Header image for the content velocity blog post

Content Velocity: Your Route to Faster Ranking Results

Content Velocity is the term we use to describe a website’s rate of content production. Since velocity is one of the strongest factors in modern SEO, it’s an important element to understand — particularly if you’re involved in the digital marketing for your brand.

Having a good understanding of how to define, implement and measure your own content velocity gives you the competitive advantage you need to start seeing quality traffic. Since it offers your audience so many more reasons to engage, it also leads to a better marketing ROI.

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Content velocity is the fastest way to see a ranking improvement

Outstanding long term results involve an entire hierarchy of SEO priorities but sometimes, you just don’t have the luxury of time. If you’re in a position where you need to show SEO results asap, boosting your velocity is definitely the play (assuming your website is technically sound).

Here’s a snapshot of the average rankings over a 2 month content push for one of our clients at the start of 2023.

Screenshot of a ranking report in Ahrefs

There are a few reasons why Google rewards better content velocity:

  • Modern answers and advice are more valuable to the end user
  • The more you talk about a given topic, the stronger your relevance to that topic (not just specific keywords)
  • A website that posts regularly is considered to be a more valuable resource to send searchers to

How to calculate website content velocity

If you are trying to calculate content velocity for blog posts and website content the formula is simple your monthly content velocity is the number of pages you’ve published in the last 3 months divided by 3.

For example, if you published 15 new pages in the last 3 months, that’s a velocity of 5 per month.

15 new pages in the last 3 months:
15 ÷ 3 = 5

While you can work on a weekly velocity, monthly gives you the ability for some flex in your schedule to accommodate for those inevitable things that pop up within the business.

As for only looking at the last 3 months, this is because your content velocity from 12 months ago is irrelevant. Recent velocity is the only metric that tells you anything of value because recent velocity is what Google will be paying attention to. Google likes recency in its algorithm and to see that a website can continue to establish authority and relevancy in a topic.

How to calculate total content velocity

Calculating total content velocity is messy and takes a lot of time. The best way we’ve found to do that is to start with a top down approach so that you don’t miss anything and filter down from there.

  1. List out the channels you produce content for. This can go beyond the blog and into social media, video, podcasts and more.
  2. List out how much content you produce by channel. This can be tricky but, not impossible. Here are a few tips to help you get a quick gauge;
    • For social media, it can be easiest to count everything you post each month.
    • Email check your mail software and see what was sent.
    • Podcasts and video can be tougher but tracking back through your inbox or Slack channels is the best bet.
  3. Sum all this content up in a table and then divide it by 3 to calculate your total content velocity.
  4. Now you have your total content velocity if you break that out by channel.

Look at your competitors’ content velocity for a benchmark

“More content” isn’t always the answer, so looking at what your top-ranked competitors are doing is the easiest way to give you context. Thankfully, doing this is also very simple and completely free.

Here are the steps:

  1. Look at the search results for your most important keywords and determine the 5 most dominant competitors
  2. Install the free Ahrefs browser extension – this numbers the search results like in the screenshot below. That way you don’t have to count them.
  3. Run a site: search for each of your competitors. E.g. site:nytimes.com
  4. Click Tools on the right, under the search box
  5. Click Any Time to open the dropdown, select Custom Range and choose the most recent full months as the range.
    E.g. If it’s April 10, select a date range of January 1 to March 31
    Selecting a custom date range from Google Search tools
  6. Scroll to the bottom of the search results to see how many there are
    Google search results used to calculate content velocity
  7. Divide that number by 3

Once you’ve got that monthly content velocity for your top 5 competitors, you now have a ballpark to work within when defining your own strategy.

Note: If your competitor has multiple versions of their website (e.g. a US and a UK website) you can exclude other versions with the -inurl: search operator. Using the NY Times example above, we can exclude their cn.nytimes.com subdomain by adding -inurl:cn. to the end of the search. If the structure was nytimes.com/cn/page-url, you could exclude it with -inurl:/cn/. and so on.

Example of how to use Google site search operators

Set a practical velocity target

Now that you know your current velocity and how it compares to your top competitors, you can use that as a jumping-off point to define a new target.

The goal here is to define several content items your team can publish each month, consistently, without lowering the quality. You’ll need to factor in a number of elements, including:

  • The maximum number of items a single writer can realistically publish every month
  • How much budget do you have for writers? Can you hire more? If so, how many?
  • Who is going to do your editing?
  • How many items can be properly edited each month?
  • Who will be publishing this content on the site? How many pages can they publish every month?

For this to work, you need to be realistic with your goal setting, even sandbagging slightly to accommodate the natural ebb and flow of internal workloads. Velocity is important but if you end up publishing 50 terrible pages per month because it looks impressive on paper, your efforts will fail.

Velocity x Quality = ROI.

Increase velocity without sacrificing quality

Once your target has been set, it’s time to set your team up for success right out of the gate. Having been through this process with several teams, here are the key takeaways that will help you achieve this efficiently.

Don’t rush it

Failure to plan is planning to fail. You’re about to introduce a higher workload, new tasks and processes — maybe even new team members — to your team and that represents a lot of challenges at once.

Keep your current production levels in place while you set your team up for future success. It will be faster in the longer run.

Define a clear workflow

Since you’re about to introduce so many new moving parts, you need a clear structure for everyone to follow consistently. When everyone knows how the content flow works, they can be that much more efficient in their day to day operations.

This also frees up more time for the editor and/or manager since they have less problems and questions coming in.

Generally, the workflow will look something like this

Brief → Approval → Draft → Editor Review → Draft Corrections → Editor Review → Final Approval → Publish

Depending on your industry and subject matter, you may have more or less steps to getting a new page published but this gives you a starting point.

Have a way to keep track of your content

Making a content calendar part of your workflow is the only way to keep on top of higher production volumes. Particularly if you’re working with multiple writers, you need to have visibility on the topics in the pipeline, who’s writing it and the current status of each one.

This is also your place to set deadlines for briefs, drafts, edits and publishing. Holding people accountable to these deadlines is how you keep your velocity on track.

Exactly how you implement it is entirely up to you. It can be done in anything from Google Sheets to Asana or Monday.com.

Use detailed, templated briefs

The more detail your writers are given, the better and faster the end result will be. The simplest way to achieve this is to use a template so that every brief is the same and no details are missed. To save you some time, you can download a copy of our content brief template — the same one we use internally for all our clients.

Snapshot of our content brief

It should include elements like:

  • Page type (landing page, blog post etc)
  • Word count limitations
  • References for related reading
  • Intended headline and headings for the page
  • Bullet points of what to be included in each section

Again, this will vary depending on your industry and who’s writing it. If you have an SME writing about a simple topic, they’ll need less detail and guidance than a freelance writer working on technical content for a more litigious field.

Create a comprehensive style guide

An effective style guide helps writers hit the mark on their first draft while making life easier for the editor. Both sides then have a clear set of expectations that each page will be held to consistently, no matter what the topic or who was writing/editing it.

Just as important, this style guide helps you keep a consistent voice across all content on your site.

Quality, then quantity

Even with these tools in place, you should be nailing down the quality of your current production before you go ramping things up. Fixing some problems with organization or tone will be simple enough at a small scale, trying to correct them when you have 10 writers is exponentially more challenging.

By producing a few pieces of content that meet the new standards, you also give new team members a working reference point for their own writing. This is far more helpful than telling them to “ignore what’s on our website right now, we’re trying to be better”.

AI content is acceptable (but be careful)

Google is not against AI generated content, as many seem to believe. As mentioned in their February 2023 post, what they’re interested in is “[r]ewarding high-quality content, however it is produced”.

“…however content is produced, those seeking success in Google Search should be looking to produce original, high-quality, people-first content demonstrating qualities E-E-A-T.” *

What this means is that if you can produce genuinely high quality content using an AI platform then by all means, go right ahead. The large and important but here is that most people can’t achieve that yet. There are some that claim to have it locked down but that’s proprietary procedure and not something you can just start copy/pasting from ChatGPT. At least not yet.

The takeaway here:  As AI content continues to develop rapidly, there will come a time where it’s viable. At that point, don’t be afraid to use it. Just don’t let your quality slip for the sake of velocity or profit margin. It won’t end in your favor.

*(E-E-A-T is their acronym for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Elements they look for to identify quality content.)

Frequently Asked Questions: Content Velocity

Content Velocity is the term we use to describe a website’s rate of content production. It’s become a very important element in modern SEO and in our experience, produces the fastest ranking results when handled correctly.

To measure content velocity, count how many pieces of content have been published in the last 3 months and divide that by 3. For example, if you’ve published 15 pieces of content in the last 3 months, that’s a content velocity of 5 pages per month.

Applied correctly, content velocity will improve your Google rankings. This is done by increasing your topical relevance (how relevant Google considers you to be for a given topic), maintaining fresh and relevant content and producing strong internal linking.

As an important side benefit, you’re also giving your audience more reasons and opportunities to engage with your brand.