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As Google evolves how it crawls and indexes content, we’re seeing a real shift in how we as SEO’s can build and structure content. In the last decade we’ve seen a solid shift from “Keywords” to “Intent”, and likewise, we’re now seeing a shit from creating pages to target search intent, to creating excerpts that focus on search intent.

We dove in to some of our thoughts around this on our article “Is Content Length an SEO Ranking Factor“, but in this post we’re going to cover an ideal page structure to create long form content for your website that can rank for multiple related search intent queries.

Creating content in this format allows you to minimize SEO effort and overhead by reducing the number of pages on your site, while maximizing the benefits of long-form pages.

Accomplishing this is going to require building content in a highly structured way, so before we get started make sure you are up to date on:

  • Table of Contents
  • Schema
    • Table of Contents
    • FAQ Schema
    • How to Schema
  • Formatting for rich snippets
  • Proper page formatting

Table of Contents

  • Defining the Content of a Long Form SEO Page
  • Ranking for Rich Results with Proper Content Structure
  • The Modern Long Form SEO Page Outline
    • Page Title + Headline/Title (H1)
    • Broad introduction
    • Table of Contents
    • Content

Defining the Content of a Long Form SEO Page

While modern long from pages deviate away from a specific keyword target, we’re still going to need to do some keyword research. When we’re running keyword research for a long form page the first thing we need to do is identify the parent topic. Essentially, how broad will this page be? As an example we can use this page, our topic will be ideal SEO content structure. We’re striking a balance between having a longer form page with multiple topics, without creating a page that is too broad, or overwhelming. Remember the golden rule, the page itself should still be a good user experience.

Once we have the broad topic we can dive in to answering several questions

  • What are the sub-sections of this topic?
  • What are common related questions?
  • Will this include a “How to” section (If the content needs multiple how to sections you may want to break that out in to two pages)?
  • What are rich data points we could include to support this content?

This might sound familiar, and it follows a pretty similar path to regular keyword research. The difference here is that once we start breaking this out, we’re expecting Google to rank difference sections of the page independently for different search intent, and we’re expecting Google to display content on the SERP’s based on those individual sections with machine generated content.

Beyond keywords, maintaining proper formatting, schema, and organization can help.

For Heading Structure make sure you use your heading tags in a hierarchical manner, and basic SEO guidelines.

Your headlines shouldn’t be keyword stuffed, and make sure you are using heading tags in a hierarchical order. For example a H4 tag should always be under a H3 tag and never under a H5.

You also don’t need to include your keywords in every single heading tag. Again, H Tags are hierarchical, Google will relate keywords in a H2 down to it’s child H tags. This doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t use those keywords on other tags, but don’t feel the need to spam them out.

Ranking for Rich Results with Proper Content Structure

Don’t shy away from quick answers, bulleted lists, and tables. Google recognizes these as helpful results for search queries. If you’ve got some existing competition appearing on rich results, check out what kind of formatting they are using to rank sections of their content outside of the regular organic search results.

By properly structuring your content to provide clear content sections, Google can deliver clear concise results directly in the SERPs. While this does mean that some people may find answers without ever visiting your website, it does mean that you can skip above the regular ranking battle and grab position zero, which is far preferable than position three and below on a regular CTR curve.

The Modern Long Form SEO Page Outline

Page Title + Headline/Title (H1)

The page title and headline will define the overarching subject of the page. All the content in this page should be relevant to this subsection.

Broad introduction

The broad introduction is likely going to be a paragraph or two that supports the broad search intent for the page. It should be focused on the larger topic as a whole.

Table of Contents

The table of contents should cover all the sub sections of your page, these generally drill down to a “H2” or “H3” level on your page structure depending on how granular you are getting. There are plugins out there that can help with this, but if you can’t find a plugin solution this is well worth doing manually.

Content

The content of the page should be clearly broken down in to sections with a solid H Tag and Schema structure. Outside of that, you can even use regular formatting to help guide search engines as they parse your page.

While position zero is the new goal for “in content sections” along with passage based indexing results, remember that you’ll want to have content that’s already “rankable” for Google to display your rich content. Ensure your overall SEO and E-A-T are solid, if a page aren’t going to rank anyway, position zero won’t solve your problems.

Here’s a few “types” of content sections you may have on a page.

Straight Text

Ranking in position zero is all about answering search intent. A good relevant H Tag with a simple paragraph can get you in to the position zero spot. There’s no clear cut guidelines here, but as long as the paragraph provides a solid answer to the search intent of the heading tag, you’re in a good position to take advantage of Position Zero if Google deems it worthy.

An Issue and an Answer

I avoided using “question and answer” here to avoid confusion with using Q&A schema. While Q&A schema seems like it would make sense, it is for pages where you have one question on a page with one or more answers (think Quora).

One of the most prominent sections of the search results is either a section above the SERPs with the answer displayed inside of Google, and a “People Also Ask” section. Once upon a time, the “people also ask” section would lead to a brand new results page, now the one that appear in the results will display a relevant answer.

Appearing on that listing can be achieved (along with other ranking factors) by judicious use of FAQ schema, or having a clear question (wrapped in a H Tag) followed by content that answers that question.

Lists

A bulleted list, preceded by a question based heading and one to two sentences of text, is an effective way to rank above the fold. it could be a list of required items, or a “best of” list. Regardless, if you have the answer in 6 bullet points you’ll find it easier to rank in position zero. This is also effective for voice search, but if you are optimizing for voice, be aware only eight answers will be read out loud (ask Google what the 12 gifts are in the 12 days of Christmas, she’ll list off the first eight days and then summarize “and more”.

You can use FAQ schema to rank for these results, but avoid duplicating questions on your own site (it’s worse than running duplicate content).

Instructions

Usually done through numbered lists, or How To Schema, a lot of above fold results revolve around instructions. While you can rank in position zero for instructional terms, you’ll find it easier to rank using How To Schema. You can use a plugin to generate this on WordPress, or use a Schema generator to give you the code you need. The how to Schema snippet allows you to create a step by step list with images. Images are the go-to solution since it will provide the answer over a voice query, but usually only show the first step in desktop or mobile results, with a link to the rest of the instructions (if you have step by step instructions in text only it will display a certain number of steps before linking through to your site for the rest).

Tables

Tables are an easy way to get ahead of the rankings for comparison charts, pricing charts, and similar results where the searcher is looking to quickly compare a small data set. 3-5 columns are about the most you can do here, but if you can clearly display the answer to a search intent in a table you’ll find this an non-exploited niche in many SERPS.

Definitions

Often overlooked – but surprisingly competitive, definitions are an opportunity for many running websites in a niche space. A highly focused page in a poorly contested niche can often skip the regular rankings battle with a H Tag/paragraph combo defining the core term of the content.