about
  2. proving it's the best on the internet for that particular topic.

It's both those things. Bloggers are often so focused on telling Google what their article is about that they forget to prove it's the best. Yes, you have to tell Google what your article is about but you also have to prove that it's content worth sending traffic to.

A lot of bloggers are thinking about the first half–telling Google what their article is about. However, lots of people are missing the second half! So here is how to prove your article is the best on the internet.

If you are struggling to let Google know what your article is about, I have a guide on how to do that here.

Proving Your Article is the Best on the Internet

There are three ways to prove your article is the best on the internet.

  • it matches user intent
  • completeness
  • backlinks

What is User Intent?

User intent is simply what Google thinks people want when they search for a specific search term.

Imagine you are Google for a second.

All day everyday people are asking you for referrals to websites. Sometimes they are specific – banana bread recipe. Sometimes they are NOT specific – banana bread. But either way, you have to do your best to give them a website that will provide them what they are looking for.

To do this well, you keep track of your referrals. You pay attention to what they do AFTER they receive your referral. If the person makes another similar request you know your referral wasn't very good. If they move on to other topics, you feel pretty confident that they got what they were looking for.

For example, let's say someone asks you for “banana bread” and you give them pictures of banana bread. Do they download a picture? Or do they immediately Google “banana bread recipe” in an effort to get different results?

If they Google “banana bread recipes” you can feel confident that pictures of banana bread wasn't what they were looking for when they used the keyword “banana bread”.

If that keeps happening, you've just narrowed down the user intent for “banana bread”. Now you know, that when someone Google “banana bread” they don't want images–they want recipes!

Discovering User Intent

So what does this mean for you, dear blogger? It means that if you want to have a shot at ranking for a particular keyword you must match the user intent of that keyword.

How do you know the user intent? (Great question!) You Google the keyword you are considering and see what comes up!

Let's say you were thinking about writing an article about the health benefits of banana bread (to stick with my banana bread theme) and were considering the keyword “banana bread”.

So, because you've read this article, you do a quick Google search for “banana bread”. Here's what comes up…

Recipes! (Shocking.)

Will your article about the benefits of eating banana bread ever rank for “banana bread”? Nope. It never will, because it doesn't match the user intent.

Matching User Intent

If you Google your keyword and find out your article doesn't match the user intent there are two things you can do.

  1. change the article topic to meet the user intent
  2. find a new keyword

Which you choose will depend on the reason you are writing the article. If ranking for this particular keyword is part of your overall strategy then you'll want to change the focus of the article to match the user intent. For example, in our banana bread article, you could add in a recipe or two.

That's an easy one, but sometimes the user intent is so far off that you'd have to scrap the whole article. If you feel strongly that this exact topic needs to be put out into the world then you'll want to find a new keyword.

To find a new keyword, start Googling. Google stuff until you find a keyword that brings up articles that are similar in topic to the article you want to write.

Completeness

So you have your keyword. Perfect. Now What?

Head back over to Google and take a deeper look at the ranking articles. Look at things like:

  • What information is included in their articles?
  • How long are the articles?
  • What subheadings are they using?
  • Are there any related topics that are a natural fit that are being overlooked?
  • Are they using any multimedia; such as images, videos, tables, calculators, etc.

Google is telling us, these are the best articles on the internet for this keyword. What can you do to make YOUR article better?

Let's say you've moved a lot in your life and you want to write an article about things someone can do to make a move go smoother. You've identified “moving tips and hacks” as your keyword.

One thing I noticed while doing a deep dive on the ranking articles is that they all used a lot of pictures. Like a lot! Most have a picture for every tip. If the tip is to put your cords in toilet paper rolls–there is a picture of cords in toilet paper rolls. So if you are looking to rank for this keyword I'd plan on including a lot of pictures.

Another thing I always pay attention to is how long the ranking articles are. For example, if all the articles are 5,000 words your 1,000 word article with 10 tips isn't going to rank. (If you want to learn more about how wordcount affects ranking, Ahrefs has this interesting article.)

In this case, for moving tips and hacks, there is a wide variety in length. The shortest article was about 1,300 words and the longest was over 6,000 and had 100 tips!

Completeness isn't always about word count but length is a pretty good indication of how “complete” an article is. What you really want to look for is holes. If all of the ranking articles are talking about packing tips then you may want to include tips that go beyond packing–such as tips on how to rent a moving truck or how to make sure you get your deposit back. That will differentiate your article and make it “more complete”.

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    Backlinks

    A backlink is a link from another website to your article. Google sees this as a vote of confidence from other websites. A backlink says “This article is high quality and I wanted to share it with my audience, even though I didn't write it.”

    This is a big deal! Backlinks are very important in the SEO game.

    The “bigger” the website that links to you more weight that link has. A backlink from your neighbor's blog is ok. But a backlink from the heavy hitters in your niche is MUCH better.

    You also want the link to be “Do Follow”. This means, yes, I agree that this article I'm linking to is of value. The opposite is “No Follow”, which means, I have no opinion about this link. A “no follow” link won't hurt you, but it won't help you either. At least not from an SEO standpoint.

    How to Get Backlinks

    You want people to link to you. Not just for traffic from their site to yours but for these votes of confidence too. There are several ways to go about getting backlinks.

    1. Create amazing content

    Before anything else, your content has to be worth linking to! No one is going to link to a personal story about how you like to drink coffee on the patio in the morning. Save that stuff for social media. Use your blog to actually help people.

    Other content creators want to link to content that is going to help their readers. The content that gets backlinks will be in-depth, highly-researched, high-wordcount content. It's going to be stuff they can't easily create themselves.

    Nothing else you do will matter if your content isn't great. There are three types of articles that do especially well when it comes to getting backlinks. They are:

    1. List posts (X banana bread recipes you can make this weekend.)
    2. How tos (How to make a banana bread that will knock your socks off.)
    3. Why posts (Why banana bread is the best bread of all.)

    My personal belief that the reasons these types of posts do well on both Google and Social is because the titles tell the reader exactly what they will get out of the article.

    If you need help creating better content check out my course!

    2. Do interviews

    Talk to people and get your name out there. Interview on blogs, on news channels, on podcasts. Anywhere someone will let you tell your story, tell it. The bigger the site the higher quality the backlink will be!

    One way to do this is to connect with reporters through HARO (Help a reporter out). Note that you will not always get a backlink from these news sites even if you give an interview and that interview is published… but it never hurts to get your name out there. Who knows where it will lead.

    3. Ask

    If you want something, most of the time you need to ask for it.

    If you have an article that you have worked really hard on and want to build some backlinks to your best approach is to find good articles out there that could benefit from a link and email the blogger.

    Let's say you have this wonderful article about your grandma's banana bread recipe (again with the banana bread!) and you think it has a real shot at ranking. Start looking for articles out there where it would make sense that they linked to your article. And then–email them and ask for a link!

    This works especially well if there is a broken link to a similar resource that you are trying to get links to. For example, if you found a site that had a link to a banana bread recipe, but that link was broken. You could email them to let them know the link was broken and offer yours as an alternative.

    Want to dig deeper on getting backlinks? Check out this resource from Backlinko. (<– that's a backlink to Backlinko. I couldn't help myself.)

    Summary

    There you have it. Getting ranked on Google isn't just about using your keyword properly in your article. It's also about proving that your article is the best on the internet. To do that you must:

    1. Match user intent
    2. Be complete in your answer
    3. Get backlinks

    If you'd like to learn more about articles that get results check out my course here.

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