Do you want to hear a secret?
Most SEOs will deny it, but we all have online marketing FOMO.
We’re looking for shiny new tactics every week.
It’s a natural impulse, especially in SEO, because Google’s expectations and SEO technology keep evolving.
But for SEO to actually help your business, you need to walk a fine line between seeking out new ideas and executing those ideas over the long term.
If you focus on executing your SEO plan consistently, that consistent work will produce more results.
Want to hear another secret?
Well strap in, because I’ve got nine of them for you!
Use these SEO secrets to inspire a long-term, consistent strategy that delivers long-term, consistent ranking improvements.
If you implement just half of what you read in this post, you’ll level up as an SEO pro and achieve lasting results—rather than trying to mislead Google with short-term tactics.
SEO Secrets: 9 Little-known Ways to Push Your Website to the Top
1) Align Your SEO Strategy to Your Marketing Strategy
The first SEO secret is only half about SEO.
For SEO to produce value, it needs to connect with your overall marketing strategy.
Some tactically-minded SEO specialists—the kind that dream about nothing but first page rankings—may not be interested in strategy. That’s a mistake!
If SEO is practiced on its own, without connection to the rest of the business, you won’t get anywhere. In fact, you might even end up promoting the wrong pages.
To confirm alignment between your SEO approach and marketing strategy, use this simple checklist:
- What are your most profitable products and services? This point is critical if you have a wide selection of products. Focus on the products that contribute the most profit.
- How would you describe your best customer? Customers are not all created alike. Your answer should include a combination of objective information (e.g. the best customer for a marketing software program would be digital marketing agency owners) and subjective data (e.g. an agency owner who wants to systematize and cut back on working hours).
- What other marketing programs do you need to coordinate with? SEO should support other marketing. For example, if you’re re-positioning your brand to focus on the luxury market, the content you create and your outreach efforts will need to keep that in mind.
- Do you have branded terms and trademarks to promote? Some of the best SEO traffic comes from branded terms (e.g. SEO traffic for “Nike shoes” is higher than for “running shoes”) because the customer is already expressing an interest in your specific brand.
If you want to move up in the marketing world—to a management role or to charge higher prices—then you need to focus more time and energy on strategy.
2) Critically Analyze Your Competitors for Ideas
This secret moves the focus from your business to your marketplace.
Every successful company has competitors. Even a market leader like Google still faces competition from other search engines like Bing. And if you’re a new entrant to a market, you might be competing against large established companies.
In analyzing your competitors’ websites for inspiration, I suggest looking at three main areas: their backlinks, on-page SEO and brand/messaging.
Let’s break it down with some examples.
Example A: Pipedrive (Customer Relationship Management Software)
After researching the industry, you might decide to focus on Pipedrive as a main competitor—a major, high-growth player in the market.
Backlinks: Use the Free Backlink Checker to get a quick, comprehensive look at any competitor’s backlinks. We can see that Pipedrive has backlinks from about 6000 domains, totaling over 2,2M backlinks. Wow! They’re doing well.
On-page SEO: I like to use SEORCH to check for major on-page factors like HTML title tags, meta description and content length. Pipedrive is handling the fundamentals well. The homepage has good title tags, meta tags and keyword usage in the body.
Brand and messaging: This relies on your marketing expertise. Focus your analysis to the website’s homepage.
For Pipedrive, there’s an emphasis on the sales process with minimal input. I like that they’re leveraging some social proof by displaying logos from users such as Vimeo, Re/Max and Amazon. Even better, they also display testimonial quotes and photos from real users.
Verdict: Competing directly against Pipedrive is going to be tough. I’d recommend that as a first step, you seek to gain some of the same backlinks Pipedrive has acquired from high-quality businesses and news websites like TheJournal.ie and Crowdin.com. The Crowdin.com backlink is quite interesting because it’s a testimonial quote from a Pipedrive employee to their company—proving that praising another company can yield SEO benefits.
Example B: Woodpecker (Sales Automation Tools)
In this industry, you might decide to look at Woodpecker as a main competitor—a cold email tool.
Backlinks: This company is doing well with backlinks from more than 500 domains.
On page SEO: Similar to Pipedrive, Woodpecker’s homepage is handling several aspects of on-page SEO effectively including good use of internal links (23), title tags and a meta description.
Brand and messaging: The company’s homepage is focused on conversion—visitors are prompted to sign up for a 14-day free trial. It also gives a strong, memorable product summary (“Cold email & follow-ups sent automatically from your mailbox”), and calls out a specific market segment with a “For Agencies” link.
Verdict: There’s a greater SEO opportunity to compete against Woodpecker because cold email marketing is a relatively younger practice. I’d recommend that as their competitor, you choose a different niche to target in your marketing (i.e. not agencies because Woodpecker already has a strong lead in the agency niche) so that you can win market share.
3) Always Choose Customers over Google
Some SEO experts describe a conflict between what the Google search engine wants and what website visitors want.
Here’s my spin on that advice: Focus your SEO efforts on customers, not just random website visitors. This principle is essential to inform how you create URLs, create content and manage your website.
Put this SEO secret into practice with these tips:
- Practice light keyword usage. Using a keyword 2-5 times in 1,000 words of text is enough. Avoid torturing the language to use a single keyword phrase over and over again. Use variations and synonyms to keep your content interesting to read.
- Avoid spam techniques. Related to the point above, avoid using discredited SEO techniques like repeating keyword phrases constantly. As a minimum, review Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. If an SEO method sounds too good to be true—like the article spinning software from a decade ago—avoid using it.
- Write great headlines. Machines don’t care much about persuasion, but your customers do. To improve your results, I recommend taking a few minutes to craft the headline of each page. Check out this article and this article by Copyblogger for additional guidance on writing great headlines.
4) Focus on Longtail Keywords (Even If the Search Volume Is Low)
Don’t be misled by low search volume estimates. Pursuing highly valuable longtail keyword opportunities is an underappreciated SEO secret.
In fact, that’s where most of your SEO opportunity resides.
At first glance, this may feel counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t you prefer to land a Page 1 ranking for a generic keyword with 100,000 monthly searches vs. a longtail keyword with a tiny fraction of that amount?
Let me convince you with a few observations from marketing expert Neil Patel:
- The majority of all search traffic is longtail. 70% of all search traffic comes from longtail keywords. Ignore longtail traffic, and you miss out on most of the traffic!
- Longtail keywords tend to convert better. Patel estimates that longtail keywords generate 2.5x higher conversions compared to generic keyword traffic. That makes sense when you think about it. It’s tough to convert a lead who searches for “insurance quotes,” but much easier to convert a lead who searches for “best insurance for men over 55.”
- Longtail keywords increase your ability to convert voice searches. You might not use voice search personally, but it’s a growing trend. ComScore estimates that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. Many of those voice searches will be for longtail keywords.
This process is especially valuable if you’re selling high-ticket products and services (i.e. worth over $1,000), because you only need a few sales to generate a payoff.
How does this work in practice? Start by looking at your keyword report data on Monitor Backlinks to see if you’re ranking for any longtail keywords (i.e. three words or longer) already.
If you don’t have a Monitor Backlinks account, you can get a free trial here and track your longtail keyword performance (as well as monitor your backlinks, competitors’ backlinks and more).
Just hit the “Rank Tracker” tab to see how your keywords are tracking.
In this example, you can see that we’re already seeing some good movement for a couple of longtail keywords: “how to track your google ranking” and “when to disavow links.”
These would be good keywords to focus on and try to push higher. Boost the content on those pages, double-check for user experience, and continue your outreach and promotion activities to get more backlinks to those pages.
5) Optimize for Social Media Sharing
Remember how optimizing for human users over computers was an SEO secret we covered? That secret extends to social media.
Here are some of the approaches you can use to increase your social media traffic on two of the most popular platforms and indirectly help with SEO.
Achieving a win on Facebook may feel daunting.
The best approach? Don’t just post links to your website and call it a day. Instead, create short posts to promote your link. Here are a few tips:
- Emotional content tends to perform best on Facebook. So, ask yourself how your content can make people curious or excited.
- If you start to get comments on the post, stick around and reply to them. People will remember that you engaged with them, and that engagement will come in handy when you post on Facebook in the future.
- Timing is everything. Sometimes, your content will be ignored if you happen to post your update at a busy time. I’ve found that posting close to lunchtime (11:30am-12pm) and close to the end of the traditional work day (4:30pm-5pm) are good times to post on social media generally, but that can vary for different industries.
LinkedIn is back on the map in 2018. Here are a few ways to get the most benefit out of it:
- LinkedIn’s video platform is taking off in importance and usage. If you’re already good at video, by all means, you should take advantage of that and go for that approach. You don’t need anything fancy—it’s perfectly fine to use your iPhone to shoot video.
- To promote a piece of content on LinkedIn, pull out a short quote or interesting finding and comment on it. This can spark more interest in your content and promote discussion.
- Post your content in relevant industry groups to reach a more targeted audience. Look for 3-5 groups with at least 1,000 members to post your content—just make sure to read each group’s rules before posting.
6) Look for SEO Opportunities Beyond Google
The traditional SEO focus is all about Google. That’s job #1!
Winning at Amazon SEO is well worth considering for two reasons.
First: People browsing Amazon are in a shopping mood. And second: Amazon has developed one of the best online shopping experiences on the market. If you have a physical product to sell, Amazon is well worth the effort.
Here’s a brief rundown of what to do:
a. Find the right product category
Every product on Amazon is part of a product category. For example, if you’re selling electronics accessories like HDMI cables, your product might be competing against 30,000 other similar products:
To narrow this down, pick one of the sub-categories listed on the left-hand side. As an example, I chose the “HDMI Cables” sub-category under Electronics—and this category only has 6,000 results.
So, the competition is reduced substantially by choosing the right category for your product.
b. Make the most of your product page
This step is essentially on-page SEO for Amazon. Consider each of these elements:
- Product Name. Ideally, you want a product name that includes category keywords.
- Product Description. Tell customers what’s “in the box.” For a book, this might include quotes from reviewers and highlights of some of the chapters. For physical products, describe the colors, options and dimensions.
- Product Categories. Choose an Amazon product category that aligns with your targeted keywords.
c. Encourage Amazon reviews
Without reviews, it’s tough to win on Amazon. That’s just a fact.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Add “Write a Review” as a call to action. An effective way to do this is to add an insert or flyer to the product packaging that asks customers to leave a review.
- Make it easy to leave reviews. Some people don’t want to leave reviews because they feel a need to write an exhaustive evaluation of every aspect of the product. Instead, tell your customers that a short review—even a few sentences—is all they need.
- Thank reviewers. While you can’t ethically reward customers for leaving reviews, you can still express your gratitude. Writing and mailing a thank you card is best, or you can send a short email. This method increases customer loyalty and the likelihood that they’ll leave reviews on other products in the future.
After Google and Amazon, YouTube is one of the world’s most popular search engines. According to their press page, the website has over one billion users. That puts it in the same weight class as Facebook.
How do you attract attention through YouTube’s search engine? I recommend the following steps to get started (and for deeper insights on the topic, check out this excellent resource from Brian Dean):
a. Create a keyword list
Your keyword report from Monitor Backlinks is an excellent starting point. It’ll tell you what content and pages you already have on your website that have attracted traffic and links for their keywords.
In the screenshot below, I filtered the keywords by global search volume (500-5,000) to get a shortlist of keywords to focus on.
b. Validate your keyword list through YouTube
Choose the top five keywords from Monitor Backlinks and search for them on YouTube. Take note of how many other videos are already ranking for those keywords, and what you can do better.
Look out for YouTube keyword searches with less than 400,000 search results. This is a rough rule of thumb inspired by Brian Dean’s research. The lower the competition, the easier it’ll be for you to rank your video.
c. Create videos using your keywords
This is the fun part! Create and upload your video based on the keywords you’ve chosen to target.
In addition to using the keyword in the video title, you should also aim to use it once or twice in the video description. If you have links back to your website from the video, you can use your keyword phrase as the anchor text for an added boost.
From there, if you find that you like the YouTube platform, consider putting more resources into it. Specifically, I recommend building a YouTube channel and getting subscribers.
7) Put Resources into Experiments
When you have resources to spare in your business, you should consider launching some SEO experiments. Experiments let you venture outside of proven techniques and look for opportunities to innovate and get ahead of your competitors.
Here are three ideas to get your juices flowing:
- Try outsourcing. You might like to experiment with outsourcing video production and see how far you can get using video (e.g. Facebook Live and YouTube). Or, you might decide to experiment with a virtual assistant, or an agency to do your link building for you. Outsourcing can be very successful, however, it also requires a certain tolerance for failure.
- Increase your promotion efforts. For a month, stop creating new pages and focus all of your efforts on promotion. Derek Halpern, founder of Social Triggers, recommends that you spend 80% of your time promoting content and only 20% on creating content. That’s a great guideline for bloggers and other website owners with content-rich websites.
- Create an experimental niche website. Create a niche site—completely separate from your main business—and carry out experiments to promote it and find out what works. This is a good approach if you’re an old hand at SEO and want a fresh challenge, if you want to test marketing strategies before using them on your main website, or if you’re an SEO novice and want to demonstrate your skills.
8) Dive into PR for High-Value Social Proof
Do you want that backlink from CNN? You can’t depend on luck for that kind of attention. You need to use PR strategies to make that happen.
There are two ways to do this: You can become a student and learn the art of PR yourself. Alternatively, you can hire an outside expert to guide you through the process. The option you choose depends on whether you have more money or time.
Why bother with PR?
Aside from attracting high Domain Authority backlinks (e.g. CNN has a DA of 94!), PR has a few other benefits for your business.
First, when you’re featured in the media, it increases your status and the value of your brand. That helps you to charge higher prices.
Second, being featured in the media once makes it easier to get other backlinks from comparable high-quality, high-traffic websites.
Got Time? Learn PR Yourself
Use the following steps to learn the fundamentals of PR:
- Write your list of dream publications. I recommend making a list of around 30 publications divided into three categories. There’s the A-list—internationally well-known media brands like the BBC or the New York Times. Then you have the B-list—highly trusted media websites for specific industries like Social Media Examiner in the social media industry. Then you have your C-list—up-and-coming individuals like bloggers and authors.
- Study your C-list for a few weeks. Putting in the work to diligently read and study a publication (preferably a specific writer) is a crucial step for effective PR. Skip this step, and your pitches have a very high likelihood of being ignored or marked as spam.
- Do something newsworthy. Ah, this is the secret sauce that requires hustle and creativity! If nothing comes to mind, I suggest looking at the newsjacking technique where you surf the wave of coverage when a major event occurs.
- Ask for coverage in a C-list publication. Now you understand a few specific publications and have something newsworthy to share, start your outreach process to C-list publications.
- Repeat with each publication. After you achieve a few successes, go through this process a few more times with everyone on your C-list.
Got Money? Hire an Outside Expert
Hiring a PR professional or PR agency to represent you is an area that goes beyond my experience. My suggestion? Look for a PR professional with experience and understanding in your industry first.
The Holmes Report has reported on top PR agencies that have won awards and other achievements in PR, which is worth a look if you really want to get the best person for the job.
Tip: Want to get advice for less than $1,000? Search for a PR expert on Clarity—you can pay by the minute for expert business advice.
9) Develop More Trademarks and Brands
Competing for generic SEO keywords like “tennis shoes” or “sports cars” is tough. You’re in a crowded market. Customers are likely to compare you based on price.
The alternative is to create distinctive brands and trademarks. This helps SEO because you’re going to own those branded keywords.
How do you make this happen? It’s all about the branding.
In my view, branding a product or service offering requires at least two elements: being different and creating a distinct name for the product.
First, you need to create a distinct offer that’s different from others in your market.
This is sometimes tough for SEOs because they’re used to targeting generic keyword opportunities. But trust me, it’s worth it in the long run to create your distinct concepts and brand names, because you’ll own those concepts in SEO and elsewhere in marketing.
Second, you need to create a distinctive name for that offer.
One of my favorite examples comes from the financial services industry. To set themselves apart from the competition, financial planning firm Stash Wealth heavily target millenials in their branding—from the language used on the website to their main product, the Stash Plan.
It pays to stand out, no matter what industry you’re in.
Which SEO Secrets Will You Start With?
These nine SEO secrets have the potential to skyrocket your backlinks, bring in great traffic and leave your competition in the dust.
I recommend working through them in order—lay out your SEO foundation with the first few methods and then scale up to the more involved methods.
Keep at it consistently and you’ll soon be nudging the top spots.
Bruce Harpham provides SaaS marketing services to B2B SaaS companies so they can get high quality leads. He is also the author of “Project Managers At Work.” His work has appeared on CIO.com, InfoWorld and Profit Guide. Read his B2B SaaS marketing case studies from ClickFunnels and Close.io.