What if I told you there’s a type of SEO content that doesn’t focus on keywords. An area unconcerned with rankings. An area that doesn’t really have to consider traffic. Yet, when looked at holistically, has a huge impact on your site’s performance, revenue, and ability to edge past competition.
I’m talking about guide content. A style of informational content clever SEO’s have jumped on in response to EAT-focused algorithms. And, as alluded to in that first paragraph, the SEO angle is not about how the guide ranks or drives traffic. Rather, it’s about how it helps your categories reach levels never seen before.
Before we get into the details, note in the above chart how this client’s site had always struggled to reach page 1 for this term. Note how after the guide went live, we saw a little fluctuation before the algorithm hit and we flew.
True, there may have been more at play, but there’s no doubt the guide played a big role. We’ll prove this throughout, but for now, back to the narrative.
The Salience Approach To Copy
We’ve long been advocates for useful copy. And like most who saw the SEO value of words, we placed our copy at the bottom of category landing pages. We’d spend our time writing 750+ words of enhanced content. No doubt, it was there to help users who strayed that far down the page. But it was also a way to show search engines that we answered the questions users had about our client’s products.
It was a sure-fire way to start climbing the SERPs and we reaped the rewards. And by rewards, we mean the likes of a 139% increase in organic traffic, a 120% increase in revenue and a 1777% increase in visibility.
But, as ever in the SEO world, the landscape and algorithms changed. And again, we quickly followed suit – mere monkeys to Google that we are.
On that topic, position 1 results are like monkeys too – causing chaos, untrained and liable to misbehave, forever at risk of escaping their cage and wandering elsewhere.
The point here?
You’ve got to change with the times. You’ve got to keep your net at the ready. And to drag this metaphor unnecessarily onwards, you must follow the zookeeper’s 101 and frequently check the locks to your top ranks remain unpicked.
This guide will show you how – both in its words and its example.
- What is guide content for SEO?
- How is it different to category and blog copy?
- What about cannibalisation?
- How to write useful guide content
- A final note…
What is guide content for SEO?
Guide content refers to a section of your website which helps users with their goals when they reach your site. Whether that’s to buy a new vape, find a solution to a health issue, or discover the best new underground music. The industry doesn’t matter – there will be questions, answers, comparisons and data you can present which will help them with their choice.
Product guides are specifically important for YMYL sites. They show search engines you’re not trying to con people into a purchase. By presenting users with information to make the right choice, you show a level of trust that goes beyond standard SEO practice. In our experience, this translates into category performance like never before.
The added bonus?
You pack out your site with semantically relevant content. When linked to and from categories, and to and from blog content, you create an easily readable, hyper-relevant network of information around your key head terms.
Put simply, from a search and rankings point of view, strongly linked guide content equates to stronger categories and greater revenue.
And by linking from category to guide, and guide to blog, you prove that you are presenting the most important information first. The below is what a crawler sees:
Category Landing Page > Non-Conversion Led Guide Page > Blog Posts-a-Plenty
If you only opt for a blog, you weaken your relevancy, your trust, your authority. All important things in a post E-A-T world.
And if you picture it the opposite way, you can see how semi-relevant blog posts create the groundwork for specific guides, which in turn create the platform for your head terms to get their nose way above the water.
How are guides different to category page and/or blog content?
The most important difference between guide content and category copy is the fact guide copy is not preceded by products. This shows search engines you’re offering users a conversion free space to really consider whether they need your product.
And it has a huge impact on performance.
Here you can see that every metric has improved. This data is taken from the category landing page which targeted the Sofa Bed term we spoke of earlier.
When linked correctly, your head terms for category pages will fly. And there’s no reason you can’t dot in a couple of CTA’s and some slight product placement, just don’t go overboard. The key element here is the fact you are presenting information with minimal conversion considered, and search engines are lapping it up.
Perhaps a more prevalent question – how is guide content different to what’s already on your blog?
It’s all about positioning. Certain types of content need to sit in different places. Posts which are hyper-relevant to your products shouldn’t be lost in within your blog – amidst guest posts, best-of lists, industry news etc. Guide content needs to be seen as a separate resource. One that’s more closely linked to e-commerce and decision-making than your average blog post.
Most sites these days have a blog. Most of those blogs are awash with irrelevant (or at least tenuously relevant) posts. Sure, most will have some gems too. But the abundance of filler sitting close muddies the waters. And even if your blog doesn’t have filler, it’ll no doubt be talking about more than the one specific category you really need to start ranking better.
This is where guide content differs.
By creating a separate place on your site for your guide content, you welcome search engines into a palace (albeit, a small and uncostly palace) of specific information and advice. Leave your guide content in a blog and it’ll be weakened by what’s sitting around it. It’s better to have a 2020 Vauxhall Corsa than a scrapyard of broken Bentleys.
What about cannibalisation?
Always the first concern – how can we make sure a guide to a category doesn’t outrank the category? A valid question. But again, it goes back to positioning and internal links.
1. Sit your guides off the category in question.
This will show search engines that the guide is less important than what precedes it.
“What about subcategories?” I hear you ask. Do the same.
2. Consider your internal links.
Make sure there’s a link from your guide back to the category. Make sure it’s as close to the start of the guide as possible. Make sure the anchor text is the most valuable term – the one you really don’t want to cannibalise.
Finally, use your category copy to give brief answers. Look to answer questions with the bare bones, providing the most succinct answer you can. Keep it to questions directly related to the products you sell. Then, mention the wider concerns and link through to your guide. In your guide, be sure to keep head term mentions to a minimum.
When taking these steps ourselves, we saw our category pages jump up the SERPs.
We’re talking position 1 for what was historically a page 2 term. We’re talking keywords with 110k searches a month in an industry that’s awash with sites dedicated solely to those terms.
In a nutshell, we didn’t see cannibalisation. We saw progress. Bucket loads of it. In spaces we shouldn’t really be competing.
Here, you can see how our client (position 8 at time of writing) has the smallest product depth of page 1 results. Despite this, we’re starting to compete with the bigger players.
It’s interesting to note that position 5 also have a buying guide; just more proof for how closely linked informational content helps you compete in spaces you really shouldn’t see success.
What’s also interesting here is the fact that every single one of these competitors also offer sofas alongside their sofa beds. Our client doesn’t have the benefit of sofa categories to back up their performance on the semantically similar keyword.
So, to hammer home the point, this really isn’t a space we should have any chance of competing in. And yet, we’ve cemented ourselves with a page 1 result.
And we’re not just talking the one keyword either. Take a look at our visibility increase on the category as a whole.
Fancy a similar uptick in visibility? Get in touch for a free audit – no strings.
P.S Notice that slight focus on conversion in our guide post? We practice what we preach because we know it works. But again, back to the narrative.
How to write guide content that your users and search engines will love
Making sure your guide content answers the right kind of questions is important. It’s better that they’re useful and to the point. By doing this, you’ll show crawlers that you’re answering the kind of questions being searched.
When linked to your category, this helps add a ton of weight to the head terms you want to see improvements on. If you’re struggling, use the below to help fine-tune your guide content ideas.
People Also Ask
Search for the type of product you’re writing a guide for and see what questions Google thinks you should be answering. If you’re really struggling for ideas, this is a good place for titles.
In the example below, based on a search for ‘running shoes’ you’ll notice a number of comparative terms. From this, you can identify that a post about running shoes for beginners would work well, identifying the key features to look for and best buys on a budget. You could then take this further and create a similar post for advanced runners or long-distance runners.
Are there any forums where your target market are most active? Drop into these and look at the kinds of questions being asked about your products. The likelihood here is those questions aren’t being answered elsewhere. Nobody goes to a forum if a quick Google search would suffice.
Looking at the example below, you’ll see a number of highlighted concerns which you may not have thought about. Noisy beds seems to be an issue in the children’s beds space. From these learnings, why not consider a guide on the most sturdy children’s beds, taking into account not only noise but safety too?
An absolute mammoth resource that is just waiting to be picked clean. Look at Amazon reviews for similar products to yours and you’ll find a whole host of questions or concerns being commented over and over.
In the below, I’ve captured a screenshot of comments on one bunk bed product on Amazon. You’ll notice a focus on assembly of bunk beds. These learnings could lead to a guide on how to put up bunk beds easily.
Or perhaps it leads to a guide about your bunk beds, ranked by ease of setup? It also offers a space for a CTA for any home setup services you offer. That might just be the winning ticket for a conversion.
In a similar fashion to the above, we discovered that safety was a key concern for those shopping for bunk beds. We started looking at guide potential because our rank had dropped substantially after the 2019 September Core Update.
From January onwards, while waiting for the guide to go live, we refreshed the category content and added links from existing blog posts. This saw us start to get back to where we were in the first three quarters of 2019.
But, as you can see above, we knew we could push that further, and with the help of guide, we jumped into the top 3. At the time of writing, we are in pole position.
Similar to sofa beds, our smaller product depth and lack of kids products sitewide should really have meant we struggled to reach these heights. But, it proves that search performance is about the quantity and quality of your content, not just how many products you have.
Further considerations for writing guide content:
- Compare your products
When creating a buying guide, you need to be sure you’re actually helping people make a choice. It’s no good to just list your products or talk about the history of said product range.
You need to show people why they should choose product 1 over product 2 and vice versa. Fancy adding some nice imagery and linking through to those products? Go for it!
In our experience, a cheeky product link or two helps direct people from the guide direct to product. Just don’t go overboard and be selective in which products you choose.
- Explain how to make the right choice
Here you can talk about safety, age-appropriateness, budget and plenty more. Consider your buying personas and target different parts of your audience. Again, you can link directly through to products here if it feels natural.
Often, users will land on a category with plenty of products and feel lost with the plethora of options. Linking to a guide from your category page may help them define their intent. Just make sure you’ve got a visible link back to the category so they don’t go missing! And if they don’t need advice, at least you’ve shown search engines you’ve given them the option.
- Explore features in detail
Similar to the above, having a separate page to go into the details shows search engines you’re doing all you can to serve your customer’s needs. Doing so on a category page can look a little spammy, especially when it sits below the products.
Show these details in a nicely linked guide and you’ll show real levels of trust with your willingness to pull users from a conversion led page to one that’s “selflessly” informative.
- Talk about cost and product lifespan … and be honest.
Be useful, be helpful, be honest. Customers don’t want fluff. They’re far more likely to convert if you’ve given them what they need. And if you can’t, they’re unlikely to convert anyway.
Instead, use a guide to boost your category visibility alongside helping define that intent for the many more visitors your site will no doubt achieve.
A Final Point…
Looking at AHREFS data on the performance of these guides, you’ll notice they’re not really doing much at page level.
Sofa Beds Guide
Bunk Beds Guide
Ask us if we care… (hint: we don’t).
Interested in how we can help your business compete for terms you’ve always thought unreachable?
Get in touch now for a no-strings audit.