June 17, 2020

SEO graphic

This simple DIY SEO guide has been made with beginners and intermediate users in mind. 

This guide is written in simple language so that everybody can understand what SEO truly is. 

We assume there are a few reasons why you want to deepen your knowledge about SEO.

You want to:

  • do it yourself SEO
  • know more about SEO as a general topic
  • boost your rankings in Search Results and get more organic traffic
  • learn about Local and National/International SEO
  • run SEO Audits to know the health of your website (or your clients’ platforms)
  • know how to do efficient and effective Content Planning and Keywords research
  • find the best SEO tools without losing a month reviewing them all.



Table of Contents (click to expand)

Maybe all of the above. 

Well, you are in the right place.  

The cool thing about SEO is that it helps us bring free organic traffic to our websites. 

Organic traffic is FREE traffic


However, we must warn you: there are no SEO shortcuts

SEO can take months to kick in. 


Indeed, there are best practices, but in the end, you must do the work. 

The only free cheese is in the mousetrap!


I compiled this DIY SEO guide just for you.

It is long, it takes about 2 hours to read. It is worth a lot money, but I do not want to sell information that is already available here and there. I compiled it for you, but I also compiled it for myself! 

Whether you are a beginner or already have some knowledge of SEO, you will find insightful information. 


There are 2 types of SEO: Local SEO and National SEO(international also fits into the national, somehow.) 

I have done both National SEO and Local SEO. 

We will cover both Local and National SEO in this DIY SEO guide.

Some tactics of Local SEO can be used for National SEO and vice-versa. 


In the course of my career, I have done plenty of SEO research and execution for big brands and “niche websites.” I cannot name the brands I did SEO for as I signed an NDA, but some of the brands are companies whose logo you see daily. 


But I can tell you that in my agency career, I worked with brands like Porsche, Nike, Disney, Beat by Dre, Tiffany, WMF, Bosch, Fendi, and plenty of other well-known brands. 

I also work with entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses


I have done SEO for the US, European, and Chinese markets. 

So I am savvy in the field of SEO for both Google and Baidu. 

As Baidu is limited to the Chinese market, it will not be part of the current article. 


I know how SEO works in different languages that are entirely different than one another. 

I have done SEO in English, French and Mandarin Chinese (called “Simplified Chinese.”)


Do I need to say more? 


When I started working in Beijing, I realized that our production agency did not have a good ranking. 

But we had a fantastic brand. 

After some SEO tweaks here and there, we went to the top of the first page for “web design beijing.” 

And then the phone started ringing. That’s when I truly realized the power of SEO, 


After reading this post, you will acquire the following skills:

  • DIY SEO guide so that you can do it yourself SEO
  • understanding of how Search Engines work and the Ranking Factors
  • knowledge about both “on-page” and “offsite” SEO
  • read through simple elements of Technical SEO and Data Analytics
  • the ability to run a simple SEO Audit
  • the importance of Content Planning and Keywords Research
  • learn exactly how the pros do Keywords Research
  • a list of the best SEO tools, the SEO tools I use for DIY SEO guide

Amazing right?

If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments or reach out via the Contact Form. 

Let’s start! 

Basic SEO Introduction for DIY SEO

What is SEO

SEO or “Search Engine Optimization” is the act of optimizing your website for search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu… to rank higher in the search results.

We mention “the act,” meaning that you need to take ACTION (or pay someone to take those actions).

The optimization of the website is done both onsite (“on-page”) and offsite (outside the website itself.)

You can fully control the on-page SEO, but you can only influence the offsite SEO.  

The ranking criteria are objective and help search engines give the best ranking to the winners. 

There are more than 100 (200?) criteria to rank websites. 


The criteria are based on mathematical algorithms.

Nobody knows, except the Search Engines companies themselves, what the algorithms exactly are. 

Investing in SEO gives you an edge over people who do let their website drift without a destination: you will rank higher in the search engines’ results. 

Let’s go deeper into the SEO subject.


SEO is Important for 2 Reasons: More Traffic = More Leads

You may be asking yourself a few questions just like I did when I started: 

  • Should I invest time, money and effort in SEO? 
  • Does my business need an SEO strategy?  
  • Will I reap benefits from SEO?

The short answer is: Yes. 


You also may be asking yourself other questions like:

  • Is SEO complicated? Yes, a little bit. But eh, I am here to explain it in simple terms. 
  • Should I outsource to a freelance or an agency? That’s your decision.


SEO is worth it because: SEO works. 

But like all good things, SEO takes a while to work. 

So you need to be patient. That’s probably the hardest part of doing SEO. 


If you should leverage SEO or not depends on how you acquire new customers.

If you have a lot of money (and I mean a lot) to spend on ads, and ads are the only way you acquire new customers, then keep spending money!


If you are on a budget, then SEO may be the way for you. 

Of course, doing SEO is an investment in time and effort. 

You could also do both: invest in paid ads and organic SEO. 

DIY SEO is a great way to do SEO by yourself, save money and learn new skills.

SEO is fun!


We cannot guarantee the extent of the improvement, and we cannot guarantee how long it will take, but investing in SEO always pays off. Note that it needs to be done the right way. 

If you have a multichannel approach that includes paid ads, organic traffic, referrals, campaigns, social media integration… then SEO can help you get more organic traffic and more referrals. 

Nowadays, most businesses either do business online or use their website to bring people to offline locations. 


Whether you sell a product or a service, the web is a source of leads, sales, information, inquiries and helps to convert prospects into buyers… and visitors into users. 

It does not matter how you get the traffic. But in the end, what matters is your content. 

High ranking = More traffic (larger quantity, and thus, more business)

Content + Intent = Bring the right people to your website (higher quality leads and prospects)


SEO is all about bringing in more traffic, and what users (the traffic) respond to is: do you provide me, the user, with the most relevant and quality information based on my query.  

SEO is crucial to help your website rank higher in Search Engines like Google. 


The higher you rank, the more traffic you get. 

The more traffic you get, the more prospects you will get… and the better the content you provide… the more cash will come in. 

The result is more conversions and more sales. 

Amazing right? 


The statistics prove that websites that appear on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th pages of Google Search results generally have a lot less traffic than the websites that appear on the 1st page.  

The same logic applies to the search results on the first page. The first 3 results get more traffic than the 4th to 7th results. 


For example, just think about your behavior: when you look for something online, do you spend time looking at the 2nd page of the search results? 

If you are like me, the answer is most likely to be: only when the results on the first page are not good enough.


Now the question is: can I bring my website to appear on the first page? (and can I bring my website to rank among the first results?)

Maybe. Maybe not. 

It depends on your domain authority, the amount of content you have, the length of the content, the competitive environment, the age of your website, etc. 

But first and foremost, it depends on the keywords you focus on. More on that later. 


The right content to the right audience

SEO helps give the right content to the right audience. 

SEO is like dating. 

On the other hand, SEO also helps search engines direct the right traffic to your website. 

The DIY SEO is a step-by-step guide that will help you do SEO just like I do. 


SEO defines what your website is about.

It also helps the prospects find the information, product or service they are looking for.

So SEO refines the relevance of your content, offer, product and service… to match it with the search intent of the prospect. 

For example, if you are looking to buy tickets for Broadway’s “Cats the Musical,” you may not be interested in buying a “cat on broadway.” 


Google puts more and more emphasis on Search Intent first and foremost. 

Algorithms based on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are becoming more sophisticated to read through our intent and deliver higher quality search results.

The power of SEO makes sure that the results in search engines match your search intent. 


How long to get SEO results

Getting SEO results depends on 4 elements:

  1. the type of SEO activities you do (what, where, when, quality and quantity)
  2. search engines
  3. competitors
  4. the competitive landscape in the market 

We have seen SEO improvements take a few hours to “kick in.”

Generally speaking, you can expect to see a difference after a few weeks or months!

So you need to be patient, very patient. 

Being patient is especially true if you have a brand new website. 

If you want to understand the SEO game, you need to understand that it is a digital front. You fight many little battles to win keywords. SEO is a war of attrition. You advance slowly but you keep going, taking keywords away from your competitors and claiming keywords that are not owned by anyone.

Generally speaking, having your webpages indexed by Search Engines like Google, and driving a satisfying amount of traffic to your website, takes about 6 to 18 months. If not 24 months. 


Sometimes you may do updates, and find out that they did not work as well as expected. 

It is perfectly normal!

SEO is also a lot about experimenting and measuring the impact of what you do. 


But before we go deeper into the subject, it would make sense to see how Search Engines work. 


Understanding Search Engines

It is all about the keywords. 

Not really, but still, keywords are the main staple of what Search Engines eat. 

We are talking about Search Engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Baidu, Yandex, etc. 

You can think of Search Engines as tools to find (the right) content. 


So there are 2 things to keep in mind when thinking about search engines: 

  1. Search intent (content users are looking for)
  2. Content (the most relevant pieces of content that match the search intent)

That’s it. Nothing else to understand!

I am just kidding. 

The role of a search engine is to provide the most relevant content based on the user’s query. 

So Search Engines read text, which is why your written content is of the utmost importance. We will talk about the precise ranking criteria later in the post. 

So when it comes to content:

  • The more quality, the better. 
  • The more content, the better. 
  • The more quality content, even better!
  • The cherry on the Sundae: Sticky content that people love. 

Search engines use crawlers or bots to review the content of websites.

You can think of crawlers as webpage inspectors: they come to review and analyze your website's content. 


The crawlers visit websites on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, depending on the website's settings. 

Based on the results of the crawling, the search engines will attribute a ranking to the website. 

When conditions on your website and your competitors’ websites change, the ranking also changes. 

When Google does an algorithm update, the update can also affect your rankings positively or negatively. 

Business woman works on laptop in office


Ranking of webpages and websites

Google uses RankBrain to decide how to rank the millions of websites out there. 

RankBrain uses Machine Learning algorithms that check many elements on a website that include content, technical elements, keyword density, keywords/images ratio, number of other websites linking to your website, social media shares, etc. 

RankBrain also considers in its ranking calculation what I call “soft” elements like user experience. 

The internet is about not only machines, but also about users, and users are human beings. 


When you have a website, your website is made of a bundle of webpages. 

Those webpages are attributed a ranking by the crawlers.

When we say that a website has a “high ranking,” what we literally mean is: the website has a lot of webpages with high rankings. 


The more webpages have a high ranking, the more authority your domain gains (e.g., neilpatel.com is a domain.)

As you can imagine, if you follow Pareto’s Law, also called the 80/20 rule, most of the time, in general we see that 20% of the webpages on a website get 80% of the traffic

The ranking continually changes, so a website that appears in the 5th position in the Search Results today could appear in the 1st position tomorrow… and vice versa. 

The ranking of a webpage constantly changes, which means that for some, their ranking will go up; for some, it will go down. 


There are different search engines on the market, and they pretty much all have their own peculiarities. 

Some are better than others. Google is by far the number one in terms of usage and technology. 

"In 2019 (to date), Google accounted for just over 75% of all global desktop search traffic, followed by Bing at 9.97%, Baidu at 9.34%, and Yahoo at 2.77%. To win at SEO, you have to play by Google's rules.” Source: impactBND

We suggest that you follow Google’s guidelines for SEO unless you do SEO for the Chinese market (where Baidu is the leading Search Engine.) From my personal experience working in the Chinese market, Baidu is really far behind Google in terms of ranking algorithms, if not to say that it is terrible. 

If you do business in North America and Europe, Google is where you should put your focus on. Of course, Baidu is the search engine you would optimize for if you do business in China. If you do business in Japan, Yahoo and Google may be recommended. For Russia, it may be different… and so on. 

So the lesson is: optimize for where your audience is located. 


4 Pillars of SEO: Areas, Locations, Language and Medium

To fully grasp what SEO truly is about, you need to understand the big picture. 

It may look a bit overwhelming at the beginning, but please have a read, and we will go into more detail later on. 

To get a sound basis of what SEO truly is, let’s break it down into 4 elements:

  1. Areas
  2. Location
  3. Language
  4. Medium

There are 2 areas where we do SEO optimization

  1. On-page SEO: on your website, that you can fully control. On-page SEO implies that you need to work on your website, your content, optimize the loading speed, reduce the image size, etc. 
  2. Off-site SEO: outside your website (hence the “offsite” wording,) that you can influence, but not fully control. You cannot control, for example, the visitors to your website. You cannot control the other websites and search engines. It also signifies that you need to build authority, relevance, trust, expertise, links from other websites, etc. 

A lot of people believe that SEO is only about keywords and content, which is not true!


SEO is also location-relevant

  1. National: country-level (e.g., USA.). It includes International as well. 
  2. Local: state, city and area-level (e.g., New Jersey, New York, Brooklyn)

This is the reason why we split National SEO and Local SEO. 

The way they operate is slightly different. 

We have a section dedicated to Local SEO later in our article. 

We will give you all the details you need to know about DIY SEO for small businesses. 


Now you may ask why are National and International SEO the “same.” 

Because when you search on Google, it is always based on the country and the language. 

If you are on mobile, geo-location will even be more critical, but in the end, it is still related to a region. 


If you are a local business or have clients that are local businesses, it makes more sense to focus on local SEO than national SEO. This is especially true for businesses that bring in-store traffic (e.g., cake shop, restaurants, clothing stores, etc.) or operate on the local level (e.g., plumbers, insurance agents, lawyers, dentists, rooftop specialists, etc.) 

The opposite is also exact. If you run an eCommerce store and sell products, you can sell to everyone in the country… and even in the world! So National SEO should be the way to go. 


As SEO uses words, languages spoken around the world are another basis, for example: 

  1. US: although English is the official language, we can assume that some users also search for Spanish information. 
  2. Canada has 2 official languages: English and French. 
  3. Switzerland has 4 official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch. 
  4. UK has only one official language: English

Search Engines will give you different results based on the language, even if you are at the same location. 


The Mediums are what Users use to search the internet: 

  1. Desktop: search results will be optimized for someone using a desktop. 
  2. Mobile and Tablets: search results will be influenced be geo-location a lot more than desktop computers. Your website needs to be optimized for Mobile phones. 

The significant advantage of using mobile phones is that the search results are geo-located; in other words, the results will depend on where you are physically. If you are using your mobile phone to do searches on Google in Times Squares, when you type in “deli restaurant,” the results will be different than if you are in Brooklyn.

Even if you search for a term like “marketing,” if you are in NYC and drive to Chicago, the results will be different. The difference in search engine results also applies to searches made on a Desktop computer!

The results of search engines are not only based on keywords; they are highly influenced by the pillars mentioned above. 


Types of Searches in Google

There are 3 types of searches online. I have to tell you that other people may add more categories, but for simplicity, I grouped the types of searches into 3 categories. 

User search for the following on Google:  

  1. Website: Look for a specific website (e.g., keyword “apple” is probably for the company, not the fruit)
  2. Information and Question and Answer: looking to answer a question (e.g., “Can dogs eat ice cream,” “How to use average in Excel,” “What is the best season to visit Japan,” etc.). Information attracts the visitors. 
  3. Review and Buy: buy something or read reviews of a service or product (e.g., “Fruit juicer machine” will give you results that include picture and price of products as well as reviews). Review and Buy type of content promotes your service or your product.

The job of Google is to match the User’s Search Intent and the Keywords you used. 

Google also reads between the lines and judges what type of search the user is doing. 


As we mentioned previously, matching the search intent of users is key to success.

Matching content and intent means that you need to use the right keywords.

It also means that as part of your Content Plan, you need to plan for the 2nd and 3rd types. 

Informations and Questions are an excellent way to bring a lot of traffic. 

Reviews and Buy mean that the prospect is getting hot, and may be shopping around, and who knows, might even be ready to buy. 


So understanding human behavior and how we acquire information is key to a successful SEO strategy.


In Marketing there is a concept: User Journey. 

You should have content that talks to consumers at each step in their consumer journey. 

And then, bring them into your sales funnel so that they end up buying your product or service. 


Main Ranking Factors on Google 

Intro into How Google works

A lot of people think that just producing a lot of content, quality content, is enough to rank high in Google. It is true that producing a lot of quality content helps to rank high, but it is not entirely true. 

Let’s find out what the Ultimate Guide to SEO says about the 4 main ranking criteria on Google. 

There are many ranking factors that Google takes into consideration. 

I personally believe that the 4 most important Google ranking criteria for ranking high on Google: 

  1. Relevance
  2. Authority
  3. Utility
  4. User behavior

On top of those there are plenty of other criteria: 

  • CTR or Click-Through-Rate (people who click on your content’s link in the Search Engine results)
  • Bounce rate: % of visitors who close your website without visiting another webpage. Investigate further when the Bounce rate over 80%. 
  • Time on website: the longer the visits, the better. 
  • Number of backlinks: the number of links to your website, and the quality of the websites linking to your website. 
  • Age of the website: older rank higher than younger
  • Number of webpages: the more webpages, the better
  • Length of content: 1,500-word article is the minimum length to rank high in Google
  • Keywords density: a little bit complex, but this means avoiding keywords stuffing
  • Number of images and media: it is imperative to use images in your posts
  • Font size and color (including background): readability
  • SSL Certificate: the certificate is installed on your server (more on this later)
  • Direct website visits: the number of people who access your website directly, meaning that they are familiar with your domain name.
  • Referrals traffic: ads and other websites that send traffic to your websites, for example by linking directly to your website. 
  • Social Media signals: are people sharing your content.

Let’s go back to the 4 most important criteria mentioned above. 

We can ask ourselves a few questions, just like a Search Engine would do:

1-Relevance

Relevance is about the search intent. 

  • Is the content relevant? 
  • Does the content match the user’s search intent? 
  • Is the website’s content relevant among all webpages and posts?

If you have a website about “cycling and health” and you sell “bike tires,” the relevance of your website may suffer. 

At the same time, if you have articles about how “cycling is good for people with knee problems and arthritis,” then your website is relevant for the user’s query. 


Relevance is providing the right answers to the right questions.

The answers that you provide need to be concise, straightforward and well-written.


2-Authority

Authority is related to trust. 

  • How authoritative is the website? 
  • What are the credentials of people behind the website?
  • Does the website have a lot of other authoritative websites linking to it? 
  • Has the website been around for long enough to build a reputation?


Even if you have amazing content, it takes time to build a reputation and have people link to your website. One of the most critical ranking factors related to authority is called “backlinks.” 

Backlinks are the number of sites that link to your website and their authoritativeness. If a mom n’ pop store links to your website, you get less “SEO Juice” (we’ll talk about that later) than if Wired Magazine links to your website. 


Same things as on Instagram. If your parents like your picture, it has less effect than if Kim Kardashian likes your post… kind of. 

Another element to consider about authority is about the person(s) behind the website. Authority is critical for medical and financial websites. If a doctor writes an article about diabetes, it has a lot more authority than if your part-time blogger neighbor writes the article. 


An attractive way to build personal authority is to have your name and website appear on other authoritative websites. In the case of a medical blog, this would be, for example, a medical magazine interviewing the doctor who wrote the article about diabetes. 

The same logic applies to other industries: if you are a marketer, having other authoritative websites mention your name, and your website will boost your authoritativeness. 

Not complicated right?


3-Utility

Utility is the technical aspect.

  • Is the website’s utility useful? 
  • Does the website load fast?
  • Is the content structure in a logical manner? 
  • Is the website mobile-friendly?
  • Are the images optimized and compressed? 
  • If you write your blog post in brown on a dark green background, it is hard to read?


If a website has 80% of traffic coming from mobile pones, but is not optimized for mobile users, then its utility is low and does not deserve high ranking.

If you have a 24MB heavy picture on your website and it takes 13 seconds for the page to load… people will not wait, and they will just go elsewhere. You will get a bad ranking too. 


If your website is not secured with an SSL Certificate, making the connection “https,” you will get a lower ranking. 

Utility is made of different criteria that affect how crawlers rate your website.


4-User Behavior

User behavior is the human element. 

  • How users acquire information when looking at your webpages?
  • How long do they stay? 
  • Do they read the whole webpage of quit after looking at a few lines?

Even though Google uses machines, its mathematical algorithms find insights on user behavior. 


Google ETA Algorithm Update

Google purged a lot of websites that it deemed lacking authority, choose your niche carefully. On August 1st 2018 Google did an update to its algorithm and the way they rank websites. A lot of people got penalized. 

The update is the so-called Google E-A-T update:

  • Expertise: is the writer an expert? (especially if the content is about medical or financial advice)
  • Authority: is the website authoritative in its field?
  • Trustworthiness: can the website be trusted in terms of content, security, etc.

You can keep in mind that Google judges websites in a 360-degree approach that includes pretty much everything from page loading time to credentials of writers. 

More on ranking:


The Pillars of DIY SEO

The core of SEO can be summed up in the Pillars of SEO.

We believe there are a few Pillars of SEO:

  1. Time, Location and Intent
  2. Keywords, Keywords and Keywords
  3. On-site SEO (aka “on-page”)
  4. Authority: Domain Authority, Age of the website and Link Building
  5. Technical Optimization 

Let’s go deeper into the SEO rabbit hole. 


Time, Location and Intent

In other words:

  • When, Where and What

Time: Search Engines take time into consideration when ranking websites. 

There are 3 elements regarding time: 

  • age of the website and date of publication of the webpages
  • seasonality 
  • trends 

Time tells the search engine when the content was published (side note: it usually takes 6-12 months to newly published content to start bringing proper amounts trafic).

Age of the website: It can be either for how long a website has been around or when a webpage was first published. 

An article about “how to raise German Shepherd” written in 2002 and seen by 18 million people will have more SEO weight than an article written in 2018, which has been seen by 30,000 people. 

In some cases, the content needs to be up-to-date, for example, an article about diabetes written in 2005 may not be as relevant as an article written in 2020. Medical advances have new ways of treating the disease. 


Seasonality: An article about skiing will not see, in June, as many visitors as in November. The same logic applies to American football, if you are looking for football-related information right before the SuperBowl, you will likely see information about the SuperBowl. 

Trends: Keep in mind that trends fade away. A piece of content about a newly released movie may see a massive surge in traffic, but it is likely to drop as soon as the movie is taken out of the movie theater. The same logic applies to products (e.g., widget spinners) and services.


Location: As we mentioned previously, all search results are location relevant. Location means the country, the state/province, the city and possibly even the area/district. 

If you type in “marketing agency” in NYC, then fly to Montréal and do the same search, the search results will be completely different. You are very likely to see French results in the Search Results. 

The language and settings of your Search Engine are also likely to influence the results. When I bought my first Mac in Tokyo back in 2006, I would get Japanese search results even when I flew back home in Canada… because of the settings. 

Location tells the search engine to provide the most relevant location-based results. 


Intent: Search intent is a little bit complex as there is both a machine AND a human element. That’s where the magic of SEO comes in.

When you search for something, you are looking for the best possible answer to your query. Search Engines like Google have a set of complex criteria to deliver the best possible answer. 

So the gist of Search Engines is: the output is linked to the input. 

If you have a cold and you are looking for the best remedy, it would be useless to provide you information about the word “cold: when the temperature is low.” That’s when intent comes in. SEO’s aim is to ensure that users find what they are looking for, and not irrelevant information. 

Search engines have something called “autocomplete.” If you type in “cold,” the autocomplete will provide you with query hints like “cold remedy,” “cold temperature clothing,” etc. the machine is trying to narrow the scope of the search to give you the best answer. 

The best content should match the user’s intent based on his/her query. 

Does it make sense?


Keywords and DIY SEO

Keywords are words.

Keywords are a “key,” hence the word “keyword.” 

In other words, keywords are important words. Duh. 

Words are just… words!


Let’s see a simple example: 

  • “how long for paint to dry”
  • The words “for” and “to” are not really important. 
  • The keywords are “how,” “long” and “paint.”


Those examples do not mean you should not include “for” and “to.”

As you can imagine, many people Google “how long” on a daily basis. 

So the keywords that make the real difference here are “paint” and “dry.”


The Machine Learning algorithms of Google know that, so the fact that Google has insider knowledge is why they can provide us with the most accurate answer to our question. 

If you wrote something like “how long for blue paint to dry,” the keyword “blue” may make a small difference, but it would not be considered relevant in this context… as no matter what the color of the paint is, it should dry at a similar speed. I know that some chemicals can make a difference in the drying speed, but you get the point. 

Another thing to consider is that singular and plural words are considered to be 2 types of words. 

For example:

  • singular “how to eat apple” will give you 1,210,000,000 results 
  • plural “how to eat apples” will give you 111,000,000 results


Remember that words like “for” and “to” and the list goes on and on, are not considered keywords per se. 

But you cannot ignore them. 


Why are Keywords so Important for SEO 

Keywords are everything. 

We use languages to express emotions, communicate information, share what we think, bond with people, give orders, provide directions, etc. 

Even software and websites are built by using words. If you look at the code of a software, you will see words! 

Here is a small part of the code on our website: font-family:Literata;--g-regular-weight:400;

The code is read by a machine, and rendered as human-readable content. 


The best way to understand SEO and keywords is to ask yourself: 

  • When I look for a product or a service, how do I find information about the product? 
  • What is my behavior? 
  • What do I type into Google? 
  • What do I do when I am not satisfied with the Search Results?  

Answer: you use words, and some of those words are keywords. 


Now, try to put yourself in someone’s else shoes. 

  • How would that person look for information online? 
  • How can users find your content?

You can think of keywords as a big pyramid: the more common a word is, the more chances it is “owned” by a big player (that will be very difficult to beat.)


In other words, there is a free for all fight for keywords. 

For example, let’s say you are a growth marketing agency based in Brooklyn. 

Focusing on the keyword “marketing” would be difficult. 


The further you go down the (inverted) pyramid, the easier it gets. 

  • How many search results are under “marketing”?
  • And “marketing US”?
  • What about “marketing NYC”?
  • What about “marketing Brooklyn”?
  • Now, there may be tons of marketing agencies in Brooklyn. Or not.

Laser-focus is better than general. 


Another way to search could be to use a more precise topic:

  • “Growth marketing Brooklyn” 
  • “Growth marketing agency Brooklyn” 
  • “Best growth marketing agency Brooklyn”

And so on.

When you get in the keywords battlefield, if you want to win the war, you need to pick your fights carefully! 


Keywords SEO Semantic

The science that studies the meaning of words is called “semantic.”

 I came up with a great example to help you understand semantic: if you are in Tokyo and want to eat sushi, the keywords “tokyo sushi” are more relevant than “tokyo fish on rice.” 

Nobody writes “fish on rice”, people will type “sushi” in Google.  

Semantically speaking, “sushi” and “fish on rice” are the same thing, so for a Machine to understand the difference, and provide you with the right results, Google uses mathematical algos. 

Makes sense? 


Here is another example, you search for the following 3 words:

  1. “line” in American English
  2. “queue” in British English
  3. “queue” in French.

For the American English and British English, Google understands that the words have the same meaning: people waiting in line or queuing. 

If your settings are set on American English, “line” will give you results about a drawn “line,” “people waiting in line” and even a “line of products.”

If your settings are set on British English, “line” should not give you results about “people waiting in line” as Google knows British English uses the word “queue” in this circumstance. 

Now, as context is also vital, if a French looks for this word, the results will be completely different as Google understands that “queue” in French means “animal’s tail” (it also means something else, but we cannot write it here!)


Same with the words “best,” “top,” etc. 

They mean the same thing, but we can assume that the word “best” is more used than the word “top.”

Synonymous words are called LSI (Latent Semantic Index.) More on that later. 


In the case of words that have the same spelling, they can:

have the exact same spelling but different meanings, they are homonyms (for example “Apple” for the brand and “apple” for the fruit)

and in some cases, different words can have the same meaning, they are synonymous (we call those LSI: Latent Semantic Index)


3 types of SEO keywords

The 3 types of keywords for SEO are: 

short: 1-2 words with high search volume (e.g., “blogging,” “monetize blog”)

medium: 2-3 words, with moderate search volume (e.g., “make money blogging”)

long-tail: four or more keywords, usually have a lower search volume (e.g., “how to make passive income blogging”)


In SEO terms, we sometimes call the short keywords “Fat Head” keywords. 

The long keywords like “how to bake an almond banana rum pie” are called Long-Tail Keywords. 

“how to make passive income blogging” is a keyword made of many different keywords, but it’s still a unique keyword!

**Note that the vast majority of searches on Google are long-tail keywords!


The shorter the keywords, the more competition and the more traffic it generates (hard to rank for, especially for new websites.) You should avoid those keywords. Sorry, you’re too late to the game. 

The longer the series of keywords, the less competition and less traffic it generates (so the higher chances for you to rank for those keywords.) Here is where your opportunity comes in; you have a chance to leave a dent in the SEO Universe. 


This is why a good SEO keyword strategy will take into consideration all types of keywords. 

When you build your Content Plan and do your Keyword Research, either for yourself or on behalf on your clients, you need to select keywords that are not “owned” by other people. We’ll go into more details later on. 



Long-tail keywords for SEO Ranking

Long-tail keywords are probably the most significant opportunity for beginners and newly established websites. 

Long-tail keywords are the area where you should focus most if you built a new website. We will repeat it again: to be successful in the 2020 decade, you absolutely need to focus on long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords are a series of keywords, usually more than 3 keywords. There is less competition with those keywords. “Marketing” is a high competition keyword, “Marketing agency” too. But “Cheap Marketing Agency Austin” is a lot less competitive. 


“Marketing agency austin for real estate” is, I assume, low competition. So if there are some people are looking queries related to marketing and real estate in Austin, then investing in the Long-tail Keyword “Marketing agency austin for real estate” may be a good idea (if there are no queries, do not lose your time!)

The cool thing with Long-Tail Keywords is that each different combination counts as a keyword. So the below are all different keywords combinations.

  • “Marketing agency real estate austin”
  • “Marketing agency austin for real estate”
  • “austin Marketing agency for real estate”
  • “real estate Marketing agency in austin”


Another example of Long-Tail Keyword: a health-conscious website that lists recipes. If you write an article about “banana tart recipe,” it is unlikely to rank and bring traffic. But if you write an article “how to bake banana tart without sugar,” you may bring traffic. 

Of course,”banana tart recipe” may bring 1,000 visitors per month, and “how to bake banana tart without sugar” may only bring 100, but there is no way around it. You need to build your spider web around the big keyword first.

Building around a Main Keyword also indicates that you may have to produce 10 pieces of content to bring as much traffic as the websites that rank high under “banana tart recipe.” You could write another article about “banana tart recipe for kids” if you find out that the keyword has low competition. 


Those are the rules of the game. If you try to break the rules, you will end up losing time producing content that does not perform. 


There is a Keyword Strategy that is called “skyscraper.” It means that you focus on Long-Tail Keywords first to build traffic. Once you reach a good momentum, you can start “stealing” your competitors’ high-value keywords. Doing so means that you will also hijack some of their traffic. 

The SEO world is a jungle!  


LSI Keywords

On top of the short, medium and long-tail keywords, we need to consider LSI keywords. 

LSI stands for “Latent Semantic Indexing.”

I believe that LSI Keywords are significant for 2 reasons: 

  1. Intent: the context the keyword is used in.
  2. Synonymous: some keywords mean the same thing or almost the same thing (e.g., “create” and “build.”) You will see below why understanding LSI keywords is critical. 

In the first case, intent, it essentially means that Google and other search engines, show you results based on the relevance of your search intent. 


If you are on your mobile phone in Times Squares New York and you type in “Cats,” search results will display information about the Theater Musical. Not results about the animal. 

If you are in Cheyenne Wyoming, and you type in “cats,” you are very likely to get information about the animal. Not the Musical. 

In the latter case, when it comes to synonyms, you need to understand that using synonyms is very helpful when writing content. Let me explain. 


As we saw, LSI also means that some words are synonymous, for example, “site” and “website.” So the search “build a site” will not give you results about a “building construction site.”

As we have demonstrated above with the “apple” and “apples” example, different keywords, even if they are similar, will give you different results. So make sure to keep that in mind when you build your keywords-based Content Plan. 


But most importantly, you should use LSI keywords to ease the reader’s experience AND to avoid “keywords stuffing.” The best way to demonstrate this is to give you an example. 

Read the 2 examples below and tell us which one is nicer to read: 

  1. Example A: Want to build a website? We help you build your website. Building a website is easy. We built many websites in the past 10 years. You can build your website because building websites can be done easily. 
  2. Example B: Want to build a website? We help you create your website. Designing a website is simple. We developed many websites in the past 10 years. You can build your website because making your websites can easily be don.

Do you agree that “Example B” is much nicer in terms of experience? Imagine having to read a 6,000 word post that repeats “build website” 100 times! LSI keywords are necessary to please the humans and the machine!


You can leverage LSI keywords to provide a better reading experience to your visitors without affecting your SEO! 

If you use too much of the same keyword you may face 2 issues:

  1. Google will consider this “keywords stuffing” and penalize you for using the same keywords repeatedly
  2. Visitors will leave your website without going to the whole content due to feeling annoyed

Good to know right? 


Keywords Competition vs. Search Volume (=Keyword Difficulty)

There are 4 scenarios when it comes to Keywords:

  1. Low competition, High Search Volume (lots of opportunities)
  2. High competition, High Search Volume (avoid; you are fighting against Goliath)
  3. Low competition, Low Search Volume (is it worth it? short answer: yes, maybe)
  4. High competition, Low Search Volume (avoid; don’t lose your time)

Competition: the number of other websites who rank in the SERPs for a given keyword. The more authority the website has, the stronger the grip it has on the keyword. 

Search Volume: the number of monthly searches for a keyword (remember: “how to eat litchi” counts as a keyword)

Keyword Difficulty (also called “KD”): a rating system that Keywords and SEO tools give to keywords. It means that many domains are competing for a given keyword.


Ahrefs, an SEO tool, compiled data and estimates Keyword Difficulty as shown below. The below data is just a reference and should not be taken literally. I use KWFinder by Mangools, which has a similar system. SEMRush, another famous tool, has its way of setting Keyword Difficulty. 


Keyword Difficulty for DIY SEO 

  • 70-100 is Very Difficult (more than 200 domains are competing)
  • 50-70 is Difficult (50 to 200 domains)
  • 20-50 is Possible (11 to 50 domains)
  • 0-20 is Easy (less than 10 domains)

*Note: depending on the tool you use, the calculation to attribute a Keyword Difficulty to a specific keyword may be different from one tool to the other. Please refer to their indications. 

As you can imagine, the shorter the keyword, the more likely it falls into the Very Difficult and Difficult categories. Avoid those keywords if you have a brand new website. 

The 4 types of Keywords above help you figure out Keyword Difficulty, and thus, influence your Keyword Strategy. 

Keyword Difficulty helps you determine if a keyword is worth your attention or not. 


Keywords Competition and Ads

This part is a short segment to talk about ads. This article is about SEO, not about Ads spend, but we cannot ignore the topic. 


The exact same principle applies to Keywords and Ads. 

High competition keywords will have high CPC (Cost-Per-Click.) Unless you are loaded with cash, avoid spending on high competition keywords. 

Low competition keywords are where you could invest for your DIY SEO stragegy. Remember my “spider web strategy” to build by using alternatives to High competition keywords? Well, it can come in handy for ads as well. 


Invest wisely, set goals, measure, test and iterate. 

Hint: invest in purchase-drive keywords about Reviews or Purchases that follow the consumers along with their Consumer Journeys. 


Position in SERP (Search Engine Results)

If a keyword is competitive or super competitive, and even just “competitive,” it should rank within the top 3 results on the 1st page. 

If a keyword is medium-to-low competitive, then it is worth trying, as it could potentially appear in the first Search Results.  

Opting for Long-Tail Keywords is the right strategy, because Long-Tail Keywords have different combinations. You can make many keywords variations with Long-Tail Keywords. Long-Tail Keywords allow you to juggle around and build a “spider web.”


So when you select your keywords, make sure you stick to medium-to-low competition keywords. 

In some cases, even is Search Volume is low, you can get a lot of traffic is you laser-focus on making content that targets specific keywords AND create a lot of content to have a snowball effect. 


A good example would be creating 3 pieces of content for a Low Competition, Low Search Volume keywords… instead of creating 1 piece of content for 1 High competition, High Search Volume keyword.

I would like to say that there are a lot of Low Competition High Search Volumes out there, but that would be “dreaming in colors” like we say back home. There are not many left; established players already own those keywords. 


The main thing to consider about keywords is their Search Volume. 

The more a keyword is searched, the more traffic it will bring. 

If you are lucky and find such a keyword, and it is not yet “owned” by anyone, jump on it!

However, this does not mean you should only focus on high search volume keywords. Far from it. 


If you are a beginner or even an intermediary in SEO, you should build what I call “spider web” Keyword Strategies. 

To go back to our “growth marketing agency” example, the keyword “marketing agency” has a higher search volume. 

But the field of marketing is diverse, and under “marketing agency,” a lot of different types of agencies will pop-up in the search results: digital marketing agencies, direct, B2B, branding, etc. 


You can think of this as a funnel. The top is wide, the bottom is narrow. 

The more laser-focus you go, the deeper you get into the funnels, and the better you will be able to rank for those keywords. 


If someone is looking for an agency that would help grow a business, the keyword “growth marketing agency” may have less search volume, but it is more relevant to the business. It is very likely to be more relevant to the user’s intent as well. In this case, the user is explicitly looking for a “growth” agency, and not a “B2B, branding, eCommerce…” agency. 

Websites who rank high in the search engines “own” the keywords, and it may be difficult to rank as high as they do for the same keywords. Trying to rank for “marketing agency” will not give you results, but aiming to rank for “growth marketing agency” could well pay off. The concept of websites that own keywords apply to pretty much ALL websites and businesses in all niches. 

Employee at work


Keywords Difficulty

As we mentioned, the more frequent a word is, the harder the keyword will be to “own.”

In the future, more and more content will be created, and the accumulation of content will make it harder to own new keywords. 


The money is in niches with low competition keywords, at the bottom of the funnel; not in general keywords high competition, at the top of the funnel. 

I like to say: start NOW! If you need help, feel free to reach out via the Contact form. 


An excellent example of Keyword Difficulty and relevance would be the keyword “apple.” If you type in “apple” in Google, the first few results will not be about the fruit, they will be about the company. If you tried to own the word “apple” it would be extremely difficult… 

A growth marketing agency could rank very high in the search results by investing time and resources to “own” the “growth marketing” or “growth marketing agency” keywords. It will be much more difficult for the agency to rank high in the high-competition “marketing” and “marketing agency” keywords, if not impossible. 

In conclusion, keywords have a quantity and a quality that influence the weight they give your website. Depending on your business model, targeting the right keywords can be very beneficial to build a stronghold in your niche. 


Keyword density

Keyword Density is the number of times a keyword appears in a webpage’s content. 

If you overdo it, Google will penalize you. 

So you need to find the right balance.


If you have a 2,000-word article about the “best pizza crust recipe,” and you use the keyword “best pizza crust recipe” 20 times, the keyword density is 1%. 

You can also have other related keywords, that we call Secondary Keywords, like pizza crust, pizza, crust, etc. 


Content on webpages is based on written content, build around a series of keywords. A blog post should focus on 1 primary keyword and 2-4 secondary keywords. 

As a general rule, do not go over 3% Keyword Density for your Primary keyword.

You can go up to 6% for Secondary Keywords.

The above rule does not tell us anything about the distance about keywords and where they should appear. A good practice is to have your Main Keyword in the Title (a H1) of the webpage or post. The Main Keyword should also appear in the URL as well as at the beginning of the webpage. 


Where are keywords used

This is a good question. 

Keywords are used everywhere:

  • In the URL, also called the “slug” in WordPress. The slug is the link of your webpage where the content appears. The Title of the webpage or Post is tagged as an “H1” in coding terms.
  • Meta Title: the title that appears in the Search Results
  • Meta Description: the description that appears in the Search Results
  • Content: the content that you write and publish
  • H2 and H3: the subtitles and sub-subtitles in your content
  • Comments: yes, even in the comments

Search engines crawl written content: words. They can also crawl images, but images need a small written description to be crawled. 

That makes keywords extremely important pretty much everywhere on your platform.  

And also here (we will see more in details in the later segments of this article):

  • images titles
  • images filename
  • image alt text 
  • image caption
  • inbound links
  • outbound links 
  • anchor text used to create inbound links
  • anchor text used to create outbound links


How to use keywords for DIY SEO

As a general rule, we follow those basic guidelines when using keywords in content:

Focus on one keyword per post

Add LSI keywords among post (to make the post more comfortable to read for humans)

Avoid duplicating content (you could get penalized, but eh, 20% of content online is duplicate, just do not play with fire)

Focus on Long-Tail Keywords. 

Use Keywords everywhere, like magic spells!


Keywords Ranking and Content Creation

It will be hard for a new blog to rank high for “marketing” because established players have a lot of weight, but it may be easier to rank high if you combine keywords where there is less competition, like “marketing florida” or even better “marketing tampa”

You should always research your keywords before starting content creation!

Keyword Content Gap Analysis

To see which keywords have more value, who owns the keywords, where there are opportunities. 


Best Content Length for SEO

The best content length for SEO is debatable, but I like to have a Content mix that includes the following lengths:

  • mini less than 1,000 words
  • short between 1,000 and 1,500 words
  • medium between 1,500 and 4,000 words
  • long between 4,000 and 10,000 words
  • ultra long 10,000 words and above

As a rule of thumb, we recommend to publish only articles that are 1,500 words and more. 

Articles under 1,500 words tend not to get picked up for indexing and ranking in Google. 


Where to get ideas for DIY SEO keywords

There are plenty of sources to be inspired:

  • Your competitors
  • Industry news websites
  • Blogs and niche websites
  • Youtube
  • Pinterest
  • Amazon (look for books about the topic, a great source of ideas)
  • Podcasts


What is On-page SEO

There are 2 areas of SEO: done directly on your website (aka “on-page,” “onsite”) and operated externally of your website (“offsite.”) 

The SEO done directly on your website is often called “onsite” or “on-page” SEO. 

You own your website, and thus, you have full control over the SEO tactics you leverage. 

Of course, the most explicit on-page SEO is your content, so let’s start by having a look at the content topic. 


Websites vs. Blogs

A blog is part of a website or a blogging platform. 

A website is standalone. 

That’s it.  


So what’s the difference between a website and a blog?

A website can have a blog section or not. 

A blog will always be part of a website or be part of a blogging platform (that hosts tons of other blogs.)


If you take a platform like WordPress, which is the most popular CMS (Content Management System, used to build websites and blogs, and publish content,) it was initially built as a blogging platform. 

After social media appeared and became popular, blogs as platforms to distribute content were slowly overshadowed. It does not mean that blogging is dead; it just means that it shifted. 

Blogs were used by people to communicate with their audience, express emotions, tell stories, publish travel experiences and much more. Now that social media has taken this chunk of blogging; blogging recently became a way for content publishers to deliver content related to specific niches.

There are thousands of niches out there like gardening, marketing, pets, cooking, health, finance, relationships, etc. 

We could say that blogs became a new form of website. 


So as we speak, WordPress is used to build websites. It is the most popular CMS that powers millions of websites on the internet. You have visited plenty of WordPress websites, probably without even realizing it. 

I like to think of blogging as a medium to deliver fresh content on a regular basis, be it monthly, weekly or daily. 

And I like to think of websites as a way to publish static content. It does not mean that building a website limits you to static content as you could also append a blog to your website. 


So do not get confused, websites and blogs are just mediums to deliver content and build an audience.  

The ancestor of blogs were BBS forums for those who are old enough to remember them!


Webpage vs. Posts

We cannot talk about the topics of websites and blogs without mentioning webpages and posts. 

In a platform like WordPress, you can publish 2 types of Content: Pages and Posts. By the way, I use WordPress for pretty much all my personal projects. 


To make things simple, let’s say that:

a webpage is for static evergreen content related to your company, your team, services and products

a post is for time-sensitive content like news, articles, press releases, reviews


Webpages and Posts SEO Weight 

  • webpages tend to have more value in terms of SEO (this may or may not be accurate, depending on the circumstances)
  • posts tend to have a little bit less value in terms of SEO  

When you build a website, you will build what I call the “usual suspects.” Webpages like “About Us,” “Homepage,” “Contact Us,” “Terms and Conditions” and “Our Services” appear on all websites. 


The webpages of a website are updated on a quarterly or yearly basis, for such infrequent updates, we say the content is “static.” The content of webpages is about yourself and your company and your services (or product.)

On the other end, if you have a blog on your website, you should publish regularly (daily, weekly or monthly.) The content of the blog post can be related to your services (or products,) but it can also be related to things that happen outside. 

If you publish content on your platform, you should focus on posts. 

It is common to have a website with 8 webpages and 200 posts. 


Posts length

There are different theories and point-of-views regarding the ideal length of a post, but what we could say is that a good blog should have:

  • A handful of extra long posts (10,000 words and above)
  • A majority of mid-size posts (1,200 words)
  • A handful of long posts (3,000 to 5,000 words)
  • A small amount of short posts (200-300 words, which usually bring more engagement with users)


Keywords Density

Again, there are a lot of different opinions on the amount of keywords you can use in a post, but generally speaking:

  • You can have 1-2 primary keywords, and each can be used in 1-2% of your content (for a 1,000 words articles, use the keyword 10-20 times maximum)
  • You can use 3-4 secondary keywords, each should be less than 1-2% of your content 

Avoid keywords stuffing as it will penalize your website. Also, diversify your keywords, do not use the same keywords in different posts. 


External links

When you write a post, always link to other websites in your niche. 

When you link to another website that is authoritative, do it early in your post.

Then, you can sprinkle some external links here and there within the content of your post. 


Internal links

Link to your own content within your own website!

Internal linking shows the Search Engine that your website’s content is mutually inclusive and overall relevant to a specific topic (e.g., “pets” if your website is about animals.)

Authority 

Authority is one of the most significant elements to rank high in Google’ Search Results. 

Domain Authority

The more quality you provide to visitors, the more perceived value your website will have. 

You need all the ingredients to bake a pie, well, the same principles apply to websites. 

Sometimes you may be missing one critical element, and it affects your performance. 

The more authority you have, the more likely other people will link to your website. 

It takes time to build authority. 


Age of the Domain Name 

Older domain names tend to perform better than more recent ones. 

The reason is simple: when Google sees that a website has been around for a while, it is a sign that the website is relevant and legit, and that the website owner is persistent and serious. 

It is possible to rank relatively high for new websites, but our experience shows that it takes anywhere from 4 to 12 months for content to start ranking in the SERPs (Search Results.)

Google will know that you have a good website when users:

  • spend a lot of time on the website
  • scroll from top to bottom
  • visit multiple pages
  • link to the website


You create value by having a website that:

  • answer people’s queries
  • has original and well-written content
  • has a right balance with text, tables, images, videos, GIFs, etc.
  • make use of formatting elements like bold, italic, bullet points, quotes, etc.
  • having a website that is pleasing to the eyes (not a website that looks like the internet in 1998) 
  • structure content in a manner that makes it easy for users to navigate and acquire information
  • the website is mobile-friendly
  • has an SSL Certificate to encrypt the connection (a requirement since 2018) 
  • loads fast


Link building or SEO Juice

Backlinks (also called “backlinks”) are basically the number of other websites that link to a website. 

The more relevant and authoritative a website is, the more people will link to it. 

And the more authoritative are the websites linking to your website are, the more benefits you gain from the link. 

Search Engines calculate the authority of a website by the number of “backlinks” it has. 


The reverse scenario is real as well when you link to another website, you give that website some “SEO Juice.”

One of the SEO strategies to leverage is called “Link Building.” You need to reach out to other websites to build links, be interviewed and featured on other websites, publish on Pinterest to get traffic, etc. All those methods are used to build links. 


Quality of Backlinks

Websites that have high ranking are considered to be of high quality. 

We call links coming from authoritative websites “SEO Juice.” The more authority a website that links to your website has, the more “SEO Juice” you get. 

When you link to external websites, best is to link to relevant and authoritative websites, that may link back to your website in exchange. 


Quantity of Backlinks

The more backlinks you have, the higher are the chances for you to appear at the top of the search results. 

That’s all. Nothing else to say!


Link building tactics

Why is Link building so important

That dirty little secret no one wants to tell you about link building

We all have limited time. It is a fact. 

Everybody has 24 hours in one day. 

If you want to do link building, you will more than likely have to reach out to other people. It is feasible, but for 100 people you will reach out to, how many will be willing to “give” you a link? 

Probably 2-3. Maybe even 0. 


You need to provide value to people for them to accept to link to your website. 

Now, if you have the time and the energy, it is worth it. 

Keep in mind that if you create fantastic content, eventually, you will start accumulating links. People will link to your website. This natural growth approach takes time, but that’s the way it is!


There is no magic trick, otherwise, everybody would be using the same tactics. 

We do not recommend purchasing links. Why? Because you will, sooner or later, get penalized. 

We do not recommend link trading either. Google sees it and penalizes you in the end. 

The same logic applies to leaving comments on other people’s blogs. It’s spammy and unwarranted. 


You could “repackage” existing content into other forms. An extraordinary example of repackaging content would be to take a table of data and make an infographic. 

Link building is like bodybuilding: there is no shortcut. 

You must do the heavy lifting. 

Go the natural way. 


Guest Posting

If you decide to invest time trying to exchange links with other websites, you should do it in a legitimate manner. 

It is time-consuming, and you should always build relationships that are within your field. For example, it would be counter-productive to exchange links with a website that talks about cars if your website is about baby products. 


Intelligent SEO experts, marketers, content produces, entrepreneurs… spend time making content collaborations with other websites to exchange links and get more “SEO juice.” 

One tactic to do Links Exchange is via Guest Posting. You publish one someone’s else platform in exchange for a commission, a fee or a post that they publish on your platform. 


Tips for successful outreach campaigns:

  • Personalize emails
  • Bring value!
  • start with commenting first with a relevant question in comments to catch attention, then email
  • You can use automation that mimics personalization, but people see through fake personalized emails!

If you buy fake links, sooner or later, you will be penalized.

Keep in mind that Google has a set of guidelines to regulate link building via outreach campaigns.

The guidelines are to avoid having too much duplicate content on the internet and spammy practices. 


Tools to use for prospection of outreach 

hunter.io

ninjaoutreach.com

mailshake.com

buzzstream.com

pitchbox.com

https://www.outreachplus.com/

buzzsumo to see how publishes in your niche 


Anchor text

What's all the fuss about anchor texts?

First and foremost, what is an “anchor text”?

Very simple: text with a link!

When I write click here to read my bio.

The word “here” is the anchor text, and the link is artofgrowhmarketing.com


If I say: Want to know more about the Art of Growth Marketing?

The word “the Art of Growth Marketing” is the anchor text, the link is the same, artofgrowhmarketing.com 


Anchor texts are important as in the past, they used to give a lot of “SEO Juice.” 

People abused, so they are no longer as important as they were before. 


However, they are still relevant. 

When you use anchor text, you must diversify the Anchor Texts. The link is the same, but the text itself needs to be different. 

Best practice means that you do not create 300 anchor texts that are the same. 

A good example of diversification: 

  • about us
  • the story behind the Art of Growth Marketing
  • about the Art of Growth Marketing
  • and so on. 

Diversification applies when you link internally within your website as well are outbound links to other websites. 


Pingbacks

Pingbacks are a form of link exchange, and when you mention a blog, they will link back to your website. 

The link usually appears at the bottom of one of their blog posts. 


It is a common feature of WordPress websites (that you need to add manually.)

Pingbacks are interesting as they bring a lot of traffic, without much effort. 

It does work! I got a lot of traffic with pingbacks. 


Testimonials

Give and take. 

Give testimonials to other website owners. 

Gather testimonials from your audience. 

Gathering testimonials from your audience and your clients is a pain in the ****.


If you use the Thrive Themes suite of tools, they have a plugin called Thrive Ovation

I use the whole suite of Thrive Themes to build websites and gather leads with Thrive Leads

You should consider getting Thrive Themes (it is not a theme per se, but a whole suite of tools from website builders, templates, pop-ups, etc.)

I built tons of websites with Thrive Architect. Love it. 


Thrive Ovation let you collect testimonials from your audience in an automated way. 

You can also publish testimonials easily from the testimonials your gathered in your testimonial bank. 


Encourage discussions 

Engage your audience and reply with personal and insightful comments

Always use SPAM filters

Aways approved comments before they appear

If you see wrong keywords and words being used, delete them as it can affect your page ranking. 


Directory links 

Directory links are great places to start. 

Depending on your niche, you can consider: 

  • business repository (e.g., business listings in your country, state, city, industry associations)
  • Yelp, Foursquare, etc. 
  • Linkedin
  • and why not throw in Pinterest


Charities and Associations

Another way to get links is to invest money through donations. 

Think of the charities and associations related to your niche, industry or topic.

You can also track when your brand is mention online with Google Alerts and Mention. 

mention.com/en

https://www.google.com/alerts


User behavior optimization

Boost engagement and traffic by leveraging:

  • CTR (Click-Through-Rate) to make people click (adjust Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions which appear in the Search Results) 
  • Time on Website to make visitors stick and spend more time (tell stories, write compelling content, mix long and short sentences)
  • Add 3-4 internal links to other content on your website (to hook users and make them click to consume more of your content)
  • CTA (Call-To-Action) to bring users to engage (e.g., let us know what you think, leave a comment below)
  • CTA to bring visitors to action (e.g., Free PDF download, contact us, buy, etc.)
  • Use media that catch different types of attention (e.g., videos, surveys, slideshows, etc.)
  • Add videos, infographics and other types of media to your posts


Link building practices to avoid 4 things 

  1. dishonest paid or spammy link building practices
  2. having duplicates of the same article spread across multiple websites
  3. using plenty of keywords stuffing links to your own website (in the articles you publish elsewhere)
  4. if a lot of your content is duplicated elsewhere, refer to original article by using “canonical url” and “nofollow” tags


Local SEO for local businesses

As we previously mentioned, there are 2 types of SEO strategies: National SEO and Local SEO. 

Even “International” SEO falls into the National SEO. 


Why use Local SEO

Local SEO is great for local businesses. 

Local SEO helps brick-and-mortar stores get foot traffic. 

The list goes on and on: physicians, restaurants, cafés, lawyers, car repairs, bakeries, etc. 

Local SEO helps service-based companies cater to local populations. 


Differences between Local SEO and National SEO 


Local SEO relies more on:

  • localization
  • geo-targeting 
  • UGC reviews (User-Generated Content)
  • images and videos


And less on:

  • traditional link building
  • content length
  • keywords planning


How to rank high with Local SEO

Many elements influence how a local business will be ranked in Google Search Results. 

As local SEO is based on geo-tracking, it is essential to adopt a mobile-first approach.

Plenty of other elements are important to rank in Local SEO: 

  • Website is mobile-friendly and loads fast
  • Mobile phone visits, Mobile CTR, etc. 
  • Contact information is listed on website (phone, address, email)
  • Listing on Google My Business (with images, videos, reviews, star ratings)
  • Listing on review websites (e.g., Yelp)
  • Quantity and Quality of links 
  • Consistency of citations on business listing websites (e.g., “Joey’s Snackbox” is not cited as “Joe’s Snatchbox”)
  • Reviews, testimonials, social media engagement
  • Awards, certifications and associations (e.g., ISO 9001, diplomas, etc.)
  • Other standards elements like keywords, domain authority, trustworthiness…


Getting started with Local SEO 

Local SEO is highly dependent on what other people say about you. 

You are what they say about you, not what you say about yourself!


I see massive opportunities in Local SEO. 

Why? 

Because many business owners do not think about SEO; or want, to invest time, money and effort in SEO. 

The fact that a lot of people do not invest in SEO leaves a vast opportunity gap to be filled.


In Google, type in the name of a restaurant that is close to you. Or even better: just type in the area where you are and the word restaurant. You will see a list of restaurants. Then try the same thing and type in “Chinese restaurant” withe name of the city you are in. You should see the most relevant searches to your query.


When your business information appears on another platform, you get more “Local SEO Juice.” 

An excellent way to et more SEO Juice is to leverage the power of reviews and use consistent business information. 

Let’s see the elements that make Local SEO important.

The best element for citations is your company’s NAP. It is a good starting point. 


What is NAP?

NAP is your business Name, Address and Phone Number. 

Yes, listing your phone number makes a difference! 

Business information listing also applies to your clients. If you do digital work for a client that includes SEO, your clients’ websites should.

If you or your client do not want to get direct calls, you can get a phone number with a voicemailbox and callback people afterward. 


Why is NAP important for Local SEO? 

The NAP acts as a unique identifier for your company. 

Companies generally have a unique name, address and phone number. 

The NAP acts as a Unique Identifier


In the case of a chain, for example a coffee shop with 20 shops in a city, the NAP will help with geolocation. 

When consumers look around using their mobile phone, the NAP information will help them locate the closest coffee shop to where they are. 


Remember that SEO is always about giving the most relevant search results to users. 

This is the reason why NAP is so relevant for Local SEO. 

It would not make sense to display a coffee shop that is 30 min driving distance if there are plenty of coffee shops within walking distance. 


NAP consistency

Consistency is crucial with NAP: you should always show the same information everywhere without typos. 

This is especially important for the name of the business. 

For example: 

“Joe’s Pizza” should always appear as “Joe’s Pizza,” not as “Joes Pizza” or “Joey’s Pizza” or “Joe’s Pizzeria.”

You would be surprised to see how many business do this basic mistake. 

In a case where there is inconsistency, fix what you can fix. 

If you find any typos or inconsistencies on 3rd party platforms, simply approach the listing platforms and ask them to use the correct information.


Where should the NAP be displayed?

On the website, for example, in the Footer, and the Contact Us page. You can also list the NAP in the content. 

On 3rd party platforms like google.com/business (a must,) and other business directories like Linkedin, Yelp, and Foursquare are good places. 

If you are based in a country where consumers use other platforms, the same logic applies! 

So no worries, you do not have to focus solely on the directories I mention in this article.

Let’s get back to the gist of Local SEO. 


How to get Local SEO juice?

  • Register your business on google.com/business (I remember getting a postcard from Google with a code that I had to implement in Google to verify our business address.)
  • Build citations
  • Register and maintain information on 3rd party platforms
  • Gather testimonials
  • Leverage visual content like images and videos

Why all of the above? Because Local SEO is based on what people say about you or your clients’ businesses. 

You can think of Local SEO (and pretty much all SEO types) as a spider web: all threads links to the business.  


Building citations

Every time someone cites your business, you gain a citation. 

The more citations you gather, the more SEO juice you get. 

Building citations is not only good for SEO, but it is also great for other potential customers of the business. 


One important detail: citations should include the NAP as much as possible. 

For example, if the cook at “Joe’s Pizza” is interviewed by the local newspaper, the NAP information should be displayed at the bottom of the interview. 

We can assume there are many pizzeria name “Joe’s Pizza” in the same state. Listing the NAP will help Search Engines attribute the citation to the right pizzeria.


What is Google My Business

Google My Business is a platform provided by Google where you log in to add information about your local business or your clients' business. 

Every local business can create a profile on Google My Business, whether you are a plumber, a clothing store or a restaurant. 

If you do SEO work for a client, the client can give you access to their account. You could also give the client the elements that he or she needs to input into the business' Google My Business account. 


What information can I add to Google My Business?

Google My Business lists plenty of relevant information: 

  • NAP
  • description
  • category
  • images
  • videos
  • CTAs (call-to-action) so that


Why are testimonials and reviews so important for local SEO

Let’s answer this with a question: How often have I decided not to choose a company because there were no reviews? Countless times!

That pretty much sums it up!

It is called the power of Social Proof. 

Seeing other people do something that is likely to bring us to do the same things. 

There is also a technical aspect to it, the more reviews and testimonials you get, the higher you will rank. 


What should testimonials and reviews include?

  • Written title
  • Written text
  • Star rating
  • Image 
  • Video 
  • City
  • Name of the customer
  • Image of the customer


How to get more testimonials

Ask, ask and ask!

A few ways to get more testimonials:

  1. You can jumpstart the directories by publishing your business images on directories (e.g., building from the outside, indoor, menu, services, staff, previously done jobs, etc.)
  2. Put a sticker in your window that says you are listed on directories (e.g., Yelp)
  3. Put a poster inside the business that shows the directories you are listed in
  4. Put a sticker of the directories you are listed on directly in front of the cashier
  5. Offer incentives for reviews, like discounts or freebies (if legal in your jurisdiction)
  6. Engage consumers who left a review funnily and positively, the atmosphere of warmth will entice other consumers to do the same
  7. Your staff could take pictures with your customers and publish the reviews (check the legality of doing so in your jurisdiction.)


Use images and videos for Local SEO 

Think about your own behavior online. 

When you look for a local business, what do you look at? 

Reviews, number of stars… and most likely, images and videos. 

If there are not many images and videos on a listing, you may tend to distrust the review. 


When I look for a hotel, if there are no reviews, I will not book the room, no matter how good it looks. 

But if there is a room with 50 reviews, and let’s say 2-3 negative reviews, I am very likely to book the room. 

Is what I experience the same with you? 


As the saying goes: a picture is worth a thousand words. 

We, human beings, are very “visual.” 

The proof? Just look at Instagram. How many food pictures do you see? 

Other keywords: food, desserts, coffee, sightseeing, leggings, cars, cats, dogs, etc. 


Having a lot of images is not only good for SEO (It IS a ranking factor.) It also entices users to contact you and experience your service or product. 

You can shoot photos by yourself or hire a professional photographer to take pictures to jumpstart your profile—we all carry around famed photography equipment: our mobile phone. 

Adding the images is very easy via Google My Business. Simply log in and click photos, then upload your photos. Et voilà!


Damage control for local SEO

It is important to assess negative feedback in an honest and open-minded manner. 

I see so many brands make the mistake of not replying to negative comments.

Even worse, not replying to positive ones to build a stronger relationship!


What to do with the negative reviews?

Own it. Take ownership. 


If it is your business, then take ownership.

If you are doing SEO work for a client with negative reviews, make the client aware that:

  • are you aware that there are negative testimonials about your service or your brand?
  • giving a personalized and honest response to the issue will be beneficial to your brand
  • addressing issues and providing solutions will create trust with your audience
  • you will remove friction and mental barriers that some customers may have when searching for a local business.


I see so many businesses make this rookie mistake:

they are either not aware that they have negative feedback

they ignore the negative feedback

they respond to negative feedback in a rude, negative and unprofessional manner. 


Marketing fact:

Consumers who are dissatisfied or felt offended are more likely to leave a (negative) review than consumers who are satisfied. 

Never forget that most consumers look at reviews! 

How many times did I decide not to walk into a business because of negative reviews?

Many times. Especially when the answer to the negative reviews was rude and infantile. 


Resources for Local SEO 

Directories for listing NAP, citations and gather testimonials: 

google.com/business

linkedin.com

yellowpages.com (for people in the US and Canada)

facebook.com/business

biz.yelp.com

foursquare.com/business

Local SEO ranking checklist and essential resources

Customize the schema information on your website, for intermediary and advanced SEO users, more information here: https://schema.org/LocalBusiness


If you want to learn more about Local SEO: 

https://www.localseoguide.com/

moz.com/learn/local

https://www.brightlocal.com/local-search-results-checker/

Let’s jump into another important topic. 

SEO


Content Planning and Keywords Research

Keywords research is the most essential aspect of SEO, especially if you create content to grow your audience. 

What is Keywords Research

Keywords Research is the act of researching the best keywords for your content and your audience. 

You need to find the right keywords for your niche and find keywords that you can eventually “own.”

So Keywords Research helps you identify:

  • Keywords that fit your niche, topic and audience (to help you write attractive content)
  • Keywords that have appropriate Search Volume AND the right Keyword Difficulty
  • Alternative variations of Keywords to other hot Keywords owned by competitors
  • Keywords Gaps among your competitors


The 3 main Keywords Research metrics to look for are:

  1. Search Volume
  2. Keyword Difficulty
  3. CPC (Cost-Per-Click) and PPC (Pay-Per-Click) pricing, in the case of ads

Keywords Research is always part of a smart Content Plan.

Not having a Content Plan and not doing any Keywords Research is a recipe for disaster. 


You may end up writing content and never see your content indexed by Google. 

Content that is not indexed by Google is not “findable” via search.  

Believe me, it did happen to me!


What is a Content Plan

A plan of the topics you will write about.

Your Content Plan should include: 

  1. Topic
  2. References (based on your research)
  3. Main Keyword
  4. Secondary Keywords
  5. Length (e.g., about 2,000 words)
  6. Outbound links (websites you will link to, based on your research)
  7. Publishing date (publish as soon as ready, do not drip content)


Why is keyword research so important 

You could end up spending lots of time and effort, only to discover the keywords you have targeted:

  • do not bring the right traffic
  • do not gather an audience ready to buy
  • are owned by well-established players
  • or worse, do not bring any traffic at all.

If you have not investigated the competitiveness of your keywords, you could end up investing lots of time for no results. 


How to find keywords that send traffic to your site

I must warn you: keywords research requires effort and creativity. 

The best way to find keywords is to look at what your competitors do:

  • the topics they write about
  • the keywords they use


Here is how to do find keywords:

  • use Screaming Frog software to crawl their website and get the list of all their pages and posts (check if it is legal in your jurisdiction before doing so)
  • use a tool like Ahrefs, SEMRush or KWFinder to analyze their website (based on domain name) and their Keywords (based on Keywords)
  • identify potential keywords (more details below)
  • do a manual search on Google to see what autofill proposes (search bar in Google) and alternative searches (bottom of the Google search results)


I would say that for a newly established website, you should aim for keywords that have:

  • Keyword Difficulty under 35
  • Search Volume between 50 and 350 (if you are very lucky and see a Keyword with 5,000 monthly search volume and low Keyword Difficulty, jump on it!)

When you use a tool like KWFinder or SEMRush or Ahrefs, you can import the lists in Google Sheets and use Conditional Data to automatically colorize the cells that fit you data requirements (e.g., cell with Keyword Difficulty under 35 become green.)

I personally use KWFinder. I used SEMRush in the past and it is also an amazing tool with plenty of great features, but it is a bit on the pricey side. 


Finding keywords with Google’s autosuggest

Check the “Also looked for” (bottom of the webpage on Google) 

Here is an example of how I would do this for the keyword “best seo software”

  • best seo software 
  • best seo software a {look at what autocomplete proposes}
  • best seo software b {idem}
  • best seo software c {idem}
  • Then, look at the bottom of the search results to see alternative Google suggestions


Now, this is the hard way of doing the search. 

The smart way to do Keywords Research is to use a tool that does it for you. 

KeywordSnatcher is a great tool.

Time is money, so for 47$US, the software is dirt cheap. 


Keywords and Website Scanning Tools

You need to use professional tools to have detailed data like “Search Volume” and “Keyword Difficulty.”

There are plenty of paid and free tool to do Keywords Research

Some are paid, some are free. 


SEO Suites Tools

  • Screaming Frog (free, a website crawler, I use it weekly; you can have a look at the number of words per webpage, free version crawls up to 500 URLs)
  • KWFinder (paid, I use this one)
  • SEMRush (paid, I used it in the past, love it. Probably the number 1 depending on who you ask)
  • Ahrefs (probably the number 1 on the market, depending who you ask)


Keyword density

Keywords Density Checker (I believe Screaming Frog can give you all this info)


Search Bar tool 

Keyword Surfer (I use this one, Chrome browser extension)

Now, there is a way to estimate this with free tools. You can simply look at the “Search Volume” and the “CPC” (Cost-Per-Click) cost. If the CPC is low, we can assume that Keyword Difficulty is low. Not super reliable, but if you do not have the budget to invest in a tool, then it is a way of doing it. 


How to generate massive list of keywords

There is no “one-click generate tons of keywords” solution. 

You need to do searches manually. 

Then compile the data.


However, there are ways to find different combinations of keywords. 

For example, “best seo software” could also be:

  • best seo software
  • best seo tool
  • best seo app
  • top seo software
  • top seo tool
  • top seo app

Always check the plural version of the keywords, this is especially true for languages where the prlural has a different form like (e.g., "cheval" and "chevaux" in French.) Include plural keywords for English too (e.g., "dog training tactic," "dog training tactics".)


Keywords List Generators

The tools below are great tools that automatically generate a whole list of keywords. I said there is no one-click solution. Well, this tool gets close to a one-click solution!

Generate a list of Keywords Combinations with the following tools:

KeywordSnatcher (paid)

KeywordShitter2 and Keywordshitter (free, I use this one, sorry for the name haha)

MergeWords

Keyword.io (I use this one too, free, you can also look for Youtube, Amazon, Alibaba, etc.)


Look at the trends and what people are searching 

Remember that trends are sometimes short-lived, always opt for evergreen topics as much as possible. 

GoogleTrends (check for your region and the timespan)

AnswerThePublic (free, I use this one, use both Visualization and Data views)

GoogleAds

If you use Google Ads to check for keywords, keep in mind that the information is for ad spending. Google ads does not reflect the real competitiveness of a keyword. Again, data is for ad spend, so be careful! 


Step-by-step DIY SEO Keywords Research (just like I do it)

I introduce you to 2 scenarios and 2 ways to do Keywords Research: 

  1. You want to identify and steal competitors’ keywords that are “stealable” 
  2. You want to generate a massive list of Long-Tail Keywords


Steal competitors’ keywords

  1. Find 5 competitors for a given industry (e.g., ) or topic (e.g., )
  2. Crawl their websites with Screaming Frog SEO (check if legal in your jurisdiction)
  3. Crawl websites with KWFinder to see which keywords they rank for
  4. In KWFinder, click on “Keyword Difficulty” to see the most difficult keywords are the top (so from harder at the top to easier at the bottom)
  5. Look for “related keywords” and “autocomplete” in KWFinder as well
  6. Compile the lists into a Google Sheets and use the conditional formatting to highlight relevant keywords that have Keyword Difficulty under 40 and Search Volume under 250


Generate lists of Long-Tail Keywords

  1. Create lists of keywords that you think are relevant 
  2. Use Keyword Snatcher and keyword.io and Keywords Shitter to generate a massive list of keywords and their alternatives
  3. Copy and paste the list in KWFinder, then check for Keyword Difficulty and Search Volume
  4. In KWFinder, click on “Keyword Difficulty” to see the most difficult keywords are the top (so from harder at the top to easier at the bottom)
  5. Compile the lists into a Google Sheets and use the conditional formatting to highlight relevant keywords that have Keyword Difficulty under 40 and Search Volume under 250
  6. Note: if you do not have a KWFinder account, you could “guesstimate” which keywords have potential. If you have an account with Google Ads, you could also check the performance of the keywords in there. A 3rd option would be to use Keyword Surfer to manually check the Search Volume directly by typing the keywords one-by-one in the Google Search. Doing the work manually defeats the purpose of working smart and automating as much as we can… remember that time is money!

Work Smart!


Not all tools are created equal

It is worth paying for tools, even if tools do not have the most acurate data. Google has the most acurate data of all, but we do not have direct access to its data.  

 

SEO Plan and Content Plan: a Bad Plan is better than No Plan

The web is all about content: text, images, videos, comments, GIFs…

We all consume a lot of written content. 

Tons of content is produced on a daily basis all around the world. 


When you start publishing content, everything seems hard. 

But the more you create, the more you become a Creator!

I do not care if you are creative or not, Creators always trump Creatives!


You need to publish regularly to be successful, but most people stop when they start getting traction. 

To keep publishing in a disciplined manner, and according to a well-thought strategy, you need to have a Content Plan. 


And before making your Content Plan, you should have done basic Keywords Research.

The advantage of doing Keywords Research before starting to write is that you will be able to laser-focus on content that will bring you traffic. 

Sounds good?

Like Paypal’s co-founder Peter Thiel said: “A bad plan is better than no plan.”


Keywords or Topics first

It is like asking the egg or the chicken first. 

Well, let me give you the answer that has been floating in my head: 

  1. Make a list of topics based on the content of 5 competitors in your niche (just Google your topic and see the top rankings)
  2. Check the keywords they use using the software and tools we mentioned previously 
  3. Find keywords gaps
  4. Brainstorm a list of topics
  5. Use Google Autocomplete to see how many searches there are

You are set to make a list of content now. 


Your Keywords Research, for each individual topics, should include: 

  • 1-2 Primary keywords (if possible, Low Competition High Search Keywords)
  • 3-4 secondary keywords
  • a lot of Longtail Keywords, not just short keywords


Your Content Plan should include:

  • List of short, medium and long posts
  • Targeted Audience
  • Tonality
  • Topic
  • Title
  • Time of writing/editing/publishing (I have a great Excel template for this)
  • Number of words
  • CTA (Call-to-action)
  • Purpose of the post
  • Outbound links to relevant websites
  • Visual elements like images, GIFs, videos, tables, infographics, etc. 


Types of Content: It’s all About the Content

Before making a Content Plan, you need to keep in mind that there are different types of content. Not all content is created equal.


Types of Content

A reliable content mix will focus mainly on short and medium articles. Plus, a few long articles. 

  • Mini posts: for engaging your audience, those short posts have low SEO value, but they are the most engaging, almost like social media (300-500 words.) Avoid at the beginning, execute when you have an audience.
  • Short: to answer a question (1,500-2,200 words)
  • Medium: cool-to-share tips, best, top (3,000-6,000 words)
  • Long: to go deep within a subject and plant your high-value keywords are much as possible (5,000-10,000 words)


Categories of Content

  • Evergreen Content (e.g. always relevant, “how to bake a meat pie”)
  • Event Content (e.g. Halloween, Christmas, SuperBowl) 
  • Seasonal Content (e.g. ice skating, hockey) 
  • Trendy Content (e.g. fidget spinners were popular for 6 months)
  • Location Content (e.g.clothes trends in February will be different in Canada and in Florida)

Ideally, you have a lot of evergreen content, backed by other types of content that will use some events as opportunities to bring some extra traffic. 

Do you need help? We can assist you. Just send us an email via the Contact Form. 


Content Structure: Keywords at the Top

Content should always be: 

  • well structured
  • straight-to-the-point 
  • easy-to-read
  • mix of short and long sentences


There are a few best practices when it comes to SEO-friendly content:

  • Your most relevant keywords should appear as soon as possible
  • You should link to relevant websites at the beginning of your post
  • Post should be well structured, making use of H1, H2, Bold, etc. (think Title, Subtitle, italic, bullet points, lists)
  • The content should match the user intent as soon as possible (e.g. what is the name of KFC’s founder should not be 5,000 words long)

Avoid copy-pasting and rewriting content like the plague!

Some websites may have content that is not as good as the content of another website, but because the webpage is so well structured and easy-to-read, those websites may rank higher. 

That is how powerful SEO is. 


How to boost traffic and rankings with content marketing

Write content. Lots of it.  

I would say that 30 posts and a couple of pages is a good way to jumpstart your website. 

Eventually, you want to grow the size of your content to at least 100 pieces of content. 

Yes, it is a lot. 


But if you spread it over a 1 year period, it is doable. 

If needed, seek help from a freelancer to help you deliver content!

Bringing traffic: use social media to drive visitors to your content. You can use teaser images, videos, short summaries to bring visitors. Pinterest works well. Reddit and Quora may be helpful. I do not use other Social media to drive traffic. I just think that there are better ways to use time and energy. 

Blog syndication: submit your content to content aggregators sites

blogarama

eatonweb

alltop.com


A/B testing: test to find the most performing webpage

A/B testing is when you want to test the performance of 2 different designs of the same page. 

I love Thrive Themes as they have a great A/B testing tool for webpages and titles. 

This is especially useful for webpages with a specific goal, like downloading a PDF, registering for a webinar or buying something. 


Best practice is to add the “nofollow” and “noindex” to your B version. 

Statistical significance, if my memory is good, is around 20,000 visits. Of course, it can be done with less, but a test with a small dataset will just give you an idea of the best performing design. 


Rich Snippets

Rich Snippets are part of every legit SEO strategy.

As part of your Content Plan, you should absolutely aim for ranking for specific Rich Snippets. 

Let’s start from the beginning. 


What are Rich Snippets?

Before we answer the question, let’s have a look at how search results are displayed. 

When you type in a question in Google, the search results are usually displayed in this order:

  • paid ads
  • rich snippet (sometimes displayed, sometimes not) 
  • “People also ask” (idem) 
  • organic search results
  • paid ads
  • “Searches related to” (displays other keywords, other ways to search for your search’s topic.)


Search results formulated as a question will be shown in a big window. 

Without clicking on any link, you usually see the question and the answer, with a link to the website. 

Those search results are called “Rich Snippets.”

In other words, Rich Snippets are short answers to a specific question. 

They provide a specific answer to a specific query without needing to click on the link to read the answer. 


What are the types of rich snippets? 

Rich snippets can take many different forms:

  • Only text
  • Text and image
  • Videos
  • Bullet points
  • Lists


Categories of Rich Snippets

  • Q&A
  • Reviews
  • Fact Check
  • Local Business
  • Products
  • News
  • Books
  • Jobs
  • Organization
  • Product markup
  • Music 
  • Recipes
  • Top Stories
  • Events
  • and many more.

Most rich snippets take the form of text. However, feel free to compile your own list of data and make up your own lists, images, bullet points lists, etc. 


Why try to get ranked as a rich snippet? 

Yes, we used the word “try.”

If a keyword or a question has low competition and you write the best answer to the question, you have good chances for your answer to be selected. 

So why aim for rich snippets you may ask? Because it puts you in the first position and gives your website more exposure. Some people say that they lost traffic after having an answer selected as a rich snippet, but most people saw an increase in traffic. 


How to get featured as a rich snippet?

3 important elements help you get selected for the rich snippet position. 

  1. The first one is the usage of HTML Title Tags. 
  2. Use the question as an H2 and the answer as an H3. 
  3. The title of your article is an H1.


H1, H2 and H3 are HTML elements. 

Think of H1, H2 and H3 as the Title of a book, the H2 as chapters and H3 as sub-chapters. 

So when you write your article, make the question an H2 by selecting the text, and in the WordPress editor (if you are not using WordPress there may be a way to do this in the panel where you select the size of the text,) select H2, and so on. 


The second element is the length of the answer. 

There are many theories about this, and it is a case-by-case concept, but aim for 30 words if you provide a text answer. 


The third aspect is quality. 

Only the best answer will be selected for rich snippets. 

Of course, if a keyword or an answer is very competitive and already has a rich snippet, you should not try to steal it, especially if you are just starting. 


Never fight for keywords against websites that have high domain authority!

One of the creative ways to get selected is to gather that is publicly available, or gather your own data, and make an image or a data table out of it. Originality pays!


Do rich snippets affect the traffic quantity 

Do rich snippets have an effect on the website selected for the rich snippet?

Yes and no.

Some people see a drop in traffic while others see traffic go up. 

One way or the other, Rich Snippets are amazing and you should focus on them. 


What are the most ranked Rich Snippets? 

  • Text answer comes first. 
  • Then bullets lists and so on. 
  • Do not worry about the type; just do something original and of high-quality standard.

How you can test your webpage for rich snippets?

You can see if your webpage’s schema markup is rich-snippet friendly by using Google’s Rich Snippet tester: https://search.google.com/test/rich-results


Voice search 

What is Voice search?

Just think how Alexa and Siri give answers; they dig up information written on the internet, especially if the answer is provided via a Rich Snippet. Same with Google's Voice search. 

As the internet is going more and more into interactivity and machine learning, voice search will be more and more important. 


How to get featured in voice search?

  • Great quality answers.
  • Short answers that are straight-to-the-point. 
  • Long-articles (go for minimum 1,500 words articles)


You can find more information about “speakable” results here: 

https://schema.org/speakable

https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-%20types/speakable#eligibility


Technical SEO 

 How to structure your website for hassle-free SEO ranking!

Google Crawling

  • Nothing should blocking crawlers
  • Clean and readable URL (for both crawlers and users, if you have a webpage URL that looks like this for your About page “/hb1679nambsi” it looks confusing)
  • Avoid pop-ups that kill the user experience 
  • Avoid forcing users to do something (e.g., watch a video)


Navigation

Use simple navigation, avoid having more than 7 tabs in your top menu (use submenus, sidebar, footer and links within the content of your webpage instead.)

Only use text for navigation in the menu (a lot of Japanese websites use images, this is purely aesthetic reasons, if your website is not in an Asian language, avoid using images in menus.) 


How to get more people clicking on your ranking in Google

Use natural language!

Remember that both crawlers and human beings will read the webpage. 


If you have a WordPress website, there are plenty of plugins out there that let you customize the:

  • Use characters to stand out: [] {} () - (e.g., [2021 update])
  • Title: use copywriting that picks curiosity, add dates, add wording such as "updated," "ultimate," "top," etc.
  • Meta Title: The title appears in Google and on top of the browser (e.g.Apple iMacs for business, design and education)
  • Meta Descriptions: It appears in the search engine’s results as well. It is a summary of what the webpage is about (e.g. Apple iMacs are a selection of top-performing computers designed in California)
  • Alt tags for images: this is a description of each individual image on your websites a Search Engines cannot “see,” but they can read text. The description helps them knowing what the image is about. 
  • Title of assets and filenames: "funny-siamese-cat-picture.jpg" is better than "asd33gljahksf.jpg"


Do not forget to add your keywords to:

  • Navigation
  • Headings
  • Bolded text
  • Internal links
  • Images filenames, titles and alt tags
  • Video filenames, titles and alt tags

Few DIY SEO tips and tricks:

  • Use All in One SEO (or Yoast SEO) to fill in Meta Titles, Meta Description
  • Meta Title: max 70 characters (some say 57 is better)
  • Meta Description: max 155 characters (some say 160)
  • Tip: Avoid using CAPITALIZATION, keywords stuffing and duplicates. Remember, use natural language and original content for each one of them.
working on laptop


SEO Audit

What is an SEO Audit

An SEO Audit is a 360-degree multi-faceted analysis of your SEO health, both on-site and off-site. 

An SEO Audit is like taking a picture of the general conditions of your SEO health. 


Content: the content of the SEO Audit is a little bit technical. I list the most important elements taken into consideration below. I also list what needs to be done to solve or improve some of the elements. 

Documents: the SEO Audit comes in 2 documents, a written analysis that includes an action plan and current status plus a data-rich Excel sheet that includes the performance of every part of the SEO elements taken into consideration. 

Frequency: You can do an SEO Audit every year, every quarter, every month… it depends on your level of investment and the importance of SEO for your smart. For a new website, I would recommend one SEO audit after 6 months, then another one on the 12th month. After that quarterly could be a good idea. 

Duration: doing an SEO Audit generally takes a few days up to a few weeks, depending on your website's size and the depth of the analysis. 

Cost: cost will depend on many factors, but be ready to spend a few hundred for a basic audit and a few thousand for more advanced Audits. 

Maintenance: smart SEO strategies come with an Action Plan. Whether you implement the action plan or you hire someone to execute it is up to you. 


There is also something that we could call “SEO Monitoring,” not to be confused with an Audit per se. SEO Monitoring is when you monitor the status of the SEO elements on a daily or weekly basis. 

A good example of SEO Monitoring would be checking the Google Search Console and Google Analytics. 

SEO Monitoring can be done by the owner of the website as well as by the SEO Expert. 


SEO Audit: only quantitative

An SEO Audit is a quantitative analysis. 

It is based on data (and content.)


It does not look at the qualitative elements of your website.

For example, the design, the general look and feel, the size and color of the buttons, etc. 

Only a human being can judge the qualitative aspect of a website. 

So if you are facing issues with your website, do not hesitate to ask for the opinion of a professional web designer. 


Not all problems are technical.

Some problems can be related to:

  • design
  • branding
  • color palette
  • User Flow
  • User Experience (called “UX”)
  • and so on.


Ultimate SEO Audit: how is the SEO health of my website? 

Before investing time and money in SEO, you need to perform an SEO audit. You can also ask a professional, a freelancer or an agency to perform an SEO audit for you. 

Our simple DIY SEO guide has been made with all types of users in mind.

If you are just beginning, the starting point will be building the website, making a Content Plan, doing Keywords Research and creating tons of content. 


The SEO audit will give you a good idea of:

  • Overall health
  • Keywords you own, keywords opportunities (e.g. “web design,” “web design austin”)
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Content audit (current content and future content opportunities)
  • Traffic analysis
  • Issues (technical, content, keywords, strategy…)
  • Backlinks analysis (who you link to, and who links to your website)
  • Opportunities
  • …and much more.

The SEO Audit should give you a clear image of the current state of your website as well as provide an action plan for the future that includes strategies, tactics and insights. 


We monitor traffic to our websites with Google Analytics and Google Search Console, this is done on a weekly and monthly basis. 

We also do an SEO Audit every quarter.

On top of that, we do keywords research for Content Creation bi-monthly. 


We do SEO Audits for companies, if you are interested send us an email via the Contact Form. 

Our Audits include the SEO Audit itself and an Action plan with custom-made recommendations just for you. 


How to do a DIY SEO Audit in 4 steps

  1. Use GTMetrix.com to find out the performance of your website. It takes about 2 minutes. 
  2. Crawl your website by using the (free) software Screaming Frog SEO. You will find out plenty of information like Word Count per page, Image/Word Density, etc. 
  3. Use KWFinder to crawl your website; this is to help you find which keywords you rank for. After that, you can also search each keyword individually. KWFinder has a 10-day free trial. I use the paid version. 
  4. Use an SEO Template for the nitty-gritty elements of the audit. Chase Reiner SEO Audit template is a great way to start.


Website Loading Speed

Make sure your website loads fast. 

You can test your website on GTMetrix https://gtmetrix.com/ or on https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

In GTMetrix: 

  • 100 score is perfect. 
  • Anything with A rating is fine. 
  • B rating can wait a bit. 
  • Anything under B needs immediate attention.

Test for mobile too:

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/feature/testmysite/

https://tools.pingdom.com/


Your website needs to load fast for 3 reasons: 

  1. it is an important ranking factor
  2. most visitors use mobile phones to access websites
  3. will keep people on the webpage (if slow, you will lose traffic as visitors will close the website and go elsewhere)


Tips for improving loading speed

  • optimize images weight
  • minify files
  • host close to your market
  • use a CDN for media files like logos, images, icons, videos (never host videos directly on your website unless you are 100% sure of what you do, best is to embed videos) we suggest Siteground
  • avoid having heavy files
  • If needed, change Theme! Some WordPress themes are heavy and known to cause loading issues!


Responsive website

A responsive website means that your website automatically adjusts to the size of the screens: desktops, tablets and mobile phones. 

Your website must be optimized for mobile phones. 

Nowadays, most websites are optimized for the 3 platforms.

Best is to test your website on mobile. 


Extra details

  • in your posts, use real name and list names of authors
  • add credentials if you have any
  • publish your sources
  • if you do eCommerce, make sure you include links to terms and conditions, returns policy, etc.

Avoid 

  • keywords stuffing
  • too many internal links in the Footer (and other areas of your website)
  • over monetization (lots of ads)

Anything that can affect someone's physical or financial health needs to be written by someone with verifiable credentials. 


Sitemaps.xml and robots.txt

Sitemap.xml is a list of the webpages, posts, tags, authors, categories on your website. 

When Google crawls websites, it looks at the sitemap.xml file. The sitemap, as its name implies, is a map of the website. 

robot.txt is a file that tells crawlers what NOT to crawl on your website. 

You also need a robot.txt

The robot.txt file is used by crawlers for 2 reasons: 

  1. to see the content of your website
  2. see when content was updated.


How to generate a sitemap

If you use WordPress, you can install the Plugin All in One SEO to generate your sitemap. 

To check if you have a sitemap, add “/sitemap.xml” after your domain name in the browser. For example yourwebsitehere.com/sitemap.xml

Then go to Google Search Console to submit your website to Google. 


If you are not using WordPress, try this: 

XML Sitemaps Generator from WebsitePlanet https://www.websiteplanet.com/webtools/sitemap-validator/

This tool allows you check your sitemap quickly and easily (and it's completely free, too!)


How to create a robot.txt file. 

If you use WordPress, you can install the Plugin All in One SEO (or Yoast SEO) to generate your robot.txt. 

To check if you have a sitemap, add “/robot.txt” after your domain name in the browser. For example yourwebsitehere.com/robot.txt


Content Optimization

Here I list a few tips regarding Content Optimization: 

  • write short sentences with simple sentence structures
  • write original content, better than regurgitated content stolen from somewhere else (rewriting can even take more time than writing an original post)
  • correct your spelling and your grammar


There is a “Readability” metrics called “Flesch Readability Score.”

Make sure that your content ranks above 65.

You content should easily be understood by junior high school students (13 ryears old and above.) 


On top of that, consider the following: 

  • length of sentences (shorter sentences are preferable)
  • length of words (shorter words are better)
  • diversity of vocabulary
  • complexity of words
  • readable content


To improve readability

  • use large fonts like 16-18px 
  • colors that are easy on the eyes, like black on white (avoid funky text colors like red, purple, grey on white)
  • structure content with headings like H2, H3, H4; bullet points, lists, tables
  • add images within the content at regular intervals

In other words, write for the “Average Joe,” not for your friends who have Masters degrees. Doing so ensures that your content will be appealing to a wide audience. 

You can also Google search Quality guidelines and how to use them to your advantage.


Website URLs’ Structure

  • Delete Duplicates (and use canonical URLs)
  • Check that redirect work correctly
  • Remove broken links 
  • 404 webpage


Content hierarchy

  • Simplify navigation (do not have 3 submenus)
  • Only use one H1 per webpage or post (H1 is the title of the page or post)
  • H2 are H3 are used correctly (Many H3 can be under one H2, but not the other way around)


Links

I suggest to make all your irrelevant webpages as: 

  1. Nofollow: people will not get SEO Juice when they link to your webpage
  2. Noindex: Google and other Search Engines will not index the webpage (e.g., Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, etc.)

*Important: when you do A/B testing (also called “split testing,”) always tag the B version of the webpage test as “noindex.” It did happen to me that the test webpage got indexed by Google, but not the Master version!

Setting "nofollow" and "noindex" can be achieved with SEO plugins in WordPress, like All in One SEO Pack and Yoast SEO. 


Update Theme and Plugins (for WordPress)

Make sure all your plugins and your theme are regularly updated! This will avoid hacks and will ensure that the plugins work at their optimal threshold. 


Use great Web Hosting

At the beginning, when you do not have a lot of traffic, you can use cheap web hosting. 

When you start having real traffic (100,000 pageviews/month,) make sure that you monitor loading speed. 

You will eventually have to boost your web hosting plan. 

  • siteground.com if you are a beginner, they offer one-click WordPress install. Great solution for one website. I use them when I make websites that I sell. 
  • wpxhosting.com if you want to host multiple websites, they also offer one-click WordPress install (they have 24/7 amazing support.) Their entry plan allows you to host up to 5 websites, it even includes email. I use them for most of my websites. 


Images Compression and Optimization

As a general rule, when I make a campaign or a platform for a big brand, we never use images larger than 200kb. "kb" refers to the weight of the image. 

The heavier an image is, the longer it takes for the images to appear on the screen when users access the website. The more images you have, the heavier the webpage becomes (and the longer it takes to open the webpage fully).

The same rule applies to all websites out there: images on your website should never be larger than 200kb, and we are talking about good looking images here. Smaller images, thumbnails, icons, etc. should be a lot lighter. And by a lot lighter I mean in the range of 10kb to 50kb. 


You could do image optimization in Photoshop or Affinity Design or Gimp; there are also some websites like iloveimg.com that can help you optimize images, but why do it manually when you can use a WordPress plugin? 

I personally use a Plugin called Optimole to automate images compression. It comes as part of the Thrive Themes suite. There are other great plugins out there on WordPress, like ShortPixel.

I also use Affinity Design to tweak images and design. Affinity Design is a great Photoshop AND Illustrator replacement. The tool is easy-to-use, and it is very affordable. About 50$US.


There are plenty of useful WordPress plugins to optimize images in one-click. 

Please note that one image will be duplicated and optimized for different screen sizes.

So if you do so, use an image optimization plugin, if you have a lot of images, you may want to throw in a few extra bucks to deal with all the images at once. 

If you are not on WordPress, then you can use one of the options proposed above. 


LazyLoad

When you access a webpage, if all the images on the webpage all load at the same time it delays the loading of the whole page. Plus, if you do not read the whole post, why load images at the bottom of the page?

Here comes LazyLoad. 

If you are on WordPress, there are plenty of plugins available to LazyLoad the images one-by-one.

LazyLoad means that when someone lands on your webpage, images will be loaded along with the scrolling. First images on top are loaded, then as the user scrolls down, the images below the unseen section of the webpage will be displayed. 

Instead of loading all the images on the webpage, which slows down the initial loading.


I love Thrive Themes so much to build WordPress websites because it comes with tools to optimize, compress, and minify images. Plus, LazyLoad images as well. 

Lazyload is very useful, and we strongly encourage you to use it. 


CDN (Content Delivery Network)

A Content Delivery Network or a CDN is a distributed web hosting system for static assets. 

Let me explain in simple English. 


Content: assets like text, images, videos, code

Delivery: to help deliver content faster

Network: a network of multiple servers spread all around the world


When you access a website, there are dynamic and static elements.

The static elements do not change. For example, when you upload a post with text and images, the images remain the same (unless you change them of course) for everybody that reads the blog post. The text remains the same. 

Images and videos remain static. And because they remain static, we can add them to a CDN for faster access. The images and videos will be hosted on multiple servers around the world.  When people access the website, the images and videos will be loaded from the closest server. It is a clever way to deliver heavy files in the fastest way possible. 

For example, if you are in LA, and the closest CDN server is in San Francisco, the images will be loaded from SF. If you fly to NYC and access the same website, and that the closest CDN is in Chicago, then you will load the images from Chicago. 


Dynamic elements are constantly updated based on different conditions: who the user is, what he/she does on the website, what data is being generated, what systems are triggered on the platform, etc.

If you access an eCommerce website and place an order, some multiple unique actions and systems are being triggered. If you create an account on a website, the information sent to the server is unique. 

Those elements cannot be added to a CDN as they are unique, and they are handled by the main server, which runs processes, apps, memory, cache, etc. 

So using a CDN is a must as it helps:

  1. Deliver assets faster (static assets)
  2. Unload traffic from the main server (giving it a higher performance to handle dynamic data)


Webpage Loading Speed

Loading speed is extremely important for 2 reasons: 

  1. user behavior: visitors have short attention span and will go away if the page takes too long to load (and thus, affecting negatively your bounce rate)
  2. ranking criteria: Google will give you lower ranking (hence the importance to optimize webpage loading speed)

When you watch a video on Youtube, the whole video does not load. Youtube only buffers the next few seconds of minutes. The same concept is used to deliver webpages. 

To help you understand webpage loading speeds, let’s have a look at what affects the loading speed.


The 6 main elements that slows down webpages:

  1. heavy assets like images, videos, GIFs, icons, logo, etc.
  2. processes like plugins (this is especially true if you are on WordPress)
  3. scripts like tracking, softwares, ads, etc. 
  4. heavy themes in WordPress 
  5. misconfiguration of DNS records (e.g., www. does not leads to non www. version of your website)
  6. web server cannot handle traffic and/or processes (especially if you have too much traffic for what the web server can handle)

If your webpage is slow, the first thing to look for is the weight of the images. Compress them by using a tool. 

You can also get help from vendors on Fiverr or Upwork to improve your website's loading speed.


SSL Certificate

SSL Certificate encrypt the connection from the web server (where websites are hosted) and web browsers (what users use to access the internet, just like Chrome, Safari, Explorer, Brave, etc.)

You can see if a website has an SSL Certificite by looking at the URL, if there is an "s" then the SSL Certicicate is active. For example: http://apple.com vs. https://apple.com

The SSL Certificate protects privacy and secure the connection from middleman attacks, who can jump in between the browser and the web server and hijack your data in some cases. 


As of 2020 it is essential to have an SSL Certificate to rank high in the Google Search Results. 

The installation can be done in one-click with pretty much all web hosting companies. 

The Certificate is valid for one year. 


I use SiteGround for clients’ websites, SiteGround is great for beginners. 

I use WPX Hosting for most of my own websites. 

They both make the setup of the SSL Certificate super easy. 

If you are on WordPress, you may need a plugin called “Really Simple SSL” to make the SSL Certificate kick in. 

If you do eCommerce and haver BIG volumes you may want to get an SSL Certificate specifically designed for eCommerce stores. It is essential, especially if you handle online payments and personaly information. 


Minification of Scripts

There is something called “minification of scripts.”

Long story short, it is a way to “compress” the coding of your website. 

If you have a WordPress website and you use Thrive Themes, you can do this easily within a click or two. There are other ways of doing this, but you may have to do a bit of research. 

When you do the SEO Audit (or a simple loading speed test on GTMetrix.com, “script minification” is one of the elements they look at.)


Troubleshooting SEO issues

Images

If wide and big images are more than 200kb, that is already a problem.

Solution: optimize and compress images by using a WordPress plugin if you are on WordPress, and if you are not on WordPress, use a software on your computer or a 3rd party service (look above, we provided you with the details.)


Processes

Installing too many plugins on WordPress will slow down your website. If you have your own website and you have plenty of tools installed, it is likely that the processes cause delays or use too much memory. 

Solution: uninstall what is not necessary. See which elements are taking too much time and/or too much memory by using the Chrome>View>Developer>Web Developer Tools>Number of Request, Amount Transferred, Resources, Time to Finish


Scripts

If you install too many tracking snippets and have a lot of different scripts, they will slow down the website as they also need to load. Same thing with WordPress Plugins, using too many is counter-productive. 

Solution: get rid of the unimportant stuff, minify the code libraries and bundle them together


WordPress Theme

Some WordPress themes are heavy, and not optimized for the internet at all!

Always get themes from reliable sources, and whenever possible, check the loading speed of the theme on a live website. 

Solution: switch theme or find a way to improve the theme!


DNS records

When you point your domain name to your web server (e.g. artofgrowthmarketing.com to 111.11.111.111,) it is important that you do it according to the instructions of your web host. 

Each web host has a specific way to operate. This is especially true if you also need to configure your CDN and emails as well.

Even advanced techies make mistakes with DNS records; I have seen it countless times. 

Solution: Ping your web server by checking the “A records” and the general “DNS records.” Get assistance from your web host if necessary. Redirect www. to non-www. URL. 


Web Server overloaded 

When you select a web server, it is important that the processor, memory and hard drive fit the requirements of your CMS (Content Management System.) 

For example, if you install WordPress on a web server that barely meets the minimum requirements, the website will be slow. 

If you get too much traffic than the web server can handle, it can be a cause of server overload.

Solutions: Use a CDN to unload traffic from the main Web server. Check if the web server can handle the CMS and the amount of traffic. Shared hosting can also be a cause; if your website is popular, consider getting better web hosting, web hosting that is not shared.


Other Technical SEO elements to consider

  • Page speed: loading time needed to load the page (very important for Google)
  • Images optimization: images are not too heavy
  • Broken links: links that are no longer active on your website (old content, wrong link, etc.)
  • Sitemap.xml: mapping of the posts, pages, categories, etc. 
  • Robot.txt: instructions for crawlers and bots to come crawl the website (e.g. weekly, monthly)
  • …and plenty of other elements like JavaScript minification, Canonical tags to avoid duplicates, Hreflang tags for multilingual content, No-indexing certain content, etc.


Mobile Pop-ups

A few years ago Google announced that websites displaying obtrusive “interstitials” to mobile users would not rank as highly in the search results. Google said that they would banish this type of advertising behavior from the cosmos! If you are wondering what “interstitial” means, it’s Silicon Valley tech-speak for a pop-up ad.


Best practice on mobile

  • Pop-ups like Cookies, GDPR, newsletter sign-ups, Lead Magnets (e.g., PDF download, social proof) do not cover content
  • Small pop-ups only covers 20% of the screen (do not quote me on this, just an approximation), 
  • Pop-ups appear at the top or the bottom of the screen


Website not indexed by Google

What to do when your site is not listed in Google at all

Type in “site:yourwebsite.com” to ask google to crawl the website.

If it is a new domain and a new website, wait at least 24-48 hours and check again.

Bang, done. 


Do you have a sitemap.xml file? 

Do you have a robot.txt file?

Did you submit your website via Google Search Console? 

Do you have Google Analytics installed? 


Also, check the settings of your domain:

Does it point to the right server?

www to non-www redirect set in your DNS settings (where you control the domain name)? 

Typos in the domain name or the server IP address? 


What to do when your business is not ranking for your business name

This is an issue that you will face, especially in the case of Local SEO.

Actions to take: 

  • Verify that listings online on 3rd party platform use the correct business name and the right domain name
  • Check if there are businesses or websites with a similar name, who gather the links instead of your brand’s website. 
  • Check if a competitor is hijacking your brand’s name online. 
  • Build links to your website. 
  • Add your business and link to your website to business directories in your country. Even websites like Yelp can help. 
  • Use your business name as the anchor text. This would like like this: Art of Growth Marketing 


What to do when your rankings have dropped

Get back in shape and get in the SEO ring!

When your ranking drops, it means that other people have been active and stealing your Keywords.


You need to to:

  • Run an SEO Audit
  • Do Keywords Research, a Content Plan and start publishing again. If you are already publishing, ask for the opinion of a professional who will look at the quantitative and qualitative elements of your website.

You can ask us to have a look at your website! 

How to seek professional help for free

https://moz.com/community/q


Content not indexed by Google

When you write content, Google will not automatically make it available to the public. 

Howeveer, people can still access the content within your website or directly inputing the URL in the browser. 


Always keep in mind that Google’s job is to suggest only the most relevant searches to the public. 

In some cases, your content will take a few weeks or months to be indexed. 

And then a few extra weeks or months to bring real traffic. 

Sometimes your content may never be indexed, especially if you are competing for keywords that have high difficulty. 


If you an article is not getting indexed, let’s say 8 months after publishing, the short-term solution would be to rewrite the content with different keywords. 

The long-term solution to this is to do Keywords Research.

In the end, it is always a guess. We never really know what content Google will index!


SEO Practices to Avoid

There are a few things to absolutely avoid when doing SEO:

  • “Black hat” SEO (tactics that are now deemed dishonest and will penalize your website) 
  • Keywords stuffing (using your keywords too many on one webpage or post, that is over the “keyword saturation level”)
  • Linking to irrelevant websites
  • Posting content that is not related to your website’s raison d’être and your topic 
  • Typos, swear words, negative words, spammy comments, etc. 


Analytics for Traffic and User Insights

Web analytics takes in a nutshell or how to measure your success.

For analytics we recommend that you use both Google Analytics and Google Search Console


What is Google Analytics (also called “GA”)

Google Analytics is a free tracking service provided by Google. 

You install a “tracking snippet” (a small piece of code) on your website. 

Google does the rest. 

It takes 2 minutes to install. Anyone can do the installation, even if you do not have a technical background.


What is Google Search Console

A console that gives you insights on how your webpages perform in the Google Search results. 

When you create a new website, you need to log into the Google Search Console to submit the website. You can also see if there are any errors after Google crawled the website. 


Why use Google Analytics

We cannot speak about SEO without speaking about analytics. 

After all, SEO is based on data. 


The reason you should use Google Analytics is to gain insights about your visitors and the webpages they visit on your website. 


Why use Google Search Console

3 good reasons: 

  1. To see which posts and webpages are getting indexed in the Google Search Results. 
  2. Furthermore, to see if there are any issues with your website. 
  3. Last but not least, to know if Google believes your website is mobile-friendly or not.


How to install Google Analytics

  1. You will need a Gmail account. 
  2. Go to analytics.google.com
  3. Create an account. 
  4. Follow the rabbit (there are plenty of step-by-step tutorials online.)

You can follow this “How to install Google Analytics for beginners” tutorial. 

If you use WordPress, the whole process should take about 2-3 minutes. 

Right after installing the snippet, make sure you go back to the Google Analytics dashboard to test the tracking setup. It should be explained as part of the tutorial.  


How to setup Google Search Console

  1. Simply login and follow the instructions!
  2. No code snippet to install.


How to use Google Analytics 

I check Google Analytics once a week. 

Make sure you also look out for trends, seasonality, times of the day, days of the week… anything that can give you insights. 

You can also compare date ranges. Compare data per year, quarter, month, week abd day. This is very useful when you have been accumulating data for more than one year. 


In the left menu of Google Analytics you will see general categories: 

  • Realtime 
  • Audience 
  • Acquisition 
  • Behavior 
  • Conversions


For beginners Audience, Acquisition and Behavior are the most relevant tabs.  

You can play around to see the data. 


First thing I would recommend is to check is mobile users % who visit your website.

Why?

Because Google indexes mobile webpages first. You need to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly as well.


Mobile Users

Check underAudience>Mobile to see how many mobile users visit your website

Pageviews

The number of times a webpage is accessed on your website

Unique Pageviews

The number of times unique visitors accessed a webpage on your website 

Unique Pageviews means that if a user visits a particular webpage 3 times, the pageviews will be 3, but the Unique Pageviews will be 1.

Sessions

You can think of sessions as a visit. When a visitor comes to your website, a session is created. When the visitor leaves, the session ends. 

Users

We talked about Unique Pageviews. 

Well, when someone visits your website, that counts as a user. 

If the same person returns, the person is identified as the previous user; in this instance, no new user is created.  

Users mean that is a user visits your website 5 times, it will only be counted as 1 user in the data analytics. 

Visit Duration

Great way to see which content is more engaging and compelling. 

Duration around 2:00-3:00 minutes is very common, so do not freak out!

With my clients, I usually look at traffic that is over 2 seconds in duration. Setting Visit duration over 2 seconds gives a more precise picture of the traffic in general. 

A lot of crawlers come to your website and will up the bounce rate… using the Over 2 second, settings under Visit Duration helps to have more precise data. You can manually set the data to be over 2 seconds. 

You can do this under Audience>Overview>+Add Segment (manually add duration over 2 seconds)

Webpages

Look at the webpages that bring the most traffic. This indirectly tells you which Keywords you rank for. 

Bounce rate

Visitors that only stay on one page and do not visit another page on your website are “bouncing”.

  • A high bounce rate can be alarming.
  • I would consider a bounce rate over 85% to be critical. 
  • A bounce rate over 70%, something to look at and adjust. 
  • Anything under 70% can be considered normal.

Exit page

The Exit Page is probably as important as the Bounce Rate, if not more important. It shows the percentage of people who exit your website from a specific webpage. 

Conversion Rate

This is particularly important if you want users to take action on your website. 

For example, subscribe to a newsletter, contact you, buy something, download a PDF, etc. 

Goals 

You can setup goals in Google Analytics. 

They are based on the same logic as the Conversion Rate. 

Goals come in handy if you run a business; goals give you an idea if you reach your goals or not. This is for intermediate and advanced users. 


How to use the Google Search Console

Under “Performance” look for:

Clicks 

Number of times your content has been clicked when appearing in the Google Search Results. 

Impressions 

the number of times your content was displayed in the Search Results. 

CTR or Click-Through-Rate

The CTR of Impression and Clicks. It is shown as a percentage.

Position

The position of the content in the Google Search Results. 

Overview 

Look for Errors, Mobile Usability, Breadcrumbs and Sitelink searchbox

URL Inspection

You can also crawl specific URLs by clicking on “URL Inspection.”


Google Tag Manager

As your website grows and gets fed with more content, you can consider using Google Tag Manager to track videos, buttons, and other more detailed elements. 

It requires coding knowledge, so Google Tag Manager is for more advanced users. 


Where to Focus

Everybody has 24-hours in a day. So you need to invest your time in what will bring you the most results. 

Should I invest time and money in SEO

Let us rephrase the question: should you invest in SEO? 

Well, here are some good arguments for investing in SEO: 

  • SEO helps websites get higher rankings. 
  • It also helps websites get quality traffic. 
  • More traffic will bring you more leads.
  • More leads will bring you more money.

Makes sense?

SEO is complicated… but you can reap great rewards in terms of quantity and quality by investing in SEO. We made the DIY SEO guide to explain SEO in a simple way.

I would say that the best way to be successful is to invest in yourself, your knowledge and your skills. SEO is a high-value skill, even if you only intend to use it for your own business. 


The Debate: Paid Ads vs. Organic SEO

Paid ads are an easy way to bring traffic. 

You simply allocate a budget, and the money burns over a couple of days. 

But depending on what your business model and niche are, paid ads can be very expensive. 

When you invest money in ads, the ads are displayed, and the money is gone right after the ad is displayed. Some types of ads only bill you when people click on the ad, depending on the type of. 

Ads are a little bit inefficient. Just like Social Media. Investing in SEO brings organic traffic because the content you make will always be available. 

In Marketing we call ads "push" and organic content "pull." Ads are pushed on people and websites are pulled by people. 

The questions are: 

  • What is your Customer’s Lifetime Value (also called “LTV.”) 
  • How much money do you make with that client from the day they buy to the day they cancel or stop buying?
  • This data already gives you an idea of how much you can put on ads and customer acquisition.

When you invest in SEO, there is an upfront cost in time, effort and money, but the work will keep bringing you organic traffic. 

Organic traffic is traffic that comes “naturally” either directly to your website (e.g. typing apple.com) or via Search Engine (e.g. typing “mobile phone” in Google and clicking on “iPhone X.”)

We are oversimplifying, but we could say that while SEO is a long-term investment that takes time to kick in; SEO brings organic traffic.

 On the other hand, ads are a one-time cost that kicks in instantly; ads bring paid traffic.  


You could allocate part of your budget in ads and SEO. 

If you have a low budget, it may be a better idea to invest time in SEO. 

If you have a lot of money to burn, then investing in ads and SEO can be a good strategy. 

Cool right?


Where to focus ? Google, Bing, Yahoo and/or Baidu?

The short answer is: follow Google’s recommendations. 

Of course, you should still submit your website to Bing and Yahoo to be crawled so that people who use those Search Engines can find your website. 

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, if you do business outside North America and Europe, you may want to explore other Search Engines like Baidu in the case of China, Yandex in the case of Russia, Yahoo for Japan, etc. 

We like to be laser-focus in terms of what we do, so we recommend that people focus rather than expand. 


CPC vs. PPC and CAC/LTV

When you use keywords tools like KWFinder, SEMRush and Ahrefs, they show 4 important metrics about the said Keyword. 

  • Keyword Difficulty
  • Search Volume
  • CPC
  • PPC

Let me explain. 


CPC: Cost-Per-Click, the approximative cost you pay when a user clicks on the ad PER CLICK

PPC: Pay-Per-Click, a type of ads (as opposed to CPM "Cost-Per-Mile," where you pay for IMPRESSIONS, based on 1,000 impressions)

CPM and CPC have their advantages and inconvenients. SPM gives you more brand awareness and exposure while CPC will, in general, have a higher conversion rate. 


Let's see a real-life example:

  • You invest 100$ in a PPC campaign, and the CPC is 5$, you can expect to get 20 clicks. 
  • The way it works is that you target one or multiple keywords per campaign.  
  • Is the pricing data super accurate? No, but it gives you a good idea of the picture. CPC pricing fluctuates depending on the amount of searches and the competition for the keywords you targeted. 


Let’s have a detailed look at CPC and PPC. 

  • With a 100$ PPC campaign targeting a 5$ CPC keyword, you will get 20 clicks; if you have a 10% conversion rate that leads to a sale, it means you convert 2 users into buyers. 
  • The other 90% clicked, but did not buy.
  • So your CAC (Customer-Acquisition-Cost, the amount of money you spend to acquire a new user) for those 2 users is 50$ per user.

If you are selling a Saas software, this means that you need to bill your customers at least 50$ per year to be profitable. We usually calculate the LTV (LifeTime Value,) the amount of money you will get from a buyer, spread over 3 years. So, in this case, the LTV is 150$. 

We say that the 3xCAC = LTV

If you sell a software for 20$ per month, multiply by 12 months to get the CAC and multiply by 36 months to get the LTV. 

Note that the CAC also includes the cost of all the activities you do to acquire new customers: marketing and sales. 

So if you pay someone 200$ to write the ads, you need to add this into your CAC calculation as well. 

Keep in mind that the CAC/LTV calculation is for Saas software. The calculation may be different in your case—for example, margins in the case of eCommerce, affiliates commission percentage in affiliates marketing, etc. 

In conclusion, a good starting point to know how much you can invest in ads is to base your ads budget on your pricing and your Conversion Rate.


Another way would be to figure out all your costs first, then decide on the right pricing strategy. 

This logic applies to all sorts of monetization strategies, whether you monetize by selling consulting services, software, affiliates, etc. 

Makes sense right? 


DIY SEO Tools

Recommended DIY SEO Tools 

SEO tools are essential, even if you are not a technical person or an SEO expert. 

If you are serious about creating content, you need to invest money. 


Paid tools are always have more accurate data than free tools. As time is money, we want to take shortcuts and automate as much as possible.  

If you have a flexible budget, spend money on one software for 50$US, then get a monthly SEO Suite tool for 50$US/month (some tools are more expensive, being priced at 100$US/month.)

I will tell you the exact tools that I use to gain specific insights. Some are free, some paid. I like the 20/80 concept as I leverage the 20% that gives 80% of the results. 


DIY SEO Tools I use

Everybody, and we mean everybody, should use the following basic tools.


Website Traffic Data Tracking

Google Analytics (free) to make tracking reports (data about the number of visitors, where they are from, what webpages they visit, for how long, etc.) Use on a weekly or monthly basis. 


Tracking Website Performance, Keywords you rank for, submit website for crawling

Google Search Console (free) Use when you launch your website to submit the website to Google. Use on a weekly basis to see which keywords you rank for, the CTR and the number of impressions. 


Keywords Tool

KWFinder (49$US/month, 10-day free trial) THE tool to get data (Search Volume, CPC, Keyword Difficulty, country, etc.) and crawl websites to see which keywords they rank for. You can also search the data of up to 200 keywords at the same time. Autocomplete and SERP analysis are also available. Easy-to-use and great User Experience. KWFinder also comes with a plugin you can install in your browser, giving you access to one-click data about your search directly from the SERPs. Use almost daily. 


Generate Lists of Keywords (using autocomplete)

Keyword Snatcher (47$US, one-time payment) The tool looks for Search Results on plenty of different platforms to generate massive lists. For example, input “best backpack” and the tool looks for “best backpack a,” “best backpack b,” etc. It generates keywords based on autocomplete. Great to generate alternative versions of a keyword and Long-Tail Keywords. Use weekly. 


Generate Lists of Keywords (and Long-Tail Keywords)

KeywordShitter2 (free) Generates many keywords combinations. Great to generate Long-Tail Keywords. Use weekly. 

Keyword.io (free and paid) Create an account to use the free version. Generates many keywords combinations. Same as above. Use weekly. 

  

What people are searching for and get keywords combinations

Answer the Public (free) Look up what people are asking (thus, looking for) and make keywords combinations. Use weekly. 

AlsoAsked (free) Similar to Answer the Public. Use weekly. 


Search Bar (Search Volume and CPC)

Keyword Surfer (free) Chrome extension that shows Search Volume and CPC when you Google keywords, information is shown directly next to the search bar. The information is not super accurate, but still reliable. Use daily. 


Website Crawler and Website Data

Screaming Frog SEO (free, pay extra to crawl more than 500 URLs per website) Use when you are doing competitive analysis (you can see all the URLs on a website) and SEO Audit. I use it to see how many keywords per webpage! Use weekly. 


Website Performance test

GTMetrix (free) Used to crawl your website or your client’s website to see plenty of performance-related data like loading speed, etc. Use once in a while. 


SEO Template

Chase Reiner SEO Template (free and paid versions, paid is 200$US) Note: this template works along with SEMRush. Use when I do SEO Audit. 


If you have the budget:

SEO Suite

SEMRush (99$US/month) A little bit better than KWFinder, depending on your needs. SEMRush is a whole suite of SEO tools put together. The tool shows your the paid keywords your competitors rank for, and you can even download the paid keywords AND the ads themselves! I used it in the past and loved it. Will use it again in the near future. 


Ahrefs (99$US/month) One of the best tools out there along with SEMRush. I also like KWFinder, love the layout and User Experience on their platform. 


Ads and Keywords research

Google Ads There are plenty of ads platform on the market! But Google Ads is a great start as you can do research directly in the platform. Remember: the more expensive a keyword is, the more competition there is!


Trends

Google Trends (free) I personally do not use Google Trends, but it can be a good source of information for some niches, but not all niches. 


Other SEO tools

There are a few good players on the market in the case of keywords research tools:


Moz for SEO knowledge and domain SEO Metrics

Keyword Eye Find contextually relevant keywords

Keyword Spy For keywords research

Serpstat Growth hacking for SEO and PPC

Spyfu Search for PPC keywords used by competitors. 

LSI Graph Generate different types of keywords (standard, LSI, Long-Tail)

Long Tail Pro Generate Long Tail Keywords

Keyword Tool Generate keywords (up to 750+ per search term)

Keywords Everywhere Browser extension for keywords, Adwords competition and CPC

Wordstream Keyword Tool Keyword and CPC tool 


If you would like to exchange with others about SEO, please feel free to leave a comment below and share it with everybody. 


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Martin Couture

I help people just like you start, grow and future-proof their online business. After years of creating digital experiences for brands like Disney, Nike, Tiffany, Fendi, BMW, Mercedes... I decided to start blogging and making niche websites. Now, I want to help you achieve what I have achieved. I worked at the 2 biggest independent agencies in the world: Wieden+Kennedy and Serviceplan. Martin Couture is Content Marketing Consultant at the Art of Growth Marketing.

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