By Michele Linn published June 26, 2016

7 Essential Content Marketing Lessons From Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Fridays


As a marketer, SEO can seem overwhelming, but you know it’s critical for your content marketing. A lot of changes are taking place in that industry, and it can be challenging to stay up to date.

Lucky for us, we have Rand Fishkin and his popular Whiteboard Friday on Moz. If you aren’t familiar with the Whiteboard Friday series, I highly suggest you check out these gems. Not only will you learn a lot, but these are a fantastic example of how consistent, exceptional content can build an audience.

Regardless of whether you are new to this series or a regular, here are my favorite Whiteboard Friday moments for content marketers.

How can I create content that will rise above the noise?

Rand has a name for that exceptional content we all want to publish: “10x content.”

“What is 10x content?” Rand explains:

We can’t just say, ‘Hey, I want to be as good as the top 10 people in the search results for this particular keyword term or phrase.’ We have to say, ‘How can I create something 10 times better than what any of these folks are currently doing?’ That’s how we stand out.

Luckily, Rand offers many solid ideas in How to Create 10x Content. He first explains the criteria for 10x content — and how it should make the reader feel — then offers four steps to create it.


Image source

Even if you cover a widely discussed topic, don’t give up hope. Find your unique way to cover it — to offer something no one else has.

How do I create a metrics dashboard?

What you measure is what you’re able to improve.

What you measure is what you’re able to improve says @randfish #contentmarketing #roi Click To Tweet

I love that quote from Rand from his Whiteboard Friday, How to Build The Right Traffic Metrics Dashboard.

We all know that we should only collect data that we plan to take action on, but are we systematic about this? Or are various teams collecting different data — or even the same data?

Every team can benefit from creating a metrics dashboard to get everyone on the same page and stop redundant reporting.


Image source

As Rand explains, this dashboard needs to be customized for your needs, but it is a great framework if you are struggling with what metrics to collect.

  • Awareness
    • Social mentions, followers, and fans
    • Press and brand mentions
    • Referring links
  • First visits
  • Returning visits

What old-school SEO techniques should I no longer use?

If you are like many marketers I know, you understand the basics of SEO and have some general practices you adhere to in an effort to appease the search engine gods. Yes, you know you should write for humans instead of search engines, but what else should you do, specifically?

In this popular Whiteboard Friday, 8 Old School SEO Practices that Are No Longer Effective, Rand walks through some things you may still be doing that don’t serve you well.


Image source

For instance:

  • Write your meta descriptions so they appeal to readers — and draw them in — instead of stuffing the descriptions with keywords.
  • Use one page to target several related keywords.
  • Have one robust domain that covers various, related topics instead of several that each cover one niche.
Write meta descriptions so they appeal to readers instead of keyword stuffing says @randfish #SEO Click To Tweet

This one is definitely worth a listen if you want to give your SEO practices a spring cleaning and get more from your efforts.

Have 1 domain that covers various, related topics instead of several that each cover one says @randfish #SEO Click To Tweet
Excel at SEO With This 15-Point Plan

What should you do when the wrong page ranks for a keyword?

This is a challenge we have faced at CMI, and apparently it’s something that is crazy common.

It goes a bit like this: You are thrilled that your site comes up in search results … but the page isn’t ideal (let’s just say it doesn’t put your best foot forward or it isn’t as relevant for that search as you would like it to be).

Rand’s Whiteboard Friday, What to Do When the Wrong Page Ranks for Your Keyword(s), walks you through the four steps to take:

  1. Figure out why you are having the issue.
  2. Create a relevant page or make a relevant page even more relevant.
  3. Degrade the page that is ranking and redirect internal pages to the relevant page.
  4. Consider a 301 redirect (if the page is not essential for other search terms).


Image source

What should I do to optimize each of my pages?

Not surprisingly, there is not a simple answer — and no simple checklist to follow — but Rand shares eight principles in this Whiteboard Friday, On-Page SEO in 2016: The 8 Principles for Success.


Image source

This Whiteboard Friday is an essential read for anyone working on your blog or website. As Rand explains, not only are you trying to get the page to rank, but you are also trying to get the user to stay once they are there to signal it as high-quality content. He reviews essentials such as:

How many internal and external links should I have?

Do you want to include links to other things on your website but wonder how many you should have? Should you include just a few more links to the page to drive people deeper into your website?

Rand explains:

Internal links that tend to perform the best . . . tend to be the ones that drive real traffic, and they sort of continue a visitor’s journey.

Internal links that perform the best & drive traffic continue a visitor’s journey says @randfishkin #SEO Click To Tweet


Image source

Should I focus on keywords or topics?

This is a conversation our editorial team has had: Should we optimize for keyword or topic? Rand handles this question in Can SEOs Stop Worrying About Keywords and Just Focus on Topics?

The classic mode of thinking is to create a list of keywords and then create pages to address them. However, the issue is that similar words (think: content curation vs. content curator) would need the same information, so some people create different pages for each keyword even though the intent is the same.

A newer approach is to focus on broader concepts and topics instead of the keywords. You see this all the time with the proliferation of ultimate guides that set out to answer all of the questions you may have on a topic. While there may not appear to be a downside to this — and this super-awesome piece of content may be widely shared — chances are that it won’t rank well because it covers so many topics.

What is a marketer to do?

Rand suggests a hybrid approach that uses a combination of keywords and topics.


Image source

A Nutshell Guide to Proper Keyword Research

Back over to you. What are your favorite Whiteboard Fridays?

Don’t miss Rand Fishkin, the Wizard of Moz, when he shares his great insight and practical tips at Content Marketing World Sept. 6-9. Register today and use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research to attract the attention of prospects, customers, media and other influencers. Before starting Mantis, Michele was one of the first employees of Content Marketing Institute where she was head of editorial and was instrumental in building the platform to 180,000 subscribers. For seven years, she had hands-on experience in all aspects of CMI’s editorial including the daily blog and annual research. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

Other posts by Michele Linn

Join Over 200,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples FREE!

  • Todd Lohenry

    What an amazing post! Thank you…

  • SmackMacDougal

    Those white boards have many words, lines and arrows. However, those white board screenshots seem to be little more than noise. No prudent C-level exec ever would approve of any initiative built from claims from the above.

    Is not the content of content marketing a video, a whitepaper, a PDF brochure and so forth? Is not content marketing efforts to get would-be customers to click on links to watch a video, read a whitepaper or look at a PDF brochure and so forth?

    Neither Rand Fishkin nor Michele Linn touched on how to write advertising copy that gets anyone to desire the content so strongly that such one acts right now by clicking on a link. Is not that what content marketing is all about?

  • rogercparker

    Dear Michele:
    Thanks for sharing the essential building blocks of a core SEO strategy that we can adapt for numerous uses, , i.e. introduction, staff/client review, or isolating specific ideas to develop, interpret, and share with our market. A great resource for all.

  • heidicohen

    Good examination of Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Fridays. They should be on every marketer’s reading list.

    I think they’re a great example of what I call recurring content columns.

    According to Rand Fishkin, it takes prospects about 7-8 touches on their website to get a trial.

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

  • Kari8412

    I basically make close to 6,000-8,000 bucks every month from freelancing at home. So if you are looking to do easy at home work for 2-5 h a day from your home and get good profit for doing it… Try this work CHILP.IT/45fc05a


  • Carlton546456

    I basically make close to $6.000-$8.000 /every month working online. So if you are willing to do basic freelance jobs for 2h-5h a day from comfort of your home and earn good profit while doing it… Try this gig FAVE.CO/29lfYDj