Lesson 2: Creating Content That Drives Targeted Traffic

Written by Brian Dean at www.Backlinko.com

Looking for the previous lessons? Lesson 0 | Lesson 1

When it comes to attracting new email subscribers, there is no substitute for great content. And while you have to write your own content, I want to show you how to create popular content that builds your list.

Let’s imagine two scenarios:

Visitor A lands on your outdated, boring post about your thoughts on paleo diets…


Visitor B reads a post that features hundreds of individual paleo diets rated from best to worst and offers a FAQ about paleo…

* * *

Which visitor is more likely to subscribe to your email list when they see a pop up?

Exactly! Visitor B has already received a ton of value and wants more of what you’re offering.

After today’s lesson you will never need to chose a topic out of thin air…

Instead, you will can find the best content that is already resonating with your ideal visitors and make it better.

Now for the question you’re already asking:

HOW do you find the best content that is generating the traffic and subscribers you want?

That’s easy: follow today’s step-by-step lesson. First, I’ll show you how to find the best content and then we’ll look at how to make your content even better.

Step #1: Find 5 Keywords in Your Niche

Funny story:

When I launched my first blog back in 2009, I had the bright idea to completely ignore keywords.

I said to myself: “I’ll just write for my audience and the rest will take care of itself”.

Face, meet palm.

The fact is, unless you target specific keywords, you have ZERO clue what your audience actually wants.

This has nothing to do with SEO: keyword data gives you objective information about what your audience searches for everyday.

And when you get your content in front of them — kablamo! — more traffic and subscribers for you.

So head over to Google Keywords and enter a few keywords that describe your site’s niche. (If you don’t have an account here are some simple steps you can use.)

In this example, we’ll look at a Paleo blog:

And see which keywords get solid search volume (don’t worry about the exact numbers. Just keep an eye out for relatively popular terms):

Grab the top five keywords and mosey on over to step #2:

Step #2: Find What Content Resonates on Social Networks

BuzzSumo is a rockin’ tool that finds content that’s generated a lot of social shares. (No connection to AppSumo, except that it’s another crazy useful site.)

Here’s how to use it. Take the keywords in step #1 and search BuzzSumo:

And see which content comes up.

Just like that, you have dozens of tested content ideas that you can improve on and use to attract the right audience.

Now, add those to this spreadsheet and move to step 3.

Step #3: Find What Content Ranks as High Quality

Google is one of the most powerful content marketing research tools because it curates by quality.

Take the same keywords from step #1 and search Google:

Study the first page. See what common threads tie the results together.

For example, the first page of results on Google for the keyword, “paleo diet recipes”, are massive lists of links to individual recipes:

In other words, they don’t tend to be a list of “Top 10 tastiest Paleo recipes” or “20 quick and easy paleo recipes”. The results on the first page are all MASSIVE lists. So don’t waste your time with a list of 10 recipes. If you want to rank for this keyword, go big or go home.

Step #4: Take the Popular/Quality Content You Found and Make It Better

Finally, it’s time to create something that takes what you found in steps #2 and #3…and make it WAY better.

The better your content is, the easier it will be for someone to sign up to your list.

Here’s how to make the content on your site better than the competition:

  1. Depth and Content Length: Longer content performs better than short-form content almost 100% of the time. BuzzSumo and OKDork recently teamed up and found that content over 2,000+ words performs better than shorter posts:
  2. Up-to-Date: People love to share cutting edge info. If the content you found in steps #2 and #3 are a little long in the tooth, add updated stats, info or screenshots.
  3. Design: Don’t sleep on design. Graphics, custom images, charts and infographics to give your content some extra pop.
  4. Readability: Use a 12+ sized sarif font (OkDork is a great example). Your paragraphs should have no more than 1-2 sentences.

Lesson 2 Task

  1. Find 3 high-volume keywords in your space using the Google Keyword Planner.
  2. Search for those keywords in BuzzSumo and Google. Add winning content ideas to this spreadsheet.
  3. Identify ONE topic that’s performed well, that you can improve and make better.
  4. Create your next blog post on that topic. Make sure it is better than what’s already out there:
  5. ● Length: Make it twice as long as the content you found

    ● Up-to-date: Add at least two relevant links from the past 2 months

    ● Design: Add 2x as many graphics

    ● Readability: Add sub-headers and make each paragraph shorter

  6. Leave a comment with the ONE topic you’re going to start with. Or if you’re a go-getter and already published your post, leave a link in your comment.

P.S. On Thursday, Bryan Harris will show you how to make your best content produce tons of email subscribers using Content Upgrades.

75 thoughts on “Lesson 2: Creating Content That Drives Targeted Traffic

  1. Lee Trends

    Ahhh the good old Sky Scraper technique from Brian.

    Been on my agenda, but since this is part of the email challenge, it’s time to get on it.

    My subject will be about Event Marketing.

    Time to get going. Enjoying this series guys.

  2. Anisul

    I have got a question. For most of my target keywords , I see that the most popular contents are from high authority sites like huffingtonpost etc which has a large audience already. So whatever they write will get tons of share. So how does it validate the theory behind “popular content”? for example, I searched with “lace wigs” in buzzsumo and found this post number 1- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/01/lace-front-eyebrows_n_5246551.html

    Do you think this article deserves to get so many share?


  3. Larry G. Maguire

    Hey great post, really. Lots of detail and helpful steps. I reckon that if we are to blog professionally and successfully we need to put form around our process, rather than just coming up with a topic we think people will find interesting and throwing it out there.

    I’d love a bit of feedback on this post. I wrote it after reading one of the previous email1k posts and though I would apply the “longer posts do better” rule. I must have spent 16 hours writing and rewriting this one. Shit I hope it’s well received…. you know what fcuk it, here you go…



    1. Susan Jones

      Super effort Larry. Well done for giving it a go.

      Just noticed you don’t have any sharing buttons on the post. You should add some to make it super easy for people to share your content

  4. Lisa

    I searched for “how to start a business” and was shown a top google keyword as “work from home”. So I searched it on BuzzSumo and what is the top shared post? “Don’t Even Try Working From Home With Cats, Because Cats”

    Needless to say that has nothing to do with starting a business, or working from home as a real job. It may have been a funny post with silly pictures of cats but not the sort of post that would be a good example for my blog.

    I hope the other keywords have better posts attached. I want my next post to be “How to Start an Etsy business” and tie in my services at the end. Wish me luck!

  5. Mary Ellen Grace

    Hi Noah,
    This was a very helpful lesson. I found some great videos and articles on my search terms – one search term I’m going to work with in writing tomorrow’s post is “how to play the clarinet”

    I intend to do a video – I’ll probably write out my script first — but my thought about most of the videos out there (and articles) and one way I would make them better is to shorten the videos – or at least not give too long of a lesson in one video/article. ex. most of the content out there shows you how to put the clarinet together, explains how to get the reed on, form the embouchure, and make a sound. Then they show all these fingerings too. In person, when I’m giving lessons, I always start with just putting together the mouthpiece and barrel with the reed and blowing a pitch on just that part of the clarinet. It is important in making sure you are forming the embouchure correctly. Also, you don’t have to mess with how to hold the clarinet and where to put your fingers which can be too much info at once.

    So, all this to say, I want to make my video/article SHORTER – but you are suggesting to make it longer.

    Now that I’ve written this note to you, I’m thinking maybe I can make the video article longer but not go as far as the others did. i.e. just blow a sound on the mouthpiece/barrel combo.

    Would that be a good interpretation of your instruction?

    and are you also saying to do ALL 4 of those “improvements” – or just any of them?
    and what does BuzzSumo and Google say about video vs. text w/photos or graphics?

    from your lesson:
    4. Create your next blog post on that topic. Make sure it is better than what’s already out there:
    ● Length: Make it twice as long as the content you found
    ● Up-to-date: Add at least two relevant links from the past 2 months
    ● Design: Add 2x as many graphics
    ● Readability: Add sub-headers and make each paragraph shorter

  6. Chad Rucker

    Yo Noah, I’m knee deep in content and even an infographic or two…along with a leave-behind. I’m writing an opus on David Ogilvy and his advertising writing tips. May be 5000 words. Most posts have a top 10 list. Mine will have 38. Lots of coffee.

  7. Arnaud

    Hi, I combed through BuzzSumo and one topic that has done particularly well is “26 Foods You Should Learn to Cook in Your 20s”. An adaptation for my food blog (targeting couples) could be “50 Foods Couples with Limited Time Should Learn to Cook”.

    1. Kevin Kermes

      Arnaud, just a quick observation. If your target audience has limited time, I’d think a list of anything more than 10 of anything would be overwhelm.

      What if the opt-in is the “5 Foods Couples with Limited Time Should Cook” (1 for each day of the work week). Then you can upsell into a program/product that builds upon the momentum/interest once they’ve experienced how easy it is to cook those 5 foods. Or, better yet, recipes with those 5 foods at their core (lowering the resistance to learning even MORE to cook).

      My .02

  8. Kamila Gornia


    For my marketing blog:
    I’m thinking about doing “how to start a blog” since I’ve had people ask me that a lot anyway. A lot of the posts out there are pretty short too so it shouldn’t be too hard to make it longer and more helpful.

    For my wellness site:
    “self love quotes” should be an easy one. Just gotta make it longer than 55 quotes and I’ll add images to boot.

    Good assignment.

  9. Chris

    Mine is ‘How to catch a liar’ …in depth.

    Most articles and information is the same and very surface level.

    I’ll be putting more context into the piece, things like:
    – The psychology behind lying (which involves Ego and the way we view the world)
    – Now you’ve uncovered the lie, what do you do
    – How do you catch the liar when they’re PREPARED
    – How not to let on that you know they’re lying (this can be VERY useful for a variety of reasons)
    – Even how to ensure you don’t give anything away yourself if you need to tell a lie or be deceptive (when negotiating deals for example)

    Anyone interested? Hit me up at jeong.chris1@gmail.com and I’ll send you the blog post before it goes live 🙂 (and with permission add your address to my list 😉

  10. Ritu | The Lifester

    I went with Aweber vs Mailchimp and the title: Why I closed my Aweber account and went back to Mailchimp. Link: http://thelifester.com/love/why-i-closed-my-aweber-account-and-went-back-to-mailchimp/

    After looking into the steps you shared here, I saw that the keyword “Mailchimp” gets 1.2 million searches and mailchimp in general gets more searches than “aweber”. The topic was also very top of mind of me so I was able to write the content from my heart. I love keyword planner though! Best tool ever, especially if you are weighing up between several blog topics.

    1. Larry G. Maguire

      I agree, write from your heart. It’s the only sure fire way to write great content. If you write from your head alone the post ends up being soulless and empty. There’s buckets of this empty stuff online on sites like huffington post and other big players. I don’t know how these guys got so big and popular but a lot of what’s being churned out is rubbish. Stay true to what’s in your heart!

  11. josh spilker

    just as an addendum, i recently read about Brian’s skyscraper technique via VideoFruit: http://backlinko.com/skyscraper-technique

    I kind of applied it using my post about writer’s block: http://joshspilker.com/9-tips-to-beat-writers-block-including-1-that-feels-like-cheating/

    By using Topsy, I found ppl who had tweeted about a past article about writer’s block and/or blogged about it. I then contacted about 20 people and had 4 people either tweet or post about it, including one request for a guest post. That was a better rate than I expected and I didn’t even contact as many people as Brian did in the original post.

    Anyway, thanks for the help Brian. I’ll try it again in the future on another post.

  12. Shenz

    I’ve fallen behind, but I had an epiphany while doing this exercise; my website doesn’t come up as “crossfit mom” because I don’t have “crossfit” anywhere in my url OR tag line. Now, crossfit is trademarked, so I can’t use it in my url anyway (though i see a lot of sites with it on their url. But I’m not touching that)

    Anyways, I’ve written something similar to the most popular post, I just need to beef it up a little bit (more words more words), then refer to my old post (yay, backlinking!!).

  13. Matt - The Self-Made Renegade

    I’m definitely going to create a “Dream Job Quiz” that shows you what’s holding you back from your landing your dream job. This will be a win in a number of ways

    1- It’s better content than what’s out there.
    2. I’ll be able to point people to specific pages on my site and opt-in opportunities that can get me more opt-ins
    3. I get a ton of data on future content and products that people want.

    Thanks for the fun exercise!

  14. Denis

    I am having massive fun with the Google Keyword Planner!

    Two things that you might want to check:

    a) Select the keywords that you find interesting with the >> button. You can later download the list with all the estimates directly in your Google Drive (Saving a lot of time!)
    b) Using different industries gives different ideas. Just play around with them!

  15. Denis

    WHAT IF, searching on Google and Buzzsumo, all the top links that you find are ecommerce category sections and landing pages?

    Pick your answer for the reply:

    a) It’s great! Those keywords are lacking content. And people are looking for it.
    b) Good but, you will have to compete with hightly optimised websites (even if this is not a SEO training)
    c) You have a problem with your keywords
    d) Other: please specify

  16. Laura


    After reading this lesson and making a little research with the tools provided, I came up with this topic “Writing Tips: How to Come Up With 50 Topic Ideas in 30 Minutes” (my blog is aimed to spanish-speaking bloggers)


    1. PJ

      I should add–the first two lessons have more than doubled our subscribers–but we’re still far from 2% signups. We’re going to implement a printable, downloadable PDF of our list soon as a reward for signing up!

  17. Firma

    Inform your market regarding your items within an E book or even an on the web manifesto. Deal with a specific concern inside an helpful and useful way. Your primary goal is to obtain your market to read through via your publication and savor it. Point out your products or services as one thing that can help individuals enthusiastic about exactly what the book is around.

  18. C

    One of our more popular posts is about earthing shoes, but it is simplicity what we are really about, so that will be the next long and detailed post!

  19. Amanda

    In theory I like your post, it is helpful, but when I search all my terms in the Keyword Planner, I come up short. It either tells me nothing exists in my niche market or the stuff that does exist is completely unrelated to what I do. I searched works like, Up-cycle, Up-cycle Fashion, Recycle, and it gives me:
    tee shirt ideas
    cut off t shirt designs
    creative t shirt

    It’s too bad I don’t have anything to do with T-shirts. Thanks for trying.

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    3. Run validations to make sure the data point is drillable. These validations will be specific to each cube and data type. For example, make sure the element is a leaf level element.

  22. Pardeep Goyal

    Super Awesome!

    I am on track. using same methods. But getting lazy or what, words are not coming from inside. Don’t like to write superficially.

    Any way to overcome this issue?

  23. Christina Rebuffet

    After doing a lot of research and comparing key words, I think the next video that I’ll do will be on using the right prepositions when talking about your job (Just FYI: I do videos for French business people who need to learn English)

    It’s pretty specific, but when I checked out the top articles for “parler de son travail en anglais” (talking about your work in English”), one top article is specifically on this, and another was more on just expressions, but they all use a lot of prepositions (which are terribly tricky for the French, even at an advanced level of English).

    So that’s the first one, then I’ll be on to job interviews and resumés/CVs in English (which are always hot topics!)


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