Tag Archives: SEO tips

Outranking your competitors – can strategic content writing help?

I’m not an SEO expert so I won’t claim that I can give you a concrete answer. I was going through my content aggregator, and I came across this blog post from Search Engine Journal: How do you outrank bigger sites for high competition keywords?

Can strategic content writing help you outrank your competitors? It can. It requires effort and persistence.

Aside from other things, what I found revealing and surprising is that the author says that the word count doesn’t really matter as long as you have structured your content well.

This means, a web page with 500 words can outrank a web page having 2500 words if the content on the web page having fewer words is organized better than the web page with more words.

I have observed this pattern even on my own blog. Sometimes I’m able to rank well even when the blog post has just 300-400 words. There might be many other reasons, but what I’m trying to say is, a blog post doesn’t always have to be very long to rank well.

So, what can you do to outrank your competitors according to the above Search Engine Rank blog post? Here are a few things you can do:

  • Your web page should be relevant to the query being searched for.
  • The information should be easy to read and longer text should be organized using headings, subheadings and bulleted points.
  • Schema should be well defined – what is the web page about? Is it an FAQs page? Is it a product description? Is it an information article? Is it a review? Does it explain your pricing?
  • You should use interlinking. The crawlers should be able to access other parts of your website and blog through the current web page or blog post they are crawling.

Aside from these tips the author has also explained a few SEO-related things you can do.

How does strategic content writing help you outrank your competitors?

First of all, at least in the beginning, don’t focus on outranking your competitors if you are just starting. Focus on publishing lots of relevant and quality content.

Your competitor – assuming he or she has used fair means – must have spent months or years to deserve the rankings he or she enjoys right now. You cannot suddenly decide to outrank just because you want to.

The better approach is, start providing information that your visitors will find useful. Write content on interesting topics.

Make a list of all the topics that you can write about. The list should be around 50-60 topics.

Then write or get written the best possible content around these topics.

Of course, simply publishing content is half the job done. You need to spread your content. Follow SEO content writing practices. Make sure that your content is written and formatted in such a manner that it is easy for search engine crawlers and human visitors to read.

Share your content on social media websites. Broadcast the links using your newsletter. You need to promote your content. You can also use paid advertisements on LinkedIn and Facebook to promote your links.

Also, focus on longtail keywords containing your main keywords for which you want to outrank your competition.

Even if it is extremely difficult for me to rank for “content writing services”, I can try “content writing services for email marketing”. Or, “content writing services for web design agencies”.

As I have mentioned above, rather than worrying about outranking your competition, try to provide better content than your competition. Your rankings will automatically improve.

Don’t obsess over SEO as long as you’re delivering meaningful content

I was just reviewing a web hosting package for someone I know and came across an add-on package that tells you whether you are publishing SEO-friendly content or not.

Do these “SEO packages” really help? What about the SEO add-ons? I recently removed an SEO plug-in from my WordPress setup.

SEO is of two types:

  1. Structural SEO
  2. Content-based SEO

Although there are also on-site and off-site SEO tactics, but in the context of my current blog post, I’m just going to stick to the two above-mentioned SEO types.

What is structural SEO?

This makes sure that the basic structure of your website or web pages/blog posts is SEO-friendly.

To make sense of your web page or your blog post, the search engines like Google take into consideration the keywords within your title. This is debatable, but most of the SEO experts agree that a title containing your keywords is particularly important.

Your title is also important because it appears in search engine listings as a hyperlink.

Screenshot of title and description

Screenshot of title and description.

Multiple studies have revealed that if your title contains the words that have just been used in the search query, the greater number of people click your link.

The same goes with the description. Your keywords or parts of your keywords should appear in your description because then these keywords are highlighted by Google.

Hence, every web page for every blog post must have a clearly defined title and a description.

There is also a “keywords” meta tag but it is no longer relevant.

Another important aspect of structural SEO is, how easy it is for the search engine crawlers to access your main content.

If the crawler has to go through lots of source code (JavaScript, CSS, HTML, add-ons and plug-ins) before accessing your actual content, this negatively affects your search engine rankings. It is because sometimes the crawler leaves your website or a particular web page or blog post without even evaluating your main content because most of its time goes into crossing the jungle of your source code.

How fast your web page or blog post loads also has a direct impact on your overall search engine rankings. Make sure that your web pages and blog posts load fast, preferably within three seconds.

So, these are the components of structural SEO:

  • The title containing the main keyword or the search query.
  • Various combinations of the keyword or the search query in the description.
  • Easy access to the main content for the search engine crawlers.
  • Faster loading blog posts and web pages.

Most of the content management systems these days allow you to preset these structural SEO components. For example, in WordPress you can use Yoast SEO to make sure that whenever you publish a new web page or blog post, you separately enter the title and the description.

Structural SEO is not something that you need to do repeatedly.

What is content-based SEO?

It is mostly writing content that is most suitable to the query being used by your user.

Suppose a user looks for “Which is the best content writing service in India?”

To satisfy this query, you can either list 10-15 content writing services and then choose the best among them, or you can explain why your content writing service is the best in India.

In both the cases, you should remain true to the topic. You must talk about the best content writing service in India. When the user visits this link, he or she should get the answer he or she is looking for.

This doesn’t mean that the answer must be perfect. Maybe the search engine user doesn’t want to find information about your content writing service or why your content writing service is the best. He or she may be just looking for a comparative analysis of multiple content writing services.

Whatever you write, just make sure that you are providing an answer to the question being asked.

The next thing to keep in mind is, mention the main query or the keyword within the first 100 words. There is a logical reason.

The search engine crawler doesn’t always go through your entire text. It may simply go through the first few paragraphs, or even less. Hence it is important that the crawler comes across your main keyword or the main search query string as early as possible.

Other than this, there is no need to obsess about SEO. Focus on the quality, and to an extent the quantity of your content. Publish regularly. Right on relevant topics. It doesn’t matter whether you write 400 words or 4000 words.

What matters is the substance. Don’t necessarily extend the length of your web pages or blog posts simply because research has proven that most of the web pages and blog posts that get featured on the first search result page contain more than 1300 words. It differs from industry to industry.

How do I find the right keywords for writing SEO content?

Keyword research for SEO content writing

Keyword research for SEO content writing

In most of the cases, I don’t. The list of keywords is given to me by my clients. I find keywords when I am also helping a client with content strategy.

Whenever I’m writing content I advise my clients not to cram too many keywords in a single web page or blog post. That dilutes the main focus of what you’re trying to convey.

Nonetheless, when I need to find the right keywords for writing SEO content, how do I do that?

There are many tools for that, but the best tool is common sense. After that, you can take help of the Google search engine.

First, you need to know your primary keyword. For example, if your topic is “How to improve your SEO with content writing?” you have a fair idea of what you’re trying to achieve here. You want people who want to know how to improve your SEO with content writing, finds your link.

When you are trying to improve your SEO, there is a thin line that divides people who want to pay you and people who just want to learn something. The above topic, “How to improve your SEO with content writing?” is targeting people who want to learn something. They may also want to hire someone who knows how to improve SEO with content writing, but as far as the topic goes, it is being written to target those people who want to learn how to improve SEO with content writing.

This is a big phrase. Targeting big phases longtail keywords is always beneficial. Not many people may use them but they definitely help you improve your search engine rankings by zeroing in on those people were using exactly the phrase.

After that, there are two more keywords you can focus on, namely, “improve your SEO” and “content writing”.

You may also like to include “improve your search engine rankings” and “website content writing”.

Google also makes its own suggestions. Search for the term “how to improve your SEO with content writing” and see what other suggestions Google comes up with. Here is what I have found:

  • best practices for SEO content writing
  • how to write SEO friendly articles
  • SEO writing for beginners

and some unrelated keywords.

I also have a browser plug-in called “Keywords Everywhere”. It uses the Google database and some other sources to throw up related keywords and also the keywords other people may have used for the same sort of search. Right now, for the search term used above, it is not giving me much different options than what Google has displayed, but for many other keywords, it definitely gives more options.

There are many commercial SEO keyword research tools such as Ahrefs, Serpstat (this, I have used the paid version), SEMRush (more of a content ideas finder rather than a keyword finder), LongTailPro (have used the paid version for a few months but then discontinued) and even Moz.

I have never used the paid keyword research tools for my clients because there are very few clients who actually want to pay me for keyword research. Yes, they do want me to find the keywords, but when it comes to paying for the time that I may spend, they prefer to do their own keyword research, which is fine. So, most of the tools mentioned above, I have used for myself, to improve my own search engine rankings.

Many people heavily recommend the Google Ads keyword tool. Previously it was also called the Google AdWords keyword tool. Since it allows you to find keywords you can bid on, so naturally, Google presents you with an extensive list of alternative keywords to your main set of keywords.

To find keyword alternatives, you can enter 3-4 keywords and then it generates a big list. To novices it may be confusing because you don’t want to use all the keywords. Since Google charges for every click, it is but natural that the company would want you to bid on as many keyword combinations as possible, this is just to get some ideas for your own content writing needs. You need to make your own judgement regarding this.

Sometimes I use Google Analytics to find what keywords people are using when they find my website or my blog. This tells me what sort of traffic I’m attracting. If I’m attracting traffic for all the wrong keywords, I make changes to my content accordingly. Hence, Google Analytics can tell you if you’re targeting wrong keywords through your content.

This is pretty much how I find keywords for SEO content writing.



Sentiment analysis: Happy customers, better content marketing, better SEO

Sentiment analysis, content marketing and SEO

Sentiment analysis, content marketing and SEO

Content marketing and SEO are not just intertwined, they are also constantly evolving as companies like Google constantly try to figure out how to churn out the best possible results.

Algorithms today can analyze billions of messages in the form of text, images and videos on the Internet and tell you the exact sentiment people have about your business, about you, about your political party, and pretty much anything people feel sentimental about.

This is advanced technology and not everyone can have it. But, as a business, you can develop a content marketing strategy that can help you create content that depicts positive sentiment.

This blog post on Skyword explains in detail what sentiment analysis means and how it is changing SEO, and improving user experience. The post says that MIT has developed an algorithm that can even interpret sarcasm through the emojis people have used in their social media updates while talking about brands.

According to this Search Engine Journal report, Bing has already started using Sentiment Analysis to influence search results, and Google is contemplating it.

In fact, Google, to an extent, has already been using this technology, or something similar, to show you Featured Snippets.

Example of Google featured snippet

Example of Google featured snippet

Here are two blog posts that I wrote about Google’s featured snippets:

  1. Is there a definitive way of ranking in Google’s featured snippets?
  2. Google’s Featured Snippets: How to rank at #1 with strategic content writing

To show Featured Snippets, the Google algorithm tries to find the intent of the search and then goes through the links it has crawled and finds out the portions that exactly answer the question being asked in the query. It interprets the sentiment.

The problem with the current version of such snippets is that they tend to provide just one perspective.

For example, in the above Search Engine Journal blog post, the author takes the example of “are reptiles good pets?”

Same intent but different Google query results

Same intent but different Google query results

It was noted that Google showed a different snippet for “are reptiles bad pets?” whereas, search engine experts like Danny Sullivan feel that the answer should be the same because the question is more or less the same – you want to know whether reptiles are good pets or bad pets.

Microsoft Bing, instead of shuffling between different snippets, has started showing two perspectives side-by-side. Here is a screenshot from their blog post on the same topic:

Sentiment analysis used by Microsoft Bing

Sentiment analysis used by Microsoft Bing

What exactly is sentiment analysis, especially in terms of content marketing and SEO?

It means using online tools to analyze various pieces of writing (not necessarily on your blog or website) to gauge what sort of sentiments people have about your business.

A special thing about sentiment analysis is that it is not just the black and white of “you are good” and “you are bad”. Though, “good” and “bad” are also very strong sentiments, there are many subtle emotional tones that people use to talk about your business and the subtle differences can make a big difference on whether people decide to do business with you or not. Take for example:

“Yes, a great piece of writing, indeed!”

“Do you really think it is a great piece of writing?”

“This piece of writing could have been better.”

“I have certainly seen better examples of writing.”

“Your writing is good, but anyway I’m going to go with another content writer.”

Now, as a human, if you go through these lines, you can interpret them as positive, negative, comparative and even cynical (the first one).

Suppose, I have been gathering all the feedback from my content writing clients and storing it somewhere over the years. A good sentiment analysis tool can tell me what the overall experience of my clients with my content writing service has been. Of course, more data there is, better are the results.

The above-mentioned data can be gathered from multiple sources, not necessarily from the emails that you get from your customers or clients. You can get the data from your comments section, from reviews section, and even the chat transcripts that you might have been saving.

If you want to widen the net, you can use hashtags, trends, keyword strings and your brand name to collect data from all over the Internet and then run it through your sentiment analysis software.

Sentiment analysis isn’t just done to know what people think about your business, it can also be done to know what people think about a particular aspect of life or doing work or having a vacation and then accordingly you can make changes to your business.

So, how does sentiment analysis have an impact on content marketing and SEO?

As a business you can use specialized sentiment analysis tools to monitor conversations on the Internet and social media and then tailor your content to serve your customers and clients better.

As mentioned above, Bing is already using sentiment analysis to decide what results to show for your search queries, and Google is in the process of doing so.

For big brands, the search engines may analyze the conversations people have about these brands on various platforms and then rank their content accordingly.

Suppose, there is a greater number of people criticizing the latest version of the iPhone. So, instead of showing a blog post from Apple that lists great things about the latest version, the search engines may decide to rank another blog post highlighting the negative things about the phone better than Apple’s blog post.

Similarly, if people share your blog post on various platforms with “positive sentiment” its search engine rankings may improve, compared to a greater number of people sharing another blog post on similar topic from another blog, but with “negative sentiment”.

So, as a small business, how can you improve your content and your content marketing by observing sentiment analysis, and consequently, improve your SEO?

Age-old wisdom comes into picture: create and publish relevant content. It all boils down to that.


What is positive sentiment anyway? You get positive sentiment in the form of endorsements from people who read your content, who watch it, use it to better their lives or the way they do their business or make purchasing decisions.

How do they endorse good content? They link to it and surround it with positive expressions (a great example, great insight, well said, what a piece of writing, nice tips, and so on).

When your content is posted on social networking websites people comment on it, like it, share it and carry out other activities that prove that they appreciate your content.

Sentiment analysis and SEO

Although Google hasn’t completely adopted sentiment analysis, the search engine has been using “search intent” to show featured snippets.

There is another technology that is called RankBrain that observes user behavior when people find your content on search results. If search engine users find your content on Google, go to your page or blog post, spend a few seconds over there, come back to Google and carry on the same search, it tells Google that the user didn’t find what he or she was looking for and hence, your content doesn’t solve the purpose of being ranked for the search term it is currently being ranked for. Your content loses its ranking.

How to write content for Google RankBrain

How to write content for Google RankBrain

Alternatively, suppose currently a link doesn’t rank well but a user finds it on second or third page, goes there, spends some time and then no longer carries the same search back on Google, Google thinks that your content has solved the purpose of being ranked for the search term. Your content gains its ranking.

This is also a form of sentiment analysis because Google observes how people react to individual search results and then this has an impact on your search engine rankings.

Concluding remarks on sentiment analysis

The success of your content marketing depends a lot on your ability to understand what your audience needs and then providing it.

This very much takes care of positive sentiment about your content in general, and your brand in particular. If people like your content, there is a great chance that they are also going to like your brand, although, if they don’t like your product or service, it doesn’t really matter how great your content is. Ultimately, it is the business experience that matters, especially when you intend to promote a business through content marketing.

People generate and share content everywhere these days. You are not directly in control of the content generated by the others. You are only in control of the content generated and published by your business.

So, how do you control content generated by your prospective and current customers and clients?

By not giving them a reason to write content with negative sentiments. Provide them exceptional quality products and services then follow with great service.

It’s been observed that people leave negative feedback more easily than positive feedback. If someone has a lousy experience with your business there is a greater chance of him or her venting it out than someone having a good experience and going to the extra length of putting in some good words about your business.

Hence, publish high-quality content and then follow it up with a great business proposition. You will maintain a positive sentiment around your business.

How to write content for Google’s human quality raters

Writing content for Google's human quality raters

Writing content for Google’s human quality raters

Do you know Google has its official human search quality raters?

Around 10,000.

Google has been seeking help from human quality raters since 2005.

Here is a Search Engine Land update on the search quality rater guidelines update that Google recently released.

Here is the copy of the guidelines.

Not to totally rely on its algorithms, these Google human quality raters are given actual searches to conduct, drawn from real searches on Google. Then these quality raters have to rate the top results.

It has been said for a long time that your content writing should be more for humans and less for search engine algorithms.

Write content for humans first

Write content for humans first

But this is because it is often believed that the ranking algorithms are as good as humans and when they are ranking your content, they are using many human factors.

Though, this is still true and when you write content you should still focus more on the “human side”, the fact that Google uses actual human search quality raters makes it more important that you write content centered around actual people rather than trying to trick the search engines.

Most of the SEO websites say that the human quality raters have no direct bearing on your search engine rankings. For example, if a human quality rater doesn’t like your content and reports your content to Google, your rankings may not suddenly dip.

The data from the quality raters is used for experiments in the Google search lab.

Does it mean you shouldn’t care for the opinion of the human quality raters when you are writing content? I wouldn’t advise that.

Simply because, you should anyway be writing for humans, even if you merely want to improve your search engine rankings and nothing else.

What do these human quality raters look for when evaluating your content?

Word to the Google human quality raters look for?

Word to the Google human quality raters look for?

According to the latest guidelines (linked to above) aside from the quality of the content and the genuineness of what is being said, the human quality raters from Google must also take into consideration the “reputation” of the author.

In the guidelines, this text appears: “Reputation of the website or the creator of the main content”.

What does this mean?

The author reputation has been in the reckoning for a long time. Reputation means how well you are known in your field.

In my case, how many people know that I provide content writing services? What do they have to say about my services? Do they like to link to my blog posts?

Algorithmically the Google algorithm can find out how many people are linking to you and how many people are talking about your content on social media and social networking websites, but, according to the current technology, only humans can detect what sort of conversations happen around your content and about your name.

For example, even if you are notorious the Google algorithm may think you have a good reputation simply because many people are bitching about you.

The human quality raters will be able to find out if people say good things about you or bad things.

Another significant point is “beneficial purpose” – what do visitors gain when they visit your website.

This SEMPost blog post explains the new updated guidelines, point by point.

Why it is important to take Google’s human quality raters seriously when writing your content?

Whoever writes about Google’s human quality raters stress upon the point that the ratings don’t impact your search engine rankings immediately.

Most of the findings are used for research purposes and experimentation.

If this is the case, if it doesn’t matter how they think of your website, why you should bother about them?

One reason is, you never know when Google decides to take their opinions seriously and make them a part of its ranking algorithm.

Although artificial intelligence is rapidly reducing reliance on humans, what humans can find, still, artificial intelligence cannot. You don’t want to get caught off guard, the way you were after the Panda and Penguin updates.

The second reason is, most of the guidelines are also applicable to Google’s core ranking algorithm.

Hence, if you write content targeting Google’s human quality raters, you automatically write content for better SEO.

Writing content for Google’s human quality raters

The most significant thing that is emerging out of the new guidelines is the reputation factor.

It is easier to enjoy better search engine rankings if you have a good reputation.

Take for example Seth Godin. Everyone who reads about Internet marketing or digital marketing must know about him.

If he writes even a 200-word blog post about marketing, it will be ranked better than your 5000-word blog post on the same topic, no matter how comprehensive your topic is, if you don’t publish content regularly, and not many people know about you.

This is how even real life works.

Now, I’m not saying this is DEFINITELY going to happen, because rankings depend on many other factors, but this is how reputation works according to Google’s human quality raters’ guidelines.

How do you improve your reputation?

Improving your reputation with quality content writing

Improving your reputation with quality content writing

The foundation of reputation is, high-quality content, published regularly. You cannot even think of building your online reputation without high-quality, useful content.

A few months ago I wrote about how to write content for the Google RankBrain system. This system primarily focuses on the searcher’s intent.

When someone searches for information on Google and then comes across your link, and then clicks the link and goes to your website or blog, does he or she find the information he or she intended to find?

Does his or her search stop after having visited your website or blog, or does he or she have to come back to Google and carry on the search?

This is a very pertinent question and it can have a long-term impact not just on your search engine rankings, but also on your overall conversion rate.

If your content solves searcher’s intent, you are publishing relevant, high-quality content.

Then what happens?

People want to link to valuable content. So, they do. They start referring to you as an authority figure. Reputation improves.

People start quoting you because they respect your wisdom. Reputation improves.

People share your content on their social media timelines with greater frequency and when they do, there is lots of activity in terms of “Likes” and “Sharing”. Reputation improves.

Your search engine rankings improve. More of your content is found for relevant search terms and then people go to your website from search engines. They find your content useful. Reputation improves.

Branding is very important.

This is why, even renowned brands use reputed individuals to spread the word around rather than using one of their own experts.

The best example is, search for mobile phone reviews on YouTube. You will find a successful YouTuber explaining the features of the latest iPhone rather than someone from Apple. This is because people trust their favorite YouTuber more than they trust some unknown technologist from Apple.

Listed below are some content writing tips to help you write content for Google’s human quality raters:

  1. Focus on relevance.
  2. Always deliver value.
  3. Focus on one topic at a time.
  4. Solve real problems.
  5. Write shorter, crisp sentences.
  6. Encapsulates the entire essence of your blog post or web page within the main headline.
  7. Organize your main points under various headings, subheadings and bulleted points.
  8. Come to the point as fast as you can.
  9. Become socially active through publishing high-quality content and encouraging engagement around it.
  10. Write and publish content regularly because more content means more content for Google to index and more content for people to talk about and react to.


As you can see, most of the tips to write content for Google’s human quality raters are also applicable to general SEO writing guidelines.

Hence, the age-old wisdom is always applicable: focus on quality and relevance; publish persistently and make it easier for people to find and share your content on search engines and social media and social networking websites.