We get the opportunity to meet with a lot of brands from High Street retailers and ecommerce brands, right through to companies in the finance and gambling sectors.

As I’m sure you can imagine, no two conversations are the same, with each and every one of them having different objectives and KPIs.

However, one thing that usually always comes up in conversation is the topic of wanting to rank P1 for a list of ‘vanity’ keywords.

In some cases this is completely understandable, but many brands are missing out on huge opportunity in the long tail – as we know they are more relevant, with less competition and more often than not a higher propensity to convert.

Luckily as our industry continues to mature, digital brand building and optimizing for the long tail through both an on page and off page a content-led strategy is becoming higher on everyone’s agenda and is the topic of conversation with a lot of brands we’ve seen so far this year.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted. However, during this post I’m going to show you how to make the most of this opportunity…

Firstly the proof is in the pudding – let’s take a quick look at a case study from one of our clients in the financial sector.

As you can see from the graph below their search visibility has more than doubled in the last 12 months:

Search Visibility

Source: Searchmetrics

This increase in visibility was due to creating and executing a successful content led strategy to optimize for that ‘long tail opportunity’.

A lot of the visibility growth can be attributed to getting more keywords ranking by creating on-page content to answer questions, which goes hand in hand with the Google Hummingbird filter, whilst building technical authority into the homepage and several deeper pages through an off page strategy. 

The image below shows the number of keywords they are ranking for has mirrored that of the search visibility:

Source: SEMRush

A working example…

So we’ve seen it working, but how can you replicate this? In this example I’m going to use a subject that I personally enjoy, the outdoors.

For me there’s nothing better than getting away from it all after a long week in front of the laptop. Anyway, as a personal customer of all brands mentioned in this example, there is one brand in particular that are almost always visible when searching for related terms: Go Outdoors.

So why do they have twice the visibility online in comparison to Blacks or Millets despite them having a similar range, the least amount of stores, and what should Blacks/Millets be doing to close the gap? Let’s take a look:

Search visibility: 

Competitive Visibility

It’s worth starting by taking a quick look at a general overview of the sites’ organic performance to get an understanding of their positions.

Next, we want to see how they are achieving this visibility, so what better place to start than SEM Rush’s domain v domain tool?

This lets us see how closely these keywords are aligned to each other and where the opportunity is for both Blacks and Millets to grow, as you can see Go are ranking for a lot of terms the competition are not.

In fact over 66% of Go’s keywords both Blacks and Millets are not competing for:


Ranking keywords in the top 20 results:

  • Go Outdoors: 29,100
  • Millets: 8,200 
  • Blacks: 10,900

This data is great but what next if you are Blacks or Millets? Where, and how, do you start? 

Using the data to inform the content

Export the keywords into a spreadsheet, and sort it.

In this example I’ve ordered it by Go Outdoors’ position, then by search volume, alternatively sort by volume and exclude any keywords that you are ranking for by filtering on ‘0’ or greater than ‘10’. Next take out anything product specific to each brand.

For example, Go Outdoors ranks for a brand specific term ‘vango’, this will leave you with a list of keywords, each brand’s position, and the volume of that keyword – gold dust, right?

Simply choose some keywords from the list that are relevant to your brand where you currently don’t rank but your competitors do, google them and see what ranks.

For this example I have chosen ‘camping storage’ and as you can see Go Outdoors have captured the volume by creating a guide to camping storage and furniture and optimised for that term with the correct meta etc. (http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/expert-advice/camping-storage-and-furniture).

Before I go any further I thought it would be worth taking a closer look at links.

Using majestic, look to see how many links are pointing to this page and the anchor text distribution; as we can see for my example there’s only one link pointing into that page and only one of not amazing quality.

Just by Go having content that’s aligned to the search opportunity it is driving far more organic traffic:

Majestic Link Data

From here, use the following tools to discover a whole host of related keywords to structure your content on and ensure you are answering related search queries:

  • Google keyword planner – voila, an additional 700+ related keywords to look through with search volume data too (ok, so you’ll probably filter out a load as they are not all relevant but a great place to start).
  • SEM Rush (again) – simply search for the keyword and up pops a list of phrase match reports with several more suggestions/keywords. However, and perhaps more interestingly, there is also a ‘related keywords’ feature:

    Who would have thought it? Another 2,470 searches for ‘camping wardrobe’, ‘camping cupboard’ and ‘camping kitchen unit’ which all relate back to the ‘camping storage’ term that had an initial volume of 880 monthly searches.

  • Keywordtool.io – yet another 177 suggestions
  • Google auto complete. 

    Google Auto Complete

  • Soovle – as you will see this uses data from a number of different sites and the data is easy to export using the download function.

Now repeat this process until you have an exhaustive list of ideas to create on-page content for.

What to do with all this data 

I appreciate that we all need more time and resource, so this will be dependent on the type of business you work for. It sounds obvious, but my first suggestion would be to tie it back to the overall business objectives.

Once you have done that, it’s time to start thinking about your audience. If you haven’t already, you need to create personas of your customers as it’s critical to consider how each of their requirements are different, who you are writing each piece of content for and bring your audience (and the content) to life. 

Now, I could write another few thousand words about persona creation, however by leveraging your social data and using handy tools like the yougov profiler you’ll be well on your way.

Once you have the personas created you then need to work on creating your on-page content strategy to capture all of this long tail volume. 

One thing we speak about a lot is ensuring your content has ‘flow’ to keep the visitors engaged/interested in your content and attract links, social shares and mentions. The best way I can explain content flow is by getting you to take a look at a magazine.

You’ll notice that it has several different length articles throughout, including ‘news in brief’, news stories, picture stories, columnists and features. 

Now, imagine it being a magazine of articles that are all the same length, say for example, a page. Readers would soon become bored and disengaged as everything has the same pace.

In the digital world it’s equally important and should be incorporated into any content strategy.

We have worked tirelessly on an ideation process to help ensure this pace/flow is achieved.

Several of these steps have been covered off above, however I thought it would be worth highlighting a few others, in particular:

  • Trending content. This takes into consideration anything that’s trending and related to your subject matter, an example of this for Go Outdoors would be festival season. 
  • Evergreen content. Pieces that won’t change too much over time and always give value to your readers, this relates back to the ‘camping storage guide’ I initially mentioned.

    As you can see Go Outdoors has been working hard on this with a lot of guides across the expert advice section of the site.

  • Competitor analysis. As mentioned above the domain v domain section of SEM rush can really help with this, especially to see where competitors are ranking and where you are not. 
  • Big bang content. Exactly what it says on the tin, bigger pieces of content to attract links and shares and capture search volume, this could be anything from an interactive map/story to a video guide.

    These are more creative pieces of content that need brainstorming with strict objectives to ensure you know what you are going to achieve from that piece. These ‘big bang’ pieces should include a watertight PR plan with what publications and what supporting content.

    Recently I spotted that Go Outdoors have done a couple of bigger pieces around reasons to visit the Peak District.

  • Seasonal opportunities. Obviously this is huge for this industry and should be carefully planned. Looking back to your GA and tools like Google Trends will help here and below I’ve included a screen shot of the trend for the ‘camping term’.

Final steps: we’re nearly there

Ok, so we’ve mined and exported the data, exhausted the list of keywords, created personas to write for, tied it back to the brief, considered seasonality etc and considered content flow.

It’s now time to compile it all into a content calendar which will help keep the structure and flow and ensure you are talking about the right subjects at the right time.

Measuring success

There are a whole host of ways of measuring the success of this campaign depending on the reporting tools you use internally.

A couple of suggestions include:

  • Search visibility (search metrics).
  • Number of keywords ranking (SEM Rush).
  • Number of organic impressions (Web Master Tools).
  • Volume of pages receiving traffic (Google Analytics).

It goes without saying that you’ll also see uplift in traffic and revenue as you begin to improve for those terms. 


So there you go, how to align your on-page content strategy to the search opportunity.

However, just before I finish it goes without saying that high authority, relevant links are still the currency of the internet and whilst great content will always attract these, building and monitoring site-wide authority is also key to getting this content ranking so should be taken alongside a proactive digital PR campaign.

This example is just one of thousands of keywords they are ranking for that their competitors are not. I’m sure now you can see the size of the prize. After all, a recent (ish) CTR study showed that:

71.33% of searches result in a page one organic click. Page two and three get only 5.59% of the clicks. On the first page alone, the first 5 results account for 67.60% of all the clicks and the results from 6 to 10 account for only 3.73%.

Can you really afford not to make this part of your strategy in 2015/16?

Our new Implementing Content Strategy: Digital Best Practice report, written by experienced consultant Dr Mike Baxter, provides a framework for evaluating your current content strategy and content planning processes, helping you make the most of your content in the future.