The Only SEO Strategy You Need (2018)

Looking for an SEO strategy that will actually increase your traffic in 2018?

You came to the right place.

I do have a warning for you though… This strategy isn’t easy, glamorous, or fast.

And that’s not even the bad news. The bad news is:

You will have to work hard to see results using this strategy.

Frightening, right?

Well, I know most people have left this guide by now because any sign of hard work will spook them.

But I also know you aren’t like most people because you’re still here!

Because you stuck around, I will tell you the good news:

Although this SEO strategy isn’t easy, it will increase your traffic and get you an amazing ROI in the long run. Why?

Because what you’re going to learn today is an evergreen SEO strategy.

That means your traffic and SEO results won’t be effected by silly algorithm updates.

Sound good?

All you need to do is follow what I show you, take action, and watch your traffic grow.

Let’s jump in.

4 Pillars of an Effective SEO Strategy

The best strategies are simple.

To paraphrase Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

That’s how we approached the development of our SEO strategy.

Through lots of testing, thought, and experience, we broke our SEO strategy down into four pillars:

  1. Please Your Users
  2. Satisfy Search Intent
  3. Build Your Web
  4. Optimize and Amplify

This strategy has helped us generate millions of new organic search visitors for our clients, niche sites, and Gotch SEO itself

Here are some recent examples of growth we’ve achieved with this strategy:

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You can see this type of growth if you follow this strategy and put in the work.

Sound good? Let’s begin.

Want to know what Google’s algorithm values more than anything else?

The searcher experience.

Google wants to serve its searchers the best results.

So, what defines a result as being “the best”?

First, it must fulfill the search intent behind the query.

Meaning, if someone is searching for a “buy backlinks”, they should see results that are about buying backlinks.

I know this seems elementary, but it’s critical to understand.

That’s why Pillar #2 is dedicated to understanding this.

But as you can imagine, simply satisfying search intent is not enough to rank well for your target keyword phrase.

The next piece of the puzzle is all about the quality of your page and website as a whole.

I’ll be explaining what it means to create a “quality” page in Pillar #2.

But, what I want to dig into right now is your website quality as a whole.

Listen:

You don’t have much time to make a first impression online.

In fact, according to Nielsen, the average website visitors will leave your page in less than 20 seconds.

Time magazine conducted their own research and found that most users leave within 15 seconds. So, if we take both of these studies, we can estimate that the average user will stay on your site for less than 20 seconds.

That means you need to do everything you can keep them on longer.

There are some exceptions to this rule (which I’ll be explaining in Pillar #2).

But for the most part, it is an intelligent objective to try to increase user dwell time on your website.

Here’s why:

Longer Dwell Time = More Conversions?

A longer dwell time implies that users are interested and engaged on your website.

Engaged users are more likely to convert into an email subscriber, lead, customer, or may even share your content on social media.

Longer Dwell Time = Positive User Signal

The positive side effects of increased dwell time on your business are obvious. But what many don’t realize, is that it can improve your SEO performance. When a user dwells on a single page for a long time or visits more than one page, it is positive signal.

Now, you’re probably thinking… How would Google have access to such information?

Simple.

If you have a Google Analytics script installed on your website, they are tracking user behavior.

If you are using Google Chrome, the browser is tracking your behavior.

If you are using any phone with Google technology, they are tracking your behavior.

But here’s the main takeaway:

Increase your page and website dwell time (exceptions to this rule in Pillar #2).

Now that you know why it’s important to increase dwell time, how do you actually do it?

That’s a good question and that is why I dedicate an entire Module to this process in our Gotch SEO Academy course. I won’t go into every single thing you can do in this article because it would insanely long.

But with that said, here are a few macro and micro changes you need to make to increase dwell and improve the experience on your website:

1. Become addicted to speed

Not the drug, but your website loading speed. It’s crazy how many websites still don’t take this seriously. You need to make it a priority to increase your website loading speed.

I honestly can’t think of anything more annoying than waiting for a page to load.

I usually battle through it, but most Internet users won’t.

They will bounce if your website is slow.

Use this resource from ConversionXL to increase your website loading speed.

2. Mobile. Friendly. Design.

I feel like a broken record, but please, for the love of God, make sure your website is mobile friendly. The majority of Google searches are done on mobile devices.

Although this does vary based on your sector (for example, many B2B searches are on desktop), there’s no good reason to not have a mobile-friendly design.

My one recommendation is to make sure your mobile design is responsive.

Don’t create a separate mobile website because this will steal authority and link equity from your primary domain.

Read this to learn how to transition to a responsive, mobile design.

3. Build a Fluid Site Architecture

Your site architecture should be built for users. Not for search engines.

Here’s the weird part:

Your site architecture will be effective for search engines when you build it with user experience as the priority.

An “effective” site architecture will do three things:

1. It helps users seamlessly move through your website. The keyword here is “seamlessly”. That means your navigation and architecture should be simple. If your user has to think about or try to figure out what to do next, you have lost. They shouldn’t have to think when moving through your website.

2. It helps search engines discover and index all the pages on your website. Search engine crawlers should have the same ease of movement as a real user. This is possible when your architecture is built well.

3. It helps build your overall website authority. Your website authority is one of the most important factors for ranking well in Google. Building an well-thought out architecture can flow link equity and authority to your most important pages.

Plus, a effective site architecture will spread precious link equity through your entire site.

This builds your OVERALL site authority.

This quote (often attributed to JFK) explains this concept well: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Or from an SEO perspective, “a rising website authority lifts all pages”.

Check out this resource from ConversionXL and this one from Search Engine Land to improve your site architecture.

4. Fix Micro Technical Issues

If you increase your site loading speed, develop a beautiful mobile-friendly design, and structure your website for users, you will see a positive impact on your SEO performance.

Focus on these big three first.

Then, after that, you should target some of the micro issues that may hurt user experience on your website such as:

  • Broken links and 404 errors
  • Redirect issues
  • Duplicate content
  • Thin content

Each of these issues can be identified by doing an SEO audit.

Now that you understand the importance of pleasing your users, let me you Pillar #2 in this SEO strategy.

Understanding how to satisfy search intent is a fundamental SEO skill.

In fact:

You could have Stephen King write an article for you and it still wouldn’t rank if you don’t properly satisfy search intent.

That’s how important it is.

Not only that, what you’re about to learn will dispel the generic advice that every page you want to rank in Google “needs at least 1,800 words!”…

Slapping ~1,800 words on a page isn’t how you rank in Google.

In fact, a page with a high word count is practically worthless if it doesn’t satisfy search intent. And no, it won’t matter how backlinks you get either (if you get search intent wrong).

So, what do I mean by “satisfy” search intent?

Let me break it down.

The first step to satisfying search intent is to pick a keyword phrase to target.

Here are five ways to find keywords:

1. Use the Google Keyword Planner

Google has recently changed how you can use the Google Keyword Planner. Before, everyone who signed up could see the search volume for keywords. Now, it only shows estimates. There is a way to get around this. You need to create a Google Adwords campaign. The amount you spend doesn’t matter. After you do that, you will regain access to the search volume.

With that out of the way, here are the steps you need to take to find keywords using Google’s Keyword Planner.

Click on “Tools” and then click on “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category:

Enter an idea you have into the box. For the example, I’ll be using the keyword “how to use creatine”:

After you’ve entered your keyword, go down and click “Get Ideas”

Click on the “Keyword Ideas” tab.

Scroll down and scan through the keyword ideas. Copy any ideas that are relevant to what your website is trying to achieve.

In my example, I would copy “creatine reviews”, “creatine loading”, “does creatine work”, and “creatine ethyl ester”.

All you are trying to do right now is find ideas. You will validate ideas through the competitor analysis tactics I’ll show you later in this guide.

But for now, list all ideas you come across.

2. Use UberSuggest

UberSuggest is one of my favorite tools for finding content ideas. It’s also a perfect alternative to using Google’s Keyword Planner if you don’t want to go through the trouble of creating an Adwords account. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Go to UberSuggest and enter a keyword idea:

2. Scroll down and export the keyword ideas (and add them to your master list):

You can also take this list and run it through Google Keyword Planner to see the search volume. Be careful not to chase search volume. Not every good content idea will have corresponding search volume. Use your best judgment.

3. Use SEMRush

SEMRush is great for extracting keywords and content ideas from your competitors. Here’s how you to do it:

1. Go to SEMRush.com and enter a competitor’s URL

2. Click on “Organic Research” and “Positions”, scroll down to “Organic Search Positions”, and sort by “Pos.” to find long tail keywords they are ranking well for:

Add these ideas to your master list.

4. Use Forums

Forums are a goldmine for finding qualified content ideas. That’s because you have real people asking real questions. Here’s how to find content ideas using forums:

1. Go to Google and search “your niche + forums”

Click into one of the categories and examine the threads. Right away, I’m able to find some great content ideas:

Dig through all the forums you can find and add all content ideas to your master list.

5. Use Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a neglected tool, but it can be a treasure chest of content ideas. Keep in mind that this is only an effective tactic if you are already getting traffic. Otherwise, there won’t be any data for you to extract. With that said, here’s what you need to do:

Go to Google Search Console and the “Search Traffic” section and click on “Search Analytics”

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Checkmark “Position” and scroll down and click show 500 rows. Scroll back up and sort the list so that the lowest ranked keyword is at the top

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Now that you know a few methods for finding keywords, the next step is validate those keywords.

The first step is to perform a Quick Competitor Analysis.

Here’s are the first two steps:

  • Install the Moz toolbar
  • Copy your target keyword and enter it into Google.com

For the example below, I’ll use “how to use creatine” as the keyword again.

Checkpoint #1: are there are any websites ranking that have a DA below 50?

If you see websites with DA 50 or below, then it’s likely an uncompetitive keyword. There are three websites that have less than 50 DA in our example below. This a good sign.

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Checkpoint #2: are there big brands ranking for this keyword?

Look for Amazon, Wikipedia, ESPN, etc. These authority sites aren’t impossible to beat, but it is more challenging. The one advantage you have is that your content will be more keyword-focused. Big brands rank completely based on their site’s authority. Not because of an awesome piece of content.

In our example, the biggest authority websites are Men’s Health, Bodybuilding.com, and Men’s fitness. Notice that there are three bodybuilding.com results. This is a sign that they are ranking because of their site authority. Not because of the depth or quality of their content.

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Checkpoint #3: are there any pdfs, Q&A sites (yahoo answers, quora), forums, web 2.0s, press releases, Ezine articles, Hubpages, or ehow pages ranking?

These types of pages are a good sign that the keyword is uncompetitive.

In our example, there is a YouTube video ranking. You can usually outrank YouTube with a quality, text-heavy content asset.

qca-3-min

If the target keyword passes these checkpoints, then it’s time to move onto the Deep Analysis.

Deep Competitor Analysis

You will need a few tools for what I’m about to show you:

Here’s how you do it:

1. Go to Google and enter your prospective keyword.

For this example, I’m going to use “how to gain weight for women”. Export the top 10 results using the Moz Toolbar and open up the file.

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2. Copy the titles, landing page URLs, PA, and DA and paste it into the sheet.

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3. Go to Ahrefs, “Tools”, and click on “Batch Analysis”. Enter your URLs and make sure you select “URL” from the dropdown.

4. Export the report.

5. Copy and paste Referring Domains into the “RDs” column.

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6. Copy and paste the Google +, Facebook, and LinkedIn shares into their appropriate columns.

7. Use this tool to gather the site age of each competitor and paste the results into the sheet.

8. Use this tool to get the word count for each target page

9. The next step is to manually analyze each competitor’s ranking page.

First, analyze how well they are leveraging media in their content. “Media” includes images, videos, infographics, templates, etc. Make notes in the column for each competitor.

In this example, the #1 ranking page has images, but it doesn’t have video. So, in the competitor analysis template, you should write “No videos” under the “M” column.

10. Now you want to analyze the quantity of outbound links.

Quality outbound links improve the trust and quality of content. If a competitor is ranking without using outbound links, it becomes a leverage point for you.

The #1 results for our target search phrase has 0 outbound links.

11. Now you need to analyze how well the competitor’s page is optimized for the specific seed keyword.

Google will always value the most relevant page for a search query. As I mentioned earlier, pages will rank because of their site’s authority, not because of their keyword targeting (or content quality). A good example is the #1 ranking page in the example template.

Both their title: “20 Proven Tips for Skinny Girls to Gain Healthy Weight” and URL: “http://livingfit.co/20-proven-tips-for-skinny-girls-to-gain-weight/” are not optimized well for the keyword “how to gain weight for women”.

So, under the “KW Targeting Quality” you would give this page a score of around 3. That’s because you can create a page that is better targeted and more optimized.

12. Next, you want to look at is the timeliness of the content.

If the content is outdated, then put an “N” for “No” in the “Timeliness” column. In the example, fundamentals for losing weight don’t change, so I have to put “Y” for timeliness.

13. The next element you need to judge is the design of the content.

Is it easy to digest? Are there distracting elements that take away from the content?

The #1 ranking page in our example has advertisements above the fold.

This is something Google’s Panda algorithm doesn’t like. That’s because it pushes content further down the page. This hurts the searcher experience.

There are a few other advertisements within the content and at the end, but they likely don’t negatively impact UX. The content itself is well-formatted, but it’s not great.

Good for Ad CTR, but bad for UX.
Good for Ad CTR, but bad for UX.

14. The last element of the target page you need to analyze is the thoroughness of the content.

Can you expand on the content? Can you inject case studies and research to improve the quality of the arguments?

There is room for improvement in the example. In this case, I would give it a 6/10.

15. After you have entered these details into the template, you need to average out the columns.

The reason for doing this is because it creates a baseline and goal for you. For example, if the average word count is 2,000, then you know you need to exceed that. If the average linking root domains are 15, then you know you need a comparable amount to get to the first page. Of course, the quality of links can alter this, but you get the point.

Click to Expand
Click to Expand

This is a comprehensive approach, but it’s necessary for understanding your competition. Let your competitors benchmarks guide you.

Based on the averages from this example, this is a valid keyword to go after.

Repeat this process for every keyword that passes the Quick Competitor Analysis.

Once you have narrow your list, you need to do a Deep Competitor Analysis.

So, at this stage, you are ready to create a page around whatever keyword phrase you qualified.

Before you write a single word you must establish the intent behind the keyword phrase.

Here’s the good news:

It’s easy to figure out how to satisfy search intent.

Just examine the top 10 results for your target keyword.

What TYPES of pages are ranking?

Let me give you a few examples.

Keyword example #1: “backlinks”

In this example, “backlinks” can be classified in two searcher intent categories: problem awareness and buying. When someone searches “backlinks”, they are either A) trying to learn more about backlinks because they know how important they are to SEO or B) they are looking to buy backlinks.

So, what do you do in a situation like this?

You should analyze the pages that are currently ranking. If the majority of pages are educational-based content, then you should take a similar approach.

Keyword example #2: “SEO checker”

In this example, the intent behind “SEO checker” will not require a long-form piece of content. Why? Because the searcher is clearly looking for a tool to solve their problem.

They aren’t looking for information at this stage. That’s why when you search “SEO checker”, you will notice that the majority of the results are tools.

Keyword example #3: “citation building service”

In this example, whoever is searching for a “citation building service” is clearly at the buying stage. It wouldn’t make sense to try to educate this person with a long-form piece of content.

This is the main point:

Analyze the competitors and see how they are fulfilling searcher intent for your target keyword. Follow the same strategy or there’s a good chance your page won’t rank well.

Now I want to tell you a quick story that will help solidify this point even further.

This story is an example of what can go wrong if you don’t satisfy search intent.

Let me start by saying that I am a practitioner first and a teacher second.

Meaning, I like to actually DO, learn, fail, and succeed in a skill before I ever attempt to show anyone else.

Being a practitioner (and not guru who pretends to know skills), I have had many failed experiments in my five years in being in business. But one failure that stands out and is relevant, is when I attempted to rank for the keyword “SEO agency”.

Not “city + SEO agency”…

Just straight up “SEO agency” on the national level.

Here’s what I didn’t consider when I created this page:

1. Search intent

The intent behind “SEO agency” is obvious… The searcher is looking for an SEO agency. Most of these searchers aren’t looking for life lessons from an SEO agency owner. Instead, they are just looking for the best SEO agency to get them more traffic and customers from Google. Plain and simple. I knew this when I created that page, but my SEO ego was too big.

2. How big my SEO ego was

Because my company has had a lot of success in SEO, I believed that search intent wouldn’t apply to me. I would just “create a better page” and push that page up with backlinks.

But the truth hit me hard in this case:

Although my article is helpful for the right audience, it ISN’T helpful for that keyword phrase. It doesn’t satisfy search intent.

This taught me an important lesson:

Just because you’ve had success, doesn’t mean you will always be successful in everything that you do.

3. Geo-targeted results

The final element I didn’t take into account was geo-targeted results. When you search “SEO agency”, Google will show you a combination of national companies AND local companies (based on your location/IP). This makes ranking for this keyword phrase even more challenging on the national level.

So, why am I highlighting a failure of mine?

Because it demonstrates how important it is to understand search intent.

The good news is that you won’t have to make the same mistake I did.

But, you be wondering:

Why is my article targeting “SEO agency” still live?

Because it’s a helpful article for those involved in client SEO.

Just because a page doesn’t perform well in Google, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have utility for other reasons.

So, at this stage, you understand how to satisfy search intent.

Now, let me show you how to actually create these pages.

There are only two types of content to create from an SEO perspective:

  1. Keyword Targeted Content
  2. Link Bait

Creating keyword-targeted content assets should be the focus for most websites. Here are two keyword targeting strategies I like to use:

2 Keyword Targeting Strategies That Work

There are three keyword targeting strategies that work well:

  1. Long tail assault
  2. Body keyword focus

Long Tail Assault

Long Tail Assault is when you create content assets around long-tail keywords. Then you focus on building the authority of your website. As your site authority grows, so will the rankings of your long tail keywords.

Long Tail Assault
Create a Content Asset for Each Long-Tail Keyword

The Long Tail Assault strategy is dangerous when used wrong. That’s because of thin content. You need to avoid creating thin content because A) it won’t rank and B) Google’s Panda algorithm hates it.

Body Keyword Focus

Body Keyword Focus is when you create a content asset that focuses on a higher search volume keyword. The difference is that you won’t create individual pages for each long-tail variation. Instead, you will create one master page. This master page will attempt to rank for the seed keyword and other relevant long-tails.

For example, you would create a page targeting the seed keyword phrase: “how to use creatine”. Within the content, you will want to inject relevant long-tail and LSI keywords such as: “is creatine dangerous for teens”, “what is the best time to use creatine”, or “where can I buy creatine”.

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This my favorite approach because you can focus all your effort on creating an incredible content asset. Then, you can spend the rest of your time promoting it.

Another great element of this strategy is that you can improve and update that keyword-target content asset. No content asset is perfect after you publish it. There is always room for improvement.

Now that you know two effective keyword targeting strategies, let me explain how to create content assets that actually perform well in Google.

How to Create SEO Content

After you have identified your target keywords, you need to create a page targeting that keyword. This is known as SEO content. In many cases, it makes sense to publish a blog post targeting keywords. However, you need to make decisions based on the search intent. If your target keyword phrase is “buy black Nike shoes”, then it doesn’t make sense to create a long-form piece of content.

 

Give the searcher what they want!

It sounds easy, but unfortunately, many people do not succeed.

Why?

Because they aren’t using the right strategy. There are two ways to create keyword-targeted content assets:

  1. Create a content asset/page that is BETTER than what is currently on the 1st page of Google for your target keyword
  2. Create a content asset/page that is DIFFERENT than what is currently on the 1st page of Google for your target keyword

Combining both tactics will get you the best results.

Let’s dive into these two strategies deeper.

What does it mean to create a content asset/page that is BETTER?
When I say your content should be “BETTER”, I mean 10x better. For example, if the average word length of the top 10 ranking pages is 2,000 words, then you should double that amount and produce a 4,000-word beast.

Writing a longer content is only the first step. To take your content to another level, you should inject video, audio, case studies, stories, helpful external links, and make sure your content is readable by using bullet points, numbered lists, and breaking up paragraphs.

A good place to start to understand this concept is with Brian’s Skyscraper Technique.

What does it mean to create a content asset/page that is DIFFERENT?
This technique is best when the first page is littered with strong content.

If every ranking page is super comprehensive, evergreen, and up-to-date, you will need to take a different angle on the topic/keyword.

Your content will need to be radically different than what is ranking.

That’s because regurgitating great content won’t get you anywhere. The only way to beat great content is to do something totally different.

For example, let’s say you wanted to rank for the keyword phrase “how to use creatine?”

Go to Google and enter the phrase. Within seconds you will see that the first page is littered with “how to’s” and guides:

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This is what you would expect for this type of keyword phrase. Notice how much the video stands out for this search query. Although it’s ranking #6, it likely gets a great SERP click through rate because it’s different.

So, if you want to rank for this keyword phrase, you could create an infographic, interactive infographic, expert roundup, or even a case study. Anything DIFFERENT will be impactful.

80/20 Strategy

The two rules above apply to keyword-targeted content assets. But does this mean that every single piece of content on your site needs to be keyword-targeted?

No. This is why I recommend the 80/20 strategy for your content.

80% of your content should be keyword-targeted and 20% of your content isn’t.

Keep in mind: your goal for creating content assets should always be to attract backlinks.

Always ask yourself: “does this content asset DESERVE backlinks?”

So, now you’re likely wondering: what type of content do I create for the other 20%?

Link Bait 101

The other 20% of your content creation should focus on link bait. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few content types you should consider:

Lazy Man Method

The “Lazy Man Method” is when you leverage resources that already exist. The best example is a curated guide. A curated guide is nothing more than a list of valuable resources.

Curated guides can come in many shapes and forms, but content roundups are most common.

Here are some examples for inspiration:

Another type of curated guide involves recycling yours and other bloggers content assets.

A great example of this is Brian Dean’s link building guide. As you will see, Brian links to quality resources, but he also links to resources on his own site.

Reverse Engineering Successful Content

Fortunately, with tools like Buzzsumo and Ahrefs, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can use these tools to find what content has performed best for your competition. Then you can create something better.

Unique Names for Strategies

Have you ever read my article about “The Merger Technique“? I created this phrase knowing that it would have no competition in the SERPs. If you do this right, people will end up searching for your unique phrase in Google. Also, it makes your content more linkable.

For example, let’s say someone wants to link to Brian Dean’s “Skyscraper Technique” guide. It’s much easier to say: “see Backlinko’s Skyscraper technique for more information” instead of “see Backlinko’s article that explains how to find content that has already performed well and create a similar piece of content that is 10x better.”

Which one is more click-worthy and enticing?

Results

People love reading about results. That’s because it’s one of the best ways to learn. You can read information all day, but results show you the practical application of the information. Create content showing real life results. It’s easy in my industry because results are all that matter. But this can work in other industries as well. Here are some non-marketing examples:

Case Studies

Results and case studies go hand-in-hand. One way case studies can differ is that they don’t always need positive outcomes. The key to creating an effective case study is to make it as detailed as possible. Here are some examples:

Infographics

Infographics are one of the best forms of link bait. They are overused in the marketing industry, but there are still opportunities in other industries. Here are some great infographics for inspiration:

Expert Roundups

Expert roundups have been abused in the Internet Marketing industry, but they are effective for several reasons. First, you don’t have to create any content. The “experts” create all the content. Second, it is ego bait. Meaning, anyone who participated in the roundup will likely share it with their audience. Last, it is a great way to build relationships with influencers.

Here are some examples:

Helpful Applications or Tools

Any type of application or tool that makes people’s lives easier can attract backlinks. Some examples include Moz’s Open Site Explorer, Asana, and Google.com (I’m Captain Obvious).

There are many other content types, but these are a great place to start.

Now you know what types of content perform well, but what now?

How to Optimize Your Content Assets

A good asset can perform well in Google without lots of optimization. But it will perform even better if you optimize it well. I’m not going to complicate this step.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Place your keyword in the title (frontload it if makes sense)
  • Place your keyword in the first sentence, first heading tag, and last sentence of the content
  • Write naturally and try to keep your keyword density between 1-3%
  • Inject LSI keywords where it makes sense

Now that you understand how to please your users, how to satisfy search intent, and how to create content, it’s time to move onto Pillar #3 in this SEO strategy.

Backlinks are still one of the most important factors for ranking in Google.

You can get SEO results by executing Pillar #1 and Pillar #2 well, but backlinks are fuel on the fire.

Doing the first two pillars well will make the entire link acquisition process easier.

Why?

First, it’s easier to promote valuable content assets.

Second, because your website is built the right way, you won’t need as many backlinks to rank.

I say this all the time, but here it is again:

You should do everything in your power to rank and drive organic search traffic without needing backlinks.

Backlinks are FUEL on the fire.

However, in most cases, you will need backlinks to rank.

Here are a few principles you need to follow for effective (and safe) link acquisition:

Relevancy is King

Your efforts should focus on the acquisition of relevant backlinks. This is why I recommend you use the Relevancy Pyramid to qualify link opportunities.

Authority is Queen

Relevancy is the first qualifier of a quality link opportunity. The next qualifying factor is the authority of the opportunity. Since Google doesn’t update PageRank (PR) anymore, you must rely on third party metrics. I recommend you use Domain Authority (DA) from Open Site Explorer, Domain Rate (DR) from Ahrefs, or Trust Flow from Majestic to determine the quality of your link opportunities. You should use all three tools if you can.

Contextual Links Are Best

There are different types of backlinks you can get, but none are more powerful than contextual backlinks. Getting contextual links on relevant websites is a time-consuming process. Our blogger outreach service can help you save time.

Anchor Text Matters

You can get all three of the factors above correct, but you will still see little results if you get your anchor text wrong.

You Need Relationships

Acquiring quality backlinks involves outreach and relationship building. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Here are some great guides to help you with outreach:

Now, let’s move onto the final pillar in this SEO strategy.

Executing the first three pillars well is more than enough to see SEO results. Pillar #4 is designed to take your SEO game to another level.

The first piece is to remember this important point:

Sending more traffic to a website won’t fix conversion issues.

You need to make sure your website is built to convert all of your new organic search traffic.

The reason is simple:

The majority of your website visitors will never return.

That’s why you need to have systems in place to convert as many as possible.

You also need to consider that most new website visitors are NOT ready to buy.

Knowing this, your two primary conversion vehicles should be to build retargeting lists and to convert visitors into email subscribers.

Building retargeting lists is the easiest thing you can do. Even if you don’t have any intention to pay for advertising at this moment, you should still build retargeting lists. Retargeting lists are ASSETS for your business.

Having the ability to remarket to relevant prospects at any time is powerful.

At the very minimum, you should install a Facebook Pixel on your website and create a Custom Audience for all your website visitors.

The second conversion method you should use is converting visitors to email subscribers.

Email marketing is the single best way to build trust and rapport with prospects. Since most visitors aren’t ready to buy, it’s important to get them on your list. Then, you can nurture them and hopefully, turn them into a buyer.

The best way to get people on your email list is to offer free value. This can come in the form of a course, tool, template, checklist, etc. Anything that adds value can work as a lead magnet for getting new email subscribers.

That’s all I’ll talk as far as conversions because it’s a deep topic. But for now, start building retargeting lists and start trying to convert your visitors into email subscribers.

So, that is an SEO strategy at a 30,000-foot view. This guide could be well over 10,000 words, but I’ll save some of the nitty gritty details for future posts.

Do you want your business to make more money without any new traffic?

Join our new SEO 101 course. It’s free to enroll.

Comments

    1. Thanks for the comment! The strategy is easy to understand, but good agencies know how to implement these strategies. Many businesses owners/businesses doesn’t have the time or resources to DIY

  1. Thanks for the excellent post. I have got stuck on the second page so far for one of my sites. I hope your advice brings it to the top page of Google soon!

  2. I’ve heard that if you have to spend a decent amount on an AdWords campaign to get the accurate volume data back, and that a “lower monthly spend” will still have a volume range. I haven’t tested myself.

    However, you can create an AdWords manager account, and you should all the precise keyword volume numbers back, without spending any money.

    1. Hey Jeffrey,

      Interesting. Yeah, we see exact search volume in our Google Keyword Planner right now because we have a few campaigns running

  3. Brilliant post.

    It’s taken a little time to fully digest your methods but was definitely worth the read as always.

    Appreciate the other tactics on keyword research especially since the keyword planner has somewhat changed.

    Thanks again Nathan!

  4. Nathan, you’ve set the standard very high with this post. Just fixed it to the limited available real estate space on my chrome favorites bar as a go to reference. Must have taken an eternity to put this resource together? I’m having some great success in Google UK using super sized articles focusing on keeping the humming bird happy with q and a type content…sometimes 4000+words but no where near the quality of this piece.

  5. Hey Nathan, thanks ever so much for the efforts you’ve put into this post and the others. I couldn’t agree more about relevancy being king. With all our outreach and link building activities this and the quality of the source is our number 1 focus… before we obtain a single link for a clients site or project we’re working on.

  6. Hi Nathan,

    Book marked! Another great piece

    One thing that’s confused me is “try to keep your keyword density between 1-3%”

    Do you mean individual words? as you 2 word keyword here is way below 1%

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hey John,

      Thanks for the comment! 1-3% for your target keyword phrase. For example, if my target keyword phrase is “how to build backlinks”, I wouldn’t go above 3% density on that page.

  7. Hi Nathan, the world of SEO is continuously changing at rapid speed, so what new things, strategies should we prepare for 2017 in digital marketing?

  8. Fantastic article Nathan!

    I have a question for you. With outreaching becoming more intense lately, how would strategize your next email to the same person after sending your first email?

    1. Hey Udit,

      Thanks for the comment. A simple follow up email asking them if they received your last email works well. Just make sure some time has passed since the last email

  9. This is such an all inclusive strategy for healthy white hat SEO. I particularly like all the ways you list the ways to generate content, and they’re all pretty simple. It’s full of simple strategies, but they do work if you’re willing to put in the time. Thanks for the great post!

  10. Wow Nathan!

    This is a very extensive and well researched article. Thank you for sharing.

    I have slacked on my blog when it comes to use of keywords.

    I have bookmarked this page to keep coming back to.

  11. Hii, gothem
    I recently started follow your blog to learn various seo tatics. Great post. Started applying your method for my site seo optimisation. Thank you again for such great content site.

  12. keyword density between 1-3%:
    If your competitor is 3% should you try to match or have a higher keyword density? I always try to keep mine between 0.8-1.3% unless my competitors are higher. Want to stay away from google penalty.

    1. Hey Dennis,

      Thanks for the comment. Just place your keywords in the most important locations on the page and write naturally.

  13. UX design is one of the most important part of a site. If people like the interface of the site or if the like the writing pattern of blogs, they will usually come again. I thing so! By the way I liked your ‘Reach Out to Bloggers Mentioned’ strategy. 😛 😛 Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  14. I Have just completed a seo course which i understand but this has just answered all the questions that i had which they didn’t answer.

    Signed up to mailing list

    Great Post

  15. Wonderful article, well detailed and amusing to read.
    It was very helpful to me. I thank you very much for the info and the hard work you’ve put into writing it.

  16. Nathan,
    I have been reading, learning and applying many SEO techniques and you have always been the best read. Your articles are so easy to follow and so detailed that nothing is being missed out.

    I have seen great improvements in my SEO skills and great impact of that on my projects and your content and helped a lots

    Thank you so much!!

  17. Hi,

    This is indeed an interesting post. I really enjoyed reading every bit of this post. Seo is indeed a vast topic and every time I visit here I tend to get useful info.

    Thanks for share

  18. I suddenly stumbled upon this post but i really found it beneficial. Also, I had been using the strategy for long time and it really works.

  19. how to increase organic traffic on website. i have done all things to increase traffic on website but i have no result. what is the actual strategy to increase organic traffic on website

  20. Thank you very much for sharing these insights Nathan. The section on ‘long tail assault and LSI was really outstanding for me. This just improved my confidence around making plan for 1 – 5 related keywords in each 2000+ words content i write.

  21. Absolutely brilliant post Nathan. It’s really a Wow content. All points are logically described. I use content repurposing technique to attract inbound links and it helped me a lot to acquire lots of good links. I heard that Brian Dean’s SkyScraper technique is really good though I haven’t worked on that.
    I have one question for you. Will you recommend a landing page with around 4,000 words? Will it be a UX issue in general?

  22. hi nathan ,

    we interest in gotchseo academy,
    we got your email that will enrollment in january 2018, but when we click , still not open

    we hope you can help with this

    thank you

  23. Hi Nathan,
    I have always believed in your strategy and am trying to follow this only. If one can find some keywords and try to create content which is better than what the search results presently show, and also talks about little more or is little more in depth, than I am sure it would get some standing in search engine pages even if the page has not yet got any or much of backlinks.

    I always enjoy reading your posts and thanks for posting such detailed and informative blog posts which outline things to do or SEO strategies in such great and minute details and also are a step by step guides. Thanks again. All the best.

  24. This is a very nice in-depth post on the content strategy that I am also working on applying.
    The only question I have is, how does this work for a brand new site? Is there any difference in implementation? How fast would you see results?
    I read about Google filtering out 99 percent of the traffic in the first few months.

    1. Hey Peter,

      It can definitely work for a new website, but I would focus most of your effort on developing content assets in the beginning. Building backlinks with a new website can cause some issues

  25. Nathan, great article!

    The foundation of everything you’re saying makes complete sense. But I wonder how you would apply it to e-commerce, when the pages you want ranked are categories and subcategories. Would you add content to those pages? They don’t seem like “assets.” Or would you create content assets associated to your niche hoping to catch people further back in the buying funnel/build your domain authority?

    Cheers,

    Kevin

    1. Hey Kevin,

      Good question and thanks for the comment. That’s when understanding search intent comes into play. You should model the first page (but create more valuable pages)

  26. Great post Nathan, i got lot of valuable information about keyword research which will help me a lot. Although overall content is great.
    I can say in a word”a store or valuable information “.

  27. It one of the impressive article I have read from this blog. As a marketer my main aim is getting organic traffic for my blog. And from the article I got some important strategies which I’m surely going to implement on my blog. Thanks for such impressive article.

  28. Such intelligent work on the subject and ideal way of writing here. I am really impressed! This post is a helpful overview of the particular topic and very actionable. Interesting approach!

  29. Informative post! You saved my time. This article is very helpful for readers. I enjoyed, while reading your article. Thank you so much for sharing this content.

  30. Hi Mr. Nathan,
    Previously i was part of one of good article about backlinks strategic and now you shown you skills on seo tips which is very good and helpful even for those who just setup website and blog. thanks for sharing article.

  31. Retargeting lists are something I don’t see being talked about enough. If you’re not collecting emails and Facebook pixel – get started now!

    Google is also developing customer insights in this space.

    Traffic that is already familiar with what you do is the cheapest, highest quality traffic you’ll get.

    Cheers for the great read Nathan – keep up the good work!

  32. Thanks for the awesome guide. So many huge key points that will shift the way most people do SEO.

    I totally agree, google wants users to be happy and actually get the best results they possibility can, that’s why they put so much stress on user experience.

  33. hey, Nathan I read some of your posts and after reading one post on your site I bookmark your blog thanks for sharing such a wonderful content and from now I am your regular reader because I want to learn seo and how to make backlinks.

  34. Very detailed article. Enjoyed reading this a lot, and I couldn’t agree more with you that User Intent is very important, especially in 2018.

  35. GREAT Article Nathan. I didn’t know can use UberSuggest this way. my knowledge got a complete refresh with this article. thanks for posting a great content.

  36. Great article. I have to have Majestic, SEMRush, and Ahrefs personally. SEMRush beats Ahrefs on a lot of things and vice versa imo.

  37. Hi Nathan Gotch,

    This one is really a great post to understand about SEO strategy. SEO has change as Google release some update & webmater look for latest SEO strategy to understand the latest SEO level.

    This post is really great to understand about SEO Strategy.

  38. Hi
    At present I have the website. the main keyword (grass artificial) at the time it was top 1 to top 5 and recently google updated the keyword and the keyword has dropped to page 2. I do not understand why it is so thanks for you help me sincerely thanks.
    Recently I watched your post a lot of great posts

  39. Hi, thank you for the detailed article. There is an event in my city that talks about a website development strategy called “entity building”, hoping he will publish a detailed article on this strategy. Thank you

  40. GOTCH SEO is the place to go. I will frequent this site to gather more information from you. I want to increase my traffic. Get intouch too. Thank you Nathan Gotch.

  41. There are many strategies which we have to follow during SEO but from my point of view the content plays a vital role the content should be unique if the content is unique we can gain a maximum potential customers and it will also help in increase in website traffic.

  42. Awesome guide. I am a new 🐝 in SEO. This has given me the strategies that I needed. Thanks and God bless you Nathan.

  43. Hi,
    Nathan Koch
    Really great SEO strategies in 2018. Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work.
    Cheers
    – Jatin

  44. hi Nathan Gotch
    Its totally effective and impressive information . its really helped me alot . Thankyou for sharing such a informative post. Good luck

  45. Very informative post. A very strong strategy is discussed here, especially the method that explains about analyzing the competitors. Thanks for sharing Nathan.

  46. Hello and thank you for awesome content!

    I’m thinking about making a site about a niche that isnt that big yet, but I’m pretty sure it will be. Do you think I should go for it? Was thinking that I will have an advantage if I start it early and I will also get a good domainname.

    Thanks!
    /Lorentz

  47. On checkpoint 3, you say “You can usually outrank YouTube with a quality, text-heavy content asset.”

    I thought that when you see a YT video, that spot is usually reserved for a video and you can only replace that spot with another video!!

    Is that not the case? Please clarify. Thanks!

    1. Hey Belinda,

      Thanks for the comment! No that’s not the case. You can rank above the YouTube video with a page on your website (or you can rank your own YouTube video to get more real estate on the 1st page)

  48. Thanks for sharing this really wonderful article about SEO Strategy. I was looking to know some cool SEO Strategy for my SEO project & I found this SEO Strategy post which really helps me a lot.

  49. Hello Nathan Gotch,

    The whole article was great and i got a lot of information about SEO strategies. I will definitely employ them.

  50. This has to be the most actionable guide I’ve found on keyword research & planning.

    I had a couple questions / comments on the article as well:

    1. It looks like Ahrefs only exports out FB Shares in the Batch Analysis now.

    2. I wasn’t able to find out what “LQ” is for in the Competitor Analysis Template, I’m sure it’s something dumb that I’m missing.

    Thanks for the great content!

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