There are a few competitive tools we tend to gravitate towards in our industry. SEMrush is a fantastic tool allowing anyone to look up a website and get an estimated search visibility and traffic share. Drilling in shows how well pages perform independently. Gleaning through exports can quickly reveal what topics are driving traffic, to which you might replicate or improve your own version.


Take the 10 pillar topics you came up with in Step 1 and create a web page for each one that outlines the topic at a high level -- using the long-tail keywords you came up with for each cluster in Step 2. A pillar page on SEO, for example, can describe SEO in brief sections that introduce keyword research, image optimization, SEO strategy, and other subtopics as they are identified. Think of each pillar page as a table of contents, where you're briefing your readers on subtopics you'll elaborate on in blog posts.
The goal of SEO is to get a web page high search engine ranking. The better a web page's search engine optimization, the higher a ranking it will achieve in search result listings. (Note that SEO is not the only factor that determines search engine page ranks.) This is especially critical because most people who use search engines only look at the first page or two of the search results, so for a page to get high traffic from a search engine, it has to be listed on those first two pages, and the higher the rank, the closer a page is to the number one listing, the better.  And whatever your web page's rank is, you want your website to be listed before your competitor's websites if your business is selling products or services over the internet.
In December 2009, Google announced it would be using the web search history of all its users in order to populate search results.[33] On June 8, 2010 a new web indexing system called Google Caffeine was announced. Designed to allow users to find news results, forum posts and other content much sooner after publishing than before, Google caffeine was a change to the way Google updated its index in order to make things show up quicker on Google than before. According to Carrie Grimes, the software engineer who announced Caffeine for Google, "Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index..."[34] Google Instant, real-time-search, was introduced in late 2010 in an attempt to make search results more timely and relevant. Historically site administrators have spent months or even years optimizing a website to increase search rankings. With the growth in popularity of social media sites and blogs the leading engines made changes to their algorithms to allow fresh content to rank quickly within the search results.[35]
Thanks so much for this entry, Laura! I loved the way your post is so practical, straightforward, newbie-friendly - and most importantly, how it emphasizes the bottom line at all times. It's easy to get "lost in the fog" of SEO with so many looming tasks and forget the main purpose, so it's wonderful to have a straightforward outline of what to do and why certain tasks need to be done. I look forward to reading your future insights!

There's often a top-down marketing strategy already baked before you get to pitch your SEO work, to which you may find opportunity on a battlefield where access is not granted. It's reckless to assume you can go into any established company and lob a strategy onto their laps, expecting them to follow it with disregard to their existing plans, politics, and red tape. Candidly, this may be the quickest way to get fired and show you're not aligned with the existing business goals.
Thanks for the great post. I am confused about the #1 idea about wikipedia ded links…it seems like you didn’t finish what you were supposed to do with the link once you found it. You indicated to put the dead link in ahrefs and you found a bunch of links for you to contact…but then what? What do you contact them about and how do you get your page as the link? I’m obviously not getting something 🙁
In the real world, its not so easy. For example, I have 2 niches where I’m trying to use your technique. By keywords, its Software for Moving and Free Moving Quotes. I have 2 websites that related to each of them, emoversoftware.com (emover-software.com as initial, they linked together) and RealMoving.com ( for latter keyword). So, to begin with, none of those niches has Wikipedia articles, so your first suggestion will not work. But, in general suggestions, you are advising to get backlinks (of authoritative sites of course). But check this out – my site emover-software.com has only 4(!) backlinks (https://openlinkprofiler.org/r/emover-software.com#.VXTaOs9VhBc) and, however, listed as #1 (or #2) by my keyword. (moving software, software for moving, software for moving company). RealMoving.com has more than 600 backlinks and is way back in ranks ( 170 and up) by my keyword. Even though those sites have different competition, its still makes no sense! It doesn’t seem like Google even cares about your backlinks at all! I also checked one of my competitor’s backlinks, its more than 12000, however, his rank by keyword related to moving quotes even worse than mine!.

WOW. I consider myself a total newbie to SEO, but I’ve been working on my Squarespace site for my small business for about 3 years and have read dozens of articles on how to improve SEO. So far, this has been the MOST USEFUL and information-packed resource I’ve found so far. I’m honestly shocked that this is free to access. I haven’t even completely consumed this content yet (I’ve bookmarked it to come back to!) but I’ve already made some significant changes to my SEO strategy, including adding a couple of infographics to blog posts, changing my internal and external linking habits, editing meta descriptions, and a bunch more. Thanks for all the time and passion you’ve out into this.
It’s not enough to just share content through social channels – you need to actively participate in the community, too. Got a Twitter account? Then join in group discussions with relevant hashtags. Is your audience leaving comments on your Facebook posts? Answer questions and engage with your readers. Nothing turns people off quicker than using social media as a broadcast channel – use social media as it was intended and actually interact with your fans.
Lastly, it's important to remember that paralysis by over-thinking is a real issue some struggle with. There's no pill for it (yet). Predicting perfection is a fool's errand. Get as close as you can within a reasonable timeframe, and prepare for future iteration. If you're traveling through your plan and determine a soft spot at any time, simply pivot. It's many hours of upfront work to get your strategy built, but it's not too hard to tweak as you go.

Search engines find and catalog web pages through spidering (also known as webcrawling) software. Spidering software "crawls" through the internet and grabs information from websites which is used to build search engine indexes. Unfortunately, not all search engine spidering software works the same way, so what gives a page a high ranking on one search engine may not necessarily give it a high ranking on another. Note that rather than waiting for a search engine to discover a newly created page, web designers can submit the page directly to search engines for cataloging.
Promoting your websites by publishing articles to various article directories is by no means a new idea but still an extremely effective way to drive traffic. If you write content and publish it to websites like Article Base, and Article Dashboard website owners will pick it up and post it. This idea is similar to guest blogging except that you only have to write one piece of content that can end up on hundreds of even thousands of blogs and websites. The same rule applies here: don’t be boring – be creative and interesting and use common keywords in your article and title so website owners can find it!
Specifics: Be as specific as you can with your recommendations. For example if you’re suggesting partnering with meal home delivery sites, find out which ones are going to provide the most relevant info, at what cost if possible, and what the ideal partnership would look like for content and SEO purposes. Even provide contact information if you can.
Description meta tags are important because Google might use them as snippets for your pages. Note that we say "might" because Google may choose to use a relevant section of your page's visible text if it does a good job of matching up with a user's query. Adding description meta tags to each of your pages is always a good practice in case Google cannot find a good selection of text to use in the snippet. The Webmaster Central Blog has informative posts on improving snippets with better description meta tags18 and better snippets for your users19. We also have a handy Help Center article on how to create good titles and snippets20.
Really its just a matter of getting creative - grab a cup of caffeine and think for a minute about what resources you have to try to get some insight on your visitors (or target markets) and their needs before you dive in.  Think about how much time it might take you (or what the cost of the reports would be if you are going to buy some market research reports), and tack that onto your billing as an optional service.
I second Rand's comment!  Congrats on moving from the corporate world to the independent consultant.  This is my goal for the near future.  I too have been testing the waters of independent consulting, but it doesn't quite pay the bills yet!  Sometimes I feel like I should find a mentor who has been where I am now and is where I want to go.  Perhaps i'll find a few in this community over time!
Having an industry influencer publish a blog post on your site or turning an interview with them into a blog post can help to drive traffic both through organic search but also via that influencer promoting the content to their audience (see the backlinks section above). This can also help to add more variety to your content and show your visitors that you are active in your field.

To gain more customer engagement, the website must reach its visitors/customers efficiently. Obviously, you want the visitors to read your site content. Check the forms and click through on your Call To Actions (CTA’s) when they arrive on your web page. These features initiate user engagement in action, but it is essential to comprehend the in-depth analysis.
#16 is interesting because no one really knows about it. Myself and a former colleagu did a test on it about 4 years ago and published our results which conculded what you are saying. Since then I’ve been careful to follow this rule. The only issue is that often times using the exact kw does not “work” for navigation anchor texts. But with a little CSS trickery one can get the code for the nav bar to be lower in the code, prioritizing contextual links. I’ve also seen sites add links to 3-5 specific and important internal pages with keyword rich anchor texts, at the very top of the page in order to get those important internal links to be indexed first.
I find it interesting that you talked about nutrition supplements for athletes. I am very close to launching such a product for enhancing aerobic exercise performance in women (ie. improved times in a 3 mile run).. The product contains no stimulants or exotic herbs. In fact three of the five ingredients are well known minerals, but in forms not found in most multi-vitamin-mineral supplements. The research behind the product comes from me. The credibility behind the research is that I am a professor of human nutrition with over 100 research papers. Now, the trick will be to use my connections and credibility in a business savvy way.
In our research with what we have done for ourselves and our clients, there is a definite co-relation between content greater than 1000 words and better rankings. In fact, we are finding amazing ranking jumps when you have content over 3,000 words, about 12 original images (images not found anywhere else online), 1 H1 (not keyword stuffed), 12 sub-headlines (H2), 12 relevant internal links, 6 relevant external links and 1 bullet list. I know it sounds like a lot of work and a Big Mac recipe, but this does work.
Sure, we did keyword research, we recommended partnerships and widgets and architecture advice, but we didn’t step back and take a good look at our target audiences, what sites were meeting their specific needs in search results, and what we specifically could build into the product that would be far more desirable than what everyone else had (not even thought of yet ideally) to make sure our entire site is superior, resulting in the inevitable stealing of search traffic from our competitors.
Robots.txt is not an appropriate or effective way of blocking sensitive or confidential material. It only instructs well-behaved crawlers that the pages are not for them, but it does not prevent your server from delivering those pages to a browser that requests them. One reason is that search engines could still reference the URLs you block (showing just the URL, no title or snippet) if there happen to be links to those URLs somewhere on the Internet (like referrer logs). Also, non-compliant or rogue search engines that don't acknowledge the Robots Exclusion Standard could disobey the instructions of your robots.txt. Finally, a curious user could examine the directories or subdirectories in your robots.txt file and guess the URL of the content that you don't want seen.
For example, let’s say I have a health site. I have several types of articles on health, drug information, and information on types of diseases and conditions. My angle on the site is that I’m targeting seniors. If I find out seniors are primarily interested in information on prescription drug plans and cheap blood pressure medication, then I know that I want to provide information specifically on those things. This allows me to hone in on that market’s needs and de-prioritize or bypass other content.
Provide full functionality on all devices. Mobile users expect the same functionality - such as commenting and check-out - and content on mobile as well as on all other devices that your website supports. In addition to textual content, make sure that all important images and videos are embedded and accessible on mobile devices. For search engines, provide all structured data and other metadata - such as titles, descriptions, link-elements, and other meta-tags - on all versions of the pages.
An SEO technique is considered white hat if it conforms to the search engines' guidelines and involves no deception. As the search engine guidelines[18][19][52] are not written as a series of rules or commandments, this is an important distinction to note. White hat SEO is not just about following guidelines but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see. White hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to the online "spider" algorithms, rather than attempting to trick the algorithm from its intended purpose. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility,[53] although the two are not identical.
A backlink is a link to your website from another website. Backlinks from complementary businesses or industry influencers will not only get your business in front of a larger audience, but it will also drive qualified traffic to your website. In addition, Google picks up on backlinks and will increase its trust in your business if it sees other trusted sites pointing to yours. More trust from Google leads to higher rankings, which leads to more traffic. Get noticed on Google for free with quality backlinks.
Great post, your knowledge and innovative approach never fails to amaze me! This is certainly the first time I’ve heard someone suggest the Wikipedia dead link technique. It’s great that you’re getting people to think outside of the box. Pages like reddit are great for getting keywords and can also be used for link building although this can be difficult to get right. Even if you don’t succeed at using it to link build it’s still a really valuable platform for getting useful information. Thanks!
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:
I first heard you talk about your techniques in Pat Flynn’s podcast. Must admit, I’ve been lurking a little ever since…not sure if I wanted to jump into these exercises or just dance around the edges. The clever and interesting angles you describe here took me all afternoon to get through and wrap my brain around. It’s a TON of information. I can’t believe this is free for us to devour! Thank you!! Talk about positioning yourself as THE expert! Deep bow.
Before you say it – no, true guest blogging isn’t dead, despite what you may have heard. Securing a guest post on a reputable site can increase blog traffic to your website and help build your brand into the bargain. Be warned, though – standards for guest blogging have changed radically during the past eighteen months, and spammy tactics could result in stiff penalties. Proceed with caution.
#16 is interesting because no one really knows about it. Myself and a former colleagu did a test on it about 4 years ago and published our results which conculded what you are saying. Since then I’ve been careful to follow this rule. The only issue is that often times using the exact kw does not “work” for navigation anchor texts. But with a little CSS trickery one can get the code for the nav bar to be lower in the code, prioritizing contextual links. I’ve also seen sites add links to 3-5 specific and important internal pages with keyword rich anchor texts, at the very top of the page in order to get those important internal links to be indexed first.
There are many SEO tactics you can perform on each of your website pages to increase their rank in search engines and get more visitors. This includes producing high-quality content that your audience is searching for, and writing concise meta descriptions for your pages. The meta description appears below your URL in search results. Knowing what a page is about and what will result in a click makes users much more likely to do so. On-page SEO tactics such as these are free, but do take some time. For more help with on-page SEO, check out this blog post: Google Ranking Factors: On-Page vs Off-Page SEO.
Like many SEOs, I was hired with one vague responsibility: to set up an SEO program and achieve results. Like many SEOs, we jumped right in and started spewing out SEO audits, rewriting title tags, offering up link suggestions, rewriting URLs and so on. And like many SEOs we promised results. But what we didn’t do, until that fateful launch, was develop a comprehensive strategy.
As I had a teacher at school who was always really picky on how to draw conclusions I must say that the conclusions you drew for your health situation might be true, but dangerous. For example: If slightly more women than men suffer from health deseases it could be wise to write the information toward women. But, if you take search behaviour into account thing could look a lot different: It might turn up that men search more than women or that (senior) men are more present on the net than women.
We expect advertisements to be visible. However, you should not let the advertisements distract users or prevent them from consuming the site content. For example, advertisements, supplement contents, or interstitial pages (pages displayed before or after the content you are expecting) that make it difficult to use the website. Learn more about this topic.38
It’s not enough to just share content through social channels – you need to actively participate in the community, too. Got a Twitter account? Then join in group discussions with relevant hashtags. Is your audience leaving comments on your Facebook posts? Answer questions and engage with your readers. Nothing turns people off quicker than using social media as a broadcast channel – use social media as it was intended and actually interact with your fans.

5) Post at the right time. Let’s say you want to post in the r/Entrepreneur/ subreddit, but there’s already a post in the #1 spot with 200 upvotes, and it was posted 4 hours ago. If you post at that time, you probably won’t overtake that #1 spot, and you’ll get less traffic. However, if you wait a day, check back, and see that the new #1 spot only has 12-15 upvotes, you’ll have a golden opportunity. It will be much easier for you to hit the #1 spot and get hundreds of upvotes.
Brian, I’ve drunk your Kool aid! Thank you for honesty and transparency – it really gives me hope. Quick question: I am beyond passionate about a niche (UFOs, extraterrestrials, free energy) and know in my bones that an authority site is a long term opportunity. The problem today is that not many products are attached to this niche and so it becomes a subscriber / info product play. However, after 25+ years as an entrepreneur with a financial background and marketing MBA, am I Internet naive to believe that my passion and creativity will win profitability in the end? The target audience is highly passionate too. Feedback?

Thanks for the great post. I am confused about the #1 idea about wikipedia ded links…it seems like you didn’t finish what you were supposed to do with the link once you found it. You indicated to put the dead link in ahrefs and you found a bunch of links for you to contact…but then what? What do you contact them about and how do you get your page as the link? I’m obviously not getting something 🙁
Commenting on blog posts written by industry experts with lots of followers can bring your website a lot of traffic. When you post a comment (most) blogs allow you to leave a link back to your site for other readers to check out – as long as you leave an insightful comment you WILL get traffic from your blog comments. Make sure you comment as quickly as possible when new blog posts go up. The higher in the comments you are the more clicks you’ll get. I have Google Reader setup to alert me when new blog posts are made on the industry blogs I follow and I comment immediately to lock in my first place spot.
But I've recently heard some chatter voicing the polar opposite. I've heard the sentiment to wholly ignore certain data points because they don't represent the real person. To me, that's bad advice — directional data is better than the romantic notion of success based on your "gut" feel. Estimated search volume, clicks, and even impressions give credence not only to a keyword, but a bigger theme. This starts to create direction and an understanding of need, which leads to your next few rounds of audience recognition.

I read The Art of War in college, written by the Chinese general Sun Tzu (author of the quote above). While his actual existence is debated, his work is often considered as brilliant military strategy and philosophy. Thus, The Art of War is often co-opted into business for obvious reasons. Throughout the book, you'll realize tactics and strategy are not interchangeable terms.
“In conclusion, this research illuminates how content characteristics shape whether it becomes viral. When attempting to generate word of mouth, marketers often try targeting “influentials,” or opinion leaders (i.e., some small set of special people who, whether through having more social ties or being more persuasive, theoretically have more influence than others). Although this approach is pervasive,recent research has cast doubt on its value (Bakshy et al. 2011; Watts 2007) and suggests that it is far from cost effective. Rather than targeting “special” people, the current research suggests that it may be more beneficial to focus on crafting contagious content. By considering how psychological processes shape social transmission, it is possible to gain deeper insight into collective outcomes, such as what becomes viral.”
Great post. I know most of the stuff experienced people read and think “I know that already”… but actually lots of things we tend to forget even though we know them. So its always good to read those. What I liked most was the broken link solution. Not only to create a substitute for the broken link but actually going beyond that. I know some people do this as SEO technique but its actually also useful for the internet as you repair those broken links that others find somewhere else.

Tablet - We consider tablets as devices in their own class, so when we speak of mobile devices, we generally do not include tablets in the definition. Tablets tend to have larger screens, which means that, unless you offer tablet-optimized content, you can assume that users expect to see your site as it would look on a desktop browser rather than on a smartphone browser.
Backlinks. If content is king, then backlinks are queen. Remember, it's not about which site has the most links, but who has the most quality links pointing back to their website. Build backlinks by submitting monthly or bi-monthly press releases on any exciting company, and contacting popular blogs in your niche to see how you can work together to get a backlink from their website. Create the best possible product site you can, so people talking about the products you sell will link back. Try creating graphics or newsworthy content that will influence bloggers and news websites to link that content.
Social media. The algorithms have truly changed since social media first emerged. Many content websites are community-oriented -- Digg began allowing users to vote which stories make the front page, and YouTube factors views and user ratings into their front page rankings. Therefore, e-commerce stores must establish a strong social media presence on sites like Facebook , Pinterest, Twitter, etc. These social media sites send search engines signals of influence and authority. 
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