Lesson #3: Keywords are very, very, very, very important
When I used to write my content, I didn’t obsess about the keywords when I should have.
My team actually proved me wrong on this.
I used to focus on writing content for humans and didn’t worry about search engines. My team, on the other hand, obsesses about keywords.
Just look at the growth of our traffic in Brazil because of our obsession with the right keywords.
One simple thing I do before writing that has really helped is I head over to Ubersuggest and type in a few of the keywords that I want to go after.
Once it loads, you’ll see a report like the one above. I want you to then click on “Keyword Ideas” in the left-hand navigation.
You’ll see a report that contains a list of keywords that you could potentially be targeting.
Make sure you click on the “Related” tab, as well as “Questions” and “Comparisons” … scroll through the list. You’ll see hundreds of keywords. Pick all of the ones that are relevant and ideally have a high cost per click (CPC). These are the keywords that’ll not only drive traffic but revenue as well.
Whenever I write a blog post, I go through this step. Every single time.
Lesson #4: AMP pages can drive more SEO traffic
AMP pages load faster on mobile devices than non-AMP pages.
If you aren’t familiar with the AMP framework, read this.
What most people won’t tell you about AMP pages is that:
In regions like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, countries with decent Internet infrastructure, you won’t see much of an increase in traffic.
In regions with poor Internet infrastructure, like Brazil, you’ll see a 10 to 15% lift in mobile SEO traffic by having AMP pages.
AMP pages don’t convert visitors into customers as well as normal responsive web design. So, you’ll have to work on testing your AMP pages so you can boost your conversion rates.
Lesson #5: SEO will never convert as well as paid ads
When I started off with SEO, I would run projections on how much the traffic would make me.
But the numbers were always off, even if I was able to get the rankings.
Here’s the main reason: If you are bidding on terms like auto insurance through ads, you can drive people to a landing page that looks like this:
It doesn’t mean SEO is bad. In reality, it’s much cheaper in the long run than paid ads and will produce a better ROI. But don’t just assume that if you get 100 visitors from paid ads and 3 purchases that you’ll have the same conversion rate with your SEO traffic.
Chances are it will be significantly lower by maybe 2 or 3x, but because SEO is cheaper, it will be much more profitable.
Lesson #6: Remarketing is one of the best ways to generate an ROI from SEO
If you get a ton of traffic from SEO, there is a simple strategy you can implement to boost your conversions.
Remarket everyone on Facebook, Google, and YouTube.
That way people come to your site, read your content, and build trust with you and your brand.
Then you remarket them throughout the web with ads that prompt your products or services and send them to a landing page that will drive sales.
I’ve been doing this for years, just look at my old remarketing ad…
For the regions I use remarketing in, it is responsible for 46% of my leads.
Lesson #7: Don’t forget to update your old content
I publish one new blog post a week. I’m working on increasing this as I get more time, but for now, it is one a week.
Can you guess how many blog posts I update on a daily basis? Technically it is 0 (me at least), but my team focuses on updating at least 3 old blog posts per day. That’s roughly 90 a month.
Once you have a few hundred pages, make sure you focus on updating your old content or else your traffic will quickly drop.
Another simple hack is to use the “Content Ideas” report in Ubersuggest.
On the right side of that report, you can see social share counts from Facebook and Pinterest. And on the left side, you see titles of articles.
Typically, if people like a title they share it more. So, look for titles that have a lot of shares as it will give you ideas on what you can use on your website to get more clicks and boost your rankings.
Lesson #9: Don’t put dates in your URL
I used to put dates in my URLs like:
This causes search engines to assume that your content is related to a specific date. And after that date gets old, search engines assume your content is irrelevant and outdated.
The moment I removed the date from my URLs, I grew my SEO traffic by 58% in 30 days.
It’s pretty easy to spot a guest post for both a human and algorithm…
But if you are using it to build a brand, great. Focus on the content quality and not links.
Lesson #14: Don’t forget to interlink
Do you know what some of my highest ranked pages are?
The ones that are interlinked.
It takes anywhere from 6 months to a year for many of the interlinks to kick in, but it is still effective none-the-less.
Every time I wrote content, I used to make sure I link out to my older pieces of content when it made sense. But I made a big mistake… I wasn’t going into my older pieces of content and then adding links to my newer pieces of content.
That one change was game-changing for me. It took time to see the results but it worked exceptionally well.
It’s how I rank high for terms like “email marketing”.
Lesson #15: Google isn’t the only game in town
Although Google is the most popular search engine, it isn’t the only one you need to focus on.
Did you know that YouTube is the second most popular search engine?
Focus on writing high-quality content. It’s why I blog less and try to make my content amazing.
Lesson #18: Tools are better than content marketing
I used to focus all of my energy on content marketing because it drove a lot of links and SEO traffic.
But over time, I realized that creating free tools builds more natural links than anything else I have ever tested.
Just look at Ubersuggest. I spent years creating it and look at how many links it has generated…
30,603 backlinks! That’s a lot of links.
If you don’t have the resources to build a custom tool like me, you can always start with buying a white label tool from Code Canyon for $10 or $20. They literally have tools for almost all industries.
Lesson #19: Don’t rely only on SEO
When I first got started in SEO, all I could think about was SEO.
To me, it was the best marketing channel out there because it allowed me to compete with large companies.
Even to this day, I still love SEO more than any other channel.
But it doesn’t stop me from leveraging other marketing channels.
See, years ago you could build a business off of one marketing channel.
Yelp was built through SEO. Dropbox through social media referrals. Facebook through email invites…
Those days don’t exist anymore. You can’t just build your traffic from one channel.
Although you should do SEO, you should also try paid ads, social media marketing, email marketing, push notifications, and anything else that comes out.
Diversify your traffic sources and don’t just rely solely on SEO.
Lesson #20: People love linking to data
Spending money and time to gather your own unique data is an easy way to build links.
Within a two-year period, from 2010 to 2012, 47 infographics generated 2,512,596 visitors and 41,142 backlinks from 3,741 unique domains. They also generated 41,359 tweets and 20,859 likes.
If you don’t have money to hire a designer, you can use Infogram or Canva to create one on your own.
Lesson #22: Google doesn’t penalize for duplicate content
You don’t want to post tons of duplicate content on your site as it’s not the best user experience, but keep in mind that Google doesn’t penalize you for duplication.
They may not just rank the duplicate content as well.
So, if you spend all of this time producing amazing, unique content, why not publish it FIRST on your own website.
Then after a few hours or days if you want to be safe, take that exact content and publish it on Facebook, LinkedIn, and anywhere else that will accept your content.
Literally, take all of the words and paste them onto those social channels.
It will get you extra awareness and branding. Plus, the content should already be indexed on your site, so Google knows it came from your first… and I doubt you care if the duplicated version on LinkedIn ranks. That’s still great branding.
In other words, don’t be afraid to repurpose your content even if it causes duplication.
Just look at this post, for example. I’m also repurposing it into a 4-part podcast series.
Lesson #23: Don’t recreate the wheel
I used to spend hours a week doing keyword research trying to figure out what new terms to rank for.
Eventually, I figured out an easier and better way to find new content topics and keywords to go after.
Go to Ubersuggest, type in your competitor’s domain name and hit search.
In the left-hand navigation click on Top Pages.
You’ll see a report that shows you all of the popular pages on your competition’s website. This will give you ideas for the type of pages you should create on your website.
Then I want you to click “View All” under Est. Visits (estimated visits). This will show you all of the keywords that drive traffic to that page.
You now have a list of topics and keywords for each topic to go after.
Lesson #24: Don’t pick a generic domain name
Remember how in Lesson 11 I talked about brand queries and how they helped rankings?
After I learned that, I decided to go buy exact match domain names where the domain name was the keyword.
That way I would get lots of brand queries without trying.
Well, there’s an issue… even if you rank high, what you’ll find is you will have a low click-through rate in most cases.
If you have a low click-through rate, it tells Google your brand isn’t strong and people don’t prefer it, which can hurt your ranking.
So instead of focusing on exact match domains, unless you have millions to spend on branding like Hotels.com, focus on building a memorable brand.
Pick something that is unique, easy to spell, and easy to remember.
Lesson #25: Learn from blackhat SEOs, but don’t go over to the dark side
Blackhat SEOs come up with some interesting data and experiments.
Many of them don’t work for long, but they are interesting none-the-less.
Although I don’t recommend practicing blackhat SEO, I do recommend following them.
People there share some interesting insights, especially every time there is a major Google algorithm update.
Again, I don’t recommend practicing blackhat SEO, but following them may help you uncover “white hat” techniques that can increase your rankings. Not everything they do is bad… many of them use legitimate tactics as well.
Lesson #26: Short URLs rank better than long ones
My URLs used to be the title of my blog post.
For example, with this post I would have used this URL in the past…
URLs at position #1 are on average 9.2 characters shorter than URLs that rank in position #10. So, keep them short.
Lesson #27: The power’s in the list
If you want your content to rank high on Google, you need more people to see it.
Whether it is from social shares, or from push notifications or email blasts… the more people that see your content, the more engagement it will get, and the more people that will link to it.
I used to do a ton of manual outreach every time I published a new blog post and I would email people asking them to link to me.
And it works, it’s just time consuming and a pain.
These days, I have a better strategy… send out an email blast every time I publish a new post.
I can now get anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 clicks per email I send out.
Now of course you won’t get that from day one as it took me years to build up my email list.
But you can start today by collecting emails. You can easily do that through Hello Bar.
And as your list grows, so will the clicks to your blog and the number of links you get, which in turn will increase your rankings.
Lesson #28: Don’t let your foot off the peddle
This was one of the hardest lessons I learned.
It’s exhausting to continually blog and do your own SEO. Sometimes you just want a break.
With my old blog, Quick Sprout, I used to publish 12 blog posts a month and I did that consistently for 3 years.
One day I decided that I wanted to stop for a month. So, I took a 30-day break.
Guess what happened to my traffic?
It tanked by 32%.
So, then I started blogging again. And guessed what happened to my traffic after I started blogging?
It didn’t come right back.
It took me 3 months to get back to where I was.
When things are working for you, don’t slow down. Keep pushing harder, even if you are exhausted. Because the moment you stop, you’ll drop, and it is a lot of work to get back to where you were.
Lesson #29: The best SEO advice comes from conferences
The best SEO advice I have ever learned over the years has come from conferences.
And no, I don’t mean by sitting in on the sessions, although you can learn from those too.
The best SEO secrets and advice I learned came from networking. When you go to these conferences, hundreds if not thousands of other SEOs are there. And when you go to the bar after hours and mingle with people, you’ll quickly pick stuff up.
You’ll be shocked at what people tell you. It’s how I learned a lot of the good tactics that I still use today.
Lesson #30: Never stop learning
This one may sound obvious but when things are going well, people get complacent.
Just think about that for a bit… that’s roughly 9 algorithm updates per day.
Because they are changing so quickly, you won’t survive if you don’t stay up to date.
Yes, the ideal strategy is to do what’s best for your users or visitors as in the long run, Google wants to promote those sites, but it doesn’t mean that you can ignore the changes happening in the industry.
Read all of the SEO blogs out there, attend conferences as I mentioned above… experiment on test sites… push yourself to be better.
That drive of always improving and always wanting to learn more has helped me tremendously. It’s one of the reasons for my growth in rankings over the years.
There are a lot of lessons that you will learn as your rankings grow and as you spend more time on SEO.
But hopefully, you don’t have to waste time and go through the same mistakes I made. You don’t want to learn these lessons the hard way.
That’s why I decided to share them. I want to save you the time and help you achieve your traffic goals faster.