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The SEO Experiment That Improved Influence & Co.'s Rankings

It takes a while to build momentum — to really nail down a content creation and distribution process and become so comfortable with it that you can balance that critical function with other necessary functions like analytics and experimentation.

And once you've built up that momentum, it's also hard to slow it down. When your whole content marketing team knows what to do and how to do it, and you've enjoyed months or even years of success, you may have a hard time stepping back and asking yourself a tough question: “Is this practice still the best solution? Can we forget what we thought we knew and start something different?”

As difficult as it may be, taking those moments to pause and analyze a process or procedure is essential if you want your brand to stay up-to-date and continue to perform. At Influence & Co., that's exactly what we had to do in order to see our content rank higher, improve lead generation, and increase our organic search.

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Facing Reality: Evaluating Our Content's Performance

When we finally stopped to look at the hard numbers and evaluate how our content was performing, let's just say we received a swift reality check. If we hoped to change our content strategy for the better and start seeing the results we wanted, we'd have to act on two facts we uncovered:

  • Most of our content wasn't really helping us reach the goals we wanted to achieve. We analyzed 70 pieces of content over the span of two years and discovered that only about 16% of those articles were responsible for generating 84% of our leads. Not great.
  • Organic search presented the best long-term opportunity for growth. Our sales from organic search traffic were three times higher than the previous year, and we weren't even applying an SEO strategy. This lead source presented a huge opportunity that we knew we had to be smarter about leveraging.

To correct course and take advantage of new opportunities, we needed to go back to the drawing board and reconfigure our approach. This meant focusing on quality over quantity and zeroing in on our SEO strategy.

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The Steps We Took to Improve Our SEO

To address both the low performance of our current content and capitalize on a great opportunity to improve our search rankings, we took three very specific steps.

1. We developed pillar pages.

Pillar pages are pages on your site that serve as a content hub for a particular topic (or keyword) that you want your company to rank for in search engines. Instead of churning out a ton of content, we opted for quality over quantity. For example, our first pillar page was a longer-form post that took a deep dive into content marketing — an area that we specialize in that we also wanted to rank for. When putting together pillar pages, don't be afraid to go really in-depth and discuss various areas within the topic. These should be standalone blog posts that you can routinely link to and use, so the more informative they are, the better.

2. We optimized our existing on-site content.

We identified other pages on our site that contained content that was similar to or overlapped with our pillar pages and redirected them to the relevant pillar page so that they didn't compete with one another for rankings. Also, we took a hard look at our other pieces of blog content to determine whether we should update them. Any blog posts that contain dated information should be updated, and internal links should be refined. We identified areas within our blog content that we could link to our new pillar pages, enhanced our on-page content quality by being more thorough, and gave readers plenty of opportunities to convert by adding more in-text calls to action and more compelling CTAs at the bottom of each blog post. All these steps ultimately made our blog more optimized for search and avoided any redundant and self-competing content.

3. We changed our guest-posting strategy.

Guest posting is a crucial element of any content strategy. It allows you to get your company name and expertise in front of an engaged audience that you normally wouldn't have access to. Instead of focusing on the same publications for your guest content, I recommend opting for diversification. We focused on getting our content published on a bunch of different, well-known marketing publications so we could increase the number of high-quality links back to our content and improve our search rankings. We scaled back on our blog content, focusing on new and different publications that would allow us to reach new people and build backlinks to our best and most valuable content. This allowed us to engage a relevant audience while also being able to link back to resources that would be helpful to that audience. To keep our SEO efforts organized, we kept a list of pages we wanted to build links to (including any pillar pages) and referenced the list when we were linking in our guest-contributed content.

Results So Far

We created a point system to gamify our link building and our content creation that weights different articles based on factors like the domain authority of the site, at what point in the piece a link is included, whether the publication allows follow or no-follow links, and what page on our website a link points to. This helps keep everything top of mind and trackable — and determine whether we are actually going to new sites and whether these links are valuable.

Since implementing the new strategy, we have improved — and continue to improve —our rankings for nearly all of our keywords. Using Moz, we're able to see our ranking position for each keyword in a campaign, and the Search Visibility function provides an estimate of clickthrough rates based on those rankings.

We've also seen major growth in our pillar pages, to the tune of a 193% increase in first page keywords. In addition to centering our pillar pages around topics like content marketing, thought leadership, lead generation, and public relations — the things we know the best — we are also creating an ecosystem of content around these pillars. Instead of just creating at random, we use keyword data to find out what people are searching for, validating that the content we're creating is what people want to read.

It would have been easier to stay the course, but we're not about taking the easy route. By changing our approach to content marketing, we at Influence and Co. continue to position ourselves as industry leaders, and the results prove that our updated strategy works. By following the above steps, you can achieve a similar transformation — and our content will be there to guide you every step of the way.

Now that you've got SEO down, it's time to take your knowledge to the next level. Download the guide below for everything regarding content marketing and how to use it for your business.

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About Tony Patrick

I'm passionate about digital marketing, particularly SEO. I enjoy sports, traveling, Lake of the Ozarks, spending time with family and friends, and whatever else life throws my way.

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