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.
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.
On a dating niche site I took the ‘ego-bait’ post one step further and had sexy girls perform a dance and strip to revel the names of the major bloggers in my niche written on their bodies. As you can imagine it got a lot of attention from the big players in my niche and my audience and is a little more creative for getting links, shares and traffic.
All sites have a home or "root" page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors. Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content. Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area that it would make sense to create a page describing these related pages (for example, root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic)? Do you have hundreds of different products that need to be classified under multiple category and subcategory pages?

For example, if a swimming pool business is trying to rank for "fiberglass pools" -- which is receiving 110,000 searches per month -- this short-tail keyword can be the one that represents the overarching topic on which they want to create content. The business would then identify a series of long-tail keywords that relate to this short-tail keyword, have reasonable monthly search volume, and help to elaborate on the topic of fiberglass pools. We'll talk more about these long-tails in the next step of this process.

In 1998, two graduate students at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, developed "Backrub", a search engine that relied on a mathematical algorithm to rate the prominence of web pages. The number calculated by the algorithm, PageRank, is a function of the quantity and strength of inbound links.[22] PageRank estimates the likelihood that a given page will be reached by a web user who randomly surfs the web, and follows links from one page to another. In effect, this means that some links are stronger than others, as a higher PageRank page is more likely to be reached by the random web surfer.
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.
In March 2006, KinderStart filed a lawsuit against Google over search engine rankings. KinderStart's website was removed from Google's index prior to the lawsuit, and the amount of traffic to the site dropped by 70%. On March 16, 2007, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose Division) dismissed KinderStart's complaint without leave to amend, and partially granted Google's motion for Rule 11 sanctions against KinderStart's attorney, requiring him to pay part of Google's legal expenses.[70][71]
Sorry for the long comment, I just am really happy to see that after all those years of struggle you finally made a break through and you definitely deserve it bro. I’ve had my own struggles as well and just reading this got me a little emotional because I know what it feels like to never wanting to give up on your dreams and always having faith that one day your time will come. It’s all a matter of patience and learning from failures until you get enough experience to become someone who can generate traffic and bring value to readers to sustain long term relationships.
Thanks for bringing up this point - I agree Eric - competitive positioning can help you determine value that you bring to the table that your competitors dont.  I'm all for it.  Neilsen does some reports that provide awareness, likelihood to recommend, sentiment and other insightsfor your site/brand and your competitors. You can also pull some of that type of insight out of social listening platforms like NetBase, SM2, Radian6, Dow Jones, Nielsen, and so many others.  I've even done some hacked compeitove sentiment comprisons before using Search: searching for [brand or feature] + "like", "love", hate", "wish" etc. 
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.
Thanks a lot for this very long post! I’m printing it to read tomorrow with a nice cuppa. It has some good reminders of ideas I knew of but had forgotten in the midst of being busy. I appreciate the reminder, particularly as I’m super busy getting organized to grow my blog. I’m very happy to discover new ideas that I didn’t know of as well. Love your writing style. I’ll surely be browsing through your blog more in the future.

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.
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