Behind the SEO: Launching Our New Guide — How to Rank
Posted by Cyrus-Shepard
Seven years ago, we published a post on the Moz Blog titled “How to Rank: 25 Step Master SEO Blueprint.”
From an SEO perspective, the post did extremely well.
Over time, the “How to Rank” post accumulated:
- 400k pageviews
- 200k organic visits
- 100s of linking root domains
Despite its success, seven years is a long time in SEO. The chart below shows what often happens when you don’t update your content.
Predictably, both rankings and traffic declined significantly. By the summer of 2020, the post was only seeing a few hundred visits per month.
Time to update
We decided to update the content. We did this not only for a ranking/traffic boost, but also because SEO has changed a lot since 2013.
The old post simply didn’t cut it anymore.
To regain our lost traffic, we also wanted to leverage Google’s freshness signals for ranking content.
Many SEOs mistakenly believe that freshness signals are simply about updating the content itself (or even lazier, putting a new timestamp on it.) In actuality, the freshness signals Google may look actually take many different forms:
- Content freshness.
- Rate of content change: More frequent changes to the content can indicate more relevant content.
- User engagement signals: Declining engagement over time can indicate stale content.
- Link freshness: The rate of link growth over time can indicate relevancy.
To be fair, the post had slipped significantly in all of these categories. It hasn’t been updated in years, engagement metrics had dropped, and hardly anyone new linked to it anymore.
To put it simply, Google had no good reason to rank the post highly.
This time when publishing, we also decided to launch the post as a stand-alone guide — instead of a blog post — which would be easier to maintain as evergreen content.
Finally, as I wrote in the guide itself, we simply wanted a cool guide to help people rank. One of the biggest questions we get from new folks after they read the Beginner’s Guide to SEO is: “What do I read next? How do I actually rank a page?”
This is exactly that SEO guide.
Below, we’ll discuss the SEO goals that we hope to achieve with the guide (the SEO behind the SEO), but if you haven’t check it out yet, here’s a link to the new guide:
Rarely do SEO blogs talk about their own SEO goals when publishing content, but we wanted to share some of our strategies for publishing this guide.
First of all, we wanted to improve on the keywords we already rank for (poorly). These are keywords like:
- How to rank
- SEO blueprint
- SEO step-by-step
Our keyword research process showed that the phrase “SEO checklist” has more search volume and variations that “SEO blueprint”, so we decided to go with “checklist” as a keyword.
Finally, when doing a competitor keyword gap analysis, we discovered some choice keywords that our competitors are ranking for with similar posts.
Based on this, we knew we should include the word “Google” in the title and try to rank for terms about “ranking on Google.”
2. Featured snippets
Before publishing the guide, our friend Brian Dean (aka Backlinko) owns the featured snippet for “how to rank on Google.”
It’s a big, beautiful search feature. And highly deserved!
We want it.
There are no guarantees that we’ll win this featured snippet (or others), but by applying a few featured snippets best practices—along with ranking on the first page—we may get there.
We believe the guide is great content, so we hope it attracts links.
Links are important because while the guide itself may generate search traffic, the links it earns could help with the rankings across our entire site. As Rand Fishkin once famously wrote about the impact of links in SEO, “a rising tide lifts all ships.”
Previously, the old post had a few hundred linking root domains pointing at it, including links from high-authority sites like Salesforce.
Obviously, we are now 301 redirecting these links to the new guide.
We’ll also update internal links throughout the site, as well as adding links to posts and pages where appropriate.
To help build links in the short-term, we’ll continue promoting the guide through social and email channels.
Long-term, we could also do outreach to help build links.
To be honest, we think the best and easiest way to build links naturally is simply to present a great resource that ranks highly, and also that we promote prominently on our site.
Will we succeed?
Time will tell. In 3-6 months we’ll do an internal followup, to track our SEO progress and see how we measured up against our goals.
To make things more complicated, SEO is far more competitive than it was 7 years ago, which makes things harder. Additionally, we’re transparently publishing our SEO strategy out in the open for our competitors to read, so they may adjust their tactics.
Want to help out? You can help us win this challenge by reading and sharing the guide, and even linking to it if you’d like. We’d very much appreciate it 🙂
To your success in SEO.
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