While I’m a proponent of Inbound Marketing (and produce loads of long-form content), this isn’t necessarily the “holy grail” of website optimization and ranking a website on page 1.
The way Google ranks content is largely based on “quality”.
And the reason “long-form” is often described as the go-to solution is simple. A long-form article is traditionally in-depth when compared to a short, 500-700 words piece.
If 2,000+ word pieces were mandatory, why do tools rank so high? Or landing pages comprised of images and bold titles?
Because they solve the business problem right away. No need to add a ton of fluff to a piece if it gets the job done.
Competitor Organic Research: Case Study
Did you know that searching for “gifts” will reveal 1,360,000,000 pages ranked online? That’s what I call a competitive keyword.
And when I google “gifts”, here’s a list of the top 5 results that I see in my results page:
The first two results are ads and I’ll discard them for obvious reasons. The three following websites are gifts dot com, uncommongoods dot com and etsy dot com.
Rank #1: gifts.com
Other than the absolutely unique and brilliant domain name, the landing page lists over a hundred sample gifts for new users. Those are all ranked fairly well and provide a good chunk of information (certainly not a blank landing page with no value whatsoever).
The website is responsive and utilizes a valid SSL certificate for security purposes. Granted, it’s incredibly slow (loads for 16 seconds with a GTmetrix test) and could definitely use some work but that doesn’t stop it from ranking this high.
The domain had first been registered in 1994. While domain age isn’t the number one ranking factor, a 23-years old domain is certainly worth value – especially when it’s to the point with the search query.
Supporting Content and Backlinks
There are over 10K results (products, articles, categories, pages) indexed by Google:
The website has 16,570 incoming links from authoritative sources based on a Moz Open Site Explorer search:
As seen from the screenshot, it’s been “promoted” by CNN, HuffPost, AOL, Go, Telegraph, USA Today and a number of other high-ranking websites that validate for its reputability.
It’s ranked in top 20,000 in the US as well, according to Alexa:
According to SEMrush, there are at least 648K hits from organic search alone, a bunch of visits from paid advertising, 86.8K backlinks and then some.
I’m sure that the bounce rate is low since the percentage of people who land on the site and keep browsing and purchasing is high enough – bringing additional value for the website.
Social Signals Support Visibility
OK – since we’ve mentioned “content”, here’s a page on the website that generated over 2,200 shares according to BuzzSumo:
I’d say that appears to be a pretty legitimate website.
147,379 people on Facebook who like the page agree, too.
It also ranks for strategic keywords such as gifts for men or women which are carefully selected when adding keywords across the site, page titles and the like.
Rank #2: uncommongoods.com
A bit lighter on content on the home page, still responsive with a valid SSL certificate.
It’s still amazingly slow so there’s gotta be some action taken but other large outlets like Amazon or Yahoo don’t run as fast either (most loading for over 10 seconds if not more, given the tons of content).
The domain is just a bit over 5 years old which is still considerably new but they seem to know what they’re doing.
They do have over 25,000 entries on their site though:
When browsing Moz, it appears that UncommonGoods has 74/100 domain authority and 79/100 for their homepage. The previous website had 58/100 domain authority as it has fewer backlinks and mentions across the web.
UncommonGoods has over 65,000 established total links from 1,832 different domains, some being:
Using Social Communities For Traction
On top of being featured by some of the largest outlets online, they seem to be more proactive on Reddit and probably other alternative networks with high potential as well.
In fact, the steady flow of incoming links and discussions in different networks and platforms has ranked them in top 3,000 websites in the US:
That’s quite impressive if you ask me and they seem to be generating a solid amount of traffic accordingly.
The SEMrush results showcase an even higher amount of traffic – both organic, and paid:
Leveraging Seasonal Content For Ranking
1.9M visitors from organic search and over 60K paid visitors. They seem to be ranking quite well for “father’s day” and relative keywords with a ton of monthly traffic.
Note that the number of backlinks is even higher when using SEMrush’s database.
Here’s a couple of content entries that generated thousands of shares across social media networks:
26K shares for “Long Distance Touch Lamp” and 7.2K shares for “Wine & Beverage Dispensing Tote”. That’s not too far-fetched given the 172,220 likes on Facebook, 22.3K followers on Twitter and 28K followers on Instagram.
Rank #3: etsy.com
Etsy is quite popular and have the benefit of crowdsourced content – utilizing the power of over 1.6 million active sellers earning their living through the platform.
Etsy’s domain isn’t too young, either. Registered on Feb 05, 2004, that’s over 13 years on the market with plenty of opportunities for promotion and establishing itself as a leader.
Community Aggregated Content
That’s like having over a million unpaid employees who help you out with promotion and social activity.
With that in mind, they managed to generate over 13 million pages on their website:
Unlike their competitors, Etsy’s homepage loads in 3 seconds despite listing a ton of products on their homepage as well. And we all know that Google favors faster websites since that’s a better user experience.
Given the million active sellers who want to promote their websites everywhere in order to increase their monthly sales, that has a massive impact on the top-level domain as well. Etsy’s domain authority according to Moz is 93/100. That’s pretty close to the DA of the largest websites online – with 2,808 linking root domains and 21,169 total links captured by Moz.
Strong Brand Recognition
Here are some of the popular domains linking back to Etsy:
In addition to massively popular websites such as Adobe, Microsoft, NY Times, HuffPost, WordPress.com, Forbes, Wired, Cisco, LA Times linking to Etsy, there’s a fair share of links coming from Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Flickr, probably Instagram and plenty of other sources that are not as heavily utilized with the other rivals.
Since Etsy doesn’t necessarily ranks for “gifts” unlike the other sites, they may not come on top when looking for gifts. But they sure will appear on page #1 and rank for tons of other keywords. The number of backlinks and the tons of content have ranked Etsy among the top 100 websites in the US:
According to SEMrush, Etsy generates over 46M organic search visits a month across its millions of shops, in addition to 786K paid visitors – thanks to their brand advertisement and paid campaigns ran by tens of thousands of sellers working with them:
Other than search traffic, we can imagine the amount of visitors coming from social media as well. Etsy has 2.8M likes on Facebook, 2.71M followers on Twitter, 1.4M followers on Instagram, 970K followers on Pinterest and probably another million spread out across different networks and social channels.
Utilizing Less Popular Social Networks
My brief BuzzSumo search even identified 5 different pages that generated 200K+ shares each online. Here are the winners on social media:
Instant Download – Digital Collage – Vintage Maps – 40 piece collection – 800.9K shares, 800K alone on Pinterest
Neon Orange Fuchsia Navy Printed Scarf Lightweight Spring Summer Woman Fashion Accessory Pareo Beach Wrap Cover Up Women Gift Ideas For Her – 405K shares, most pins back to Pinterest as well.
Given the brief overview of the bigger picture for all top ranking websites for “gifts”, it’s safe to say that their marketing campaigns have been carefully designed for growth. All of them compile a good chunk of content, well-defined SEO, great user experience and reputability among the largest websites online.
Content isn’t everything, but great content and product offering can establish your brand as a leader in a niche, given our sneak peek at their promotional campaigns and online positioning.
Additional Website Optimization Pointers To Improve Your Blog
OK, long-form content isn’t everything. But it matters.
Here are a few website optimization pointers that can serve as your actionable checklist in improving your blog and boost your website in Google search.
1. Look and Feel
The website layout and the homepage design play a big role in making sure that the look and feel of your website is impressive.
That includes the logo, the top homepage sections, some of the featured images and media used across most articles.
You can work with a designer or try to pick a better premium theme that is more appealing and builds some trust in your readers.
A beautiful website tends to keep readers around longer. This means additional page views, longer time spent on site, a lower bounce rate, and sending positive signals to Google in terms of rankability.
Sticking to consistent formatting is important. Simple details such as leaving extra whitespace between paragraphs or at the end of a blog post matter.
Following a well-thought
The presentation is important as you want your readers to stick to your blog and browse relevant content as well.
3. Social Media Activity
Don’t hesitate to share external resources. Your social media accounts don’t have to be all about you.
Sharing valuable industry insights will build a larger audience that would gladly read your content in the long run. But, until you produce rock-solid content, posting more often and tracking the best posting hours based on your audience would grow your following sooner.
A good rule of thumb is 5:1. Publish 5 valuable pieces that will help your readers, mixed with one of your own articles.
Social networks love engagement, too. Make sure you participate in discussions and chime into relevant conversations.
4. Content Length
Content that is around 500–700 words or under a thousand is considered too short. Yes, this article proves otherwise in the context of proven brands, but this doesn’t mean you should be lazy and produce average content.
Plenty of marketing studies report a sweet spot around 2K words with significant results outlined for larger posts. Google is more willing to rank higher great evergreen resources that outline each and every possibility or awesome strategies that readers would be happy to share and work on.
Short recaps are quite common and competition is tough. Definitely consider spending more time on larger pieces of content that bring significantly more value to readers.
Including additional video content will enrich your content and retain your readers for a longer period of time.
This would help with the outreach and link building as well.
5. E-mail Opt-in Strategy
Make sure that there is a real incentive for site visitors to sign up, and the design of your opt-in form is visually appealing.
Producing an outstanding guide in the form of a whitepaper or a book solving painful business problems is a great starting point. Free trials to products or discounts may work well, too. One-off consulting sessions or other valuable advice for free is a legitimate reason for sharing your email with a website.
Using the form as an exit intent or displaying it after 10 seconds on a second-page load or so work better in most cases.
6. Some Long Form Resources
Expanding on the previous point…
Working on some ebooks, white papers, research studies would bring more value to your blog as well.
Crafting unique content that isn’t as widely distributed would bring some fresh perspective.
Spend some time writing some case studies yourself. Use more industry stats. Interpret some industry data and focus on leadership predictions. Invest your marketing knowledge in some genuine content that would really impress your audience.
Plus, you can use your ebooks as an incentive for your email followers.
7. Interviews, Mentions, Events
Doing round-ups with industry leaders or interviews may help with your exposure. Influencers are happy to share resources that link back to them. This could also bring some fresh perspective to your website and increase your authority as well.
Covering some industry events may work well, too. Find more guest contributors and ask them to post a recap of a recent event they were at. Again, focus on genuine advice that isn’t widely available already.
8. Focus Topics
While you have established some categories, consider some niche sub-topics that cover a specific industry. This could attract specific groups of people interested in something that isn’t as widely covered as you can.
“Digital Marketing” or “Blogging” can definitely be split up into different niches that focus on a specific type of advice.
That would also let you focus on specific keywords, spend more time on internal linking, building cornerstone resources and designated landing pages, and try to increase your organic search results for specific keywords.
There is plenty of marketing advice that you can leverage but focus on building outstanding content around a set of industries (with keywords in mind), improve your look and feel, post more regularly on social media (including hashtags), build more genuine and engaging content, and improve your look and feel. The more you post after adjusting your strategy, the higher some of your top posts would rank and build ongoing traffic to your website.
What pages are you trying to rank for right now? Let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look.