How to Write Content That Ranks With The “One-Up” Strategy

the one-up strategy: how to write content that ranks

While the strategy I’m about to lay out isn’t rocket science—in fact, it’s pretty straightforward—there are many moving parts that all have to work in harmony in order to maximize results.

But, if you can nail the formula over and over again, your content, whether it be blogs or videos, will get noticed.

I call it the “One-Up Strategy”. A method that takes content your competitors have already created and adding more value to make it better.

In this guide, you’re going to learn how to:

  • Never run out of content ideas.
  • How to research keywords for free.
  • Build content outlines to use as a guide.
  • How to write content that ranks.

Before you continue reading: This guide is very long and applies to everyone who creates content. That means it’s applicable to anyone at any stage of their content creation journey. I encourage you to read the whole article to pick up any new tips that you might not have known about, but I also realize that many of you aren’t here to learn about keyword research or how to generate new ideas for articles. So, in that case, feel free to skip to steps 3-4, as they go over the direct process of writing content that ranks.

However, all four steps in this guide are crucial.

An Overview of the One-Up Strategy

The One-Up Strategy is based on a very simple concept. In business, it’s often believed that the better product generates the most sales.

This premise is false.

However, in marketing, it’s believed that the best marketing campaign (and well-funded) is the campaign that gets the most attention.

This premise is true.

You don’t have to have the best product to get the most sales. You just have to have better marketing.

In the world of digital technology, the internet, smartphones, and more. How we market has drastically changed. Since the industrial revolution and the rise of big business, we’ve lived in a content-based society. But how we consume content has shifted over time.

Now, content can be created by anyone at any time. You don’t need massive marketing budgets, specialized film equipment, and employees. You just need a computer, the internet, and a place to write or film.

The goal of the One-Up Strategy is to rank your content higher on Google’s search results. Period.

But, in order to do that, we need to have a few things in place. This guide is designed to help those who write content, but the same ideas can be applied to videos on YouTube.

From an overhead view, the strategy revolves around taking a topic, typing in keywords, reading through the top-ranked articles, collecting all of the points made and adding them to an outline, adding more points, and producing SEO-optimized content.

I do this for almost all of the articles I’ve written and its paid dividends. For instance, look at this real estate blog that I haven’t written for in over a year.

google search console stats

I started the blog in December 2019. By April 2020, when I stopped writing content for it, I had about 40 articles, most of which were written with the One-Up Strategy. Even now, over a year after I’ve stopped writing for the site, the articles are getting clicks and impressions.

Who knows where the blog would be now if I continued writing for it? The point I’m making is that this strategy is crazy effective. I use it as a freelance writer, too, and my clients love the results.

It’s a really simple strategy and is actually very common in the content marketing arena. It’s just never really explained well.

What’s even crazier is that it works for simple web pages too. Take a look at my digital marketing agency’s website:

google search console impressions

I don’t have a blog on this site. Yet, I get tons of impressions. Granted, I don’t get a lot of clicks, but this website is basically a stand-in for referrals. I don’t actively market the site. In fact, I downsized it about midway through that chart. It still ranks for competitive keywords.

If I did write a blog for this site (I’m considering it), I imagine it would do really well for its ranking. But even with web pages (now just two pages), this site is doing better than some actively marketed sites.

It’s all because of the One-Up Strategy. It took me many trials and adjustments to figure it out. Now, I’m going to share it with you.

Let’s start ranking your content.

Step #1: How to Come Up with an Endless Stream of Ideas

I’ve always found that the hardest thing about writing content is coming up with ideas. Even with the One-Up Strategy, I still have moments where I struggle to come up with ideas.

I should say that recently, I read a wonderful book called How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens that talks about the “Slip-Box” or “Zettelkasten” note-taking method. Following the guidelines set by the book has improved my ability to generate topics to write about, so I fully recommend reading it to level up your brainpower and writing prowess.

But for now, let’s go over my typical brainstorming method that I’ve used time and time again to generate topic ideas. As of right now, I currently have about 300 articles to write due to this thought process.

Brainstorming Step #1: Write Down Broad Topics

This should be pretty easy. Whatever it is that you need to write about, write down the major topic categories they’re in.

For instance, if you’re in the field of marketing, your list could look like this:

  • Traditional marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Ecommerce marketing
  • Mass marketing
  • Marketing metrics

Come up with about 5-10 of these “bucket” topics.

Brainstorming Step #2: Niche Down

I talk about the entire niching process for businesses in this article here.

For this step, you’re going to go through each bucket and come up with tons of subtopics. Your list might look like this:

  • Traditional marketing
    • Direct mail marketing
    • Public relations
    • Billboards
  • Digital marketing
    • Social media marketing
    • SEO
    • Content marketing
    • Video marketing
    • PPC ads
  • Ecommerce marketing
    • Shopify
    • WooCommerce
    • Ecommerce SEO
  • Mass marketing
    • History of mass marketing
    • Big brand marketing
    • Marketing budgets
  • Marketing metrics
    • Google Search Console
    • Google Analytics
    • Google Ads
    • Facebook Insights

Come up with as many of these subtopics as possible. Spend about 15-20 minutes just churning out ideas until you can’t anymore.

Brainstorming Step #3: List Article Ideas

For each item you wrote, make a list of potential article ideas for each. Here’s what I mean:

  • Traditional marketing
    • Direct mail marketing
      • How to succeed with direct mail
      • How to keep your budget down with direct mail campaigns
    • Public relations
      • How to use HARO
      • Why public relations can change your business
    • Billboards
      • Do billboards matter anymore?
      • Are billboards worth it?
      • How much does it cost to put up a billboard?
  • Digital marketing
    • Social media marketing
      • How to run an organic Facebook marketing campaign
      • LinkedIn marketing: the ultimate guide
    • SEO
      • SEO rules for 2021
      • Does SEO matter?
      • Is SEO important for your business?
    • Content marketing
      • How can content marketing increase sales?
      • How much does it cost to promote content?
      • How to promote content?
    • Video marketing
      • YouTube in 2021
      • How much money does it cost to make videos?
      • Best YouTube equipment in 2021
      • Best video equipment in 2021
    • PPC ads
      • Guide to Google Ads
      • Guide to Facebook Ads
  • Ecommerce marketing
    • Shopify
      • How to build a website on Shopify
      • How to make money through Shopify
      • Is Shopify worth it?
    • WooCommerce
      • Is WooCommerce good?
      • Should you use WooCommerce?
    • Ecommerce SEO
      • How to rank products on Google
      • What should you write in your descriptions?
  • Mass marketing
    • History of mass marketing
      • The rise of mass marketing
      • The impact of mass marketing
    • Big brand marketing
      • Coca-Cola: the story of the soft drink
      • How Tesla rose to fame
    • Marketing budgets
      • What does Google spend their marketing dollars on?
      • How much money is wasted in marketing each year?
  • Marketing metrics
    • Google Search Console
      • How to setup Google Search Console
      • Why you should be using GSC
    • Google Analytics
      • How to set up a conversion campaign in GA
      • Best uses for Google Analytics

I’ve spent about 10 minutes writing this list and I’ve generated 38 potential articles just from brainstorming. Obviously, not all of these articles will get written. Most will probably never see the light of day. But next time you say, “I have nothing to write about”, think again.

You can keep generating topics for as long as you want. Be sure to save your list somewhere so that you can continue adding new ideas. I keep my list in Notion.

Brainstorming Step #4: Use Quora, Reddit, and Answer the Public

To come up with more ideas, you should use Reddit, Quora, and Answer the Public. These are all great sites that let you see what real people are asking each other. You wouldn’t write an article that no one wants to read.

To get ideas, go to one of these sites. Let’s say you went to Quora. On Quora, search for one of the subtopics you wrote down. Browse through the different questions people are asking.

quora facebook marketing

As you can see, there are six article topics staring at you the moment you type in “facebook marketing”. You can’t make this stuff up. There are an endless number of articles to write. You just have to put in some effort.

Now that you’ve collected article ideas, we’ll need to flesh out each of the topics to determine how much it’s worth to write about.

Enter, keyword research.

Step #2: How to Conduct Keyword Research for Free

I’ve come to find that a lot of content creators believe you should start with keyword research to generate content ideas.

While you certainly can, I wouldn’t.

When you use keyword research to generate ideas, you’re writing about whatever search metrics tell you to write about. You’re not actually writing about something that you want to write about.

When you brainstorm the ideas in the exercise we just did, your subconscious mind will likely force you to write topics that are somewhat favorable to you. It might not always be the case, but most of the time you’ll be more excited to write about things you came up with versus the internet.

I use keyword research to vet my article topics. Some content writers will tell you to write about anything, regardless of whether it’s being searched for or not. I disagree with that. I think you should write about things you want to write about as long as there’s a perceived interest in what you’re writing about.

The good news is that most of the time if have something in mind that you know will be helpful to someone, then odds are that someone in the world will find it helpful.

But you should still do keyword research. There are lots of SEO tools that can help. The problem is that all of them are pretty expensive. Ubersuggest by Neil Patel is one of the cheaper options and is good at certain things, but Ahrefs is the most superior tool of all. A normal subscription costs $100/month though.

But what if I told you that you can pull off light keyword research for free? It’s not foolproof, but it can get the job done.

Free Keyword Research Strategy #1: Use Google Search

Google actually provides everything you need to know about keywords that have a chance at ranking. The keyword being “chance”.

To figure out what articles will do well, go to Google and type in one of your topic ideas.

write content that ranks by doing keyword search in google

First off, notice all of the fill-ins that Google recommends for you. These are generated based on common searches made by others. Automatically, you have a list of keywords with user activity behind them.

On the next image, there are a lot of things to pay attention to. Let’s go through each item.

break down of google search

Let’s start off with the number of results. For the keyphrase “how to promote content”, we have 819,000,000 search results!

That means that this topic is very popular and most likely a lot harder to rank for. In the second box, we see ads. This means that there’s money to be made in this topic. Companies wouldn’t spend money on advertising for this keyword if it didn’t generate revenue.

Then, in the third box, we see a featured snippet. Google has increased the number of featured snippets for different keywords in an effort to deliver quicker responses to searchers. Not all keywords have one, so if its present, it likely means that the keyword is searched for quite a bit.

The next step is to analyze the content that’s ranking for this keyword. Ask questions like “who’s writing these articles?” and “are they blogs or web pages?”.

If you see a bunch of web pages, not blogs, then you probably shouldn’t write an article for that topic. If you see blogs with big names, then it’s probably something worth writing about. For instance, some big names in digital marketing are Neil Patel, Backlinko, Search Engine Journal, and HubSpot. If I see articles about marketing written by them, then I know that the topic is getting traffic.

Just remember, the bigger the websites commanding the search results, the harder it becomes to rank content due to domain authority, or, the trust Google has in a particular website.

It might take more time than it would using an SEO tool, but this is the most basic and cheapest way to vet your keywords without using one. The moment you can, upgrade and use real SEO tools. But to get started with the One-Up Strategy, you can use this method.

The next free keyword research strategy we’ll talk about is an extension of this one.

Free Keyword Research Strategy #2: Use Google Keyword Planner

If you open up a Google Ads account, then you can get access to Google’s data on keyword search volume. Don’t worry, you don’t have to run an ad to get this data.

When you’re on the Google Ads home screen, go to the “Tools” tab and select “Keyword Planner”.

On this screen, you can either discover new keywords or get search volume forecasts for keywords you already have.

The “Discover Keywords” option will provide you with different subsets of a keyword. This is helpful for generating more ideas.

Let’s see what we get when we type “how to promote content” into the discover tool.

google ads keyword planner

The keyword planner shows the result for your intended keyword, as well as several others. For our keyword, we see that it gets about 10-100 searches per month and that the competition is low.

Note: Competition on Google Keyword Planner is based on the number of PPC bids. Not the difficulty to rank for a keyword via SEO.

10-100 searches per month isn’t all that bad. If you can rank high enough, then you’ll capture a decent amount of traffic. Add more content across different keywords overtime and you’ll gradually increase your volume and SEO value as a whole.

But also, be sure to pay attention to the other search results we get. A popular key phrase is “how to promote YouTube content”. This gets searched for 100-1000 times per month, but that also brings in more competition. Notice the high range of PPC bids is over $41! That’s a lot of money to spend on one click that might not convert.

Sometimes, you can find a really nice keyword with high volume and low competition. These are the keywords you need to jump on immediately.

Pro tip: The CPC (cost-per-click) section on Google Keyword Planner indicates the price firms are paying to display their ads for that particular phrase or word. The higher the price, the more money is generated from that keyword. You can reasonably assume that if a firm is paying $30 per click, they’re getting some sort of return.

Free Keyword Research Strategy #3: Use Google Search Console

This applies to those of you who have existing content on a website that you own and want to rank it higher.

Hopefully, you’ve connected Google Search Console to your website and already collecting important data. If not, do this right now.

If you’re past this step, then go to your search console and look at your performance chart. With enough content and enough time, you’ll start to see key phrases and words that are collecting impression, click, and ranking data.

google keyword planner "how to promote content"

What’s great about this is that you’re getting information on the exact keywords and phrases that searchers are using. So, for instance, if I wanted to increase my standing with the phrase “luxury home for sale by owner” then I could click on it and see which pages are ranking for that.

google search console stats

The article above is what’s showing up for the keyword. I could probably get more clicks out of those impressions if I made adjustments to the article. Maybe change the title, add more images, optimize keyword placements a little better, add extra headings, links, and more. A mistake I made was making the URL too long, which might have penalized the article a bit.

But this is where we begin to move into the bulk of the One-Up Strategy. How do we know what to add to make are articles rank the highest? You can clearly see that this article ranks high, but how can I make it number one?

Step #3: Build an Outline

This is where the One-Up Strategy begins to take shape. In the rest of the article, we’re going to discuss how you can outclass your competitors by writing better content. It all starts with researching and creating an outline.

For every article I write, a detailed outline comes with it. I personally love outlines. Not only do they keep all of your research and ideas in one place, but they can also be stored and brought back later for use.

Let’s face it, every writer goes through phases where they lose interest in a topic they’re writing about. The longer a piece of content is, the more problematic this becomes.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to simply put away the article and come back to it later. However, if you never made a proper outline, you’re likely going to lose your ideas and research. With an outline, you can pick up right where you left off. The more detailed, the easier it is to get back into rhythm.

Let’s go over the steps for building one.

Outlining Step #1: Figure Out What Others Are Writing About

The central theme in the One-Up Strategy is to write better content than your competitors by going a step further than they did in their content. In order to do this, you have to know what they’re writing about in the first place.

Start by looking up your target keyword or phrase on Google. Once you’re there, click on the first 5-7 articles you see. Read through each and take note of the following things:

  • The topic of their headings (write down each one you come across).
  • The points they’re making.
  • The length of the content.
  • The intention/argument of the article.
  • The number of images used (and of what those images are).
  • How well the article fulfills the keyword.

Once you’ve gone through all 5-7 articles and maybe a few extra ones, you’re going to combine all of it.

The best way to tackle this is to list out every heading that you recorded. If you have duplicates, keep just one. By the end of this, as long as the articles are good, you should have a sizable list of headings with topics to cover.

Be sure that each heading fulfills a particular point. Take a look at this model:

  • What is an Outline? (Main point)
  • How to Make an Outline (Main point)
    • Step 1 (Subpoint)
    • Step 2 (Subpoint)
  • The Importance of Making an Outline (Main point)
    • Helps organization (Subpoint)
  • Conclusion (Wrap up)

Our goal is to list as many main points as possible, only expanding into subpoints when necessary.

Be sure to evaluate whether headings should be added to your article based on their relevance to the topic. Don’t just throw a heading in there because the fourth-ranked article did. Google does not rank articles based on whoever has the highest word count. It ranks content based on how well it answers someone’s question (along with many other things).

With that in mind, I typically like to stay on the side of depth, as better answers naturally cover a lot of ground.

Side note: There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to ranking your articles. Writing as much as possible and covering as much ground as you can does not guarantee you a high ranking. The idea is to put your best foot forward. The One-Up Strategy helps you do that.

Outlining Step #2: Create a Good Outline

Now that you have all of your notes together, it’s time to build the outline.

I always open up a new Notion page whenever I make an outline, but you can make yours wherever you want.

I start my outlines by writing the main idea of the article at the top. So, for the article you’re reading, the main idea is: “how to write content that ranks”. This keeps me focused.

Next, I make a quick heading called “Intro” and write a couple of short bullet points for how I want to introduce my topic.

Then, I move into the first real heading, which is usually something explanatory like “What is Marketing?” or something like that. I do this so that readers have a clear understanding of the subject matter before we start getting into depth. This also helps bring readers onto your side of the table. You don’t always have to give the verbatim definition of something. Instead, you can provide your own perspective of what something means, which creates uniqueness, authority, and a reason to keep reading.

Usually after the first one or two headings, I move into the meat and potatoes of an article. This is where I lay out steps or whatever main points I’m making.

For instance, this article’s “meat and potatoes” is the actual method I use to write and rank content.

Here’s what the skeleton outline of this article looks like up to this point:

  • Intro
  • An Overview of the One-Up Strategy
  • Step #1: How to Come Up with Endless Stream of Ideas
    • Brainstorming Step #1: Write Down Broad Topics
    • Brainstorming Step #2: Niche Down
    • Brainstorming Step #3: List Article Ideas
    • Brainstorming Step #4: Use Quora, Reddit, and Answer the Public
  • Step #2: How to Conduct Keyword Research for Free
    • Free Keyword Research Strategy #1: Use Google Search
    • Free Keyword Research Strategy #2: Use Google Keyword Planner
    • Free Keyword Research Strategy #3: Use Google Search Console
  • Step #3: Build an Outline
    • Outlining Step #1: Figure Out What Others are Writing About
    • Outlining Step #2: Create a Good Outline

Before I write, I know the title of each heading, which gives me an idea of its contents before I ever open a fresh document. But most articles involve research, notes, and in the case of the One-Up Strategy, competitor research. To make sure this is all accounted for, I write my outlines to include a bunch of points inside each heading.

This is all very basic stuff. Yet, you’d be surprised by how many content writers leave outlines out of the picture. Even when they are made, they aren’t detailed enough or don’t serve their intended purpose because they’ve become too detailed.

Here’s an example of one of my outlines to get an idea of depth.

write content outline in notion

For context, this was an article I wrote for one of my freelance writing clients. It turned out to be one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written for them. It got something like 100,000+ reads within the first month of publishing.

As you can see, I’m writing relatively detailed bullet points beneath each heading. This keeps me on point, but also allows me to quickly reference information like statistics or quotations. I often leave links to references in the text itself, making it a super quick process to cite my sources.

Here’s an example of a not so good outline that I’ve written:

bad outline in notion

This article was considerably longer and more complex than the previous one, yet I added more detail to the other one.

The result?

It took me a little over two hours (I was on a tight schedule) to outline, write, and edit the first article which was roughly 1,200 words. It took me 12 hours to outline, write, and edit the second article that’s roughly 3,000 words.

It took six times longer to write about three times the number of words. To bring money into the equation. I made $52/hour writing the bigger article. The smaller and more popular one? $150/hour.

That is the effect of a good outline. Better content, better organization, better time, better pay.

Pro tip: If you’re spending longer than 30 minutes writing an outline for a 1,000-word article, you’ve gone into far too much detail. A rule of thumb: every 1,000 words should equal about 10-15 minutes of outlining.

Another pro tip: Don’t confuse outlining with research. Research comes first and can vary in length of time. Outlines are based on research.

Step #4: Create the Content

Here’s the fun part! Surprisingly, the active process of creating content is just one segment of an even larger process. A lot of content creators see creating content as the sole task, when in reality, everything builds up to it.

Behind every piece of good content is hours of preparation, research, outlining, editing, and strategizing. Adjust your mentality to view content production in this assembly line format and you’ll be amazed at how much better your content becomes.

When it comes to writing, it isn’t so much a step-by-step process as it is a fluid process that has checkboxes to mark off, namely SEO, which we’ll cover in a moment. The first thing that you need to do is follow your outline. You don’t need to obey the outline verbatim, as the outline itself is fluid, but you need to hit the marks you’ve set out for yourself based on keyword research and competing content.

As for the rest, just write as best as you can. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of SEO, feel free to read more about what it takes to write better content from an authorship perspective in this article here.

Overview of SEO Rules

SEO in particular is the most important factor at play when writing an article. Obviously, the quality of your writing needs to be strong, but it’s not enough to just be a good writer. You can have bland sentences and simple vocabulary and still rank at the top of Google with good SEO.

So, with that understanding, let’s go over six SEO rules that I’ve personally identified as helpful and important in my own career.

Quick note: These rules are geared towards writing-specific SEO. There are plenty of technical rules, backend rules, and more. I can’t cover each and every one of them in this article, but there are plenty of guides online that you can read.

SEO Rule #1: Use Keywords Correctly

The days of keyword stuffing are long gone. This is where you throw as many keywords into your articles as possible and hope for the best.

Google wised up to this tactic a while back and for good reason. It makes for bad content.

However, keyword density is very important, as it sends signals to Google’s algorithm that you’re addressing a particular topic. This places more emphasis on good content, with a few scattered keywords throughout.

My tactic has always been to write naturally. Meaning, I don’t pay attention to how many times I’m using the target keyword. As long as I’m writing the best content I can and fulfilling the purpose of my piece, then keywords will most likely flow naturally anyway. In the editing process—once I’ve pasted my article into WordPress—I’ll use the Rank Math plugin to evaluate keyword density.

rank math seo plugin

In this article, Rank Math says that my keyword density is 1.62. I’m satisfied.

Keywords that are relational to the target keyword also play a role in helping Google determine what the content is about. Think of it as a supporting cast. If we were targeting the word “content” then supporting words would be “writing”, “video”, “filming”, “SEO”, and more.

Once again, it’s best to not over complicate this. Write naturally and you’ll put yourself in great position to hit the right marks during the edit.

A good, but expensive tool to evaluate supporting keywords is MarketMuse. They offer a 7-day free trial that I fully recommend using to evaluate any of your current pieces.

Pro tip: There’s evidence that having a denser collection of target keywords in the first couple of paragraphs will help rank an article better. Once again, natural writing would mean introducing the topic off the bat, which should cover your keywords.

SEO Rule #2: Use Visual Assets

Images, videos, graphics, and more, are all very powerful visual assets to use in your articles.

Imagery is engaging and good at creating authority. Plus, there’s an extra SEO boost when you use images, as you can fill out alt tags to further distribute content.

Here’s a couple tips when using these:

  • Make sure you’re not just throwing stock images randomly throughout content. No one cares about that. Instead, use screenshots that help explain a point.
  • Use videos sparingly. If you’ve repurposed an article as a YouTube video, then include the video at the top of the article. That’s as far as I’d go.
  • Don’t spend hours of your time developing graphics. Unless you plan on reposting those assets somewhere else like Pinterest, or if it truly helps the reader visualize something, then fine. I once spent two hours making an infographic that made zero difference in the article’s ranking or the reader’s understanding. Be smart about your time.

SEO Rule #3: Using the Right Headings

There are six types of headings. H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6.

Each one is used in HTML to identify the structure of a web page, or in this case, an article.

H1 is your title heading. This should be the name of the article. Don’t use an H1 heading anywhere else.

H2s are the primary headings you’ll use throughout the article. Each one of these should begin a new point that you’re going to cover. These carry tremendous SEO value, so use them wisely.

H3s are the subheadings to each H2. These should be nested under an H2 that covers the same topic.

H4s are as high as I go in any article. Beyond H4, you’re just going too far. To visualize the distribution, take a look at how I’ve structured step #4 of the One-Up Strategy.

  • Create the Content (H2)
    • Overview of SEO Rules (H3)
      • SEO Rule #1: Use Keywords Correctly (H4)
      • SEO Rule #2: Using Visual Assets (H4)
      • SEO Rule #3: Using the Right Headings (H4)

Pro tip: For any article title you create, make sure it includes your target keyword. Ideally towards the beginning of the title.

SEO Rule #4: Make Sure Sentences Are Clear and Purposeful

Whenever you write content, you need to find a happy medium between value and simplicity. Overburdening your readers with wordy sentences and complicated explanations don’t help your bottom line.

This doesn’t mean drop your style and prose. You want to sound unique and true to yourself. But don’t sound like an academic unless you’re specifically writing for academics.

Side note: I see a lot of content, some of which rank very high, that are so simplistic in verbiage to the point where I don’t want to keep reading. Try to avoid this. Discover a way that you can write simply—but in your own words—so that there’s some degree of uniqueness involved.

I’ve always found that conversational writing makes this easier, but you have to really let your personality shine through.

SEO Rule #5: Engage with Your Reader

As I was just saying, conversational writing is one of the easiest ways to connect with your audience. It allows you to tear down the barrier, in this case—a screen—and connect with whoever’s on the other side as if you were making real conversation.

But there’s also small things you can do linguistically to engage with your reader, such as using the words “you” and “your” and saying “we” and “us”. These are words that associate you and the reader together.

Instead of you and I, it becomes us. We’re on this journey together, learning together, and working together.

Now you might have the question: “what does this have to do with SEO?”

A lot, actually.

SEO requires technical things like keyword density, meta descriptions, titles, and more. But it also looks for user engagement.

If you’ve written an article that takes 15 minutes to read, and Google Analytics tells you that users spend a total of 30 seconds on that page and bounce. Is that a good indication?

Probably not. Users that look up a specific keyword, click on your page, and spend 30 seconds on it when it takes 15 minutes to read, probably didn’t find what they were looking for. This tells Google that whatever they recommended, it didn’t cut it.

Since Google’s in the business of serving the best content to those who are looking for it, they probably aren’t going to keep recommending your article when every indication point towards it being lackluster.

The One-Up Strategy works wonders in that it takes what’s already been written and makes it better. There’s no guessing what content needs to be in the article. But engagement is the latter half of the issue. Homing in on your writing style, techniques, and clarity will supercharge your ability to rank content.

SEO Rule #6: Use Links Properly

Links are good, but it depends on what you’re linking to.

I’ll keep it short. Good links are ones that stay on your website. These are called internal links and they transfer SEO equity throughout your website. The more internal links, the better connected your site is. The more connected your site is, the more Google likes you. The more Google likes you, the higher your ranking potential.

External links aren’t necessarily bad, they’re not ideal. I see content writers pushing tons of external links, citing every bit of information they have, going all out, all of the time.

While the diligence to reference everything is a sign of hard work and dedication, it’s not that helpful when you’re trying to rank your content higher.

If you use external links, only link to websites that publish real data or Wikipedia. That’s really about it. If you need to cite a statistic, don’t cite a blog, cite the actual source of the statistic.

Of course, whenever possible, cite an internal link.

That’s All

That’s the One-Up Strategy in a nutshell.

To summarize what you just read, the One-Up Strategy consists of:

  • Generating ideas.
  • Researching the validity of those ideas by borrowing ideas from competitors.
  • Planning articles around what’s already working well.
  • Writing awesome articles that are fully optimized for SEO.

In between are individual steps that make up one big, beautiful strategy that puts your content in the best position to rank well.

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