Content templates, query syntax and the one keyword fallacy
The weekly newsletter for content marketers seeking exponential growth in their work and personal lives.
Most successful content can be traced back to a handful of tried-and-true formats. And while innovation is a much-vaunted determinant of success, so too is efficient execution of proven content marketing formulas. As I was recently reminded by a customer, "even Jimi Hendrix borrowed from the blues."
"Teardowns, list posts, case studies, experiments—some of the best blog content originates from handy, well-worn templates."
🔥 Our Minimum Engagement is $30k, Here's Why [Nick Eubanks]
Nick Eubanks breaks down the unit economics of his marketing agency, From the Future, and in doing so, sheds light on his own approach to one of the biggest challenges faced by marketers: minimizing time-to-value.
"We’ve found that to really move the needle, in a meaningful enough way to justify further investment – we prefer to have 6 months to design and then execute on our campaigns."
🔥 SEO Is Back. Thank God. [New York Magazine]
Though publishers continue to mourn the death of Facebook's organic reach, Brian Feldman argues that the shift back to SEO content - "stilted and awkward — but more honest and transparent" - is a crucial stepping stone to creating a more useful, and less hyperbolic, internet. I'm inclined to agree.
"The problem with social-optimized content is that its overt, eerie familiarity drapes a kind of lowest-common-denominator cynicism across the internet."
🔥 My perfectly healthy obsession with query syntax [AJ Kohn]
I used to assume that with each update, Google would get better at conflating equivalent searches. Now, I wonder if "equivalent searches" even exist. As AJ Kohn demonstrates, even the smallest variance between two keywords can reveal a gulf in search intent.
"One of my favorite examples of query syntax is the difference between the queries ‘california state parks’ and ‘state parks in california’. These two queries seem relatively similar right? But there’s a subtle difference between the two and the results Google provides for each makes this crystal clear."
🔥 How to Create Topic Clusters and Grow Organic Traffic [Alfred Lua]
Alfred demystifies the concept of topic clusters, and his write-up has it all: actionable advice, personal experience, honest reflection and (rarest of all) a comment section that's actually worth reading.
"The weekly organic traffic to our articles on Instagram marketing grew 48 percent from about 27,000 to about 40,000 in six months."
Screely is a super simple, super elegant, super free tool for creating beautiful screenshots - perfect for blog posts, featured images, even hero photos. I've used it a ton since Jimmy Daly and Kieran Tie shared it with the Animalz team a few months ago.
One article =/= one keyword
"Targeting a keyword" is a ubiquitous concept in content marketing, but I've realised that many marketers overlook a crucial nuance: keywords don't exist in isolation.
Here's the process I often see people adopt:
Find a relevant high-volume, low-difficulty keyword.
Brainstorm, write and publish an article that matches the intent of that keyword.
Measure the performance of that article on a single dimension: its rank for the target keyword.
In doing so, they overlook the fact that a single article will - always, and without fail - rank for multiple keywords.
Here's an article I wrote with one keyword - post apocalyptic games - in mind: The Top 50 Post Apocalyptic Games.
Despite being an ancient and outdated post, it still ranks well for that keyword, claiming the #7 spot on the SERP. Crucially though, it also ranks for - roughly - 4,599 other keywords.
There are long-tail variants, modified on any one of a dozen dimensions:
post apocalyptic games for ps4
post apocalyptic games 2018
free post apocalyptic games.
There are semantic variations:
best post apocalyptic games
top post apocalyptic games
top 10 post apocalyptic games.
There are related keywords:
apocalyptic base building
wasteland survival games.
There are even misspellings:
These keywords vary hugely in rank and search volume. There are a few first-page rankings for high volume keywords, but there are thousands of #50, #60, #70+ rankings for low volume keywords, with 10-30 search a month.
This concept isn't particularly novel or unexpected, but it has several important implications:
"Low-volume" keywords are completely viable. Targeting a keyword with 100 searches a month often translates into traffic four or five times larger, by virtue of all the related keyword variants you'll rank for. Don't ignore relevant keywords just because they wouldn't generate much traffic in isolation.
It's worth revisiting your keyword targeting a few months after publication. Articles will often rank for keywords you didn't intend to target. If most of your sessions come from a different keyword to the one you initially targeted, go back and tweak the title and copy to suit the real-world performance data.
Reporting on aggregate keyword rankings is a better measure of performance. "Traffic" to an article often comes from hundreds, even thousands of related keywords. Tracking your target keyword ranking is important for assessing your ability to match search intent - but it's just as important to report on the breadth of keywords you rank for.
In short: "targeting a keyword" is really "targeting a topic." Even the most laser-focused articles will rank for multiple keywords, and in aggregate, those keywords often represent the bulk of the traffic to an article.