How To Get 450000 Website Visitors For Free

Introduction

Sitting at a rickety desk glaring at a $15,000 retainer bill, my frustrated colleague exclaimed, “Free traffic costs money!” My colleague, a marketing director, received the bill courtesy of an SEO agency. In exchange for the king’s ransom she paid, my colleague got a 15 page, jargon filled report. “I’m reading a mysterious language”, she told me, “and none of it makes sense.”

Scenarios like this play out daily. How would you like to decode the mystery and learn the secrets behind a website raking in 450,000 monthly visitors? Even better, how would you like to know how this traffic comes in for free? When I say free, I mean — zero ad spend, zero consulting fees, and zero dollars spent on blood sucking SEO agencies. I’m going to show you the tactics behind the six-figure traffic for MathCelebrity. I use these same tactics with my private clients.

Who I Wrote This Book For

You opened this book to learn about SEO. Whether you own a business, or you want to decode SEO mysteries, this book helps you grasp SEO information. Correction, you want actionable information. You get tired of being talked down to by so-called experts. You want clear, concise information from successful websites. I’ve watched for years as people like you get bombarded with confusing advice.

S-E-Oh My God

Whether it’s SEO gurus or high-priced agencies, people grow tired of jargon and broken promises. If you follow their blogs, you feel confused. If you read their emails, you have to sift through a secret vocabulary.

What about paid SEO agency services? You spent a pretty penny for minimal or zero results. Even worse, these same agencies explained little to nothing about what they did, or how it works. The most common excuse they give is, “just wait and see.”

I know how you feel. Early in my SEO education, I followed gurus and I gave money to agencies. And I got crushed. Just like you, I am tired of theft and empty advice. In return for your time and money, you get miniscule traffic increases. Instead of jargon, you want knowledge and results.

Knowledge Equals Power

SEO success begins with knowledge — real knowledge. SEO carries a reputation of equal parts fairy dust and mysticism. The mystery changes, the games change, and so do the rumors. You want to know what works, why it works, and what to avoid. You’re tired of getting a confusing bucket of slop thrown your way about SEO. I bet you’ve seen the following impostors:

  • The guru, he who preaches but does not practice
  • The money taker, Money they take, expertise they fake
  • The opinion giver. Always has an opinion, and always wrong. The opinion giver couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat.

The Power of Organic

Finally, you came here to generate traffic without spending money. You want consistent, organic traffic on autopilot. Organic search results give you instant credibility with users. Organic search results free up money to spend on your business.

Sidenote: I have no problem with paid traffic. Paid traffic gives you a powerful route to grow your business. If you use paid traffic, this book gives you another weapon in your arsenal. And the techniques I present in this book also help your paid traffic strategies.

Remember, paid search traffic works like an auction. The auction rewards you from money spent, click rates, and website experience. When you get better at organic traffic generation, your paid search improves. I’ll cover website experience and user experience — powerful tools in free and paid traffic.

Who Am I and Why Should You Listen

Your next question is, why should I listen to the author? Let me introduce myself. My name is Don Sevcik, and I built MathCelebrity, an educational website with a peak traffic volume of 450,000 unique monthly visitors. This torrent of traffic comes from over ten years of trials and testing.

The total cost I paid for these visitors…$0.00. All traffic we get is organic, a.k.a., free. We get this through the SEO techniques I’ll share with you in the book. After succeeding with my own website, I’ve expanded my expertise through client consultations. As an aside, I’ve increased SEO scores for all my clients. My clients come from education, finance, health, and beyond.

Why else am I qualified? Because I’m a skin in the game practitioner. Meaning, I only share tactics I’ve personally used with success. I also show you stupid mistakes I’ve made. I’m giving you a cumulative knowledge base since 2007. I’ve included happy accidents, miserable failures, and battle-tested techniques. Let’s pause for a moment, and let me offer one more reason to listen. Because I have zero patience. Stay with me, because my impatience helps your learning.

Impatience is a Virtue

I cannot sit in meetings for more than five minutes without getting bored. I can’t listen to somebody drawl on for more than 30 seconds before I tune out. It’s quite possible I had a genetic switch flipped at birth. Now, how does my lack of patience help you? Simple. I only gather what works. I only listen to and share what matters. So in the research I’ve gathered since 2007, I focus on actionable returns for your time investment. This means, I better see a result in seven days or less, or I get rid of it.

I want you to take the tricks I’ve gathered due to my impatience, and churn out more free traffic.

Now you know who I am and what I do, let’s get to sharing. My first gift to you lies inside of your head. The three pound organ inside your skull gives you an unfair advantage. And I will show you how to think your way to more free traffic. Sound good? Ok, let’s go get it.

SEO Mindset and Approach

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln

People First Algorithms Second

Before we get into strategy and tactics, let’s talk about your mindset first. Step one — separate yourself from the herd. Separating from the herd requires you to identify herd behavior, then do the opposite. Let’s review SEO herd behavior. First, let’s meet the herd.

They follow every Google update in the news and then pontificate for hours. They follow every so called SEO expert and take what they say as gospel. They bow at the feet of SEO agencies. They obsess over the word “hacks”. They cater to and bow at the altar of Google, and sometimes Bing. The herd treats website visitors like a byproduct. A mere ten second daydream.

Any of this sounding familiar? If you find yourself running with the herd, you might need a mental or digital detox. Don’t be upset, it takes effort to detach. Hive mind thinking infests this industry like a virus. Digital detox is difficult, but necessary. Because you opened this book tells me you want to detox. So come with me and let’s begin your mental cleanse.

“Observe what the masses do, then do the opposite.” — James Caan

Pretend You Are Your Customer

Forget for one moment, about Google, Bing, SEO agencies, and all the magic fairy dust. Once you clear your head, start thinking about people. More importantly, the users who visit your website. Imagine they visit your website and consume your content. Pick any form of content — blog posts, infographics, calculators, videos. Forget about the delivery system, let’s concentrate on the experience.

I want you to picture the ideal user visiting your website and consuming your content. Envision the ideal scenario in your head, from the time they arrive at your website, until they leave your website. What do you want them to do, immediately after they finish consuming your content?

Write down your answers, because you’ll refer to it later. If you don’t have an answer right now, don’t worry. I want you to spend time thinking about these questions — like Abraham Lincoln spent time sharpening the saw. Set some time aside to brainstorm. This brainstorming session puts you ahead of 95% of the herd right away. While you think about it, let me give you the answers which launched my website traffic.

Picture Your Ideal Visitor

I have two ideal visitors:

  1. Math students, from fifth grade through college who need homework help now.
  2. Parents with a student who struggles with math. This parent wants to tutor their kid, but they need a refresher on math. The parent has neither the time nor the patience to go through another textbook to get help.

Instead of stumbling through a textbook, my website visitor wants a better way. Better means faster and more efficient. They get speed through a powerful search engine. They get efficiency from the connected content. Connection make all content discoverable within one or two moves.

My ideal visitor has urgency. Homework and tests have deadlines, so students and parents need help now. They need a thorough, easy to understand explanation.

I picture my ideal user opening a search engine and typing a math phrase. Examples include synthetic division calculator and interval notation calculator. They arrive on my website after searching. They run a problem, they scan the math work, and immediately understand it.

As soon as they finish the problem, I want one of two things to happen. Preferably both.

  1. I want to blow them away by the level of detail in the math work. I want them inspired enough to share it with their friends. By sharing my website, users turn into math tutors. Right after they share this problem, I want them to run another problem and another problem. I want them to use my website until they finish and understand their homework.
  2. I want them to spend time with me, and nobody else in my industry. Because the more time they spend on my page, two things happen. They trust my ability to deliver. And, they’ll want to spend more time with me in the future.

I want them to bookmark my page, and share more of my content. And finally, I want them to link to my website somewhere else. The ideal link gets placed on their school website, their friend’s website, or another chat forum.

Begin With The End In Mind

See what I did there? I’m running the entire user experience, before, during, and after through my head. I do this to get clear on what I need to do to complete my goal. And it all starts working backwards from the end goal. To borrow the principle from Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Begin with the end in mind.

Notice above, I said user experience. I said nothing about SEO or search engines. I did this on purpose for reasons I’ll tell you in a moment.

I also listed desired actions I want my user to perform. Each action the user performs counts as another goal. As long as they complete one goal, the wheels for SEO gains start to move. Now, let’s break rank with the herd. And I want you to burn this principle into your head. Refer to it whenever you start to get the herd disease:

Avoid chasing Google and algorithm updates. Refuse to obsess over the latest algorithm updates. I know this sounds like blasphemy in the herd world of SEO. But I didn’t get to 450,000+ monthly visitors by following the herd. Which brings me to something I’ve wanted to shout from the rooftops for years. I saved it for this book, just for you.

I don’t care about search engines. I care about people.

Ahhh, there, I said it. It felt even better than expected. You see, when your website engages people, the rest will take care of itself.

Engagement starts with the right mindset towards people. So let’s compare the herd mindset versus the winning mindset.

  • Herd: Build for search engines, let them reward you, and tell people about you.
  • Winning: Build for people, your message gets shared far and wide, their actions communicate your value to search engines.
  • Herd: Treat people like brokers, and search engines like customers
  • Winning: Treat people like customers, where search engines take a middleman role.
  • Herd: I’ll blindly follow and do whatever search engine agencies and influencers tell me to do
  • Winning: I’ll take the best information, stack it up against results, and keep what works. Discard the rest.
  • Herd: I’ll build what I think people need
  • Winning: I’ll find out what people want, then give it to them

While we discuss mindset, let’s talk about what really matters in your quest for free traffic — reflection time. Reflect on the ideas you have, and the ideas you executed.

When you reflect, try gathering your thoughts around a central theme. Over time, the central theme takes shape into a phrase or sentence. They say you can boil down all powerful ideas into one sentence.

On November 4, 1980, Ronald Reagan debated Jimmy Carter for the U.S. Presidency. In his closing remarks, Ronald Reagan asked the crowd a simple question.

“Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?”

Reagan’s question cut through and captured the country’s mood in one sentence. This question became the Big Idea, and sealed the election for Reagan. It’s powerful, simple, and measurable.

The Big Idea applies to your business as well. “Is what I’m doing now making my business better than 30 days ago?” Keep in mind,I use 30 days as an arbitrary number. 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year time frames provide a snapshot.

No matter how hectic your schedule gets, set aside one hour each week. Go somewhere quiet. Ask yourself: Is what I’m doing right now making my business better than last week, month, or year?

If you answered “No”, then you know what you need to do. You don’t need influencers, pats on the back, or kumbaya sessions around the fire. Compare your situation from one time frame to another. After you compare timeframes, ask yourself Reagan’s question.

Do you like the answer?

Ask Your Customer

After your ask yourself questions about your website, focus your attention on your customers. Instead of guessing, I like to contact customers and get their honest opinions on my website.

I got this idea from my first job out of college. Two decades ago, I worked in skip tracing — a fancy term for chasing disappearing debtors. The biggest offenders vanished on a whim. Debtors stopped answering phone calls and ignored repeated letters to their home.

To track these people, I found the debtor’s friends and family members. I learned to ask Open Ended Questions. I stopped asking questions with a Yes or No answer. I started asking questions requiring descriptions, such as:

  • “How do you know Mr. X?”
  • “I’d like to help Mr. X, how can I reach him?”

Six months of open ended questions produced three reasons for debt dodging:

  1. The customer lost their job.
  2. The customer had relationship troubles.
  3. The customer lived paycheck to paycheck. They ran into a one-time expense this month such as medical bills.

Identifying these three reasons made tracking easier. Because once you know the source of the problem, solutions appear. For example, the customer who runs into a one-time expense will have money again. So we take this month’s car payment, and move it to the end of the loan. Now the customer gets a break from payments. They catch up next month, and get back on track.

You see, human nature never changes. People move in herds. And herd behavior is trackable. You’ll see this with the 80/20 rule, also known as the Power Law. 20% of (x) produces 80% of (y). Now let’s try a 5 minute experiment using the Power Law:

1) Go into your sales transactions tool and find the top 10 customer spenders.

2) Call each of these ten customers.

3) Find out the following information:

  • i) What they like about your product or service
  • ii) How you serve them better

Tally up the results, and find any common themes. Take the customer responses and figure out how:

  • You make (i) even better
  • You improve (ii)

Do you see any Power Laws emerge?

Kaizen

Now we’ve established a frame of mind to get in, let’s slide on over into execution. We start by embracing a principle called Kaizen. Kaizen comes from an American statistician named William Edwards Deming. Deming believed in continuous incremental improvements in all aspects of your job. The Japanese term kaizen comes from post World War II. It means improvement, or change for the best.

Building website traffic takes a hefty amount of work. It’s easy to get derailed. To make your life easier, break large goals up into bite-sized pieces.

Small Goals

To keep on track, focus on a small goal everyday. Pick one aspect of your website. Readability, speed, bounce rate, engagement, etc. Pick one of these and set a timeframe. It can be a day or a week. Then, I want you to improve your numbers 1% per period. Do something every day or every week to improve your website experience 1%.

I pick 1% because it’s manageable and quantifiable. 1% gives you something else — momentum. You see, you just need to start moving. Once you begin motion, Newton’s first law takes over. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Continuous motion, even with 1% improvements, pays dividends.

If you stay consistent with Kaizen, compound interest takes over. You see, 1% per day for 30 days amounts to more than 30%. Compounding power turns small gains into exponential gains. Albert Einstein summed it up best:

Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.

Let’s take a Kaizen strategy at 1% improvement per day. Compound every day, and see what you get:

  • After 30 days, you improve by 33.45%
  • After 60 days, you improve by 79.87%
  • After 90 days, you improve by 142.44%
  • After 120 days, you improve by 226.77%
  • After 180 days, you improve by 493.64%
  • Wanna go for a full year at 365 days? 1% per day, every day, gets you a 3,640.93% gain

Now think back to your 1% a day. Each day feels like a drop in the bucket. Over time, 1% per day turns into a gushing waterfall.

Now you have a daily improvement plan. And speaking of improvements, let’s discuss another way to get better — avoiding errors.

Inversion

The agrarian societies of old made large advances when they went from asking: “How can we get water?” to “How can we get the water to come to us?”

We call this thinking process inversion. Inversion turns your question upside down. In essence, inversion helps avoid errors. Picture what you want, and then ask, how can you avoid the opposite from happening? Instead of asking how to improve, ask yourself, “What things would I do to fail?” This question forces you to identify the wrong path and avoid it.

Inversion helps you grow your website as well. If we use inversion, we begin with the end in mind. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Regular thinking: How can you get a user to sign up for your newsletter?
  • Inversion: What items on your website prevent the user from signing up for your newsletter?
  • Regular thinking: How can you get more people to buy your product or service?
  • Inversion: What website item prevents your users from purchasing your product or service?
  • Regular thinking: How do I get the user to read my article?
  • Inversion: What distractions and clutter prevent my user from reading the article?

Remember, it’s much easier to remove known problems than figure out what you missed. Inversion has a prime directive: avoid stupid mistakes. In more elegant terms, inversion is addition by subtraction. Think about your website, your users, and their journey.

What can you remove to make things better? Picture the user’s journey from end to beginning. Remove any congestion interfering with their experience. With all potential roadblocks removed, ask yourself: how would your website look?

Peak Performers Avoid Errors

If you look at any field, the top performers embrace inversion. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and his business partner Charlie Munger practice inversion. Avoiding stupidity takes less effort than becoming a brilliant person. Charlie sums up Berkshire Hathaway’s success using inversion with this quote:

“The secret to Berkshire is we are good at ignorance removal. The good news is we have a lot of ignorance left to remove.”

Professional athletes practice inversion during a match. Think about ping pong or tennis. In Charles Ellis’s 1975 essay, The Loser’s Game, he writes:

“The amateur duffer seldom beats his opponent, but he beats himself all the time. The victor in this game of tennis gets a higher score than the opponent, but he gets that higher score because his opponent is losing even more points.”

Inversion focuses on avoiding silly errors. Take a mental tour of your website. What items help the user? What items might confuse the user? How can you remove these stumbling blocks?

Automation

Let’s discuss one more SEO mindset — automation. I let technology do most of the work for me. When you let technology do the work, you avoid stress, you clear your schedule, and you don’t forget things. When you free your time up and clear your schedule, you get to focus on important business building tasks. I use two principles when I let technology do the work for me:

  1. One-time updates. Build these once, and they work forever.
  2. Automation. I use scripts, scheduled jobs, and software to handle certain SEO tasks.

The Infomercial Idea

My inspiration for one-time updates comes from infomercial legend Ron Popeil. Ron sold over 2 billion dollars of product through infomercials. His catch phrases stick in your brain like glue. One of his famous television pitches came from the Showtime Rotisserie product. When you have a few minutes, go on YouTube and watch this presentation. It’s a valuable education.

During Ron’s presentation, he reads through the rotisserie instructions. He utters an unforgettable phrase with the audience:

“You just set it and forget it.”

The audience repeats the phrase with him in unison throughout the infomercial. Years after the infomercial, people still utter this catch phrase.

The set it and forget it principle brings SEO value as well. When it comes to on page SEO or pagespeed updates, I’ll show you how to make one time updates to your website. These set it and forget it updates work now going forward.

Now certain SEO principles require consistent monitoring and work. If we cannot use set it and forget it, our next question is, can we use automation? Let’s explore automation benefits for your day to day website work.

Get Work Done While You Sleep

Picture this: you find yourself in a deep sleep. While you relax under the covers, an employee works tirelessly to help you build relationships with your customers. This employee also handles repeatable tasks required by your business. Repeatable tasks require reminders. What kind of reminders do people use? They either:

  • Set a calendar reminder for themselves every day, week, month, or quarter
  • Somebody else reminds them each time period about it

These programs slip through the cracks, and they waste unnecessary time. How do you avoid memory loss? Scheduled Jobs. If you have date based tasks, scheduled jobs fix the memory problem by automating delivery. You set the time interval for each script run and tell it what scripts to run.

These scheduled jobs run in the background. They never get tired or take a break. You don’t have to think about them.

On MathCelebrity, I set the scheduled jobs to run during slow traffic times. It impacts my audience less when scripts run during low traffic times. Typically, these jobs run between 4–5 AM CST every day.

When the scheduled jobs complete, I get an email summary. In case anything goes wrong, I’ll know about it when I wake up in the morning. The email sends me a full SEO report for the last 24 hours. I call it my…

Executive Dashboard

The executive dashboard serves as your daily briefing for your website. The dashboard contains SEO metrics I’ll discuss later, such as:

  • Ranking
  • Click through rate (CTR)
  • Bounce rate
  • Unique visitors
  • Pages viewed

The dashboard serves another purpose — alerts. I’ll know instantly about any drastic changes in my website. Alerts include:

  • Is there a page on my website down?
  • Has my page speed slowed down?
  • Has our social media engagement plummeted?

I include website engagement on my dashboard. In later chapters, I’ll discuss my ticket report for internal searches. This secret alone produced millions of visitors to my website over the years.

Finally, I include a status section on the dashboard report of all maintenance activities. For instance, I have a script I’ll discuss later to optimize my database and files. The dashboard tells me details about the optimized tables. These activities optimize page speed, a vital SEO ranking factor.

If the optimization fails, I’ll get an error report. I love these error reports — they serve as my digital bodyguards. They constantly scan for trouble and alert me to problems sooner rather than later.

Automation takes an upfront time investment. But the time you spend now pays future dividends. The best way to decide on automation comes from your manual time investment. How much time do you spend on certain tasks? How much time does it take to remember to do them? How often do you work on these tasks?

Now, figure out the probability you will forget to do them.

Automate By Time Period

For any daily task, even if it takes five minutes, I’d rather automate. Because this five minutes occupies space in my brain — robbing me of mental power for more important tasks. The more mental power I conserve for larger tasks, the better I perform.

I recommend you have an automation brainstorming session. Create a chart with two columns below:

  1. Tasks you want to automate and know how to do
  2. Tasks you want to automate but need help with

Start with the first column. As you automate more tasks, you build momentum. You’ll create more scenarios to automate. Once you finish the first column, move to the second column.

Is there free software or scripts on the Internet to help you automate? Can you exchange favors with a tech savvy person? For example, can you offer your product or service in exchange for automation help?

Set constraints for yourself. How can you automate your second column without spending money? These constraints encourage productivity. I define automation as the intersection of laziness and ingenuity. Each little success builds up to a large accomplishment.

Snowball Effect

Treat each success as a victory. When you first start out, SEO sucks. Victories seem few and far between. I wish it were different, but it’s not. Imagine you sit at the top of snow covered hill in Switzerland. You need to make a snowball three feet wide and six feet tall. You roll up a small ball of snow in your hand. You start with a tiny snowball. Now, take this snowball and push it down the hill. When you first push, it’s a struggle.

As you continue to push, the angle of the hill helps you. The snowball starts to roll by itself. As it rolls, it picks up speed. The speed packs more and more snow on top. Pretty soon, the snowball explodes in size. I use the snowball image to represent momentum. Once the snowball gets moving at a decent speed, it gets easier and easier to build the snowball. The hill starts to do the work for you.

The same rule applies with SEO. The beginning feels hopeless. The journey starts the same for many websites. You create powerful content to share with the world. But one problem arises, the world fails to show up. As you put in more and more work, you’ll consider abandoning SEO. Fear not, let me help you rethink your mission. After you create quality content, stop, and go get one backlink. Or, one search engine result. Start with one, then build from there.

Throughout the book, I’ll give you momentum building strategies and tactics to use. As you execute more and more of these, the results start arriving. Even if it’s a new strategy, get started now.

To give you another momentum visual, check out the graph for a Power Law. The function for a power law takes the number 2, and raises it to the power of n. Now, when n equals 1, you get 2. When n equals 2, you get 4. These numbers seem tiny. But, when n = 8, you get 256. When n hits 20, you cross 1,000,000. As n rises, gains explode.

When you look at the graph, it’s not linear. It’s exponential. And if you stick with the tactics and continue to improve, you’ll go from nothing, to small linear growth, to exponential gains.

Get People Working for You

As you get your name out in the digital public, people start doing the work for you. As your user experience improves, people start doing the work for you. As you improve your content and your products, people start doing the work for you. First learn the principles. Then implement them. Next, improve them. It’s hard to stop a train once it gets moving. The same rules apply to SEO.

You’ll notice once people start linking to your content, more people will link to your content. The same goes with shares and follows. As your “tribe” grows, more people join the tribe. Numbers beget more numbers, no different than a rolling snowball down a steep hill.

You now have the mindset behind a six-figure traffic website. Let’s take your mental tactics and turn them into physical execution.

Offsite SEO

It sounds counterintuitive, but we begin our strategy outside of your website. Why? Well, remember how we talked about the herd? The herd likes to stay safe in the nest, like a baby bird. Just like baby birds, you need to leave the nest to grow. Avoid narrowing your focus to on-site optimization only. To get ahead, expand your vision outside of your website. Let’s discuss offsite SEO strategies next.

Backlinks

In any election, what people say matters little. Only when people vote, do they reveal their preferences. The same concept applies in the digital world. When other websites link to your website, we call this a backlink. Search Engines count them as digital votes. As time goes on, you want more digital votes.

However, not all backlinks are equal. Backlinks from spam sites hurt your ranking. Remember the old saying:

People judge you by the company you keep.

Google scores each backlink website. Like real life, they judge you by the company you keep. When you have a large percentage of spam backlinks, your SEO gets punished. Think of this as digital ballot stuffing. So when you go hunting for backlinks, focus on quality first, then you build on the quantity.

Find out who links to you

Using a tool like Ahrefs or Raven Tools, you get an automated list of your backlinks delivered to you. Take this list, and try to find a pattern within your backlinks. Do these websites cover a particular industry? Do the linking websites share any relations? Using pattern analysis, you gain deeper insight into who links to your website.

Building on the existing backlinks, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What keywords do the backlinks share? If you find a pattern, you have an idea about your popular content. When MathCelebrity started to grow, I noticed large amount of algebra links. For a month after this, I focused on algebra calculators. My traffic never stopped growing after this.
  • What anchor text describes the link? Your company name, keyword, or your product? You get clues into how people view your content by the way they describe their links. Use this insight and craft your message accordingly.

How to Acquire Backlinks

Search for high domain rank linking opportunities in your network or line of business. When you reach out to websites asking for backlinks, make sure you have an automated template. Use a mail merge program, or a list to template program. You want the person’s name, email address, and website URL.

“Vanity is my favorite sin” — Al Pacino in the Devil’s Advocate

Include a personal message in your backlink email. I used this strategy on LinkedIn to quadruple my connections within a year. Before I personalized invites, my bland connection requests had a small hit rate. After I added personalized messages to invites, my acceptance rate skyrocketed. Find out something unique or special about the webmaster before pressing the send button.

I snagged a backlink on an education forum, after reaching out to the owner. I started the invite by referencing a quote directly out of her book. I built another relationship with a large education website from having my antenna up. The owner tweeted about study problems in the classroom. I messaged her with a link to an article about concentration. Next, I tied the article in with a YouTube video she posted from a year prior. I got a response within five minutes. Remember, people love to talk about themselves. And they love to hear their name. So get personal with your invites.

Include the reason why linking to you benefits the person you contact. Reason why embraces the WIIFM principle:

Find something the other person wants. Appeal to vanity, or appeal to something they need. Better yet, use both. Use the following formula to your advantage:

Vanity + WIIFM = Backlink Bonanza

Track your contacts for backlinks. Treat these people as partners for your website. Take it a step further and add them to a separate list in your CRM. Set up a 3–5 day autoresponder.

Day 1 marks the your first backlink request. If the webmaster adds your backlink, set up a CRM rule to cancel future backlink request emails. If your first backlink request goes unanswered, your autoresponder takes over. Set it to drip feed another email 2–3 days later, requesting a backlink or a link exchange.

Influencers: How To Wipe Out 1.3 Billion Dollars With 18 Words

On February 21, 2018, media sensation Kylie Jenner posted the following 18 word tweet:

sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.

Shortly after, Snapchat (SNAP) stock plunged 6%, equivalent to 1.3 billion dollars in value. Snapchat’s plunge demonstrates the power of influencers. Kylie Jenner had 24.6 million Twitter followers at the time of the tweet. When she posts, millions tune in. So why did Jenner tweet her discomfort with Snapchat? Because she disliked Snapchat’s new design. And many Snapchat users shared her disdain for the changes. What if Snapchat handled the update differently? What if they consulted with influencers like Jenner up front?

Influencers act like digital power brokers. With a large following and social clout, their words and preferences carry heavy weight throughout their network. One suggestion from an influencer changes the course of brands. To put a dollar amount on it, did you know Kylie Jenner gets $300,000 or more for Instagram brand promotions?

For SEO, your job starts by finding ways in with influencers. Step 1, how do you engage influencers? Start with email outreach, favors, and delivering value to their audience. Unless an influencer finds your brand, you need to put your brand in front of them. To get in front of homeschool audiences, I offered to write an article for a popular homeschool website. I tailored the article to show the benefits of homeschooling in the business world. I also discussed my experiences at homeschool conferences. I mentioned very little about my own brand.

This article earned me a profile page on the website with a link to MathCelebrity. The article helped me build a relationship with the site for future promotions. The profile page earned me a backlink for search engines on a popular website. I learned a key lesson from this campaign — focusing on the influencer’s interests.

While manual outreach works, I like to automate tasks. To save time and speed delivery, try influencer automation software like Klout. Klout tracks influencers in your line of business. Scan this list and connect with influencers on social media. Since Klout provides a influencer score, start with high scoring individuals first. Once you have your influencer list, add them to your contact list. Tag this person in your contact list as “influencer”. This way, you can target future emails to industry influencers only.

Take advantage of social media metrics. Klout reports give you metrics such as:

  • Followers
  • Likes
  • Mentions
  • Retweets

A person might have a large following, but low engagement. Or, they may have a smaller following with devoted fans. Between large followings or high engagement, always choose engagement. I like rabid and responsive fans.

What about keyword and influencer relations? The software BuzzSumo lets you type a keyword, and returns influencers related to this keyword. BuzzSumo provides metrics for your outreach campaign, including retweets and replies. Use these metrics to target people who retweet valuable information.

To refine your outreach program, BuzzSumo breaks down the results as follows:

  • Bloggers
  • Influencers
  • Companies
  • Journalists
  • Regular People

When marketing to influencers, keep tabs on these metrics to find responsive influencers. Try different targeting filters to see who brings you the highest return on investment. Once you identify influencers you wish to target, think about your approach.

What about gifts? Try giving a free sample or free trial to an influencer’s audience. Nothing disarms skeptics faster in the digital world than the word “free”. Find a way to tie in your offer with the influencer’s interest.

How about another strategy — the expertise appeal? Roundup posts or videos summarize important events within your industry. Reach out to a list of influencers and ask their opinion on a topic you want to cover. Make it simple for influencers to respond. On 90% of viral roundup posts I’ve read, they all had one question. Simple requests such as answering one question increase the response rate.

Once the answers come in, prepare your roundup post. Or, you prepare a roundup post with links to influencers thoughts on a topic. Excluding the interview, you create an influencer central post. People love summaries — all the important information in one place.

I’ve seen people mention a list of influencers in a post or video. If even one influencer responds, you get instant attention. As an added bonus, if the influencer links to your roundup, you earn a powerful backlink. Also remember, getting influencers to add content to your website grants you sideways authority. Influencers pick and choose who they talk to. If they talk to you, your credibility increases within your industry.

Let’s switch gears, and go offsite for another valuable SEO strategy — user generated content.

Testimonials

As I read books and reviewed products, I noticed more clicks coming in from review sites. I picked up a few clicks from Goodreads, a book recommendation website. Every time I finish a book, I supply a rating on Goodreads. The rating contains a link to my personal profile, which has my website on it. Besides, I’m an author, so I get my own author page. This author page links back to my books and my website. If it takes 30 seconds to supply a review, you’ve spent your time well. Why? Because once you finish, you have no work left.

User generated content creates a perpetual cycle. Search Engines get more fresh content, and you get a new backlink from your review. Search engines index user generated content (UGC) such as testimonials and forum comments. More readers find the user generated content. The more readers, the more user generated content. User generated content supplies search engines with a constant stream of fresh content.

I almost forgot one more powerful force with user generated content…trending topics. People gravitate towards popular threads, products, and news. And when you comment, you put yourself “in the game”. When you provide valuable reviews, you position yourself as a respected authority. Quality reviews build your following. As more people follow you, more people see your profile, with a link back to your website. With continued reviews, you place yourself in front of more eyeballs.

Guest blogging and posting

Invest in finding new audiences. If you spend four hours writing one guest blog post with the right audience, it goes a long way to building your backlink profile. I like to call this passive automation. Informative blog posts get new leads and customers indirectly. If they like your content, they either follow you, or link to you in the future. As a guest blogger, you come “preapproved” by the website owner, which helps you gain credibility with your target audience.

How do you automate guest blogging opportunities? You build a list of potential websites. As I described above with influencers, create a list of email addresses and websites. Set up your emails to reach out to website owners offering to guest blog. Once you have your list, you add them to your CRM with a tag of “guest_blogger”. Build a 3–5 day autoresponder sequence for initial contact and follow up.

Follow the same steps as we did with influencers. If the original email remains unopened, send follow ups. Again, remember the WIIFM principle. Give the webmaster a selfish reason to let you guest blog. Offer free, valuable items to the audience you will write to.

Choose your guest blogging opportunities carefully. Target high traffic, high engagement websites. Also, target websites in your line of business. Examples include trade journals, review websites, and industry news. Place yourself where the conversation happens.

I found a great example of this in the movie “Unbreakable”. Bruce Willis plays a superhero who thrives on helping people. As he struggles with his identity, Samuel L. Jackson tells Bruce Willis:

Go to a place where people are.

Only by being in the right place, can you help people. Let’s stay on the theme of being in the right place, and work on our next strategy — broken link fixes.

Broken Link Opportunities

Using tools like SemRush and Broken Link Check, you scan for potential backlinks. Follow these steps:

  • Find websites describing your line of business
  • Check for links on this website leading to broken or error pages
  • Contact the webmaster and play the role of the knight in shining armor
  • Suggest your link as the place to point to

Let’s say you run a business selling blue trinkets. You find a website with a broken link about blue trinkets. The conversation with the webmaster goes as follows:

“Dear Webmaster, I reviewed your website resources on blue trinkets. I noticed you have a broken blue trinket link. My website provides a useful resource for blue trinkets. I’d like to volunteer my website as a potential resource for your updated link.”

Now, once you get your script together, build a contact template. Add the broken link URL, your product or service, and your replacement link. Use this system to contact webmasters and get more backlinks.

Finding broken links grants you favor with a website owner. You took the time to find issues with their website. The website owner spent no money, and in return, they get a fresh link to show their audience. You get a new backlink. Everybody wins.

Link Exchanges

Sometimes, you have to give to get. You’ve heard the saying, “One hand washes the other, and both hands wash the face”. Link Exchanges present a prime opportunity to adopt this mindset. Your website is the left hand, your link exchange website is the right hand, and search engine gains are the face.

Using your backlink scanning tool, find a list of websites in your industry with a domain rank greater than or equal to 50. Call this Group A. Next, cross check this list with the existing websites who already link to you. Call this Group B. You want a list of B not in A. Now, to automate this, build another email template for outreach. Connect this template to your list of link exchange prospects. Using webmaster name, url, and line of business, you send the webmaster an email requesting a link exchange.

To automate further, follow the same process I mentioned above with influencers. When your script runs, add the link exchange webmaster to your CRM. Make sure to add them on a separate marketing list in your CRM. Tag their account with “link_exchange”. Complete your automation with a 3–5 day autoresponder email sequence.

Quality versus Quantity

Start your backlink gathering with a variety of sources. But, as you start to climb the search engine ranks, you find yourself going against stronger competition. Once you get to the top two pages of search engines, adjust your strategy. When backlink hunting against stronger competition, pay attention to quality versus quantity. Target higher ranked backlinks — they pay more dividends than ten weak backlinks.

Use Page Rank (PR) and Domain Rank (DR) to measure backlink quality. These scores tell you how popular a particular website is. Gather more backlinks with higher PR and DR websites — they bring more credibility. Think about it, would you rather have:

  • A random person on the street waving a sign with your company name on it
  • A respected authority or celebrity waving a sign with your company name on it

Backlink Reporting

Using Ahrefs, you find three backlink types:

  1. New backlinks
  2. Lost backlinks
  3. Broken backlinks

If we go up one level above links, we get new referring domains and lost referring domains. Each domain might give you one or more backlinks.

Check your backlink profile once a week. Are you gaining backlinks, staying flat, or losing backlinks? Also, what quality backlinks do you attract? Use Ahrefs for deeper insight. Ahrefs gives you an automated report, as well as run scans for you to get this information.

Alexa Insights

Once per week, I check Alexa.com for increasing Organic Rank. Their ranking tool tells you website popularity. Search Engines give more weight to backlinks on high traffic websites. You want popularity by association. When popular websites link to you, search engines assume your site must be valuable.

Welcome to the new Google. Piles of weak backlinks used to get you higher traffic rank. I say “used to”, because the game has changed. To maximize results, you need to go whale hunting.

Step 1: I find blogs or education sites to attempt a link exchange. Next, I go to Alexa and check their page rank. I’m shooting for 1 of 2 things on Alexa:

1) A global rank of 100,000 or below

2) A U.S. rank of 50,000 or below

If the webmaster denies your link exchange offer, offer the blog owner a free trial to your service. You can also offer something of value. In exchange, you can ask for a review of your product or service which they place on their website. If neither of those work, I’ve worked with blog owners to help them fix problems on their website. I’ve gained favor with webmaster by finding spelling errors, expired backlinks, and other website errors. If I do them a favor, they may:

  • Give me thanks on their blog
  • Be open to mentioning me in the future since I did something for them for free (Law of Reciprocity)
  • Even though our website covers math tutoring, we may get one of their fans asking us for help. If their fans have a website, we get another backlink.

Benefits from help extend beyond backlinks. You can provide help in front of large groups of people. One post gives you the ability to skyrocket your exposure. How do you do this? Community discussions, a.k.a, Forums.

Forum Goldmines

Two years after starting MathCelebrity, I found two math tutoring forums. They had high traffic and a strong Alexa ranking. They dominated the eLearning industry. To expand my reach, I posted my calculators on question and answer posts. Each post had a signature which linked back to my website. As I posted more, my website link gets planted into people’s heads.

Forums offer a place to ask questions and show your expertise. This expertise turns into people linking to your answer. With your profile visible, your answer thread links to your site. As you answer more questions, more people link to you. The search engines pick this up, making exponential growth possible. I recommend Quora for expertise sharing. Quora has industry influencers posting and commenting.

As you answer more questions on Quora, they list you as a category expert. More people request your answers on topics. People see your profile activity as you contribute more. Your profile puts your website and social media links one click away. When Quora selects you as a resident expert, your profile gets a boost. Think of this as an indirect way to put your website in front of people.

For question and answer websites, follow these steps:

  1. Fill out your profile. Put all social media links allowed. Add your website and company name.
  2. Find places to chime in with expertise.

Question and answer expertise in front of a group extends beyond the digital world. Within every line of business, you’ll find gathering places and print publications.

Trade magazines and industry publications

No matter what field you work in, you’ll find a trade publication or Ezine covering your industry. Trade publications translate into valuable real estate for your business. Use these methods to find your way into them:

  • Public speaking
  • Trade show conference
  • Guest articles
  • Featured resource

Like forums, trade publications help get your name and your business in the public eye. This contributes to the “top of mind awareness” phenomenon. Top of mind industry experts become experts by being here, there, and everywhere. Expert status gets you more opportunities faster.

At a homeschool conference in Las Vegas, people tracked us down after reading our guest card promo. “I saw your ad, I had to come and talk to you. I want to add your website as a resource in our directory.” Directory links put you in front of multiple eyeballs.

Favors are like seeds

Seeking out backlinks requires finesse. Try offering something of value first before asking for a return favor. I once saw an unknown blogger gain notoriety at a conference using this method. He transcribed audio presentations into summary notes, then posted them on his website. Summary notes provided a summary to people who missed the conference. Conference attendees appreciated his bullet pointed recap. This little gesture built credibility. The next year at the conference, this same blogger presented on stage instead of taking notes.

Demonstrate value and offer help. People gravitate to other helpful people. I’m reminded of Warren Buffet’s quote:

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

Start planting backlink seeds now. The giant tree you see months from now may be your own.

Now, let’s discuss another tactic to gain notoriety — being in multiple places at one time. They say money, and success, follows speed. The more people know about you, the faster your name spreads.

Omnipresence

When the media asked actress Sally Kellerman why she stumped for Governor Jerry Brown, she said:

“20 years ago, I asked 10 friends to help me move. Jerry was the only one to show up.”

You’ll find great value from being in many places. Find out where the most people need help from your product or service, and get there. Answer questions and help people out. Whether it’s forums, blogs, or online question and answer sessions, make yourself visible. If you’ve seen the movie Lord of the Rings, you need to be the Eye of Sauron — all seeing. You don’t have to do this all the time, but you need to do it enough in the beginning. Get your name and website on the top of the list for helpful people.

In my third year building MathCelebrity, I started answering questions on a few popular math forums. I noticed a distinct increase in my traffic from the time I helped. As I posted more often, my name showed up on other websites. As my mentions grew, people came to me for help. Once you make a name for yourself, you’ll get more help requests. Your name becomes affiliated with the words help and service.

Answer the Call

Be the guy who answers the call. Find forums or discussion hubs where you can contribute. Next, find questions where your answer blows away any competitor. I used this strategy in my third year of MathCelebrity. I scoured math tutoring forums and offered help on difficult problems. When applicable, I linked back to my website. Or, I featured my website in my profile. After a while, I started getting personal requests for help.

By the way, when people seek you out, you go from hunted to hunter. As you help more people, you turn into a traffic magnet. I once helped a desperate college student at two in the morning with a statistics lesson. I built a new calculator to help them solve five problems. The next day, they sent a powerful thank you note. The note included some friends, and mentioned how they told everybody they knew about my website. Within three days, I started getting 30 daily visits to this new calculator.

Once I established a foothold with college students, I looked for other places to help. I found another math tutoring forum with people in need. After answering questions for a week, I had three more people come to me for help. During the times I helped out in forums, my traffic kept growing.

Product and Service Ideas

When you work in help mode, you get powerful insight into people’s problems. As you help, they trust you more. When they trust you more, they open up. You’ll start to hear things like, “It would be nice if…” or, “Are you able to…”. Treat these questions like free market research. Use them to your advantage. From my forum conversations, I’d get an idea per week from the students I helped. Dig deep, learn pain points, solve problems. Once you do this, the traffic starts to take care of itself.

Page Speed

“If you’re not first, you’re last.” — Ricky Bobby

Page Speed Overview

Congratulations, you got a job coaching football. On draft day, you get to pick one player from a group of ten. You stand on the field surveying the players. You watch them throw, jump, run, and catch. After a few hours, you narrow your pick down to two players. You send everybody else packing. For the next hour, you run the last two players through a series of drills. You want to find the best player for your team.

After one hour, you review your notes. Both players have equal skills in throwing, catching, and jumping. At the bottom of your notepad, you notice one difference between players. Player A runs the 40 yard dash faster than Player B. Now I have a question for you coach…which player do you choose?

Zero patience in human nature

Before we discuss the answer, let’s discuss user experience. Let’s use the coach example above, but instead of athletes, we use web pages. Take two businesses, exactly the same. Same product, same content, same page layout, same offer. But Company B’s webpage loads one second faster.

Will users care? Will they notice? Read this statistic to find out:

“A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions” — Aberdeen Group

One more statistic to make your jaw drop:

“47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less” — Akamai

Stay with me, we will get to search rank shortly. Let’s analyze what happens to bounce rates with slower load times. If a user gets frustrated with page load speed, they leave. Or, they may ask themselves, “If the page speed drags, what other problems will I find?” Bloated pages increase your bounce rate. And bounce rate, my friends, affects SEO.

Remember the football coach example earlier? Take two web pages with the same content, same offer, same backlinks, and same line of business. But Page B loads one second faster. Guess which one will outrank the other?

The faster one.

And speed benefits extend beyond page load time. You better be lightning fast at grabbing people’s attention as well.

Oh Look At The Squirrel!

While human nature doesn’t change, our attention span gets worse. A recent Microsoft Consumer study gives us bleak news. You have, on average, eight seconds to get to the point when somebody visits your website. Eight seconds. Which means every second you eat up with page load time takes away from message time. The longer you have to hook the visitor, the higher the probability they stay with you.

In the time it took the average reader to complete the last sentence above, I lost my window of eight seconds. Poof…Gone. I show this to you to help you understand how fast you need to get attention.

Search engines time you

Now let’s look at this in the eyes of the search engine. Search engines want to deliver relevant content. Relevant content means nothing if people don’t stick around to digest it. Slow page loads make frustrated users hit the back button, never to return. This back button penalizes you in the war for search rank. Each time somebody hits the back button within 30 seconds, your website SEO score takes a hit.

It doesn’t stop there. Assume your page loaded 1–2 seconds faster. Assume this speed helped you keep 25% more visitors for over one minute. We know the longer a visitor stays on your website, the more invested they are. The more invested they are, the more likely they will take action. Action comes in the form of opt-ins, purchases, and shares to their network.

You see, each second longer your page takes to load, you lose visitors. You lose referrals. You lose leads. And, you lose customers. You may be asking yourself: Is one second a big deal?

Yes.

To show you why, let’s talk about weight loss. Instead of fat, we need to lose something else…

Empty your suitcase

Two months ago, I ran my website on Google Page Speed Insights. Google suggested compressing and minifying my files to make my page load faster. I made one change — I removed blank spaces in my website files. What happened next? Blank space removal loaded my webpage faster.

How? Well imagine you take a vacation. You need to carry one large suitcase. What if you removed 25% of the items in the suitcase? Besides, these 25% of items have no value for your vacation. You don’t need them.

If you remove those items, how would you benefit? For starters, you’d have to carry less weight around. And less weight means less strain on your body. Less weight means you walk faster. And less weight means a more pleasurable experience. So how does this translate to my Google Page Speed insights example?

I decreased the amount of material in my website by 25%. Translation — I lightened my digital suitcase. After lightening my suitcase, I reran the page speed test and my page speed rank increased by five points. Within two days of making this change, my webpage shot up from page six to page four on Google for the page in question. One final note: this keyword has fierce competition.

Now you know the psychology and strategy behind page speed. With your mental approach complete, let’s discuss automating page speed tasks. I use Google Page Speed Insights for page load metrics. You enter the website page of the url you want to test in the entry box. Google Page Speed Insights returns a page speed metrics report. They show you a pagespeed score for mobile devices and desktops. Page Speed Insights gives you rating colors: red, yellow, or green.

  • Red means a critical issue damaging the user experience
  • Yellow means a non-critical issue. This still affects your page speed
  • Green means Google likes what you did with the page

Google wants you to succeed, so they provide a helpful feature — compressed files. Export the files and load them to your website system. Immediately after, your page speed score increases!

To avoid forgetting page speed, set a monthly calendar reminder to check Google Page Speed Insights. Monthly checks ensure you keep your page speed top of mind. If you know a programmer, or can program yourself, automate this step using Google’s API. I have a weekly program which runs on Sunday night. Using the Google API, it sends a few pages of my website through the Page Speed Insights program. Google returns my page speed score for these pages. The last automation step I built produces two email alerts:

  1. If my mobile page speed score drops below 70
  2. If my desktop page speed score drops below 65

Now, I have a robot watching my site every week to make sure my webpages run fast.

Besides digital weight loss, how else can you reduce page load time? The answer lies inside a bad job with too many bosses.

HTTP Requests

Ever worked at a job where you you needed layers of approval for the tiniest of decisions? First, you had to ask your boss. Then your boss asked their boss. Their boss asked an executive. You filled out piles of forms. Approvals needed approvals. The entire process took weeks, sometimes months. And the results — extra layers wasted time and stifled productivity.

Compare this with independent thinking companies. Where you have an idea, you talk it out with a few people, and within minutes, you act.

HTTP Requests Details

Red tape happens in the digital world as well. Webpages get bogged down from extra decisions. To load a webpage, multiple decisions take place. We call these decisions HTTP requests. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol — web lingo for, go get a file and use it to present our web page. The more HTTP requests you make, the longer your page takes to load. Let’s use an example webpage, called welcome.html. This page contains the following files:

  • 2 .jpg image files
  • 2 Javascript (js) files
  • 1 CSS file
  • The total HTTP requests equal five (Two jpg, two js, and one css file)

For each of the five files above, the browser makes a separate HTTP request. Each one adds more time to the page load. To solve this problem, you need to know how many HTTP requests your page makes. You also need to know which requests eat up the most time. How do you do this?

Google Chrome Network Panel to the Rescue

To see how many HTTP requests your webpage makes, I recommend Google’s Chrome Network Panel. The network panel shows you each HTTP request, the latency, and the file type. In the chapters to come, I’ll show you how to reduce the number of HTTP requests. I’ll also show you how to shrink the size of each HTTP request.

Pagespeed Tools

I recommend Pingdom to analyze page speed. Pingdom breaks down page speed by files and processes. The breakdown shows you which files and processes take the most time. This time causes your page loads to slow down. Pingdom even tests them from different locations around the world. Real-time alerts tell you about any page speed issues. Alerts keep you on your toes so you avoid a slow, clunky website.

Start with Google Pagespeed insights as your target. Shoot for a 75 or higher score on desktop and mobile. Then use Pingdom, and other tools like GTMetrix and YSlow.

After we reduce the number of HTTP requests, let’s work on shrinking the size of each request. Come with me in the time machine, and let’s go back over ten years. We’ll find another SEO tactic on a famous commercial about compression.

Compression

Ever seen the vacuum pack bag commercial for clothes? If not, check out the video on YouTube called “The Vacuum Seal Space Saver Tote”. The premise pulls you right in — you store clothes using a fraction of the space used for folding.

The commercial opens with a woman sitting in a closet full of clothes. She stacks a blanket, pillow, and a few other materials into a three foot high pile. Next, she wraps the vacuum seal tote bag around the stack. She starts the vacuum, and within seconds, the pile shrinks to under one foot tall. Later in the commercial, she opens the bag and unpacks the clothes in perfect shape. Nothing changed with the clothes — except the air within the storage space.

Did you know SEO has a vacuum seal space saver tote? It’s called compression, and it helps reduce your page load time and speed up your website. The definition of compression is:

Reducing the amount of space occupied

In the vacuum commercial, compression removed air. For your website, compression removes digital items. Let’s review how it works.

The Browser and Server Conversation

When a user visits your website, a four step process happens:

1. The user’s Internet browser requests a page on your website

2. The server searches for the file, and determines if the user made a valid page request

3. For valid requests, the server reads the file and sends it to the browser

4. The browser reads the file and presents it to the user

The Browser and Server (Zipped) Conversation

When a user visits your website, let’s review the compressed four step process:

  1. The user’s Internet browser requests a page on your website
  2. The server searches for the file, and determines if the user made a valid page request
  3. For valid requests, the server reads the file and sends a compressed version to the browser. Compressed files make up a fraction of the full size file.
  4. The browser unzips the compressed file, and presents it to the user

Just like the vacuum seal space saver tote, the files the user sees look and act the same as they did before the vacuum seal (compressed). The only difference is, the compressed version removes extra stuff.

Speed Gains Case Study

When I added a compression tool called GZIP to MathCelebrity, my compressed page files shrank 80% or more. Less information means faster page load times. Since you know the mechanics behind compression, I’ll show you the code for a few servers. Use this code to build GZIP. The beauty of this is, once you set it up, it’s done. It applies to old files up to this point, and any new file you add at a future date. Now let’s look at a few compression examples on servers.

Apache Servers

On your .htaccess file, add this block of code:

# BEGIN GZIP
<ifmodule mod_deflate.c>
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/text text/html text/plain text/xml text/css application/x-javascript application/javascript
</ifmodule>
# END GZIP

Nginx Servers

gzip on;
gzip_min_length 1000;
gzip_proxied expired no-cache no-store private auth;
gzip_types text/plain application/xml;

Paste this code in, save, and you are done! Enjoy the speed benefits and advantage over your competition.

Onward, to a nightclub, where I’ll show you another page speed tactic.

Caching

Have you ever been to a bar or nightclub where you showed your ID? After repeat visits, the doorman recognized you, and let you pass without showing your ID. The doorman knew your looks, your age, and your personality.

Now, what if you cut your hair, dyed your hair, or gained a bunch of weight? The doorman will card you again. Because you looked different or acted different, the doorman needed to verify your identity. The doorman only carded for new people, or existing people who made drastic physical changes.

When you avoided showing your ID, you saved time. You kept walking, without stopping, right into the bar. Did you know you can do this with your website files as well?

Page loads have their own no need to show your id tactic. It’s called file caching. When you cache files, certain files get stored in memory after their first use. This way, when a user visits a page in the future, the website uses the stored files instead of producing new ones. The browser reads the cache if instructed.

Caching speeds up the page load time — giving the user a better experience. Caching setup takes 60 seconds. One block of code automates this process.

For WordPress and Apache server websites, let’s review an example. First, find your .htaccess file inside your website files. The .htaccess file provides instructions for your server. If you lack technical skills, have your web developer do this. Next, paste the following block of code in the .htaccess file.

# Begin CACHE
FileETag MTime Size
<IfModule mod_expires.c>
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresDefault “access plus 3 days”
ExpiresByType text/css “access plus 7 days”
ExpiresByType text/plain “access plus 3 days”
ExpiresByType image/gif “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/png “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/jpg “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/jpeg “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/x-javascript “access plus 7 days”
ExpiresByType application/javascript “access plus 7 days”
ExpiresByType application/x-icon “access plus 1 year”
ExpiresByType application/vnd.ms-fontobject “access plus 1 year”
ExpiresByType application/x-font-ttf “access plus 1 year”
ExpiresByType application/x-font-opentype “access plus 1 year”
ExpiresByType application/x-font-woff “access plus 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/svg+xml “access plus 1 year”
</IfModule>
# End Cache

This code block caches images, text, scripts, and font files. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Paste this code into your .htaccess file
  2. Save it

That’s it! Every single file you use for your website now, and every single file you add in the future gets cached. Now let’s review what happens in the code above.

The ExpiresByType specifies the file type first — image, script, or a font. Next, it specifies how long we cache the files before checking for updated files. Let’s take the png files, we have access plus 1 month. What this means is, immediately after a new user visits your website, the clock starts now, counting for 30 days. Cached files load to a user’s temporary directory. When they return to your website within 30 days, the webpage uses the cached files in the user’s cached folder. The cache process speeds up the loading time by grabbing the cached image.

With each cached file, the page load time gets faster. Make this change and watch your page speed score and SEO rank increase. If you use WordPress, check out the WP Super Cache plugin.

Staying with file delivery tactics, let’s discuss another file delivery trick — embracing the shortest distance between two points.

Content Delivery Network

In Michael Lewis’s book, “Flash Boys”, he talks about a high speed trading company moving their server a few feet away from an exchange server. The high speed trading company paid millions of dollars to gain a few thousandths of a second. Why? Because each fraction of a second meant faster trading and more profits. The less distance information traveled down the internet cables, the more money they made. Why? Because they executed trades faster before price moved in their favor.

CDN’s get closer

The same principle works with files loading for web pages. Instead of high speed trading orders, we want to speed up static content delivery. Static content means content delivered without changing. Three examples of static content include:

  • Images
  • Javascript
  • Cascading style sheets (CSS)

Using a content delivery network (CDN), the server picks the closest node to grab static content from, and delivers it.

Consider your home internet. Pretend you have two cables which grab Internet information. One of them reaches three blocks away. The other one reaches 300 miles away. Which cable delivers faster? Closer means better and faster, the goal of a CDN. It determines the closest server to your location, and grabs the static content from there.

CDN’s reduce latency — the time it takes between a request made and a request fulfilled. When a server produces a webpage, it follows the instructions on the page to build the components. The more components required, the longer the build takes.

Component location determines page speed as well. Take jQuery files as an example. You can link directly to the jQuery website for the script. Or, you can download the jQuery script to your local server. The local option works faster, because the browser makes no request to an external site. Why go grab files over the internet when you have them right next to you?

Now you have the basics to optimize file delivery in a website page load. I’ve also covered optimizing delivery based on location. Now, I want to get more detailed, and go through each file type. With each file type, I’ll show you ways to optimize them within a page load.

Image Optimization

“Telling stories with visuals is an ancient art. We’ve been drawing pictures on cave walls for centuries.” — Deborah Wiles

Images give you a vivid way to express information. While images convey powerful messages, they take up space. More space means more time to load on a page. Fear not, I have good news. You see, you have a few tools to speed up and optimize image loading.

Let’s begin with color depth. Color depth, or pixel depth, equals the number of bits per pixel to display a color on a computer screen. To optimize images, you reduce the color depth. While you reduce the color depth, you maintain the original color of the image. When optimizing images, follow these two rules:

  1. Reduce the color to the lowest possible level
  2. Avoid compromising the image appearance

When you reduce the number of colors used, you reduce the size of the file. Smaller files mean faster download times. Faster download times mean happier users.

I recommend image compression tools for this. If you use WordPress, check out WP Smush. Otherwise, I use the website compressor.io. Simply upload your image, choose your size and settings, and you get back a compressed image.

Resize Images

What about images with multiple sizes based on a website section? You might use a thumbnail for a profile picture. Many websites choose the lazy route, and set up a full size image, and let the HTML resize command resize it. When the browser resizes, it takes extra time to load the page. Instead, resize your image to fit your browser first. Do this using image resizing tools like Pic Resize or Image Resize.

Image comments

Sometimes, people write comments or text inside images. They might leave their name, or a description about the image. While the user cannot see this text on a webpage, it makes the file size larger. You can see these comments if you drag an image file into a text editor. For any images on your website, make sure your final image file removes comments.

Lossless versus Lossy Image Compression

Before we get into image types and compression, let’s discuss the two compression types. Lossless compression uses a statistical algorithm to generate a data model. This algorithm makes no sacrifices in the image quality. It reconstructs the image from compressed data. Nothing gets lost.

Lossy compression works differently. Lossy compression may store the compressed image at a lower resolution than the original image. For MathCelebrity, and my consulting clients, I always use lossless compression.

Image Types

Let’s look at the common image types using on web pages and their compression types.

  • Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) — Supports lossless compression
  • Portable Network Graphics (PNG). Supports lossless data compression
  • Joint Photography Experts Group (JPEG) — Lossy data compression
  • Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)
  • Bitmap image (BMP) — Supports lossless compression

For SEO, I recommend JPEG or PNG. It makes your life easier.

Next on our list for file optimization, I give you another digital weight loss tactic.

Minification

What if you gained by losing? Consider a person carrying 33 pounds of extra weight. It’s the same as carrying four gallons of water every day, all day. As the overweight person shaves pounds off their frame, their entire world changes. Their facial features shine. They have a defined chin and jawline. They take better pictures. They get more energy. Imagine walking a few miles everyday holding four gallons of water. Every eight pounds they lose, they drop off another gallon of water. The extra energy gives this person pep in their step. They have more energy to focus on things they love.

By losing weight, they gained a better life, We call this addition by subtraction. The same principle in dieting carries over to websites. Website files lose weight using a process called minification. Minification gives the user the same website file, but faster. When a website files “loses” weight, they lose bytes. Bytes equal units of digital information. Think of bytes as pounds in the digital world. When files lose bytes, they load faster giving the user a faster experience.

Removing unnecessary characters in your script files helps you lose digital weight. Digital weight loss comes in two forms — random blank spaces and code comments. When a web page loads, your browser ignores code comments and random blank spaces. But, they increase your page load time, because the server spends time removing them.

Since the browser ignores them, why use them? The server only reads the characters performing tasks. Minification removes comments and random blank spaces up front, before the page loads. Now when your web page loads, all the unused bytes get left behind.

I minify two types of files. Javascript (js) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). I’ll walk you through each minification process.

Javascript Optimization

Let’s get deeper into minification. You want to minify all your javascript files. These file names end in a .js file name — such as, math.js. The Javascript programming language performs dynamic actions on a website. As websites evolve, more and more Javascript gets used.

It’s important to learn minification earlier. This way, you get in the habit of optimizing Javascript files. To minify Javascript files, I use a website called JS Compressor found at www.jscompress.com. What does minification remove from javascript files? Let’s review a few example below:

  • Comments — Used by developers, comments document their code. When the script runs, the browser ignores the comments. But remember, comments add space to the file.
  • Unnecessary formatting such as blank spaces. Blank spaces get ignored, but they add space to the file.
  • Shorten variable names. You might declare a variable such as myreallylongvariable. Instead, abbreviate to mrlv. The variable mrlv, repeated a few times, uses less bytes than myreallylongvariable.

Let’s review a regular javascript file example:

// Hello, I wrote my comment
var my_really_long_variable = ‘xyz’;

var num = 2;

Now let’s review the minified javascript file:

var my_really_long_variable=’xyz’,num=2;

Notice the minified version removed the comments and blank spaces. Minification removed multiple declaration of variables using the command “var”. It stated “var” one time, and then placed all the variables after it on one line. Do you see how minification reduces file size? Javascript optimization extends beyond minification. What about timing? What if we delay the Javascript loading to speed up the rest of the page load?

Wait for it…Wait for it

We do this through asynchronous page loads. Asynchronous means delay until another event runs. On MathCelebrity, I use a share widget called Sumo share. Sumo uses Javascript files for the share widget. Since I don’t need the sumo share widget when the page loads, I delay the loading of this file until my vital content loads. This way, the user can read my content first. The Sumo widget pops up after the vital pieces of the page loads.

Besides reducing file size and file load time, you can eliminate the number of Javascript files used. As an example, imagine you and seven friends want to go to a party. If you each took your own car, you use eight cars. Eight cars takes up more roadway. But what if you and your friends took two cars, seating four people in each car? We use the reduced car example in our Javascript and CSS file load.

Combine Files

Remember we talked about HTTP requests earlier? In the example above, think of each HTTP request as a car. They all go to the same place. With each file you add, you create another HTTP request. With Javascript, you can reduce the number of HTTP requests by combining files. If you have three Javascript files used on a webpage, consider combining them. When you combine all three files into one file, you reduce the amount of HTTP requests made.

External versus Internal

While we reduce the amount of files we use, why not reduce the amount of external files we use? Let’s discuss local versus external files:

  • Local — Stored on your server
  • External — A command sends a request to another website to grab code and use it for your website.

We want to reduce the amount of external files used. Can you download javascript scripts locally? Let’s use jQuery files as an example. Many websites link to the external jQuery website. They could save time if they download the script from the jQuery website and place it on their local server. Inside their HTML page, they point to the local copy of the file. Why go out to the Internet and grab files when they exist locally?

CSS Optimization

Let’s continue with CSS minification. You want to minify all your CSS files. These file names end in a .css file name — such as math.css. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. CSS helps you style multiple elements on a website using one command. As websites evolve, more and more CSS gets used, expanding unused code. To minify CSS files, I use a website called CSS Minifier found at www.cssminifier.com. What does minification remove from javascript files? Let’s review a few examples below:

  • Comments — Used by developers, comments document their code. When the script runs, the browser ignores the comments. However, comments add space to the file.
  • Unnecessary formatting such as blank spaces and indentation. Blank spaces get ignored, but they add space to the file. The same rules apply for indentation.
  • Remove newlines.

Let’s review a regular CSS file example:

`// Hello, here is my comment .myclass { display: none; }

.mathwork { border: 0; clip: rect(0 0 0 0); height: 1px; margin: -1px; overflow: hidden; padding: 0; position: absolute; width: 1px; }`

Now let’s review the minified version of this CSS file:

.myclass{display:none}.mathwork{border:0;clip:rect(0 0 0 0);height:1px;margin:-1px;overflow:hidden;padding:0;position:absolute;width:1px}

Notice the minified version removed the comments and blank spaces. Minification removed newlines, and then placed all the statements in one line. Now you see how minification shaves down file size. After reducing file size, we move to file placement.

Inline CSS

Some website owners like to put CSS directly into the HTML on a page. We call this process inlining. Too much inlining bloats a web page. Instead, we place our CSS in .css files and include this on the webpage. It’s cleaner, and avoids bloat.

Combine Files

Remember we talked about HTTP requests earlier? Each file needs another HTTP request. With CSS, you can reduce the number of HTTP requests by combining files. If you have three CSS files used on a webpage, consider combining them. If you combine all three files into one file, you reduce the amount of HTTP requests made.

External and Internal

We use the same principle above with external Javascript files as we do with external CSS files. I recommend you download the code locally, instead of going out to the Internet to get code.

Ok, time to shift gears. I’ve discussed files for page load. Now let’s discuss data and database optimization.

Database Optimization

If your website stores and accesses data, then your website relies on a database. Databases contains structured sets of data. Whether you use eCommerce, personal data on your customers, or content management systems, you use a database. And optimizing your database pleases your users. This chapter helps you find ways to speed up database requests. The less time spent on database requests, the faster your page load.

Optimize Tables

When you optimize your database, you reduce storage space of table data and indexes. You have a few options to do this. You can do this manually at regular intervals. For example, once every month, you can go into your tables, and optimize them manually. Or, you can automate this process.

Since I’m impatient, I don’t want to wait a month. So I built a nightly script to optimize databases. At 4:30 AM CST, a script runs to optimize my tables. I don’t have to do anything else. When I get my morning dashboard report, it sends me the statistics of the optimize tables script. The report tells me how many tables optimized, how many successes, and how many failures.

The script selects my database and gets all the tables. Next, it loops through each table, and runs the optimize script on each table. Note the dynamic ability of this script. If tomorrow, I have three more tables in my database, it will optimize those new tables. If next week, I have two less tables, it won’t try to optimize the old tables anymore. It selects the tables in my database to optimize, and then runs the script.

Optimize Queries

If you use WordPress or a database driven website, queries grab data to present to your user. Since queries take time to go fetch data and return it to the user, we have another chance to speed up a website. Adding indexes speed up query requests. Indexing assigns a unique value to every record. When a query uses an index, sorting and filtering results runs faster. Let’s use a table with first name, last name, and gender. I’d add a new field called personId. Each person gets a unique id. And anytime you grab personal data on your website, use their personId instead of their name. Any queries you run use personId, so they run faster.

In the comedy movie “Spaceballs”, the hero, his sidekick, and the princess escape from the bad guys into the desert. The hero tells the princess to pack lightly for their trip. Later on, the scene cuts to the hero and his sidekick under the boiling sun — lugging a large container of the princess’s belongings. As the hero and his sidekick start sweating and panting, they drop the case and open it up. Inside, they find a large hair dryer and nothing else. The hero, upset with the princess for ignoring advice, exclaims:

“Take only what you need to survive!”

The Spaceballs scene brings us the next step for query optimization — grab only the data you need. Picture a trip to the grocery store. Your grocery list has fruit, and fruit only on it. If you fill up your basket with other groceries, you waste time and space. When you go to grab fruit, put fruit in your basket and nothing else.

Let’s use our example database above. For a particular webpage, we want to count the number of male and female users. Our query should only select the gender field. Skip first name or last name in our database query. Less information means a faster response.

Congratulations! You completed the page speed SEO tactics. It’s a lot of information. Speed improves removes bloat, improving user experience. And I see many slow and bloated websites out there. The chapter you just read puts you far ahead of your competition.

On-Page SEO

Let’s discuss on-page SEO strategies next. You’ll discover tips and tricks to build directly within your web page. These tips optimize user experience and boost your SEO rank..

HTML Tags

To achieve SEO success, use full disclosure with search engines. Disclosure begins with a clean, informative page for users and machines to read with ease. Page readability starts with HTML tags. Tags define an element, and elements define key parts of pages. Always write tags in lower case. You define tags as follows: <tag>. The following tags play an important part in your webpage.

Head (Header section) tag

The head section tag, written as <head>, provides a container for metadata. Metadata means data about data. When you give a speech, think of the header section as the introduction. If you’ve worked on presentations before, you’ve heard the old saying: Tell them what you are going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what you told them. The header section covers the telling about the telling.

Title Tag

Define this tag using <title>My Title</title>. Place this tag within the header section above. Out of all the HTML tags, title tags rank number one. Just like a book title or movie title, title tags provide the short summary for what your user will consume. The page title shows up in two important spots:

  1. The ribbon of your web browser. When you have a web page open, the title lays on top of the webpage ribbons.
  2. Search engine results. The title displays as the text description on the link.

Speaking of titles, let me share a story.

Your title matters more than anything else in your content. Blasphemy? Not a chance.

For today’s lesson, let’s rewind time back to 1928. A publisher named E. Haldeman Julius gained fame selling Little Blue Books. The Little Blue Books came in 3.5 x 5 inch format. All the books had a blue cover, hence the name.

After Julius sold 100,000,000 books, (yes, you read this number correctly), he wrote a book about it. If you publish content, put “The First 100 Million” on your required reading list.

Why? Because Julius liked to test during sales. He discovered changing the title of the Little Blue Books transformed sales dramatically. He’d take the same book, same format, same content, same author, same everything. He’d change the title only, and then push it to the market and see what happened.

Let’s review the copies sold from title changes from Haldeman’s book testing:

  • How to Break Bad Habits sold 29,000 copies
  • How to Form Good Habits: 20,000 copies
  • How to Psycho-Analyze Yourself: 43,000
  • How I Psycho-Analyzed Myself sold only 13,500
  • Gautier’s Fleece of Gold: 6,000
  • The Quest for a Blonde Mistress: 50,000

Haldeman’s book sales provide a timeless lesson — title makes or breaks your audience engagement. Because the idea within the title attracts audience participation. And now you know why smart marketers test titles and headlines.

Meta Tags

Meta tags tell you data about data. Let’s review the key meta tags you place in the header section of the page:

  • Meta description — A brief description about the page
  • Meta robots — Tells search engines whether they scan the page or not
  • Meta copyright — Any copyrights about the webpage or business

Open Graph Tags

Control your image! Did you ever wonder why shared Facebook posts have a certain image, and look a certain way? It’s called the Open Graph protocol. Place Open Graph tags inside your header section. Open Graph tags control the way Facebook posts for your website look. Let’s look at the vital Open Graph tags:

  • og:title — The title of your page, content, object. This will be the title of your Facebook post.
  • og:site_name — The name of your website.
  • og:description — A 1–2 sentence describing the post. This gives you a chance to write a powerful preview for the user.
  • og:type — The type of content. These help you categorize your content, blog, article etc.
  • og:image — The URL for an image you want to represent the your content. Images must be either PNG, JPEG and GIF format. Size must be at least 50px by 50px.
  • og:url — This will be the URL for your content link. If the user clicks the Facebook post, they will go to this link.

Body tag

The body holds the meat of your content. Once your article, or your video, or your content begins, wrap it in the <body> tag. For my presentation example above, the body represents your presentation after the introduction. Videos, blog posts, and sales page go inside the body tag.

Anchor tags

  1. Link Destination — Where do users go after they click the link?
  2. Link Text or anchor text — What description do you give the link?

Let’s look at an example anchor link, Online Math Tutor. In this example, our link destination points to the MathCelebrity website. The link (anchor) text describing the link reads “Online Math Tutor”. You want to provide the best user experience for website visitors. Make things easy to find. Link text shows a user what they will get before they click this link. Think of it as a tour guide. “Here’s where you go after clicking this link.” Avoid surprises, users dislike them.

Header tags (H1, H2, H3)

Search engines use the headings to index the structure and content of your web pages. Headings define document structure within the body. Certain readers skim your pages by its headings. Make sure each heading engages users. Use <h1>, <h2>, <h3> tags where applicable.

Headers and subheads serve two purposes. One, it helps search engines build a roadmap of your content. Number two, it helps readers skim your content. Human nature never changes. When people see a block of text, they decide if they want to read it. Some people read the full text. Others jump around by skimming pieces. Good subheads help the reader skim. Good subheads also provide a reading roadmap. If the roadmap interests the reader, the reader will dive into your post.

Subheads give you one more SEO advantage — a good story map. Read each of your subheads from start to finish. If you build them correctly, they tell the condensed version of the story. Better stories mean more time on page. More time on page reduces bounce rate. And, more time on page increases the probability a reader shares your content.

P (Paragraph) tag

Readability and SEO depended on test structure. Break up your content in logical chunks using the <p></p>. The first sentence of each paragraph serves two purposes. One, it introduces the chunk of text to the reader. Number two, it helps SEO by organizing your content.

Blockquote tag

Blockquotes provide a clean way to highlight quotes in your content. Wrap quotable content in the <blockquote> tag. Blockquotes provide nice eye relief from paragraphs.

This section covered page tags. Next, I’ll show you how to optimize your content. You learned step one with titles and headlines — grabbing attention. Now we move to step two — getting the user to read your content.

Page Readability

Are you stuck in a response rate rut? Customers turned off by your webpage? Do coworkers ignore your emails? Do you write up great ideas which your peers ignore?

If you answered yes at least once, then how about a creativity experiment? Try this: find somebody successful in another industry in another town. You’ll get creative inspiration from exiting your comfort zone. Once you find the right person, spend an hour studying what they do.

9 Figures Writing

For my creativity experiment, I picked a newsletter company in Delray Beach, FL. While information products don’t sound sexy, the bags of money they make sure does. Stansberry Research rakes in 9 figures a year selling, wait for it…newsletters and books. With millions of dollars pouring in, they provided a perfect model to learn from.

Years ago, Stansberry’s head copywriter Mike Palmer gave a presentation on writing strategy. Mike’s writers follow a set of simple rules. One rule jumped out during the presentation. Mike uses a measure called Flesch-Kincaid. Flesch-Kincaid comes from a 1975 United States Navy research project. Flesch-Kincaid assigns a grade level based on readability. Mike requires all writing have a 7th grade, or below, Flesch-Kincaid readability level.

Think about it — a company making hundreds of millions of dollars writes for 7th grade reading levels! Even more fascinating? Their audience includes multi-millionaires.

Mike stressed the importance of writing clarity to raise response rates. His team avoids writing to impress. Instead, they write to elicit response. It’s easier to respond to something you understand.

The Greased Slide

As the presentation continued, Mike provided another gem. He said to think about your writing like a greased slide. Your reader starts at the top of the slide, the headline. The headline pulls the reader into the first sentence. The first sentence pulls the reader into the second sentence. Each sentence flows into the next sentence. Writing clarity helps the reader finish your piece without stopping. The bottom of the slide represents the call to action and response.

While Stansberry has an innovation reputation, you’ve heard the greased slide mentioned before. 500 years ago, Michelangelo mentioned it as well. When asked how he sculpted the statue of David, he said:

“You chip away what isn’t David.”

Think of your original message as the rock. You chip away your first draft until you have your written Statue of David. When you strive for a 7th grade reading level, chipping away helps increase readability. As you chip away, your message reveals itself. As your writing “disappears”, your message appears.

Now here comes the fun part. You can use the greased slide principle to test response rates. Let’s use a webpage or an email message as an example. Try this A/B test below:

  1. Send half of your audience your original writing.
  2. For the other half of your audience, take your chisel and chip away the original message. Clean up your writing until you get a 7th grade Flesch-Kincaid score or lower. To help your cause, I recommend the Hemingway Editor for cleanup. When you finish, use this new message for the A/B test against the control.

As you clean up your writing, you increase readability. As readability increases, response rates rise. Why? Because none of your readers get bogged down in foggy language and bloated prose. Remember famous author Elmore Leonard’s words:

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Search engines admitted their preference for readability. I’ve harped on readability for years, but I got my gloating moment on February 15, 2017, when Gary Illyes of Google tweeted:

“if you read out loud the text on your page and it doesn’t sound natural, that piece of text may weigh much less during ranking”

To ensure readability, read your text out loud. Look for choke points as you read. Keep in mind, readability extends beyond words. What about the look of the page?

Paragraph appearance

When readers view a page, they scan paragraphs. Check the size of your paragraphs, because large paragraphs intimidate readers. Try breaking large paragraphs in chunks. When you shorten paragraphs, make sure you group thoughts together correctly.

Vary paragraph sizes as well. If every paragraph sits at one inch height, the page looks repetitive. Strive for variety within your readability.

We heard a valuable piece of praise at homeschool conferences. Multiple parents raved about our “clean” look for the step by step math. Part of the clean presentation came from breaking steps up within the math. Unlike many math tutors, we broke one larger step into two smaller steps. We displayed each step on a separate line. Each substep used a new paragraph. This increased readability, and helped the users understand math concepts. To this day, users praise our clean look.

Sentence Length

Since paragraphs consist of sentences, let’s review sentence length next. I used the breath test as a rule of thumb. Take a deep breath, and then read your sentence out loud. If you need to take another breath before the end, you have a bloated sentence. Shorten, cut, or edit the sentence until it passes the breath test. Build one idea per sentence. When you cram multiple ideas within a sentence, the reader loses interest. Give them a trail of breadcrumbs to follow, where each sentence leads to the next one.

Passive Voice versus Active Voice

Active writing encourages reading. It puts readers in motion, making it easier to follow your words. When editing, eliminate passive writing, unless it affects your message. Let’s review some passive versus active writing examples:

  • Passive: The bag was brought by him.
  • Active: He brought the bag.
  • Passive: The grades get checked by the teacher.
  • Active: The teacher checks the grades.

Active voice gets to the point by using less words. As you edit text, audio, or video, spend the time to use active voice. Your readers will thank you.

Transition Words

I talked about the greased slide earlier. When you develop a smooth greased slide, your transitions help you connect sections of the slide. I admire Stansberry Research because their transitional phrases pull you forward. Some of their pieces exceed 17,000 words. So why do people read the entire piece, and then buy their product? Because the words flow. Each sentence leads to the next.

Instead of reading, it feels like gliding. And each paragraph has a seamless transition to the next. Stansberry uses transition words to pull the reader to the next paragraph with zero friction. Whether you use text, audio, or video, transition words direct the user.

Cognitive Fluency

Embrace the power of cognitive fluency. Cognitive fluency measures how easy you process information. And the easier you process information, the more likely you trust it. When you express ideas using difficult language, people trust you less. Why, because they have trouble understanding your piece. The thought process works like this — “If the writer makes it difficult to understand, maybe they want to hide something.” Contrast this with clear writing. The person says, “I get this! It makes perfect sense.”

Avoid repeating yourself, and repeating variations of what you said. Use repetition only when it contributes to your message. I see many rookie writers over-emphasizing points in their content. Over emphasis appears through tautologies. Tautologies say the same thing twice in different words. Such as, “It’s a new innovation”. Instead, say, It’s an innovation. Writing clarity helps you avoid redundancy. Like the famous tautology from the movie “Austin Powers”:

“Allow myself to introduce myself.”

Now, to the end goal. You’ve cleaned up your writing, you’ve simplified your language, and you’ve eliminated redundancies. Now you clarify your message. You want to leave a lasting impression with zero confusion. It’s time to read your content and drop any words which communicate more than one meaning. To do this, we’ll explore the Rashomon Effect.

3 Different People — 3 Different Ideas

In 1950, Akira Kurosawa made Rashomon — a movie about different points of view on a murder. From this movie came the Rashomon Effect. We define the Rashomon Effect as follows:

An event described differently by people who saw the same thing. Or, different interpretations of the same event.

Or, did they see the same thing? When you create a webpage, and you create your Big Idea, your want to avoid the Rashomon Effect. Make sure whoever reads your page understands the Big Idea within three seconds. From the headline, to the body, to the close, your readers should be clear on what your message is. Now let’s discuss another way to increase clarity — removing distractions.

Remove Distractions

During my wife’s pregnancy, we stopped for maternity clothes in Destination Maternity. I loathe shopping trips — when 30 minutes rolls around, I hit my limit. I’ll get grumpy, and start asking her every five minutes when we can leave the store. When we walked in the door at Destination Maternity, I glanced at the time to keep a mental note. As we browsed the front part of the store, I noticed a couch and TV in the middle of the store. Destination Maternity carved out a sitting area with magazines, water and a TV. How nice, I thought to myself. Sitting down makes time pass faster, so I grabbed a seat and relaxed.

90 minutes later, my wife stopped by the sitting area and told me she finished shopping. As I grabbed my phone, I noticed how time whizzed by. 90 minutes felt like 15 minutes. My wife commented on how nice her shopping felt without me nagging her. I chalked it up to me being in a good mood, naive to the real source of my happiness.

About a year after the Destination Maternity trip, I picked up Paco Underhill’s book — “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping”. Underhill sells retail consulting to brick and mortar businesses. His company works on strategies to get people to spend more time and money in stores. They help remove roadblocks in a shopping trip. Underhill’s comments on store design hit me right in the guts.

You see, stores figured out long ago — women control household spending decisions. They also know most men get bored and impatient like me in a store. When they get impatient, they look for ways to shorten the shopping trip. Examples include nagging, complaining, and sighing. In essence, men become shopping saboteurs. Underhill identified another culprit in interrupting women’s shopping trips — young children. So how did they solve this? By removing distractions.

Make Room for the Shopper

More stores built recreational areas designed for men. They built play areas designed for children. Play areas occupy the distractor’s time, so Mom stays relaxed. When Mom relaxes, she gets to focus on shopping for longer periods of time. Time spent equals an investment, which translates into more money at the end of the shopping trip. Retail consultants want Mom to shop with zero interruptions. Keeping her children and love interest occupied helps Mom spend more money.

Let’s take the retail consultant example and apply it to your website. When you present content to a user, you want them to consume the entire content. You want no distractions, only content consumption. Playing the role of retail consultant above, we remove distractions. This means removing any website navigation items or distracting widgets on the page. Highlight the content and show them exactly what you want them to consume. Content clarity means the difference between failure and success for organic traffic.

Distractions equal unread content. When users cannot read or find your content, they leave. If readability is King, then a distraction free environment is Queen. After you produce content, go distraction hunting. The fastest and cheapest way to find distractions comes from the two little orbs on your face. Squint your eyes, and look at your webpage. Now, what jumps out at you first? We call this the squint test.

The squint test scans for two things:

1. Distractions from your content or the main goal for the user

2. Distractions within your content

The squint test spots number one issues quickly. Distractions within content take a bit more work. Do you have enough whitespace? Do paragraphs, graphics, and layout flow? A five second squint test helps you identify gaps in content consumption.

Flow

In the book “Addiction by Design”, the author cites interviews with slot-machine addicts. The slot-machine players of all backgrounds give the same reason for continued gambling — flow. Some of the gamblers “flow” sessions lasted 13 hours or more. One gambler went into diabetic shock from not eating. Another slot machine addict invented excuses to leave work early — ensuring no work phone calls at the one-armed bandit.

Gamblers seek an escape, through flowing from each slot machine spin. When asked why they gambled away jackpots they won, they said, “My goal wasn’t winning, my goal was to be in my own world.”

The book also interviewed slot machine designers. After testing games and themes, they figured out one key design piece — a button. The button push lets the user stay in the gaming flow, playing round after round without interruptions. The slot machine designers make it as easy as possible to move to the next spin. The gambler presses the button, and off they go into the next game.

How do you make your website flow? How do you make your users glide from place to place on your website? Start by making their next destination intuitive, and easy to find. Next, make your content so engaging they have no choice but to lose themselves in your website. A few tips to borrow from the slot machine story include:

  • Make the user feel special
  • Make every experience a gift or award. Each slot machine spin above, even on losing spins, played music, showed a graphic, or offered instant feedback to the player
  • Remove any time waste on your website taking the user out of their flow state. Want them to go somewhere after they read your content? Make it simple. One click, one mouse movement. Reduce or remove any effort required of the user.

Flow builds from organization. Do you make it easy to find information? Humans like to categorize and organize, which brings me to the next strategy.

Taxonomy

Never assume your user knows anything. Armed with this knowledge, focus on organizing your website using taxonomy. Taxonomy, the fancy word for categorization, helps users navigate your website. Categorization helps organize your website, and forces you to keep content on topic. If you want a visual to remember, picture a spider web.

Start with a parent level category, broad enough to describe your website. For MathCelebrity, I use math as the parent category. The center of the spider web represents your parent category. Tie all website content back to the center in some way.

Next, define your second level categories. For math, we have subjects such as Algebra, Calculus, Trigonometry. Think of these as the first level web circles outside the center. From subjects, how do we categorize even further? Well, each math subject has concepts, or lessons. For instance, Algebra has equation solving, factoring polynomials, monomials. From each concept, we can break it down another level. Monomial class notes, monomial calculators, monomial quizzes. Each concept has different learning systems. Once you’ve broken down categories and sub-categories, you find yourself on the outside circle of the spider web.

I use a spider web image for another reason — stickiness. After categorizing your website correctly, you build relationships. Relationships give you a blueprint for related content. Related content ties together like threads on a web. The term stickiness comes from another user experience principle — keeping people attached to your content. You make them stick to whatever you produce.

Example Shoe Store

Example time! Let’s use a website about shoes. After a user reads an article about athletic shoes, they want more information. If at the end of the article, you show them related articles, there’s a good chance they click and read more. Think about it, do you ever eat just one potato chip?

The more related and helpful information you provide, the longer they stay. Hence, the sticky factor. Time spent requires an investment. People give extra preference to things they spend more time on. Build your website to keep them interested and engaged. Categorize and organize information, and you make the user stick, like a fly on a spider web.

On MathCelebrity, I include related calculators at the bottom of every calculator. If a user runs a geometry problem, I’ll present other shapes calculators after I show the answer. If a user needs equation factoring, I’ll present other factoring methods at the bottom of the lesson. By the way, you’ve seen option presentation before. On Amazon’s website, customers who bought “x” also bought “y”. Amazon studies purchase habits with a microscope. Once a predictable purchase habit emerges, Amazon puts related products in front of you. With one click, you get to buy more products. Each click makes a user stick more.

When you categorize, start broad, then break down each level of your website into sections. If you want a fun and free experiment to help you, try card sorting. Card sorting helps you organize the information on your website into a logical flow. To card sort, take your website, and perform word association with your content pieces. Write one word to describe your website on an index card. Write down the subcategories, one on each card. Now write each content pieces on a card. If you don’t like index cards, you can find free software on the Internet to do this.

Card sorting gets better results in groups. Bring in friends or colleagues to help you. Remember, you have a close relationship with your website. The closer you get, the harder objective decision making becomes. To get a fresh look, seek outside opinions. Shuffle the cards, and have your friends organize them. Watch other people organize the cards. Listen to their thought process while they shuffle. The results might surprise you. If these card sorting results differ from your card sorting results, it’s time to rethink your website structure.

After you improve your website structure, we focus on what people really want. When people type something in a search engine, either Google, or your search engine, find out what they want. We do this using semantics.

Search Intent and Semantics

When search engines first hit the scene, people battled over keywords. Search for baseball, pizza, or flowers, and you’d get a list of related items. Scam artists filled up their website with keywords. The same scammers got lucky and ranked for certain search terms. Search methods and devices have changed. Voice search and writing like you speak dominate search queries. To take advantage of this, build your content based on semantics.

Merriam Webster defines semantics as:

The study of the meanings of words and phrases in language

Search Intent

As search engines grew, they got smarter. The easiest writing to read comes from writing like you talk. Search engine users digest conversational writing easier. When users search, more links show up with a conversational content format. Keep this in mind when you create content for different search request types. Let’s discuss the three types of search categories:

  1. Informational: Searcher’s want to learn something.
  2. Navigational: Searcher’s want a specific piece of information.
  3. Transactional: Searcher’s have their wallet in hand, ready to buy.

Let’s dive deeper into the three search types.

Informational — The user wants a specific piece of information.

  • How many inches in 3 feet?
  • What time does the library open?
  • Distance between Chicago and Fargo North Dakota

Informational searches ask questions, or read as commands requiring an answer. Example question starters include:

  • How much
  • How many
  • What is
  • What time

Navigational — Take me somewhere specific

  • MathCelebrity website
  • CNN
  • Wikipedia

Navigational searches come from specific locations on the web.

Transactional — A specific conversion action

  • Buy movie tickets
  • Purchase parking passes
  • Download eBook

Notice the word transaction contains the word action. Transactional searches have verbs, or command based keys. Keywords define transaction intent — purchase, buy, download.

Semantic Detail

Let’s use a real-world example from the MathCelebrity website. I’ll compare a general search, a more refined search, and an intent search.

  • General Search: “equations”
  • Refined Search: “algebra”
  • Direct Intent Search “2x — 9 = 31”

If people search for “equations”, they get any calculator related to an equation on my site. If they search for “algebra”, I filter results for all algebra subjects and content. But if they type “2x — 9 = 31”, then the search routes directly to the equation calculator. The calculator detects a math problem and returns the step by step solution. The change in results gives you another benefit…instant answers. When people link to your page with an answer to a question, you gain more credibility with your audience. You also position yourself for an instant answer position on Google.

Incredible content takes work. Think of it as an art form. Going back to the mental technique of inversion, it helps to remove roadblocks. The next section shows you how to find where readers drop off. I call them linguistic roadblocks.

Leaving Without Saying Goodbye

5 hours, 6 edits, and 7 headaches later, you finally finish your content piece.

Shortly after, despair sets in when you look at the numbers. People abandoned your content piece without doing anything. Traditional statistics tell you somebody left the page without converting.

But why did they leave? Did your headline bore them? Maybe your second paragraph confused the reader? Did your close turn them off?

When you sit next to your prospect, you watch body language. You read a person’s facial expression. Little quirks give away what part of your presentation turns the prospect off.

You Cannot Hit What You Cannot See

Things change in the digital world. We lose the ability to see facial expressions and tone of voice. Body language disappears in cyberspace.

While we lose body language, we get to see digital behavior. What if you knew the exact spot where your prospect abandoned your sales letter? What if you knew what part of your blog post people clicked off on?

See What They Do Without Being There

The good news is, you have a looking glass. It’s a website plugin called Scroll Depth. Scroll Depth tells you what part of the page users exit. Now you’ll know the exact paragraph, section, or headline users click off.

Once installed, you connect this to Google Analytics. From this point forward, you’ll know exactly how far users scroll down the page.

Scroll Depth takes the guesswork out of content abandonment. If you know how far down the page users jump ship, you know the exact paragraph where your content missed the mark.

Automated Segmentation

It gets better. You might have 100 people read your sales piece. 10 of them convert, the other 90 leave. ScrollDepth tells you the 90 people left after your 3rd paragraph. Now you have a starting point to improve your content.

What if your sales piece converted at 10%, and the other 90% who abandoned left in different parts? 25% of them left after the headline. 50% of them left after the first paragraph, and the remaining 25% left after the second paragraph. Early paragraph exits mean you have a weak lead. You also know you have three segments of people to speak to.

Take these three segments, and figure out where your content loses people. Revise it, reread it, and send it out again.

Since you connected Scroll Depth to Google Analytics, you get more information on scrolling activity. Do people scroll further on mobile than desktop?

ScrollDepth gives you x-ray vision for audience behavior, and how your content resonates. It takes a few minutes to install. It may be the most valuable few minutes you spend in your business.

Long Tail Keywords

How does MathCelebrity, with no employees and a small budget, get 450,000 unique monthly visitors for free? One of my secrets comes from the Kaizen principle I mentioned earlier. I use this principle to build over 500 pages — used by our fans daily. In the educational niche, the phrase online math tutoring costs money to rank for. If you Google this phrase, you’ll notice large, established players with deep pockets. They’ve either spent money to build up their brand or have been around for many years. Most companies don’t have large cash reserves nor a big staff to build their brand. So how do they compete? We look to China for the answer.

Let’s go back in time to China around the 1850’s for the answer. I got my inspiration from a principle called lingchi. Translated, it means death by 1,000 cuts. Instead of going for the “kill” by ranking for online math tutoring, I take another route using long-tail keywords. Wordtracker defines long-tail keywords as:

Three and four keyword phrases which are very, very specific to whatever you are selling.

Long-tail keywords create focus. How do I increase my focus for MathCelebrity? I build a page for each math tutoring principle my students come across. I optimize those pages, and then I go to the next long-tail keyword. Examples include “synthetic division calculator” and “interval notation calculator”. Google those phrases, and see who comes up at the top of page one.

Over time, my long-tail keywords ranked higher and higher. So even if a person didn’t find me searching for online math tutoring, they might find me for a more focused term. The more long-tail keywords I rank for, the more power I have over big brands. Each long-tail keyword I beat established brands on delivers a “cut”. Pretty soon, each of those cuts adds up, just like lingchi. With enough cuts, I beat some large brands on total organic traffic. Now you have the theory, let’s look at mechanics.

I use a strict keyword formula for every page on MathCelebrity. It sounds simple, but it serves a laser focused purpose which I will describe later. Ready?

Pick a main theme or phrase you can boil down the content on your page to. One phrase. Generally, 1 to 5 words. Call this x.

Keyword Formula:

  • Set your Page Title = x
  • Set your Meta Description = x
  • Set your Meta Keywords = x
  • Set your OG Description = x
  • Set your Twitter Card Description = x
  • Have at least 1–2 mentions of x in the body of your content.

Set them all equal to each other. Simple enough? Now you may be asking yourself, why?

MathCelebrity covers math tutoring. I can name off the tip of my tongue at least 30 subjects. Each subject has a concept. Each concept includes calculators acting as a niche.

To isolate your niche ideas, create a page for each niche. Each niche page gathers leads, followers, and fans.

Lead Generation Real Estate

Each page serves three purposes:

  1. It gives you a chance to blow your audience away
  2. It provides a gateway to show them what else you have
  3. Also, each page gives you another lead generator. Call this a micro-funnel if you will.

Follow me here: We rank in the top three results on Page 1 of Google for hundreds of keywords. Examples include the term “synthetic division calculator”. Get ready for the best part: 30% of people who search for this term, also need help with rational roots.

MathCelebrity has calculators for both of those terms. In the old days, we failed to rank for rational roots. Since we do rank for synthetic division calculators, we’ve created a back door to our rational roots calculator. How?

When the user searches for “synthetic division calculator”, we show up on the top of Google page 1. The user clicks the MathCelebrity page result. As they scroll down on the synthetic division calculator page, we have a link pointing to rational roots. When the user finishes their synthetic division problems, they click over to rational roots. We’ve bypassed Google for the second visit by leveraging their first visit. In essence, we got two searches for the price of one.

The user chose our synthetic division calculator result on Google. After the user ran a calculation, MathCelebrity gained authority on synthetic division calculators. Next, the user clicked the rational roots calculator. We also built trust with rational roots help. And here lies the hidden benefit of long tail keywords. Who do you think the user goes to the next time they need rational root help? MathCelebrity. Next time they need help, They’ll bypass Google and come to us directly.

Nice to meet you — What else do you have for me?

You want to piggyback off a high performing page as a gateway into the rest of your website. Remember, we ranked on Google for synthetic division calculator. So after the user lands on the synthetic division calculator page, we build related links. If I had setup one page on my site for “math tutoring”, we’d limit our avenues of discovery. Fans who searched for “synthetic division calculator” might not find other calculators. Failure to show up on search results means losing all potential follow up traffic.

The phrase “math tutoring” puts me head to head against deep pocket companies. Instead of bankrupting my company, I narrow focus. Individual math concepts help me rank easier. We do this using a long-tail keyword approach. Once they land on a page from Google, we make it easy to find other concepts in math tutoring. Because once they land on our website, they get the full math tutoring experience. A memorable experience builds trust.

Building momentum through trust

If you give the user what they want on their first search, you gain trust. This trust puts you in the front seat to answer more of their related questions. And now you know the power of long-tail keywords. Ranking for high competition keywords is like fighting Godzilla head on. No thanks. I’d rather chop away at his ankles.

The point here is: Laser focus on one target niche or concept. Expert marketers call this the “One Big Idea”. Take this one big idea and use it to drive traffic to related pages on your website.

Once a user lands on your website, you get access to a treasure chest of information. This information helped me develop a powerful SEO secret. This secret generated over 200,000 unique visitors. This secret helped me dominate page 1 on Google for over 500 search terms.

Internal Search Tracking

If you own or manage a website, you sit atop a goldmine of traffic. You probably don’t even know about it. This goldmine provides daily ideas for new content. Why guess what your users want? Instead, they tell you what they want.

How does this help? Because the user gives you content ideas for free!

Another benefit? Overcoming our own arrogance. Often times as website owners, we produce content we think people want. You see this same mentality with people who trade stocks based on hope. What we think or hope means nothing. What the market wants, the market gets. Why argue with the market? Start tracking internal search and let the Market tell you what they want.

The second search seals the deal

How do website owners find content ideas? They use the autocomplete box on Google. Use this method to track search requests on Google — just start typing. Google has other resources for keyword planning as well, such as the AdWords account Keyword Planner. Keyword Planner gives you great ideas for first-tier content. But Google stops after the first search.

The question becomes, how do we get to search history? What happens after the first search? Internal Search monitoring gets what you want. Track user searches inside your website. If a user finds Topic A on your website, what do they search for next? I reference an old saying I heard as a teenager, a play off the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words”.

“Never listen to what people say, rather, watch what they do”

Imagine your dream customer visits your house while you lounge on vacation. They found you through a search, and decided to drop by your house. Since they want to find out more about you before they buy, they do some research. By research, I mean snooping. They rummage through your fridge, open your medicine cabinet, and snoop through your files. But here comes the best part — everything they do gets recorded. While they snoop through your stuff, they don’t realize the camera records them. Think about all the valuable intelligence you gather.

  • What foods do they eat?
  • What books do they read?
  • What clothes do they try on?

From these recorded sessions, you get to peer into your customer’s head. And here lies the power from recording search requests on your website. You see what they want, what order they ask for things in, and what pages they ask for it on. The intelligence you gather helps you build more content. It helps you improve existing content. And it helps you see how your customer searches.

Let’s take a real world example. On MathCelebrity, people search for math problems and math terms. They also search for science terms, programming terms, and exam certification questions. When we don’t have what they want, I build it within 24 hours.

Building a multi-headed hydra

Imagine if your customers approached you and told you what they want with lucid detail. You build this and they pay you for it. They spread your message around the world. Your content expands, your search rank improves, and your name spreads far and wide. You now have the holy grail of website growth. Your fans hand you the keys to the kingdom — take those keys and unlock the door! This strategy has proved to be lucrative for our website, and I use it obsessively to this day.

Using the tracked search approach, I built a capture box on the site for missed searches. A missed search means a user runs a search with zero results. Instead of losing the user forever, we do two things:

  1. Log this search on Google Analytics
  2. Set up an information capture box. This capture box allows them the option to add their email address for notifications.

When I build the new page or feature related to their search, the system emails them. This encourages them to be more involved in the website. It also shows the user your rapid response time. Now the user gets real-time updates about fixes you made from their suggestion.

Building trust through consistent delivery

Notification systems provide another benefit — Trust. Trust in your website and trust in your ability to deliver quickly. I remember one of our fans giving us five calculator ideas in the course of two weeks. It all started with the response time to the first ticket they logged. This fan loved our quick response time. The automated email started a conversation with this fan, which led to more ideas.

Because MathCelebrity solved this fan’s problem, we gained an ambassador. After building the five calculators she requested, she told her friends. We earned the ultimate reward — an unsolicited referral. Internal search monitoring and delivery speed made this referral possible. This level of service converts users into ambassadors for your brand.

To get ahead of your competition, start treating searches like conversations.

Extending the Conversation

First search, then second, then third. Follow the conversation, and learn what people want.

If you answer the user’s first question, they ask you another. If you answer the second question, they ask you another. Each question they ask means more time invested. And the more time they invest, the more likely they buy your product or service. They also look at you as a trusted advisor.

Just like a conversation, if it “flows”, the conversation lasts longer. If your website lacks flow, it feels like an awkward social conversation where the person finds an excuse to leave.

Start tracking and watching

Listen to your user’s concerns. Stop racking your brain coming up with content. Let your fans guide you. One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Training Day:

“It’s chess, not checkers.”

Chess champions look four, five, even ten moves ahead. Treat our content strategy the same as a chess match. Seek out relations in all searches. How does one search relate to the next?

As you build more related content based on user requests, your site grows. You become a trusted expert. Your presence on Google expands. So start reading your daily internal search report. If you don’t, the next content idea people give you will vanish.

Since searches work like conversations, you get to see your customer’s lingo. Once you know their language, content ideas appear.

The Long Tail Keyword Creator

Internal Search will give you ideas into:

  • How your customers talk
  • How they use phrases
  • The exact phrases they use to find content

Do you understand the power you wield? Assume you get one new content idea per day. 30 days means 30 new ideas. 60 days means 60 new ideas. How about one year? Remember, each search request gives you actionable ideas. No more guessing what people want.

Your website contains a roadmap. This roadmap provides powerful insight into your customer’s desires. The power lies in the subtlety. You see, the search engine allows your customer to ask the questions. Correct answers start a momentum process. If the user finds one answer, they might look for more. Using automation, we tap into their thought patterns and serve them relevant content. If we keep providing answers to their questions, we build an authority position. Authority helps us elevate our status in the user’s eyes. Authority lets you control the conversation. Think about it:

What if people told you what they wanted in advance, you created it, and then they bought from you? It’s a powerful principle, easily accomplished in 90 seconds using automation. You do this by tracking every internal search ran on your website.

You can do this two ways:

  1. Using Google Analytics, we go to Admin → View Settings. Scroll down to Site Search Settings, and Flip the Site Search Slider to “On”. Directly below the slider, you’ll see a box asking for a query parameter. Browsers use this URL parameter when somebody runs a website search. If you use WordPress, it’s “s”. On my website, www.donsevcik.com, when I search for the phrase “tutor”, the URL reads http://www.donsevcik.com/?s=tutor. Notice the “s” after the question mark? Use this query parameter.
  2. Set up a custom tracking program. I do this on www.mathcelebrity.com. A custom solution gives you more flexibility than Google Analytics. I like to track the search term, the search date, and the user’s details. If the user has a record in my CRM, I pick up the email address and any account information. If the user searches for something related to a prior purchase, it gives me product ideas. I can tailor email marketing and text message marketing to this customer based on their digital votes, a.k.a., searches on my websites.

With tracking set up, build your report next. The report gets new searches in front of you each day. Reports shows you search volume and activity on your website.

Report Creation

For Google Analytics, use the API to create a dashboard of search terms each day. Next, compare the search terms against your existing content. You’ll start to see patterns and ideas for new content. For custom search report tracking, I have a reporting dashboard. When a user runs a search, I record it in my database. The next day, I get an email report of the searches and the time ran.

After you setup the search tracking report, view it every day. Why? Because the user gives you content ideas…for free! Think of each search as a digital vote. As the voting continues, you get an idea of what the popular searches are. Now you have a blueprint for what content to build.

Using the tracked search approach, you pick up missed searches. A missed search means a user ran a search with:

  • Zero results
  • Wrong results

Imagine you have a site to sell shoes. Your current page setup classifies each shoe by brand. Using internal search tracking, you notice people ask for blue Nike shoes size 12. This search tells you how to serve your customers better. Take the lessons you learn from these missed searches, and do the following:

  • Classify and organize your shoe site with brand, color, size, and model
  • Set your page title to describe these traits
  • Customize your search engine to detect these requests and filter accordingly

New Content Creation Alerts

When users run a search with no exact match, most websites present the closest related content. Using automation, you have another opportunity to expand your website. Add a capture box with text such as, “Looking for something else? Please add your email address and let us know how we can improve the search.” When they submit this form, their email, search term, and comments get attached.

Take this information, and send an email to yourself. Or, log the information to your support database. Next, when you build the exact content the user wanted, send them an email with a link to the new content. Using this notification system, it encourages the user to be more involved in the website. It also demonstrates your rapid response time. Now the user gets real-time updates about fixes to the website you made based on their suggestion.

Case Study: Build Your Own Ambassador

This notification system create another benefit: Trust. Trust in your website and trust in your ability to deliver quickly. I remember one of our fans on MathCelebrity giving us five calculator ideas in the course of two weeks. It all started with the response time to the first ticket they logged. This fan loved our quick response time. The automated email started a conversation with this fan, which led to more ideas. Not only did MathCelebrity get five new ideas from one person, we found a new ambassador. After building the five calculators, this fan told her friends. Thank you for the free publicity. You see, internal search monitoring and delivery speed made this possible. This level of service inspires people to become ambassadors for your brand.

Treat your ambassadors like royalty. If you find somebody who enjoys your site, get ideas from them. If they give you good ideas, build them and include your new ambassador. I say this because one ambassador can spread your message far and wide. People value feedback from their peers more than any self-promotional material. Want proof?

Look at Amazon ratings and look at Yelp. The peer review system dominates the digital landscape. Ambassadors have friends and peers to give you more ideas. It’s a perfect circle, and one you should embrace. Listen to your user’s concerns, and free traffic will follow.

One more thing: using automation, make sure to tag ambassadors in your CRM. Send them personalized emails and thank them for being a champion for your brand.

I’ve covered the right people for your website. Now let’s talk about the right way to say things. It’s time you master context by mastering your customer’s language.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

If content is king, then context is the queen. You can’t have one without the other. If you search for shoes, you’ve asked a general question. You’ve provided no context behind your search. Do you want shoe sizes, shoe brands, shoemakers, shoe styles? But, if you type athletic shoe brands, well now you’ve given more detail. By adding two words, you’ve clarified the search. Clarification through context brings us to the next lesson. Let’s talk about Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). First, I’ll break apart this phrase:

  • Latent — Hidden instead of explicit
  • Semantic — Meaning instead of words
  • Indexing — Finding information and retrieving it when asked

We want meaning behind the words. How do we determine intent? We start with context. Let’s say your page covers athletic shoe brands. What context can you offer the user to serve them better? Latent semantic indexing has your answer. But wait, doesn’t context take work? Well, not if you know where to look. You see, I want you to focus on simplicity.

To simplify, let’s use technology. Start with Google’s search bar. Type a phrase, and see what else comes up in the drop down box. This gives you a good idea of the most popular searches using the phrase. Next, look at Google’s related searches. The user might not reach their ultimate search goal on the first try. Related searches tell you the journey behind the search term. What else do they search for?

Amazon’s buried treasure

Next, I recommend going to Amazon. Type in your search term, and take a look at the products Amazon returns. Now, go into the top rated products, and start reviewing the testimonials. What do people say about the product? What do they like and dislike? Even more important, what repeat phrases do you see inside the testimonials?

As you see common phrases repeat, write down a few of the terms. Next, go into the “All Reviews” link. Find the search box on this page. Type in your repeated terms, and see how many testimonials contain your phrase. If you find a phrase repeated in 10, 15, 20+ testimonials, you now have the language of your customer. The language defines the audience.

Example: I type in “math tutor” into Amazon. The first book has 186 reviews. Doing a quick scan of the first ten reviews, I see the word homeschool repeated. This tells me I’ve found a hot market. Once I find this hot market, I dedicate a section of my website to homeschoolers.

Continuing with another common phrase on Amazon reviews, I check the word easy. 18 reviews discuss easy reading of the book. Now I have another clue — people want simplicity.

When you land on the product page, look at related products. You’ll find a goldmine of information when you look at the “Customers who bought “X” also bought “Y”. Related products, up-sells, and add-ons give you insight into what people really want. Since people move in herds, related products show you herd behavior in real time. Next, go search for a cell-phone. Now, look at the related products. Chargers, cases, and earphones. Amazon review language and related products show you the story, now you need to tell it correctly.

Math Tutoring Example

Using Amazon and Google related searches, I noticed people struggle with word problems. I also noticed people needed help setting up the problem. So I have two concepts to build:

  1. I want to solve word problems
  2. I also want to show people how to start a word problem

Using this insight, I built a page of word problem calculators. I made sure the descriptions contained information on how to get started. I included detail on the type of word problem. Between the title and description, I ranked number one on Google for the phrase word problem calculator. I won’t say it’s all due to latent semantic indexing, but I’ll bet LSI had a significant role in the results.

Product Hunt

For another website with a vocal, active tribe, check out Product Hunt. As I write this, Product Hunt had 9 million monthly visitors. You see upvotes, downvotes, and comments on new and trending product ideas. Votes and comments give you the emotional pulse of your target audience. Ten minutes of reading comments and insight on Product Hunt gets you more of an education than a four year degree in college.

For a lesson in customer service, watch how product owners respond and interact with the Product Hunt tribe. Absorb the tactics creators use to get ideas in real time. Hanging out in the education and technology threads helped me build ideas for MathCelebrity.

Stemming

Another variation to try with your content is stemming. Word stems come from breaking down of words to their simplest form. Plurals, adverbs, participles, “ing” at the end of the word. Let’s look at an example:

If we take the stem of these three words, we get the word ride. We also take different states of a word. Tall, taller, tallest. Eac of these words builds from the word stem, tall.

Now, how does this affect you for SEO? Just like synonyms and LSI in previous chapters, we use stems to find variations on words and phrases. Let’s say you write a 2,000 word article on tall trees. You get some traffic for this search term and people respond. But then you go into Google’s keyword tool and related searches, and you find the popular search, “tallest trees in America”.

Given this, you can update your existing article, or write another article focusing on the tallest trees in America. Often time with synonyms, stemming, and word variations, your content might be close to a popular keyword. Often times, a change in a phrase or a word makes the difference between average and superb traffic. Also note, with any change in phrase, update your content if necessary to focus on the new phrase.

Stemming caters to human nature by tailoring content to speech. Just because you say a phrase a certain way, does not mean the market speaks the same phrase. Since you want to attract and retain traffic, stemming helps you mirror people’s speech. To speak people’s language, learn what people say and how they say it.

Avoiding Repetition

Stemming provides another benefit — variation. If you keep using the word “tall” in your tall trees article, you’ll bore people. The article contains no variation. If you use words with the same stem, and word variants, you provide a fresh read for your users. The better the read, the more users stick around your website. And the longer they stay, the more search engines give you credit.

Try an experiment. If you see your content repeating phrases more than three times, try sprinkling in word variants with the same stem word. Now read the article again. Does it sound different? Does it read differently? Does your content inspire emotion? If not, you broke the cardinal rule in marketing:

“Being boring is the ultimate sin”.

Now, let’s switch from text over to image tips.

Images

Whether it’s a blog post, article, or sales page, you often use images to enhance your message. Images play their own part in SEO. To avoid manual updates, I’ve included a checklist below to automate SEO image creation.

Whether you use a plugin with WordPress or a script, use this helpful formula to name and store your image files:

  1. Determine a relevant phrase to describe the image
  2. Now take this phrase, make it lower case. Use this for your alt tag. Also use this for your caption
  3. Take the alt tag phrase in (2), and replace all spaces with dashes to denote words. Call this your image file name. Note: dashes help search engines distinguish unique words
  4. After you get your file name, determine what image type extension you want, (jpg, png, gif).
  5. Our final image name uses step (3) with a “.” followed by the image extension in (4)

Using the image filename formula, let’s run through an example. We add a picture of a Mom, Dad, and child holding hands. Let’s run this through our formula above:

  1. To describe this image, we call it Mom and Dad and Child Holding Hands
  2. Making this lower case, we have mom and dad and child holding hands. Use this as our alt tag and caption.
  3. Taking the phrase in (2), we substitute all spaces with dashes. mom-and-dad-and-child-holding-hands
  4. Now we choose an image extension type, say .png
  5. We take (3) and (4) and combine them to get our filename: mom-and-dad-and-child-holding-hands.png

XML Sitemap

Up to this point, you’ve learned how to optimize content. Now you’ll learn how to get search engines to find your content. You do this with sitemaps. Think of a sitemap as a “you are here” spot on a map. The sitemap provides search engines all your content. Instead of search engines scanning around, they go to one page and get all your pages. More importantly, the sitemap shows the search engines where to find it.

Now you know about sitemaps, what about XML? XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. XML provides an easy format for both humans and machines to read. XML has two purposes:

  1. Carry data in a readable format
  2. Share data in a readable format

XML lets two programs talk to each other. It doesn’t care about language. When you think of XML sitemaps, think of the Rosetta Stone.

French soldiers discovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799. This granite slab contained Egyptian hieroglyphics, Demotic script, and Greek language. All three messages on the stone said the same thing. The Rosetta stone smashed the language barrier. Now, everybody who read the stone understood the message.

XML provides a universal language for any system to exchange information. With the XML basics in mind, check out a sample XML entry from MathCelebrity. You can view this at http://www.mathcelebrity.com/sitemap.xml:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″>
 <url>
 <loc>http://www.mathcelebrity.com/factoriz.php</loc>
<lastmod>2017–05–04T00:40:20+00:00</lastmod>
 </url>
</urlset>

Let’s review the important sections and lines above.

  1. Tags define a data element. I discussed tags earlier in the HTML tags section.
  2. The url tag line declares a new url on your website.
  3. The <loc> line points to a file you want search engines to scan. Put the webpage URL here. As you build more content, you’ll have more url entries with each page on your website.
  4. The <lastmod> line is written in W3C Datetime format. Use the format YYYY-MM-DD with an optional hour, minute, and second. This line tells search engines when you last modified your page. If the modification date changes, search engines scan your content again.

Search engines scan the XML sitemap to learn the structure and content of your website. Now you have the sitemap basics, what about automation? With a manual process, you have to remember to add each new page to your sitemap. If search engines miss new content, you lose traffic potential.

Instead of manually creating your sitemap each time you create new content, automate the process. You do this through a script or through various website plugins. If you use WordPress, use the XML Sitemap plugin. If you do not use WordPress, you have two methods to use.

  1. Run a script every night to reproduce your XML Sitemap File. This scans your library of content and adds the links to the sitemap
  2. Create a listener script to reproduce the sitemap every time you publish new content. Listeners detect changes within your website. Right after you publish a new page, the listener script detects your new content, and recreates the XML Sitemap.

If you set up Google Search Console to read your sitemap, then every time Google rereads your sitemap, your new pages get updated. And you never have to worry about this again. When automating your sitemap, build the sitemap based on three events:

  1. New files
  2. Existing files you’ve modified. The <lastmod> tag updates with the date you modified the page.
  3. Remove old files. If you deleted a page, or renamed it, update your sitemap to reflect this.

Part of getting ahead in this game comes from maximizing your time and your impact. Why remember to update your sitemap, when automation can do it for you?

Url Structure

Let’s talk about your website nameplate next, — URL structure. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. You type this address to get to a website. We want things simple and readable. I like to follow a three step formula for my URL.

  1. Take the title of the page, or the Big Idea
  2. Make all the words lower case
  3. For each space, replace it with a dash

Let’s use my synthetic division calculator example below:

  1. Synthetic Division Calculator ← Big Idea
  2. synthetic division calculator ← Lower case of (1)
  3. Synthetic-division-calculator ← Replace spaces with dashes

My url for this page becomes: http://www.mathcelebrity.com/synthetic-division-calculator.php. Google synthetic division calculator, and take a look who sits on page one.

While your URL doesn’t seem important, think about where it appears. Links on webpages, and links on Search Engine Results pages. People will see your link, and if it doesn’t make sense, it might cost you click-throughs. Avoid getting cute or esoteric. Instead, strive for clarity with your URL. Make sure your URL describes your page in a simple fashion.

Spider Crawls

Your sitemap contains a list of URLs. To scan these URLs, search engines send out automated programs called spiders. Spiders collect information and store it inside a search index. Spiders crawl your website picking up keywords, and their position on the page. Next, the spider picks up words in the title, headers, subheads, hyperlinks, and other page attributes. Search engines call this process indexing. Search engines index crawl data into a database for future searches.

Search engines use this data and build a list of ranking factors. Ranking factors have one goal — provide the most relevant results to a user search. Even though search engines grow smarter, never assume they know everything about your website. Use what I call the Reverse First Date Principle, or Marriage Disclosure Principle. When you go on a first date, you want to keep a bit of mystery. You avoid telling your date everything about you.

When you get married, your spouse knows everything about you. Consider search engines our spouse — tell them everything about your website. More importantly, make it visible for spiders to scan. The more information your provide in the background and foreground, the better.

How Spiders See

Spiders ignore certain information. It’s important you know how search engine spiders “see” your site. To see what spiders pickup on your website, I recommend using a spider simulator. You type in your URL, and the spider simulator shows you what information the crawler cares about.

Spiders scan pages you submit, internal links, and sitemap links. Let me give you a tip to exceed your competition. Just because you place a link on a sitemap, doesn’t mean search engines scan it. Just like a bank account with money, search engines work on a budget.

Crawl Budget

Search engine spiders crawl websites with strict orders. Like every business, spiders have budgets. Crawl budgets represent the number of times a search engine crawls a website in a given time frame. Crawl budget consists of the following pieces:

  1. Crawl rate limit. Limits help avoid strain on your server. You want spiders to crawl your site at regular intervals. Just like Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold, just right. Crawl rate improves with website speed. Remember we talked earlier about site speed, and emptying your suitcase? Well, spiders reward faster websites. Search engine spiders contain a certain level of “patience”. If a page takes too long to load, the spiders move on and ignore it. If your pages load fast and scan easily, spiders index more of your content. Site errors, which we will discuss later in the book, penalize your crawl limit.
  2. Crawl demand. Search engines look at your website popularity as well as content freshness. Remember we talked earlier about putting a timestamp on your sitemap? Now you know why. Search engines know about your changes when you tell them.

Speaking of search engines, you have the power to block certain search engines from scanning your website. You also have the power to restrict the locations they scan. How? You use the digital bouncer.

The Digital Bouncer

If you’ve ever been to a nightclub, you’ve seen the large humans stationed at the entrance and exits. Bouncers break up fights, but they also act as a filter. They determine who comes in, and who stays out. Did you know each website has a digital bouncer, called robots.txt? Robots comes from the name Robots Exclusion Protocol. You tell this file which search engines you want to scan your site. You also tell them which search engines to reject from the party.

It’s important to note crafty hackers can ignore the robots.txt file. However, this file serves as a rule for what search engines to allow on your website. Robots.txt lets you tell search engines which folders to avoid. Let’s review the example below:

User agent: *
Disallow: /tmp/

This command makes search engines skip the tmp folder for any pages.

User Generated Content

Website content comes in two forms: evergreen content and fresh content. Evergreen content means timeless content, like the evergreen tree. This content lasts for years, and relevance remains unchanged over this time. Example include best selling books from 50 to 100 years ago.

Fresh content always evolves. Today’s trends turn into tomorrow’s forgotten headlines. Creating fresh content presents a challenge. How can you stay on top of the conversation without wearing yourself down? You let other people do the work for you. Let other people create user generated content (UGC).

User generated content comes in many forms:

  • Forums
  • Images
  • Testimonials
  • Comments on posts
  • Video

User generated content helps your website scale by giving Google fresh content to scan. When a user posts content on your website, you get the credit for it. User generated content boosts engagement. User generated content multiplies your website reach. Now, instead of one person managing content, you get hundreds, or even thousands.

Usage produces more usage. When users see content posting, they feel comfortable posting their own content. User generated content gives your website another advantage — insight into your prospect’s hopes and dreams.

When people talk or post on your website, you see their fears and desires. You learn how they talk. Once you understand your user, you can tailor future content towards their needs. Let’s review the types of user generated content.

Comments

Whether it’s a blog post or video, adding a comment section engages your audience. Comments provide fresh content to search engines. User comments give you insight into the mood toward your content. Do users post comments? Next to shares, comments provide another way to take the temperature of your audience. To market better, you must learn audience sentiment.

Make sure you monitor comments. Great comments enhance an existing discussion. Bad comments come in the form of spam or angry, pointless rants.

Forums

Forums provide a content goldmine for search engines. Users can start discussions, comment on posts, and see what is popular on your website. Forums give you another SEO advantage using the law of probabilities. Assume your forum has 100 people. Next, assume 1 out of every 50 people on average produces great content. Using this law of averages, you have at least two people on your forum to create sensational content. This content, if produced, gives you the ability to get comments, likes, and momentum. Other forum members share this content — generating more links and traffic for your website.

When you encourage engagement, your forum takes on a life of its own. As membership increases, you get more free and fresh content. Remember the law of averages above? What happens when your forum grows to 1,000 members? Now, you have twenty potential superstar content creators. More posts brings more comments and engagement. Engagement attracts users, more content, and more search engine exposure.

Some of the highest traffic websites on the planet have forums. Why? Because forums generate a perpetual content machine. It didn’t start off like this. On the forum creation date, the website owners planted a seed. As people felt more comfortable, they posted more. More posts produced more engagement. And more engagement produced more publicity. Publicity brought more members, growing the forum to meteoric heights.

Q: How do you grow your forum?

A: You find and embrace power users.

Power users have extensive knowledge of a product. They reap the most benefits from usage. Let’s use an example. Assume your business sells hammers. The regular user might lift up the hammer, swing it around, and bang a few nails. The power user takes the hammer and builds a house.

In every forum, community, or group, there exists a group of power users. Let’s call them power posters or power contributors. Power posters post new content, comment on other content, and establish an active presence on your forum. When I started to grow MathCelebrity, I hung around a few educational forums. The best forums gave badges to content contributors. At the end of the year, the forums handed out awards based on user contributions. Entire discussions formed out of the awards ceremony. Awards, badges, and recognition create engagement. Engagement equals activity, and activity drives your forum. You’ll find the busiest forums encourage engagement.

As these forums attracted more users, a power law formed. 80% of the page views and activity came from 20% of the posters. Can you guess which posters fell in the 20%? The power posters. Power posters gain the respect of other forum members. They drive discussions. They help you grow your forum. And the best part? They do it for free! Power posters help lower the defenses of shy forum members. Forum members view power posters as peers. Even if forum members respect your ability as a webmaster, they’ll bond easier with power posters. They view you as the boss. Just like the workplace, nobody confides in the boss. However, power posters provide a happy medium. They have authority and peer approval.

Finding these power poster traits help you identify future power posters. You’ll find power posters have a leadership quality — driving and steering discussions. The right power poster with the right topic gets you indexed on search engines — driving thousands of users to your website.

Take time to reward and acknowledge power posters. Treat them right, and they’ll help you drive your SEO to unimaginable heights. If you build your forum, and nurture power posters, the forum will grow into a village.

I want to show you another powerful user generated content strategy — testimonials.

Testimonials

The universe contains no stronger selling power than a testimonial. It’s one thing to brag about your own product or service. It’s another when a person brags for you. Think about the most powerful testimonials. We value testimonials from friends, family, and colleagues. We look to others for how they feel. Whether it’s Amazon, Yelp, or other feedback, buyers seek out ratings and reviews. Testimonials provide a window into sentiment around your product. What impact do testimonials have on your website? Read these statistics by testimonial software provider Yotpo:

  • “Products with an average of 4 stars get 11.6 times more orders than products with 3.”
  • “126% more purchases are made for products with a 5-star rating than a 4-star rating.”

Mob mentality rules, which means your testimonials better have high ratings. Even if you have the perfect product for a website visitor, they’ll check reviews first. If they don’t like the ratings or comments, you lose another customer. Find out why you get poor testimonials, and correct the problem. When you fix problems with your testimonials, you’ll see the following improvements.

  1. More users buy your products
  2. More users download your content
  3. More users spread your message.

Testimonials provide another ancillary benefit — user generated content. Search engines scan reviews and incorporate them into search results. Reviews provide you with fresh content. Using a paid tool like Yotpo, you embed your review widget on your website. As more people review your product, the review widget acts like a news feed. New reviews provide fresh content. Users share your reviews, giving you extra backlinks.

This concludes user generated content. Now let’s move to the power of being timely. I want to show you how to hop aboard trending topics. Just like swimming with the current, you use less energy and get more results.

Query Deserves Freshness (QDF)

“Things get much easier if one jumps on the bandwagon of existing trends” — Lei Jun (a guy worth 13+ billion)

Which task sounds more appealing:

  1. Swimming against a strong ocean wave
  2. Jumping in a lazy river and floating with the current

Number two wins since you work with the current instead of against it. I tell you this principle to embrace your next free traffic weapon — trending topics. Whether it’s celebrity gossip or national debates, embracing trends puts you in the conversation.

In 2015, the Common Core math debate raged across the country. Math traditionalists squared off against Common Core advocates. Math traditionalists vilified Common Core while Common Core advocates preached about a new way to learn. Since MathCelebrity covers math tutoring with Common Core content, it presented an opportunity to weigh in. I inserted myself into the conversation on social media and forums. My participation and my positioning earned me a few backlinks and mentions out of it.

Develop your timing. Even though you may want to sit back, it helps to insert yourself into the conversation from time to time. Remember, you can’t play the game if you sit on the bench. Putting yourself out there takes effort. I consider myself an introvert unless I’ve had a few drinks. Keep in mind, putting yourself out there takes time. When the mood strikes you, try the trending strategy. I’m glad I did because it’s paid recurring SEO dividends. People who wouldn’t find me through regular search found me in a trending discussion.

I want you to try another strategy related to trending topics — polarizing conversation. Politics, economy, and human relations provide a wealth of opportunity to jump in a conversation. Pick any day during the year, and a large number of people get emotional about one of those subjects. The question becomes, how do you take your product or service and latch on to the trending topic?

Recency Weighting

Amit Singhal, Senior VP and Google Fellow invented the Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) algorithm. Amit first talked about QDF in 2007. QDF has been a ranking factor ever since. QDF comes into play for the following scenarios:

  • Recent events — natural disasters, political events
  • Hot topics — Trending news such as celebrity gossip, or topics on the world’s mind. Seek out debates and polarizing conversation. Does your topic evoke intense emotion?
  • Regular updates — Sports events, scores, or timely events per day or week such as stock prices and financial news
  • Frequent updates — Stock Prices, financial news, and ever changing events which the public pays attention to

Next on the list of timely search results — the Google Caffeine update. In June 2010, Google changed the way they indexed content, so timely events indexed faster. How do you take advantage of this? Indexing.

When you post an article, video, or content update, make sure you send it to Google for indexing. I’ve found my indexing happens within 24 hours. If you embrace the strategy of news insertion, 24 hours or less gets you in the game quickly. Since trending topics may last a few days before disappearing, every few hours turns into an advantage. To index your page with Google, follow along in the Google Search Console chapter coming up.

If you want to learn more about timely news exposure, I recommend David Meerman Scott. He invented newsjacking:

The art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.

I covered how to latch on to popular topics. Now, let’s talk about making yourself the popular topic. You do this using Social Proof.

Social Proof

Back in 2006, my wife flew me to Miami to celebrate my 30th birthday. On our third night, we went to South Beach to check out the nightlife. As we walked through the rows of nightclubs, a doorman handed us a shiny card, good for one free drink. He stood in front of a large door enclosed by velvet rope. Pounding music pumped through the walls outside. Two women who worked for the club danced away on a platform near the front door.

So far, everything we saw and heard excited us. However, only one person stood waiting in line. When my wife asked the doorman if the place was busy, the doorman replied, “10 minute wait”. My wife asked again, and the doorman said the same thing. Now, this should have set off alarm bells, but hey, a free drink is a free drink.

The ten minute wait, thumping music, dancing women, and velvet rope hinted at a club filled to capacity. Between the outward appearance of a busy club and the free drink, we decided to wait. After ten minutes, the bouncer unhooked the red velvet rope, and we stepped through the large door. Before we saw the dance floor, security herded us into a turnstile area to pay a $25 cover charge per person. Once we paid, and got our hands stamped, the turnstile rolled over and we walked to the dance floor. Our mouths dropped at what we saw. One person dancing, and two people sitting at a bar. Nobody else inside but three people. How did they pull this off?

The doorman and club owners used a powerful conversion tool — social proof. They manufactured social proof through visual cues. They created the artificial “wait” time, reinforced with the velvet rope. The pounding music suggested a crowd. We got sucked in by other social cues, like the dancing women.

My wife and I stayed for an hour before leaving. We walked past this club a few hours later, and saw more people in line. Apparently, social proof, whether manufactured or real, gets the job done. Social proof works in any business, whether it’s brick and mortar or online.

Social Proof Offline

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon based on other’s actions. People grant themselves permission based on other’s actions. Monkey see, monkey do. When you understand and embrace this, your life gets easier. Your job for websites relies on the gathering of social proof — whether real or manufactured. Bartenders often seed their tip jars at the beginning of the night with a few dollars from their pocket. It sets the cultural tone for other people to tip. Smart brands find any way they can to show social proof. Consider McDonalds iconic sign — over 2.5 billion served. Who can argue with a billion anything?

It doesn’t stop with businesses, people harness social proof in the dating world. As I write this, you can buy a wingwoman service. The service gets a guy one woman to go out for a night on the town and act like his friend. The wingwoman service builds trust through social proof. Women naturally trust other women. And, if a woman sees another woman with you, the immediate assumption is, “This guy can’t be too bad, if another girl spends time with him.” By the way, nobody researched you or your background. You could be a violent criminal for all they know. Whatever your background, human nature never changes — people look to their peers for decisions.

Notice the power of the wingwoman service — other people in the bar know nothing about you. Yet people make a large assumption on your behalf, simply by who stands next to you. Wing women provide a testimonial in person, even though it’s manufactured.

Social proof extends to the digital world. And the more you embrace it, the better your chance to increase your search rank.

Digital Social Proof

When a user lands on your website, they don’t get to meet you in person. However, the user makes judgments immediately after landing on your website. Fortunately, you get one piece of social proof from search engines. By making it to the search results page, you gained credibility. The search engine vouched for you by featuring your results.

Just like the wingwoman example, you gained transferred social proof from search engines. If your website had little worth, then why would search engines feature you? Consider this the good news. But don’t get cocky, because this honeymoon period lasts for a few seconds. The next part relies on you. Once the user lands on your website, now it’s your turn to gain more credibility.

As I said in earlier chapters, create engaging content. If you want the relationship to progress, you must go beyond great content. Continued engagement, lead generation and a sale take more than great content. To speed up this process, use digital social proof. Since digital social proof comes in various forms, let’s review some powerful methods to use.

Come One, Come All Social Proof

Except for narcissists, people criticize themselves the harshest. When it comes to gathering social proof, you might write off social proof you already have. Just because you think a certain award means nothing, doesn’t mean your user feels the same. Just because you got a low level certification for your industry doesn’t mean you hide it. Any and all social proof is powerful, when used correctly. Remember, people don’t know you. So you need to show them your expertise, your awards, your press, and your testimonials.

Step one in social proof — gathering any material you can. To start, we follow human nature. People follow the herd. And the herd thirsts for experts. The good news is, search engine success relies on human nature. And human nature never changes. It’s been this way for thousands of years. So once you master the principles, use them mercilessly to your advantage. Armed with this insight, let’s discuss tactics.

Interviews

If you’ve ever been interviewed on video, audio, or in print, feature this on your website. I’ve seen websites set up a media or press link. Inside this link, they display all their interviews and all press mentions. I recommend you do the same. Set up links to podcasts and website interviews somewhere on your website. Interviews give people a glimpse into your personality. Interviews position you as an authority in your marketplace. Why would somebody interview you if you weren’t worth it?

When your finish any interview, get a transcript. Since people consume content in different ways, it’s good to have the transcript. Besides, search engines scan the transcript text giving you more content to submit.

Contributing Articles on Popular Sites

After I wrote an article for homeschool.com, we gained more credibility with their audience. It’s social proof by extension. The thought process works by association. If a person writes for a large publication, they gain affiliation and respect attached to the publication. Include guest posts or mentions on large websites as well. You get social proof via another audience. When you guest post, you borrow credibility from the host website.

Earlier, I talked about forums. MathCelebrity gained links and a new audience from one post on a cryptography forum. Since cryptography uses prime numbers, I posted a prime number calculator to contribute. The audience liked it, giving us additional links to our prime number calculator. This post brought more page views to our discrete math calculators. Sometimes, one well placed article or post explodes your traffic.

Press Releases and Media Spots

Highlight all press releases, media placements, or media mentions. Even if it’s a general event, press mentions mean something to people. I noticed an increase in searches for both my name and my website after I did my iHeartRadio interview. I’ve heard the same from colleagues with press releases as well.

Refer back to your press placements whenever possible. I had two inquiries from new fans about advertising and premium services after seeing my interview placed on a sales page. Use my press formula: gather up all your press, find out where you can use it, and exploit it.

Press links also contribute to the “press multiplier effect”. When journalists look to do interviews, they check and see what other press mentions you have. The same approach goes with podcasts, radio, and television. After I did my iHeartRadio interview, I received another interview request with a magazine shortly after. In their invite email, the media person for the magazine referenced my iHeartRadio interview. Besides asking for press, or getting referrals, how else can you get press?

Books and Courses

Any books you write, whether digital or paperback, position you as an authority. You become a magnet for press when you publish a book. Feature books on your website where applicable. By the way, here’s a little tip. Set yourself as the page author for your webpages. I’ll show you how to do this later if you need help. When you set yourself as the author, Google finds a way to pick up your books, and tie them back to your website. Reference all your books in any of your online profiles and social media pages.

Take the same approach with courses. When you build a course, you become a teacher, giving you authority status. If the course builds off a book, highlight the book in the course copy. Make sure you have scripted talking points for your course. Use these bullet points when referencing your courses anywhere.

I use Author of One Second Math for any course based on programming or regular expressions. Because both of these concepts get featured in my book. Book and course combinations create a ladder effect for your visitors. First you wrote the book. Then, you created a course. It’s a one-two punch for expert positioning. Each piece of content builds off the next.

Testimonials

I talked earlier about the power of testimonials. It’s a rite of passage for any online shopper to look at reviews and testimonials first. When you get a few high praise testimonials, start using them to build social proof. Feature them on your webpages. Attach them in emails. Highlight them on social media. Remember, humans follow herd behavior. If enough of the herd says or does something, the rest will follow. With enough powerful testimonials, you’ll influence the herd.

Credentials and Certifications

Feature any related credentials or certifications in your industry. Even if your credentials come from another industry, your fans may find it important. It’s another authority positioning ornament. On MathCelebrity, I passed a digital marketing exam and featured the certification next to my name. Pretty soon, people started asking me how to pass the exam. This led to me creating paid study guides, new products, and a whole new audience. And it all started with a marketing certification on a math tutoring website.

Certifications give you authority and show your dedication. It says, “I studied, took the exam, and passed it. I’ve went through the hardships. Now I’ll make your life easier because of what I know.” The more authority and uniqueness you display, the more social proof you gain.

Unique selling proposition (USP)

An important lesson you learn in lead generation and sales is the power of being unique. Ever seen the show “Mad Men”? Producers based the lead character, Don Draper, off TV advertising legend Rosser Reeves. Reeves coined the phrase, “Unique Selling Proposition”, or USP. USPs answer the following questions:

  • What do you do better than anybody in your industry
  • What makes you more unique than anybody else?
  • Why should I buy from you and your company?

For MathCelebrity, I always highlight our speed. You get the step-by-step math work displayed in less than one second. Nobody solves problems faster than us. Somebody once told me a funny analogy — we are the Usain Bolt of math tutoring. I also focus our USP on the ease of use. In every piece of marketing material I use, you’ll see “enter a math problem, push a button”.

I highlight how traditional tutors require a scheduling investment, driving, and limited hours. I compare that to the open 24 hours, split second response, in the comfort of your own home experience with MathCelebrity. USP’s help you attract the right audience, and repel the wrong people.

Traffic and Social Follower Numbers

If you get high website traffic, you have a goldmine of social proof. For interviews I’ve done as well as consulting gigs, I refer to the 450,000 (and climbing) unique monthly visitor number often. Even though I’m tooting my own horn, traffic of this size speaks to social proof. The first thought people have is, “450,000 people visit his website without him using ads. He must be doing something right.”

The same principle applies with social media followers. If you have a large Facebook following on your page or in your group, highlight this. Do you have a large number of Twitter or Instagram followers? Feature this as well. Large number of followers triggers a reaction from website users. It says, let me find out why this person has so many followers.

Geographic Social Proof

To extend to international markets, I feature the number of countries using our website. Instead of pigeonholing our website as an American math tutor, I feature the different countries of our visitors. Right now, we have over 35 countries, consisting of:

  • People who bought products
  • People who signed up for courses
  • People who use our site and write testimonials

If they don’t tell me their country, I ask. Information gathering helps you stockpile social proof.

Product Sales Numbers

If you sell on volume, or sell high revenue amounts, you have additional social proof. For my courses, once I got over 1,000 enrollments, I setup a running tally within my page. As the number kept increasing, digital social proof pulled more people in.

Social proof gives you powerful persuasion tactics. Start by taking notes on anything and everything you have to offer. Find out where to use it. Then continue to highlight and build your social proof library.

Google Tools

Next, let’s discuss various Google Tools to help you stomp out your competition. Google wants to see you do well. Google wants quality content produced for their audience. To help, they offer free tools to improve your website experience. At a minimum, install them and check them once per week.

Google Analytics

To improve SEO, start tracking website metrics. I use Google Analytics to automate tracking. If your website represents the human body, think of Google Analytics as the nervous system. It tracks, regulates, and suggest adjustments. Like the human nervous system, it provides a feedback loop. If you eat right and exercise, your body feels better. If you punish your body, the nervous system tells you.

The same feedback process happens with Google Analytics. Your analytics numbers reflect traffic and engagement. When your website improves, the numbers tell the story. When your website lags, the numbers tell a different story. Google Analytics gives you a story at any moment about your website.

Google Analytics tracks user information such as language spoken, country, device used. We will track time on site, and what activities a user performs. And finally, goal setting. Goals include email newsletter signups, opt-ins, purchases, and upsells.

Chances are, you have Google Analytics installed. But have you used Google Analytics automation powers to help your business?

To begin, Google Analytics provides one script to track information on your website. Installation takes place once. If you want to track purchases and events, setup takes a few extra minutes. The initial setup takes five minutes. After this, Google Analytics tracks activity on your website. Let’s review what Google Analytics tracks.

Audience

  • Active Users — Tracks 1 day, 7 day, 14 day, and 30 day active users. The charts shown give you a visual representation of your website traffic. From here, you can also add a segment of your audience with one-click.
  • Lifetime Value — This ranks in the top three trackable metrics. Lifetime value equals the amount of money your customer has spent with you as of today. Google Analytics breaks this down by channel. Want to compare the amount of revenue the customers you acquired via advertising versus free traffic versus social media? It’s all here. How does this automated report help? It shows you which acquisition channel brings you the highest revenue spend. Let’s say social media acquisition brings you 12% of your customer lifetime value spend. But, paid advertising brings you 70% of your lifetime spend. The Lifetime Value report shows you where to spend more time and effort acquiring customers. In this case, paid advertising is a cash cow. Dedicate more resources towards it.
  • Cohort Analysis — Figure out what dates you acquired users as well as when they returned. For example, the cohort analysis tells you 25% of users acquired last week came back within 3 days. This powerful report shows you what successful tactics you made. Did you post a popular social media update? Did you write a comprehensive blog post? Did you host a giveaway? The Cohort Analysis report tells you this. Segment this report even further by device, revenue, sessions and other metrics.
  • User Explorer — Sometimes, us business buffs get too wrapped up in the big picture. We neglect micro events within our business which have great impact. The User Explorer report helps you take a fine tooth comb to your audience. This report shows you metrics for individual people who land on your website. How many times have they visited within a certain time frame? How long did they stay on average? How many times have they purchased and how much money have they spent in this time frame?

Power Law Analytics

Have you heard of the Power Law, also known as the 80/20 rule? It states 20% of the causes account for 80% of the activity. Translating the Power Law to your business website, 20% of your pages account for 80% of your traffic. 20% of your customers account for 80% of your revenue. For instance, I’m looking at a February 2017 report for MathCelebrity. I see one customer accounted for 25% of my revenue for the month! This report helps you focus on the big whale customers, those who spend more money than anybody else. It gets better: you can drill down into each individual and find out how they found your website, what time they visited, and what device they used. Try this: sort this report based on the highest ten spending customers. Do they have anything in common? This report provides those type of breakthroughs!

  • Demographics — This report shows you the age and gender of your website visitors
  • Interests — What subjects and websites interest your visitors? Use this personal information to learn about your customers. Also, if you want to advertise, you now know what top categories your website visitors frequent. Instead of throwing darts at a board guessing, you have their interests right in front of you. Do your website visitors love movies, video games, or other technology? This report gives that to you.
  • Geographic — Gives the location and the language of your users
  • Behavior — Shows new versus returning visitors. How many times do returning visitors coming back? How many pages viewed between new and returning visitors?
  • Technology — What browser, operating system, and network do your website visitors use? What devices people use when visiting your website?

Acquisition

  • Traffic — Where does your traffic come from?
  • Are they typing in your website directly or using a saved bookmark?
  • Did they find you through organic search on Google, Bing, or other search engines?
  • Were they referred from another website (backlink)? Google Analytics has a Referral report showing the top website referrers
  • Did they come from social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)?
  • AdWords — Google’s Advertising Traffic
  • What keywords did a user type in from paid search to find your website?
  • What hour of the day did they click your advertisement?
  • Social — What social media websites did your visitors come from?
  • What networks did they share to?
  • On what pages did they share to social network?

Behavior

  • Site Content (Landing Pages) — Identifies the first page users visit when they arrive at your website
  • Site Content (Exit Pages) — Identifies the last page users visit before leaving your website
  • Site Speed — How fast do your pages load? You can sort by slowest or fastest page. Also, Google provides speed suggestions. Look for the hidden gem here: do you have a correlation between site speed and page popularity? Check to see if changes speed up a page. Do more users stay on the page versus leaving out of frustration?
  • Site Search Usage — How many visitors who arrive on your website use your search engine? If you have a low search engine use, it says two things:
  1. Users cannot find your search engine
  2. Your website bores users — they leave shortly after arrival
  • Site Search Terms — What terms and phrases do users search for on your internal search engine?
  1. How many unique searches do they run each time?
  2. How many people exit after searching?
  3. How many pages do they visit after searching?
  4. How long do they stay on your website after searching? This tells you how compelling and informative your search results are.
  • Site Search Pages — What pages do they visit after they search?
  • Events — Shows how users interact with your website. Examples include button clicks, link clicks, video watches, downloads, and widget interactions. Events come with 3 parts:
  1. Category — A name given to the way you group events
  2. Action — What action does a user take with an event
  3. Label — Notes on the action they took. Think of this as extra detail.

Let’s review a few examples for event tracking:

  • Event = Video Watch, Action = 50% Watched, Label = Demo Video. This describes a user playing a video on the website, watching 50% of it, and the video is called “Demo Video”
  • Event = Download, Action = free PDF eBook, Label = “How to Automate Your Business”. Event describes a user who downloaded an eBook called How to Automate Your Business Events can be assigned values as well. How many downloads did a particular user perform?

Conversions

  • Goals — You know the old saying: What gets tracked gets improved. This section of Google Analytics tracks how many conversions your website gets. Conversion examples include downloads, newsletter signups, and purchases. To do this, you set up Goals. Google Analytics classifies goals into the following types:
  1. Destination — Did a user visit a specific page or location?
  2. Duration — Did a user stay on your website for a specific amount of time?
  3. Pages/Screens — Did a user view a certain amount of pages?
  4. Event — We discussed events above. The event goal track these conversions, such as Facebook share, Video Play, ad click Goals get assigned a value. These values feed Goal reporting, such as completion rates and conversion rates.
  • Ecommerce — Track which products sold, revenue generated, and average order and quantity size
  • Sales Performance — Shows you sales by transaction information, date and time for example
  • Transactions — Revenue, Tax, Shipping, and Quantity if applicable
  • Time to Purchase — Another hidden gem. This report tells you the number of days and number of sessions between the user’s first visit and the day they buy. Time to purchase measures your sales cycle.
  • Multi-Channel Funnel (MCF) –The user journey between the first time they discover your website until they buy. Did a user first find you on social media, then browse your website, then sign up for an email, and then buy a product? The MCF report tells you this. It shows you the path length, conversion count, conversion value, and the percentage of total conversions from the path. Like I described above, this report gives you another opportunity to embrace the Power Law. Analyze your conversion paths and you will find 1–2 of them generating a large amount of your conversions.
  • Assisted Conversions — What paths assisted in the conversion? While a customer might buy from an email newsletter, they found the newsletter from a social media post. Think of a conversion as a collection of links in the chain. This report lets you know the individual parts of the chain. Optimizing the chain helps you optimize your conversions.

Admin

The admin tab lets you do the following:

  • Setup integrations with other Google products such as AdSense, AdWords, and Ad Exchange
  • Build your personal settings for each of your websites
  • Build alerts — Alerts provide automate monitoring and notification via email and text messages. When metrics reach a certain level, you get notified.
  • Are users leaving your site right away? Set up an alert for Bounce Rates?
  • Are your conversion goals spiking? Send yourself and your team a text message.

Reporting

Each metric and analysis report listed above comes with extra features.

  1. With the click of a button, you can email yourself and your team the report
  2. You can export the report to csv, Excel, PDF, and Google Sheets
  3. You can add the report to a custom dashboard
  4. You can create a shortcut for yourself. One click of a button in Google Analytics gets you to the report immediately

Google Search Console

Let’s meet another employee in your automation arsenal. This employee sits on your website and talks to Google. They track what search terms your website shows up on. They track what search terms on Google get website clicks. They also calculate the Click Through Rate (CTR) when you show up on a Google search page. This employee monitors any errors the search engines find. You receive error notifications as well as how to fix the problem.

Who is this tireless worker tracking search engine activity? It’s time to meet your new employee — Google Search Console.

How does it work?

Install a file on your website or log in using Google Webmaster Tools. Nothing more to do. Search Console takes 90 seconds to install. After installation, the tool starts monitoring your website performance on Google. I like to think of this tool as the Google concierge. Anything you want to know about your website and Google, the Search Console gives it to you. After you install the file, let’s review each level of the Search Console reporting features:

Search Appearance

  • Structured Data — Extra information you provide to search engines for categorization
  • How many instances of your website have structured data? Structured data provides information with a high degree of organization. It gives search engines more detail on what a particular piece of your website does. Is it a song, a movie, a list of dates for a concert venue, an article, a book review, a product? Structured data tells search engines what your data means. Structured data provides another benefit: appearance on the search engines. Structured data makes your search engine results shine with extra, detailed information.
  • HTML Improvements. Google provides you an organized report for issues within your HTML page code. Remember the tags I talked about earlier? Fixing issues gives your site a better ranking in the search engines. Example improvements include:
  • Meta description issues — too long, too short, or duplicates?
  • Title Tag issues: Identifies long, short, missing, or non-informative page titles
  • Non-indexable content. Search engines cannot decipher your webpage.

Search Traffic

  • Search Analytics — This helps you analyze your search engine performance. As you make changes, track your ranking, clicks, and impressions from week to week. Search traffic metrics include:
  • What search terms, also known as queries, did people run where you showed up on search engines?
  • How many times did your website appear in search results?
  • What pages appeared on the search results?
  • How many clicks did those pages in the search results get?
  • What countries did the searches come from?
  • What position in the search engine results did your website appear? If you pay attention to no other Search Console statistic, pay attention to this one. Improving this statistic alone alters your website destiny.
  • Links to Your Site — An important report for backlinks which help your Google ranking. Google treats backlinks count as digital votes. Metrics include:
  • How many total links point to your website?
  • What websites link to your site the most?
  • What content has the most backlinks?
  • How is the data linked?
  • Internal Links — How do you link internal pages?
  • This tool helps you see what content links to each other. It also identifies opportunities for you to link other related content. When you do this right, you turn your website into a powerful dictionary, where one piece leads to another. The longer they stay on your website, the more valuable the users find you as a trusted news source.
  • Mobile Usability — How does your site look and perform on phones?
  • This report gives you suggestions to make your website more mobile friendly. Examples include smashed together, content bleeding over the screen, and unreadable text.

Google Index Reports

  • Index Status — Shows what dates Google scanned your website, and total pages indexed. This report also shows how many pages robots blocked.
  • Blocked Resources — Tells you what pages block Google scans. I discussed the robots.txt file earlier. Make sure this report matches up with who you block.
  • Remove URLs — Allows you to exclude certain pages from Google Search

Crawl — Google Crawl Reports

  • Crawl Errors — A report for desktop and mobile page issues such as:
  • Page not found (404 errors)
  • Page error (500 errors)
  • Access denied
  • Crawl Stats
  • Pages crawled per day
  • Kilobytes downloaded per day (Helpful for crawl budget)
  • Time spent downloading a page (page speed test)
  • Fetch as Google — Allows you to see how Google displays pages on your website. Also allows you to submit new pages to Google to rescan.
  • Sitemaps — The Sitemap report shows the sitemaps you’ve submitted to Google. It also shows how many pages you submitted on each sitemap versus how many pages Google indexed
  • URL parameters — If you have URLs containing parameters, this report let’s you tell Google to treat those parameters as dynamic. Take a website address, such as www.test.com?q=1. The q=1 part is a URL parameter. If we had q=2, does the page change? If so, this report lets you tell Google. When you configure dynamic URL parameters, Google knows to treat each page differently when parameters change.

Security Issues

Notifies you about website security issues. Examples include hacking and malware, and other harmful page items. Think of the security issues tab as the loving parent who always corrects your bad behavior. MathCelebrity had a security issue, and this report told us about it. Once every while, you slip off the good path, and do something stupid. Security issues holds your hand, and drag you back to good behavior when you stray. Remember what I said about inversion — avoid stupidity first.

Summary

I recommend reviewing this report at least once a week. Fix issues, improve your site search results, and make sure search engines see your updates. I notice a direct correlation between error cleanup and ranking improvements. This concludes the Google Search Console Lesson. Now let’s discuss how to track vertical movement on your page.

Scroll Distance

If you have articles, sales pages, or blog posts, you’d like to know if they convert. Do users engage your content If your words repel visitors, you need to know why. Many writers only check if somebody clicks the call to action at the end of the content. How many ask if a user made it through part of a post, and then exited. If they only made it through part of a post, which part did they click off?

You’ll find a great answer in the book, “Obvious Adams”. Obvious Adams features an advertising man who got his nickname for always spotting the obvious solution. The trouble is, nobody else at the company looked for the obvious. Obvious Adams got called in to review a local business with traffic issues. Traffic passed through every day near their store, but nobody stopped in. Day by day, thousands of people walked near the store, but they didn’t stop in. How did Obvious Adams solve this problem? He used observation.

Obvious Adams spent a day watching the foot traffic. He noticed the flow of traffic compared to the sign’s position. Within a few hours, he figured out the problem. People walked on the other side of the sign. Obvious Adams found a solution: move the sign in front of pedestrian traffic.

The book provides a powerful lesson for website owners. We often get bogged down in the day to day work of website management. As a result, we miss things staring us right in the face. The scroll tools I’ll cover in just a moment help you find the obvious. It shows you how to find the obvious without being in the same room as the user.

Let’s use the Obvious Adams method for content engagement. The tool I recommend to automate the obvious relates to a users reading pattern. Users read left to right, and top to bottom. When tracking a sales letter or article online, we find the obvious in…how far they scroll down on the page!

Scroll Depth

You can automate scroll tracking using a plugin called Scroll Depth. Scroll Depth measures the percentage of the page down that a user scrolls. Scroll depth connects and reports to Google Analytics. Let’s say you track scroll depth on a sales letter. Google Analytics tells you the majority of users make it to a scroll depth of 50%, and then stop. What does this tell you? It tells you somewhere near or at the 50% mark of the sales letter, your message turned users off. Instead of assuming the entire letter bored the user, you know to pinpoint the 50% marker for a rewrite.

Q: How else can scroll depth be used?

A: Identify user confusion

What if the user scrolls down to the end of the page one time, scrolls up all the way, and then scrolls back down? Their behavior tells you they cannot find something. Based on scroll tracking, you know your page or navigation needs work. If a user scrolls 100% down, and then 25% of the way back up, it tells you the user missed a call to action or link on the way down. The same users found it on the way back up. To solve this problem, enhance your page to make call to actions bold.

Scroll Speed

Besides scroll depth, scroll speed can be tracked through automation. Let’s use our sales letter example. Assume the user reads your entire sales letter. During the 3rd and 6th paragraphs, their scroll speed increases. What does this tell you? First, your writing made the reader read faster. This may be your intention. Or, the reader hurried through these paragraphs for another reason.

The same rules apply for slow scroll speed. You might have paragraphs in your sales letter where you want the reader to carefully absorb. Then a slow scroll speed is acceptable. Other times, a user may find a paragraph confusing. The scroll speed reflects a confusing section to read. We’ve covered vertical scroll speed. But the scroll plugin measure horizontal scroll speed as well. Horizontal scroll speed tells you about readability of your page. It also tells you if your content fits the user.

Scroll speed gives you one another clue about your audience: demographics. Younger users may scan the page and review headers. Older users might choose to absorb each sentence, and get all the facts before making a decision. Compare scroll speed to your demographics report in Google Analytics to spot trends and uncover demographic clues.

Digging deep into data

Don’t stop there, let’s get more detailed. Locate the Scroll Depth tool inside Google Analytics. Start with the demographics report. Segment your users by device, location, and conversion rate. Let’s review scenarios.

You write an article on your website and post it for a week. You have scroll depth installed, along with Google Analytics. After one week, you crunch the numbers by device, and see the following:

  • Desktop and Laptop users read 75% of your article on average.
  • Mobile users read 25% of your article on average.

How do you explain this? You show the same article to all these people, the only difference is the device they read it on. Both audiences see the same message. But wait, do both messages look the same? Remember I covered readability earlier? Your message on the desktop might be more appealing than on the phone. And remember, ugly messages go unread. Is your font too small? Is the spacing worse on the phone? These questions develop from using the Scroll Depth tool. Scroll Depth gives you insight into your message. Do people read your page? If so, how much do they read?

Scroll depth tracking helps you reach the final goal with content — getting your entire message read. Conversion is your ultimate goal, but a user does not convert if they leave in the middle of your message.

Google Correlate

Moving on to another Google tool — Google Correlate. Google Correlate works like Google Trends in reverse. Want to know related keywords people search for two weeks before the holidays? How about searches for beauty products in June? While correlation doesn’t equal causation, Google Trends gives you the story around the story. For MathCelebrity, I enter online math tutor into Google Correlate. What comes back on November 19, 2017?

  1. Free online graphing
  2. Free online tutoring
  3. Houghton mifflin math
  4. Monologues for men

Number 4 fascinates me. Now, it gets even more interesting. Let’s rewind time back two weeks. We get Microsoft product keys as the dominant correlation. Does this mean students use Microsoft products for math tutoring help? Google Correlate forces you to think creatively about connections.

What about the United States and online math tutoring? I get strong correlations in dark green for Alabama and West Virginia. I get a negative correlation in Wisconsin. The state by state view shows geographic correlations. This is helpful to show hotbeds of search within each state. It also tells you where your target market lives.

Remember in the earlier chapter when I talked about spider webs? I designated Online Math Tutoring as the center of the web. Subjects, such as Algebra, make up the second ring in the web.

Google Correlate helps with outer rings in the web. When I type algebra into Google Correlate, I get the following results:

  1. Algebra I
  2. Algebra II
  3. Parallel Lines
  4. Attitude toward

Once again, number four fascinates me. Number four gave me the idea to create a newsletter and a potential book. How does algebra help you in the real world? Mention this to students and parents, and the discussion explodes. And where you find passion, you’ll find a market close by.

Use Google Correlate for creativity, ideas, and finding the real story behind a search term. It helps you consider another angle in thought for content.

For one last Google tool, let’s move away from software, and more towards paperwork. Paperwork you ask? Yes, paperwork, as in follow the paper trail.

Patent Plucker

In 1967, Milton Bradley released a board game called Battleship. Each player places 5 ships on a 10 x 10 grid. Each player cannot see their opponent’s ship positions. Each player guesses where their opponent’s ships sit using a two digit coordinate system. “B5”, a player will shout. Their opponent must tell them hit or miss.

Both hits and misses give clues. If a player hears “miss”, they try a different position. Switch rows, switch columns, or alter their position in an existing row or column. Eventually, the player scores a “hit”. Now, the hit gives a the player a place to launch their attack — since players place ships horizontally or vertically. It takes a few guesses to score another hit. Each hit leaves clues, and each miss leaves clues. Even though a player cannot see their opponent’s ship, they can “feel around” and lock down a ship’s position.

As a website owner, you can use the Battleship principle to improve your SEO. You see, while Google keeps their algorithm private, they leave public clues. But how do you find these clues? You follow the Battleship principal. And you do this by stalking patent filings.

Go here:

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/result.html?p=2&patents=on&query_txt=an%2Fgoogle+search&sort=relevance&srch=top

Then find common employees at Google related to search patents. Now filter by those employees in google Patent Search.

https://patents.google.com/patent/US8037086B1/en?q=proximity&inventor=Trystan+G.+Upstill

Battleship and patent hunting satisfy our curiosity. As a kid, you were naturally curious. Nothing sparks curiosity like mystery. Mystery is human catnip, it’s hard to stay away.

As a kid, I bet you tried to open locked doors. You had to find out what surprises hid behind the door. To get around the lock, you peeked through the keyhole to get a better view. While you couldn’t see everything, you could see certain things.

Fast forward to adulthood. We are still curious, it’s human nature. We need to spark curiosity in others. To master lead generation for your website, you need attention. How do you drive more digital attention to your business? As you try to build attention, you’ve been on the wrong side of the locked door. Search engine company secrets lie on the other side of the door.

Search engines shelter their secrets from our prying eyes. And like our childhood, we have a keyhole to peek through. While we cannot see everything, the keyhole gives us clues.

You see, search engines secure intellectual property as fast as possible. First movers gain advantages over their competition. When search engines secure intellectual property, we see it through the keyhole via patent filings.

As I mentioned before, you’ll find Google’s search patent filings online. Piece together the recent patent filings and one theme stands out.

Semantics.

As we discussed earlier, searching like you talk. Voice based search. Conversational content flow. Build your web content around a conversation, geared towards how people talk.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Now, let’s discuss tactics for search engine results pages (SERPs). These pages display relevant results when you search for a term or phrase. I’ll cover appearance tricks, as well as secondary methods to get clicks.

Network Effect

Imagine you drop by a party with 100 people. You want to find the people best suited to discuss your interests. Would you pick ten random people, or go find the top three people who knew everybody?

You’d pick the top three people who knew everybody. Because they know who to talk to to get you help. Knowing this, do you think other people in the room adopt the same strategy? Sure, at least a few of them. These people demonstrate the Matthew Effect. The Matthew Effect states — well connected nodes attract more nodes.

Target Hubs

Think back to anybody you’ve ever met. Most people had the same amount of friends and acquaintances. Yet once every while, you met somebody who knew everybody. They had friends in all places. Let’s call them a connector. If you needed to meet somebody, the connector introduced you. If you wanted to know something, the connector showed you how to find it. Inside your network of friends, the connector knew more people than anybody else. As the connector made more friends, a snowball effect happened. More people chose the connector by default, since everybody else seemed to know them.

Just like people, the connector theory works the same in networks. Within networks, the connectors have another name — hubs. To get ahead faster, seek out the hub sites. Make sure to find the top three connected sites in your line of business. Then do what it takes to get a link on at least one of them. After you get this link, you’ll notice your search engine momentum increase.

When I created MathCelebrity, nobody knew what we did or who we were. For five years, I flopped around like a fish out of water trying to get my site noticed. I’d get a link on a low traffic website. Somebody with a low amount of followers mentioned my website on social media. These links provided little momentum. In the digital world, I had no friends.

Five years after I started MathCelebrity, I told you about my math tutoring forum posts. Math forums have many people in one place. Little did I know, the site ranked high in the search engines. They had thousands of backlinks, and thousands of members. I discovered a hub within the educational world.

Momentum and the Rich Get Richer

As I contributed on popular math forums, my backlinks and mentions grew. The more time I spent on high traffic forums, the more my network grew. Within two years, my backlinks grew without extra effort. We reached a “tipping point”. When enough people talk about you, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My backlink quality grew, as my website showed up on top math tutoring resource sites. We became a default choice in people’s minds — a math tutoring hub. We reached the point mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point.

Shortly after the tipping point happened, Google awarded us a double link in the top three search results. When you Googled the phrase “synthetic division calculator”, guess which website appeared in position 2? The math tutoring forum I mentioned earlier. When you clicked the link, it brought you to a post about my synthetic division calculator, with a link back to my site! It gets better — Google’s third result pointed to my synthetic division calculator. I had the number two and number three spot on Google. Heads I win, tails, my competitors lose.

Think of the tipping point as playing a game with cheat codes. After the tipping point, you avoid waving and shouting to get attention. Instead, attention comes to you.

Metcalfe’s Law

While I focus on targeting high volume networks, building any type of network brings you value. I reference Metcalfe’s Law: the value of a network equals the square of the number of users. Let the number of users be n. Then your network value equals n * n.

Let’s rewind time to your website’s first day. Your network consisted of you, friends, and family. Nobody knew about your website, nobody shared your content. As your website reach expanded, you gained followers. People share your content, mention your website, and tell others about your website. Your network grows.

Let’s assume after your first 30 days as a website, you get five followers. Now, these five people can tell at least one other person about your website. They may tell more than one person, but one person is the theoretical minimum. Now, each of those five new people who learned about your content might tell more people.

Now, let’s go back to network hubs. Assume after six months, a high network hub learns about your website. The hub shares your website with their large network. Now, your own personal network value explodes. One share, or one mention in a large network grows your network value exponentially.

Let’s quantify our connection counts using the formula for unique combinations. We have n as the number of people in your network. We use two as the unique connection between people. Using various values for n, we find our connection counts grow below:

  • 2 users = 1 connection
  • 4 users = 6 possible connections
  • 8 users = 28 possible connections
  • 20 users = 190 possible connections
  • 50 users = 1,225 possible connections
  • 100 users = 4,950 possible connections

You get the picture. You might start off playing small ball. But once you find a large network to share, your connection possibilities skyrocket. To get ahead faster in SEO, embrace network hubs. One network hub will do more for you than hours of grinding for regular social shares. Network hub shares embrace a concept from philosophy professor Joseph Tussman — letting the universe do the work for you.

“What the pupil must learn, if he learns anything at all, is that the world will do most of the work for you, provided you cooperate with it by identifying how it really works and aligning with those realities. If we do not let the world teach us, it teaches us a lesson.” — Joseph Tussman

Staying on the attention theme, how do you jump off the page on the search engine results? How do you magnetize attention? The answer comes from the animal kingdom.

Peacocking — Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb

Red bellied snow monkeys, hooded seal nose balloons, oh the things they do to get noticed.

During mating season in the animal kingdom, attention is a valuable currency. Snow monkeys turn their face and belly scarlet. Hooded seals inflate a balloon like membrane in their nose. These animals use a strategy called “peacocking”. Peacocking comes from the male peacock, who uses his bright colored tail to draw attention to himself. The tail’s brightness helps him gain female attention for mating.

Whether it’s the hooded seal, peacock, or snow monkey, any visual stimulus provides an advantage. Remember, in the mating game, obscurity equals loneliness. The same principle applies to search engine results.

Picture a search engine results page. Each result gets a blue title, green link, followed by a small paragraph of black text. Everybody’s search result looks the same — packed together like sardines in a can.

So how do you get noticed?

Simple, you follow the animal kingdom. Did you know you can peacock on the search results page? Using schema markup, you can dress up your search results. Whether it’s star ratings, site links, or extended information, peacocking strategies grab people’s attention.

To see search engine peacocking in action, google “matrix”. Now look at Wikipedia’s result and IMDB’s result. See anything attention grabbing? Wikipedia’s result has site links beneath the main green link. Each site link takes you to a different section within the Wikipedia page. Scroll down a bit, and find the IMDB result. Your eye line gets pulled to the orange star rating below the link.

In addition, site links occupy more real estate on the page. They increase the size of their search result. The result section balloons in size, drawing immediate attention from users. Compare this with the other search results with the original, plain look. The orange stars help the movie results “peacock”. The question becomes, how do you peacock?

Schema Markup

Let me introduce you to another stand out tactic — schema markup. Schema describes in detail, more about your website. Who you are, what you do, what each of your website pages mean. Schema enhances search engines algorithms. Instead of letting search engines figure out who you are, you tell search engines the details. Schema gives crisp, clear instructions to search engines. Schema acts like a digital librarian — classifying each detail about your website. Let’s review schema strategies to help you stand out.

Breadcrumbs

In the fairytale of Hansel and Gretel, Hansel devises a simple method to find his way back home. He leaves a trail of breadcrumbs in the forest to help find the way back from their journey. The term inspired the digital definition of breadcrumbs. Digital breadcrumbs provide a roadmap to pages viewed. They also provide web page hierarchy — known as the digital “X” on a map. Let’s use an example of a shoe website. On the Nike Air Jordan shoes page, the typical breadcrumbs read:

Home → Shoes → Nike — Air Jordans. Call these location breadcrumbs.

Staying on the peacock theme, show Google your breadcrumbs model. You score points with Google when you define a clear website structure. If you do it correctly, Google displays more breadcrumb links below your search results. This extra section expands your search result, drawing attention to other locations on your website.

Setting up breadcrumbs makes user navigation easy. When you hold the users hand, they get what they need quickly. Besides, hand holding reduces bounce rates. Think about the last time you went somewhere unknown. If you had a tour guide to answer questions, didn’t you enjoy the experience more? User experience depends on eliminating frustration by making things easy. To make things easy for the user, include the following three items for breadcrumbs:

  1. Item — An individual crumb in the breadcrumbs trail. Include a url to the category. In the Air Jordan shoes above, for the Nike brand name, a breadcrumb URL would be: www.shoes.com/brands/nike. Notice, Nike is a member of the parent category brands.
  2. Name — What name do you want to display for the breadcrumbs link text? For the example above, we use Nike.
  3. Position — What position in the breadcrumbs trail do you place your crumb? For this example, we want position two. Position one defines the list of brands. Position two lists the individual brand.

What about local searches? How do you help your brick and mortar business stand out?

Local Search Peacocking

Earlier in the book, you read about “peacocking”. Did you know the peacock principle extends to your local business results?

While it’s not guaranteed these results appear in search results, it helps enhance your business listing. It gives search engines details about your business. I’ve listed the schema business organization details below:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone numbers such as Customer Service, Sales, Support, Billing
  • Social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest)
  • Corporate officers (CEO, CFO, Founders)
  • Hours of operation
  • Founded date

Adding organization details establishes legitimacy for your business. It fills the Knowledge Graph.

Code Example

Since Google recommends using JSON-LD markup format, I’ve included an example. Take this code and modify it for your business details. Set it up once, and let search engines scan your website and do the rest

<script type=”application/ld+json”>
{
 “@context” : “http://schema.org”,
 “@type” : “Organization”,
 “name” : “MathCelebrity”,
 “legalName” : “MathCelebrity LLC”,
 “description” : “Automated Online Math Tutor and Homework Help Website”,
 “logo” : “http://www.mathcelebrity.com/images/mathcelebrity-logo.jpg”,
 “url” : “http://www.mathcelebrity.com”,
 “founder”: “Don Sevcik”,
 “foundingDate”: “2007”,
 “contactPoint” : [{
 “@type” : “ContactPoint”,
 “telephone” : “+1–800–234–2933”,
 “email”: “don@mathcelebrity.com”,
 “contactType” : “customer service”,
 “contactOption” : “TollFree”
 }],
 “sameAs” : [
 “http://www.facebook.com/MathCelebrity”,
 “http://www.twitter.com/MathCelebrity”,
 “http://www.instagram.com/MathCelebrity”,
 “http://www.soundcloud.com/MathCelebrity”,
 “http://plus.google.com/+MathCelebrity”,
 “https://www.pinterest.com/mathcelebrity/”,
 “https://www.linkedin.com/in/donsevcik”
 ]
}
</Script>

Test your fixes

Once you add the JSON-LD code to your website, use Google’s Structured Data Markup to confirm results. Go to https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool. You type in your URL, and press the Run Test button. Google’s Structured Data tool tells you if your markup works, or if you have errors.

Internal Search Sitelinks

I talked earlier about your internal site search engine. Let’s return to this, and give you another advantage. Internal Site Search Links is another schema trick you can use. Searchlinks give you three distinct advantages:

  1. Your search results stand out on Google’s site results. A search box appears under your search result. Inside the search box, gray text reads: “Search yoursite.com”. To the right of the search box, you’ll find a magnifying glass. It draws a user’s eyes to your search result. Searchlinks give the user a shortcut into your site for advantage number two:
  2. After you type in your search in the site link search box, Google whisks you into your website’s search engine. With this action, your user saves extra clicks. Without the search box, they click on your search result. Then they’d type in their search command. With search site links, they can search our site from Google’s search result page. It’s a search engine within a search engine.
  3. Searchlinks give you authority. If Google trusts our website and enough to give us a personalized search box, it speaks to the user. The user grants you a subconscious level of authority. Think of the impression a user gets when you have your own search engine embedded within Google’s page.

I provided the code example below. Replace the url example.com with your website URL. Replace the two instances of search_term_string with the search term the user runs. Also, make sure your target points to the search results page.

<script type=”application/ld+json”>
{
 “@context”: “http://schema.org”,
 “@type”: “WebSite”,
 “url”: “https://www.example.com/”,
 “potentialAction”: {
 “@type”: “SearchAction”,
 “target”: “https://query.example.com/search?q={search_term_string}”,
 “query-input”: “required name=search_term_string”
 }
}
</script>

Let me give you a real life example, using the MathCelebrity search page. My search parameter is q, and assume a user searches for the word “matrix”.

<script type=”application/ld+json”>
{
 “@context”: “http://schema.org”,
 “@type”: “WebSite”,
 “url”: “https://www.mathcelebrity.com/”,
 “potentialAction”: {
 “@type”: “SearchAction”,
 “target”: “https://mathcelebrity.com/search.php?q={matrix}”,
 “query-input”: “required name=matrix”
 }
}
</script>

I’ve updated my target url, the phrase inside the braces, and the required-name parameter. I advise you to build a function to handle any search input. A function lets you handle any search term to create the JSON-LD statement above.

I realize the section above gets technical. I included it so if you work with a web developer, you reduce the time needed to get this set up.

Now, let’s move away from technical terms, focus on increasing rank. Remember, each search result page works like a contest. What strategies can you use to “win by a nose”?

Slight Edge Principle

Earlier, I talked about the Kaizen principle — constant improvements over time. With Search Engine Result Pages, try to beat the next result ahead of you. As bad as you want a number one spot on Google search results, focus on small improvements. Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to pass the next result ahead of me?” Whether you sit in position 100 or position 5, the question stays the same. Each spot you move up on search results means more clicks, more exposure, and more customers.

Think about how you can update your title, description, and appearance to stand out. Ask yourself: If I were searching and my result came up, would I click it?

Forget Linear — Think Exponentially

Ignite Visibility released a study for 2017 click rates on Google. They published these results:

  • The number one search result receives 36.4% of the clicks
  • The last result on the first result page gets 2.2% of all clicks.
  • 60% of the clicks go to the top three search results on page one
  • The first result page gets 89% of all clicks.

Other contests have exponential rewards. Horse race prize money, book sales, record sales, all share this structure. It’s a winner take all, or almost all the spoils.

Consider the 2017 Kentucky Derby prize money.

  • First Prize gets $1,240,000
  • Second Prize gets $400,000

Now, here comes the fascinating part — even if the winning horse won by a half-inch, they still get $1,240,000. Because a win is a win. And in today’s disproportional winner take all environment, sometimes, it’s the little things.

As you climb the SEO ladder, the little things matter more and more. If you find yourself in third place, start thinking about how to make small improvements. Even if your website loads fast, can you make it faster? How can you get one more authority backlink?

Like horse racing, SEO scores on points. And if you edge out the next position above you by a fraction of a point, you still win. And any SEO win on page one grabs more lion’s share of clicks.

One way to gain the Slight Edge comes from your choice of words. Two phrases might mean the same thing, but one phrase gets more attention. Let’s dive into another Google patent to grab another advantage.

Pseudo-Queries

Google likes to correct you. Like a protective mother, they don’t always give you what you ask for. Rather, they give you what they think you meant. If you ever worked in a technology job, you learn to distrust user input. People misspell, mistype, and get confused on user interfaces.

When you work on programs with user inputs, be skeptical of what the user types. Google’s search results show a prime example of this mistrust. Google processes your search request, and then runs a separate search behind the scenes. If they determine you wanted something similar, they will return their preferred results. They call these pseudo-queries.

Back on March 31, 2005, Google filed patent 7637614 for pseudo-queries. Pseudo-queries use synonyms to determine the best response to a search. Check out the key section of the patent abstract:

“The strength or quality of candidate synonyms is evaluated. Validated synonyms may be either suggested to the user or automatically added to user search strings.”

Let me translate this into terms we all understand. The user goes to Google and runs a search query. As Google runs their algorithm in the background calculating results, they generate three options:

  1. Use the original query typed in
  2. Use their interpretation of what you asked for
  3. Use a combination of what you asked for and their interpretation

How do you use this for SEO? More importantly, how can you exploit this? The answer lies in Google Keyword suggestions. Take the title of your page, the one central idea. Plug it into Google Keyword tool, and search for suggestions. You’ll get a comparison of the following results:

  • Estimated search volume per month for your phrase
  • Google’s suggestions for other keywords.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Bakers near me
  • Bakeries in my area
  • The closest bakery to me

They all mean the same thing. Using the keyword tool, you can check search volume for various phrases. More important, let’s capitalize on synonyms and alternate phrases. Two phrases might mean the exact same thing, but one phrase stands out in people’s minds. People will use this phrase far more than the other phrase, even though they mean the same thing. Embrace this, and then use synonyms to increase your rank.

First, take the phrase which best describes your page. Next, find a list of related phrases. Once you have your list, run the phrases through the Google Keyword Tool. See how much search volume each phrase gets. If one synonym gets more searches, consider changing your page title to use the higher traffic phrase.

Synonyms

They say small hinges swing big doors. When it comes to SEO, you’ll find your small hinges using synonyms. For instance, take your page title. Now, take the main words in the title, and find various synonyms. Use a thesaurus to generate alternative words. Create different page title combinations with these synonyms. Run each alternative through Google’s keyword planner. Now, check the search volume. Does your original page title, without synonym variations, generate the most traffic? If not, consider using synonyms.

Remember, keyword planner is a mirror into how people search. The phrase you use may differ from your audience lingo. And how they search shows what they identify with. How else can you identify with potential users? Scroll down. What do I mean scroll down? I mean, run a search term you want to rank for. On the search results page, scroll all the way down, and look at the related searches. Now you get ideas on related searches and synonyms.

Let’s cover one last principle for search engine result pages — relevancy. Specifically, what happens between the time they click on your link in search results, and the first ten seconds on your landing page. Just like meeting a new person or visiting a new place, first impressions count.

Pogosticking

Picture this: you sit in your car across the street from a house party. You prefer parties with lots of people. Your laziness prevents you from getting out of your car to go peek inside the house. How do you solve this dilemma? Try this: watch how long people go into the party and stay. If the party sucks, people leave within minutes. But people stay for hours at great parties.

The same principle applies in the digital realm. Consider a piece of content a digital party. Do people click in to start consuming the content, and then leave shortly after? Or, do they click in, and stay engaged for a few minutes. In the digital realm, a few minutes equates to hours in the physical world. It’s this principle of time investment which leads to our next lesson — pogo sticking. Let’s dive into another Google patent for another tip.

On May 2, 2007, Yahoo filed patent number 20080275882, also known as the Pogostick Patent. Let’s review the key points of the abstract:

“Disclosed are apparatus and methods for quantifying how much searchers select other search results, instead of a particular search result. In example embodiments, the number of times that other search results are selected before a particular search result is selected (referred to as pre-pogo sticking) is tracked, and the number of times that other search results are selected after a particular search result is selected (referred to as post-pogo sticking) is also tracked.”

Notice the post-pogo sticking sentence. If your content (party) sucks, people leave to go find another exciting party. Google measures interest by how fast you hit the back button on your browser. Let’s review an example. You search for red running shoes. You click one of the results. You stay for ten seconds, get frustrated with the experience and click the back button. The back button whisks you back to Google’s search results. Google times this, and if the user clicks the back button quickly, they treat it as a pogostick. Pogosticks tell Google your content, user experience, or both drove the user away. Get enough pogosticks, and Google penalizes your ranking scores.

The pogo sticking patent measures relevance and engagement. Does your content satisfy the user? And, do you provide a memorable user experience?

Things Not Strings

When Google announced “things, not strings”, they ushered in a new era for search. It’s not about keywords. It’s about answers to questions. It’s about solving problems. This new era accompanied the development of the Knowledge Graph. Knowledge Graph provides answers instead of simple links.

Knowledge Graph generates a detailed answer, and any relationships attached to the answer. Take the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. When you search for this in Google, you get the following information:

  • Height
  • Length
  • Date of construction
  • Phone number
  • Location
  • Description
  • Photos
  • Visitor Reviews

You’ll also get related searches, such as Fisherman’s Island, Alcatraz Wharf, and Pier 39. Any news stories and events related to the Golden Gate Bridge appear in the search results.

This deep level of detail demonstrates the power of the Knowledge Graph. Google recognized the Golden Gate Bridge as a landmark. It also recognized the people, places, and things related to the Golden Gate Bridge. Notice the pattern — first intention, then relationships.

How do you profit from the Knowledge Graph? You do exactly what I discussed in the spider crawl chapter. You supply Google with as much information as possible about your business.

Local SEO

Let’s discuss SEO tips at a local business level. What tactics do you use to get to the top of local search results? We begin with a treasure hunt.

SEO Secret Buried in Greece

Northwest of the famous Acropolis in Greece, a secret lies underground. The secret unlocks the key to conquering local SEO. Before I reveal the secret, let’s review a history lesson vital to our discovery. The year is 1920. Even though computers did not exist, the foundations for local SEO began. The Ottoman Empire teeters on the verge of collapse. Greeks living in Turkey decide to flee and run back to Greece. When they return, they set up a refugee camp near the Acropolis burial site. The local SEO secret stays buried.

The Mission Begins

14 years pass. A man named T. Leslie Shear puts together a team at the American School in Athens. Their mission: excavating old Greek sites. Shear’s team squats in the hot Greek sun, pickaxing through endless layers of dirt, trying to find anything relevant. In 1934, they make a major discovery. The excavation team unearthed the Athenian Agora.

The Agora provided a central public space within ancient Greek city-states. Translated, Agora means gathering place, or assembly. You see, the Agora served as the center of artistic, athletic, commerce, and political life in ancient Greece. While goods were exchanged, people traded something more valuable…ideas. Anybody who was somebody visited the Agora. Before phonebooks and the Internet, the local who’s who were talked about at the Agora. The Agora contains our local SEO secret.

The Agora gave us insight into the trending ideas at the time. No matter how good you were at something, if you weren’t at the Agora, nobody knew about you. And therein lies the secret to local SEO: relevant backlinks and conversations in your area.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Imagine you own a local business, let’s use a flower shop for example in Anytown, USA. Even though the agora vanished, we still have our city centers, our local watering holes, and our gathering places of modern times. People gossip about others, chat about local events, and share ideas.

But wait, each town has their own unique feel and unique gathering place. How does the Agora apply to local SEO?

The answer lies in human nature. After Shear’s team unearthed the Athenian agora, explorers discovered other Agoras nearby. While each Agora had a unique feel, they all shared certain traits. For instance, they all served as the place to see and be seen. Whether people discussed commerce, ideas, or politics, the Agora served as the spot to seek public opinion.

But how does this relate to search engines and local SEO? Google and Bing cannot listen to conversations. So how do they know who and what is being talked about?

The Digital Agora

It turns out, search engines listen in a different way, using backlinks. More importantly, relevant backlinks. Search engines use the Agora principles by finding the local gathering places. Think about it for a moment, what does each town share as commerce and public opinion centers?

  1. Rotary Clubs
  2. Chamber of Commerce
  3. Yelp and other review sites

Each town, or local area has all three of these. Look at Rotary Club’s motto:

Rotary is where neighbors, friends, and problem-solvers share ideas, join leaders, and take action to create lasting change.

The Chamber of Commerce commits to free enterprise and resources for local businesses to thrive. It also highlights government events related to business. Finally, Yelp is everywhere. Recall the last time you went out to eat at a new place, go to a social event at a new location, or scouted a place to hold a social or business event. What’s the first thing you checked? Yelp, because we seek approval and validation from others.

These three sites make up the modern version of the Agora — the gathering place for ideas and commerce. And now you know how search engines take the pulse of localities, by using the Agora model.

  • Who owns a business in the area?
  • Who is being talked about in the area?
  • Who is praised in the area?

Search engines use the Agora model to find relevant backlinks on sites like these. Remember, backlinks equal digital votes.

If you own a local business, it’s time you find your digital agora. Next, find out if they mention your website. If not, it’s time you found your way on there, and increase your local SEO rank.

Part of being mentioned comes from having your information up to date. If people cannot find you, you won’t be talked about.

Proximity

Picture this — you sit on a park bench after an exhausting run. You have a dry mouth and you forgot to bring a drink of water. Your house is twenty minutes away, and you refuse to wait until then to get a drink. You decide to get a drink on the way home. Which store will you choose?

You’ll settle for the closest convenience stores. So you grab your phone, open up a search window, and what do you type? According to Think With Google, you search for convenient stores “near me”. Searches with “near me” in them increased 130% from 2014–2015. Proximity, is a key to your local SEO success.

If you run a local business with a physical location, control your business information. Make sure you update your business name, address, phone number, and hours of operation. First check Google, then check Bing, then check review and ratings websites. Correct spelling errors, add missing information, and control the narrative.

Let’s say you have a local business listing on Google. You list correct address information, but you forgot to update your business hours. Somebody searches for your line of business one mile away. Your business hours say closed, even when you are open. Congratulations, you lost an easy customer.

Up to date information shows up on directions, nearby street, and all relevant local search items. It’s up to you to stay current.

Local SEO Metrics

If you have a brick and mortar business, sign up for Google My Business. Google My Business gives you a free local listing within Google local searches. Once verified, Google gives you a page to update your business information. Your address, phone number, website, photos, and hours of operation. Now you’ll have a one-click link to Google Maps, showing directions to your business.

The benefits continue. With Google My Business, you get Google Reviews. So people can rate your business. When you approve the reviews, every local searcher can click them right inside your Google My Business page.

With this listing, Google sends you search metrics each month.

  • How many people searched for your business locally?
  • How many people clicked your listing?

Make sure you set your account to email you metrics each month.

Social Media

Let’s talk about direct and indirect ways to use social media to boost SEO.

Ranking Signals

Start by measuring Likes, Shares, retweets — how much people engage with the content.

Bing said:

We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results.

Social Shares

Great content provides one incentive to share. What about bonus content? Do you have more content to share, in exchange for a social share? Example: You write a blog post about SEO. You create bonus content, such as the seven things I did to make the front page of Google. For the bonus content, you set up a social paywall, with software such as InviteBox, or Pay with a Tweet. To get the bonus content, the user must share your page on social media. Once the share completes, the bonus content unlocks.

Now, you get a social media link back to your bonus content. The user avoids giving up their email address. It’s less of an investment in return for something of value. Social media paywalls embrace micro-commitments. Asking for an email address in the first 30 seconds comes on too strong for certain users. A social share doesn’t cost your user as much investment.

If you provide solid content, the user looks good when they share it with their network. You gain credibility from the social share. The user gets the added security of keeping their email address. As bad as you want the user’s email address, trust via social currency is more valuable. You gained this trust by removing risk. So you start with the social share, and build up trust over time.

Now, suppose the user shares the content. Their share gets likes and follows. Since people love attention, you’ve given this user incentive to gain more attention. This user will want more of your content to share. And, if they want to be front of the line in their social network, they’ll want to find out when you post more content.

What’s the fastest way for them to get notified besides social media? Emails. You position your email content as a bonus upgrade. First, establish trust with the user via social currency. Once you establish trust, it’s easier to get their email address for bonus content.

The Like and Follow Train

In the beginning of the book, I discussed the Kaizen principle. I want to discuss the other side of this principle — explosive gains in short time. I’m a huge fan of the multiplier effect. Why get one thing accomplished when you can get more things accomplished for no extra effort? Whether it’s a blog post, video, or forum thread, you want users to like and share your content. You also want to build a social media following. Often times, businesses do this as two separate campaigns. Why make two moves instead of one smooth move?

I use a social sharing tool called Shareaholic. Shareaholic has a like, share, and follow feature. Now, here’s where the multiplier effect comes in. You can combine these features. On MathCelebrity, a user runs a math problem and follows the step by step work. When the content blows them away, they share it with their friends. They find the share widget on the top left of any page. Now after they share the content, I’ve set up the share sequence to display a follow screen. The screen reads, thanks for sharing our content. How about following us on social media? For the user, it’s easy. One more click on the same screen lets them follow you.

Granted, even if only 5% of shares go ahead and follow us, it’s still a multiplier effect. Because we got two commitments for the price of one. Besides, the social share sequence displays in the right order. If they liked the content enough to share, following us comes next. It takes no extra effort on their part but a single click.

The multiplier effect continues. Since followers of the user see their new follow of my page, the notification goes out to there network. “John Doe liked MathCelebrity.com”. If the user has 1,000 followers, we may get a few more followers from this notification. And then when their friends follow us, their network gets notified. It’s a multiplier effect, made possible by a simple screen which took me 3 minutes to set up.

Shared content gives your business power. But, all shares are not created equal. And neither are the devices they share on. Let’s discuss the next order of social growth — device based sharing.

Mobile Versus Desktop

You don’t ride a bike the same way you ride in a car. And you don’t use your phone the same way you use a desktop.

So why do you show the same social share icons on mobile as you do on desktop? Have you A/B tested this?

Think about it, when somebody shares your content, they get the gift of giving. And how do people share knowledge on phones? Text, or text based applications like Whatsapp.

Also, certain share functions work better on the phone than they do on the desktop. Your users figured this out long ago. So it’s time for you to play catch up.

To get ahead in this race, segment your shares for a week by device. Now, you’ve established a baseline — try adding more text and phone friendly share functions on mobile. Wait one week, segment by mobile again, and compare to your baseline. See any difference?

As mobile usage climbs, check mobile usage metrics to see where to make improvements. Improve your page layout, the look and feel, and how the mobile experience flows on your website. Assume after you improve the mobile experience, you keep 10% more visitors on your website. How would this change your business?

SEO Metrics

“What gets tracked gets improved” — Wise Marketers Everywhere

Let’s review important SEO metrics to track. Again, I urge you to set up, or have somebody setup an executive dashboard with SEO metrics. Preferably, an automated email sent to you each morning. With an automated email, you get two benefits:

  1. You never forget to generate and send the metrics
  2. The metrics get in front of you each day. Consistency means importance. You cannot ignore it.

Here is the structure I built for my executive dashboard. I send an API request to Google Analytics. I get the last 24 hours of statistics for bounce rate, click through rate, and time on page. Next, I check day to day, week to week, and month to month. Ask yourself if website engagement statistics improve. If not, you have a problem. How dare you let potential customers flee your brand and go somewhere else?

Let’s look at engagement metrics:

Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate — The number of visitors who visit one page and leave our site. Reducing this number should be priority one for your website. I’ve heard website owners explain bounce rate away as no big deal. I’ve found with consulting clients, when you dollarize the losses, their eyes gape with fear. To dollarize means to attach a dollar value for the loss of customers.

If you tell somebody you lose 150 potential customers each day from a slow website, very few people care. When you state losses in monetary terms, it hits people right in the belly. Example, when you lose 150 people each day, it means $50,000 each month. Now, people perk up and listen. With dollarization in mind, let’s quantify your bounce rate losses.

  1. Open Google Analytics and view your top five highest viewed content pages.
  2. Next, analyze the bounce rate on all five pages, but filter by device.
  3. Compare the desktop bounce rate and mobile bounce rate.

If the device bounce rate varies by more than 10%, you have a design problem. The question remains, what will you do about it?

Try this simple trick to fix your problem. Calculate the lifetime value of your customers. Let’s use $500 USD as an example. Next, figure out how many extra people leave after one page on the lower performing device per day. Let’s say 20.

Assume if you ignore this problem, the extra bounced visitors vanish like a thief in the night.

Assume if you fix this problem, the extra bounced visitors stay and become customers.

Now, let’s see how much money you flush down the toilet:

  • Per day, $10,000
  • Per month, $300,000
  • Per year, $3,600,000

Think of a high bounce rate as a fire hydrant. Instead of water, the hydrant gushes cash. Now, every time you tell yourself, “I don’t have time to get this problem fixed”, read the lost revenue amounts.

Click through Rate

In order to benefit from searches, people have to click your result first. Go into Google Search Console and Bing Search. Next, compare the amount of search impressions with the click through rate (CTR). An impression means each time your website shows up in a search result. If you get a large number of search impressions combined with a low click through rate, it means:

  • You have a boring headline
  • You have a boring summary
  • Your have irrelevant content

You might have the greatest content in the world, but if your headline or summary fails to grab a search engine user, you lose another customer.

Time on page

How long do users stay on your pages? Next, how long do they spend on your website after finding you on search engines? Remember what I discussed before — more time on page means more investment. More investment means more trust. More trust means a higher probability a user spends money with you. Keep them engaged, and keep them on your website.

Think about the last great experience you had. Think about the last great conversation you had. Was it short? Or, did you wish it never ended? Treat your website the same by making it an experience for the user. Not just a one-time experience, rather, an experience they want to continue. Speaking of continuing, let’s talk about another powerful engagement statistic called dwell rate.

Dwell Rate

Using a combination of time on page, user engagement, and bounce rate, search engines calculate a dwell rate. Let’s look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of dwell:

To remain for a time

To have users dwell longer, give them a reason to stay. And, using the inversion theory I mentioned of avoiding stupidity, remove roadblocks. We want easy readability, easy findability, and content clarity.

Think about the last entertaining event you spent hours at. Why did you hang around? What magnetic factors kept you wanting more?

Dwell rate rewards click through, time on site, and engagement. Dwell rate punishes bounce rate and low time on site. The general time on site target is above two minutes.

Think about how you increase dwell rate. Can you offer the user extra stuff to help them out? Can you send them helpful information? Think about ways to keep them on your website longer. Relevant and related content always helps.

Social Share Metrics

When you build your executive dashboard, add the following social growth metrics:

  • Number of Shares and Retweets. When people share your content, it means you inspired somebody else. They took time to tell their world about your content.
  • Networks Shared on (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). Knowing which social media sites you get shares on gives you details on your audience. For example, I average 100 shares a day. The majority come from WhatsApp, Text, Email, and Facebook.
  • Clicked links from social shares. Add tracking to social shares when possible. Now you isolate how many shares turned into website visits.
  • Likes — The first step in any engagement. Even the laziest person can click a like button.
  • Comments — Bonus! When people take time to comment, it shows extra commitment.

FREE SEO Tools

We talked earlier about automation, and letting the software do the work for you. I use these tools to help grow my website traffic. I also use these tools with my consulting clients. Some of these tools have a free and paid plan.

  • Ahrefs
  • SemRush
  • Yoast (WordPress)
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Bing Webmaster Tools

Things to Avoid

In the book introduction, I talked about Inversion — avoiding stupidity. Let’s cover things to avoid in this chapter. How not to make dumb mistakes.

Duplicate Content

All around the world, there’s somebody with a friend or family member, affectionately known as Peter Repeater. Peter loves to tell the same story over and over again. Peter loves to hear the sound of his own voice. When Peter Repeater retells another story for the tenth time, he doesn’t see his audience rolling their eyes, because they’ve heard this story already.

Websites have a Peter Repeater — it’s called duplicate content. You might have it without realizing it. You might have the same article on different pages. You might have a dynamic driven page, but you forgot to update content for page changes. Thankfully, tools exist to find these mistakes. When you find repeat content, take two steps to fix the problem:

  1. Pick one of the repeats, and delete the other
  2. For the deleted piece of content, add an entry into your .htaccess file to redirect any requests from the deleted content to the content you kept

Stop Words

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” — John Wesley

Look around any disorganized area. What’s the first thing you can improve on? Cleanliness. One of the ways you clean a room is eliminating redundancy. Examples include garbage wrappers, empty boxes, and unused trinkets. When you have redundant items, it clutters up the useful items. The same principle extends to SEO keywords, page titles, and headers. Your job involves eliminating redundancy. And how do you do this? You start with stop words.

Stop words provide zero descriptive value to a sentence. They appear frequently in documents without providing value to the text. Take any keyword phrase. If you cut stop words, your content keeps the original message. Many times, you clarify your meaning by removing stop words. Let’s review some stop words:

  • A
  • About
  • Below
  • During
  • From
  • Here
  • Themselves
  • Then
  • Up
  • Was
  • Yourself

If you have a key phrase or page title with any stop word in it, remove it. Now ask yourself, does the meaning stay the same or improve? Removing stop words helps you embrace the addition by subtraction principle. Less is more.

Removing stop words helps you clarify your meaning. Overusing words like was dilute your meaning. Remember in the readability section, we want to write using an active voice. Keep the user engaged, and keep the message moving.

Shady Backlinks

Each link to your website holds a certain rank. Some links harm you. Let’s find these, and get rid of them. Start by analyzing the domain rank. Low domain ranks go hand in hand with spam websites. Take time to review the website and determine if you want their link.

The Purple Hair Theory

Google notices changes. The less subtle the change, the quicker they notice. Imagine your best friend of 10 years walks into a room tomorrow. They dyed their hair purple. You’d notice their hair color immediately.

What about a more subtle change in your best friend? What if they started off with a mild blue hair dye? After a few weeks, your friend added some red hair dye. After a few months, your friend’s hair color turned purple. This change is more subtle. Over time, you grow used to the mild changes in your friend’s hair color.

Link Greed

In 2013, MathCelebrity traffic surged. During the calendar year, our traffic grew in every single school month. People enjoyed the website. They shared content with friends and family. But I wanted to move faster. I wanted more links in less time. I searched for ways to get piles of links fast. I bought some backlinks from a Fiverr gig. If you don’t know Fiverr, it’s an online marketplace where you pay five dollars for random tasks called “gigs”. The backlink gig I bought promised to get my website featured on various blogs. 5,000 links in 72 hours. Yup, sounded good to me. I told myself we had a valuable website. Why not tell more people by taking the escalator to search success instead of the stairs?

Man, what a dumb move. Google released another algorithm update on their search engine. This update targeted links built on spam-based websites. Can you guess the quality of the websites produced by the Fiverr gig? You guessed it — absolute garbage. When Google rolled out their update, my traffic plummeted. At one point, Google sliced my traffic in half overnight.

I name this the worst mistake I ever made with this website. I tell this story to warn others. If you work with backlink services, please be careful. I advise you to skip the services. Instead, focus on building your own organic links. It took me a year of work and a king’s ransom to undo the damage I caused. If I could reverse one mistake over ten years, buying backlinks would be the one. Over the next year, I cleaned up most of the garbage backlinks. I built a list of the spam links, and submitted it to Google’s disavow tool.

Link Velocity

One of the ways Google discovers artificial link growth is link velocity. Link velocity measures the rate at which a page or website accumulates new inbound links.

When a page or website gets a huge spike in new inbound links within a short duration, it sets off red flags. The optimal link building method comes from a steady growth of inbound links.

It’s important you watch for the other negative in link velocity — slow growth. If you struggle with backlinks, it means your content lacks inspiration. It’s also a sign you aren’t giving yourself the right exposure. Like any good relationship, trust builds over time. And remember, fake relationships never last.

The Difference Between Natural and Fake

Remember the scenario above with your best friend. A digital version of the purple hair theory also exists. You’ll find a distinct difference between viral content and fake backlinks. Viral content spreads far and wide on multiple channels — Social media, text message, and email. People from all walks of life talk about it. They comment on it. They want to share it. Now contrast this with artificial links on websites with small readership.

Site Errors

Search engines have one goal, please users by delivering valuable, relevant content. They punish anybody who gets in the way of this goal. What gets in the way of user satisfaction?

Website errors.

Website errors degrade user experience. Website errors also interrupt search engines crawling your website. Let’s discuss five common website page errors to look for and resolve. Knowing the meaning of these errors helps you resolve issues faster.

401 (Unauthorized)

This error occurs when a website visitor tries to access a restricted web page. It’s possible they typed in the wrong address. Or, the error might be your fault. Yes you, the webmaster. The user tried to get to a page where you need to be logged in, but you never showed them the place to login! 401 errors like these tell you about bad web design. Solutions include redirects to the correct page, or telling search engines not to index this page.

400 (Bad Request)

This error occurs when a web page request is corrupted or accessed incorrectly. Causes include:

  • Bad request syntax
  • Size too large
  • Invalid request
  • Deceptive request routing

403 (Forbidden)

This occurs when a user tries to access a private or blocked directory. You might have restricted file directories which the user landed on. It may have been an accident. If so, you need to set up a way to get them to the public pages where you want them to go. 403 errors are like the secret poker room in the back you don’t want anybody to see or go to except you and your friends.

404 Not Found Error

This error occurs when somebody tries to visit a non-existent page on your website. Let’s say you have a page of FAQs at www.mysite.com/faq. The user types in www.mysite.com/faqx. The website will throw a 404 error because this page does not exist. Or, they visit www.mysite.com/faq and the page does not exist. You may have had a page there before, but now it vanished. 404s give you an idea into errors: Did your page address change? Did somebody place a link on another website with the incorrect address?

To solve this, you need to check for broken links. Google Search Console gives a report on 404 errors. WordPress has a broken link checker plugin. Next, if the page has changed addresses, you need to do a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect tells search engines to use the new address in place of the broken or old address.

Now, what if the user typed an incorrect address? How do you solve this? You assign a special page address for 404 errors. On MathCelebrity, I borrowed the famous quote from the movie “Mean Girls”. The limit does not exist! It’s a chance to inject humor and let the user know they have other options on your website. The custom 404 page gives you one last chance to keep the user from leaving. I saw an entire article devoted to clever 404 pages. These websites earned free backlinks from their error pages.

500 (Internal Server Error)

500 errors destroy reputations. These errors mean you have a broken page because of problems with your website. Use tools like Pingdom or Google Search Console for error detection and instant alerts. Like 404 errors, you can declare special 500 error pages to clean up embarrassing errors on your website.

To fix these, get a developer on the case immediately.

Orphan Pages

We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain. — Stephen Hawking

Earlier, you read about the content spider. Your website’s main theme lies at the center of the web. Each link to the web leads back to the center of the web. With MathCelebrity, I use math as the web center. To build the website structure, I start with math subjects such as Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus. Each subject contains lessons required for mastery. For Algebra, we have equation solving, variables, and polynomials as an example. Building my website this way helps tie everything together.

Set a goal to have every piece of content link within a few clicks. If you have a piece of content with zero incoming links, you get an orphan page. Orphan pages hurt SEO and limit exposure to your content. Since orphan pages have zero links, they have zero connections to the outside world. You know the old saying — out of sight, out of mind. When you make content discoverable, people find information easier.

As you build our your website content, take care to have it all related in someway. As we discussed in earlier chapters, more relevant content means more time spent on your website. How valuable is a connected network? Entire books have been written on connected networks. Read Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or Linked: The New Science of Networks.

How to Find Orphan Pages

Using inbound link scanners like Google Webmaster Tools or Screaming Frog, find pages with zero inbound links. Also, make sure you include every page in your sitemap. Confirm you have no sitemap errors. Remember, scanning the file doesn’t guarantee search engines read the links. Verify your sitemap read results equal your sitemap links.

What happens if you find an orphan page? Should it be on your website? If so, search for related content and link to it from this content. Does it belong under a category? It’s possible you forgot to tag the page under the right category. As I discussed in the category and spider web chapters, classify each piece of content under a category. And have each category tie back to the central theme of the website.

Dead-End Pages

Taking the opposite of orphan pages, we get dead-end pages. Dead-end pages have no outgoing links to content on your website. When a user consumes your content on dead-end pages, they have nowhere left to go.

Dead-end pages give you a chance to link to related content. Or, you can add a capture form. You have one exception for dead-end pages…sales pages. Since you want zero distractions when selling your product or service, removing external links helps the user focus.

Link Rot

When invalid links on your site point to another site, you get link rot. In the past, these links used to work. But now, the link either moved or broke.

What causes link rot? A website shuts down, the location moves, or the website has errors. Use scheduled automation to prevent link rot. Scanning tools like Xenu link sleuth help find invalid links.

Remember, even though the you don’t own the broken link website, it still reflects poorly on you. Why? Well think about the user experience. A user comes to your website, and on your page, they click a link to go to another website. And the link is broken. You wasted the user’s time. Remember what I said about user experience? Take care of users, and the rest takes care of itself.

Conclusion

Now you have the SEO tips for a website raking in 450,000 visitors per month. We’ve covered mindset, onsite tactics, offsite tactics, and avoiding stupidity.

What do you do next? Take Action. The knowledge gained from this book puts you ahead of 95% of your market. But knowledge gained only starts the quest towards success. Knowledge without action equals squandering a gift given to you. The question becomes, when will you take action?

You have three choices:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Take this information and go step by step implementing changes on your own
  3. Or, you can take the fast lane to SEO success. Since implementation takes time, I want to offer you an easy ramp to completing these tasks.

My company offers a full scale SEO service and a monthly coaching program. If you want enlightenment and inside information, then the coaching program is perfect for you.

We research, test, and build the SEO strategies to get you more traffic. Traffic which stays longer and returns over and over again. Free, consistent traffic which rolls into your website. The coaching program puts you on the “inside”.

And it doesn’t stop there. The coaching program keeps you up to date with the latest tips and tactics. While your competition sits in the dark wondering what happened, your website moves ahead at a consistent pace.

Each month, we’ll move forward together. I gather the intelligence, I do the research, I test the latest findings. We take what works, and apply it to your website. We discard what doesn’t work.

When you decide to take the next step, call my office to set up a discovery session with me.

800–234–2933. Tell my assistant you want to schedule a website discovery call.

Thank you for reading. I’ve included a glossary for you. Think of it as a cheat sheet for SEO knowledge.

P.S. — To connect, my handle is MathCelebrity on Twitter and Instagram. I’m also at www.donsevcik.com and www.linkedin.com/in/donsevcik.

Glossary

Algorithm (SEO) — A program scoring websites based on relevance and user experience. The score ranks your position on search engine results pages for search terms.

Alt Tag — An HTML text attribute for images. Displays text within a box in place of missing images.

Anchor Text — Text explaining a link.

Backlink — Link placed off your website pointing back to your website

Crawling — How a search engine reads and indexes your page information

CRM — Customer Relationship Manager. A system to store and analyze customer and lead information.

CSS — Cascading Style Sheets. Files used to style your website

Dwell Time — An SEO metric involving time on page, Click-through-rate (CTR), and on-page engagement.

Googlebot Google’s program used for crawling websites

HTML — Hyperlink Text Markup Language. The language used to produce web pages.

Hyperlink — A clickable element which brings you to another location on the web.

Impression — A page view

Indexing — Storing data in Search Engine Databases

Inversion — A thought process seeking to avoid mistakes.

Javascript (JS) — Files for scripting

Latent Semantic Indexing — Grouping associated words

Link — Clickable web page element which takes you to another location on the web.

Link Rot — Links pointing to resources which do not exist anymore.

Meta tags — Tags placed in the header section of your website giving description about your website and page.

Orphan Page — A page on a website with no incoming links. It’s all alone.

Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) — A Ranking signal to give a boost to content tied to recent or trending events.

Robots file — a .txt file instruction manual. This tells search engine spiders if they are restricted or not.

Scheduled Job — An automated task. This program runs on a schedule you define. Example time frames include daily, weekly, and monthly.

Semantics — Meaning, related to language

SEO — Search Engine Optimization

SERP — Search Engine Results Page

Sitemap — A file listing pages for search engines to index.

Spider — An automated program created by search engines to scan webpage elements.

Tag — Defines an element on a webpage.

URL — Uniform Resource Locator. An address you type in to get to a particular webpage.




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