A few years ago, SEO was far more robotic than it is today. In fact, if you wanted to rank for some of the top keyphrases, you didn’t have to care much about being social in your niche or even standing out as an authority. You could simply buy directory links, sponsor blog posts, and even have WordPress themes developed which included a link to your site in the footer.
These days however, things are very different. The top results for most keyphrases are either a Wikipedia page, a site that is very focused around community, or a clear leader in an industry. There are exceptions, but links tend to go to social sites (even Wikipedia has social aspects) by the people who use them.
SEO now is far less robotic, and far more social. Based on this, I knew it was going to be a challenge to rank for two competitive keyphrases in my industry when I was a total nobody. Yet, I still managed to do it, and I’m going to show you exactly how.
The first step you need to do before trying to rank for any keyphrase in Google, is to find out how many people are searching for it. It’s completely pointless being number one in Google for “dog umbrellas” if nobody is typing it into the search box and looking to keep their dogs dry in the rain.
To save you a lost of wasted time, head over to the Google Keywords tool. This tells you how many people are searching for keywords or keyphrases each month. I recommend you change the settings to All Countries and Territories, and from Broad to Exact on the top right hand side of the page.
I knew that the main theme for my niche was ‘personal development’ so that’s exactly what I typed in first. The tool showed me how many people searched for that phrase, and lots of other relevant terms I might want to try and rank for as you can see in the screenshot below:
Ideally, because I knew I was going to give myself at least 6 months to try and rank for a phrase, I wanted to pick a phrase that received a high number of searches. This meant I would probably end up picking a more competitive phrase, but it would be worth it in the end.
I then searched for other relevant words like ‘self help’ and ‘self improvement’ and while self help received far more searches, I later found it to be way too competitive for my liking. I liked the look of the first two keyphrases:
Once I had found two keyphrases that I think would bring regular, relevant traffic to my site, I decided to check how competitive they were.
This step is to simply find out how difficult it is to rank in Google for the terms I want to rank for. I’m only going to get a good portion of those thousands of searchers if I’m somewhere in the top 5 results. If my site is back on page 2, I would only get a trickle of search traffic each day. If you don’t know already, the major factor which defines where a page ranks on Google is the number of backlinks that the site / page has. Backlinks are simply hyperlinks from one page to another, like me linking to my about page in this sentence.
My next step was to find out how many backlinks the top searches for this page had. Here are the steps involved:
Note for step 4 that after -site: you type the domain name. So, if a result for personal development was johndoe.com/personal-development, that would be my URL, but “johndoe.com” would be after -site:
Run this 5 step process for all of your keyphrases and you should have a good idea of how many backlinks it will take to rank for them.
If the top three sites all have tens of thousands of backlinks, it’s unlikely I’m going to try and outrank them as that could take me years. If they have a few thousand, on the other hand, I still might give things a try. I don’t believe that I can get thousands of links to my site (although, saying that, PluginID has 11,000) but I do believe I can get far better quality links than my competition.
Google not only ranks sites based on the number of links they have, but the quality and relevance. For example, it’s far better to have links to your site with ‘Personal Development‘ as the anchor text, rather than something like ‘Glen’s web site’. I knew I could get a lot of links with my desired anchor text so decided to go for it.
Personality Development looked like it would be far easier to rank for than Personal Development, so instead of just choosing one keyphrase, I decided to go for two. That is how I ended up trying to rank for 66,000 visitors worth of keywords.
There are two aspects to Search Engine Optimisation: on site and off. The first step is to make your site relevant to the keyphrase you are trying to rank for. Therefore, I put the keyphrase, Personal Development, in my:
Some people like to go a bit over the top with on-site SEO, but I personally don’t waste my time. On-site SEO probably makes up about 10% of rankings whereas backlinks make up the majority so that is where I wanted to spend my time. As long as I have the basics in place, I often find that it is enough.
I don’t think it’s wise to try and optimise your entire site for multiple keyphrases, so instead I created a blog post on the topic of personality development. This was an in-depth guide covering the subject which I believed would attract a lot of backlinks. It did attract some naturally, but not enough.
Whatever it is that you’re trying to rank for, this is where the hard work will come in. I’m someone who is willing to put the work into whatever I do, but I also like to kill two birds with one stone, where possible. Based on that, my plan was simple: I would grow my blog by writing guest posts for other blogs, and link back to my website with my desired anchor text links.
That was it.
I didn’t focus on directory submissions, forum links, paid links, article directories, or anything of the sort. I decided I would keep my strategy simple and try to write on as many websites as I could. It was going to take a lot of work to write enough articles for other blogs to make this work but once again: I’m someone who is willing to put the work in.
Below I have screenshotted some examples of the ‘footers’ of my guest posts:
I have written over 30 of these things so I won’t keep posting the screenshots, but I’m sure you get the idea. Even if this was not going to help me rank for the keyphrases, my guest posts allowed thousands of new readers to find my websites. There’s certainly nothing unethical about this either, unlike many SEO tactics, as I’m giving the authors free quality content for their website which took me hours to write.
Because of the work I did here, I rank in the top 10 of Google.com for both of these keyphrases. Note that the results fluctuate a lot (depending on datacentres, etc), but you should see me there.
In reality, I ranked for far more visitors worth of keyphrases from the thousands of keywords I rank for, but I wanted to show you two examples that I purposefully focused on and how I did it. Thanks to my good friend Ali for being the inspiration for the blog post who will soon be ranking for millions of dollars worth of keywords.
If this sees like a lot of work, then ask: how much is thousands of highly targeted visitors to your website worth to your business?
My guess, is quite a lot.