You know SEO/content marketing is the best way to generate leads for your business.
But you’ve tried it as a lead generation strategy and you’re not seeing results.
In other words, you’re buried beneath the competition (literally).
What if I told you a few tweaks could get you all the traffic and leads you could ever want?
I’ll show you exactly how to do that. Keep reading.
Table of Contents
Introduction: How to Rank Higher on Google, According to Google
We know Google’s 3 most important ranking factors are links, content, and RankBrain. If you want to be successful with SEO and rank at the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages), you need to optimize for all three factors.
Let’s briefly cover each:
- Links: A hyperlink from somebody else’s website to your website.
- Content: The actual stuff on your website that you produce as part of a content marketing strategy.
- RankBrain: Google’s machine learning AI that helps them understand both the context of your page and user satisfaction.
You’re going to learn a lot in this post; bookmark it so you can take breaks and return.
Chapter 1: How to Get More Traffic and Links: Stop Writing for the Wrong Audience
You’re making a major mistake with your content marketing.
Most people create content exclusively for their ideal customer avatar—the person who is most likely to buy from their business. The person they’re trying to serve. Their perfect client.
There’s just one problem:
Those people probably don’t have a website.
You need to write for the people who have the power to link to you if you want to be successful with SEO.
I don’t think every single thing you create has to appeal to these influencers. I think a blend of content is the best approach.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. How do you find these influencers?
Section 1.1: How to Find Your Influencers
Google for them.
Seriously. I want you to open a new tab right now and type the following:
“topic” + blogs to follow (where “topic” is a topic of your choice)
This will bring up lists of curated blogs in your niche. La crème de la crème, if you will.
Your search results should look something like this:
Once you have these search results, I want you to do the following:
- Open a new spreadsheet or draw a table in a notebook.
- Create two columns: the site’s name and the site’s URL
- For each website you found in your Google search, do a quick quality check.
- Check to see when it was last updated, what the quality of the information is, how many comments they’re getting, etc.
- Add any sites that pass your quality check to your table of influencers.
- Repeat this process until you have 20-25 high-quality websites with linking potential.
Now that you have a list of 20+ blogs that you can ask for links, it’s time to move to the next step of the process.
Section 1.2: Find a Salient Topic
You know that adage in business that says someone else’s success is proof that you can be successful in the same niche?
Adopt this mindset for your content marketing.
Don’t do this for every piece of content you create—that would make the web a very boring place, copying each other—but do it for your SEO-focused content.
You want to look for a proof of topic in one of your influencers’ blogs.
- Open the blog of a website in your list of influencers
- Limit your search to the most recent 5-7 posts
- Note any common topics or themes you see in a separate list.
- Note any emotionally charged posts or strong opinions.
- Repeat this until you have 5-10 high-quality topics.
If you’re struggling, try these simple formulas to bring up pages.
- site:[influencer’s URL] + inurl:links + “keyword”
- site:[influencer’s URL] + inurl:resources + “keyword”
- site:[influencer’s URL] + inurl:best + “keyword”
These search strings are designed to surface resource pages on your influencer’s website.
For example, I found the site Modern Hiker and I noticed a lot of hiking blogs talk about hikes around San Diego. So I searched like this:
Modern Hiker has plenty of pages about hikes around San Diego, so I can add “hikes around San Diego” to my list of salient topics.
Once you’ve found these specific pages, you have TONS of content your influencers care about AND you can see exactly what they’re linking out to.
In other words, you know exactly what kind of content to create.
There’s another bonus, too.
You now have a goldmine of additional influencers to add to your list.
After you’ve chosen a topic from your list, it’s time to find a proper keyword.
Section 1.3: Keyword Research: A Cautionary Long-Tail
You’ve heard about long-tail keywords. They’re keywords with low search volume and also low competition.
In other words, these are the keywords that everyone is telling you to target.
Do not target long-tail keywords.
Because Google now understands search intent. Which means all of those keywords? They’re essentially the same thing.
Here’s an example:
These are the featured snippets for two different search queries in Google: “foods that burn fat” and “fat-burning foods”.
You and I know that a fat-burning food is a food that burns fat. People that search for “foods that burn fat” and looking for fat-burning foods, and vice versa.
But Google used to not know that difference. And so it would treat “foods that burn that” and “fat-burning foods” as two entirely different queries and produce two very different pages of results.
Many companies based their entire SEO strategies around this exact-matching tendency of Google.
You would see a company that published a blog post optimized for the keyword “foods that burn fat”…and the next day they’d publish a nearly identical blog post optimized for the keyword “fat-burning foods”.
Google’s Panda update totally destroyed those websites.
This strategy of optimizing for specific keywords—the long-tail keyword strategy—is dead.
Here’s what you should do instead.
Chapter 2: The Goldilocks Approach to Keyword Research
Optimize for medium-tail keywords and topics.
What’s a medium-tail keyword?
A medium-tail keyword is a keyword that hits the sweet spot between search volume and competition. (It’s “just right.”) Usually, that looks like from 1,000 – 10,000 monthly searches and manageable competition—you shouldn’t need 100 backlinks to rank for a medium-tail keyword.
In other words, they’re your Goldilocks keywords. Not impossible to rank for, but they’re getting enough traffic to justify your efforts.
In fact, Brian Dean of Backlinko recommends that you focus exclusively on medium-tail keywords in 2018. By optimizing your posts around a single medium-tail keyword, you’ll rank for hundreds, if not thousands, of long-tail keywords organically.
And once you’re ranking for all those keywords, you’ll be getting targeted traffic to your website. Targeted traffic turns into high-quality leads for your business. Win-win-win.
You’re probably wondering, “that’s great, Jake, but how do I find medium-tail keywords?”
Section 2.1: But First, Stop Using the Google Keyword Planner
You’ve heard of the Google Keyword Planner. You’ve probably used it…or attempted to.
I find it super frustrating.
That’s because the Google Keyword Planner is for AdWords, not SEO. In other words, you’re using a tool for a purpose other than what it was built for.
There are plenty of free keyword research tools:
For most purposes, these tools (especially UberSuggest) will be more than adequate. If you’ve been doing keyword research for a while, you might want to invest in a professional keyword research tool. Backlinko has a list of recommended ones.
I subscribe to Ahrefs, so I’m going to use their keyword planner.
Section 2.2: The Goldilocks Approach to Keyword Research
Now return to your list of salient topics and enter one of them into your keyword research tool. I picked “hikes in san diego”.
Note: Capitalization doesn’t matter, but plurality does; that is, “hike in san diego” and “hikes in san diego” are different keywords, but “hikes in san diego” and “Hikes in San Diego” are the same.
This looks like an amazing keyword—it’s super easy to rank for and it looks like it gets a lot of traffic (1,800 searches a month).
But can we do better?
Ahrefs also suggests the keyword “best hikes in san diego”. It looks like the traffic is the same, but let’s take a peek.
This does look like a better keyword, if only slightly—it gets 10% more clicks. This means that more people click on results when they search this keyword than when they do the previous keyword.
If we optimize for “hikes in San Diego,” will we also rank for “best hikes in San Diego?” Probably. Will we rank as highly? Maybe not.
Then it’s decided: I know that my influencers care about hikes in San Diego and I know that “best hikes in San Diego” is a good, low-competition keyword, so I’m going to target that in my next post.
(If you also subscribe to Ahrefs, I really recommend you check out the Ahrefs keyword research guide.)
Section 2.3: Keyword Research Caveats (Avoid these Mistakes!)
Usually, keyword research takes much longer than what we did above. What if you don’t get quite so lucky? What if you come up with a ton of similar keywords? Which should you choose?
Here are some common keyword mistakes I see bloggers make, and it’s the reason they never see an increase in traffic or sales.
- You didn’t eliminate keywords without substantial traffic. If the competition is low, I think you should include it somewhere on your page. But I don’t think it should be a focus keyword.
- You forgot to look at conversion rates. If you find a keyword that looks like a Goldilocks keyword but only 30% of people that search it click on a result…then you’re wasting your time optimizing for a keyword that almost nobody actually uses to click on a search result. Even if you’re ranking #1 for that keyword and getting 60% of all the clicks, you’re missing out on tons of traffic. And if you’re ranking towards the bottom of the page? Good luck.
- You’ve selected a keyword that doesn’t describe the right topic. Remember, you’re doing keyword research to turn that topic into a winning keyword. Find a keyword to fit the topic, not the other way around.
- You chose a commercial intent keyword for an informational post. If you write a guide on how to buy dog food online for chose the keyword “buy dog food online” and send everybody away to a site where they can actually buy dog food, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
- You didn’t think about search intent. Or you’ve selected a potentially ambiguous keyword or a keyword with multiple meanings. As a result, a significant chunk of the traffic you get bounces back to Google as soon as they realize they’re in the wrong place, and you drop like a stone through the rankings.
In other words, it’s great that you’re ranking in Google…but if nobody searches that keyword or clicks through to your post, there’s no point.
Chapter 3: How to Make Your Content Contagious
I’m not going to go into exactly what kind of content you should create because I think you need to decide that based on your strengths.
Don’t create an infographic when creating video is your superpower.
But I do want to talk to you about how to make sure that content is link-and-share-worthy.
Did you know that there’s a psychology behind why we share and link to certain topics?
Marketers have known these tricks for ages, but the best part is that they still work.
These are called share triggers, and they’re incredibly powerful.
Section 3.1: Share Triggers from Jonah Berger
Have you read the book Contagious by Jonah Berger?
If not, you really should grab a copy.
In it, Berger—a professor of marketing at the Wharton school of business—goes over the six share triggers, which he denotes with the acronym STEPPS.
Watch the video below for a brief overview of these.
Social Currency is the idea that we share things that make us look good.
Triggers are salient, social cues that remind us to talk about something. By associating our content with environmental triggers, we stay top of mind.
Emotions, particularly strong emotions, cause us to share and talk about things.
Public is visibility—when it’s easier to see something, it’s easier to do it. And once we’ve created a common language around your idea or content, it effectively markets itself.
Practical Value is the utility. We are more likely to share and talk about incredibly useful things.
Stories are the idea of wrapping an idea in a broader narrative.
Berger says that content or ideas that contain each of these six share triggers are more likely to be shared and talked about.
You should bake as many of these as possible into every piece of content you create.
Section 3.2: Social Currency
Social Currency is the idea that people share things that make them look good.
Brands like Upworthy have built their entire empires around social currency.
Let’s look at this advertisement from Shell, “Best Day of My Life”:
Yes, the video is fun, but when you share this video, you’re saying: “I care about energy efficiency.”
And the campaign worked—according to Adweek, this video generated over 1.5 million shares in 2016.
You can add social currency to your content by focusing on issues that people care about. Shell, the company that sponsored this ad, looked at their sector—energy—and noticed that a large number of people care about renewable, clean energy…even though this isn’t what Shell is known for.
Another way you can make people look good is by proving them right.
Vegetarians and vegans often make the case that their eating style is better for the planet. Think of how you could prove these people right. Could you create an infographic on the effects of vegetarianism, citing data in favor of your case? Could you create a video that explains a couple of different studies that conclude in favor of veganism?
Section 3.3: Triggers
Triggers are environmental cues that remind people of your brand or content.
There are thousands of examples of triggers, from the Coca-Cola Santa Claus ads to the creation of Mean Girls Day.
(Means Girls did this particularly well: they also hijacked Halloween, the Jingle Bell Rock, Wednesdays, and calculus.)
In other words, by associating their product with a common environmental or cultural cue, marketers have managed to keep their products or brands top of mind because you’re constantly thinking of them.
(Okay, maybe you don’t think of Mean Girls every Wednesday…but I guarantee you more people than usual wear pink the Wednesday after October 3rd.)
But I want to focus on a specific example: Starbucks.
Are you familiar with their PSL Instagram account?
The account is only active when the drink is on the Starbucks menu, but the account’s playful and creative posts mean that I’m constantly reminded that it’s PSL season. (As a rule, I only drink one Starbucks PSL a year.)
Triggers aren’t difficult to incorporate into your content: create associations between your content and cultural or environmental commonalities.
Take a look at your influencers. Do they particularly like a movie franchise or television show? Do any of them live in the same city, or do they all love Japanese food?
It’s likely that they’re all living in the English-speaking world, or they grew up in the English-speaking world. Can you use salient examples from the Anglophonic culture in your blog post?
Section 3.4: Emotions
All emotions can cause us to share and talk about content, but positive emotions are the most powerful.
Check out this BBC short video that went viral around December 2017:
Heartwarming, isn’t it?
It was also a huge success—as of the end of March 2018, it has over 1.2 million views on YouTube.
Awe is another emotion that causes us to share. Awe actually influences a lot of our behavior—it’s why we fly north in hopes of seeing the Aurora Borealis and why Game of Thrones has such a big following.
How can you induce awe in your content? Produce the best kind of work that’s out there. Not only this was the story in the video above touching, but the animation is incredibly well done.
This means including stunning visuals, well-written copy, and detailed content.
Geraldine from Everywhereist wrote an emotionally-charged post about Mario Batali’s sexual misconduct apology letter. (Full disclosure: this is one of my favorite things on the internet.)
It has over 600 comments from people who identified with her.
Don’t underestimate the power of emotionally-charged content.
Section 3.5: Public
Have you heard of a piece of software called Proof?
The creators of Proof realized that seeing other people do something means you’re likely to do it yourself.
In other words, we are unconscious conformists.
This is the reason that the Apple logo on your MacBook or iPhone faces outward.
It’s the reason brands want you to tweet and share your experiences with them.
We call this social proof. The reasoning is like this: if other people are doing it, then it must be valuable, right?
Leveraging social proof on your website is easy. Include social share counts. The more times something is shared—the more times a person sees that other people have taken the action you want them to take—the more likely other people are to share it.
That said, the inverse is also true. The fewer times something is shared, the less likely other people are to share it.
Does this mean you should remove share counts from pages that haven’t gotten many social shares? Not necessarily. (Unless it’s a product page on an eCommerce site, in which case you should remove underperforming social share counts.)
Sometimes the issue isn’t the share count: it’s the content.
There would be no Apple logos in cafés if Apple products sucked and nobody bought them. The same is true for your content. If it sucks, nobody is going to share it.
But there’s hope!
Sometimes all you need to do is refresh your content—improve it and then remarket it to your social media and email list. This breathes fresh life into your stuff.
In fact, Brian Dean of Backlinko used this method and increased his organic traffic by 260.7% in 14 days. It works that well.
Section 3.6: Practical Value
We love to share things that are practically valuable.
In fact, that’s why I try to pack as much actionable value into my content as I possibly can: because I know you’ll find it useful and you’ll share it to make someone else’s life easier.
CoSchedule reports that 49% of people share content that either adds value or entertains.
In fact, Jonah Berger and another researcher, Katherine L. Milkman, studied the New York Times’s most-emailed list and concluded the following: “[C]onsistent with the notion that people share to inform others or boost their mood, practically useful and positive content is more viral.” (Berger & Milkman, 2011)
According to Seth Godin, the creation of valuable and relevant content is the only kind of marketing that’s left.
In other words, creating useful content is at the heart of content marketing.
How do you create useful content?
Here are some ideas:
- Give your readers a checklist they can refer back to or download
- Provide some data that changes their perspective or mindset
- Show them a new technique that saves time or solves their problems
- Write a case study and show them how they can replicate your process, if not results
Notice how I said this is for your readers. But what about your influencers?
The list is more or less the same:
- Did they explain anything poorly that you can explain better, or more clearly? Look through their comments and see what confused their readers.
- Have your influencers mentioned any problems (either on their blog or in social media) that you can help them solve?
- Do you have a unique spin on a technique that your influencer uses that you think will help their audience?
- Can you prove them right?
- Can you show them a resource they haven’t seen before? Is this likely to change their perspective on some key issue?
The question you should always hold in your mind as you plan your content is, “Will this bring value to someone?”
Then make it.
Section 3.7: Storytelling
Do you remember that BBC Video I mentioned in the Emotions section? Can you remember the story?
It’s a very simple story, but I tear up every time I watch it.
Let’s break it down.
- The daughter brings her father a flyer for her school’s Christmas talent show, but her dad cuts her off as he receives a phone call.
- The daughter dances and practices for the talent show a lot, but the dad never pays attention.
- The dad is working and the daughter tries to catch his attention, but he ignores her again. She slams the door and leaves.
- The talent show: Dad is in the audience, but the girl is on the stage and forgets her routine. She looks like she’s about to cry.
- The dad stands up and starts dancing her routine. She finds her groove and the crowd loves her. We get the sense that her relationship with her dad is improved.
Super, super simple story. Most stories following this basic pattern:
- The hero (the main character) wants something, but there is some obstacle preventing them from getting it.
- The hero overcomes the obstacle, gets what they want, and their life improves for the better.
Obviously, tragedies follow a different pattern (hero wants something, gets it, and destroys their life). Most of the time, you don’t want to tell a tragic story.
In 2009, Google released one of my favorite advertisements ever: Parisian Love.
It’s only a minute long, and I think you should watch it:
Did you get that tingly feeling? Don’t you want to share this?
Despite telling another simple story (hero goes to Paris, meets a girl, falls in love, moves back to Paris to marry her, they have a kid), this advertisement is outstanding because it only uses Google and some audio.
The ad is about more than a kid studying abroad and falling in love—it’s about how we turn to Google for help, and how Google helps us on the way to happiness.
Think of the brand around your business. What do people come to you for? What are you helping with, on a deeper, more personal level?
In another example, British Airways understands that the most compelling reason to travel is to reconnect with loved ones. Watch this short video:
In other words, find the human element of your business and tell that story.
If you’re interested in working with me, expect to go through this process.
Getting shares and being talked about is nice, but we really want people to link to us. All our work depends on the number of links we can get.
Section 3.9: A Word on Writing Quality
You don’t have to be an awesome writer to be successful with SEO.
But it doesn’t hurt.
If you want me to share or link to your content, make sure it checks off the following:
- The problem is clear and immediately obvious
- Subtitles and headers break down content
- The writing is concise—you’ve eliminated extraneous words and sections
- The writing sounds natural
You can embed all of the share triggers you want, but if your writing (or video or podcast—visual and audio quality matters!) is no good, I won’t feel enticed to share or link to it.
Chapter 4: Reaching Out: How to Actually Get Backlinks
Now that you’ve written your content for the right audience, you’ve embedded the principles of contagious content into your creation, and you’ve found a Goldilocks keyword to optimize your post around, it’s time to actually start getting links.
Can I tell you a secret?
Many people make A TON of mistakes with their link requests. And most of those link requests get deleted.
Section 4.1: Stop Being An Amateur at Email Outreach
There are so many amateur mistakes I see people make, and they’re all the product of being lazy.
That’s not going to be you because you’re ambitious and you’re learning from me, okay? We’re trying to get results, people, even if that means going at a slower pace.
Here’s a real email outreach I received the other day:
This is a bad email because:
- It’s way too long.
- There is a much better fit for their link on my travel blog.
- It’s too wordy: “Would you consider listing out guide as an additional resource for your readers?” can be condensed to “Could you link to us?”
- It doesn’t tell me exactly where to link.
- They give the title of the article on Solo Traveler, but not of my article.
This is also a bad email because anyone you want a link from recognizes the following email outreach template:
- Hey, I noticed that you link to post about [topic] (http://post1)
- You did this on this post on your website (http://post2)
- We wrote this similar, awesome post
- Blah blah blah
- You can view it here: (http://post3)
- Would you consider linking to us?
If you want to get good at email outreach—and if you learn nothing else about SEO, then you’ve still done well—you need to be strategic.
Section 4.2: Who Are Your Emailing?
Let me start this with a caveat: we all want links from Tim Ferriss and Marie Forleo and Queen Elizabeth’s cat, but they don’t have time to read your email.
(I mean, maybe they do…but my bet is they don’t.)
Similarly, if your friend Jasmine just started a new blog and she has no traffic, it doesn’t make sense to ask her for a link.
If Jasmine’s site takes off, you’ll be grateful for the time spent asking for that link, but the sad reality is that most new blogs don’t take off. Jasmine is low-priority.
Think of it like this: Your pro athletes are busy. I’m sure they’d love an email from you, but the fact is that everyone is trying to get their attention and they already have thousands of unread emails.
This means you should target your D1 athletes—the people who the bobblehead and voodoo doll manufacturers haven’t commoditized but who are on their way to going pro.
You should also target your D3 people—they’re still serious about the game, even if their games aren’t being televised.
Remember: we’re trying to be Goldilocks.
Section 4.3: How to Find (Almost) Anyone’s Email Address
Now that you’ve identified some
targets candidates, it’s time to go email hunting.
If you’ve been submitting your requests through generic contact forms then this might be the missing piece for you.
How do you find someone’s email address?
Simply register for a free account with Hunter.io and type in the URL of the website you want to get an email from.
Now you have email addresses to use for outreach.
I recommend putting this in your spreadsheet where you keep all of your influencer information.
Section 4.4: Only Use Your Best Content
Should you ask for links to all of your content?
If all of your content is high-quality and you believe it provided insane value—you’ve really given away the farm—then sure. Do email outreach for every blog post.
But for most people, this doesn’t make sense. It’s harder to build links to your 300-word Fast Friday post that you wrote for your loyal readers than it is for that 5,000-word mega guide that you wrote for your influencers and loyal readers.
I recommend picking your 2-3 best pieces of content and using those to build links.
Then, as your buff up your older content and write new, awesome content, you can try to build links to those.
The other reason why you only want to show off your best content is that it likely contains a lot of social proof. Hundreds of comments. Tons of social shares. You got tweeted by a big name in the industry.
Why would I send my readers to a post with 0 shares and 0 comments?
I understand this is hard when you’re first starting out and your only audience is your social media followers. But even they will share your content if you follow the steps in Chapter 3 and make it good.
Section 4.5: I Wrote This Just for You: Crafting Your Email
If you’ve been following this post from the beginning, then you identified some influencers and picked a topic that you know they care about.
You should mention that in your outreach email.
In fact, I should understand from the context of your email that this comes from a place of SERVICE.
This is something most people completely miss and it’s destroying their chances to build connections and get powerful links.
Don’t email someone because you want a link from their website. Email someone because a link to your content will help them.
That might be because you’ve validated a claim.
Or because you’re providing an additional perspective to their audience.
Maybe you’re explaining something more comprehensively.
Here’s the general framework I use to compose my outreach emails:
- Why you should care
- I featured you in [X].
- I know you’re a fan of [Y].
- [Mutual Friend/Person] told me you love [Topic].
- [This Article] considers [X] in [New Way].
- [Influencer That I Know You Follow] recently did [Something Of Use].
- I saw you [Have This Problem] and here’s [How To Fix].
- [So-and-So] announced [A Thing] and it benefits you because [Reason].
- Add More Value (the plug)
- I saw some of your readers in [Post] had a lot of questions about [Topic]. Have you seen [My Awesome Post That Answers Their Question]?
- I got some great results because I did [Interesting Thing I Know You Care About Because I Researched You], and I wrote [Post About How to Replicate My Process/Results].
- You asked [Question] on [Platform] and I wrote [Post] because [Reason; my readers have the same question]. Thanks for connecting the dots for me!
- Ask for the Link
- Could you link to [My Post] in [Specific Section of Your Post]?
- I think it would help the people who read [Specific Section of Your Post].
- I think it compliments [Your Aforementioned Post]. Could you link to it [Because of Benefit To Readers]?
- Thank Them For Their Time
- [Super short thank you]
If you want more information about how to craft an amazing outreach email, Tim Soulo from Ahrefs wrote the definitive guide on the subject.
Section 4.6: Stalkers Only; Normal People Need Not Apply (Some Mindset Love)
By this point, you might view this Scooby Doo title as an accurate description of what you’ve become.
I mean, I get it. Here’s what we’ve done:
- Dug for a stranger’s email address
- Read their stuff deeply enough to understand what they care about
- Wrote something just for them
- Blatantly told them all of the above
So I totally understand if this triggers bad memories of that dude who kept trying to woo you in high school.
(Or maybe you were that dude. :o)
But most people aren’t creeped out when you’ve done your homework.
In fact, it’s kind of flattering.
I know this might trigger something in you or raise personality objection. This is a common issue—especially if this kind of marketing is new for you—but you can overcome it.
In my experience, this kind of hesitation comes one place.
If you don’t feel like you stuff is good enough, then make it better.
If you feel like you’re not good enough, then honey, let me spell it out for you:
Almost nobody is good enough.
I guarantee you I could find 1,000 things in this article or on my website that I would love to change, but at the end of the day I published it, stalked my people, and sent my emails.
As one of my business moms, Marie Forleo, says—#progressnotperfection.
In other words, you don’t have to be good enough. You just have to be ready.
Chapter 5: Optimize for RankBrain by Writing for Clicks
RankBrain is the final piece of the puzzle. But what is RankBrain?
RankBrain is Google’s machine learning-AI that helps it understand search intent, the context of a page in the search results, and how pleased users are with a specific search result.
There are a couple of metrics you want to optimize for RankBrain:
- Click-through Rate (CTR): How often someone clicks on your page in the search results
- Dwell Time: How long someone spends on your page
- Bounce Rate: How often someone returns to the search results without interacting with your page
You’ve heard the phrase “the riches are in the niches”?
It’s true. Even though it’s business advice, it makes good marketing advice, too. And it’s also good SEO advice.
Think about it: if you’re ranking for a ton of irrelevant keywords, people are going to click on your site, realize that this resource does not help them solve their problem or answer their question, and then they’re going to leave.
That doesn’t signal good things to Google.
RainBrain is supposed to help Google better understand your page and user experience so that the search results get better.
That said, nobody will have the chance to leave your website is they don’t click on it.
And that’s where the CTR-Magnet method comes in.
Section 5.1: Get More Organic Traffic (Fast) with the CTR-Magnet Method
Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, went on Twitter and asked his followers to search a keyword he ranks for and click on the result.
Three hours later, his result moved from #7 on the SERPs to #1.
The SEO industry then concluded that your click-through rate—how often a searcher clicks on your website instead of your competitor’s—is a ranking factor.
Today, we categorize this under “user experience signals”, which is the job of RankBrain.
So how do you improve your click-through rate?
Brian Dean from Backlinko did a quick video on this:
Brian recommends mining words from AdWords ads and including them in your Title and Meta Description tags. Since AdWords specialists spend a long of time split testing their copy, you can be confident that any recurring words or phrases you notice have been proven to convert.
If you’re having trouble finding AdWords ads to steal from, you can include some power words. Power words convey a sense of immediacy or simplicity.
According to Brian, the following are examples of power words:
- RIght now
- Works quickly
Don’t overdo it—remember, less is more!
Section 5.2: Engage Readers by Improving Dwell Time
Dwell time is the amount of time spent on your page.
If you’ve made it to this part of the post, chances are you’re either skimming or you’ve been reading the entire post.
If you’re reading, how long do you think you’ve been on this page?
In other words, I want you to think: what have I done to lengthen the amount of time you spend reading this blog post?
Two major things:
First, I’ve written a decently long post. It takes longer to read this post than it does to read a short post of 500 words.
Second, I’ve embedded video. Every minute you spend watching a video that I included in this blog post is another minute you spent on this website!
And these are two key ways to improve dwell time: create longer content that’s still easy to read, and use video.
Of course, you still have the problem of users arriving on your page and being unsure if it’s the right page to answer their question.
After all, nobody is going to read your post or watch any video if they can’t get past the introduction.
Section 5.3: Kill Your Bounce Rate with Honey Introductions
You’ve written a kickass title and meta description. People are clicking your page in the search results faster than a dog after a squirrel.
But if you don’t let your readers know they’re in the right place, they’ll bounce back to the search results. Not ideal.
Your solution? Write a sticky introduction.
I call these “honey introductions” because they’re designed to get your readers to stick to your page like flies flock to honey.
(Okay, maybe I’m mixing metaphors a bit.)
Neil Patel, on the QuickSprout blog, writes about four methods for crafting awesome honey introductions.
Essentially, these boil down to:
- Paint their worst fear
- Create FOMO
- Use a formula, like AIDA
- Show a benefit
This boils down to effecting an emotional reaction in your reader.
Great novelists across the centuries have been doing this.
Let’s look at some examples:
- “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” (The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath, 1963).
- “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” (One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez, 1967).
- “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin, 1813).
- “Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” (The Trial, Franz Kafka, 1914).
- “You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.” (If on a winter’s night a traveler, Italo Calvino, 1979).
- “The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.” (The Secret History, Donna Tartt, 1992).
Sylvia Plath situates me in postwar America and piques my curiosity.
Gabriel García Márquez confuses me.
Jane Austin makes a bold statement.
Franz Kafka paints a terrifying picture and induces sympathy for his narrator.
Italo Calvino directly addresses me.
Donna Tartt, the literary master of clickbait, makes me want to read the next sentence by implying the narrator murdered Bunny.
Your introduction should elicit an emotional response in your reader and make them curious about what comes next.
There’s one more thing you should consider.
When someone clicks on your page from Google, they have a question.
Can you guess what it is?
It’s: Am I in the right place?
Your introduction, when writing for the web, has three jobs:
- Elicit an emotional response in your reader
- Make them curious about what comes next
- Let them know they’re in the right place
If you can do these 3 things, you’ll have them sticking to your page like flies in honey.
Chapter 6: How to Increase Your Clarity Score
Disclosure: there’s no such thing as a clarity score. I made it up.
But it’s a useful metric to measure against when trying to improve your rankings.
Why? Because Google will rank your page higher the more confident it is that it knows the topic of your page.
There are a few simple ways to do this: LSI Keywords, anchor text, and internal links.
Section 6.1: LSI Keywords
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords are related keywords that help Google better understand your content.
If Google sees the word “Apple” on your page, does Google know if you’re talking about the technology company or the fruit?
But if you include words like “Vitamin C”, “baking time”, and “sugar”, it’s pretty obvious to Google that you’re talking about the fruit.
How do you find the best LSI keywords?
Let’s say you just published a post on bookstores in San Francisco.
So you run to Google the phrase “bookstores in san francisco” and see what comes up.
And, scrolling to the bottom of the search results, you see that Google suggests the following searches:
By including some of these keywords in your post content, you can improve your rankings in Google.
After all, these are terms that are coming directly from Google.
Let’s say that “children’s bookstore in san francisco” is totally irrelevant to your post. If that’s the case, don’t feel pressured to include that keyword.
As you scroll through the search results, you might notice Google has bolded some terms that aren’t exactly your keyword.
Dog Eared Books, Valencia Street, Mission District…these are all LSI keywords! Include them in your pot and meta description to give Google a stronger idea of what your page is about.
Now, for the big question—are LSI keywords a ranking factor?
I don’t think so. Like this screenshot above, LSI keywords are easy to abuse and they’re prone to keyword stuffing, which we know Google wants you to avoid.
LSI keywords are like salt—you want a little bit, but too much ruins the dish.
Section 6.2: Anchor Text
Anchor text is the text you click to follow a link. This is anchor text.
But Google also can use anchor text as a way to penalize sites that are doing automated link building, which is a no-no. This happens if an obvious majority of links pointing to your site use the same anchor text.
(Google does this to combat automated link building.)
All you need to know is that anchor text helps Google understand what your page is about.
Section 6.3: Internal Linking
Internal links are links that point to other pages on your website.
Now, it should be pretty obvious that if you only have 5 pages on your website, internal links won’t do too much for you. This is because most of those pages will link to each other…which doesn’t do much to tell Google specifically which pages are related to each other.
But once you’ve created a lot of pages, internal linking becomes much more powerful.
Let’s assume you have a podcast. And you have a separate post on your website for each podcast episode.
You don’t want to link to every other podcast episode—that doesn’t make sense. But you do want to link to the related podcast episodes.
Let’s say you have 4 other podcast episodes that cover a similar topic to the episode you just recorded. You definitely want to link to those episode pages.
You also want to go back to those older posts and link to this newer post.
That said, maybe one of your older posts links to a podcast episode about Topic B. Should your newest post also link to Topic B? Of course not—unless it’s relevant and adds value to the visitor.
Conclusion: How to Generate More Leads
Congratulations! You now know how to rank in Google.
- Figure out which influencers can link to you and what they care about
- Find a Goldilocks keyword that describes that topic
- Create contagious content around that topic
- Promote that topic to your influencers
- Optimize for RankBrain’s UX signals
- Make sure Google is clear on your page’s topic
- Rank higher in Google
But how does this help you generate more leads?
Because content marketing establishes trust with your audience.
This is why SEO and content marketing are the most effective ways to generate leads for your business.
You trust Google to answer your questions. Google knows this—that’s why they made the Parisian Love ad that consists entirely of someone asking Google questions.
I trust Brian Dean of Backlinko and Tim Soulo of Ahrefs because they publish incredibly useful content.
I’m also a customer of both Backlinko and Ahrefs.
That’s how you generate more leads. Make stuff that’s worth talking about and linking to.
Then make the ask.
Speaking of which…
If you enjoyed this post, join my email list. I’ll enroll you in a short, free email class to help you get more leads from your website.
I’ll also send you a free SEO health checklist that you can get started on right now.
Sign up below:
What did you learn? Did you subscribe to my email list? Did you share this post? Let me know in the comments below.
After you do that, go kick some ass and get some leads. 🙂