How To Get 450,000 Visitors For Free

Introduction

How would you like to remove the veil 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 This Book is For

You are here to learn about SEO. Whether you are a business owner, or an employee trying to decode SEO mysteries, you want more 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 two years as people like you get shunned with confusing advice. The biggest culprit? SEO Agencies.

Evil SEO Agencies

If you’ve worked with agencies, I’m confident their advice let you down. 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 years, I gave money to agencies. And I got crushed. I like you, am tired of theft - from SEO agencies taking your money in exchange for pocket lint. No doubt you’ve heard the SEO agency horror stories. From dodging phone calls, to taking your money and giving you a printout full of jargon. And all you get is little to zero traffic increases. What you really need is knowledge.

Knowledge is 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. All you want to know is 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 expert, he who preaches but does not practice
  • The money taker, Money he takes, expertise he fakes
  • The opinion giver. He always has an opinion, and he's always wrong. The opinion giver couldn't hit water if he 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’ll present in this book help your paid traffic as well. 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 a educational website which gets 450,000 unique visitors every month. This torrent of traffic comes from 10 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. The industry changes, the results stay the same.

The information you will read is 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 why you should listen. Because I have zero patience. When I say zero, I mean no patience. Stay with me, because this is important to 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 five days or less, or I’m getting rid of it.

I want you to take the tricks I’ve gathered due to my lack of patience, and churn out more free traffic. I too, got raked over the coals by bloodsucking SEO agencies. You know the type - they take your money for a few months with little to no results. Then send you a bunch of fluffy jargon and excuses to “be patient”. No thanks. SEO agencies target repeat revenue. Their job is to keep you paying, drip feeding you excuses and half-truths.

Now you know who I am, let me offer a gift. My first gift to you lies inside of your head. The three pound organ inside your skull is your most powerful weapon.

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. The first thing you need to do is 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, who is 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 alter of Google, and sometimes Bing. To the herd, website visitors are 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. Now, when you are ready to detox, come follow me and let’s flip the herd on their head.

Pretend You Are Your Customer

Forget for a 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, concentrate on the experience.

I want you to picture the ideal user visiting your website and consuming your content. What is the ideal scenario in your head, from the time they arrive at your website, until the end of their visit? 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 are thinking about it, let me give you my answers.

Picture Your Ideal Visitor

My ideal visitor is a math student, from fifth grade through college. My other ideal visitor is a parent of 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. Everything is discoverable within one or two moves.

My ideal visitor has urgency. Whether it is homework or tests, students and parents need help now. They need a thorough, easy to understand explanation.

I picture this group 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 get 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, they turn a math tutor themselves. 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 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 friends website, or another chat forum.

Begin With The End In Mind

Did you 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 a goal. As long as they complete one goal, the wheels for SEO gains start to move. Now, here is where we 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, if you make people happy and engaged, the rest will take care of itself. Let’s review 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: People are brokers, the search engine is the customer

  • Winning: People are customers, the search engine is merely a middleman to the customer.

  • 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.

While we are on the subject of agencies and gurus, 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, the 30 days is an arbitrary number. 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year time frames provide a snapshot.

No matter how busy you are in your work, take 1 hour out 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 the answer is "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. Skip tracing is a fancy term for chasing deadbeat debtors who disappear. The biggest offenders vanished on a whim. Debtors stopped answering phone calls and ignored certified 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:

  • "What is your relationship with 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 has relationship troubles.
  3. The customer lives 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 10 customers.
3) Ask them the following questions:

  • i) What they like about your product or service.
  • ii) How you could 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 an execution mindset. The next principle to learn and embrace is Kaizen. Kaizen comes from an American statistician named William Edwards Deming. Deming believed in continuous incremental improvements in all aspects of your job. Kaizen is a Japanese term 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. 1% is 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 at 1% improvements, starts to pay 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 takes over. 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 com. We will 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 is a drop in the bucket, over time, it turns into a gushing waterfall. The gushing waterfall grew from small improvements each day.

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's goal is avoiding folly. 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 avoid errors.

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?

Remember, it's much easier to remove known problems than it is to figure out what is missing. Inversion's 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 your remove to make things better? Picture the user's journey from end to beginning. Remove any congestion and items open to question. 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. Warren Buffet’s business partner Charlie Munger practices inversion. Avoiding stupidity is much easier 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 final 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 SEO tasks.

The Informercial Idea

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

During Ron’s presentation, Ron 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 informercial. Years after the informercial, 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 page speed 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. You never have to worry about, nor think about them again.

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 are 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. What kind of tasks you ask? Well, how do most people handle repeatable tasks? They either:

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

These programs slip through the cracks, and they waste unnecessary time. There is a better way though…Scheduled Jobs. If you have date based tasks, then scheduled jobs are perfect for you. You set the time interval for each script run, tell it what scripts to run, and then you are done.

These scheduled jobs run in the background. They never get tired or take a break. You don’t have to think about them. Throughout the book, when I refer to scheduled jobs or automated scripts, this is what I mean.

I set the scheduled jobs running on my website to run during slow traffic times. It impacts my audience less if they run when the least amount of people are on the website as possible. 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 on everything in the last 24 hours. I call it my executive dashboard.

The Executive Dashboard

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 about any drastic changes in my website.

  • 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. This section takes five minutes to read.

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.

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 are you spending on certain tasks? How much time does it take to remember to do them? How often do you work on these tasks?

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly

What is the probability you will forget to do them?

Automate By Time Period

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 like to say automation is 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 are sitting at the top of the hill. You need to make a snowball which is three feet wide and six feet tall. You roll up a small ball of snow in your hand. When you start, the snowball is tiny. 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. The key here is 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. You’ll sit and agonize over little to no website visits. You’ll create powerful content to share with the world - the problem is, the world fails to show up. As you put in more and more work, you’ll wonder if SEO is a hopeless cause. Fear not, your mission when starting out is to get one backlink. Or, one search engine result. That’s it, just one. 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, the key is to get started.

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 raise it to the power of n. Now, when n is 1, you get 2. When n is 2, you get 4. These are small numbers. But, when n = 8, you get 256. When n hits 20, you cross 1,000,000.

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 your get our name out there more, 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 “herd” grows, more people join the herd. Numbers beget more numbers, no different than a rolling snowball.

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 might sound 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 only on-site optimization. To get ahead, expand your vision outside of your website as well. Let's discuss offsite SEO strategies next.

Building backlinks creates a powerful SEO ranking strategy. Backlinks are links to your website from other websites. Search Engines count them as digital votes. The goal is to get more and more links as time goes on.

However, all backlinks differ. 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. 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 in the people who link to you. Are they coming from a particular industry? Are the websites related in some way. Using pattern analysis, you gain deeper insight into who is linking to your website.

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

  • What keywords do the backlinks share?
  • What is the anchor text describing the link?
  • Is the link text your company name? Is the link text a keyword or phrase describing your product or service?  

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, website URL. Include the reason why linking to you benefits the person you are reaching out to. Reason why embraces the WIIFM principle:

  • What's
  • In
  • It
  • For
  • Me

Find something the other person wants. Appeal to vanity, or appeal to something they need.

Once you get all this information in a list, you automate the backlink email process. You can even 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.
 

Find Influencers

Another strategy to grow your backlinks is influencer campaigns. Influencers are people in your line of business who have a large following on social media and email. They also have an engaged audience. When they write or speak, large audiences stop and listen.

To save time and speed delivery, try influencer automation software like Klout. Klout tracks which 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 a devoted fans. Between large followings or high engagement, always choose engagement.

BuzzSumo is another valuable influencer outreach tool. Take a keyword, and BuzzSumo 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, try and keep tabs on these metrics to find responsive influencers. Try different targeting filters to see who you best bond with.

Let's switch gears, and go offsite for another valuable strategy - user generated content.

Testimonials

As I read books and reviewed products, I noticed more clicks coming in from review sites. One example is 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.

There is another force at work here: automation. 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. 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 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.

Using automation, what if you scanned various website containing the product or service you wanted to review? Then, you wrote a script or used software to act as a bot and post your reviews on various websites. Once you have your review in place, the bot goes out and posts for you on different websites.

Guest blogging and posting

Invest in finding new audiences. If you spend four hours on one guest written blog post with the right audience, it goes a long way to helping 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 we automate guest blogging opportunities? We build a list of potential websites. As I described above with influencers, we 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 is not opened, 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.

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 websiteleading 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. The conversation with the webmaster with the broken link goes as follows:

“Dear Webmaster, I reviewed your website resources on blue trinkets. I noticed one of your blue trinket link is broken. I also provide blue trinkets. I’d like to volunteer my website as a potential resource for your updated link.”

Now, once you get your script and process down, build a contact template. All you need is the broken link URL, your product or service, and the broken 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 back link. 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 that list with the existing websites who already link to you. Call this Group B. What you want is 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”. A brief 3 day autoresponder email sequence is enough.

Quality versus Quantity

When you get started, gathering a variety of backlinks is a good strategy. 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, it’s time to adjust strategy. When backlink hunting against stronger competition, pay attention to quality versus quantity. One high ranked backlink is far more valuable than 10 weak backlinks.

The first statistic to check for any backlink is the Page Rank (PR) and Domain Rank (DR). These scores tell you how popular a particular website is. Your goal is to get more backlinks with higher PR and DR websites. 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 it

Backlink Reporting

Using Ahrefs, there are 3 backlink reporting types:
1. New backlinks
2. Lost backlinks
3. Broken backlinks

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

Taking all these metrics into account, it’s imperative you track your trending. Are you gaining backlinks, staying flat, or losing backlinks? Also, what quality are the backlinks you are acquiring? Use Ahrefs for deeper insight. Ahrefs gives you an automated report, as well as run scans for you to get this information.

Alexa Insights

The tool I use for increasing Organic Rank is Alexa. I use their ranking tool to get an idea of the popularity of a website. Search Engines give more weight to back links on high traffic websites. The principal here is popularity by association. When popular websites link to you, then something about 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.

The first thing I do is 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 something on their website. You can gain 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 is about 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 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. My personal profile shows up on each post. As you post more, your website link gets etched 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, and exponential growth is now possible. I recommend Quora for expertise sharing.

As you answer more questions on Quora, they list you as a category expert. More people request your answers on topics. People see you profile activity as you contribute more. Your profile, website, and social media links are one click away. You gain authority from Quora picking you as a resident expert.

Expert status brings perks. Some Quora answers generated private messages on social media, follows, and website clicks. 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 are in, chances are there is a trade publication or eZine covering your industry. Trade publications are valuable pieces of real estate to get into. Here are a few ways 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 backlinks faster.

Favors are like seeds

Seeking out backlinks may be intimidating. 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 into summary notes which he posted on his website. People who missed the conference now had a summary of key points. Conference attendees appreciated his bullet pointed recap. This little gesture built credibility. The next year at the conference, this same blogger presented onstage instead of taking notes. 

The key here is demonstrating value and offering help. 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 that grows months from now may be your own.

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, you’ll know your personal stock is on the upswing when people seek you out. When they track you down instead of you finding them, you find yourself on the right path. 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 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. 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. Your job is to dig in and find out pain points and problems to solve. 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. It’s draft day, and 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. Here is the 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 offer. But Company B's webpage loads one second faster.

Will users care? Will they notice? They sure will. Read this statistic carefully:

“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 will leave. Or, they may ask themselves, "If the page speed drags, what else is wrong with this site?" Bloated pages increase your bounce rate. And bounce rate, my friends, affects SEO.

Remember the football coach example earlier? Take two webpages 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 is not limited to page load time. You better be lightning fast at grabbing people's attention as well.

Oh Look, a 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 are timing 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. 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 this does is make your webpage load faster.

How? Well imagine you are taking 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. The primary speed tool I use each month is Google Page Speed Insights. 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 page speed score for mobile devices and desktops. Page Speed Insights gives you rating colors: red, yellow, or green.

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

    
One helpful feature about Page Speed Insights is Google’s file conversion process. Google provides the compressed files for you. All you do is export and load them to your website system. Immediately after, your page speed score increases!

To avoid forgetting about 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 I don’t bog my page speed down at any time.

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 had to ask their boss. The bosses boss asked an executive. You filled out piles of forms. Approvals needed approvals. The entire process took days, sometimes even weeks. And the results - extra layers wasted time and killed 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. Each file is a decision. We call these decisions HTTP requests. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It’s 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 file contains the following files:

  • 2 .jpg image files
  • 2 javascript (js) files
  • 1 css file.
  • The total HTTP requests made equal five (2 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. To help you analyze HTTP requests, use dedicated software.

Page Speed Tools

One tool I recommend is Pingdom. 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 Page Speed 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 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 it out on YouTube. It’s called the Vacuum Seal Space Saver Tote. The premise is simple - 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 pile. It measures over three feet high. 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. Later in the commercial, she opens the bag, unpacks the items, and they are in perfect shape. Nothing has changed - she removed air for storage.

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 page request is valid
3. If the request is valid, 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 zipped 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 page request is valid
  3. If the request is valid, the server reads the file and sends a compressed version to the browser. The compressed version is a fraction of the size of the full version.
  4. The browser unzips the 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;

Onward, to a party, 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 time, the doorman recognized you, and just let you pass without showing your ID. The doorman knew you, your age, and your personality.

Now, if you cut your hair, dyed your hair, or gained a bunch of weight, the doorman might 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 used. This way, when a user visits a page in the future, the website uses the stored files instead of producing new ones. This is the web browsers way of recognizing a file. The files avoid showing their id.

This speeds up the page load time and gives the user a better experience. The good news is - it's easy to set up caching. One block of code automates this process. You paste in this code once, and you never have to change anything again.

For WordPress and Apache server websites, let’s review an example. First, find your .htaccess file inside your website files. The .htaccess file is a configuration file - it 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. Is it an image, a script, or a font. Next, it specifies how long we should 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 at 30 days. Cached files load to a user’s temporary directory. When they return to your website, 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, I want to give you another file delivery trick - embracing the shortest distance to your destination.

Content Delivery Network

In Michael Lewis’s book, “Flash Boys”, he tells the story of a high speed trading company moving their server a few feet closer to an exchange server. The high speed traders wanted to gain milliseconds, even nanoseconds. Why? Because each fraction of a second reduced allowed faster trading. Faster trades provided another benefit - money. The less distance information traveled down the internet cables, the more money they made. Why? Because they executed trades faster before price movements against their favor.

CDN’s get closer

The same principle works with files loading for webpages. Instead of high speed trading orders, we want to speed up static content. Static content is content delivered without processing. Three examples of static content include:

  • Images
  • Javascript
  • Cascading stylesheets (CSS)

Using a 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 one do you think is faster? Closer is better, and this is 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 is faster, because the browser makes no request to an external site.

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

Images give you a vivid way to express information. All great content posts have them. However, images take up more space than text. More space means more time to load on a page. Fear not, I have good news. You see, there are ways to speed up and optimize image loading.

Let's begin with color depth. Color Depth, or Pixel depth, is 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. Reduce the color to the lowest possible level without 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 are a WordPress user, 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.

Image comments

Sometimes, people create comments or text inside images. They might leave their name, or a description about the image. While the user cannot see this 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, get rid of comments.

Lossless versus Lossy Image Compression

Before we get into image types and compression, let’s discuss the two compression types. First is lossless compression. Lossless compression is a statistical algorithm which generates a model for the data. 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 and my consulting clients, I always use lossless compression.

Image Types

Let’s look at the common image types using on webpages 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 who is 33 pounds overweight. 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 are units of digital information. Think of bytes as pounds in the digital world. When files lose bytes, they load faster. The user gets a faster experience, without losing content.

Removing unnecessary characters in your script files helps you lose digital weight. The two offenders are random blank spaces and code comments. When a webpage loads, neither the comments or random blank spaces are used. But, they increase your page load time, because the server spends time removing them. The server only reads the characters performing tasks. Minification removes comments and random blank spaces. Now when your webpage 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. Javascript is a programming language designed to perform 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 used to the process as your website adds more Javascript. 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.

Here is an regular javascript file example:
// Hello, here is my comment var my_really_long_variable = 'xyz';
var num = 2;

Here is the minified version:
var my_really_long_variable="xyz",num=2;

Notice the minified version removed the comments and blank spaces. Minifcation 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? And this is only one tactic in Javascript optimization. Javascript optimization doesn’t stop with minification. What about timing? What if we delay ed the Javascript’s loading to speed up the rest of the page load?

Wait for it…Wait for it

We do this through asynchronous page loads. Asynchronous is a fancy term for delayed, until a prior 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 7 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. If 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. 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 example 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.

Here is an 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; }`

Here is the minified CSS:
.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. Minifcation removed newlines, and then placed all the statements in one line. Now you see how minification shaves down file size. And this is only one tactic in CSS optimization. CSS optimization doesn’t stop with minification. What about CSS 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. A database is a structured set of data accessible in many ways. Whether you use eCommerce, personal data on your customers, or content management systems, you use a database. And optimizing your database helps you please 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. I don’t want to wait a month. So I built a nightly script to run automatically. 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. How many tables we 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 run to grab data to present to your user. A query is a request for a set of data. Since queries take time to go to fetch data, and return it to the user, we have another chance to speed up a website. The quick fix for any table is adding indexes. Indexing assigns a unique value to every record. When a query uses an index, it makes sorting and filtering results 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’ll run faster.

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 see how many people are male and female. 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. But speed is a vital element to get ahead of your competition. 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. These are tips and tricks to build directly within the page you show to leads and customers.

HTML Tags

One of the keys to my SEO success is full disclosure to search engines. I provide a clean, informative page where users and machines can read it with ease. The first key to readability on our page comes from 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. If you are giving 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 are the most important. 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 webpage open, the title lays on top of the webpage ribbons.
  2. Search engine results. The title displays as the text description on the link.

While we are on the subject 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 that right), he wrote a book about it. If you publish any content, "The First 100 Million" is required reading.

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 this is 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 should 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. The size requirement is 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

This is 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.

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 is the MathCelebrity website. The link (anchor) text we will see on top of the link is Online Math Tutor. You want to provide the best user experience for users. 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 are going next after you click 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. Certain readers skim your pages by its headings. Make sure each heading engages users. It is important to use headings to show the document structure. 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. One of the things we do for text is decide if we want to read it. And the way we do this is skim pieces. Good subheads let 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 will tell the condensed version of the story you want to tell. 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

Test structure is vital for readability and SEO. Break up your content in logical chunks using the <p>tag</p>. The first sentence of each paragraph serves two purposes. One, it tells the reader an overview of the this chunk of text is about. 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, it’s time for 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 that kind of money 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 Flesch-Kincaid readability level.

Think about it - a company making hundreds of millions of dollars writes for 7th grade reading levels! Do you know what is 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 should pull the reader into the first sentence. The first sentence should pull the reader into the second sentence. Each sentence flows into the next sentence. Writing clarity helps the reader finish your piece without stopping.

While Stansberry is innovative, it’s not the first time you’ve heard the greased slide mentioned. 500 years ago, Michaelangelo 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. Your goal is to chip away your first draft until you have your written Statue of David. When you strive for a 7th grade reading level, chipping away is an important tool in your arsenal. 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.

Another mistake to avoid is repeating yourself, or repeating variations of what you said. Unless repetition contributes to sales message. I see many rookie writers over-emphasizing points in their content. One mistake I see websites repeat is tautologies. A tautology is saying 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. Your job is almost complete. 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. To increase clarity, remove 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 ask 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 was ready to go. 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 that women control household spending decisions. They also know most men act like me in a store. Men get impatient after a short period of time. When they get impatient, they start to find ways to shorten the shopping trip. In essense, 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 started building recreational areas designed for men. They built play areas designed for children. The goal is to occupy the distractor’s time, so Mom is more relaxed. When Mom is more relaxed, 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 bring it over to your website. When you present content to a user, your job is to get them to consume the entire content. You want no distractions, the only goal is for them to consume your content. 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. Is the text font clear? Is the page clear? Is the content easy to consume? These are questions you need to ask if you want to succeed in organic traffic.

Distractions equal unread content. If they cannot read or find your content, they leave. If readability is King, then a distraction free environment is the King’s cousin. Your next mission, should you choose to accept it, is 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 gambling 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 gambler wears two pairs of pants so they can urinate without leaving the machine.

The gamblers say their primary goal is 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 interviews 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 it easy to find where you want them to go next. 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.

A key part of flow is 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, it should be broad to describe your website. For MathCelebrity, it's math. This is the center of the spider web. Everything on your website should tie back to the center in some form.

Next, define your second level categories. For math, it would be 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 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 is an investment. People give extra preference to things they spend more time on. So your goal is to keep them interested and engaged. Make them stick to your website. 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, this is not new, you've seen this before. On Amazon's website, customers who bought "x" also bought "y". Amazon studies purchase habits with a microscope. Once a relaxed purchase habit emerges, Amazon puts it in front of you. With one click, you get to buy more products. Each click makes a user stick more.

Your goal with categorization is to start broad, and 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 sub-categories, 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. Because you are close to your website, it helps to get 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 your 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. Times, and devices have changed. Voice search and writing like you speak are now the search norm. To take advantage of this, it’s time you built 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: The searcher’s goal is to learn something by visiting a web page.
  2. Navigational: The searcher is looking for specific piece of information.
  3. Transactional: The searcher is looking to make transaction. They are the ready buyers.

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 type commands requiring an answer. How much, how many, what is, what time.

  • 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.

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?

If you are sitting next to your prospect, you watch body language. You gauge 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 cyber space.

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 do have a looking glass. It's 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 on.

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

No more guesswork, no more pondering. If you know the location, you know the exact paragraph where your sales piece 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 all 90 people left after your 3rd paragraph. 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. You know your lead is weak. You also know you have 3 segments of people to speak to.

Take these 3 segments, and figure out where your content is weak. 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. 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”.

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 is another “cut”. Pretty soon, each of those cuts adds up, just like lingchi. With enough cuts, I can beat some large brands on total organic traffic. Now you have the theory, let’s look at mechanics.

Here is the keyword formula I use for every page on MathCelebrity. It may sound simple, but it serves a very laser focused purpose which I will describe later. Ready?
Pick a main theme or phrase that 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
  • Set your Twitter Card Description
  • Have at least 1-2 mentions in the body of your content.

They should all match. All of them. Exactly. Simple enough? Now you may be asking yourself, why?

MathCelebrity is a site which covers math tutoring. I can name off the tip of my tongue at least 30 subjects. Each subject has a concept. Each concept may include calculators which our a sub-niche.

To isolate your sub-niches, create a page for each sub-niche. Here is the best part: Each sub-niche page is a chance to gather leads, followers, and fans.

Every piece of real-estate is a lead generator

Each page gives you another chance to blow your audience away, and show them what else you have. 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". But here is 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 piggy back 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. If you are not initially found on search results, you lose all potential follow up traffic.

The phrase math tutoring is difficult to rank for. Individual math concepts are easier to rank for. So we succeed by targeting individual math concepts. 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. Each page they use on your website 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 this is the power of long-tail keywords. Ranking for high competition keywords is like fighting Godzilla head on. No thanks. I'd rather chop away ruthlessly 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 is responsible for 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 are sitting on a goldmine of traffic. You probably don't even know about it. This goldmine provides daily ideas for new content. You aren't guessing about what your users want. Instead, they tell you what they want.

Why is this beneficial? Because the user is giving you ideas for content...for free!

Another benefit? Overcoming our own arrogance. Often times as website owners, we write blog posts we think people want. This is no different than people who trade stocks thinking a stock will go up or down. 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. They log into their AdWords account and check Keyword Planner. These are great ideas for first-tier content. What Google never tells you is what they do after the first search.

Internal Search monitoring does this. If they find Topic A on your website, what is the next logical thing they search for next? What is most related? Don't guess. Rather, watch. See what they search for on your website.

Imagine your dream customer visits your house while you are 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 this is the power you get from recording their 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 because there is demand.

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, rinse and repeat. You now have the holy grail of website growth. Your fans hand you the keys to the kingdom, all you have to do is 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 that doesn't work. We lack the content they want at the time they run the search. 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 email them. This encourages them to be more involved in the website. It also shows them your rapid response time. Now the user gets real-time updates about fixes you made from their suggestion.

Building trust through consistent delivery

There is another benefit to this notification system: 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.

If you answer the user’s first question, they ask you another. If you answer that, they ask you another. The more time they invest, the more likely they are to buy from you. 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’s akin to 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."

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.

On your website right now is 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 users'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 that is a box asking for a query parameter. This is the parameter in your URL when somebody searches for something on your website. If you use WordPress, it’s “s”. On my website, www.donsevcik.com, when I search for the phrase “tutor”, the URL is http://www.donsevcik.com/?s=tutor. Notice the “s” after the question mark? That is your 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 is in my CRM, I pick up the email address and any account information. If the user is searching for something related to what they bought in the past, 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.

Report Creation

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

After you setup the search tracking report, you should view it every day. Why is this beneficial? Because the user is giving you ideas for content...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.

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, rinse and repeat. This is the holy grail of website growth. Your fans hand you the keys to the kingdom, all you have to do is 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, 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. On the site, you sell Nike running shoes. Your current page setup classifies by brand. Using the internal search tracking, you discover people ask for blue Nike shoes size 12. This search tells you how to serve you customers better. You should classify and organize your shoe site with brand, color, size, and model. Each page title should describe this detail. And each search should detect this type of detail and filter accordingly.

New Content Creation

When a search is ran 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: Trust Building and Ambassador Creation

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 that enjoys your site and understand how it works, get ideas from them. If they are 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 much higher than any self-promotional material. Look at Amazon ratings and look at Yelp. The peer review system dominates the digital landscape. Ambassadors also have the trust of friends and peers to provide you with more ideas and feedback. It's a perfect circle, and one you should embrace. Listen to your user's concerns. One more thing: using automation, make sure to tag ambassadors in CRM. Send them different, more personalized emails.

Respect the different ways people speak

Watch how people search for things on your website using their idiosyncratic phrases. People have many ways to say the same thing. Identifying language and speech patterns gives you insight into your customers. Phrase structure and slang give you ideas on how to build your page. Spelling errors give you more ways to link to content. This way, you avoid missed searches on your website. Plugging these holes on your website earn you more traffic and keep people on your site longer.

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, your search is generalized. You’ve provided no context behind your search. Do you want shoe sizes, shoe brands, shoe makers, 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, let’s 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. What is the intent? Your on page goal is to provide the user context. Let’s say your page covers athletic shoe brands. What context can you offer the user to serve them better? This question is where latent semantic indexing comes in. But doesn’t context take work? Well, not if you know where to look. You see, simplicity is the goal of this book.

To simplify, let’s use technology. The first place to start is Google’s search bar. Start typing 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 are they searching 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 are the repeated phrases you see inside the testimonials?

Now, as you see common phrases repeat, write down a few of the terms. Next, go into the “All Reviews” link. On this page there is a search box. 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. Or, you have 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. I know this is a hot market. I also know I should include a section of my website about homeschoolers. Running another common phrase, I check the word easy. 18 reviews discuss how easy it is to read the book. Now I have another clue - people want simplicity.

When you are inside the product page, look at related products. You’ll find a goldmine of information and human nature 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. Go search for a cell-phone. Now, look at the related products. Chargers, cases, and ear phones.

Math Tutoring Example

Using both Amazon and Google related searches, I noticed people struggle with word problems. I also noticed people needed help setting up the problem. Solving the problem is one part - the other is finding out how to get started. 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 and context. But I’ll bet LSI had a significant role in the results.

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:

  • Riders
  • Riding
  • Rides

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. The stem is the word 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 phrase “tallest trees in America” is a popular search.

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. You might need to change a phrase, or a word. With the change in phrase, you rewrite your article 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. Half the equation is what people say, the other half is 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 readers. 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?

Since the goal of search engines is to drive traffic to your website, you are really marketing yourself to search engines. There’s an old saying in marketing:

“Being boring is the ultimate sin”.

Images

Whether it’s a blog post, article, or sales page, you often use images to enhance your message. Images play a 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, here is a 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. This is your image file name. Note: dashes help search engines distinguish unique words
  4. After you determine what image type extension you want, (jpg, png, gif).
  5. Our final image name is the name in (3) with a “.” followed by the image extension in (4)

Using that 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. This is 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

You’ve learned how to make your content easier to digest. Let’s stay on the digestibility ease thing 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. The next order of business is XML Sitemap generation. 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 let’s two programs talk to each other. It doesn’t care about language. XML is the Rosetta Stone of the Internet. What is the Rosetta Stone?

French soldiers discovered it 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. Language and culture were no longer barriers. XML is the universal language for any system to exchange information.

With the XML basics in mind, here is 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. Everything between the <> characters is called a tag. Tags define a data element.
  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. This is where you put the URL of your webpage. 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. The format is YYYY-MM-DD with an optional hour, minute, and second. This line tells search engines when you last modified your page.

Search engines scan this file to learn the structure and content of your website. With a manual process, your sitemap does not get updated when you produce new content. If search engines miss new content, you lose traffic potential.

Instead of manually recreating 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. Have 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 tag updates with the date you modified the page.
  3. Remove old files. If you deleted a page, or renamed it, your sitemap should 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 URL structure next. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. This is the address you type in the internet 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
  2. synthetic division calculator
  3. synthetic-division-calculator

My url for this page becomes: http://www.mathcelebrity.com/synthetic-division-calculator.php

While your URL doesn’t seem important, think about where it appears. Links on pages, 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, get clear with your URL. Rather, make sure your URL describes your page in a simple fashion.

Spider Crawls

A spider is an automated program which scans web pages and gathers information. The spider collects information and stores it inside a search index. Spider crawls your website picking up keywords, and their position on the page. Next, the spider detects what words are in the title, headers, subheads, hyperlinks, and other page attributes. This process is called indexing. Search engines index this data into a database for future searches.

Search engines use this data and build a list of factors with 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. There are no secrets. 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 start with any pages you submit, internal links, and then the list of links on a sitemap.

Crawl Budget

Search engine spiders crawl with restrictions. Crawl budgets are one restriction. 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? Here is another place where site speed gives you an advantage. 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 time stamp on your sitemap? Now you know why. Search engines don’t know about your changes unless you tell them.

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. On the web, there is a digital bouncer for your website. It’s 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. Here is an 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, like the evergreen tree. This content lasts for years, and relevancy remains unchanged over this time. Fresh content always evolves. Today’s trends are tomorrow’s forgotten headlines. Creating fresh content all the time is a difficult challenge. How can you stay on top of the conversation without wearing yourself down? The answer is 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. If other users see people posting content to your site, they are more likely to post their own content. User generated content gives your website another advantage - insight into the conversation in the prospect’s head.

When people talk or post on your website, you get to see their fears and desires. Once you understand your user, you can tailor future content towards their needs. Let’s cover a few 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. Are they commenting? If so, what is their mood? Next to shares, comments provide another way to take the temperature of your audience. Are they hot, cold, or neutral on your message?

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.

Some of the highest traffic websites on the planet have forums. Why? Because it’s a never ending content machine. It didn’t start off that way. 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, and the forum grew.

Q: How do you grow your forum?
A: You find and embrace power users.

What is a power user? It’s a user of a product or service who knows all the features, has extensive knowledge of the product, and reaps benefits from usage. Let’s use an example. Your product is a hammer. The regular user might lift it up, 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 your power posters, the forum will grow into it’s own village. Your ultimate goal in building a forum is to make it a well-oiled machine which runs without you.

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 does it for you. What are the most powerful testimonials? Friends, family, and colleague testimonials. We look to others for how they feel. Whether it’s Amazon, Yelp, or other feedback, one of the first things buyers do is seek out ratings and reviews. Testimonials provide a window into sentiment around your product. How important are testimonials to 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 your product is perfect 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.

Now, 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.

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. Garbage wrappers, empty boxes, unused trinkets, none of it is needed. 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 are useless words or phrases with no descriptive value. 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, is the meaning the same or better? 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 story moving.

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 of the following is easier:

  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 weapon in the SEO arsenal, 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 vilified Common Core. Common Core advocates preached a new way to learn. Since MathCelebrity covers math tutoring and we have 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.

The lesson here is 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 is a challenge, I get it. I consider myself an introvert unless I’ve had a few beers. It took me time to embrace 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.

Google Trends

In June 2010, Google released the Caffeine update. The indexing scans current updates versus batch indexing. Indexing happens faster now since you don't have to wait two weeks.

Recency Weighting

The Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) algorithm was invented by Amit Singhal, Senior VP and Google Fellow. Amit first talked about it 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. Is the topic a hot button debate? Is it polarizing? Does it 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? 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 getting exposure with timely news, I recommend David Meerman Scott. He invented newsjacking. Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.

Social Proof

Back in 2006, my wife flew me to Miami to celebrate my 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 card. The card entitled us to one free drink. He stood in front of a large door enclosed by velvet rope aside two scantily clad women. Pounding music pumped through 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 a free drink is a free drink.

The ten minute wait hinted at a club filled to capacity. Between the thumping music, free drink card, and desire to go somewhere, we decided to wait. After ten minutes, the bouncer unhooked the red velvet rope, and we stepped through the door. Before we could see 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.

Now the doorman and club owners used a powerful conversion tool - social proof. They manufactured social proof through visual cues. They concealed undesirable factors for as long as possible. 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 this and embrace this, your life gets easier. Your job 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 wing woman service. The service gets you one woman to go out on a night on the town and act like your friend. The psychology at work is trust and social proof. Women are more apt to trust women. And, if a woman sees another women with you, the immediate assumption is, “This guy can’t be too bad, if another girl is spending 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 this, other people in the bar know nothing about you. Yet a large assumption is made on your behalf, simply by who is standing next to you. It’s 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 wing woman example, you gained transferred social proof from search engines. If your website had little worth, then why would search engines feature you? This is the good news. Don’t get cocky, because this honeymoon period lasts for 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, priority one is 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 defer to authority. People look up to experts. People follow the herd. All these are basic principles of human nature. The good news is, search engine success rely 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. 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 market place. Why would somebody interview you if you weren’t worth it?

When your finish your interview, get a transcript. Since people consume content in different ways, it’s good to have the transcript. Besides, text search engines scan the transcript text and you now have another page 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 goes, if they are good enough to write for a large publication, then they are good enough for me. Include guest posts or mentions on large websites as well. You get social proof via another audience. If the other audience is large or popular, you get to borrow this credibility.

MathCelebrity gained links and a new audience from a post on a cryptography forum. Since cryptography uses prime numbers, I posted a prime calculator to contribute. They linked back to our prime number calculator. This post brought more page views to our discrete math calculators. Sometimes, all it takes is one well placed article or post.

Press Releases and Media Spots

Highlight all press releases, media placements, or media mentions. Even if it’s a general event, you in the press means 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.

Books and Courses

Any books you write, whether digital or paperback, feature them on your site. Reference them in your profile and for social proof. Books give you authority status. The same goes 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.

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.

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 testimonials, start using them to build social proof. Remember, humans are herd creatures. If enough of the herd says or does something, the rest will follow.

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. I started featuring a certification in an unrelated line of business. 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 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."

Unique selling proposition (USP)

An important lesson you learn in lead generation and sales is the power of being unique. TV advertising legend Rosser Reeves coined the phrase, “Unique Selling Proposition”, or USP. What do you do better than anybody in your industry. Or, what makes you more unique than anybody else? For MathCelebrity, I always highlight our speed. You get the step-by-step math work displayed 1/3 of one second math. Nobody is faster than us. Somebody once told me a funny analogy - we are the Usain Bolt of math tutoring.

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 unique 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 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, this person is worth listening to, for even a few minutes.

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.

Google Analytics

The next step for your SEO mission to automate is tracking website metrics. The way to do this is through Google Analytics. If your website represents the human body, Google Analytics is the nervous system. It tracks, regulates, and suggest adjustments. Like the 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. Install it once, and you are done. If you want to track purchases and events, there are a few more small settings needed. The initial setup takes 10 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 3 as the most important statistic you should track and review. Lifetime value is 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 where you should deploy more resources.

  • 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 that 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. 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 10 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 are your visitors interested in? Why is this important? Because it shows your personal information 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. Are they movie lovers, gamers, tech lovers? This report gives that to you

  • Geographic – Gives the location and the language of your users
  • Behavior – Shows you how many visitors are new versus returning. How many times are the returning visitors coming back? How many pages are the new and returning users viewing?
  • Technology – What browser, operating system, and network are your website visitors using? What devices are they using?

Acquisition

  • Traffic – Where is your traffic coming 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) – What is the first page users visit when they arrive at your website?

  • Site Content (Exit Pages) – What is the last page users visit before leaving your website?

  • Site Speed – How fast are your pages loading. You can sort by slowest or fastest page. Also, what are the speed suggestions from Google to make your page load faster? There is a hidden gem here: Is there 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 – What are users doing and how are they interacting with your website. Some examples are 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. Goals are classified into the following types:

  • Destination – Did a user visit a specific page or location?

  • Duration – Did a user stay on your website for a specific amount of time?
  • Pages/Screens – Did a user view a certain amount of pages?
  • 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. This is an automated measure of 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. 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) for every time you show up on a Google search. This employee monitors any errors the search engines find. You receive error notifications and 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. That’s it. Search Console is a one-time installation which takes under 90 seconds. After you do that, the tool begins 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. Now that you have the basics, let’s review each level of the Search Console reporting features:

Search Appearance

  • Structured Data
  • How many instances of your website have structured data? Structured data is information with a high degree of organization. It gives search engines more detail on what a particular piece of your website is doing. 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. Fixing issues gives your site a better ranking in the search engines. A few example improvements are:

  • Meta description issues, are they too long, too short, or duplicates?

  • Title Tag issues: Are your page titles too long, too short, missing, or non-informative?
  • 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 is life changing for your website.
  • 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 are coming in to your website?
  • What websites are linking to your site the most?
  • What content is being linked to the most?
  • How is the data linked?
  • Internal Links – How is your content linked to each other within your website?
  • This tool is helpful to 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
  • 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
  • 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 ◦ 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 – A sitemap is a table of contents with links you want search engines to scan and index. 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, would the page change in anyway? If so, this report let’s you tell Google. When you configure dynamic URL parameters, Google knows to treat each page 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. Once every while, you slip off the good path, and do something stupid. Security issues holds your hand, and drags 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.

Scroll Distance

If you have articles, sales pages, or blog posts, you’d like to know if they convert. Are they engaging? If your words are not converting, 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 is 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.

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, the obvious is found in…how far they scroll down on the page!

Scroll Depth

You can automate the tracking of this 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 wording or pitch is turning users off. Instead of assuming the entire letter bored the user, you know to pinpoint the 50% marker for a rewrite.

How else can scroll depth be used? The answer is difficulty in locating a button or link. What if the user scrolls down all the way one time, scrolls up all the way, and then scrolls back down? Their behavior tells you they cannot find something. Based on this automation, 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 horizontal scroll speed is also measurable. 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 other 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 give 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. The message is the same. Or is it? Remember I covered readability earlier? Your message on the desktop might be more appealing than on the phone. And messages that don’t look good don’t get read. Is your font too small? Is the spacing worse on the phone? These questions are byproducts of using the Scroll Depth tool. Scroll Depth gives you insight into your message. Is it getting read? How much of it is getting 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

Google Correlate is Google Trends in reverse. Want to know related keywords people search for two weeks before the holidays? How about searches about beauty products in June? While correlation does not 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 are using 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 and where your target market lives.

Remember in the earlier chapter where 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 4 fascinates me. Number 4 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 there is passion, there is a market close by.

Use Google Correlate for creativity, ideas, and finding the real story behind a search term.

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 takes a turn by guessing where the ship’s position is by 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

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. One of the mysteries of business is 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. Do you know how?

Patent filings.

You'll find Google's search patent filings online. Piece together the recent patent filings and one theme stands out.

Semantics.

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 are at a party of a 100 people. You want to find the people best suited to discuss your interests. Would you pick 10 random people, or go find the top 3 people who knew everybody?

You'd pick the top 3 people who knew everybody. Because they know who to talk to to get you help. Knowing this, don't you think other people in the room adopt the same strategy? At least a few of them would. These people are living proof of the Matthew Effect. The Matthew Effect states - well connected nodes are more likely to 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 are called 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.

At the five year mark, I tried something different. I started tutoring on a math help forum. Math forums have many people in one place. Little did I know, the site ranked high in the search engines. They had thousands of back links, and thousands of members. The math tutoring forum was a hub.

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. My website showed up on top math tutoring resources. People added our link on education website. We became a default choice in people’s minds - a math tutoring hub. The moment where the crowd’s momentum takes over and they flock to the majority is called the tipping point. I learned about this 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 you 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. Rather, 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 is 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, 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

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 which sits atop their head. These animals use a strategy called "peacocking". Peacocking comes from the male peacock, who uses his bright colored tail to draw attention to himself.

Whether it's the hooded seal, peacock, or snow monkey, any visual stimulus is an advantage. Obscurity equals loneliness. Now, 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, sitelinks, 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 sitselinks 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 is drawn to the orange star rating below the link. 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. What is schema? Schema describes in detail, more about your website. Who you are, what you do, what each page on your website is about. Schema goes above the 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.

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 a hierarchy of webpages - where are you inside a website. Let’s use an example of a shoe site. If you are in Nike Air Jordan shoes, the typical breadcrumbs would appear as:
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 should your crumb be in? For this example, we want position two. Position one is brands, position two is the individual brand.

I talked earlier about your internal site search engine. Let’s return to this, and give you another advantage. Internal Site Searchlinks 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 is a magnifying glass. It draws a users’s eyeliner to your search result. It gives a shortcut entry 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 would click on your search result. Then they’d type in their search command. With search sitselinks, they can search our site from Google’s search result page. It’s a search engine within a search engine.
  3. The last advantage is 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.

Here is the code example. Replace the url example.com with your website URL. Replace the two instances of searchtermstring with the search term the user runs. Also make sure your target is the page where search results display.

<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 advice 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.

Slight Edge Principle

Earlier, I talked about the Kaizen principle. Constant improvements over time. With Search Engine Result Pages, the goal is to get better than 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 are in position 100 or 5, the question remains 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 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 is where it gets fascinating - 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 is 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 about you by a fraction of a point, you still win. And any SEO win on page one grabs more lion's share of clicks.

Pseudo-Queries

Google does not trust 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 technological job, you learn to distrust user input. People misspell, mistype, and get confused on user interfaces. When you work on programs with user inputs, your job is to clean up 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. Here is 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

Why is this good news 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 o there 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 synonyms or related phrases. Once you have your list, run through the Google Keyword Tool and see how much search volume each phrase gets. If one synonym gets more searches, consider changing your page 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. Is your original page title, without synonym variations, the highest volume traffic term? 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 means 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.

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 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. All you have to do is set this up one time, and you are done. The search engines will 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.

Pogosticking

Picture this: you are sitting in your car across the street from a house party. You find yourself on the fence, you want to go to the party, but you want to know if the party is exciting. You don’t feel like getting out of your car, only to find out the party is a dud. How do you solve this dilemma? How about this: watch how long people go into the party and stay. If the party sucks, people leave within minutes. If the party is jumping, people stay for hours.

When the party engages people, they decide to stay more. The longer they stay, the more invested they are. Time invested means increased interest.

The same principle applies in the digital realm. Consider a piece of a content a digital party. Do people click in to start reading or watching, 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.

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-pogosticking) is tracked, and the number of times that other search results are selected after a particular search result is selected (referred to as post-pogosticking) is also tracked.”

Notice the post-pogosticking 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 10 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 and user experience drove the user away. Get enough pogosticks, and Google docks your ranking scores.

The key to the pogosticking patent filing is engagement. Is your content and user experience engaging enough to hold the user’s interest?

https://www.google.com/patents/US20080275882

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 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. The pattern here is, 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. The entire guide to this point covers SEO for anybody. The next section drills down into local business specific tactics. What tactics do you use to get in the top of local search results?

SEO Secret Buried in Greece

Just Northwest of the famous Acropolis in Greece, a secret is buried. The secret unlocks the key to conquering local SEO. Before we get to that, 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 is 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 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 in 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 is where our secret to local SEO lies.

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.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Imagine you own a local business, let's use a flower shop for example in Anytown, USA. While the agora is gone, 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, like the agora.

But wait, each town has their own unique feel and unique gathering place. How does the agora principle 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 it was commerce, ideas, or politics, the agora served as the spot to seek public opinion. Humans seek the opinions of others back then as they do now.

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

Each town, or local area has all 3 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 3 sites are the modern version of the Agora - the gathering place for ideas and commerce. And this is how search engines take the pulse of localities, by using the agora principle.

  • 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 principle to find relevant backlinks on sites like these. Remember, backlinks are digital votes.

If you own a local business, it's time you find your digital agora. Next, find out if you are mentioned there. If not, it's time you found your way on there, and increase your local SEO rank.

Proximity

You are sitting at a park after an exhausting run. You are tired, thirsty, and forgot to bring a drink of water. Your house is twenty minutes away, and you don’t want to wait long 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, your first order of business is information control. Make sure your business name, address, phone number, and hours of operation are up to date. 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. Your address listing is correct, but you forgot to update your business hours. Somebody searches for your line of business one mile away. Your business hours show you are closed, even when you are open. Congratulatios, you lost an easy customer.

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 are engaging 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, the 7 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 the email address rule. 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.

If your content is good, the user looks good when they share it with their network. You gain credibility from the social share. They get the added security of keeping their email address. As bad as you want the user’s email address, trust via social currency is still valuable. You gained this trust by removing risk.

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 can 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 discuss 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 and share feature. It also has a follow feature. Now, here’s where the multiplier effect comes in. You can combine these two features. Let’s take my website. A user runs a math problem, follows the step by step work. When the content blows the 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. All it takes is one more click on the same screen, and they are done.

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 is tailored in the right order. If they liked the content enough to tell their friends, their next logical step is joining our social network. It takes no extra effort on their part but a single click.

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 are you showing 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, one of the benefits they get is the gift of giving. And how do people share knowledge on phones? Text, or text based applications like What's App.

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?

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 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 the last 24 hours of statistics for bounce rate, click through rate, and time on page. The next thing I check is day to day, week to week, and month to month. Ask yourself - is my website engagement statistics improving. If not, you have a problem. How dare you let potential customers flee your brand and go somewhere else?

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. Yet, when you say, you lose 150 people each day, worth 50,000 each month, people perk up and listen. With dollarization in mind, let's quantify your bounce rate losses.

  1. Open Google Analytics and view your top 5 highest viewed content pages.
  2. Next, analyze the bounce rate on all 5 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?

Here is an easy trick to fix this problem. Calculate the lifetime value of your customers. Let's use $500 USD as an example. Next, figure out how many extra people are bouncing 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 are losing:

  • 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

Go into Google Search Console and Bing Search. Next, compare the amount of searches where your website comes up with the click through rate (CTR). Each time your website appears in a search is called an impression. 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 content is irrelevant

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 our 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, make it an experience for the user. An experience they want to continue. Speaking of continuing, let's talk about another powerful engagement statistics 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 clickthrough, 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.

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)
  • Clicked links from social shares. Add tracking to social shares when possible
  • Likes - The first step in any engagement. Even the laziest person can click a like button.
  • Comments - This is a bonus. When people take time to write a comment, it shows extra commitment.

FREE SEO Tools

We talked earlier about automation, and letting the software do the work for you. These are the tools I use to help grow my website traffic. Some of these tools have a free and paid plan.

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 to the deleted content to the content you kept

Not all links to your website are created equal. Some links harm you. Let's find these, and get rid of them.

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 are working with backlink services, please be careful. You are much better off building organic links. It took me a year of work and a king's ransom to undo the damage that 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 is 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 ofinbound links.

It’s important you watch for the other negative in link velocity - slow growth. If you are getting little to no backlinks, it’s a sign your content lacks inspiration. It’s also a sign you aren’t giving yourself the right exposure. Like any good relationship, trust should build over time with your users. Fake relationships never last.

The Difference Between Natural and Fake

Remember the scenario above about 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, email. People from all walks of life talk about it. They comment on it. They are happy 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 content. They punish anybody who gets in the way of this goal. What gets in the way of user satisfaction?

Website errors.

And website errors frustrate users. There are 5 common website page errors to watch. Knowing the meaning of these errors helps you resolve issues faster. Fixing these errors helps you avoid SEO penalties. Here are the 5:

401 (Unauthorized)

This 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.

400 (Bad Request)

This 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 is gone. 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 now use the new address in place of the broken or old address.

Now, what if the address the user typed in is incorrect. How do you solve this? The answer is a handy save to catch the user before they get frustrated and leave. 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 be humorous and let the user know they have other options on your website.

500 (Internal Server Error)

These are the worst of the worst for errors. This means your page is broken, and it’s a problem with your website. This is where tools like Pingdom pay dividends. These errors get picked up immediately.

Automated prevention is key here. Using 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. The goal is to keep them on the site, and help them go somewhere useful until you fix the error.

Orphan Pages

We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain. – Steven Hawking

Earlier, you read about the content spider. At the center of the web is your website’s main theme. Each link to the web leads back to the center of the web. With MathCelebrity, the center of the web is math. To build the website structure, I start with subjects. Math has 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.

The goal for your website is to have every piece of content linked 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 no links, they are harder to discover. You know the old saying - out of sight, out of mind. When content is discoverable, you make it easier for people to find more information.

As you build our your website content, take care to have it all related in someway. The more linked content you have, the easier it is to find. As we discussed in earlier chapters, more relevant content means more time spent on your website. How valuable is a connected network? Read Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or Linked: The New Science of Networks. Use this strategy to ensure all your content connects in some way.

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. The counts of your sitemap read results should match the number of links on your sitemap.

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, each piece of content should fit under a category. And each category should 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. Treat very page as a lead generator or sales closer.

Link Rot

The next issue to scan for on a regular basis is link rot. Link rot is invalid links on your site pointing to another site. In the past, these links used to work. But now, the link either moved or broke. There are many reasons this happens without you knowing. A website shuts down, the location moves, or the website is down. Sometimes, these links come back online. Prevention is key here using scheduled automation. It’s best to use a broken link scanner like Xenu link sleuth to find invalid links.

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 is your next step? Action. The knowledge gained from this book puts you ahead of 95% of your market. But knowledge gained is only the first step towards success. Knowledge without action equals squandering a gift given to you. The question becomes, when will you take action?

You could take this information and go step by step implementing changes on your own. 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're tired of living in the dark, if you are tired being "on the outside", 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 on a consistent pace.

Each month, I do the work for you. 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.

Glossary

Algorithm (SEO) - A program scoring websites based on relevance and user experience. The score ranks your position for search terms.

Alt Tag - An HTML text attribute for images. Displays if the image is not available.

Anchor Text - Text explaining a link.

Backlink - Link placed off your website pointing back to your website

CSS - Cascading Stylesheets. Files used to style 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.

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 webpage 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.

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.

URL - Uniform Resource Locator. An address you type in to get to a particular webpage.