Why We’re Not Afraid to Write Generic SEO Articles

Or how we mastered resource allocation for writing tasks

· culture

WORK

Here at ActiveCollab, our marketing team is well aware of the long-term value of investing in proper SEO. By “proper”, we mean as organic as possible. And by “as organic as possible”, we mean guest posting all the time.

Since there’s no way of being truly organic without potentially sacrificing a lot of good rankings, we wanted to seem as organic as possible. And that’s why we agreed that an occasional generic guest post on a lower quality website is perfectly fine, contrary to what you might have read, for example.

Building brand credibility and brand love, generating more leads, becoming a thought leader in our vertical, and even building links with an occasional guest post - these are just some of the activities that require producing content. Lots and lots of content.

It all boils down to how much time you have

One of the biggest challenges we were facing was how to properly allocate team resources, more specifically - time. Since most of us have an agency background, we know that agencies have to face this exact type of issue on a daily basis. Are these links and all those guest posts really worth our time? I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea to make a certain link. It’s more along the lines of whether I should be doing something else instead. Make note that this reasoning is going to appear more than once in this article.

Since our appetites were getting higher, we started producing more content that we needed to outreach and distribute to interested 3rd party publications. In order to do that, we needed to plan the workload and calculate the timeframe for all content projects in advance. We looked for a way to calculate monthly workloads for our writers - research, production and editing of more than 30 pieces of written content (per writer) we can stand behind.

Disclaimer: our team stands behind each and every piece of content we produce. No matter how generic or lame it is, or where it eventually ends up.

With only 2 full-time writers, 3 when Alex is available.

We had one clear goal: to optimize our resource allocation and make sure that we’re able to produce enough content to make the whole team busy month after month. There were many ideas in play. After a couple of months of trial and error, we came to a solution we’ve embraced as the best one:

We started ranking every piece of content produced by our in-house team on a 1-5 scale.

That way, we knew how to assign our writers with the right amount of workload that enables usr to maximize the number of individual pieces of content we’re able to produce each month.

The ranking process has two very basic steps:

  • Target website audit
  • Resource allocation

And yes, it is as simple as it gets. Once we’ve done a website audit and seen what kind of content we’re going to need to write in order to get published, we know exactly how many hours we’re prepared to invest in order to get there. No more than X. Next part will cover an in-depth analysis of how we actually calculate the hours.

Website audit

Three factors are taken into account:

  • Credibility of the publication
  • Our estimation of the monthly traffic on a website (using various tools)
  • Context of the website

1. Credibility of the publication

We’re going to be as open about this one as possible - if the authority and rating of the website in question is lower than ours, then our perceived value of website in question is lower. Our combined experience has confirmed the common assumption that a few links from A-lister sites have the same result as getting 10 times as many links from low DR sites. But as always, a link is a link.

2. Monthly traffic (enter the ToolKit)

It’s very easy to get a rough estimation of the organic traffic a website gets on a monthly basis. There are dozens of tools that do exactly that. In this case, we use a combination of Ahrefs, Serpstat and SimilarWeb.

  • Ahrefs has a very good organic traffic estimate (based on the position of the keywords in SERP, their monthly search volume and average CTR for each position)

  • Serpstat gives a bit more detailed overview of all the keywords the domain is ranking for. It helps us not just to calculate the organic traffic, but also to check context (more details in the next part)

  • Although not entirely accurate, SimilarWeb has a couple of nice additions. Most importantly, it gives an estimate of total monthly visits and groups it into appropriate channels (organic, direct, social, etc.) Although it’s not by any means 100% reliable, we are sometimes more than happy with an educated guess.

We get a traffic estimate, see what keywords it’s getting the traffic for, whether the traffic is relevant to our product or not, and rank it accordingly.

Since we can’t be bothered with pinpointing the exact estimate, and neither should you, we basically put them into one of the two categories: has traffic / doesn’t have traffic. Basically, it’s either good or bad.

We are actively challenging the premise that only 5% of all the links on the entire Internet actually bring any traffic.

Disclaimer: Can’t find the source for this one so any help in finding it will be greatly appreciated.

Are you seriously using multiple tools to make such a basic conclusion?

Yes, and we’re not ashamed to admit it. We view this as the difference between a lucky and an educated guess. Lucky guess might get you through the day, educated guess is needed to properly assess the campaign and choose the definite list of targets. And as it goes with everything educated, an educated guess costs money.

3. Context of the website

There are 3 context factors we’re taking into account:

  • website covers topics that our buying persona is interested in
  • blog has a business section
  • audience is engaged and actively participates in discussions in the comments section.

You don’t need to go through the entire blog to see what kind of articles are published. The most important thing for us is the relevance of the top-ranked keywords. At this point, we’re not even going for the keyword intent and CRO, just good old relevance.

The website might be about software and tech reviews, but if it’s visited by people looking for Clash of Clans trainers and hacks, or advice on buying Meizu instead of Samsung, it’s not relevant to us.

Meme: these are not the app you’re looking for

We know our market well enough to know what kind of visitors are going to spend money on our software. If the 90+% of visits are from the app niche that’s got nothing to do with business, it makes no sense for our app to be reviewed there. So, we just skip that target and look for something potentially more fruitful. As simple as that.

The only technical context factor we’re taking into account is the domain rating (or domain authority, depending on what tool you’re using). We only deal with websites that have a DR of 30+. That is the threshold. And again, we do our calculations in Ahrefs.

Spending our resources on obtaining links from websites that have a lower DR than ours is the time we could have spent on basically anything else. That’s the kind of impact those links have. In fact, spammy and questionable links from websites with low DR can only cause us harm.

It all comes down to math

To get a certain grade, a website has to trigger all of these conditions (3/3):

  • Every website with DR>30, no traffic, 1/3 context factors
  • Every website with DR>40, no traffic, 1/3 context factors
  • Every website with DR>50, has traffic, 2/3 context factors
  • Every website with DR>55, has traffic, 3/3 context factors
  • Every website with DR>65, has traffic, 3/3 context factors

If, for example, a website has a DR of 80, huge traffic, but no context factors, we’re obviously not going to go for it. If a website has a DR of 45, nice amount of traffic and all context factors, it’s still a 2. Based on this template, our site would be a 4.

Just to clarify - our website is always a 5, although it doesn’t quite make the cut. We are still falling short on the 1st trigger, but we think it’s only a matter of time until we formally get there.

Another important thing to take into account is that articles published on our blog have an absolute priority over anything else we do, both in-house and with 3rd parties. Our writers must produce the monthly dose of company blog posts, which means assigning their working hours on them first, and then see how much time they have available for everything else.

Resource allocation

After a website receives their 1-5 grade, we know the exact time we are going to invest into each piece of content created for the website in question. All the times given in the following table are intended for the creation of a 500 word article. If you need more/less words, scale accordingly. Additionally, our writers are well informed about the industry and they almost never do research from scratch. If you have a new writer that needs to get familiar with the content he or she is going to write, this might not work for you right from the start.

We will be writing an article about getting to know the ecosystem you’re writing in, so keep an eye out on our blog.

Resource allocation table for content writing
RankTime investmentWho?
11,5hSEO writer
22hSEO writer
34hContent writer
48hContent writer
58h+Entire team

Disclaimer: These are not the actual numbers we’re working with. They’re here to show you the logic behind our resource allocation. We’re not going to explain the numbers, just the logic. Numbers should be the result of experience you gained in the industry and the amount of information the writer has already adopted.

The Numbers Game

The Aces

Why just 90 minutes for number 1? This is the lowest quality content our team is prepared to stand behind. This kind of content is so generic that the effort invested in creating it should never amount to more than rehashing the existing content and allowing it to pass the plagiarism checker. At the end of the day, nobody except you, the editor, and Google crawlers will read it. And,this kind of content is published on websites that usually accept generic stuff, as long as it is unique.

The Twos

Number 2 is the type of article that somebody might read someday. Hence, it needs to be readable and offer at least something useful. It may be another top 10 list or another 5 tips about whatever, but at least it needs to be a good one.

The Threes

Number 3 is intended for websites that actually see some traffic, have at least a couple of newsletter subscribers, and where a comment pops up from time to time. It’s still not the top content that will impress our target audience, but it should be something that wouldn’t fall into the “not another generic piece of garbage” category. It should be at least educational and it’s generally aimed at the top of the funnel.

The Fours

Moving on to the number 4. These are usually websites that require a more detailed and valuable content. To produce such content, you need to dig a little bit more, provide them with a different approach to an existing topic and give actionable advice which allows you to view the problem from a different perspective. In other words, you should write about something that brings value to readers. Either by using our own experience to write on the topic that is widely debated, or by giving personal example on how to tackle a problem; maybe even a group of problems.

Since these article are rarely just 500 words long, it usually takes more than a full working day to do the research, produce and edit the text.

The Fives

Number 5 is reserved for content that must entertain the readers, help them with their problem, and ultimately, increase their knowledge. After reading a number 5, the majority of the audience should feel like the amount of their knowledge is increased. More or less - depending on the case. Fives are blog posts we publish on our website and send to A-lister publishers. Fives are articles we share on our personal social media accounts.

They require a lot of research, preparation, attention to detail and understanding of the matter at hand.

Would you be striving for anything less if you were running your own blog?

Yes, we do spend a lot of time writing ones and twos. But still, roughly 80% of our time is allocated to fours and fives. After all, those are the ones that make a real difference.

Make your own benchmark!

This is another huge disclaimer. As we already mentioned, we’re not going to go into explaining exact numbers. You need to do the benchmarking yourself. Your website might be a 2 or a 5 on our scale and that totally changes the initial challenge of setting targets and defining the criteria for good and “bad” links.

We would like to encourage you to start creating your own system and we’re not claiming ours is perfect. It’s just working well for us. Most importantly, it has taught us to become better at setting time estimates and creating long term content strategies.

Final calculations

Theoretically, if they’re working 40 hours per week, your writers will be able to produce 4-5 articles/day, 20-25 articles/week, 100-125 articles/month. If you only do the 500 word aces.

But you shouldn’t focus just on them, it rarely makes sense to mass produce this kind of content. Unless, of course, you’re an agency that’s producing huge amounts of content and building hundreds of links for your clients. So far, our writers can achieve around 30 good quality articles/month. That’s 8 guaranteed fives for our blog, plus ~20 pieces of content for third party publication. Sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on the month. The good thing is that we’re able to easily predict a big batch of activities well in advance.

Have you ever tried making this kind of calculation? What methodology did you use? How well is it working?

Be sure to let us know so we can compare the notes. :)

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