Using a repeatable SEO strategy is the only way to achieve consistent results.
The repeatable (and proven) SEO strategy I’m going to show you today is what we used to achieve 639% more organic search traffic for a “dead” fashion blog:
So if you want to stop doing guesSEO and use a proven SEO strategy, then keep reading.
Easy 4-Step SEO Strategy (Plus 2 Bonus Steps)
This process is simple on the surface, but you need to understand the nuance behind each phase.
Here’s how the process looks:
Let’s start with step #1, which is:
Starting a campaign without an SEO audit is like building a house without a foundation. You need to audit your website and off-site signals to get a clear understanding of what you’re working with.
Believe it or not, I start my audits in reverse order.
Most SEOs start with on-site signals, but I always start with off-site signals.
Because backlinks are the single biggest ranking factor, it’s been proven time and time again.
For example, Backlinko found that the total number of referring domains correlated to better rankings:
Semrush discovered the same:
And even Ahrefs agrees:
I’ve audited over 1,000 SEO campaigns through the years, and backlinks are always the determining factor of performance.
That’s why we must start there.
6-Step Backlink Profile Audit
1. Are the backlinks high-quality?
The first thing I look for in a link profile is low-quality links.
Low-quality links aren’t a problem when they comprise a small percentage of your profile.
That said, what does a “low-quality” link look like?
Let me show you.
Here’s an example of web 2.0 spam:
You’ll see that the content is unreadable, and they’re using exact match anchor text. There’s an attempt to make the link more credible by adding an external link to a trusted source.
However, it’s a futile effort because there are way too many other factors working against this placement.
Here’s an example of a public blog network link:
This one isn’t as obvious because it (almost) looks like a real website. But there are a few signs that it’s nothing more than a private blog network.
First, the outbound links aren’t topically relevant and are using exact match anchor text.
Secondly, the homepage has ~50 full-length blog posts.
Most people who use PBNs know that the homepage is often the most powerful page on a site.
In this case, the most powerful page on a rebuilt expired domain.
Here’s the last low-quality link example, a “DoFollow” blog comment:
I don’t think I need to elaborate on why this is a low-quality link.
Avoid this nonsense.
Here’s a simple workflow for combatting these links if you have them.
Don’t remove the links
This might seem like an odd recommendation, but this is a huge mistake that people make.
You do not, I repeat, you don’t want to go on a link-removing spree.
Because removing links (even low-quality ones) will reduce your website’s authority.
If your authority drops, so will your rankings. Removing toxic links is a part of the process.
Just not at this point. Instead, you need to:
Load up on NEW high-quality links
Most people don’t realize this, but link-related penalties aren’t just because of low-quality links.
It’s also because of a lack of high-quality links.
For example, an authority website like Moz can have the exact same low-quality links that you do and NOT get penalized.
The reason is that those low-quality links represent a very small percentage of their overall link profile. The majority of their links come from high-quality, trusted sources.
As a result, that offsets any toxic links they may have in their profile. So instead of removing your toxic links, actively work to acquire new high-quality links to offset them.
Slowly remove the worst offenders
Once you’ve built up a nice base on high-quality links from real websites, you can begin removing toxic links.
Do it slowly while you continue to acquire new links.
2. Are the backlinks relevant?
Most of your links should come from relevant sources. Relevance comes in two different forms: topical and geo-targeted.
The best way to think about link relevance is to use a method I created called The Relevancy Pyramid:
In essence, you need to focus on acquiring links on websites at the top of the pyramid first. These are your most relevant opportunities. Work your way down the pyramid as you run out of opportunities.
3. Are the backlinks hitting the right pages?
The biggest mistake link builders make is sending all their backlinks to transactional pages.
You have to remember that backlinks are votes.
How many websites are willing to “vote” for a boring page about a Chicago plumbing service?
Driving the majority of your links to these types of transactional pages is a huge footprint and is unnatural.
Do this instead:
You should drive backlinks to informational assets at the top of the funnel. If these assets are constructed well, they deserve “votes” (backlinks).
4. Is there an effort to acquire new backlinks?
I haven’t put much emphasis on this over the years, but I now think it’s a huge factor. You have to continually acquire new backlinks to your website.
The reason is two-fold.
First, you will lose backlinks. Websites shut down (or hacked), people remove links, posts get deleted, etc. It’s inevitable.
Secondly, what does it say about your content and website if it stops getting new backlinks?
It indicates to Google that you’re no longer getting votes. That may imply that your website or content isn’t popular or high-quality anymore.
You have to continue acquiring new backlinks to your content and website to solidify your website’s authority.
Here’s an example of perfect link velocity (Backlinko):
5. Is the anchor text over-optimized?
Using keyword-rich anchor text was all the rage back before 2012.
Now it can get your website penalized.
Read my anchor text guide to learn how to optimize it the right way.
Now that you know what you’re working with, you need to audit your on-site SEO.
Here are important items to analyze.
4 High-Impact On-Site Factors to Audit
1. Are you targeting the right keywords?
Every effective SEO campaigns start with the right keywords. Some people call them topics. Regardless:
You need to structure your pages around phrases that your ideal customers are searching for in Google. I recommend focusing most of your effort on informational keywords at the top of the funnel.
However, you should also tackle transactional and comparison types of keywords as well because they will have the best conversion rates.
So how do you know if you’re targeting the “right” keywords?
It all comes down to qualification.
2. Is your site architecture built well?
Site Architecture is a lead domino for SEO performance because it impacts so many other facets of the process.
For example, a well-designed site architecture can help search engine crawlers navigate through your site better, which leads to better indexation.
Also, an effective site architecture can drive link equity to your most important pages, which will help them perform better in organic search.
How you attack structuring your site architecture will depend on the type of website you have.
Here are some general rules of thumb about building an effective site architecture:
Remember that internal links are votes too
Just like external links, you should think of your internal links as “votes” for a page. The more links (votes) a page has, the higher the value.
You can use Screaming Frog to see how many internal links a page has. Just look under the “Unique Inlinks” column.
If you want a page to perform better, give it more internal link love.
Make your page easily accessible
Every page on your site should be accessible for crawlers unless intended otherwise. This will ensure proper indexing.
Understand that internal Links are not valued the same
For example, internal links on your homepage and your site-wide menu are valued more than links in your footer, sidebar, or even within a blog post.
Try to keep depth to 3-4 clicks
This will ensure that your pages are getting crawled and indexed well. In general, the deeper a page is on your website, the less valuable it is to Google.
You can see how deep each of your pages is in your site architecture with Screaming Frog. Look under the “Crawl Depth” column.
Fewer clicks = more value, and more clicks = less value.
Use intelligent anchor text
You should always use exact match anchor text with your internal links. Just be careful with site-wide navigational links because they can cause issues.
It’s better to create a category page and then link to the other pages than to jam it into the menu.
The main reason is because of anchor text over-optimization.
If you have 1,000 internal links for “dark roast coffee,” and then you acquire 100 external links with that same anchor text, it could lead to over-optimization.
Consider using breadcrumbs
If you have a large website, you may want to consider using the breadcrumb schema because this will ensure proper coverage.
Mega menus are useful for big sites
A mega menu may be a necessity for large websites.
Make sure you have a sitemap
SEO 101, but your site should have a sitemap.
3. Are there any content-related issues?
“Content” applies to every page on the website in this case. I always find that most issues are content-related. Some content-related issues you need to watch out for are:
“Thin” often applies to pages with low word counts. However, “thin” can also apply to pages with regurgitated content that doesn’t add any unique value.
You can find pages with low word counts using Screaming Frog. Look under the “Word Count” column.
Every page on your website should have unique content. It’s okay to have the same testimonials on some pages, but the bulk of every page should be unique.
Use Siteliner to find duplicate content.
Once you pick a qualified keyword, use ONE page to target it. Don’t create another page targeting the same exact keyword phrase. This is why so many SEO experts talk about “topics” instead of keywords.
Keyword cannibalization occurs when two pages are targeting the same exact keyword phrase.
Keep in mind:
It makes sense to create new pages for similar keywords if the intent is different.
For example, I have a blog post about “backlinks” and a post about “buy backlinks.”
These have different intents.
Don’t stuff keywords all over your page.
You only need your primary keyword phrase to show up in prominent locations such as your URL, title tag, the meta description (which Google will likely rewrite anyway), H1 tag, first sentence, and sometimes your H2 tag (but I typically use a variation here), and your last sentence.
Other than that, just write naturally. The keyword density should work itself out.
Lack of linkable assets
This goes along with the link profile audit section. If you don’t have anything worthy to link to, then your SEO campaign is going to be a struggle.
4. Does the site have technical issues?
Technical issues impact your SEO performance on two levels.
First, if Google can’t crawl and index your site well, you won’t rank well.
Second, if technical issues are hurting the User Experience (UX), Google may devalue your website.
Technical SEO is a big topic, but here are some key areas to tackle:
Crawling & indexing
If Google can’t crawl your site, your pages won’t get indexed. If your page isn’t indexed, you won’t rank.
Therefore, optimizing your crawling and indexation is critical.
The good news is that it isn’t super hard.
The lead domino is your site architecture.
Also, fixing other technical issues like the ones below will improve your crawling and indexation. Lastly, make sure you aren’t using “noindex” tags incorrectly or blocking crawlers in the robot.txt file.
It’s common knowledge that your website needs to be mobile-friendly. If it isn’t, make it a priority.
Page loading speed
Page loading speed is a big deal because it can affect your SEO performance and conversion rates. Aim to get your page loading below 3 seconds.
302 redirects and redirect chains are two types of redirects that should be tackled. There’s some debate on whether you should change 302s to 301s, but we recommend that you do.
404s & broken links
404 errors are only a problem at scale, when they have existing backlinks, or when they’re accidental.
Broken links are never good because they will hurt the user experience.
Now that you know what to audit, it’s time to move on to phase two:
The audit phase identifies every issue holding your campaign back. Now you need to optimize all existing issues before moving on to anything else. Many of the issues you’ll encounter are easy fixes.
However, there are some that will require intelligent logistics.
Let me show you a few of my “go-to” optimization techniques that don’t require new content or backlinks.
4 Simple SEO Techniques
1. The Phantom Technique
This is the most basic technique on the list, but you wouldn’t believe how many sites don’t take advantage of it.
All you need to do is add “best” or the “year” onto your title tag wherever it makes sense.
I’ve recently finished a few hundred SEO content audits, and 95% of these clients aren’t using title modifiers.
It’s crazy how much traffic you actually miss out on when you don’t use them.
For example, we added the year “2023” to a client’s page, and now 3 of their most popular queries have the year attached to them.
Although we would still be getting traffic from the primary phrase, we would have missed out on 1,000 new organic search visitors.
There aren’t many easy wins in SEO, but using the Phantom Technique is one of them.
2. Tunnel Vision Technique
One of the biggest mistakes I see websites make is trying to target too many keywords at one time. It’s much better to have tunnel vision and allocate all your resources to dominating ONE keyword phrase.
That’s how we grew this client’s organic search traffic by 1,337%:
We only focused on a blog post and used all of our resources to make A) make the blog post incredible and B) acquire as many links as we needed.
Having this type of tunnel vision directs all your focus and resources and helps you avoid spreading your resources too thin.
Here’s how to execute the tunnel vision technique:
- Identify a qualified keyword
- Allocate all your resources to dominating that keyword
- Keep working on the page and promoting it until it ranks
Once the page is ranking in the top 5, move on to another keyword phrase
3. Spider Food Technique
So if you want a particular page on your website to rank better in Google, then you need to show Google’s crawlers that it’s a priority.
That means you need to move your page higher up into your site architecture.
Once you do that, Google will be able to crawl that page easier and more frequently.
It also signals to Google that your target page is important.
Here’s an example:
If you go to the Gotch SEO blog, you’ll see that there’s a blog post titled “How to Learn SEO in 2023 (According to 130 Experts)”.
When you click on that learn SEO blog post and scroll down to the “Start Learning Now With These SEO Resources,” you’ll see that I’ve linked to many of my other blog posts.
This blog post is pinned to my blog page because I want Google to crawl that page and all my other important blog posts.
It also means that any backlinks that are acquired to my learn SEO blog post will send link equity and authority to all the other blog posts I linked to.
Here’s the big takeaway:
Make your most important SEO-driven pages easily accessible to Google’s crawler.
4. Authority Transfer Technique
The Authority Transfer Technique is a powerful way to distribute link authority (PageRank) to your most important SEO-driven pages.
Here’s how it works:
1. Identify what pages on your site have existing backlinks
The best way to find these pages is to use Ahrefs.
Open up Ahrefs, enter your domain, and start the analysis.
Then click on “Best by Links” under “Pages” and sort by “RDs”:
2. Add internal links on those pages to relevant SEO-driven pages
Now all you need to do now is add internal links.
Your internal should target pages that are A) topically relevant and B) you’re trying to rank.
I recommend using exact match anchor text with your internal links (it’s safe to do so as long as they aren’t site-wide).
I recommend using this technique every time you publish a new SEO-driven page.
It’s one of the best ways to give your page a boost out of the gate (by leveraging existing authority). Your goal should be to push your pages up the SERPs as far as possible before acquiring links.
The Authority Transfer Technique is one of the best ways to accomplish that goal (fast).
Now that you’ve audited and optimized your site, you need to create. There are many different types of content to create for SEO purposes, but there’s one that stands above all else.
Every business should create informational assets with the intent of driving backlinks to your site.
This is the most natural way to build your site’s authority.
This is the exact strategy I use for growing every website’s authority. It’s called the Reverse Silo technique:
In essence, you grow your site’s authority by creating top of funnel informational assets.
It’s best to target keyword phrases that are highly linkable.
Does this mean you shouldn’t target keywords that aren’t as linkable?
But if you’re trying to grow your site’s authority (and get as many backlinks as possible), you should focus on linkable ideas.
To verify that an idea is linkable, use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. Enter your keyword and scroll down to the “SERP overview.” If the ranking pages have links, then it’s a linkable topic.
In addition to creating linkable assets, you need to improve your transactional pages.
“Transactional” pages are built around keywords that have transactional intent.
Some examples include: “los angeles personal injury lawyer” or “SEO services.”
These pages must be built differently than an informational asset that targets the top-of-the-funnel keywords.
I have a post dedicated to SEO content, but here are some ways to create effective transactional pages:
Video. Video. Video.
Did I mention you should use video? Using HQ videos on your transactional pages can increase trust, dwell time, and conversion rates. It’s a good investment.
Use Relevant Testimonials
Every great transactional page will have testimonials.
I like picking 3-5 customer stories and displaying those on the transactional page. This increases word count and helps increase trust even further.
There is always an opportunity to educate your ideal customer. What information can you give them that will help them make a better decision?
An example from the SEO industry is: “7 Steps to Take Before Hiring an SEO Agency”.
Add an FAQ Section
Every product and service will have common questions that pop up. Add these questions and answers to your page. It’s a super-easy way to add more unique content.
Here’s the truth about this SEO strategy:
It won’t reach its full potential if you neglect the Promote phase.
Ever heard this idea:
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
That “tree” is your website.
You can’t expect your site to perform well in Google in no one knows your brand, and you have no links.
Backlinks are validation that your brand is doing something right or that your content is valuable.
Your thinking your content is “good” is a moot point. “Good” is subjective.
The only way to prove that something is “good” is through external validation.
In the case of SEO, links are that validation.
So how do you get more backlinks?
Here are some of my favorite techniques:
1. The Switch-Up Technique
The Switch Up Technique is my favorite way to build relationships fast. As you may or may not know, building relationships is a critical piece to getting more backlinks.
Most people fail at link outreach because they’re metaphorically trying to hit a home run on the first date.
Just like in sales, you need to take baby steps along the journey.
You have to build relationships with the websites (and people who are capable of linking to you) BEFORE you ask for something.
There needs to be an exchange of value.
“Value” comes in many different forms, including money, help, or content.
Here’s a perfect example of a student of Gotch SEO Academy exchanging value with me (I had no choice but to link to this tool because it solved a REAL problem and added REAL value):
Money works well, but you can acquire links without having to pay people. But that will only be possible through building real relationships.
The first step to accomplishing that is to use the Switch Up Technique.
Here’s how you do it:
- Go through your blog content and examine all your external links.
- See if you’re linking out to general websites like Wikipedia, CNN, or any authority website with many authors.
- Go to Google and look for a replacement from a lower authority blog.
- Change the link
- Reach out to the person
Use a non-threatening template like this:
My name is [YOUR NAME] and I’m the [YOUR POSITION] at [YOUR COMPANY]. I was doing some research on [TOPIC] and discovered your guide about [TOPIC]. I really enjoyed it. I never realized that [SOMETHING YOU LEARNED FROM THEIR CONTENT]. Super cool. Anyway, I won’t take up any more of your time. I just wanted to thank you for putting the article together and wanted to let you know that I linked to it from my article: [INSERT NAKED URL] – it’s about [TOPIC].
2. Oprah Technique
I created a cool name for this technique, but it’s super simple.
You’re going to get interviewed and land links.
Go to Google and enter “interview + niche” or “interview with + [YOUR COMPETITOR].”
Add all these prospects to your link-building document. Then, just reach out and pitch yourself for the interview.
Use a simple template like this:
My name is [YOUR NAME] and I’m the [YOUR POSITION] at [YOUR COMPANY]. First, I just wanted to thank you for all the amazing interviews you’ve been doing. I’ve listened to your interview with [INSERT ONE YOU LIKED] multiple times because it’s so incredibly valuable. Quick question: are you accepting new interviewees at this time? If you are, I would love to chat because I [COOL RESULT].
Let me know, thanks!
3. Relationship Accelerator Technique
The Relationship Accelerator Technique serves a dual purpose:
- It can help you build relationships with key “linkerati” (people who are capable and willing to link to you)
- It can help you score links with very little effort.
There are a few different ways to go about this, but my favorite techniques are to host expert roundups, host interviews, or ask for expert contributions to your content.
You’re giving value upfront because you’re going to link to these expert’s websites. In exchange, you’re building a relationship with them, and there’s the possibility that they’ll link to the content they’re featured in.
This is often referred to as “ego bait,” and it’s incredibly effective.
Even if you don’t score a link, the relationship you’ll build can lead to something else in the future.
4. Reverse Guest Post Technique
This is by far one of the most untapped link building methods. It actually surprising how few people use it.
You’re going to pitch experts (who have blogs) to create content on your site as guest author. It’s an easy pitch if you have some traffic and a decent audience because most experts want to promote themselves.
For example, I had Venchito Tampon write a guest post for GotchSEO.com and check out the links that it has picked up:
That’s because Venchito references it not only adds value, but it benefits his brand as well. It’s a win-win.
There are a few important points to keep in mind about this strategy:
- Be selective about who can write for your blog (they should have an audience and website)
- Make sure they write on a topic that you haven’t covered yet to avoid keyword cannibalization (multiple pages targeting the keyword phrases)
Bonus #1: Convert
Getting more traffic is awesome, but it’s worthless if you can’t convert it into leads and customers.
This is the point where most SEO campaigns fail.
Some SEOs are amazing at ranking and driving traffic. But they’re horrific at converting that traffic.
As a result:
Clients get pissed because they’re not seeing the one result they actually care about:
New leads and new customers.
Driving traffic to a website without a conversion foundation is a pointless endeavor.
If you want to see real success from all your SEO efforts, you shouldn’t do SEO right away.
Build a conversion foundation and then use SEO as fuel on the fire.
I won’t get deep into CRO because it’s outside the scope of this guide.
But there’s one high-impact action I highly recommend you take:
Create Relevant Lead Magnets
A user can receive a lead magnet (a quality content asset) when they enter their email. Since most people aren’t ready to buy, this is the perfect baby step.
The key to a successful lead magnet is relevance.
Whenever I build lead magnets, I always make them hyper-relevant to the ToFu (top of the funnel) content.
And because it’s hyper-relevant, the squeeze page has a 60% opt-in rate.
Pretty insane, right?
It’s all because of relevance.
I have these relevant lead magnets throughout my site, which result in ~50 new email subs every day.
But the trick to taking this to another level is to have a remarketing layer.
Bonus #2: Remarketing
Did you know that ~97% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy?
That number applies to organic search traffic driven by an intelligent SEO strategy as well.
So even if you do an awesome job and you convert 1-3%, you’re still missing out on an enormous amount of new revenue.
The good news is that you can change it.
You just need to set up remarketing campaigns.
My go-to source for remarketing is Facebook Ads.
Let me walk you through a basic remarketing campaign.
So when anyone visits “link building” related content on my site, they get placed into a custom audience.
Once they’re in that audience, they’ll start seeing my relevant lead magnet offer: “7 Untapped Link Building Techniques” (if they’re not already an email subscriber).
This ad alone has driven an additional 166 new email subscribers for only $1.72.
I’m willing to invest that much to acquire a new email sub because A) email is my primary marketing vehicle, and B) the lifetime value of a Gotch SEO customer is much higher than $1.72.
Launching an effective SEO strategy isn’t simple, but it’s worth it.
Quick question for you:
What part of your SEO campaign are you going to tackle after reading this?
Let me know in the comment section.