How I Create SEO Optimized Content for My Authority Site

The following is part of an ongoing series, The One Hour Authority Site Project. If you’d like to read more about it then click here!

Writing ContentThere are many different elements that make up a successful authority site, but the content you create is perhaps most pivotal.

The words you publish play a huge part in defining the success of your site (tweet this) in many different areas such as search engine rankings, social media exposure and user engagement. As search algorithms become more advanced and social media becomes even more relevant to everyday Internet users, content will only become more important.

With that in mind, the content strategy for my authority site is something I have spent a great deal of time on. It has evolved drastically over the first 41 posts I have written for the blog, and will no doubt continue to evolve in the future. In this post, I am going to show you my exact step by step process for creating SEO optimized content for the One Hour Authority Site Project.

There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!

Authority Site Update

But before that, as always, let’s see how my site is getting on.

My last update was only a couple of weeks ago, but there has been some curious movement in the rankings since then:

Authority Site Rankings

Notice that I said “curious”, rather than “exciting”. Still no first page results, but all of the rankings you see above are for taxonomy pages (i.e. tags and categories). According to Market Samurai, none of my actual posts are currently ranking anywhere in Google. Also, some of the ranking pages are not directly relevant to the keyword ranked for. I have no idea what to make of this and would welcome your theories in the comments section.

Beyond that, traffic is still all but non-existent:

Authority Site Analytics

That’s right folks — a grand total of four visitors since my last update. I’ll look back at these figures and chuckle :)

As I said in my last post (before I went on vacation), my focus for the next few weeks will be getting to the 60 post mark before I move onto stage 2 of my plans. I hope to progress things quickly so I can get started with conservative link building/procurement as soon as possible. Although I am in no rush, I think it’s about time that my rankings and analytics figures looked a little more respectable.

Writing SEO Optimized Content

If you have been following the series so far you will know that I have already covered how I set up my SEO optimized site and how I research and analyze keywords. It’s now a case of picking a keyword to write about and running through my system for writing new posts.

The overriding principle that guides my content creation strategy is quality. Once I have hit Publish on a blog post, it will remain on the web for the months and years to come, and has the potential to attract thousands of visitors in its lifetime. As such, I treat each post with the respect that such potential deserves.

So, keep that in mind as we run through each step of producing an SEO optimized blog post below.

The Headline

I cannot understate the importance of a post’s headline in defining its success in terms of attracting views. The vast majority of potential visitors will only see a post’s headline, and as such, they only have that to persuade them whether or not they should click.

Therefore, a headline should be clear, direct, informative and intriguing. For the One Hour Authority Site Project my headlines are largely guided by the long tail search keywords that I am targeting, but I often tweak them based upon the above key principles. Ideally, the most relevant keywords should be placed at the beginning of the post.

My headlines are typically no more than 65 characters (I use this plugin to easily keep track) to ensure that they are displayed in full on search engines results pages. When it comes to capitalization, I use title case (as most professional bloggers do).

Above all else, I make sure that my headlines are natural to read. I would never sacrifice readability in the hope of boosting my search engine rankings. As always when it comes to optimizing my content, humans comes first (not search engines).

The Slug

In case you don’t know, the “slug” is the unique URL for your blog post:

Slug

This post’s slug as shown on the WordPress backend.

It should be packed with relevant keywords. This helps search engines to better ascertain the relevancy of your post to your targeted keywords. Unlike a headline, a slug does not need to read naturally, although it is useful if it serves as an indication of what the post covers.

Something I like to do is vary keywords between the post title and the slug. Say I was writing a post on throwing a curve ball. My title might be, “How to Throw a Curve Ball”, and my slug might be “how-to-pitch-a-curve-ball”.

Optimizing My Posts for the Search Engine Result Pages

I have SEO by Yoast installed on my site and consider it absolutely indispensable. It adds a meta box to each post page that allows you to specifically optimize each post for the search engine results pages (SERPs):

SEO by Yoast

A version of this post optimized for the SERPs.

I define a focus keyword for each post and ensure that it is included in all of the important parts of my post:

  • Article heading
  • Page title
  • Page URL
  • Content
  • Meta description

I may add an SEO title if I want to display a headline that is different to what is displayed on the actual post. Finally, I add a meta description. Although Google says that it has no bearing on a page’s ranking, creating a manual meta description is a great way of boosting the organic click through rate to your posts.

The Content

Yahoo! Style GuideI’m going to preface everything I say in this section with one simple recommendation — purchase a copy of the Yahoo! Style Guide. If you publish content online in any form, I consider it required reading. It is by far the most comprehensive resource I have ever come across on writing for the web.

Taken straight from the guide are the following key pointers I bear in mind when writing content for my authority site:

  • Write in an easy-to-read, conversational style
  • Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs
  • Use bold to emphasize key statements and italics to emphasize particular words (as you would when speaking them)
  • Use plenty of graphical elements: media, lists, blockquotes, tables, graphs, etc.
  • Break content up with keyword rich and relevant sub-headers
  • Focus on quality above everything else
You can see all of these elements in action on this post — my general writing style for all blogs is led by the above principles.

Most importantly, each post you write should set out to resolve a very specific question posed by the headline (note — the headline does not necessarily need to be phrased a question, but the question should be implicit). I don’t just write the posts for the sake of having content on my site — I want to provide a genuine service for people in search of answers. If I follow that mindset, I should eventually have a valuable asset (rather than a bunch of posts that no one actually wants to read).

Media

Compfight

I use Compfight (a Flickr search engine) to source the vast majority of the images I use in blog posts.

When it comes to sourcing free images for my writing, I use these resources only. I include at least one image per article (more is preferable), and always endeavor to make them relevant to the subject matter.

My posts’ featured images are always slightly less than half width and floated to the top right of the content (as recommended by Derek Halpern). Each image has alt and title that seeks to strike a balance between accurately describing the image and including relevant keywords.

Video is not something I have included on the site, but it is something that I may well concentrate on in the future. Including relevant videos within your content is rarely (if ever) a bad thing to do.

Links

As you may already know, there are two “types” of linking: internal and external. I include internal and external links on every post I publish. You should not be fearful of linking to external sites — search engines like to see you do it, and if you link to relevant sites, it provides more context with which they can rank your site appropriately.

I take every opportunity to link to relevant blog posts on my own site, with at least two internal links per page. I also have a rule of linking out to one external site per post.

Categories and Tags

I have covered my taxonomy strategy in detail here and here, but there are a couple of things I should make clear in this post.

First of all, I only ever link a post to one category. It’s just a little rule of mine — it seems sensible that a post would only be associated with one broad category. When it comes to tagging, I draw selectively from a list of existing tags, and only create new tags if I feel that it will be used relatively regularly.

Never Forget the Importance of Quality

That’s it — my complete strategy for creating SEO optimized content for my One Hour Authority Site Project!

If I could leave you with just one thing, it would be a reminder that once an article is finished, it sits on the web in perpetuity. As such, you should not rush to publish content — make sure that each post is properly optimized and has the best possible chance of success.

I’d love to know what you think about my strategy, so please open fire with questions and comments!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Bright Meadow

Comments

  1. says

    Tom,

    Hi mate, great job as always.. Question though, regarding tags, I remember a post I read somewhere that you did, saying displaying tag clouds are a waste in a sidebar.

    So is there SEO benefit in taging your post, regardless. ?

    thanks

    • says

      Hi Darren,

      The SEO benefit is in your individual tag pages being ranked in Google :)

      If you have responsibly tagged posts then I am not totally against the concept of a tag cloud, although I would never take up valuable space in the sidebar with it. I’m currently working on an Archives page for LWB, and it will probably include a tag cloud.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  2. says

    Hi Tom,
    Great post as usually, and very useful. I picked some ideas for my own blog posts.
    One question: how do you check spelling and grammar? Any plugin you use? My blog is about producutivity and motivation. It’s in English but im not a native speaker and i’d like to improve the quality of my posts without spending money on proofreading services (unless its completely necessary)
    Thanks for the heads up!
    Nicolas.

    • says

      Hi Nicolas,

      Glad you found it useful! I use my computer’s built in dictionary for spelling, and for grammar I rely upon experience (I don’t believe there is an app out there that can reliably adjudge grammar). Based upon this brief comment, your spelling and grammar seems good!

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • says

        Hi Tom,
        Thanks for the reply and the nice words. Wish it was true, but i don’t think i’m so good on a 500-word article. Anyway, i guess i could use Word or whatever dictionnary i have on my laptop to write my post – i usually write them inline, but maybe thats not such a good idea!
        Thanks!
        N.

          • says

            Oh yayyy i’m practicing. But if no one tells me my mistakes, it makes it harder to improve, don’t you think? Or maybe i’m just that awesome :-P
            Anyway, i’m thinking about taking a class in English, let’s see if here in Madrid (Spain) i can find something of value.
            N.

        • Nathalie says

          Hi Nicolas,

          Re proofing, I find that if I take a break after I have written a piece or even better, leave it overnight, I can spot most mistakes. Reading aloud also helps to ensure what I have written sounds ok.
          Another option is to ask a friend with good attention to detail to read through the text.

          Best wishes
          Nathalie

          • says

            Hi Nathalie
            I just saw your advice, thanks a lot.
            I actually never thought about sleeping over my text with the hope to spot most mistakes the day after, i’ll give it a go. About reading aloud, that’s also a good one. Although I’m not a native english speaker, i can definitely say if something “sounds” wrong or not.
            Enjoy your holidays and thanks!
            N.

  3. says

    Great tips and advice here!

    Even when one thinks he/she has figured out everything SEO related, it’s always refreshing to see a new take on things, and to see other’s ideas!

    Thanks again, and Happy Thanksgiving!

    All the best,
    -Alex

  4. Corey McMahon says

    Hi Tom,

    Just in relation to your taxonomy pages appearing in search results (but not your articles), this is typically because of the default internal linking profile created when using categories and tags. By their very nature category and tag pages tend to have a lot of internal links pointing to them, meaning they’re typically indexed faster and for new sites are the first pages to rank (until you get some deep links pointing at those internal pages).

    Especially with WordPress I consider these taxonomy pages to be pretty useless out of the box. There are two ways I’ve tried to deal with this in the past:

    1) Actually make these pages useful and then utilise them as the target pages for specific keywords. This involves adding keyword rich descriptions to category / tag pages. You may even wish to modify the templates for these pages to make the layout more enticing and position your content more effectively (the default list of blog post titles and short descriptions doesn’t really do it for me).

    2) Use a ‘noindex’ meta tag on the /tags/* and /categories/* pages. I believe Yoast’s SEO plugin lets you configure this.

    Great work on the blog / post! Keep up the good work :)

    • says

      Hey Corey,

      I like your theory, although tags are not listed anywhere on the site, so I don’t see how the taxonomy pages are being linked to extensively…

      I agree with your sentiments regarding “bulking out” taxonomy pages, but I think when you categorize and tag appropriately, the standalone pages can still be useful. The post snippets themselves represent the inbuilt keyword-rich content, and the pages are often being updated, which Google of course likes to see.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  5. Charley says

    Comprehensive and helpful! I don’t bother adding tags because all they do is increase the number of low quality pages on my sites. On some sites, I also no-index categories, particularly if they contain just a few articles.

    • says

      I’m not sure what you mean by “low quality” pages — if you tag selectively and relevantly, you’re left with a bunch of pages packed with contextually relevant content that focus on a specific keyword in your niche.

      • Charley says

        Based on Google panda inferences, tag pages are low-quality pages. I’m not entirely sure, but I’d rather not chance it. Obviously, tag pages are very useful for improving navigation and helping visitors find the information they are looking for, so they shouldn’t be ignored. Apparently, there’s a conflict between Google’s algorithm and proper website principles so, dunno what to say :-) lol!

        • says

          What do you mean by “Google panda inferences”? I think you might a wee bit paranoid here — I don’t think Google singles out tag pages blindly. The fact that my tag pages are being ranked above my post pages seems to demonstrate that ;-)

  6. Cari Mostert says

    What a brilliant post! Being frantically busy, I’ve never read your “authority site” posts. What a mistake…one I’m going to remedy right now. So much pertinent information and all in one place :-)

  7. says

    Not sure what is causing the taxonomy pages to rank, but especially when I was doing micro-niche sites that would happen to me a lot at first…either category pages or even weirder, pages like my privacy policy or contact page would rank #50-100 for a particular keyword before eventually being passed by the page I was intending to rank or at least the homepage.

    Thomas

  8. says

    I have expectation to make my site as a high authority site. Actually, I think the expectation is in mind of every blogger. You article just shown me a deeper path to fill up my expectation. thank you very much @ Kristi Hines

  9. says

    Phew! Great positive reinforcement for me there Tom! I seem to be doing some things right :D

    I also use SEO by Yoast and find it very intuitive, as has been mentioned above I’ll be checking out CompFight as to date I’ve had a lot of trouble finding images; I usually use my own but have need of extra ones for some things.

    Thanks again

  10. says

    really helpful stuff, because of Google’s algorithm, i ever feared to use internal and external links on my articles because i was not familiar with as you suggested in your post,

    You should not be fearful of linking to external sites — search engines like to see you do it…

    really thankful to share this ;)

    cheers

  11. Mark says

    Key points.
    Silo content themes.
    LSI.
    New page for every keyword. Landing page / add quality – do not make doorway pages.
    Images / video on every page (Google likes rich media).
    Build links to deep pages using benign anchor text and long tail / inexact match text. Maintain Pengiun friendly ratios.
    Diversify link types.
    When you get a solid link from an authority source – use exact match anchor text.
    Rank and bank!!!!!

    • says

      Hi Mark,

      I found the article extremely interesting but I don’t like all of the advice. Personally I feel that the author goes way too far in attempting to cater for the search engines at the expense of the user — most notably with the internal linking strategy.

      I’ve definitely taken some of the advice on board, but not all. Thanks again for the link!

      Cheers,

      Tom

  12. Mark says

    I agree 100%
    I’ve started to use user friendly menu structures that redirect into seo friendly structures and I’m experimenting with no follow internal linking to preserve the user experience.

  13. says

    Hi Tom,

    I’m a new blogger learning as I go. I’ve learned a good 70% from you or links from you, so thanks!

    One problem I can’t figure out is with my headlines. My post titles tend to be pretty generic for search engines (please see my most recent post at http://www.farfromnewyork.com), as I find that using more “key word rich” titles doesn’t match the style of my writing. (I started making tags with key words, but I’m not sure if this helps.)

    Any suggestions? Or do I need to seriously consider renaming my posts?

    Thanks in advance – your column’s a lifesaver!

    • says

      Hi Justin,

      The headlines certainly are generic — not particularly useful for people in getting a quick idea as to what the post is about. That’s what it’s all about — web surfers are impatient and want to know what they’re going to read about — they don’t want to take a leap of faith on the assumption that they will get value from what they are reading.

      Having just briefly scanned your last post you might use a headline like, “10 Things I Learned as an Ex-Pat Living in Germany”.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  14. Hakim Mahmud says

    Great tips and advice here!

    Even when one thinks he/she has figured out everything SEO related, it’s always refreshing to see a new take on things, and to see other’s ideas!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>