7 Simple SEO Tips for Beginners (SEO Is Not What You Think)
In my SEO agency, I often interview new candidates for a job.
What I’ve noticed is that beginners often have better potential to start providing more effective SEO than experienced specialists.
Why is this?
Let me explain.
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More often than not, SEO specialists with more than 10 years of experience started to gain their knowledge when SEO methods were much simpler, e.g. writing saturated text with too many keywords and buying more links than their competitors.
That worked perfectly fine at the time. There were no special tricks.
In 2010 I started promoting my first online business, which was an online shop. I bought more backlinks than my competitors and I wrote many texts with saturated keywords. The results were awesome.
We were so busy, my sales department didn’t have enough time to ship all our orders. My sales revenue kept going up and my business flourished.
I thought that I had found the secret of eternal success by which I could beat my competitors, but Google had other plans. Google has its own competitors such as Bing and Yahoo.
Considering their own search competition, Google needs to list only the best websites that help users find what they want in the shortest possible time. My online shop wasn’t even close to being one of the best.
In 2012 Google punished my website and millions of others too, by using a new filter called Penguin. SEO was forever changed.
Google taught us a good lesson – that SEO is more difficult than just buying links and writing texts for robots. That was my turning point when I started learning SEO every single day.
I rewrote texts for humans; I deleted spam backlinks and disavowed bad backlinks. After this filter, my online shop recovered. My traffic and sales returned.
A few of my friends had online projects as well and they asked me to help them. I then understood that I could make even more money by providing SEO services.
Then I opened an SEO agency with one purpose in mind – to provide only effective SEO by considering Google updates. For example, in 2018, Google ran over 654,680 experiments and 3,234 of them were successfully launched on their system.
My SEO agency stands out from the crowd because of the fact that we test a lot in order to find which methods work well. I’m sure that other successful SEO agencies do this as well.
Not wanting to be a Jack of all trades, I decided to quit my online shop and focus on SEO instead. It’s better to be a master in one direction than mediocre in many others.
Today, I learn SEO for a few hours every single day by reading SEO blogs and marketing books, by watching YouTube educational videos, by listening to audio podcasts, etc.
There is no simple secret anymore. There is no perfect recipe on how to get traffic.
SEO has returned to traditional marketing methods that consider human psychology and contemplate the consumers’ buying mood. 10 years ago standard SEO methods worked. Today they don’t.
It’s not only because of changing Google algorithms. The main reason is the level of online competition.
Companies and brands have moved to online marketing from classical methods because they sell their products much better than TV, radio, newspapers and other media.
There are 1.7 billion websites online. The TOP-10 only has 10 positions, there is no space for a tiny percentage of all existing websites.
Considering this fact, standard SEO methods don’t work anymore. If all websites use standard methods, what does Google need to rank on their TOP-10? Google only ranks the best who use non-standard SEO methods.
According to Ahrefs, 91% of all websites have no organic traffic.
In my video, I explained to you “How to Implement Effective SEO for a New Website in (9 Invaluable Tips)”.
I recommend you watch this video.
The problem with many experienced SEO specialists is that they stop learning. They use old SEO tricks and methods that don’t get any results today. What’s worse is that these methods often hurt promotional websites.
Why do they use old methods? Because these old methods worked for them and they believe these methods continue to work.
My favorite phrase from GaryVee is that ‘’the era of lazy marketers is dead’’. Do you agree with this phrase? Write your opinion in the comments section.
For me, it’s better to work with beginners than with “experienced” specialists – Ones that think they know everything about marketing. It’s impossible to know everything.
If you don’t change the house you live in or the fridge you use for 10 years – that I can understand. However, what I can’t understand is when people don’t change their smartphones or replace old t-shirts and wear them for 5 years at a time.
The more you learn – the more you will understand that you only know 1 millionth of a part of 1% of your niche. One thing you will never hear from famous SEO gurus is that they know everything. If you choose SEO then you have a much better chance than many other “experienced” specialists.
I briefly explained to you that SEO changes because of two reasons – Google improved its own system and is constantly increasing and always improving the level of online competition.
Google launches new changes more than 8 times a day. Do you think it’s possible to consider all these changes? No, it’s not.
At first, Google doesn’t inform us about these changes. No one knows what happens there. Google doesn’t list these changes and share secrets with its competitors – Bing, Yahoo, Duckduckgo, Baidu, Yandex, etc.
Do you tell your secrets to your competitors? Of course, you don’t.
The second reason is that Black hat SEO specialists will manipulate ranking results if they have an inkling of what Google has changed. Even Google boffins won’t remember all of the changes because it’s literally impossible for the human mind to cover these numbers.
How to promote websites if we don’t know what works and what doesn’t? The answer is simple – choose and prioritize.
In our daily lives, we choose our own priorities, e.g. between health, family, sports, job, education, entertainment, etc. Unfortunately, you can’t be successful everywhere.
If you want to have big muscles you then need to train a lot, dope yourself, eat 6-12 meals a day and rest a lot in order to recover your strength. That means you won’t have enough time for education and entertainment.
If you choose to spend a lot of time with your family, raise your kids yourself – you won’t achieve great results in your job or in sport.
I have a handful of friends – they are good everywhere. If I need to buy a new bike, sneakers, sunglasses, e.g. or anything else, they are there to give me useful tips about existing brands and prices.
Yeah, they know a lot, but they are far from the best. Any specialist in one direction will kick their asses in their own niche. The point I’m trying to make is that prioritization is important for SEO as well.
It’s impossible to cover all Google algorithms and luckily you don’t need to. Google algorithms don’t all have similar influence and they are not all created equal.
Choose the most important ranking factors that work better than others. I have collated 7 proven steps in providing effective SEO below.
Correct Content Plan
In my SEO agency, I often meet website owners who have been paying for SEO services for three or more years, yet they still have no organic traffic.
The most common problem is the low-quality content.
Yet, I might sometimes stumble across websites that actually contain high-quality content, but have no organic traffic, either.
This is strange because the content is the number one ranking factor, isn’t it?
The main problem here is that my clients’ competitors have high-quality content too. Do website owners have misconceptions about whose content is better – mine or theirs? Yet again, Google is the judge.
Even if your content is really better, in the Google algorithms’ eyes, their system might rank bigger brands higher because of brand recognition. Users trust and want to see famous brands that have earned and achieved their positions over a period of many years.
More often than not, users search more for brands than generic terms. Google takes users’ wishes into consideration and gives them what they want in the search results. For example, the branded keyword “GoPro” has a significantly higher volume of search results than e.g. “sport camera” or “extreme camera”, including the word “camera”.
How do you achieve the same positions and brand recognition as your competitors?
Let me explain.
I love boxing. I was born in a small town called Belgorod-Dnestrovsky, Odesa region, Ukraine. When I was 12 years old, I decided to take up boxing. That’s how I met Anatoly Lomachenko. He has been nominated as the world’s best trainer numerous times. Would it be possible for me to win international tournaments simply because I had the best coach?
I would have needed to train a lot. Then, I would have needed to win local tournaments, the boxing federation would have had to permit me to take part in national competitions. If I had done well, then I could have taken part in international boxing competitions and maybe one day I would have become a world champion. This would have taken years.
Do you think it went this way? Nope. The main reason was the level of competition. I was never passionate enough about boxing. The same happens with website promotion. Before you compete with bigger websites you need to take out the smaller ones.
Forget trying to compete with websites like Wikipedia, Amazon, Ebay, Expedia, Kayak, Pinterest, YouTube or any other websites in your niche, now. You are not in their league. Even more so, if you have no organic traffic. Big brands get a lot of traffic, but they don’t hog all the traffic because of the following reasons:
- They have their own development focus – not only organic traffic.
- It’s difficult to create high-quality related content for all keywords in your niche, even if you have unlimited resources.
- 15% of new keywords appear every single day.
I often ask my clients – those without organic traffic – to share their content strategy with me. They usually show me some generic keywords on their content plan or even worse, they have no content strategy, yet they want traffic. But they don’t know what kind of search traffic they want!
My clients are not the only culprits. My brother made the same mistake.
Let me tell you his story.
My brother emigrated to the US in 2004. For 15 years he worked hard and grew, advancing in his career. Today he has a really good job and earns a high salary. To everyone else, it seemed as if he had a perfect life. However, there was one problem – obesity, and as a result, he started to suffer from many related illnesses.
He trained a lot, but it simply didn’t work. He followed various diets and your standard recommendations for losing weight. It didn’t help. He then started doing his own research by reading up to 3 books per week about weight loss.
Finally, he found and got stuck on an interesting book “The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting” written by Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore. My brother used some of the recommendations from this book as his foundation for losing weight, and adapted and combined it with the knowledge that he gained from reading other diet and lifestyle books.
The fantastic result was that he went from 220 pounds to 172 pounds in only 4 months! He then told me what I needed to do in order to lose weight, like him. As a result, I went from 184 to 160 pounds in only 2 months. Something that I have been trying to do for 20 years!
Today I feel like a different person. I used to suffer from allergies from May through September, every year. During that period ragweed blooms in Ukraine. I used to take a lot of medicine in order to decrease the pain that this allergy caused me. Each year I used more and more meds.
This summer was the first time in my life that I didn’t suffer from any allergies at all. Today, I can chop ragweed bushes into my salad and mix them up with tomatoes and cucumbers without as much as a sneeze!
My brother decided to create a blog about weight loss and fasting. The reason being that he is absolutely passionate about helping people to lose weight and he wants to share his knowledge with the world.
I asked him to show me his content plan. He didn’t have one because he wanted to write about generic weight loss questions and problems. Did you know that the weight loss industry amounts to over a hundred billion dollars in annual revenue, in the USA alone?
It’s extremely competitive industry. Even if you have the best weight loss method, it’s nearly impossible to outrank big brands because people don’t know you and they simply don’t have time to analyze your content.
What do you do then?
Do the following:
- Consider your competitors’ websites that don’t have high DA (Domain Authority by Moz, Ahrefs, Majestic, Semrush or Ubersuggest – whichever you choose). I usually use websites with a score of <40.
- Find low-quality content that has high organic traffic. I look for content with organic traffic that has 1,000 visitors a month and less than 1,000 words per page.
- The first content published more than 3 years ago. This content often has outdated information.
- Create significantly better content than this low-quality, outdated content.
- Promote your website by using the Skyscraper technique.
- Write guest posts for websites that have a high DA, about competitive topics.
I usually use the Content explorer tab on Ahrefs for finding low-quality content with high traffic. For example, I found 51 pages by using the keywords “weight loss”.
Don’t use all these pages – scan them in order to find interesting topics from which you can create better content. If you don’t find any – search for other related keywords. For example, my brother added interesting topics with traffic to his content plan.
I used and continue to use exactly the same technique for my new SEO blog.
The next step is promotion.
I didn’t publish this article you’re reading now on my blog because I don’t have enough authority or an extended audience. Without these metrics, I wouldn’t have been able to promote it. By writing high-quality articles for other blogs, you are able to improve your authority and share your knowledge with a broader audience.
Before creating interesting content, you need to consider the most important ranking factors. This brings me to my next tip.
Write a Compelling Title
A title is the first thing that users see on Google search.
Users don’t know anything about your content before they open it.
They open it for only one reason – your title and your description.
You might be asking why I started with the title, not the content, even though Google has highlighted that content is key and THE number 1 ranking factor.
Like Bill Gates also proclaimed, content is king, however Sam Oh differs in his opinion and states that content serves the king. The king being your business. Feel free to make up your own mind about the purpose of content. However, if you have the best content in the world and you don’t have a compelling title – Google won’t rank it.
Why is that?
Let me to explain.
8 out of 10 users don’t open a website if the title sounds uninteresting. These users won’t know about the high-quality content because of your title being boring.
Users barely read 20% of the actual content of a page after opening it. The Pareto principle is relevant everywhere. They just scan the most important elements, e.g. your phone number, price, location, pictures, headings, subheadings, etc. At that point, a short title with 5-9 words is much more important than content with over 2000 words and lots of pictures.
In 1956, George Miller published the book “The Magical Number Seven, Plus and Minus Two”. In his book he explains why people remember 7 numbers more easily.
It’s the same with a title. A meta tag title includes 5-9 words because, on average, people don’t read more because they simply won’t remember them. Site owners often write long titles, however Google cuts them down.
The length of a title is not an important element for CTR (click through rate) – there are many others.
SEO professionals often insert a related keyword into a title and add special features about their content. The main problem is that SEOs don’t write benefits into a title. Even if benefits give readers a good reason why they need to open the content.
Users don’t care about you and your content. People don’t have time to check 1.7 billion websites, if these websites don’t solve their problems. According to the “Ca$hvertising” book written by Drew Eric Whitman, adding benefits into your title is much more important than special features.
Here are a few examples:
|Weight Loss Pills will Cost $99 a Month||Lose 10 Pounds in a Month for $99 with Safe Pills|
|Awesome English Course||Achieve C1 Level in Only 90 Days with Unique English Course|
John Caples highlighted 4 all-important qualities of a good headline: news, self-interest, curiosity, the quick and easy way. Depending on your content, consider these qualities because 75% of all people’s decisions are decided by their emotions.
Your title also needs to differ from your competitors’.
Imagine the scenario: you search your keyword in Google and see similar titles in the TOP-10 positions, but one of them is a “purple cow” that stands out and catches your attention among all the other “white cows”. People will love it and click through.
Check your competitors’ titles because they don’t pay a lot of attention to them. They are all almost the same. Highlight your benefits, provoke curiosity and stand out from the crowd.
Where to find clickable words for your titles? The best way is to check out Google ads because the main purpose of Google ads is to get clicks. The more clicks you get – the less money you pay per click. PPC specialists know this golden rule and they put in the extra effort for finding clickable words for you. Use the same provoking words.
Users often scan titles and don’t read them. There are also additional tricks such as using numbers and brackets that you can use. On average, these tricks increase CTR by up to 74%, according to Hubspot and Moz.
My formula for writing a clickable title is as follows:
I usually start from the main keyword because people skim and scan results – they read them in full. My formula looks like this:
|1||Keyword + clickable words + numbers and brackets||Often used|
|2||One word + keyword + clickable words + numbers and brackets||Less often used|
|3||Number + word + keywords + clickable words + brackets||Not often|
|4||Number + 2 words + keywords + clickable words + brackets||Rarely used|
Please note, that in my formula I don’t count prepositions and articles.
Ok, enough theory already. Check out the good examples from marketers because they know better than any other niche on how to create a clickable title.
For example, I type the keyword “Increase traffic” into Ahrefs Keywords Explorer.
As you can see, there are two variants that are more related with this broad keyword: “increase website traffic” and “increase blog traffic”.
Don’t try to use two variants together because you might confuse Google as to what the main purpose of your content is. With the result that Google won’t rank any keywords then.
Say, for example, that I have content about “increasing blog traffic”. I then check my competitors’ meta information on Ahrefs – you can check it on Google.
Google ranks lists for this keyword because people want to get a lot of ideas on how to increase traffic to their blogs.
You can see that Neil Patel and Optinmonster use provoking phrases “Proven strategies” that increase traffic by 206% and 1064%, respectively. Other websites use words “simple or easy” because website owners don’t want to put a lot of effort into it. Everybody wants a simpler way.
On Google Ads there is commercial content with other interest-provoking words.
Gather all these ideas together, in order to create your own clickable title that is connected to your content.
For example, the title of this video is “SEO Training Course 2019: 7 Proven Steps (SEO Is Not What You Think)”. I added the main keyword, numbers, brackets, benefits and interest-provoking words.
A title is the most underestimated SEO parameter. Martin Split, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, ranks meta tags in second place, after content.
By the way, I have recorded my first video “9 Methods How to Write Meta Tags (Title & Description) for Higher CTR” with many other parameters of writing an awesome title.
If you haven’t watched it, I recommend you do. You will learn a lot more about meta tags.
The next section is just as important as writing meta tags – how to write text for high-quality content.
Rewriting Is Dead
The main part of any content is its text.
I always write texts for my website pages or transcripts for my videos before creating the rest of the content.
Google and YouTube rank content by reading texts.
The question is: how to write text that will rank.
You have two choices:
- writing text yourself – providing you have enough time and experience;
- hiring someone with experience, who knows how to write.
Which one you choose, is up to you. Consider one important element though – don’t rewrite old or other texts.
Do you know what the main difference is between rewriting and copywriting? You might think that copywriting has 100% uniqueness and rewriting doesn’t. This is not always the case. You can rewrite any text in order to get 100% uniqueness on any checker or other plagiarism tools.
The main difference is that copywriting is brand new information for readers, rewriting is not brand new. Google might not rank rewriting because the data is already utilized.
Copywriters who don’t know the topic they need to write about, usually read information about the specific topic on the TOP-10 and then convert the information into a new article. Users might read the same content on the TOP-10. If they come across the same converted content, they won’t read it again.
Google has a lot of instruments for checking user behavior. Website owners won’t link to rewritten articles because the information is not new to their audience, either.
Once, Tim Soulo sent Rand Fishkin a new 7000-word article and asked him to share it with his followers. After scanning the article, Rand Fishkin denied Tim Soulo’s request. The reason being that the article contained no new information.
Ask yourself – do you know about a replica of Harry Potter written by someone else other than J.K. Rowling? Or perhaps you know about a replica of Martin Eden not written by Jack London or The Old Man and the Sea not written by Hemingway?
I don’t think so. It’s exactly the same with websites – content and information must be 100% unique.
Before you travel to other places, what do you usually do?
You read online reviews written by other experienced travellers who have already been there. You wouldn’t read fake reviews from people who transferred information from other travellers, would you? In other words, rewriting stinks – nobody wants to smell it.
How to create effective copywriting?
At first, a copywriter needs to know their target topic. In my agency, I have tried to find experienced writers online many times. I don’t work with writers who don’t know specific topics because they write absolute rubbish. There are many online platforms where you can find writers, e.g. upwork.com, iwriter.com, problogger.com, bloggingpro.com, allfreelancewriting.com, etc.
The main problem with online resources is that freelancers tend to write about everything, but they don’t know everything. Nobody knows everything. Ask a potential writer which topics he/she knows. One writer replied to me with a huge list of topics: weight loss, cars, insurance, Instagram and so on. Avoid these ‘specialists’.
The best place for finding experienced writers is by looking for bloggers in your niche. It takes a lot of time, but you can rest assured that these writers know their topics.
I usually create a huge list with more than 100 writers who write content about my topic on famous resources or their own blogs. I then gauge the content by using the following parameters:
- Organic traffic.
- Real comments.
- Times shared.
I then outreach experienced writers with normal parameters for my niche. In my experience, 50% of them don’t reply to me; 45% give me a crazy quote and only 5% of them provide suitable terms. The price is often 3 times more than I might pay on online writing platforms, but the quality is 10 times better.
Explain to your writer that you don’t want rewriting. You want new useful information. Experienced writers combine theory with their own experience and proven data in order to write high-quality written texts.
This brings me to my third step.
Creating Your Purple Cow
Seth Godin has written many great books.
One of them is called “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable”.
Let’s dig deeper into what this actually means.
Your content needs to stand out from the rest of the online content. If you are only one more project with similar thousands of other projects, why should customers read yours?
People only care about themselves and their problems. If your project solves their problems in exactly the same way as other similar projects, why do they need to choose yours?
Don’t try to pique all customers’ curiosity. All people are different. We are all of a different sex, age, interest and culture. We are all individuals.
For example, I like historical and science fiction movies whereas my wife likes horror and drama. I don’t understand how anybody could watch horror movies before trying to fall asleep, but my wife can’t sleep without them. We always argue about not having anything to watch together.
My wife also likes to read Harry Potter. She has read all the Harry Potter books many times. When we visited Universal Studios in Florida, she spent half a day in the Harry Potter district, alone.
5% of readers have reviewed the Harry Potter books with one star on Amazon. I personally, have never read Harry Potter because it’s not my favorite genre. Even more confusing is how J.K. Rowling has earned over a billion dollars with her books, when many people have reviewed her books with only one star.
The answer is simple, she doesn’t try to impress everybody. She has her own audience. Her audience reviews her books with 5 stars.
When I spend time with my son, we usually go out for ice-cream. My favorite is coconut, but my son loves chocolate and strawberry. My son also wants to visit playgrounds, but I like playing basketball instead. However, sometimes I enjoy going to the playground with my son. It depends on my mood.
Don’t try to please all the people all the time. I like iPhones but some of my friends might hate iPhones because they believe Samsung is better. They have also explained the many disadvantages of using an iPhone to me.
There are millions of other similar opinions on the internet. Even though the Apple brand has cost a trillion dollars and is one of the most expensive brands in the world, they don’t strive to be everybody’s favorite smartphone brand. They have their own loyal customers.
Get to know your audience. I always ask my new clients the following questions:
- Who are your competitors?
- What are their strong and weak points?
- How do you differ from your competitors?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Who is your buying persona?
Don’t create content where your competitors already have strong competition. What I mean is if they have already found their purple cows.
The main problems with new websites is that they try to recreate similar projects and similar content, like their competitors. Therefore it could end up looking like a Chinese replica of an iPhone. Even though Apple is huge, there are many other brands that are also successful and have their own unique claim to fame.
For example, Techno is the second highest selling brand in Africa apart from Samsung, because of affordable prices and extended battery life. These parameters are important in Africa, more so than any other smartphone features. These unique selling points “USP’s” have made Techno the second best brand in Africa with 18% of the total market share.
Create your own unique content, written in your own unique style – don’t be a copier. Find your audience, create content for your audience and highlight your strengths. The best way to do this is by creating something new for your buying persona.
There is a big difference in discovering the buying persona for a new website compared to an existing website with traffic. If you already have traffic, then go to the Audience tab on Google Analytics or the same Audience tab on YouTube Creator Studio and check out your buying persona’s data.
I know it might sound weird, but my buying persona differs from platform to platform. On YouTube my buying persona is not the same as on my Google search because I have different types of content and people have different tastes and moods. By using different platforms I’m able to reach more customers, taking into consideration their different needs and problems.
If you don’t have traffic, then search for the audience that is interested in your niche. There are numerous studies online, just spend a few hours looking for them.
It’s important to find loyal customers and create products for them. If you have high-quality content, but your products are not unique – Google won’t rank your website.
Google has a lot of instruments whereby which you can check the quality of your products:
- Dwell time on your site is a parameter that estimates how long users spend on your site before they return to the search system to check other website results.
- UX (User Experience) is an indirect ranking factor with huge influence.
- Parameter “EAT” estimates your expertise, authority, trustworthiness.
Many customers don’t understand why SEO agencies or freelancers don’t guarantee the traffic they can provide. If you have low-quality products, nobody will help you. SEOs are not magicians. SEOs can’t fix your products. SEO tools merely help identify errors, but they can’t fix them automatically.
You might think that some niches aren’t unique. For example, you are a reseller – thousands of other resellers are pushing exactly the same products.
The manufacturer of your product does not define your USP. You can push the same products just like any other resellers, but finding your own USP is more important because you have thousands of other competitors.
Your USP might be a better price, free shipping, extra services, gifts, memberships, community access, ease of use, etc.
On your website, focus on the term “ease of use”. This brings me to my fourth tip.
Create Simple Content
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”, Einstein proclaimed.
How to apply this quote for websites?
Let’s dig in.
According to a Quicksprout infographic, 76% of online users say that the most important factor in the design of a website is ease of use, i.e. the website must make it easier for a consumer to find what they are searching for.
Do you know how inexperienced website owners create their websites? They checked out successful websites, see their profits and think that it’s nothing special. They imagine themselves creating similar projects while also earning a lot.
This is the main reason why there are 1.7 billion websites in the world and only 0.3% of them have more than 1,000 visitors a month.
Furthermore, another problem is that many successful websites were created with intricate structure and design. At the same time, there was not enough information about what type of website you needed to have. Over time, their audience came to learn about the website structure and now know exactly how to use it.
For example, Facebook hasn’t changed much in their usability design because users are familiar with Facebook’s structure. Do you remember Myspace? That was a very popular social network, before Facebook. Myspace redesigned their structure in order to simplify using their platform. This failed. Users left Myspace in droves because they still needed to learn the new structure, even if it was simpler.
Big websites have learnt that lesson and they don’t significantly redesign the structure of their websites. Their main focus is that changes, however small, should not cause discomfort to their users.
The other problem is that successful websites have a lot of products. Amazon alone, sells over 3 billion products and have 300 million customers. Customers are familiar with their structure and know how to use the website, which means that the Amazon website structure is amazing, considering that it covers an enormous number of products.
Many new websites have tried to copy the difficult structures of successful websites, but they don’t have billions of products or millions. Amazon started out by selling a few books online. While Amazon has flourished, becoming the number 1 online selling platform, Facebook started out by providing small social media networks for universities and has subsequently grown to 2.4 billion users.
When starting out, you don’t need to copy the structure of Amazon, Facebook or any other huge websites, because you simply don’t have millions of users and products yet. Create a simple and understandable structure first.
Today you stand a better chance than older websites because they can’t change and simplify their structure dramatically. When designing your website – take away all optional elements, leave only the crucial elements and a lot of white space.
Many websites create three columns for a home page in order to add almost everything they have in their catalog. When a visitor opens a page like that they are instantly confused as to where they need to go, with the result that they then leave.
10 years ago, customers didn’t have that many choices. I speak from experience, because I was the proud owner of a terrible online shop that made great sales and earned me a lot of money. Today this shop doesn’t exist anymore.
Open apple.com. Apple has a lot of goods and services, but on the first screen of their website there is only an iPhone. If you scroll down, you see one or two columns at the bottom of their page – there is a lot of white space so as not to confuse visitors.
Customers prefer to scroll down instead of being bombarded with everything on one visible screen. Apple also references to other pages in order to create a suitable structure from their main page. At the top, they link to their most important pages such as: Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, etc. On the bottom, they refer to their less important pages. It’s that simple.
Once you have created a simple home page, create the other pages as simple as possible as well. Another point – don’t try to design and create a lot of pages over a short period of time. It’s difficult to create high-quality content – rather take your time.
My clients often ask me how many pages they need to create in a week?
My answer to them and you is: Create your own scoring on a ten-point system for high-quality content. What I mean is that you can create one page with high-quality content in a week with a maximum score of 10. Then, try to create two pages in the next week with the same maximum score. If you lose your quality for any reason whatsoever, and get a score of 9 or less, then go back to one page a week.
For example, Brian Dean only creates one page a month. Quality is key. People wouldn’t buy Brian Dean’s products if he didn’t have high-quality content.
The main part of Brian Dean’s content is informational: blog articles and YouTube videos. How does Brian sell his products with informational pages? This brings me to my next tip.
Use Content Marketing
10 years ago the thought of using content marketing never crossed my mind.
During that time, I had an online shop where I promoted commercial pages.
My shop had a blog, but I only published articles in order to assist my existing customers.
I didn’t promote my blog because my commercial pages ranked well and they sold my goods much better than any other pages.
However, Google often changes their algorithms in order to provide maximum useful information. Well-written long step-by-step articles contain significantly more useful information than shorter ones. This is why Wikipedia is so popular.
Google has changed the rules of the ranking game because of users’ intention. If you want traffic, you need to follow the rules. Create two types of informational content: blog articles and YouTube videos for getting organic traffic. Other types of informational content don’t funnel organic traffic and demand different promotional methods.
There are over 1 billion blogs on the internet. The majority of them are bad. Many website owners consider themselves bloggers because they think their blogs help their websites to rank. In theory this is correct, but only if your blog provides valuable content. The time of saturated texts is long gone. Google has a lot of instruments that check how valuable and useful your content is to readers.
I reiterate – rewriting is dead. Only professionals who know their topics are able to create long, high-quality content. A question I often get from my clients is what the correct length is of an article, that they need to write?
Coschedule did a study and found that optimal blog post content needs to be around 2,500 words in length – only then will the chance of your blog ranking, be significantly improved. Google doesn’t count the amount of words on any given page, however longer content answers more questions for readers’ problems than shorter content.
Once you have written a good article you then need to add it to your website. 10 years ago, my copywriters who wrote articles added mentioned articles to my online shop’s blog. Today, I have 5 different specialists performing this job:
- A copywriter write copies.
- An editor checks copywriters’ texts.
- A designer draws infographics and pictures for written copies.
- A content manager adds to the website and creates new pages.
- A web-developer optimizes the newly-created pages.
Today, I’m a copywriter myself and I write my own texts. However, this is not a one-man job. One specialist can’t produce high-quality content alone – you need a team. Sure, I can do some of the tasks listed as well, but I would then lose quality and waste my own time.
Let me explain what I mean.
I usually find an editor who doesn’t know my specialization because I tend to write my articles for readers who might not be very familiar with my topic. When an editor checks your copy and doesn’t understand the core of your topic – you need to rephrase it. If your editors are familiar with your topic then they are able to understand difficult terminology and won’t query it.
Another interesting fact is that I’m a terrible designer. Therefore my blog is simple in its design. I can’t draw the simplest elements with any app, whatsoever. I have never liked art and I hated drawing, even in school. However, in my team I have three professional designers – they love to draw. They complement my weak side and change it into a strong side.
Once, I decided to compare my own WordPress speed to my content manager’s speed, just for fun. He beat me and was in fact 6 times faster than I was. It wasn’t only about speed though, his quality of adding content was much better than mine, as well.
It might come as a shock, but I know literally nothing about web-development. People think that SEO specialists need to know IT and web-development, but this is in fact not true. Jack of all trades – Master of none. I have two professional web-developers who create and optimize all my content and tools.
Why would you need to create videos for Google? The answer is that 55% of all searchers include video content and 82% of those come from YouTube.
Don’t underestimate the importance of Youtube. YouTube is the second most popular search system and the second most visited website in the world, after Google. Even better is that YouTube promotion is not as competitive and not as difficult as promoting on Google.
Do you find it difficult to create web and video content? I’m Ukrainian and I write English blog posts and record English videos daily. However, I don’t speak English in my everyday life. If I can do this, so can you. Practice makes progress.
The other problem with creating high-quality content is the lack of promotion. There is a lot of high-quality content on the internet, but readers are not aware of its existence. What I’m saying is that it’s simply not enough to only create content. Promotion is equally important. This brings me to my final step.
White Hat Link Building
Semrush did a study and discovered that the first position had 2.2 times more links than the second position.
Some other top-tier SEO resources noticed the same dynamic between positions and links.
More links = higher positions.
Google ranks high-quality content because of links. Andrey Lipatsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, reported that links and content are the most important ranking factors.
However, other Google boffins – Gary Illyes and John Mueller – proclaimed that there are not only three top ranking factors because the influence of any given ranking factor can change by simply using a different query. What is the real influence of links?
The main problem with links is that people don’t understand their real purpose. Not all links are created equal. The key is usefulness. Links need to link and discover additional information about specific content. Why does Google consider links?
Back in 1998, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google’s founders, tried to sell their startup to Yahoo for $1 million because they wanted to resume their education at Stanford.
Yahoo wasn’t interested. Google then created their Page Rank algorithm that considered links on their ranking. Google received more correct results than Yahoo did, because Yahoo only considered a limited number of ranking factors on their system. Online users started using Google search more than Yahoo because they didn’t want to waste their time finding irrelevant results.
In 2002, Yahoo tried to buy Google for $3 billion, but Google wanted $5 billion. Yahoo didn’t want to pay that price. Today, Google is worth more than $817 billion and have 92% of all global search traffic.
Google outweighed other big competitors because of their algorithm’s PR parameter. However, Google stopped displaying the PR parameter in 2016. But they continue to use it.
Today, big SEO resources such as Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs and Semrush estimate the weight of Page Authority.
How does this work?
If other websites, or your own internal pages, link to one of your pages then Google understands that this page is valuable and increases its ranking.
For many years Black hat SEOs tried to manipulate the Google PR system. This manipulation hurt Google’s search results. In turn, Google created their own algorithms as well as their “Penguin” filter which identifies spam and paid external links.
Thereafter, Google won the battle against Black hat SEO methods. In spite of this victory, Black hat SEOs continue to create SPAM backlinks because their customers don’t know what types of promotion to use. There are three reasons why they use methods that don’t work:
- It’s quite difficult to create White hat links, especially if you have low-quality content.
- Lack of knowledge in providing effective outreach.
- Clients sometimes require SEOs to show a lot of external links on their monthly reports in order to extend the contract for the next month.
It’s important to differentiate between White and Black hat techniques.
If you know that your website might have already cooperated with such “professionals” then you need to manually check on Google Console. Open the “Security & Manual Actions” tab, then click on “Manual actions”. If you get the message “No issues detected” this means that Google has done a great job ignoring spam backlinks.
Google boffins recommend that you don’t use a disavow file if you don’t have manual actions. If you have manual actions, then you need to disavow all bad backlinks by using the disavow file on Google Console.
For future success only allow White hat link building, and connect through email outreach. Below are my five important elements of outreach:
- outreach the right people;
- provocative email subject;
- create connections;
Outreach tools such as Buzzstream or Pitchbox have built-in features for finding email addresses. However, successful websites have a hierarchy and each employee has their own duties and unique email addresses.
Sometimes there are also emails which have more than one recipient like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t send outreach emails to these addresses. Before sending out any outreach email, spend some time to learn who is responsible for editing, writing or suitable for your purpose. Only then find their email.
The biggest challenge of any outreach campaign is getting the receiver to open your email. You might be able to write the most valuable email, but the recipient won’t know if they don’t open it. Shannon McGuirk shared her secret that improves email opening rates from 33% to 52% – an increase of 1,6x times! She gave the following tips:
- Use the recipient’s name in your subject line.
- Create connections via Twitter before sending emails.
- For journalists: use provocative words like storytip, data, research, revealed, best, worst new, today, expert. Consider your niche and find other effective words.
Dale Carnegie proclaimed that the most important word for a person is their name. That’s why recipients open emails with their name in the subject line more often.
In 2018 alone, 281 billion emails were sent out per day, according to Statista. That might be another reason why people don’t open emails. This number is growing all the time. If we consider that 4.39 billion people use the internet, it means an average of 65 emails per person, per day.
The average number depends on your age and job. For example, my son is 8 years old and he uses email because he needs to have an account on YouTube and he receives only a few emails per day. He also needs an email address to register at other entertainment sites. (However, I’m trying to get him into the habit of visiting educational sites, because this is a family business, but that’s a story for another day).
Your main purpose is to reach busy people who can share your information with huge audiences by utilizing their own media resources. Busy people receive hundreds or thousands of emails a day and they don’t have time to reply to all of them.
Everybody has their own priority as to whom they reply to first, and as to whose emails they ignore or leave pending. For example, I usually reply to my family first (not my mother-in-law), colleagues and friends in that order. Thereafter I reply to less important emails, if time permits.
That is why connecting via Twitter is faster and brings busy people closer. You can also comment, share their content and even speak to them during offline events.
Influencers, bloggers and journalists online get to know who the members of their loyal audience are, and converse with them. If you receive an email from a person you know, then the chance of you opening that email is significantly increased.
During outreach, forget about link building – focus on creating connections. Give value to influencers and help them succeed. Robert B. Cialdini in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” explains that people feel “Guilty” if you help them for free or by not wanting anything in return. All good things come to those who wait and the next time influencers will help you by linking or sharing your content.
The subject line of an email is shorter than Facebook publication titles and Google search titles. The most effective length is anything from between 4 to 7 words. The lack of length allows you to only use a name, one or two provoking words, auxiliary verbs and a preposition or two, in order to connect the subject line meaning.
The next important element of outreach is personalization. It’s not only using the recipient’s name – it’s much more than that. Personalize your email by being interesting and different. Influencers hate receiving a template. They delete these emails immediately.
People have their own interests at heart. Get to know your recipient and think about how you might be useful. Keep in mind that every broad topic has many subtopics and subcategories. For example, if you outreach a journalist from skysports.com, it doesn’t mean your one targeted journalist specializes in all types of sports. If this journalist writes about boxing – don’t propose soccer or cricket content to him.
Let’s assume he writes about your target topic, being “boxing”. Read articles that he has written. If he writes about, and is passionate about, heavyweight British boxers, don’t propose him content about featherweight Mexican warrior-boxers. Think logically.
Mark Twain said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”. It’s extremely difficult to say everything you want to say in a short letter. It takes more time to write a short letter than a long one.
Write it and cut out any unnecessary elements because people don’t like it when somebody tries to sell them a lot of things from only one email. Highlight the most important point and you will stand a much better chance of hooking your recipient.
Link building is the most difficult part of SEO. I have listed some link building techniques below:
- Skyscraper Technique by Brian Dean.
- Guest posting.
- Broken link building.
- Resource page links.
- Link alerts.
- Other outreach techniques which depend on your content.
Don’t try to use all of them right from the start. Learn and practice one or two techniques and when you have received positive results with those, go one to the next technique. Many SEO specialists only use one technique because they don’t want to lose their focus.
If you want traffic, then you need to learn SEO every day. The best way is to read SEO blogs, watch educational YouTube videos, listen to audio podcasts and read marketing books.
Remember: nobody knows exactly what works – the best way is to provide A/B-testing. Test every single thing.
Before creating content, compose an effective content strategy. Then go on to create something unique, from a different angle, than your competitors.
Promote your content by using only White hat link building.
If you have additional questions feel free to ask me in the comments section.
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