Welcome back! Jamstack part kind of ends here. Whether you are an SEO guy, marketing guy, or a developer, I strongly advise you to read the rest of the guide, where I cover content SEO basics.
When you have a huge post like this one, it is better to break it into a couple of pages. First of all, even fast loading Jamstack pages like ours would load slower with complete content on them. Second, the fact you’ve clicked through page #1 gives Google a signal that you liked the content on the page. Third, with more pages, you can rank for more keywords. Finally, it raises dwell time on your pages and influences bounce rate and average page sessions (all of which are content quality and ranking signals).
With ever-changing complexity and the number of potential ranking signals, understanding SEO goes well beyond knowing one or a couple of them. You have to be able to see the bigger picture.
Let us now focus on your website’s content.
Broadly, content issues fall under one of these two segments:
- the on-page optimization includes keyword research, the content itself, keyword placement, meta tags, content structure, H tags, content pruning, etc.
- And off-page optimization, which includes domain authority, link building, brand building, PR, social shares, etc.
Now, there’s no shortage of great posts with in-depth explanations of these two segments (look at the further reading section below).
However, I’d like to approach these topics in a slightly different way than most guides. I’d like to propose a content SEO flow that I believe is a much better way of explaining things to a novice and expert alike public.
Instead of covering each topic separately, content SEO flow provides you with a step-by-step framework that helps you cover, understand, and include the best content SEO practices (the on-page/off-page parts) on your project.
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While your service, product, or content are the core of your business, the keywords that your audience is searching for are the cornerstone of your content and your overall digital marketing strategy.
Keyword research provides you with information about what, how many, and how people are searching for in the area of your interest. And in what format do they expect to get that information (or rather Google is serving it).
Keyword research is there to help you find strategic keywords you ought to target with your website’s content. Or so most guides and articles on that topic say.
Don’t get me wrong here. That’s true to a certain extent. Let me rephrase the above sentence:
keyword research is there to help you find strategic keywords you ought to target with your website’s content and that are in line with your website’s ability to rank for them.
That’s all fine and dandy, but where do you start?
And how do you know which keywords you should target?
Before you start, keep in mind that your keyword research depends on your website (authority, are you a trusted resource, number of pages, etc.); your goals (are you aiming at branding, exposure, traffic, gathering leads, and sales?); your competition (and their authority, etc.); and finally the industry you are in. In that sense, so do keywords you can rank for.
Start by making a list of important, relevant keywords and topics based on what you know about your business and/or goals you are trying to achieve. If you already know them, check the competition and see what they have been doing in that regard. If not, find them through the keywords you’ve chosen.
Your best friends at this point are Google and a couple of free and paid keyword discovery tools:
- Google search results
- Auto‐suggest in Google search
- similar searches in Google search
- Free tools like Answer the Public and Ubersuggest
- One of the paid tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz
You’ll use all of them to tap into what’s already going on in your industry (and keywords) and get a clear picture of what your target audience is searching for, how they conduct a search, which keywords are they using, how popular are the keywords, what is the search volume for them, general intent shown in search results for the keywords, and what will it take to rank for those keywords.
You’ll use them to understand your competition and analyze the good and bad sides in their keyword, content, and backlink profile strategies. Keep in mind that your business competitors and your content competitors might not be the same in search results. The answer is in the search results.
Everyone making t-shirts, from top brands to new businesses, would love to show at no.1 spot of Google search results for the keyword t-shirt (301K average monthly searches). That is hard because the higher the search volume, the greater the competition and effort you need to get a quality ranking.
That is true even more so for new businesses. It is tough to have a fair shot at keywords populated with authority brands, brands that Google has recognized as an authority on a subject of a keyword, no matter how good new businesses are.
With that being the case, it is often suggested to new businesses to go after less popular keywords, long-tail keywords with lower search volume. Interestingly, these keywords often convert better because searchers are more specific in expressing what they look for.
So, if we are starting a t-shirt business, going after the t-shirt keyword would prove difficult. Instead, maybe going after keywords like jamstack t-shirts would be a better option from keyword placement and conversion, i.e., selling a t-shirt point of view.
Most guides point that you should look for high‐volume, low‐competition keywords. By all means, judge business value with these two filters. Remember that those low competition keywords are not just easier to rank for, but once you rank for them, they will provide a foundation and authority to help you go after those more demanding, volume-rich keywords.
With the above being said, if you are using one of the paid tools, you’ll notice a metric often labeled as keyword difficulty (KD), which aims at providing you with a rough sense of how difficult it is to rank for a specific keyword.
First, keep in mind that the KD value differs from tool to tool (each tool has a different way of measuring it). Second, do not rely entirely on KD. Always check search results manually to judge/evaluate real‐world keyword difficulty and search intent before targeting that keyword.
Proper keyword research should help you find relevant and ranking worthwhile keywords that will help you boost your SEO efforts, bring and convert relevant traffic into revenue. After all, there is no point in driving a lot of traffic if you can’t convert it.
But remember, good keyword research does not mean you can get away with a crappy website and thin content.
You have to throw in search intent and domain/page authority into the loop for proper keyword research. Looking at the subtitle, I bet you’re thinking - odd coupling, right? The first one is a genuine ranking factor, while the other is a provisional number used by top SEO tools. Before you start firing, hear me out.
Google is always in pursuit of answering a searcher’s query with the most relevant results. That means being able to understand the searcher’s intent behind a search query is their ultimate goal.
For you, it means that if you want to rank in Google’s search results in 2021, understanding and creating content with search intent in mind is crucial. It’s the intent behind the query/keyword and how well your content solves what matters.
Broadly speaking, there are four types of search intent (take the term types less specific and less concrete than the term implies): Informational, Navigational, Transactional, and Commercial investigation. Let’s have a quick rundown of each one.
In case you are asking a specific question in your search query or want to know more about a particular topic, you are most likely expressing informational intent. Questions like ‘who is Brad Pitt?’ or ‘what is Jamstack?’ and direction queries like ‘airport directions’ and topic/keyword queries like ‘soccer’ or ‘university education’ fall under this type.
When searching for a specific website, for example, ‘Bejamas’ or ‘Gmail sign in’, you are expressing navigational intent.
People who intend to do something, like making a purchase or watching a video, search with transactional intent. Queries like ‘iPhone 10 price’ and ‘namecheap coupon’ and ‘buy secrid miniwallet’ all fall under this category.
Finally, those of you who have the intention to buy something soon but prefer to get informed before the purchase are expressing commercial investigation intent. So, queries like ‘iPhone vs. Android’ and ‘iPhone review’ and ‘best wallets’ and ‘record shop near me’ and ‘cheap hotels in London’ all belong here.
Some articles also recognize local queries as a different type. Those are the search queries that refer to local results, i.e. when you look for ‘cocktail bar near me’ or ‘movie theatre near me’. If you ask me, most of these easily fit intentional types of queries, and while location does make them a bit different, I still choose to make things easier for me by not excluding them.
Domain authority/domain rating is a metric that aims at helping you understand the strength of a website. These metrics are tool-defined, so treat them as such. By this, I mean that you should use domain authority, and other similar metrics (such as KD), as an indicator of what might be rather than something that is.
Google does not apply a Domain Authority score such as the Moz DA for example.
Most tools offer authority metrics in an ‘overall’ sense which, in my opinion, brings even more uncertainty to an already vague metric. Adding an industry aspect to it, making it into ‘authority in given industry/topics’ metric rather than overall one, would be of a better use for SEOs.
Finally, establishing a website as an authority, or for ‘authority’ metrics for that matter, takes time and careful planning (keyword research, content quality/quantity, and backlinks). Benefits are significant. For example, domains with high ‘authority’ metrics usually appear to be trusted resources which enables them to publish content and rank much faster than the rest. So, you can say there is a connection between DA scores and perceived domain value by Google.
Establishing your site and yourself (I will talk about it a bit later) as an authority and earning links from existing authoritative sites can greatly influence your ranking.
So, why do the two deserve to be taken into consideration together? The answer is in the search results. In the examples part of the guide, I’m offering a look at why we, even though we have ranked previously and have an excellent piece of content, don’t rank that well for a keyword headless cms anymore.
Or take a look at the excellent still true post Optimizing for searcher intent in 7 visuals by Rand Fishkin from Moz.
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Setting aside your writing quality, you should keep in mind a couple of things when crafting content. As explained above, focus your content on subject/keyword intent. Then focus on making relevant and genuinely helpful content. That, among many things, means you do not write for SEO but help writing fit into an SEO mold.
Let’s take the length of content as an example. A ‘guide’ in general implies a lengthy piece, so the keyword ‘Among us guide’ requires much more content than the keyword ‘Among us cheats’. Don’t think about the length of the content in absolute terms. Instead, think about what is written and how resourceful it is.
While running keyword research, take cues about the content showing in search results and scan top‐ranking pages. This will help you figure out what type of content is showing in search results (blog post, product page, category page, video only page, long/short-form content, etc.).
Pay attention to E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). Ever since Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines leaked a couple of years ago, we are pretty much aware of what Google suggests to its quality raters what to look for in quality content.
Expertise means an expert in the field writes the post, i.e., he/she has a high level of knowledge or skill for a topic in question. Think of it this way; you wouldn’t want to have a car mechanic treat your flu or write about it, right?
Authoritativeness is about the reputation post writers have among other experts and influencers in the field. For example, you might not hear about that car mechanic and his knowledge of flu treatment, but you have heard from multiple car dealers that he can replace a clutch on BMW (any model) better than anyone.
Trustworthiness is about the legitimacy and accuracy of the website and its content as a whole. That car mechanic of ours works for the official BMW service, and you know they take top-notch care of BMW vehicles. That adds up to the trust you have when he talks about BMW clutch problems.
So, make damn sure your content is (expertly) well-written and organized, provides real value to the readers, links out to relevant content, and is backed out by top-notch tech architecture (did anybody say Jamstack?). Keep in mind that with the content, you are influencing your personal and your website’s/businesses EAT.
Finally, if search results allow it (have it), give your audience different ways to engage with your content (Text, Video, Audio). And be sure to incorporate clear CTAs to the next stage of your funnel. For most businesses gathering traffic via SEO is just a first step. After that, you need to find a way to make use of that traffic dollar vise.
If you read this guide thoroughly, you’ve most certainly noticed On-page SEO Tip parts. This whole guide is made as an SEO case study. As such, on-page SEO tips are shared across this guide.
While this might be my least favorite part of SEO, it is almost equally important as your content quality. Like other chapters in this guide, this one deserves a post on its own (check the further reading for links).
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your website will climb up the results to the no.1 spot with the right link-building strategy. Backlinks are only one piece of the puzzle, just as the quality of your content is another. On top of it, the quality of your content helps your overall link-building strategy.
The quality of a link depends on a couple of things:
- Domain industry affiliation and authority - for example, for this guide, it is not the same if I have a link from searchenginejournal.com or foodmatters.com. While both are valuable, the first one brings on the weight of being an industry known and trustworthy source (remember ETA?). As such, it signals Google what they link/share is of value to the industry they are known in.
- Anchor text of a link - it is desirable to have many different anchors in your backlinks portfolio, but you still get the most out of links that link to you with your desired keyword or a phrase.
- Content quality and link place - being linked within a fantastic piece of content in your industry is more valuable than being linked in a mediocre one. As for link placement, links that show up higher in the main content hold more value.
Now that we know what a quality link is, how do you get one or thousands?
There are a couple of ways to look for backlinks, and I’ll mention a few here:
- Check the search results for your targeted keywords and those similar or connected with them, and reach out to the websites that rank for them.
- Use one of the paid SEO tools to check competitors’ backlink portfolios and see if you can grab a spot on pages that link to them.
- Find broken links or unlinked brand mentions going to resources or products you mention. Help the page with the broken link and ask for a backlink.
- Find your industry round-up posts or websites that are accepting guest posts.
There are a plethora of options when it comes to link building. However, social network links are not one of them as their backlink SEO value is pretty low. They matter more on the user behavior side and influence signals like dwell time, bounce rate, click depth, etc.
We know what a quality link is and where to find them, so how do we reach out? Well, there is no universal trick or a strategy you can use that works all the time. I’ve found that having a personal spin on proven tactics worked the best whether you reach out via email or Linkedin.
Avoid templates and personalize your approach. Research who to reach out to and convey a message appropriately. But here lies the big problem of link building, and that is time/money availability. You see, doing proper research and personalization takes time, but even with all the effort you’ve put into it, you can still end empty-handed.
Some would argue there are alternatives to that. Like, focus on your content quality. Or focus on building relationships first, either via Linkedin or Twitter. But that’s a story for an entirely different post.
Before I wrap this up, let me invite you to DOWNLOAD pdf version of this guide that comes with an EXAMPLE of content, SEO flow I used for this guide, and links to TOOLS and RESOURCES for further reading.
The best SEO strategy implies you’ve taken into account all the tech aspects and building content in that sweet spot between your customers’ needs and wants and what your product/service provides. However, fail to give searchers what they want, i.e., satisfy the searcher’s intent, and your chances of ranking high are close to none.
This guide aims to introduce 👨💻Jamstackers to SEO and bring Jamstack benefits under the SEO community’s spotlight.
If you haven’t done it yet, now would be a perfect time to check out my content SEO flow case study for this guide. DOWNLOAD the .pdf version of the guide.