12 Blog Best Practices to Stand Out from the Clutter

12 Ingredients of High-Quality SEO Blog Content img 1

As much as we wish we could get around it, the fact remains that producing high-quality content is the only way to differentiate your brand and increase your SEO rankings. Just as with the experience you deliver, your content needs to go above and beyond, wildly surpassing your readers’ expectations so that they’re compelled to save and share — becoming ambassadors of your brand and pushing your content to the top of Google.

Fortunately for you subject matter expert rockstars out there, it’s not that hard to create a blog that stands out. “You’ve always had the power, my dear,” says Glinda the Good Witch, and it’s just as true for businesses today as it was for Dorothy. Even though it can require more resources, as long as you have the right content team in place, creating great content is practically something you can do in your sleep because you already have what you need — industry expertise, data about your customers, and a commitment to exceeding customers’ expectations.

But what exactly does “high-quality” mean? While it may seem like a hazy term, in actual practice, there are specific ingredients that will make your content stand out well above the rest. When it comes to SEO content, quality is a two-fold consideration, as you always have two consumers of your content — your audience and search engines. So let’s take a look at quality from the perspective of both of these.

What Makes Blog Content Good According to Your Readers

No matter what sort of fancy-pants SEO hacks you use, if your content doesn’t resonate with readers, you’re not going to see results. That’s why the most important place to start is with the humans.

1. It follows the Golden Rule of Content.

Turns out the golden rule applies to SEO as well: Do content unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be honest as you ask yourself this question: “Would I read our content myself if I were in the same shoes as my audience?” Would it be so valuable that you’d bookmark your articles and share them with others, or would you hit up your competitors’ websites instead? If you’re not convinced the answer is yes, chances are your customers feel the same way.

2. It positions you as experts in your field and builds credibility and trust. 

Your blog should be selling your expertise, not your product. Address your audience’s true pain points and give it to ‘em straight. Don’t shy away from talking about the hard things people in your industry may be afraid to bring up. Surprise readers by addressing the more technical aspects of the subject at hand — or other details most content creators overlook. The ultimate goal is to make your audience think, “Man, these guys really know what they’re talking about. They’ve been in my shoes.”

3. It addresses the (searchable) pain points of your target audience.

While this ties into number two above, it’s worth bringing this up on its own. Your audience comes to Google to solve certain problems and they search for solutions to these problems with specific phrases. This is where surveying comes in. 

Before you even start to sketch out a content strategy, take one of the most important foundational steps of talking with sales reps and clients to learn what challenges your audience is trying to solve in general, and what they’re trying to solve with content online. Be sure to ask them for examples of phrases they’re entering into Google to find the solutions they’re looking for.

4. It has personality.

Whether you’re in the B2B or B2C space, people like to connect with people. Adding personality to your content not only keeps your audience reading but it also fosters a rapport with them. Put some thought into your brand personality by surveying clients and looking at high-performing content in your industry. 

Even while you may have the requisite nomenclature in more technical fields, you can still write naturally and even conversationally while still being professional. Forget about forcing keywords that don’t sound natural. Add a touch of humor every now and then. Speak from your own experiences using first person if it feels called for. 

5. Save the sales pitch for another time.

It’s the oldest rookie mistake in the book: producing blog content that sells your product or service. You know what I’m talking about: articles where you can’t get through the first paragraph without the writer firmly reminding us that their company is here to help us because they’re superior for the reasons of X, Y, and Z. Well, what do you do when you come across articles like that? I don’t know about you, but most of the time, I’m ready to bounce! (Pun intended.)

People found your blog because they’re looking for helpful information. Your content should educate them, and while it should point them in the direction of products and services that could solve their challenges, you need to strike the right balance. 

Don’t talk about your own products unless you’re creating a helpful comparison guide and keep the tone neutral and informative. Save calls to action for the very last paragraph, or better yet, use a call-to-action box that is separate from the body of the blog. Sell your expertise, not your product, and your audience will be far more likely to stick around your website and convert.

6. It’s user-friendly. 

What do you do when you come across big, honking paragraphs of content? I bet, like most people, you run the other way. Break up sections with engaging photography, add plenty of pictures and other visuals, split up big paragraphs into a series of smaller paragraphs, use bullet points, start paragraphs off with bolded subheads, bold key phrases to make them stand out

Creating content that’s inviting to the eye is like laying out a virtual welcome mat. Making your visitors feel more at home on your site makes them more likely to engage — which Google will take note of and reward with higher rankings.

7. It goes “above and beyond.” 

I firmly believe that to stand out in today’s environment, your content needs to be next-level in terms of quality. If you were writing a how-to article on making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it wouldn’t just be a step-by-step recipe. It would take the time to answer some of the most pressing questions we have about making PB&J’s: To toast or not to toast? What’s the difference between jam, jelly, and preserves? Can creamy peanut butter lovers still be friends with chunky advocates? 

Pro tip: When you search your primary keywords, take a look at People Also Ask and Related Searches and see what people are asking about your topic and be sure to address these in your content.

8. It drives your readers to more helpful content.

The reader’s journey isn’t over after just one article. Keep them going by pointing them in the direction of more helpful articles. Add call-out boxes with links to related articles or suggest where to go next in your closing paragraph. When you keep readers engaged, they’ll continue to educate themselves and appreciate the vastness of your expertise, making it that much easier when it’s time for them to convert.

What Makes Blog Content Good According to Search Engines

8. All the points above are stressed first. 

While understanding Google’s Algorithm is key to ranking high, keep in mind that Google will not value your content if your readers don’t. When it comes down to it, the longer your readers engage with your content, the more Google will reward you. No matter how savvy you are with your keywords and meta data, if you’re not addressing your audience’s most pressing questions with helpful, engaging information, your rankings will likely suffer.

9. There’s a defined strategy behind your topics and keywords.

When it comes to content ideation, there are lots of great ideas out there for articles, BUT are they the best articles for your audience when they’re in the upper and middle funnels? If you’re a cruise line, for instance, while your readers will want to know what to pack for their cruise, by the time they’re asking that question, it’s likely they’ve already booked their cruise. 

Take a step back and ask yourself what your readers will be searching for in the very beginning stages of their planning. In the case of cruise lovers, they’ll probably be searching out content about destinations they want to visit. This would be great upper funnel content. And the more strategic you are in the destinations you choose, taking business goals and keyword traffic into consideration, the better. 

After your hypothetical potential cruise customers decide on their destination and they’re in the consideration phase of their journey, they’ll have other questions next — for example, “What’s the best length of time for a cruise?” or “What’s the average cost of a cruise?” Create helpful content for this middle phase of their journey and be sure to include links to your quote widget (without being obnoxious about it), and you’ve got yourself readers who are ready for conversion. 

10. It isn’t stuffed with keywords.

And so we come back to the perennial theme: write for humans, not for search engines. Google’s algorithm is more nuanced than ever when it comes to semantics. Include your primary keyword, or some variation of it, in your headline, subheads, and opening paragraphs. Make sure your secondary keywords show up in your H2 and H3 headings every now and again. Use related phrases — SEOs call these LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords — where you can to switch things up. Focus on answering the People Also Ask questions that pop when you search for your keywords and generally just provide helpful information about your topic, and you’ll be golden.

11. It gets more clicks than your competitor’s content.

Before you sit down to write your brief for your article, do some searches on your own for the primary and secondary keywords and make note of what’s ranking at the top. 

If you’re writing an article on how to organize your widget collection and the number-one article is “10 Great Tips to Help You Organize Your Widgets,” your article should have more than 10 tips — and they should be better than great: “14 Amazing Tips for Organizing Your Drawers.” If all your competitors for the keyword are offering tons of tips, but you don’t see any definitive guides, turn your article into the “The Complete Guide to Organizing Your Widgets in 10 Easy Steps.” If the top-rankers are publishing 1000-word articles, offer 1500 words of carefully researched wisdom. You get the picture. If you want to outrank your competitors, you need to offer more value. 

12. It answers users’ specific questions in complete sentences.

As you create your briefs for your writers, make sure to review the People Also Ask and related searches for your primary and secondary keywords. You don’t need to write out answers in a Q&A format to win these spots — which might seem a little weird to readers — as long as you use complete sentences to answer these questions.

13. It links thoughtfully and safely to reputable content.

There should be no more than 2 to 4 links to your product/service pages — and make sure the pages you’re sending your readers to are the most relevant for those reading the article. Link to other helpful articles on your blog as well. And if you’re referencing studies, link to primary sources only and try to make sure the data isn’t more than a couple years old.

If you’re going to invest time and money into creating organic content, you want to make sure it’s going to pay off. The good news is it’s pretty simple — all you have to do is make sure it’s great.

Looking for a partner to help you make great content? Contact our team to get started today.

Jesse Relkin

Jesse Relkin is the founder and CEO of C-POP. She has been a freelance writer and content marketing professional for more than a decade, with experience in content strategy, SEO, social media, PR, and more. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.