SEO On-Air: Creating Killer Content that Google Loves Ranking Higher

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In this episode, we cover:

Today, we speak to Andy Crestodina, the co-founder and CMO of Orbit Media, an award-winning digital agency in Chicago. He is the author of the book “Content Chemistry,” an illustrated handbook for content marketing.

He has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Online Marketing Experts by Forbes and Top 25 Content Marketers by Express Writers/Buzzsumo, among other prestigious recognitions.

In this episode, Andy will tell us how to create killer content that Google loves to rank.

Stay tuned for the next podcast episode, where our guest, Michael Cottam, shares tips on how to safeguard your website from negative SEO attacks.

Show notes

Can you share a few tips on how to get content done correctly?

Is there a signal that suggests adding images to your content helps you rank on the knowledge graph? 

Is it advisable to refresh old content by adding new information to it, or you advise creating a separate content piece for this?

Is there anything else that you want to share with our audience?

Show Notes Explanation

Hello everyone, this is Senthil. Welcome to another episode of SEO On-Air. Today, we have Mr. Andy Crestodina with us. Andy is the co-founder and CMO of Orbit Media, an award-winning digital agency in Chicago and is the author of the book “Content Chemistry,” an illustrated handbook for content marketing.

He is a well-renowned speaker in national marketing conferences like MozCon, SMX, and Content Marketing World. I’d probably call him the superstar of content creation. The topic we’d like to discuss today with Andy is how to create a killer content that Google loves to rank. Let’s start the podcast without further ado.

Senthil: Can you share a few tips on how to get content done correctly?

Andy: Absolutely. The audience will be the best source of your topics in general. Talking to people will give you lots of inspiration. I believe in it much more than the keyword-first approach in content.

If your audience triggers the idea of an article, you should know that it will succeed because when it’s done, you can directly share the article with the audience who asked you the questions. At first, you might end up driving sort of empty traffic that has little to no relevance to your business. So topic selection is a crucial thing in the beginning.

Only about half of the articles I write are optimized for search, which is fine. There are more fun-to-write articles, which you’re not worried about rankings because you are free to write what should be written, and then you can promote it through email and social media. 

I’m a 20-year SEO and I love this conversation because we’re going to get into the details of how to write things that rank. Once you have the topic you want to write about, then it is about checking to see if there is a keyword alignment. 

One of the very first things I do is when I get possible target phrases, like primary and secondary key phrases, I always check my competition immediately because there are 0% chances of ranking for keyphrases for which you lack authority. If you’re not checking authority, you’re not doing SEO.

The next step is to literally move these into my content marketing template, which has a column for search volume and keyphrase difficulty, which I find using Moz, and it tells me whether or not my new page has the chance of ranking for a key phrase. 

I also research semantically related phrases using SEMRush, but you can use “Google Suggest,” “People Also Ask,” and “Searches Related to,” or conduct a competitive analysis and see what other keywords the high ranking pages also rank for and get those to my list. This will give me the idea of subtopics that I must address or words I must incorporate. 

If you are not doing semantic SEO, you might be just keyword stuffing. You also aren’t creating the best page on the internet for a topic. My goal is to make the best page on the internet for my topics because it’s that obsession with quality that aligns my goal to that of Google, which is to provide quality content to the people. 

Senthil: Fantastic, we are going to link out to the template and the video Andy has created to make you understand more clearly what he advised so far. His 20 minutes end-to-end video that tells you how he carries on with content research and creation.

Andy: I think it’s fun to look over the shoulder at the entire process of creating content, writing social media posts and email subject lines in advance, etc. 

Best marketers read a lot of headlines before choosing one, and the rejected headlines might become sub-headlines for their articles or social media posts that can be used for promotion.

There are a couple of things that you might be surprised by the amount of attention they get. One of them is visuals. An article without an original image, especially a chart or a diagram, has a big disadvantage in SEO, not because Google is looking at the image per se, but because you will have fewer opportunities to reference and therefore link to this article when you contribute to other people’s content.

If you make a beautiful chart that explains something simply and visually, and then when you contribute to other people’s content in the form of guest posts or interviews, you can embed the image into that piece.

I’m basically talking about image source link building here. I’ve been doing this for a while. That’s a big piece: the visual supply.

Senthil: Absolutely, Andy. We have noticed in the Answer Box, the image sometimes appears along with the content. So is there a signal that suggests adding images to your content helps you rank on the knowledge graph? 

Andy: Not directly, but yes, it’s a powerful signal indirectly. The dwell time of visitors is an essential factor, which can be improved when your content has something of visual interest at every scroll depth.

Visitors will keep flowing when you do so. 30% of my efforts go into creating images. I’ve never used a stock image. Just like a journalist wouldn’t write an article without a source, I never write an article without a quote from the contributor or expert. 

It makes the content better and improves the social reach because when people scroll down my article, they see faces in my content. 

Senthil: That’s great to know. What’s next, Andy? 

Andy: As I write, I’m cautious about breaking up the content and making it scannable, ensuring that I never write paragraphs longer than three lines. I never miss the chance to use a numbered list or a bullet list. 

When you write an article, you link to an old article, but you should also link to your new article from an old article. This will give your new article an immediate SEO boost because your old article is passing authority. Therefore it’s another recommendation.

Internal linking is powerful. When you write an article, you link it to an old article, but you should also link your new content piece from an old article. This will give the new article an immediate SEO boost because your old article is passing authority. Therefore it’s another recommendation.

Internal linking doesn’t help in building domain authority, but it has a big impact on your page authority. It helps to create an interconnected network of high-quality content. If you have done content marketing for a while, try outlining everything you have written so far. This will help you detect the gaps in your content. 

The benefit of writing interconnected content is that when you work so hard on creating an image for an article, that becomes an asset that you can repurpose for other content pieces. You realize that all of your content is a big puzzle and the new piece that you made kind of fits the gaps in the puzzle beautifully. This is how I ended up writing a book.

Senthil: In this scenario, is it advisable to refresh old content by adding new information to it, or you advise creating a separate content piece for this?

Andy: Well, you’ve touched upon one of the greatest SEO tactics of all time. The “O” in SEO stands for optimization, which is why we need to go back and keep improving. 

You can use Analytics or Search Console to find the top articles that you rank for and then update content on those URLs by adding new diagrams and charts, doing more research, filling up with contributor quotes, and embedding video versions of the content pieces to make them more relatable. 

1/3rd of my articles are rewritten from old articles that I have recycled. Maybe you don’t need 1000 articles, but you do need 100 great articles. 

I’ve never worried about the crawl budget because it is a thing for large websites. But I know many SEOs worry about that. My next tip is never to put numbers in your URL because if you are writing 12 tips on something now, when you update it later to 15 tips, it becomes a bummer. So never put numbers in your URLs. 

Senthil: Wow, is there anything that you want to share with our audience, Andy? 

Andy: I never count the words for my articles, unless I’m just curious. I don’t believe there’s an ideal length of content. My suggestion is to follow short paragraphs but never compromise on the length of the content. 

The idea is to make the best piece of content on the internet. The comments I get on social media is why there are fifteen images in my article and whether it would hurt SEO since it will slow down the page loading time. 

It is something I don’t care about, and I think it is a myth. I just try to get more comprehensive and better than anybody else, so I add images to add more value to my content.

Senthil: I went through an article by Brandy on Backlinko, and they did an experiment where they checked the loading time of some of the popular articles and found that a few top articles lacked proper loading time. 

When they dug deeper to find what made them rank well, they found that the content pieces were very engaging. So, I think it is kind of a myth buster than page load time affects your SEO rank. You should mostly worry about dwell time and stop worrying about load time.

Andy: Yeah, I agree entirely. I have access to 500 Analytics accounts, and when I look at bounce rate, time on page, and page speed, the correlation comes back to the goal of Google-how people connect quality. So everything that Google is doing is basically a proxy for quality. 

Senthil: I can give you an example. Whenever we interview SEOs, we tend to ask them questions on algorithm updates. We wrote an article on the algorithm updates which ranked well in SERPs, so the people who come to us for interviews admit to going through our article. 

So like you mentioned, it’s not about keywords primarily but how people consume content and how it is going to help them. 

Andy: Anything you do without your reader or visitors in mind is spam. There are SEOs who wake up in the morning and think about how they can trick a robot. That doesn’t sound fun. 

Your content should help people, try organizing your content to fit the global library, make better content formats, and do research that contributes to conversations; these are wonderful things to me. Tricking robots sounds boring to me.

Senthil: That was quite a lot of takeaways, Andy. Guys, whatever tips he has given so far is linked here. Thank you for joining us in this show Andy, take care. 

Meet the speakers

Andy Crestodina

Co-Founder and CMO – Orbit Media

Senthil Kumar

VP Marketing –
Stan Ventures