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The FutureProof Blog

Ranch Style SEO – Content Marketing + Great SEO

In this post we’re going to talk about the new trend in 2024, the difference with this one is that it makes perfect sense, even for small businesses. Ranch Style SEO describes a content marketing strategy that targets keywords at a granular level with individual posts, instead of longer posts that might rank for many search terms.

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Before we get stuck into “Ranch Style SEO,” a little background. We are big on content here at FutureProof Digital. Some agencies focus on link building, that’s fine, we all need that, but we’re content people. Every year there seems to be a new trend in this field, and every few months, after a Google update, there’s a new way to “beat the algorithm.” We beat the algorithm, and the competition, by writing better content than they do.

Ranch Style SEO - Where Content Marketing, Copywriting & SEO Meet

What is Ranch Style SEO?

It’s called Ranch Style SEO because it’s the opposite of the skyscraper technique, first developed by SEO guru Brian Dean. Skyscraper SEO is about identifying high value, high volume keywords, and keyword clusters, and writing extremely long and detailed posts. This is an attempt to rank for hundreds of keywords and earn hundreds, even thousands of backlinks with a single piece of content.

Brian Dean talks about an expanded list post as an example of skyscraper technique in the video below from the Semrush Academy. His own post, “Google’s 200 Ranking Factors,” is the example he uses in the video below. In simple terms a ranch style SEO strategy would write 200 individual posts (well maybe not 200, but you get the idea). The traffic for each post will be much lower, but the search terms will be much easier to rank for, that’s why the strategy works in a small business context.

Topical Authority

Ranch Style SEO and the concept of topical authority go hand in hand. The content writing we do for our clients has the goal of increasing their perceived authority on a topic, or a range of topics. Below is an extract from a post explaining topical authority… 

Topical Authority, in an SEO context, refers to a website’s expertise and credibility on a particular subject, or topic. It’s about establishing yourself as the go-to resource for specific information within your industry. Search engines, like Google, want to provide users with the most relevant and reliable information available, so they analyse a variety of signals to assess the authority of a website.

One of these signals is the depth, quality and quantity of content, that’s topical authority. The theory says that; it’s unlikely that your site will rank for a single post on a particular topic, but if you publish 25 posts, they all have an increased chance of ranking. Every topic is different; some may only need 10 posts, some might need 50 posts or more.

You can see why these two concepts are connected, in fact, one is an extension of the other. A strategy of ranch style SEO will naturally increase the topical authority of a website over time; that’s why I’m so interested in this field, because it’s what comes naturally to us here at FutureProof Digital, and I’m glad that others are starting to talk about it. 

The Google Search Rater Guidelines

Google employs thousands of search raters (indirectly) to evaluate the quality and relevance of the search results and the accuracy of the algorithm. The search rater guidelines is their manual, and Google lets us all read it. To understand the concepts that underpin Ranch Style SEO you need to understand the search rater guidelines. These guidelines are designed to maintain and improve the accuracy, usefulness and trustworthiness of the search results.

click here to learn more about the Search Rater Guidelines…

The document outlines principles and methods for assessing various aspects of search results and focuses heavily on relevance as well as experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, referred to as E-E-A-T. Evaluators are told to look at the purpose of the page, the expertise of the writer/owner, and the overall reputation of the website/business when determining its “quality.”

The guidelines provide detailed instructions on how to assess the relevance of search results to user queries, considering factors like user intent and importance of combating spam, misinformation, and low-quality content within search results.

E-E-A-T - Google’s New Number 1

The key concept to understand from the search rater guidelines is E-E-A-T, or experience, expertise, authority and trust. Your content, and your website as a whole needs evidence of each of these. We’re talking about it here because ranch style SEO is the perfect way to grow, and show, E-E-A-T.

Experience

Imagine you run a review site, writing posts about products, linking to other sites that sell those products, and earning a commission. You could write a quick prompt for Chat GPT and publish a post with images from the manufacturers website, but that won’t show your “experience.” You need to test the product yourself, take your own pictures, even video; that’s experience.

Expertise

Who is writing the content? This is especially important for YMYL topics (click here to learn all about YMYL). The classic way to demonstrate this is your about page. Feature your achievements and awards here, as well as your qualifications. You can also put a bio on each post, and maybe reference your professional or company LinkedIn profile. 

There’s no evidence that any of these are ranking factors, but these topics are covered extensively in Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines, and ranch style SEO, 50 high quality posts about one thing, must demonstrate expertise right?

Authoirty

The collective wisdom in SEO says that when Google says “authority” what they really mean is backlinks, and although experience and expertise feed into authority, backlinks are important. But remember, backlinks are a comparative metric; there’s no right number, or a perfect domain authority; all that matters is that you have more authority than the competition for your target keywords.

Trustworthiness

Google considers your site trustworthy if it’s accurate, honest, safe, and reliable. They put trust front and centre, just look at the section below from the Search Quality Rater Guidelines…

E-E-A-T Diagram

Ranch Style SEO Examples

Let’s look at some examples of how small businesses might implement a ranch style SEO strategy, and to do that we’ll use some clients we’ve been working with over the past couple of years (this is me demonstrating experience).

Holistic Therapy Example

Recently we carried out an SEO Audit, and wrote a content marketing strategy, for a client in the area of holistic therapy. The core business is a beauty salon, but they wanted to branch out into reflexology, aromatherapy and other similar treatments. Customers are willing to travel a considerable distance for these services so competition can be high. 

We recommended a content marketing strategy centred around their primary sales pages; Aromatherapy, Counselling & Psychotherapy, Beauty & Make-Up, Health & Nutrition Coaching, Life & Business Coaching, Reflexology, Massage and Tanning & Waxing. Then starting with reflexology, publish long form content on this topic, linking to and from the sales page; 2 posts per month, for 12 months, 24 posts in total. These are the keyword targets we proposed based on topical research… 

Hand Reflexology | Reflexology Chart | Facial Reflexology | Benefits of Reflexology | Reflexology for Fertility | Reflexology Pregnancy | Baby Reflexology | Foot Reflexology | Ear Reflexology | Craniosacral Reflexology | Body Reflexology | Dermoneural Reflexology | Praxis Vertebralis Neuro-foot Reflexology | Vertical Reflex Therapy | Is Reflexology Relaxing? | Is Reflexology good for the nervous system? | Does Reflexology make you smarter? | Will Reflexology Increase Blood Circulation? | Does Reflexology Eliminate Toxins in the body? | Does Reflexology boost Metabolism & Energy Levels? | Can Reflexology help with Headaches? | Can Reflexology Help Cancer Patients?

Ranch Style SEO, topical authority and E-E-A-T in action.

Local SEO & Ranch Style SEO Combined

Small local businesses often find it extremely difficult to understand how content marketing can work for them, and for me, the hardest job is to explain how it works, why it works, and what types of content they can produce. In 2022 we wrote a content marketing strategy for Wanderly Wagon, a guided tour business on Inis Oírr, off the west coast of Clare. 

click here to learn more about the Wanderly Wagon project…

This strategy centred around local tourist attractions, landmarks and other tourism based search terms, pubs, restaurants, hotels etc. First, we published posts about the stops on the tour. The keyword research process for these posts identified other websites that publish content on the topics we’re interested in. After that, it’s really simple; cherry-pick the content we want from their sites, that ranks well and drives traffic, and improve upon it (publish better content than what ranks already.

Wanderly Wagon

The future of Search Marketing

In the past, content marketing, website copywriting and traditional SEO were three separate job roles, not so today. When we work with a small business SEO client we take on all three roles, and content marketing, especially after the first two months of technical set up, becomes the key component. 

Traditional SEO vs. Ranch-Style SEO

Let’s be honest, all service sectors have some shady characters, and SEO has them too. There are agencies out there charging hundreds, or even thousands, of euros for monthly reporting, maintenance (whatever that means in an SEO context) and recommendations. In my opinion, that won’t cut it in 204 and the years to come, Google and the competition will eat you alive !! 

What we do here takes a holistic approach to SEO, delivering the strategies that SMEs need to grow their online presence, their website traffic and increase sales. 

For the first month or two our services look like SEO always has; an SEO audit, fixing technical issues, speed optimisation, competitor research and backlink analysis. But it’s in the months that follow, once the basic foundations are in place, that we really get to work. We develop a full content strategy, based on the principles of topical authority, and start publishing content that will engage your audience, drive sales and grow your reputation in Google’s eyes; all three in one hit.

Keyword-centric or Topic-centric SEO

Traditional, keyword-centric SEO was the gold standard, the cornerstone of content optimisation. This approach centred around keywords; identifying specific words and phrases searched for by customers and strategically incorporating them into the content. The only goal was to rank for these target keywords, increase visibility and drive organic traffic. This approach worked, but often left content feeling forced and sometimes unnatural. The approach neglected context, and failed to address the underlying needs and interests of the reader.

Topic-centric SEO focuses on the comprehensive, the high-quality content that covers a broad topic or theme, rather than the obsession over specific keywords. This approach provides more value to customers, addressing their questions, and what they are interested in. In-depth content establishes a website as a trusted source in their field, and the owner as an authority, an expert.

The Google algorithm has evolved over time to favour a more Topic-centric approach to SEO. Broadly speaking, content marketing, and Ranch Style SEO in particular, is the natural extension of this; dominate a market through “top-of-funnel” content, grow a loyal customer base, place yourself as an expert in the field, a trusted expert, and cover a topic fully with a broad range of content.

The Role of AI in Content Marketing

AI has given us all a huge opportunity, but it has also caused issues, mostly for Google and the other search engines. Because topical authority is a “thing” and it does work, the ability to produce thousands of blog posts, almost instantly, has been used to flood the internet with crap, sorry, “low quality content.” What’s worse is, it has worked for a while. Until the most recent update…

Google March 2024 Core Update

March 5th 2024, Google wrote on their blog about the updates to the “ranking systems,” what we call the algorithm. Below I’ve included a few quotes from this post to explain the update, and it will also offer insight into what Google is trying to achieve in terms of content quality and rankings.

“This update involves refining some of our core ranking systems to help us better understand if webpages are unhelpful, have a poor user experience or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people. This could include sites created primarily to match very specific search queries.”

“We’re making several updates to our spam policies to better address new and evolving abusive practices that lead to unoriginal, low-quality content showing up on Search.”

“Today, scaled content creation methods are more sophisticated, and whether content is created purely through automation isn’t always as clear. To better address these techniques, we’re strengthening our policy to focus on this abusive behaviour — producing content at scale to boost search ranking – whether automation, humans or a combination are involved.”

(scaled content creation methods = AI)

What is Helpful Content?

The term “helpful content” goes back to 2020 and another Google update. In their documentation Google makes these five points describing the concept.

  1. Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  2. Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  3. Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  4. After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  5. Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?

How to implement Ranch-Style SEO

For the purposes of this post, and most of FutureProof Digital’s clients being small business owners, we can presume that nobody is publishing 500 posts per year, and because of this we take the terms Ranch Style SEO, Topical Authority and Content Marketing to mean broadly the same thing.

Pick a topic. Your topic may be obvious, or you may have to choose a section of your business to focus on first, like our reflexology example above. Then get into keyword research, find out what your customers are looking for when they search. Then give them that; produce content that covers the topic broadly, and each sub-topic in detail. I can’t tell you how many posts that will be because each topic is different, but over time, if your content is good enough, you’ll see your rankings and your traffic numbers grow.

This is a long term strategy, but in the long term a strategy of Ranch Style SEO offers every business a flow of free traffic and engaged customers that no other digital marketing strategy can offer. Check out this post comparing SEO to PPC for more info on this topic. And if you want to discuss what SEO can do for your business click here… 

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About Adam Bermingham
This blog is dedicated to helping you stay ahead of the curve, with insights into the latest trends, tools, and best practices. Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or web designer, we have something for everyone. We bring you expert advice, tutorials, and case studies to help you optimise your online presence.

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