Skip to Content

How to Create Great Content That Ranks

9 min read

What does Google like?

One of the most significant challenges content marketers face is that they lack clear, actionable directions to create content that performs well in search. In this post we’ll look at a 4-step process you can incorporate within your content writing workflow to put the odds of search engine ranking in your favor.

It’s a similar process that has helped people like Neil Patel and SelectHub dramatically improve their organic traffic and rankings.

To be clear, we’re not talking about on-page SEO hacks like stuffing alt tags with particular keywords or finding the right long-tail keywords. So goodbye keyword density! Honestly, we’ve all had enough of that.

Instead, our SEO strategy will focus on specific techniques to create relevant, in-depth and high-quality content. It’s the type of SEO content that we know Google craves. Your readers will love it!

Although Google is secretive about how its ranking algorithm works, it’s very vocal about its desired outcome; to provide every search query with the most relevant results. That’s what SEO content writing is all about.

Here’s what we’re going to do:

  • Determine the essential subtopics to cover in our blog post. After all, we know search engines favor in-depth content.
  • Find the content gaps in competing content. Let’s ensure our blog post is better than the rest.
  • Figure out the best links for our audience and SEO. We want search engines to know we’re an authority on our topic.
  • Discover the most important questions that need to be answered in our content. That way we’re sure our content matches the intent of the searcher.

Do this for each piece in your content plan, and you dramatically increase your chance of ranking in Google.

But before we start, I have to warn you that this method is very time-consuming when done manually. Although great content isn’t cheap, bad content can cost you even more.

Don’t worry. Along the way, I’ll show you an easier and faster method that produces even better results.

So let’s get started!

Finding Important Subtopics to Incorporate Within Your Content

You’ve probably heard that longer content tends to rank better than its shorter equivalent. The reason is that long-form content is more in-depth, covering subtopics your target audience deems important. Plus, your readers are less likely to bounce and more likely to engage with your content. Even so, that knowledge by itself isn’t constructive.

We need to know what are those subtopics. The best way to do this is to analyze the top performing pages to discover the subtopics they’ve included. Here’s how.

Perform a search in Google for your main topic. In our case let’s search for “How to Create Great Content That Ranks” since that’s the subject matter of this post.

Next, create a spreadsheet for keeping track of relevant subtopic mentions in the 20 or so URLs you’ll need to analyze. Each row has the topic name and how many times it gets mentioned in each URL. That means 21 columns and however many rows necessary to cover all the subtopics.

Carefully read through all the articles, recording the number of times each subtopic is mentioned. Average the count of each subtopic to give you a rough idea of its importance and distribution.

It will take a few hours to get this done. Hey, I didn’t say it would be fun!

However, using the top ranking articles as your basis ensures you uncover all the relevant topics. If these posts weren’t relevant, they wouldn’t rank.

A Better and Faster Method

Plug the topic into the MarketMuse Research App, part of MarketMuse Suite, and let it do all the grunt work. It processes thousands of articles, and within a minute you have a complete list that not only includes everything in your spreadsheet but also provides variants for each related topic.

The topic model created by MarketMuse is more thorough than what you can produce by looking at the top ranking articles. With machine processing, thousands of pages can be quickly analyzed. Realistically, it’s a stretch to expect anyone to manually go through even ten blog posts.

How to Use This

Make sure to incorporate these subtopics into your research and writing phase. They’re the same concepts conveyed in the top ranking posts. If you want to rank on page one of Google, you’ll need to cover your topic in depth, just like these articles.

Discover Content Gaps in Competing Content

Knowing the subtopics to include goes a long way to creating an in-depth blog post. However, we need to understand the weak spots of our competitors’ content so we can create even better seo-friendly content.

We’re going to apply some conditional formatting to the cells in our spreadsheet, thus creating a topical heat map. Here’s one way to do this.

Any cell that has zero mentions color red, 1 – 2 mentions color yellow, 3 – 9 mentions color green and 10+ color blue.

You can also sum all the values in each column of the spreadsheet to approximate a content score. Higher scores are better than lower ones.

Make no mistake. This manual process takes hours to complete. But it’s a good way to discover content gaps in competing posts.

A Better and Faster Method

Plug the topic into the MarketMuse Compete App, part of MarketMuse Suite, and let it do the work. In roughly a minute, you’ll have a complete list that includes Google Rank, content score and word count.

Plus you’ll have a heat map to help you exploit any content gaps that you uncover within the competitions’ content.

How to Use This

Pay particular attention to those red cells. Those are content gaps from which the competition suffers. To improve your chance of ranking well in Google you need to create better content. By that, I mean content that is more in-depth and covers essential subtopics neglected by the competition.

Determine the Links that Help Users and Improve Rankings

Links still play a big part in search engine rankings. Although you can’t control who links to your content, you can control links within your site. Take advantage of your internal linking structure to help Google understand your topical authority. Here’s how to do this.

  • Perform a site search of your domain using the focus topic of your post. 
  • Pick an appropriate URL from the SERP and create a relevant anchor text.
  • Record this on a tab of the spreadsheet you previously created.
  • Repeat this process with at least two other important related subtopics.

A Better and Faster Method

Plug the topic into the MarketMuse Connect App, part of MarketMuse Suite, and let it do its thing. Before you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” you’ll have a list of internal linking candidates relevant to the particular topic.

Plus you’ll have a list of relevant and high-quality non-competing external links that will enhance the value of your article. The relevant yet non-competing part is essential.

Even seasoned content marketers frequently make the mistake of linking out to the competition. That’s like casting a vote for the opposition. Avoid this, and you dramatically improve your chance of ranking.

How to Use This

Take advantage of internal links to create content clusters and show search engines that you’re an authority on the subject. Use external links to enhance your content without sabotaging your ranking potential.

Find and Answer the Most Important Questions

For every term entered, Google tries to determine the intent behind the search and present the most relevant content. So it’s no surprise that search intent is a hot topic in the SEO world.

Determine the intent behind a specific search, provide the most in-depth answers to those questions, and you increase the likelihood of ranking well. Here’s how you do that.

Read through the top 10 or 20 ranking URLs, yet again. This time make a note of the questions being answered in these articles. Create another tab on the spreadsheet to record these questions.

A Better and Faster Method

Plug the topic into the MarketMuse Questions App, part of MarketMuse Suite, and let her rip! In about a minute, you’ll have a list of relevant questions that you should answer to improve your ability to rank this article.

How to Use This

These are the questions addressed by top-ranking articles on your focus topic. Refer to this report while creating your post to ensure you address these issues.

Use this four-step process in your content creation workflow to increase the quality and comprehensiveness of the content you produce. Do it manually if you don’t mind spending hours on tedious research, or use MarketMuse for faster and better results. Whatever you decide, just do it.

A Better Way to Build Content

While the apps within the MarketMuse Suite make the process far more efficient, there’s an even better way to create in-depth content with high ranking potential.

MarketMuse Briefs provide a detailed blueprint of everything required to create high-ranking articles. It’s like a content outline, only better.

Each MarketMuse Brief includes subsections that contain suggested subheadings, questions to answer, topics to mention, internal and external link recommendations and more.

Featured image vector designed by Newelement / Freepik

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.