How to Rank Content in Google Without Backlinks : A Start-to-Finish Guide
Purpose: The purpose of this Content is to help you understand why we publish content the way we do. If you follow the full procedure, there will be a higher chance to rank your content without link building.
While you regularly compose valuable content on your blog, people will share it and spend enough time on it growing your search engine optimization. This called engagement and Google tracks how long a search visitor stays on your site, without leaving to click another search result – also known as pogo-sticking. As long as you are steady with your content strategy, you will shortly begin to rank for many long-tail keywords on the first page of Google – with or without backlinks.
Website structure diagram is here.
There are many videos on youtube about this stuff if there are items you don’t understand.
Linking in Posts: Strategically link to internal and external pages to improve relevancy, user time on site, and user experience.
Internal Links - Internal links are meant to help Google understand what the post is about and to keep the visitor on our site. While also improving crawl depth (fewer clicks needed to get to posts).
Each post should include 3 to 15 internal links. More links for longer posts.
Each post should also link to other relevant posts within the same category. Especially high-value posts.
Internal Link Formats - Contextual, partial match anchor texts are best. You can edit the article in small ways to achieve this. But make sure the article still reads correctly. We never want to sacrifice user experience to force links or anchor text in a post. No shortcuts. We want long-term success and growth.
If contextual isn’t possible, you can use a colored content box (SEE BELOW) to link to related category posts. You can choose the color of the content box in HTML. (Yellow, blue, purple, gray, green).
Colored content box - How to Create a Featured Content Box in WordPress
- Log in to wordpress
- Navigate to Page or Post tab
- Use the HTML editor
- Enter the ‘content box’ shortcode, using the correct code for the desired color:
<div class="content-box-blue">Enter content box text here.</div>
- Save/update Online Instructions
Color Designations (Work in Progress)
- Gray: Related Links Boxes
- Yellow: Content Upgrades (Email opt-in links)
- Blue: H2 Article Sectionals (Break article in 2-3 large pieces. Uses H2 title tags).
Related Link Boxes: Bold the word “Related:”, and add underline to linked anchor text.
<div class="content-box-gray"><strong>Related:</strong> <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="INSERT-LINK-HERE">ANCHOR-TEXT-HERE</a></span></div>
We avoid sitewide links (sidebar, footer, header) to pages we want to rank. Instead, we’ll use these areas to link to a hub page (category archive, FAQ, resources type page). We do this because I’ve found that having hundreds of links with the same anchor text to one page has a small negative effect in rankings for the page being linked to.
External Links - Linking to high authority, related websites, with partial match anchor text is a great signal to Google that our page is a quality resource and that we are about ‘that’ topic.
Don't link to direct competitors, but a link to high authority websites offering relevant information but aren't competing for the same keywords. Examples include newspapers, colleges, and government websites. Basically, any website with an Ahrefs Domain Rank > 45.
Resource: Great video - It’s long but you should go through this video anyway. It breaks down the silo/category strategy we’re trying to use as well. This guy makes some great videos if you want to learn more about this stuff.
Titles: Titles are the most important part of any page or post. The title tells Google what the page is about and is the most important ranking signal.
The goal is to use a title that includes our primary keyword, is unique to our page, makes sense to read, and is appealing to readers.
The SEO title entered below the post in the WordPress editor is what will appear in Google.
The H1 title is what will appear at the top of the post. Both titles are important, but the SEO title is more important.
We want these two titles to be similar, but unique. They will include the keyword(s) we want to rank for, but will not be stuffed with more keywords. These titles must make sense. The user experience comes first.
There will only be one SEO title and one H1 title per page.
H2, H3, H4, H5, H6 Title Tags - These are smaller titles we can use throughout the post. We want to maintain a sense of order when using them. H2 is more important than H3. Paragraph headings and subheadings should use H2’s and H3’s.
Example: The featured snippet in Google is always our goal. It doesn't always go to the best page about the topic, but sometimes goes to the best organized, or the post that answers a question best.
For list posts, we want to use an H2 title as the title of the list, and the H3 title for the list items. This seems to work well in winning the featured snippet
The featured snippet is very important and something you should further research on your own. You'll be responsible for strategies and tactics we can use to win featured Snippets for as many posts as possible.
Media: It's simple. Media keeps the visitors attention and on the page. The longer they stay on the page, the better we rank for that page.
Use several images for all posts including the hero image. Again don't force anything, it needs to make sense.
Try to use at least two different types of media per post. (images, .gifs, videos)
All media must be sized correctly before uploading to the post. This Includes video embeds. WordPress allows editors to change the image dimensions within the WordPress editor. However, the full sized image is still loaded from our server in the background. This is a larger file size and slows down page load times. Which decreases rankings. Not good.
The alt-text of an image and the filename give Google an idea of what the post is about and will affect rankings. Use partial match and LSI terms for these.
As mentioned above, Neilpatel.com, which is consistently growing, does a great with these posts. They’re long, easy to read, contain helpful links, and lots of images. We want to be like that.
Table of Contents
Content Idea Generation
Goal: To list new article ideas that are:
- Relevant to your Niche/Subject.
- Wanted by our visitors.
- Capable of ranking in the top 10 on Google. (Ahrefs Keyword Diff. < 40)
- Not yet covered on the site. We don’t want to overlap the same topic/keywords on multiple pages. “Kw Cannibalization”
Step 1: List all article ideas you can think of.
- List any and all ideas that are related to your Niche/Subject. Don’t worry about search volume yet.
- To help you come up with ideas, you can use:
- Ahrefs Content Analyzer
- Google, Google News, Google Trends
- Yahoo Answers
- Blogs (“Blog: Your subject")
- What I like to do is start on Quora, Reddit, or Ahrefs & find a popular article. Then enter the domain for that article into Ahrefs, sort by “Top Pages”. This gives me a list of their most popular content.
- You can find 5-20 blogs related to your site, enter them each into Ahrefs, & get a list of content ideas to be researched later.
- You can also look at the content currently on your site & find related topics mentioned in your articles articles. An example would be the post listing the ‘Best Tankless Water Heater’. We could brainstorm article ideas from each Tankless Water Heater listed.
- You can also collect a list of domains that we’re competing with. Enter these into Ahrefs, sort by top pages, & find article ideas.
- Another Idea is looking through the most popular videos on YouTube related to our topics. Search for related videos, then look through that channel’s uploaded videos for popular ideas.
- Be creative, there are many ways to come up with ideas. The article topics only have to be somewhat related. We can be flexible.
Step 2: Cross-reference with the content on our site already
- Now go through your list & cross out content that’s already covered on the site. Writing about the same thing twice is call keyword cannibalization, & it hurts rankings.
- If you have an article idea that is similar to an article already on the site, you have some options:
1. Add the new content to the existing article if it makes sense.
2. Create a new article, as long as the keywords & topics are different.
3. Cross it out for being too similar & move on to other ideas.
To quickly identify if the topic (keywords) are already covered on the site you can open the Site Explorer within Ahrefs, enter your domain, navigate to ‘Organic Keywords’ and enter the keyword/phrase you’re researching into the ‘Include’ field, and press enter. This will show if the site ranks for the kw already, and on which page. We want to avoid keywords that are already ranking within the top 15.
If it’s ranking from 16-30, we may still be able to use it as long as the content would be very different from the page that’s currently ranking for that term. If you’re unsure, you can always ask me.
Step 3: Would Anyone Read it?
- Now you should have a list of ideas that are relevant but not already covered on the site.
- Go through your list & order the topic ideas by the search volume. The most volume gets top priority.
- To find the volume, enter the primary KW for the article idea into Ahrefs KW explorer. From here, you can see the traffic potential. If you want more info, you can dig deeper by selecting the top Google result for the article keyword, enter that URL into Ahrefs & sort by “Organic keywords”, or look at the overall organic traffic for that page.
- These days general topics are more important than specific keywords. Google is smart enough to lump similar ideas together. So focus more on the topic and less on the specific words and phrases.
- Our goal is finding topics with a lot of traffic potential (at least 200 searches/month).
Step 4: Can We Rank?
- We want to make sure we could actually rank in Google for the ideas you’ve found.
- To do this, simply type the keywords into Ahrefs KW explorer & move all keywords with a Keyword Difficulty (KD) over 40 to the bottom of your list.
- You should be left with a list of article ideas/keywords with good traffic potential & lower KW difficulty (we want to focus on terms with a difficulty 40 or under).
- List your ideas out on the content calendar, with KW, KD, traffic potential.
GOAL:Find the best Keywords and phrases for each article idea to generate the most potential traffic. (Higher Volume, lower difficulty)
A new article needs to have:
- 200+ Organic Search Volume Potential
- A Keyword Difficulty of 40 or lower.
- Relevance to your niche/subject.
Again, the research you’re doing here is more about finding search interest in topics than the exact keywords. We’re interested in topics more than specific words. But we can use the keyword volume data to get an idea of overall interest in the topic.
PROCESS: Complete Keyword research for each article idea, then add Findings to Keyword Research Spreadsheet. Order spreadsheet KW’s/articles by top priority.
1. Develop your own process:
Instead of writing out step by step instructions detailing the way I do KW research, I want to let you come up with your own method. If you need help getting started, or have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
It may be helpful to refresh yourself with the resources linked below. These are some of my favorite SEO resources.
How to Do Keyword Research: Go Beyond Search Volume
Keyword Research By Miles Beckler
How To Do Keyword Research for SEO — Ahrefs’ Guide
On-Page SEO Resources
How to Craft the Perfect SEO Title Tag - Ahref Guide
Top 10 On Page SEO Techniques
On-Page SEO Checklist
- SEO Title: Contains key-phrase (not exact match). Is catchy and unique. The goal is CTR.
- Permalink: Short and contains partial match key-phrase.
- H1 Title: Similar to SEO Title. Shorter, unique, Partial Match
- Category: Correct category is chosen.
- Paragraph Headings/Sub-headings: H2, H3 tags using related/relevant keywords with search volume. Again, no exact match keywords.
- Media: Include at least 4+ images, graphics, videos, or gifs. Media should be edited and sized correctly off-site before being uploaded. When uploading, use relevant keywords in the file name and alt-tag.
- Text Styling: Block-quotes, content boxes, bolds, italics, underlines where appropriate. The goal is to identify important information and make content more scannable.
- Internal links: 2-8 Links to other posts within the same category. More links for longer posts.
- External Links: 2-8 links to related, authoritative sources. (Non-competitors) More for longer content or when necessary. Don't overthink it. If it makes sense, go for it.
- Email Opt-in Opportunity: For most posts, we want there to be a couple of opportunities for the reader to sign up to an email list. Make sure those opportunities exist on the page, and that the form/popup/content-upgrade, ect ... are for the correct list in Convertkit.
- Yoast SEO Settings: Set the title for Facebook, Twitter.
- Featured Image: Include the featured image. Again, sized in advance.
- For all linking: No exact match anchor text. Use whatever anchor text would make sense. No need to force anything. Partial-match would be great, but not required. Don't overthink it.
General SEO Resources
You may use any tools you like to help you, but I’d like to use Ahrefs. I think Ahrefs is great, & you could do a lot with only that one tool.
2. Depth of Content Analysis
In addition to titles, keywords & permalinks, keep in mind “depth-of-content” while doing your research. The way we’ll beat our competition is with better KW research, good page speed, & longer, more complete content. While doing KW research, look at the competition to start coming up with an article outline. What topics do our competitors cover? How can we do it better, and include more information?
My Explanation on Depth of Content
Purpose: To improve the organic traffic of an existing page by ensuring we cover the topic more comprehensively than our competition.
This process can also be applied to brand new content during the kw research stage.
- Using Ahrefs, look up the top 1-3 keywords for each page you're researching or optimizing.
- View the SERP results for each term.
- Review the content for the top 3-5 pages - write down the topics and sub-topics they cover.
- Compare what those articles cover to what we cover on our page.
- What are we missing?
- Should we expand anything?
- Should we restructure the page differently? Different sub-headings?
When done reviewing the competition, write a report detailing the page you reviewed (or keywords your researching), the sub-topics, media, references, additional keyphrases, ect…, and how much content to write or add to what we already have. This report should be formatted to deliver directly to your writer who will write new content based on your suggestions.
This is My Process for Depth of Content Analysis
- After identifying approved keywords for a topic, I'll open the 3-5 best results in the SERPs via ahrefs keyword explorer (Best results = a combination of ranking position, most traffic, and most kw's - as shown in ahrefs).
I'll take a quick scan through each page, taking a mental note of the general length of the article, H1, H2's, H3's, and graphics/videos. If it looks long, I'll paste the URL into this tool to spit out the word count and some other on-page notes.
- Then on a notepad, I'll quickly type out a few words on what each paragraph or section of the article is about. Then I combine my results into one outline.
- Lastly, I make sure to include any questions related to the article topic that a searcher might search for. This is how to land the featured snippet, and is a big deal with voice search these days. To identify these questions, I'll use ahrefs, my own common sense, Quora, or Google (at the bottom).
Then I move on to the next kw and do the same thing. Once finished, I’ll create a new Content Job with this information. That's it. I hope that helps.
3. The KW Research Spreadsheet
The KW Research Spreadsheet is a separate tab of the Content Calendar. This is where you can add article ideas and kw research as you’re working on them. You’ll be able to order them by priority and eventually move the best ideas to the main Content Jobs tab for your writer(s) to produce.
When you’ve completed a bit of research & have 20+ ideas, you’ll then write out a Content Job Outline & send to your writers.
4. Other Notes
You can be creative with this task. There’s no single best way to do it. Try different things, watch some guide videos & learn as much as you can.
If you come up with content ideas and KW’s that don’t fit any of the categories you already have, you can make new ones. I love new ideas.
My focus on preventing keyword cannibalization and improving depth of content have been essential in growing the site this past year. Pay special attention to these two ideas. Let me know if you have any questions.
Content Job Outline for Writers
GOAL:Provide a clear writing assignment outline for your writers.
Step 1: Article Ideas
- Select 10 fully-researched article ideas from your list for writers to write. (It doesn’t have to be the first 10 on the list, but emphasize the higher priority ideas first.)
- List the article ideas out on a new Google doc using the ideal SEO Titles. (You should have these titles from your KW research.) (Follow the template example linked above)
Step 2: Article Details
- Next, under each article title listed, write 1-4 sentences detailing what the article should cover. For in-depth, long articles, you will likely need to provide more info to the writer about what should be included.
Step 3: Determine Content Length
- Using your KW research, you should already have an idea of what the competition’s content looks like. This will include length (word count). We want to beat our competition, while also still being easy to read & of reasonable length. We want the articles with the most traffic/revenue potential to be long, but not so long that it’s overwhelming or doesn’t make sense. Once over 3,500 words, it shouldn’t make much difference.
- Also from your KW research, you should know what sub-topics and commonly asked questions should be covered in the article. This is the “Depth-of-Content” stuff. We want to cover all important aspects of a topic within one article if we can. If the topic is too large, then we’ll break the article up into different articles.
- Include these sub-topics in the Content Job so the writer knows to write about them.
- In addition to studying your competition for depth-of-content ideas, you can also use related KW’s for sub-topic ideas.
Step 4: Contract Terms
- For the 10 articles & details for the Content Job, include the due date and folder to upload completed work. Give the writer 3 weeks for a 10 article content job. Try & schedule the due dates on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday (In case they happen to be late we can still get them completed before the weekend).
- Create a shared folder in G-Drive where the writer can upload completed work. Add a link on the doc for the writer to use for access.
Step 5: Approval
- After finishing the writing you can review & make sure you’re on the same page. Eventually, you’ll make these job outlines, send them to the writers, & manage their contracts on your own.
Step 6: Add to Content Calendar
- Add the details of each writing assignment to the Content Calendar. This helps with organization.
Step 7:Label on Content Ideas Spreadsheet
Once an article has been completed & reviewed by you, mark that article as complete on your article ideas list (use the strikethrough text tool to mark complete).
Review Written Articles (Approve or Request Edits) - Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
Goal: To ensure the articles written by writers are:
- Original & unique (no copies)
- Edited & ready for upload
- Long enough to fully cover topic & meet word count
- Informative, engaging, & easy to read
- Create a free account with plagiarisma.net.
- Copy & paste a random paragraph or two from the completed article into the checker (Google option) at plagiarisma.net.
- Scan for uniqueness.
- Article is considered unique if >90%. If under, grab another section of text & try again. If under 90% again, dig a little deeper yourself to see if you can find duplicates, or near duplicates online.
- Only accept original content.
Step 2:Read the Article
- Open the document & look-up the word count. Is it within 10% of the minimum required on the contract? If not, read the article & determine if more should be added.
- Read the article.
- While reading, check for:
- Spelling & grammatical errors. It’s not your job to edit. If there’s something wrong, tell the writer to compete editing.
- Complete topic coverage. Did the writer cover the topic in detail? Did they cover everything written in the job outline? If not, request an edit.
- Structure. Is the article broken up into easy to read sections? Are there headings & paragraph subheadings? We want to avoid walls of text & use lots of smaller paragraphs & sub-headings that make the article easier to read.
- If the article isn’t well-structured, request edits from the writer. If there are only small changes required, fix those yourself.
- style/Tone. Is the article written directly to the reader? Is the tone friendly & informative?
- If no edits are required, you can approve & close the contract & send compensation.
- If edits are required, kindly message the writer with specific instructions on the changes required.
- Once complete, mark on the Content Calendar “Witten/Paid” under ‘Status’.
- Your next step would be to upload the completed content to WordPress.
Publishing Content to WordPress
Purpose: To publish fully edited, formatted, SEO-friendly, and easily shareable articles to the website.
Every Piece of content should be:
- 100% Accurate (Information needs to be correct)
- Edited for grammar and spelling accuracy
- Easy to read: “Bloggy” (headlines, images, stats, and lists)
- Fast to load (‘A’ Grades on GTMetrix and under 1 sec on Pingdom)
- Linking to related content (Category) on the site and authority external sites
Step 1 - Read and edit article:
All articles should already have been edited by the original author, this step is to double-check there are no errors. Each piece of content will be read by thousands of users; grammar, spelling, and accuracy are important.
Simply read the content, eliminate unnecessary ‘fluff’ words and phrases. “Fluff” is words that serve no purpose. They don’t need to be included and are generally used just to increase word count. Edit any run-on sentences, misspelled words, and grammatical errors. (You can use The Grammarly browser extension for help)
Step 2 - Log into your Website:
Navigate to: https://example.com/wp-login.php.
Use Your (User and Pass credentials) to log in.
Step 3 - Upload text content into wordpress: Use the Content Calendar to identify the next article to be posted, whether the content will be a page or post, and which category the content will belong to. In WordPress, click to add a new page or post. Copy the text from the article and paste it into the text editor of WordPress. (Not visual editor)
*Note: Make sure to keep any links the author used in the original article.
Step 4 - Enter H1 Title of Article: In the title space of the WordPress editor, “Enter title here”, enter the title of the Article. Use the “Post Title” found on the Content Calendar.
Step 5 - Edit Article Paragraphs and Spacing: The goal is to make all articles easy to read for your users. This means using many small paragraphs with easy to read headings, instead of large blocks of text.
Additionally, we want to break up each paragraph section into easy to read sentences. When previewing a post/page, make sure each block of text is no longer than 3-4 lines on the screen. It doesn’t have to be exactly 3-4 lines, but you get the idea. Try to keep them shorter, while still making sense.
The purpose of smaller paragraphs is to it easier to read on mobile. No text blocks.
Step 6 - Add Paragraph Headings: After breaking the article up into small paragraphs, add headings to the paragraph sections. Use H2 headings for the major ideas of the article, and use H3 headings for sub-topics. The purpose of H2 paragraph headings is to:
- Help the reader easily navigate the post.
- Help Google identify the sub-topics included in your content. (This has become very important in 2019)
It’s helpful to include relevant partial match search phrases in our paragraph headings when we can. Don’t force it, but be aware, and apply when possible.
Add a “Horizontal Line” below the paragraph headings. (Use the code below in the ‘text’ editor)
You don’t need to add a heading to every paragraph, just when the subject of the paragraphs changes.
Basically, make the article scannable. If the reader is only interested in a specific part of the article, make it easy for them to find it.
Step 7 - Style the Article Text: To make the article even more ‘scannable’ add style to important words, phrases, and sentences. Styles include bold, italics, bulleted lists, and blockquotes.
Try to create 3-4 internal links per 1,000 words of text in an article. This is just a rule of thumb, it doesn’t have to be exact.
Step 9 - Add External Links: Add 2 - 8 links to related and ‘high quality’ external sources per article.
High-quality sources include popular websites that generally have an Ahrefs Domain Rating of 45 or higher. Avoid linking to low-quality sites.
Step 10 - Create and Add Header Image:
Information to include:
- Size: 660x380px
- Text on Image: Use a variation of the post Title.
- Any other relevant information. What the graphic should be about or colors they should use.
- When image is ready, name the file a partial anchor of the keywords you want to rank for on that post. Example: If the Article title was “Game Design Schools in Oregon”, title the header image “Oregon Gaming Colleges” or something similar.
- When uploading, copy the file name and paste into the alt-text. Select: No Alignment, No link, and Full Size.
- When uploading, the file is automatically compressed using Smush wp plugin. This may take a minute or so.
- Lastly, find the “featured image” link in the right-hand column of the WordPress editor, click it and select the image you just created.
Step 11 - Add additional media to the post: Add several other pieces of media to the post. Follow the same rules regarding:
- Sizing before uploading.
- Alt-Text and alignment.
You can use images, .gifs, videos, and can add additional graphics as well.
Step 12 - Choose Sidebar Selections Settings for the Post:
For Pages: Select the primary sidebar using the menu on the right-hand side of the WordPress editor. Choose the most appropriate category. WordPress
For Posts: Choose the most appropriate category. This is typically what was on the content calendar.
Step 13 - Select the Category: For posts, select the most appropriate category from the menu.
Step 14 - Yoast SEO Settings: Add the “SEO Title” from the content calendar. Make sure the title is long enough, but not too long. Also, make sure that the SEO Title isn’t too similar to any other posts on the site. You should have already done this in the kw research stage, but just make sure. We want to avoid KW cannibalization.
You can leave the meta description blank. Google will fill that for us now.
In the social tab of the Yoast SEO settings, add the SEO title to the FB and Twitter options. Also, upload the “featured image” file for FB and Twitter.
Step 15 - Preview Page/Post: Preview the article and edit any mistakes.
Step 16 - Save as Draft: Once you’ve decided the article is edited, and ready to go, “save as draft”. DO NOT PUBLISH. Schedule a new post to be published about every 5 days.
Step 17 - Update Content Calendar: Navigate to the Content Calendar and change the “Status” to “Queued” and move on to the next article.
Ranking without Backlinks
Now you already know how to do all this stuff. In that case, I still want you to read through all these SOP’s and become familiar with how we do it, and why. If you have any questions or think of ways to improve, please let me know. We’ve been hugely successful in Rank Content in Google Without Backlinks with this current process, but we’re always looking to improve.
As stated by HubSpot, “Active professional blogging appeals 6.9 times more organic search visitors than any other process.”