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5 Steps to Creating Content that Outranks Your Competitors

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The internet is a crowded space, and as content marketing continues to saturate the internet with more information, it will become increasingly difficult to create content that ranks. With that said, is there a way to cut through all the noise?

If every brand in your niche is competing for page one, and the major players are churning out content at a dizzying rate to maintain rankings, do you even stand a chance? The simple answer is “yes” — but it’s a little more complicated than that. As you may have guessed, it takes lots of hard work and diligence to compete. And if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort to create meaningful content, then you’ll simply never catch up to the competition.

So, assuming you are willing to give what it takes to create next-level content, what do you need to know? Well, it boils down to creating an effective content development strategy that focuses on quality over quantity. With that said, there are some key steps you should be aware of to make your content the best in its class.

Here are the five steps to creating exceptional content to outrank your competitors:

Step 1: Conduct a Thorough Competitor Analysis

If you haven’t already, determine who your organic competition is. For example, while a major brand in your industry is an obvious competitor, a large percentage of their traffic likely comes from branded keywords due to their brand strength. In this case, they are less of a threat and probably not an organic competitor.

Think of the major money keywords for your brand, the keywords with the most search volume, and then see who is on page one. They are your true competition. Now that we’ve clarified organic competition, let’s discuss how to conduct a thorough competitor analysis.

Start by asking yourself these three questions:

  • What types of content are my competitors producing? In other words, what works for your competition? Are they producing videos, long-form guides, listicles, roundups, podcasts, or infographics?
  • How often do they produce content? Are they producing new content on a weekly or monthly basis? Or are they touching up evergreen content every so often?
  • What keywords are they ranking for? They may rank for more than one keyword with a given piece of content. Find these longtail opportunities to see all the organic opportunities for your content.

The answers to these questions will give you a pretty good idea of what kind of content resonates with your audience. The easiest way to gather these kinds of insights is with tried and true SEO tools. Here are the three types of tools you need:

  • Backlink checker: This will allow you to mine your competitors’ backlinks, and to see how many backlinks a given piece of content has earned. A great tool for this is Ahrefs, but there are other options as well, like MonitorBacklinks (a free tool) or Majestic.
  • Keyword research: Keyword research is essential for you to determine what keywords to aim for. Without knowing search volumes and keyword difficulty, your content efforts will be a shot in the dark. The top tool for keyword research is SEMrush.
  • Content research: Content research tools allow you to see what types of content are performing the best across major social media platforms. The best tool is Buzzsumo.  

Quick tip: One great place to start is by looking at a competitor map on SEMrush. This will present your organic competition in an easy-to-read graph that highlights their strengths and weaknesses.

Now that we’ve discussed how to measure up your competition, the next step is discuss how to outperform them.

Related: What Does Google Know About You?

Step #2: Find Ways to Add More Value to Your Content

You may have heard of Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique before. If not, you should read up on it here. To sum it up, the skyscraper technique is a systematic, three-step approach to building content. It goes like this.

  • Find relevant content with lots of links
  • Improve upon that content in some way
  • Promote it

This strategy is effective and looks simple from the outset, but it is time consuming and difficult. It’s also worth mentioning that links are not always the main KPI for success. For example, some pieces are built draw traffic, while others are intended to convert.

Either way, the point here is that you need to determine what success is for your content. It’s usually one of these: traffic, links, or higher conversions. Once you’ve figured that out, you need to make content that adds more value than that of your competitors. Here are some ways to do just that:

  • Outdo them: Is your competition offering 13 ways to earn money as a freelancer? Then you should offer 15. Does their content lack visual assets? Hire a designer so your content stands out. Find whatever it is they lack, and improve upon it.
  • Create compelling titles: There is a bit of copywriting at play here. You need to create compelling headers that will make your content more appealing. This will improve CTR and traffic. If you’re not confident in your copywriting abilities, then you should consult a content writing service to help you craft sterling copy that resonates with your audience.
  • Link to credible sources: Link out in your content. If you make a claim or reference someone, be sure to link out to them (and do follow it). It’s a common courtesy online, and it shows that you know what you’re talking about.

Once you’ve found the best way to enhance your content, you should look for some ways to rank for other search queries, which leads to step three.

Step 3: Include Semantically Connected Keywords

Your content needs to tick all the on-page SEO boxes. That is, logical structure and markup (H1s, H2s, and relevant content), relevant keywords in the post URL, etc. You also should take advantage of semantically connected keywords to cast a wider net for longtail rankability potential.

What this means is including keywords that “fit” naturally with the main keyword you’re shooting for. For example, if you’re writing a big guide about craft beer, terms that Google and your audience expect to see might be “hops,” “yeast,” and “brewery.” But you could also get more specific and include something like, “fermentation process for IPAs” deeper in your content so you’re building authority around various topics in your niche.

To do this seamlessly and effectively, you have to use good judgment. You also have to realize that the point of this is to indicate to search bots that your content covers a certain topic, and offers real value to your audience about that topic.

Related: The Case For Incorporating Freelance Writers Into Your Content Strategy

Step 4: Optimize Your Posts for Mobile

Google favors content that is mobile friendly. While this is nothing new, it may help to review Google’s post about mobile first indexing on their webmaster blog if you haven’t already.

Now that you’re up to date, here are some things to keep in mind to make your mobile experience user friendly:

  • Use AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are Google’s answer to a seamless and fast user experience for mobile users. AMP pages are denoted by a bolt emblem next to their title tag on the SERPs. AMP pages load faster, which improves retention and CTR.
  • Improve readability:  You’ll want to use bold, sans-serif typeface to make your content easier to read on mobile.
  • Place prominent CTAs: You also want to make sure that CTAs are conspicuously placed so that they are easy to click, but not so much they hinder content consumption.
  • Streamline navigation: Navigating your site on mobile should be intuitive. A positive user experience increases dwell time and reduces bounce rate.
  • Avoid interstitials: Popup ads frustrate the user because they block content temporarily — more than enough time to convince a user to bounce back to the SERP.

By making your content mobile friendly, you increase the chances of it ranking. It’s time consuming, but definitely worth looking into.

Tip #5:  Promote Your Content

There are different ways to promote your content, and certain channels do better than others depending on your post. For example, infographics are linkbait. They are visually appealing and present information in a whimsical fashion that makes it easier for audiences to digest. Because of their instant appeal, they are easy to pitch to webmasters via email. Infographics also do well on Reddit.

Videos are another very popular content medium that tend to perform better on social media. Viral videos are often disseminated on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, and take off by way of shares. This kind of content will get you a spike in traffic, but are not always good for building a consistent audience.

Whatever content you choose to promote, make sure your spending a considerable amount of time promoting it. You need to exhaust promotion for your posts. This casts the widest net possible, and significantly improves the chances of your content earning links and views.

Additional Steps

It’s also important to note that you may already have great content on your website that, for some reason, doesn’t stack up to your competition. In this case, you should look into refurbishing that content using the same steps provided above. Maybe you could do a better job targeting certain keywords, or maybe you need to interlink to relevant content on your site. Whatever the case may be, remember to always prioritize quality, and you’ll be much better off.

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