We are back with SEMrush Q&A, where experts answer webinar questions. Unfortunately, our webinar guests don’t always have the time to answer every question. So we find experts with the knowledge and experience to provide answers our community can use, and each month we will publish their responses.
If you have any insights or recommendations regarding the questions and answers below, please add them in the comments. We would like to thank Kevin Phillips, Andy Crestodina, Casie Gillette, Jonathan Aufray, Julia McCoy and Jeremy Knauff for taking the time to answer the following questions:
Content Marketing Specialist at IMPACT
My company is starting a new blog, are there any special practices we should be aware of for our first pieces of published content?
Below, I have listed my top 5 pieces of advice. There are absolutely best practices you should be following if you want your blog to generate more traffic, leads, and sales.
1. Write helpful content. I often see companies make one of two mistakes with their first blog posts.
They either use their blog to talk about themselves (“Gary Just Got Promoted to VP of Sales”, “We Sponsored a Youth Hockey Team. Go Bruins!”) or they write “interesting” content to catch people’s attention, but it doesn’t have anything to do with generating new business.
I used to work at a Sleep Clinic that diagnosed and treated sleep disorders. Before I started, our blog was full of content like “What do Dreams Mean?” and “5 Celebrities with Sleep Disorders.” They were interesting topics, but they did nothing to help people with sleep disorders make up their minds to have them diagnosed and treated.
Instead, focus on the questions and problems people have leading up to making a purchase. What questions are they asking your sales team before buying? Talk with sales, customer service, and anyone that interacts with customers daily and ask them to write down the top 20 questions they get asked the most often.
Each of those questions is a potential blog topic.
I also have a list of 17 Business Blog Topics to get you started.
2. Be thorough. When answering a question in a blog, take the time to really examine it. Don’t leave many stones unturned. Come at it from the point of view that you are writing for the most ignorant of your readers.
If you are struggling to answer questions more thoroughly, use analogies to simplify difficult concepts or use examples to provide more context and depth.
If you are unsure whether you have been thorough in your answer, have someone who doesn’t know your services and products read the content and ask them if there are any gaps that need clarifying.
3. Structure is important. It is not enough to have the best answer to a question. It needs to be easily scanned.
When people click on an article, they often do a quick scroll through the content to see if it is going to answer their question and how it is going to be answered.
Use headers and subheaders to break up long sections of text to give people context as to what the paragraphs below are about. Use bullet points and bolded text to draw people to important information they may otherwise miss if they are just scanning the content.
Make more paragraph breaks so you are not left with giant blocks of text that just feel like they would be difficult to read.
Always write with two types of readers in mind, those looking to read and absorb every word, so they soak up as much knowledge as possible, and those looking for quick, digestible answers. When you structure your content appropriately, you satisfy both types of readers.
4. Call out your bias. The best blog articles help readers make the best decision for themselves. And sometimes, what is best for them might not be your products and services.
You should strive to be the best educator in your industry. When you do so, you establish trust with your audience. People like to buy from companies and people they can trust.
If you are not honest and upfront about any bias you may have on a topic, and the reader finds it out themselves, you will hurt your credibility and, ultimately, lose their trust.
So let’s say you are writing an article comparing a product you sell to one that you don’t. You should tell the reader this at the beginning of the article. Let them know that while you do have a bias, you are going to be as objective as possible when comparing the options.
5. Use content for selling, not just marketing. In the first point I made, I mention that you should speak with your sales team to come up with blog topics based on questions customers regularly ask them.
Once you have created this content, put it in the hands of the sales team. Let them know they can use the articles you have written to help educate prospects before and after-sales calls.
For example, if they know a prospect is going to ask certain questions on the sales call, they can help the prospect better prepare for the call by sending them articles ahead of time. This way, they save time fielding answers to common questions and can spend more time doing what they do best: selling.
Co-founder of Orbit Media and author of Content Chemistry
How do you deal with other companies stealing your content?
For blatant plagiarism, send a letter from a lawyer. But more often, it is just a lack of attribution. In that case, it could be an opportunity.
If you think of “stolen” content as a quote without attribution, you can write to the editor and ask them to link back to the original; this is even possible with images. Take any chart or diagram from your content and use Google Image Search to find people who have used it.
Check each one. No link? Reach out and ask that they add an image source link. There is no benefit in starting fights. There are big benefits to befriending copyright violators.
Resource: How Images Improve SEO
Sr. Director of Digital at KoMarketing
For content, I’ve always heard that pushing more will drive more traffic. For blogs, would you say it’s better to update old content and decrease new content?
It is really dependent on your goals. For the majority of our clients, we try and balance both. New content is essential to keeping a blog fresh, but there is so much organic search value in updating old content.
An exercise we like to do is evaluate blog traffic over the past year and determine which pieces can be updated, which pieces can be removed, and which pieces can be consolidated. If you have been running a blog for multiple years, you will find pieces that are repetitive, outdated, or perhaps no longer fit with the brand. The thing is, many still have value.
For example, a client of ours had written a list post. A year later, they wrote an updated list post. We combined them into one larger post, updated it, and it is now one of the top organic traffic drivers. That was an easy exercise that took 25% of the time it would take to write a new post.
At the end of the day, there is obviously value in updating your old content but it also shouldn’t come at the expense of new content. Find a balance.
Co-founder & CEO of Growth Hackers
What is the formula for writing a good case study? Is it as simple as answering the who, what, when, where, why, and how?
From experience, I can tell you that creating a case study is more complicated than just answering the classic who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. Why? Because you want your case studies to tell your prospects and leads: “I want to work with them.” A well-crafted case study is your main weapon to convert a lead into a sale. If your leads had any doubts, barriers, or concerns in working with you, after reading your case study, it should become a no-brainer in working with your company. Now, let me give you the main steps to create a powerful and successful case study:
1. You don’t just want to tell a few facts and numbers. What you want is to tell a story. People love stories. Show where the company you helped with was when you started to work with them, what were their struggles and growth goals.
2. Have a strong and powerful headline. The headline is what’s going to grab your readers’ attention. I usually recommend you to put a number you achieved right at the beginning, so readers want to discover how you achieved that. For instance, if you helped a client make a million $ in sales, optimize their conversions by 30%, tripled their revenue, helped a company raised a lot of funding or decreased their cost per acquisition by 50%, these are the kinds of numbers you want to show right at the beginning.
3. Once your readers know the original situation, you can start your story and show the results you provided via your products or services. This is where you show the case study readers how you achieved your clients’ target audience and growth goals.
4. You don’t want your case study to be a series of figures, metrics, and text. You also want it to be well designed. It will make it more readable, scannable, understandable, and enjoyable by your readers.
5. I also suggest you ask your client for a quote and add that testimonial to your case study.
6. Have a CTA (Call-to-Action). CTAs are very important to convert when it comes to video marketing, blogging, emails, etc. So, why not use them in your case study as well.
7. Case studies can be pretty much used in every part of your funnel (Awareness – Interest – Consideration – Intent – Evaluation – Purchase), but I believe case studies should be made to close a deal, to make sales.
CEO at Express Writers
What do I look for in the content itself to update and improve when I’m rewriting after auditing/locating old posts to fix?
My process of updating content usually comes down to these four checklist-style tasks:
1. Check for Broken Links & Outdated Research
Broken links and outdated research can earn an immediate bounce from a reader looking for the latest and the best advice on a topic. This can be one of the biggest “killers” of readability and value in old content. Update links, switch out old info for new, and make sure you don’t have any 404 link errors happening.
2. Update the Headline
Once you get through #3 and #4, come back to this point to make sure you have an accurate headline that represents what your topic is about. Things may have changed if you had to update research and copy, and the topic should always be accurate to the content.
3. Update Copy and Images in Your Post
Icky copy and images are also ‘silent killers’ of old content success. Improve, rewrite, and exchange old branding or icky images for new and fresh ones as you go through your old content.
4. Finesse Your Meta Content & CTA
Make sure your meta description represents the post and is accurate to what is within. The CTA should also be going to your best/most current offer or lead magnet.
Founder of Spartan Media
How do you decide what content needs to be removed, and what should be updated?
At my agency, we decide whether to remove or improve content by evaluating its current role and potential value to a business. In some cases, we also consider the search volume, but that is not always a deciding factor. This is because often, a piece of content will play a critical role for a business, despite the fact that it will likely never earn significant organic traffic. This might include an explanation of an important industry term, product manuals, or location information, to name a few. We don’t want to remove this kind of content, but in many cases, there is nothing we can do to improve it significantly.
This will generally represent a relatively small percentage of a website’s content.
Or a piece of content may have been relevant at one point, but no longer is, such as a previous event, a minor news story, or a discontinued product. We would generally remove this type of content since there is not, and likely never will be any value to visitors again.
This is a pretty common scenario for two reasons:
Marketers are constantly creating new content to stay in front of their audience — both in search and on social media, so it is inevitable that some will be ineffective.
Businesses constantly change and evolve, so what was important today, maybe completely irrelevant the next year.
Content that ranks, but not well, offers reasonable search volume, and plays an important role in a business is the type of content we typically want to improve because this combination of criteria offers the greatest potential ROI. This might include broad, non-branded product or service terms, how-to tutorials, or in-depth content on important industry terms, for example. It is important to prioritize these topics by the search volume, competition, and importance to the business.
This will usually represent the largest percentage of a website’s content.
Do you have any questions?
You can let our team know your question by adding comments on the blog or you can use the “Send Feedback” button at the top of the page — be sure to let us know it is for the Q&A series, and we will add your question to the list. Also, check out our upcoming SEMrush Webinars and see which topics and speakers could help you. You can submit questions during the webinar.