Using a tested and battled-hardened SEO strategy will make your life easier.
That’s exactly the type of strategy I’m going to show you right now.
This strategy isn’t easy. It isn’t glamorous. And it isn’t quick.
It requires hard work, dedication, and long-term vision.
If you are up for the challenge and want long-term growth for your business, then keep reading.
An SEO Strategy That Actually Works
The best strategies are simple. To paraphrase Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” That’s exactly 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:
- Find Keywords That You Can Actually Rank For
- Create Content Assets About Your Keywords
- Promote Your Content Assets
- Make Sure Users Love Your Website
This strategy has helped us generate millions of new organic search visitors for our clients, niche sites, and Gotch SEO.
Here are some recent examples of growth we’ve achieved with this strategy:
You can see this type of growth if you follow this strategy and put in the work.
Sound good? Let's begin.
Step #1: Find Keywords That You Can Actually Rank For
There are countless ways to find keywords and content ideas. In fact, I show over 35 different ways to find ideas within Gotch SEO Academy, our SEO training course. But for now, let me show you a few of my favorite tactics:
5 Ways to Find Keywords
1. 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.
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. Click "View as Text" to copy relevant keywords:
3. Highlight 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. SEM Rush
SEM Rush 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", and scroll down to “Organic Search Positions”
3. Sort by “Pos.” to find long tail keywords they are ranking well for
Add these ideas to your master list.
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”
Take note of the categories.
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. 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”
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
Alright, so now you know how to find keywords and content ideas, but what's next?
Finding ideas is only the first. The next step is to qualify those ideas to make sure that your website is capable of ranking for them.
Targeting the right keywords is half the SEO battle. If you go after the wrong keywords, then you likely won't see an ROI.
So, what do I mean when I say "find keywords that you can actually rank for?"
This means targeting keywords that your website is capable of ranking for. How do you determine this?
You have to measure your website relative to the competition for each target keyword.
Competitor Analysis / Keyword Validation
There are two ways to analyze competitors for SEO:
- Quick Analysis
- Deep Analysis
The Quick Analysis should take no more than a few minutes. Only move onto the Deep Analysis when a keyword has passed the Quick Analysis.
Quick Competitor Analysis
Here is how you perform a quick competitor analysis:
- Install the Moz toolbar
- Copy the 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.
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.
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.
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:
- Moz Toolbar
- Ahrefs, Majestic, or Open Site Explorer
- This competitor analysis template
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.
2. Copy the titles, landing page URLs, PA, and DA and paste it into the sheet.
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.
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 User Experience (UX). 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.
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.
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.
Now that you understand how to analyze your SEO competitors, it's time to select a keyword targeting strategy.
2 Keyword Targeting Strategies
There are three keyword targeting strategies that work well:
- Long tail assault
- 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.
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".
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.
Step #2: Create Content Assets
After you have identified your target keywords, you need to create content assets. What is a content "asset"? It's a piece of content that gives your Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA) tremendous value. If you succeed, your asset will generate social shares, comments, and attract backlinks.
In theory, this sounds like a piece of cake. Unfortunately, in practice, many people do not succeed.
Because they don't use the right strategy. There are two ways to create keyword-targeted content assets:
- Create a content asset that is dramatically BETTER than what is currently on the 1st page of Google for your target keyword
- Create a content asset that is dramatically 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 that is dramatically 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 media, case studies, 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 that is dramatically 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:
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.
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%?
Content Types That Attract Backlinks
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 articles 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?
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:
- The 7 Things I Did To Lose 220 Pounds Without Dieting
- Texas School Triples Recess Time And Sees Immediate Positive Results In Kids
- Shelter Puts Rescue Dogs In A Photo Booth To Get Them Adopted. The Results Speak For Themselves!
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:
- TOP 10 growth hacks [case studies]
- 911 Case Study: Pentagon Flight 77
- 100 Conversion Optimization Case Studies
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:
- This Infographic Shows How Only 10 Companies Own All The World’s Food Brands
- Only 9% of America Chose Trump and Clinton as the Nominees
- 16 Things Teachers Should Try in 20162 [infographic]
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:
- Flexible Dieting: The Complete Guide & Expert Roundup
- 90 SEO Experts Talk White Hat Link Building, Outsourcing And Scaling
- 9 Vegetable Gardening Mistakes Every Beginner Should Avoid: An Expert Roundup
Helpful Applications or Tools
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, let's move onto how to promote your content assets.
Step #3: Promote Your Content Assets
As you know likely know, creating content assets alone isn't enough.
You need to promote these assets like crazy. The only way to score backlinks and social shares is by getting eyeballs on your content.
First, I'm going show you some general content promotion tactics. Then I'll explain what you need to know about link acquisition.
6 Easy Content Promotion Tactics
There are hundreds of ways to promote your content, but I'm going to show you some of my favorite.
1. Leverage Your Email List
If you aren't trying to grow an email list, then you are missing out. There is no easier way to get eyeballs on a new piece of content than sending out to a list of subscribers. I recommend that you prioritize growing your email list. You won't regret it.
2. Promote With PushCrew
PushCrew sends notifications to your subscriber's computer desktop. All you have to do is install the PushCrew code and it will add this button to your site:
Based on our experience, PushCrew produces higher CTR than email. That's because it eliminates the step of having to open an email. We've sent out a total of 6 notifications for Gotch SEO and the average CTR is around 25%.
Keep in mind: PushCrew isn't an alternative to email. Email is king when it comes to marketing, but PushCrew is a great way to amplify your content marketing efforts.
3. Build Internal Links
One of the most overlooked tactics is to leverage authority from other parts of your website. You achieve this through internal linking. Internal links can give your new content an immediate boost of authority. This will help with organic search growth.
There are segments of people who prefer audio and video over massive amounts of text. Repurposing your content into different formats is how you can reach these people.
Admittingly, I don't do this enough for Gotch SEO, but I will in 2017!
In addition to videos and audio, you should also consider repurposing and reformatting your content into slide decks, webinars, PDFs, and even infographics (if applicable). After you have reformatted your content, you can add it to your content as an upgrade.
This will improve the quality of your content.
There are several guides written on content repurposing that I recommend you read (and take action on):
- The Ultimate Guide to Repurposing Content
- 11 Genius Ways to Repurpose Content
- Repurposing Content by Neil Patel
5. Promote in Social Media Groups
Many social media groups have engaged members who freely share quality content. But before you jump in and start self-promoting, make sure you introduce yourself, join discussions, and add lots of value.
If you join the group and start spamming your content, you will either: A) get kicked out of the group or B) you will have low engagement on your content promotion. That's because you don't have a positive reputation in the group.
Treat the group as if the people in it were your real life friends. Be a real person and don't be weird.
Don't forget: ADD VALUE before promoting anything of yours.
6. Reach Out to Bloggers Mentioned
Whenever you link out to a blogger, make sure you reach out and let them know. Here's an example:
Notice some of the key elements of this email:
- Always use the person's name
- Compliment them about their content (since you linked to it)
- Give them a reason to look at your content (use the word "because" - it is a strong persuasive motivator)
- Don't ask for anything! If this is your first interaction with a blogger, think of it as your first date.
These are more than enough content promotion tactics to get you started. Now let me explain some important elements of link acquisition.
I have already created a comprehensive guide on backlinks, but I will show the most important elements here as well.
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:
- The Complete Guide to Outreach: 52 Curated Resources
- Link Building Outreach in a Skeptical World
- 19 Link Building / Outreach Strategies that WORK
* Our blogger outreach service takes care of this entire process for you. Click here to learn more about it.
Step #4: Make Sure Users Love Your Website
The quality of your content is the single most important element of a positive User Experience (UX). It doesn't matter how "cool" your site design is or how quickly it loads. If your content is bad, then no one will come back. I know this won't be a problem for you, though.
Just follow the strategy I've laid out and your content will be awesome.
Now you need to make sure that the technical elements of your website don't damage UX. A quality User Experience (UX) occurs when a user doesn't have to think about anything other than your content and your products/services.
Some technical issues that directly hurt UX include:
- Slow website loading speed
- Non-mobile friendliness
- Broken links and 404 pages
Those are technical issues that directly hurt your UX. Here are several other issues that could hurt your organic search traffic:
- Duplicate content
- Thin content
- Redirect chains, 302s, unsecured version of site not 301ing to the secured
- Crawl issues
You should use an SEO audit to identify these technical issues and get them fixed ASAP.
Although this SEO strategy is simple from a 30,000-foot view, there are intricacies at each step.
That's why I created Gotch SEO Academy. When you join Gotch SEO Academy, you will learn exactly how to get SEO results on a consistent basis. Our proven strategy has generating millions of organic search visitors for clients, niche sites, and Gotch SEO. Enrollment for Gotch SEO Academy opens for a limited time in January. Click here to secure your spot now.
Have some questions? Leave a comment below thanks for reading!