“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” — Swami Sivananda
I recently asked myself a question. While building out my Unlimited Traffic Secrets course, I wondered to myself, what makes great content… well, so great? Although creating great content has become something ingrained in my mind, when attempting to teach anything to other people, you need to break it down further, giving it metrics and meaning.
I find that the biggest problem that people have with things like SEO and content marketing is that they try to do the least amount of work for the greatest return. When, in fact, success online and offline must invoke the direct opposite. You have to do the most amount of work for the least initial return.
Sound frustrating? It definitely is. But that’s often what it takes. If you’re sitting here right now trying to discover a shortcut for ranking content, then this isn’t the place for you. There are no shortcuts today. There are no hacks or less-painful methods. You have to actually do the work and put in the time.
However, if you’re willing to do that, then there are definitely some pointers for crafting great content. This isn’t just about ranking at the top of search engines. This is about adding massive amounts of value. If you do that, then your great content will naturally rank very high because it will be engaging and so useful that search engines like Google will surely take notice.
Keep in mind that crafting great content is a mixture of addressing technical factors and also being passionate and creative in your approach. You can’t just write for search engines. You have to write for humans while still keeping search engines in mind. It takes time and it takes effort. But those efforts will pay off after a while when thousands upon thousands of people are discovering your content every single day.
Just don’t expect it to happen overnight. The greatest articles and posts on the internet didn’t shoot to the top overnight. They were slowly shared and engaged with over time. In fact, for the most part, articles don’t hit number one on Google before at least 100 to 200 days.
How do I know this? I have hundreds of number-one listings on Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). I’m talking about highly-competitive search terms such as “make money online” (Forbes article), “best habits” (Entrepreneur article) and “self discipline” (Wanderlust Worker article). But also keywords like “principles of success,” which also leads you back to this site and so many others.
Each of the articles took approximately 100 to 200 days to hit the number-one spot, and this will vary based on competition. For example, I did a Forbes piece for “artificial intelligence examples” that ranked number one before the 100-day mark. But the most competitive search terms with the highest search volume takes time to rank for so don’t get discouraged.
This is part of Google’s obfuscation techniques. It keeps you guessing so that it can retain the organic nature of its search and ensure that relevancy is not abused. Because, that’s the name of the game. Relevancy is key to Google’s existence. As soon as the SERPs lose their relevancy (something that started to happen before all the algorithm adjustments) then Google itself loses its relevance in the marketplace.
Before I dive into the factors that make really great content so great, let’s review some of the underlying principles of trust. When we’re talking about content that has the potential to rank on search engines, we’re talking about content and its root domain that have an implicit amount of trust.
Trust you ask? Yes, search engines like Google are acutely concerned with how much they can trust you. Trust is a massive part of the relevancy factor and in order to rank, you need to be found relevantly. To be relevant, you have to be trustworthy. How much does Google trust you or your content?
Sound strange to you? It’s not. What it boils down to is effectively how much trust you’ve built up over time. Sure, you could make great content that hits all 15 of the factors described below, but without that underlying trust, you’ll find it pretty difficult to rank. So, be sure not to do anything to mislead or cause Google to lose its trust in you.
In effect, trust is based on three components:
- Indexed Age: The age that Google first found and indexed your site and also the freshness or evergreen nature of the piece of content itself.
- Authority: The quality, quantity and diversity of the organic links coming to a site over time.
- Content: The underlying quality of the content, along with its volume and frequency of being created over time.
Trust is an important part of the process of succeeding online, no matter what format you’re using. Don’t try to take shortcuts and do your best to deliver value, and over time, you’ll succeed no matter what information you attempt to convey.
#1 — The content is unique
The first rule for creating great content is that it’s unique. Never, ever, ever spin or duplicate content in any manner. That really goes against all of the trust principles in place and is effectively plagiarizing. You will never rank a piece of content that’s plagiarized from another source.
Make sure that the content is unique, not only in prose, but also in its insights reached. You don’t want to spin another article, even if you write it yourself without directly copying, and also reach the same insights. You need it to be uniquely insightful as well as unique in its words.
#2 — Has an attractive, keyword-rich title
If you’re serious about creating great content, then ensure that it has an attractive and keyword-rich title. Whether it’s an article, a video or some other form of content, it has to be attractive. What draws someone to click on a listing over another listing is acutely important to search engines like Google.
Even if your content ranks lower than higher-ranked content, if yours is getting clicked on more, then it will eventually move its way up and above that other content. We’re not talking about click-bait here; we’re talking about attractive titles that draw the searcher in to investigate further.
Here are a few ideas:
- Use lists: Top 10 Cities To Live In For Digital Nomads
- Use questions: 10 Surefire Ways To Lose Weight: How Many Have You Tried Before?
- Use controversy: The Number One Reason Why Men Think Women Are Terrible Drivers
- Use lessons: 23 Lessons I Learned In The First Year Running My Tech Startup
- Use comparisons: Then versus Now: One Decade Of Entrepreneurship’s Tolls On Your Mind And Body
#3 — Is relevant to your audience
Make sure that your article is relevant to your audience. Don’t try to create content that doesn’t appeal to your readership. You’ll just lose their interest. The entire article or piece of content must apply in some way, shape or form to your existing audience. If you don’t have an existing audience, be sure to laser-focus your content to appeal to a specific topic, nice or industry.
This is important when attempting to drive traffic because it’s at the heart of relevancy. The more similar content you have and that you keep churning out over time, the more applicable it will be to a given audience. In turn, they will keep returning to your site to gobble up content in that arena.
#4 — Highly-engaging
Great content is highly engaging. From a metrics standpoint, this means that the content is read and absorbed and digested in that visitors are spending a lot of time on your page. The average time spent on a page says a lot about a specific piece of content. If you’re serious about ranking and creating great content, it has to go all out.
When visitors are engaged, they not only take time reading your content, but they then click around to other areas of your site. You’ve basically peeked their interest and delivered something to them that they were looking for. You were relevant for a reason. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of great content that’s highly engaging and that ultimately ranks higher.
#5 — Solicits sharing with peers or groups
Sharing is at the basis of great content. When someone loves your content, they’re compelled to share it with others. Those shares go a long way and are at the basis of creating authority on a website. By writing great content, you’re inviting people to share it both on social media sites, and also by linking to it in blog posts and other areas of the internet.
Imagine great content that you’ve discovered in the past. When you connect with a piece of content and it speaks to you, you want to share it with your entire network. Google knows that great content is shared often, so it tracks both the number of those shares and the velocity (i.e. speed of acceleration or deceleration in sharing over time).
#6 — Useful and provides massive value
Great content is highly useful and it delivers massive amounts of value. Teach people something that they’re hungry to learn and do it in the best way that you know possible. Go all out. Go into great detail and give away the proverbial farm. As counterintuitive as it might sound, that’s the pathway to success in the online world.
When you create useful content that helps people, you become an authority. As your authority build, so does your potential for income. Your voice begins to matter more and more over time, and people look to your for your opinion on a given topic, industry or niche. However, you have to be consistent with your value and always do your best to help others.
#7 –Optimized for a specific keyword
Writing great content is difficult in and of itself. However, writing great content that’s also optimized for a specific keyword and isn’t over-optimized is the hardest part. You have to be careful about how often or how little you use your keyword and you have to also ensure that the entire piece of content sounds natural and organic.
Be very careful about trying to hit a specific keyword density. There is no exact perfect density of keywords. The most important thing is that the content be obviously targeted towards a keyword and sound as natural as possible. You should not try to design your content for search engines, but rather for humans.
#8 — Well-written and free of errors
This one should be pretty obvious. Make sure that your content is free of errors. Not just spelling errors. But also grammatical errors. While a couple of errors won’t destroy your chances of crafting excellent content, too many errors will severely debilitate you.
The problem? Errors interrupt the flow of reading. When someone comes across too many errors, they end up losing interest. Search engines like Google know this and they pay careful attention to the amount and severity of the errors that are found in a given piece of content.
#9 — Avoids being labeled as thin content
One of the reasons why I tend to be able to create great not that also ranks very high on search engines is because I avoid creating thin content. Thin content is short content that’s more designed as filler text than anything else. How can you expect to deliver value through thin content? You can’t.
Thin content is often less than 500 words and sometimes less than 1,000 words. You should shoot for content that’s over 2,000 words. Studies suggest that this type of content ranks best. Not only does it rank high, but it’s also more likely to be shared. According to serpIQ, content on the first page of Google’s results all average over 2,000 words.
#10 — Sectioned off and well-structured
The content should be sectioned off properly. Don’t use massive paragraphs that spill words onto the screen. Keep things short and truncated with three or four sentences per paragraph at the maximum. Additionally, use section headings often to break the content apart.
It should also be well-structured in that it flows well. You want it to carefully deliver across the points that you’re arguing in an intelligibly and easy-to-follow manner rather than confusing your readers. The more time you put into this, the more likely you’ll be to solidify your content’s greatness.
#11 — Cites sources and studies
You should cite sources and studies often in your content. Never make a claim of fact without citing your source. Not only is this good practice in real life when you’re writing college papers for example, but also in the virtual world. Google is acutely concerned with content that cites sources.
However, studies and citing source does much more than that. It allows you to create a far more convincing and compelling argument when you get into the habit of doing this.
#12 — Does not overuse or “stuff” keywords
One important thing to stay away from is overusing or stuffing keywords. You can easily turn a great piece of content into a subpar piece of content by doing this. So you have to be very careful when attempting to optimize. Again, the difficult lies in optimizing but not over-optimizing.
However, too many people end up overdoing it. It’s a simple fact. Not only does having too many keywords sound strange, but it also looks forced as well. Do your best to create content for humans rather than search engines. Stay on topic, but try not to be repetitive with keywords.
#13 — Utilizes lists or bullet points in some manner
Great content utilizes bullet points or lists in some manner. I’m not just talking about the title of the content. I’m also talking about the content within the content. Bullet points and lists also make the content easier to read by breaking it apart. Do your best to incorporate these in some manner into your article.
I almost always try to use lists and bullet points in all of my articles. I don’t do it every single time, but I do it often enough when the content calls for it.
#14 — Contains relevant high-quality media
Use high-quality media in your content. Not only in the primary image, but also throughout. However, be careful not to use images that are too large in size. Use a system like Compressor.io to optimize the image sizes so that it loads quickly but doesn’t lose much of its quality.
You should also be using high-quality media in the form of photos and videos throughout your content. Do your best to use images that help to best convey the topic covered and ensure that you have the rights to use those images in your content.
#15 — Useful or educational in some manner
Great content is useful or education in some manner. In fact, the more useful and educational it is, the greater it becomes. Think about someone of the best content that you’ve found like tutorials that walk you through some complex process or task. How often do you refer back to that content?
Educational content is often at the top of most searches. For example, my post on 21 Legit Ways To Make Money Online for Forbes is a huge hit because it’s highly educational (amongst other things). Do your best to really ensure that it shines in the usefulness department and your content will eventually soar to the top of Google’s SERPs.