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Ranking 900+ keywords in a week

How AI content changed the game for a new startup.

Sponsored by

Happy Thursday, Collaborators!

Google has launched its first major search algorithm update of 2024, and sloppy AI content is in its crosshairs.

The company will now treat two common AI article practices as spam:

  • Scaled content - low-quality articles created at scale to game Google’s algorithms

  • Expired domain abuse - buying an expired domain with a high domain authority and publishing low-quality articles.

However, these updates don’t mean that you can’t use AI to grow your search traffic. You have to focus on creating high quality content that is genuinely valuable to users.

This week, we’re examining how Penfriend used AI to create high-quality content - and rapidly climbed search results pages.


Thank you to Penfriend for providing the information for this case study. This article is not sponsored content, but our founder has previously spoken at an event with Inge von Aulock, the co-founder of Penfriend.

How Penfriend Ranked 900+ Keywords in a Week

The Brand

AI content is supposed to save us time and produce better content than many writers.

However, everyone but the most enthusiastic influencers will tell you that AI often doesn’t live up to the hype. You have to hone your prompting abilities to get great content, and adapt that content to SEO best practices.

Penfriend set out to change that status quo. It is an AI content generation startup focused on producing high-quality, SEO-optimized, almost-human content.

As an early-stage startup, Penfriend faced a similar challenge to many of its customers: growing quickly with limited resources and a new site. With a domain rating of <10 (50+ is ideal for fast growth) and just 35 backlinks, growing through SEO would be an uphill battle.

To fight it, Penfriend decided to drink their own champagne (i.e., use their own software).

The Strategy

“We’re building the minimum viable version of the Penfriend blog.

We’re calling it Minimum Viable Content (MVC).”

- John, Tim, and Inge, the co-founders of Penfriend

To grow quickly, the Penfriend team decided to defy conventional wisdom. Instead of spending hours perfecting each piece of content they published, they would publish as much content as possible.

Then, they would improve on the content over time (likely focusing on the highest performing content in search.) That way, they dedicate their efforts to the pieces that will bring them the best results.

To start, the Penfriend team published 370 articles around key topics in marketing and AI in a week.

First, they entered a target keyword for each article in Penfriend:

Add your target keyword. Source: Penfriend

Then, Penfriend’s platform automatically generated SEO optimized titles for the post. They selected an SEO title.

The software generated an outline of the blog post based partly on the pieces of content that already rank for that keyword.

Excerpt from an outline of the blog post.

Once the team approved the outline, they generated the full blog post.

The Penfriend team lightly edited the blog posts before publishing them on their site.

The Results

The results of this minimum viable content strategy were astounding. In a single week, Penfriend’s blog grew from ranking for 100 keywords to ranking for over 1,000:

The count of keywords Penfriend ranked for before and after publishing 370+ articles. Source: Penfriend

Now that the articles are ranking, the Penfriend team can identify the top-performing blog posts, and optimize them first. Their plan is to:

  • Edit the content, using the YOURS framework they developed to improve AI content.

  • Add internal links and images.

The Takeaway

The scale of AI enables a new SEO strategy. Instead of predicting what content will perform best, writing it, and hoping that your strategy pays off in a few months, you can generate helpful content, see which posts are performing best live, and improve on them.

This strategy could drastically reduce the time and resources required to see results from SEO.

However, the quality of your content matters. Make sure each post you publish is genuinely helpful to your reader-not just designed to rank in search results.


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