A Guide on How to Use XPath and Text Analysis to Pitch Content

by searchenginenews787

Posted by petewailes

In my day-to-day role at Builtvisible, I build tools to break down marketing challenges and simplify tasks. One of the things we as marketers often need to do is pitch content concepts to sites. To make this easier, you want to pitch something on-topic. To do that more effectively, I decided to spend some time creating a process to help in the ideation stage.

In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d show you how that process was created and share it with you all.

Tell me what you write

The first challenge is making sure that your content will be on-topic. The starting point, therefore, needs to be creating a title that relates to the site’s own recent content. Assuming the site has a blog or recent news area, you can use XPath to help with that.

Here we see the main Moz blog page. Lots of posts with titles. If we use Chrome and open up Web Inspector, we see the following:

We can see here the element that corresponds to a single blog post title. Right click and hover over “Copy,” and we can copy the XPath to it.

Now we’re going to need a handy little Chrome plugin called XPath Helper. Once installed, we can open it and paste our XPath into XPath Helper. That’ll highlight the title we copied the path to. In this case, that XPath looks like this:

//*[@id="wrap"]/main[1]/div[1]/article[1]/header/h2/a</pre>

This only selects one title, though. Fortunately, we can modify this to pick up all the titles. That XPath looks like this:

//*[@id="wrap"]/main/div/article/header/h2/a</pre>

By removing the nth selectors (where it says [1]), we can make it select all instances of links in h2 headings in headers in articles. This will create a list of all the titles we need in the results box of XPath helper. Doing that, I got the following…

Recent Moz post titles

  • Digital Strategy Basics: The What, the Why, & the How
  • Should My Landing Page Be SEO-Focused, Conversion-Focused, or Both? – Whiteboard Friday
  • A Different Kind of SEO: 5 Big Challenges One Niche Faces in Google
  • Google’s Rolling Out AMP to the Main SERPs – Are You Prepared?
  • Diagramming the Story of a 1-Star Review
  • Moz Content Gets More Robust with the Addition of Topic Trends
  • Wake Up, SEOs – the NEW New Google is Here
  • 301 Redirects Rules Change: What You Need to Know for SEO
  • Should SEOs and Marketers Continue to Track and Report on Keyword Rankings? – Whiteboard Friday
  • Case Study: How We Created Controversial Content That Earned Hundreds of Links
  • Ranking #0: SEO for Answers
  • The Future of e-Commerce: What if Users Could Skip Your Site?
  • Does Voice Search and/or Conversational Search Change SEO Tactics or Strategy? – Whiteboard Friday
  • Architecting a Unicorn: SEO & IA at Envato (A Podcast by True North)

Doing this for a few pages gave me a handy list of titles. This can then be plugged into a text analysis tool like this one, which lets us see what the posts are about. This is especially useful when we may have lists of hundreds of titles.

Having done this, I got a table of phrases from which I could determine what Moz likes to feature. For example:

Top Two-Word Phrases Occurrences
how to 13
guide to 6
accessibility seo 4
local seo 3
for accessibility 3
in 2016 2
online marketing 2
how google 2
you need 2
future of 2
conversion rates 2
the future 2
seo for 2
long tail 2
301 redirects 2

Assuming that Moz is writing about things people care about, we can look at this and make a few educated guesses. “How,” “guide,” and “you need” sound like phrases around educating how to do specific tasks. “Future of” and “the future” indicates people might be looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve. And, of course, “SEO” turns up with various modifiers. A blog post that might resonate with the Moz crowd, then, would be something focused on unpacking a tactic, focused on delivering results, that not many people are yet using.

Who’s writing what?

So we’ve decided we’re going to write a guide about something to do with SEO, focused on enabling SEOs to better address a task. Where do we go from here?

In the course of creating ideas for what became this post (and a few other posts), I started to turn to other sites that I knew the community hung around on, and used the same trick with XPath and content analysis on those areas. (For the sake of completeness, I looked at Inbound, HackerNews, Lobsters, and Twitter.) Things that came up repeatedly included content marketing, {insert type here} content, and phrases around the idea of effective/creative/innovative methods to {insert thing here}.

With this in mind, I had a sit and a think about what I do when I want to pitch something, and how I’ve optimized that process over the years for speed and efficacy. It fit into the types of content Moz seems to like, and what the community at large is talking about at the moment, with a twist that is reasonably unique.

The same data gives a list of people who are interested in and writing about similar stories. This makes it easy to create a list of people to reach out to with regards to research, who you can get to contibute, and who’ll be happy to promote it when it’s live. Needless to say, in a world where content is anything but scarce, that network of people shouting about what you’ve created is going to help you get word out and make the community take more notice of it.

Taking this further

For the moment, and because I’m a developer first, I don’t have much problem with the slightly technical and convoluted nature of this. However, as SEOs, you might want to swap out some of the tools. You could, for example, use Screaming Frog to compile the titles, and people might want to use their own text analysis tools to break down phrases, remove stop words, and other useful things.

If you’ve got any similar processes or any ideas of how you would extend this, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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