When you’re tasked by your client or boss to have their site rank for a competitive keyword, what’s the first strategy that comes to mind? A lot of search engine optimization (SEO) specialists would first think about ways to get quality backlinks. Others would consider how to optimize the site and make it load faster.

While these instincts are not necessarily wrong, the fact that a lot of Filipino SEOs tend to go for these other strategies before developing their site’s content creates good opportunities for harder-working SEOs to dominate search engine results pages (SERPs) through content marketing.

The beauty of content marketing and development as an SEO strategy is that it doesn’t require a massive amount of time like link building or a lot of coding knowledge like technical and on-page SEO. All that’s needed are writing, research, and editing skills. SEO professionals who are not particularly gifted in these areas can also work with writers and editors to help their site rank higher on Google’s SERPs.

Here at SearchWorks, we’ve had plenty of success ranking difficult keywords by focusing on creating quality content rather than on link building or technical SEO. Here, we’ll share how we helped a local financial institution expand its reach in the Philippine market through content development.

How Better Content Brought a Small Philippine Bank to New Heights

The client in this case study is a relatively well-known player in Philippine banking. However, they are much smaller compared to most of their competitors, with significantly less brand recognition than the largest financial institutions in the country.

Off the bat, the fact that they were a financial institution made our campaign a rather tall order. Ranking for important keywords in the banking industry can be quite difficult due to the stiff competition and the immense resources available to other financial institutions.

To make things even more challenging, many of the keywords we needed to rank for were also being contested by finance bloggers, educational resources, multinational banking institutions, card merchants, and other serious competitors.

Topping it all off was the meager budget that the client allocated for SEO. While other banks can afford to spend millions of pesos a month on SEO, this client’s budget was only in the area of $1,000 a month, or around ₱55,000. This budget severely limited the kinds of strategies we could employ to push the client’s website up the SERPs.

Why Content Marketing?

Given our constraints, we decided to go for a content marketing and development strategy as it offered a cost-effective way to rank for the client’s keywords.

While inexpensive, creating quality content does require a good amount of expertise to pull off. Also, good writers and editors who can effectively work as digital marketers are hard to find. But compared to link building, advertising, web design improvements, and other potential strategies, content improvements can deliver more bang for the buck — provided you know what you’re doing.

In this case, we had our work cut out for us. The client’s content management system (CMS) was an awkward custom solution that made it difficult to include critical content elements like meta descriptions. Their server architecture also made it a challenge to do even basic site speed optimizations.

However, after several months we eventually managed to make the client’s site rank for several important — not to mention profitable — keywords. This was possible not just because of hard work and know-how but because of a serious deficiency in our competitors’ websites.

A Serious Opportunity

As mentioned earlier, our client’s competitors have massive advantages in terms of resources and brand recognition. However, their ability to rely on these has meant that many of them failed to invest in their site content. This meant that many of the pages we had to compete with for strategic keywords featured thin content, giving us an opening that we could exploit.

By developing our client’s content, we saw that we could put important landing pages within close proximity of our competitors’ pages on the SERPs. Once this was done, we could then compete more directly through link building and other SEO strategies.

How We Outdid the Competition

We saw that most of our competitors’ pages had a minimum word count of around 800 words. For our client’s content, we decided to have a minimum of 4,000 words for each page.

While some might argue that high word counts do not directly lead to a SERP high ranking, you inevitably need a lot of words to make content comprehensive and authoritative. Using Wikipedia’s content as a template, we made especially sure that our client’s site content was useful, informative, and well-presented.

This strategy eventually resulted in pages that not only ranked for keywords but also had good metrics. Visitors were now staying on our client’s pages, taking in information, making inquiries and, most importantly, converting into real paying customers.

How We Avoided Issues with High Word Counts

Extremely high word counts are often associated with a bad site experience and poor lead generation, so our strategy of creating longer content may be confusing. However, high word counts only create negative outcomes if you don’t design your content’s placement effectively. When properly developed, long-form content tends to result in a superior visitor experience as well as better SERPs rankings, over time

In this case, we designed our client’s pages to have a lead generation area, just above the fold. In this area, we outlined the key points, benefits, and features of our client’s products. We also included a highly-visible call to action button in this area so that visitors can immediately sign up or inquire if they choose.

Critically, we also included comprehensive content below the fold for undecided customers and search engines. Because massive walls of text can create a negative user experience, we also implemented “read more” HTML tags within the subsections to make the content easier to digest and to indicate that more information is available.

How Did We Beat the Philippines’ Largest Banks?

Beating much larger competitors on Google’s SERPs isn’t easy, especially if you’re on a tight budget. However, it’s doable if you follow the steps below. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how we were able to make our client’s site dominate highly-contested keywords:

Step 1: Identify Target Keywords

While this is a basic step for any SEO campaign, it can’t be stressed how important it is to get right, especially if you have a limited budget. Choosing the wrong keywords not only wastes resources but also makes it harder to convert visitors to customers.

In this case, we determined our target keywords after a series of meetings with the client and after thoroughly reading their current site content and documentation. By working closely with our client, we were able to eventually pick out viable keywords with the right search volume and competition levels that also made sense given the constraints and goals of the campaign.

Step 2: Keyword Mapping

Once you and your client have agreed on a list of target keywords, you’ll have to start keyword mapping. Keyword mapping is the process of determining which keywords and keyword phrases best suit an existing or planned webpage. This is a critical step as it allows you to identify which pages you should develop.

If your client’s website already has a page that ranks for a target keyword, you may want to consider further improving the existing content. If they don’t have a page that ranks for a target keyword, you’ll have to build one that does. Through proper keyword mapping, you ensure that you have pages that can actually compete for your target keywords.

Step 3: Keyword and Topic Research

Once you’ve mapped your target keywords, you’ll want to research them thoroughly. While you might already know the competition and search volumes of your target keywords, you’ll want to go well beyond that.

For example, if the keyword is related to credit cards, you’ll want to take a deep dive into how they are used in your target market, which shops typically accept them, how alternatives like e-wallets and debit cards differ, and anything else that’s related to credit cards. Doing this will already put you ahead of other SEOs who may blindly pick keywords without understanding their real-world context.

Having done your initial research, you’ll have to come up with content topics that make sense for your keywords. To make this more efficient, you can use keyword planning tools provided by Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, and Google.

The good thing about these tools is that they will not only give you basic information like search volume and competition but they will also provide related keywords that could be used to further develop your content. To find even more topics, you can check out Google Search’s autocomplete results as well as the “People also ask” section near the top of the Google SERPs.

Step 4: Hire a Writer

To create content that will dominate the SERPs, you want to hire good writers who are also subject matter experts. This is especially true if you are unable to rely on other SEO strategies like link building. The content quality that an actual expert can bring to the table will almost always surpass what a talented generalist can come up with after doing some research. If you don’t have access to an actual subject matter expert, try to find a writer that already has experience writing about topics related to your client’s industry.

Once you have selected a writer for your campaign, you’ll want to create a project outline that will prioritize key pages, lay out a logical site taxonomy, and provide a framework for the new content. Doing this will help keep the writer from wasting time on developing low-value pages and will ensure that the content is written to an appropriately high standard.

Generally speaking, you want the writer to prioritize pages that provide the highest potential value for your client’s site. This means that, in most cases, your writer should probably start on pages that address the most common queries of potential customers. After those pages are written, the writers can move on to pages that address more specific concerns.

By developing content in this way, search engines will eventually recognize that your client’s site provides valuable information on a specific cluster of topics. When this happens, chances are that the site will start to rank for your target keywords.

Tips for Developing Winning Content

To give your new content an even better chance at showing up on Google’s SERPs, make sure to follow the tips below:

Tip 1: Consider Article Length

When we write for purely human audiences, the rule of thumb is to keep our content as short and to the point as we can. However, on the web, there is no such thing as a purely human audience. We have to make sure that our content appeals to Google’s robots as much as it does to your client’s intended customers.

If you can’t support the site with a serious link-building campaign, you will probably need to compensate by writing more substantive and, therefore, longer content. In our experience, 2,000 words is a good minimum to aim for. As sophisticated as they are, search engines are still not good enough to consistently identify first-rate content, which means many of them still, directly or indirectly, factor in word counts as part of their quality assessments.

It’s also worth considering that even in cases where higher word counts do not directly affect rankings, they could still do so indirectly For instance, longer content that covers more angles and subtopics is more likely to rank for multiple related keywords. Also, if a page’s content has sufficient breadth and depth, audiences may stay on a page longer, something that is very likely to positively affect rankings in some way. So long as the content is substantive, longer is probably better.

Tip 2: Don’t Worry About Keyword Density

Keyword density refers to the number of times a keyword is used in a content piece. And that’s all you really need to know since keyword density no longer has any bearing at all on any major search engine’s algorithms. While it was indeed used as a ranking factor in the early days of the web, it has not been a relevant metric in decades.

Unfortunately, there are still SEOs and digital marketers who haven’t gotten the memo. While there may be some value in ensuring that the target keyword and some variations appear at least a couple of times on a page, following a strict “optimal density” is only going to result in unnatural writing, which may have negative effects on your rankings.

In any case, just forget about keyword density and focus on writing content that delivers real value for your readers.

Tip 3: Mention Your Target Keyword in Key SEO Areas

While you don’t have to stuff articles with target keywords, you have to make sure that you put them in the right places. Make sure to include your target keyword once in the title slug, title tag, header text, and meta description, as well as in the first parts of the article. The rest of the article should be written naturally.

If the article is well-researched and substantial, the target keyword and its variations should just fall into place within the content without the need to resort to peculiar writing patterns. Remember, Google and other search engines are constantly being updated to better understand natural language patterns. By writing as naturally as you can, you also ensure that Google’s bots understand the intent of your articles.

Tip 4: Mention Entities That Are Relevant to Your Topics

You should try to mention as many entities that are relevant to your content as possible. In SEO, entities could be people, events, dates, places, statistics, or other ideas that could exist as distinct concepts. Search engines are getting incredibly good at identifying the relationships between different entities and they use these connections to gauge the quality of a given piece of content. Having a good number of relevant entities in the content should tell web crawlers that you probably know what you’re talking about, indicating more authority and increasing the odds of the page becoming more visible on search engines.

Tip 5: Make Things Easy to Read

Hifalutin words and huge blocks of text can be overwhelming and difficult to read, resulting in a negative visitor experience. To make your content more digestible, try the following:

  • Write paragraphs with fewer sentences.
  • Avoid complex words and sentence constructions unless necessary.
  • Break down longer paragraphs into separate sections.
  • Use bullet points to highlight key points.
  • Include images, charts, videos, and infographics to make the text more appealing.

Tip 6: Link Out When Appropriate

Linking to relevant pages within your own website and high-quality external sources can serve to reinforce your content’s authority. If you’re linking out to a trusted high-value external website, feel free to give them a dofollow link. Doing this can signal to search engines that your site is legitimate, follows fair editorial practices, and sources its information from quality sources. These positive signals may, in turn, then help boost your page’s ranking on the SERPs.

Final Thoughts

While you do need highly-talented writers to dominate search engines with a content-centered SEO strategy, the payoff can be immense. Even though other SEO approaches can are effective at increasing organic traffic to a website, a well-executed SEO content campaign can also do the same while also enhancing a brand’s authority and engagement with its intended customers. This ultimately means that, despite their relatively low cost, SEO content development may offer the best ROI of any single type of SEO campaign.

If you’d like to learn more about content development or running a multipronged SEO campaign that combines link building, technical SEO, content marketing, and other approaches, we’d be more than happy to connect with you. Feel free to reach out and get in touch with our team.