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How to Rank for Smoked Pork Butt

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. What you’re reading is an experiment and the result of an experiment.

What’s the experiment you ask? So glad you brought it up!

I want to know if I can write an article that hits all the right keywords and semantically relevant words and phrases, with the body of the article not actually addressing the subject at hand, and still rank for the given keyword. My victim, the keyword “smoked pork butt.”

My intent isn’t to see if Google is easily tricked (because I know it’s not). I’m interested in how much traditional on-page metrics like keyword density and semantically relevant words and phrases matter.

This article is more of a “how to rank for smoked pork butt” than it is an article about smoking pork. But hey, if you want to know more about things like dry rubs, fat caps, smoking temperatures, and brines, and still get some SEO knowledge, read on!

One of the reasons this going to be hard is that most articles in this SERP are recipes, which seem to follow a particular outline. Again, I’m not trying break or beat Google. I’m just curious to see how this turns out. If you are too, just Google, “smoked pork butt” to see how I’m doing.

smoked pork butt diagram

So what needs to be done?

As with all SEO projects, first comes the research.

At a basic level I like to gather the following for all articles I work on.

  • Primary keyword
  • Secondary keywords
  • Semantic analysis of words and phrases
  • Competitors’ article structure


The primary keyword in this case is smoked pork butt. Which for those that don’t know, it’s not actually the backside of a pig. It’s also known as a pork shoulder or Boston butt. Pretty much any smoked pulled pork is going to be this cut.

smoked pork butt main keyword

My secondary keywords are related words like: pork shoulder, pulled pork, pork butt, and pulled pork recipe (yes, there’s a recipe at the bottom of this article). These words make sense, and for the most part are just variations on my main keyword.

smoked pork butt supporting keyword

I can’t think of any reason to build a page or article that wouldn’t be centered around a keyword. The only exceptions I can think of are gated or password protected content — basically stuff that crawlers won’t or can’t find, but users will. In the case of this article, smoked pork butt.

In short, every page you build should have a focus keyword and some secondary keywords.

Semantic Analysis

I’m a huge fan of semantic analysis because it helps articles do really well at two specific things: 1) rank better for your big-volume head keyword and 2) fan out your raw amount of ranking keywords which scoops up loads of long-tail keywords.

I’m not going to list out every single word here, but just to help you get a sense of what these look like here’s a few parent themes with their associated keywords.

  • Different ways to say “smoked pork butt”
    • Pork butt
    • Smoked pulled pork
    • Pork shoulder
    • Boston butt
  • Equipment
    • Injector
    • Smoker
    • Aluminum foil
    • Thermometer
  • Technique
    • Spritz
    • Fat cap
    • Marinade
    • Mop
  • Preparation
    • Brine
    • Rub
    • Dry rub
    • Marinade
  • Ingredients
    • Mustard
    • Tablespoon
    • Brown sugar
    • BBQ sauce

Now just by listing out these words I’ve captured many more semantically relevant words and phrases related to smoked pork butt. Keep in mind, this post is a shameless test, I don’t recommend just listing out your semantic analysis terms in your content.

smoked pork butt tf-idf keyword

Take a look at the first section of this article where I bring up “dry rubs, fat caps, smoking temperatures, and brines.” That’s a better (while still shameless) way to get the words in. But that’s one of my favorite things about semantic analysis — the execution is so much easier than straight keywords.

Think about it, how easy is it to bring up words like pork shoulder, smoker, dry rub, and brown sugar in an article about smoker pork butt? As evidenced by the last sentence, pretty easy.


Competitor article structure

I mentioned earlier that most of the articles ranking for smoked pork butt, and related words like pork shoulder, pulled pork, and pork butt are largely how-to/recipe articles. That’s why I have a pulled pork recipe in this post. Now while this article may be shameless in nature, this recipe is not. When the weather’s right, I’ll fire up the Traeger at least a couple times every month and throw some pork shoulder down. While I’m no expert, I am proud of the recipe, or at least proud enough to share online (which, given the state of social media feeds, may not be saying much).

I’m not sure how much it matters, but many of these have a YouTube video embedded. So I will too. BBQ with Franklin is an awesome YouTube channel where pitmaster Franklin gives a daunting amount of information related to smoking meats. He breaks it into a science, from the cuts to make before you apply rub and what temp to smoke the meat at, all the way through slicing and serving. Franklin knows all.


Like most posts that have a recipe in them, you’ll find my recipe at the bottom. Why are recipes always at the bottom of recipe pages? I really don’t know. It’s frustrating as a user to want a recipe only to find yourself scrolling for what seems like an eternity, finally scrolling past the very recipe you’ve been looking for.


PJ’s Smoked Pork Butt recipe


1 Pork Shoulder 3 - 6 lbs

½ Cup Apple Juice (in a spritzer or small glass jar)

Rub Ingredients:

¾ Cup Salt (Pink Himalayan is preferred, but thick Kosher salt works well too)

1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

⅓ Cup Garlic Powder

1 tsp. Ground Black Pepper

1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

⅓ Cup Chili Powder

⅔ Cup Brown Sugar or a Sugar Substitute (my favorite substitute right now is Lankato)

⅓ Cup Paprika

⅓ Cup Onion Powder



  1. Clean your smoker to have it ready for the next day. Mix all rub ingredients in a ziplock bag. This rub will make enough for 3 - 4 cookouts so be sure not to contaminate the rub when you use it.
  2. The night before smoking, unwrap the pork shoulder and pat it down with paper towels until it’s slightly dry, or just not slimy.
  3. Place the pork shoulder on a large cutting board or in a casserole dish to catch excess rub that falls off.
  4. Sprinkle the rub onto all sides of the pork shoulder and rub it into the pork as best you can. Pork shoulder is a thick cut of meat so be liberal with your seasonings no matter how much it weighs.
  5. Wrap the pork shoulder tightly in saran wrap and place it into a dish. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. The next morning, open up your smoker and set it to the smoke setting. Once it starts smoking close the lid and set the temperature to 225 F degrees. Let the smoker heat up for 10 - 15 minutes with the lid closed.
  7. Place the small jar of apple juice on the grill grate toward the back of the grill. Place the pork shoulder on the grill grate, fat-side up. Let cook 3 hours. If you put your apple juice in a spritzer you can then spritz your pork every hour after the first 3 hours.
  8. After 3 hours put the pork shoulder in an aluminum foil dish so that you can catch the drippings of the pork. Roast the pork for 5 - 6 more hours or until a thermometer reads 190° F.
  9. Transfer the pork shoulder to a large casserole dish and cover loosely with aluminum foil for 15 - 30 minutes. Take 2 forks and shred the pork as much or as little as you would like. Serve BBQ sauce on the side or mix it in.

Finished smoked pork butt

There you have it! Smoked pork butt.

Let’s see how this does in the SERPs. I’ll be updating the status of this article every now and again (also a good practice for recipe-related posts). If you’re reading this right after publishing, check back in a month or two to see how it’s going.

And if you have any ideas for future tests or ways to iterate this one, let me know in the comments! Or if you tried my recipe, let me know how you liked it!

PJ Howland

PJ is the VP of Industry Insights at 97th Floor. He coordinates insights with others at 97th Floor to ensure we're all elevating each other through good content.

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