In the month of July, we were able to hit 168,000 organic visitors to our site TimeDoctor.com.
Organic search is by far our biggest driver of traffic to the blog and marketing site.
I managed to distill everything we’ve learned into 17 Actionable SEO Tips.
In this article, we cover:
Enjoy the post!
Keyword Research Tips
The first step to any successful SEO campaign is to find the “right” keywords.
Ideally, if you’re just starting out, there are two credentials that you should look for.
Identify High Volume Low Difficulty Topics
If you’ve been doing SEO for any length of time, you might be thinking to yourself “duh”.
I know I would.
But finding these “golden” keywords have been truly instrumental to our success.
Step 1: Content Explorer
The first thing that you’re going to want to do is head over to content explorer and type in the word or phrase you’re interested in writing about.
Step 2: Apply Filters
You’re going to want to add two filters. (I add a third, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)
The first filter you’re going to want to add is the “organic traffic” filter.
I usually start my search traffic at 500 visitors. You can do more or less depending on your topic.
And I like to set my referring domains to a maximum of 10.
This will bring me a list of pages that have at least 500 organic visitors and less than 10 referring domains.
My final filter is my language. I always select English.
Step 3: Find the topic most relevant to you
Now, you just have to find the topic most relevant to you.
I wanted to show you what the page looks like, but let’s zoom in on the topics a bit.
The reason I circled these two pages is because I love to find topics that repeat themselves. It is usually a good indication that I can also rank my post and get traffic… especially if I write something better.
Get Inspired by Your Competitors
Some people may call this “stealing your competitor’s keywords”.
For the sake of this post, I’m going to call it “Getting inspired by your competitors”.
To do this, you can go into a site explorer and enter in the name of your competitor.
From here, you can check out one of two things. Either top pages or top organic keywords.
Typically, I like to check out the top pages. Google is smart enough these days that it knows what you’re trying to say with a page. While keywords are still extremely important, I would prefer to see what pages are ranking… not just keywords.
When I click on the top pages of my competitor’s, I’m given a list of their highest traffic pages in descending order.
From here, we’ll check out what the top keyword each page is ranking for. So, let’s zoom in on that for a second.
Now, all you have to do is find the pages and keywords that most fit your business goals.
Offer an “Alternative” Solution
Some of the highest converting pages that we create are alternatives to a competitor.
Think about it, if someone is looking for an alternative solution, then they are in prime position to make a purchase.
Typically, these keywords don’t have a ton of search volume, but don’t let that deter you.
For instance, if you check out the search volume for Hubstaff Alternatives, you’ll see it’s non-existent.
But we wrote a blog post called “Hubstaff Alternatives” anyway. And that page gets about 20 visitors a week.
You may not be overwhelmed by about 20 visitors a week, but these are 20 highly qualified visitors ready to try our product.
Content Creation Tips
When it comes to SEO, creating content is the hard part.
Keyword research is fun (at least I think so), but creating amazing content is where the rubber meets the road.
Without great content, your SEO campaign is gonna fall flat.
So here are some tips to ensure that you create great content.
Write Long Content
Let’s face it.
Long content will almost always beat short content when it comes to SEO.
The team at Sweor did some research to find out the average content length of the top 10 results.
As you can see, posts that have at least 2450 words are more likely to rank in the top 2 than posts that have less.
And posts throughout the top 10 have an average word count of over 2,000 words.
Word count also affects how many backlinks your blog post will get.
Hubspot found that posts with at least 2500 words get the most backlinks.
And finally, longer posts get the most social shares.
Now this doesn’t mean you should write more words just for the sake of writing more words.
But what you do want to do is create blog posts that are so thorough that they become the number 1 resource for that topic anywhere..
Establish a Strong Business Case
Not all traffic is created equal. Your goal as a content marketer is to attract traffic that converts readers into buyers.
The best way to do that is to create content that establishes a business case for your audience.
In other words, create content that sells your product for you.
Let me show you what I mean...
At Time Doctor one of our features is automated timesheets. So, we created a blog post around the keyword “Timesheet Template”..
The best part about Timesheet Template post is that it drives revenue to the business.
Since it’s been published, this post is responsible for adding 309 businesses, with about 20-25 new customers coming in every single month.
How to Evaluate the Content’s Business Case
The type of company that you have will determine the type of content that you’ll need to create in order to establish a business case.
If you have a product company, writing articles about product features (like the Timesheet Template post) and “alternatives” posts will convert really well.
However, if you have a service business or an information business, case studies will work really well for you.
(Not to say case studies won’t work if you have a product business. They most definitely will.)
I borrowed this method from Tim Suolo at Ahrefs.
We score each content idea on a scale of 1-3.
A 3 means that you must use our software (or a competitor’s software) in order to solve the problem we discuss in the article.
A 2 means that our tool makes it easier for you to complete the task of the article. The article that we’re discussing in this post, “Timesheet Templates” is a 2.
A 1 means that the article is relevant to our target demographic, entrepreneurs who manage remote teams, but doesn’t actually describe a problem that requires our tool to implement.
How to find High Business Value Keywords
To find high business value keywords, you want to describe what your product or service actually does. For instance, at Time Doctor, we describe ourselves a few different ways: Time Tracking, Employee Monitoring, and Screenshot Monitoring.
If you run a marketing agency, you might describe yourself as email marketing agency, lead gen agency, etc.
Next, use a tool like Ahrefs or Ubersuggest to enter these high level phrases into the Keyword explorer. If I enter in Time Tracking, I’ll get a good idea of how difficult it is to compete.
Time Tracking would grade as a 3 because employers can’t manage time without our tool, or one similar to it.
How to Find Mid-Value Business Keywords
These are the keywords and topics that your customers don’t need your product or service to do, but using your product or service will make life much easier.
This is also where a large majority of our keywords and topics fall. And if you have a service business such as marketing, almost all of your keywords and blog topics are going to fall into this category.
(Mostly because a service like marketing anyone can pretty much do, but if they hire you, then it’ll get done much more efficiently.)
One of the primary services that Time Doctor has is a payroll functionality. Within that functionality is a feature where we automatically create timesheets.
After adding Timesheet to Ahrefs, we were given a list of potential keyword opportunities.
One of them being Timesheet Template.
We thought we’d be able to give people a free Timesheet Template that they could use to manually track their employee’s time, which is very time consuming, and use the article to offer a much simpler solution.
(Note: this is an art as much as it is a science. I’d love to tell you that this goes smoothly every time we write an article. But it doesn’t.
The best way to come up with these ideas is to take tasks that would be time consuming to your prospective customer and explain how it can be done in painstaking detail, then offer to do it for them automatically.)
Leverage Buyer Intent to Find Lower Business Value Keywords
Unfortunately, not all keywords are going to score a 3 or 2. So, we have to go with keywords that have lower business value.
The key to make this type of content successful is to leverage buyer intent.
Buyer intent content is content that attracts people with money (and who need a product or service).
When this happens, we try try to leverage buyer intent by looking at how much people are bidding on a keyword.
For instance, a keyword like “Collaboration Tools” fits into this category. Time Doctor isn’t exactly a collaboration tool, yet, people who use collaboration tools could probably use Time Doctor.
And looking at it, people are paying a lot of money to Google to get clicks for this keyword.
In fact, they’re paying $25 per click. That tells me that this is a valuable keyword and people who are paying for it expect buyers.
So, while this keyword doesn’t have a high business case for us, we’re still able to use it to attract our target customer who has money to spend.
We actually rank first for this keyword...
And get more than 5,000 visitors per month to this post.
If we were to pay for this traffic at $25 per click, we’d be paying in the neighborhood of $125,000 per month.
(Note: The dip you see is us losing the featured snippet. Booooo!)
Write Data Driven Posts
Throughout this post, you’re going to see screenshots.
Lots and lots of screenshots.
That’s because I want to share as much data as possible in order to support my arguments.
It’s very easy to tell you how to do something. But it’s much harder to prove it.
Because it is hard, it’s an amazing way for you to create content that stands out, gets traffic, and links.
Let me show you what I mean. (See what I’m doing here? 🙂 )
A while back, I wrote a blog post about promoting content. And it launched quite unceremoniously.
A month later, I rewrote the blog post. I added a lot more content. And I added data like this:
As you can see, the second “launch” of the post did WAY better than the first one. 🙂
And like I mentioned before, getting links to data backed posts are much, much easier.
When it comes to ranking your content, getting traffic, shares, and all that good stuff, sharing statistics is the way to go.
However, if you want to win the minds of your readers and convert them into customers, then make sure you tell stories.
And lots of them.
In a survey done by the guardian, 63% of the people recalled a story from a presentation, but only 5% recalled a statistic. (The word you’re looking for is irony! haha!)
In a somewhat embarrassingly large number of my posts, I tell a story about how I first sucked at this whole content marketing thing and then through trial and error got good at it.
I use the story on several posts, on my home page, and in my emails.
Why? Because I know it resonates with so many of my readers.
They can relate to it.
I don’ t know if you’ve noticed, or maybe you have, but my paragraphs are never more than 3 sentences.
Many of my “paragraphs” are just one sentence.
See what I mean?
That’s because big blocks of text are a total turn off for people who are just browsing.
Big blocks of text feel like work.
I mean, who feels like reading that?
See, when you’re creating a blog post, you must write for the skimmer.
Most people aren’t going to read your post when they first land on your site. They’re going to skim it to see if it’s interesting before investing time into it.
Then, they will read it in full (maybe).
Large blocks of text are not nearly as skimmer friendly as paragraphs that are just a few lines.
Collaborate on Content
One of the best ways to build an audience is to leverage someone else’s.
And one of the best way to leverage someone else’s audience is to feature them in a blog post.
That’s exactly what I did for a blog post about Evergreen Funnels.
At the time of this post, my blog is still relatively new. I’m scratching and clawing for every bit of traffic I could get.
My friend Amy on the other hand as an established audience and an amazing evergreen funnel.
So, I wrote a post about her funnel.
And here’s the cool part:
First, she messaged her Facebook groups
And then sent a message to her email list
All of that resulted in 314 visitors to my new site.
And allowed me to have my two highest email subscriber days.
On Page Optimization Tips
Now that you have a great article, it’s time for some on page optimization.
When it comes to on-page optimization, I don’t do tons of it. I simply make sure that I have the basics covered.
Once I’ve done that, I’m fairly confident that my post will rank… eventually.
Include the Keyword in Your Title
The very first thing that we make sure to do include is the keyword in the title.
I know this sounds kind of obvious, but I’m always surprised when I read a post and there isn’t a relevant keyword in the headline.
Here’s a few examples (keyword in parenthesis):
Notice that none of these headlines are all that sexy. Basically they get straight to the point. Here’s what you’re searching for and here’s how this post will help you.
Most times, when it comes to content focused SEO, simple is best.
Back in the “old” days, if I wanted to rank this post for the keyword “SEO Tips”, I would have stuffed that phrase into the post at least 15-20 times.
That’s because, in order for Google to determine what the page was all about, it looked for the keyword.
Now, Google is a lot smarter.
They can recognize what your article is about based on LSI keywords.
For instance, for a page about SEO Tips, LSI Keywords would be:
- - 2019
- - Bloggers
- - Website
- - WordPress
- - Youtube
- - Ecommerce
This kind of seems weird. So how did I come up with these keywords?
I used Google autocomplete.
Now if I include these words into this post, I’ll make sure Google knows what my content is about.
Add Images to Your Post
When it comes to getting traffic to your blog, images are a must.
Blogs with images get 94% more views than blogs that don’t have images. (source)
A few rules when adding images to your post.
- Make sure that your images are extremely large. Large images will make your site load slow. This will negatively affect your rankings.
- Stock photos are OK. However, the more “real” images you can use (screen shots, personal pics, etc.) the more genuine and effective they’ll be.
- Make sure to fill out the alt text for all of your images. I forget to do this from time to time and it negatively impacts until I add them..
Proper URL Structure
Last but not least, having the proper url structure is another simple on page tip that will help your rankings.
Again, it’s one of those things where you go to a site and say: “why not fix this?”
For instance this is URL from Entrepreneur.com:
Entrepreneur is a huge site, and fixing their url structure probably won’t move the needle much, but why not just take advantage of this?
Anyway, here’s a url from Timedoctor.com.
Basically, the suffix of the url has the keyword and not much else.
(Note: We added free to the keyword because there was good search volume around the keyword “free timesheet templates.” So we figured we’d be able to double dip.)
Keep your URL’s as short as possible. Remove dates and any extra words.
Link Building Tips
The most talked about subject in SEO. Or at least it feels that way.
When it comes to building links, I’d say that the better the content, the easier it is to acquire links.
So these strategies will work great if you have amazing content… and they won’t work at all if your content is just average… or worse.
Steal Competitor’s Links
This is where you look and see who is linking to content similar to yours and reach out to that site.
I actually like to call this “get inspired by your competitor’s links”.
I don’t know if I’ve ever actually “stolen” one of my competitor’s links using this strategy. Perhaps I have, but it’s few and far between.
Most of the time, the site just adds my link next to my competitor’s link.
Anyway, here’s how to do it:
(Note: I’m going to show you this process using Ahrefs, but you can do the same thing in Ubersuggest, SEMRush, or Moz.)
Step 1: Identify your competitors
Using the Keyword explorer tool, type in the keyword for which you want backlinks to.
In this case, we’ll use Timesheet Template.
This will bring up a SERP result that looks similar to this.
We want to look at the “Domains” column.
This is the number of referring domains that each piece of content has linking to it.
Step 2: Find the Dofollow Domains
When you click on one of the numbers in the Domains column, you’re going to come to a page that looks like this.
These are all of the domains that are linking to this content.
Next you want to go to “link type” and click Dofollow.
This will filter out any links that are “nofollow” which don’t affect your rankings a whole lot.
Step 3: Reach out
There are a lot of ways to mass email with various mail merge software.
But for the sake of this article, I’m going to show you how to do it manually.
Once you have a list of all of the Dofollow domains, you can simply click on the site from Ahrefs, find their email, and reach out using a similar script below:
Subject: A better resource for your post
I came across your (post name). I liked the part where you mentioned (insert thing you liked)
I also noticed that you were linking to (competitor post name).
I think we may have a better resource for you.
Would you like me to send it over for you?
Reposition Your Content to find More Link Opportunities
Creating content that doesn’t have a lot of competition is a great strategy for getting traffic.
However, there’s just one problem.
Content that doesn’t have tons of competition, doesn’t have a lot of linking opportunities.
One way to solve that problem is to reposition the content when you’re promoting it.
Let me show you what I mean.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about “Thank you pages”.
It has a fairly low keyword difficulty..
To rank in the top 10, I’ll need about 20 or so links.
And if I want to compete with the top spot, I’m going to need close to 60 links.
However, if I just use the “steal your competitor’s links” strategy, I won’t have enough domains to reach out to.
If you look at the number of domains in the SERPs, there are around 230 of them. And that’s with all of the “nofollow” domains.
That means, I’d need a conversion rate of 25% just to compete… which ain’t gonna happen.
I need more linking opportunities. Plain and simple.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Identify a Bigger Bucket
The post I wrote about is called “20 thank you page examples that crush lead nurturing in 2019”.
While I want to rank for “thank you page”, I want to look around for bigger buckets.
In my case, the bigger bucket is obvious: Lead Nurturing.
It has a higher keyword difficulty...
And far more link opportunities.
Step 2: Find the Dofollow Domains
Now, you’re just going to follow the steps you took in the “steal your competitor’s links” strategy.
Click on the domains column that you want to analyze and filter by link type.
Step 3: Reach out
Now you can click on the link to find out the email address of the person running the blog and send this script:
Subject: Interesting lead nurturing idea for you
I came across your post (post name) about lead nurturing.
I actually just finished up a post where I analyzed a lead nurturing strategy that isn’t in your post.
In fact, one company used this strategy to increase sales by 400%.
Would you like to check out that post?
Using the repositioning strategy, we have been able to get links we otherwise wouldn’t have acquired.
Write Guest Posts
Back in the day, I used to write guest posts for traffic.
These days, most of the guest posts I write are for links. It simply isn’t as effective of a traffic strategy that it once was.
But here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Find a blog to write your post
By entering the following search terms, you’ll easily be able to find a whole list of blogs to write for.
You can simply enter the terms:
- “Name of niche” and “guest blogger”
- “Name of niche” and “write for us”
- “Name of niche” and “guest writer”
For instance, if I type in “Marketing” and “write for us”, I get pages and pages of blogs looking for guest posts:
Step 2: Analyze the Domain Authority
Writing a guest post takes time. And if you’re going to do it, then make sure that your doing it for a good blog with a high domain authority.
Typically, I won’t write a guest post for any domain under DR65.
For instance, the DR for Hacker Noon is an 86. Which is a great place to write a guest post and get a high quality link.
Step 2: Pitch the editor
Now that I’ve found a blog to write for, it’s time to pitch the editor.
The first thing I do is look for blog posts that have been successful and come up with an idea around how to spin a new angle.
For instance, if I notice a blog post called “10 ways to nurture leads” gets a lot of shares and comments, then I might do something like “A Case Study on How I Nurture Leads”. (Totally made up and a bad example, perhaps, but you get the point. I’d write my article around lead nurturing.)
Then, I’d pitch them using this script.
And it works almost all of the time! 🙂
Step 3: Write a killer post
Now it’s time to write a killer guest post. It has to be really good! You want to endear yourself to both the readers of the new blog AND the editor of the blog.
You may not get tons of traffic from your guest post, however, if you do good work for them, they will be much more inclined to share a future post or partner with you down the road.
(Note: Make sure that you link back to your blog/website in the body of your post, not just the author byline.)
Bonus: Build Your Brand
I saved perhaps the most important tip for last.
Unfortunately though, it’s the hardest tip to really break down. There’s no real “step by step” way to build your brand.
But it’s critical to your SEO success.
Let me show you what I mean.
According to Ahrefs, our name “timedoctor” get searched on 3400 times.
And another 5,000 times for the keyword “time doctor”
3 Strategies to Build Your Brand
Brand is one of those things that’s nearly impossible to quantify. Especially when it comes to search.
Basically, I can share a few things we’ve done over time that I “think” has helped us build our brand.
Congrats! You Made it!
This post is an absolute beast! So if you’ve made it to the bottom, congratulations.
My advice to you is this: Take a few of these tips and start implementing them immediately.
Use some of the keyword research tips to find more seo friendly content ideas.
Or use the optimization tips and the link building tips to start promoting your existing content and get more traffic.
And if you have any tips that I’ve left out, leave a comment below.