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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, Ahrefs.com, 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!” https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/rank-content-in-google-with-certainty/

“Rank in Google with Certainty? — Market Muse Review Updated Data Analysis” https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/rank-in-google-with-certainty-updated/

“Definitive — Best Keyword Research Tool to Determine Keyword Competitiveness” https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/best-kw-research-tool-keyword-competitiveness/

“New Ranking Data to Help Your Site Rank” https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/new-ranking-data-to-help-your-site-rank/

About the Author Jon

I am a 33 year old husband, father of 3, engineer and a huge fan of developing systems to build useful and profitable websites. The reason I build online businesses is to provide financial independence for my family and yours AND so I can spend time outside skiing and biking with my family.
Jon Gillham, Online Entrepreneur

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