When I am doing online consulting with clients I often hear a lot of the same problems from them:
“Ben, creating content takes too much work and time”
“I’m in a boring industry and can’t get links”
“We are a local business with a small budget”
Any of these sound familiar?
Well although lots of time, money, and content can be extremely helpful. There are a lot of things that most companies are already doing that you can leverage to build authority (aka links) to them.
Here is a few of my favorite link building strategies for businesses that DO NOT take a lot of time, money, or content:
- Profile Pages
- Job & Career Pages
- Coupon / Discount Pages
“Ben’s absolute focus on delivering sales and results lead us to increase our revenue by 30% in just 6 months. We don’t hesitate to recommend him to anyone who needs to improve their results online.”
Content strategy & TV shows surprisingly have a lot in common.
- They take a lot of time and resources to produce
- They have to be quality or the audience will leave
- When done right it, they can be very profitable
So how do TV producers know if a brand new show will be a hit? Is it all luck?
Well, when Netflix was trying to decide what their first original series should be they looked at the main parts of the show, which are the content, director, and the main actor.
Netflix researched their user database and found that the British House of Cards show, director David Fincher, and actor Kevin Spacey all had very high ratings. Combining all three into one show made the American version of House of Cards a promising show that turned out to be a huge success!
Similar to the success of House of Cards, in order to develop a content strategy you need to find the main parts of a campaign which are:
- What is the correct topic?
- What websites and authors cover the topic the most?
- What content has gotten the most engagement?
How to Find the Sweet Spot
The best tool I’ve found to discover the most popular content on any topic is called Buzzsumo. In my experience starting with short broad terms like SEO, Cyber Security, or Car Insurance get the best results.
If you are not familiar with Buzzsumo, it is a tool that shows the content with the most shares and influencers around the topic searched. For this post, I’ll be using cyber security as the example.
Export to CSV
Buzzsumo is great for finding opportunities but not at analyzing trends and opportunities. In order to do this, I immediately export all the results to a CSV so I can start manipulating the data in Excel.
If you want to become awesome at Excel, check out my friend Annie Cushings blog – her tutorials have helped me greatly improve my excel skills.
3 Ways To Know What Content To Create That People Will Love
1) Find Trends with a Word Cloud
Grab all the titles from the spreadsheet and drop them into a word cloud to quickly find trends in what words authors are using most to cover a topic. If it is a small batch of terms, I like using TagCrowd because it shows how often the word is used. For larger data sets, I use Jason Davies tool, which makes the words bigger the more often they are used.
You can see in the image below that articles around cyber security tend to be positioned around hacking, business, and government.
2) Find Trends in Publication Dates
When you export from Buzzsumo it gives you the most shared articles on a topic over the last 12 months. If you take the publication dates and chart them by month you can see if the topic has some seasonality.
Be sure to check out peaks to see if it is something seasonal (holidays, the Super Bowl, winter etc) OR just a hot topic that happened and will not repeat every year such as when Sony got hacked, when there are political elections, or when a famous celebrity passes away.
If you are able to find a seasonal trend around your topic you will know which months are best to publish your content in order to get the best response.
3) Find Which Sites Cover the Topic Most
Out of all the tips this is the one I find most important! You’ll see what I mean.
Go to your spreadsheet and add 2 new columns:
1) Root Domain Column– We want to see what the main website for each of the articles is. This alone is not very helpful, but just wait. The great thing about this formula is that it works in Excel or Gdocs.
Formula To Use – =LEFT([@url],SEARCH(“/”,[@url],9))
2) Times Covered– Now that we know what the root domain is, we can count how many times that domain covers the topic! We can see if a website talks about Cyber Security 1x a year or 50x’s! The more they cover the subject the more likely they will want to be pitched on it.
Formula To Use – CountIF
Now as you look at your data you can see what articles get the most shares and who covers the topic most often! As you can see from the screen shot below TheDailyBeast.com had the most social shares, but only covers the topic of cyber security once. In contrast TheHackerNews.com gets a lot of social shares and covered the topic over 200 times in the last year!
This information is extremely helpful in knowing what topics to cover and how to pitch editors.
Want More Content Marketing Tips?
If you are serious about content marketing I still have a few more tips up my sleeve! Click below to download the rest of my tips on content marketing.
Download The 7 Ways to Find What Content to Create That Your Audience Will Love
What’s Hardest Part Of Content Marketing For You?
I want to make sure that I’m helping my readers with what they are struggling with. Let me know what the hardest part of content marketing in the comments and if I get enough of the same question I’ll be sure to blog about it soon.
We know the saying that Time = Money, which means that the more productive are with our time the more earning potential we have. Below is a list of my favorite productivity tools that literally save me hours every week! The best part is most of them are completely free! Enjoy.
Cost:$10/month – Get your 30 day free trial
What it is: A Social media editorial calendar to schedule posts to be shared on your social media platforms days, weeks, and months in advance! Also I like how they help you include images to be shared.
How it saves time: Being able to set up all of my social sharing for each my posts all at once is a huge timesaver. I can set it and forget it.
Cost: Free version or $10/month
What it is: Whenever you come across a great piece of content it is a pain to log into all a social account to share it. With Buffer App you put the content in your queue which will then share it across your major social profiles at the most optimized times.
How it saves time: My 15 minutes of reading in the morning can be shared throughout the day and I never have to leave the article I’m reading.
Cost: Free or $5/month
Get the Chrome extension!
What it is: Evernote is amazing on helping me collect and organize EVERYTHING in my life. Get the chrome extension in order to screenshot, save, and organize anything you see online.
How it saves time: Putting items into Evernote and tagging them doesn’t take me very much time to do and is a HUGE life saver when you need to recall information quickly.
Cost: Free (Pay for some stock images if you want)
What it is: You like that image at the top? Would you believe it only took me 1 minute to create! Really, this tool has saved me so much time creating quick graphics for my blog posts and to include in my social shares to gain more attention and clicks.
How it saves time: I am not a designer! Photoshop & Adobe Illustrator scare me. Using this tool helps me to make decent images fast and effectively.
Cost: $29/month – Get your 14 day free trial
What it is: Buzzstream is a CRM (Customer Relation Management) system made specifically for online marketers.
How it saves time: This tool is vital to my own consulting! Buzzstream helps speed up and monitor my emails, find new relationships, and links built.
Cost: Free Or $72/year
Get the Chrome Extension
What it is: Track how you spend your time on you computer. Get reports on trends to understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive.
How it saves time: It’s hard to fight facts and when I see that I’ve spent literally days in a month on YouTube, Facebook, or NetFlix it motivates me to do better. I like the “Get Focused” feature that blocks you from being able to go to non-productive sites like Facebook or ESPN.com for short periods of time.
Cost: Free or $12/year
What it is: Helps create and remember your strong passwords so that you can focus on the more important things in life.
How it saves time: How many times do you put in a password a day? Somedays it feels like hundreds, well LastPass can quickly fill in your password, personal information, or credit cards information securely on any site.
What it is: Google’s open source and cloud based equivalent to Microsoft Office.
How it saves time: Make sharing and working on the correct files seamless and simple. No more working on the old and wrong excel spreadsheet!
What it is: Hides annoying ads from appearing or popping up on your screen.
How it saves time: Pop up ads are distracting and annoying. This extension will save you from plenty of clicks and distracting ads.
What it is: Trello is a cloud based collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards.
How it saves time: Like Google Docs I like having my schedule and to do list easy to access from anywhere.
What it is: Unroll.me helps you more easily manage your inbox by combining subscriptions and spammy emails into one daily email. Only leaving
How it saves time: Quickly read through all of your non-urgent emails in one place and easily 1 click unsubscribe.
How Do You Save Time?
What tips or tools do you use to be more productive? Please share in the comments.
As online marketers we are always on the look out to make our jobs easier! The problem is most of the time the tool only does one thing well so in order to do a task like a site audit you have to use several tools. It can get to be really frustrating and expensive when each tool comes with a monthly fee.
One of the best SEO tools for the price is SEMrush because it is like a swiss army knife that allows you to accomplish so much while still being a reasonable monthly cost.
I’ve broken this post down into two checklists of everything that this SEMrush can do to help you quickly audit a site, their backlink profile, paid ad campaigns and then do the same to check out the competition. These checklists are especially helpful when you are just getting started on a project and need to find out everything they are doing.
Site Audit Checklist
When starting with any website you want to look at a broad overview to see if any big red flags jump out at first. The SEMrush site overview dashboard is great because it shows you an overview of all of your online efforts in site architecture, backlinks, paid advertising, and the competition all in one place. If you do find any red flags just simply click to view a full report for that section to find out more.
Often times the easiest & fastest way to improve a website’s success is to fix technical errors and site architecture. If a search engine can not crawl your site, finds lots of broken links, or the pages are not optimized than it will be really difficult to get rankings. The SEMrush site audit is a fast way to see if your site has any major problems to fix.
Pro Tip: Focus on fixing crawling & linking problems because these will have a greater impact across the site. Onsite optimization is important, but depending on how much time it takes to go in and optimize H1’s & image alt tag’s you could focus on higher priority tasks that we will review in other sections like building links or capturing more traffic with expanding your keyword research.
Organic Positions (Creating A Hit List)
This is my favorite feature of SEMrush! With the positions feature SEMrush checks their database (which is over 40 million keywords and growing) to see where the domain you enter is ranking in the top 20 results!
This is huge for an online marketer to see how the domain is already doing in rankings. It is A LOT EASIER to take a webpage that is already ranking for a keyword and improve it than to try and build a new page from scratch and hope it ranks.
How To Create A Priority List Of Pages With SEMrush
Since it is easier to improve rankings for pages that are already ranking than trying to create new pages or improve pages that don’t rank. Here are the steps in SEMrush to help you find a hit list of pages to focus on & improve.
Step 1: Go to the Positions report under Organic Rankings in SEMrush
Step 2: Export the full report into Excel or Gdocs so you can leverage filters
Step 3: Filter the report in for keywords ranking 3 – 12 because these will be easier to improve rankings.
Step 4: Organize by URL so you can see how many keywords that page is ranking for.
Step 5: Find the sum of the keywords search volume by URL and now you have a list of URL’s that you can start focusing on improving rankings for.
Position Changes Section (Any Red Flags?)
After creating a hit list of pages to target and improve ranking also be sure to use the SEMrush Position Changes report to find if you have any pages that have fallen or are on the decline.
Step 1: Go to the Positions Changes report under Organic Rankings in SEMrush
Step 2: Select Lost Keywords and then export the full report into Excel or Gdocs so you can leverage filters
Step 3: Filter the report in for keywords that dropped 5+ positions because this is a significant change. Keywords often can move around a couple of positions everyday but 5 usually means a permanent change that you want to know about.
Step 4: Organize by URL so you can see how many keywords that page was ranking for before but no longer is.
Step 5: Find the sum of the keywords search volume by URL and now you have a list of URL’s to investigate why we lost ranking. It could be a technical issue, needs more content & backlinks, or other reasons.
Once you’ve seen what a site is doing organically it is a good idea to check and see if they are doing anything on the paid advertising side. SEMrush is not 100% accurate but it is great at getting you an idea of what the website is targeting.
Spend some time looking to see if they do PPC, Display, or Product Listing Ads (PLA’s) which can help you as an online marketer know what keywords they really value and the ads they are using. Getting traffic for the same keywords as paid without the cost can be a huge victory for any business.
Pro Tip: A study has shown that when a website shows up in paid & organic that the click through for the organic listing dramatically improves. Even if they are not ranking #1.
Current Paid Search Positions
PPC Ads Copy
Product Listing Ads
Sorry Zappos doesn’t seem to be doing PLA’s so I had to use Walmart as an example who seems to be using PLA’s heavily.
After you’ve taken care of the technical problems and the pages are optimized the next step is to build authority to your page. Building authority is important because anyone can go out today and build a technically sound website and optimize it for the same keywords as you!
One of the major factors to help search engines prioritize who should rank 1 – 10, especially in competitive niches, is looking at backlinks the webpage has from authoritative sites.
The SEMrush backlinks section has really improved, although I think Majestic OR Ahrefs are stronger backlink tools, the SEMrush backlink tool is great considering all the other tools you get with it.
Looking at the SEMrush backlinks overview report you can quickly see if the website has any big red flags. Some common red flags I look for are:
- Very few “no follow” links
- Majority of links come from an uncommon source like images or frames
- Un-natural amount of links from countries or TLD’s that don’t align with your site
Drilling Down Into Backlinks
Once I’ve seen there are no big red flags in the overview I like to start drilling down into the actual links to see what has worked for this domain to build up their current backlink profile.
Step 1: Go to the Backlinks report under Backlinks in SEMrush
Step 2: You can try to use the backlink filters, but I like to export the full report into Excel or Gdocs in order to leverage filters
Step 3: From this export you can use the SEO Tools for Excel plugin to analyze the backlinks more easily. Matthew Barby has a good tutorial on how to use the SEO Excel plugin.
Another way to find great opportunities is to find keywords that have high demand (a.k.a search volume) but low competition. Finding these
Phrase Match Report
The Keyword Phrase Match Report helps find keywords and search volume that include the query you originally searched for. If you look at the screen shot for Zappos below you will see all of the different keyword queries people around “Zappos”.
Related Keyword Report
The Related Keyword Report helps find keywords and search volume for terms related to the query originally entered. If you look at the screen shot below for the term “Zappos” you will see related terms like online shoes, shoe store, and online shopping sites.
Finding these related terms can lead to finding new opportunities to capture more traffic and leads.
When you find new keywords to target you want to know how competitive it would be to rank for that term before investing a lot of time and resources into it.
With the SEMrush keyword difficulty tool you can check the ranking difficulty of upto 100 keywords at a time! The higher the percentage the more difficult it is to rank for that term.
How does the SEMrush keyword difficulty tool work? SEMrush takes the list of domains that are ranking in Google or Bing top 20 organic search results for the given keyword. Based on each website’s SEMrush Rank, they calculate their domain strength, and define the average number range, from 1 to 100%. ( SEMrush source)
Lastly if you want to see the actual search results for that term you can easily do that by clicking on the “SERP Source” section.
Competition Audit Checklist
Once you’ve gone through and done an audit on your own website it is time check out the competition to see what is needed to beat them online.
If you do not know who your competitors are, SEMrush is great identifying the domains that you are competing against most often online. Businesses usually think the competitors they have in print or radio are the same as online, but they are usually completely different.
Competitor Report (Under Organic Research)
SEMrush Domain VS Domain Tool
After looking at the Competitor Report under Organic Search you can take the top competitors and drop them into the Domain VS Domain tool.
For Zappos I picked some of their top competitors and you can how they compare in organic rankings, PPC, PLA. Simply filter the report to what you want and then export it into excel and find trends of what competitors are beating you at and then you can dig in to see how they are doing it.
Domain VS Domain Organic Ranking Report
Domain VS Domain Organic Ranking Report
If you are more of a visual person like I am you can click on the chart to see how each brand overlaps in organic search.
Repeat Site Audit Checklist On Competitors
Once you know who your top competitors are you can go through and audit each of them to find
- Organic Positions – What are they ranking well for?
- Paid Media – What ads do they use? What can we learn?
- Backlinks – Are they getting links that we are missing out on?
The SEMrush API
Just when you think SEMrush is all out of tools you find out that you can access their database that tracks 40 million keywords via the API to create your own reports and diagnosis.
If you are not very good at coding and API’s (like I am) then I suggest checking out Sean Malseed’s site RankTank.org where he has put together several Gdoc tools that use the SEMrush API to get more done.
What Tool Can You Not Live Without?
SEMrush is one of those tools I use all of the time and it just keeps getting better. I want to know what tools can you not live without?
If you haven’t tried SEMrush I suggest you start a free trial.
Goals Are Important, But Hard To Set
We all know that striving to meet goals in life in general helps us to accomplish more than if we didn’t. Goals cause us to change our behavior which makes them hard. Just look at New Years resolutions, 25% of people drop their resolutions within the first week.
What You Will Learn In This Post:
- Defining what a root goal is
- The formula of finding a root goal
- The benefits of a root goal
- How to set up a root goal
Finding Your Root Goal
When starting any project make sure you begin with defining the Root Goal. A Root Goal is the one KPI that drives all other goals and decisions. [Tweet This]
I find Root Goals by performing the Why Test. It was developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation to discover the root of any problem and fix it, which is why I call them Root Goals.
Example Of Finding A Root Goal
If you know a 5-year-old they’ve probably put you through the “Why Test” by asking you “how does rain works?”, “why they need to go to bed early?” or the dreaded “where do babies come from?”.
As fun (or annoying) these conversations can be with a 5-year-old it is amazing at how going through the Why Test can un-ravel the Root Goal of a company.
Here is a how a conversation I will typically have with a client when deciding on the main goals of a project.
Benefits of having a Root Goal
Easy To Focus On One Goal
You have to be able to organize and prioritize your company goals and resources. Creating a single root goal helps simplify the business goals and gives you a clear direction.
Easily Prioritize & Make Decisions
When you only have one goal to focus on it makes decision-making simple & fast!
Once you have your Root Goal, you only have to ask the following question. “Does this help us (insert Root Goal)?”. If the answer is yes you do it, if no then you are not doing it. How simple is that?
There will still be debate on what should be prioritized over what, but there is no question on what the goal is. This focus will help unite your team and give them a common language to relate to each other.
Striving Towards Success
Since the root goal is directly aligned to success as long as you are making progress towards the goal the company is on its way to success. Unlike other metrics like rankings or social shares that can be helpful but often times should not be the goal.
Keeping Track Of Your Root Goal
Once you’ve discovered what your root goal is you need to be sure that you are able to measure and report on that goal. I love this quote from Thomas S Monson:
Steps To Measuring Your Goal
Step 1: Write down your goal
Step 2: Post it somewhere you see it every day (Here is an image of mine for getting email subscribers)
Step 3: Share it with someone to hold you accountable (You can email me )
Step 4: Setup ways to track your goal (Download examples of how to track your goals)
Download The Worksheet
Download how to set up & track root goals. Comes with examples of what goals of successful online companies and what they are tracking.
Let’s Talk About Your Root Goals?
I want the comments to be a place where we can all engage on this topic and not just for spammers to blow up my inbox.
Let me know what your Root Goal is for your personal life or business.
Who wants more searchers to click on their site versus the competitor that outranks them?
I know I do!
This is why I made The Ultimate Guide On SERP Optimization.
This guide literally shows you all the strategies to help your site stand out from the competition and capture more clicks and traffic!
In each chapter you will get:
- Walk through on how to do the strategy
- Shown what tools to use
- FAQ section to answer your top questions
- Collection of the best additional resources on the topic
Outline of each chapter:
Chapter #1 SERP Optimization Explained – This chapter will explain the history of SERP’s (search engine result pages) and the benefits of having your site stand out.
Chapter #2 How To Optimize Meta Descriptions – Meta Descriptions are the easiest strategy to implement and can effects 100% of the search results that your pages appears in!
Chapter #3 How To Get Video Snippets – Get your videos to show up in the search results
Chapter #4 How To Use Schema Structured Data – Marking up your website with schema allows you to put the most important information for the customer like reviews & price directly on the search page.
Chapter #5 How To Optimize Google Carousel – This is a new feature that Google has rolled out and is a must read if you are in a local or entertainment industry.
Chapter #6 How To Win At The Knowledge Graph – Helping the search engine understand your site as an entity can help you dominate for branded terms.
Chapter #7 Using PPC To Help Increase SEO CRO – Leveraging PPC to take up more real estate on the page can lead to increases in organic clicks! Let me show you how.
Click here to read The Ultimate Guide On SERP Optimization.
One more thing:
I think you’ll really like the Ultimate Guide on SERP optimization. I plan on making this an up to date resource of the internet’s best content on standing out in the search results. If you have an article or guide that you think I should include, please leave a comment below.
P.S. If you found this helpful please tweet about the The Ultimate Guide On SERP Optimization.
P.P.S. You would be doing me a HUGE FAVOR by reading The Ultimate Guide On SERP Optimization, sharing it via Twitter and LinkedIn, and leaving me a comment to let me know what you think.
As a lot of people are thinking about what they are going to do this 4th of July weekend I have actually been reflecting on where I’ve come in the last year.
This time last year I was working in an amazing city (Philiadelphia!) for a great Online Marketing Agency (SEER Interactive) where I had great clients (Sorry NDA’s) & amazing co-workers (too many to name).
Yes, life was good!
So Many Strategies – So Little Time
With online marketing there are a ton of strategies that you can do for a client. If you need some strategy inspiration check out Point Blank SEO’s Link Building Strategies list.
With so many options it can be difficult to prioritize what strategies to do in order to best help your clients.
I come across a lot of people who have heard that they need to be “building links” but they do not know what that means or “who gives links?”.
To answer the first question – “What is link building?”.
Link Building is the active pursuit of getting other websites to link to yours.
The rest of this post we’ll be answer your question “Who gives links?”.