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Everyone wants to know the “secret” sauce to improving rankings.

Novice bloggers and SEO experts alike spend countless hours trying to figure out what it takes for their content to stand out in an increasingly competitive search landscape. The truth? While SEO is a long-game that will require effort and vigilance, the steps to creating rankings success are actually fairly simple.

Our team has worked with brands in every industry to help them climb the SERPs and we’ve learned what it takes to rank higher on Google. You can see the proof over here, but below is just a sample of the organic traffic growth:

screenshot from AHREFs showing how we grew organic traffic by 200% in over 4 years.

Read on for the five most important steps to consider when aiming to boost your rankings—and then get ready to do the work required to deliver the traffic gains you’re looking for.

1. Target The Right Keywords

We know you’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating: targeting the right keywords is the first key step in setting yourself up for rankings success—and proper keyword research is more nuanced than you think.

In an arena where big players dominate almost every vertical, identifying low-hanging fruit topics that your brand can be an authority for is key to building a successful strategy.

Determine Where You’re an Authority

Some content marketers fall into the trap of going after top-funnel search terms that may not be relevant to their customers, simply because they have a lot of search volume. While it’s natural to want to target terms with a lot of traffic potential, take a critical eye when doing keyword research and make sure not to automatically write off lower volume terms.

Depending on your industry, there may not be as much search volume for the key terms that are most relevant for your customers. For example, if you’re in the life insurance space, the topic “how to choose life insurance” is highly relevant to your audience and buyer funnel, even though it only gets 200 searches per month.

While fewer users are searching for this, those looking are already interested and making their way through the buying process—making their eyeballs on your content highly valuable. By targeting more niche queries where you have unique authority and perspective, you’re more likely to see long-term rankings success and generate higher authority and more relevant link placements overtime.

Understand Search Intent

Understand search intent

If you’ve already created content and it’s struggling to rank, the issue may be as simple as a search intent mismatch. Check how long it’s been since you initially published the piece. If it’s been three to six months or longer and you’re not gaining any traction, it may be time for a content refresh.

Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board to see what types of content are ranking for your query and how you can adjust your article accordingly to better align with search intent and your intended audience.

It’s worth noting that more content isn’t always the answer. Depending on the intent behind the keyword you’re targeting, an informational post may not be the best fit for the user—and could even potentially cannibalize other important pages on your site. If you go after a transactional keyword by mistake, you run the risk of competing with your product pages—confusing the user and potentially hurting your bottom line.

Understanding types of search intent:

  • Informational: the user is looking for information on a particular topic, so create content that can rank.
  • Navigational: the user is looking for a specific site or web page, so ensure key pages like the blog and homepage surface.
  • Transactional: the user is looking to make a purchase, so make sure your product pages are on page one.

In addition to considering what type of keyword you’re targeting, make sure it aligns with your audience and buyers’ journey.

For example, if you’re a car insurance company you likely don’t want to rank for “how to learn how to drive” because even though it has high search volume, those looking for this information are likely high schoolers—not the purchasing decision makers who typically buy car insurance.

Understanding both who is looking for your content and the need they’re looking to satisfy will help you create posts that are best equipped to earn and maintain a page one position.

Consider SERP Volatility

Consider SERP volatility

It’s not enough to capture a coveted SERP position if you can’t hold it over time. Some queries will naturally be more volatile than others. This usually happens when Google hasn’t yet figured out what exactly a user is looking for or is aiming to satisfy multiple search intents at once.

In addition to the usual metrics that might make a topic seem appealing, look at the SERP position history to better understand the chances you’ll be able to earn—and maintain—a coveted page one ranking.

Look for Topics That Will Drive Passive Links

identify passive link opps

In addition to identifying lower competition keywords with a strong brand fit, we recommend thinking about topics that lend themselves to organic linking over-time. Considering passive link acquisition when doing keyword research will help you continuously boost your site’s authority overtime. This strategy will help ensure you rank for specific keywords—and lift rankings across your site over time.

Content formats that align well with this strategy include:

  • Statistics posts
  • How-to queries
  • Definitional posts
  • Emerging trends

Unsure if the keyword you’ve identified will drive passive links? Run a top-ranking article on the SERP through Ahrefs Site Explorer and analyze how links have changed over time. A positive signal for passive link acquisition will be an upward trajectory of LRDs once the post has started ranking.

2. Anticipate What The Reader Is Looking For

Content marketers love to tell everyone that the secret to rankings success simply comes down to “creating great content.” But what exactly does this mean? At Siege, we aim to create content that is significantly better than what’s already out there. Achieving this means looking beyond what’s currently ranking and understanding what the user is really looking for.

SERPs change over time, so to stay ahead of the curve we suggest not just looking at the already ranking articles for inspiration, but rather asking yourself what’s missing from the content that exists on a given topic.

Additionally, looking at SERP features like the People Also Ask Box can help you identify topics related to your article that can be seamlessly woven into your piece to keep the reader engaged and best satisfy what they’re looking for.

Users are more likely to remain on your page when you serve them unique, compelling information so even if your query seems straightforward consider ways you can elevate your article to help it stand out. Can you add HARO quotes to lend credibility to your piece with expert opinions? Can you break down complex information with simple visuals? Does your article align with the SUCCESS method?

Breakdown of success method

Going beyond the SERP will help you create content that keeps users engaged and continues to drive traffic to your site for the long-haul.

3. Improve Your Site’s UX Design

If you want to rank at the top of the SERP, great content and link building isn’t enough. To show Google you’re a leader in your space, you’ll need a website that is authoritative, trustworthy and easy to navigate.

We’ve all landed on a blog that’s unimpressive, slow to load or just straight up confusing. The common response is to quickly click off page—increasing bounce rate and decreasing the site’s chance of ranking for relevant queries. In the age of E-A-T, creating a site that feels trustworthy is non-negotiable.

While improving your site’s design will take time and effort, there are a few easy tweaks you can make that will have a big impact on users and rankings.

Quick ways to improve your user experience include:

  • Increasing font size to 18 pt for greater accessibility
  • Adding branded social buttons
  • Reducing your number of blog categories
  • Adjusting blog width

Depending on your site’s overall aesthetic, a more in-depth redesign may be required to keep users interested and engaged. When looking to improve your site’s user experience, don’t forget to check technical aspects of the site that could be impacting rankings like page speed and core web vitals.

4. Build a Link Building Strategy

Build link building strategy

Successful link building strategies are key to boosting your site’s overall authority and helping individual pieces of content rank. To build a successful strategy that boosts rankings, we suggest the following:

Check Link Velocity

If you’re trailing behind, you’ll need to prioritize building your backlink profile through manual outreach to show Google you’re an authority in your space and set yourself up to rank for key queries. If your link velocity is solid, you’ll want to focus on building a backlink profile made up of highly relevant sites that align with your business offering.

Identify Topics for Link Building

Articles with natural shareables like infographics and printables can help you boost your backlink profile through targeted outreach. If you can tie these topics to search, you can also see long-term traffic results as those manual outreach efforts nudge your post to rank.

Use Guest Posting for Highest Value Pages

While we recommend avoiding guest posting as an exclusive tactic, when done strategically it can help you manually build links to category and product pages. Make sure to take a critical eye at these opportunities to ensure the site fit and anchor text aligns naturally with your brand.

While building a link building strategy that works may seem daunting, it’s worth the effort. Time spent manually pitching your content can lead to long-term rankings success.

5. Track Content KPIs and Adjust

Example of tracking keywords

You did it! Your content has climbed the SERP and is now sitting pretty at a coveted page one position. Your work is not complete, however. Given Google’s intent to surface the best content that’s most relevant to users, it’s not enough to land on page one—you’ll now need to work hard to maintain this position.

We recommend tracking your content performance weekly and monthly to identify what’s working and where there may be opportunities for improvement. Keep in mind what queries are driving the most traffic to your site and pay close attention to any fluctuations, as depending on the size of your site, position dips for key posts may cause a big traffic impact.

Think You Have What it Takes to Rank?

Whether you’re feeling confident in your chops but want a little more support or have no idea where to even start, our team can help you build a content marketing strategy that works for your unique business.

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