How to Create Content That Ranks in Google [Step-By-Step Blueprint]


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Create “Good Content” and the Results Will Roll In

You’ve heard it a million times… 

Well, what the hell is good content anyway?

That’s exactly what you’re going to learn today and it’s probably not what you think it is.

Time to learn: 10-15 minutes

Impact (1-10): 9

Tools required: Text editor

Tools recommended: SurferSEO, Ahrefs

Let’s get to it…

Why You NEED To Have a Content Creation Process

The days of choosing a low-competition keyword, tossing up a 500-word article, and watching the traffic roll in are (mostly) over.

Google has gotten better than ever at evaluating content quality, relevance, and even the intent behind it. 

It knows exactly what people want when searching for the best hiking boots. 

Whether it should be:

  • A commercial or informational page
  • 700 or 3,000 words long
  • A listicle of products or a how-to choose type guide

This sucks for true industry experts who are looking to create unique content using their expertise because Google has already made up their mind on what content should rank. 

There’s a “bubble” in the top 10 results of the same types of content.

On the other hand… This is amazing for us as marketers and business owners.

We can see exactly what Google likes to see for our target keywords and then give them just that.

Here’s our 5-step process to creating content that ranks.

P.S. We’re going to cover two approaches. One is more efficient but requires premium tools (SurferSEO and Ahrefs). The other is completely free but less reliable and more time-consuming.

Method #1 – Using SurferSEO and Ahrefs

The first step to creating any content should be deciding on the main keyword you’re going to try and rank for. You should already have a list of these from our previous guide.

Our goal is going to be to create the best piece of content on the topic and for that, we’re going to need to figure out three things:

  • What is the intent behind the search?
  • How long should the page be?
  • What topics and keywords do we need to cover on that page?

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use a fairly broad keyword as an example here: “seo strategy”.

Step 1. Open up SurferSEO

SurferSEO is a super handy SEO tool that does correlational analysis of the top 50 pages that rank for a given keyword. 

It’ll give you exact data on how long posts are in various positions, what type of words and phrases they use and at which densities, how fast their sites load, and a million other on-page factors.

Let’s load up SurferSEO and type in our target keyword: seo strategy.

surfer seo keyword analysis

Step 2. Decide on the Intent

The first thing we’re going to figure out is the intent behind the search.

Is Google showing services that offer SEO strategies? Are people sharing case studies of their strategies working? Are they how-to types?

Looking at the results, it’s clear Google is only looking for educational posts that show you how to come up with an SEO strategy.

assessing google searcher intent

Based on this I can already start planning for the headline of the article, perhaps something along the lines of: “Our X-Step Blueprint to Create an Effective SEO Strategy”

Step 3. Set a Word Count Goal

The next question is, how long should this article be?

In the sidebar of Surfer SEO, I selected “Words in paragraphs” and this is the chart they present us with:

google word count analysis

Setting aside the outliers in positions #3 and #5, the ideal word count range seems to be between 2,000-3,000 words.

You can see that there’s a lot of lengthy content hidden on the second page by super authoritative sites, but they’re not ranking that well.

Based on this, I’ll set myself a goal to go write around 2,600 words.

Step 4. Create an Outline

We already know that Google has made up their mind that this needs to be a how-to article that is at most 3,000 words long.

Guess what? 

While we may think the best SEO strategy is going to involve extensive link building, I’m certain Google has already decided what it wants to see in the article itself as well.

Again, we’re simply going to look at the top-ranking results and what they are talking about. 

SurferSEO makes this super easy because by clicking on the “A” button, we can see any competitors heading tags, effectively giving us their outline.

how to create a content outline automatically

What I’m going to do next is go through each of the results in the top 10, repeat this process, and look for recurring themes.

After I’ve got a master list, I’ll combine similar headings, remove things I think are irrelevant (e.g. HubSpot’s talk about SEO executives), and structure it according to what I think should be covered in an “SEO strategy” article.

This allows me to match the topics that Google is looking for and then craft my own “seo strategy” to match that intent. Which in this case means a bit less talking about links, and more about the big picture.

Here’s what I ended up with:

  • Intro – What is SEO
    • On-Site SEO
    • Content Optimization
    • Off-site SEO and Link Building
  • Our 9-Step SEO Strategy Broken Down
    • Perform a site-wide SEO audit
    • Conduct keyword research
    • Competitive analysis
    • Create optimized content
    • Optimize on-page factors
    • Develop a link building strategy
    • Begin outreach
    • Set up rank tracking
    • Audit results and adjust strategy as needed
  • Conclusion

This gives me a nice little game-plan on what to write about. I also adapted the actual steps to match our internal process at Smash Digital.

So now we’ve covered most of the topics we know Google is looking for… Next up we need to look at the exact keywords and phrases that top-ranking pages are using.

Step 5. Get a list of related keywords to use within the post

Google doesn’t just look at the headings we cover but also knows what other words we need to be using when talking about SEO strategy. As an example, you can’t talk about on-page SEO without covering meta titles and headings.

We’re going to use Surfer for this again and find a post of similar length (2,500-3,000 words) that isn’t ranking in the top results.

poorly ranking article

Click on “Audit” and you’ll be presented with ways they can improve their rankings.

The main thing we’re going to look at is “True Density”.

surferseo true density guide

This gives us an exact list of what related keywords we should be using in the article and how many times they should be used.

As you can see, Neil Patel has some work to do.

Work these into your article as you’re writing it.

Bonus: Find Keywords Your Competitors Also Rank For

When you have a lengthy piece of content such as the one we are writing, it’s not just going to rank for one keyword. It’s probably going to rank for hundreds if not thousands of long-tail keywords.

Just look at HubSpot, they rank for 761 keywords with that one post:

pages rank for more than one keyword

Now, if you click on that number, you can see every single keyword that post shows up for and ensure you include them in your own post. You’ll likely pick up long-tail traffic from them as well.

Here’s a few variations that stood out to me, that I wasn’t intending to include originally:

  • SEO strategy template
  • SEO action plan
  • How to implement SEO

We’re effectively done… Except we’re not.

Now comes the hardest part – writing the actual content.

At this stage I’d urge you to read through the top 5 articles to get some additional insights and see how deep they go into each topic. 

Take notes on what stands out to you, what you like, what you don’t like and try to stand out in those areas in your own content.

Method #2 – Doing It Manually

I promised at the beginning of the article that you’re going to have two options on how to do this.

The premium, efficient way… And the free way.

Well to be honest there’s not that much to it, you just have to go do all of this by hand. 

To recap, you need to:

  • Identify the intent of the keyword
  • Set a word count goal based on the average body content in the top five articles (Body content means you just look at the article itself, not the comments, not the sidebar, not the header etc. Do not just select the entire page.)
  • Identify the topics your competitors cover by looking at their headings

You’re going to miss out on the correlational analysis regarding keyword densities from Surfer, which is quite critical, but there’s really no efficient workaround for that.

There are some free tools out there for it, but I’ve personally never used them. I believe Website Auditor by Link-Assistant does this to some extent.

Finishing Up

Try this out the next time you write an article for your blog and report back with the results. I can almost guarantee it will be one of your best performing articles.

We’ve used this approach hundreds of times and it works like a charm.

To finish off, I’d highly recommend you take the “Premium” route and sign up for Surfer SEO at a minimum. Ahrefs is a slight bonus but doesn’t make that huge of a difference for this specific strategy.

Surfer SEO starts at $59/mo but will pay dividends fast. You’ll also be able to use it to improve your existing pages.

They’ve also got a 7-day trial for $1 that you can check out. I’m pretty sure it’ll have full capabilities to do everything we outlined here.

See you next week with yet another actionable SEO strategy.

Meanwhile… Let’s Smash it!

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Karl Kangur

When being a chess prodigy turned out to be too demanding, Karl converted to being a marketing nerd. He loves to theorycraft and when he starts talking about SEO, he can't stop.
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