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GROWTH HACKING Tag

Growth Hacking, the most dreaded word in the world of Marketing, for fools they say. Well if your not bringing your clients Growth then what are you bringing them? Your like Leo in the Great Gatsby waiting for the girl who's never coming, go back to making direct mail marketing.     But what is Growth Hacking? Simply put its using avenues otherwise never thought out of or used by "traditional" marketers for reasons I believe has something to do with their ego as in "we didn't create that, nobody does that, that doesn't work", typical Old Tymer marketers, you'll run into them from time to time just dismiss them politely and throw a good Instgram Marketing question at them leaving them baffled and back to to buffet stand for more crab legs.   Let’s come to a consensus on what Growth Hacking is before we delve into the depths of these amazing hacks your about to implement and experience unsafe levels of Growth. Growth Hacking is implementing knowledge of the product, brand and distribution channels to find ingenious, tech & social based avenues for growth that , use knowledge of the product, brand and distribution channels to find ingenious, tech-based avenues for growth that push the bounds of what is expected or advised by “traditional” B.A. Marketers. 1) Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. This is the fundamental step to Growth Hacking.The very first thing a Growth Hacker does (aside from growth hacking his breakfast) is analyze the client/company’s digital strengths and weaknesses. Areas they are killing it in and areas they are falling on their face in. Why waste time in areas where there’s no for it? Ranked #1 on Google for your keyword but still lacking leads, maybe you need to explore Search Marketing or list building to start an Email marketing campaign. Now I know most of you will say “Duh, of course” to this technique when presented to you by such a brilliant writer I can see why. However actually take a moment and think about how many businesses realistically strategically access and go over their strengths and weaknesses, the answer is…not many. Once you conclude where exactly your strengths and weaknesses lie you can start to develop a Growth Hacking plan focusing on specific needs instead of a general overall growth approach. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and understand the first step to successful Growth Hacking. 2) Sell your story, not your product. In today’s world everyone has a product, everyone has a pitch and everyone has a service to offer. If they are market leaders, they will sell them. However if your a startup or launching a product how do you compete in today’s saturated market? By hiring an amazing Growth Hacker of course. However in the meantime become personable and start selling YOURSELF just as much as your product. This is Growth Hacking psychology 101. People remember personal interaction and connection, ie; like that little email “Company X” sent me after I purchased their item explaining their founding story. A great example of this is Sam Parr, founder of HustleCon and theHustle.co who recently broke a record for the fastest company to reach 500,000 email subscribers in less than six months. How did they do that? Through adding in their companies story at every stage of their founding from the literal assembly of the IKEA chairs they purchased to the founder’s backgrounds and personal history in each email they sent out and I LOVED it. It drew me in like the smell of fresh donuts. Get personal, sell your story because everyone remembers the storyline, not everyone remembers the production company. 3) Go “viral” through Incentive based marketing. This is one of those Growth Hacks that will increase your CRO like you injected your brand with digital steroids. This has been a very trending idea amongst top companies that have their digital game on a wrap. Give your customer or invited consumer and “incentive or free gift” to buy from you. If you allow your first-time buyer to get a 25% coupon or free membership for a month if he refers someone else within 24 hours, the conversion rate on that program will be like a nuclear bomb compared to a musket. People love getting stuff for free or at a discount because it makes them feel like they “won” and they also love to show their friends/family/co-workers the new things they discovered in order to gain that freebie or incentive. Giving consumers an incentive to invite outside people to buy from you will make your product go viral instantly. Incentive based marketing is similar to the “freemium” model using basic human psychology and marketing to Growth Hack people’s own minds without them knowing. Similar to the movie Inception where you can implant an idea in someone’s mind, however, this is the real world where it works beautifully and will you on way to going viral. 4) Get Analytics right with Google Analytics & avoiding “Vanity Metrics”. Tracking your website, social, content, email and all inbound marketing channel’s analytics is a cornerstone of Growth Hacking. Some basic metrics to avoid with Google Analytics are the common ones such as Daily Active Users and Monthly Active Users which are what is called “Vanity Metrics” forget them, they don’t tell you how long or how engaged the users were and many other variables. Without analytics there would be no Growth Hacking, in order to “Hack the Growth” you have to know what to “hack” and that starts with analytics. One of the most important analytics is the “Bounce Rate” or how long someone stays on a specific web page, landing page or piece of content. Ideally you want at least a 30 second bounce rate, anything under that is utterly useless for analysing. A great analytical Growth Hack for Bounce Rates is simply applying a parameter for only recording analytics on people who stay on your site for over 30 seconds, which means they are most likely interested in what your putting out there. Google Analytics records all of these metrics however some other ones you want to monitor is the “heatmap” of your site, or where users are spending the most time and figuring out why that is and applying that metric to other “cold” areas. The King Arthur of all analytics is Conversion. CRO Tracking or Conversion Funnels is one boss of all metrics which tracks the flow of the acquisition of new users and their retention time. Tracking the flow of new user acquisition at a daily rate is key to a successful analytical approach. However be careful it is easy to go overboard with analytics so make sure your don’t risk compromising your growth hacking philosophy which is wasting time implementing solutions that you don’t need. 5) Redefine traditional distribution outlets. Ever wonder why McDonald’s had famously “Sold Over 1 Million Hamburgers” in such a short period of time, they Growth Hacked. Yes of course it was due to their production of “fast food” generation however it was also their growth hacking based marketing efforts. McDonald’s knew the importance the new road systems like the US Interstate System and the German Autobahn and systematically founded their franchises on these roads at popular exits. Now lets fast forward from the medieval ages and get back to normal time. If you can navigate the digital roads that exist on the internet today that direct the users and information online like Search Engines, you can easily set up your own distribution outlets at these “major intersections” getting your name seen by millions. Traditional advertisements meant to been seen from the car are equivalent to modern day SEO and Search Marketing by being seen on Google, Bing, Yandex, etc. Adverts shown before a movie at a theatre is now Video Marketing on YouTube, Newspaper ads are now Mobile Advertising. The true Growth Hacker finds the newest most convertible outlet and attacks it like a mongoose, like implementing Influencer Marketing on Instagram two years ago. Clear your mind from traditional marketing thought and think like a Growth Hacker. Go out and find that new avenue to dominate like McDonald’s did 50 years ago and if Growth Hacked right…one day you’ll sell a million digital burgers. 6) Start A/B Testing and Experimenting Across All Channels Like analytics, Experimentation and Metrics are two other cornerstones of Growth Hacking. . What Growth Hacking is about is testing out what works and what doesn’t, what drives traffic what doesn’t, what converts users what doesn’t. This is all done through analytics as well as the coveted ancient technique of “A/B Testing” sometimes called “split testing” which is simply testing “Method A” then “Method B” or even “Method C” then analyzing the results of each one to see which had a more positive result in which eve area you were looking to optimize. A/B Testing is like the AK-47 of the Growth Hacker, it never fails, always works, always delivers and was probably invented by Russians. Whether you are A/B Testing or playing around with different Typography in your Email Newsletters, experimentation is the core of Growth Hacking. A great Growth Hack for A/B testing and a way to increase your conversion rate is by flowing traffic to two or three landing pages or pages of content with different features and different products, then assess the feedback on each one to see which one resonated best with your audience. You can also learn from the pages that didn’t convert well, taking the aspects form those pages and breaking down why they didn’t convert will teach you a lot out about audience. Implementing pre-made “A/B Testing” models and very quickly experimenting by swapping out the “bad” pages your new pre-made pages gives you incredible information about your audience and greatly increases your chances of converting prospects into clients. 7) Leveraging your competition for Growth Hacking success (Case Study) When AirBNB first launched they didn’t get the explosive traffic growth seen with other brands like Vine or Snapchat. The idea of renting out extra rooms in your house to total people? Excellent idea (unless your agoraphobic) in a completely unfilled niche however it took time, years in fact for them to gain true national and international traction. In fact Growth Hacking was the reason AirBNB got put on the map. So how did AirBNB go form being an incubator startup in 2008 operating mostly in the Pacific Northwest to having 75% of their bookings being in major international cities by 2011. Yes! you guessed it, by Growth Hacking. AirBNB leveraged one of the most established online brands in US, Craigslist, to Growth Hack their way to success. By creating an “Call-to-Action” option when adding a listing they added in an Opt-In form that “Automated A Duplicate Post on Craigslist” thus creating an extra inbound link for you (the seller) and another backlink for the AirBNB platform. So why don’t other companies use this same method? Because Craigslist didn’t have a public API or an easy way for companies to integrate their services, Craigslist simply used basic Growth Hacking methods to leverage their sales through a larger competitor. And always remember to: BONUS: Are you ready to go VIRAL? BONUS: Inspirational story of AIRBNB Originally written by Growth Kings https://growthkings.com/stories/...

Dan Bilzerian has conquered Social Media Marketing and did it through Growth Hacking his way through the establishment of Silicon Valley trash.   Start living that ‘ilzerian life, and stop cowering to your boss and become your own. Growth Hacking your way to a location lifestyle business through sound content marketing and social media genius.   Have you unfortunately been born into the “Millenial” years? Well, I just made the cut by one year. And let me say from what I’ve witnessed at multiple workplaces Millenials are setting themselves up for a .50cal to the head, metaphorically speaking of course. Unless you pissed off The Ilzerian. Dan Bilzerian, the Poker Superstar, Social Media Marketing guru and Content Marketing extraodinaire has shown the world how properly using Social Media outlets for the INTENDED purposes can create a larger than life figure; example A) SEE Donald J. Trump. In fact I can picture The Ilzerian as president in about 16 years from now, screw you Bezos. By showing his incredibly self absorbed cheesy pictures on Instagram of his amazingly awesome life he has a soft 22.5 MILLION followers on Instagram, the World's 3rd Largest Social Media network, and all by starting out as a Poker Player...

A manifesto on the dark side of Google and how to break their digital chains   Before this, here is a genuine question I hope you'll think about it for a moment before answering honestly. Are you tired of being forced into Google's imaginary box of so called "ethics" and "morals" on your work and business?   This irrational yet widely accepted idea that if you do not follow what Google says then you are digitally “spanked” by Google, literally, (interns who come to your house with their special self-driving cars) which then casts you out and treats you like a criminal by banning your account or site or anything else within their seemingly endlesss power. This even with the constantly changing guidelines (aka RULES) that Google itself violates in their own ventures, just see how much money they make off their SEO on their OWN search engine, more than some nations. And then, after trying hard by spending time and money to be one of Google’s law-abiding followers you STILL find yourself unrewarded and often punished seemingly without reason or explanation. What I’d kindly like you to do is to try and imagine breaking away from Google, taking the focus away from what Google wants you to do and put the focus back on what is important, what is healthy and good for your business, because that it was matters most. Focus on page optimization, image optimization, content curation, content strategy, content marketing, email outreach, newsletters..the BACKBONE of your brand and website, not the website that ranks it. Put the focus back on what is important, what is healthy and good for your business, because that it was matters most. The concept for the “Smart Internet Marketer” or SIMer for short.A proper SIMer (S-I-M-er) does not identify as a "BlackHat" or "WhiteHat", an SIMer concentrates only on what works and is not swayed by the irrational pressures which force false illusions of bad morals and ethics just for looking out for your business in a way that is not good for Google’s business. An SIMer uses common sense and rational judgement to make the right ethical and moral calls. This does not mean the SIMer is unethical or a criminal, it simply means putting focus on what matters most to your business and what is relevant to your business, not what Google wants to make relevant and force businesses to do. By trying to pull rank on Google you are not breaking the law, only Google guidelines, and every business SHOULD be trying to reach higher rankings on Google, ah duh. Google is just a search engine, a website, they can’t force you to do anything and a lot of businesses find themselves no better off by following Google’s guidelines. Remember, what is best for you is not what is best for Google, they do not share the same goal as your business (as I showed you their $1B SEO Empire through Google Ventures), they are a competitor and they simply need control of the market and your business to earn their money by scraping content from your business website and using it in their search engine. (By the way, scraping content is hypocritically against their guidelines too.). By thinking like an SIMer (or Growth Hacker), Google and even SEO is simply one of many tools you can use to grow your business and you are not restricted by the ridiculous box they try to force you into. Smart Marketing plus Growth Hacking equals Breaking Out of Google's Chains SIM drives a wedge in-between Google’s fear-mongering and the labels which plague online marketing. To wrestle away control from Google so they cannot define what is good and bad so chillingly and to take away the power they feel they have by making people feel as if they are a criminal for going against Google. Genuinely increasing the spectrum of quality content out there shoud be the goal of true content marketing. There is an awful lot of fluff and crap marketing content which gets posted all over the web. I want to consolidate the best information to a few great places online so we can see the most knowledgeable, original and helpful articles to our businesses without worrying if it is labeled Blackhat or Whitehat.   The future for Smart Marketing is bright and I hope in coming time I begin to see people adopt this acronym and replace the old redundant Blackhat vs Whitehat labels. Because lets be honest with eachother NO ONE is purely a White Hat and NO ONE is purely a Black Hat, Duality is a myth and everyone is wearing Grey Hats.   Remember, if you’re a Smart Marketer, you’re labeled as doing what’s best for your business or clientele, not what is best for Google or Bing or goddamn Yahoo, and that is what you want if you want to be successful online. As an SIMer I want to surround myself with good original SEO related news, guides and resource such as; SEOBook, Bruce Clay, Backlinko, SEO by the Sea, HubSpot, Contently, iPullRank, Moz  & many more. If you’re also interested in being part of such places then subscribe to my blog and I’ll update you with news as they come. For now, subscribe to the SIMer Subreddit as we work to find you the best content out there without the labels and without the fluff. The SIMers Subreddit is dedicated to Smart Marketing. Smart Marketing is about rejecting the Whitehat and Blackhat labels in order to pursue what truly matters in Internet Marketing, Growth, Influence, Conversion, etc. A Smart Internet Marketer has morals and ethics but concentrates on what works and is not afraid of testing and experimenting in the marketing field. A Smart Marketer pushes boundaries and limits.   Check out the Smart Marketing subreddit here https://www.reddit.com/r/smartimers/ Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save...

7 Growth Hacking techniques for the modern businessman, professional or bank robber.     Lets come to a consensus on what Growth Hacking is before we delve into the depths of these amazing hacks your about to implement and experience unsafe levels of Growth. Growth Hacking is providing rapid analytical and data based Growth that jealous B.A. Marketing (hahahah, Bachelors of Marketing = Robots) have no idea to even wrap their mindless heads around. Creativity + Data + Innovation, everything your current Marketing Manager is NOT.   1) Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. This is the fundamental step to Growth Hacking.The very first thing a Growth Hacker does (aside from growth hacking his breakfast) is analyze the client/company’s digital strengths and weaknesses. Areas they are killing it in and areas they are falling on their face in. Why waste time in areas where theres no for it? Ranked #1 on Google for your keyword but still lacking leads, maybe you need to explore Search Marketing or list building to start an Email marketing campaign. Now I know most of you will say "Duh, of course" to this technique when presented to you by such a brilliant writer I can see why. However actually take a moment and think about how many businesses realistically strategically access and go over their strengths and weaknesses, the answer is…not many. Once you conclude where exactly your strengths and weakenesses lie you can start to develop a Growth Hacking plan focusing on specific needs instead of a general overall growth approach. Understand your strenghts and weaknesses and understand the first step to successful Growth Hacking.     2) Sell your story, not your product. In todays world everyone has a product, everyone has a pitch and everyone has a service to offer. If they are market leaders, they will sell them. However if your a startup or launching a product how do you compete in today’s saturated market? By hiring an amazing Growth Hacker of course. However in the mean time become personable and start selling YOURSELF just as much as your product. This is Growth Hacking psychology 101. People remember personal interaction and connection, ie; like that little email “Company X” sent me after I purchased their item explaining their founding story. A great example of this is Sam Parr, founder of HustleCon and theHustle.co who recently broke a record for the fatest company to reach 500,000 email subscribers in less than six months. How did they do that? Through adding in their companies story at every stage of their founding from the literal assembly of the IKEA chairs they purchased to the founders backgrounds and personal history in each email they sent out and I LOVED it. It drew me in like the smell of fresh donoughts. Get personal, sell your story because everyone remembers the storyline, not everyone remembers the production company.       3) Go “viral” through Incentive based marketing. This is one of those Growth Hacks that will increase your CRO like you injected your brand with digital steroids. This has been a very trending idea amongst top companies that have their digital game on wrap. Give your customer or invited consumer and “incentive or free gift” to buy from you. If you allow your first time buyer to get a 25% coupon, or free membership for a month if he refers somone else within 24 hours, the converson rate on that program will be like a nuclear bomb compared to a musket. People love getting stuff for free or at a  discount because it makes them feel like they “won” and they also love to show their friends/family/co-workers the new things they discovered in order to gain that freebie or incentive. Giving consumers an incentive to invite outside people to buy from you will make your product go viral instantly. Incentive based marketing is similar to the “freemium” model using basic human psychology and marketing to Growth Hack people’s own minds without them knowing. Similiar to the movie Inception where you can implant an idea in someones mind, however this is the real world where it works beautifully and will you on way to going viral.     4) Get Analytics right with Google Analytics & avoiding “Vanity Metrics”. Tracking your website, social, content, email and all inbound marketing channel’s analytics is a cornerstone of Growth Hacking. Some basic metrics to avoid with Google Analytics are the common ones such as Daily Active Users and Monthly Active Users which are what is called “Vanity Metrics” forget them, they don’t tell you how long or how engaged the users were and many other variables. Without analytics there would be no Growth Hacking, in order to “Hack the Growth” you have to know what to “hack” and that starts with analytics. One of the most important analytics is the “Bounce Rate” or how long someone stays on a specific web page, landing page or piece of content. Ideally you want at least a 30 second bounce rate, anything under that is utterly useless for analyzining. A great analytical Growth Hack for Bounce Rates is simply applying a parameter for only recording analytics on people who stay on your site for over 30 seconds, which means they are most likely interested in what your putting out there. Google Analytics records all of these metrics however some other ones you want to monitor is the “heatmap” of your site, or where users are spending the most time and figuring out why that is and applying that metric to other “cold” areas. The King Arthur of all analytics is Conversion. CRO Tracking or Conversion Funnels is one boss of all metrics which tracks the flow of the aquisition of new users and their retention time. Tracking the flow of new user aquistion at a daily rate is key to a succesful analytical approach. However be careful it is easy to go overboard with analytics so make sure your don’t risk compromising your growth hacking philosophy which is wasting time implementing solutions that you don’t need.       5) Redefine traditional distribution outlets. Ever wonder why McDonald’s had famously “Sold Over 1 Million Hamburgers” in such a short peroid of time, they Growth Hacked. Yes of course it was due to their production of “fast food” generation however it was also their growth hacking based marketing efforts. McDonald’s knew the importance the new road systems like the US Interstate System and the German Autobohn and systematically founded their franchises on these roads at popular exits. Now lets fast forward from the medieval ages and get back to normal time. If you can navigate the digital roads that exist on the internet today that direct the users and information online like Search Engines, you can easily set up your own distribution outlets at these “major intersections” getting your name seen by millions. Traditional advertisements meant to been seen from the car are equivelent to modern day SEO and Search Marketing by being seen on Google, Bing, Yandex, etc. Adverts shown before a movie at a theatre is now Video Marketing on YouTube, Newspaper ads are now Mobile Advertising. The true Growth Hacker finds the newest most convertable outlet and attacks it like a mongoose, like implementing Influencer Marketing on Instagram two years ago. Clear your mind from traditional marketing thought and think like a Growth Hacker. Go out and  find that new avenue to dominate like McDonald’s did 50 years ago and if Growth Hacked right…one day you’ll sell a million digital burgers.     6) Start A/B Testing and Experimenting Across All Channels Like analytics, Experimentation and Metrics are two other cornerstones of Growth Hacking. . What Growth Hacking is about is testing out what works and what doesn’t, what drives traffic what doesn’t, what converts users what doesn’t. This is all done through analytics as well as the coveted ancient technique of “A/B Testing” somtimes called “split testing” which is simply testing “Method A” then “Method B” or even “Method C” then analyzing the results of each one to see which had a more positive result in which eve area you were looking to optimize. A/B Testing is like the AK-47 of the Growth Hacker, it never fails, always works, always delivers and was probably invented by Russians. Whether you are A/B Testing or playing around with different Typography in your Email Newsletters, experimentation is the core of Growth Hacking. A great Growth Hack for A/B testing and a way to increase your conversion rate is by flowing traffic to two or three landing pages or pages of content with different features and different products, then assess the feedback on each one to see which one resonated best with your audience. You can also learn from the pages that didn’t convert well, taking the aspects form those pages and breaking down why they didn’t convert will teach you a lot out about audience. Implementing pre-made “A/B Testing” models and very quickly experimenting by swapping out the “bad” pages your new pre-made pages gives you incredible information about your audience and greatly increases your chances of converting prospects into clients.     7) Leveraging your competition for Growth Hacking success (Case Study) When AirBNB first launched they didn’t get the explosive traffic growth seen with other brands like Vine or Snapchat. The idea of renting out extra rooms in your house to total people? Excellent idea (unless your agoraphoic) in a completely unfilled niche however it took time, years in fact for them to gain true national and international traction. In fact Growth Hacking was the reason AirBNB got put on the map. So how did AirBNB go form being an incubator startup in 2008 operating mostly in the Pacific Northwest to having 75% of their bookings being in major international cities by 2011. Yes! you guessed it, by Growth Hacking. AirBNB leveraged one of the most established online brands in US, Craigslist, to Growth Hack their way to success. By creating an “Call-to-Action” option when adding a listing they added in an Opt-In form that “Automated A Duplicate Post on Craigslist” thus creating an extra inbound link for you (the seller) and another backlink for the AirBNB platform. So why don’t other companies use this same method? Because Craigslist didn’t have a public API or an easy way for companies to integrate their services, Craigslist simply used basic Growth Hacking methods to leverage their sales through a larger competitor.   And always remember to; Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save 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...