How I Grew My First Blog To 50,000 UVD, Part 2: Homepage SEO, On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO
In the second part, I am taking a look at the techniques that helped me grow from 0 to 50,000 UVD (unique visitors per day) and how I repeated the same for other sites on a smaller scale with a lower budget.
Part 1: The Mindset
In the first part, I talked a little about the mindset that is required to really grow a blog or online service beyond 10,000 users or visitors per day.
How Growth Occurs: Steady Progress
First, I want to show you the graph of my traffic growth to help you understand how growth occurs. This is just one blog I managed at the time, but it was the one that gained the most traction after a year:
Timeframe: January 2009 – Late 2010:
Pageviews peaked at 228,000 in a single day:
I started tracking back in January, 2009 at around 300 visitors. I started monetizing the site in early 2010 after approx 1 year. By the end of 2010, in November I reached a relative peak at 51,000 unique visitors. The final peak occurred on June 3rd, 2011 at 71,000 visitors in a single day, totaling 228,000 pageviews.
When To Call It Quits: Focusing On Your Blog Rather Than A Job
I don’t exactly remember when I called it quits and dropped out of college, but I am very sure it was AFTER the huge spike in visitors from approx. 5,000 UVD to 12,000 UVD (in pageviews: 15,000 jumped to 30,000) on October 25, 2009. At least that would have been a psychological motivator to go through with it.
Quite remarkably in hindsight, my sites kept growing at quite a significant rate despite a short absence in early 2010. So, yes it was a lot of luck involved, I won’t deny that, but I was at the right time at the right place and I grabbed the bull by the horns and that is exactly what it takes to pull off something like this. I risked being unemployed, broken, without a degree, so it really was a huge gamble, but fortunately it paid off very well over the years, not only monetarily, but also in terms of invaluable business experience, which I am eternally grateful for.
Anyway, back then this entire SEO game was completely different. These days, I average only 20,000 UVD across 2 sites, but I make a lot more from a single visitor than I did back in the day. Why? For starters it takes a lot of experience to optimize your site for higher earnings per user. Secondly, traffic does not equal revenue. The CPC was a lot lower back in the day (for me personally and possibly for the entire industry).
The old kings of the internet: It also was a completely different game back then. Smaller sites had a lot of traffic and bloggers were the kings of the internet. Over time, bloggers and websites evolved and these days it is simply not doable to start a website and become incredibly popular in a single year (with few exceptions).
Times have changed. Large corporations with a multi-million dollar budget grabbed more and more market share and only the toughest and most steady bloggers are still around. I’d even go as far and call the current state of search engines slightly undemocratic because Google effectively killed many small-businesses with Panda and Penguin updates in 2013, but I am business-man enough to understand that Google has to stay ahead of the competition and deliver the best results possible. Large corporations simply have budgets we small bloggers can only dream of and deserve to rank high if they can provide better and more accurate answers. That is why it is critical that we team up and share strategies to increase user value. Day by day.
Homepage SEO – Definition And Usage Tips
I always have a smile on my face when I read how some people proclaim ‘Homepage SEO doesn’t exist’. Also, when bloggers who have never made it ‘big’ (Alexa 50k and above) are trying to tell me how optimizing content for search engines is a waste of time. The reality is that most bloggers who made it big the past few years have a deep understanding of SEO and how it can help their business.
Although SEO has dramatically changed in the last 24 months, many principles still apply and one of the fundamentals is Homepage SEO. In fact, I would go as far and say that Homepage SEO is the one thing that has propelled many sites to the top, including many of mine.
So, what is Homepage SEO? It is optimizing your frontpage for a single keyword. You spent years creating a great website, but it never really took off? One possibility is that you forgot to optimize your homepage. Google and other search engines consider the frontpage the ONE page that ultimately defines the topic of your entire site. The ranking of all of your sub-pages is greatly affected by your frontpage. Although, Google is perfectly capable of determining the topic of a subpage, the homepage will tell Google if you have any authority to write about this topic. So writing about ballet on a fantasy-football site may not work out so well (you get the idea).
All of your blog posts are linking to the Homepage via “Home”, a home icon or similar. Therefore, your frontpage has the highest number of internal inbound links. This is an important concept to understand. It’s trivial really, but most people don’t know what to do with that information.
First of all, your homepage absolutely should have links to your most popular content. Secondly, if you have any services that you want to rank high, you should implement forms that are pointing directly towards it (You can find an example on our own homepage).
1. Link To Most Popular Content On Your Frontpage
2. Integrate Existing Services On Your Frontpage
3. Re-Purpose / Restructure Your Old Content
One last tidbit: Try re-purposing your old content and republish it on the frontpage and see what type of old content will deliver the highest RPM on the frontpage itself. You can increase your daily revenues by up to 30% (for that particular day) using this trick (and don’t tell me it doesn’t work, if you have ad revenues that are higher than 100 USD per day this simple trick can make a huge difference. Of course it requires intense testing and experience and you obviously can’t always republish the same content over and over). I have consulted some site owners in the past and helped some small publishers increase their bottom line significantly this way. It’s also a great way to increase the value of your pages and your entire site.
Obviously, there are many other tricks that I can’t fully disclose here. I will reveal more SEO tricks in some extensive guides on our site this year and give you access to the plugins I use to deploy my SEO strategies more effectively. So make sure to bookmark the site!
On-Page SEO: Relevancy
On-Page SEO, my favorite tool to propel sites to success. Again, the SEO game has changed significantly and Google has gotten much better at finding relevant content. Relevancy is critical. Google knows exactly what search queries are relevant to each other.
(Keeping It Relevant – Image Credit: FlickR User dvids)
- Dog Training Tips
- Dog Won’t Stop Barking
Google knows exactly that these two queries are relevant. Their algorithm is very good at compiling lists of relevant topics and search queries.
So, in order to optimize your page, there’s only one way going forward: You need to provide relevant content. Do you see how I structured this article? I am talking about Homepage SEO, On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO. All three topics are very relevant to each other and can drive long-tail traffic. It is essential that you can address topics from multiple angles and answer related questions.
The search engine will crawl your page and recognize that you are mentioning relevant keywords and topics users are also searching for. Aside from that, I have related posts directly below the content in form of a UL list. Do you see where I am going with this?
You absolutely need to make sure to address not just one angle, you need to address multiple angles to get any traffic to your articles. It’s also important that you provide definitions and explanations for users who are new to a topic, this will not only enhance the user experience, it will also improve your organic traffic.
To sum it up:
1. Holistic writing, different angles
2. Provide definitions
3. Clear-cut structure
4. Provide images, videos and embed related content
5. Solve actual problems and avoid giving generic answers like the plague
There are a bunch of others rules I follow, which I will write about throughout this year.
Yes, it’s trivial, but most bloggers will neglect this kind of stuff and then claim that search engines are rigged. All you have to do is to develop a content development strategy and a content deployment strategy.
Reasons Why Bloggers Wrongfully Neglect SEO
- Consider It Shady
- Consider It Unethical
- Consider It A Waste Of Time
- Don’t Understand How It Works
- Don’t Understand The Why
Reasons Why SEO Is Not Only Ethical But Increases User Value
It couldn’t be further from the truth. SEO is a simple way of optimizing your website for search engines and making it easier for humans to find a relevant answer to their questions. Restructuring your content in a way that makes it easy for humans to scan a text and find the answers they are looking for is all part of SEO. Search engines are perfectly capable of analyzing that data (more about that below).
- SEO creates relevant, on-topic content
- SEO helps to answer questions the user has
- SEO helps to maximize site profits and plays a vital role in the expansion of a site
- SEO can significantly increase the time a user spends on a site
- SEO improves the readability of content (On-page SEO involves restructuring and re-purposing content)
- SEO is a win-win
- SEO is just awesome.
I’ll be honest with you, I specialize in on-page SEO and truthfully I have never really dabbled in off-page SEO. Blackhats usually dabble more in offpage-SEO than in onpage-SEO and the results are often short-lived.
In my professional opinion, I think you should stay away from off-page SEO. All it does is create unnatural link profiles and increase your workload (you may have to remove toxic links).
Google’s guidelines specifically tell you that it can easily detect link building schemes. Although I know that some eCommerce sites deploy successful large-scale link-building campaigns, I don’t think it’s a viable strategy for bloggers. Bloggers should focus on content and everything that is ON the page. It is all about increasing user value and off-page SEO doesn’t increase the value in any way.
Focus On Pageviews Per User: Drive User Engagement
My last tidbit for today is this: Focus all your effort on keeping the user on the page.
Also, most of the pre-made WordPress themes are not a viable option. In order to keep the user on the page, you should take a very close look at websites of your favorite tabloids. Ok, I don’t have a favorite tabloid, in fact I have never read more than 2 pages of a tabloid in my entire live, but I have closely studied what they are doing online.
Tabloids are the masters of on-page SEO. They understand how to keep users engaged and I have ‘stolen’ a lot of my SEO techniques from popular tabloids.
Let’s head over to esquire.com and check out one of their subpages:
As you can see, they have plastered their entire sidebar with thumbnails and not only that, most of the thumbnails will include a human face.
In order to drive engagement, faces are still the way to go. It’s why most iTunes covers have faces on them.
I haven’t implemented this particular style on webmaster.net yet, but I am going to, because it can triple your pageviews per user and significantly decrease your bounce rate. Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to use human faces on a tech site, but whenever it makes sense try to use more faces to engage visitors. For example, news stories are a prime example where this works great. All major search engines track and analyze bounce rates and it is one of the most essential ranking signals.
Decrease Your Bounce Rate & Make Users Interact
Also take a look at sites like zerg.com or all those silly click-through sites. It’s really epic what you’ll discover and it will give you a better understanding of SEO and how to keep the user engaged. Because SEO does not always equal SEO. Google is perfectly capable of analyzing how long a user stays on a page and how he/she interacts.
1. Forget about the term ‘SEO’ and all those shady techniques you’ve learnt in the past. That time is long gone!
2. If a SEO agency tries to sell you backlinks you’ll know they are at least a decade behind current developments.
3. Start innovating, start engaging and you’ll be on your way my fellow webmaster. Keep rocking 2015!
It is time that SEO’s get credit for what they really do these days: Improve content and content readability.