Want your site at the top of Google search engine rankings AT ANY COST?
Well you’ve come to the right place, my friend! Step right in and I’ll tell you (more or less) what I did to make myself and many clients lots of money. 😉
Who am I?
Before we begin, I have to introduce my SEO persona. And what I did in my past life as an online marketing consultant and SEO expert. Most of you know me as “Johnny the WordPress speed up guy” but for now, I am “Johnny, the online marketing cowboy”.
All aboard? Let’s begin…
I started learning about SEO around 2006.
Google had overtaken Yahoo as the dominant search engine but both were still relevant. Both had healthy PPC programs (for advertisers and also publishers) although Google was the more profitable one.
SEO tactics back then was lots of silly black-hat stuff. Hiding small white text at the bottom of your sites. Silly link-farm ideas. Half the white-hat stuff back then is grossly outdated today. Trying to get all pages of your site to link to each other. Lots of variant spelling and theories about “perfect keyword density”. Submitting to directories. Cross-linking, backlinking, do-follow, no-follow. Shoving keywords into image filenames and alt-tags. Oh yeah, lots and LOTS of meta-tags.
I worked for my own company for a few years before getting hired at a traditional PR & marketing firm (as their internet marketing consultant). There I managed international million-dollar brands with the kind of marketing budgets you can only dream of. I have had many kinds of SEO clients.
PERSONAL PROJECTS (FREE)
- Please use your own sites to practice your SEO skills. Trust me. If you can’t even get your own website to rank on the first page…your own site…that you love and dedicate all your time into…doing a client site is WAYYYYY harder. Crappy design, crappy code, they don’t even know their keywords.
LOCAL BUSINESS ($0.5-5k budget)
- These are the “SEO favors” you do for your family, friends, and local business referrals. They pay you some money to do general SEO stuff. Your fee might even include website design.
- You get local search terms on the first page and other ones maybe first or second page. They almost never extend beyond the initial package and inevitably give up competing against the bigger sites.
SMALL BUSINESS ($10-20K budget)
- With luck, you meet established businesses with a much more realistic SEO budget.
- Unfortunately, they’ve already been ripped off by other “SEO wizards”. But here you are, being totally upfront and so they take a chance on you.
- The $20k budget comes with one catch. It’s for the whole year and they expect reports and ranking improvements every week. They also ask about SEO tactics they read in a book from 2005.
- Either you get great results and they don’t need you anymore. Or they realize their PPC campaign brings faster results and divert their entire SEO budget over to PPC. Either way, they don’t need you for long.
SMALL AGENCY CLIENT ($50-100K budget)
- You think you’re the sh*t when you get to this point. You walk around like an SEO god bragging about all the miracles you’ve done.
- The clients at this level aren’t that impressed. They already know about SEO, and probably already have pretty good results. The only reason why you’re there is because their current SEO guy got promoted or left the company.
- The benefit of this kind of client is that you don’t have to do too much work. Their branding is strong. Their SEO presence was already established. You’re just there for maintenance more than anything.
LARGE AGENCY CLIENT ($100K and above)
- This kind of client is an absolute nightmare. $100K feels like an unlimited budget until you see their competitors. Amazon, Ebay, Walmart, Home Depot. All the industry giants. F**K! (That $100k becomes a banana in a gunfight.)
- And it’s not only a battle of quality but also QUANTITY. Million dollar companies pivot so fast. New products, new market segments every season. And you’re competing against top SEO agencies working for them.
- Oh and their scary patience! You tell them it takes 6 months to see results and they don’t bother you at all. But on day 181…you are going to get a phone call. They’re going to ask you why some words weren’t on the first page, what you think went wrong, and how you’re gonna fix it. And they’ll hold you to it!
ECCENTRIC CLIENTS (ANY PRICE $$$)
- These are the random phone calls you get from total strangers. “Hi Johnny, I got your number from a good friend of mine. Here are my keywords, how much will it cost?” (Sounds like a drug deal, I know.)
- Most of them are aggressive entrepreneurs wanting agency results, but at mail-order prices. They’ll give you lots of money, freedom, and time. They’ll even pass you 1 or 2 of their employees to help speed up the process. I love these clients!
- One time I had a billionaire who did something stupid and got his name printed in a nationwide newspaper. He was so afraid of getting kicked off the board (of a large company), he offered me any amount I wanted to do NEGATIVE SEO and push his name off the first page. This required me to rank not one but 10-15 dummy sites on the first page. And he wanted it done ASAP.
I retired from SEO after that billionaire guy. He made realize there were no more mountains to climb. That there were no more SEO projects in the world worth my time or talents. It was a fun game of “beat the high score” while it lasted.
INTRO – learn basic SEO principles
I’m not gonna waste my time explaining basic SEO crap you can read everywhere else. There are already hundreds of sites for generic SEO advice, terminology, and “secret tips”. Play with SEO tools out there. Some are for keyword research, others are for checking rankings and backlinks. And then there’s the SEO checklist tools that audit your site for basic semantics and reporting potential indexing issues.
If you can, get a mentor. Or at least jump on SEO and internet marketing forums, then pull out some popcorn and watch strangers argue with each other over who’s tactics are better. You’ll quickly learn the pros and cons of each.
- Books – waste of time IMO. Too verbose, also probably outdated.
- SEO websites – best for learning terms and general strategies.
- Forums – monitor the latest tactics and contrasting opinions on them.
- Mentor – learn someone’s step-by-step process. What tools they use, what they click, what they type. How they interpret SEO reports and how they tweak things over time. (Lol, and how they keep clients calm when things don’t work.)
- Free SEO consultation – call different companies and see what they say. You’ll get an idea of how long and how much, and what tactics they recommend.
The absolute best experience is if you can go work for a marketing firm alongside professionals who do SEO 9-5 every day. There’s a massive difference between someone who knows a lot about SEO versus someone who has to produce results for big clients. The pro is not only better, BUT FASTER!
It also helps if you’re passionate about SEO and marketing. Like I mean REALLLLY passionate. You can’t just be ticking the box. You gotta love it. Love talking about it. All the possibilities. Different methods other firms have used. Also helps if you have a deep marketing background.
SEO is one of those all-or-nothing endeavors. Either you give everything you have and maybe get results. Or you half-ass it and get nothing. Zero benefit whatsoever.
STEP 1 – have a good product
SEO is not a substitute for an inferior product.
Quite often, I meet clients who think of SEO as a shortcut to business success. That they don’t have to do anything besides get on the first page of Google search results and the money will just roll in. And they’re not totally wrong.
Some people are truly incredible marketers. That they can make a ton of money even with an inferior product. But I’m just gonna dismiss them as being outliers. I don’t believe business works like that. Usually, people find out about you (and your company) because you’re freaken awesome!
You should be so amazing, that your customers tell all their friends. Your fans convert fans of other companies. That strangers on the internet adore you without having met you. That the whole world wants everybody else to know you are the best.
“When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you.” – Walter Payton
Create a great user experience.
I am not the best person for teaching this. There are people out there who make an art out of customer service. You need to find them and learn from them.
I generally think of 3 main things:
- Customer expectation – everyone has an idea in their head of how good something should be. Try to do better than that. And “better” can mean anything. Maybe your product tastes better, or that you finish faster, or that your price is cheaper. More features. More service.
- Reduced friction – simple pricing, lots of parking outside, no waiting in line, huge volume discount, constant progress updates, free trial. Find out what people hate about the buying process and make it easy for them!
- The “ooh” factor – your hotel towels are folded like a swan. Free tea after the massage. The ice cream has their name written in it. Something unexpected and memorable…or Instagram-able. 😉
The power of referrals.
Seriously, you may not even need SEO. A great product or service alone can sell itself. You’ll get so much business from word-of-mouth, and going viral on social media that you can barely handle any more customers. A handful of influential fans raving about you is worth more than plain text links next to your competitor. For that reason, many people believe influencers are worth so much more than SEO rank.
STEP 2 – know your competition
Your competition determines how much work you have to do.
Before you start any SEO project, you need to see the battlefield. What’s the territory? Who are the players? So plug in a few keywords and see just how hard it is.
- Do you see Amazon?
- Do you see big brands with thousands of pages sitting on a 15-year old domain?
- Do you see brands backed by industry-recognized SEO agencies?
Your SEO competition determines how hard you have to work to be 1st place. With only a few keywords tested, that’s enough for me to give clients the price and timeframe. If you see a company offering SEO packages without having seen the competitors, they’re full of sh*t.
Go research all the stats on every competitor in the top 10-20 results.
- How many pages?
- How are their semantics?
- Domain age/authority?
- Quality of copywriting?
- Quality of web design & coding?
Whatever amount of stats they have, you are most likely gonna have to outdo them in numbers if you want to guarantee a ranking over them. And if their domain was around for 10 years but yours is new? Hmmm…your quality will have to be THAT much better than theirs. Like I said before, your competition determines how hard you have to work.
Scope out your competitors SEO agencies
This won’t apply to most people reading this guide but is especially important for landing big clients. During my SEO years, BruceClay.com was the local SEO giant. Every local SEO client we dealt with had considered that firm at one point or another. Therefore, it was our job to know their general pricing and tactics. You NEED to know this when negotiating. Otherwise, you end up agreeing to more work than the budget allots for.
Once you’ve scoped out the competition and fully-assessed the mountain you have to climb, it’s time to make an important decision.
STEP 3 – deciding on SEO vs PPC
This is the moment of truth. You have to decide which method will bring the best results for your (or your client’s) money.
At the end of the day, SEO is just a form of paying for leads. And there are many ways to generate leads:
- SEO – organic search engine ranking
- PPC – sponsored ads on search engines, website, or social networks
- AFFILIATES – via Amazon
- INFLUENCER – paying other individuals/companies to promote your brand
To be honest, I don’t think any person can make this decision responsibly without intimate knowledge of pricing for all those different methods. At the very least, you should know how much it would cost for search engine PPC and Facebook ads.
Here’s a catch-22 regarding industry knowledge:
- It really helps if the SEO person already knows the industry well. Since he/she already is already familiar with the keywords and competitors.
- BUT…it’s also a conflict of interest to take on competing clients. Ideally, the SEO person has specific industry experience but working with localized clients in non-competing geography.
Are you sure you really want to do SEO?
- I’m a hardcore advocate of SEO over PPC. It provides unbeatable ROI over the long run when done right.
- But even I will admit PPC is unparalleled for getting immediate results. Just throw a couple dollars and you get leads right away. This is especially critical for new companies that need to find clients ASAP.
Ok…so we’re still doing the SEO thing? Okayyyyyyy!
STEP 4 – keyword research
Keyword research tools:
- You have Google Trends (formerly known as Google Insights).
- There’s also Google Correlate.
- There’s also a million others claiming to be the best SEO keyword research tool.
All I ever needed was Google Trends. Look up words. Compare them. Make sure they’re actually popular in the demographics and geographies you’re targeting. Explore similar words, variant spellings. Google Trends is such an incredible tool!
By all means, go research and buy those fancy keyword tools if you like them. But I don’t think they’re necessary. In many cases, you can just copy your competitors keywords. Hahaha….especially if you can tell they have a good SEO person who’s already done all the research. Whatever pages or blogs they have, you make your own version of that.
Test a wide range of keywords at first.
Easy ones, hard ones. Short broad keyphrases. Longtail super descriptive. Want to be even better? Jump on forums, online groups, or review pages for your target niche. And see exactly what phrases are used or questions people have. “Best WordPress plugins” is great…but unexpected versions like “WordPress plugins I should install” are surprisingly effective.
After a month or so, you can re-strategize depending on your initial results. If you’re having a tough time, go for easier ones. If you’re making great progress, keep investing in the tough ones.
Predict future keywords.
This will forever be one of my BEST TACTICS for beating competitors. I was using keywords before they got popular! Sneaky sneaky sneaky! Muahahahaha. I am king!
Only thing is…you have to be super dialed in to your industry and audience. Read my guides:
Hahaha, I wrote the same topic twice because I forgot that I wrote it already. I can’t tell you how powerful it is. If you have this skill, you will be able to stay on the top of search engines FOREVER. And nobody can touch you. Not even that fancy SEO agency because by the time they’re researching existing keywords, you would have already moved on to future keywords. This skill alone allowed me to be the silverback gorilla on search engines. Beating everybody easily!
When you’re the very first to a keyword, you’re naturally the first site that gets shared when people talk about it and the first site that shows up on search engines. And once you’re first, it’s VERY HARD for competitors to outrank your earlier authority. And if you feel like this task is too hard or you have no sense of what future keywords might be…then I’m gonna call you a pretender who doesn’t know their industry.
There are many great SEO rank monitors now. They monitor your keyword positions. They monitor your competitors’ positions. You can also do Google alerts for whenever a new thing with your company name in it is indexed in Google. There are so many tools to check out. Back then, all I had was IBP and another 2 that I forgot the names of. The ones today are so much better and (I assume) don’t have usage limits like the old ones.
FWIW: many of the old-school SEO guys use to brag about using only Notepad. Hahaha. Trust me…if you’re good, you really don’t need any tools because you’ll instinctively know what each situation needs. It’s like the handyman who can already guess your problem from just hearing your description on the phone.
STEP 5 – content creation
And the madness begins.
100 pages is the goal.
Without knowing the keywords or having previously researched the niche, I blindly prescribe 100 pages for everyone. You sell dog toys? 100 pages. You blog about home decor? 100 pages. You teach little girls ballet? 100 pages!
And when I say 100 pages. I mean that as the minimum. If you don’t got time to do that, or don’t want to pay for that…I’m probably not the right SEO guy for you. Maybe some SEO pros like to tweak little tags and schema, snippets and what not. Or others are kings of backlinking.
My personal style has always been mass creation. I find it easier and faster to do than wasting time trying to optimize tiny things that don’t matter to real people. Real humans like content. Good headlines, quality content. Tags and schema don’t lengthen engagement times or spark viral activity. Content does. Of course…it’s easy for me to be a content person because I type really fast and have a lot of strong opinions.
I don’t play around when I make content. None of that “1-2k words minimum” bullshit. I write as thoroughly and comprehensively as I can. 10,000-word articles. 40,000-word articles. You want to be king? Then you need to put out like one. SEO ain’t for lazy people. (Go back to PPC if you hate long-writing.)
So build your content castle. Trust me. If my competitor has 1k pages, I try to make 2k. I know it sounds crazy. But beating a big competitor online by having an even bigger presence works. Being smaller, making less effort, having less presence….that just sounds like “less less less”. And “less” doesn’t win.
Or at the very least, if you’re gonna make LESS effort…then you better pick your battles. Choose the keywords/keyphrases that you can win. Opportunities are everywhere.
I’ve already written solid guides on this:
- How to Create a Successful Blog
- How to Establish Your Own Voice – BLOGGING TIPS
- WordPress SEO Tips for 2020
“Content quality” is basically INFO-TAINMENT or EDU-TAINMENT. Your content has to be useful/informative ANNNND engaging! Remember…your site has to prove to Google that it’s extremely desirable to HUMAN VISITORS, right?
Now I know some of you are going to get massive anxiety thinking that “content quality” means your content has to be everything to everyone. Or that you have to be loved by everyone. It doesn’t. You can have an opinion. You can have a personality. In fact, it’s sexier and way more engaging if you don’t sound like everybody else.
What type of content is best to create? Argh…go Google that for ideas, ok? And please…be creative!
Hiring writers (content and copy)
There’s a common thought among business owners that they can simply delegate all the tedious SEO work to someone else. People think, “Ahhh, I’ll just outsource it! Pay a cheap rate and I’ll be 1st page within a few months!”
For various reasons, that doesn’t work as easily as you think. Mostly because the writing almost never connects with anyone. It might be thorough and written in good grammar, but it won’t have the spark of someone from the industry. It’ll be written from a generic outsider point-of-view. No thought-provoking opinions. Nothing interesting. Just a bunch of words that didn’t even need to happen.
Same goes for copywriters. Copywriting absolutely needs to have personality. You need someone who really knows the industry to pick the words perfectly. The doorway to your business cannot be just “dog food”. It has to be like “yummy dog food” or “dog food to-go”. Something! It has to be something that makes you read it. Even better if you can elicit a feeling, a chuckle. Copywriting is so tough with SEO because you don’t have the freedom to write something fun, like “woofie treats” or “scooby snacks”.
I think so many people underestimate the power of video content. And more importantly, they underestimate THEIR OWN ABILITY to make video content. I’ve racked up over 200k subscribers on my Youtube channel before (no, not the WPJohnny one). I’ve also watched numerous other friends do it. And also met several folks with over 1 million subscribers.
You know how some people are good at writing? Others are really good on camera. And much more than they think. TRUST ME. You don’t have to be crazy good looking, have an amazing voice, be a natural public-speaker, or any of that. You could literally film yourself speaking candidly out of your mobile phone in a darkly lit room and still amass thousands of views. Do not doubt yourself!
I’m not giving video content tips here. All I ask is that you try. Throw up a good 20 videos or so (on Youtube, Facebook, or Instagram). Youtube gets the best view counts in the long run. Facebook gives the best chance of going viral. Instagram…ehhh, not really my forte yet.
See what people say. See what comments they leave. Then based on those comments, you throw up 10 more videos. Keep repeating until you’re a household name. Don’t forget to link back to your website.
STEP 6 – website organization
There are so many SEO experts out there that don’t factor web design whatsoever into their “SEO indicators”. They just go straight into technical stuff like keywords and metrics and tags and what not.
But here’s the thing about your web design:
- Your design directs how visitors and crawlers read your site.
- Your design greatly influences your user engagement (reading time, shares).
- Your design can create emotional connection to visitors!
While you can’t measure or audit web design quantitively, it greatly affects your numbers! I’m sure I don’t have to bring up all the times when we’ve enjoyed a site just because it looked pretty and was easy to navigate through or felt fun to browse. Incredible web design does improve your SEO! It also improves your conversions, which I assume was part of your SEO goals in the first place.
Use a well-coded theme that best organizes your content. Is your site laser-focused on only a few keywords? Or is it a giant portal with many keywords? Or a weird mix of in-between?
No matter what it is, you need a web design hierarchy that communicates to search engines AND HUMANS:
- Which content is worth more.
- Which content are related to each other.
General content design hierarchy rules:
- Important words should be placed BIGGER and HIGHER than lesser ones.
- Words of equal value should be SAME SIZE.
- Related content should be CLOSER together.
- Related pages should be LINKED together.
So by that logic…important keywords are placed closer to top of the page and in bigger font. Then linked to other subpages with correspondingly-related keywords. On targeted subpages, you have all words of a theme congregating around each other.
Keywords vs Conversions
Sounds so simple but believe me, it’s freaken complicated when your content structure is not harmonious with your conversion structure. ARGHHH….I hate myself for bringing this up. Hahaha, will do my best to explain this…
Most sites are pretty easy. They might be just a blog about “web design” and trying to get more readers for web design topics. The only conversion they want is more readership (or maybe more social shares). Or maybe it’s a camera shop. They blog about cameras and they sell cameras. Both of these are easy to design as the keywords lead directly to the desired conversions.
A harder task would be when the keywords don’t link directly to the desired conversions. Or that their conversion links are so much more important than the keyword-content used to bring in the traffic. One example is a plumbing company that sells water filters but has to compete on the search engines against water filter manufacturers. ANNNND they already have many services featured on their site. You’ll probably have to build out a whole sub-section for “water filters” since their home page is already clogged up with usual plumbing services.
A really hard one is when a company wants to come up in searches for certain keywords BUT doesn’t want to be associated with those keywords..lol, I know…it’s crazy. Pretend the ROLEX company wanted to rank high on searches for “cheap Walmart watches” but they don’t want the words “cheap” or “Walmart” anywhere in their site hierarchy.
Sorry guys. I had other great examples off the top of my head the other day but forgot them now.
I think the H1 tag is probably the most important tag on any page. It tells people and Google exactly what is the most important thing on your page. The next most important thing IMO is your menu structure!
Do I know this for sure? No, did I confirm it with any of my friends working at Google? Also no. But I strongly feel that way based on the common instances of Google featuring prominent menu links in the search snippet.
What does this mean for you? Don’t waste your menu links! Instead of…
- Shop Cameras
- Camera Blog
- No “Home” link in the menu. Let your logo be the home link.
- No “About” link either. Put a quick blurb on homepage with a small link to the About page.
- Instead of “Shop Cameras”, list the top categories on the menu.
- Instead of “Camera Blog”, list the top categories or maybe put “Camera Tips” instead.
- Contact can just be a graphic button in the header.
- Checkout can be smaller text sitting in the corner, separate from the menu.
Basically, don’t put unimportant words next to really important ones. Also, you should consider using more than one menu bar. And to vary their size and location. The important menu bar has the keywords. The less-important bar has the standard webpage stuff (home, about, contact, account, login).
STEP 7 – backlinks
Are backlinks more important than content?
This debate has raged on forever. Regardless of how you feel, the essential SEO strategy is CONTENT + BACKLINKS.
And the ultimate SEO strategy is…
- content quality AND quantity
- backlink quality AND quantity
Whatever you do, more more more! But with one careful distinction…CONTENT comes before the BACKLINKS. You need to have quality content first. Make it so good and sexy and appealing that people will share it organically. That’s much better than wasting time begging for backlinks or submitting to directories.
Link to others!
You know that social media reciprocation thing, where if you follow someone (on Twitter or Instagram) that there’s a good chance they’ll follow you back? Do not underestimate it! If you write a really nice post about somebody or some company. Or that you include or mention them in a well thought-out post, there’s a really good chance they might be flattered and try to link to your post to boost their own credibility. It’s a win-win for all!
I know some people worry that having more outbound links than inbound links might negatively affect their SEO. Or that they should always put outbound links as “nofollow” and get all inbound links as “dofollow”. Stop worrying about that crap (it doesn’t matter much). Link to good sources, regardless of big or small. Be generous. Give good vibes. It’ll come back to you. Don’t be a stingy bastard. What goes around comes around!
I know many of you feel like getting backlinks is impossible.
- “But nobody wants to link to a site they don’t know!”
- “Nobody wants to give free backlinks!”
- “I wrote a 5,000 word super-helpful link but nobody wants to read it!”
*WAHHHHHHHH!!!!* Did you cry like that before? Because if you did, I want you to slap yourself right now. Backlinks are so freaken easy to do. The only reason why people suck at it is because they do like a tasklist instead of like an art. 😉
Getting backlinks is a lot like getting PR coverage
Many people don’t realize the endless parallels between SEO backlinks and PR coverage. PR and advertising in the offline world, are exactly like SEO and PPC in the online world. PPC (pay-per-click) is similar to traditional advertising (TV, radio, billboards, newspaper, mailers) in that you pay for immediate exposure. It’s expensive but you get featured right away. And then PR is similar to SEO in that you try to get featured organically in places that people read.
- SEO says “why pay for clicks when you can get featured for free, and appear more credible when listed organically?”
- PR says, “why pay for advertising nobody wants to see when you can get featured in movies or magazine/newspaper articles that people actually read?”
They are very similar and the skills are transferable! And the beautiful part is that the PR industry is much older than the SEO world. You can learn incredible tactics from many old PR firms and old PR specialists. They might not know SEO semantics and HTML and all that, but boy do they know how to make a captivating story! (I’ll leave it up to you to study classic PR books.)
And for this, I am sooooo eternally grateful for the time I spent working at a respected PR firm. I learned so much from the real-world business of getting clients featured on TV, magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. And I will tell you this….get backlinks is SOOOO much easier than getting PR coverage.
Here are a handful of tactics we used for our clients:
- Send finished editorial pieces to publication editors. The pieces were written organically and of course, featured several of our clients alongside other notable brands. The pieces were sent to editors before their usual deadlines. (If you don’t know editors and their deadlines, you can buy this info.)
- Make viral content for social media. Funny videos, memes, images, clever Tweets. Hold giveaways that require using engagement and hashtags.
- Do bold shit in public. Preferably at notable events where lots of people are there to take pictures/video of you.
Learn how to tell a good story. Learn how to show things in a way that allow other people to write their own story about it. You just have to be creative and have fun with it. It’s not stress. It’s art. It’s playtime!
A quick story about my “stealth faucet” miracle.
In 2010, I spent maybe 30 minutes throwing together an image of a client’s product next to an airplane. Our PR person then shared with a few contacts and we watched this little image draw in 400+ backlinks within 6 months. I think the final count was even higher. Just that we got tired of counting and the client was already more than ecstatic.
Not only did I pull in TONS of backlinks from large industry publications, magazines, and blog sites. They even wrote their own stories on it…taking their own time to make the piece more interesting for their audience! They asked for more pictures, specifications, descriptions…and then added their own thoughts and witty banter. Hahahaha!
Mind you, this was for an old product with dwindling sales that the client didn’t think was worth doing PR for. Well they were wrong. Demand shot up even higher than when it was first released. Even people who had never heard of the brand were now talking about them. Sales increased across all their product categories. The publications were now asking our firm for other interesting pieces (because they wanted to be THE FIRST to feature our clients). And best of all…my boss gave me free reign for all random ideas from there on out.
Do you think I would have gotten 400+ backlinks begging each editor to feature our client? Nope. We never do that. We show them a cool story. And we let the story tell itself…through their words. Easier said than done. But at least you have a better idea of how the pros do things.
STEP 8 – social media
Social media develops brand engagement.
While social media isn’t SEO per se, it is a highly relevant factor for SEO. And gives you insightful information for your SEO efforts. You can think of SEO as a simple company directory of best-to-worst, and social media as a discussion of all the companies.
For a small company, you may notice that your company isn’t in the discussion at all. Nobody knows you. Nobody cares what you have to say. Your only choice here is to engage users in a neutral forum (like a Facebook group or Twitter comment thread). If you’re not even in one…that might be a good sign of why you have no SEO presence.
For a big company, you may notice that your company is known but isn’t trusted. Maybe people don’t like you. Maybe people think you’re too expensive. Whatever the case may be, you need to know what people are saying about you. You can use social media to present a new version of yourself. Change the tone of your company. Share about what you’re doing differently.
Use social media to develop content and backlinks.
The beauty of social media is that you can get instant feedback. You don’t have to wait 3 months to know if your content is “liked” by Google or not. You just spit something out and within a few hours, you’ll know if people like your message or not.
Your social media content can be posts on your own profile or comments other profiles. By engaging with human beings, you’ll soon learn what people like and what they value most. Use that knowledge to create quality content on your website. Share them on social media and you’re bound to get backlinks and re-shares.
Listen to your followers
Comment on their posts. Re-share their thoughts. There’s no greater way to “listen” than to create content addressing your followers viewpoints. This is so empowering because your brand becomes human when you do this. You’re no longer a selfish robot that’s just ME-ME-ME. You’re now a person with a heart. A person who cares about the industry, the people. You come off as a person wanting to have a conversation instead of a salesman just shoving products in their face.
Buying social media ads
While buying ads isn’t exactly organic SEO, it certainly can aid your SEO efforts. Perhaps you wrote an awesome piece that’s relevant to what’s happening in your industry now. Instead of waiting for it to get indexed and all that, you can do a quick little Facebook boost to get out in front of some eyes.
That initial boost can spiral into more organic activity if people like it, read it, reshare it. The ad is used as a fire-starter.
STEP 9 – things NOT to do
If you even got this far, I assume it’s because you already tried all the other stuff and now scheming of extra things to do. I always encourage exploring new tactics but will strongly advise against the following:
Content scraping and Article spinning
Wherever there’s hard work, there’s always people trying to find shortcuts. Hahaha. One of the most common are the clowns stealing content from other sites. Some will shamelessly publish it word-for-word. Others will rewrite it but basically say the same exact thing.
I advise against this because:
- It can be unethical (depending on how much you copy). You’re ripping off from other people’s work.
- You’re only adding to the noise in your industry instead of standing out with something different. If you want to be #1 in SEO, you have to be better than your competition. And you will NEVER be better than your competition if you’re busy copying them.
- Generic content sites are always always penalized during Google algorithm updates. I hear people crying all the time when Google updates. That has NEVER happened to my sites. If anything, my sites only go up.
I keep hearing about “new” bullshit SEO tactics from time and time again. Yet it’s always the same old ass stuff I heard from 15 years ago but re-emerging under a new gimmicky name.
- Linkfarm – linking a bunch of sites (that you own) to each other.
- PBN (private blog network) – buying expired or auctioned domains with backlinks from high-authority sites and then linking them to your site.
- Spam blogs – making fake blogs that link back to your main site.
- Guest blogging – paying or asking other blogs to post an article (that links back to your site).
- Comment/referrer spam – making comments (whether manually or automated) on other sites that link back to your site.
Don’t even do it. And DO NOT pay for stupid marketer courses claiming to know secret blackhat techniques that they promise “won’t get caught by Google”. Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving to catch cheaters!
It doesn’t make sense to waste precious time investing in anything other than your main site. Put your attention and activity there. It’s counter-intuitive to build authority elsewhere and then pass back to your site.
Some assholes try to create tons of bad links to their competitor sites. Others may even get tempted to DDOS them. Or fake DMCA takedown requests. If this is you, I wish you a thousand negative karma points in this life and the next. You should grow up, get a life, and learn how to succeed in life like a real adult.
In case you’re still tempted to try this, just know that it’s not hard to revert the effects. There’s a good chance the higher ranking competitors have competent SEO people monitoring their results and they’ll be back on top of you again after 3 months anyway.
Buying SEO guides
Don’t trust every so-called “expert” you meet on the internet. SEO training programs are no different from those silly “Make $1 million in 30 Days” Shopify programs. Maybe they do know more than you. But do you really think someone making a million dollars every month is gonna waste their time selling $500 or even $5,000 training courses?
- One million dollars a month is $33K per day.
- Why would someone making that much spend time blogging and giving marketing seminars and maintaining community groups for only $5k?
- If they really wanted “to help others”, why charge at all? Just give it away then!
- I’ve seen tons of free of advice that were not only better, but also came from a better place.
Don’t be stupid!
Don’t copy my WPJohnny site
LOL, do not try to study the SEO on my WPJohnny site at all! I don’t care about this site. I don’t care if it gets visitors or not. It’s just a passion blog I run. One of the most half-assed projects in my life. Not indicative of my SEO prowess whatsoever.
WPJohnny is just a self-journal and to contribute back to the community…and also like a convenient copy-paste resource (because I’m constantly explaining the same shit over and over to clients).
STEP 10 – maintaining your rankings
SEO is harddddd work!
Hopefully, you didn’t take any shortcuts or borderline blackhat SEO tactics. Because if you did, I’m sure you now realize how useless they are after some time. They’re only good for ripping off SEO clients. But they’ll never give you lasting SEO success.
Anyone working hard and trying things nonstop will eventually hit the first page sooner or later. I’ve even gotten the same site to hit 5 of the first page top-ten results. It’s not impossible. It just takes time.
But then what?
It’s hard to be champion, but even harder to stay champion.
All these bastards are going to copy you. Whatever pages you got ranked, they’re gonna reverse-engineer your work and do it better. They’ll put more words, fancier designs. Wherever you got backlinks, they’ll email the same people to get backlinks as well.
Being the SEO champion means all of your success is on public display for the world to see. Competitors can see where all your presence is and they will simply copy it, except with an even bigger budget. All the creative work you did, they get to copy for free.
What kept me on top, year after year
It sounds kinda hokey and overly-spiritual but it was my heart. At least that’s what I think it is. I genuinely cared about all my projects. I truly believed in them. Believed that they were awesome and deserved to be first place. Yes, I was paid handsomely but also too, my SEO work was a labor of love. I took care of every tiny detail. Every bit of writing and copywriting was meticulously crafted and recrafted.
It also helps when you have a wide range of skillsets. I demanded better coding, better web designs. I write really fast (like 10k words in a day). I take the time to really know my niche so that when I write about it, speak about it, or do any work for it…everything is just perfect. I don’t only optimize for machines but also for humans.
I think this made it difficult for any competitor to keep up with me. In fact, I couldn’t keep up with myself either. I burned out of the SEO world within 5 years. It was fun and made nice money, but not worth my heart and soul that I gave up for it.