This site covers advanced SEO concepts – before we get into them I want to make sure I cover the most basic elements.
My hopes is you’ll use this guide to educate new employees, contractors and friends who need guidance.
This guide took me a tremendous amount of time to create – PLEASE share it.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
“SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimization – SEO is the process of getting your website to rank higher in search engines.
For example, let’s say you own a website that sells watches. When someone searches “shop women’s watches” in Google, you want your website to show up.
If it does, you will literally be printing money.
It’s also important to understand that SEO is not the only way to show up on top of search engines. Google, Yahoo and Bing all offer a paid option call “Pay Per Click” ads, where you pay the search engines to show up for certain searches. Every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay the search engine.
Ads show up on top of organic results, but are tagged with “Ad” next to the result.
While this book is about SEO, it’s important you understand the distinction and benefits of both options. I always tell clients Pay Per Click ads are a great marketing tactic and should be executed if they have the budget to do so.
|SEO – Organic Search||Pay Per Click – Advertising|
|Benefits||The traffic is 100% free (unless you’re paying an agency). |
Organic traffic converts better than paid traffic, as users prefer to visit organic results overpaid.
|Quick results, show up on top of search engines day 1.|
Self serve platform that you can manage yourself. However, it’s very difficult and still requires expert knowledge.
|Downside||Very difficult to do properly. SEO is constantly changing and has gotten very competitive over the years. |
SEO takes a significant amount of time to kick in. It can take months (or years) to start seeing explosive results.
|Expensive. Some clicks can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on your vertical.|
It doesn’t scale as well as SEO, as when you’re paying for traffic you need to see an ROI. It becomes a difficult process to get profitable on your spend.
Either way, having a presence in search engines means growth – more clients, sales, brand reach and engagement.
Traditional marketing / advertising is outbound, meaning you have to disrupt people’s attention in order to communicate your message (i.e. TV ads, radio, print and even social media).
Search engine traffic is the only time people are actively searching for exactly what it is you sell. When it comes to growing your business online, there’s nothing more powerful than organic traffic from search engines.
On a more personal note, our agency has blossomed into $XXX,XXX MRR in just 18 months time. 100% of our leads and clients have come from organic channels (Google Search and YouTube).
There’s a million things to do as a business owner – having a steady, automated stream of highly qualified leads frees up a ton of time and resources for me.
Imagine how much you could grow if you had a FREE flow of customers to your business?
I included this section here because as you read this book you’re going to understand how complicated SEO has become.
At some point you will undoubtedly ask “is this even worth it?”.
My answer is yes. Overwhelmingly yes.
Just for the record, I will be replacing the word search engines with Google. Google owns over 70% of search engine market share and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
I mean, let’s be serious – the only reason you’ve used Bing or Yahoo is because it’s set as the default search engine to the browser you’re using.
In my estimation, Google Search has 2 simple goals:
Bottom line, they need to keep users coming back – they do so by keeping their algorithm serving the best results.
In order to show up higher in search results, we need to understand how Google ranks websites.
At the fundamental level Google has a 3 step process:
Google “crawls” billions of pages, both new and updated, on the web, using automated programs called bots or spiders.
These bots follow links on the pages and then index them into Google’s database, which runs into trillions of pages and is more than 100,000,000 gigabytes in size.
Search algorithms then sift through the data on the index and rank the pages almost instantaneously based on over 200 signals, according to Google.
These algorithms are Google’s secret sauce, and they determine which pages will be displayed for a particular query (i.e. “ranking”).
At the time of this writing, Google’s infrastructure handles 63,075 searches every second, and this volume will increase by the time you finish reading this sentence.
While you don’t need to be an expert in algorithms, it’s critical to understand how Google works. When diagnosing issues with a website, often times it comes back to issues with crawling and indexing.
Contrary to popular perception, Google doesn’t have one single monolithic algorithm working behind the scenes, indexing pages and delivering results.
Google’s algorithms are now smart enough to:
No one except a select few inside Google has answers to that billion dollar question.
But we can make educated guesses about the relative impact of over 200 signals to rank pages.
To name a few:
These signals basically ensure that the users gets the most useful answer to her search query with the least amount of friction. Google’s stated mission has been to provide value to users, and this also lies at the core of great SEO.
I started learning about SEO in 2012. Back then, it was really easy to rank.
Man….I miss those days. You could literally rank a website in a matter of days – it was amazing.
Now? Not so much.
It takes months of hard, consistent work to get results. There are simply no shortcuts in SEO anymore – you can’t just jam a random site on top of search results. Google’s algorithm is incredibly intelligent in understanding all aspects of what a quality search result looks like.
Google is constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of their search results. They do so by continuously tweaking search algorithms to provide a better experience for Google users.
While the algorithm is constantly updated, there has been some major updates over the years which has forced people to drastically change their SEO game.
Here’s a quick rundown of the major algorithm updates:
If you’re brand new to SEO, I can imagine your head is probably spinning at this point. I’m not going to lie to you, SEO is hard – and no bullshit, it’s getting harder.
Working with so many clients we get access to concrete data on what’s working and what isn’t. Aside from the “traditional” SEO ranking factors, we’re seeing a lot of new factors come into play:
It’s not as scary as it sounds – basically it means the algorithms are learning on the fly what a quality result should like like and constantly adjusting the algorithm accordingly.
In some spaces, SEO is just too competitive for small websites. If you just launched a website that sells jeans, it’s nearly impossible to outrank The Gap for “jeans” related keywords. It’s an iconic brand, online and offline, that has a proven track record with consumers. While you can still build a profitable organic presence in Google, you’ll need to get creative. While you’re following traditional SEO practices on your site, look into building organic channels off your site.
The point is, don’t limit your thinking to only “ranking” for your main keywords. In some cases, you may never get there – don’t be afraid to shift your focus to other organic opportunities for exposure.
Google has stated publicly they believe “brands” are good for SEO, as people trust them and want to see them served in search results. For example, if you’re shopping for TVs and you see a result from Best Buy and Cheap-O-TVs, which are you most likely to click? Brands carry a certain level of trust with consumers that make them good for the search algorithm.
For us peasants, this is a difficult thing to overcome, as you just can’t compete with the likes of a Best Buy. However, we’ve seen some of our clients rank very quickly without being a “brand” by traditional standards.
Google doesn’t determine a “brand” like you and I do – the algorithm looks at quality signals dictating the authority or “brand” power of a website. Traditional aspects like links and content are still major factors, but we’ve seen clients with no links and no content rank #1 for incredibly competitive keywords (case study later in the book).
The reason is they have a ton of “branded search”. In other words, every month tens of thousands of people are searching directly for their product and website.
There is no higher quality signal than branded search. Unlike other ranking factors, branded search is impossible to emulate (no, search bots DON’T work). It’s a clear sign to Google that when people are looking for a certain product, they want to see yours. This is a powerful association that your product is so popular people don’t want to see any other search results.
Building branded search is no different than building a traditional brand, with a few caveats:
You’ve been hearing it for years that “content is king” and Google loves “quality content”…so has every other marketer on the planet. Because of this, content is being crapped out at an alarming rate and over the course of the next few years, most of it will be written by automation bots.
With so much crap content on the web, Google doesn’t want to waste space indexing it. To beat this back, the algorithm has become incredibly adept in understanding what “quality” really looks like. While we don’t have official word from Google (we never do), a lot of industry experts are in agreement that Google builds an overall quality score for your website. While there are other factors, having too much thin, outdated and low quality content / pages can build a negative perception of quality about your site. When this happens, Google loses trust in your website:
In this book, we’re going to talk about exactly how to create, clean up and maintain the highest quality content (on a budget).
Again, I know you know that links have to be high quality, but we have data that proves it. We’re lucky to have helped websites acquire over 10,000 links over the last 2 years – we also have access to the organic traffic data of them. In other words, we’re able able to understand the true impact of links on organic traffic.
What we found (in a nutshell):
We found that product pages did not react overly well to direct links, only the types listed above.
Content (i.e. in depth articles) react much more positively to links. We believe it’s because getting a link to an in depth piece of content is much more natural than a product / service page. The blog posts that we build links to ranked very well and drove a ton of traffic for clients.
Links are supposed to be used for “citation” purposes, like footnotes in your high school essays. Content serves as a much better citation than a sales page.
Google doesn’t penalize, it just ignores and loses trust. As mentioned, we used to build a lot of guest post links to ecommerce product pages. In hindsight, these pages could have been penalized. I mean, out of nowhere, a page with no links starts getting contextually mentioned in a bunch of blog posts? Not likely.
Instead of penalizing the page (we have NEVER gotten a website penalized), the links just take no effect and get ignored. I think Google learned their lesson from penalizing websites. I mean, most websites outsource their SEO to an agency – it’s just not cool ripping down someone’s online presence for actions they did not take.
Link building is a lot of work (and expensive) – you don’t want to waste resources on tactics that won’t impact your traffic. We’ll be talking about this in great depth in the link acquisition section.
We’ll talk about how to target the right pages on your site with the right type of links and how you can secure them.
I get asked by family and friends all the time for help with their website and SEO. I tell them focus on 3 things:
Build a well organized, fast website that follows all of Google’s guidelines. If it’s a small business / site, build it on WordPress and it will handle almost all of it for you.
Populate that website with the content your audience wants, needs and is searching for. Make it a point of pride to not publish any pages that aren’t helpful to your customers. Quality is very, very important.
You need to figure out a way to get other websites to talk about you. At first, you will need to do this manually. Get active in forums, Reddit, Quora, Facebook Groups – find your voice and provide value. Find the best blogs in your industry and ask them if you can write a post for them. If you can do this, people will discover your site and assuming you have quality content, they will begin to talk about you organically.
We do advanced SEO for Fortune 500 websites and our methods are built on these principles. In fact, they’re a core part of my sales pitch.
While every website needs its own strategy for optimization, we follow the same templated process regardless of industry. Whether you’re trying to get more clients for your law firm or customers to your ecommerce store selling candy, the cornerstones of good SEO remain true.
We break it down into what we call the “5 phases”:
It’s critical to understand as much as possible about the website, past SEO efforts and industry as possible. This knowledge helps us determine the best strategy and way ahead for the campaign.
This is even more important when working with clients, as you need to gather knowledge and insights while still meeting client demands to complete work. Our process helps you manage expectations while delivering high quality work, on time.
In this section, we will discuss the processes we use to onboard new projects quickly and effectively through a questions and custom built reports.
The fastest turn around in organic traffic comes from small tweaks to existing pages. We do this through a number of audits and data crosswalks to identify key pages that can be improved to deliver a fast turn around in traffic.
In this section, we will discuss the tools we’ve built to crosswalk data and make decisions about which pages hold the most value. We will also discuss how we do keyword research (for existing pages), “on page” SEO corrections, schema markups and more.
By analyzing competitors and industry leaders, we can understand the keyword “gaps” on your website. These gaps are the ones that are driving traffic to your competition but not to yours, because you don’t have the pages on your website to rank for that traffic.
In this section, we will discuss how we do keyword gap analysis, keyword intent mapping and how we build out new pages on a website, both content (i.e. blog posts, resource guides, etc) or landing pages (i.e. sales based content). We will also discuss the process of how to manage large scale content campaigns across dozens (hundreds) of websites.
As you know, it’s not enough to just do “on page” corrections and create quality content. To get explosive traffic gains, you need to promote your website by acquiring links and mentions on relevant industry websites.
In this section, we will not only discuss how our agency secures high quality links at scale, but also the content promotion tactics we recommend to increase the reach of your brand.
After a year long campaign, we go through an evaluation process to benchmark progress of the campaign. Even if you aren’t working with clients, it’s an important step to take to track the progress of your website over a certain period of time.
In this section, we will discuss the reports and data we use to measure the effect of an SEO campaign.
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