How to use correlational SEO to your advantage

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How keyword specific measurements will improve your content ROI.

What if we could know exactly what ranking factors Google favours for a specific keyword? What if we could understand exactly how much content, backlinks and technical work was needed in order to outperform the page 1 results? What if we could turn our keyword analysis into a competitive research that gives us a roadmap for successful SEO content campaign?

 

There is one overlooked fact of SEO that is so plainly obvious that we tend to forget: The answer to successful SEO is hidden in plain sight.

We can listen to gurus, podcasts, articles, the experience of coworkers and professionals, we can guess, optimize and hope. Or we can see what actually works.

The answer is: What is working for Google is ranking page 1. As easy and obvious as that.

It never stops to amaze me how many marketers and SEOs don’t analyze page 1.

 

 

Did you check page 1?

The reality is: Page 1 holds all the answers. The better you can understand the most successful search results, the more targeted your SEO and content strategy will be.

 

A thorough analysis of page 1 allows you to understand what ranking factors are important for your specific keywords. You might read advice like “write 1.000 words for a blog post” and whilst that is certainly true for a keyword, it is most certainly not true for YOUR keyword.

 

 

Investigating the scope of work to rank on page 1

Base your SEO strategy on what works and create your roadmap backwards.

 

What does Google favour for your specific keyword?

  • Do we see knowledge graphs, map packs, shopping, ads, pictures or videos? Google is getting better and better at understanding user intent and what they are really looking for. Serve the content Google wants and your rankings will thank you.
  • What is the word count on page 1 and how are they optimizing their ranking factors? It might be 500, 1.500 or 5.000 words that take you to success. A category page or a skyscraper. Your chances of getting lucky grow as you understand the content type Google favours.
  • How much technical work and backlinks will be involved? Those are time-consuming activities that depend on developers and third-party website owners. Why not start with the easy wins of content creation and on-page SEO that are 100% in your control?

 

 

Keyword difficulty like you have never seen it before

We all use keyword difficulty to determine which keywords are easy wins for SEO. And whilst they provide guidelines, they do not provide a full picture. Some metrics for keyword difficulty focus on backlinks, some focus on content. But what if we could use a keyword difficulty score that factors in more than 500 ranking factors?

 

This is where correlational SEO comes to play. More and more tools are hitting the market that allows comparing ranking factors on a wide scale.

 

Those tools measure how factors are used throughout page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… and use statistical analysis to determine whether or not a factor is correlated with ranking success.

 

Those new tools go from measuring 10-15 on-page SEO factors (like Page Optimizer Pro) to measuring more than 500 on- and off-page factors as well as hypothetic ranking factors (like CORA).

 

They end the guesswork and sometimes emotional discussion about what works. We can simply see what those search results on page 1 have in common – as well as where our page is deficient and which factors we need to update in order to be competitive.

 

Instead of manually analyzing page 1 by scraping competitors (e.g. with Screaming Frog and SEO plugins), you can now get your own competitive analysis within minutes.

CORA compares the first 100 search results. Page Optimizer Pro allows you to enter relevant competitive websites.

 

With this complete picture, we can create a roadmap and strategy that is much more accurate in determining pricing and resourcing for an SEO project.

 

 

Correlational SEO allows you to:

  • Understand which rankings factors matter for that specific keyword term
  • Which content length is needed
  • Which content elements (images, headlines etc.) are needed within a page
  • Which on-page factors need to be optimized and how
  • Create a page outline based on statistical relevance

 

Instead of randomly creating spam content for thousands of individual keyword strings – why not optimize and own the main target keywords that matter for your client or business?

Every head keyword comes with thousands of variations and long tail versions. Getting the SEO right for those important keywords will have a cascading ranking benefit for all those related terms as well.

 

 

Integrating correlational SEO into your workflow

Using correlational SEO is an advanced on-page SEO technique that will give you an easy competitive advantage. On-page SEO updates usually take a low time investment and are easy to execute. They are usually low hanging fruits and excellent for quick SEO wins when on-boarding new clients or going through a content upgrade project.

This is how we work at Flow SEO:

 

Defining target keywords and pages:

  • Pull complete ranking report, e.g. from Google Search Console, ahrefs or SEMrush organic keywords. Store the ranking report as a benchmark for your work.
  • Sort by rankings and filter those keywords ranking between position 4 and 20. Those are the pages that generate the best increase in traffic through content upgrades.
  • Isolate those keywords with good average monthly search volume (which is very niche dependent).
  • Use this keyword list and map them to the pages that are currently ranking for them. Map one primary keyword and set up secondary keywords within the same keyword cluster or topic. Always update and work on existing pages and do not create a new page to avoid keyword cannibalization.
  • Isolate 5 to 10 target pages on your website that you want to update.

 

 

Analysis of competition:

  • Review the Google search results for the main keywords on your target pages and note which elements you will see: Maps, shopping, videos, images. Store this information in a spreadsheet.
  • Review page 1 and 2 and pick around 5-7 competitors that are similar to your website, e.g. if you are a branded website, pick other branded websites (not aggregators, or directories). It might help to put the keyword into “” in the search to find real competitors. Write down the competitors for each of your target keywords.

Pull a report from Page Optimizer Pro for your main keyword, using the real competitor list that you created. Export the report.

 

 Page Optimizer: If only a few changes are needed

  • Work on deficiencies first. We usually do not de-optimize pages.
    • The ranking factors include H1, URL, body content, page title, sub-headlines, image alt tags, bold, italics, etc.
  • Work on your exact match keyword first. Update according to the recommendations and pull a new report.
  • Work on variations/supporting keywords once you are satisfied with the tuning of the exact match keyword.

Wait… It can take anything between 2 and 20 days for the changes to be effective.

 

Page Optimizer: If many changes are needed

This is where you will want to rework your entire page.

  • Use the content outline from Page Optimizer Pro to outline the upgrade for your website.
  • Create a numerical outline of your sub-headlines, lists, images and other elements for your target pages.
  • Use answerthepublic.com to find questions that users have around the topic. Export the list of ideas and run them through a keyword tool. Choose to answer those questions with the most search traffic.
  • Pass the new page outline to your content writers to rework the content. Keep existing well-optimized headlines, content length and internal links in place.
  • Upload new content and add the keywords to your ranking tracking tool. Fetch the pages in Google Search Console. Wait for the new rankings to settle.

 

Cora: Bring out the begin guns.

  • If you want to further improve your page or are in a competitive space, pull a report from CORA for your main keyword.

This is where the true fun begins. To get an idea of the scope CORA can deliver, check this blog by CORA creator Ted Kubaitis.

 

Have fun and happy SEO testing!

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