A checklist for blog optimization and keyword alignment

February 8, 2022
📗 Field Note

We’ve been talking a lot recently about strategies for creating new content and updating old stuff.

The next step is doing the things. Making changes to articles. Moving words around. This issue of the newsletter has some specifics on how to do that.

We created an action item checklist to get you started. Make a copy for yourself. (You can even slap your own logo at the top and look extra-smart to your clients.)

This checklist is all about alignment.

Alignment? That’s kind of a vague buzzword, isn’t it?

🌈 What we mean by “alignment”

Using consistent language and structure across every element of a blog page – meta-tags, headings, visuals, etc… that’s what we mean by alignment.

The elements that we recommend aligning:

  • Page heading (H1 tag)
  • URL
  • Page title
  • Meta description
  • Subheads (H2, H3, H4…)

Every component serves a unique purpose. When all components of a page have a shared point of focus, the page as a whole is more coherent.

For example: Headings and subheads help a person make sense of your written content. It’s even easier for them when those headings use consistent terminology (ie. keywords). Formatting that content (with h-tags) streamlines the process, too. It makes a page’s structure more visually clear.

This is helpful for the people reading your blog and the search engine crawlers ranking your blog.

Bonus: when a reader (or search crawler) has an easy time understanding what you’re writing about, they’ll attribute it to you being really smart and helpful and trustworthy!

🏄🏼 What you can do

You can get started aligning your content today. Here’s how.

1️⃣ Make a copy of the action items checklist.

2️⃣ Choose a blog page from your site to optimize. (Hopefully, you’ve prioritized certain pages for optimization ahead of others. We’ve got some recommendations for how to build that strategy.)

3️⃣ Copy the content from your chosen page (including hyperlinks and images) and paste it in a simple text document. You could even paste it on the template, beneath the checklist.

4️⃣ Identify a keyword that you want to target before you start optimizing the page.

5️⃣ With your keyword in mind, start at the top of the checklist and work your way down.

Some action items on the list are based on ‘best practices’. For example: a 60-character limit in page titles. Others are purely subjective, like the suggestion to include your brand name at the end of every page title.

If you disagree with any item, go ahead and delete it from the template. Add a few others according to your own style guide.

After all, this is your checklist now.

A strategy for optimizing old content

January 26, 2022
📗 Field Note

We tend to fixate on creating new content. But that’s not the only way to meet performance goals.

Updating your existing content is important, and almost nobody does it!

Remember the awesome (and not-so-awesome) pages you published months or years ago? They’re still affecting your overall organic performance – and not always in a positive way.

Each page needs to be analyzed and updated sooner or later. This often feels daunting, especially if your site has a big content library.

That’s where a content optimization strategy comes in.

🏛️ Building a content optimization strategy

The idea of updating an entire library might leave you with a lot of questions:

  • Which pages should you update first?
  • What does a given page need to perform better?
  • Where do you even begin with this process?
  • How can you complete it without burning out?

A content optimization strategy answers those questions for you. And it breaks down the library update project into more manageable chunks.

The process has four main stages:

  • Analyze performance data
  • Group pages by performance
  • Schedule pages for optimization
  • Plan action for each page

All you need to get started is access to your site’s Google Analytics.

(Don’t worry: we built a little templated tool you can use to simplify the process. More on that below.)

🏄🏼 What you can do

To get started, you’ll pull some data. I know that Google Analytics is not everyone’s favorite place to be, so here’s a step-by-step guide :

  1. Go into Google Analytics, and open up the “All Pages” view (there’s a handy search bar at the top that can help you find it).

  2. Extend the date range using the date picker. We recommend a date range that covers three months. Also, change the view to show you at least 100 posts.

  3. Click the “Export” button. This will export all the data into Google Sheets. (Here’s a gif that shows you exactly what to do.)

  4. Open the exported sheet. Sort the page data to identify top performers, poor performers, and the in-betweens. You can do this manually in the exported Google Sheet – but there’s an easier (and more precise) method that we recommend…

  5. Use this spreadsheet template to group all pages by performance category. Paste your page data in the template and it will automatically group each page into one of 4 categories: Stars, Sloths, Wallflowers, and Lemons.

  • Schedule pages to be updated first. We recommend starting with the top five Star posts, followed by the top five Sloth pages. Those two groups seem to get the best ROI from updates.

And now you’ve got the first ten optimization assignments for your library update campaign. The speed at which you update your library is up to you.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!

What to do with a page that has amazing performance metrics

January 13, 2022
📗 Field Note

We’ve spent the past few newsletters talking about how to optimize pages on your site based on their performance. So far, we’ve looked at

So let’s start this new year with the brightest part of your library: the pages on your site that are doing everything right.

We refer to these posts as “Stars” because they’re the shining example of why your business is awesome.

And your Star content can point you toward where you need to go in the future.

🌟 Understanding Star performers

Star pages are performing beautifully across the board:

  • High traffic
  • High engagement
  • High conversions

A Star page is a huge accomplishment (and asset) for any site. And it’s a great source of ideas for future content.

🏄🏼 What you can do

Each Star page is a proven formula for success.

Start replicating the effort:

  • Adapt the page to a webinar
  • Build a guide around the page content
  • Create new posts about related topics
  • Talk about it on social
  • Add material to the page
  • Send it to the sales team so they can see what’s getting traction

New content is a significant time commitment, but it’s the best investment for leveraging the power of a Star page.

Afterwards, you might work on optimizing the page for conversion… but make sure to do so in low-risk ways.

Experimenting with call-to-action design, for example, is pretty low-risk. Restructuring the content of a post, however, is a high-risk move – so it runs the risk of ruining your page performance.

Moving forward: plan to regularly monitor these pages for ongoing performance—make sure nothing slips!

Address the constant threats to traffic:

Address threats to conversion rate:

Work toward continuous improvement:

  • Content quality + usefulness
  • Usability
  • Domain authority
  • Accessibility

No matter how many Star performers you’ve got in your catalog, you can’t coast on that momentum. Maintaining that success requires care and attention.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!

When a blog post fails in all metrics

December 16, 2021
📗 Field Note

You’ve got a few posts on your blog that aren’t doing anything for you.

Traffic is low, bounce rate is high. No conversions. Maybe the people who wrote these posts wince when they scroll past them on the blog.

These pages probably need a lot of work to see meaningful improvement. We call them “lemons”.

Lemons deserve love and attention, too. (And, in some cases, pruning.)

🍋 Understanding lemons

Let’s say you sell saxophones, and your blog has a lengthy post entitled “How To Play Jimi Hendrix Guitar Solos On A Saxophone.” And the page is a lemon.

Big-time lemon: the content, the format, the audience targeting… everything is terrible. Rehabilitating each element probably requires more energy than it’s worth.

But you have to do something with it because, in your blog library, a lemon is a liability:

  • Distracting visitors away from posts that actually convert. Blog index views and search engine results might present the lemons first, which send new leads running away.
  • Wasting Google’s time. Google’s crawlbots don’t have infinite amounts of time to spend on your site. Lots of bad content can mean that the good stuff doesn’t get indexed as quickly.
  • Diminishing your brand. Lemon posts tend to accumulate formatting problems, and other issues, that nobody notices except for the very occasional visitor.
  • Taking up your time. All of your content requires maintenance, and maintaining a lemon isn’t worth the time you put into it. Plus, lemons show up in analytics and reporting at the strangest times.

It’s not all bad, however. Within these lemon posts, there’s probably some bits of quality content that you can use on other pages.

🏄🏼 What you can do

Adapt the strong content in these pages to improve other pages that are already performing better. Then delete the existing page.

You’ll be making successful posts more robust while streamlining your content library at the same time.

Get started by identifying lemon posts in Google Analytics. Look for the posts with low traffic and high bounce rates. (If a page has just low traffic, or just low engagement, tackle that first.)

Next, do a quick content assessment in the lemon page:

  • Is any of this material relevant to our audience and value props?
  • Is any of this material useful or insightful enough to salvage?

Then extract that quality material and add it to relevant posts on your blog that are already performing well – or doing okay, at least. Then delete the lemon (and be sure to redirect the deleted page to the new article).

Full disclosure: we cut up an existing lemon post for this very newsletter 🤓. And then we deleted it.

Or prune it, if you will.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!

When high-conversion blogs don't get the traffic they deserve

December 8, 2021
📗 Field Note

You probably have some blog posts where:

  • The content is brilliant
  • The bounce rate is low
  • The traffic it’s attracting is perfectly targeted

And yet: it’s not getting enough traffic. So the net conversions are low.

At Ercule, we refer to these posts as “shy”. These pages could be superstars – if only they got out into the world a little more.

Since the content itself is already strong, its problems are probably rooted in optimization and distribution. Things like…

  • Isolation. If it’s a one-off piece, with no related posts, no internal links, and no clear place in your service offering, then it’s going to be hard for users to find.
  • Keyword volume. If the post is discussing common pain points, but does it in heavily branded or niche language, new leads won’t find you in search.
  • Meta-tags. If your page doesn’t look appealing in search results, people won’t click through.
  • Page experience. UX basics like site speed might not derail bottom-funnel leads, but they will hinder your overall conversion performance.
  • Distribution. If you don’t tell the world about this post, and repeat the message strategically across platforms, you can’t expect anyone to know that it exists.

🏄🏼 What you can do

Revisit your optimization and distribution strategies for this post. Some things to look at:

  • Update the page title and h-tags to meet Google’s recommendations. Make it easier for the search engines to see, comprehend, and promote you.
  • Update the meta description. Each Google result is like a little ad for your content, so make yours descriptive and engaging.
  • Assess the page experience. We mentioned this is important for driving conversions. It’s important for driving traffic, too.
  • Add relevant internal links for the shy post on other pages of your site. It’s a kindness for readers and a proven method for boosting visibility.
  • Confirm the search volume for the post’s target keyword, and explore adjacent keywords. A slight change in terminology can lead to a wider audience.
  • Adapt the post for other formats (eg. social posts, video, newsletters 😉). It makes content more accessible and extends the mileage you get from each post.
  • Tell the world! Across all of your platforms. Then remind the world. Then do it again.

And keep doing all of these things. Distribution is a cycle and not a one-and-done sprint. (And optimizing old content is crucial to a distribution strategy.)

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!