At the software company we run marketing for, we get around 130,000 visitors and 7,500 trials per month.
Almost all of it comes from SEO focused content.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through our 7 step content development process that we use to consistently produce content that ranks in the top 3 of Google and generates sales.
You’re going to learn how to come up with content ideas, how to create content that ranks on page 1 and how to promote the content.
Let’s get started.
What is Content Development?
Content development is the process of understanding your ideal customer’s pain points, doing keyword research, creating amazing content, and promoting it to your audience.
Content development is the key to a successful online marketing strategy, no matter what business you’re in.
Step 1: Identify who you’re writing for
Chances are, you have multiple buyer personas for your product or service.
Some of your content will be “catch all” to appeal to your entire demographic and other content will be extremely niche to appeal to certain segments.
Identify the Niche or Vertical You’re targeting
The first thing you want to do is identify the niche or vertical that you want to target with the article.
Almost every product or service appeals to multiple industries.
For instance, with Time Doctor, we write “catch all” articles for all verticals we appeal to.
Let me show you what I mean:
Hiring Remote Teams
Our catch all content is around the topic of hiring remote workers and virtual assistants.
Every entrepreneur managing a remote business, no matter what vertical they’re in, needs to hire employees or assistants.
Time Doctor is a software that helps entrepreneurs and business owners who run remote teams manage their employees.
Now, I’ll show you examples of some content that is geared toward a specific demographic in mind.
Digital Marketing Agencies
One of our buyer personas is marketing agencies. Among other use cases, they use our software to help manage the many freelancers they work with.
So we created and article about how agencies are using outsourcing to grow their business.
Is there some overlap with other articles? Absolutely.
However, the nuances of the outsourcing strategies makes this article very interesting to agencies.
Just to show that we have a wide variety of businesses using our platform, the last article we wrote is for entrepreneurs who run call centers.
Yup. Call centers. 🙂
So we create articles just for that specific industry.
What’s Their Experience
Some people are going to be brand new to your market. And others are going to be seasoned vets.
And you’ll have everything in between. The key is to make content for each experience level that you’re targeting.
(Note: If you’re not targeting beginners, or if you’re not targeting seasoned vets, then you can just omit that content from your development process.)
But at Time Doctor, we target everyone. 🙂
Content for Beginners
Someone just getting started in our space is basically a new entrepreneur or business owner looking to hire their first employee.
So, we’ll create a few articles like this.
Content for Seasoned Vets
On the flip side is entrepreneurs who are already fully staffed and are trying to retain their employees.
So, we created content that would appeal to them.
Other questions to ask before creating content
You may want to ask:
- - Is this content for men or women?
- - Is there an age you’re targeting?
- - How much money do they have to spend (budget)?
The more specific you are creating your content, the more effective it will be in converting readers into customers.
Step 2: Find pain points
Now that you have some idea of who you want to write for, it’s time to find some pain points.
In other words, what do those people want to read (as it pertains to your product or service)?
I’ve found a few methods to really help me with this.
Get on the phone
The absolute best method to find out what pain points your customers have is to get on the phone with them.
One of the cool things about this is people LOVE to share their problems with you.
You can just probe them with open ended questions.
- - What is the greatest challenge with regards to hiring/managing employees?
- - How big of a pain is that?
- - What do you love about your business?
- - What do you hate?
- - When was the last time you hired an employee who didn’t work out?
- - What went wrong?
- - How important is retaining employees?
We’re going to get into some other methods as well. But one amazing thing about getting on a phone call or Skype call with your customers is you can hear how much “pain” they’re in.
The verbal cues that you pick up are absolutely priceless when it comes to understanding where the conversation should go and what is most important to them.
Use your welcome email
When someone signs up for your list or purchases a product, you probably send them a welcome email.
The welcome email is by far the most opened email you’re ever going to send.
In fact, I’ve had welcome emails open at over 70%!
When someone opts in to your list, you can send an email like this:
The key to this email is saying: “Hit reply to this email and tell me one thing you’re struggling with right now.”
And when I would send this email, I’d get a TON of replies like this:
This is just one example of someone telling me what their challenge is. I can then turn this into a useful piece of content.
Check out the Groups You Belong to
I belong to quite a few marketing groups. Some of them are around SEO, others are for selling online courses.
In one of the Facebook groups I belong to, I started to notice a pattern. People were talking about Kajabi.
Not only were people talking about it, but those posts were among the most highly commented on posts in the group.
Now, I’ve never actually used Kajabi (a platform to sell your online course), but it seems to be a hot button topic among the course creators in the group.
Solving their Kajabi challenges would make a great blog post in the online course niche.
The question and answer site, Quora, can be a goldmine for finding challenges that your audience faces.
After you log in to the app, simply enter in your topic.
For instance, let’s say we want to see what people are saying about Kajabi (the online course platform).
We would simply type in Kajabi into the search box.
This returns a series of questions people have asked along with the answers they’ve provided.
Now you can scan the questions to get specific topics for your new blog post. Each of these questions represents a “real” person wanting more information on how to do something.
Analyze the Pain Points
Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to analyze the pain points and put them into buckets.
Let me show you what I mean:
If you look at some of the comments in the Facebook group, people are asking for feedback related to features:
“Should I keep my membership site on the platform”
“Should I use the email functionality”
“Can I pause my account?”
Things like that.
And if you look in the Quora answers, I’ll find things like:
“Comparing Kajabi and Teachable (competitor)”
“Comparing Kajabi and Thinkific (competitor”
I like to keep these pain points in mind while I’m searching for keywords… which brings us to Step 3. 🙂
Step 3: Keyword research
Now that you have your pain points, it’s time to do some keyword research.
When we create SEO focused content, we want to make sure that each blog post we write has some search value.
First thing you’ll do is head over to the keyword research tool and type in “Kajabi”. I typically like to start with a broad search and narrow in as needed.
Once you hit the orange button, scroll down a bit until you find “Keyword ideas by search volume”.
And then click “view all”.
You’re going to get a huge list that looks like this:
Right now, we’re going to focus in on two columns: KD (keyword difficulty) and Volume.
Keyword difficulty is an approximation of how hard it will be to rank in the top 10 for a given keyword. (0 being easy, 100 being impossible).
And volume is the approximate number of searches a given keyword gets. The higher the volume, the more people who search on it.
(Note: If you’re new to content focused SEO, you might be tempted to go after the keywords “Kajabi” and “Kajabi Login”. Those are branded keywords. And even though it says it’s “easy” to rank for them, you won’t get any traffic. People searching for Kajabi will click on the Kajabi website.)
But if you look down the list, you’ll find some things that fit into the pain points we’ve identified.
For instance, the keyword “Kajabi Review” gets 350 searches a month.
We can write a review post and answer the questions about which features are good, and which features aren’t. For instance, is the email marketing functionality any good?
Then when we look around the list, we can see some of the comparisons to Kajabi we’ve identified get search volume too.
We can write three articles comparing Kajabi to its competitors and get quite a bit of search traffic.
Step 4: SERP analysis
Now that you have your keywords, it’s time to do a SERP analysis. Again, if you’re unfamiliar with SEO, SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. (Basically page one on Google)
Our goal with the SERP analysis is to identify what type of content we need to write in order to rank in the top 3, see how many links we’ll need to build, and how hard it’s going to be to compete with the incumbents already ranking.
Look at Domain Authority
The very first thing I do is look at the domain authority of each post ranking in the top 10.
(Note: if you have a popular blog or brand, you can probably skip this step. You’ll be able to compete with anyone.)
To check out the Domain Authority of the sites, I’ll use Ahrefs again. You can use Ubersuggest or Moz’s free Chrome extension too.
First thing you want to do is check out your own domain authority.
In site explorer, enter in your domain and the result will be the overall health of the site.
In Ahrefs, DR stands for Domain Rating, which is the equivalent for Domain Authority. (Each platform has their own notation.)
Entice’s DR is 38. This is a relatively new site, so that’s not that high. We’ve got some traction, but there are some limitations on what types of keywords we can compete with. I’ll show you what I mean in a second.
Now that we know what our domain authority is, it’s time to see how we stack up against those on the first page.
Go back over to the keyword research tool and enter in the keyword you want to analyze. In our case we’ll enter in “Kajabi Review”.
While most of the domain rankings are higher than Entice’s, as is expected, there are a few of them that are right in our range. Including the number 1 spot!
That’s a great sign for us.
This post is going to take some work, but it’s not impossible for me to rank it in a relatively short amount of time.
Let’s compare that with another keyword. For instance here’s the domain rankings for the term “keyword research”.
All of these posts are from huge brands with extremely powerful domains. If I were to write the single most amazing post on keyword research, it would take me years to compete with these sites.
Once we have an idea of how realistic it is to rank the post, let’s move on to the number of links we’ll need.
Number of Root Domains Linked to Each Post
Next, we need to see the approximate number of links we need to rank the post on the first page and eventually the top 3.
Again, we’ll use Ahrefs for this and we’ll look at the “Kajabi review” keyword.
The domain column represents the number of root domains linking back to a post. I find this to be more important than the number of backlinks as a whole. (Often times, a single domain will have multiple links linking back to a page.)
Looking at the domain column, you’ll see anywhere between zero and 11 root domains. Because my site is on the lower end of the Domain Authority, I’ll try to acquire between 10-15 domains.
That should be enough to rank the post in the top 10, and probably in the top 3.
Just for comparison’s sake, let’s look at the keyword “keyword research”.
The amount of domains that are linking to each of these pages is mind boggling! Getting hundreds or even thousands of referring domains will take years.
That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t write a post on keyword research right now.)
There are a couple of reasons why:
First, if I want to eventually rank for that particular keyword, then I have to start somewhere, right? Yeah, it’ll take me a long time. But at some point, if I keep persisting, I will eventually get there.
Second, when a lot of people link to a particular type of post, that means there are a lot more link building opportunities.
Even if I don’t rank the post in the near future, acquiring links for it will be very beneficial to the overall health of my site.
Analyze the Content
While analyzing the content for the keyword “Kajabi Review”, I found a few things that we can use to make sure our content is better.
Improve the user experience
First up, almost all of the content on the first page contains affiliate links.. This means that these posts aren’t reviews so much as they are sales pages.
Immediately, we can provide a better user experience by presenting Kajabi in an honest, straight-forward way.
Create a Video
While all of these posts have images on them, it doesn’t seem like there are any videos.
One very obvious way to make our post better is to have a video on how to create an online course in Kajabi.
This will show your readers how easy (or difficult) it is to do!
Address the pain points
Finally, you can address the pain points uncovered in step 2. I guarantee that NONE of the posts in the top 10 actually do this.
Take Note of SERP Features
SERP features are the things at the top of the first page.
For instance, for the keyword “content development”, there is a featured snippet answering the question “What is content development?”
Because of this, it’s no accident that this post opens with the question “what is content development?”
This doesn’t guarantee that I’ll get the feature snippet, but it does give me a chance.
Step 5: Create a Content Outline
Now that you’ve got your pain points and did your serp analysis, it’s time to create a content outline.
This is where we think about the headline and subheadlines.
For me, the headline is the <h1> and the subheadlines are <h2>. I will also add <h3> subheadlines as needed. However, I rarely go below that.
If you’re writing a “how to” post like this one, then the subheadlines will be the steps needed to take to complete the task.
If you’re writing a list post, then the subheadlines will be the topics that you’re going to talk about.
Here’s what my original outline looked like for this blog post.
While this is straight forward, one thing that I want to mention is that I try to squeeze some valuable keywords into my subheadlines.
For instance, the fourth step in this post was originally “Analyze the SERPs”.
So, I used AHREFs to see if there was any search volume for the phrase “Analyze the serps”. And here’s what came up:
Zero. Nada. Nothing.
My gut told me that people were going to search for a term like this. So, I decided to dig around a bit and see what I could find.
I threw the VERY general keyword “serp” into keyword explorer
And did some digging around.
I clicked the view all under “Having same terms” to get some idea if there was something more valuable I could use.
And low and behold, at the very bottom of the page, I found “SERP analysis”.
It gets 140 searches a month. Which isn’t tons, but hey, I’ll take whatever qualified traffic I can get.
I know what you’re saying, “Greg, does this actually work?”
Yes it does! And I’ll show you!
On one of the Time Doctor posts called Timesheet Templates, one of our headlines is “Weekly Weekly Timesheet Template Free”.
The keyword Weekly Timesheet Template gets 2300 searches per month.
This post on Time Doctor ranks 3rd for the keyword “weekly timesheet template”
And over the past 3 months, this keyword alone is responsible for 169 clicks.
Not bad for adding the keyword into the subheadline.
Step 6: Create Great Content
Now comes the hard part: Creating great content.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to show you “how to create great content.” I mean, it’s super subjective.
So, instead, I’ll share a few keys that I think makes our content work.
According to a study by Backlinko, the average word count for blog posts in the top 10 is 1,890 words.
Because of this, most experts will tell you that you need to write long blog posts.
But “long” posts don’t mean good or even great blog posts. They just mean that the post has lots of words.
Instead, I want you to strive to create the most thorough blog post you can.
(I think this blog post is pretty thorough. But I’m biased. 🙂 )
Tell the reader step by step exactly what has to be done… so they can replicate it for themselves.
Everyone hates popups.
However, they work. (I know, it’s totally cliche.)
Anyway, I still want to capture email addresses. So instead of blasting my readers with annoying popups, I use exit intent only.
This helps capture email addresses for people who are about to leave.
And for everyone else, I usually place a simple form somewhere in the middle of the content in order
I usually add a table of contents or jump links at the beginning of every post to help people navigate to the section that interests them most.
And finally, I don’t have a lot of distractions. My posts are single column, without a sidebar, and dark letters on white background.
Last but not least, I have relevant images.
On this blog, I don’t have a lot, if any, stock images. Nothing against stock images. On Time Doctor we use them all the time.
However, I find that blogs with the most relevant images that show data and make a point lead to the absolute best blog posts.
Step 7: Content Promotion
Now that you’ve created some really great content, it’s time to get people to read it.
Here are three of my favorite promotion strategies I’ve been using to promote my content.
Promote in Facebook Groups
I actually just stumbled upon this strategy with a post I published called Evergreen Funnels.
I always heard people talking about promoting in Facebook groups, but until this post I’ve never done it.
I became friends with Amy Crane, the founder of Social Lab Marketing and wrote a post where I break down her funnel.
Amy then promoted the post in her Facebook group.
And this definitely drove a bit of traffic.
Again, not a huge amount. But it didn’t take a whole lot of work to do.
Promote in Forums
Lately, forums have been my number one way of getting traffic to my blog posts.
If you look at my top channels, you’ll see that the form “Growth Hackers” occupies 3 of the spots.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Find a forum
Almost every niche and industry has them and they’re pretty easy to find.
All you have to do is search “niche/industry and forum” into Google.
For instance, I searched for “coffee and forum” and came up with a fairly decent list of forums.
Step 2: What Content works best?
If the forum posts statistics, or some quantifiable metric (like upvotes), then take a few minutes to scan each post and see which types of posts work best.
Step 3: What are the rules?
Some forums won’t allow you to post a blog post without first being an active contributor first.
So before sharing your post with the group, take a few minutes to understand the dynamic and what is expected of newcomers.
A quick note about forums: Obviously some niches like marketing and fitness are going to be a lot more fruitful than something like coffee. However, if you’re just starting out, it makes sense to give forums a try.
I recently published a post called 108 Blogging Tools to Grow Your Blog Fast.
In this post, I link to about 90 different blogs and companies when I mention their tool. (I used some duplicates.)
This gives me a GREAT excuse to reach out to 90 different people.
I usually just use this email script:
Hey (first name)
I just wanted to let you know that I mentioned you in my latest blog post about blogging tools.
You can check it out here.
Some people will simply say “thanks”. Some people will ignore it. But you’ll also get quite a few people to share it.
At the time the screenshot below was taken, this was the only real way we promoted this post. (We did email our list and that got us 15 or so visitors. The rest came from this outreach strategy.)
Not too shabby for getting a brand new post off the ground. 🙂
In order for this strategy to work, make sure you’re generous with building external links to your content.
I like to have 5-10 links for every 1,000 words I write. That way for a 3,000 word post, I have 15-30 influencers to reach out to.
Now it’s your turn…
This is our 7 step process to churn out SEO focused content on a regular basis.
This is the exact same process that we use at Time Doctor to grow our blog to over 130,000 visitors per month.
And it’s the same content development process I’m using to grow Entice.
I can’t wait to see what type of content you produce using this process.