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How to Write a Blog Post that Actually Ranks (4 Steps)

Over the past couple of years, myself and my teammates at Content Refined (the content marketing business that Madeleine Taylor and I co-founded) have really nailed down how to write killer content and optimize it for ranking.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll remember when we analyzed some of our content’s data to find the best tools and techniques.  There were a few articles about this—I’ll link at the end of the article.

Well, we actually had those results reviewed and confirmed by a real statistician with a Master of Science in Statistics from Texas A&M (so he, unlike me, actually has the piece of paper on the wall that says he knows how to analyze data).

Our experience in content creation combined with the statistician’s findings has really solidified our understanding of how to achieve awesome, rankable articles.

As always, I want to share this plethora of knowledge with you guys, so that you can implement some of this stuff into your own websites.  Also as always, I hope you guys like graphs!

content article writing

The Four Step Process

Refining systems and processes has absolutely been key to continued success with our content (hence the name, Content Refined).  If you make a good systematic cycle, and stick to it regularly and efficiently, you’ll be heading in the right direction.

So here are the four steps for creating articles that work for us:

1. Keyword Research

The foundation of our articles is a strong primary keyword that is highly probable of ranking.  We find the right keyword, and create an article title around it.

2. Writing

Once the keywords and article titles are good to go, they’re sent out to some excellent writers.

3. Editing

Our editors are the final step before publication.  A thorough quality check includes checking for plagiarism, editing the writing carefully, and running each article through a content gap analysis and keyword optimization tool.

4. Publishing

Our publishers follow a standard protocol for nicely formatting articles with stock photography and ensuring search engine optimization.

Standards for Each Step

Now, let’s break down these steps into a set of standards to abide by.

Keyword Research Standards

There are a lot of keyword research tools and methods out there.

With our data review (checking the content we’ve created against their real results), we have verified three essential components of each chosen keyword; (1) monthly search volume, (2) competition score, and (3) domain authority of competitors.  So, when performing keyword research, we target the following measurements:

  1. A monthly search volume  of over 500.
  2. A competition score under 30%.
  3. The majority of the top 10 competing websites with that keyword have a domain authority score under 30.

But remember, these measurements are flexible according to your content needs (eg. international location, site traffic, niche, etc.).

We have also verified that the most accurate keyword research tools currently available are SECockpit by SwissMadeMarketing,, and KWFinder by Mangools.  These are the three tools we use to perform our keyword research.

avg site domain authority vs google rank KWFinder vs Google Rank

Writing Standards

It’s super important to maintain a strong team of excellent writers.  We hire only native English writers (freelancers) who can pass a series of grammar and content creation tests.  Plus, our relationships with writers are dependent on great communication and clarity of requirements.

We also frequently review and renew our writing team.  Our general rule of thumb is to keep cutting out the bottom 10% (the writers who aren’t consistently awesome or are starting to slack off) and replacing them with new great writers.

Another thing to keep in mind is writing a minimum of 1000 words per article.  It’s generally recommended for search engine ranking.  Depending on your niche, you might need more than that.  The keyword research should help you figure out how long your content needs to be.

word count vs google rank

Editing Standards

An Editor really has to be a master of proofreading.

For us, we make sure that first, they run each article through a program that checks for plagiarism, ensuring that each article is truly original content.  The tool we’re currently using for this process is CopyScape.

Then, they carefully go through each article, editing for spelling, grammar, flow, and readability.

Lastly, they run each article through a keyword optimization program to naturally weave in more secondary keywords wherever they can. This greatly helps in filling ‘content gaps’ that the writer may have missed. The tools we’re currently using for this process are CognitiveSEO and MarketMuse.  Both tools have proven to increase the probability of ranking in search engines.

MarketMuse vs SERPFox

*note: In the MarketMuse vs. SERPFox graph: Negative MarketMuse Score was used instead of MarketMuse Score because of the ascending nature of MarketMuse Score (higher is better) vs. the descending mature of SERPFox Ranking (lower is better).

Publishing Standards

Publishing requirements tend to be subjective.

Everyone has their own processes for formatting and optimizing an article before publishing.  However, we’ve set out a set of standards that we follow, that have proven to increase the probability of ranking.

  1. Short URL slugs that include the keyword.
  2. H2 and H3 tags for headings and subheadings.
  3. Stock photography related to the subject matter.
  4. Meta description for the article.
  5. A few inbound and outbound links to relevant pages.
  6. Category tags.
  7. If it’s an Amazon Affiliate website, we embed the affiliate tag into all product links.

Uploading a bunch of articles at least once per month and scheduling them out is the most efficient way we’ve found to stay on schedule and make sure that good content is always there.

If you hire a freelancer to do this publishing, I definitely recommend doing a quick quality check before hitting the actual ‘publish’ button.

And Then Start Again!

Across all my sites, this is the system we use.  These are the core processes used at Content Refined, and we’ve had continued success in getting content to rank and organic traffic to grow and grow.  Check out these results from one site that Content Refined does all the content creation for (whose name we can’t share for privacy purposes).  They started with no organic traffic, and with these processes, plus a great niche, they’ve been able to scale super fast.

organic traffic content marketing

It’s been amazing to watch Content Refined grow, expand teams, and nail down these processes.  I do encourage you to check them out and jump on a call with Laura (our acting Business Manager while Madeleine is on maternity leave) to discuss content needs if that’s something you’re looking for.

Let me know what you think and if there’s anything that works really well for you!

Links to our previous data collection articles:

“Rank in Google with Certainty — 2 Metrics Reveal That You Will Definitely Rank Well in Google!”

“Rank in Google with Certainty? — Market Muse Review Updated Data Analysis”

“Definitive — Best Keyword Research Tool to Determine Keyword Competitiveness”

“New Ranking Data to Help Your Site Rank”

How to Research, Create and Publish Compelling Infographics

Infographic. Business infographics. Infographics success. Business infographic template. Business concept. Modern infographic for business concept. Can be used for workflow layout, information, banner, diagram, web design. Vector illustration Eps10 file

Are you trying to find ways to increase your organic traffic and Google Rankings? Have you ever tried to do this with Infographics? If not- you should definitely give it a try! We use this strategy a lot on our own websites and it works!

What are Infographics and Why do We Use them?

Infographics are a really great way to build solid links for any of your websites. Infographics take a slightly different approach to SEO and are solely focused on amazing content and really nice graphics and design. We like to try and make infographics as useful as possible so that other websites will want to link to your site in return.

Steps You Need to Take: Research

Like most projects, the initial planning and research phase for infographics creation is going to be the most important part of the process. The first thing you’re going to want to do is get to know your website and the niche it’s in. Figure out exactly what TOPICS are related to your niche, and what kind of information is going to be VALUABLE to your audience.

Make a LIST- This is is going to include a focus topics but also topics that are loosely associated with your niche. This is going to ensure that you can come up with different infographic ideas that might draw from different/closely related audiences.  

Go through your list and do some internet research to figure out what people like, link to, and share. The best methods to do this are the following:

1- Check out Pinterest:

Pinterest is going to be an amazing resource since they are so visually inclined. Search your Topic+ infographic and see what comes up. Then check how many shares it gets and look at who is sharing and linking to them

2- Google Images search is always a good option and you’ll be able to figure out pretty easily who is linking and sharing these as well

3- Another great resource is Buzzsumo– which is an amazing online tool that will help you figure out what content is getting a lot of traction by topic or website. You can sort by all sorts of metrics including social shares which is of huge value


Create your Titles:

Get creative! Your titles are the biggest piece of marketing that you’re going to do so this is going to need to be eye-catching to the reader. Some examples

  • 15 Fun Facts about Canada
  • Keto diets: What Foods to Eat and what Foods to Avoid?
  • 7 Essential Oils to Help Depression
  • The world’s weirdest music festivals
  • Meditation in 12 steps
  • Wedding Budget 101

The general rule of thumb for article titles are that they shouldn’t be longer than 150 words. They should be attention grabbers and pose some sort of question o r fun fact or statement.

Create Your Content

If you don’t have a writer already, use this SOP that we use internally to hire a writer

Please see the Step by Step guide on how to hire and assess writers via Upwork

Part A: Posting your job post

Step 1. Log in to your upwork account


Step 2. Go to the Jobs tab and click on “post a job”

Step 3: Select “part time”  


Step 4: Then- describe the job with the requirements for how to write your infographic – The infographic title should suffice.


Step 5: Select “ Pay a fixed price” and make your budget $10. You should be able to get a really good quality infographic for $10.


Step 6: Generally with our screening questions, we ask them to fix a sentence that is grammatically incorrect so that you can just skip over their profile and application if they answer badly.



Step 7: Click “ post job”. Don’t worry about cover letter


Yay! You’ve posted your job!

Part B: Hiring your writer


Step 1: Wait 12 hours and check your job posting, you should have a few freelancers on the list at this point when you check your job posting

Step 2: Click “Review proposals” and you will get to a list of those who have applied

Step 3: Things we look for

  1. Budget: Does the bid fall within the budget?
  2. What have other clients said about this freelancer? We look for 80% job success minimum
  3. How much they’ve made on upwork so far? Usually those who have made more than $1000 are legitimate freelancers and will be more committed to your project.

Step 4: If you find one you like and meets the metrics, click “ hire freelancer”

You’re DONE!

Hire Your Designer

Once you get the Copy created for your infographic, you’re going to want to think about the DESIGN work for it. Now this is probably the part that is the most fun because you get to work with some pretty creative people. This is the Job posting we put on upwork for this.

Job Description:

We’re looking for an infographic designer to make great looking charts, graphs, and other infographics to go along with informative blog articles.

Ideal applicant must be:

– experienced and skilled in graphic design (please provide examples)

– experienced with Canva or another infographic creation program

– experienced with Photoshop

– available to work 15-20 hours per week


$10-$15 per infographic.

Applicant must be willing to perform a test assignment.

Now all you have to do is provide them with the COPY and let their creative side take over. I’ve always been happy with the different iterations I’ve received and designers are usually really great and taking your feedback.

Publishing your Infographic

What I usually like to do it make sure that I have a blog post or article that can support my infographic. Here is a list of tips about publishing:

1- Posting an infographic should happen at the beginning of the week ( on a Monday or Tuesday) A typical infographic life cycle is about 1 business week

2- If you’re doing an outreach effort with a vendor, make sure that  you coordinate with them properly

3- To get more traction to your infographic, it can be worth buying paid traffic from sites like Reddit or StumbleUpon etc.. to get more social shares and links

4- Make sure that each infographic has Social Share Icons to make it easy for people to share. It will also help you measure what platforms are working best for you. For WordPress- use ShareBar which is a plugin that will give you advanced sharing options.

If you have any other tips with regards to the use of Infographics- feel free to share in the comments!

Monetize Your Emailing List: Use Email Marketing to Grow Your Business

Businesses today need to have a strong digital footprint alongside their bricks and mortar presence. Today’s savvy and upcoming entrepreneurs know that they need to do more with less and not sacrifice their reach or influence on their customers. It’s so important to connect with their audience in a highly personalized way, but also stay on budget doing it. A smart and focused email marketing plan can do just this – connect you with your prospects and customers in a highly targeted way that will be successful in delivering a high ROI and increase revenues that can be invested back into the business. Currently, Email has the largest reach, more than another other digital communication application and is the best way to monetize a digital marketing strategy.


Why is Email Marketing So Important?

Reported by The Radicati Group, a research firm who recently released statistics on email, “More than 34% of the people worldwide use email.” That’s an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide, with projections estimating it to increase to 2.8 billion email users by 2020. Out of all those emails, around 196 billion emails the majority, a massive 109 billion, are business emails. Those numbers are mind-boggling and blatantly stress that Email is the main channel where businesses can grow their reach and potential the fastest. To make it simple and clear; Email Marketing is a powerful strategy to inform and connect with the masses. Almost everyone has email and based on that premise we can help you use an Email Marketing strategy to effectively reach your target audience, clients, and customers- and win over new ones.

Email is the main currency of the digital world, and any person who us active online is highly likely to have an active email address. That’s exactly why when you decide to reach out to your market, there’s no better channel with a greater reach than email. Just look at the numbers since there are three times more email accounts than Twitter and Facebook profiles combined.

Email Will Get Your Message Across

Almost 90% of email will find its way to the intended recipient’s inbox, when you look at social media marketing the number is only 2% for Facebook users to notice your posts in their News Feed. Facebook has an algorithm that restricts the number of times your posts can appear in the News Feed, and they naturally do to drive traffic instead to competitor brands that has paid for advertising spots. That means the cards are stacked against you to find organic leads.

The whole point is to get your message read and noticed, if you break these stats down into real numbers the difference is striking. Your post on Facebook, if shared with 10,000 users, an estimated 200 of them would ever get it in their News Feed. On the other hand, using an effective email campaign sent to 10,000 subscribers mean almost 9,000 of them would get it directly in their inbox. That’s almost 50 times more looks than using Facebook.

The Email inbox is a person’s front door to their virtual world, and if campaigns are sent to the right subscribers, with the right message, targeted to the people who appreciate the information and service they would be getting, means your business will grow because Email drives conversions. This can be in the form of leads, sales, memberships, or a metric that specific to your business strategy. The ultimate goal for us is to help you turn potential customers into paying customers.


Start your Email Marketing Strategy Today using our Processes!

Have you stalled on starting your own email marketing because you just don’t really know how to do it? Check out our simplified guide below and feel free to reach out if you want to talk strategy!

Step One: 

Do an initial audit of what you already have in place for email marketing on your website.  You will either need to create or update sleek opt-in forms and overlays to your site, where visitors can sign up. Hack: you can incentivize this by offering giveaways or free guides or resources, etc., based on your business. It’s an important function to upgrade whether with a slider or header or pop up, so you can grow your list and expand your reach.

Step Two:

Consolidate, import and clean your list by using software that allows you to analyze how active your list is and remove the emails that are either dead, defunct, incorrect to streamline your email list.  We use Xverify for this! Make sure you’re signed up to reputable Email Service Provider. A few reputable ESP’s that we recommend are Klaviyo , Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign and can help you get set up quickly. We would recommend segmenting your list so you can get the maximum out of the subscriber list you already have.



Step Three:

Create core templates that you would use for your emails, and create them based on the type of email you’d want to send, whether that’s a newsletter, announcement, marketing offer or event invitation. You will need to figure out which templates would work best for your business and then create them matching the exact style and feel of your site and branding. You’ll generally be able to do this right from your ESP- OR you can use 3rd party tools like we do, such as Litmus. 


Step Four:

Structure and create your first campaign. You can do this based on a special offer or announcement or welcoming email to your subscribers. Whatever strategy you use,  it will need to be relevant to those on your list. Hack: Sometimes it’s best to create two different campaigns to two differently segmented lists to better target that audience.  You really need to ensure that your campaigns are on brand and build trust with your list, to encourage interaction and business, making it easier to convert.

Step Five:

Imagine the customer journey being fully automated 24/7 so you don’t have to worry about it? Similar to the campaign emails which are custom and made to suit each campaign, you would need to set up your automated emails for welcoming new subscribers, or for managing the purchasing flow (Cart abandonment emails, browse abandonment, transactional emails, reminder emails etc.,). Automation has several series such as; Welcome series for prospects, Post-purchase and Win-Back which all work to help keep your list interactive. You can read more about the different types of automated emails you can use here.

Step Six:

Time to measure your results.  For this, you need to understand the basic metrics that allow you to see how your flows and campaigns are working, how successful they are and how much revenue this channel is bringing your business. Based on these numbers you’ll be equipped to make adjustments on future campaigns and further segment your list, based on behavior, to fully maximize conversion on your interactions. Hack: Things you’ll really need to pay attention to is number of unique opens, number of bounces, number of emails not opened, overall open rate, CTR or Click-Through Rate, the unsubscribe rate, spam complaints, and social media shares. All this information will help you better understand your list and it’s activity and will let you plan and execute better for the next campaign.

Step Seven:

Create a monthly calendar of campaigns in advance and carefully strategize and plan your emails, based on frequency and receptivity of your list, and also around holidays or events that are relevant to your business. This monthly email marketing campaign calendar should be ready 2 weeks in advance so that you can eventually start predicting the possible revenue you will make from your various channels.

 Step Eight:  

You’re done! Aside from having to think about different strategies, the heavy lifting is done. Strategy can be the hardest part, so if you’re stuck on that- give our email marketing expert a call and see how we can help.

Let’s Review: Why Email Marketing is Not a Channel Your Business Should Ignore?

  1. More effective than social media for getting leads
  2. Economic and Cost Effective
  3. Customisable and Personalized to Targets
  4. Action Oriented and Drives Traffic
  5. Measurable Metrics and Reporting
  6. Constant Mobile Device Access to Email

Kicking Off with Content Refined:

As you might have already heard, Content Refined is launching its very own Email Marketing Service and is looking for some additional Beta Testing clients at this time to help test our systems before we make this a public offering ( ideally 3-7 new beta clients). We’ll help you get set up, so whether that’s starting from scratch or consolidating what you already have, we’ll make sure you have the basics like a reputable email service provider, a solid opt-in and opt-out process and see if your current set up is CAN-SPAM compliant. We will look at your current metrics and establish your goals and document what you want and can expect from this channel at reporting intervals of 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.

We Can Help You Get a Higher ROI on Email

Email has no competitors when it comes to driving conversions, especially for e-commerce. Think of any successful business or your own inbox. How many emails do you get weekly from your favorite store or service, and how many times do you take advantage of a deal offered exclusively online? It’s exactly why email is the most effective marketing channel to drive ROI. From our experience, Email marketing can bring an average 3,700% return on investment for e-commerce businesses. That means for every dollar you spend on email marketing, the average return on your investment can be $38. What other channel offers that? Email marketing is the most cost-effective channel for businesses to market their goods and services, outperforming other channels so greatly when it comes to ROI because it gives you the ability to deliver highly personalized and relevant messages and timely incentives.

Since email is the preferred communication channel for the majority of online consumers, it’s the best medium to target instead of social networks which are just that, a more personal form of communication that most use to stay in touch with family and friends. When it comes to business, email is the number one channel for communicating your offerings and since it will probably be around a long time, it’s imperative that you start building an email list, that will become a stable long-term investment and resource that will pay off for decades to come.

When it comes to conversions, there isn’t a more powerful channel than email. Even functioning at its most average a campaign would have a click-through rate of around 3% (of total recipients), so imagine what we could do with a targeted campaign and segmented list made especially for you? Take the time to get a free quote from us and let us show you what you can do for your business with a streamlined and effective email marketing strategy. Increasing revenues from email doesn’t have to be complicated anymore.

So don’t wait any other and monetize your subscriber list, and take advantage of a revenue channel that’s at your digital front door. Find out why email marketing is a crucial part of your small business digital marketing strategy, and let us help you get started. Learn more about our Email Marketing Service here!

Panda Update on Sports Memorabilia Site – Low Quality Content Doesn’t Work

This picture is an image is a follow up to the post Perry wrote at SEO Sherpas where he broke down how a site which has terrible content on it is still getting a lot of traffic from Google even after all the quality updates.