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SEMrush Toolbox #9: SEO Content Template & SEO Writing Assistant




Craig: Hi, guys, and welcome to the SEMrush webinar. Thank you for joining. Today, we're back again with another SEMrush Toolbox. Today, we're going to be talking about SEO Content Template and the SEO Writing Assistant.

But before we start off, just want to introduce today's guest, who is Fabrizio Ballarini. He's not a new guy to the SEMrush webinars; he's been on quite a few before. Fabrizio, thank you for joining us today. For anyone who is not too sure who you are, if anyone's never seen you before, can you tell them about yourself?

Fabrizio B.: Thanks for having me here today. My name is Fabrizio. I work here at TransferWise. TransferWise is a money transfer company and I look after SEO and organic growth. Part of my team works on content and part of my team work on technical SEO platforms and products, so.

Craig: What we'll do is I'll start off with just a quick talk through the tool itself, and then we will have Fabrizio give us some tips and stuff like that and that. I'll just start sharing my screen.

SEO Content Template Overview

First, I'm going to start talking about where you find the tool first and foremost. So, you log into your dashboard and you have your options up here, whether it's the SEO Toolkit or All Tools. The quick way to get here is the Content Marketing Toolkit. If you click that, it will give you the different stuff here. We're going to start with the SEO Content Template.

The SEO Content Template is the first tool and I'm going to show you guys; very simple and easy to use. So, basically what happens here is SEMRush analyzes your rivals' content to give you ideas on how to write decent content, or how to beat the competition.

What you do here just in the search bar is you just stick in a search term. For example, I'm from Glasgow, so I'm going to do SEO Glasgow. I'm going to click the big green button here: Create SEO Template...simple and easy as that. You see it's just analyzing the top 10 ranking rivals for those particular keywords, and it will give you some recommendations here.

So, first things first, I want to make sure that you get things right. So over on the right-hand side, make sure that you do have the right database: the United Kingdom, that's where I'm based. You can select the correct options there. Just make sure you're doing the right database so that it is giving you recommendations on the right content.

So, the search term is SEO Glasgow and it's going to have key recommendations based on your top 10 rivals. So, semantically related keywords, so it's got digital marketing, SEO agency, SEO services, and various other ones.

It's also got backlink recommendations so I can see Bruce Clay there, Bee Digital, Screaming Frog and a few other names that I'm well aware of. And some other information as well; it's giving you the readability and the average score.

Text length; so it seemed that the recommended text length is 538 words. So what SEMrush does cleverly is it analyzes everyone else in the top 10 and looks at a volume of keywords and everything else that they're doing, and it gives you a breakdown. So if you scroll down, you'll be able to see everyone in the top 10 for that particular search term.

Also, at the very bottom, it gives you basic recommendations which you'll be able to see here. And so, “add at least one of the target keywords to your title tag”, “don't target each keyword more than one time,” “optimal title tag length 35 characters”. It's telling you to use a header one tag with your keyword in it, and it's also telling me to target keywords at least one time within the content.

Now, if you click on the green button here, you can export that to a document if you wanted to give that to a client.

You've also got this other part here, what it says real-time content check. It can look at your content here and give you a readability score. It's also allowing me to get ideas for the headline using the Topic Research Tool, which is a different tool altogether, but obviously, SEMrush is all super integrated into each other.

It also gives you the tone of voice that SEMrush feels that you're using. It gives you a lot of good feedback and that's just the real-time content check, so it gives you a nice score there, readability and stuff like that. But what does readability actually mean?

Readability score definition, it's all explained if you click on the score definition part here on readability, but you can open that up and it will tell you it's very easy, easy to read, understood by an average 11-year-old student, and so on.

Obviously, for people who writing SEO, they're not always going to be well-educated in what SEO is or fully understand it, so you probably want something near the middle to be fair. It doesn't have to be plain and simple that 11-year-old student can read it. That's just my own personal opinion though.

These are all SEMrush-based scores. That is the real-time content check, which is part of the SEO content template. And obviously, you can set a writing task here as well, and you can create a new Google Doc, create an existing Google Doc, and you have got to have the add-on installed onto your browser as well. That is basically what the SEO Content Template is.

Again, the fact that SEMrush pulls all of those data together at the push of a button is really simple and easy to use. You can work at scale with it. You can do a lot of research and stuff like that, which is great. That is the SEO Content Template.

SEO Writing Assistant Overview

The next part of this webinar is going to be about the SEO Writing Assistant and what you'll see directly under the SEO Content Template, the Writing Assistant goes hand in hand. The SEO Writing Assistant, it checks if the text that you have written follows SEMrush's SEO recommendations.

How does it work? Basically, the SEO Writing Assistant, you can get an add-on for Google Documents, so you can navigate to Google Documents and add the plug-in. It's completely free. Turn it on in Google Documents so every time you want to use the add-on, turn that on in the Google Documents menu, and then you can check your content in real-time.

As you type, your content is automatically checked for SEO-friendliness based on your target keywords.

So you're going to write the content on a document anyway and then you can basically go to add-ons, go to SEMrush Writing Assistant, click Show, and it's going to give you that score over on the right-hand side.

Now, they also have a WordPress plugin that allows you to install that onto your WordPress website. If you go to user menu up the top, it will tell you all the different options that are available to you. So, what I showed you there was how to install the Google Docs add-on. So, WordPress plugin and it basically gives you the same in the right-hand side, as a widget showing you whether your content is readable or not exactly and as it does on the SEO Content Template.

That stuff is more for a guide and to try and help you rather than to say it has to be a specific figure. So, I think it's something we should all be using. You're using SEMrush's database of information to better your content.

So if you're outsourcing this content to people, it's a great tool to just get those guys and guide them in what they should be doing. That is pretty much the tools in a nutshell, and how to use them, how to install the add-on. It's quite easy. Follow the on-screen instructions and all should be good. That is the tool. So what I'll do is just stop sharing my screen and allow Fabrizio to take center stage.

Fabrizio B.: Okay, perfect. Maybe just for the sake of giving people a little bit of context, I work at TransferWise where look after SEO in organic growth. Part of our team is working on content production. We have one platform that we build for managing long-form content, which is pretty much a blog. We have a couple of SEO guys. There are 12 people who produce content then they work with a network of freelancers

We were making one article a month. We went through the process of really scaling content production from just a few articles a month to in the order of hundreds. Our strategy is very simple to some extent. We tend to understand our customer needs. We understand what problem they search for.

How to Optimize the Production of Website Content

The reason why these tools are so important is because they really help you in the production phase, and that's where over the past year, we really focused in terms of optimizing.

We barely promoted on social media. We just try to nail very well content in the first placement when it first is created. Like any other company, you probably have a similar process. You have a bunch of keyword data. You have copywriters, editors, translators, publishers.

The challenge though, and what we started to notice from day one, is that we were not that organized. We started ourselves to put a little bit more structure to what briefs we were sending to our freelance writers. The reason why is that most of the time, our content wasn't successful and then we had to go back, redo it...


Our old content templates were simply spreadsheets where we were looking at topics, subtopics, related keywords and pages, primary keywords, secondary keywords, and then we were looking at the competition. We were looking at the top 10 sites that were performing for that given article, topic.

In search, we were categorizing those sites and then we were finding relevant links of content that we should definitely mention in our own content articles. It was us spending a bit of time understanding what is essentially in the content tool and that's why, now, we use the Content Template because it pretty much covers this key area.

There are probably other websites that already tried to write a similar article and similar content. So it's really important that if you want to come up with the possibly best article in the space, we need to have a strong understanding of what these guys are doing. And that's what pretty much what the SEO Content Template does.

We start with research and validation. We have a stage where our content admins and specialists produce a brief, and then we send it to a freelancer to write it up, and then when the content comes back, we proofread it, edit it, the review, and then finally publish it.

Over time, we figure out that the importance of the brief is probably 99% of the success of the article working. That's what now the tool does for us, compared to our old spreadsheet.

The key area that we want to address by having a very, very strong brief is to make sure that we get it right from the very early days. Often, companies work the other way around. Various teams publish a bunch of content, and then they retroactively try to optimize it for some keywords and try to make it rank. In our case, we only make content if it is answering a customer problem or a particular searching term.


Also if we don't have very clear briefs, it’s also difficult to feedback to them (writers) because you have fewer chances to go back and say, "Actually, this content doesn't really answer what we were meant to solve for our customers. Ultimately you reduce the time going back and forth from doing reviews and checks.

When we first started this... we had the least two to three stages of review. I think that right now, we should be around one. But sometimes, the content is good to go. We barely do reviews. It's good to publish. I think that's why this briefing stage is really important.

And then if you go to the tool, if you have to compare the content template to what our old spreadsheet used to do, it does roughly the same job. It tells us all of the top sites that performed in that given space.

This example is writing an article about getting a visa in China. That's something that could be useful for our international customers. It tells us what are the top sites that perform in the space, which is pretty good for us to start building an understanding of what content we need to produce.

It tells us semantically relevant keywords, which is going to help us start exploring what topics within the article we need to cover.

Validating whether Your Content is Good Enough

But again, looking to what other sites link to the content helped us understand what information is, a must-have within that article so that we don't miss out. This is just the first step. Adding a keyword, pressing one button, you start having a top-line understanding of what the brief should look like. I think the really important part is when you start creating like creative this content template and then you link them to the Writing Assistant, which is the tool that I'm validating that the content actually matches this part.


We don't only use the Writing Assistant to validate after the content is being produced whether it's good or not. We also view/edit the Writing Assistant even before the content is being produced to refine those recommendations because sometimes the recommendation that the tool gives you is based on the competition that is out there.  It could well be that the top 10 sites in that space are not doing such a great job on that content.

Because you can log-in and sync the Google document with the SEMrush platform, you can already populate the recommendations from the Content Template. What we do at this stage, we go through them, and we validate whether they make sense.

Sometimes it's not the tool's fault but it could just be that there's no very good content out there or maybe we want to expand the given topic a little bit better. In this case, we go in the SEO Writing Assistant, we click Edit in the keyword targeting section, and then we use it in conjunction with the Keyword Magic Tool, which is the keyword research tool from SEMrush. This helped us to expand on related topics and the group of keywords that could be relevant to this particular article.


Again, it's an opportunity to go a little bit deeper in figuring out what is the possibly best content for this given keyword and add customers with a very comprehensive article rather than just limiting yourself to just compare with the competition.

Using Multiple Tools to Further Improve Your Content

Another bit that we do in conjunction with other tools is on day one when you link your...let's say, an empty Google Doc with a keyword template, you don't necessarily have a magnet for that article, and sometimes it's good to have a better understanding of what is out there to build a better view on what headline we should use.

You can just click on the Get Ideas from the Topic Research Tool and then you will be prompted to the Topic Research Tool on the SEMrush platform. You can then click on overview and then SEMrush will suggest for you. In this case, Chinese visa, it will suggest to you what are the top headlines by backlinks and what are the top 10 interesting questions around this topic.


Some of these could potentially be your title or sometimes this could inform the paragraph and the subsection of your article. So we use that to start drafting within the article, a template on Google Docs. We start drafting what are the key questions that we used to answer and what is the headline going to be.

I think this is a very important step because I think that you'd always need to judge yourself, like the recommendation that you receive, and by using the tool in conjunction with the other tools, you can expand and you can probably refine it to the point where you're really happy about any given recommendation.

At this point, you probably send it to the freelancer, and then at that point, you basically switch in using only the Writing Assistant. This is roughly, you know when we look at the stage of our publishing process, at the end of it. We already made a brief. We already briefed the writer. The writer comes back with an article. And this is the last phase but we need to check whether the content that we have is actually matching what we were planning to write.

By doing a good brief, it helps us even at the later stage to make sure that writers don't go completely freestyle in writing, giving them better expectations, having more consistency against the keyword research that we did originally.

And also, to quickly validate whether our expectations were met rather than going back to our Google Docs, reread the entire article, go through each paragraph, figuring out whether the writer did a good job or not. We still proofread, check the article and edit it, but at least this phase is covered by the tool.

The Importance of Understanding Content Scores

Obviously, we have someone within the SEO team that was going through this and communicating with the writer. I think that's where it's good to have people with a good understanding of what they're doing on top of using the metrics from the tool.

The tool is going to be as good as your input when it comes to the brief, but also the scoring, you need to understand the nature of the scoring. For instance on the word count, in this particular case, we come above the word count suggested by looking at the competing content in that space, but it could just be the case that we wrote a better article.

Imagine the word count is 2,000 words and we only write 200, there's a good chance that we haven't really answered that topic really well, and so it's probably a strong signal to help us going back to the drawing board. Similarly for the other scores, like the overall score, or the keyword recommendation score, it's not just about ticking boxes.

This is just an opportunity to flag a specific problem. It's not just about ticking the boxes of reaching the score, but phrases on the keywords, the recommendation section is quite important sometimes. Maybe the writer forgot to add a paragraph covering a particular topic within the article.

That's roughly how we use the two tools. One part is about writing the best brief possible so that we don't miss out, and then there's another part that is checking whether what our writers produced is actually what we were expecting.

We were, let's say, creating a brief initially, and then waiting sometimes even two or three months for the content to be published. By the end, it was again by the end of the process versus now we can probably push out content in less than a month.

Doing all the review checks and all the publishing operations, which is really important because ultimately, if you want to grow your traffic and if you want to grow your presence in organic search by adding more content to your website, the sooner you add it the better. If you could publish all of your content today rather than in the next two years, that would be definitely better. I think that's our main learning when it comes to part optimizing the operation and figuring out what content works. This is working. Our traffic is growing roughly 3X Year on Year, and that's pretty much what we learned.


We learned that being consistent is very important and it's a really important condition for when you scale and that's what these two tools combined help you to do is ... they help you to have a consistent methodology to brief, consistent way to pull the data, and then avoiding getting lost in the process, avoiding measuring the quality of the content in a different way and stuff like that. I think that's it. That was pretty much all our learnings in this particular session.

Craig: Perfect. Amazing presentation here. I'm going to tackle on with some questions just now.

Do You Need to Adhere Closely to Content Recommendations?

We've got a question here. How important is it to follow recommendations and the score on the Writing Assistant plugin to the letter or is it okay not to reach 100% for every article?

Fabrizio B.: Yeah, I think, as I mentioned, you should use those score as indicators. This score is just a recommendation for you to fine-tune your content. Also, your ability to reach a good score is also probably down to the quality of the writers that you have, also the quality of the brief that you make. The more detailed is the brief, the less you have chances the writers go off the track and then most likely that will lead to higher scores.

In general, it's always important to understand what the score does, which metrics within the score we really care about. Depending on your business, depending on what are your objectives, you might be more into some metrics or another.

Craig: Cool. Obviously being at a company like you are, would you use these tools across all languages and all markets, or is it the same process for all of them?

Fabrizio B.: Yeah, we use that in multiple markets. Obviously, the richness of the data is subject to the richness of the web in the first place. It's quite likely that the more you go on a smaller market or a relatively less popular language than English on the web you would probably have fewer data in general. But that's where you can use the tool in combination with the other tools like Keyword Magic Tool to expand on the keyword data a little bit deeper and probably get to a stronger sense of what to do.

Craig: What is the biggest advantage you see in using the two tools together?

Fabrizio B.: Yeah, as I mentioned, using them together helps you in the process. Over time, our way to optimize content or to write better SEO content hasn't really changed. We probably do it roughly in the same way that we have been doing it three years ago.

Obviously, there are differences in search results. Google is launching new featured snippets and stuff like that. We adapt to that, but the way we write content is roughly the same. What the biggest advantage is helping you with the process. The important bit is that you can do it well and fast, and that's what we learned.

The other bit that I mentioned is that there was a question in the chat earlier around, "Would you go back and rerun some existing content and some other stuff through the tool?" Definitely, you can do this again. You can go back and edit that particular template. You can always go back and rethink because your competition might change. The important is to have some tool that will help you to adapt to that and be relatively fast in doing it because the actual writing and the actual production of content will probably be roughly the same.

How Unique Should Your Content Be?

Craig: I've got another question here. This is from Mr. Calgary Alberta. He is saying, "Without hiring a content writer, how unique does each article need to be not to have the plagiarism marker? There isn't anyone that knows his business better than him and he's had zero success with content rates.

Fabrizio B.: I think it depends. In our case, at some point, it was impossible to keep up with deadlines. There's X amount of time that you have in a day and you always need to work harder to expand the team. The first time around, you can probably do it yourself. If you have a better knowledge of your business... that's what the tool is for.

You don't need like a very strong level of expertise to get started, but then as soon as results happen, as soon as things start working properly, you need to start working with someone.

I cannot write a single sentence that is decent, so I think that's why I would rely on the writer to write my content. On the plagiarism point, I think that it really much depends on the content. You could run the template against some landing pages, you could run the template against some other different pages. In that case, I think is probably okay to have a certain level of content that is duplicated across these pages. As long as the main intent of the page is different, you're going to be fine.

Let me give you one example. We have landing pages for people want to send money with TransferWise through different countries. These pages are pretty much all the same, but obviously, there's a big difference between sending money to US or China or India. I think the intent of the page, the price and that we quote, and all the other detail, and the nature of the transfer is different. So the core content might be the same, but the intent is different enough to be okay, to have content overlap.

Craig: I want to add a little bit into that as well. When the person said, "They'll never going to be able to get anyone to write as good content about their businesses." We could, I think, possibly you have to look at your own expectation levels because I've also been in that position… you have to remember is there's no one else out there who has exactly like you.

Where to Find Good Content Writers

It's humanly possible to scale up a massive level if you're doing all the content yourself. I've tried all sorts of different things. What's your opinion on where to find content writers? Where is the best place to look?

Fabrizio B.: Now, we have a fairly large freelance network and we also buy commission content from some platforms. There are differences by region so I don't think you need to look at the same approach in every market. For instance, in some markets, we use platforms like Upwork and Textbroker for people to produce content quality that's good if we find the right writers there.

But in some other market, this doesn't work at all. Then we need to open freelance jobs on our site portal and stuff like that. I think the most important learn that we had on the front so far is that our best writers are people who are customers. Initially, our writers were our customers.

Craig: Perfect. Good answer. That is so sadly our time today. Thank you, Fabrizio, for joining us today, and thank you for everyone else watching, it's been a pleasure.

Fabrizio B.: Thank you. Bye-bye.

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