Duford Digital - Media Publishing House

Duford Digital’s blogging software stack & workflow (topic to tracking)

This article is for my web friends wanting to get more organic search traffic.

Here’s my basic workflow for starting with a general topic, then choosing specific keywords, writing and optimizing the article, and then tracking its performance.

Basic workflow

Here’s a quick overview of the software used in the workflow:

Google Sheets (keyword ideas) > Surfer (topical clusters) > ahrefs (refine keywords) > Jasper (write content) > Surfer (optimize content) > WordPress (publish article) > Surfer (run content audit) > ahrefs (track SERP performance) > Google Sheets (list keyword as published)

The only software that’s truly a must-have is Surfer:

If you’re at all inclined towards SEO, an ahrefs seat may also be worth it as the next most important thing

(or just ask me to run keywords for you – email them to me…I love running keywords):

Now on to the content creation.

1. Keyword research and topical cluster mapping

Start by creating a “topical map” outline of the topics the website will cover. You can do this as a mindmap in Canva or Miro or a spreadsheet in Google Sheets.

Start with broad topic cluster names, and then brainstorm all of the sub-topics within that “topical cluster”. Chat with me about your main topic and sub-topics and we can see if they are specific enough, or not specific enough.

Now it’s time to fill in the blanks in terms of things that you should talk about within each topical cluster. Start with a content planner within Surfer. You can also use a clustering tool like Keyword Cupid.

For instance, on my site Home for the Harvest, a “topical cluster” would be “pumpkins” and target keywords that belong in that cluster would be “best pumpkins for pumpkin pie,” “ornamental pumpkins,” “big max pumpkin,” “green pumpkins,” “how to plant pumpkin seeds,” “when to plant pumpkins” …. et cetera.

Now that you have a rough idea of the topic clusters you’d like to cover, plus some ideas for specific keywords for articles, its time to finalize the exact target keyword for each article/post.

Or actually just google the keyword. See what kind of results are surfacing and what the search engine thinks the searcher needs to get as results. It is nice to have ahrefs to finalize the exact target keywords, but again, not a total must-have.

Keep a master list of all of the worthy target keywords in a “content management” spreadsheet. This is just a basic spreadsheet with columns for the target keyword, publication date, author on the byline, and, eventually, your optimization links and stats for the post.

Here is the complete list of columns on my typical content management spreadsheet:

  • Post number
  • Target keyword
  • Author
  • Publish date
  • Title
  • Title character count
  • URL
  • Word count
  • Date completed to SOP standards
  • Topic category
  • Subcategory (topical cluster)
  • Surfer audit link
  • Surfer audit score
  • Feature month if seasonal
  • Campaign name (UTM)
  • Type (Info, Sales, Affiliate)
  • SERP position for target keyword (ahrefs)
  • Traffic in last 12 months (GA)
  • Ad revenue last month
  • Display ad RPM last month

You certainly don’t need all these columns for most content sites, but I would prioritize the first half of these bullet points.

2. Content production and publication

Each URL on your website should have a single “target keyword”. As mentioned in the first step, a target keyword might be something like “how to grow jarrahdale pumpkins”, or “pumpkin varieties”, or “where to buy pumpkins in Kelowna”.

Unless the search intent for two keywords is exactly the same, they usually each warrant their own page if you have enough copywriting budget. Try to place yourself in the shoes of the consumer asking the question and figure out the core of what they need to know at that exact moment in time.

For writing, use a “content editor” in Surfer to make sure you’re talking about all the different things people want to know about the target keyword for the post. You can do this in Surfer alone or within Jasper AI if you like to use an AI writing assistant.

The content editor will compare your writing to the top-ranking results and suggest any subtopics that you really should mention. If the top results cover a certain sub-topic, you should too.

You can also get a VA

Here are some copywriters and content writers I currently use or have used and liked, as well as their benchmark estimated entry-level prices for uploaded content as of November 2022:

  • Honeycomb Media via AirTable order sheet (South Carolina, $87 USD per 1000 words)
  • Content Warrior via Google Sheets order sheet (Idaho, $70 USD per 1000 words)
  • Crowd Content via Portal (BC, $89 USD per 1000 words)
  • Content Pit via Portal (Egypt, $59 USD per 1000 words)
  • Rocket Content via Portal & Sheets (Pakistan, $22 USD per 1000 words)

I usually order 1000 words for most target keywords and then order 3000 words for the main subcategory/topical cluster term. So I’d order 1000 words for “when to plant pumpkins for Halloween”, and then I’d order 3000 words for “how to grow pumpkins” (the main “pillar” post for the category).

Several AI interfaces can create written content for you if you don’t have the time and/or budget for custom writing. As with custom options, there is a wide range of output quality and cost. You’ll also need a solid editor with a good understanding of the topic, as incorrect information is common.

Here are some AI writers to consider:

  • Article Forge (affiliate link) – 25,000 words for $27 USD per month
  • Content at Scale (affiliate link) – 20 articles for $500 USD per month (use my link to get 20% extra post credits added manually to your account after you sign up)

You can use the above tools in conjunction with a good virtual assistant. Here’s a handy VA provider:

Once the text is in WordPress, it’s time to clean up the formatting, add internal and external links, and add media. I suggest using an on-page optimization tool like Surfer to improve your content:

I also have started using SEO plugins again now that there seem to be fewer issues with update compatibility. My current top pick is RankMath (affiliate partner link). You can enter your target term into the RankMath sidebar, which will help you optimize the content. The big reason I like it is the FAQ schema block, which I typically add at the end of every new article, and the quick redirect tool.

Publish the article on the site using the target keyword (or a shortened version) in the URL. Then use the “surfer audit” tool to compare the published piece to the target keyword:

3. Tracking article performance and tweaking for improvement

Now it’s time to track the article as it rises in the SERPs from 100+ to number 1!

Start by returning to the content management spreadsheet and entering the published date, title, word count, and article link.

Use the ahrefs keyword tracker if you have ahrefs. If you don’t have ahrefs, you can get a separate high-quality rank tracker like Accuranker. And, of course, you can always use Google Search Console or even just google the terms one by one from a private browser window or with a simple SERP checker.

Ahrefs will track the performance of your URL against the target keyword each week for most subscription levels. AccuRanker checks daily and on demand. You can use the ranking position history and Surfer audit to improve the content as it ages. If you have an ahrefs subscription, you can also install their plugin. It will import all the target keywords from Yoast/RankMath and compare them to the SERPs weekly.

Once you publish more than a few URLs, it’ll take quite a long time to update the content spreadsheet with SERP numbers. You can then use the ahrefs interface to see your SERP listings, or I can give you my SOP for importing the data into your spreadsheet, so it populates semi-automatically.

Workflow summary

So that’s mostly it. Please let me know your questions so I can add the answers to this sheet for my other web friends!


Mary Jane