SEO guide
Chapter 3

What Is Great Content in the Age of RankBrain?

Every single SEO guide and article you’ll ever read will end with the same conclusion: you need to write great content. Ok, cool guys, but how can I tell if my content is great? And how do I create great content to begin with?


Well, in this 3d chapter of our efficient SEO guide, I’ve got some answers for you, so let’s dig in!

1. Define the value proposition of your future content

What do you believe in?

Before writing any content, you should define why your content exists. And you can’t just say “because I want to make money.” ‘Cause the people who Google you, read your content, click on your ads, or buy your products and services, they’re not doing that just so you can earn more money. They come because they believe in what you believe, as explained in this now-famous video that everyone should see at least once in their life: 

Define your personas: Who are you talking to?

Think of writing content like writing a letter to one specific customer you know personally; that’s your persona, your target audience. If you want to stir emotion in your readers, you need to address them personally.


Let me give you an example:

QuickBooks believes that small business entrepreneurs should be able to focus on what really matters: their business.

What is the QuickBooks’ value proposition? It allows those SMB entrepreneurs to save time.

SEO guide quickbooks value proposition

And how do they do that?

QuickBooks provides simple and easy-to-use accounting software so that you don’t need to spend hours learning every last thing about accounting.

SEO guide value proposition

QuickBooks’ main persona is the “small business entrepreneur”. The people in this category love QuickBooks.

Conversely, professional accountants and corporate finance folks typically don’t like QuickBooks because it lacks certain features and, let’s face it, it devalues their job a little. To them, QuickBooks is saying, “Hey look, this job isn’t so hard after all, we can automate it.”


QuickBooks can’t sell their product to everybody, so they focus on personas. You can even find those personas on their homepage:

SEO guide personas

It might be tempting to skip personas because we don’t have time for that and we already know our clients, right? Well, unfortunately, we don’t. I always wonder about entrepreneurs who tell me that they don’t have time to talk to their clients. What’s more important than them?


All that to say that the first step of any SEO strategy should always be to understand your customer. You should create one or two (three, max) personas to target. I really suggest reading this article about marketing personas.

SEO guide seo perosna

There are many ways to create personas, but here is a step-by-step method that I recommend:

1. Call 10 to 50 clients

2. Set up a 30 minute meeting (an hour is even better) to learn more about them

3. During the meeting, ask questions that will glean information, like:

  • What are their main fears?
  • What do they like (in your area of business)?
  • What do they not like?
  • How exactly do they use your products/services? (go step by step and try to capture the entire precise workflow)
  • Why did they become clients?
  • What is their demographic (age, profession, etc.)

4. Record all your interviews, and then pay for a good transcription so that you have every interview in writing.

5. Find common elements between some of the clients. Find the ones that give similar answers, use similar words, or have similar interests.

6. Write down the specific profile of 1 to 3 unique personas


Here is an example of a persona (it’s one of Mazen’s Personas)

MKT persona

If you’ve never created a persona for your company/product/blog, then you really need to read this article from Michael King. You’ll learn a lot about your business, you’ll get new ideas, and above all you’ll be far more efficient in finding your clients online and converting them. It will also help you avoid a lot of common mistakes. Basically, if you spend a week or two doing this research full-time, you’ll probably save months down the road in terms of SEO. Here’s why:

  • You’ll be able to target keywords that are more likely to be used by your personas. When you know who your personas are, you can ask them directly what keywords they use. You can also listen to the way they talk about your product, company, competitors, etc. Write down the exact words they use and then use them in your keyword research
  • Other websites that target the same personas will be more likely to provide backlinks to your content.
  • Your content will be tailor-made for your customer, so they’ll be more likely to convert. This means that you’ll need fewer visitors to end up with the same number of clients. As such, you won’t need to spend so much time tweaking your SEO.

Define what problem you are going to solve

You should never start a blog, a website, or any kind of web content without clearly identifying your value proposition. The question you need to answer is the same as when you create a company: what problem am I going to solve with the content I write? There are two major reasons why content might not rank on Google:

  • What you wrote doesn’t solve a problem for anyone
  • What you wrote solves the same problem, in the same way, as other content that already exists

Here’s where the personas really come into play.

You see, the real question isn’t exactly, “What problem are you going to solve?” It’s more about, “Which of your personas’ problems are you going to solve?


Let’s go back to QuickBooks for a minute.

Here is some content that QuickBooks published:

SEO content for persona Quickbooks example 1
SEO content for persona Quickbooks example 2

Can you see the personas? They’re everywhere. “Setting up a business,” “become a mompreneur,” “hire a bookkeeper”… These titles might be of high interest to a small business owner, but of no interest whatsoever to an enterprise employee. Here, QuickBooks didn’t try to create amazing content. They tried to create amazing content for their personas.

Each of these articles answers an important question, or solves a problem, for QuickBooks’ personas: How do I set up a business? How can I be a good mom and a good entrepreneur at the same time? How do I find the best bookkeeper for my needs? And so on.

To my mind, the actual content created by QuickBooks is not amazing by any stretch. This says to me that they don’t really rely on SEO to bring in new customers. If you look closely at the content, you can see that:

  • The content is quite short, no more than 800-1000 words a piece.
  • There is no actionable content that explains in detail what to do, step-by-step. Instead, it’s quite general. For example, this page is dedicated to advice about what software to use together in a small business, which is a really great idea… if you flesh it out. But the actual article just contains short descriptions of each app, with no thoughts on exactly how to use them, no screenshots, no-step-by-step instructions. Kinda deceptive, no?


One sentence to rule them all

Before you start publishing content, it’s important to communicate your mission: a single sentence that states your the message you want to send to readers. This statement should reflect your point of view, your “vision” in the specific field you’re writing about.

Here are couple of examples:

  • It’s in Mazen’s DNA to save SEO specialists time. The tagline of our blog could be: “Step-by-step guides for efficient SEO”. All the content we write has one common goal: to help our readers save valuable time.
  • Zapier’s blog is all about productivity. Their goal is to help readers get things done:
SEO guide Zapier blog
SEO guide Zapier blog categories

2. Design a site that allows you to publish longer content

Design has become essential to good SEO. That’s because people won’t read, share and/or link to your content if the design doesn’t entice them to.

The design of your website should be conducive to publishing short AND long (and very long) content. (Short = 500 words; Long = 2,500 words; Very Long = 5000+ words)

This means that your website should be content-centric.  If you start by designing the website, and then try to wedge the content into the template, content might be constrained. In fact, the main reasons people don’t create long content are:

  • There isn’t enough space on the page because the template they’re using was made with little to no content (usually just Lorem Ipsum). But let me you ask this: If you notice that your car is too small for your four kids, do you sell two of your kids, or do you buy a bigger car?


SEO guide long content

Furthermore, there is a clear SEO benefit to writing long content. In 2017, Brian Dean at Backlinko analyzed a million Google search results to identify which factors correlate most with first page search engine results. He looked at all kinds of factors, not just content length. Here is what he found:

  • Users think longer content is ugly. Which is nonsense! Content can be very beautiful, but you need your design to suit your content, not the other way around. Your UX designer should create a design specifically for your content, instead of your writers creating content to fit the design. Need examples of sites with long-form content and great design? Check out this article for inspiration: And remember, simple is often best. Just use images and add breathing space between paragraphs. This will make your long-form content easier on the eyes.

All this doesn’t mean you should always target a specific number of words for every page. There’s no absolute rule and some brands get great results with short content. But either way, you should:

  • Never design your page before creating content
  • Always think about UX at the beginning of your SEO campaign.

From a visual point of view, what rules should I follow for my content?

  • White Space – Give the content (and your visitors’ eyes) room to breathe.
  • Visual Hierarchy – Use H2, H3, quotes, italic, bold, etc. You should help your reader quickly scan your content and scroll from one topic to another.
  • Boxes, Borders & Graphical Planes – This helps segment your content into visual steps.
  • Strong Information Hierarchy – Establishing a consistent design language using content types (blurbs, excerpts, calls to action, etc.).

3. Get smart about internal links

Internal links are among the most important SEO elements of your page. Check out this section of our SEO guide to learn how to structure your internal link strategy (I swear, this method will change your life!).

At a high level, this is what your internal linking strategy should look like:

  • Visually draw out the arborescence/organization of your website
  • This organization should consists of clusters. A cluster is a group of pages that are about the same topic. One of those pages should be the main one, a “mother page” that targets the most important keywords/topics of the cluster. The other pages – the “daughter pages” – should link back to this main topic. Organizing your pages is really important, so I definitely recommend reading our internal linking guide to better understand how this works.
  • Now, a silo is a group of clusters. The pages in a given silo should only link to the pages inside this same silo
  • When you decide to write new content, find the best place (i.e. the best silo) for this content in your site arborescence
  • When you publish this content, add links to the other pages in the same cluster as this content. You’ll also want to create links to this new content on the other pages of this cluster.
  • Add your new content your website’s sitemap (this should be automatic)

4. Show that you’re trustworthy by using external links

I mentioned how important internal links can be, but don’t forget about external links! These are super important for your SEO as well, for three big reasons:

  • This serious study shows that external links are a ranking factor. Linking to authoritative websites seems to help Google consider your page as authoritative itself. And it makes sense when you think about it: if your sources are already deemed “good,” then what you say is more likely to have value.
  • External links are important for user experience. For any given topic, you can’t provide detailed information about every single thing. Internal links are a way to help your readers find all the information they need on your site. But if the reader needs information beyond that, they’ll go find it elsewhere. They’ll most likely go back to Google and do another search. But if the user clicks on a link on your page and opens your source in a new tab, your page will still be up in their browser and you won’t lose your reader.
  • External links show your expertise. If you want to prove that you’re an expert and a professional, you need to show that you use authoritative sources.
  • External links lead to backlinks. If you tell people you linked to their content, you can forge a relationship, and who knows, in the future, you might get a link back or work out some kind of partnership/affiliation.

5. Build your content, category by category

 5.1 Brand content

“Brand content” is stuff like your classic homepage, contact page, team page, values, testimonials, etc.  People don’t usually use this content to rank in Google. I bet you don’t even target a keyword on your contact or team page.

5.2 Product and service categories

Category pages are the most important pages for your SEO. Here is how you create great content for them.

For e-commerce websites, as well as classic sites, your categories of products and services are the pages you need to rank the most on for your primary and secondary keywords. These can be:

  • Classic e-commerce categories: i.e. where you display all the products that correspond to a specific category or sub-category. For example, here is a category page that displays all the TVs sold by the website
  • Landing pages describing the products and services of your company. Take a look at this page: It’s a description of global marketing platform Rainmaker’s e-mail feature. The platform does a lot more than just this one feature, but they have a separate landing page for each feature. 

After having done all that keyword research, any website should have multiple landing pages.


7 best practices to create better e-commerce categories than your competitors.

The good news is that many e-commerce websites don’t do anything to make their categories more interesting to users. This is a huge opportunity for you to make a difference.

BP1. Help your customer like a salesperson in a store:

Let’s take a classic e-commerce example. Imagine you’re in charge of creating content for the page with the primary keyword “Home theatre”

If you had a customer come into a brick-and-mortar store, walk around, and browse your different products, what would you say to them? How would you categorize and subcategorize the products? How would you describe the products (uses, styles, trends,etc. )?

If a client asks you what the differences are between your different products, you’d probably answer that it depends on what their needs are.

Here’s a good example of subcategorization, on this page about home theaters:

SEO guide subcategorization content

BP2. Describe the products and their uses as precisely as possible

Google needs your content to be as descriptive as possible, but so do your users. Photos aren’t enough for folks to make a decision; you usually need to give more personal and emotive information.

The best way to craft these descriptions is to show the different ways your client can use the products. Give the client advice, help them choose, and give them ideas on what to do.

In the example below, the aim of the text is to tell the customer how they might want to wear a sweatshirt. There are different kinds of sweatshirts on the page and advice on what other clothes to wear them with. The goal here is clearly to add value, rather than just writing content for the sake of writing content.

SEO product description example

BP.3 Use a title or headline that turns people on.

Sometimes, a good example is much better than a long-winded explanation. If you see the results below, which one are you going to click first ? Which one is so intriguing that you can’t help but click?

If you are shopping for a home theatre, can you afford not to visit a page titled “the truth about wireless speakers”? I don’t think so. When crafting your title, you should always keep the Google search results in mind. In a sea of boring and repetitive blue links, your words and the way you present your content could set you apart and get those valuable clicks.

Another benefit of a strong Title is that it can further motivate the reader. The more into the title they are, the more likely they are to stay on your page and read your content. Just don’t be deceptive! That could backfire.

SEO guide Use a title or headline

BP4. Always focus on creating strong sub-headlines.

You know that your readers won’t read everything: they jump around from one section to another. To maximize the total time they spent on page, you should keep them interested with strong headlines. Neil Patel, in his must-read guide to headline writing, explains that “Headlines are so important that a single word can impact a campaign dramatically. We’ve seen e-mail subject lines where a one word change increased click-throughs by 46%.”

BP5.  Asking and answering questions.

This method allows you to structure content more easily. The best way to go here is to use the SEO tool “AnswerThePublic.” For example, let’s say I want to create new content for the e-commerce category “home theatre.” I enter the keyword and the tool provides a list of questions I can use to structure my content.

SEO ask and answer questions

And presto! By answering a least five of these questions, I can provide real value to customers who need answers and be confident that my content will be relevant to this search query. This will make both users AND RankBrain happy.

BP6. Customer interviews.

Usually, customer reviews are better suited for product pages, not category pages. And we don’t want to change that.

However, I do recommend placing customer interviews and testimonials on category pages. This has value of its own. The idea here is to focus on 1-3 personas, real customers that you would have directly interviewed, that might help new clients choose between the different products in that category. You can provide photos, short quotes, or even video interviews.

So that’s how you get great content for your category pages. Cool, right? This is super important because category pages are actually the most significant sources of traffic for e-commerce websites.

Alright, now let’s see what we can do to improve your product pages.

5.3. Product pages

Product pages usually contain the worst content you’ll find on the web. There’s tons of advice out there on how to improve it, but our goal here is to focus on what really matters: saving time. So I’m not going to tell you to spend hours on product photography, unless you already have the gear and someone who can do the heavy lifting. But it’s not a top priority. Here are the three best practices I recommend.

Create. Unique. Content.

  • I can’t stress this enough. Product pages are usually always duplicated. So many e-commerce websites just use the supplier’s text for their product descriptions. If you do the same, your product pages will be duplicates of other pages that use the suppliers’ descriptions, or even the supplier’s website itself.

For example, let’s look at the (very light) description for this Swarovski ring:

SEO guide create unique content

If we copy and paste the product decription into Google, here’s the result:

SEO guide duplicate content

It looks like Macy’s,,, and 45 other pages have the exact same description. This is the polar opposite of what I would call “great content.”


Listen, I know that creating a specific description for every single product is long and tedious, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity. Since so few websites make any effort to create great and distinct descriptions for their products, if you were to just have amazing descriptions for 20% of your top-selling products, your SEO will go through the roof. Remember, that’s what Google is looking for: useful, interesting, and unique content that people will actually want to read.


Take risks. Do something out of the ordinary.

Below, I’d like to share an example of amazing product pages that generate a ton of money. They’re from the flash-sale website

Woot writes description that are so fun, descriptive, and unique, that you can spend minutes or hours checking out their products, even if you don’t have a specific need:

Right great content


Right original content

What can we learn from this?

  • Product pages can be fun and helpful for customers
  • You can have fun writing product descriptions

As a result of this editorial strategy, Woot not only sells more products with higher conversion rates, but they also attract backlinks directly to their product pages – something that is very, very rare in traditional e-commerce.

From a total of 19,325 referring domains, 10,840 domains link to Woot’s homepage, 3,530 link to their blog, and the rest (4,955) link directly to product or category pages. This means that their “money pages” directly benefit from those sweet, sweet backlinks… No need to link bait, link-exchange, or spend hundreds of hours worrying about guest blogging. The pages will earn their page authority naturally. Still think product-page content is boring?!

Add customer reviews

If your customers are asked to leave reviews, the content of your page will be:

  • Longer
  • Semantically and lexically richer, since writing styles vary.
  • Totally unique
  • More trustworthy

Customer reviews are a real treasure. They make other customers feel more confident and they provide you with “free content” to boot! The best way to obtain customer reviews is to use a third party system like:


 I would not recommend services like Trustpilot that publish a copy of the reviews on their own website, because this leads to duplicate content, so you lose the advantage of having a one-of-a-kind description on your product page. 


Write blog content

From an SEO point of view, amazing blog content is content that achieves at least one of these two goals:

  • Attracts new customers who are interested in the topic you’ve chosen
  • Generates new backlinks and social shares because other websites find your content interesting enough to organically share or link to.

Amazing blog content should not be:

  • Content that only shows off your expertise, but that nobody would share or search for in Google. This will not help your SEO and will only limit your “crawl budget.” By indexing too many pages that aren’t interesting to Google or its users, you can actually hurt your overall chances of ranking on important topics. If you have any content that draws very few visitors and/or have a high bounce rate, consider deindexing it.
  • Content that only provide news about your company. While this might be interesting for people who already know your brand, SEO is more about people who haven’t yet discovered your brand and might need a more neutral point of entry to become readers or customers.

Define your personal voice and build your blog around it.

Your personal voice your brand, so figure out what story you’re going to tell. In a perfect world, if your logo and CSS magically disappeared, your readers/customers should be able to recognize your brand and content by your voice and angle alone. You need to define what you can bring to your personas that nobody else already does. Whether it’s the way you talk, your message, your philosophy, or your values, you need to establish your identity.

Here are some examples:

Zapier is a web app, like Mazen, that is all about saving you time. So it makes sense that their blog would focus on productivity and workflow automation. Since their number one persona is startups, they also talk a lot about company building:

SEO guide blog

IFTTT, their competitor, has no specific personal voice. They only talk about themselves, which is not the best editorial move for SEO:

SEO guide blog content

GeekWrapped is an e-commerce website that sells products to one clear persona: people who like science/technology and related equipment. Here is a list of their products:

SEO guid ecategories blog

For their inbound marketing, they have a blog that is clearly designed to attract their target personas to their website:


You’ll notice that none of these articles is specifically about their products: they’re just talking about things they think their customers might like. Top 100… Best 50… Ultimate guide to… These articles all have the same goal: to provide information that can help their personas LEARN something. Why? Because people who like science often like to learn and will likely appreciate a brand who gives this information out for free.

If you couldn’t tell already, I’m one of their personas myself, and I just spent two hours reading their blog before coming back to write this section. A personal favorite of mine was this article titled Cognitive Bias Survival Guide, in which they talk about the Google Effect that everyone has encountered in one way or another. Turns out it’s a scientifically-identified phenomenon.☺

Google Effect on SEO

In the SEO software world, there are different brands that create great content. Each brand has its own personal voice, or point of view, adapted to their specific target persona(s):

Ahrefs is a very technical, high-expertise tool. The data they provide is for experts and helps them conduct very deep audits, primarily focused on backlinks. If you look at Ahrefs’ blog, their message is:

  • We help you find the most advanced SEO techniques from the top experts in the field.
SEO blog
  • Our data is so complete that we can provide information and insight to the SEO community, based on our large-scale studies
SEO usefull content
  • SEO is above all a question of page authority. So backlinks remain the number one SEO ranking factor:
SEO guide specific content

Ahrefs’ angle is the “expert.” You’ll like it if you want accurate, technical, and detailed SEO tips.

Shopify, the well-known e-commerce CMS platform, has dedicated its blog to entrepreneurs who are just creating their e-commerce business. Why? Because they target small businesses and these usually choose their e-commerce platform at the beginning of their journey.

That’s why their blog is entirely dedicated to giving advice to beginners in the e-commerce space:

SEO content angle

In the example below, you’ll note that their content is aimed at people with no particular marketing knowledge:

SEO right great content

Or even to people who haven’t even created their company yet, but are considering it:

SEO guide efficient content

Their angle is “simple”: simple information and simple guides geared toward people who aren’t experts but want to start an online business. You’ll find nothing overtly technical or complicated on their blog.

Having a personal voice is what separates good blogs from bad ones.  Once you’ve got that nailed down, you’ll also want to make sure you have a clear, strong, and innovative angle for each piece of content.

Let’s take a look at an example that shows how different angles might change the way we treat the same information. There are thousands of guides online that explain how to conduct keyword research. Here are some example of different angles adopted by various brands:

  • One angle could aim to attract a specific persona’s attention

Local businesses:

SEO for local businesses

Small businesses:

SEO for small businesses
  • Another angle might be to offer a fresh opinion and capture the attention of people who think they already know everything there is to know about keyword research:
SEO guide keyword research
  • This angle aims to attract people looking for a complete guide on keyword research (the “all-in-one effect”):
SEO keyword research
  • This angle promotes a specific expertise. From the title, you can tell that the article is going to focus on the interests and intent of the user. This might intrigue you, even if you’ve already read dozens of other guides, because of its specific focus.
SEO Keyword research the smart way
  • And then you have the angle that plays on emotion and fear
SEO guide keyword research

Perhaps you would read that one to make sure you didn’t make a mistake that could hurt your SEO

Alright, so that pretty much covers angles. If you need more ideas, here is a list of typical angles that you can explore. A BuzzSumo study revealed that lists, infographics, “how to” articles, “what” posts, “why” posts, and videos represent the content that is most shared by users:

SEO Shares-by-Content-Type

These are the angles I recommend using:

  • Customer success stories: While very important in marketing, this technique can also do wonders for your SEO. You can use it to create content about your product in your clients’ own words. And let’s face it, your customers’ words are better than yours: they’re the same words that will end up in the Google search box…


  • Riff on the news: You can create posts about trending news topics by simply running a Google Alert for keywords related to your business or to topics your personas enjoy reading about. Fresh and current content can attract visitors, backlinks, and social shares.


  • Make a prediction. Predictions are a great way to attract readers, or even stir up a little controversy. Everyone wants to know the future!


  • Round up the best of your blog. This is something that most companies forget to do, even though it’s really, really important. Only a few of your visitors will ever click around to read older content. They could be very interested in it, but missed it the first time around. You can refresh that content by writing new content that sums up and shares the best of what you’ve written about a specific subject.

There are countless other possible angles, but you get the idea. For further inspiration, check out BuzzSumo:

BuzzSumo can help you find the hottest trending and most shared topics related to each of your specific keywords.

Tweak Your Biz Title Generator: Generate titles for your posts. This tool is more for fun than anything; we wouldn’t use it to create an actual blog strategy, but it can be helpful in finding ideas for new content to write.


Let’s get visual, visual…

Check out the numbers in the infographic below:


It’s pretty self-explanatory, but this right here is why everyone should go visual. Spending time creating great visuals is never time wasted; it can earn you visitors, page authority, and backlinks.

Always use images.

You wouldn’t want your page to look like the one below, would you? Who would read that?


One image per viewport scroll.  

Optimizing your content with images is not just a question of quality, but also of quantity. When scanning your page, people are going to read the title, the content within images, and the text above and beneath each image. The more images you put in your content, the more key content you can display, and the more your visitors will actually read. Ideally, people should be able to understand your content just from headings and images.

Create your own images.

The best way to have amazing content is to create your own illustrations. Your content will be far more likely to gain social shares and backlinks. Your visitors will stay on the page longer and remember what your content is about. See why I keep harping on about “great content”?

To do so, you’ll need to:

  • Spend more time on your images. My advice is to write less content and say more with images.
  • Hire a designer OR use tools that can help you create great visuals if (like me) you’re not very good with Photoshop, InDesign, and other professional tools.

Don’t use images that don’t bring any value:

Images shouldn’t just be used for the sake of “having images.” An image should help your reader better understand your content.

Here is an example of what not to do. (What’s even the point of this image?)

Your goal should be to have each image help understand the message in the paragraphs around it

Use large images

If the user needs to click on an image to understand it, there’s a problem… i.e. don’t do this:

Use large images for your SEO content

Well, I hope that was helpful! To sum it all up, “great content” should be:

  • Blog content or product/category pages on your website
  • Content that real people will want to read (not just robots)
  • Content specifically targeted at a persona you can describe
  • Content that solves a problem for each persona
  • Content that is fairly long (above 600 words, and usually around 2,500)
  • Content embedded in a template that is specifically designed for long-form content
  • Content with lots of images and illustrations
  • Content with a unique angle or point of view