Today I’m going to show you a VERY effective SEO strategy for 2019.
In fact, I recently used these exact steps to rank #1 in Google for “Video SEO”.
And “keyword research tool”.
Let’s dive right in…
- Step #1: Find an “Opportunity Keyword”
- Step #2: Analyze Google’s First Page
- Step #3: Create Something Different… Or Better
- Step #4: Add a Hook
- Step #5: Optimize For On-Page SEO
- Step #6: Optimize For User Intent
- Step #7: Make Your Content Look Awesome
- Step #8: Build Links to Your Page
- Step #9: Improve and Update Your Content
- Bonus Step #1: Increase Your Domain Authority
- Bonus Step #2: Build a Community on Your Site
Step #1: Find an “Opportunity Keyword”
Let’s face it:
A #1 ranking isn’t what it used to be.
That’s because Google keeps adding stuff to the search results.
For example, look at the keyword “SEO Tools”:
You’ve got ads at the top of the page:
A Featured Snippet:
And a “People also Ask” box:
THEN you get to the #1 result:
That’s why you want to focus on Opportunity Keywords.
Opportunity Keywords are keywords with a high organic click-through-rate (CTR).
How about an example?
I recently created a post optimized around the term “SEO Audit”:
And “SEO Audit” is an Opportunity Keyword.
Sure, there are ads:
But that’s actually a good thing.
(More ads=higher commercial intent)
Other than ads, there isn’t a lot to distract people from the organic results:
You can also estimate organic CTR with Ahrefs.
For example, when I put “SEO Audit” into Ahrefs, it says that 61% of searchers click on a result.
Which leads us to…
Step #2: Analyze Google’s First Page
OK, so you found an Opportunity Keyword.
Now it’s time to see what’s already working for that keyword.
To do that, just type your keyword into Google.
Scan the top 10 results:
And jot down any patterns that you notice.
For example, the first page for “SEO Tools” is PACKED with lists of tools:
So you’d want to jot down: “lots of list posts”.
Then, move onto step #3…
Step #3: Create Something Different… Or Better
When it comes to content, you’ve got two options:
Option #1: You can create something different.
Option #2: You can create something better.
Sometimes you want to create something bigger and better than what’s out there.
(aka The Skyscraper Technique)
But sometimes you’re better off with content that’s completely different.
Because it helps your content STAND OUT.
A few months ago I sat down to write a piece of content optimized around: “Mobile SEO”.
And I noticed Google’s first page was littered with list posts, like: “X Ways to Mobile Optimize Your Site.”
I could have created a BIGGER list post like: “150 Ways to Mobile Optimize Your Site”.
But that wouldn’t make any sense.
Instead, I created something totally different.
Specifically, I published an ultimate guide to mobile optimization.
And because my content stood out, it got a ton of shares:
And most important of all, backlinks:
This is a lot more straightforward.
All you need to do is find out what’s working…
…and publish something WAY better.
A while back I noticed that most content about “SEO tools” only listed 10-20 tools.
And I knew that publishing another list of 20 tools wouldn’t work.
So I decided to create a list of 188 SEO tools.
And it did GREAT.
In fact, it now ranks in the top 3 for the keyword “SEO Tools”:
Step #4: Add a Hook
Here’s the deal:
If you want to rank in 2019, you need backlinks.
First, you need to figure out WHY people link to content in your industry.
Then, include that “Hook” in your content.
Last year I noticed more and more bloggers writing about voice search.
I noticed something else too:
When people wrote about voice search, they linked to content that featured stats and data:
So I decided to do a voice search study that was PACKED with stats:
And it worked!
To date, this single post has racked up 848 backlinks:
And 90%+ of these backlinks cite a specific stat from my post:
Data is just one type of Hook that you can use to get links to your content.
Here are 3 other Hooks that are working great right now:
New Approaches and Strategies
Think about it:
What do bloggers and journalists LOVE writing about?
And if you create something new, you’ve got yourself a hook.
For example, a few years ago, I coined the phrase “Guestographics”.
This was a new strategy that no one knew about.
And because Guestographics were new (and had a unique name), 1,200 people have linked to my post so far:
When you publish a massive guide, your guide itself is The Hook.
I’ll explain with an example…
A few years back I published Link Building: The Definitive Guide.
It was (and still is) the most complete guide to link building out there.
Here’s where things get interesting…
Every now and again a blogger will mention “link building” in a post.
But they don’t have room to cover the entire topic.
So they link to my guide as a way for their readers to learn more:
Case Study Results
Case studies are GREAT for getting links.
But to get links to your case study, you need to feature a specific result.
For example, a while back I published this case study:
This was a SUPER in-depth case study.
But I didn’t feature ONE result in the post.
Instead, I listed out 20+ results:
Which meant my case study didn’t have a single Hook for people to link to.
And very few people linked to it.
Flash forward to a few years later when I published this case study:
This time, I focused on ONE result (a 785% increase in my blog’s conversion rate):
And that single result was The Hook that led to hundreds of links:
Step #5: Optimize For On-Page SEO
This step is all about keyword-optimizing your content for SEO.
And here are the 3 on-page SEO strategies that are working best for me right now:
Yup, internal linking still works.
But you have to do it right.
Specifically, you want to link FROM high-authority pages TO pages that need authority.
For example, I published Google Search Console: The Definitive Guide earlier this year.
So I found a page on my site with a ton of authority…
…and linked from that page to my new guide.
Short, Keyword-Rich URLs
Our analysis of 1 million Google search results found something that surprised a lot of people:
Short URLs crush long URLs.
That’s why I make my URLs either just my keyword…
… Or my target keyword plus one more word:
Either way works.
Finally, I optimize my content for Semantic SEO.
In other words:
I find words that are related to my target keyword.
Then, I use those terms in my content.
Here are the deets:
First, pop your keyword into Google Images.
And Google will give you words and phrases they consider closely-related to that topic:
Second, type the same keyword into normal Google search. And scroll down to the “Searches related to…” section.
Finally, sprinkle some of those terms into your content:
And you’re set.
Step #6: Optimize For User Intent
In other words: The Skyscraper Technique 2.0.
I’ll show you how this works with a quick example.
A few years ago I wrote a post about getting more traffic to your site.
It did OK.
But it never cracked the top 5 for my target keyword (“increase website traffic”).
And when I analyzed Google’s first page, I realized why:
My page didn’t satisfy user intent.
Most of the content ranking for “increase website traffic” listed bite-sized traffic tips.
But my post gave them a high-level process.
So I rewrote my content to match this keyword’s User Intent.
Specifically, I turned my process into a list post:
And now that my content matches User Intent, it ranks in the top 3 for my target keyword:
Which led to a 70.43% boost in organic traffic compared to the old version of the post:
You can also publish User Intent optimized content right out of the gate.
In fact, that’s what I did with my recent post: The Ultimate SEO Audit.
I saw that most of the content ranking for “SEO Audit” listed out non-technical steps.
So I included simple strategies that anyone could use:
I even emphasized the fact that my audit was non-technical.
(This hooks people so they don’t bounce back to the search results)
And this User Intent optimization (and my site’s Domain Authority…more on that later) helped my post crack the first page of Google within a month.
Step #7: Make Your Content Look Awesome
Design is THE most underrated part of content marketing.
You can have the best content ever written.
But if it looks like this…
…it’s not gonna work.
That’s why I invest A LOT of time and money into content design.
For example, you’ve probably seen one of my definitive guides:
These guides are designed and coded 100% from scratch.
(Which makes them super expensive to make)
Great content design doesn’t have to break the bank.
In fact, here are 4 types of visual content that are super easy to pull off.
Graphs and Charts
These work so well that I try to include at least one chart in every post.
Because they make data EASY to understand.
For example, take this stat from my mobile SEO guide.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time picturing 27.8 billion ANYTHING.
So I had our designer create a nice chart.
As a bonus, people will sometimes use your chart in a blog post… and link back to you:
Screenshots and Pictures
You might have noticed that I use LOTS of screenshots in every post.
In fact, this single post has 78 screenshots:
To be clear:
I don’t use screenshots just for the sake of using screenshots.
I only use them if it helps someone implement a specific step.
For example, these screenshots make the 2 steps from this guide dead-simple to follow:
Screenshots only make sense when you describe something technical.
What if you’re in a non-technical niche… like fitness?
Well, pictures serve the same purpose.
For example, my friend Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness uses pictures to show you how to do exercises the right way:
Blog Post Banners
Unlike graphs and screenshots, blog post banners serve no practical purpose.
They just look cool 🙂
Depending on the post, I either use a left-aligned 220×200 image…
…or a giant banner at the top of the post:
Graphics and Visualizations
Graphics and visualizations are kind of like charts.
But instead of visualizing data, they visualize concepts.
To be clear:
These DON’T have to be fancy.
For example, in this post I explain how all 4 versions of your site should redirect to the same URL:
This isn’t rocket science.
But it’s hard to picture this idea in your mind.
So our designer made a simple visual that makes this concept easy to understand.
Step #8: Build Links to Your Page
Now it’s time to actively build links to your content.
Specifically, we’re going to tap into 3 link building strategies that are working GREAT right now.
Broken Link Building
Here’s where you find a broken link on someone’s site…
…and offer your content as a replacement.
For example, this is an outreach email that I sent to a blogger in the marketing niche:
(Note how specific I am. I don’t say “Please consider linking to me in a blog post”. I have a specific place on a specific page where my link makes sense)
And because I helped the person out BEFORE asking for anything, they were happy to add my link:
This strategy is old school.
But it still works.
First, find a site that’s ranking for a keyword you want to rank for.
For example, I’m trying to rank for the keyword “SEO Audit”.
So I grab this result from the first page…
…and look at their backlinks.
I can see that this page has links from 160 domains:
So I should be able to get at least a handful of the same links they have.
To do that, I go one-by-one through their backlinks.
And find pages where my link would add value.
For example, this post mentions the Ahrefs content by name:
There’s no reason to link to my post there. So I moved onto the next opportunity on the list.
And I came across this post:
This time, the link to Ahrefs is part of a big list of resources.
A list that would be even BETTER and more complete with a link to my SEO audit post.
This strategy is less about links… and more about getting your content in front of the right people.
(Specifically: people that run blogs in your niche)
I’ll explain how this strategy works with an example…
A while back I wanted to promote a new Skyscraper Technique case study.
So I used BuzzSumo to see who recently shared content about The Skyscraper Technique.
And emailed everyone a variation of this template:
And when they replied “sure, I’ll check it out”, I sent them a link to the post:
(Note how I DON’T ask for a share. This is a Judo move that makes your outreach stand out)
Which led to dozens of shares to my brand post:
Step #9: Improve and Update Your Content
This is working amazingly well right now.
You might have read about the time that I used The Content Relaunch to boost my organic traffic by 260.7%:
And I’m happy to tell you that this approach still works.
For example, last year I relaunched this list of SEO techniques.
But I didn’t just re-post the same content and call it “new”.
Instead, I went through and removed old screenshots and images:
Added new strategies:
And deleted strategies that didn’t work anymore:
An 62.60% organic traffic boost to that page:
Bonus Step #1: Increase Your Domain Authority
This is the ultimate SEO superhack.
When you have a high Domain Authority, SEO gets A LOT easier.
For example, let’s look at the keyword “SEO audit”:
According to Ahrefs, you need backlinks from 108 websites to rank for this term:
But my content cracked the top 3 within weeks…
…with only 38 websites linking to me:
That’s the power of Domain Authority.
Here are 3 ways to increase your Domain Authority:
Partnerships can 2-5x the number of shares and links that you get from your content.
For example, my friend Larry Kim and I co-created this infographic:
And we both promoted it to our audiences on the same day:
Which got our infographic in front of thousands of people.
In fact, I still get links from this co-branded content… 2+ years later:
Publish Studies and Data
I touched on this in Step #4.
But it’s worth repeating.
In fact, if you look at my site, 3 of my top 5 most linked-to posts are studies or data-driven guides:
Guest Posts, Interviews, Speaking Gigs (and Yes) Roundup Posts
In other words:
Get your name out there… and the links will follow.
In fact, when I first started Backlinko, I guest posted like crazy:
I went on any podcast that would have me:
And I spent hours flying to countries like Romania and the Czech Republic to speak at conferences:
Even that wasn’t enough…
I was so determined to promote Backlinko that I added an “Interview Me” page on my site:
(That “Interview Me” page didn’t work. But at least I tried 🙂 )
Basically: I hustled to get my name out there.
It didn’t happen overnight.
But over time, all this work resulted in a ton of exposure… and links.
Bonus Step #2: Build a Community on Your Site
A while back Google said that comments can help your rankings:
To be clear:
I’m not convinced that blog comments are a direct Google ranking factor.
But I am convinced that a community indirectly helps with SEO.
(For example, community members are more likely to share your stuff on social media)
With that, here are 2 quick tips for getting more comments on every post:
This is counterintuitive.
But stay with me…
Imagine you just read an AWESOME post.
And you want to leave a comment with your two cents.
But when you hit the comments section, you see this:
Are you still going to leave that comment? Probably not.
That’s why I’m SUPER picky about the comments I let through.
And this pickiness fosters great discussions, like this:
Reply To Comments
I reply to 90% of the comments that come in.
And considering we have 24,189 total comments on the Backlinko blog…
…that’s approximately 21,000 replies.
Wow. That’s a lot of replies.
And I have ZERO regrets about replying to so many comments.
These replies show people that I care.
Which turns random commenters into active members of the Backlinko Community.
Now I’d Like To Hear From You
There you have it:
My 9-step SEO strategy for 2019.
Now I’d like to hear from you…
Which strategy from today’s post are you ready to try first?
Are you going to update and relaunch older content?
Or maybe you want to try Broken Link Building.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.