20-Step On-Page SEO Checklist (with FREE Automation Template)

20-Step On-Page SEO Checklist (with FREE Automation Template)

Robbie headshot

Note: I just launched my premium training program, The SEO Playbook. You can learn more about the course and see what current students are saying here

Let’s face it:

Most on-page SEO checklists are completely useless.

Don’t believe me? Do a Google search for “on-page SEO checklist” and take a look at the results…

On-Page SEO Search Results

You get 3.6 million results!

And:

Most of them offer nothing more than a bullet list of incredibly basic advice.

“Include your keyword in the title tag”.

“Make sure your site loads fast”.

And so on…

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this advice…

(Plot twist: we’ll be talking about site speed and meta tags later in this guide too!)

The problem is these checklists fail to address two BIG issues:

  1. Checking on-page SEO elements across hundreds of pages is insanely boring;
  2. It takes a crap load of time!

Luckily, there’s a way to solve this…

Automation.

In this 20-step checklist, I’ll be focusing on the top on-page SEO ranking factors pulled from several reputable industry reports. We’ll look at supporting data, and provide action items for each checklist element.

PLUS:

I’m giving away a free Google Sheets template that automates most of the boring stuff for you.

Here’s a taster 🙂

On-page automation sheet GIF

This is a comprehensive on-page SEO checklist, so I’ve included links below if you want to jump to specific checkpoint:

NOTE: Thanks to Joshua Hardwick (from The SEO Project) for creating this template!

I’ll be walking you through template setup (and the whole optimization process) later in the guide but first, let’s talk a bit more about on-page optimization.

Is on-page SEO still important in 2019, and what key on-page ranking factors should you be optimizing ?

Let me begin by answering the first part of that question.

YES!!

On-page SEO is definitely still important.

But here’s the problem:

It often gets overshadowed by other off-page factors like backlinks and domain authority,.

I mean, take a look at this image from Ahrefs’ on-page study:

Ahrefs: backlinks vs on-page ranking factors

Looking at this, you’d be forgiven for thinking the “on page factors” listed here aren’t important at all.

They look negligible next to those other factors, right?

I’m not disagreeing that “backlink factors” will probably always be more important than on-page factors…

But, here’s the thing:

Backlink factors take months/years (and a lot of cash) to build.

Meanwhile, a keyword can easily be added to a title tag in <60 seconds, and your internal and external link profiles optimized in minutes.

So:

While this study shows “keyword in title” as 4-5 times less important as “referring domains”, it’s important to remember it takes less than 4-5 times the effort to change!

Before you start investing loads of time and money into content and link building campaigns, focus on the foundational elements.

On-page SEO falls in this bucket because it’s what search engines like Google use to understand the context of content, determine relevance for different search queries, and gauge user experience.

Get this part wrong and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.

Anyway, here’s what the very same study found to be some key on-page ranking factors:

On-page SEO ranking factors


I’ll be tackling most of these on-page ranking factors in this guide but first, I want to tackle the two seemingly most important factors (according to the screenshot above), which are:

  1. Keyword in domain name;
  2. Age of the page

You have very little control over both of these things.

Your keyword is either in your domain name…or it isn’t.

Your page is well-aged…or it isn’t.

Don’t let this worry you; everyone else is in the same boat.

Focus on the factors you do have control over.

Author’s
Note:

The majority of on-page SEO advice you see online centers on the strategic placement of exact match keywords within core page elements – title tag, headings, URL etc. 

While keyword placement is important, more complex factors such as intent and overall relevance of a page/post are now being weighted heavily by search engines.

Here is a simple example of this concept provided by the folks at Ahrefs:

Example of on-page SEO relevance

You’ll notice that the exact search term “guest posting” is only showing for one of the top ranking pages. 

Google sees articles about “guest blogging sites” and “guide to guest blogging” as relevant topics to that search query. 

The takeaway?

When you’re looking at on-site optimization don’t fall into the trap of ONLY focusing on exact match keywords. Look for partial match, synonyms and semantic keyword variations (more on this later). This will help boost keyword spread, and strengthen the overall topical relevance of your page.

Want to learn more? In this video, I’ll show you how to quickly find dozens of secondary keyword variations to help expand your organic footprint.

Introducing the automated on-page SEO template…

Before I walk you through exactly how the on-page SEO automation template works, here are a few things to note:

  • This template can be used for any website in any niche to scale keyword/ topic optimization at the page level;
  • It can be used to automate 10 core on-page ranking factors (seriously, just pull in the correct data and the spreadsheet will do the hard work for you!)
  • It supports up to 1000 web pages at a time!

Let me give you a quick tour (if you prefer video, jump here):

Step 1 of the on-page SEO checklist

This is the “START HERE” tab, which contains detailed instructions for each step of the process.

The next two tabs are all “data import” tabs — this is where you’ll import data from a few third-party tools (more on this later!)

Importing SEMRush keyword data into the on-page SEO template

Next, we have the Keyword mapping tab:

Keyword mapping in on-page template

This is where you’ll assign a target keyword/topic for each page on your website.

(this information is used by the spreadsheet to figure out how well-optimized each page is!)

And finally, the “DONE” tab:

On-page automation sheet GIF

This is where you’ll see the results of the automated on-page audit for EVERY page on your website.

No need to open any pages manually…

No need to “view source” and sift through the HTML for each page…

It’s all handled by the spreadsheet (trust me, this saves an insane amount of time!)

While the spreadsheet automates most of the top on-site SEO elements, there are still some factors that can’t be checked automatically (e.g. readability of content, internal/external link assessment and LSI evaluation).

I’ll cover these towards the end of the post.

But first, let’s get the spreadsheet set up…

20-step checklist to optimize the top on-page SEO elements (and automate the tedious stuff…)

First, you’re going to want to make a copy of the spreadsheet template on your Google Drive:

On-page seo template

To do this, click the link above (to get access to the spreadsheet) and go to “File > Make a Copy…”.

You should now have an editable copy of the template on your own Google Drive.

So, how does this template actually work?

Full instructions are provided in the spreadsheet itself:

On-Page SEO Template Instructions

Here’s the basic process:

  • Import all the pages on your website (this is done automatically; you just have to paste your sitemap URL into the spreadsheet);
  • Import the required data into the sheet;
  • Manually assign a target keyword to each page;
  • Check the “DONE” tab for SEO recommendations!

Author’s
Note:

You’ll need SEMRush and URL Profiler to pull all the data into the template. You can get free access to both tools below:

Here’s a video showing how to set up the spreadsheet from start-to-finish:

All set up and ready-to-go?

Let’s go through the checklist step-by-step (starting with all the items the spreadsheet automates for you :))

#1. Instantly boost traffic by removing misplaced “noindex” tags

Checking meta robots tag

Any page with the “noindex” tag applied to it WILL NOT be indexed by search engines.

If you want a page to rank (for anything!), it MUST be indexed.

If the spreadsheet kicks back a “noindex” tag for a page you want indexed, you’ll need to remove it.

If the page shouldn’t be indexed, no worries, you can leave the “noindex” tag where it is.

Author’s
Note:

It could be argued this is more of a technical item, but one of the biggest mistakes I see when performing SEO audits is people inadvertently restricting search engines from accessing key content.

This typically occurs in two places:

1. Setting a “disallow” directive in the robots.txt file

This can happen at the domain, page and sub-folder level:

Robots.txt screenshot

You can find your robots.txt file by simply appending that path to your domain:

robots.txt file example

Make sure your URL and/or subfolders are not being inadvertently blocked in the robots.txt folder. 

2. Setting a no-index tag at the page-level

If you want content to show up in Google’s index, this tag should not be in the HTML:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />

No index tag

You can correct page-level no-index tags in WordPress using a plugin like Yoast:

No index content in Yoast

Or remove the folder or page-level exclusion from your robots.txt file. 

Once the page exclusion is removed, re-submit it to the index using the Search Console URL Inspection Tool

#2. Make sure your site is secure (HTTPs)

Checking HTTPs status in on-page checklist

Without getting into the technical details, Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP – protocol over which data is sent between a browser and your website).

The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’ because all information exchange between the browser and your site is encrypted using an SSL certificate.

Google officially stated announced they use HTTPs as a ranking signal way back in 2014.

Since then, multiple studies have found a correlation between higher rankings and sites/pages using HTTPs:

Percent of URLs ranking with HTTPs status
Percent of HTTPs results ranking on page 1 in 2017
Percentage of HTTPs URLs ranking on page 1 in July 2016

And the data suggests this number could climb to 65% by the end of 2017.

A page that isn’t using HTTPs will be indicated by the phrase “NO” (and red cell highlighting) in the “HTTPs” column of the spreadsheet.

If you see this, it may be worth making the switch, because Chrome will soon start to label all non-HTTPs pages as “not secure”.

Chrome labeling non-HTTPs pages as non-secure

As you can imagine, this could have a BIG impact on the conversion rate of websites, especially in industries such as ecommerce where visitors are entering personal and transactional information. 

A study by GlobalSign found 84% of users would abandon a purchase if data was sent over an unsecure connection.

Author’s
Note:

Lets Encrypt supplies free SSL certificates that are compatible with most web hosts.

You can also go with a quality hosting provider like WPX hosting. I use the company for all my site hosting, and recommend them to most of my clients.

They provide unlimited free Google-sponsored SSL certificates for all websites hosted on the platform:

WPX Hosting dashboard

Here’s a few things you should do during the HTTPs site migration:

  1. Register both domains http & https in Google Search Console, including your www and non-www versions.
  2. Prepare & test the Rewrite Rules that will 301 redirect the old http site to the new https version.
  3. Update the robots.txt directives with new https protocols.
  4. Upload & Verify new https XML sitemap within Search Console.
  5. Pick a preferred version of the site and ensure all other possible variations are properly 301 redirecting to it.

For example:

Canonical version:
https://www.domain.com

Ensure each of the following redirect:

http://www.domain.com
www.domain.com
http://domain.com
https://domain.com

For a comprehensive HTTP to HTTPs migration checklist, check out this awesome post by Aleyda Solis.

#3. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly (responsive)

Checking to see if pages are mobile-friendly

Almost 60% of organic search visits in the United States now occur on a mobile device:

Graph showing percentage of organic visits from mobile devices

(Source)

And that number is on the rise!

Google announced in March 2018 that it had begun switching to mobile-first indexing:

Google announces switch to mobile-first indexing

In a nutshell, Google now uses the mobile version of your website as the starting point for what it includes in the index, and a baseline for it determine rankings.

Image explaining mobile-first indexing

(Source)

Lack of a “mobile-friendly” website can now negatively impact your rankings on both mobile and desktop devices.

In fact:

Google started penalizing mobile-unfriendly websites in 2015.

Therefore:

It’s super important your website is optimized for mobile devices. It should either utilise a responsive design or have an alternate mobile-friendly site.

I’d recommend correcting this problem ASAP if the spreadsheet kicks back an issue.

Robbie headshot

Author’s
Note:

According to official Google statements, more than 50% of search queries globally now come from mobile devices. And, this number is only going to rise. 

Mobile search by industry

Several of my clients spanning a range of different industries, from property management to SaaS, have seen their mobile traffic share increase over 50% in 12 months:

Google Analytics screenshot showing mobile traffic increase

And for most of my smaller local search clients, mobile devices are the number one driver of organic traffic:

Mobile devices driving the most organic traffic

If the automation template kicks back a “mobile-unfriendly” warning make it a #1 priority to get it fixed.

Now:

There are numerous things that can trigger red flags for mobile user experience. If you get flagged in the on-page template, and you do have a dedicated mobile site or responsive theme, drop your domain into the Google Mobile Tester tool in Search Console:

Mobile testing tool screenshot

Sometimes the fix can be quick, simple and have an immediate impact on your mobile rankings and user experience. 

#4. Drop your keyword in H1-tags (and make sure they actually exist!)

Checking H1 tags in the automation template

It’s good practice for every web page to feature a H1 tag.

Why? Because H1 is your main heading tag (every page deserves a heading, right!?)

It’s also good practice to include your target keyword (or at least a variation of it) in your H1 tag.

Google looks at H1 tags for clues around page context.

If you add multiple H1 tags with different keywords it becomes harder for Google to definitively extract context from the page.

This is confirmed by almost every SEO study, including the recent Ahrefs study (where there’s a small correlation):

Pages with keyword in H1 tag ranking on page one of Google

Some people also believe having your keyword at the beginning of your H1 gives a slight boost (note: this has never been confirmed by any reputable study).

With this in mind, here are the four pieces of data the sheet shows:

  1. H1 exists or not — if it doesn’t exist, add one;
  2. Duplicate H1 (i.e. more than one H1 tag on the page) — this should always be corrected;
  3. H1 contains keyword — this tells you if the H1 contains the exact-match keyword; it’s not necessarily bad if it doesn’t, but it’s worth checking out;
  4. H1 starts with keyword — again, this isn’t a must-have so don’t force it; it may make sense in some instances, though.
Robbie headshot

Author’s
Note:

A reminder to not fall into the exact match keyword trap here. Always think of your H1 tag as, well, a headline for your page/post. 

The most important thing is that it actually describes what the page is about.

IMPORTANT:

Sometimes content management systems like WordPress will automatically use H1 tags to increase text size within random page sections. This can lead to multiple (or duplicate) H1 tags.

Check out your site code to ensure you’re using a single H1 tag on each post, and unintended text is not being automatically wrapped in heading tags.

A simple way to do this is right click on the page and select “view page source”:

View page source

Click CTRL + F and search for “h1”. Make sure you only have one H1 tag on each page. 

Finding H1 tag in source code

#5. Optimize your title tags for cross channel success

Title tag keyword optimization

Your title tag is the most important on-page SEO ranking factor when it comes to keyword placement.

It’s the boldest, most attention-grabbing element in a search result, and has a significant influence on your SERP click through rate.

WordStream conducted a study and found that “the more your pages beat the expected organic CTR for a given position, the more likely you are to appear in prominent organic positions”:

WordStream RankBrain study

Titles also get pulled in as anchor text when sharing on other sites and social media channels:

Title tag populating in social media posts

It’s also good practice to keep title tags between around 60-70 characters.

Any higher than 70 characters and they’ll most likely get truncated in the SERPS.

Truncated title tag

Any lower than 50 characters and you’re leaving precious SERP real estate on the table.

Keyword inclusion correlates quite heavily with Google rankings (according to Ahrefs), so you’ll probably want to include your keyword — or at least some variation of it — in the title tag.

Ahrefs study showing usage of keyword in the title tag

Again, there’s some debate about whether or not placing your keyword at the beginning of the title tag has any additional weight, so this is up to you.

Here’s the title tag-related information the sheet shows you for each page:

  1. Title tag exists (or not) — add the title tag to any pages without one present;
  2. Title tag too long — this will tell you if any title tags are over 70 characters in length (and thus, may be truncated); it’s usually worth shortening any title tags that are too long;
  3. Title tag too short — this will tell you if any title tags are under 50 characters in length;
  4. Title tag contains keyword — again, this is good practice but not 100% necessary (thanks to Google’s Hummingbird update);
  5. Title tag starts with keyword — not 100% necessary but works well for some pages; don’t force it at the beginning if it doesn’t make sense!
  6. Title tag contains “modifiers” — these are words like “best”, “2018”, etc; these won’t help rankings directly but they can help to increase CTR (which is a proven ranking factor) and map to intent at each stage of the funnel.

Here’s how to check (and edit) your title tag:

Open a webpage in your browser, right-click anywhere on the page and select “view page source”.

Your title tag is the text between the opening and closing title tags:

Optimizing title tag in the HTML

If you don’t see this on the page, you’ll need to add it.

With HTML pages, this can be done by manually editing the code.

If you’re using WordPress, you can use the Yoast plugin.

This adds an additional area on the backend (on the individual page/post areas) where you can change meta tags:

Optimizing Yoast title tag

Robbie headshot

Author’s
Note:

Title tags help search engines understand what your page is about, and are the first impression people have of your page.

That said, there are several things to think about when crafting title tags:

Watch your length – refer to the length guidelines above.

Don’t keyword stuff – avoid title tags that are a list of keywords or repeated close variations. It hurts the user experience, and search engines are smart enough now to understand semantics.

Give every page a unique title – this might seem daunting when trying to scale across hundreds or thousands of pages, but CMS and code base templates make this much easier.

If you have a website with thousands of product pages pulling from a database of products and categories, you could have your development team create a template with the following structure:

[Product Category] – [Product Name] | Brand Name

Put important keywords/LSIs first – while the jury is out on whether or not front loading keyword placement in the title tag has a direct impact on rankings, studies show user likely only scan the first 2-3 words as they scroll down the SERP.

Therefore – you need to be writing titles that immediately capture the attention of the reader, and win the click.

Avoid title tag structures like Brand Name | Major Product Category – Minor Product Category – Name of Product.

This structure will front-load repetitive information that provides little added value to the reader. It hurts companies without an established brand even more.

Take advantage of your brand – if you have a reputable brand mention it in the title tag to help boost CTRs.

Always write for your customers
– I saved the biggest for last. Always remember the primary goal of the title tag is to accurately capture the topic of the page and attract clicks from visitors in your target audience.

Good:

Good example of a title tag

Bad:

Bad title tag example

#6. Improve CTR’s with a well-crafted meta description

Checking meta descriptions in automation spreadsheet

Ahrefs found a very small correlation between the keyword being in a page’s meta description and higher rankings:

Graph showing keyword use in meta description across top ranking pages

I’d argue this correlation is negligible.

So:

Why am I including this in the on-page checklist?

Because on-page SEO isn’t solely about doing the things that directly influence rankings; it’s also important to optimize for users.

Remember:

If a meta description contains the exact keyword the user is searching-for, it gets highlighted in the search results:

Keyword bold in SERP snippet

This can lead to a higher CTRs, which is a ranking factor:

CTR ranking factor

For this reason, incorporating your primary keyword in your meta description is still worthwhile, in my opinion.

Here’s everything the sheet checks in regards to the meta description:

  1. Meta description exists (or not) — it’s worth adding a meta description for pages without them;
  2. Meta description too long — any descriptions over roughly 160 characters will be truncated in the SERPs; it’s worth shortening these;
  3. Meta description contains keyword — a nice touch, but don’t shoehorn it in if it doesn’t naturally fit;
Robbie headshot

Author’s
Note:

Use Google Search Console to identify which meta descriptions need to be optimized.

Go to Performance >> Pages and click the CTR box:

Search Console report

This report will show the CTR for your top ranking pages.

If you find some of your pages are ranking highly, but have a low CTR, update the meta description to be more compelling and entice the click.

Here are some recommendations.

#7. Use an SEO-friendly URL structure

Analyzing URL structure in the on-page template

SEO-friendly URLs are a must for any website — this means clear, well-formatted, and highly-readable (also, no weird characters or session IDs!)

It’s also worth keeping your URLs relatively short, as there’s a correlation between short URLs and rankings:

Graph showing number of characters in the URL

Same goes for the number of subfolders in a URL:

And yep, you guessed it: utilizing your keyword in the URL is good practice too:

Graph showing usage of keyword in the URL across top ranking pages

Here are the checks the sheet runs for each page URL:

  1. SEO-friendly URL — this checks whether or not the URL contains any strange characters (e.g. ? * etc.);
  2. URL is short — checks if the URL is under 50 characters; this rule isn’t set in stone, but short URLs are generally better than long ones;
  3. URL contains subfolder — less subfolders (1-2) generally correlates with higher rankings;
  4. URL contains keyword — checks if the URL contains your target keyword; this is good practice (regardless of ranking correlations) as keywords in the URL are also highlighted in Google search results.
Robbie headshot

Author’s
Note:

Here’s a quick hack for setting up keyword-friendly URLs in WordPress:

Go to Settings > Permalinks and change it to this:

Optimizing permalink structure in WordPress

Note: As I covered in the on-page section of this SEO case study, don’t force descriptive URL structures.

Here are a couple common scenarios people run into:

(1) Relaunch an existing asset and the URL doesn’t contain the keyword
In this case, keep the URL the same. The risk is far greater than reward when it comes to changing the URL structure just to force the keyword placement.

(2) Permalink structure doesn’t accommodate descriptive URLs
No problem. Just try to keep the URLs as short and descriptive as your CMS will allow. 

#8. Boost “dwell time” with copy hacks and multimedia

Template showing use of multimedia assets

There’s no evidence to suggest embedding videos on your page correlates with rankings.

However, we do know videos boost user engagement (e.g. time on site) and increase “dwell time”, which provides strong behavioral signals to the search engines, which does correlate with higher rankings:

Average time on site ranking correlation

Source: Stickyeyes Roadmap

The sheet offers a simple “YES/NO” column indicating if at least one video is present on the page.

Robbie headshot

Author’s
Note:

You’ll notice I use a ton of multimedia assets, including video, in all my blog posts:

Using video in content


This has several benefits:

  • Higher perceived content value
  • Better user experience
  • Drive traffic to other channels/ assets (eg. YouTube videos)
  • Cross-pollinates your audience

All these factors increase the likelihood people will link to, and share your content.

If you want to learn how to use a wide range of copy and visual hacks to keep people on your site longer, check out this in-depth SEO copywriting tutorial.

#9. Optimize your images (and get more traffic from image search!)

Optimizing images for SEO

“Alt” tags describe images, and improve the overall accessibility of your website.

It’s what the browser displays to users with screen readers, or if there’s a problem rendering images.

Here’s what it looks like in your HTML:

<img src=”tiger-woods-us-open.jpg” alt=”Tiger Woods playing the 15th hole at the 2000 US Open”/>

It’s good practice to add “alt” tags to all images.

While there is a small correlation between images with keyword-rich alt tags and rankings:

Ahrefs graph showing use of keyword in alt tags

But:

Google’s reliance on alt text keyword placement to accurately understand the contents of images is becoming smaller every day with advancements in machine learning.

Here is a result from Ahrefs’ recent image SEO tutorial where they uploaded a picture of cat into Google’s Cloud Vision API – their image identification tool:

Picture of cat being analyzed by machine learning tool

All metadata – alt text, file name, title – was stripped from the image and Google was still able to decipher (with almost 100% accuracy) the image contents.

Now:

I’m not saying you should forget about image optimization, but you do need to look at it through a different lense. The goal should be to help Google better understand image context, and improve user experience.

Here’s some advice right out of Google’s guidelines:

“Google uses alt text along with computer vision algorithms and the contents of the page to understand the subject matter of the image. […] When choosing alt text, focus on creating useful, information‐rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page. Avoid filling alt attributes with keywords (keyword stuffing) as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam.”

Matt Cutts sheds some additional light in this video:

The on-page SEO template won’t give you information regarding every single “alt” tag on the page, but it will tell you if there are images with missing alt tags.

These can then be investigated manually and fixed.

Robbie headshot

Author’s
Note:

If you’re on WordPress use the native image upload feature to quickly optimize file names and alt text:

Image file name

It might seem negligible, but don’t skip out on any chances to help search engines better understand the content on your page.

#10. Remove “thin” content (or improve it!)

Think content report

Longer content generally ranks higher than shorter content.

Many studies confirm it, including this study of 1 million search results by Brian Dean:

Study of optimal content length across 1 million + pages

Search engines dislike “thin” content (i.e. short pages that provide little value to readers).

They even introduced a furry little panda penalty for it a few years ago 🙂

Here’s what the sheet will tell you in regards to content length:

  1. Does the page have thin content? (YES/NO) — this is determined by checking if a page has <500 words of content; it may be an issue if it does;
  2. Word count — it’ll also show the word count for the content on the page (this will include all words on the page, including comments etc.)
Robbie headshot

Author’s
Note:

Search engines need “food”, aka content to determine the relevancy of a page/post for a given query. Not text = no food.

A classic example would be a category page with zero unique content, and dozens of links pointing to different internal product pages.

This provides little information for the search engine to understand the page. Not to mention a poor user experience.

Google has cracked down on thin content,and the results were catastrophic for sites like freewarefiles.com that have thousands of pages filled with tons of links and very little valuable content.

I mean, check this out…

Before Fred:

Before Fred Update

After Fred:

After Fred Update

Check the spreadsheet for any thin content warnings. Review the page and look for opportunities to improve, update and relaunch the content.

If it’s feasible, consider no-indexing the page if it has zero search volume.

Note: If you want to learn how to get more organic traffic from your existing content, check out my premium training course, The SEO Playbook. ​

And here are the on-page items that require manual checks….

The items in the previous section of this on-page SEO checklist could all be checked with automation template. In this next section, we’ll be looking at other important on-page optimizations that require a little manual legwork. 

#11. Link out to high-authority (relevant) websites

Outbound links to related pages help Google understand what your page is about. It also helps search engines understand that your page is a hub of quality information related to the topic.

Ahrefs recently found a correlation between sites linking to DR70+ websites and higher rankings:

Graph showing how external links to authority sites impact rankings

This means outbound links can have a positive or negative influence on rankings; it just depends who you link to.

It’s also important you’re linking to relevant pages.

While you can scrape outbound links with tools like Xenu or Screaming Frog, the quality and relevance of those pages will need to be checked manually.

Any irrelevant and/or low-quality links should be removed or nofollowed.

Robbie headshot

Author’s
Note:

Including relevant, quality outbound links in your content is a quick on-page SEO win. But, I see very few sites leverage it effectively.

Why?

People don’t want to send traffic (or “link juice”) away from their site.

While this is understandable, it is not good practice. You should always be thinking about the user experience. So, instead of worrying about losing traffic, ask yourself:

Would this resource add value? Will it help the reader learn more?

If the answer is “yes”, and you are linking out to a relevant resource, do it!

But always remember:

The sites you link to reflect on you. Getting careless with the sites you link out to can devalue the other links (and content) hosted on a given page:

How bad external links hurt your pages

Use a tool like Ahrefs to get a quick top-level of all the domains your site/URL is linking out to.

Enter your domain into the Ahrefs Site Explorer and go to the Outgoing Links >> Linked Domains report:

Linked domains report in Ahrefs

You’ll be able to see:

  1. The domains your site/URL is linking to
  2. How many times you link to each domain
  3. Which pages you link to the domain from 

Filter the Domain Rating column in descending order to surface all the potential low quality sites your domain is linking out to. Click through to each one and determine if the external link needs to be removed.

Note: just because it has a low Domain Rating doesn’t mean it is a bad site to link to. It could be quality/relevant content that is just hosted on a new domain.

#12. Optimize for featured snippets (and rank in position #0)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is fast becoming answer engine optimization (AEO).

Searchers want answers to specific question as fast as possible. As a result, Google is starting to answer more questions directly within the SERP using featured snippets:

Ranking in a featured snippet

Ahrefs analyzed 2 million featured snippets and found that ~13% of all search results now return a featured snippet:

Percentage of queries returning a featured snippet

The same study found that featured snippets get 8.6% of the total clicks:

Even if you don’t rank in the #1 position, but manage to land a featured snippet placement, you can exponentially increase the amount of organic traffic to your content.

A single piece of content can potentially rank for thousands of featured snippets:

Article ranking for thousands of featured snippets in Ahrefs

There are a lot of different featured snippet types, and ways to optimize your content for them.

Rather than repeat myself here, I’ve put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide to landing featured snippet placements here.

In the guide, we’ll look at:

  • The 5 main types of featured snippets
  • 2 ways to find existing featured snippet opportunities on your site
  • 5 ways to win new featured snippet placements

#13. Audit broken links to improve user experience

Rankings and traffic aside:

Broken links lead to a bad user experience.

According to Ahrefs, Google appears to demote pages with broken links in the SERPs:

Broken links graph

Ahrefs found, on average, only 2% of pages in the top 10 results have broken links.

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Limiting or eliminating all the broken links pointing to external pages can get tricky because you don’t have control over the external content you are linking out to, and won’t know when

that site has removed or relocated content.

Google’s web crawlers travel around the web via links collecting data about each page, so it’s a good idea to regularly audit your external link profile to ensure you aren’t sending visitors (or bots) down a dead end street.

How to check for outbound broken links:

If you have a small site, it’s possible to manually check each page for broken links using a free chrome extension like “Check My Links“.

Or:

You can use tools like Xenu, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog and Scrapebox to check for broken links at scale:

Broken link report in Ahrefs

Once you’ve identified all the broken outbound links on your site, the next step is to fix them.

Export the broken links

Evaluate using the following criteria:

1. If the content can stand alone without it, remove the link.
2. If the link is needed, do a Google search and find a relevant replacement. Switch out the link.

#14. Use internal links to create silos, boost relevance and channel traffic

Google’s Penguin update back in 2012 penalized sites with over-optimized anchor text.

But:

Penguin only looks at anchor text ratios from links from external sites.

With internal linking, you can do two things to boost relevance and help improve rankings:

  1. Link to other pages/posts using anchored links;
  2. Create “silos” to increase relevance (example: you may have an “SEO tutorials” page which links out to all of your individual SEO tutorials — this would be your silo page)

Wikipedia does both of these things extremely well:

How Wikipedia uses internal links to create silos and boost relevancy

It’s also worth adding links from existing, relevant, high-ranking pages on your site to new posts when you initially publish them.

This will give your new page a nice boost (because of how inbound “link juice” flows between pages).

Here are a few ways to find internal link opportunities:

1) Google Analytics

Navigate to your Google Analytics > Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report:

Site pages report in Google Analytics

This report will surface the highest traffic pages on your site. Scan the list of posts/pages and add a relevant internal link to your new article from a high-traffic page. 

2) Ahrefs Best By Links report

Go to Ahrefs’ Best By Links report to identify which related topical pages have the most number of links pointing to them:

Ahrefs Best Links report

3) Google Search Operators

Perform a site:domain “keyword” search in Google to see which pages reference the target keyword.

I’m not telling you to page sculpt, but if you have some articles on the site that maybe don’t get a ton of traffic, but have a decent number of quality links pointing to them, it’s worth adding some internal links to strengthen the topical content silo and channel some authority into the new page/post.

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Search engines favor websites that allow them to identify and understand content. By creating silos – tightly themed groups of content connected by internal links – you can make it easier for search engines for sites to understand what your page or site is all about.

“Siloing” content is a whole different topic on it’s own. Instead of tackling it in this post, here is a link to an article by Ryan Stewart over at Webris. It’s one of the clearest overviews I’ve read on the subject.

#15. Place keywords (and semantic terms) in your intro

Most of the time, you’ll mention target keywords throughout the content without even trying.

But:

Always make a conscious effort to incorporate your target keyword in the post intro.

Here’s my list of tools for keyword research, for example:

Examples of using keyword in the first 100 words


Notice how I mentioned the target keyword (“tools for keyword research”) early in the post intro?

I also like to mention several synonyms and semantic terms throughout the intro and body copy.

This usually happens naturally, so don’t shoehorn these in to meet arbitrary “keyword density” quotas. It’s not 1998 🙂

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A lot of people start posts with long winded intros that don’t mention the keyword or topic of the page until you’re a few hundred words into the page.

Don’t wait to tell the search engines what the page is about. Include your target topic or keyword in the intro.

I usually try to include some close variation in the first sentence or paragraph:

Keyword in intro

#16. Optimize for “Hummingbird” and “semantic search”

Keywords are the building blocks of any SEO campaign.

However:

Due to Google’s Hummingbird update search is driven more by intent than exact match keyword placements. 

Google understands someone searching for “sparkling water” might get the results for “carbonated water”:

SEO copywriting tactic 9: Use LSI keywords

Why?

Google’s algorithm flagged ‘sparkling water’ and ‘carbonated water’ to be semantically similar and treats them as exactly the same thing.

It’s the same reason why pages rank for terms that aren’t mentioned on the page at all.

This article by Healthline or ranks #1 for the term “best way to lose belly fat”:

Healthline example 2

Yet, the article doesn’t mention the exact term once on the page. It has similar related terms and synonyms (e.g. “effective tips to lose belly fat” and “reduce belly fat”), and Google is smart enough to understand these terms are related and relevant to one another.

This is the same reason the article ranks for over 13,400 different keywords:

Article ranking for thousands of different keywords in Ahrefs

So, how can you optimize for this?

Incorporate related terms and synonyms into your content.

Keyword synonyms and variants

Create content using natural language and variations, instead of dumping the same keywords into your content over and over again.

LSIgraph.com is a great place to find such terms/synonyms if you’re struggling.

LSI Graph screenshot

Or you can use a tool like Ahrefs to click through and view all the keywords competing articles are ranking for.

Check out the video below for a more in-depth walk-through of how to find dozens of high-traffic secondary keyword targets:

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​I recently came across this Moz article addressing one of the oldest SEO ranking factors very few people are talking about.

TF-IDF (Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency) – a way to figure out how important a word is in a document based on how frequently it appears in it.

While I recommend you read the full article, it basically highlights how a company was able to jump to #1 for the highly competitive search term “sales management” in just 3 months.

One of the key factors behind the ranking increase was reducing the number of exact match keywords, and replacing with semantic variations within key on-page elements – headings, body copy and internal anchors.

TF-IDF case study

The case study further supports the fact that you need to be looking beyond exact keyword match, and focus more on search intent and semantics when it comes to strategic on-site keyword placement.

You can find out more about using TF-IDF to measure content quality here

#17. Improve UX (and content readability)

I’m a big believer that UXO (user experience optimization) is the new SEO.

Google uses a set of different behavioral signals to assess user experience – CTR, time one site, dwell time, scroll depth, social signals and more.

It doesn’t matter how well you optimize traditional on-page SEO elements, Google will drop you like a stone if users don’t engage with your content.

Google even released an algorithm update back in 2014 targeting pages with top-heavy ads, because this doesn’t contribute to, well, a good user experience.

Outside of mobile design and site speed optimization, one of quickest ways to improve the UX on your site is by using a range of multimedia assets and solid content formatting.

For instance:

Don’t write like Wikipedia, unless you are Wikipedia:

Don't write like Wikipedia unless you are Wikipedia

Break up your text with shorter paragraphs, and use descriptive benefit-driven subheadings to keep readers scrolling down the page:

Use visual elements like quote boxes, images, interactive elements, videos and testimonial boxes to keep your readers engaged:

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Humans now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish:

And only 16% of people will read every word in your article.

Engage your readers quick and think about how you can use visual assets, copywriting and content formatting to draw them further down the page:

The slippery slope of copywriting

#18. Speed kills – optimize your page load

Google found that 53% of users will abandon a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Site speed was incorporated as an official ranking factor way back in 2010.

And, In July this year Google announced it would start using mobile page speed as a ranking factor in mobile search results:

Google announcing impact of page speed on mobile rankings

This has been confirmed by many studies including Brian Deans “1 million search results” study:

Average page load speed across millions of domains

Not to mention a slow loading site is a massive conversion killer:

SOASTA found that a one second delay in page response can reduce your conversions by up to 27%:

SOASTA load speed study


Page/site speed can be increased by optimizing a number of website elements, including:


  • check

    Compressing images


  • check

    Minimizing CSS and Javascript files


  • check

    Reducing server response time


  • check

    Enabling browser caching


  • check

    Reducing redirects


  • check

    Reducing plugin count


  • check

    Setting up a CDN

This list is long.

Plug your URL into the Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool and it’ll give you a grade (out of 100) across both mobile and desktop devices. It will also tell you which elements are slowing the website down.

Google Pagespeed results

These should be fixed to improve page/site speed.

Website speed can also be improved on the whole by:

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The Aberdeen Group found that every 1 second delay in page load speed results in a 7% reduced conversion rate!

The get an accurate view of all the major things slowing down your website, I recommend using several different free tools.

Here are the 3 I look at:

1. Google Pagespeed Insights (shown above)
2. Pingdom
3. GTMetrix

I’m a huge fan of the GTMetrix YSlow report. Simply enter in a domain and quickly pinpoint which issues are causing the slow load speed:

GTMetrix YSlow report

Using multiple tools like this will almost always surface issues you would not have come across relying on a single tool. Definitely worth the few extra minutes work.

Finally:

Investing in a solid CDN or caching plugin will give you a nice speed increase. But, the best investment you can make will be in a premium hosting solution.

While cheap shared hosting plans on sites like Bluehost are great when starting out, as your site grows a service like WPX Hosting can be a game changer.

I cut my site load time by almost 30% after switching to WPX Hosting.

#19. Send stronger SERP signals with schema markup (i.e. Rich Snippets / Structured data)

Have you ever wondered how websites get“featured snippets” in the search results?

Featured SERP snippet

Or those fancy review ratings:

Schema reviews

And an event calendar for local businesses:

Schema example

Schema.org is the answer.

Here’s a definition of what Schema markup is:


quote-left

“Schema.org (often called Schema) is a specific vocabulary of tags (or microdata) that you can add to your HTML to improve the way your page is represented in SERPs.”

Source: Moz

Schema tells the search engines what your data means, not just what it says.

For example, let’s say that you mentioned the movie “Avatar” on your page…

How does Google know you’re talking about the movie Avatar and not a generic Avatar?

Schema allows you to mark up this data and tell Google you’re talking specifically about the movie.

This allows Google to show your page for the correct search terms (and can help you get that “featured snippet” box!)

Schema markup can be tested using Google’s structured data testing tool:

Google structured data testing tool

This shows the kind of data markup you have on the page, along with any errors/issues.

If you’re trying to add schema markup and rich snippets to a WordPress website, check out this comprehensive guide.

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Schema markup helps your website rank for all different content types, including:

  • Articles
  • Local businesses
  • Restaurants
  • TV episodes
  • Book review
  • Movies
  • Events
  • Products

There are hundreds of different markup types. But, only about 35-40% of all websites are using it.

The topic of schema markup is a post on it’s own. But, here is a helpful resource from the folks at Moz.

#20. Boost your social signals

Google has confirmed that social share counts aren’t used as a ranking factor.

So why is this important?

Simple. Google cares about “social engagement”.

I recommend reading the post I linked to above but to keep things simple, here’s the general idea:

Google doesn’t look at arbitrary share counts, but rather the percentage of people engaging with, and sharing a piece of content.

This is why I recommend everyone add social share buttons to their website.

(I mean, SEO aside, this will almost always lead to more traffic and eyeballs on your content, which is the aim of the game anyway!)

Sumo Share Buttons

There are plenty of good WordPress plugins for this, but I recommend Sumo (this is what I use on my website!)

I’d also recommend adding social markup to your pages. This tells social networks (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) how to display to website when people share it.

Here’s how one of my posts looks when shared on Facebook (after adding social markup):

This will help increase CTRs and social referral traffic.

Yoast is the easiest way to add social markup.

It adds a user-friendly optimization panel on the backend of the site so you can optimize things without touching a single line of code:

If you’re planning to do this manually, check out this guide to social markup.

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In 2016, Cognitive SEO analyzed over 23 million social shares to see if there was a strong correlation between social signals and higher organic rankings. Some interesting insights emerged.

​The study showed a strong presence on social media correlates with higher rankings:

Social presence influences organic rankings

And:

A higher level of social engagement also correlates with better rankings:

While social signals are still thought to have little to no direct weighting in the search algorithm, there is a clear correlation.

Social media is great for brand awareness, connecting with your audience, and getting more eyeballs on your content.

And the more people who see your content, the more likely someone will link to you (which is a MAJOR ranking factor).

Brightedge found that prominent social sharing buttons will increase sharing activity by up to 700%.

So:

Which channels should you target? It will depend on your target audience. But, one safe bet is facebook:

Facebook activity impacts site rank

According to the study, sites ranking in the top 4 positions typically had more activity on facebook.

At the very minimum, set up the free Sumo Share app today on your site.

If you want to ramp it up a level, add share icons within individual post sections:

You DID It! — The On-Page Checklist is Complete! But Here are a Few Final Tips…

It’s all well and good running through a checklist and, obviously, the template I’ve shared in this post makes life a lot easier.

But, optimization can only be done well when you understand who you’re optimizing for and why.

Here are a few final recommendations I’d add for anyone working on their on-page SEO:

  • Always think about search intent (not just keywords) — this means researching what questions people are asking around the seed keyword and finding out which questions people genuinely want to see answered;
  • Don’t optimize multiple pages for the same keyword(s) — this is known as “keyword cannibalization” and dilutes the rank potential of each competing page. If you notice this, consider merging competing assets into the most authoritative one;
  • Track everything in Google Search Console and Analytics — this will show you if the changes have a positive or negative impact. I recommending adding an annotation to your Google Analytics report every time you make a change. This will help you more clearly map organic traffic and goal activity back to specific on-page SEO changes. 

    Finally, download the Google Sheets template below and start automating the most time-consuming parts of your on-page audit and optimization.

    As always, let me know if you have any questions/ thoughts in the comments below 🙂

The post 20-Step On-Page SEO Checklist (with FREE Automation Template) appeared first on Robbie Richards.

102: Crawl Optimization & How To Do Crawl First SEO w/Aysun Akarsu

102: Crawl Optimization & How To Do Crawl First SEO w/Aysun Akarsu

aysun akarsu headshot

This is the first of three episodes recorded at TechSEO Boost 2018! I sat down with Aysun Akarsu to chat about:

  • How to optimizing your site architecture and crawl paths for better rankings
  • Does ‘crawl budget’ actually exist (even though Google says it doesn’t)?
  • How to set up a crawl, and what data to pull into your crawl analysis for better insights
  • The free common crawl web graph dataset and what she was surprised to learn about backlinks on the web
  • What universities can’t teach you about SEO

Listen Now!

BuzzSumo – One of my favorite tools for coming up with content ideas, finding people who share content in an industry, and tons more (like alerts to keep an eye on your competitor’s links). Listen to the show for a special code to get 30% off BuzzSumo for 3 months.

Related Episodes You Might Like

Show Agenda and Timestamps

  • Episode Introduction [0:22]
  • Aysun introduction [1:49]
    • Aysun’s Background and how does she describe what she does? [1:55]
  • What does analyzing big search data mean on large sites? [2:43]
    • How to explain crawl budget to clients [4:14]
  • How does Aysun define “crawl first SEO” and what is the focus? [5:00]
    • What are some tools Aysun uses to collect the needed data? [5:58]
    • What tools does Aysun use for storage and calculating metrics  [7:36]
    • Are there any other data sources that she pulls together for the crawl first analysis?  [9:27]
    • What metrics does Aysun focus on? [9:55]
    • How to prepare before the crawl [10:43]
    • How does Aysun gather the needed information from her clients [12:58]
    • What is the importance of having the correct IP or user-agent? [16:18]
    • What is an example of crawl waste? [19:22]
    • Should you always tell the client when their site will be crawled or does it depend on the size of the website? [20:24]
    • The test crawl [21:30]
    • Aysun breaks down crawling into 4 categories- what they are and what they mean [21:53]
    • What are some things to look for that indicate poor crawl optimization? [23:53]
    • Is Aysun a fan of large nested XML sitemaps or HTML sitemaps that provide other ways for crawler?  [26:32]
    • What does Aysun think of crawl budget? [26:56]
    • Any other common traps when doing a crawl? [27:48]
    • Does Aysun trust the crawl stats in the google search console? [29:01]
  • Sponsor Break with discount code!! [30:35]
  • Common Crawl Web Graph [32:04]
    • What is the data representing? [35:09]
    • What is Harmonic Position and Harmonic Value? [35:29]
    • What did Aysun learn about the distribution of pagerank by visualizing the data? [37:12]
    • What are some way the data can help SEOs and Data Scientists in their ranking research? [40:04]
  • Learning SEO [41:58]
    • Are there challenges that Aysun sees that universities have when teaching SEO. What are they good at? What are their weakness? How to fill in the gaps outside the classroom?  [42:17]
    • What is a simple way to improve at Data Analysis? [44:46]
    • Is there a particular language Aysun recommends to begin with? [46:16]
      • What is a good way to learn the language? [46:23]
  • TechSEO Boost panel discussion [47:51]
    • What are some things SEOs can do to work better with Developers [48:26]
    • Does Aysun see marketing being communicated with developers? [50:27]
  • Where to find Aysun online and speaking [51:15]

Tools Mentioned

Articles, Resources, and Links Mentioned

Find Aysun Online

The post 102: Crawl Optimization & How To Do Crawl First SEO w/Aysun Akarsu appeared first on Evolving SEO.

How Salesbloom Builds Excellent Traffic Without Backlinks

How Salesbloom Builds Excellent Traffic Without Backlinks

This is a TRUE & SUCCESSFUL story from Jim Miller – Founder of Salesbloom and one of our long time customers.

 

Jim Miller is an e-commerce consultant, and founder of Salesbloom, who collaborates with world-renowned marketing gurus. Enjoy his story, written and documented by himself, and see how we hit the Google’s top SERP spots with no backlinks but with a good content optimization.

How_Salesbloom_Builds_Excellent_Traffic_Without_Backlinks_v2

Over a six to nine month period using the content assistant optimization tool, I have seen numerous pages swiftly develop and rank to the highest pages of Google. So getting traffic without building backlinks can be achieved with the right content strategy.

 

This case study was composed to help share the success I had for my client.

 

  1. Why This Ought to Work For You?
  2. How We Hit the Google’s Top SERP Spots
    1. Step 1: Find Existing Content to Improve
    2. Step 2: Search for the Main Keyword with Cognitive’s Keyword Tool
    3. Step 3: Optimise with Content Assistant
    4. Step 4: Fetch URL within Google Search Console
  3. Results
 

Why This Ought to Work For You?

 

Working behind the scenes with some of the fastest developing agencies in marketing, you encounter conflicting strategies both internally and externally, which promise to improve your client’s rankings.

 

I’m a firm believer in testing everything before foolishly trusting any information from whoever it may be, whether an influencer, agency or otherwise, so I work behind the scenes to know what actually works.

 

Years ago, I cracked an algorithm on eBay’s search engine with one of my first career positions, taking a small (and I do mean small) local footwear retailer from £10k online sales per month to £250k (£450,000 Christmas Peak).

 

All in just under six months!

 

Yes, it’s true – and this included outselling retail giants like ‘Barretts’, ‘Office’ and ‘Schuh’- and all without a penny of a marketing budget!

 

I’ve never had the luxury of limitless budgets (and I prefer not to either as the constraints bring out the best in me). Having a typically micro-budget (maybe being a tad frugal as well), I’m always hesitant to pick something like ‘Marketmuse’ and put my house on the market for a taste!

 

Being overworked (and a little disorganized if I’m honest at the time) necessitated a search for a timesaving tool for obtaining the broader metrics or overarching topics and keywords which help others rank more highly. It was then that I came across Cognitive’s Content Assistant tool – though at that time it took a little digging as the software was so new.

 

Cognitive’s content assistant tool allowed me the opportunity to see correlated topics and missing keywords that enable the content to shine through. I’m not a natural writer, I rely on others to help me edit my thoughts as many e-commerce consultants do. I might add that my thoughts are not always that easy to convey, so this tool was an immense help.

 

I found the experience when using the Cognitive SEO to be intuitive in the main, simple to use and then ideal to communicate to others.
Jim Miller Jim Miller

Founder of Salesbloom | @salesbloomuk

 

Now at Salesbloom, we constantly develop existing content using Cognitive and produce new articles within the same content writing process.

 

Here’s how we did it (as I’m honest enough to say I have great colleagues too!)

 

How We Hit the Google’s Top SERP Spots

 

If you’ve never used Cognitive or unless you’re comfortable enough to drop into the Google Search console,  it’s worth tracking your existing content’s keyword positions with Rank Tracker before you start.

 

The first things to do are:

  • Find existing content you determine needs to be improved upon.
  • Search for the main keyword with the ‘Cognitive Keyword Tool’.
  • Optimize your content with ‘Content Assistant’.
  • Fetch URL within Google Search Console
 

Step 1: Find Existing Content to Improve

 

One of the best positions to start from is by finding pages with keywords or queries that currently rank outside the top five spots on Google.

 

cognitive-rantracker

 

The ‘sweet spot’ is choosing keywords that sit in position 4 up to 30.  As you can see, the blue line above did brilliantly!

 

Step 2: Search for the Main Keyword with Cognitive’s Keyword Tool

 

Pick your head term or the keyword you want to rank for and search with the keyword tool. On the example below, I chose “SEO agency” as my keyword phrase.

 

Feel free to pick any keyword and page you like as I’ve had success with category pages on e-commerce websites, homepages and blog articles.

 

seoagencycognitiveseo

 

Make note of the average content performance score. The goal is to beat that on your optimization round. ( I suggest you open a new Google doc and add it at the top to remind you of your target)

 

It’s good to pull out the relevancy scores and consider any that score higher than 3 stars. Create your new content so it reads well, and without worrying about keyphrases initially. Once you’ve done that, copy the list of keywords that Cognitive suggests and work out a structure for your article based upon the 3-5 star terms.

 

GO FOR GOLD.

 

Never strive to be average at anything.
Jim Miller Jim Miller

Founder of Salesbloom | @salesbloomuk

 

Take a peek at the ranking analysis tab next to see how you are performing before you continue.

 

cognitive ranking sites to beat

 

It’s a good idea to see what competitor pages do on the look and feel of the page for content flow. Google ‘likes’ these sites for a reason so it’s a ‘no-brainer’. (Ultimately, it’s because the visitors do as well!)

 

The action to take for this example is: Write a 700-4000 word content piece that beats 69.

 

Step 3: Optimise with Content Assistant

 

Once you’ve gone into the Content Assistant,  press the top right, ‘Import link’ if it’s an existing page (and yes, it can even score raw code). Otherwise, copy and paste your content into the relevant sections and hit ‘Check Score’.

 

content assistant score

 

This site is new so typically it’s not going to score well yet, but if you export the list and scroll down on the right-hand side you now have keywords to export and use. You do have the option to amend the copy on the left-hand-side in real time, but each check of the score reduces your overall monthly allowance. 

 

I prefer to optimize outside in a Google document file so as to not squeeze keywords in when they are not needed, and to ensure your article or post still reads well. Repeat each process, and once you feel you’ve done a good job hopefully, you’ve beaten your competition’s score. If not, take a step back and see where your content can be improved.

 

Step 4: Fetch URL within Google Search Console

 

Login to Google Search Console and retrieve the revised URL.

 

(I’m not convinced this speeds it up, but it’s a habit I now do every time).

 

Results

 

Results can be manipulated but these graphs illustrate this type of content is not reliant upon seasonal wins or easy pickings. That alone should encourage you to test this for yourself, based on my findings.

 

The first piece of content below was devised for a SAAS company which has grown from zero to almost 7,000 clicks in a year.

 

This, with no backlinks or promotion: Pure organic traffic gain.

 

Google Search Console Results

 

Some keywords can take longer to develop (as below) but site traffic appears when you produce good content via the ‘Content Assistant’.

 

 

Here’s another blog article created and developing nicely below. Perfect for a revisit within a year turnaround.

 

Google Search Console Results

 

Here’s a comparison (below) for much older content.

 

longer ranking movement

position 8

 

To reiterate, I’m not going for easy choices on keywords. To my mind, there aren’t many anyway, but the example above is recently optimized and shows positive progress in a short period.

 

Disclaimer

This is not a paid post. cognitiveSEO made no agreement with the author.
This is Salesbloom’s and Jim’s success story, written and documented by himself.

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this story with us.

 

About the author

 

Jim Miller author

 

 Jim Miller is an e-commerce consultant, and founder of Salesbloom, who collaborates with world-renowned marketing gurus such as Neil Patel and Eric Siu on internal projects.

 

The post How Salesbloom Builds Excellent Traffic Without Backlinks appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

14 “No-BS” Ways to Rapidly Increase Organic SEO Traffic in 2018 (with Case Studies & Examples)

14 “No-BS” Ways to Rapidly Increase Organic SEO Traffic in 2018 (with Case Studies & Examples)

Note: My training course, The SEO Playbook, will re-open soon. Find out more about the course and see what current students are saying about it here.

Traffic…the lifeblood of any online business.

Think about it:

No traffic = ZERO sales.

And ZERO sales = ZERO revenue.

Now:

There’s always the option to pay for traffic (i.e. PPC).

BUT:

In some industries, the cost of PPC traffic is so high it’s damn near IMPOSSIBLE to turn a profit.

The solution?

Organic traffic.

I know what you’re thinking…

“I’ve read a million blog posts about getting more organic traffic…what’s so different about this one!?”

Simple…this ISN’T the fluff and “because-I-said-so” BS that gets regurgitated time and time again with zero application or data to back it up.

This is an actionable guide filled with step-by-step playbooks to help you increase organic traffic in both the short and long term. Anyone should be able to take away at least one strategy and implement it immediately in their business.

I’ll be sharing case studies demonstrating how I’ve used the strategies outlined below to get real results for clients and personal projects across a number of different industries.

To help make this post super actionable, and speed up the implementation on your end, I have included a downloadable toolset below. It contains several videos and templates for some of the strategies outlined in the post

Bonus materials to increase organic traffic

Because this is a monster 10,000+ word guide, I have included a table of contents below. There are also jump links at the end of each section of the post that will bring you back up to the top of the post. 

Let’s dive in!

#1: Eliminate “organic anchors” with a data-driven content audit

Lots of low-quality pages = bad news for SEO.

Why?

Because they weigh down the rest of your website. This causes (better) pages to underperform in the SERPs.

The solution?

Pruning.

In simple terms, pruning involves auditing and removing “dead weight” content from your site.

I.e. any pages that have ZERO links, ZERO traffic and ZERO conversions (and/or contain irrelevant/tin content) are prime candidates to be deleted.

These types of pages offer nothing of value to your site, and are actually weighing down other important assets by eating up precious crawl budget (meaning new or updated content gets crawled less often).

Note: There are some outliers in the pruning process. For example, if you have an important resource on your site that gets little traffic or inbound links, but does get a lot of internal links, you might want to still keep it.

Here’s an example:

At the start of 2017, my agency started working with one of the nation’s leading defamation attorneys.

When he came to us he was getting around 3,500 organic visits and 130 new leads a month from organic traffic. Not too bad. But, he wanted to do better.

So – the first thing we did was follow the content audit process outlined below: 

At a high level:

  1. He had two different websites competing for the same keywords, so we consolidated the two sites and merged all competing assets. (More on this in tactic #2 “”)
  2. He had dozens of the “dead weight” pages we discussed above, so we removed those pages from the site
  3. He had a bunch of pages on the site already ranking page 2 for valuable search terms, so we improved those assets (More on this in TACTIC #4 “”)

Here are the results 10 months later:

Content audit case study

He’s now getting over 20,000 organic visits and 400 leads a month. In fact, business is so good he has now started his own firm.

Note: These results were achieved writing very little new content, and building only a handful of new backlinks.  

Here’s an overview of my decision-making process during a content audit:

Content audit decision matrix

During the audit phase, we’ll make one of four page-level strategic recommendations:

  1. KEEP content that is relevant and getting a lot of traffic and conversions.
  2. IMPROVE content with the potential to either get more traffic (tactic #4), or more conversion from the existing traffic.
  3. MERGE content with backlinks that is competing for the same keywords as another higher ranking piece of content on the site.
  4. REMOVE content with no links, traffic or conversions.

Now:

For all the visual learners out there, think of this process in terms of an iceberg analogy (hat tip to Everett Sizemore over at GoInflow):

Content audit iceberg

Pages appearing above the water line are top-performers (keep these!), whereas those just below the water line have potential, but need some improvements – updated content, re-promotion, conversion optimization etc – to reach their “full potential”.

Any pages deep down at the bottom of the iceberg are the ones you need to get rid of—they’re generally low-quality assets providing no added value, and weighing down the rest of your website.

Ok:

So, how do you identify which pages to keep, improve, merge or remove?

Follow this workflow:

Note: there are a few different ways you can pull the data for this audit. I am going to focus on one that allows you to scale the process relatively quickly, and avoid having to use a lot of paid tools.

You can grab a copy of the content audit template used in the example below:

Bonus materials to increase organic traffic

First, you need to check whether or not the pages/posts on your website have any inbound links. You can use URL Profiler and Ahrefs to quickly scale this part of the process.

Here’s how:

Copy the URL of your sitemap (hint: this is usually found at yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or yourdomain.com/post-sitemap.xml)

In URL Profiler, right-click on the URL list area and hit “Import from XML sitemap”: 

Import XML sitemap into URL Profiler

You’ll then be prompted to paste your sitemap URL in the box:

Adding sitemap into URL Profiler

Hit “Import” and URL Profiler will automatically pull in every URL it finds in the sitemap.

URLs scraped from the sitemap

Note: If you have more than one sitemap (e.g. pages and posts sitemaps), you’ll need to repeat this process to pull every page/post into URL Profiler:

OR:

Use a tool like Screaming Frog to extract all the indexed content on your site with a single crawl:

Screaming Frog site crawl

The free version of Screaming Frog will allow to crawl 500 URLs. But, you will have limited configuration options.

Here are the basic settings I use when collecting the indexed content from a website:

And the “Advanced” settings:

SF - advanced settings

You’ll be left with a list of the URLs that can be crawled and indexed by search spiders like Google Bot.

Regardless of which approach you take above (sitemap extraction or Screaming Frog crawl), the next step is to export all the URLs and paste them into URL Profiler:

Connecting services in URL Profiler

Next, connect your Ahrefs account (instructions on doing so can be found here) to URL Profiler.

Check the Ahrefs box (under URL level data), then hit “Run profiler”.

Within a few minutes (depending on the number of URLs), URL Profiler will spit out a spreadsheet that looks something like this:

URL Profiler export

This includes a lot of data, including the number of referring domains pointing to each page/post on your website.

Copy/paste all the data from this spreadsheet and paste it into the sheet labelled “URL Profiler” in this Google Sheet:

Content Audit document

OK, so now you know how many inbound links (if any) are pointing to each page on your website—the next step is to check which of these pages actually have traffic/conversions in Google Analytics.

Go to Google Analytics > Customisation > Custom Reports > New Custom Report:

Create a custom report in Google Analytics

Set up your custom report so it matches the screenshot below (note: I’ve highlighted the super-important parts!) 

Configuring Custom Report

Hit “Save” and view the report—it should look something like this:

Note: I recommended setting the date range for the report to the last 3 months.

Export the report—just make sure to set the number of visible rows to the maximum amount (5000) first:

Copy/paste all data from the exported .csv into the sheet labelled “2. GA Export” in the Google Sheet:

Content Audit doc

Finally, navigate to the “DONE” sheet and you should see something like this: 

Final audit findings

This compiles all the data and gives a recommended action (e.g. “keep”, “consolidate”, etc.)

Note: This recommended action doesn’t take into account the relevancy of the page, so you will need to double-check that manually before making a final decision

BONUS: This is a modified version of my content audit process. If you want to get access to exact processes, templates and tools we use at our agency, I’m including a “playbook” in my new course. You can find out more about it here.

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#2: Prevent Your Website from Competing with Itself by Identifying (and Removing) Keyword Cannibalization

“Keyword cannibalization” occurs when two or more pages on your website are competing for the same keyword.

Here’s why this is such a BIG problem:

  • Google will struggle to figure out which one of your pages actually deserves to rank, so they’ll often choose to rank neither of them.
  • Links/shares/etc will be split between two or more pages, leading to less authority for each page (this is bad, as pages with higher authority tend to rank better).

To put it simply, because your website is effectively competing with itself, you’re significantly diluting your chances of ranking at all!

Keyword cannibalization should, therefore, be avoided at all costs!

This process captures the “MERGE” aspect of the content audit covered above in greater detail.

Here’s how you can identify (and fix) keyword cannibalization issues in 3 simple steps:

  1. Use SEMrush to see which keywords your website is ranking for
  2. Look for keyword duplication (i.e. multiple pages ranking for the same keyword)
  3. Solve the issue by either merging the two (or more) resources together, OR deleting/404 one of them (note: only do this if there are ZERO links/traffic to that page!)

Example:

One of my clients had an article targeting the search term “marketing technology stack” that suddenly fell from position #4 in Google, to page #4. 

At first, the client thought it might have been some kind of page-level algorithmic penalty.

After running the process outline below we found 5 different articles competing for the same keyword. Each competing article had links pointing to it.

So, instead of spreading the link equity across 5 different pages we took all unique content from the lower ranking pages and merged it into the canonical (highest ranking version), and then 301 redirected all the other posts into it to consolidate the link equity.

The page became a much more in-depth authoritative resource on the subject, and got added authority from the links that were 301’d from the other articles.

The result:

SnapApp consolidation

The page has gone from ~200 organic pageviews to almost 1,000 /mo. And, it now ranks #1 for it’s target search term:

Rankings gained from keyword cannibalization removal

This is without writing any new content or building any new links.

Now, imagine what happens when you scale this process across websites with lots of competing articles 🙂

Let’s walk through the process:

To begin, enter your domain (e.g. robbierichards.com) into the Organic Keywords report in SEMrush, then select “Positions” from the sidebar:

Finding keyword rankings in SEMrush

This will show you every keyword your website is ranking for. It also tells you which page ranks for each keyword and the position in which it ranks:

Export this entire report to a .csv:

Exporting Keywords from SEMrush

Next, copy/paste all the exported data into the sheet named “1. SEMRush Export” in this Google Sheet.

It should look something like this:

Finally, navigate to the “DONE” tab and it will show you all keyword cannibalization issues on your website.

Cool, right!? 😀

Here’s are a couple of ways to solve these issues:

  1. If the two pages competing for the same keyword are very similar, and both offer unique value, consider merging them into one canonical resource. Just make sure to 301 redirect one of the pages to the new canonical resource (especially if it has links pointing towards it!)
  2. If the competing page offers nothing of unique value, delete it. If the deleted page has links pointing towards it (check this in Ahrefs), add a 301 redirect to the competing resource, otherwise just let it 404.
Bonus materials to increase organic traffic

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#3: Uncover Low-hanging Ranking Opportunities by Performing Keyword Research for an Existing Website

Keyword research only needs to be done when you’re starting a new website, right!?

NOPE!

This couldn’t be more WRONG.

Improving rankings for keywords you’re already ranking for is the quickest and easiest way to get a TON more traffic to your website.

Want proof?

I increased organic traffic 402% to this post 30 days after implementing this strategy:

Increased organic traffic

It went from position #8 to #2 overnight, which is why the traffic shot up like a rocket!

And this was after optimizing ONE page…if you were to do this across your entire website, traffic would go through the roof!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Identify “low-hanging” keyword opportunities (i.e. those that you’re already ranking for on page 2 of the SERPs, OR low down on page 1)
  2. Optimize the pages and relaunch for MASSIVE traffic boosts

Here’s the process:

Go to SEMrush, enter your website, then go to the Positions report:

Finding keyword rankings in SEMrush

This will show you EVERY keyword you’re ranking for, along with the ranking position.

BUT, we’re not interested in every keyword—we want to focus on the ones with the most potential. To do that, apply these filters to the report:

SEMrush report filters

Note: Set the search volume threshold to something that makes sense for your industry. i.e.
You may need to lower it a bit more to find more opportunities.

Export the results to a .csv, then copy/paste the data into the sheet labelled “1. SEMRush Export” in this Google Sheet.

Now, go to the next tab labelled “DONE” and you should see something like this:

Keyword opportunities template

All of these keywords are low-hanging opportunities, but the rows that are the most green are the opportunities that are likely to yield the BEST results with the LEAST amount of effort.

After you’ve found keywords that have (1) search volume, (2) existing rankings, and (3) can be realistically ranked for in the next 60-90 days, you need to prioritize.

When I do this final part of the process, I always rely on a bottom-up view of the funnel.

(i.e. start with the “money” keywords at the bottom of the funnel , and work my back up to the top):

Funnel

(Source)

Here is a quick overview of how I would optimize these posts to move up the rankings:

  • Update existing tactics with new screenshots and additional information
  • Add 3-5 new strategies to the post
  • Re-promote the post across social media
  • Run a paid social media campaign to build social signals
  • Launch a light outreach campaign to capture additional backlinks
  • Add internal links from several other related posts on the site

To find the best internal linking targets, navigate to the “Best By Links” report in Ahrefs and filter by either URL Rating or Referring Domains. This will surface the most authoritative pages on your site:

Best by links report in Ahrefs

For example:

Since this post is about increasing organic traffic, you bet I’m going to add a few internal links from this post and this post.  

Note: I have a full post dedicated to this strategy here. But, if you want to go deeper into specific keyword research and relaunch tactics I use for clients, check out my SEO training course here

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#4: Perform Keyword Research at the Sub Folder Level (and Find Your Highest Value Targets)

Not all keywords are created equal.

A site that monetizes through AdSense revenue will prioritize high volume informational intent keywords to drive more ad impressions and clicks:

Example of a site monetizing with AdSense revenue

Check out the search volume and traffic numbers for this article:

Examples of high volume informational intent keywords

An affiliate website like Wirecutter will prioritize investigational intent keywords searched when people are evaluating different solution for a specific problem or need.

Think: “best tool for x”, “product x vs product y” or “product x alternatives”:

Examples of investigational intent keywords

Ecommerce stores will prioritize transactional terms since these have the highest degree of direct buying intent.

Because different business models will prioritize different search intent, it makes sense to mirror this during the keyword research process to ensure you are only focusing on the search terms that have greatest potential bottom line impact.

This applies for both new and existing websites.

One of the easiest ways to perform this type of laser-targeted research (for both new and existing sites) is to analyze keywords at the subfolder level.

Important: this strategy works when your site has a clean URL structure with content types organized into dedicated subfolders.

Here’s how to do it:

1) Find your highest value existing keyword opportunities

In the previous step we looked at how to find ALL the quick-win keyword opportunities for your site across ALL intent buckets.

This approach works great if you only publish content with a single form of intent. For example: a blog that only publishes high volume informational content to monetize through adsense revenue.

But:

If you have an eCommerce site, you’re going to be publishing informational, investigational AND transactional intent keywords across assets like blog content, comparison pages and top-level product/category pages.

While each level of intent serves a specific purpose for this business, its the investigational and transactional keywords that drive direct bottom line value.

Therefore:

It makes sense to prioritize the keyword research process around commercial intent terms. And, this is where subfolders come into play.

For example:

Most eCommerce sites are going to house products under some type of top-level URL subfolder:

Image showing product subfolder

So, instead of starting the keyword research process by looking at ALL the keyword opportunities (like we did in the previous strategy), start with the keyword opportunities inside commercial intent subfolder(s).

Here’s how to do it for an existing site:

Open SEMrush and enter your domain into the SEO Toolkit:

SEMrush SEO Toolkit

Go to the Organic Research >> Positions report. You’ll once again see all the keywords your site is ranking for in the top 100 search results:

SEMrush Organic Search Positions report

Since you’re only interested in the existing keywords with commercial intent, add an additional filter to only include keywords targeted within the /collections subfolder:

SEMrush filters

Click “Apply” and you’ll have a list of all the commercial intent keywords your site is currently ranking for bottom of page 1, or top of page 2: 

Commercial intent keyword opportunities in SEMrush

These are the most valuable quick-win keyword opportunities for an eCommerce site like Beardbrand, and should always be prioritized when it comes to updating and relaunching content for organic traffic gains.

But:

Once Beardbrand was done with the commercial intent terms, they could then move onto the higher volume informational terms by analyzing the keyword opportunities housed inside the /blog subfolder:

Example of informational content

Which would return hundreds of high volume informational keyword opportunities:

Bottom line: use subfolder to focus in on your highest intent terms, when possible. 

2) Mine competitors for new high value keyword opportunities

Subfolder research can also be used to find NEW high value keyword opportunities.

The process is exactly the same, but instead of entering your site you’ll drop in the commercial intent subfolders from 3-5 direct competitors:

For example:

Scotch Porter is one of beardbrand’s top organic search competitors. All their products are housed under the /products subfolder:

Products housed in subfolder

On the other hand, a competitor such as Beardaholic has all their products housed on the shop.beardaholic subdomain: 

Product page

So:

Beardbrand would set the following filters to see all the commercial intent keywords their site is ranking for:

Filtering subdomain traffic

Repeat this process for 3-5 of your top organic search competitors and export the results into a aggregated master excel file.

Set a filter to highlight all the duplicates, and focus in on the new commercial intent opportunities you are not already targeting on your site.

This is one of the fastest ways to find loads of high-value keyword ideas that align directly with your site’s monetization model.

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#5: Expand Your Organic Footprint with Secondary Keywords

One of the fastest ways to increase organic traffic is to get your content to rank for more keywords.

Wirecutter is a site that reviews a bunch of tools and gadgets. It ranks for over 3.1M organic keywords and brings in 4.4M organic visits a month:

The Wirecutter organic traffic screenshot in Ahrefs

The founder, Brian Lam, sold the site to The New York Times for $30M in 2016:

One of the reasons this site was able to scale its organic footprint so much was because most of the articles on the site ranked for thousands of secondary keywords.

For example:

The site’s highest organic traffic page on “best cell phone plans” ranks for 42,478 different keywords:

Ahrefs screenshot showing organic traffic from secondary keywords

Note: The primary keyword “best cell phone plans” (48,000 monthly searches) only brings in 5% of the page’s overall monthly organic traffic. The rest comes from the other 42,477 semantic and long tail secondary keywords. 

Here is another article from Digital Trends targeting the topic “best laptop backpack for travellers”:

The post ranks for 4,800 different keywords and rakes in 5,800 organic searches a month.

But:

Similar to the Wirecutter example above, its top 5 keywords only account for ~20% of the total organic traffic:

Digital Trends secondary keywords example

Rather than target the same keyword repeatedly, Digital Trends has sprinkled secondary keywords – slight variations, re-wordings, or alternate ways to say the same thing – throughout the post:

Using long tails and semantics helps Google see the post as being relevant to a range of queries.

Ok:

So, how do you expand the organic footprint of your content?

The first step in the process is finding a list of secondary keyword targets with some kind of search volume.

Here are a couple quick ways to do this:

1. Mine competitor articles

Go to the Keyword Explorer tool and enter primary topic for one of your existing articles. Scroll down to the SERP Overview report to see all the top ranking articles along with a number of metrics, including Domain Rating, # of Backlinks, Traffic, # of Keywords etc:

Keyword metrics in Ahrefs

Click the “Kw” link to view all the keywords the page/post is ranking for (and getting traffic from):

Ahrefs keyword filters

Here is another example from the coffee products niche:

Ahrefs keyword ideas

If I was going to equip myself with affiliate links and write a post comparing coffee grinders, I’d know to include sections on burr grinders, grinders for french press, conical grinders, etc.

Without mentioning these kinds of grinders in the post, I’d be missing out on thousands of extra visits when the post started to rank.

Before you hit publish (or ideally before you start writing), run the top 10 competing posts through Ahrefs and add their best long-tail keywords to your list.

Export all the secondary keywords and remove any duplicates. 

Note: This strategy is not only good for finding secondary keywords to include in on-page elements such as a title tags, headings and body copy, but they can also give you ideas for new sections or topics to cover in the content too.

2) Perform URL-level content gap analysis

If I enter “how to increase organic traffic” into the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer I can see my article is only ranking for 67 different keywords, compared to the hundreds of different terms many of the competing article are ranking for:

Ahrefs Keyword Gap Analysis tool

So, how do you quickly identify all the keyword gaps?

The Ahrefs Content Gap Analysis tool.

Here’s how to do it:

Head over to the Site Explorer and enter the URL of your content:

Ahrefs Site Explorer tool

Navigate down to the Organic Search section and click the Content Gap Analysis link:

Using the Ahrefs Content Gap tool

Next – enter up to 10 competing articles:

Entering competitors into the Content Gap tool

Note: make sure you have the URL selected from the drop down next to each URL since you are specifically interested in all the keywords those competing pages/ posts (not whole domain) are ranking, but you are not.

You’ll have several filter options to choose from:

Filtering in the Content Gap tool

I recommend keeping “At least one of the targets should rank in top 10” selected as this will help return the most relevant results.

Hit search and you’ll see a list of all the keywords the competing articles are ranking for, but your article is not: 

Content Gap results

Bonus tip: as you scan down the list of secondary keyword opportunities, focus on the the opportunities where at least two of your competitors are ranking in the top 10 for a given keyword. These will typically be the most relevant targets.

2) Perform long tail (and semantic) keyword research

Open Keyword Explorer >> Enter primary keyword >> View Keyword Ideas:

Scan the list of keyword ideas and add any relevant terms with decent search volume to a dedicated list:

Finally – export the keywords and remove any duplicates.

How to quickly incorporate secondary keywords into your content

You’ll probably find a handful of secondary keywords were naturally included in the article as it was written.

But, it’s always good to revisit the content and make sure all the bases are covered.

With your secondary keyword list in hand, make sure to include them in headings.

Headings — wrapped in h1, h2, and h3 tags — are essential for signalling content relevance to Google.

“We do use H tags to understand the structure of the text on a page better” – John Mueller, Google

Looking back at the earlier coffee grinder example…

Ahrefs keyword ideas

You could derive the entire article structure – including headings – from that list alone:

  • What is a grinder

  • Best burr grinder

  • Best espresso grinder


  • lightbulb-o

    Best manual coffee grinder


  • lightbulb-o

    Etc..

Next, go back through the post once it’s written and ctrl+f secondary keywords and words that comprise them (“grinder”, “coffee grinder”) — you’ll find you can vary the wording to cover more keywords in the body copy and still keep a smooth content flow.

Example of using secondary keywords in the body copy

(Source)

Finally, consider updating older content to include entirely new sections (or subsections) targeting the new secondary keyword/topic opportunities.

Again, work the keywords into the headings (one H2 and a few H3s should do the trick) and weave into the body copy where it makes sense. 

Here is a short video that walks you through the process in more depth:

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#6: INSTANTLY Boost New Pages by Linking to Them from Existing High-Authority Pages

Want to give EVERY new piece of content you publish an INSTANT boost!?

As soon as you publish your new post, add a link to that post from an existing, related piece of content on your website that already has a TON of authority (i.e. a high UR).

This is tactic was briefly mentioned above. Below, we will outline several ways to mine solid internal link sources for your new content.

Example:

Because this page is clearly about increasing organic traffic, it would make perfect sense to link to it from this SEO case study on the date of publishing.

Why? Because that post is ALSO related to increasing traffic, and already has some authority:

Ahrefs page authority

Linking to my newly published post from that one would be sure to give it a nice boost!

Easy, right!?

BUT, how do you find worthy pages from which to add internal links from?

Here are a couple of methods:

1. Use the “Best by links” report in Ahrefs —this will show you every page on your website ordered by number of inbound links (as mentioned above). Work your way down the list and find a suitable post from which to add your link!

Ahrefs Best by Links report

2. Use the Search Console “Links to Your Site” report — this will show you all the pages being linked to from other domains:

Search Console links report

2. Use the “top pages” report in Google Analytics — this will show you the pages with the most traffic on your website. This can be accessed via: Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.

You know pages getting a lot of organic traffic are ranking highly in the search engines, which is a good indicator they have authority (and links) attached to them.

4. Use search operators to find solid internal link sources. While tools can make this process easier, you don’t need them to find some good targets.

Here’s a workaround:

Search for the following:

site:yourdomain.com + keyword

Basically, just replace the “keyword” with a keyword related to the content you’ve just published.

So, if I wanted to add an internal link to this page, I could use the following Google search:

site:robbierichards.com + increase traffic

This will show me the pages on my website that are most related (in Google’s eyes) to increasing traffic:

Search results

Add a link from one or two of these pages (note: don’t force it in, make sure it’s natural!) and you’ll see a nice boost to your new post.

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#7: Scale Question-Based Keyword Research (and Drive Targeted Traffic)

Every question is a problem.

Understanding which specific questions (and keywords) users are searching for online provides an opportunity to:

  1. Drive more brand awareness (and traffic) at the exact moment your ideal customer is experiencing a pain or need.
  2. Boost conversion rates by identifying (and overcoming) objections at the point of conversion.

Question-based keywords can be used for many different mediums, including blog posts, videos and FAQ sections on ecommerce product pages. Not to mention, they are the most common types of queries that trigger featured snippets:

Featured snippet study

(Source)

So, how do you find all the questions your ideal customers are searching for answers to online?

Here’s a simple method:

Scrape “People Also Ask”

The first thing you’ll need to do is install the free Scraper chrome extension:

Scraper chrome extension

Next, you’ll take one of your top-level product category terms and enter it into the search engine. Since I’m working on building out a keyword strategy for a fictional beard products ecommerce store in my newest course Playbook, I’ll use “beard oil” as a working example:

Typing beard oil into Google

Scroll down to the “People Also Ask” box:

Google's People Also Ask box

These are the exact questions your customers are typing into Google.

You’ll notice there are only a small handful of questions showing. Start clicking on the accordions and the list will begin to expand:

Keep clicking until you have 30+ questions in the list.

Next – right click on one of the questions in the list, and select the “Scrape Similar” option:

Select Scrape Similar from options

This will open a window with the question and answer you clicked on:

Scraper window

Since we want to scrape ALL the questions, you’ll need to navigate over to the left side of window and remove the [1] from the x-path query:

Altering x-path query

Once you’ve altered the x-path, click enter and the Scraper extension will pull in all the questions and answers from the expanded “People Also Ask” list:

Expanded results in the Scraper window

Copy the data to your clipboard.

At this point, you’ll have ALL the questions and answers in the spreadsheet.

But, for the purpose of this keyword research strategy we’re only interested in the questions.

So, the next step is to remove all the answers. An easy way to do this is to add a 0 for the questions, and a 1 for the answers:

Scraper results in excel

Highlight the two cells and drag it down to the bottom of the results. Hover over the drop down arrow and click “copy cells”:

This will add a 0 for all the questions, and a 1 for all the answers.

Next – add a filter and select 1 to only show the answers:

Delete all the answers and you’ll be left with a list of questions to target with your keyword research strategy:

Clean keyword results in excel

This strategy can be used to generate hundreds of question-based topics for eCommerce stores, affiliate websites, and service-based companies:

Question queries for service-based companies

Question-based queries will get your business in front of potential customers at the exact moment they are searching for answers to a specific problem related to the products or services you sell. 

Note: If you want to learn the exact systems and process I use to build out scalable keyword strategies for my business and clients, check out my SEO training course

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#8: Boost Traffic by Increasing SERP CTRs (with Search Console data)

Not only is SERP click-through rate (CTR) a proven ranking factor, it’s also super-important for translating rankings into traffic:

CTR ranking factor

Example:

Let’s assume you ranked on page 1 for the term Best SEO Tools (btw, I do rank for this!):

Ranking position 5

According to Ahrefs, this keyphrase has 1,500 searches/month:

Ahrefs keyword search volume

BUT:

This doesn’t mean I’m going to get 1,500 visitors a month from that search term — it all depends on CTR:

SERP click through rate

In the search engines, you’ll see around 2/3 of all the clicks going to the top 3 positions. Anything outside the top 3 and you’re looking at a single digit CTRs. 

Back to our example:

If 10% of searchers click my website in the SERPs, I’ll receive roughly 150 visitors/month.

(Pretty sweet!)

However, if only 2% of searchers click through to my website, I’ll receive a measly 30 visitors/month.

(Not so sweet!)

So, the question is: how can you increase your CTR?

Two ways:

  1. Improve rankings—pages that rank higher are generally clicked more. For example, most searchers will click the 1st or 2nd result in the SERPs, and virtually nobody will click through to the second page of results.
  2. Sell your content in the SERPs—use your title and description tags to effectively “sell” your content in the SERPs and entice a click through.

The second method is the one I want to focus on right now, as it’s super low-hanging fruit most SEOs never think about!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Identify pages on your website receiving below average CTRs for their ranking position.
  2. Change your title/description tags to entice more people to click through to your website from the SERPs.

OK:

The first task is to identify the pages getting lower CTRs than they should be—this can be done by analyzing search console data.

Go to Google Search Console > Search Traffic > Search Analytics, then set up the filter to match this:

Search Console data

Download the results (note: the download button is at the bottom of the page).

Copy/paste the data into the sheet titled “1. Search Console Data” in this Google Sheet:

Low hanging CTR wins in Search Console

Finally, go to sheet labelled “DONE” and you should see something like this:

Basically, this shows you the CTR for each page (column B) ranking in position 10 or under. It also shows the Average CTR for rankings in that position (note: these numbers were taken from here).

SERP CTRs

If the row is highlighted green, the CTR for the page is better than average for webpages ranking in that position. LEAVE THESE ALONE!

If the row is red, the page is performing worse—consider optimizing the title/description tags for these pages.

Here’s a guide on exactly how to do that.

Bonus materials to increase organic traffic

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#9. Identify lost link equity in 404 pages

Links have a HUGE impact on rankings:

Domain authority

If you want to rank for any keyword, you need page authority. And, the way you get authority is by building quality links.

Now:

There are a million and one ways (depending on your niche) you could go about building backlinks to your website.

And, it’s tempting to dive right into a new campaign and go after the big wins. Why not, right?

Big wins are great! Everyone loves them – clients, boss, the team. Nothing better than landing a massive link from a site like Huffington Post or NBC.

While those links really move the needle, and should be a focal point, they require a lot of time and hard work.

So:

Before you start directing all your energy into landing BIG links, make sure you are first collecting all the “quick links”. This will get you some quick wins for your client, and help build trust at the beginning of your campaign.

One of the easiest ways to do this is reclaim lost link equity from 404 pages.

Websites change over time. Products come and go. Information is updated. URLs are modified. Pages are edited, shifted, and moved.

While all this sounds like on-page SEO, it affects off-page SEO as well – specifically links.

For example:

If you’ve ever landed quality links to a piece of content on your site and then updated the URL or folder structure, you’ve just affected that link.

Where it hurts you is when you make such a change and don’t put in the right 301 redirects. Basically – the links you worked hard to get are still pointing to the old URL.

The result is lost link equity.

So, one of the best things you can do when starting a new link building campaign is ensure there aren’t any dead/404 pages with external links pointed at them.

Reclaiming even a few of these links can give your content a nice bump, and provide a significant win that builds trust with your clients.

Here’s how to do it:

Head over to the Ahrefs “Best by Links” report. Filter by “404”, and sort referring domains (RD) in descending order:

Finding 404 pages with links pointing to them

The first result in this example has 6 referring domains pointing to a 404 page.

After clicking the RD link, I find out some of these links are from high authority domains like Search Engine Watch (DR 71):

RD report in Ahrefs

This is a MASSIVE link that would normally take a lot of time and effort to get, if at all. 

Once you’ve identified the 404 pages with external links pointing to them, the final step is to reclaim the link equity.

Note: You should first examine the quality and relevance of the external links before reclaiming them.

Some things to look at:

  • Domain/ Page authority
  • Page relevance
  • Page quality
  • Link placement
  • Anchor text
Low DR sites

This is a screenshot from a backlink audit we’re working on for a client. There were a lot of low DR sites link from irrelevant content. Not links we’re interested in reclaiming. 

The last thing you want to do is start redirecting a bunch of garbage links to your site. You’ll likely do more harm than good.

Ok:

Once you’ve identified the linking pages and verified they are safe to reclaim, you have a couple options:

  1. ​​​​301 redirect the 404 page to another relevant piece of content on the site
  2. Contact the author of the page linking to your site and notify them your page has moved. Ask them to update the link. 

I usually go for the first option 🙂 

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#10. Create Strong Content Silos and AVOID Orphaned Pages

Google HATES messy, disorganized websites.

Why? Because it makes it very difficult for them to understand what a webpage is about. And if they don’t know what it’s about, they probably aren’t going to rank it highly!

So, how do you solve this?

Silos.

In simple terms, “siloing” is nothing more than the act of grouping content into distinct categories, ensuring a clear hierarchy that makes sense, and linking logically between the pages.

Here’s a simple example of a silo structure for a yoga website (taken from this post):

Example of a content silo

You can see there’s a clear content hierarchy—the pages are grouped into main categories (i.e. silos) and linked-to from the main category page.

This is commonly referred to as parent and child hierarchy.

In this example, the “new york”, “chicago, “dallas”, and “orlando” pages each have the same parent: “yoga studios”. They’re all children of the “yoga studio’s” page:

Note: It’s good practice to link back to the parent category from child pages, too.

This hierarchy will help dictate the URL structure.

Example:

http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios

  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios/new-york/ 
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios/chicago/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios/dallas/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios/orlando/

http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes

  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes/yoga-rx/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes/pilates/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes/vinyasa/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes/hot-yoga/

Note: It is best practice to have support pages linking back up to the silo landing page (as shown by the red links above in the Yoga studio silo).

Cross-links between silo sub pages should be avoided because they weaken the “theming”, and relevance of the silo:

Content Silo 2

This graphic from Search Engine Land further illustrates how content silos can help better organize site content:

Silo vs flat information architecture

A couple more reasons why siloing your content can improve the user experience, and help boost your organic traffic:

  1. It increases relevancy: Siloing ensures all topically related content is connected, and this in turn drives up relevancy. For example, linking to each of the individual yoga class pages (e.g. Pilates, Yoga RX, etc) from the “Yoga classes” page helps confirm—to both visitors and Google—these pages are in fact different types of yoga classes. Google can then feel more confident ranking these pages for related terms, as it is clearer the pages are relevant to the search query.
  2. It helps the flow of “link juice” around your website: Because you’re creating a hierarchical structure, siloing ensures authority flows around your site more efficiently. (i.e. links to blog posts and sub service/product pages can flow up through the website to the “money” pages.  

BUT:

What happens if you don’t implement content silos?

You’ll end up with “orphaned pages”:

Orphan pages

(Source)

An orphan page is a page with zero incoming internal links, and thus can’t be reached by users or crawlers while navigating your website. This usually hurts UX and ranking performance.

If you have a page that is underperforming, it’s worth running it through Search Console to check for internal links—here’s how:

Search Console > Search Traffic > Internal Links > enter your page URL:

Looking for internal links in Search Console

It will then show you the number of internal links the page has; it even shows you exactly where these links come from:

If the page has no internal links, check to make sure the relative URL paths are not being used on the site.

Relative URLs

You can find out more about relative vs. absolute URLs in this Moz Whiteboard Friday:

Bonus tip:

You can use a tool like SEMrush to scale the process of identifying orphaned pages across your website.

Go to the “Site Audit” report and enter your domain:

SEMrush site audit

Wait for the website to be crawled.

Go to the ‘Issues’ tab and click the ‘Select an Issue’ button. Check the ‘Notices’ section to see whether any Orphaned Pages have been detected on the site:

SEMrush site audit check

You can also use the tool to detect Orphaned Pages through your XML Sitemap or Google Analytics data. Check out the full tutorial on how to do that here.

Ok, we now know:

Content silos = good.

Orphan pages = bad (unless deliberate).

In a nutshell, here’s how you can silo your website:

  1. Identify the overarching topic groups of your website. What content do you have, or plan to have? What products or services do you plan to promote on your website? What are the main categories on competitor sites? Your keyword research should help flush this out. 
  2. Plan your link structure. Start with the main navigation and decide how to best connect pages both physically (URL structure) and virtually (internal links) to clearly establish your content themes. Try to include at least 3-5 quality subpages under each core silo landing page. Link internally between the subpages. Link each subpage back up to the main silo landing page.
     
  3. Strengthen silos with relevance and authority. Continue to add contextual content into your silos. One of the easiest ways to do this is add related blog categories. Add content into the categories, build links to the content, and channel it back into the silo subpages through targeted internal linking.

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#11. Identify Keyword Gaps (and Quickly Scale Organic Traffic)

Keyword research is the foundation of most successful SEO campaigns.

Rank for the right keywords, and you’ll drive a passive stream of targeted traffic to your website.

But, keyword research is a MASSIVE topic. I mean, just google it and you’ll get 16M results!

Search result

So, where do you start?​​​​

The competition.

Or more specifically, all the keywords your competitors are ranking for, but your are not. This allows you to plug any holes in your current content strategy, and start capturing more organic traffic.

Here’s how to do it:

Open up SEMrush, and go to the “Keyword Gap Analysis” report.

Keyword gap analysis

You should now see space to enter up to 5 domains for comparison. Enter up to 4 competitors, followed by your own website.

Example:

If I was doing a keyword gap analysis for my blog (robbierichards.com), I could enter ahrefs.com, backlinko.com, and webris.org as competitors, followed by my own website:

Entering competing domains into the keyword gap analysis tool

IMPORTANT: You MUST enter competitor domains first, with your own domain last on the list.

Once you’ve got your top organic competitors entered into the tool, you’ll notice a venn diagram icon listed next to each of the domains.

Click the icon and you’ll see four different options to choose from – (1) All Keywords, (2) Unique to the first domain, (3) Common keywords, and (4) Unique keywords: 

This UX isn’t super intuitive, so let’s work through a couple quick examples of how you could use this tool to find untapped keyword opportunities for your business.

Note: Regardless of the keyword option you select, when performing a keyword gap analysis make sure the last venn diagram icon between the last competitor and your website is set to “Unique to the first domain’s keywords”:

With the settings shown above, I’d get the following results:

Keyword gap analysis results

All of my competitors are ranking for these keywords, but I am not.

This insight is extremely valuable because if all your competitors are able to rank for those keywords, there is a high probability you can too (provided each site has a comparable domain rating).

You can export these keywords and start prioritizing which ones should be added to your content calendar.

Ok:

That’s just one use case. Let’s pretend I want to broaden the scope and look at all the keywords ANY of my competitors are ranking for.

Easy – I’d use the configuration below:

Now I can see all the keywords at least one of my competitors rank for:

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Most of the results in the examples above are keywords ranking super low in the search results.

One might argue this information is pretty useless.

So, use the filters shows below to find all the competitor keywords ranking in the top 10 results:

Keyword gap analysis filters

This search will return some great topical keywords for you to explore further, and possibly incorporate into your content calendar:

When performing your competitor keyword gap analysis, start with competitors who have similar domain authority ratings as your site. This way, you know any keywords your competitors are ranking, you can too.

Important: Don’t focus your entire keyword strategy around your competitors. You want to go after opportunities they are missing out on too.

One way I do this is using the keywords identified in the gap analysis to seed ongoing topical keyword research.

Basically – enter the competitor keyword topics into the SEMrush “Keyword Magic Tool”:

SEMrush keyword magic tool

It will return a list of hundreds or even thousands of related long tail keyword variations.

You can even filter out the question-based queries:

Question-based keywords

As you enter in different seed topics, simply click the box next to any keywords you think might be a good target and they’ll be added to a master list which you can export once finished with your keyword research.

This is an easy way to leverage your competitors to rapidly expand the keyword set: 

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#12: Use “Barnacle SEO” to Align Your Brand with Authoritative Sources for High SERP Visibility

“Barnacle SEO” is a term coined by Will Scott of Search Influence.

He describes it as: “attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for the customers to float by in the current.”

BUT, what does this mean in relation to SEO?

Simple…rather than competing with the BIG sites that dominate your niche, you instead align/attach your own brand with them.

That way, you can effectively piggyback on their success!

Example

Let’s assume you were a lawyer in Brooklyn, NYC…

You would probably want to attach/associate your business with sites such as:

  • Avvo.com
  • Superlawyers.com
  • Justia.com
  • Etc. 

This is because the websites absolutely DOMINATE local search:

Big brand sites dominating local search

So, whenever anyone is looking for the services you offer, chances are they’ll end up on a website like Avvo.com.

BUT…

I know what you’re thinking…“why not just rank for these terms with my own website!?”

Simple…these BIG brands will be almost impossible to outrank with your own website (because it’ll have much less authority!): 

Barnacle SEO

In this case, it’d be better to simply piggyback on the authority of the larger sites to rank for highly competitive keywords, at least in the short term.

Here are some of the big brands that dominate search in other verticals:

Real Estate: Zillow, Rent.com, Trulia, Zoopla (UK), RightMove (UK), etc:

Hotels: TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Timeout.com, etc.

Obviously, some of these websites are more difficult to associate your own brand with than others.

For example, TripAdvisor rankings can’t really be manipulated (unless you’re providing EXCELLENT service), but you can easily post on forums like Warrior Forum or Quora; you just have to sign up and post an answer.

That’s why I recommend looking for keywords in your niche where forums (e.g. Quora) or niche directories dominate the SERPs.

Here’s a quick hack for doing this:

First, go to SEMrush, enter quora.com in the search box, then go to the “Positions” report (located under “Organic Research” on the sidebar):

This will show you each of the 29 million keywords Quora.com ranks for!

BUT…

Most of these keywords will be completely irrelevant to your niche; that’s why you need to use the filtering options to find keywords that fit the bill.

Example:

Let’s say you were a lawyer…

Just filter for threads containing the word “attorney” that also rank in the top 5:

Filtering SEMrush keyword reports

This will result in a TON of threads that rank well for industry related terms:

It’s then a case of plucking out the ones most related to your business, signing up for a Quora account, and answering the questions:

Do this right and it can drive A LOT of targeted traffic back to your website!

Now:

In industries dominated by aggregator sites, my advice is to leverage them, not fight them. They have already done all the hard work to rank for you: 

Avvo rankings

You just need to “attach” yourself to the appropriate category of the site, and optimize your profile for high placement. 

If you can get your profile ranking in the aggregators, you can quickly build visibility for a lot of your “money” keywords.

For example:

Here are the listings on Avvo for “personal injury attorney” in Boise:

This keyword is a ultra competitive in both local and organic search. Plus, you could be paying up to $100 per click in AdWords. 

Take a close look at how businesses in ultra competitive markets are optimizing their profiles to rank. It might even make sense to pay for top placement in some of the niche directories.

Here is a helpful checklist from Phil Rozek to follow when deciding if barnacle SEO is a good strategy for your business:

Barnacle SEO sheet

The most critical things to consider are:


  • check

    Does the site rank top of page one for the target search term?


  • check

    Does the site allow visitors to leave reviews?


  • check

    Does the site allow you to link to your page?


  • check

    Are your competitors already present on the site?


  • check

    Can visitors contact you directly from the site?


  • check

    Can you pay to elevate your listing on the site?

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#13. Use “Parasite SEO” to Rank for Super-Competitive Search Terms

Ranking for BIG “money” keywords isn’t always possible with your own website.

That’s because the BIG keywords are often super-competitive and ONLY super-authoritative brands stand a chance at ranking for them.

Example:

Take a keyword like “SEO tips”

According to Ahrefs, it has a KD score of 60:

Ahrefs keyword competitiveness score

And unsurprisingly, the SERPs are dominated by big brands:

Bottomline: you probably ain’t going to stand a chance at ranking for this keyword with a DA30 website….no matter how great your content is!

So, what’s the solution?

Parasite (or Tenant) SEO.

In simple terms, parasite SEO is where you piggyback on the authority of other websites to rank for super-competitive, “money” terms.

But wait, how is this different from Barnacle SEO?

With Barnacle SEO you are basically adding profiles or comments to top ranking aggregators, directories and forums in your industry/market.

With Parasite SEO, you’re publishing new content (i.e. blog posts NOT profiles) on high ranking sites and publications.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify key industry publications that accept guest posts (with CRAZY authority!)
  2. Pitch an article targeting a money keyword

Example:

Let’s go back to the “SEO tips” keyword I mentioned earlier…

You might remember that one of the pages ranking in the top 3 was this post on the Ahrefs blog.

Here’s the interesting thing about this post…

It’s actually a guest post!

Ahrefs guest post example

Yes, guest posting means you’re effectively ranking for the keyword on their website (rather than your own), but it’s still a GREAT tactic for the following reasons:

  1. It’ll send a TON of referral traffic your way
  2. It’ll generate leads/sales
  3. It’ll help you build a name for yourself (i.e. authority by association)

Want proof?

Ryan Stewart wrote this post (which now ranks #1 for the value search term “SEO services”) a couple of years back and it still generates leads for his business:

Ryan Stewart tweet

​Here is another example:

Steve Webb wrote this SEO audit article on Moz to rank for the highly competitive search term “SEO audit”.

This article has been ranking #1 for over 4 years!

Matt Barby used parasite SEO to rank his client for the keyphrase “app makers” (22,000 monthly searches).

The Business News Daily article generated 74,783 referral visits and almost 4,300 user registrations:

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find a list of websites in your niche accepting guest posts
  2. Pitch them posts relating to competitive keywords you want to rank for

Note: Obviously, you’ll need a list of competitive keywords you want to rank for in order to do this. If you don’t have that already, check out my post listing a TON of ways to find keywords with SEMrush.

Or, watch the video below:

OK, first things first…you need to find websites accepting guest posts.

This is easily done—just enter the follow search operators into Google:

KEYWORD intitle:”write for us”
KEYWORD inurl:”write-for-us”

Scrape the results with this Chrome extension and you’ll have a huge list of industry websites that accept guest posts:

Scraping URLs from the SERPs

It’s then just a case of pitching them your topics.

IMPORTANT: Make sure the website you’re pitching is actually authoritative enough to rank for the keyword you’re targeting. The quickest way to do this is to check the KD score in Ahrefs, then check to see if the website is already ranking in the top 5 for other keywords with a similar KD score. If it is, you’re good to go!

Example:

Let’s say we wanted to publish a guest post that ranked for the keyword “long tail keywords”.

According to Ahrefs, this has a KD score of 52:

KD score in Ahrefs

So, we need to publish our post on a website that is capable of ranking for keywords with a KD score of 52 (or higher).

We can do this with Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Just enter the domain of website you want to publish the guest post on (e.g. AgencyAnalytics.com), go to the “Organic Keywords” report, then filter by keywords ranking in positions 1-5.

If you spot the website ranking for keywords with a KD score of 52 or higher (or whatever number you’re looking for), you’re good to go:

In this example, we can see that they’re ranking in the top 5 for a KD 72 keyword.

Perfect!

Here’s another alternative method:

Get DR for target site (using Ahrefs Site Explorer):

…then compare it to the average DR of the top 5 ranking sites in the SERPs for the target keyword. This can be done with the SERPs report in Ahrefs Keywords Explorer: 

Checking competing domain ratings

If the average is similar to the DR of the target guest post website, go for it!

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#14: Propel Organic Growth with Ongoing Backlink Acquisition (+ 3 Simple Tactics)

As mentioned earlier in the post, links are MEGA important when it comes to ranking.

(Google actually confirmed this a few months back!)

And both domain-level and page-level backlink factors consistently top the ranks in Moz’s search engine ranking factors survey:

Ranking factors

BUT…

You aren’t going to rank by acquiring a few backlinks and leaving it at that…

You NEED to be acquiring backlinks on an ongoing basis!

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what most people do!

Most people focus all their time and effort into content creation and ZERO effort into link building.

It looks something like this:

Graph showing importance of link building

No authority is being built to help rank all the content being reduced. #facepalm

So, what should you be doing?

Simple. You need to put most of your resources into acquiring links in the early stages of a website.

Why? Because without building some authority, you aren’t going to rank for anything (not even low competition keywords!).

Here’s a great illustration by Matthew Barby showing how every SEO campaign should begin:

(Source)

The initial focus is seeding site authority in parallel with content creation efforts. 

Here are 3 “quick win” link building strategies to get you started:

  1. Steal your competitor’s links
  2. Keep a database of people likely to link to you (with custom search engines)
  3. Perform outreach

These three tactics have propelled the growth of my link profile over the last 6 months:

Link growth

OK, let’s start with the first link building tactic…

1. Steal Your Competitor’s Backlinks

There are TONS of ways to steal links from competitors (I even wrote a full post about it here) but here’s a quick and dirty tactic to get you started:

Go to Ahrefs Link Intersect tool and set it up like this:

Ahrefs link intersect tool

The first three domains should be domains of your competitors, and the “But doesn’t link to” field should be your own website.

Hit “Show link opportunities”.

Ahrefs will now show you who’s linking to any of your competitors, but not your own website.

Reach out to these people, build a relationship, and see if you can get them to link to your website, too!

2. Keep a database of people likely to link to you (with CSEs)

People who have linked to you before will probably be open to doing so again in future.

So, wouldn’t it make sense to keep a database of these people, then reach out to them whenever you publish something that may be of interest to them?

(YES. Yes it would!)

Here’s how:

Go to Ahrefs Site Explorer, enter your own domain, then go to the Referring Domains report:

This will show you EVERY domain currently linking to your website.

Export the results to .csv:

Export backlinks in Ahrefs

Next, import all the domains into a Google Custom Search Engine (CSE).

Note: You can find instructions, along with a bunch of templates for automating this process in this post.

Once you’ve done this, you will have a custom search engine that searches ONLY the websites that have linked to you in the past.

So, whenever you publish a new blog post, you can simply go to your CSE and search for a keyword related to the post (e.g. if I published a SEMrush review, I would type “SEMrush” into the search engine):

You can then reach out to these people, tell them about your post, and ask if they’d be happy to link to you!

Here’s a video with a more in-depth demonstration:

3. Perform large scale competitor link outreach

​This strategy is designed to scale the traditional approach of analyzing competitors to find quality backlink opportunity. 

Specifically, it piggybacks off the concept of Brian Dean’s popular Skyscraper technique.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Find a piece of content with a TON of links
  2. Make something even better
  3. Reach out to websites linking to the old piece of content, tell them about your new improved piece, and ask them to change the link

Simple, right!?

Doesn’t sound too different from normal competitor link analysis.

But, here’s the kicker:

Instead of trying to steal links from just one piece of content, you instead steal links from many pieces of competing content. And, this is how we scale the competitor link building process. 

Here’s a screenshot from one of the link tracking templates we used for a client in the customer support industry:

Competitor link doc

We managed to build over 60 quality links to the client’s website within a 60 day period. 

Pretty cool, right?

Let’s go through a quick working example…

I recently published this in-depth SEMRush tutorial/review.

But, a quick search in Google shows TONs of other (much less comprehensive) SEMrush reviews:

And according to Ahrefs, a LOT of these pages have a good number of backlinks:

BUT: 

I believe my review is more comprehensive than ALL of these other review.

So, I can use this outreach approach to steal links from ALL of these pages.

I’ve been using this tactic to build links to several of my articles over the last few months: 

I’m seeing about a 3-4% conversion rate. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Export the backlinks for ALL the pages your improved content is better than (using Ahrefs)
  2. Find the contact details for each of the websites
  3. Reach out to them and ask them to replace the old link with a link to your new and improved content.

Ready to Get More Organic Traffic?

There you have it – 14 actionable strategies to get more short and long term organic traffic growth.

Always start with the quick win opportunities – content audits, removal of keyword cannibalization, link reclamation and quick keyword wins. Then, build on the moment to scale up for long term organic traffic increases. 

Also, make sure you leverage the bonus templates and videos to get a quick start on things. 

Now:

Which strategies are you going to implement first?

Let me know in the comments below.

Bonus materials to increase organic traffic

The post 14 “No-BS” Ways to Rapidly Increase Organic SEO Traffic in 2018 (with Case Studies & Examples) appeared first on Robbie Richards.

SEO Case Study: 6-Step Process That Generated 150,732 Visits

SEO Case Study: 6-Step Process That Generated 150,732 Visits

My premium SEO training course, The SEO Playbook, is now open. Find out more about the course and see what current students are saying about it here.

Do you want to learn to rank #1 for high-traffic keywords in any niche?

In this SEO case study, you’re going to learn the repeatable 6-step process one of my readers used to get his client to #1 in Google, outrank big name brands like Mashable, and increase organic traffic 11,065% in just 6 months!

He was able to do it in a niche industry without spending any money on paid advertising or link building.

Pretty cool, right?

It gets better.

Over an 18 month period this simple SEO strategy was applied to several posts across his client’s site, generating 152,732 visits.

Every month, the organic traffic delivers hundreds of new email subscribers, affiliate commissions and potential business leads.

The best part?

Its a simple (and repeatable) SEO strategy any business can use to drive more qualified traffic from search engines. 

Organic traffic increase in Google Analytics

Note: This a monster 8,000 word SEO case study, so I’ve included a table of contents below for you to easily navigate between sections. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. I only promote tools I personally use to run my business. If you decide to purchase through one of my links I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. This helps me continue to publish valuable content – thanks for the support!

Editor’s note:
Need help getting more organic traffic, leads and sales for your business? Set up a free consult with me here

SEO Case Study: The Step-By-Step Process Michael Karp Used to rank #1 and Generate 20,314 Organic Pageviews (With a Single Post)

Take it away Michael.

Today’s SEO case study features UAV Coach — a fast growing business in the commercial drone space:

Screenshot of UAV coach website

A little background.

Alan Perlman started UAV Coach to help people break into the industry, and build a business around something he’s passionate about.

To do this, he needed to find a way to generate recurring traffic and leads.

I was contracted to help with this assignment.

I knew we needed to build an SEO strategy centered on evergreen content that would help generate long-term exposure, position the brand as an authority in the industry, capture leads, and ultimately convert them into paying customers.

The first post I created (and the focus of this SEO case study) for UAV Coach was called “How to Fly a Quadcopter — The Ultimate Guide“:

Quadcopter guide

It’s an in-depth 4,400-word guide to safely piloting a remote control quadcopter.

The article ranks in position #1 for its target keyword “how to fly a quadcopter”, as well as over 1,300 other secondary keyword variations:

Organic Search Positions report in SEMrush

Organic Search Positions report for the quadcopter guide via the SEMrush SEO Toolkit (affiliate)

Keyword Rankings and Search Volume

Screenshot of keyword rankings

Keyword: how to fly a quadcopter

Monthly search volume: 260

Keyword rankings screenshot - how to fly a drone

Keyword: how to fly a drone

Monthly search volume: 3,600

Keyword: how to fly a quadcopter in a circle

Monthly search volume: 50

Keyword: quadcopter

Monthly search volume: 18,100

The article has also landed 29 featured snippets:

Article ranking in featured snippets

Featured snippet results for quadcopter guide via Ahrefs Site Explorer (affiliate)

These rankings bring hundreds of visitors to the site every day:

Screenshot of Google Analytics traffic

In the first 6 months, the post brought in 21.4% of UAV Coach’s total traffic

Boasting an insane average time on page of 05:22:

Time on page analytics

Not only is the post bringing in loads of new traffic…

The traffic CONVERTS.

The post captured 2,335 emails, making it a top lead generation asset for the business.

How long did it take to reach the #1 spot in Google?

It took 3 months to hit the first page and 5 months to reach the #1 spot.

And, 6 months after publishing the guide it had generated 20,314 organic pageviews:

Screenshot of Google Analytics organic traffic

Needless to say, Alan (owner) was pretty happy with the results:

Alan Perlman

UI/UX Designer

While I’ve worked with hundreds of companies on their marketing and sales strategies, it wasn’t until working with Michael that I saw such rapid growth in organic, search engine traffic. Doubling our results month-over-month has not only helped us to grow our email list and generate revenue through our affiliate partners. It’s helped us to transform our mere industry blog into a real, thriving business.

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The Repeatable 6-Step Formula Used to Rank Content in Any Niche

You’re about to learn the EXACT process I use to create killer content, outrank global brands like Mashable and deliver thousands of targeted visitors to my client’s websites.

The process works in ANY niche.

And is designed to maximize your effort-to-reward ratio by targeting keywords that are comparatively easier to rank for.

(i.e untapped keywords.)

Here’s a snapshot of the steps we’ll be walking through in this case study:

1. Keyword research and competitive analysis
2. Content creation
3. On-page SEO
4. List building
5. Content promotion
6. Link building

You’re probably thinking: “But Michael, that’s so simple.”

And you’re right: it’s not complicated, and that’s the beauty of it!

Let’s jump in…

Step #1: Keyword Research and Competitor Analysis

While the drone space is a relatively new niche, competition is fierce. The SERPs are filled with big brand publications:

Ahrefs SEO Toolbar

As well as hundreds of competing blogs:

Competing blogs in the SERP

We needed to be very strategic about which topics we targeted, especially as a smaller blog with relatively low domain authority (more on this later).

Our first step was to perform keyword research and uncover evergreen topics targeted to beginner pilots (our core persona at the time).

Editor’s note:
If you want to learn the step-by-step keyword research process I use to scale organic traffic for my business and clients, check out my premium training program, The SEO Playbook.

Build a list of keyword opportunities

Head over to the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool and type in some seed keywords related to your core product, service or content topic:

SEMrush keyword magic tool

The Keyword Magic Tool makes it easy to filter the data using a number of different data points:

Question based keyword research in SEMrush

For speed, I’ll just sort the Volume from largest to smallest and export all the keyword data:

Question based keyword research results

Next, review each keyword and tag the most relevant evergreen topic:

Evergreen content ideas

I decided to focus on the term “how to fly a quadcopter.

Why did I start with this keyword? 

  1. The primary keyword had solid monthly search volume (720)
  2. It’s a topic our core persona (beginner pilots) would be searching for
  3. It was a topic I could easily research 
  4. It had a large potential organic footprint (i.e. could rank for loads of secondary keywords)

Note: The final point in the list is often overlooked.

Many people make the mistake of only looking at the search volume associated with their core target keyword.

And, they miss out on a LOT of potential traffic.

While “how to fly a quadcopter” only receives 720 monthly searches, the article ranks for 1,331 different keywords:

SEMrush screenshot showing number of keywords the guide ranks for

SEMrush
Top Pages report shows the number of secondary keywords the guide ranks for.

Click the Keywords link and you’ll many of the secondary keywords carry decent search volume as well:

Secondary keywords in SEMrush

In fact, the primary keyword drives a small percentage of the total organic traffic going to the article each month. 

Find secondary keyword targets

Plug your target keyword into SEMrush and scroll down to the Related Keywords report:

Related keywords in SEMrush

You’ll see SEMrush kicked back 962 related search terms!

Scan down the list and place a checkmark next to any term closely related to the primary topic of your content:

Using the SEMrush Export Manager

Related Keywords report in the SEMrush keyword report. 

Once you’re done selecting related keywords, click the green “Add to Export Manager” button at the top of the report.

Click the numbered box and export the keyword list:

Export manager

In a matter of minutes you’ve compiled dozens, maybe hundreds of secondary keyword ideas.

Cool, right?

You’re just getting started 🙂

Google “Searches related to…”

Install the free Keywords Everywhere chrome extension:

Screenshot of Keyword Everywhere chrome extension

Next, perform a quick search for your target keyword and scroll down to the “Searches related to…” section.

You’ll see all the long tail keywords along with search volume, CPC and keyword competition data pulled from AdWords:

Google searches related to report

Tip: Take one of the keywords from the “Searches related to…” area, pop that into Google, and check out the “Searches related to…” results for that keyword. Rinse and repeat until you have a list of relevant long tail keywords to target.

Google autosuggest

Enter your keyword into Google and look at the other terms Google suggests:

Google autosuggest results

Answer The Public

Manually entering keywords into Google can be very tedious and time-consuming.

Answer The Public provides an easy way to quickly scale this keyword research strategy.

The tool grabs information from Google Suggest, but what makes it unique is that it provides a mountain of keyword suggestions from entering a single term.

How?

It takes your seed keyword and appends every letter of the alphabet after it to produce hundreds of keyword suggestions.

For example, when you type the keyword “quadcopter” into Google you get a list of suggestions, like this:

But then when you enter your keyword plus another letter, Google Suggest will spit out a different list of suggestions:

Answer The Public will scrape this data and do all the heavy lifting so you don’t have to spend hours manually entering keyword combinations like “quadcopter a”, “quadcopter b”, etc..

To use it, head over to Answer The Public and enter your seed keyword:

Answer The Public

Click the “Alphabeticals” link:

This will return hundreds of potential new keyword ideas:

Alphabetical keyword ideas in Answer The Public

Turn on the Keywords Everywhere chrome extension to pull in search volume and CPC data:

Data pulled in with the Keywords Everywhere extension

Scan the results and add any relevant terms to your keyword set.

People Also Ask…

Enter your target keyword and scroll down to the “People Also Ask” box:

People Also Ask box

These are the exact questions your target audience is looking for answers to online.

These topics can provide ideas for new sections to add into informational blog content, or even use as FAQs on more conversion-based content such as product and category pages.

You’ll notice the People Also Ask box only shows a small handful of questions. But, if you click one of the questions the list will begin to expand:

Keep clicking until you have 20+ questions in the list. 

Editor’s Note: 

Use the free Scraper chrome extension to scale this form of question-based keyword research.

Right click on one of the questions in the list, and select the “Scrape Similar” option:

Scrape Similar

This will open a window with the question and answer you clicked on:

Since we want to scrape ALL the questions, you need to navigate over to the left side of window and remove the [1] from the x-path query:

Editing X-path query

Click enter and the Scraper extension will pull in all the questions and answers from the expanded “People Also Ask” list:

Questions and Answers in Scraper

Copy the data to your clipboard and paste it into a spreadsheet. Remove all the answers and you’ll be left with a long list of question-based topics to target. I cover this process in greater detail here.

Starting to see traction…

You’ll notice a lot of the related and long tail keywords collected in the previous steps were targeted with dedicated sections in the guide:

Sections in the guide

After a few months the post started to rank for a lot of these different secondary keywords:

Ranking for secondary keywords

A couple interesting things to note here:

  1. UAV Coach was able to rank for hundreds of different subtopics with a single article. (eg: they didn’t have to write a separate post for “how to rotate a quadcopter” and another for “quadcopter controls”)
  2. UAV Coach was able to land loads of featured snippets by using dedicated sections in the article to provide direct answers to very specific search queries. Learn more about getting featured snippets.

Ok:

Now that you have a solid list of primary and secondary keyword ideas, the next step is to qualify the terms you can realistically rank in the top 5 positions within the next 3-6 months.

There are two primary elements you need to pay attention to:

  1. Domain and page-level authority
  2. SERP and content types
  3. On-page/ quality signals

By doing competitive analysis, you can save a lot of time and effort that would’ve been wasted trying to rank for impossible keywords.

Let’s start by looking at the authority of competing pages in the SERPs. 

How to analyze your competition (in 15 minutes or less)

First, install the free Ahrefs SEO Toolbar and do a quick search for your primary keyword.

Launch the extension by clicking the icon in your browser bar (make sure it’s light blue):

Ahrefs SEO Toolbar

Click the gear icon to configure which Ahrefs metrics get pulled into the SERPs.

Head back over to the search results and you should see all the domain and page-level metrics showing below each search result:

Ahrefs toolbar SERP results

The Ahrefs Toolbar shows:

  • Ahrefs URL rating
  • Ahrefs Domain Rating
  • Ahrefs Rank
  • Number of Backlinks
  • Number of Referring Domains
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic
  • Number of Ranking Keywords

Each of these metrics is helpful for getting a top-level view of the organic traffic potential and difficulty to rank for a given search term.

Click a link in the toolbar and you’ll be taken to a report for that URL inside the Ahrefs application:

Assessing link metrics

Editor’s note:
Ahrefs studied the correlation of backlink factors across 2 million keyword searches and found that page-level link metrics had a stronger correlation with search rankings:

Ahrefs study of domain vs page-level ranking factors

As a general rule, you’re looking for domain and page authority similar to or lower than that of your site/page:

For example:

All the competing assets have low URL ratings and few referring domains pointing to them:

Domain and page level link metrics in the SERP

This looks like a promising keyword to quickly rank for.

But, you’re still not done.

There are a couple other SERP elements to consider in the keyword qualification process.

SERP and content types

This is one of the most overlooked steps in the keyword qualification process.

Before you decide to target any keyword or topic, determine which specific content types are ranking in the search results.

Are they blog posts? Videos? Category pages? Product pages? Government resource pages?

Typically, there will be a single content type displaying in the top 10 results. Basically, this is Google telling you what users expect from a given search query.

Our quadcopter is a simple example:

Content types in the SERPs

The “how to” modifier in the search string indicates that this an informational search, so it’s no surprise all the results are blog posts.

But, not all cases are this clear cut:

Editor’s note:
I was working with a SaaS company that had an interactive content marketing platform.

The client was trying to rank for product-related terms such as interactive infographic. When I started working with the company they could not get their product page to rank for the term.

Initially, this seemed a little odd. The page had a high URL rating (authority), quality content, and a healthy number of quality backlinks.

It wasn’t until we analyzed the SERP content types that the reason they were having such a hard time ranking became clear:

All the ranking assets were long form listicle blog posts.

(i.e. they were simply trying to rank with the wrong content type).

So, we built out a massive listicle post which now ranks #1 for the target search term and drives a lot of targeted organic traffic to the site each month:

Google Analytics screenshot showing the impact of proper content type targeting

In the same 12 month period the product page brought in 366 organic visits compared to the blog post with 9,565 organic visits.

On-Page SEO Competition

Studies have shown that on-page SEO has a relatively small impact on rankings these days:

Backlink vs On-Page ranking factors

While backlinks seem to have a much higher correlation, on-page SEO should not be ignored.

Think about it:

Backlinks can take months/years (and a lot of resources) to build. Meanwhile, key on-page elements can be analyzed and optimized in a matter of minutes. 

Editor’s note:
If you want to take a deep dive into how to optimize your on-page SEO, check out this massive 19-step on-page SEO checklist. It also comes with a Google Sheets template that will help you automate a lot of the more tedious on-page analysis tasks:

On-page automation sheet GIF

Prefer video? 

Watch over my shoulder as I walk you through the automation template:

I always like to look at the on-page SEO for each competing search result. Specifically, I like to see how they are using exact match keywords in the:

  • Title tag
  • URL
  • Heading tags
  • Meta descriptions (to help improve CTR)

Fortunately, the Domain Rating, URL Rating and link metrics were on our side. The competition in this area was pretty weak.

However:

Almost every article on the first page was well-optimized for the target keyword:

Examples of on-page optimization in the SERPs

You’ll also notice that some of the articles are using jump links to sections in the post optimized for secondary keyword variations.

(i.e. all the competitors were doing a solid job optimizing the on-page SEO)

If these pages had solid backlink profiles and high page/domain authority too, I would have wasted a lot of time creating, promoting, and building links to this article with very little return.

It might seem small, but don’t skip this step!

Check how well optimized the top 10 pages are for your target keyword.

Content Quality

This is the final step in the keyword qualification phase.

I typically assess content quality by looking at the following:

  • Content length
  • Multi media (images, video, infographics, gifs)
  • Secondary keywords
  • UX (readability)
  • Format (list post, expert roundup, interview, case study, how-to etc..)
  • How up-to-date is it
  • Social media optimization

Editor’s note:
If you want to learn the exact Content Layering framework I use to crush competitors in the SERPs, check out the Quick Wins Playbook in my new SEO training course here.

For example:

After examining a few of the top ranking pages, I knew there was an opportunity to crush them in a number of areas.

The top ranking article at the time had very thin content:

Example of poor content quality

The entire article was only 303 words (compared to the 4,000+ I wrote for UAV Coach).

Most of the others posts ranking on the first page were also short and offered surface-level information. Very few posts used any type of multi media – images or videos – to supplement the writing.

Editor’s note:
Check out this SEO copywriting guide to learn how to make your articles more sticky, improve time on page and convert more readers.

So, what did I learn about my target keyword?

  • High traffic potential
  • Relatively weak competition
  • Opportunity to create a dominant piece of evergreen content
  • Perfect keyword for our target audience

I had a great list of keywords and a solid foundation for the rest of the SEO campaign.

Note: Add the terms into a keyword rank tracking tool to monitor position and visibility over time.

Time to create EPIC content! 

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Step #2: Content Creation 

The content playing field has become a red ocean. Articles are longer, better researched, and formatted for user experience:

Word count of top ranking articles

Today, Google’s first page search results average close to 2,000 words in length.

When creating content, there’s one mentality everyone should adopt:

“I want to create the best piece of content on this topic — period.”

Editor’s note:
Your content should provide the cumulative value of the existing top
10 results. It should be a definitive resource in every sense of the word.

Michael will dive into this a bit more below, but if you want to learn the Content Layering framework I use to rank clients for some of the most competitive terms online, check out my premium training course, The SEO Playbook

Having a great piece of content makes content promotion and link building much easier.

Take the time to write something that will blow your competition out of the water.

It took me 3 days to research and write the quadcopter guide. I covered every inch of the topic and the article now tips the scales at 4,774 words:

Word counter tool

It includes in-text links for easy navigation:

Note: This is a smart move for any long-form content, because Google will often take display jump links in the SERP:

Jump links display in the SERP results

This can help your post stand out in the SERPS and increase click-through rates (now a behavioral ranking signal within Google’s algorithm).

I also included definitions for readers, such as how to fly safely, a pre-flight checklist, novice skills, beginner skills, advanced skills, and much more.

I looked at everything the top articles were doing and did it better.

Then I looked at everything they weren’t doing, and did that too. This is the stuff that will ultimately make your content stand out from the competition.

The result was a 4,774 word guide that was clearly better than anything else out there.

As a general rule, make sure your content is:

  • More in-depth
  • More up-to-date
  • Provides a better user experience
  • Actionable

Important: Try to beat your competition on every level – length, current information, design.

This is exactly what Robbie did to increase his traffic 272% in 30 days.

Ok:

You now have a great piece of content. The next step is to optimize on-page SEO.

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Step #3: On-Page Optimization

On-page factors are the elements of a webpage that influence search engine ranking.

But, here’s the thing:

As we saw earlier, on-page factors often get overshadowed by off-site factors such as domain and page-level authority:

Backlink vs On-Page ranking factors

While on-page elements have a relatively small impact compared to link metrics, they still influence rankings and have a big impact on user experience.

It tells Google:

1. What your page is about (relevance)
2. What keywords you want to rank for (targeting)
3. How valuable your content is (quality)

On-page SEO is quick to implement and within your direct control. Compared to off-page efforts such as link building which take months or years to execute and come with a lot of moving variables (eg: who will respond to your outreach email?).

So, what are the most important on-page SEO ranking factors?

Here’s what the same Ahrefs study found:

On page ranking factors

You have very little control over the first two factors:

  1. Keyword in domain name;
  2. Age of the page

So, you’ll want to focus most of your attention on the other elements listed in the graph. 

Editor’s note:
We’ll cover some of the core on-page optimizations in this case study, but if you want dive deeper, check out this in-depth on-page SEO checklist.

On-page automation sheet GIF

I’ve also provided a template to help you troubleshoot and automate some of the most tedious on-page optimizations. 

Ok:

Let’s start with the quickest optimizations: strategic placement of primary and secondary keywords.

1) Target keyword placement

Title Tag: Your title tag is the most important on-page SEO factors when it comes to keyword placement. Try to get an exact or semantic keyword variant close to the front of the title tag.

If you’re using WordPress, it’s easy to place your keyword in the SEO title, URL, and meta description.

First, install the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin.

Open the page editor and scroll down to the “Yoast SEO” box.

Adjust the SEO title/meta description and get a preview of what your SERP will look like.

URL: Make sure you have a short, descriptive URL.

Google has stated the first 3-5 words in the URL is weighted as a search ranking factor. If possible, include exact match keyword at the beginning of the URL.

In addition to helping search engines understand your content, descriptive URLs will also increase the likelihood users click on your search result.

Check out this URL:

​https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/67291.php

At face value, you have no idea if the content has anything to do with what you’re looking for.

Now look at this one:

Example of descriptive URL

It’s a descriptive URL that tells you exactly what to expect on the page – a guide about how to fly quadcopters. 

Editor’s note:
There are a couple things to consider here:

1) What if I’m trying to relaunch an existing asset and the URL does not contain the keyword?

Keep the URL the same. In my experience, the risk outweighs the reward when it comes to changing URL paths for the sole purpose of keyword placement.

2) What if your current permalink structure doesn’t accommodate descriptive URLs like this?

Don’t worry too much about this. Just keep the URL as short and descriptive as possible. 

I believe that is a very small ranking factor. So it is not something I’d really try to force. And it is not something I’d say it is even worth your effort to restructure your site just so you can get keywords in your URL.

John Mueller

First 100 words: Include your target keyword (or a close variant) somewhere in the first paragraph of your body copy:

Keywords used in the first 100 words

Heading tags: Make sure your blog post title is wrapped in an H1 tag. Google views the H1 tag as your post headline, and helps bots quickly understand the topic of your post.

Try to include sematnic and secondary keyword variations in H2 and H3 tags within the post.

Also – sprinkle them throughout in-text navigation links:

Google cannot read images, so include target keywords in image alt text so Google can understand what they are about.

Note: Do NOT stuff keywords in alt text. Instead, write the alt text in a way that accurately describes what the image is about. Keep it natural.

Optimize image alt text

And finally, place keyword variations a few times throughout the body content.

2) Secondary keyword variations (LSI)

LSI keywords are synonyms Google uses to determine page relevancy (and sometimes quality).

Including LSI can not only help boost relevancy, it can also help expand your keyword footprint and organic traffic potential.

For example:

“How to fly a quadcopter in a circle” versus “how to fly a quadcopter.”

Semantic keyword examples in content

Note: this section of the post also includes variants such as clockwise, counter clockwise and rotate.

Even if keyword research tools don’t show any search volume for the variations, you should still place them in the content for relevancy and to make sure you’re not over-optimizing exact match keywords.

If you write long form content, chances are you’ll naturally include LSI keywords in your content.

Next, make sure to include the related keywords you want to rank for.

Place each of them once or twice in the body content:

Subheadings:

Semantics in sub headings

And in-text navigation links:

Semantic keywords within in-text links
3) Multi media

Text can only do so much.

Engaging images, videos, screenshots and other multi media can increase time on site, scroll depth and decrease bounce rate: three behavioral metrics Google uses to measure content quality.

Multi media will also increase the perceived value of your content: which means more people sharing or linking to your content.

Make sure your are including helpful images:

Example visual

And videos:

Example video asset
4) External links

Not linking out to (quality) external resources is a common on-page mistake. Many people fear doing this to avoid “leaking authority”, when in fact linking out to related content is a relevancy signal Google.

It can signal to Google that your content is a hub of quality information related to a given topic.

Note: adding links to quality external resources of specific topics in your article is also a great way to improve the user experience.

When optimizing the quadcopter guide, I noticed many of the top ranking competitors weren’t linking out to any other resources.

I did the opposite 🙂

Example of external link

Go through your content and find a few places to link out to the most relevant articles ranking for your keyword.

Note: Reach out to each of the sites referenced in your article. Since you gave them a link, they will likely reciprocate by at least sharing your article with their audience.

5) Internal links

Adding internal links is one of the easiest ways to funnel traffic and authority to new content: 

Examples of internal links

Editor’s note:
Here are a couple quick ways to find high-value internal link opportunities:

1) Traffic: Go to the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report in Google Analytics:

Google Analytics top pages report

This report will show the individual pages on your site that have received the most traffic over a specific time period. Add an internal link towards the top of the asset to drive some of that traffic to your new piece of content.

2) Authority: Enter your domain into the Ahrefs Site Explorer and navigate to the “Best By Links” report:

Ahrefs Best by Links report

Sort the Referring Domains (RDs) column in descending order to find the most authoritative pages on your site. Scan the list and look for related content where it would make sense to add an internal link. This is a quick way to give page-level authority a quick boost. 

6) Site/ load speed

Ever clicked on a search result and the page takes an eternity to load?

It’s one of the fastest ways to get potential readers to hit the back button and return to the SERP to read a different result.

In fact, Google found that 53% of users will abandon a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Google monitors this behavior and has been using it as a ranking factor since 2010.

And, in July this year Google announced it would finally start using mobile page speed as a ranking factor in mobile search results:

Google Webmaster Central post

SEMrush conducted a study and found three of the top four ranking factors are directly related to a user’s experience on your site:

SEMrush ranking factors study

User experience and rankings aside, slow page speed is a HUGE conversion killer.

SOASTA found that a one second delay in page response can reduce your conversions by up to 27%:

SOASTA load speed study

To improve page speed, use the free Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to analyze your page and identify areas for optimization:

Google Page Speed Insights tool

Here are a few simple things you should do to improve page load speed:

1. Compress images: use a plugin such as WPSmush or Shortpixel to automatically compress images and reduce file size without losing quality.

2. Use a CDN: use a free tool like Cloudflare to host your content on geographically dispersed servers so people anywhere in the world can quickly access your content:

CDN

(Source)

3. Enable caching: use a free plugin like W3 Total Cache to create a static version of your content that the web browser can load fast. Check out this guide for setup instructions.

7) Formatting and readability

Which piece of content would you rather read?

Examples of readable content

No brainer, right?

The first example breaks up the text with formatting best practices such as shorter sentences, lists, and different font sizes to create a more “scannable” piece of content.

Every chapter in our quadcopter guide uses similar best practices to increase the readability:

Example of good content formatting

 
Ok:

Once the on-page SEO is fully optimized, it’s time to shift your attention towards converting all the new organic traffic into email subscribers (leads). 

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Step #4: Turn traffic into email subscribers

Building an email list should be your #1 priority.

Why?

Because 98% of visitors will leave your site without converting.

And the average consumer will have 7 touch points with your brand or product before buying.

Building an email list is critical if you want to be able to continually re-engage your audience, establish a relationship and eventually convert them into paying customers.

Here’s the simple 3-step formula UAV Coach used to collect thousands of email subscribers:

1. Create a lead magnet
2. Configure list building tools
3. Set up automatic delivery

1) Create your lead magnet

A lead magnet is when you offer something of value to a reader in exchange for their email address.

Some common examples:

  • Free ebooks
  • Free trials
  • Checklists
  • Mindmaps
  • Infographics
  • Short videos

In this video, Robbie shows how to turn old content into a high-converting lead magnet in 13 seconds:

Here is the PDF version of the article we used as a lead magnet:

Lead magnet PDF

Nothing fancy, but as you’ll see below, it worked VERY well!

2) Optimize your website for lead capture

This step involves strategically placing opt-in forms at high-visibility touchpoints across your site.

There are many different form types to use for this:

And more…

Editor’s note:
If you’re looking for a solid list building tool that will allow you to quickly set up, test and integrate all these form types with your email marketing software, I recommend the following tools:

Thrive Leads: My list building tool of choice. I’ve used the WordPress plugin to collect thousands of email subscribers over the last 3 years. Check out my full review here.

Sumo: Another great list building tool. I use the free version to capture my first 4,635 email subscribers

ConvertKit: This is the tool I use to manage all the email marketing sequences and automtions for my business. 

Full disclosure: I am an affiliate for each of the tools mentioned above. I only promote products I personally use to run my businesses. If you purchase a subscription through one of my links I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. This is one of the ways I fund running this blog. 

For the quadcopter article we chose two tactics:

1. Popup
2. Lead box

First, we used the Sumo List Builder app to create this pop-up form:

As you can see, our value proposition is joining the community and receiving a free PDF of the guide.

It pops up 12 seconds after a visitor arrives, and doesn’t show to the same visitor more than once every 24 hours:

List builder targeting

And it converts at 5.12%:

List builder conversion rates

We then used the Sumo Leads app to create a leadbox that delivers the PDF inside the content.

When readers click on the button:

An opt-in box pops up:

It converts 20-50% of the people clicking on the button:

Lead app conversion rates

3) Automatically deliver lead magnet to new subscribers

I’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news:

Someone entered their email address to access your lead magnet.

The bad news:

They aren’t on your email list yet.

You still have two things to do after a reader hits the “Sign Up” button:

1. Get them to confirm their email address (double opt-in)
2. Deliver the lead magnet

Luckily, you can automate this entire process.

Here how it works:

Subscriber enters email and is redirected to a custom confirmation page like this one:

Example email confirmation page

The goal of this page is to make sure people are clicking the link in the confirmation email you send them:

Confirmation email

Confirmation email sent via ConvertKit after someone joins The SEO Playbook waitlist. 

This will ensure they are double opted in.

Once the reader clicks the confirmation link they are redirected to a page where they can view or download the lead magnet:

Landing page built with the Thrive Content Builder WordPress plugin. 

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Step #5: Content Promotion

Depending on the level of competition, it can take months to hit the first page.

In the early stages, it’s important to spend time promoting your content in order to generate some initial traffic, engagement and (potentially) links.

Here are four actionable tactics UAV used to promote the quadcopter guide:

  1. Quora
  2. Forum marketing
  3. Social media automation
  4. Scoop.it

Let’s drive some traffic…

1) Mine Quora Questions

Quora is a massive Q&A website, and one of the most visited on the planet.

It’s also one of our top sources of referral traffic:

Quora referral traffic in Google Analytics

Quora threads can stay active for months or even years, driving a passive stream of organic traffic to your content.

Here’s how to drive traffic from Quora:

First, head over to Quora and create an account. Fill out the profile – headshot, description, interests, etc:

Filling in Quora profile

Do a search in the top bar for a topic related to your niche. This will bring up a list of threads that contain your keyword:

Searching within Quora

Click through to any threads where your content could help answer a question.

Write up an in-depth answer with a link to your content at the end. Frame it as a resource that can fully answer their question.

Here is one of Alan’s Quora answers that received over 4,800 views and sent a lot of targeted referral traffic to the quadcopter guide:

Answering a question in Quora

In-depth answers are trusted more and typically work better than only posting your link.

Keep joining discussions and answering questions for different search terms, and you’ll drive consistent traffic to your article!

Alan Perlman's profile with 55 answers

The first week after publishing, we spent 1-2 hours a day promoting the guide in relevant Quora threads. And, we continue to look for new threads to promote it each week.

Editor’s note: Large Q&A sites like Quora have threads that rank in the top 3 positions for millions of high traffic keywords:

Quora top 3 keyword rankings

You can piggyback off the rankings and drive loads of targeted referral traffic back to your site.

Here’s how to do it:

Go to SEMrush, enter quora.com in the search box, then go to the SEO Toolkit >> Organic Research >> Positions report:

Analyzing Quora inside SEMrush

You’ll see that Quora ranks for over 29M different keywords!

But:

Most of these keywords are either irrelevant or don’t rank in the top 5 positions.

To ensure you’re targeting conversations that are (1) relevant and (2) have traffic potential, set the following filters:

This returned 364 different Quora threads related to the drone topic that are currently ranking in the top 5 search positions:

Different threads to target in Quora

Start with the most relevant and high traffic threads, and work your way down the list. 

2) Leverage Forum Marketing

Just like Quora, forums are packed with people discussing different topics.

They’re perfect places to promote your content.

Use these search strings to find forums in your niche:

“Keyword” + “forum”
“Keyword” + “powered by vBulletin”

This should bring up a list of forums to choose from

Forum targets in the SERPs

Go to a relevant forum and use the following stats to gauge activity (and traffic potential):

  • Discussions
  • Messages
  • Views
  • Replies
Examples of engaged forum threads

Higher engagement = great traffic potential.

Create an account and edit your signature:

Example forum comment

Write a compelling description about your page that entices the click.

Next, go through the forum threads and answer related questions (similar to Quora).

Except this time, you don’t have to link directly to your article because it’s in your signature:

Example forum signature

As you become an active member, you’ll start to position yourself as an authority. 

3) Set Up Social Media Automation

We configured Buffer to share the guide twice in the first week on each of our main social media channels – facebook and Twitter – and once a week for a month afterwards.

Here’s how to do it:

First, sign up for Buffer and enter your account:

Picture of the Buffer app

Click inside the “What do you want to share?” box. Write a tweet (or another type of social post) and include a link to your article at the end:

Scheduling content in Buffer

Click the arrow next to “Add to Queue” and “Schedule Post”:

Scheduling content in Buffer

Create another post, change up the text, and schedule it again for some time that week.

Rinse and repeat once a week for a month afterwards.

This should help you get a steady stream of traffic and social signals to the page.

Note: if you have a long form guide with multiple sections, chapters or tips, promote each one as a standalone social media post to get more mileage out of your content.

For example:

Ahrefs does this a lot with their articles:

Each tip is shared as a separate post, but still directs users to the same post. This helps avoid message fatigue.

We used this same strategy with the quadcopter guide by promoting each of the 17 chapters as a separate social post. 

4) Submit content to Scoop.it pages

Scoop.it is a content curation platform. People create their own pages to gather the best content they find on a given topic/industry.

Most pages have a “Suggest” feature:

Suggesting content in Scoop.it

You can suggest a piece of content to the owner, and if they like it they’ll share it on their page.

These pages are visited regularly by hundreds of industry enthusiasts wanting to stay up-to-date with the latest information (and share it with the platform’s built-in social media integration).

Here’s how we promoted the guide on Scoop.it:

Create an account and do a search in the top bar for a term related to your content:

Quadcopter Scoop.it pages

The default result is a list of “Scoops” or specific posts, but you want “Topics”:

This will bring up a list of pages related to your primary topic/keyword. Hover over the results to see the number of views.

Click through to any that seem relevant and look for the suggestion box:

If it’s not there, the host has decided not to accept suggestions. Move on to another page.

If it is there, copy-paste your URL into the box and hit “Suggest.”

Adjust the image to the size you want (I like to go full size):

That’s it! The page owner will review your post and decide whether or not to feature it.

Rinse ad repeat until you reach the daily suggestion limit (7).

Scoop.it is a quick and easy way to build links and get initial exposure for your content.

Speaking of links…

The final part of this case study is going to break down how we built backlinks to the quadcopter guide, which helped push it to the top spot in Google.

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Step #6: Build Backlinks (4 Actionable Tactics)

A study of 1 million SERP results found the number of domains linking to a page correlated with high rankings more than any other factor:

Graph showing the impact of backlinks on rankings

Google has also confirmed this.

We knew that if we wanted to reach the #1 position we had to build quality backlinks to the guide.

So, we focused heavily on this for 90 days after the guide went live:

Link metrics in the Ahrefs Site Explorer

Ahrefs SERP overview report showing link metrics for the top 10 ranking articles. 

We’ve built almost links from almost 100 unique referring domains and established a 34 URL rating.

Both of these metrics are higher than any other result in the SERP, and is the main reason why the guide ranks in the top spot.

Here are four strategies we used to quickly build links:

1. Reverse engineered competitor link profiles
2. Identified competitor link gaps
3. Pitched weekly roundups
4. Pitched resources/links pages

Let’s take a closer look at each one…

1) Reverse engineered competitor link profiles

We set out to find all the sites linking to competing (inferior) content and pitch our content to them.

The idea here was that if a site had linked to a related piece of content in the past, they would be more likely to our content as well.

Note: We followed many of the steps listed in Robbie’s extensive competitor backlink analysis guide. Instead of repeating all of it here, I recommend you check it out for more in-depth instructions.

First – enter your primary keyword into the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer and scroll down to the SERP overview report:

Look for results with a minimum of 20 referring domains.

Click on the Backlinks number and it’ll take you through to this report:

Mining competitor backlinks in Ahrefs

Set the following filters:

  • One link per domain
  • Dofollow
  • Language (English in our case)

This will give you a solid list of outreach targets.

Repeat the process for all the results with a minimum of 20 referring domains and add all the backlinks to a master list. 

Editor’s note: Scale this strategy by mining the SERP results for secondary keyword variations. 

Here are a couple quick ways to find additional competitors to mine for link opportunities:

1) SERP top keyword report:

Navigate to the right side of the SERP overview report and you’ll see the Top Keywords column:

SERP overview report

This shows the keyword bringing the most traffic to a URL. Often, there are many different secondary keyword variations in here that will return new competitor link targets.

Repeat the process outlined above and add to the master backlinks list.

2) Have Same Terms report:

Enter your primary keyword into the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer and navigate to the “Having Same Terms” report:

Having the same terms report in Ahrefs

Click “View All” an you’ll be taken to a list that contains all of the terms in your query (in any order):

Keyword report in Ahrefs

Click the SERP dropdown to see the top 10 results for that keyword:

Note: while these articles might be targeting a different topic, I still consider them good secondary link targets. I.e. anyone linking to an article on “how high can you fly a drone” could also be interested in reading (and possibly linking to) a comprehensive guide to flying quadcopters.

Use the two tactics shown above to build out a list of 20+ articles to mine for link prospects.

Download the tracking template and outreach scripts below, and kickoff your link building campaign:

2) Identified competitor link gaps

We used the Ahrefs Link Intersect tool to find all these websites linking to one or more of our competitors.

The idea:

If a website linked to multiple competitors, there’s a good chance they would consider linking to us too.

Here’s how it works:

Grab up to 10 competing domains/URLs from the Prospects tab in the Tracking Template (shown above) and paste them into the Link Intersect tool.

Add your domain/URL under the “But doesn’t link to (optional)” section:

Ahrefs Link Intersect Tool

Find competitor backlink gaps with the Ahrefs Link Intersect tool.

Note: Select the “Any of the below targets” from the “Show me who is linking to…” drop-down at the top of the table.

Click “show link opportunities”.

The report will show you all the websites linking to one or more of your competitors, but not your domain/page.

By default, the domains are ordered by # of link intersects (from highest to lowest), but you can sort the results by Domain Rating to quickly surface the most authoritative domains linking to multiple competing domains/ URLs:

Report showing the number of link intersects in Ahrefs

Click the link under each of the URLs to view the URLs and anchor text:

Scan the list and add any relevant, high-quality link prospects to the appropriate tab in the competitor link tracking template:

Model the scripts in your outreach campaign. 

3) Pitch weekly roundups

Weekly roundups are articles that curate the best content of that week into a single post.

The publisher spends the week reading and looking for awesome articles to link to in the post.

It’s a win-win. You provide a great resource for their audience and get a quality link in return:

Example of getting a link in a weekly roundup

All you have to do is find blogs that publish weekly (or monthly) roundups and pitch your content to them.

Here’s how to do it:

First, use these search strings to find roundups in your niche:

“Keyword” + “weekly roundup”
“Keyword” + “link roundup”
“Keyword” + “weekly link roundup”
“Keyword” + “best articles of the week”

Click “Search Tools” → “Any Time” → “Past Month”:

Example of search operators used to find weekly roundups

This will return actively updated roundups:

Once you’ve found some roundups, head over to the site and find the publisher’s contact information.

Send them an email like this:

Hi [NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME], and I’m on the team at [WEBSITE].

I’m writing to make a possible article suggestion for your next weekly [TOPIC] roundup.

I came across your roundup yesterday and got a ton of value out of it. Nice work!

We recently published an in-depth guide to [TOPIC]. It takes people through 18 chapters of step-by-step training, in the hopes that by the time they apply each step, they’ll be well on their way to [RESULT].

Here’s the link to the guide: [URL]

Either way, just thought you might like to consider it for your next roundup.

Keep up the great work!

Cheers,
[YOUR NAME]

If the publisher likes your content, it will get featured in the next roundup:

Example of getting featured in a link roundup

This got us some great contextual links on high authority sites.

4) Pitch Resource Pages

This is the strategy where we got most of our initial links.

(And it’s also how I built one of the best links I think I’ll ever build.)

Resources and links pages are similar to roundups, in that they link out to lots of useful content.

Many sites publish them to expose their audience to related content they don’t offer on their own website.

Once again, these publishers are all looking for one thing:

Valuable content.

Alll you need to do is reach out and pitch it your content.

Here’s how to do it:

First, do a search in Google for these strings:

“Keyword” + “resources”
“Keyword” + “links”
“Keyword” + “intitle:resources”
“Keyword” + “intitle:links”
“Keyword” + “inurl:resources”
“Keyword” + “inurl:links”
“Keyword” + “intitle:resources page”
“Keyword” + “intitle:links page”

Search operators to find resource pages

Unlike weekly roundups, you don’t need to filter the results based on date. Since these pages are evergreen, it doesn’t matter when they were published.

Next, head into each website and find their contact information. Then send each website owner an email like this:


Hi [Name],

I was checking out [SITE NAME] just now and found your excellent [TOPIC] resources page.

I’m on the team at [SITE NAME], and we just published an in-depth guide that helps people [BENEFIT].

Here’s the link: [URL]

I wanted to ask if you wouldn’t mind including us on your resources page: [URL of THEIR PAGE]

We’ll be improving it continuously to provide people with the most up-to-date information as the industry evolves.

Either way, keep up the great work 🙂

Cheers,
[YOUR NAME]

This strategy landed us a lot of excellent links on highly relevant sites in our niche.

Example of a resource page link

And on some high authority sites, including a DA 96 link from MIT!

(Couldn’t believe that one.)

With our strong on-page signals and these links coming straight to the page, Google propelled us to the first page for our target keyword.

We stayed in positions 4-10 for a few months, but I’m sure you’re wondering how that we hit position #1.

Let’s break it down:

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How UAV Coach Hit the #1 Position in Google

The quadcopter guide eventually leapfrogged massive sites like Mashable and landed in the #1 position.

The initial content promotion and link building campaigns pushed the article onto the first page for its primary keyword, along with hundreds of additional long tail keywords.

This got the guide some great natural mentions and links:

Case study: earning passive links

The strong on-page signals crushed all the other competing assets too.

This article deserved to rank #1.

It was the most in-depth and up-to-date, had the best multi media mix (screenshots, images and videos), and it was highly optimized for the target keyword.

As time went on and the backlinks were crawled by Google, the page began to increase in authority and gradually climbed up the SERPs.

It now ranks in the #1 position for 205 different keywords:

Organic Keywords report in Ahrefs

Along with 29 featured snippet placements:

Image showing number of featured snippet rankings

This shows just how much Google trusts the page, sees it as a top resource, and wants people to read it.

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A Key Takeaway From This SEO Case Study

This is a scalable SEO strategy you can use to rank in ANY niche.

We have repeated this process for many other important keywords with similar results:


Example of ranking #1 for drone with camera

SEO case study: ranking for cheap drone


And the site now ranks in the top 3 positions for over 3,000 keywords!

Graph showing the number of top 3 rankings for UAV Coach

Now:

You probably won’t rank #1 for every article you publish.

But, by following the steps outlined in this SEO case study you’ll be able to quickly find (and rank) more target keywords on the first page of Google.

Got questions? Looking for advice?
Let me answer them in the comments below 🙂

A final word:
If you’re interesting in learning the exact systems I use to rank clients and grow organic traffic in some of the most competitive industries on the planet, check out my training course here.  

Or, if you’re interested in working together contact me here

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The post SEO Case Study: 6-Step Process That Generated 150,732 Visits appeared first on Robbie Richards.

Link Building Strategies: The Complete List

Link Building Strategies: The Complete List

Link Building Strategies: The Complete List

This is the most complete list of link building strategies on the Web. Period.

In fact, you’ll find 175 strategies, tips and tactics on this page.

So if you’re looking to build powerful backlinks, you’ll really enjoy this list.

I want strategies that are:


  1. Beginner
  2. Intermediate
  3. Advanced

Show only Brian’s favorite strategies:


  1. Yes
  2. No

Beginner techniques

Alumni Lists and Directories

BeginnerNo

Most college sites (or standalone alumni websites) have a section of their site dedicated to their alumni. And some of them link out.

For example, here’s a business listing (with a link) on the SMU Alumni site.

Alumni lists

Ask People You Know for Links

BeginnerNo

This can be friends, relatives, employees, colleagues, business partners, clients… just about anyone.

More and more people are creating their own sites and blogs (or know people that do).

That said: you really only want to get links from relevant websites. If it’s not relevant, it’s not going to have much of an impact. Plus, these people might be (rightly) hesitant to link to your jewelry store from their football blog.

Be Specific With Your Outreach

BeginnerYes

Don’t be afraid to (gently) let your outreach targets know exactly where you want your link to go.

This isn’t being pushy: it’s considerate. Otherwise you force them to figure out where your link should go.

Here’s a real life example of a very specific outreach email:

Example of a very specific outreach email

Better Business Bureau

BeginnerNo

Links from the BBB are now all nofollowed. And Google has said that getting listed on the BBB doesn’t directly help your SEO. That said, if you believe that getting listed on the BBB website itself has some SEO value, it might be worthwhile.

The price of a BBB listing is determined by region and by number of employees. For example, St. Louis BBB ranges from $370 for 1-3 employees all the way to $865+ for 100-200 employees. Anything over that, as well as additional websites, constitutes as additional charges.

Either way, you are SUPPOSED to get a link of some kind out of all of this. You need to check on your listing once it is published as each region has their own rules regarding their directory. There have been some instances where a business’ website URL in the directory listing was NOT a live link, only text. All you have to do is contact your BBB representative and ask for that to be changed.

Blog Commenting

BeginnerNo

Do blog comments directly lead to dofollow links? No.

But they’re an awesome way to get on a blogger’s radar screen… which CAN lead to links.

For example, in the early days of Backlinko, I’d comment on marketing and SEO blogs all the time:

Brian comment on another site

And this helped me build relationships with bloggers in my niche. And weeks or months later, I noticed some bloggers spontaneously linking to me. And others ask me to guest post on their site.

Blog Directories

BeginnerNo

If you have a blog, you can submit it to various blog directories.

For example, here’s a link to my blog from AllTop:

Blog directories

Chamber of Commerce

BeginnerNo

Getting a link from your Chamber of Commerce is a guaranteed link just waiting for you to get. In some cases, though, it takes a little bit of time to find the right person to get in touch with.

Company Directory Submissions

BeginnerNo

Just like general web directories, you can submit your site to general company directories.

Just like with most submission-based tactics, focus on getting links from highly-relevant sites. For example, are you a startup in NYC? Then this business directory would be a solid link.

Company directory submissions

Contribute to Crowdsourced Posts

BeginnerYes

Unless you’re insanely busy, always say “YES!” to crowdsourced post invites. They usually ask you stuff you already know. So it should only take you 5-10 minutes to write a response.

For example, here’s a link that I got from a crowdsourced post a while back:

Contribute to crowdsourced content

Create an RSS feed

BeginnerNo

If your blog runs on any popular Content Management System (like WordPress) you probably already have an RSS feed. If you don’t, create one.

How does an RSS feed help with link building? It’s simple. There are sites out there that will scrape your content (stealing it without permission). And they find your content via your RSS feed. Just make sure to include internal links to other pages on your site in your content. That way, even if the scrapers don’t link to your original post, they’ll at least copy your internal links.

Here’s an example of a scraper site that scraped my content… including my internal links:

Create an RSS feed

Create Shoulder Niche Content

IntermediateYes

In a boring niche? Well, it’s still possible to get links. You just need to be creative.

For example, one industry study found that “tangential content” (content not directly related to what a site sells) resulted in 30% more links and 77% more social shares:

Tangential content resulted in more links and shares

Crowdfunding

BeginnerNo

Use sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to find projects that need funding and are willing to give links to those who contribute. Here’s an example:

Crowdfunding link

Fair warning: This is definitely a grey area in terms of “paid links”. Use this strategy at your own risk.

Discounts

BeginnerNo

Discounts are a great way to get mentions in lists like this one.

Discounts

Just reach out to writers that curate discounts. And let them know about your discount or coupon.

Donate to Charities & Non-Profits

BeginnerNo

Charities and non-profit organizations usually have a donors page, like this:

Donate to charities and non-profits

Unfortunately, this is one of the most overused link building strategies on the planet. In fact, Google has come out and classified donation links as “paid links”.

Email People That You Mention

BeginnerNo

This is simple. But it works.

Whenever you mention or link to someone in your content, let them know:

Let people know when you mention them in your content

Email Signatures

BeginnerNo

If you send out 100 emails a day, having an email signature with a link back can drive an extra 50+ people a month to your website. It’s not much, but it requires zero effort.

Event Resources

BeginnerNo

Create a resource that helps attendees get the most out of their experience at a popular event or conference.

For example, this SXSW survival guide last year has picked up 29 backlinks:

Event resources

Fix Grammar and Spelling

BeginnerNo

This is just like Broken Link Building. But instead of broken links, you’re looking for spelling and grammar mistakes.

Obviously, most people aren’t going to add your link just because you pointed out that they used “your” instead of “you’re”. But it’s an easy way to get your foot in the door.

Getting Links From Scraped Content

BeginnerNo

If your content gets scraped, and the scraped piece of content doesn’t have a link back to you, contact the webmaster and ask for one.

Just like images and infographics, scraping content without attribution is copyright infringement. So you’ll find that sites that want to avoid DMCA complaints are willing to add your link (or delete the scraped content).

That said, most scraper sites aren’t that great anyway. Which means a link from that site isn’t going to do much for you.

Guest Blogging

BeginnerNo

Guest blogging doesn’t work as well as it used to for two main reasons:

First, bloggers are sick of guest blog pitches.

Second, Google has largely devalued links from guest posts.

That said, guest posting still has its place as a link building tactic. Assuming you follow these caveats:

  • Only guest post on sites that are VERY picky about what they publish. If they accept anything, you probably don’t want a link from that site.
  • Don’t use exact match anchor text in your external links
  • Focus on publishing on relevant sites (even if that means compromising on Domain Authority)
  • Don’t rely on guest posting as your sole (or main) link building strategy. That’s a footprint you don’t want

Hire A Recent Graduate

BeginnerNo

I’m not saying you should hire a recent grad for the sole purpose of getting a link. But if you’ve hired any recently, check to see if there’s a career sections of their school’s website that talk about recent grads landing jobs. If so, ask your new hire to outreach for the link. It usually just takes a quick call or email.

For example, the University of Oregon’s career center has a category of their blog dedicated solely to this.

Intern/Job Postings

BeginnerNo

If you have any job or internship opportunities, you can get a few easy .edu links. For example, if you work in anthropology and you’re looking for an intern, here’s an easy link.

If you run an agency, compile as many of these opportunities as you can in a spreadsheet. And categorize them by category (i.e. travel, hospitality, etc.). These will come in handy whenever you land a new client in that niche.

Link Out

BeginnerNo

Yup, linking out is an on-page SEO best practice. But it can help you build relationships too.

(For example, you can send outreach emails to everyone that you linked out to).

Links from Shopping Mall Websites

BeginnerNo

If you’re located in a shopping plaza or mall, chances are that mall has a website. And if they do, they probably have a list of the businesses located in them (along with a link to each business’s main website).

Here’s an example:

Links from shopping mall sites

Lists

BeginnerYes
  1. People.
  2. Love.
  3. Lists!

They can be massive lists of 100+ strategies or tips. But small lists can work well too.

For example, this list of 17 SEO tips has been linked to 2,400 times:

Lists

Local Listings

BeginnerNo

Submit your site to local listings. You already know about the big ones (like Yelp). But there are literally thousands of these. Keep an eye out for sites that focus on your city or state. These are super relevant and have fewer submissions to comb through.

Mention Specific People

BeginnerNo

Whenever possible mention specific people in your content. Why? People LOVE getting mentioned. And when they see that you linked to them, you’ll at least get on their radar screen. And they’ll sometimes even share and link to your content.

Niche Specific Directories

BeginnerNo

Unlike general web directories (like BOTW), niche directories only accept sites that cover a specific topic.

For example, here’s a directory of California-based websites.