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  • Are Ultimate Guides Dead? Yes & No. Here's Why

    Are SEO Ultimate Guides Dead? Yes & No. Here’s Why

    When it comes to creating long-form evergreen content that yields rich benefits, the “ultimate guide” post has long been one of the go-to options for content marketers and SEO experts.

    However, with so many bloggers, entrepreneurs, content writers, and SEOs publishing content under the label of an “ultimate guide,” we must ask the question:

    Do they still work? Are ultimate guides for SEO dead? 

    Better yet, are ultimate guides dead?

    The answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might think.

    While they’ve certainly lost some of their novelty, they aren’t exactly ineffective.

    The key is to understand where they provide value and how they’re best used today.

    Do Ultimate Guides Still Work?

    Do Ultimate Guides Still Work?

    The aforementioned benefits are clearly compelling. However, you’re probably reading this post because you have one big question: Do ultimate guides STILL work, even when thousands of other brands are already using them?

    The short answer is: It depends.

    We’ve just finished outlining some of the biggest reasons why ultimate guides are valuable. But the more people use the term “ultimate guide,” the less impactful these resources become.

    The word “ultimate” means last, furthest, maximum, conclusive, or decisive. It’s supposed to be the final, total, greatest, or best of its kind. It’s the most extreme – better than everything else that’s out there.

    The problem is that we’ve watered down the word “ultimate” to the point that it doesn’t mean anything. And when everything is the greatest or best of its kind, nothing is.

    When there are 217 different “ultimate guide to online marketing” posts, there’s no longer much perceived value. Even if yours truly is the ultimate resource, how would anyone know?

    It’s not any individual content creator’s problem, but ultimate guides are kind of like the boy who cried wolf. Readers have seen the phrase so often that they won’t believe it when they actually stumble upon an extremely valuable piece of content.

    Here’s the thing. The basic tenets of what make an ultimate guide post valuable still ring true. Ideas like depth, quality, and tactical benefits are all still extremely powerful and beneficial. But the more the word “ultimate” is used, the less people pay attention.

    So, do ultimate guide posts still work?

    The answer is yes…but you have to find a way to make people pay attention. You can’t just create the 99th “Ultimate Guide to Investing” and expect it to generate value for your brand. You have to be willing to create content that’s fresh and exciting.

    What is an Ultimate Guide?

    What is an Ultimate Guide?

    Before getting too deep into the weeds, let’s set the table by making sure we all understand exactly what an ultimate guide is.

    For starters, let’s get clear on one thing: Your ultimate guide is more than a listicle. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just slap the words “ultimate guide” into the headline and turn any old listicle into an ultimate guide.

    The goal with an ultimate guide isn’t just to write more content or have a longer list of tips. The objective is to provide the most possible value to the reader – a one-stop-shop for answers on a particular topic. The reader should be able to stumble upon your article with no knowledge of the topic and walk away with a 101-level grasp of the topic from all angles (perhaps even a 201-level understanding).

    A good ultimate guide is almost like a mini-course or book. It typically covers the what, why, and how of the topic. Not only that, but there are also a variety of different examples, screenshots, illustrations, and tactical insights that users can put into action right away.

    According to CoSchedule, which has created several high-ranking ultimate guides over the years, these types of posts generally feature a couple of different things:

    • Ultimate guides usually cover a broad topic in very specific detail. Whereas most content takes a 30,000-foot view, the ultimate guide lands the plane and insects the topic up close. This makes it the ideal option if you’re trying to rank for a competitive keyword that falls into a broad topic category.
    • While all content is on the same page, there’s usually a table of contents at the beginning of the post that readers can click to navigate to a specific “chapter” or section of the post.

    Ultimate guides aren’t something you create in a day. They’re time-intensive and (potentially) expensive. But when viewed as investments, they often generate a significant ROI. And that’s the reason that so many bloggers, creators, entrepreneurs, and business owners have relied on them as staple pieces of their content strategies over the years.

    The Benefits of Ultimate Guides

    A well-researched and well-written ultimate guide has the potential to elevate your content strategy and take your digital presence to the next level. Some of the specific benefits include:

    • Stronger SEO. Most website content does very little to move the SEO needle. And while it’s easy to play the blame game and point to different individual aspects of a post as being responsible for holding it back, the truth is that it usually comes down to one word: thin. It’s nearly impossible to rank well for a piece of content that’s just 500-800 words in length. (There just isn’t enough quality content for the search algorithms to sink their teeth into.) With an ultimate guide, there’s more content, more value, and a cohesive backbone to tie it all together. Not only do you benefit from the keyword-rich nature of the post, but you also attract backlinks from other authoritative websites.
    • Increased website traffic. More people are going to click on an ultimate guide than a standard article or post. It’s a much stickier post that promises greater benefits and value to the reader. This results in better metrics, which further enhances SEO.
    • Audience nurturing. Whenever someone visits your website and reads a piece of content, they form a micro impression of your brand. They subconsciously think to themselves, Was this valuable? Do I trust them? Was this worth my time? If the answers to these questions are positive, the content serves as a nurturing tool. And because most ultimate guides get readers to say yes to these questions, ultimate guides are widely considered to be the best audience nurturing tools around.
    • Brand awareness. Anytime you publish a post that goes viral (or gets a lot of clicks), you’re increasing your brand awareness. This is obviously beneficial on multiple levels and just goes to show how powerful content can be when there’s significant visibility.
    • Lead generation. Ultimate guides communicate authority. And when you demonstrate your authority and competence on a particular topic, there is a percentage of people who will want to hire you to do it on their behalf. In this sense, an ultimate guide can be a rather lucrative lead gen tool.
    • Content repurposing. The best current content strategy is to create “pillar posts” and then develop what’s known as “cluster content” that branches off it. An ultimate guide serves as pillar content and gives you the ability to easily and strategically develop related cluster posts. If you do it right, a single ultimate guide can give you enough individual spinoff topics and fodder for social media posts to fill out your entire content calendar for the year.

    Every ultimate guide is unique and provides its own list of benefits and advantages. However, when executed properly, you should experience at least a few of the ones mentioned above (if not all of them).

    How to Create an Ultimate Guide That Actually Generates an ROI

    How to Create an Ultimate Guide That Actually Generates an ROI

    Now that we’ve gotten clear on exactly what ultimate guides are, the value they provide, and the need to stand out, let’s dig into the specifics. Here are several steps you can take to ensure your ultimate guide actually generates a return on investment for your brand.

    1. Do Some Competitive Analysis

    Most people dive straight into creating an ultimate guide before researching what already exists. So before you develop your Ultimate Guide on Changing Your Oil, make sure you run a quick Google search to see what already exists. In short, you should be doing a competitive analysis of other, similar ultimate guides.

    Create a spreadsheet with columns for the post headline, URL, subheadings, things the post does well, and things the post misses on. At a minimum, you want to record information for every ultimate guide on the first two pages of Google search results.

    Armed with a detailed spreadsheet of information, you’re ready to start planning your own post. The goal is to build upon the strengths you see in other posts and to fill in the gaps and missing pieces that exist.

    For example, if every ultimate guide post on your topic only has 15 tips and merely recommends different tools to use, you now know that you can surpass these posts by creating an ultimate guide post with 30 tips and a step-by-step tutorial of how to use each of the tools mentioned.

    2. Pull Out the Dictionary

    As previously mentioned, it’s not that ultimate guide posts don’t work – it’s that the word ultimate is overused and has lost all meaning and value. So if you’re going to go through the trouble of creating a post of this magnitude, you’ll want to use unique phraseology. Here are some other words and terms that could set your post apart. (We’ll use the previous illustration of “marketing” as an example.)

    • The Unrivaled Guide to Marketing
    • A 7-Figure Entrepreneur’s Guide to Marketing
    • The Essential Marketing Handbook
    • The Supreme Guide to Marketing
    • The Successful Marketer’s Guide
    • The Guide to All Things Marketing
    • The No Bull$%#@ Guide to Marketing
    • The Uncensored Guide to Digital Marketing
    • The Last Marketing Guide You’ll Ever Need

    We just came up with that list in 45 seconds. If you take 15 minutes to brainstorm some different name ideas, you’ll be amazed by how many different ones you can come up with.

    3. Get More Specific

    In the aim of giving readers everything they could possibly need to know about a topic, most people zoom out with ultimate guides and cover very basic topics. But if you want to fill a void in the market, perhaps you should get more granular?

    In other words, don’t write another “ultimate guide to marketing” post. Instead, make the focus more specific – like content marketing, PPC advertising, or video marketing. Better yet, dig in even closer and make it an ultimate guide (using other terminology, of course) to writing headlines, Facebook advertising, or Instagram Live.

    As you zoom in on the topic, you’ll also find it easier to conduct valuable long-tail keyword research. This increases your chances of developing content that resonates with your target audience.

    4. Write Better Subheads

    The subheadings in your post are basically the “chapters.” While most content creators use very basic subheadings that they think their readers want to see, you can create more value here by writing subheadings they actually want to read.

    The best way to do this is by running a Google search for each longtail keyword that you’re focusing on. Once you do this, Google will give you a rich snippet with several other queries and questions “people also ask.” Each one of these questions can be organized into a logical progression of subheadings. Not only does this guarantee you’re creating content your audience wants to read, but you’re also pushing Google’s buttons.

    5. Diversify the Content

    The next step is to diversify your content. If everyone is writing the same thing, covering the same information, and discussing the exact same strategies, you need to take a different approach. The goal isn’t to blend in – it’s to stand out.

    Sometimes diversifying looks like taking a contrarian stance or digging into an opposing viewpoint. Other times, it’s creating graphics and videos when everyone else is 100 percent focused on textual content.

    6. Be Proactive

    Most newbies think that if you create the highest quality post and hit publish, people will start visiting your site. Though this sounds great in theory, it simply isn’t true.

    Fifteen years ago, you could spend a few days creating a quality post that was stuffed with the right keywords and you’d instantly catapult to the first page of Google. But in today’s saturated marketplace where millions of words of content are published on a daily basis, this magnetic approach no longer works. (At least not in isolation.) You have to be more proactive.

    Once you publish your post, your attention should go to promoting that post. You can obviously do this via your own social media channels and email list, but the real power comes from forming partnerships with other people and brands who have their own audiences. This includes strategies like guest blogging, influencer marketing, and even renting email lists.

    Need Help? SEO.co Has Your Back

    Content creation isn’t as easy as it looks. And if you’re going to spend time and money creating an ultimate guide post, you might as well do it right the first time.

    At SEO.co, we provide U.S.-based outsourced content writing solutions for blogs and websites. Whether you need a 5,000-word blog post, a white paper, or a hard-hitting article, our custom-tailored content solutions can help you get there faster.

    For more information on our content services, please contact us today!

    Chief Marketing Officer at SEO Company
    In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. As a technical SEO strategist, Sam leads all paid and organic operations teams for client SEO services, link building services and white label SEO partnerships. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
    Samuel Edwards