Randy Ray covered this topic three years ago. Despite the article’s age and ostensible focus on affiliate websites, I think it’s even more relevant today in the wake of Panda. For one thing, Ray takes the long view to adding content to your site and ranking it; he advocates taking a year to build out 1,000 pages of content (and explains how to make this a reachable goal). But what I really like about this piece is how he shows you to take your idea for a site and break it down into its constituent topics.
Depending on your site’s topic, if you do this right you’re going to end up with lots of evergreen content that will keep ranking for a long time. Your visitors will appreciate this, and so will the search engines. Evergreen content, as long as you keep it up to date, ages well; it continues attracting links over time. If you publish multiple pages of evergreen content, you can appeal to a wider variety of visitors, and increase your traffic.
But if you want multiple pages of quality content, you need lots of ideas that can be turned into great articles. Where do you get these ideas? Ray recommends that you start by using one word to describe your site’s topic. You then break the topic down into sub-topics, using one or even several different approaches.
Ray uses a football site he built as an example. His goal, as I mentioned earlier, was to create 1,000 pages of content. Maybe you don’t want or need to do that for your site, but it’s a worthwhile target. You may need to make adjustments depending on your niche. So, how does one go about building 1,000 pages of content on football?
You can start by adding specific words to the root word that give you meaty topics to discuss. So you might start by talking about football offense, football defense, and football special teams. With a general overview article on football, you now have 996 topics to go. Okay, how about separate articles on professional football and college football? Now you’re down to 994 topics.
How about a separate page for each football team? There are 32 professional football teams, taking you down to 962 pages. At the college level you’ll find about 119 teams, leaving you with 841 topics to create. That’s still a lot of topics, so where do you go from here?
Ray notes that each of the topics we’ve already mentioned can be further broken down into their own sub-topics. For example, you can do a page on each player on the professional teams; at 53 players per team, by the time you’ve covered all 32 professional teams you’ve more than met your goals. You can do pages on each of the team’s mascots – what they are, their history, their typical routines, etc. You can branch off into fantasy football. You can write articles on great retired players. Really, if you’re enthusiastic about the topic, you’ll never run out of material.
Ray next addressed the question of what you should do if you’re trying to monetize your site more directly. Say your site sells satellite TV dishes. How do you come up with 1,000 pages of useful content on that?
Ray recommends that you go local. He points out that there are 50 states in the U.S., and all of them contain at least 19 cities each. For each city, you build pages around the term “name of city + satellite TV.” How do you do that without skimping on content or copying from other pages? Ray suggests that you “provide directory listings of the local cable companies in the area. Then you provide a price and feature comparison that you’ve researched for each location…provide some insight into what kind of local programming is available in a particular area. The top 20 or so cities in each state surely offer programming aimed directly at the viewers in their area.”
In other words, Ray advocates turning your website into a resource. The kind of resource it becomes will simply vary with your topic and niche. You could do the same thing if you’re selling cell phones. Running a nursery? Start by making a list of the plants that grow well in your area. Even once you’ve made a page for every plant, you should easily be able to run your list of topics to 1,000 or even more.
What if you’re creating a website focused on one of your interests? Frankly, your task is so easy I almost hesitate to call it work. But I’ll give you a couple of examples anyway. Say you’re enthusiastic about the science fiction series Stargate SG-1, and you want to build a site around it. The series ran for 214 episodes and has so far spawned two movies. At one page per episode, you’re down to 786 right there. You can think about including pages for each episode of the two spin-off series (Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe), but for the sake of argument, let’s keep it to the one series.
You’ll want to include pages for the main actors, which can take you to at least a couple dozen more if you also include the ones that played recurring, well-loved parts that didn’t receive top billing. Add a page each for the co-creators. Talk about the various villains. Each of the interesting tech devices can get their own pages, that explain both what they did on the series and how the prop department created them. Of course, if we’re going into props, we should also look at costumes, too – how did they make Jaffa warrior armor, and how can a fan reproduce it for their own homemade costumes?
What if your interest is more in the line of an active hobby? You’re still in great shape. Say you crochet. Not too long ago I encountered a website that listed 129 different types of crochet. One could do a page describing each type in detail, and create or link to a pattern using the technique. You’ll easily find books about crochet, magazines with crochet patterns, conferences that are friendly to crocheters, local yarn shops, and groups that get together to crochet…and I haven’t even touched on the tools, yarns, and tons more topics you could cover.
You can probably see by now how you can get literally hundreds of great ideas for your content – all without ever worrying particularly much about keywords. But once you’ve made your list of ideas, where do you get the time to write all of those articles? You may need help. Ray recommends college students because they “work cheap, and they produce better writing than the folks at Elance.”
If you’re willing to dedicate yourself to your site for at least a year, though, Ray notes that “you only need to write 4 pages of content 5 days a week for 50 weeks in order to have 1000 pages of content on your site. If you plan on having about 500 words per page, that’s an achievable goal.” I would agree that it is an achievable goal, but make no mistake that it’s serious work – and extremely difficult to reach if you have a day job separate from your website. On the up side, once you’ve created a certain amount of content – say, 200 pages or so – you can start adding those pages to your site and benefit from them even before you’ve produced the full 1,000 pages.
Doing this will give you a little time to work on articles into which you want to put some extra effort – writing up a special but time-consuming project, perhaps, or interviewing an expert on your site’s topic. Work on something you love, and you may never run out of things to say about it. Good luck!