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How Marketers Ruin Infographics (and How to Save Yours)

For a long time, creating infographics has been all the rage. Launching a new product? Create an infographic about it. Want to get press coverage? Create an infographic. Trying to get inbound links? Create an infographic. It’s like that analogy: When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Marketers […]

For a long time, creating infographics has been all the rage. Launching a new product? Create an infographic about it. Want to get press coverage? Create an infographic. Trying to get inbound links? Create an infographic. It’s like that analogy: When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Marketers are churning out infographics left and right to capture people’s attention in our increasingly visual and busy world. And there are lots of free resources out there to help you create infographics, such as Venngage or Canva— all you need to do is plug in some data and voila, an infographic … right? Not quite. With this hammer/nail mentality, it’s easy to spend time creating something that’s not quite up to snuff. If you’re mainly concerned with just having an infographic, you could end up with something that gets lost in the sauce — not something people will be excited to read and share. To make sure you’re putting your best infographic foot forward, read on. We’ll highlight the top mistakes people tend to make with their infographics and give you tips for steering clear of them yourself — because if you’re going to go for the nail, you might as well know how to use the hammer properly. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the worst types of mistakes we’ve seen (and even committed ourselves) in infographics. 1) The Title’s Wordy This is probably my biggest pet peeve of them all (which is why it’s first on the list). Unlike design, crafting great titles should be in any content creator’s wheelhouse. It’s something all content creators do, whether they create infographics or not. In a world where everyone has very limited attention for content, a great title could be the difference between your infographic being successful … or not. So if your title is wordy or unappealing, spruce it up. Keep it short, punchy, and compelling, yet descriptive of what’s inside. Need help? Check out this blog post for tips on writing great titles. 2) There’s No Compelling Narrative Infographics shouldn’t just be a jumble of stats and facts with icons and graphs next to them. Like any other piece of content you create, it should tell some sort of story. Even if all you have are 10 stats for your infographic meat, there should be some flow between them that speaks to a larger trend. Having a compelling narrative means that your infographic should have a beginning, middle, and end — just like a blog post. The beginning is usually a sentence or two of introduction. The middle is the meat of the story — it has a few themes with supporting details for each. The end wraps it all up for the reader and usually includes the sources for the infographic. People should be able to skim the infographic and walk away with a clear message. Want an example of a great infographic with a narrative? Check this one out. If you’re struggling to develop a narrative in your infographic, put together an outline first. Remove and reorganize the bullet points until it makes sense, then translate your outline to the infographic format. If you’re using an infographic template, the translation should be fairly easy — you can just plug the bullet points for each section into the template and then customize the graphics to support the bullet points. 3) The Data’s Outdated Each industry is different — some move much faster than others. So if you’re building an infographic with data from several years ago, chances are it’s outdated or maybe even wrong. If you want your infographic to get shared and bring long-term, evergreen traffic to your website, you want to keep the data as current as possible. Each industry moves at its own pace, so what “dated” means changes depending on the industry you’re in. That being said, if you’re creating content for that industry, you should have an idea of what’s in vogue now and what isn’t. If you’re unsure, do some Googling to see if there are more current data on it. 4) The Text Is Tiny One of the hardest things about designing infographics is you have to make them easy-to-read at any size. Even if they’re only a few hundred pixels wide, people should be able to read and scan the infographic without enlarging it. So treat your infographic like you would a PowerPoint presentation — keep your font sizes large enough that anyone can read the text on your infographic on any device they choose. People will be accessing your infographic on many different screen sizes, and your infographic should be readable on all of them. 5) No One Knows It’s Yours After you spend all that time outlining, writing, editing, designing, and optimizing your infographic, you want to get the credit your company deserves. When people share your infographic on a social network of choice, you want people to know your company created it, even if the sharer didn’t mention you. The easiest way to prevent that is to include your company logo or URL in the infographic. It doesn’t prevent people from incorrectly sharing/attributing the infographic, but it will help ensure people know your company created it — which could bring them one tiny bit closer to visiting your website, converting on a form, and becoming a customer. (Every little bit counts!) 6) It Only Lives on Your Website Though you want people to recognize you created the infographic, you don’t want to discourage people from sharing it with their network. Chances are, your infographic is meant to get you exposure … so you’ve got to get people to share your content if you want to accomplish that goal. So make sure you have the infographic primed to be shared. Add an easy embed code and add tweet/pin buttons next to the infographic. If you’re promoting the infographic in a blog post, add some “tweetable takeaways” in the comments, complete with “Click to Tweet” links. Basically, any way you can remind people in a non-spammy way to share the infographic — do it. Also, make sure you’re distributing the infographic to the right networks. If you have a SlideShare account, for example, upload your infographic there. Since not a lot of people use SlideShare for infographics, you’ll have a better chance of getting noticed — and you’ll improve your chances even more if you avoid the rest of these mistakes, too. Want to make a kick-ass infographic? Make sure you’re starting off on the right foot by downloading these five PowerPoint infographic templates.

How HubSpot Ranked a Competitive Product Page in 3 Months (for a Product That Didn’t Exist Yet)

SEO is hard. SEO for product pages is even harder. SEO for product pages for products that don’t exist? Seemingly impossible. However, with the right approach, it’s really not much harder than ranking top-of-the-funnel blog content. In fact, the process can be scalable across multiple product pages and you can leverage quality content creation to […]

SEO is hard. SEO for product pages is even harder. SEO for product pages for products that don’t exist? Seemingly impossible. However, with the right approach, it’s really not much harder than ranking top-of-the-funnel blog content. In fact, the process can be scalable across multiple product pages and you can leverage quality content creation to do so (not just a high domain authority or thousands of pages and user generated content). At HubSpot, Scott Tousley and I took on the challenge of ranking product pages for products that are yet to exist. We did it through a traditional HubSpot content-heavy approach, and leveraged what is known as our Pillar & Cluster model (more details on this in a minute) to feed product page SEO (more details on the model in a bit). We also heavily invested in content promotion and link building tactics, which anyone can do, regardless of resources or company size. The results in only 3 months (October through December 2017) were solid. Here’s an example of our customer feedback software page ranking at number 3 (above companies with live products): In this article, I’ll walk through the higher level strategy of why we chose the approach we did, and then I’ll also dive into tactical tips to apply this knowledge at whatever business scale you’re operating.

Product Page SEO: An Indirect Content-Based Approach

It’s really hard to build links to product pages. For obvious reasons, those writing content are not jumping in excitement to write promotional pieces with product links. Some opportunities exist, but not enough to outrank product pages that have been around for years and that have acquired natural editorial links with time. Similarly, it’s not feasible to create massive content-heavy product pages. We needed something simple, because as I mentioned, the product wasn’t actually live yet. So to get past those hurdles, we leveraged link equity and site architecture. Specifically, we followed HubSpot’s Pillar and Cluster model and relied heavily on internal linking and external link building on our massive “Pillar” content. Let’s step back and define some of those terms, because there’s a bit of jargon here that’s necessary to understand.
  • Link Equity: Also known as “link juice,” it’s the idea that certain links pass value and authority from one page to another.
  • Site Architecture: The planning and structuring of website content.
  • Internal Linking: Hyperlinking content within your own site.
  • Pillar & Cluster model: A model created by HubSpot that values topics over keywords to boost SEO as well as UX.
While some of it is speculative, there are some general heuristics when it comes to link equity that come in handy when it comes to ranking product or transactional pages. According to an episode of Whiteboard Friday, here are three principles for link equity:
  1. External links generally give more ranking value and potential ranking boosts than internal links.
  2. Well-linked-to pages, both internal and external, pass more link equity than those that are poorly linked to.
  3. Pages with fewer links tend to pass more equity to their targets than pages with more links.
With that in mind, we created massive guides for topics with lots of search traffic volume. These are our “pillar pages,” or in other words, our 10X content. We expected these to attract the most links, and we directed all of our link building efforts towards these pieces. We complemented these pillar pages with “cluster” content, articles with similar topic themes that focus on longer tail keywords. These linked back to our pillar pages as well as to each other. Finally, on all of our pillar pages and our cluster content, we linked as high on the page as possible to our product pages. Again, this is based on the HubSpot Pillar & Cluster framework, which looks like this, structurally: Image Source Or to get super specific, here’s the actual visualization we used to show our particular efforts: As a specific illustration, here are three pieces of content we created that actually correspond to this strategic architecture: This video does a good job explaining the general gist of the idea. Essentially it’s an architectural view of content creation, particularly for blogging and SEO: This process of content planning is an iteration of website architecture, which is basically the “planning and design of the technical, functional and visual components of a website – before it is designed, developed and deployed.” It’s also a strategic method of content planning that helps build authority on specific topics. Image Source Organizing your site in a logical way isn’t just good for SEO, it’s good for user experience and navigation in general. With that in mind, here’s how the specific process looked when it came to content creation.  

Planning Content for SEO Volume and Easier Link Acquisition

To start, we aligned our content from the bottom up, meaning we knew which products we were attempting to rank and had to work from bottom-of-the-funnel up to the top. So, let’s go back to our example, Customer Feedback Software. We knew we’d have a product page for this where people could actually sign up. But from there, we worked backwards to research which terms commanded the most search traffic around that theme. In this case, both Customer Feedback and Customer Satisfaction drove a ton of demand, so we created pillar pages for both of those that both linked back to the feedback software product page. Here are the specific pillar pages we ended up creating: SEO research for the pillar pages also included comprehensive long tail keyword research based on questions we could answer on the broader topic. These longer tail keywords would eventually be spun out into individual cluster posts (i.e. blog posts), but also incorporated into the pillar content itself. Some of these posts included: …and many, many more of course. These were more specific and lower search volume posts that complemented the larger themes of customer satisfaction and feedback. So, for a post on Customer Satisfaction, we included sections on things like customer satisfaction software and how to improve customer satisfaction scores: In addition, we aligned with our content team to create tons and tons of cluster blog posts that linked to and supported the themes set up by the pillar pages. An example is this blog post we published on customer feedback survey mistakes: Finally, all of these posts – whether pillar or cluster – included product page links, and cluster blog posts also included links to our pillar pages (with exact match anchor text, as you can see above). We also included CTAs on our pillar pages that lead to our product landing pages: In all cases, no matter what type of content we were created, we sought to create 10x content, the kind you’d actually want to link to. Particularly with our pillar pages, this meant included linkable content “hooks,” such as:
  • Original data & stats
  • Original Images
  • Charts and Graphs
  • Quotes from influencers
  • Frameworks
  • Pros and Cons Tables
We tried to include anything we could that was outside the typical Wikipedia-style me-too content. We didn’t want to rehash what was already out there, we wanted to be better and different. So, for example, we designed our own survey examples, like this one for NPS: Or, for example, for our Customer Feedback page, we included pros and cons tables to help visitors decide which type of feedback surveys to use: Now that we had a solid base of quality content, we built out a distribution and link building process to make sure we rose in the rankings and got some eyes on the pages.  

Building Links and Distributing Content

Link building is its own monster, and to do it true justice would require its own multi-thousand word blog post. To summarize, however, we tried all the major link building tactics and some worked better than others. Generally speaking, the ones that worked the best were the least scalable: they involved relationships that had been built over months and years. On a similar point, the ones that were the least effective were the ones that are the most popular and overused: Skyscraper Technique link building, HARO pitches, roundup posts, etc. The most important part, in fact, was the process of discovering influencers and link targets to begin with. Since we wanted both high relevance and high authority links, we created a “bullseye” framework to distinguish between Tier 1, 2, and 3 targets.
  • Tier 1 – Blogs and influencers directly related to the Service Hub. These include bloggers who write about customer success and customer success practitioner. It may also include direct competitors to our tools.
  • Tier 2 – Blogs and influencers who are semi-related to customer success. Includes customer experience, survey tools, and user experience software & experts. It may also include other products that don’t directly compete, but they are still kind of related to customer success/support.
  • Tier 3 – Larger blogs and influencers who focus on broader marketing and business topics. Not super related, but due to high domain authority, still opportune link building opportunities (plus, there’s no competitive nature to these sites, so they’re more willing to link to us).
There existed an inverse correlation between our Tiers and the ease of link acquisition. Tier 1 was the most difficult, mainly because most of the sites and influencers were competing for the same keywords. On the other end of the spectrum, large blogs that write on broad marketing topics generally weren’t too concerned about competing, so it was much easier to work with them.  

Measuring, Optimizing, and Beyond

Measurement is important in SEO, and in marketing in general. You need to know if you’re moving in the right direction, and if not, how you can possibly remedy that or optimize your efforts. To do that without going too crazy watching too many keywords, we followed only the spearheads topics of our content strategy using Accuranker. We figured that if we ranked these, the longer tail keywords and most specific cluster posts would easily follow (and if they didn’t, it would be easy enough to optimize them later on). Here’s what a typical Accuranker report looked like earlier on in our efforts: Which is much better than where we started, which is from scratch: You can use other tools for this, such as Ahrefs and I’m sure a dozen more, as well. If you’re operating at large scale and want to customize your reports more, you can build a homebrew tool, though if you’re just beginning in your SEO and measurement efforts, it might not hurt to start with a software solution so you can focus on your actual SEO execution. Hopefully, you can choose a solution that allows you to get a weekly email report with your rankings. Peaking too often can be tempting but ultimately unhelpful due to natural fluctuations in SERP rankings (especially in the first few months of publishing content). When you know your weekly ranking trends, you can spot early ineffectiveness and course correct. For instance, our knowledge base guide wasn’t moving at all into the top 500, but all our other content was. So, we 1) added about 1000 words and more influencers quotes to our pillar page 2) changed the title and the H2 subtitles and 3) went super hard on link building to our pillar page. As of today it’s sitting at position 5. Similarly, I saw that we weren’t ranking for the cluster article we wrote on “customer satisfaction surveys,” even though it was a few thousand words, and in my mind, quality content. We simply changed the title and the following week it was ranking. Finally, we tracked user acquisition as well. You can and should be doing this anyway through your tool of choice (Google Analytics, Amplitude, etc.). As a result of our SEO efforts, our beta requests saw a sharp increase:  

Conclusion

Good SEO is rarely the result of sporadic hacks and luck, rather, at scale and for acquisition, it’s the result of a solid process and playbook (just like any other aspect of growth marketing). This playbook should have multiple components, ranging from content strategy and architecture to differentiated and compelling content creation and all the way to promotion and link building. All the pieces matter, some more than others depending on your specific situation. For instance, a smaller authority site may have to put a lot more effort into content creation and link building that a large site like HubSpot or Shopify. It all depends on where your competitive advantage lies. However, with a bit of strategy and content architecture, no matter the size or scale of your company, you can get product pages to rank and actually acquire users from SEO, not just top-of-funnel vanity traffic.

Hacking SEO: The Fastest SEO Results In 90 Days

This story starts about a month ago when Vasil Azarov with Startup Socials challenged me to create an actionable SEO webinar that could improve brand’s organic Google rankings quickly. If you know anything about SEO, that’s not easy to do quickly. I sat down and thought about all the client SEO strategies I’ve worked on, […]

This story starts about a month ago when Vasil Azarov with Startup Socials challenged me to create an actionable SEO webinar that could improve brand’s organic Google rankings quickly. If you know anything about SEO, that’s not easy to do quickly. I sat down and thought about all the client SEO strategies I’ve worked on, and how they affected the rankings. I narrowed down all the strategies I knew and came up with 5 fastest SEO Hacks that when tested, doubled the number of website rankings in organic search. The websites tested were focused on 10 longtail keyword’s rankings from a 30 day period. These 5 hacks then became the topic of the webinar we did. With the standard amount of promotion, the webinar quickly became one of the most RSVP’d webinars I’ve ever held. Clearly, there is a high level of interest in Google SEO hacks. So, I’ve compiled the basics from my webinar into this blog post to tell you EXACTLY how to create a fastest SEO results roadmap for your business, that if done correctly, will double your rankings in 90 days or less. Here goes.

SEO Hack #1

Here are the 5 SEO Hacks that can drastically increase your rankings

For a while, I saw a trend where SEOs focused largely on link building as a strategy for ranking higher organically in Google. SEOs were most concerned with quantity of links, studying anchor text diversity and setting up PBN networks (a gray / black hat tactic that Google will now penalize you for) to try and outrank their competition. I began to realize that there was a large neglect of some of the technical SEO strategies. This is where we start the road map to the fastest SEO results hacks.  

Baselining Your Rankings

Using SEMRush.com, Moz.com or another rank tracking platform, gather all the rankings you’ve got on a Google Sheet. You’ll need this to track your progress through this SEO roadmap. SEO roadmap

You’re not following Google’s mantra and it’s hurting your traffic.

Over a lot of other things, user experience is top priority for Google search. So much so, that site speed, user experience and page layout have all been attributed to ranking factors in the Google search algorithm. What many site owners don’t know, is that there’s an easy way to check how Google grades your site on these aspects. Google’s Pagespeed Insights is our SEO Hack #1 because most sites fail it badly, and the items are easy to fix for the most part. With this tool, Google grades the website on Mobile and Desktop and produces a score. It also shows what specifically needs to be corrected on your site. Give this to your developer, get all of the items corrected and your rankings will go up. Also note, that 100/100 scores are almost impossible to score. Typically, scoring around 80 or above is a great range to shoot for. Here are the items that are covered in the different scoring windows:

SEO pagespeed

SEO Hack #2

Google’s secret communication portal they reward you for using. Every project I work on, I install Google Webmaster Tools on the client’s website. A large majority of them don’t have it installed. This is a major way you can improve your rankings immediately. Indexing, checking for penalties, sitelinks, and search traffic inside of this tool is our SEO Hack #3. In the slide below, here are the major areas to correct in the communication portal. SEO - google search console Take Up More Real Estate in Google
  • Site Links – Encourage to display your most converting pages in search results.
Faster Loading With Schema
  • Highlighter – Testing shows Google ranks structured data highlighter.
Constantly Check Errors
  • Errors – If there are errors Google may not even have the page in their index.
Encourage Google To Index
  • Sitemap – This is a ranking killer that’s happening on a lot of sites.
 

SEO Hack #3

Steal the traffic from the major competition in your space. SEO competitive analysis You probably know the major competition in your space, right? Here’s how to steal the traffic. This strategy takes a good copywriter, a virtual assistant to do outreach and a solid designer. This is an on-going hack you’ll want to perform month after month. Step 1 – Look up your biggest competitor on OpenSiteExplorer.org and download all of the incoming backlinks to their website. These are places where reporters, bloggers and influencers have written or linked to their website, causing them to rank high in Google. Step 2 – Check out each of the sites linking to theirs and do some research on the writer or website that covered up. You’ll want to decide and open a conversation about submitting some content about your website to them. Step 3 – This is where a great copywriter comes in. Getting published is a skill, but once you are, you’ll get some great links and start ranking for the keywords your competitor. The top 3 listings in Google typically get over 75% of the clicks for that keywords. That’s your chance to steal traffic. As a pro-tip, here’s the ideal way to structure the link building to your website with different types of content from sites that link to you. It’s important to stagger the type of content, anchor text and page it links to.

Hacking SEO competitors

SEO Hack #4

A rising (keyword) tide raises all ships. The roadmap is already there. Many people wonder what to blog about, write guest posts or PR pieces about. Most specifically, people wonder what keywords to include. There’s a great hack for that. Deep inside of your Google Webmaster Tools, there’s a keyword roadmap. This map shows you all of the keywords your site is showing up in Google for, called impressions. If you focus more of your marketing department’s content on those impressions, you’ll start ranking higher and higher for them. Here’s an example of a roadmap from ClaytonWood.org SEO ranking exampleThese keywords I’m not ranking for, but once consistent content gets published with these keywords in mind, they’ll start ranking on the first page. This list gives you an indication of relevant keywords that are relatively easy to rank for, with the right content strategy. For fastest SEO results, this is a great list to use to outline your blog content calendar, and a great list to make sure you include in your guest postings or PR strategy. Here are the factors that come into play:

SEO keyword calendar

SEO Hack #5

Scaling the unscalable SEO tasks and the tools to do it with. Saving the best for last here, there are a set of SEO tools that industry insiders use, pass around, and sometimes keep quiet about. These help in the content syndication process shown below and are definitely tools used to aid in getting the fastest seo results you can. SEO scalingThis process requires an intern, VA or a combination of tools. Getting the linkable content in the right hands is simple if you know the process. This is why scaling link building through content syndication is our SEO Hack #5.

List of potential publishers

List of great content titles

Outreach tools

  • PressRush.com is my favorite tool to use for outreach, but there are a lot out there.

Syndicated content

  • Buffer and Hootsuite and the main players here for gathering some social traction of the content.

My favorite SEO tools are

  • DocSend
  • BuzzSumo
  • Yet Another Mail Merge
  • PipeDrive
  • AdEspresso

Google Webmaster Tools

All of the things we’re reviewing today are the do-it-yourself type of hacks. The variable is that some of them take some experience to execute quickly. For those that are in the leadership at a brand, a startup or wearing a number of hats (including marketing), this roadmap should be seriously considered. Traffic from organic web searches (because of SEO) is some of the most valuable traffic online. Once you’re ranking high, it’s possible to stay there for quite some time.

Final Thoughts

SEO is one of the most elusive (and beneficial) marketing channels out there. Following certain processes for improving rankings can very quickly change the position of your website in Google search. That’s what we teach in this SEO Hacking course so you have the best chance at the fastest SEO results.

SEO Strategies for Improving SERP Rankings for Your Top Keywords

All marketers must recognize the importance of SEO in growing a loyal audience, site traffic and conversion rate. Since the implementation of Google’s machine-learning artificial intelligence algorithm, RankBrain, optimizing landing pages for top keywords (a central piece of SEO) has changed fundamentally, and as Google’s third most important ranking signal it’s becoming increasingly important to […]

All marketers must recognize the importance of SEO in growing a loyal audience, site traffic and conversion rate. Since the implementation of Google’s machine-learning artificial intelligence algorithm, RankBrain, optimizing landing pages for top keywords (a central piece of SEO) has changed fundamentally, and as Google’s third most important ranking signal it’s becoming increasingly important to re-calibrate your SEO strategy to accommodate for RankBrain.

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence algorithm that Google has implemented alongside its other human-engineered algorithms, used to sort search results. RankBrain looks at SERPs for various keywords and tweaks the importance of various ranking signals – backlinks, domain authority, content length, etc – resulting in different SERPs. The RankBrain algorithm then analyzes how searchers interact with the new results, and if they find the new SERP more useful (displaying better content), RankBrain keeps the changes, if not, it reverts back to the old algorithm. When RankBrain makes tweaks to the SERPs (believing that searchers may find the results more useful) if any particular page gets a lot of attention, that page will receive a rankings increase. If searchers find any particular page not to be useful, RankBrain will replace that page on the SERP with a different page and then analyze how it performs. How does RankBrain determine if searchers like the new results better you ask? A few ways:
  • Organic Click-Through Rate
  • Time on Page
  • Bounce Rate
Before implementing the RankBrain algorithm, Google displayed SERPs simply by matching words in a search query to words on an individual page. With RankBrain, the AI attempts to learn what the words mean together (the intent), context included, to produce more fruitful search results for the searcher.

How does RankBrain Impact Optimizing Keywords on Landing Pages?

Before RankBrain, the most commonly agreed upon and effective SEO keyword targeting strategy was to build many different landing pages optimized for many different long tail keywords, even simple semantic varieties. For example, an SEO optimizing a travel blog would create one landing page targeting “best hiking routes in Hawaii,” and another landing page targeting “best hiking trails in Hawaii.” After which Google would rank each of the landing pages for their individual long tail keywords. Since implementing RankBrain, the Google algorithm now understands that these long tail keywords are essentially the same, and deliver almost identical SERPs for both phrases – making it ineffective to optimize around long tail keyword phrases anymore.

New Strategies: Optimizing for RankBrain

In short, instead of optimizing landing pages for long tail keywords, SEOs should target mid-tail keywords. Below is a screenshot from Ahrefs showing, keyword difficulty, CPC, search volume, and other metrics for six “New Zealand Hiking” related keyword phrases. As expected, the shorter keyword phrases have significantly higher search volume than their long-tail counterparts. In the past these mid-tail keywords would be more difficult to effectively target and break into the top three search results. But with the introduction of RankBrain, these mid-tails present a new opportunity, allowing SEOs to target more generic, mid-tail keyword phrases and have the Google algorithm understand their intent. How do I decide the best mid-tail keyword to target? There are myriad SEO tools and metrics that can be used to analyze keyword viability – SEMRush, Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, Brightedge to name a few. But one of my favorite strategies involves something much more basic: simple Google searches comparing broad-match results, exact-match results, and the total number of both for any given keyword phrase. It’s also useful to compare the domain ratings for first page SERPs during the comparison process to get an idea of how difficult it will be to rank highly. Using the “New Zealand Hiking” search metrics above, you’ll notice that the two most searched phrases are “New Zealand Hiking” and “Hiking in New Zealand” with 600 and 450 average monthly searches respectively, compared to the 150 or less average monthly searches for all the remaining keyword phrases. The first step in deciding which keyword phrase to target is performing a Google search, and then another with the keyword phrase in quotes, comparing the number of broad match and exact match search results.

The first thing you may notice is that the keyword phrase “New Zealand Hiking” has significantly fewer search results in both broad and exact match instances, despite having an average of 150 more searches a month than “Hiking in New Zealand” (600 vs 450). On the surface this simple comparison shows that there is more search volume and less competition and saturation in the “New Zealand Hiking” SERP, pointing to this particular keyword phrase as the better choice. But before we draw any final conclusions, it’s important to analyze the sites ranking first page for each of the keyword phrases, to determine what their domain authorities are, and how our site stacks up in this space. Below is a screenshot from Ahrefs showing the first page SERPs for both “New Zealand Hiking” and “Hiking in New Zealand” In this instance, and likely because of the RankBrain algorithm, the SERPs are nearly identical with a few exceptions. Because of the SERPs similarities, it’s safe to say choose a mid-tail keyword to target for your site based purely on the overall number of results displayed contrasted against average monthly search volume – in this example that proper choice would be “New Zealand Hiking.”

Optimizing Landing Pages to Generate Maximum SERP Positions Increases Traffic and Conversion Rate Growth

Having well-targeted keywords is an important factor in growing SERP rankings, site traffic, and conversions, but without well-optimized landing pages much of your hard work can go unnoticed, and growth can be slow. Google has provided SEO Marketers with tools we can use to help the web spiders better understand what the on-page content is all about. First and foremost: SCHEMA markup. Schema markup, also known as structured data markup, is a vocabulary that is added to a wide variety of encodings – RDFa, JSON-LD, Microdata and others. Every page on your site that can have a schema, should. Depending on the type of page you wish to markup, whether it be product pages, informational content, blog posts, or anything else, schema.org provides a selection of items and associated properties that can be added to the HTML/CSS of your page to help Google’s web crawlers automatically understand the intent and purpose of the content. The better Google understand your content, the more likely it is to rank higher on SERP page 1. Below you can see an example of schema markup for a blog post from Instasize entitled “5 Ways to Utilize Instagram Stories to Boost Sales.” Notice how the markup code is nested above the <h1>, between <div> and <script> tags. Best explained by the Moz blog in a post entitled “Unlocking Hidden Gems Within Schema.org” — “When you first enter a Schema.org item type’s page, notice that every page has the same layout, starting with the item type name, the canonical reference URL (currently the HTTP version*), where the markup lives within the Schema.org hierarchy, and that item type’s usage on the web. An item type is a piece of Schema.org’s vocabulary of data used to annotate and structure elements on a web page. You can think about it as what you’re marking up. At the highest level of most Schema.org item types is Thing (alternatively, we’d be looking at DataType). This intuitively makes sense because almost everything is, at its highest level of abstraction, a Thing. The item type Thing has multiple children, all of which assume Thing’s properties in a cascading in a hierarchical fashion (i.e., a Product is a Thing, both can have names, descriptions, and images).” You can find a visual representation of schema’s hierarchy in the image below.

Image courtesy of technicalseo.com

One of the easiest starting points for acquainting yourself with schema is to use the schema generator from Merkle. Using the Merkle schema generator is fairly simple, just choose a type of markup from the drop-down menu. Once you’ve chosen a markup-type, you’ll be prompted to fill in various fields and the schema markup code will be automatically generated in the right field. Once you’ve filled in all the necessary fields, copy and paste the auto-generated schema into Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure the code is functioning properly. Then paste the code above or below the <body> tags of your page.

Targeting Featured Snippets to Rank Above First Position for Top Keywords

A featured snippet is a box that appears above all results for various questions and answer based queries. Below is a screenshot of a search for “Are dogs colorblind,” where you can see a short paragraph with an answer pulled from one of the pages listed in the SERP. (Note: Featured snippets only pull from the top 10 results of any given SERP, so you must already rank 1-10 for a specific keyword phrase to be eligible for a feature placement) With more and more SERPs for similar search queries returning similar results because of RankBrain, the chances of securing a featured snippet across multiple similar queries have greatly increased – which could create a massive traffic and conversion boon for sites with savvy SEO practitioners willing to invest time targeting featured snippets.

How to Target Featured Snippet Opportunities

Featured snippets appear for a wide array of search queries, and can increase page visibility, conversion rates, and traffic to your site, so how do you go about targeting these opportunities? Most of the time, though not all, featured snippets appear as an answer to question-based queries. Let’s say you run a food blog and have posted an article about making spaghetti and meatballs, and your targeted keyword phrase is “spaghetti and meatballs.” Of course, the quality and thoroughness of the content is a major factor in determining if Google will pull your information into a featured snippet, but how your content is organized and labeled is also very important. Instead of using the simplest of headings, try adding question format headings, so make your first H2 something like “How to Make Spaghetti and Meatballs?” As an example of this, notice the screenshot below showing the SERPs for two similar queries. The first search for “spaghetti and meatballs” returns without a snippet whereas “how to make spaghetti and meatballs” returns with a snippet pulled from a Youtube video. One of the best ways to generate question/answer based headline ideas is with answerthepublic.com. Answer the Public describes itself as a “free visual keyword research and content ideas” tool and can provide a wide range of very useful data. Entering a simple keyword phrase into the search bar returns multiple lists of related question-based, preposition-based and comparison-based search queries. Example for the search query “spaghetti and meatballs.” From this page, you can easily use the results to brainstorm a question/answer style headline and greatly increase the chance of having your content being pulled into a featured snippet. Other factors Google seems to like when pulling snippets is content built in ordered or unordered lists, HTML tables and free of grammatical errors.

Snackable Takeaways: Creating Traffic and Conversion Rate Growth with Actionable SEO Strategies

  1. RankBrain has changed the way we look at keyword targeting, forcing to reorient their focus from long-tail keywords to mid-tail keywords.
  2. As the RankBrain AI continues to learn and further understand the meaning of keyword phrases and their context, semantic variation of similar queries will matter less and less as they largely return identical results, forcing SEO’s to shift focus primarily to ensuring everything they publish is evergreen, and of only the highest quality content for their user base – chasing keywords will no longer work.
  3. Schema markup is relatively simple and in today’s SEO climate is an absolute must to remain competitive for your top keywords.
  4. With more and more SERPs for similar search queries returning similar results because of RankBrain, the chances of securing a featured snippet across multiple similar queries have greatly increased.
  5. Targeting featured snippets by optimizing your on-page content can propel your top landing pages to the very top of Google SERPs, greatly increasing your pages overall visibility, site traffic, and conversion rate.

6 SEO Tips to Drive Meaningful Traffic to Your Website in 2018

Do any of these headings sound familiar? The Top 4 Reasons SEO Is Dead Why SEO is Dead SEO IS DEAD! Misguided marketers that (at a wild guess) want to present themselves as forward-thinking, have been making the claim that SEO is dead and buried for almost as long as search engines have existed. In […]

Do any of these headings sound familiar?
  • The Top 4 Reasons SEO Is Dead
  • Why SEO is Dead
  • SEO IS DEAD!
Misguided marketers that (at a wild guess) want to present themselves as forward-thinking, have been making the claim that SEO is dead and buried for almost as long as search engines have existed. In fact, here’s a handy little chart from Portent SEO that demonstrates just how long this idea has been around: However, regardless of how often it’s said or how loud it’s shouted, it’s wrong. The reality is that as long as there are search engines, there will be SEO. All that’s changed (and continues to change) is the approach we need to take when it comes to optimizing sites. While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are 6 of the most effective SEO tips for driving meaningful traffic to your website in 2018.

1. Prioritize Technical SEO

You may have heard the odd SEO state that technical SEO isn’t important, that “content is king,” and that if you get that bit right, everything else will just fall into place. Just like those who claim SEO is dead, they couldn’t be more wrong. Technical forms the foundation of any SEO strategy, and ensuring a site is technically sound should take precedence over anything else. Even small mistakes can hinder a site’s performance in the SERPs, such as:
  • Failing to use H1s or title tags correctly
  • Implementing redirects to unsuitable pages
  • Using 302 redirects in place of 301s
These are all common mistakes that, in isolation, might not have a huge impact. Collectively, though, they tell a different story. Some mistakes, however, can have a devastating impact and prevent whole sections, or even entire sites, from being indexed by search engines – i.e. the classic disallow fail – placing, or leaving, this in your robots.txt file: User-agent: * Disallow: / Unfortunately, technical SEO can quickly get complicated. If your knowledge is lacking, it would be advisable to seek help from someone who specializes in this area. That said, if you want to have a go at it yourself, here are a couple of resources to get you started: In addition to this, you’re also going to need at least one tool that will crawl your site and help you identify technical roadblocks:
  • Screaming Frog – Arguably the best-known.
  • Botify – Awesome but pricey, and typically aimed at a more advanced market.
  • Sitebulb – Also awesome, affordable, and, thanks to its user-friendly interface, ideal for both beginner and advanced SEOs.

2. Write Content with Users and Search Engines in Mind

Do you remember the days when SEO copywriters were instructed to write first and foremost for search engines? When the aim of the game was to practically force-feed search spiders the subject of a page by working one or two specific keywords into a piece of content multiple times? Fast forward a few years and things have changed – a lot. The general consensus today is to forget what search engines want, and just write for users. However, while writing for users and users only is a far better approach than keyword stuffing (after all, at the end of the day, all search engines want is to serve the best possible results to users), it still pays to understand how the search engines themselves work. The fact is that keywords still matter – just not in the way they used to. Today, Google uses algorithms like TF*IDF to understand how often, and where, specific words should appear in a piece of content. It also looks at the semantic relationship between words and phrases in order to better establish the subject matter and relevancy of a page. Thankfully, writing for the modern search engine doesn’t have to be as complicated as it might sound. You simply need to use long-tail keyword research in order to pinpoint semantic words and phrases that can be used to enhance your content, and the relevancy of its subject matter in the eyes of search engines.

3. Analyze and Optimize Your Search Snippets

For anyone who’s not sure, this is a search snippet: A search snippet features your title tag at the top, the URL of the page in the middle, and below that, your meta description. A well-written search snippet can make a massive difference to your site’s performance in the organic search results for two reasons:
  1. The keywords you include in your title tag impact rankings.
  2. Informative, enticing and persuasive title tags and meta descriptions can improve click-through rates.
Unfortunately, a lot of marketers make these common mistakes:
  1. They don’t give search snippets the time and attention they ought to.
  2. They stuff too many keywords into title tags.
  3. They overlook search snippets altogether.
The contents of your search snippets are an opportunity to sell your site and increase click-throughs. This applies to both your title tag and your meta description, so while you should include a keyword (maybe even two) in your title tag, your main focus should be the user, and how you can persuade them to click onto your site, instead of a competitor’s. For even better results, you shouldn’t just be optimizing your search snippets – you should also be analyzing the snippets of those you’re up against in the SERPs. To do this, take your most important pages, and their top-ranking keywords, and compare your search snippets against those that rank around you. What can you do to stand out and increase your share of the clicks? Of course, unless your site’s very small, you can’t be analyzing the competition and writing bespoke snippets for every page of your site – especially if you’re working on a large ecommerce site. So what’s the solution? Write bespoke snippets for your most important pages, and create rules that will automatically populate title tags and descriptions on the rest of the site. For example, the rule for title tags would typically involve pulling in the page’s H1 tag, followed by the brand name.

4. Optimize for Voice Search

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing SEOs today is voice search. No one knows for certain how many voice searches are actually taking place, but Location World estimated that in 2016, 40% of adults were using voice search on a daily basis, while ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice-based. Needless to say, if you’re not considering voice search as part of your SEO strategy, you’re missing out. So how do you optimize for voice search? Consider the difference between how people talk and how they type. Voice searches tend to be longer and more conversational. Keep this in mind when creating content for your site. Create content with featured snippets in mind. Research from Dr. Pete found that 53% of voice search results were being pulled from featured snippets. You can read the full research here.

5. Don’t Forget About Links

As much work as Google may have put into devaluing them, as of 2017, links still carried more weight than anything else in the search giant’s algorithms (even if they don’t carry as much weight as they used to). This means generating quality, natural links (or at least, links that appear natural) is as important a part of SEO strategy as it’s ever been. Without going into too much detail, here are a few search engine-friendly ways to generate links that will boost your site’s domain authority and in turn, its visibility in the search results.
  • Write great content that answers common questions and is formatted for featured snippets (other sites may link to it as a resource in their own content).
  • Go one better and create playbooks or ebooks.
  • Start guest posting (the right way).
  • Gather original, firsthand data that’s of interest to your industry (better yet, create data visualizations to accompany it) and promote the heck out of it.
  • Upload and optimize high-quality photographs to Flickr, apply the Creative Commons license, and request in the description that if the image is used, they should link to your site as the source.
  • Create free, embeddable tools that you can promote and feature on your site (again, requesting that if the tool is reproduced, your site is linked to as the source).

6. Don’t Forget About Internal Links, Either

Internal links help users and search engine spiders navigate your website. They’re pretty damn important, and yet they’re often overlooked (particularly as a site grows). A poor internal linking strategy can diminish the value of key pages, or leave pages orphaned altogether. What’s more, search engines use the anchor text of internal links as an indicator of the content of the destination URL. Unlike with external links, you can use pretty much whatever you want as the anchor text (within reason) without being at risk of getting a penalty. However, it’s poor practice to use anchor text like “here” on internal links. Use text that accurately describes the content of the destination page instead. Unfortunately, implementing an effective internal linking strategy tends to be much more complicated than that (and the bigger the site, the more complicated things get). If you want to learn more, I can’t recommend this resource from Shaun Anderson enough. What other SEO tips would you suggest using in 2018? Comments are below if you can spare a second to share your ideas.

SEO Hypergrowth: How to 8x Your Organic Traffic with These 3 Power Hacks

SEO can be painful… Very painful. In 2013, I started executing SEO for a website called LifeCoachSpotter.com. The goal? To generate leads for life coaches who want more paying clients. Just publish a ton of blog posts and we’re all set, right? “Build it and they will come.” Well, nothing could be further from the […]

SEO can be painful… Very painful. In 2013, I started executing SEO for a website called LifeCoachSpotter.com. The goal? To generate leads for life coaches who want more paying clients. Just publish a ton of blog posts and we’re all set, right? “Build it and they will come.” Well, nothing could be further from the truth. We launched the site with 50 well-written blog posts, which was no small feat…but the result? Zero traffic.  

How to Achieve Zero Impact SEO Results

The complexity, depth, and multi-disciplinary nature of SEO makes it seemingly impossible to succeed. Google’s algorithm is a mysterious and well-guarded blackbox. Confusion ensues. When I was working on SEO for Life Coach Spotter, I read and followed everything Rand Fishkin and other SEO gurus advised. Props to Rand, I love him to death and his advice is top-notch. However, 90% of the SEO tactics and tips I’d learned just didn’t move the needle. I experienced the pain of non-stop hustle with nothing to show for it first-hand. I received garbage advice like:
  • use keywords in your image alt text
  • watch the ratio of follow to nofollow backlinks
  • be mindful of the ratio of text to HTML
  • optimize your image file names
These factors have zero impact on SEO. Ignore them at all costs if you care about growth. When you’re focusing on growth and hacking your way to success, you ain’t got time for things that don’t work. But when you’re clueless ‒ you’ll test out anything and quickly start to learn everything that doesn’t work; a process of elimination. I tested out dozens of strategies. Beautiful ideas like broken link-building, guest posting, and far worse tactics like link-building on forums and blog comments. These well-known, don’t-move-the-needle tactics are your worst possible SEO investment. Stay far away from them. So what actually moves the needle on your SEO?  

From 0 to 20,000 Organic Search Visitors/Month

I knew I was onto something when I saw a 381% increase in overall organic traffic over a 5 month period. This came much later, in 2016, after I had already spent the first 3 years executing everything else that didn’t move the needle. During this 5-month time period ‒ of a 4x increase in organic search traffic ‒ I tested over 8 ideas, but I ultimately attribute these results to only 2 things:
  1. well-optimized comprehensive content guides like these
  2. link-earning campaigns like this infographic (which is always predicated on outreach)
Here’s a snapshot of what that content creation campaign looks like:

73,647 Words of Optimized, Targeted SEO Content

But wait, it gets better. Right after that, I tested out a new .edu link-building strategy. It’s called “The Scholarship Strategy” and it has been lovingly documented here. The results?

Another 538% Increase in Organic Traffic in Just Two Months

That’s a 538% increase after the 381% increase. In May of 2016, the site’s organic search traffic was 2,147 for the month. By March of 2017, it was 20,273 for the month. An 844% increase in organic search traffic. A substantial breakthrough from the previous 3 years. Ah-ha! Real, battle-tested proof of what actually drives results for SEO. Do you want to know what it is?
  1. Referring Domains
  2. Content
  3. Optimization
If you want to drive substantial results for SEO for your site, don’t take any of these lightly. Let’s dive deeply into each one.  

Your 3-Step Game Plan to Blow Up Your SEO

1. Referring Domains: Get Quality and Quantity

While everyone and their grandmother is talking about backlinks, you and I should be talking about referring domains. What’s a referring domain? A referring domain is a website that links to your website. It allows Google to group your friend’s website that is linking to you 20 times as only one referring domain vs 20 backlinks. Google is smart. It’s much harder to get 20 referring domains to your website than it is to get 20 backlinks all from one website to your website. So Google’s ranking algorithm weights this accordingly. In fact, as of today, Google weights referring domains so heavily, that from all of my experiments, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that referring domains is the most heavily weighted ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. “The holy grail of SEO.” There are at least 4 important aspects to referring domains. They are:
  1. the quantity of them
  2. domain authority
  3. trust flow
  4. relevance
I know from my experience that the Trust Flow of referring domains is an important metric. My .edu link-building strategy did little in terms of relevant or quantity of referring domains (it was only a dozen or so .edu backlinks). The Trust Flow of universities, however, is nothing to sneeze at!  

2. Content: No More Blog Posts!

Every content marketer has a different name for the same exact thing: Each of these SEO content philosophies is the same basic idea, just rebirthed with a new name. Write phenomenal content that meets the following criteria, and you have a much higher chance of ranking that page:
  • long (3,000-12,000 words long)
  • very well-written and high-quality
  • useful, helpful, and answers common questions
  • authoritative
  • actionable
  • unique
  • engaging
Fun to talk about. Hard to do. Ask any content marketer. In short, you want to write a comprehensive content guide that crushes all of the other competing 500-word or 1,000-word blog posts out there on the topic. Longer content is positively correlated with higher rankings.  

The Number of Blog Posts Published Via WordPress Every Month

Every month on WordPress, 80 million blog posts are getting published. Do you really want to compete with that? Let me be the first to tell you: Blog posting for SEO stinks! And here’s why:
  1. Blog posts are relatively short.
  2. Blog posts are dated. (Ugh!)
  3. Blog posts might only target 1-4 keywords.
  4. Blog posts can cover the same exact topic multiple times.
  5. Blog posts dilute your internal backlinking efforts.
  6. Blog posts dilute your link-building efforts from external sites.
  7. Blog posts have to constantly be written.
  8. Blog posts have less dwell time since they’re shorter.
  9. Blog posts are less authoritative.
  10. Everyone else is doing them.
Nuff said. I think I’ve made my case here. On the other hand, the comprehensive content guide:
  1. is long
  2. is evergreen
  3. can be optimized for dozens of related keywords
  4. is heavily focused on one topic
  5. allows you to focus your internal linking efforts
  6. allows you to focus your external link-building
  7. needs to be written only once
  8. has longer dwell time which increases conversions and brand awareness
  9. is naturally authoritative
  10. has a much higher barrier to entry; gives you a competitive advantage
You only have so much budget and time to produce your onsite content. So focus your resources properly for the highest ROI. Go big or go home.  

3. Optimization: Dozens of Keywords in One Article

Your keywords need to be grouped by topic, and then prioritized and organized. Once your keywords are grouped by topic, you need to plan out your content outline based on the subtopics within that keyword group. Headers should be high-volume keywords. Synonyms and keyword variations should be used naturally and normally throughout the text. Keyword phrases should be given careful attention, as the same phrase can pop up a handful of times in different keywords. Be natural. Stay cool. Don’t start keyword stuffing. Use that keyword a minimum of one time and if it happens to arise more naturally, let it. That’s it. Let Google figure out the rest. (Afterall, Google is way smarter than you and I). Long-tail phrases should arise normally in your body text. The point is, Google still heavily depends upon you using those keywords and phrases to consider that page very relevant and rank-worthy for that query. So you have to optimize with the actual keywords in there. If you don’t, you risk not having that page rank for your coveted keywords. So you have to optimize with the actual keywords in there. If you don’t, you risk not having that page rank for your coveted keywords. If you don’t, you risk not having that page rank for your coveted keywords. The 4 most important places to optimize your comprehensive content guide (or any piece of content):
  • title tag
  • url slug
  • header tags
  • body text
I don’t know why the old school SEOs are still obsessed with H1 tags. If it’s any header tag (H2, H3, H4) or in the body text, Google gives it more than enough consideration.  

How to 10x Your SEO Right Now

So now you know the only 3 high-impact ranking factors in Google’s algorithm that you need to crush. Let me repeat them for you again:
  1. Referring Domains
  2. Content
  3. Optimization
Now what? Let’s go through each of the nitty gritty tactics we need to implement.  

Part 1: Keyword Research for Optimization and Content

The juiciest part of keyword research that 90% of businesses miss is this: You need to group your keywords together by topic.

Group your keywords by topic

That’s it. You need to group all of those variations of your keywords based on the related theme that runs through them all. Here’s a concrete example: You need to group all of those variations of your keywords based on the related theme that runs through them all. Here’s a concrete example: Here’s a concrete example:
  • toddler bath toys
  • kids bath toys
  • best bath toys
  • bath toys for babies
  • how to clean bath toys
  • bath toys for 1 year old
  • bath toys for 3-year-olds
  • best bath toys for toddlers
  • cool bath toys
  • bath tub toys
Do you see what everybody is missing with their “keyword research”? It’s not about the actual research, it’s about how we organize and implement our findings. We have a dozen variations of [bath] + [toys]. All of these queries are ultimately looking for very similar or related information about bath toys. To be honest, the full list I have for this keyword group is 150 keywords long! Imagine your piece of power-content that is optimized and addressing all of the variations, phrases, and user intent just around bath toys. Imagine if you wrote that piece of content but forgot to mention a simple word like “toddler”, “1-year-old”, or “cool bath toys”. Your thoroughness pays off in spades. To find all of your keywords and then group them is not a straightforward process, though I have systematized it. The first step is simply collecting all of the keywords around all of your topics from as many different sources as you can find. Here’s my top 10 list of sources for collecting keywords:
  1. Import previous keyword research.
  2. Import keywords from Google Analytics/Webmaster Tools.
  3. “Get Ideas” from Google Keyword Planner from landing page.
  4. Check and import the keywords that your site is already ranking for
  5. Check and import keywords that 3-6 competitors are already ranking for.
  6. “Get Ideas” from competitors’ landing pages in Google Keyword Planner.
  7. Check competitors’ meta keywords.
  8. Manually brainstorm a list of ideas and use Google Keyword Planner to “Get Ideas”.
  9. Get keyword suggestions from Ahrefs, SEMrush, and more.
  10. Any other sources available.

Keyword Planner

Once you’ve collected keywords from all of these sources, you should have over 2,000 keywords. Next, you need to filter them, remove duplicates, and remove negative keywords. From here, we have to group them. I’ve been hacking together tools like this beautiful Word Frequency Counter to see which words and phrases are the most recurring. Once we’ve found 20-60 recurring words, phrases, or themes we need to label each keyword as having that word stem or not. To this end, I’m using another hackerific method in Google Sheets with this formula: =IF(RegExMatch(A1,”keyword”),”YES”,”NO”). If the keyword contains that word stem, then it will get labeled appropriately in another column of our spreadsheet with a “YES” or a “NO”. Lovely. If the keyword contains that word stem, then it will get labeled appropriately in another column of our spreadsheet with a “YES” or a “NO”. Lovely. Next, sort and organize the keywords by the words they contain and start breaking them apart into groups. Now that you’ve grouped your keywords together, the next thing we need to do is plan content around these keywords. In a nutshell, you want to create an outline for your comprehensive content guide based around the highest volume keywords within that group, as well as phrases. You want to include these higher volume keywords in many of the bullet points of your outline (which will become your H1, H2, and H3 tags). For example, the keyword “best bath toys” will become “The Best Bath Toys for Your Child” or “The Best Bath Toys For a Fun Bath”. You want to use your keywords naturally. For example, the keyword “best bath toys” will become “The Best Bath Toys for Your Child” or “The Best Bath Toys For a Fun Bath”. You want to use your keywords naturally. You want to use your keywords naturally. Once your content is planned, go ahead and start writing. We’re aiming for a colossal piece of content like the one the magnificent Dmitry Dragilev (who I met at the Growth Marketing Conference) has documented here. I think that 3,000-12,000 words usually does the job pretty nicely. I think that 3,000-12,000 words usually does the job pretty nicely. And the beautiful thing is, our content is already optimized! We already optimized it when we created the outline. Now that you’ve finished writing it, go back and drop in any keywords where appropriate. For example, if you used the word “bath toys” at one point, you might want to work that into the keyword “cool bath toys” or “bath toys for a 1-year-old”. Good. Now our long-tail keywords are getting incorporated too. Now that you’ve finished writing it, go back and drop in any keywords where appropriate. For example, if you used the word “bath toys” at one point, you might want to work that into the keyword “cool bath toys” or “bath toys for a 1-year-old”. Good. Now our long-tail keywords are getting incorporated too. For example, if you used the word “bath toys” at one point, you might want to work that into the keyword “cool bath toys” or “bath toys for a 1-year-old”. Good. Now our long-tail keywords are getting incorporated too. Good. Now our long-tail keywords are getting incorporated too.  

Part 2: Link-Earning

Now that your on-page SEO is ship shape, let’s go ahead and start getting those all-powerful backlinks (I mean… referring domains) to your website. This is where most people get stuck.

Your Site

Look, when it comes to link-earning, you can choose from over a dozen different strategies to pursue. 80% of the strategies out there won’t get you high-impact results. Let’s just focus on the high-impact strategies that drive real results and forget the rest. Cool?

Link-Earning Campaign Criteria

For link-earning to be effective, it has to meet a few criteria. First, we want our backlinks to come from websites that are authoritative, trustworthy, high-quality, and relevant (if possible). Second, we want our links to be earned “editorial links”. If you can just go onto another site and put the links in there yourself, you really don’t have a competitive advantage, do you? Any link that is truly earned means that you rightfully deserve the link because another writer, editor, or webmaster has put it there because your content is worthy of it. These links have a higher barrier to entry, so it will keep your competitors away. Third, we want to put our content in front of the right targeted influencers or authorities who are likely to link to it. There’s no point in mass emailing 100 people if only 10 would truly be interested in it. We execute targeted outreach to put the right content in front of the right people. Create real value and share it directly with the right people and you’ll be earning backlinks. There are no shortcuts.  

Strategy #1: Original Research

This approach is my favorite and I learned it second-hand from an agency called Fractl. All we’re essentially doing is executing original research and then presenting the data and telling the news media about it. Why’s it so powerful? When you are the source of the research, you are the source for citation, and how do people cite sources on the web? With a backlink! You want to be the citation and be the reference because that naturally earns you backlinks. To see what I mean, take a look at this case study or any of Fractl’s other case studies to get a real feel for this. In essence, you’re going to
  1. perform original research (a survey, internal company data, or curate existing data)
  2. present your findings (interactive data visualization, charts, infographics)
  3. pitch it to the media (digital PR and outreach)

The source for research is the source for citation.

Strategy #2: Interactive Data Visualization

While infographics have gotten worn out over the years, interactive data visualizations are super-engaging and a powerful opportunity for link-earning today. Here are some lovely examples to take a look at: While admittedly, making an interactive data visualization is far from easy, it gives you a highly competitive barrier to entry. Since a significant amount of resources (investment, time, focus) go into making one, it means your competitors are likely to shy away from doing it, allowing you stand out from the crowd. Take a look at the Out of Sight, Out of Mind campaign, which documents the number of victims of drone strikes in Pakistan in a very visually captivating way. What kind of results did they get? 1,220 referring domains!

Backlinks and referring domains.

When was the last time your backlinking campaign got you that? Remember, to execute this effectively you must do outreach!  

Strategy #3: An Industry Report

Social Media Industry Report

A state of the industry report or white paper not only makes you the source for citations (ie. backlinks), but also naturally positions you as the authority within your industry ‒ a lovely side benefit of your link-earning campaign. Here’s just one example for you to mull over. This industry report from Social Media Examiner is 50 pages long! Eke! Sounds like quite a bit of work, doesn’t it? Nobody ever said results-driven SEO was easy. All I’m suggesting is that if you want to move the needle, you have to invest the resources. Just take a look at their results:

#Results.

Imagine what this will do for your website’s SEO.  

Strategy #4: A Tool

When you make a free, online tool that is useful and valuable to people, we all naturally want to link to it because it’s valuable and useful. Just like in the previous examples, this is not overnight link-building magic. More like a ton of Gary Vee-style hustle and hard work. If you consider the SEO value of creating such a valuable asset, it’s priceless. Here’s an example for you to play with from SmartAsset. While “mortgage calculator” is a highly competitive search term and dominated by big corporations, this free little online tool from SmartAsset earned them 483 referring domains!

Mortgage Calculator

You’re not going to see this kind of ROI with those old and stale tactics like broken link-building. Think again.

Referring domains of SmartAsset’s Mortgage Calculator.

 

Moving the Needle On Your SEO

Just like any other marketing channel ‒ whether it’s video marketing, Facebook Ads, or something else ‒ SEO takes a large investment of resources in order to get breakthrough results. Where and how you choose to focus your investment resources determines your ultimate ROI. The real scary/crazy thing about SEO is that it’s so long-term, you can’t run tests quickly. It can take anywhere from 1 to 6 months to get the results from your experiment. In other marketing channels, you can test out paid traffic today and see the results right now. With SEO, we have to follow a long and treacherous process that includes:
  • research
  • content creation
  • outreach
  • link-earning
  • getting your backlinks crawled by Google
  • having those backlinks factored into rankings in the SERPs
  • tracking and reviewing the ranking positions and traffic
Despite all of this, the return on investment for SEO is absurdly high for your business. Afterall, recurring monthly traffic drives recurring monthly revenue (or recurring monthly revenue growth). Moreover, when your prospective customers are inbound, targeted, and have already learned about your product or service from your website ‒ your business will have found its golden goose. With high rewards comes quite a hustle and grind to get on Google’s radar and get your business’s website to the bottom of page 1. After all, you have to deserve to be there. You better start crackin’ on your SEO today so that 6 months from now you’ll have something to show for it! Need a hand? Feel free to reach out to me directly. I’m more than happy to help!

Keyword Research: How I Generated 15,000 Keywords and Found the 20 Best

What do you do when you’re not very skilled at keyword research?   Without quality keywords, you can’t create relevant content that people will search for. You can’t set up Adwords campaigns that convert. You can’t optimize landing pages or set up a site’s architecture to lead people to the information they want.   I […]

What do you do when you’re not very skilled at keyword research?

  Without quality keywords, you can’t create relevant content that people will search for. You can’t set up Adwords campaigns that convert. You can’t optimize landing pages or set up a site’s architecture to lead people to the information they want.   I wasn’t very good, but I wanted to be. So to get some tips, I chatted with Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and a speaker at the Growth Marketing Conference.  

After talking to Rand and reading a bunch of blog posts on the subject, I was able to generate about 15,000 keywords, narrow them down to a useful group of about 300, and then assign a priority score to help me narrow down the top 20 keywords to target first.

  Here’s how I did it.

Generating Keywords

Start by talking to the people who fit your customer personas. In this case, I talked to people who love beer. beer  

Step 1 (Do This if You Don’t Know Much About Your Customers)

 

Set up interviews with the type of people who you think will buy your product:

  How much do you know about the people who are going to use your product?   The startup I did keyword research for (let’s call them Startup X) is a craft beer delivery startup with three customer personas:
  • Gift Givers – Urban/suburban. Scours the internet for the best, most special, unique, unusual, and luxurious gifts.
  • Foodies – Urban. Instagrams their food. Pairs beer and food. Looks for high quality food and drink.
  • Beer Aficionados – Loves trying all types of beers. Goes to beer tasting parties and beer tours. Passionate about deepening their beer knowledge.
 
But while Startup X had a good idea about their customers, I personally didn’t. So I called people I knew who fit these personas and asked them some questions.
  As a seasoned product designer once told me, people are terrible at imagining what they would do in a hypothetical scenario, but they’re great at telling you what they’ve already done.   So I asked questions such as:  
  • Can you tell me about a positive beer drinking experience you had recently?
  • Can you tell me about the last time you drank homebrewed beer?
  • What was the last gift you bought? How did you find it?
  Then I asked plenty of follow ups:  
  • When/where was this?
  • What type of beer was it?
  • What did the beer taste like?
  • Who were you with?
  For general tips on customer development and creating interview guides, check out the incredible (FREE!) book Talking to Humans.   In terms of generating a large quantity of keywords, this wasn’t the most effective technique, but it was crucial to understand these personas for some of the more powerful keyword generation methods described later.  

Read Other Content/Digital Media About Your Vertical

  As I Googled beer-related keywords, I noticed a general trend in which the larger the publication, the less the writing resembled everyday speech. Serious Eats is one of the top food media sites around and takes on a pretty casual tone, but you’ll notice that their Beer Bucket List sounds writer-y, with words and phrases like “inextricably,” “unified balance,” and “dangerously drinkable.”   But some other sites generated new keywords. This niche beer site called More Beer didn’t sound very conversational either, but it opened up all types of ways people can discuss beer. This led to new keywords related to taste, history, ingredients, and brewing process.  

Read Forums

As seasoned SEO’s know, forums are loaded with great keywords, and unlike digital media publications, they much more closely resemble how people talk – and thus, how they search.   BeerAdvocate is a forum that was frequently mentioned in my research and was reported on SEMrush to have over 1.3 million clicks coming from organic search, so I dove in.   Here I looked for themes in the forum users’ conversations with each other. I noticed lots of talks about trades, specific yeast strains, and home brewing methods. I found smaller details like the fact that they frequently discussed growlers, a type of large bottle frequently used by microbreweries.  There were 100 new keywords from these forums. BeerAdvocate also has a list of the top 250 beers as reviewed by members, so I used Import.io to scrape the list in about 10 seconds, adding the names of beers, breweries, and beer styles to the list of potential keywords.  

Look It Up on Wikipedia

Wikipedia is filled with the kinds of keywords and topics that you won’t find in Keyword Planner. One of the best resources in my keyword research journey was Backlinko’s Definitive Guide to Keyword Research In it, Brian Dean advocates using Wikipedia for keyword research. Keyword Planner is great at spitting out keywords that include your search terms. So when I inputted “beer” in Keyword Planner, it suggested keywords like “beer clubs,” “beer halls,” and “rare beers.” What it couldn’t do is suggest related keywords like “Belgian yeast,” “clarifying agent,” or “commercial hops,” none of which include the word “beer.”  

That’s where Wikipedia comes in, especially the Table of Contents which lists each section.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 6.04.52 PM   I found the Wikipedia entries for subjects like “beer,” “microbrewery,” and “beer in the United States,” and then I used Kimono to scrape the Table of Contents for each of those entries.  

Go Through Table of Contents for Books on Amazon

Also courtesy of Backlinko is this trick. Similar to Wikipedia, by finding books related to your topic on Amazon, you can often find their Table of Contents through the Look Inside/Preview feature, showing you images of the book pages. By adapting chapter titles to keywords, I found all kinds of words that didn’t include the word beer but were highly relevant to Startup X. In looking at the book How to Brew, for example, I found keywords like “malt extract,” “malt sugar,” “dry-hopping,” and “how to measure hops.”  

Step 2 (Do This if You Want to Learn More About Your Competitors):

 

Do Competitive Analysis on SEMrush:

As startup marketers know, SEMrush is a critically valuable tool for SEO, Paid Search, and Content because it tells you which keywords are driving the most traffic to your site and your competitors’ sites. In addition, you can see what keywords your competitors are bidding on, what their Adwords ads look like, and where they’re getting all their backlinks. I looked through the SEMrush pages for related beer sites like BeerAdvcoate, beer of the month sites, and also subscription box sites (even ones not related to beer) to see what keywords were bringing people to their sites.   My client hypothesized that wine subscription companies’ sites would be especially relevant because they often have the budgets to hire experienced marketers to properly optimize sites and run profitable Adwords campaigns.   Looking at ads was very helpful as well to help differentiate between top, middle, and bottom of the funnel keywords.   In competitive analysis there’s always a level of inference and hypothesis, but the guess was that keywords that were heavily bid on were more likely to be valuable to them and more likely to be valuable to Startup X.    

Step 3 (Do This Once You’ve Established Customer Personas):

 

Generate Keywords On Your Own

There’s nothing like rolling up your sleeves and brainstorming potential keywords. If you’re worried about being influenced by your research, you can do this in the very beginning.   I found I was better at thinking of broader topics (“homebrew recipes”, “beer pairings”) than long tail keywords, and after about 50 keywords, I was ready to move on.    

Analyze the Keywords on Your Own Site

I wanted to find which keywords Startup X currently had across its domain. This became especially valuable as I compared these keywords’ volume to the keywords I was generating with my other methods.   In doing so, I discovered that Startup X was (perhaps unknowingly) optimizing its title for two keywords that were relatively low volume in comparison to some similar keywords that were higher volume and no more difficult.

Get into your customers’ heads and brainstorm niche topics related to your product.

   

Create Keyword Niches for Each of Your Personas

This was maybe the most valuable of the techniques I used (and another learned from Backlinko). Here I tried to get into the heads of each of my personas to think of topics that surrounded the product being sold, in this case craft beer.   For foodies, for example, that meant topics like beer pairings, local beers, seasonal beer, beer education, and beer tours.   For gifters, I thought of all the ways they could land on Startup X as a perfect gift, such as gifts for dads, gifts for beer lovers, gifts for urbanites, and limited edition gifts.   I then put these niche topics into Keyword Planner to get suggested related keywords.  

Use Ubersuggest or KeywordTool.io

You know how as you’re typing a google search term, Google starts to make suggestions for what you might want to search for?   Ubersuggest and KeywordTool.io give you the ability the input any number of words and get all the possibilities that Google would suggest for you.   So when I input “beer” into Ubersuggest, it returned suggestions like “beer can chicken,” “beer cheese soup,” “beer cheese dip,” and “beer can chicken oven.”   I did the same with all my niche topics, and for terms like “craft beer” and “beer club.” It’s pretty easy to end up with some obscure long tail keywords if you search for very narrow-focused terms, but when I kept them broad enough, these search results provided some of my most valuable keywords.  

Step 4 (Do This if You’ve Been Around a Little While)

   

Check Out Your Traffic on Google Search Console

Google Search Console (previously called Google Webmaster Tools) allows you to see all the search terms that led people to your site. If you start to notice people arriving to your ski cap site with the keyword “ski cap made in USA,” you know there’s potential there for you to include the keyword “made in the USA” on your pages, in your content, and in your sales copy.   For an early stage startup like Startup X, Google doesn’t currently show it on many search engine results pages (SERPs) so almost everyone who comes through Google did so by searching for some variation of the keyword “Startup X.”  

The more established you are, the more data you will have to play with, and the more keywords you’ll find.

 

Step 5 (Everyone Should Do This)

 

Use Keyword Planner

Not surprisingly, Google’s own tool is the most powerful.   There are lots of options for generating keywords, from analyzing your landing page (which I did for startupx.com), exploring a product category (wine and beer collecting and brewing), to finding related keywords for any keyword you input (I used the niche topics I brainstormed).   Monthly search volume doesn’t properly account for seasonal variation, so if you have a seasonal product, try using Google Trends to get that data.  

Evaluating Keywords

  Don’t get overwhelmed! Now that you have a giant list, a few simple tactics will eliminate thousands of keywords.

How to Start When You Have a Giant List of Keywords

Now that I had my master list, I wanted to look at estimated monthly search volume and suggested bid. To do so, I had to run them through Keyword Planner.   As SEO’s are well aware, the monthly search volume as generated by Keyword Planner is often incorrect.   But Keyword Planner should provide rough ballparks, and it allows you to compare volume between keywords which I needed to rank my keywords. Comparing the search volume numbers generated by different platforms would be unreliable.  

Make Sure You Get All Your Keywords from Keyword Planner

First, I removed duplicates. Then I did a search for all special characters and removed them because Keyword Planner won’t show search volume for any keywords that include them.   No matter how many rows there are on the CSV you upload to Keyword Planner, it will only return a maximum of 800 keywords, so I broke them up into individual files and uploaded them one by one.   By downloading the results into individual CSV’s and consolidating the results, I was left with 8,549 keywords. And after sorting by search volume, I removed everything with less than a search volume of 100. That left me 1,880 keywords with plenty of long tail keywords.  

How to Evaluate Keywords

Evaluating keywords is the secret sauce to good keyword research, but no one says it’s easy.   “It’s very time-consuming and unfortunately today, it’s pretty manual,” Rand said. At the time of our conversation, he had just been whiteboarding a new product that could evaluate which keywords are most valuable.   As Rand explains, effectively evaluating keywords is especially difficult when your startup is early stage because you don’t know how long your customer journey will be and you don’t have data on how particular terms or phrases will perform.   “Do people convert after reading two or three posts on your blog? Do they convert after ten? Do they almost never convert but they amplify to the people who eventually do? It’s pretty challenging to know those things ahead of time,” Rand said.  

According to Rand, the most common mistake made by people new to keyword research is assuming that people will convert directly from a keyword to a transaction and then ignoring keywords that don’t immediately lead to conversions.

  “The path to conversion is a long and winding journey,” Rand said. “Ranking for a keyword and earning a visit is only a part of that long-winding journey. If you ignore that fact and ignore keywords that aren’t bringing you directly converting traffic, your competitors are probably going to take big advantage of that. And many times the long-term value of ranking for a keyword can be greater for keywords that don’t bring you directly converting traffic.”   To help you make informed guesses ahead of time, Rand has noticed that most sophisticated SEO’s judge keywords by four criteria:
  • Volume
  • Difficulty
  • Opportunity
  • Business Value
Based on these four, they then assign an aggregate priority score to ultimately rank the keywords and figure out which they should target first.   Here’s how I created my own version of his model:  

Volume

As rough and inaccurate it can be, Rand advocates using Keyword Planner to find keyword search volume.   “We’re in the process of evaluating other sources of data including SimilarWeb, which we think may have some really good data,” Rand said. “For now, Adwords is where I point people,”  

Difficulty

This estimates how difficult it would be for your page to rank for a given keyword.   “For that, you have to look at the top 10 results,” Rand said. “How powerful are the pages? How many links and how powerful are the links that point to these pages?”   While a more experienced SEO might actually dig through these pages to create a difficulty score themselves, I went straight to the Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool.   By accounting for the page and domain authority of the top twenty search results for any given keyword, Moz can give me a numeric value to tell me how likely it is that I could rank for that keyword.  

Opportunity

All SERPs are not created equal. For example, searching for “homebrew podcast” reveals a page with ten blue links and nothing else. As Rand explained, on pages such as these, the first result might get 45% of searchers clicking through to the page.   google 1   Compare that to the results for “growler,” which includes the Product Listing Ads at the top, a definition underneath, image results below the first result (a Wikipedia article), and Adwords ads at the bottom of the page (not shown in the picture below).   google 2 Even if your page ranks on the first page of a SERP like this one, your click-through rate (CTR) will be far lower than on a SERP like the one for “homebrew podcast.”   There’s no large scale tool to quantify this, but Rand did tip me off to a tool that Moz has created called Keyword Opportunity.   screenshot Described by Rand as an alpha product, there’s no CSV upload or download, so I ended up spending over an hour copy and pasting my keywords and transcribing the results in an Excel doc.   While in the future I’d likely outsource the task to Fiverr or Upwork, going through them manually taught me a lot about how Moz is calculating the opportunity score.   For the keyword “beer of the month,” the SERP includes nine Adwords ads, but the score remains a very high 81% (the higher the score, the larger the opportunity).   screenshot-1 Anyone who has advertised on Adwords knows how easily and often the ads are ignored. So if Startup X ranks as the first result, they’d still likely enjoy a high CTR on a SERP filled with Adwords ads like this. Sitelinks, on the other hand, immediately sinks the Keyword Opportunity score. Searching for “beer association” returns a first result with six sitelinks (“Insights & Analysis,” “State Craft Beer Stats,” etc.)   screenshot-2 Though you’re not bombarded with Adwords ads like with “beer of the month,” the keyword has a much lower opportunity score of 24% because those six sitelinks take up so much space and likely return an extremely high CTR for brewersassociation.org.   With the combination of those six site links and the Twitter section, this SERP only has room for six results.   Not much of a chance for Startup X to rank, and even if it did, its CTR would likely be very low.  

Business Value

“That’s the company’s internal estimate, from 1 to 10 or 1 to 100 for how important it is for that company to rank for that keyword,” Rand explained.  

Some factors to consider, according to Rand:

 
  • How directly someone will convert to becoming a customer by searching for that keyword
  • The value that keyword provides for a company
  • If it’s a branded keyword (like your company’s name), how important it is to your company to rank for that keyword
  I went through each keyword and assigned my estimate. Because I don’t have as much context as Startup X themselves to assign a score, I ended up scoring 1 through 3.   If it was a keyword that indicated that the searcher had a high level of interest in investigating or purchasing product like Startup X (such as “craft beer of the month club”), I assigned it a 3.   If the path to conversion looked less clear but it seemed to be a keyword that one of the three target personas would search for (such as “how to brew beer at home”), I assigned it a 2.   If the keyword had little to do with the target personas or was a more general beer term (such as “beer ingredients”), I assigned it a 1.   The next time around, I’ll likely do as Rand suggested and include a larger range like 1-10 because 1-3 didn’t quite give me enough variation.  

Priority Score

From these four scores, you create a fifth priority score.   From this Whiteboard Friday video in which Rand explores this topic further, it seems like experienced SEO’s consider each case individually and assign the score manually.   To create a provisional aggregate score, I threw the four criteria together in a quick and dirty equation:  

(Search Volume) x (Business Value) x (Opportunity Score) x (1 – (Keyword Difficulty))

  I subtracted the Keyword Difficulty from 1 because the lower the Keyword Difficulty, the better.   The idea here was that roughly each component would be weighted equally and the higher the score, the better.   This gave me a gigantic number, so I divided by 100 and rounded to whole numbers to make it a little easier to read.   Here’s a link to the spreadsheet format I used to evaluate my keywords.   (Note: Most keywords were removed on behalf of Startup X.)  

How did it work?

It certainly isn’t a perfect score, as I noticed that volume ended up having the biggest impact on the score.   So “IPA” has the highest priority score because it gets 90,500 searches when perhaps a more compelling keyword like “beer of the month club” ranks third despite also having a very high search volume of 22,200.   I ended up sorting by the various criteria and looking for the outliers to see what keywords looked like low hanging fruit. For example, I sorted by lowest keyword difficulty or lowest search volume and looked for keywords with an unusually high priority score. After sorting and resorting, I found about 20 keywords I thought were most relevant to Startup X.  

Conclusion:

  The process of selecting keywords is a lot like the keywords themselves. Much like there’s no one perfect keyword, there isn’t a cookie cutter method for everyone to follow. And the only way to know what works is to test out your educated guesses and see what works.   What I did learn was how to integrate keyword research into a broader goal of understanding customers by brainstorming niche topics related to a product and talking to customers directly.   I saw that following conversations about related topics on forums and digital media can yield new topics and keywords. Next time, I’ll likely look for these conversations on social media channels as well.   I found that the Table of Contents on Wikipedia and individual books can be valuable to better understand how others think about the product and related topics, and it seemed the most relevant for topic modeling and deciding site architecture.   I also learned to use the many ready-made tools that are available, such as SEMrush, Ubersuggest and Google Search Console.   And perhaps most importantly, I learned that the process of evaluating keywords is simultaneously art and science. Properly evaluating keywords is clearly something that an SEO gets more effective at with time, though the suite of Moz tools certainly helped me get started.   After going through this process, I found plenty of the type of keywords Startup X was looking for, those with just high enough search volume but low enough competition to be interesting. The next time you do keyword research, with these tips and tricks, hopefully you can too.