How can content operations power top-ranking blog posts?
A couple weeks ago, I attended a NADOG event. It’s a great name for a dog show, and that’s a joke I’m positive has endlessly made the rounds. But it actually stands for the North American DevOps Group. While there, I found myself discussing the fundamentals of DevOps with Michael Bruner from Cloudbees, and began thinking about Content Operations and what’s necessary to create truly valuable and effective content for a webpage.
First of all, just what is “Content Operations”? Here’s a good definition from Paralee Walls at Kapost:
"A content operation is the set of processes, people, and technologies for strategically planning, producing, distributing, and analyzing content. When properly implemented, it unifies the customer experience across all departments and channels and allows marketers to focus on authentic, resonant messaging that drives revenue and growth."
In short, it’s about formally organizing the right people, tools, and analytics around smart processes built upon best practices. The result is that your content team consistently publishes great, on-brand content that grabs eyeballs. To show how it works in practice I’m going to – naturally – use a blog post page as an example.
Start with site structure
The most basic building block of putting Content Operations into action is the structure of the site where you’re offering up your content. But as Neil Patel points out, it’s often one of the most overlooked components of SEO performance, even when the objective is to maximize the attention and eyeballs you attract from your targeted audience.
A good site structure will accomplish this by, first off, providing visitors with an excellent user experience, which in turn reduces bounce rates and makes pages stickier, including your blog pages.
Web crawlers like Googlebot enjoy a good site structure, too, because it makes it easier for them to index and return its content for display in search. It also means you’re more likely to have Google display sitelinks for internal pages below your primary page. So a good, hierarchical site structure will help rankings, and that will help drive people to your blog.
Putting best practices on the page
Now it’s time to follow through on operationalizing best practices for the actual page and its content. Again, in a Content Operations framework, following through on every one of the best practices below is baked into the procedures for drafting, designing, and publishing posts:
Short URLs work best, so the tag you give your post should be no longer than 3-5 words. Here’s a good example:
When you draft the title for your post, try to keep it 55 characters or less, because only the first 50-60 characters will be displayed by Google.
Put your targeted keywords in the title, too, as close to the start as you can. Let’s say we’re using “content operations” as our keyphrase, as in this 55-character gem:
How can Content Operations power top-ranking blog posts?
Make sure your post’s on-page title is wrapped in an H1 tag, too. Some other tricks of the trade? Titles that are questions score well, because people may be searching up the same questions, and because they’re simply more interesting. Also, using numbers in your title gets more clicks than other types of titles; for some reason, the number 10 performs best.
Use images within the post, too. Those make the content more interesting, which reduces bounce rates and creates positive user interaction signals for Google, indicating the user enjoys your post. Other signals are time on site and click-through rates.
Include alt text with every image, as well, especially key images that are integral to your content, like charts or relevant photos. This is becoming more important than ever now that web accessibility regulations are mandating how users with visual impairments should be able to access your content using screen-reading tools. Another tip? Include your keywords in your image tags.
Include links to authority websites; for example, up above I’ve linked to several leading content marketing sites. Right here, I’ll link to the Content Marketing Institute. Why? Because they’re viewed as authoritative sources by Google…so that means my post must be authoritative, too, especially if that’s reinforced by other positive user behaviors like time-on-page.
As for the length of a post, there’s always a healthy debate about that, and plenty of research. Here’s what Moz found, based on their study of zillions of posts to see which were best-ranked.
Image Source: “The Perfect Blog Post Length …” (Moz, 2017)
But note that they use this as an example of how mere length, or the number of keywords, doesn’t automatically drive ranking or virality. If your content is superficial and lacks value or utility for your audience, it’s not going to get good results. In fact, it’ll turn users away from your site in search of better content. So one function of Content Operations should be to set up and enforce editorial standards, as well as SEO standards, to make sure your posts will perform at their best.
Metadata matters, too; be sure to follow best practices for meta titles and meta descriptions, especially when it comes to embedding keywords near the front end of them. As for how you deploy keywords throughout your post, nothing takes the place of a good SEO plugin for assessing keyword density, making sure to use them in H1 and H2 titles, and more.
It's all for the good: Content Operations tools and processes
Like I said at the top, best practices are foundational to good content marketing. So a solid Content Operations competency should deploy the right tech tools and optimized processes for helping creators and managers publish the best possible material.
One tool for making sure your blog post displays exactly as you’d like it to look – and looks good across a variety of screens? A WYSIWYG editor allows the content creator to manage headings, text, and other design elements with ease. If used as part of a decoupled CMS, you can be far more confident of delivering precisely the user experience you intend.
The use of workflows integrated within your CMS can streamline the publication process, and can leverage automation at key points, such as automatic notification of gatekeepers to review a new draft of a post. It also ensures that everyone who has to look off a piece of content is involved in the process.
That can – well, should – include not just the content creator and his/her supervisor, but essential gatekeepers from the legal department, proofreading/fact-checking, SEO, brand governance, and ADA compliance. Skip over any one of these and you’re likely to be damaging the quality and value of your content…and in some cases, even creating risk for the organization.
To sum up: Content Operations will make your blog posts – and the other digital content your company publishes – better in every way, from engagement to value to users to ROI.
Lastly, I can’t help thinking about NADOG again. With that name, they may be missing out on a terrific opportunity to sell tee shirts.