Growth Study: The Exact SEO Strategy We Used To Grow A 1,500,000 Visitors/Month Website
This strategy isn’t right for everyone…
It is designed for aggressive online businesses that sell info products or are ecomm. If you want to grow to millions of monthly visitors, hundreds of thousands of leads, and tens of thousands of customers each year, then THIS is the system for you to do it.
We grew the site to now over 1,500,000 monthly visitors organically, and became one of the leaders in online personal finance.
This doesn’t include other websites built into the sales funnel or other traffic sources.
In this article I hope to show you exactly what is working in SEO to grow a major e-commerce and info product online business.
The info below is not theories or assumptions, but cold.hard.facts about one of the biggest players in this space.
Are you ready?
Link Building (Do Not Skip To This Part. Read the post first.)
CONTENT UPGRADE HERE
While there are numerous factors to our explosive SEO growth, there are only a handful that were heavily focused on religiously:
- Masterpiece Levels Of Content
- Link Building To Epic Proportions
- Insane Engagement From The SERP’s
This list above is what I would consider the 20% in the 80/20 rule.
Once we got the traffic, we created highly optimized optin’s for their audience to enter their emails and become leads. This has allowed them to grow their email list an additional 828,062 this year. Yeah… re-read that number again.
Enter, The Strategy
Their (the clients) team decided to put crazy focus on content marketing and SEO efforts.
The keywords that we are ranking for the highest are big seed keywords.
(This screenshot is from Neil Patel’s free seo tool, Ubersuggest.)
This is a keyword that we rank #2-3 for. These are difficult keywords to go after and to have so many of them begs the question… How the hell did we grow to 1,500,000 monthly unique visitors? Before I answer that question, I have to say something…
Yes, I know SEO changes more times in a week, let alone a day, than we can keep track of. Yes, I know SEO is not exactly simple, and often (most) times quite complicated. Yes, I know there are many SEO strategies out there that work or at least claim to..
All I’m here to do is share what’s worked for us repeatedly, time after time.
Our process is simple, repeatable, and freaking gets results… As long as you start with the right foundations.
So, back to the strategies that grew us so quickly?
These foundations are not exactly the norm, so don’t read this aloud wherever you are right now…
The first one is…
We listen to our customers.
Many SEO’s out there start with maybe looking at the competitors and seeing what they are doing.
They might, as most do, start with keyword research and intent.
Or even start with SERP intent (if you start here… respect).
But, we start with interviews of our paying customers. We really try to understand them, where they are coming from and the problems they so desperately need solved.
We start our SEO process here because they are the actual paying customers.
Why would you want to start with all these keywords that you ASSUME will lead you to understanding your customers problems when you can just ask them?
We ask them simple questions like (make sure you record the calls with permission):
- Why did you buy X product?
- How did it help you?
- What were you expecting it to help you with?
- Why us vs anyone else?
- What are you trying to achieve/solve?
- What obstacles are/were you facing in trying to solve X?
- In going after this goal/achievement, what fears did/do you have?
- What 2-3 burning questions do/did you have?
- What did you (or do you hope) to benefit from purchasing X product?
- What have you done to try to reach this goal/achievement, but had no luck with?
But, the interesting thing is this…
As you talk to them and begin to understand what their problems are and what they need solved…. THEY literally give you keywords you can actually use for research. 🙂
I would recommend interviewing as many people as possible. We always do at least 20 – 30.
I go for 20-30 because the more data you have the higher chance you have of your data being accurate.
BUT, 5 should be solid if customers are actually helpful. But some won’t. Further, you’ll likely get different results for different customer personas. Sometimes you need to get more to confirm new hypotheses from what customers told you. Which goes back to why I recommend 20-30.
To get them on the phone I simply emailed them telling them I’m doing customer research, so I can create content that best serves them. In addition to telling them that, if I’m in a position to give them a discount or free product to get them on the call, I’ll do that. 🙂
Once you have that info you can easily take your research online.
For this research we used tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, Similar Web, Ubersuggest and other various keyword research tools, but those are the big ones.
This is not a post on keyword research, so I am not going to get into that much more. That will be a future post.
By now, you should have a list of keywords. Most good SEO’s will now try to understand the KW (keyword) intent, which is needed, but you shouldn’t stop there because months later after you produced all your content, built your links you may discover you are still not ranking…
So how do you avoid that?
As SEO’s, we all do research to try to discover what the KW intent is.
But, these are just assumptions. Now your assumptions at times can be spot on, but they may not be.
So, when mapping out a new SEO campaign most SEO’s will say something like this to you (does this sound familiar?):
“Ask any content marketer or SEO how to get bulk organic traffic to your website, and they’ll tell you this:
- Find link-worthy content (content that’s already generated a lot of links.)
- Make something even better (longer, more up-to-date, better designed.)
- Do link building to get it to rank on the first page of Google (email site owners that have already linked to similar content.)
That’s an old strategy from 2013.
The competition for content is so fierce now, you could link build for months and never see results. And even if you do get it to work, you have no clear strategy for how to get that traffic to convert into sales.”
Again, this strategy I’m laying out for you yielded 13,000,000 visitors in the last year.
Now, one of the biggest steps we have taken to ensure our contents success is by trying to understand the SERP intent of said KW.
That makes sense, right?
Ok, so for example…
Who is smarter at understanding the users’ keywords and what they are really trying to solve with their search?
An SEO with all their software applications (data not from Google) or Google’s algorithms that they have spent billions on developing?
You guessed it. Google for the win.
Google is constantly changing their algorithms based on their users’ behaviors and many other factors.
The best way we can figure out the SERP intent is to take your KWs and simply enter them into Google.
Note: For this step, we use VPNs and search in browsers that we normally don’t use to avoid our personal search or browsing behavior interfering with the SERP.
When we type in “how to build a computer”. We, the SEO’s might think “oh this person simply needs to learn how to build a pc”.
But Google, understands that people who search that are going to be total noobs at building a PC and are probably not into this space at all.
How can I tell that?
I looked at this SERP:
See Google’s first words after PC in the search were “from scratch” and then “for beginners”.
And then in the “People Also Ask” section, they try to answer other questions total noob PC builders will also have.
And Google knows exactly the BEST content that serves these searchers.
At the beginning of the year I built my first PC ever.
And you know what? The content I learned from to build my first PC are the same top two pieces of content that still out rank everything for that KW. These two pieces of content that have stayed in the first position because they truly answer the users questions and are that relevant to the users.
Now let’s look at the SERP in its entirety to determine what it can tell us about the intent of the searcher.
The people who type in that KW don’t want to learn from a text post.
They want to learn from a video.
Again, how can I tell? I looked at the SERP.
Google knows best the content that is working for your KW. So look at it, emulate the SERP content and make yours a masterpiece.
Most people don’t produce content based on SERP intent, let alone orient their entire strategy around it.
One way we do this (stole this from Aaron) is by forcing yourself to identify the stage of the funnel and at least a preliminary intent for every keyword you research. Aaron Orendorff does this with two columns in every keyword Google Sheet prior to writing a single word.
Check out the dropdowns in columns F and H:
I want to say this one last time before moving on…
I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand the SERP intent BEFORE producing your content.
Now you have a look into the core research process we used that yielded 13,000,000 annual visitors.
Now let’s see the content approach and why it worked and converted so well.
By the time you are ready to actually create your content you should have done this type of research by now.
Here is the fast and dirty method I use to find a click worthy headline. It’s simple, fast, and easy.
The first place I learned this from was Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week on my moms couch 10 years ago when I was first getting started.
Facebook ads, but only doing headline tests.
The purpose of this test is to throw out there all the headlines you can think of and A/B test which ones will get the more and cheapest clicks. That way when your post goes live, you will have the best chances of having a searcher from Google click on your post.
Below is the Facebook ad campaign settings I use to test the headlines.
Here are the guidelines for the headlines ads tests.
- Do not test more than 6 headlines at a time (make sure they are hook headlines)
- The same headline has to be in the headline part of your ad.
- Do not add any copy above the ad
- The headline must be on a bright colored image that is one solid color for the background.
- Lifetime budget of $10-15 for every 10 headlines you test. We normally never test more than 30.
Here is what the ad looks like:
For the campaign settings, here is how I set it up:
- Target mobile only
- Optimize for link clicks
- If you have demographic data then use it
- European countries only (soo cheaper)
- Lifetime budget of $10-15
- Run no more than 3 days
- Target 1-2 broad interest
- Run all images through the FB Image overlay tool and make sure you get a green checkmark otherwise you ad may not be shown as much or approved.
Setting up the ad itself this way takes away all variables other than the most important thing… the headline.
The purpose of that is to make sure we KNOW what is driving the click.
When it is all done you should have data like this:
As you can see there is a very clear winner here. It has a link CTR of 4.06%.
Fun side fact – It was converting leads so well we left it on for a good bit.
Yes, I know more words doesn’t mean a post will rank, but we do know content that answers the users’ questions has a much better chance.
An SEO and content strategy I learned about 5 years ago from Digital Marketers, Rolan Fraiser, was a specific way to approach list posts.
They created a post on paracord projects.
In the first several months of this post being live it was generating over 65k in monthly traffic.
It was a list post where each point in the list was its own major keyword.
To promote it they simply did 1. a link building campaign and 2. Content promotion campaign telling relevant people about it. .
While this was a list post and ours wasn’t, the approach was the same. Our post had every major KW in it that was relevant to the topic. In saying that, I don’t recommend KW stuffing
, but organically using the KW’s throughout the content with the end goal of actually adding value to the user.
We have one simple rule when it comes to our content quality.
You have heard of skyscraper content, cornerstone content, and all the other names out there.
We, on the other hand, have a different name for it.
We call it Masterpiece Content.
What a Masterpiece Content looks like is a post going after a really big keyword (usually), for us iot has 3k words or more, and will have many other pieces of content developed around it. It’s a piece that often times, will be evergreen and become the “go to” piece of content on a specific topic.
So then, the idea is simple. When a post goes live, it has to be the #1 best piece of content on the internet for that topic.
We hired the best writers in the world on the topic to write this content. It wasn’t cheap either.
For those of you who don’t have massive budgets you can still do this same approach too.
Still produce the best content you know how to following this guide (make sure to answer your buyers questions) and produce the content at a frequency that you’re able to handle. While you may not hit 1mil/mo readers or even 10mil, you can hit 100k+/mo readers.
This is a side hustle site of mine I took to well over 100k+/mo visitors and we put out 2-3 posts a month. That’s it.
We used the interviews of our customers and the SERP intent to lay the groundwork content topics, types, and structures for our writers, so they could produce the best content for our customers first and THEN architected it to allow Google to pick it up.
This is a topic you don’t see discussed much online (at least I don’t).
To say Silos played a major part in our SEO success would be an extreme understatement.
Again, this post is a SEO strategy post, so if you want to learn more about SEO silos, Bruce Clay has the best piece of content out there on it. You can check it out here: https://www.bruceclay.com/seo/silo/
These next three paragraphs are from that post:
“Siloing a website serves to clarify its subject relevance and lays the groundwork for high keyword rankings. It is a core building block for SEO and is normally an advanced topic.
The term siloing originated as a way to identify the concept of grouping related information into distinct sections within a website. Much like a chapter in a book, a silo represents a group of themed or subject-specific content on your site.
The reason this grouping has such a high SEO priority is that search engines award keyword relevancy within their index based on the page and then the rest of the site with the most supporting relevant content. This contributes in particular to Google’s evaluation of a site’s expertise, part of the E-A-T quality factors (expertise, authority and trustworthiness).”
Again, I can’t stress enough how important siloing is if you want real SEO success.
Read Clay’s post and do it.
P.S. Even though this is common knowledge, I smoke my competition with silos. They are part of my “secret weapon”.
I’m hesitant to share this part because of how impactful it was to our success…
Many people would classify this next list under user engagement.
Most SEOs don’t ever think about this, let alone get serious about optimizing for user signals.
But, what are they?…
99% of the time, Google does not care about who has the most backlinks or best on-page optimization.
Google LOVES to put sites at the top that other people love.
Sites that answer their users’ questions and solve their problems (Remember the interviews I mentioned earlier?).
4 years ago in 2015 (that’s like a lifetime for SEO) Rank Fishkin ran this experiment and posted this on Twitter:
The task was simple, but the results still ring true today.
Within 70 minutes and 4,500 interactions his post skyrocketed to the top position!!!
And again, this was 4 years ago, so you can only imagine how much more sophisticated Google’s algorithms are now!
With that being said, here are some of the top user signals we optimize for:
1. Bounce rate
2. Mobile friendliness
3. Average Load Time Of The Page (and ideally site)
4. Percentage of Repeat Visitors
5. Click Through Rates
6. Pageview Per Visitor
These are the top factors we optimize for 24/7, 365. Period.
There are plenty of tools out there for optimizing for these metrics.
Neil Patel has some great articles on this topic. Here is one of them.
One tool that I use for every project is Mouse Flow. They let me record (a video) of the user on my page/s.
I can literally see where they are clicking and moving their mouse, and I can see when you leave the page. This tool is so powerful!
Someone searches on Google, they scroll, find something they like, click on it and then, ideally, go to multiple pages on your site eventually closing the tab.
This is a near ideal situation when someone finds your site on Google.
The problem is there are dozens of other things taking their attention away from your link.
So, how do we ensure to the highest degree possible that they click our link?
We test everything.
Whether you use A/B testing tools for SEO or testing with ads, always test and optimize your headline and meta description for highest click throughs.
For those of you who used the hyperlinks in the Contents to jump down to this part first, I would HIGHLY recommend going back and reading from the top otherwise this link strategy won’t work.
Trust me. I’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars doing this strategy backwards.
If you’ve read this far… let’s go!
Backlinks… Man they can be hard to get! By golly gee bob! I sure do wish there was an easier way to get them (non PBN or paying for them)…
Check this out…
This is one of the top posts that gets a good bit of traffic:
948 referring domains to one post.
The method we use is not new.
It’s easy to do, but even easier to mess up and I see most people doing it wrong.
Note: A solid 60+% of our links come from this method.
This approach has a couple moving parts.
Note: I’m not sure where I first learned this from. I think it was Neil Patel a good number of years ago, but I couldn’t find any reference to it.
Insert Video from Sujan P.: Mailshake outreach guidelines
I will come up with a list of prospects I want a link from.
Here are just some of the specs I want their site to have:
- Existing traffic. No less than 5k/mo.
- DR of 35+
- Really good anchor diversification (that’s a topic in itself)
- Regular and consistent inbound links within the last 60-90 days
- Relevant to my topics
I will engage with them on the main social platforms they are on for 1 week. My goal is for them to know my name when I email them.
I (or whoever is sending the emails) will engage with my prospect with thoughtful questions and comments on what they are putting out. It could be blog comments all the way down to a retweet.
But, I will do it every day until I email them.
During this time I am also looking for a way to email them about something they are passionate about and that’s important to them.
I do this same approach when going after clients. It’s how I’ve landed multiple fortune 50 clients.
Russell Brunson just posted this AMAZING video on this very thing (but in a different context).
EMBED THE VIDEO HERE
In that same video above and for high value targets/prospects, John Lee Dumas (go listen to his podcast for entrepreneurs and leave a good review), said “Be strategic”.
“There are times in every entrepreneur/business man’s life when they are in promotion mode. They just launched a book or some product, etc…”
“In the early podcast I got Gary vee, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Barbra Corcoran and Chris Brogan. And people would always ask me how I got them on my podcast. Well I waited until they were in promotion mode to invite them.”
What JLD is saying is he had something of value and communicated that in a personal way to his prospects.
Link building is really just relationship building.
How did I learn to get hundreds of links a month?
I learned from books like:
The Soulmate Sequence by Richard La Ruina – In here you will learn how to really connect with anyone via understanding the real dynamics of a quality conversation and how to create one.
The Laws Of Human Nature by Robert Greene – We are social animals. Our very lives depend on our relationships with people. Knowing why people do what they do is the most important tool we can possess, without which our other talents can only take us so far. Greene teaches you how to detach yourself from your own emotions, how to develop the empathy that leads to insight, how to look behind people’s masks.
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson – The title says it all. How to have effective crucial conversations when stakes are high. When you need that high value link, you’ve got one shot to connect with the right person. This book will teach you how to make the most of the first encounter.
Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi – You know the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This book has put me in one on one dinners with billionaires. This book has impacted my business life more than anything else. If I can learn how to connect with billionaires and get one on one sit downs with CEO’s of fortune 5 companies then you can use the same strategies to get the links you need.
The secret to this approach?
Its building relationships that will outlast the backlink.
It’s not easy, but it’s the most effective.
Sure you can send the broken link and all the other kinds of emails…
The “I saw you link to person X” (please don’t)…
The “I thought you would be interested in X because”…
You are emailing a HUMAN BEING.
Treat them like one.
Spend time learning about them (read the books I mentioned above).
Learn to care about them and their wellbeing. No one likes having their time wasted.
Here is the first email I sent to hopefully get a link for this client:
She responded 45 min after I sent it.
The next day the link was live. DR 82, over 20mil/mo visitors, and my link is the first link in that article.
Note: Before this post went live I asked a good bit of people for feedback. 50%+ of them wanted to see how I transitioned from the first email into the link. So here you go. 🙂
Notes on the emails:
#1 – I mentioned palm reading because 1. I actually had it done prior to this email for fun, and 2. Because I did my research and knew she loved palm reading. When I was doing my research on her I was looking for things I could genuinely connect with her on. And no, I don’t believe in palm reading. ;P
#2 – I intentionally didn’t say anything else other than answering her question because I wanted to see where she was going to take it.
#3 – When I pitched showing her the post, I left her an out to say no. I didn’t want to pressure her. And in this email I decided to just be blunt with her since she asked. I also mentioned I’m still happy to chat because I really do enjoy connecting with people and I wasn’t just talking to her because I wanted the link.
#4 – By me offering to write the paragraph AND me find where I think it would be best, I was able to take aways things off her table that she would have to do to give me the link. Plus I get to control the anchor text.
A couple months prior to the time of me sending that email, this woman posted a small series of pictures on her Instagram and created a blog post on her personal blog on how to make homemade blueberry cheesecake milkshakes and her love of palm reading.
I had just recently got back from San Diego (where she lived) and had the same milkshakes she was talking about.
That — was my in for starting a great conversation.
We are still friends to this day…. Even if she now lives in Bali. #notjealous 😉
Read at least one of the books I mentioned and then read this post by Tim Soulo of Ahrefs.
He wrote an outreach article better than I could here in this one.
No joke, you have to spend time crafting an email that connects with its recipient. If you can’t do that you won’t be good at link building.
If you are in a similar position as this client once was, you certainly have your work cut out for you. However, I hope this brief has helped you to see what areas they are strong in and where they might be weak.
You should be thinking about how you can apply what we are doing to YOUR market.
You should not be thinking my business is different, so none of this applies. Trust me after having run over thousands of campaigns in 50+ verticals – no business is that different. These strategies work in all markets.
But, they do take time. Sometimes months and other times years.
Also, take notice as to what is not here. The strategies we are and aren’t using are important to identify.
What strategies and tactics are not showing up here that some experts say you MUST be doing. I find it much more effective to learn from what’s actually in play and working with the biggest players, than to learn from how to courses.
Remember earlier I mentioned that extra 5%? Well that 5% is our IP that allows us to scale an SEO campaign to this level and beyond. If you would like to work with us to create this same system, explosive results and you are/have:
1. An ecomm or info product based company.
2. Generate at least $1mil/yr in revenue.
3. A long term mindset. You need to be committed to investing time to build out a content system that will bring you a consistent flow of new customers and traffic for years to come.
Then simply click this link and fill out the form to apply. We will be in touch shortly after.
We aren’t cheap and we don’t work with just anyone, but if we work together it will be a beautiful relationship.