Content is just information. And whatever you want to write about, chances are, you’re not the first. Demand for content is surging. And with information accessible literally at the tip of our fingers, there’s an excess supply, making it more challenging to get noticed and produce profitable results. So in order to do that, you need a system that will lead to predictable results so that your content can stand out from the rest.
So if you’re a blogger, freelance writer, or do any type of content writing, keep watching because I’m going to walk you through a step- by-step framework to engage your audience, satisfy search engines, and as a result, drive consistent traffic and hopefully revenue. Stay tuned. [music] Alright, so first, let’s set the record straight. Whether you’re writing for your own site or for a client, you should have two objectives for your content.
- The content should drive traffic to the site.
- The content should engage those people so that they’ll turn into customers or be pushed further down the sales funnel.
So with those objectives in mind, let’s go through a simple 4-step process to achieve both of these goals. The first step is to write about topics people are actually searching for.
Most people like to write about topics that excite them. And while that’s all well and good, these posts often have a short shelf life. For example, a few months ago we published an article on how to start a link building campaign fast.
We talk about systematizing, automating, scaling and all sorts of exciting things… at least for us. And immediately after publishing, we promoted the post to our social media followers, email list, and spent a few hundred dollars on ads to amplify the content.
As a result, we had a huge spike in traffic with thousands of visits over the first few days. But soon after, the traffic faded fast.
And today, it gets next to no traffic compared to our other posts. And while this post wasn’t created with search traffic in mind, we knew that it would create a textbook “spike of hope” and “flatline of nope.” And that’s what happens when you create content that no one’s searching for.
Now, when you create content around topics that people are searching for, then you get the opposite effect: free, passive, and consistent traffic that usually grows over time.
Find relevant topics:
To find topics worth creating content on, you’ll need a keyword research tool to
- Identify search demand, and
- Understand traffic potential of the topic, which is the total amount of monthly search traffic you could get if you were to rank high for that query.
So let’s say we have a site on DIY home improvement tutorials. To find keywords to target, I’ll go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and search for some keywords broadly related to the topic, like “home improvement,” “kitchen,” and “living room.” Next, I’ll go to the Questions report.
And as you can see, there’s quite a bit of search demand around these topics as you can see from their search volumes. And this topic on “how to paint kitchen cabinets” seems like a promising topic for our DIY home improvement site. Now, to find the traffic potential of the topic, hit the SERP button and look at the Traffic column. As you can see, the top-ranking page gets over 37,000 monthly visits from Google every single month. So this topic checks both boxes.
Now, it’s important to note that I’ve skipped a few steps here in the topic selection process, the main one being assessing ranking difficulty. But this tutorial is on content writing, so instead of expanding, I’ll add some links to our keyword research tutorials in the description. Alright, so at this point, we have a topic to tackle, but just because you have a topic, it doesn’t mean you should write whatever you want. Remember, our goal is to rank at the top of Google so that you can get consistent traffic. And this leads us nicely into the second step, which is to assess the “type” of content Google wants you to create.
Google’s job is to deliver the most relevant results for any given query. And they do a pretty good job at this. So naturally, if you want to rank for your target topic, then you need to know the type of content Google will rank for that query. This is called search intent, which tells us about what searchers are looking for when they key in a query. The easiest way to do this is to just search for the query you want to rank for and look at the top-ranking results.
And the three things you’re looking for are: Сontent type, which can be blog posts, product pages, category pages, or landing pages. Content format, which can be how-to guides, step-by-step tutorials, list posts, opinion editorials, reviews, or comparisons.
And the last one is content angle, which is basically the unique selling point of the top- ranking pages. So looking at the top 10 results for our query “how to paint kitchen cabinets,” you’ll see that all of the pages are blog posts, so that would be the content type you should use too. As for format, the top two ranking pages are “how-tos,” which will be step-by-step tutorials. And for content angle, there isn’t really a definitive one.
From my experience, matching content type and format are critical to rank at the top of Google, but angle usually isn’t as important unless there’s a clear theme among the top-ranking pages. Alright, the next step is to create a data-driven outline. Content is like a puzzle. There are a lot of different pieces and it’s tough to assemble without some kind of framework.
Outlines are like the edge pieces of the puzzle. They help to form the base and all you need to do is fill in the missing pieces. They also help make sure you’re including all critical points worth communicating on the topic. And from an SEO perspective, it can help you satisfy the algorithm and the audience. The way Google determines a page’s placement in the search results is algorithmic.
Meaning, you can’t pay to rank at the top of Google and your friend that works there can’t move your site to the top. Their technology is able to understand words and the context they’re in. And the more context you give to search engines, the better your chances of ranking high.
The easiest way to find critical talking points is to look at some of the top-ranking pages and see if there are similar subtopics. For our topic on how to paint kitchen cabinets, the top 2 pages both talk about choosing the right paint, preparation, priming the cabinets, painting the cabinets, and so on.
So add these commonalities to your outline as subheadings. Another thing you can do is use Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool to find common keyword rankings between the top-ranking pages. This can help you find more subtopics as well as jargon that might be relevant in adding context to your post. Just enter the top 2 or 3 relevant ranking results in the top section and then run the search. As you can see, people are looking for the best paint for cabinets, they want to know how to refinish them, some are specifically looking for white cabinets, and so on.
Don’t worry about stuffing these keywords in your post, but if you see something that could act as a subheading, it might be worth adding to your outline.
Just focus on writing something that’s succinct and actionable. This will humanize the post and help you to focus on what matters most: helping readers. Alright, the next step is to create a click-worthy headline. A headline is important because it’s what stands between you and a visitor.
Its main job is to convince people to actually click on your result. Then it’s your content’s job to keep them reading.
Now, if you struggle with writing good headlines, here are a few simple formulas you can use. Take a screenshot before I start filling in the blanks for our home decor site. “How to Professionally Paint Kitchen Cabinets in Under an Hour” “7 Proven Ways to Decorate Your Home on a Tiny Budget” “10 Simple Ways to Renovate your Home on a Shoestring Budget” “10 Reasons You’re Unhappy with Your Home Decor” Now, it’s important to note that while clickbait headlines might produce more clicks, keep in mind that if your content can’t deliver on the headline’s promise, then it’ll do more harm than good.
The AIDA formula
Alright, the next step is to write a killer intro using the AIDA formula. The introduction is arguably the most important part of your content. Its job is to hook your reader, tell them they’re in the right place, and convince them to keep reading. Fortunately, there’s a tried and tested formula you can use called AIDA, which stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. Let’s write a sample intro for our article on how to paint kitchen cabinets.
The first line should be dedicated to grab your audience’s attention. So something like… “You don’t have to be a professional to paint beautiful kitchen cabinets.” This breaks a common belief the reader might have and thus, grabs their attention. The next part is to pique their interest. You can do this with stories, interesting facts, or anything else that might help connect with your audience in a personal way.
So let’s add to our intro. “But the surprising thing is that 99% of homeowners still choose contractors, which can cost up to 20 times the price of a DIY solution.” This line adds an interesting fact that also communicates that a) they’ll be unique by doing it themselves, and b) they’ll save a ton of money. Alright, next up is desire. This part is meant to show the reader how your content can solve their problem.
And one of the best ways to do that is by showing them proof. So let’s add on. “In fact, we spent just $100 on materials and we now have our dream kitchen.” Finally is action. This can be done in the form of a “let’s get started” type of line or you can enhance the user’s experience using something like a table of contents.
So if I were to add on to our intro, I might say: “Let’s walk through the simple 5-step process to get your kitchen looking like a million bucks.” Alright, let’s move on to the next step, which is to make your content actionable and easy to digest.
So your outline should act as a nice skeleton for your post. And to add meat to those bones, you need to do two things. #1.
You want to make it as helpful as possible. Meaning, if someone searches for “how to paint kitchen cabinets,” then they should be able successfully do that with the help of your content. This will all come down to your knowledge and expertise on the subject. And #2. You want to make it easy to digest and read.
Communication and writing skills
And this comes down to your communication and writing skills. The best tip to make your content digestible is to keep your thoughts as succinct as possible. For example, if you’re writing a step on choosing the right paint for your cabinets, you might say something like… “The color you choose is up to you. However, there are 5 things you need to consider depending on the type of cabinets you have.” Then add a list of 5 bullet points.
Compare that to something like… “Color is a powerful thing. It can affect your emotions so choosing the right paint is a critical step. According to a 2018 study, red is a very emotionally intense color. Think about fire and blood. Intense…” This doesn’t really help the user solve their problem.
It just sounds like you’re trying to convince them to paint their cabinets red. As for readability, you can do things like… Use headings and subheadings, avoid walls of text by writing in short sentences and short paragraphs, add images if it helps clarify or visualize a point, and use transitional sentences like “as you know,” “however”, and “also,” which can help improve flow.
Now, after you’ve written your content, I highly recommend getting someone to give you unfiltered feedback. This is something we do at Ahrefs for every single piece of content we publish whether that be a blog post, landing page, or video. It helps us to always put our best foot forward and deliver no-fluff content that we hope will help our readers and viewers.
Now, the content aspect is a very important part when it comes to SEO. Meaning, if you can’t get your content right, then you probably aren’t going to rank high for any meaningful keywords. Also, there are times when you’ll nail your content, but you still can’t rank. This often comes down to the level of competition, which usually boils down to quality backlinks.