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SEO

Private Influencer Network, A new Hope for Link Building in 2017   A product of 'digital' nature, ViperChill has come up with a new Link Building strategy combining aspects of PBN's, Influencer Marketing & Black Hat.   What I’m going to reveal in this blog post is a strategy that will likely weed out a certain section of the ViperChill audience. In other words, I’m fully aware that this blog post will make a particular type of person unsubscribe from ViperChill and likely never return. It’s certainly not going to end up on the homepage of Inbound.org. If you are loyal to Google guidelines, the teachings of blogs like Moz and love playing by the book, then you’ll probably realise with this article that we possess a very different perspective. When I first started my internet journey – where I spent day and night trying to make a living online – I tried and tested more website ideas and angles than you would believe. Today, I’m still pushing the boundaries to see what works. These boundaries most often pertain to SEO, since it’s what I’ve enjoyed the most over the last 11 years. I’m in the fortunate position that my business it not tied to some employer who dictates how I have to do things when it comes to promoting web properties. As such, I’m always willing to ignore everything I previously thought about marketing and to be open to new ideas and opportunities. This blog post details one such opportunity, but I realise it will not be for everyone. Not everyone is the position to implement it for their online business, and even if you are, you may question the ethics of what is coming up. With that disclaimer out of the way, today I’m going to introduce you to the world of PIN’s. Just before I do that, I want to talk about why I think they’re necessary.   I Predict We’ve Got Four to Five Years Left to ‘Do SEO’ As We Know It   This isn’t some “SEO is Dead” article you see go viral in the SEO blogosphere every six months, but a genuine prediction based on how Google search results have evolved over the last few years. Google make all of their money via ads so quite simply want more people to click on them (and more often). The less success people have with SEO, the more likely they are to move to Google’s advertising platform. Long gone are the days when we’re presented with just 10 blue links on a page. The White Space Between Search Results Has Increased It’s known that the higher up the page a search result, the more clicks it will receive. Therefore, when organic search results are pushed further down the page they’re going to be receiving fewer and fewer clicks. Not only are they lower down now in mobile results due to spacing, but the change is being tested across desktop results as well. The search result on the left includes the new extra spacing with the ads taking up far more vertical space than the search result on the right (graphic via SEMPost).   There Are More ‘Featured Snippets’ Than Ever Before There isn’t much to say on this one besides feature snippets are to be found for millions of search queries in every industry imaginable. What, when, how and why questions are often answered with a featured snippet box. This not only pushes ‘organic’ search results further down in search results, it also attempts to give you the answer right from the results page. We can argue whether or not it’s useful for searchers, but for SEO’s, it gives new meaning to having the top result in Google.   ‘Map Packs’ Completely Changed Local Search Results Some call them ‘map packs’, some ‘the local pack’ and some even call them the ‘snack pack’. Whatever your term of choice, after being introduced a few years ago SEO’s have been trying to figure out how to get themselves and their clients into the pack to compensate for a lack of expected search results. After all, these local listings take up a large portion of screen real estate. I’m not complaining about this change; I’m simply pointing it out. There’s no doubt it makes search results more useful and that is Google’s aim (usually) after all. While Google did reduce the listings from seven to three back in August of 2015, the redesign of the listings with adding spacing means not much changed in terms of organic results being seen.   Those Map Packs Now Contain Ads, Too We’re not going back to Google updates of a few years ago to make a point about Google evolving. Just last month Google announced that the map / local / snack pack would now include ads, as shown below. This image is a mockup by Barry Schwartz, though the real thing looks very similar It’s interesting to follow both PPC and SEO guys on Twitter and see the difference in reaction. PPC guys are over the moon since it gives them more traffic opportunities for their clients and SEO guy’s, well…I’m sure you can guess the reaction. Based on how Google’s past, it’s not one of surprise.   They Have All The Answers The knowledge graph was released in May of 2012 and it’s almost disappointing when you don’t see it for queries when looking for quick answers. For example, when I want to see how my football team, Newcastle, have fared against Liverpool, I literally don’t have to click anywhere. Whether you want to learn about how old someone is, what 12 x 56 is or who discovered Radium, Google has the results right there for you. As a searcher, I love these quick answers, but as an SEO, it’s just one more thing which has lessened the likelihood of people clicking on my website if it doesn’t appear in this box.   They Continue to Make People Scared of Link Building Google are great at making people fearful of performing any type of SEO. After all, this was the company that introduced the rel=”nofollow” attribute so we could link out to websites without giving them “link juice”. That isn’t the real headline for the article – I’ve got to have some fun in these serious posts – but Google have publicly cracked down on pretty much everything when it comes to link building. The list includes, but is not limited to: Guest posting for links Using directories for links Utilizing private blog networks Adding links to website themes Adding do-followed links to widgets They literally created a ‘no-follow’ tag That’s not all; they openly share how much human intervention is involved in finding people abusing the guidelines, rather than algorithmic. This tweet speaks volumes. Anglo Rank was a small network being promoted on the Black Hat World forums. Just think about this for a second. One of Google’s first employees (and former Head of Web Spam), worth millions of dollars, dedicated his time to actively targeting a tiny little network on some private forum just to scare other people away from doing the same. The simple fact is that Google can’t figure out with absolutely certainty which links are earned, or bought, or manipulative, very effectively. Now I’m not taking anything away from Google here. Their company is worth hundreds of billions and mine, well…isn’t. They have undoubtedly created the world’s most sophisticated search engine. But as I said earlier, it’s far easier for them to get us to police ourselves than it is for them to police us.   Big Brands Dominate the Long Tail As SEO becomes increasingly difficult and searches are more and more dominated by big brands, the long tail will be the final frontier of search traffic opportunities. When I said we only have a few years left to do SEO as we know it, the long tail will be where the majority of SEO’s focus their time through on-site SEO changes and content marketing. While we’ll still have opportunities for SEO to ‘work’, long tail search results just don’t seem to be as diverse as they were in the past. It makes sense to me that Google have some kind of ‘filter’ whereby if they’re not sure what to list for a search result, they simply show more results from an authoritative site to be on the safe side.   Logically, this makes sense, but as an SEO, it could be a worrying sign of things to come. You can see this lack of diversification above in my screenshot of the map packs as well, with Yelp dominating the first three organic search results.   The Lack of Diversity in Search Results Will Only Get Worse If you’ve only found ViperChill recently then it was likely because of my recent article, How 16 Companies Are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results. It has been shared thousands of times on social media and been read over 40,000 times, making it one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written here. In the article I highlighted how Hearst Media were using their brands like Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Woman’s Day to point footer links to a new website of theirs, BestProducts.com. That strategy, which would get the rest of us penalized, continues to work incredibly well. “Just follow the Google guidelines.” Why? Since that post, I was also contacted by a few people associated with the brands I had featured. One of those people I talked with was Tre who works in the growth department of About.com. I had already mentioned in the article how About planned to spin off into many more verticals over the coming months, which he confirmed. I admit I’m being a little pedantic with my highlighting, but when you’re Director of Growth for About.com you’re going to share which terms are driving traffic to one site with the team that is in charge of another. I appreciate Tre’s replies and I’m sure there’s only so much he can say, but About.com’s real goal with their spin-off’s is to no doubt own ten search results, instead of one.   PIN’s: My Version of Fighting Back While I Still Can When I talked about why I started using private link networks and then continued to use them after Google’s “crackdown”, my primary reason was very simple: Writing quality content and getting ‘whitehat’ links wasn’t working for me. I was being outranked by people with crappy link networks who could build their own ‘relevant’ links on a whim and I decided to fight back. You could view PIN’s in a similar light. I am utilising them because we’re not competing on a fair playing field, and what is supposed to work is very rarely what ranks, at least in the industries that I operate in. While I don’t wish to reveal those exact industries, let me give you an example closer to home, with ViperChill. I will say in advance that this is a search term I really don’t care about ranking for. I have no idea how many times it’s searched for each month and honestly, I doubt it gets many searches at all. Here are the search results for the query, ‘Future of blogging’.   My site is usually either in 10th or 11th for that term, yet by every SEO standard metric I should be number one. I have more links to the page ranking than anyone else I have more ‘domain authority’ than most other pages My title tag seems more relevant than half of them Yet in order to get more traffic for this search term, which I think I ‘deserve’ from a 10,000 word article which took me weeks to put together, all I have to do is one thing. It’s not getting more links. It’s not improving my on-site SEO. It’s not building better connections with influencers. All I need to do to get my traffic back is to add a sentence to the start of the article which says ‘Last updated: July 25th 2016‘. This is a search result where how recent an article was posted is more important than whether it’s actually a good page to rank. I don’t actually have to update the article; I literally just need to make it appear to Google – thanks to that one sentence – that my article was updated recently. This one sentence, this ‘trick’, would bring me back the ranking I feel I deserve. (Though, again, I doubt this even gets searched for. It’s just an example). This is not theory. If you look at the first sentence of my WordPress SEO guide that’s exactly what I’ve done before, with great results. This little change is not too dissimilar to what I need to rank in other industries. I don’t need better on-site SEO. I don’t need to build natural links from relevant sites through content marketing. I simply need to add more domains to my private link network and write more guest blog posts. Yes, these are both tactics that are looked down upon by Google, but they still work incredibly well. In 2014 when I covered Google’s crackdown on private blog networks I did mention that they would now be less likely to care about private link networks. In my exact words: What I expect to happen is that Google will ease off looking into private networks. The damage is mostly done. Why? Because they’ve already made people scared to build them. The best way to deal with people trying to game the system is essentially making us as a community police ourselves so we don’t try to game the system in the first place. The continued use of private link networks and guest posting for SEO is part of the reason why I will get a lot of criticism from this post. How to implement these tactics more effectively, which I’ll talk about later, will be the larger reason for criticism.   The Approach to Take One of the first ideas I had when I started out online was to assemble a team of people who could work together to build a huge website. At the time I was following the growth of TechCrunch and Mashable and saw how quickly they were able to grow thanks to having a team of writers. My idea was to essentially connect a team of people who all worked on one website and in return everyone had a percentage ownership. The logic being that working as a team would result in the site growing faster and even if revenue or a sale price was split, we would have more success than working on our own. It’s a similar idea a number of ViperChill readers had after reading my last article on the small number of brands dominating Google search results.   While it’s a nice idea, in theory it doesn’t work so well. Some will want to dictate the direction of a site that others don’t agree with and more importantly, some people will put in far more work than others. If you’re writing more content than others and your articles are getting better traction, you’re going to want to increase your ownership compared to someone barely putting in any effort. There is another option you can utilise if you wish to team up with others though, and that’s a PIN. It comes with all of the benefits of creating your own team, without the downsides of worrying about who is contributing what work.   What the Hell is a PIN? A PIN is a play on the acronym PBN, which is commonly referred to as a private blog or link network. I’ve received my fair share of critics over the years for talking about PBN’s and their success – and continuing to build them – but there’s a reason I do: They work. I simply don’t believe that playing by Google’s rules is always going to get me the results I want. In some industries I wouldn’t make the money I do without them. I don’t use them for clients, but do for my own websites. Going forward, I think PIN’s are going to be crucial to my success in certain industries, and I think they are going to be crucial to a number of people reading this as well. PIN, stands for Private Influencer Network. Before you think that just means making some “friends” online and building up your connections, allow me to continue. I define a Private Influencer Network as a group of people looking to rank their websites in Google in similar industries (but not the same) who work together to help each other reach their objectives. Essentially, they use any opportunities they have to build links (such as private blog networks, guest blogging, interviews, blogger round-ups) to send backlinks to other people in their network. In return, other people do the same for them. The end result is that for the work you would do to build ten backlinks, you can get twenty to forty (of the same quality) in return.   A $100,000/m PIN Operating Right Under Your Nose I first came across a Private Influencer Network a little over a year ago. A few ‘influencers’ in a particular field were using their private blog networks to – quite simply – link to each other. I didn’t think much of the tactic at the time, until I found another example of this happening just a few months later. Then three months after that, I found my third example. This time it really got my attention. A group of just five people (from what I could tell) were ranking in one of the most profitable industries online and undoubtedly making over $100,000 per month in the process. I operate in the niche, which is how I found their collaboration, and know the numbers very well. This is when I started working on building my own, PIN. Finally, the idea to write this blog post came to me when I found yet another PIN. One of the members of this network is one of the most well-known SEO’s on the planet and is reading this article. He already “knows I know.” If you follow the SEO blogosphere, you’ll undoubtedly know who he is. One of the sites they are promoting also very likely also makes more than $100,000 per month. I’m not involved in the niche, but I know others who are and with the rankings they have, those numbers wouldn’t surprise me. I reached out to the owner of the ‘money site’ they had all teamed up to promote. I keep a private database of paid link opportunities and one of them costs more than $10,000 per year. I found their website there, so sent the main owner an email. One months revenue spent on link building is a small price to pay when you’re doing huge numbers thanks to gaming Google. While some would view four to five guys linking to each other to make more than $100,000/m from a one-year-old website as shady and unethical, I’m personally impressed at how well they are crushing a very competitive niche so quickly. While there is a chance that a PIN could be “outed”, the last two examples I found were so well put together that I’m almost certain I was the only person who connected the dots. If you’re not trying to rank in an obvious industry that’s constantly monitored by SEO’s – like blogging and internet marketing – the chances of your PIN becoming uncovered are relatively low. Much lower than having your private blog network discovered. As you’ve probably already figured out more succinctly than I am at getting to the point, members of a PIN use any opportunity they have to ‘link out’ to take care of their whole team. While I’ve been fairly slow on the uptake to building my own PIN, I have been slowly building them in a few industries over the last few months and I’m excited to see what the future holds. I didn’t want to write this blog post until I had a better understanding of how to build and manage them, because managing them is actually the most time-consuming part. You have to make sure everyone in the network is pulling their weight and giving (and getting) equal opportunities. Opportunities, of course, is code for links.   A Real-World Example of How a PIN Works One of the websites I find myself checking for ideas and inspiration is Entrepreneur.com. I recently found an article on the website, published by a contributor and not a staff member, which could serve as a great example for how PIN’s work. Let me say it in bold (for those just skimming) that the example below is totally legitimate. I’m highlighting it because it’s natural, but could have been used in a non-natural way. While the screenshot below might be the longest ever embedded by me into a blog post, there is something much more important that I have to say about it. There is no specific reason I have singled out this article. It was simply the first article on Entrepreneur.com when I was looking to give an example for this post. Proof of that is the date. This article is going live on July 25th whereas this article I’m featuring below is from July 22nd. It just happened to be a great example to see a PIN (or what could be a PIN), in action.     I made the article a little shorter than the original (the screenshot was long enough, I know) but you can see the majority of it here. The first thing you’ll notice is four mentions of Weekdone. Unsurprisingly, these are all links to the company that the author works for. A good guest article, utilised for a PIN, will link to other recommended resources that are connections of the author. The links should be relevant, but also to other people in your network so that you are ‘owed’ a link back. Now on the surface (without my large logos stuck over the text) this looks like a totally normal article (albeit with a little overuse of linking back to the authors employer). If you do a little more research, you’ll learn that the other two highlighted companies, Zlien and Mavrck, are actually clients of Weekdone. In other words, Weekdone likely earn some bonus points from their clients for mentioning them in an article on Entrepreneur.com. I see nothing wrong with this and it’s a one-off occurrence so it’s not done for SEO manipulation; I’m just trying to show how a PIN link looks without actually revealing one. Essentially everything looks natural until you look under the hood. It’s normal for a client to talk about a company they use, as shown below where the relationship continues. Once again, I’m not saying they’re doing anything wrong here. It was one of the top articles on Entreprenuer.com as I was finishing up this article (the post is only three days old) and happened to make a good example. The truth is that Entrepreneur.com, along with Forbes and the business sections of the Huffington Post, are great resources to see mini PIN’s in action. The people who write content for these sites generally try to get as much out of writing for them as possible. They link to their friends, and their friends link to them.   A PIN in Action I wanted to create a graphic for this section but your understanding of the concept is far more important than your ability to decipher my poor Photoshop skills. Before it gets a little bit crazy, I have assumed that there are just two ‘influencers’ in your private network. The yellow box is your money website (the website you wish to rank in Google). The brown boxes are private blog sites you own (optional). The grey boxes are link opportunities you’ve created through guest posting or similar. While the graphic is admittedly not the prettiest (I did warn you), the concept is very simple. Some of your private network domains will point links to the other influencer in your network, as will some of your guest posts on other websites. In return, the other influencer will do the same for you. Once you start adding more people to your network, things get a little bit more messy, but the principle remains the same. When I try to visualise this with four influencers as part of your PIN it gets a little ugly, but here goes.   The golden rule you need to remember is this: If you receive a link from someone from a specific source, you need to replicate the link in kind. So if you receive a link in a guest post from someone in the network, you need to give them a link from a guest post you write. Essentially meaning that the work you do for 10 links for yourself gets you 30-40 links in return. This number varies because sometimes it’s a bit risky (such as using blog networks) to link out to the same sites which are linking to you but you still receive more links than you would have without your network, for essentially the same work.   The Types of Links Which Are Shared I originally tried to write these guidelines as if there were four people in a PIN but it became a little bit too complicated to read (and write). Instead, I’ll assume there are only two people in your PIN and show you what types of links you could generate or other ways to help each other. If there are more people in your PIN, which I highly recommend, then understand that Influencer #1 will sometimes link to #2, while #4 sometimes links to number #3 and so on. It’s basically just varying the following link opportunities to keep things fair for everyone. The types of reciprocation that can take place. You can tweet or Facebook share an article from another influencer You can retweet or publicly thank another influencer for mentioning you You can utilize a guest post opportunity to link to a relevant quote or article from another influencer If you use build private blog networks, you can use some to link to other influencers If you find articles where comments drive traffic to your site, you can inform other influencers When being interviewed you can link to a relevant quote or article from another influencer Sharing link opportunities you find on your site they can utilize for theirs Offering website design advice Utilizing Web 2.0 properties to give links and get the same in return   If performed properly, there is no reason to hide that you have a connection with other influencers in your niche. The only thing you would have to care about is that the obvious mission for having these connections is to help each others search engine rankings. If you are outside of the internet marketing world you don’t really have to worry about other people finding your private link networks, but always keep a few rules in mind to avoid footprints.   Ready to Build Your Own PIN? Here’s My Advice   If you see the benefits of utilizing a PIN for your own search engine rankings, and actually getting more than rankings in return, then here’s my advice for setting one up.   A PIN Must Have a Leader As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t want to write about this topic until I had attempted to do it myself. My short but relevant experience tells me that there has to be one person (or two at most) who is in control of the group you gather together to make sure that everyone in the team is pulling their weight. In other words, you need to make sure that the people who are receiving links are doing their part in giving them as well. The leader must also make sure that members of the team are active. It’s no use everyone playing along for the first few weeks while the idea is hot and then dropping off the map.   Bringing Together Your Team While some of you may be excited about getting started on this – and some horrified that I’m even talking about it – there’s one important caveat to keep in mind. Do not bring anyone into your team who has never shown any self-drive in terms of search engine optimization. If someone: Doesn’t already have a website they wish to rank Doesn’t regularly produce content for their own sites or others Doesn’t have at least a basic knowledge of SEO fundamentals Don’t invite them to be part of your network. I assumed this would be the case from the start of building my own, but I’m even more sure of it after trying to get other people excited about the idea who weren’t actually willing to contribute to the rest of the teams’ success as a whole. A simple test to see if someone would be right to join your network is to send a candidate over to this article and have them read about this concept for themselves. If they don’t immediately “get” the idea and they don’t reply with something like “I can see this working well” then it’s not someone you want on your team. You shouldn’t have to convince anyone to work with you. They should see it for themselves. If they’re against it because of ethical reasons, then that’s totally fine (and understandable) but again, it’s a sure sign that they’re not someone you want in your team. As far as communication goes, there are a few platforms out there that would be useful. You could create a Skype group where people get together. I certainly recommend that everyone get on a call together at least some point to make sure you all understand each other’s roles. Slack is another good option, as you can keep up to date via their mobile app and have a history of previous agreements. A private Facebook group is another good option. Both Slack and Facebook allow there to be a leader who can add or remove members to the network. The platform is really up to you. My only recommendation is not to lay out all your plans in Google Docs ;).   Take One Step Back from Your Current Niche It should be obvious but I’ll state it anyway: You don’t want to work with people who are targeting the same keywords as you. However, you still want to connect with people who are in a relevant niche (I’ll give you the chance to connect with ViperChill readers at the bottom of this post). For instance, if you’re promoting your real estate website then it makes sense to team up with other realtors, just not for the same region. If you’re in the weight loss niche then it makes sense to collaborate and grow your audience with other people in that niche, but target different keywords and / or promote different types of products and services. Whatever niche you’re in, imagine you’re shopping for that specific industry on Amazon but go back one category to find people to work with. Again, I’ll give you the opportunity to find PIN partners at the end of this article.   Footprints are Hard to Find, But Still Be Careful From the PIN’s I’ve discovered and the ones I’m working on myself, I’ve found you really don’t have to be too careful when it comes to leaving some kind of footprint. After all, it doesn’t ring any alarm bells when Copyblogger keeps mentioning Problogger or Mashable keep linking to TechCrunch. It’s “natural” and something you can expect from the owners of websites who have developed friendships with each other. Where you have to be careful is primarily with private blog networks and not creating footprints of clearly linking back and forth to each other from the same sites at all times. Of course, you don’t have to use private networks, but remember for each link you give out, you can get three to four back, so it can dramatically speed up the process of ranking your site.   Be sure to thanks Glen for this FUCKING AWESOME idea and analysis at his blog ViperChill and personal site GlenAllsopp.com Save...

The Billion Dollar SEO Empire built under the guise of Google Ventures     Have you ever taken some time to reflect on Google’s massive list of acquisitions and mergers? I mean seriously actually sit down and looked at what Google as actual has accumulated over the years? It's quite staggering. Here's just some of their properties.   For a full list just take a look at their plethora of properties here from advanced robotics to digital marketing CRM's they have their net cast across every field. It’s a bit scary if you do. Actually, it might make some of you go hide in the woods before the robots arrive and take over. For the uninitiated, check out this list on Wikipedia and just scan through some of those prices. Is this for real? Yup, they throw around gazillions of dollars like it’s monopoly money. But that isn’t all, they invest in more than just this list of mergers and acquisitions. This is where “Google Ventures” comes in, their investment arm which allows them to dip into all kinds of cool stuff. And that is where things can get a little sketchy. What happens when an investment is heavily fueled by organic SEO from their very own engine? This is concerning to a lot of people in the SEO community, but let’s be honest, Google doesn’t give a shit about us. The reality of the situation beyond just a bunch of whiny SEOs is the potential anti-trust implications, general shittyness, and hypocrisy from Google’s double dipping. A few years back I wrote a saucy piece about RetailMeNot being backed by Google ventures which led to some more light being shined on the company. All was well, then they received a minor penalty. Shortly there after a full recovery. What’s troubling is this seems to be a reoccurring theme with companies getting outted for questionable SEO who are also backed by Google Ventures. The most recent case was with Thumbtack.com who has done very well with aggressive local SEO growth and also received $100 million from Google ventures. These guys were doing some shady shit, no doubt about that, and once it came in the public spotlight from this post (quite similar to my RetailMeNot piece) it was only a matter of time until the hammer came down. Sorry buddy, but been there done that, check my post date ;-) Okay, maybe a bit of jealousy there because his post got shared by Master Fishkin himself and wound up delivering a straight KO punch right in Thumbtack’s gonads. All pretty standard stuff so far, but then Thumbtack managed to get the fastest “get out of jail free” card in the history of Google penalties. In under a fucking week! That’s right, less than seven days and out of the penalty box with shitloads of new backlinks from us SEOs. Have we been trolled? Kind of seems like it but before we start spazzing out we need an overview of all the Google ventures backed companies who have crushed it with SEO. We need numbers to dig deeper into what is actually going on. The Great Big List of Google Ventures Backed SEO Sites To get started I went to GV.com/portfolio (sorry bros, nofollow) and pulled all the outbound links. Shazam, got a list of all their URLs. Now onto SEMRush to get some data on all these. But before getting there I noticed Thumbtack.com is not on the list of Google Ventures investments. Wait a second, there is another “investment arm”, Google Capital which has some interesting companies under its wing as well. Lendingclub, Surveymonkey, Thumbtack, Glassdoor, Credit Karma, and Auction.com to name a few. So farther down the rabbit hole we go. There was one problem though, it was going to take me all day to download 200+ reports one by one. At this point I was forced to utilize the small amount of tech skill I have and use the SEMrush API. But wait, why not just send a quick email instead? Thankfully I have a contact over there and they helped me out. Big thanks you guys are awesome. Here is the data I pulled, enjoy :-)   Google's Portfolio Monthly SEO Stats Provided by SEMrush Show 10 25 50 100 entries Search: Domain Organic Keywords Organic Traffic Organic Cost creditkarma.com 92,767 5,945,665 $14,900,000 glassdoor.com 1,125,085 7,097,346 $14,200,000 retailmenot.com 331,019 12,128,660 $9,946,189 thumbtack.com 109,262 536,320 $4,500,000 uber.com 12,554 1,750,090 $3,683,236 Lendingclub.com 7,778 390,688 $3,400,000 homeaway.com 222,315 2,218,832 $2,687,534 hubspot.com 28,152 324,900 $1,872,331 lendup.com 5,460 150,432 $1,197,143 tunein.com 156,713 2,168,876 $1,024,655 Showing 1 to 10 of 206 entries PreviousNext Some interesting things to note about the data. The total estimated organic traffic cost is about $67 million per month and that is in the United States only. Certainly some of these domains are doing well in other countries so this number is actually much higher. The next number I found interesting and rather low is the total amount of adwords spend. This is around $2.8 million, not bad compared to their estimated overall organic traffic cost, roughly 23 times the amount. Needless to say, their portfolio is reaping the rewards of their search engine quite strategically. They’ve hit some of the most profitable industries: coupons, legal, loans, etc. But hey, wouldn’t you do the same? Well you’re likely not a billion dollar corporation so the implications aren’t quite the same. The real interesting thing is what these properties have done SEO wise.   Let’s look at some explosive growth shall we? CreditKarma Watch out, you might break the backlink checker with this one. Phew, how is the air up there guys? Uber Google loves them some Uber. Can’t really blame them, they got some big stacks invested there. Thumbtack Now this graph might knock you out of your chair when considering they received a penalty. LendingClub Need a loan after all the money you wasted on blackhatworld PBN links? Well don’t worry G ventures has got your back. Just do a quick search for “loans” and you’ll find Lendingclub at #3 and Creditkarma at #1. Shall we dig into the backlinks? Before we start pointing the finger for anything sketchy, freaking out, and starting a riot let’s consider that most large sites are bound to have at least some spammy links from scraper sites or something similar. So the plan is each site gets the 5 minute Jacob King spam check (trademark pending). If I can find some shit in that amount of time then you can make your own conclusions from there. Let’s take a quick look at these sites hopefully without breaking ahrefs. CreditKarma Well they are doing quite nicely. It must be the social signals pushing them to #1 for “credit score” ;-) Or maybe it’s the 6k+ referring domains? Well I started the spam check timer and found some anchor spam at the 1:35 mark. Take a peak at their anchor profile, the untrained eye might miss it.   Ah but wait, exact match anchor text? It couldn’t be, yup, yup it is.   Almost looks like some contextual link spam I’d throw out there, damn near the anchor text profile I’d build too. I’m not going to dig into the actual links as the spam check time ran out. I saw some weird site wide links for “free credit score” on realtor sites and figured I could call it good there. Uber This one is pretty tough, there are just so many links to look at in only 5 minutes. One thing I did notice that looked a bit strange was links to their geo landing pages with some uniform anchor text. I just randomly clicked to the 7th page of anchors, like trying to find a needle in a haystack.   Thumbtack   Wow, 32k referring domains, I thought my hair might turn grey waiting for this one to load. No need to even spam check these dudes since their recent penalty has been posted about a tonnnnn. I’d like to get an estimate of how many new referring domains they picked up from news of their penalty but it’s tough to say with the link removals they did. LendingClub   This one is just too perfect for a closer. So I started peaking at Lendingclub and nothing popped out at me. Then I decided to navigate to the top pages section and check some link building to specific landing pages. Noticed this guy here with a bunch of spam links and the top anchor “consolidated credit “. But wait, upon closer look that’s our friend negative SEO. It’s almost inevitable to get hit ranking on these big SERPs by some spitefull asshole. It’s next to impossible to drop them and if you’re blasting the main anchor it will probably just help them. How did I know this was neg SEO? It’s easy when you spot these anchors: “visit poster’s website” and “strona www” The first is “visit poster’s website” is a default generic anchor text in the software GSA search engine ranker and the second “strona www” is the default from one of the comment engines. Signing Off What can we conclude from all this? Well obviously these sites have done incredibly well and some insights can be gained from them. Although Google has made statements before that an investment doesn’t provide an extra SEO edge or insider information, one still has to wonder. Is Google double dipping? Is it the ultimate case of “do as we say but not as we do”? You be the judge. Save Save Save Save Save...

How to build out a SEO strategy that will gain you 141% increase in organic search volume. Hint: Its Very Complicated, must have a Growth Mindset.   What would your business be like with 141% more organic search traffic? Unless your website is a CRO nightmare… You would see hockey stick revenue growth. In this post, I’m going to show you how we grew a client’s organic search traffic by 141%. Let’s jump in.   Brief Background I will give you as much detail as possible without revealing the client’s niche or website. Here are some quick facts about the client: Their business is between 1-5 employees. They already had an active blog and were promoting their content on social media. They hadn’t done any SEO in the past. Our SEO Strategy My SEO agency uses two different strategies with our clients and they are as follows:   1. Content Driven Strategy This is our preferred strategy, but it requires significant resources, time, and effort. Which is usually beyond what the majority of clients can afford. With that said, our content driven strategy is simple: Create content that attract backlinks. Promote the content so that it actually gets backlinks. The goal of this strategy is to increase the authority of the client’s website. The more website authority you have, the easier it is to rank for keywords. This content driven strategy is exactly what we teach in Gotch SEO Academy.   2. Non-Content Driven Strategy This strategy is exactly like it sounds: we don’t create and promote content. Instead, we optimize a page or many pages for target keywords. This approach is best for smaller businesses or local businesses with smaller budgets. For this client, we used this strategy. Here are the tactics involved with this strategy: Find keyword ideas, analyze the competitors, and have the client approve the keywords Optimize the target page(s) for those keywords Perform an SEO audit to identify all on-site technical issues and off-site backlink issues Fix all issues found within the SEO audit Prospect for link opportunities Begin securing “easy” backlinks Start our blogger outreach campaign Continue acquiring relevant backlinks until the client ranks Now I will show you how this process works in practice.   Keyword Research Right off the bat, the client supplied us with great ideas/keywords they wanted to rank for. We took this information and immediately tossed it into the Google Keyword Planner. The purpose of doing so is to verify that there was enough search volume. Through quick research we identified the keywords with the highest search volume. We ended up with a rough list of approximately 15 keyword ideas. We cut this list down to 9 target keywords. Here is the search volume for the keywords we are targeting: We were able to trim the list through our competitor analysis strategy.   Competitor Analysis We break our competitor analysis down into two stages. The first stage takes no more than 30 seconds. Within this 30 second timeframe, we are looking at the following: PA & DA: we compare the client’s PA and DA relative to the ranking websites Big Brand Dominance: we look for big brands such as Wikipedia or Amazon ranking on the first page. This is can be a sign that the niche is competitive. Pages That Signal Low Competition: we look for “weak” pages such as those from Q&A sites, PDFs, article directories, press releases, or even web 2.0s. These types of pages are easy to outrank. This quick process can tell us whether a particular keyword is worth pursuing. If the keyword passes this first test, we then move onto stage two of our competitor analysis. The second stage is more comprehensive because we analyze the each competitor one-by-one. In this analysis, we are looking at a few different factors including: Total Linking Root Domains: the quantity of unique domains linking to a page is a strong ranking factor, so it’s at the top of the priority list for us. Link Quality: we examine the link quality of the competitor’s page. We do this to get a general picture of what link quality is “accepted” for the keyword. Domain Age: I don’t believe domain age plays a huge role, but it’s something we still consider. Strength of Content: we rate the quality of the competitor’s content on a scale of 1-10. This rating is based on the length, the intricacy, the exhaustiveness, and the structure of the content (from a readability and design perspective).   We always measure these factors relative to the client. Example: if a competitor has 100 linking root domains, then we know that our client must get a similar amount. This isn’t an unbreakable rule. Sometimes it takes more, sometimes it takes less. But it’s a good goal/benchmark to keep track of during the campaign. This entire competitor analysis process is in Gotch SEO Academy. Make sure you sign-up to secure your spot for the next launch. The next stage of the process is to select what pages we want to optimize. Then, actually optimize those pages.   Page-Level Optimization We decided it would be most effective to target the client’s homepage for the set of 9 keywords we selected. These keywords are related, so this isn’t a problem. In most cases, I don’t think you should ever exceed 1-3 keyword themes per page on your site. One keyword theme, per page is best. For example, if I’m targeting the keyword “anchor text“, I wouldn’t also try to rank the same page for “St Louis SEO”. Yet, I can target keywords related to “anchor text” such as “what is anchor text”. That’s because those variations are within the same keyword theme. With that said, here’s what we did to optimize the page: Are you ready? It’s complicated so make sure you hang onto your hat… We added the keywords to the title and META description We added our the “big hitter” keyword (the one with the most search volume) to the first H1 tag on the page We sprinkled the big hitter keyword a few more times on the page That’s it. Mind blowing, right? After we optimized the target landing page, we then began our SEO audit.   SEO Audit Procedure I’ve explained our SEO audit in-depth before, but I’ll explain here again. The purpose of our audit is to identify technical issues that could harm user experience. Or, technical issues that could be leaking website authority. Common technical issues that hurt user experience or leak authority include: Slow website loading speed Non-mobile friendly websites Distracting elements Ugly, confusing, or outdated design 404 pages (only bad if they have link equity) Broken links Redirect chains 302 redirects Duplicate content Thin content Ineffective internal linking After performing the audit, we were happy to see that the client did not suffer from these issues. Their website loads around 1 second. They have a mobile friendly website. Their SSL certificate installed right. They have a clean and modern design. They only had a few 404 pages and broken links. The only issues we identified had to do with the client’s internal linking practices. This wasn’t an urgent issue, but something we wanted to jump on right away. Their main internal linking issues were: A) they weren’t using keyword rich anchors and, B) they were linking to the wrong pages with keyword-rich anchors. Point B can be the most problematic because it can create keyword cannibalization issues. We knew that by fixing these two issues, we could flow internal authority back to the homepage. So, that’s exactly what we did. We changed the internal links to target the homepage and used exact match anchor text. That simple. After we finished up the on-site optimization we moved onto link acquisition.   Link Building We decided to focus on the following link types: Blogger outreach links Niche relevant blog comments Business citations Branded properties These are the link types that we use for most national SEO campaigns. Here are the rough totals of links we built: 30 + contextual backlinks on relevant blogs 100 + blog comments on relevant blogs 15 citations on the best directories 50 branded properties The client has 31 linking root domains before we started. Now the client has around 84 according to Ahrefs. They have more than this because Ahrefs doesn’t capture all link data on the Internet. I know you are likely wondering: “what about the anchor text ratios!?” I got you covered. For the contextual backlinks, we used exact match, keyword variations, and branded anchor text. We used a name for the blog comment anchor text and the citations produced naked link anchors. The anchor ratios are in line with what I’ve been preaching for years now: Less than 1% exact match anchor text 1-5% keyword variations High percentage of branded and naked link anchors If you need help with anchor text, read our guide: https://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/ Now let me show you the results of this work.   The Results Here is the Google Analytics data over the course of 9 months: When we started the client was getting approximately 1,885 organic search visitors per month. After 9 months of work, we increased their organic search traffic to 4,541 per month. A 141% increase. There are a few conclusions you can draw from this growth pattern: Growing organic search traffic takes a long time If you quit early, you will never see the fruits of your labor SEO agencies and businesses who hire them, must both understand that SEO is a long game. My agency has achieved explosive growth for some clients within 3-4 months, but this is rare. For most campaigns, it takes 6, 8, 12, or even 15 months to see growth. SEO is NOT a quick fix. In my opinion, it is a supplemental marketing channel. Businesses that rely on SEO or an SEO agency for growth, will lead themselves down a path of destruction.   This is true for two reasons: 1. When you rely on an SEO agency to grow your business, you will use the agency as a scapegoat. When you aren’t converting leads on your site, you will call up the SEO agency and ask: “why aren’t we getting leads” or “we haven’t been getting leads since you guys started”… Here’s the truth: It’s easy to blame an SEO agency or any type of outside marketing agency for your problems. It’s HARD to reflect on WHY you actually aren’t getting leads. More often than not, traffic is NOT the problem. In an ideal world, more traffic would solve your revenue problems. In reality it doesn’t. Getting traffic is the FIRST part of the process. You have to actually convince that traffic to contact you or buy your product. That means you have to understand sales, copywriting, and conversion rate optimization. The reason why businesses stagnate when they have MORE traffic is because of a weak sales funnel. Business is just like real life. For example, your life will be a struggle if you are always looking for someone to blame for your problems. The same is true for your business. Stop blaming. Start reflecting. Now let me rant onto the second reason why you shouldn’t rely on SEO. 2. Businesses built on organic search traffic, have no other choice but to blame the SEO agency. This is the reason why my agency doesn’t work with startups or businesses that do not already have reliable marketing channels. That’s not because we can’t get them results… It’s because we know how those campaigns turn out. A bootstrapped startup will question your every move. They will ask questions like: “Why aren’t we getting results yet!?” …after two weeks of starting a new campaign. I’m going to end my rant here, but I will be writing a blog post on “Why Startups Should NOT Hire an SEO Agency” to elaborate on this further. Subscribe to get notified when it’s published.   Conclusion This client had a great foundation for SEO and made our job much easier. It’s not always this easy to grow organic search traffic when working with clients. Sometimes the clients have years of ineffective/spammy SEO tactics that you must battle against. That’s why my agency loves working with clients who have done little or no SEO in the past. Working with a fresh slate makes your life a lot easier. With that said, this SEO campaign still has a lot of room for improvement. Have some questions about this case study? Leave it below because I answer every single blog comment. Filed Under: SEO Case Studies Featured Article: You’re Making at Least One of These On-Page SEO Mistakes ...

SEO Strategy To 20 Million+ Visitors A Month Three quarters after Yummly launched, its Chief Growth Officer Ethan Smith watched the food discovery platform log its 10 millionth visit in a month. However, like most enduring recipes, it didn’t become a crowd favorite by tossing together ingredients in a fit of inspiration. Yummly’s SEO strategy, which helped the startup top the charts as the best global recipe app for iPhone, iPad and Android, was years in the making, going back to Smith’s first company. Product Hunt is Everywhere - This is How It Got There Smith started his career as a user experience designer and researcher. At Wize, he managed product, design and marketing, until Nextag acquired the product review startup. Since 2010, he’s held various roles at Yummly, including its Head of Product and VP of Growth, helping it tally over 20 million monthly visits. Beyond Yummly, he actively advises startups such as Wanelo, Vinted and Thumbtack on strategies to improve growth and SEO. In this exclusive interview, Smith shares why a specific inflection point with SEO has led to costly misconceptions and missteps. He outlines how to recognize and sidestep them as well as identifies key tenets for high-performance SEO. For any company that has lost confidence in or hit the wall with SEO, Smith’s tactics can help retrofit and reenergize your strategy. A PARADIGM SHIFT WITH SEO One reason the concept of product-market fit resonates is because the balance and reliance between the two elements — product and market — is front and center in its name. But when many startups think about SEO, minds often jump to sly maneuvers and hacking a way to growth. The truth is that optimization is only as strong as one’s understanding of the search engine part of the equation. When the rules of search change, so must the strategy. Over the last five years, Smith has seen startups neglect a shift that has changed a big part of SEO. “A new era for SEO began in early 2011, when Google launched Panda, its change to its search results ranking algorithm. What was once a very simple algorithm was revamped to penalize low-quality, thin sites. Gone were the days of a formula based mainly on keyword density and pagerank,” says Smith. “In the SEO of the past, one could repeat and conceal a bunch of keywords in a tiny font with camouflaged text to increase word density and pagerank. A SEO manager’s job was to find holes like this and exploit them until Google would slap your wrists and patch the gaps. Because the penalties were short-lived, people would go back to finding and exploiting another loophole as soon as they could.” Together with Google Penguin, which penalizes artificial boosts in page rankings through backlinks, Panda brought in somewhat of a new world order with SEO. “While most of the workings of the Penguin filter is public, there was — and still is — more unknowns with Panda. For example, if your site is penalized by Panda, it could take years to get released from it and it’s not obvious how that happens,” says Smith. “Here’s what I’ve seen occur over and over: Founder starts a company. He’s not an SEO expert, but hears that it’s important. He asks around, and is told to launch 50 million pages. The startup starts with 100,000 and sees traffic go up. Then it launches 1 million more pages. More traffic comes. Then it launches 50 million pages. Traffic soars. Then a few months later, traffic tanks. The founder frantically tries to get the traffic back. Months go by, but nothing works.” Aggressive SEO (red) versus gradual SEO (green) THE ERA OF GOOD CONTENT AND ENGAGEMENT It’s not earth-shattering to learn that Google tweaks its algorithm to reward good content and user experience, but the hard part is figuring out how to act to actually reap those benefits. “What’s required is not only a change in behavior, but a switch of mentality. Nearly every get-traffic-quick scheme pulls the carpet out from under you eventually,” says Smith. “You have to think for the long haul; the growth curve you want is more gradual and steady. It won’t look good in the early days, but it will lead to significantly more long term traffic if you’re consistent.” Here’s where to start to embark on the steady curve: Use Google’s guide — not your guesswork — to define what’s good. If improving your content quality and traffic is your goal, there are levers to pull, but don’t assume you can choose which ones. “Most people instinctively nominate themselves as authorities of what’s good when it comes to content and user experience. With SEO, that’s not what actually matters,” says Smith. “What’s important is what Google has defined as good content and good engagement. Note that I didn’t say what is objectively good, but what is subjectively defined as good by Google. Google has a set of guidelines — about 150 pages of them — and has hired thousands of quality raters to rate pages and sites based on their guidelines.” The closer your page resembles those labeled as good content by Google’s rubric, the better your “content quality” is and the more your page will rise in the rankings. “It’s like any sport or board game. Some rules may not make sense, but you have to abide by them to win over time,” says Smith. “For example, scraping and summarizing content can be arguably a very useful thing for users, but Google has decided it’s not. For Yummly, recipes that have a lot of reviews or that have a ‘cook mode’ are ranked highly because Google decided that these make a recipe high quality.” When it comes to Google’s guide to content quality, it’s big theme is EAT, which stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness. “The guide goes into detail about what standard of expertise is expected for various topics. For example, medical advice should come from people or organizations with the proper accreditation, but forums for spouses of those who died from an ailment are also considered experts. The differentiating factor is what life experience is necessary to credibly give others value. The guide offers a good guiding question: ‘What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well?’” Smith works with companies to help establish high EAT scores for their particular category. “In order to get a high EAT score in shopping, Wanelo shows reviews and photos for each product as well as return policy and shipping information. To show that Wanelo is a highly reputable company, it highlights press coverage in the New York Times, Fortune and other credible media publications on its press page,” he says. “For local services, Thumbtack highlights how many years a practitioner has been in business, whether they are licensed, how many jobs they have completed and, most importantly, lots of 5 star reviews.” With SEO, you can be righteous or right. To be the latter, follow Google’s guidelines, not your gut. Beyond the few hundred pages of SEO guidelines from Google, Smith highlights a few underappreciated tips to consider as you tweak your search engine optimization strategy. Ethan Smith Keep good hygiene. One of the underappreciated aspects of SEO has less to do with what you do and more with what you don’t. It’s not the type of sexy growth hacking that gets written about, but it’s as critical. “Too many people continue with growth strategies that worked before Panda, but which now penalize them. Don’t spend energy trying to get out of Panda’s penalties; direct your energy toward good hygiene and maintenance. This strategy involves striking a balance between testing new SEO strategies and tracking your pages to detect issues early to prevent future penalties.” The Story Behind How Pocket Hit 20M Users with 20 People Here are a few tips from Smith on keeping good SEO hygiene: Schedule a weekly open-ended crawl of your site. A lot of times, companies’ sites will have pages cluttering Google’s index that they don’t want indexed and don’t know about. “What most people don’t understand is that Google will index whichever page they want. It's not about what you put in your sitemap. It's about any page Google can find it will index unless you tell them not to,” says Smith. “Establish an open-ended crawl of your site weekly to look for pages that shouldn't be there. Detecting those is supremely important to improving SEO — and part of good hygiene. Use tools such as Screaming Frog to crawl your site and QA." Track your number of pages, how many are getting crawled, how many are indexed and how many are getting traffic. "Take note of any big differences in those figures. So, the alarm should sound if you have 1,000 pages, but only 200 are getting crawled. Or 1,000 pages crawled, but only 200 are getting indexed. Or 1,000 are indexed, but only 10 are getting traffic," says Smith. "You want all your pages to be crawled on a weekly basis and 95% indexation rate with the majority getting traffic.” Sample Hygiene Report Eliminate incidental indexed pages. It bears repeating: it doesn’t matter if you think your pages are important; what’s key is what Google deems important. Google will tell you whether your page is important by crawling it often, indexing it and sending it traffic. Google doesn’t like sites with lots of thin pages. Once a crawl catches these “thin” pages, get rid of them. Don’t be surprised if you find "thin" pages indexed unintentionally or unknowingly. “Depending on their site architecture, startups can accidentally create and index tons of pages without knowing its impact on SEO,” says Smith. “For example, Yummly users have profile pages for each of its 18 million users. These millions of pages are core to the Yummly feature set and thus are very useful. However, very few people search Google looking for profile pages — they search for a chicken casserole recipe. The issue is that Google will classify these profile pages as too thin and penalize us. We avoid this by being careful about which pages we allow to be indexed.” Once you’ve found “thin" pages, there are a few ways forward. “The best and fastest way to eliminate them is to remove an entire directory by disallowing it in the robots.txt file or using the directory removal tool in Google Webmaster Tools. You can also remove individual pages either with a noindex tag or by returning a 404/410 error code,” says Smith. “But stay vigilant, as there are other ways 'thin' pages crop up. Many sites have HTTPS and HTTP versions of every page; that means that every single page gets indexed twice. Pages can be indexed with and without a “www.” At Yummly, we noticed our DEV servers — like DEV1.yummly.com, DEV2.yummly.com and so on — created duplicate versions of our site. If we didn’t catch it, we’d accidentally have 10 versions of our site getting indexed and causing duplicate content issues.” Flatten your internal link architecture. Pagerank sculpting is dead. What matters now is a sufficiency of links and pagerank. The more you can flatten your internal architecture, the more each of your pages attain sufficient pagerank, and the more your traffic will increase. “Most internal links are skewed toward just a few pages. You might have internal links that are the most recent posts. If you have a thousand pages, the most recent posts are likely ten pages. Then you're not linking to the other 990, which signals to Google that these pages are not important and so they don't get traffic,” says Smith. “Instead, link across all your pages so that Google has many paths to find all of the pages on your site, not just a small percentage of them. So, if you’re showcasing an easy-to-use digital camera, don’t just link to other cameras. Link to other easy-to-use categories, like headphones or TVs. Cross-linking vertically and horizontally creates a more tightly-connected, flat link architecture.” Steal first. Then innovate. The growth strategy that took Smith three years to find and fine-tune at Wize started to work at Yummly after only three months. Given that long term growth in SEO takes time, startups can’t afford a steep learning curve when just getting started. “Worry about innovation when it comes to your core product, not your SEO. It’s not well publicized but most successful growth teams and companies take the most effective strategies from competitors, apply them in-house, then improve upon them,” says Smith. “SEO is no exception. Most of what works is not obvious at the onset, so startups spend an enormous amount of time reinventing the wheel.” Smith has found success with research — not just secondary, but primary. “We look for the most successful SEO companies. We deeply analyze their site and strategy to understand what’s working. Then we try to connect with the person in charge of their SEO to ask them directly what’s working and what’s not,” he says. “Don't just research and reach out to who you subjectively think might be interesting. We use Sistrix and SimilarWeb to evaluate competitor traffic and engagement. For Yummly, we care about certain growth indicators — such as overall traffic, high SERP rank, and a steady growth trajectory — to identify which sites have the most effective SEO strategy. Then we find people who work at those companies, reach out and ask if they’d be open to a call. I never have open-ended chats over coffee. I do my homework and bring a list of pointed questions about specific parts of their site.” Ninety percent of the people that Smith reached out to share techniques with him. “They might not say everything but they’ll answer if I have specific questions. Taken together with other conversations, this helps keep our strategy current. Of course, I offer them ideas on what has worked for us, too, so that the exchange is mutually beneficial,” he says. “It sounds simple, but many just research from afar. We like to both reach out to other growth experts as well as test common attributes across sites — like Yelp, Zillow and Houzz — that correlate with traffic. In fact, don’t just look at competitors, but those outside your category. We’ve actually learned a lot from TripAdvisor’s page structure.” Recommended Article Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips At Yummly, Smith used both types of research — along with his personal experience — to successfully revamp its category pages. “We launched category pages at my last company where we would find keywords and create pages that target those keywords. So we did the same at Yummly, basing them on structured taxonomies like shopping categories and filters. So there’d be a page for digital cameras and a page for every filter, such as digital camera between $50 and $100,” he says. “It worked, but not well. By talking with peers and pattern-matching with other sites, we realized that our structured taxonomies were not using the words that people use to search in Google form. We then found the phrases that people are actually searching for on Google, such as ‘digital cameras for wildlife photography,’ and curated category pages for those terms. That worked much better because the page exactly matched an actual query that people type into a search box.” Approach SEO as acquisition. According to Smith, most big companies became very successful by being extremely aggressive with their growth. “Airbnb used Craigslist early on to tap into a broader market. Pinterests emails all your Facebook friends telling them you followed them when you didn’t. Linkedin makes it easy to accidentally send invitations to your entire contact list. The most successful companies are also extremely aggressive — with email marketing, paid advertising and referrals — but not SEO,” says Smith. “In the past, SEO success favored the most aggressive companies. After Google Panda or Penguin, success favors companies those that take a steady long term approach to growth. Be aggressive with SEO in the sense that you want to deploy resources to work on it in the first place, but don’t do too much too fast that’s not in your actual strategy.” In the age of mobile, most will claim that websites aren’t important anymore or that SEO is dead. “The truth is that, when used as an acquisition vehicle, SEO is more effective now than it ever has been. In fact, other than gaming apps, the most successful apps, like Pinterest, Yelp, and Houzz, use web SEO as their main app acquisition channel,” says Smith. “Most SEO visitors come to a site, look at a couple pages, then leave. It’s easy to dismiss these passerby users as not valuable. The goal is to get SEO visitors to come back. Whether it’s by getting someone to register, use an engaging feature or download the app. When viewed as an acquisition channel, SEO can be one of the most impactful channels to drive long term lifetime value.” With SEO, you can never be 100% confident. But once you know that, you’re more likely to be good at it.   THE SEO TEAM YOU (THINK YOU) NEED The first mistake you might make — especially as a startup — is thinking that you need a team or person dedicated to SEO from the get-go. “Your SEO strategy and roadmap might come from someone you have in-house, but it’s as likely that it will — and probably should — come from a consultant or advisor,” says Smith. “At Wize, we turned the corner when our consultant, Leo Haryono, gave me his initial recipe, which I took and built from. I know I could have eventually come to the same result, but calling him in helped us shortcut that learning process.” An SEO hire or consultant should join in once you’ve validated some traction and traffic. “For most consumer companies, that'll be around 100,000 visits per month. The role of the SEO manager will not only be to double-down on what’s started to work, but to build really good content, make engagement better and build PR/marketing backlinks through the methods I’ve mentioned,” says Smith. “At this point, the SEO person needs to become a stakeholder in product decisions and should advise on the parameters that the content creators or Product should consider in their work. Make sure this person can point to an SEO engine they’ve built at another company and explain how exactly she grew traffic with tools that don’t cost a fortune. A lot can be done with Google or Bing Webmaster tools as well as free or low-tier versions of Majestic SEO or Sistrix. If she can’t clearly communicate those two elements, take pause and move onto other referrals.” It’s at this point that a startup should double-down with SEO, but through smartly building out its existing teams and product. “You’ve got a team and a dedicated SEO person or consultant. Now it’s about syncing and scaling the teams in an intentional way. If reviews are a lever for growth for your business, build in hooks into your core product to encourage users to write them. Airbnb has done a great job here in creating hooks that feed SEO into the core product,” says Smith. “Nerdwallet is another great example. By scaling into an army of really great finance writers, they have been able to have great SEO. Its focus was not around weird tricks and hidden text, but about writing high-quality articles on topics that people sought out.” Bringing it All Together There has been a sea change with SEO. With the introduction of Google Panda and Penguin, the game has changed over the last five years. The problem is that the methods of many people tackling SEO have not changed along with it. Through good hygiene and understanding of Google’s guidelines, startups can avoid falling into traps that could penalize their traffic and pagerank for years to come. Schedule a weekly crawl of your site to identify and eliminate “thin” pages on your site. Take proactive measures to flatten your link architecture. Start SEO from Day 1, but don’t be too aggressive too fast — either with your strategy or your investment in an SEO hire. The name of the game is slow and steady wins the race. Instead invest in good content and frame SEO as an acquisition tool. Have faith in in in the long term; quick fixes lead to quick declines. “With SEO, even if you find a way to identify every variable, you won’t be able to control each one. You might change a title tag but there are a thousand other factors that you're not controlling for that influence results. The challenges with causation and correlation abound,” says Smith. “If there’s one thing I hope startups take away about SEO is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Quick-twitch muscles won’t do any good here — in fact, they’ll likely get you into trouble. Endurance and awareness are the attributes that get rewarded with SEO. I wish people would swap growth hacking for growth harvesting. That’s the type of approach that truly works.” Photography by Bonnie Rae Mills. Save...

Are you ready to start ranking sites again? Like it was “back in the day” when you could practically fiddle Google rankings around and whoever spammed the hardest won the day? Well I never stopped trying, I refused to accept that the spam and jam days had come to an end. It’s still possible, they’re still doing it, but why aren’t you? Well it’s a lot of things causing you to fail, but the demon at the gates which Google has sneakily built in is what you need to tackle. If you can conquer this demon, then you’ll have the keys back and SEO will become your bitch again.   You need to start doing SEO without giving a fuck… That’s right, you just read the word “fuck”, if this bothers you then you definitely don’t have the stomach for ranking sites in 2014, you should probably hang it up all together. But if you feel charged up and still have that fire burning to get back to smashing rankings, today is your day. For those with hats, bring it on in the comment section, because the following statements are probably going to piss you off a bit.   1. Content does not matter. Period, end scene, write another script. If you think it does, then Google has got you right where they want you. The game is based on the next two things. 2. Links are everything. Links, links, links, and good ones. What the shit does “good ones” mean? Man that is something so tossed up like “quality content”. Heard of PageRank? Well apparently that dude Larry Page was on to something with that metric, since it’s how you absolutely kill top rankings, PR links. And their weight has only INCREASED since Google has tightened their grip on automated spam.   Don’t believe me? Think PageRank is an outdated metric and DA (domain authority) is the beez neez? Well it’s no surprise you’re having such a tough time hitting P1. You want some domain authority? Send me a couple URLs, I’ll smash on them with GSA search engine ranker for a week or two and hook you up with some solid DA 40+ spamalation. You see, DA does not account for spam, in fact, it scales with spam, so it’s quite possibly the most useless metric in SEO right now. On the other hand, I’m really liking Majestic SEO’s Trust Flow or TF, not the end all be all but it’s the best we’ve got currently. Active PR does not scale with spam, try to GSA spam me a PR 6 domain, it’s not happening. When you realize that, you might start reconsidering how you go about getting links. 3. Anchor Text – Now that points one and two are starting to sink in, you’ll hopefully soon realize that anchor text is Google’s last line of defense next to confusing you with FUD and propaganda. And this is where I hope the power will start to shift back for a small % of us. Google is completely fucked, the reality is good spam ranks and bad spam can literally remove sites in a matter of weeks. So with that all said, what is your best move? It’s NFG or “No fucks given SEO”. Buy and cheat your way to the top, do whatever it takes to be #1, the guys telling you that’s not what this is all about have given up and stopped fighting. And what have they been rewarded with? More scrutiny and more slaps for the stupidest of infractions. Myblogguest? Are you fucking kidding me? Got me scared to even link to the damn domain. Google, you suck, almost as much as FaceBook. But don’t worry, you’re closing in fast.     The above tweet from my buddy Chris sums up the reality of where SEO is in 2014. The reality is that Google has lulled us into a false sense of security that can be taken away by your competitor who decides to reward you with a fiverr spam blast for your great content efforts. It’s time to start doing NFG SEO and realizing what’s actually happened with the game over the last few years. With penguin, the entire paradigm shifted, what we were ALL doing to rank sites suddenly backfired and became the very thing that caused us to tank. Not only that but it spawned a full on industry of link cleanup tools and services. Link cleanups? Are you fucking kidding me? And now where are we, pacing around like a bunch of lost sheep considering dropping a nice neatly placed message to Google on every link we build (the nofollow tag)? Not me, not now, and not ever. Because you see Google, for me, I just don’t give a fuck. I stayed the course, I’m still spamming and ranking sites, in fact it’s easier than ever now that you’re leaning on authority links so goddamn much. If you’d like to join me, then today you must let go, let go of everything you’ve been indoctrinated with and stop giving a fuck, build links like you just downloaded your first copy of Senuke and you’re ready to spam the world. Test that algo every day like it’s your last and please stop listening to him. It’s much more than the tactics or the blog networks, it’s the mindset they’re after, it’s NFG they want to stop, so come on SEOs, it’s time to stop giving a fuck. Filed Under: SEO ...

THE 7 Pillars of Growth Hacking and why Growth Marketing is the Future Through our own experience helping clients grow, we developed (and are continually improving) a general methodology for achieving exponential growth. We call it the RockBoost Growth Playbook, and it consists of 7 foundational pillars. We’re going to share it with you to give you a taste of our approach.   What Is Growth Hacking, Actually? If you have read anything related to startups or marketing this decade, you will undoubtedly have come across the popular term “Growth Hacking” and wondered what all the fuss was about. People everywhere are writing about it. They’re calling it “Lean Marketing” or even “Marketing 2.0.” Did you miss something important? If you’re feeling a bit behind the times, I’ve got good news for you: this post will explain everything you need to know about growth hacking so you can get back up to speed with the rest of us. It is 2016 after all and the world has changed since you studied marketing at university. The term was actually coined by a guy named Sean Ellis in 2010, to describe the process by which many Silicon Valley companies rapidly transitioned from budding startups to multimillion dollar enterprises using creative and unconventional techniques. These “growth hacks” were highly successful tricks, often employing technical expertise, that traditional marketing professionals would never have come up with, nor have had the necessary skills to implement. “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” - Sean Ellis Growth hackers trace their roots back to programming engineers. But they are much more than that. They are creative marketers, product managers and data analysts as well. They are focused on a singular goal: finding the most effective and efficient way to grow a business. This often involves rapid experimentation across marketing channels, constant attention to product (re)development and an unending focus on building and engaging a company’s user base. Most importantly, every decision a growth hacker makes is based on data. A growth hacker knows how and what to measure. They use analytics, landing pages and A/B testing to understand their target customers’ habits and behavior. They test everything, iterating and optimizing until they find the most effective solutions with the most potential for growth. They don’t make assumptions. Instead, they are obsessed with data.     Not yet sure how all these pieces fit together? Let’s have a look at some well-known examples. Growth Hacking Examples   Dropbox One of the most famous examples is Dropbox. Now with more than 500 million users (Statista, 2016), they started small as an invite-only service with a waiting list. By notusing expensive, widespread ads targeting every Joe out there, but by using targeted messages carefully crafted for selected platforms where they knew their potential customers already congregated (e.g. Digg, Reddit), they created a sense of exclusivity. On top of this, they put together a fun homemade video that made the relatively complex cloud service easy for anyone to understand. The video went viral and drove massive amounts of trackable traffic to their landing page. But the real hack was this: They set up a referral system where for each friend invited that subsequently opened an account, the user would be given 250MB of free space. Sign ups jumped from 5k to 75k overnight as users invited their entire contact lists. Spotify Spotify grew enormously by simply allowing its users to automatically post whatever they were listening to on the social media giant, Facebook. How many times do you remember seeing messages about what your friends were listening to on Spotify? Did you ever click on one of these? How many signups do you think this simple automated arrangement led to as people became curious and wanted to show off their own musical tastes to their friends? … Let’s just say quite a few. This hack is a classic example of what we call leveraging other people's platforms or audiences, something many companies have had success with Airbnb Another well-known example is Airbnb. Struggling to scale up, their growth team came up with an ingenious leveraging idea. They wrote a sophisticated API that automatically cross-posted all new Airbnb listings onto Craigslist, who already had a gargantuan user base. By doing this, Airbnb suddenly had distribution access to one of the world’s most popular websites and generated enormous exposure, leading to exponential growth. This is something a traditional marketing team, with all the organizational pressures on them, and with limited technical ability would not have had the capabilities to pull off.     Even though Craigslist didn’t have an official API for cross-posting, through creative thinking, boundary pushing and some clever programming, Airbnb was able to create their own. Craigslist eventually closed the loophole in their system, but by that time the hack had already been a success that helped Airbnb gain tremendous momentum. This example illustrates a key point: Many of the best growth hacks have a limited lifetime, and the new ones are often closely kept secrets. Because of this, the world of growth hacking is constantly evolving as new hacks are discovered and methodologies are developed. Many larger companies, impressed by the successes of these startups, have begun experimenting with many of the same techniques. Growth hacking is no longer just for startups. The good news for you is,  that many of the principles behind growth hacking are simple, easy to understand and don’t require lots of technical knowledge. We’re going to teach them to you.   So, What Are the 7 Pillars of Growth Hacking? Much of growth hacking comes down to systems and processes. It’s about finding the weakness in a system and exploiting it. It’s about the processes of continual ideation, prioritization, testing and analyzing.     Silver bullets like the Airbnb hack are generally few and far between. Growth hacking is not magic. While the examples above, and many others, are oft quoted sensational examples of growth hacking, one does not typically hear about the time invested, the hard work and the perhaps dozens of failed attempts that preceded the breakthroughs. For a growth hacker, however, failures are progress. They are part of the experimentation and learning process. Through our own experience helping clients grow, we developed (and are continually improving) a general methodology for achieving exponential growth. We call it the RockBoost Growth Playbook, and it consists of 7 foundational pillars. We’re going to share it with you to give you a taste of our approach.   1. Achieving the Growth Mindset Growth hacking starts with your mindset. It involves focusing all your efforts on achieving your One Metric That Matters (OMTM). This is typically an ambitious and specific growth goal, for example “to achieve 10 million in revenue by 2020.” It is very important that it be measurable and achievable. It is also important that it be straightforward so you can always keep it in mind, letting it guide your team’s every move. As the person or team in charge of growth, all of your activities should be geared towards achieving your OMTM. The growth mindset is also about challenging yourself and realizing that you are capable of far more than you give yourself credit for. Growth hackers think big, take risks and constantly ask the question “what if?” Relentlessly pursuing a goal, even when it takes you beyond your zone of comfort, is what makes growth hackers effective. “Impossible” should not be in your vocabulary.   At RockBoost we like to constantly remind each other to hustle. By this we mean to take risks and try things that would normally be outside our comfort zone. You never know if something will work or not until you try. We even encourage each other to do silly things like randomly asking the Starbucks barista for a 10 percent discount… just to keep the mindset primed. It can’t hurt to ask, right? You’ll be surprised by how many doors will open for you. Some of our greatest achievements have resulted from practicing this attitude. Hustling is about having the courage to reach out for what others might think to be unattainable.   2. The Right Team Growth hackers’ skill sets are in a T-shape where the horizontal bar represents breadth of knowledge and the vertical bar represents depth. No single person can be an expert in every area, which is why having a solid team is so important. The typical member of a growth team will have knowledge about a broad range of topics while specializing in one or two key areas.   There are 3 primary areas of expertise that are necessary for every growth hacking team to have: 1) creative marketing, 2) software programming & automation, and 3) data analysis & testing. Building a team with this combination of skills--that also understand each others’ T-shapes and can leverage each other’s strengths--is fundamental.   Standard Operating Procedures At RockBoost we take lots of inspiration from the U.S. Navy SEALS. One of the SEAL principles we practice that gives us a cutting edge are standard operating procedures (SOPs). SOPs enable you to standardize common processes for an entire team, allowing things to get done more quickly, consistently and with less energy. They help to remove the thought process behind common activities. The discipline of developing and using SOPs will free up your team’s time and mental energy. Many people ask, “If you set up systems and processes for everything, can you still be creative?” We actually think it allows you to be more creative. Systems and processes save you energy and time on mundane tasks so that you can focus your cognitive energy elsewhere. This is not only good business practice, but a powerful life tool. “The mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” - David Allen   3. Measurement, How and What? As you and your amazing new growth team pursues your OMTM, everything you do to speed up growth should be measurable. If you’re achieving results, great! If not, stop and move on to the next idea.     There is no room in the world of growth hacking for assumption. As the saying goes, “When you assume, you make…” you know the rest. All decisions should be based on data. And in order to have that data, you need to start measuring. Many traditional marketers or small business owners wouldn’t be able to say what the ROI was on their most recent ad campaign, likely because they don’t know what to measure or they just don’t have the right tools to do so. Knowing what and how to measure can be tricky, but it is so essential. If you succeed in reaching some target, but you didn’t measure everything you did, you don’t know what it was that led to success. Conversely, if you fail at something, without measurement you won’t be able to avoid the same mistake next time. Measurement allows you to know what exactly correlates with success and it gives you a baseline to which to compare your performance as you experiment. Luckily, technology has made it possible to track almost everything you do. Here are just a few of the online measurement tools we use to help business track and improve their performance: - Unbounce - Optimizely - Mixpanel - Qualaroo - CrazyEgg - Sumo.me - Inspectlet - Google Analytics - Google Tag Manager - Kissmetrics - Hotjar - Ghostery These tools will give you rich information about how users interact with your websites and apps. Where do they get stuck? Where are they clicking? What makes them leave? Once you understand your customer’s journey, you can begin to formulate hypotheses and start experimenting.   4. How to Listen to Your Market The #1 reason why startups fail is that they try to sell a product that nobody wants.Here’s a news flash: Just because you think you have an amazing product, doesn’t mean that there is a market for it. Accepting this reality early on will save you lots of trouble.     Entrepreneurs sometimes fall in love with a product they create, and when it fails to sell, they are often unwilling to let go. They fruitlessly spend all their time, money and energy trying to push something for which there is no market. Don’t let this be you. How can you avoid this? By listening carefully to your market and tailoring a product to what your potential customers are already asking for. It seems obvious, right? It’s amazing how often this is neglected. One of the most useful things you can do is to create a customer desire map. Research your potential customers as thoroughly as you can until you know what makes them tick. Here are some of the things to look for:   Hopes and Dreams What does your customer want to attain or achieve above all else? Pains and Fears What are your customers wanting to avoid or get away from? Barriers and Uncertainties What is preventing or getting in the way of what your customers want?   Of course you can use surveys, focus groups, interviews and other traditional market research tactics to find this information, but consider some other options as well. Where does your potential customer segment congregate and how can you tap into what they are saying? Amazon book reviews, for example, often contain a wealth of information about what your customers are thinking and feeling. Try looking at the reviews of some of the best selling books related to your subject or business and see what people are saying. Look at question and answer sites like Quora and Reddit. We call this forum mining. The goal with all of this is to know your customers better than they know themselves.   5. The Elusive P.M.F. Using the results from your market research, you can now determine if you have a product market fit (PMF). This is about finding ways to remove all doubts or hesitations your customers might have about your product or service. It’s about offering them a product they cannot live without.     Take a minute to think about some products that you would be devastated if you could no longer use. In most traditional companies, product development teams are separate from the marketing teams. The product developers build it and the marketer's job is to sell it. One of the reasons growth hackers are so successful at helping companies grow is that they don’t live within these boundaries. When you are working towards your OMTM, all options need to be on the table, including the willingness to take your product back to the drawing board and make adjustments based on your continual process of market research, measurement and testing. Based on experimentation and constant iteration, you should tailor your product to your customers. The rule of thumb is this: When at least 40% of your users report that they would be very disappointed could they no longer use your product or service, you probably have PMF. Sean Ellis found this out after working with more than 100 startups. Those who had more than 40% PMF were able to achieve traction and grow. Those that didn’t constantly struggled to stay afloat. PMF is vital to achieving growth. If you don’t have it, your marketing efforts are going to be wasted as you try to push a product nobody wants. When you have PMF, people will be so satisfied with your product that they will become your sales people as they share it with their friends. Product Market Fit is about building growth into your product or service so that it sells itself.   6. Which Traction Channels? If you are handing over bags of money for ads on Google and Facebook without any idea as to your ROI, it is time to rethink your approach. It’s not that these channels are not useful--on the contrary! But they are not the only channels. And they might not be the best channels for your situation at this point in time. So, how can you best reach and interact with your (potential) customers? There are actually 19 different traction channels you could (and should) exploit to grow your business. You definitely don’t want to use all of them simultaneously. But figure out what the right combination is for your business at this moment in time. Remember, it is not about the size of your reach, it is about its effectiveness. In the end it doesn’t matter how many people have heard of you. What matters is that theright people know about you: the people with the highest potential to become loyal customers. Overview of the channels - Viral marketing - Public relations - Unconventional PR - Search Engine Marketing (SEM) - Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Social and Display ads - Offline ads - Content marketing - Email marketing - Engineering as marketing - Target marketing blogs - Business development - Sales - Affiliate marketing - Existing platforms - Trade Shows - Offline events - Speaking engagements - Community building Each of these deserves its own blog post (we will try to do that in the future). But for now, it is enough that you are at least aware of these channels. One of the biggest pitfalls is that people tend to only utilize what they are familiar with. By doing this, you may be missing out on big opportunities. You can never know exactly what your market is going to do, or what channels are going to work best. But you can experiment, measure and test! In order to find the right channels for you to pursue, spend some time thinking with your team. Divide the list into three categories: 1) Promising, 2) Potential and 3) Long-shots. Find the top 3 options, and start optimizing these. And go through this process regularly because they are likely to change over time. Remember, it is not about the size of your reach, it is about its effectiveness.   7. The Key to Optimization By now you have embraced the growth mindset, put together a stellar team with a broad set of skills, you have understood the importance of measurement, you have begun listening to your market, you have developed a product people can’t live without, and you’ve identified the most promising traction channels. So now what? What do you do to achieve exponential growth? The key to growth hacking is to test, test, and keep testing! Using your research and measurement techniques, you should continually search for ways to optimize. This requires a systematic approach in which you develop hypotheses and then test them. Hypotheses need to be simple, clear, relevant to your goals and based on data. Like this: Because we saw [data/feedback] We expect that [change] will cause [impact] We’ll measure this using [data metric] But where should you start? The Lift Model ® Developed by Chris Goward is one guide you can use to ensure you cover many of the most important aspects of your business. It consists of 6 essential elements that you should constantly monitor, measure, tweak and optimize. Value Proposition: Are you communicating the benefits of what you are offering with crystal clarity? Relevance: Are the design elements on your site motivating and stimulating desired action? Clarity: Is the content on your site as clear as possible? Are users getting lost and confused? Distraction: Are there design elements on your site that are preventing or distracting from desired actions? Anxiety: Are you credible? What is causing uncertainty or doubt on your website? Urgency: How can you add a sense of urgency for people to take action? So these are the 7 pillars of the proven RockBoost growth methodology. Start using them, and we can’t promise you will be the next Airbnb, but we can promise that you will see results quickly. We know because we have helped lots of companies accomplish exponential growth.   The RockBoost Mission RockBoost was the first growth hacking agency in the Netherlands. We were already running our own highly successful digital agency, DotControl--a team of software engineers that could build just about anything. But we noticed that having a stellar new website or app didn’t necessarily translate into traction and growth. And so we began thinking about how we could help clients not only with their platforms, but with setting up a system for growth as well. At the same time, the Silicon Valley growth hacking trend was getting bigger, and we took inspiration from the systems approach they advocated. Chris, our lead growth hacker and co-founder, had developed an appreciation for the power of processes while working as an auditor at KPMG, and so growth hacking appealed to him right away. We had now found the missing piece that could help DotControl clients get a bigger ROI on their new platforms, and RockBoost was born in November 2014 as a partner company to DotControl. Since its founding, less than 2 years ago, we have grown from 3 people to a solid international team of 14 and have helped dozens of clients on their road to exponential growth. The RockBoost mission is now all about growth hacking implementation and education. We do the hard work of implementation for you. But we also believe that training your teams is an essential part of setting up your business for sustainable growth.   Let's start growth hacking! Hopefully you have a pretty clear understanding now of what growth hacking is all about. It is for all types of businesses (and individuals) looking to accelerate their growth--whether it be in terms of revenue, customer base or anything else. It’s about understanding systems and processes, and learning to exploit and craft those systems to do what you want. It is about having a ‘hustle’ mindset in which all of your team’s focus and energy goes into achieving your one metric that matters (OMTM). It’s about constant measurement, testing, experimenting and optimizing. It’s about listening closely to your market, achieving product market fit (PMF), and then finding the channels best suited for your situation. Finally, growth hacking is about creativity. It is about pushing the boundaries of what marketing is and trying things that you might not have learned in the text books. All in the name of growth. ...

How to start a blog and get Google to send you over 100,000 visitors a month.   When you first think about starting a blog you kind of don’t imagine you’ll ever get more than a trickle of traffic. And then you have your first 100-visitor day. Then your first 1,000-visitor day. After a while even 5,000 or 10,000 visitors a day seems like just part of the plan. What I want to do today is show you that detailed plan and take away some of the mystery. Let’s look at all the ins and outs of how to get over 100,000 visitors a month from natural organic Google search. Things are so much nicer when you have a plan.   Why is Google traffic still the best? If you’ve been reading Blog Tyrant for a while you’ll know that I occasionally warn against relying on Google too much. And I stand by that. Organic traffic from Google search is still the most valuable traffic you can get because it grows, it’s free (sort of), and people who are using search engines are usually in a buy-ready frame of mind. A screen shot of my Clicky Analytics account showing one of my first 28 day periods where I had 100,000+ unique visitors hitting my blog from Google searches.However, if your begin to rely solely on that traffic you run the risk of getting yourself into a bit of trouble in the longterm. Every time Google updates its algorithm there is a chance your blog is going to be less relevant. And that means your traffic vanishes. My own little story with this issue I’ve told this story before but when I first got into blogging I had a few fitness blogs which made money pretty exclusively through Google Adsense. One day I woke up and all my traffic (and revenue!) had gone – I’d received a pretty significant Google penalty for some unknown reason. Lucky for me, the traffic came back. But it was a very scary experience and it taught me that I need to ensure that I have diversified traffic sources that act as a back up in case one of them gets accidentally or deliberately turned off.   How long does it take to get 100,000 visitors a month from Google? Something I want to stress in this post is that my approach to Google traffic is one that is very clean, natural and safe. And “safe” isn’t always a word that sits well with entrepreneurs. Because it usually means slow. If you’re after some short term SEO tricks to help you get an inferior website ranked in two weeks then this isn’t the post for you. This is all about a high-value approach to blogging that you can use on a site that you love and don’t want to take unnecessary risks with. But saying it will take 6 months or a year is kind of irresponsible of me because every blog and niche is different. It will depend a lot on how prolific you can be, and how willing you are to learn a new approach.   How to get 100,000 visitors a month from Google Okay, now we can get into the real tofu and potatoes of the post. And, as always, if you get to the end and think I’ve missed something important or have any questions please leave a comment and let me know. 1. Choose a topic, keywords and target market that has the depth   The very first thing you need to do if you want to have a good SEO strategy is know what keywords you are going after and what target market you are trying to tap into. Too often I see blogs that have a very generalised topic which leads to a lot of fragmented content, an unresponsive mailing list and not a lot of success. When researching your topic, please make sure you know what you want to talk about and how your blog is going to be different to all the others out there. It is very important that you think about deliberate ways that your topic is going to stand out. When researching keywords, it’s a good idea to know who your competition is and how saturated the market is. There are some niches that are very, very hard to compete in. The main worry, however, is a niche with not enough traffic. One simple place to start is by logging into Google Adwords and using their suite of Tools. One of them will estimate search volume and show you the Adwords bidding competition. This will give you a pretty good idea about whether your market is worth the effort. Make sure you try a lot of variations of your keywords here. Even small changes like plurals or alternative words that seem similar can have a massive effect on traffic numbers. At this stage you’ll also want to look at your competition using a service likeMajestic to see what keywords are going around, who is working on what, etc. You can then go and spend some time manually searching and clicking through to websites to see if there is anything that you can do better than what is already out there. At this point I’d like to just mention that passion really is the most important thing here. It’s something I’ve heard successful bloggers like Glen from ViperChill say again and again. Even if you find a profitable niche to work in, you’ll soon lose interest at all the hard (and boring tasks) if you don’t love it and sincerely want to help your readership. That is very important. 2. Get your own domain name and self-hosted WordPress setup   How many times have you seen a free blog like Tumblr or Blogger in the first position on Google? Not often is the answer. Google gives a much higher weighting to websites and blogs that have their own domain name and host because it is a pretty basic signal that that website is going to be taking itself more seriously – hence better quality. Here’s a quick video explaining my preferred setup. So how do you choose a good domain name? Well, there are several options: Exact match keywords A few years ago if you could get an exact match phrase you’d be more likely to rank at the top. Now this isn’t so popular and can look a bit spammy. However, for local search, things like ArchitectMelbourne.com.au still rank extremely well if you can get them. Keyword + noun Another popular method is to take the keyword that you are targeting and add a noun or adjective to it. Blog Tyrant could be an example of this approach if I was targeting the keyword “blog”. Distinctive domains This is actually now the best option given that all the good keyword domains are taken. Being distinctive is important. Look at a site like ViperChill where the domain name has nothing to do with anything but you’ll never forget it. Once you’ve decided on your domain name you can register it and do all your WordPress set up through BlueHost. This is a good idea because then everything is in the one place. Here is a tutorial on how to start a WordPress blog and bit more about blog hosting in general if you’re interested.   3. Change your general WordPress settings for better SEO performance   For the most part, WordPress is a pretty SEO-friendly platform. That being said, there are a few little default things that we want to change from the get go. The first is your default permalinks structure which is often set to some combo of the date and name. I like to set this to just post name as we will want the keywords that we are targeting to show up in the post. Just go Settings > Permalinks > Post Name. Remember, if you already have your blog up and running you don’t want to change any existing permalinks as that will result in any links pointing to that old structure to throw an error. We only want it for future things. The next thing you want to make sure is that your post titles are set to h1 tags and not anything else. Often you find that WordPress themes have the site name as the first header and then the post title is h2 which is a mistake. You can change this by going Appearance > Editor > Single Post and then changing your post title to the right tag. The last basic WordPress thing we want to change is your sidebar. Get rid of everything in there except for an email subscriber opt-in form and maybe some links to your most popular posts. You don’t need all that Meta stuff in there, and you especially don’t want any blogroll links.   4. Install an SEO-specific plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast I personally use "All in One SEO" by the great guys at SemperPlugins for WordPress over Yoast, I found Yoast useful when I started blogging but certain aspects just irked me the wrong way. So I simply searched "SEO" on the plugin page and found "All in One SEO", saw the number of downloads read the reviews and was sold...

How to successfully Growth Hack on WordPress   With WordPress anyone can build a website — quite literally. The platform is beginner-friendly, powerful and makes the process really easy. However, building a website and building a successful website are very different things. While anyone can now do the first part, not everyone is up for part two. What is a successful website? Simply put, a website that achieves it’s goal, be it generating traffic, profits, newsletter sign ups or awareness. Yet, the more important question is how do you arrive there? How do you grow from simple website to online success? One discipline that is obsessed with this question is growth hacking. Growth hacking has allowed a number of well-known companies and startups to reach high levels of success, among them Twitter, Dropbox and Airbnb. If it works for them, why not for you and your website? That’s exactly what this blog post is about. Below you will learn what growth hacking is, how growth hacking tactics can be applied to websites and the tools that WordPress puts at our disposal to do so. Ready to dive in? Then let’s go.   What Exactly is Growth Hacking? On the most basic level growth hacking describes a marketing approach that uses innovative techniques in order to achieve sustainable and scalable growth, mostly for web entities. The term growth hacker was first coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. By then, he had already achieved incredible growth results for a number of Internet companies, among them Dropbox. In the very same article Ellis also describes the characteristics and skills that make someone a growth hacker.   Growth Hackers Are Focused on Growth (Surprise!) A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth. – Sean Ellis Growth hacking has only one success metric: growth. All it cares about is moving the needle forward, be it in terms of users, revenue or whatever your metric might be. Every decision, strategy, tactic, method and tool only is chosen only with this objective in mind — to create scalable and repeatable growth. What’s interesting, however, is that growth hacking has no constraints on how this goal is achieved. Business development and number crunching are just as much part of the growth hacking toolbox as viral videos and guerilla marketing. All that matters is whether the numbers are moving in the right direction. In that, growth hacking differs from classic marketing which has a limited set of tools and communication channels.   Growth Hacking is Often User and Product Driven Another characteristic of this discipline is that there is no distinct line between product and marketing. In fact, the product is the first step of marketing. Without something worthwhile to sell, growth hacking essentially falls flat. The discipline is all about distribution and getting things into the hands of users. To do so, the product often becomes part of the marketing machine. Instead of relying on buying ad space and the likes, growth hackers try to help the merchandise market itself and be part of its own distribution. Great examples for this are Dropbox’ offer of free additional space for user who successfully invite others to join or Airbnb’s offer to post ads on Craigslist with the click of a button. The latter allowed the company to mine Craiglist’s user base (which was much larger than their own at the time) and helped their own users get more exposure for their ads. Win win. Growth Hackers Have a Diverse Set of Skills Because methods for growing are so non-linear, growth hackers need to have a wide skill set and diverse range of knowledge. Their job involves working across multiple disciplines such as data analysis, product development and marketing. For that reason, many people involved in this discipline are hybrids between coder and marketer. They use creativity, analytical thinking, social metrics and technology alike, run A/B tests and use landing pages and other non-traditional marketing tools to achieve their goal. For that reason, growth hacking is also not a cookie cutter recipe but a process that will be different for every product.   Hackers by Nature The more attentive among you will have noticed the word “hacking” in growth hacking. It originates from the fact that growth hackers are not concerned with following norms or an established process but instead try to figure out how to “hack the system” and short circuit modern communication channels. Since this profession is coming from the world of startups, much of their work is also concentrated on low cost and innovation. Plus, many growth hackers are also coders, though this isn’t strictly necessary.   Growth Hacking For Websites Now that we know more about the nature of growth hacking and what growth hackers do, how can we apply this to our websites? If you’ve been paying attention, you will have noticed that growth hacking comes down to a few principles: Focus on Data — Knowing what works, tracking results to uncover relationships and causation in order to make informed decisions, make success repeatable and allow predictions about the future. Emphasis on Creativity and Experimentation — Pushing the envelope and trying out new things, being curious and thinking outside the box. Product Driven — Concentrating on building something valuable first before getting it into the hands of people, making the product (i.e. website) part of the distribution process. Interdisciplinary Thinking — Not being constrained by one communication channel, having a multi-faceted approach to marketing, being a jack of many trades (like many website owners already are). Concentrated on Low Cost — Using innovation and creativity to make up for budget, employing existing tools in non-standard ways to create traction. To apply these principles to our websites, we have a number of tools at our disposal including (but not limited to): Content management systems Web design Content marketing SEO Social media Email marketing A/B testing Viral marketing As you can see, these are things that bloggers and website owners already make use of on a regular basis. It’s also the reason why WordPress is the perfect tool for aspiring growth hackers.   Why WordPress is the Perfect Growth Hacking Tool The WordPress platform is a great choice for those wanting to growth hack their way to the top. First of all, it offers lots of control and flexibility. In fact, one of the main reasons for the success of WordPress is that it enables you to build basically any website you want, be it a blog, forum, online shop or something else. In addition to that, WordPress provides plenty of opportunities for experimentation and hacking. You can run different marketing campaigns, A/B test the crap out of every site element and modify almost anything you want to increase conversions, improve the user experience and more. Plus, WordPress is very search engine friendly out of the box and has lots of additional options in that area. No wonder Google loves WordPress. That extends to mobile search, which has surpassed that of desktop machines in many places of the world. Masses of available responsive themes allow you to take advantage of this traffic source. Last but not least, thousands of plugins let you optimize and tweak your site in many different ways, making growth hacking and WordPress a match made in heaven. To make it easier to start hacking your own site, from here on out I will list a number of WordPress plugins that are especially suitable for doing so.   WordPress Growth Hacking Plugins Below you will find some concrete plugin ideas that will help you integrate growth hacking principles into your WordPress website. All-in-One Solutions While all plugins on this list are helpful, one of them deserves special mention as an almost complete growth hacking solution. The plugin suite SumoMe contains tools for lead generation, sharing, analytics and more all rolled into one attractive package. While its basic functionality is free, you will need to purchase a premium license for more advanced things like A/B testing. Still, highly recommended! You can find a detailed article on SumoMe here.   Analytics As mentioned earlier, growth hacking relies heavily on data. Therefore, the first order of the day is to make sure you collect relevant information. Plugin options for that include: Google Analytics by MonsterInsights  — I don’t know any other plugin that makes setting up Google Analytics as easy as this one. It literally takes seconds to connect your site to Google’s service. Plus, the plugin displays your most important data in the dashboard so you don’t have to sign in to your account to get an overview of where you are standing. Jetpack Analytics — Similar to SumoMe, Jetpack is a collection of different plugins rolled into one. While it’s overall worth a look, one of the plugin highlights are the real-time analytics for your WordPress dashboard. While not as sophisticated as Google, they are definitely enough to keep track of your traffic and the direction of your site. Clicky — Very neat plugin for those using Clicky analytics as it helps you connect your site with the service. The plugin is a bit dated but still rated well so it’s worth trying out. Hotspots Analytics — Heat maps help you understand how users interact with your site. See what they are interested in and which actions they take. This stuff is great info for A/B testing site elements. Feelback Reactions — Feedback doesn’t always have to be in the form of numbers, you can also collect it directly from your users. Feelback allows your visitors to express their feelings about your content via Facebook-style emoticons. If it works for Facebook…   Social Media Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other platforms have millions of users, making social media an important piece of your growth hacking strategy, especially if you plan on producing viral content. The following plugins will help you make that happen: Jetpack Sharing — I already mentioned Jetpack further above and Sharing is another one of its modules. The plugin enables you to easily add social sharing buttons for many platforms to your site. You can also add your own networks as well as customize button location and style. Ultimate Social Media Icons — Another solution for adding sharing buttons that comes with 16 different designs and loads of options. Customize button function, turn them sticky so they stay on screen, use pop-ups and more. Image Sharer — Part of the aforementioned SumoMe plugin suite. Image Sharer is specially made for sharing visuals on different platforms. When activated, share buttons will appear on images when visitors hover over them. Good stuff!   A/B Testing While analytics can give you data on the status quo, they can not provide you with alternatives that might work better. That’s where A/B testing comes in. By trying different variants of website elements you can improve conversions and other growth markers. WordPress has several solutions to offer for this. Nelio A/B Testing — One of the most well-known conversion optimization plugins. Test anything on your site from headlines to widgets. Includes heatmaps and is compatible with WooCommerce. What more do you want? Simple Page Tester — If you just want to try out different page versions, this plugin has got your back. Run split tests for pages without changing any code and quickly figure out which one is performing better. WordPress Calls to Action — This plugin lets you add and test calls to action on your web pages, including as popups. Great for lead generations and building your email list. Title Experiments Free — Finally, if all you want to optimize are your post titles, this is the plugin for you. Put in multiple titles for the same post, see which one gets the most clicks, pick the winner and rest easy knowing you went with the best possible option. List Building You have probably heard the saying “the money is in the list”. That’s because email remains one of the most important online marketing channels and list building is one of the best ways to grow your website. These plugins will help you do so: OptinMonster — In my opinion, OptinMonster is the list-building plugin par excellence. While it’s a premium solution, the plugin is worth every penny. Together with SumoMe it forms the pinnacle of lead generation plugins for WordPress. For a comparison between the two, read this article. OptinForms — However, there are also free alternatives for collecting email subscribers and MailChimp is the favorite of many. This plugin makes the integration of MailChimp forms on your site easy as pie. Alternatives: MC4WP, MailChimp Forms by MailMunch, and Easy Forms for MailChimp. Those are my personal picks but you can find more list building plugins right here on WPKube.   Content Promotion In our day and age, content creation one of the most important factors for marketing success. Few growth hackers will be able to do without it. However, content promotion just as important and these plugins make it a little easier: Related posts by Jetpack — Showing related posts at the bottom of your content is a great way to keep visitors on your site. While there are many other solutions out there (like this one and this one) these types of plugins are infamous for being performance hogs. Jetpack addresses this problem by outsourcing related post to the WordPress.com servers instead of the WordPress database. Popular posts — Talking about keeping people on your site: Showing off your most popular content is another good way to do so (besides highlighting your latest posts, which is built into WordPress). The plugin mentioned here is highly customizable and should cover all your needs in this area. Revive old posts — Older but still relevant content is an excellent promotion tool and should not be forgotten. This aptly named plugin does exactly what the name suggests and gives your dated content another go-around in social networks to keep it visible. OnePress Social Locker — Finally, this plugin increases your visibility on social networks by locking popular content until your visitors share or like it. An easy way to get more social presence. SEO As I said before, WordPress is very search engine friendly from the get-go. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement and the following plugins will help your site play nice with Google: Yoast SEO — The SEO solution by team Yoast is probably the plugin I recommend most often. For good reason. Not only does it automatically optimize many aspects of your site for search engines, it also offers a lot of help for creating optimized content. Also check the alternative and IMO the BEST All-in-One SEO Pack. I perfer this plugin to Yoast any day of the week but for some reason people are stuck on Yoast so go for it. Broken Link Checker — Having dead links on your site is bad for your bounce rate and user experience. This plugin helps you find them. Be careful though, some people complain about performance problems so maybe only activate the plugin once in a while and not continuously. Caching — Caching is important for site speed and thus user experience and search rankings. The most popular free solutions in this area are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. Both have their pros and cons so you need to decide which one is right for you. A popular premium solution is WP Rocket. User Engagement Site growth is all about users and keeping them engaged to keep them around. Here are the tools to do so: Postmatic — One of my favorite plugins of the last year. It sends blog comments directly to your email inbox and lets you answer from there, too. That makes staying on top of the discussion much easier and eliminates many signup steps. Subiz Live Chat — Live chat is especially suitable for websites that sell something. It enables you to talk to website visitors in real time in order find out what they need and how you can make them happy. If that’s something you might be interested in, this plugin is for you. Contact Form 7 — Of course, giving visitors a way to get in contact with you directly is one of the most important ways to engage with them. Luckily, Contact Form 7 makes creating contact forms a breeze and is free, too. E-Commerce Your website itself does not have to be your main product. Sometimes it might just be a vehicle to sling your actual merchandise. In order to growth hack your profits, the following e-commerce solutions will be your best friends: WooCommerce — The most popular WordPress solution for building online shops and for good reason. Stable, sophisticated, and free! At least for the basic functionality. Some functions require paid addons. WooCommerce is also highly supported by other plugins. Easy Digital Downloads — If you are selling virtual products only, this is the plugin for you. The people behind it are known for their quality and the solution comes with multiple payment gateways out of the box. Again, the basic version is free with premium addons available. Ready to Growth Hack Your WordPress Website? Growth hacking is an established discipline for growing companies and startups. Its sole purpose is to move the needle forward and it is characterized by a certain mindset, creativity, the use of many disciplines and a focus on both product and users. For site owners, the principles of growth hacking are also applicable for building successful websites and WordPress is the perfect companion platform to do so. Its flexibility, the ability to modify any aspect of the website and the abundance of available tools make it a prime candidate for growth hacking traffic and users. The plugins listed in this article are only the beginning and there are more tools out there. If you have any others to add, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Aside from that, I wish you all the best in growing your site....