I have seen enough of the 'How do I rank?'; 'What tools do I need?' and 'My Site wont RANK!' posts to last me a life time. Every week someone asks how to rank and every month I find myself answers the same set of PMs and am seeing the same threads. I decided to make a short guide on how to rank, and how to learn SEO rather than asking the same pointless questions which have been answered a hundred times before. DISCLAIMER: I am not selling anything. I do consulting for sites in my down time but I do not plan to sell ANYTHING on BHW. The good graces here have taught me everything I know, that and TESTING. Do NOT PM me asking me to tell you why your site is not ranking. If you have a specific question I am always open to help, but helping is not doing everything for you. If you want more specific help and are willing to work I can take a look but will not lay out a complete system. You need to do the work your self. I am a single person who does SEO work and have no team, so please be nice. Also, no fancy images or maps in any of my threads. I apologize, you need to actually read. I will not go over some of the steps in incredible depth. The reason is these sections have been done. The rest I will give you enough to rank. Lastly, to those better than me at SEO, please refrain from bashing, just trying to give a little back. Step One: KW Research The biggest reason you are not 'Making Bank' is because you picked the wrong damn Key Word. KW means Key Word. That is the specific term you want to rank for. The biggest misconception on BHW is KW Competition. So I will break down how I determine what is KW competition: Super Easy: Top 10 Results have no On - Page Optimization for the KW and are not strong domains. Easy: Top 10 have a couple On - Page Optimization for the KW but they are not authority sites. Relatively Easy: Top ten are all Optimized for the KW but no authority sites. Medium: Top 10 has full On - Page Optimization and a couple (Maximum) Authority Sites. Hard: Top 10 has more than three Authority Sites Optimized or three sites with an excellent backlink profile. Very Hard: Top Ten has Six or More Authority / Strong Backlink Profile Domains. Some people will not agree with how I do this, and say I call things 'Hard' or 'Very Hard' when they are not. But in my experience, if the Top Ten has Six behemoth sites I can be darn sure the other four are SEO's like myself who put a LOT more into it. I assume this to not waste my time. What this means for you? You want to rank ACNE for a product you want to sell. Look in the top ten: (I did a Google Search on a TOR browser, hopefully my results are not skewed.) - WebMD - The Atlantic - Salon - Acne.org (Acne Forum/Community with Exact Match Domain) - Elle (The Magazine) - Themedicinenet.com (Knock - Off WebMD) - Wikipedia - Three American Institutes / Libraries I would call this VERY HARD. Some of the sites are Optimized for the KW, others are exactly referencing the KW. Be realistic, what are your odds of knocking out all TEN of these sites? Mine? Not worth it. If I could rank ACNE for a few days I highly doubt these huge sites which are targeting the KW will not knock my site off the top ten. BHW already has a guide for how to pick a niche. And a few guides on KW research. Do a little digging with the search function if you do not know how to pick a KW. The biggest issue with people not making money is KW research. Most likely if you do not make money or can't rank, you are: A. Picking KWs you will never rank (High Competition) B. You are picking KWs with no search volume (Spending $100+ in the marketplace to rank a KW which has 100 searches TOTAL is stupid for most people). C. Not a buyer KW (Acne may make more with Adsense, but 'how can I get rid of acne' will sell your product). D. All of the above. If you pick a KW with no commercial intent, low search volume and high competition, you will never make money with your site. Ever. KW research is the end all, and be all of SEO. Learn how to do KW research before anything. Lumping together with KW Research is On - Page and site structure. This is basic stuff which has been covered on BHW before. You can rank with bad On - Page and site structure with enough links, but it makes the entire process harder. Do yourself and your wallet a favor and learn On - Page Optimization. Re - Cap: Be smart and do KW research FIRST. Optimize your site well. Step Two: Buffer / Pumper Sites With every project I start and I want to rank, I build a few 2.0s right away with a single filler article and I let them age. It does depend on KW competition to some extent. For a super easy KW I will build 10 2.0s and let them start aging. For a higher competition I build at least 20. A Web 2.0 is a blog. Blogger, Wordpress, Tumbler, ect. You want to build your 2.0s as Do - Follow links. You can get No - Follow in a far easier way and I prefer to work with as much efficacy as possible. After a few weeks, I add an article with a link. The article on your 2.0s can be all the same exact article if you want to save money. Take your article, manually edit the copy for as many 2.0s as you have. Then put it through a spinner. Once it is spun, re - read it and edit out mistakes. Now you have as many unique articles as you need. Do not complicate things here. Make it unique manually, make sure it can be read and it will stick. Depending on your KW selection depends what anchor you use for the 2.0. If you pick easy competition KWs, you will not need stronger links like SAPE / PBN / Guest Posts. Do not complicate things. If your KW is easy, the 2.0s should have mostly exact anchor match. The 2.0s adds authority to your site and will be your 'power' links. For higher competition, 2.0s will just be for authority. These 2.0s will become pumper sites in a later step, but you should build them first and let them age. Re - Cap: Depending on your KW competition, build 10 - 20+ 2.0s and let them age. Make them on Do - Follow platforms. Step Three: Diversity and Velocity AKA Random Links After I build my 2.0s I want a steady Velocity and I want diversity. For a normal site, you will have junk links. Let's be real here. I want to look natural and mimic natural growth. If on day 7 from launch I build 10 2.0s and for the next ten days have ZERO other links, then I have 10 2.0's a week later, it looks suspicious. I err on the side of caution and use my aging time for 2.0s to build some crap. I prefer to fire GSA SER up for this part, but you can buy from the marketplace for diversity. This is not a GSA guide, but to keep it simple, I want to build these links: - Social Bookmarks - Social Network - Article Submission - Blog Comments If you are using GSA, create different projects for each type of link and watch the program until it builds the amount you want. GSA can verify more links than you intend on making. I use strict filter of under 25 OBL and over a PR 3. PR does not mean much, but I do find I filter out bad sites this way. For those who do not have GSA, or are completely new, this is what it all means: I Build Social Bookmarks to each page I want to rank. The benefit of Social Bookmarks are the fact they are often No - Follow and help my pages get indexed. I want a couple Bookmarks to point to the page. This is about a low velocity and have a good ratio of No - Follow to Do - Follow links, and staying below the radar. Social Network are basic Facebook / Reddit / Ect shares. Just posting my link on a social network platform. Again, normally No - Follow and mimics a real site sharing content. Take this opportunity to make real social pages for your site. It helps content get indexed quicker. Article Submission is sharing a piece of your content on another site to place a link. These should be Do - Follow platforms and like every other link, just a couple. Blog Comments are fantastic. If you do these manually they will stick. Make sure you have your anchor as a hyperlink or branded. Blog Comments can pass a good amount of link juice and mimic a natural site. My diversity and velocity link building is all about making my backlink portfolio look natural. Junk appears in any real site, so I try to look natural with imitation. Every Anchor in this section is either Branded or a Hyperlink. Do not risk over optimization with junk links. Re - Cap: Keep Velocity by building Blog Comments, Article Submission, Bookmarks, and Social Network Shares. Only a couple links a day to make your page look like it is naturally growing. Post only on good sites with TF / CF / PR, or what ever other metric you want to use. Step Four: Make Your 2.0s into Pumpers A Pumper Site (Or Buffer Site) is a Web 2.0 made to pass link juice. This is why your 2.0s should all be Do - Follow. To NOT get your 2.0 De - Indexed, start slow and ramp up velocity like your actual site. This is not a tiered link guide. For Very Easy KWs, the aforementioned 2.0s will be enough to rank your KW. I still build links to all of my 2.0s out of habit, and I suggest you do as well. You want to start with Contextual and Do - Follow links only. This means Article Submissions, other Web 2.0s, and Micro Blogs. Contextual will help you rank longer than Spam and stick aroud longer. Over the next several weeks, build a few hundred Contextual Do - Follow links to each 2.0 and monitor your rankings. If your KWs are dancing or moving up, great. If not, build a third tier of any links you can get your hands on. If you are using GSA, everything but Web 2.0s, because the program is not good at building 2.0s and will waste a lot of resources for no real gain. In total, I want around 500 Contextual links to each 2.0. This may sound like a lot, but I spread it out over 30 - 90 days. So a handful of links to each 2.0. After I build all of these Contextual links I also build Blog Comments with strict filters in GSA, or buy from the market place. You are looking for LOW OBL, high PR / TF comments which pass a good amount of link juice for the minimal effort you put into it. Re - Cap: Build Contextual, Do - Follow links to your 2.0 until you rank. Step Five: Manual Profile and 301 Shorteners This may be a little BLACKHAT for some of you. Things like a URL Shortener can be playing with fire, but it works and they are cheap and easy to make. For people with a tad higher competition, as in anything over an Easy KW, you need more link juice to rank. I do this by building a URL Shortener first, and sharing it on Social Media. This is something perfectly normal, many companies and businesses use this type of link for Social Sharing, so that is what I do. I then build a handful of URL Shorteners to my Web 2.0s. Again, Do - Follow only. I then blast away with another tier two of links. All Contextual and Do - Follow. This should make your KW move and spike all the metrics on your Web 2.0 (PA, DA, TF, CF). This makes your normal 2.0 links far more powerful. Next, build about 10 Profile Links which are Do - Follow. Profile links are links on sites like Amazon or Twitter that let you post a link in your profile, and are often Do - Follow. These links are NOT contextual and often do not get indexed, unless you force them. Use a hyperlink or branded term for the Profile links. These Profile links I then spam with at least 1,000 links. I prefer Contextual and Do - Follow as well. This is because I may need to build another tier of links later on and want more power for my Profile link. This will force it to index. If you run your profile through one of the metric sites, you will find your little link is now a high PA, DA, TF, CF, ect link. This type of link works amazingly well. Re - Cap: Build two sets of URL Shorteners. One set to share your Money Site link, and another to spam which points to your 2.0. Finally, build Profile links to your Money Site and blast them with links. Step Six: Public or Private Blog Network Again, if you did your KW research well, you will not NEED PBN links. If you built the aforementioned 2.0's, Diversity and Velocity links, Profile links and URL Shorteners, your KW should be ranked. If you picked a medium competition or up KW, you may need more power. Before you spend money on a PBN, I will suggest you build another set of Web 2.0s. Maybe your KW was harder competition than your thought. Maybe the competition increased since you started. Try free platforms before you invest more money. I will always suggest going with your own PBN - A Private Blog Network. But being realistic, and know that I myself do not have a PBN large enough for everything, you can go public. Some caveats are, you are NOT going to get a great link for $1. This is why I suggest this after EVERYTHING else. Plan on paying good money for good links. These links must be exact match anchor. Do not waste power or money for a branded link. You will find three different types of PBN being sold on BHW. They are: A. Public Network where you can get 100 posts for $20. B. Public Network with ranging prices. C. Public Network with high metrics. No matter what you buy, it is a public network you have no control over. If you go with option A, you need to point them to a Web 2.0 Pumper site. If you go with option B, go ahead and risk it how you would like. Even if you pay $10 for a PBN link, it is still risky. Option C are the special seller which offer links at limited availability, provide no reports (For your safety), all sites have high TF, and offer some security. Option B and C can look a lot alike. If your budget allows, go with the most powerful network which appears to be the most safe. You should only need about 10 PBN links to rank a Medium competition in addition to everything else. If you do not rank, your PBN is not good or the KW is higher competition. Re - Cap: If you still can't rank, you picked something too hard. Use a handful of PBN links. Step Seven: SAPE, Guest Post, and 301 Domain Redirect If you need anything stronger than a PBN link, your KW is too difficult for your own good if you are a newbie. If your KW will not budge and is a high competition KW and you want to rank, you now have enough links in your backlink profile to sprinkle in a handful of SAPE links. If you are going with over a handful of links, you need a Web 2.0 to act as a buffer. Real Guest Posts will help you rank. Treat it like a Web 2.0 and build links to it after it ages a bit. You will find more than one type of Guest Post. Most on BHW are not real Guest Posts but a glorified PBN or a Guest Post on a site where anyone can submit an article. A 301 Domain Redirect is a sure fire way to rank. The domain does not even need to be related to help you rank. If you are working with a KW this difficult, I suggest limiting one 301 per URL and hosting account for Redirection. In addition, you want to ensure the domain has good metrics and is spam free. Naturally, you will build links to the 301. If you noticed, I got MORE and MORE vague the further we went along my 'how to rank' guide. The reason is simple, if you can't rank with the aforementioned options, you need to test and learn how to do the rest. Plus, you picked a KW which is far too challenging for a newbie to take on. Re - Cap: 301 Domain, SAPE, and Guest Post can put you over the top, but is not worth the expense or effort. With an EASY KW you will not need this. In Conclusion.... 1. Do KW Research and On - Page. 2. Build Some 2.0s. 3. Diversity and Velocity with Bookmarks and Blog Comments. 4. Build links to your 2.0s. 5. Build 301 Shorteners and Profile Links. 6. Public Blog Network. 7. SAPE / Guest Post / 301. You can now rank and make money off of any KW. This entire process should take from 30 days to 180 days. After each step take a step back, let your KW bounce a bit and see what you are dealing with. If it vanishes from SERPs it is about to make a comeback. If it knocks down a bit, it will comeback stronger. If it pops up a couple places or does not move, move to the next step. You can condense all of this if you want, but I prefer a slower burn so I do not waste resources. If my KW will rank with step one only, why move onto step two? Food for thought. The last note I will give newbies is the best advice you will ever get: Mimic those who are successful. The most practical example is doing your homework and picking the BEST SEO service in the marketplace which actually gets results. Buy the service and find out what types of links they make. On your next project, build those same exact links. For every seller but PBN or SAPE sellers, you can re - build their SEO package yourself or for a fraction of the cost and the seller already did the work for you and made a SEO blueprint. If something was confusing in this short guide, it was intentional. Use the search function and find your answer. You will get more out of this if you find your answer and it will make a lot more sense. Always test, and never use the exact same process twice. EDIT: How to Rank in 2018 – Manual Beginner Method It is 2018, and things do change in SEO. I remember the days pure spam would not only rank, but last enough to make a healthy ROI. Now? Even this guide is a bit out dated. I decided to spend a few months testing my normal link building methods and trying to find a system anyone could use without much monetary investment. This is not a flashy update. Or the best. It is a sweat equity guide. You can make top three with work with a medium comp keyword easily. That is what we will be discussing. Domain Prep The next few sections are link building you point at the home page. Most people want to rank inner pages. For one page sites, I would suggest a different, less long term strategy. Domain prep is designed to index a site, add 'authority' and some link juice to the domain. A few of the prepping links will be reused as well (like social media). Starting with domain prep is much like it always was. I still do a preliminary press release. This is only applicable to long term sites and news worthy sites now. In the past I was able to get a Press Release for any junk with even a web 2.0 site (I should update my web 2.0) but now sites are getting rejected. A press release has little direct seo value. It does help with branding and indexing. I cant remember the last time I even got traffic from a press release. But I get a good amount of no follow links. I hate building no follow links and like to have some. A Press Release will also often get denied for content less sites. I don’t mean not having articles, but the better the PR Network, the more likely pure review sites get denied. These are more expensive networks anyways. A PR does some magic when you look for niche specific news websites. These are often not in regular PR networks and require manual outreach. Google is your friend here (“niche + press release"). A press release can cost money. If you cant afford it (or can build other no follow links and don’t mind waiting for indexing) you can skip a press release. You then build all social media and big brand profiles. For the big platforms, like twitter or facebook, you want to completely fill out profiles and post a couple updates. These help with indexing and you can eventually use these for traffic, but now you want the profile links. I then build some foundational links on major community sites. Think question and answer sites and forums. I used to say yahoo answers and Quora. The problem? SERPs changed. I no longer see yahoo answers in top 50. Forums I rarely see as well. I do see Quora. Some forums and community sites do appear. You need to do your homework. This is commonly called parasite seo. Find a platform that still ranks. Example Site Quora I will speak on Quora as it is well known and now has some nice features. Will you get direct ranking boosts? No. Will it rank for long tails easily? Yes. Will it give you traffic? Yes. And you get some no follow links. Quora now offers payment (albeit small) for some question askers. After having featured answers, I know that a single ‘hot' answer quora emails users about will get hundreds of views, if not thousands. If you get a popular quora user to answer (you can request answers) you get more views. A nest trick is ask a question and answer it yourself. I have not done it, but have seen it plenty of times. It is blatant advertising. But it passes. Web 2.0 This is something I do for my long term sites. Think of this as a cheap PBN. I put a few articles on a Web 2.0 and let it index. I then add a couple articles with links to non competitor websites. I will go against the grain and say link to small niche sites in your niche and authority sites. For niche sites I pick sites which are popular in social media as finding related non competition websites via kw research is a pain. I then add an article with a mention of my brand and a link to homepage. Example is a article about seo. Contextually I will have a sentence link “when researching seo I found black hat world is a popular source for seo tactics.” You link the text black hat world to black hat world to its url. Over time I add filler content, other obl and link to my websites inner articles. It is a slight foot print. I beef this up with tier two links to all inner pages of the web 2.os. Mainly article directory, social media, blog comments Guest Posting Next you try to get Guest Posts. Manual Outreach. This often will take weeks to hear back if you do. But one or two Guest Posts will help do heavy lifting. I have three primary types of home pages I use on websites. One is a feed for new articles. Two is a main lage about the site or business. Three is a long article targeting a keyword. For an article containing and targeting a keyword, the domain prep will do a lot of the SEO work for you to help you actually rank your home pages targeting term. Ranking an Inner Page This is why you are reading this guide. Once you have foundational links you can post and rank an article. Once an article is posted you want to share it on social media. Make sure it is indexed. Then you move onto link building for the inner page: 1. 10 x Web 2.0 2. 10× Article Submission 3. 20× Document Sharing 4. 25x Social Bookmarks 5. 10x Image Sharing 6. 5x Video Links (think youtube) 7. Niche Links (q and a and forum) 8. Social Signals 9. Possible PBN or Guest Posts Article Submission and Niche Links Most of the link types are self explanatory. But Article Submission sites I use are moderated or have minimal spam. For example, medium or (formerly) ezine. The auto approval sites are spammy and can hurt your seo. Niche Links are q and a sites or forums related to your niche. Little seo value aside from relevancy but it can bring traffic. You do not need a lot of links these. The goal is to be where you should be. If you know of a popular forum in your niche. It is traffic and no follow relevant links but you get good anchor text diversity for low effort. Sharing Links The most important factor is to have something worth sharing. I create great info graphics (free with sites like canvas) and post them to sites like imgur. You also can try to pitch your infographic as guest posts. A side note is I found the Guest inforgraphic doesnt work well in all niches. Dont expect a seo to give you a link. It works better in my experience when you reach out to real bloggers with a small following. Doc sharing is the same way. A short ebook, or power point is ideal. Your own work and not a spun garbage document. Create something people would want to share. Possible PBN or Guest Posts No, not public blog network posts or bought guest posts. If after three months you are stuck in SERPs you may need some outreach. If you do kw research well you wont need these. But for medium and harder links you will need these. I aim for five a month in addition to other link building. The key is consistency. You wont make it up SERPs with one Guest Post in most cases. Excluded Links You may have noticed some of my personal favorite link types are missing. Such as blog comments. I have noticed that over 90% of blog comments never get approved. And if you try to communicate with the blogger or website owner, about half get approved with no link. The blog comments that do get auto approved are junk. These are great for tier two links. Or building relationships with websites. I do use them, but not for direct seo benefit. Real Example In January I started with a medium comp kw. I already had the foundational links built to the home page. SERPs were filled with big niche sites. Health niche. All the sites have hundreds or thousands of pages. Three sites I was concerned with. This kw was medium competition. January to March I did the aforementioned steps. I made it to page three in April. I then added Guests Posts I earned by outreach. This is where manual blog comments helped. After five guest posts I made it to page one. I then resumed normal link building. I also had some q and a links which brought me direct traffic. By may the site moved to top 3. This was due to CTR and superior content. I also had q and a answers listed at SERP 7 – 10. Those did vary but are often featured as first related result in a google search. Why did I spend 5 months ranking a term? It was worth it. The term is only 3,000 monthly searches. But the traffic converts into clients. I make a good ROI on this keyword. With easier keywords, even in 2018, you can rank fast. Lower competition rank with provided method quicker. No matter the traffic, or searches, you need to be able to convert. For some niches social media convert better or will give you a better ROI. Any trending term or item will typically do better with social media. For example, remember fidget spinners? Do you think kids googled fidget spinners and waited a week for them to be drop shipped? Or would kids have bought them locally or on social media? Or if you need a plumber, do you google “plumbers in bronx NY" or post on social media “who can fix my toilet?” Some terms have a better return on investment with SEO. If you can get more or better converting traffic with social media, SEO should not be your priority at first. Before you build a single link you know how you can make money with it and if the effort is worth the outcome. Tier What? Tier two or three is not always needed. Tier two is needed if your links will not easily index or you have weak links. Weak links are links that have little link juice. Your spammy web 2.0 may never index. So before you blast with tier two, make sure they worthy of indexing. For every tier one web 2.0 you build you have the option of a profile link. Those need a lot of tier two links to guarantee indexing. But I advise skipping the profile links as they may never index when you first start out or are manually building links. You can slowly start tier two links right away. When I used software, I limited GSA to 25 to 50 links a day at first. Only a few will stick. I limit tier two to blog comments, bookmarks, micro blogs, article submission and web 2.0s if possible. For long term projects, the higher quality tier two the better. For my example, I used tier two web 2.0, some social bookmarks and high metric blog comments, plus social signals. Tier three is the kitchen sink. 2018 and Beyond SEO has trends. Websites change what content they accept. Google changes link weight and index rates. But the fundamentals are the same. Build links and rank. The higher quality your links, the longer they last. The harder they are to get, in my experience, the longer they last and the more effective they are. Spam does work. Cheap pbn links work quicker (but drop quicker). But my goal with this update is to give a novice a chance to rank consistently. The best way to learn is practice. You learn by doing. Will this guide be updated in 2019? Maybe. 2020? Not likely. Someone else may help point you in the right direction, but only you can put in the effort.