Why Most Sites Never Make Much Money in SEO

splishsplash

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In my years in SEO I've really noticed a trend with webmasters that's stood out recently as one of the biggest reasons most sites really never take off.

You get 2 main classes of webmasters.

Those that are disillusioned with link building and become overly obsessed with content.

And those that are too blackhat and just fill their sites with garbage content then blast it with pbns.

Neither of those strategies are particularly good.

For some reason very few people seem to want to invest more heavily in a content strategy, but also go more aggressive with their links. Perhaps because they're investing more in content they are more fearful of link building.

You NEED links. Despite some of the crap you read on the web about links only playing a 15-20% role in SEO. That's utter garbage. If you've got your on-page setup correctly(And most don't know how to do on-page, and by most I mean 95% of people) and keep sending strong contextual links every month you are going to see your site grow HARD.

Content is a funny one however..

Higher quality content does work better and it's more sustainable.

You can certainly reach page 1 with crap content, because, Google is just an algorithm.

It really doesn't know the difference between crap content and great content. It really just looks for relevancy signals, which is keyword usage, placements of those keywords and keywords it knows through the rank brain are related.

All that changed from 2010 to today with on-page is that Google now has the rank brain, so it knows "best toaster" is the same as "toaster reviews", and it knows when an article has more words like "top", "best", "great", "good", "reviewed", "picks" it's it's all related to reviews.

Even using a bunch of LSI's related to "toasters" isn't going to significantly increase your rank for "best toasters". Google doesn't want content that's related to fixing toasters, making toast, buttering toast, eating toast or any other type of toasting activity. It literally just wants pages that are reviewing toasters, and it'll try its best to identify the pages that are a really close match for that.

Even all the fancy user intention stuff doesn't change the game.

All that's doing is helping Google match up more obscure queries like "jaguar" with a specific keyword group. Ie, is "jaguar" part of the "what is a jaguar cat" keyword group, or is it part of the "jaguar cat pictures" keyword group, or the "show me jaguar dealerships" keyword group, or the "tell me about the jaguar car" keyword group.

However.. Most keywords are not obscure like that.

So the key to your content is to have both high quality content, that readers will enjoy and get value from, AND optimizing your content for the keyword group. Here's a little bullet point summary of the most important "content/on-page" considerations with the "why" behind it.

  • High Quality Content
    • Why? Because when you reach page 1 other factors become important to reach the top 3 like bounce rate and time spent on site. You won't stay in the top 3 if people keep hitting the back button. Also, once you do start ranking, you will get natural backlinks to your site if your content is good/helpful. (In most niches. This doesn't apply to local business sites, that just won't really get links)
  • On-Page Optimization
    • Why/What? You need to have your keywords used enough, and in the right places. Headings, first couple of paragraphs, and some variations. This is actually more of an art than a science. Don't spam a keyword dozens of times, but if you have a 4000 word article and you've got "best toasters" used twice, once in the title/h1 and once in the body, then you've failed at on-page seo.
  • Internal Links
    • Why/What? Super important and I see about 1 in 20 people actually doing it right. IF that. You should have virtual silos setup(unless your entire site is just 1 topic), and be linking around to other articles within that virtual silo. Link more to important pages and use aggressive anchors. 80-90% should be targeted anchors. One with "best toaster", one with "best toasters", another with "toaster reviews", another with "the best toasters", another with "we reviewed the best toasters" and so on. Don't be afraid to re-use "best toasters" 2-3 times though. You won't get penalized unless you go crazy and create dozens of articles all with the same exact anchor linking to your article. Even then, I don't know HOW aggressive you'd have to go to hurt your site with internal links. I've never seen anyone do it.
  • Keyword Cannibalization
    • Why/What? This is where you have 2 or more pages targeting the same keyword group. It's fairly common. You can only avoid this with experience. It's a hard one to teach. You have to look at what's currently ranking to figure it out. Ie, if you have(completely fictional example), "best toasters under $1000" and "best toasters under $900", then you have to look and see what ranks. Try to work out if google considers them different, or if many of the same pages rank. Tip: For most of the under $x they are in fact considered separate keyword groups

Back to the main point of the article..

Generally you get the people who are very quality focused, and they produce great sites, and have decent on-page, but they are just afraid to pull the trigger on links..

Their sites grow, slowly, making them a little money.

If you want to see some really distinctive results in SEO you need to invest in both.

Love your site. Treat it like your baby. Put time and energy into it.

But then juice her up with some links. She needs to grow.

Of course, this doesn't mean you go and buy every pbn package on the forum. Far from it.

Add 5-15 good contextual links per month. 2-5 the first 2-3 months, then 5-8 month 3-6, then from month 6, anything from 5 to 15 per month for as long as your site is alive. Don't ever stop adding links.

Use pbns to get your site up there and earning. Don't rely on them. Add 4-5 good pbn links per month for 6 months, then switch over to guest posts. You will never have any problems with 10-15 pbns. If it was that easy to get someone penalized you could just add a dozen pbn links and your competitors would be finished. 100's or 1000's of pbn links on the other hand is asking for trouble. I personally would never recommend more than 50 for a big site you want long term, or 30 for a smaller one.

There are exceptions, and some niches are just impossible to get guest posts for and all your competitors are using pbns. In these cases go more aggressive. I'm talking more about your regular clean authority sites that you want to build out and last for years. If thewirecutter.com had 50 pbn links no one would even notice. You won't hurt your authority site in the long run adding 30-50 pbn links. Don't be afriad to pull the trigger.
 

splishsplash

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Great post @splishsplash I have this problem at the minute, not so much with the adding spam PBN's but writing content and then forgetting to build links. Doh!

Also another key thing to remember is you don't want or need to be backlinking every article.

There's actually not THAT much of a correlation between links to a page and rank.

If you look at this en-mass you will THINK there is, but, this is more what happens :-

1) A page moves up the rankings and gets top 5
2) Over time, that page will then attract links, because people writing content will google stuff, and link to generally sites in the top 5. If a page has no ranks, no one finds it to link to it.

So because of that, you'll see some big pages with a LOT of links, but those links actually came after the ranking, and you can usually spot that by looking at the timeline of links and the timeline of rankings.

I also think it's easy to trigger algorithmic issues by hitting a page too hard, or doing weird things like backlinking every page with 2-3 backlinks.


When your internal linking is setup properly juice is going to flow around your site nicely.

The best way to link is just sporadically and trying to keep it as "natural" looking as possible.

That could be 2-3 links to some informational article, 1 to a money page, 2 to another money page, 2-3 to the homepage.

However, try to make sure that pages with more incoming backlinks are internally linking to your important pages using target anchors.

It's especially effective to backlink support/info pages. It's far more natural for your info/guide page with zero affiliate links to get 7-8 backlinks than your "best toaster" page. :)

Judge it by the page. If it's a mega guide, blast it a bit more and go for 5-8 backlinks to the page, then internally link to both other support pages, and 1-2 money pages.

For internal links I do 1-2 as standard per page, but for bigger articles I'll do 3-4.

Also, I didn't mention, but external links are important. No one uses them. Always add at least 3-4 external links to every page. MINIMUM of 2 for short articles. If you want to add 20, add 20. :) They don't hurt you. I did an experiment a couple of years ago on an article ranking in position 17 or 18. It was about 7000 words. It was very big. I added about 30-40 external links to it. Relevant, to topics surrounding the main article. Within about 1-2 weeks it rose to about 12-13.
 

jamie3000

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Great post.

I have a sort of related question for you...

What's your opinion on blog comments for SEO? Now before you role your eyes I'm not talking about the high OBL spammed to hell comments on crap blogs.

I'm talking, only OBL comment on the page, do follow, on high DA, moderated blogs.

Do you think Google excludes them because they are outside of the content body?
 

Toz

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I love this post! I'm super excited about my current website project and I'm one of the ones who is focusing on both! :)

Quick question... For internal linking, I've been doing it manually. Do you recommend any plugins for handling this? I have seen some being advertised, but haven't used one. I feel it would be a huge time saver, though. But ideally, it would need to internally link within the silos and not across the entire website.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this.
 

cozziola

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Great Post thank you.

What main densities should we be using in 4k word articles?
 

Bread

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I agree, I am sometimes apprehensive of pulling the trigger on links.

The reason being the ROI. How would I work out whether building links for 6 months will provide me a ROI?
 

splishsplash

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Great post.

I have a sort of related question for you...

What's your opinion on blog comments for SEO? Now before you role your eyes I'm not talking about the high OBL spammed to hell comments on crap blogs.

I'm talking, only OBL comment on the page, do follow, on high DA, moderated blogs.

Do you think Google excludes them because they are outside of the content body?

Yeah, it won't matter that they're low obl, moderated and do follow.

Certainly better than nofollow spam garbage, and you will get a little benefit, as you do get benefit from user-built links, but the benefit is limited.

The difference between a good contextual link and others is very high. 1 good contextual link can cause you to go from number 80 to number 15, or 19 to 14, or 9 to 8 etc. You would *never* get that from any sort of comment link. You might see number 80 to number 68 with a link like that.

It's worth doing a few like that just to add more links to your profile however. Profile, directories, a few manual comments etc are all useful to pad out your profile and google expects to see them for a natural site. A webmaster is expected to be doing a little promotion, a press release, adding to some niche directories, creating business profiles, adding some social media profiles etc.


I love this post! I'm super excited about my current website project and I'm one of the ones who is focusing on both! :)

Quick question... For internal linking, I've been doing it manually. Do you recommend any plugins for handling this? I have seen some being advertised, but haven't used one. I feel it would be a huge time saver, though. But ideally, it would need to internally link within the silos and not across the entire website.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this.

Always manual. No plugin is going to be able to do this. It's pretty advanced stuff. It would need something with AI to do properly. It's actually something I have in the pipeline to create some SaaS for internal links.

For now just keep a spreadsheet. Or even better, use airtable.com. With airtable you can filter/sort in different ways. You could group by anchor, group by linking page, group by page being linked to etc so you can see everything clearly. airtable is amazing.


Great Post thank you.

What main densities should we be using in 4k word articles?

Google doesn't rank based on keyword density. I doubt they ever did.

The only time you want to bother with kw density is to make sure it's not too high, but for an article over 2000 words it's very hard to have a high kw density unless an idiot has written your article and just keeps repeating the keyword over and over and over.

In saying that, make sure trips are < 1% and pairs < 2%.

What IS important is keyword usage. You want to be mentioning "best toaster" a good few times. title/header, first paragraph, once or twice more in the body, and once in an h2/h3. 3-7 times per article whether it's 1500 words or 4k words, but for 1500 words more like 3-4 times max. You don't get any benefit using it too much, but if google is only seeing "best toaster" in the h1/title and then once in the body, it is probably not going to think your article is very relevant for best toasters.

But on top of that you want to make sure you use variations on it that you as a human know are connected. "top 10 toasters", "the top toasters", "toaster reviews", "these great toasters", "the very best toaster", "this toaster is the top choice". It all counts. As I said above, it's more of an art than a science.

When I'm optimizing I look at who ranks on page 1. I remove any outliers, which are strong sites, and pages different than mine. That means if I'm ecommerce, I only compare with ecommerce, if I'm review, I compare with reviews and so on. I usually leave myself with 2-4 sites to compare to and I look at their keyword usages, the topics they're using and how many words they've got, and I structure my content accordingly.

I agree, I am sometimes apprehensive of pulling the trigger on links.

The reason being the ROI. How would I work out whether building links for 6 months will provide me a ROI?


Interesting question.

SEO is a slow game. Everyone wants the quick buck. Even in advertising people try to profit straight away instead of calculating their 6 month LTV and aiming to profit on the backend.

With SEO you want to be thinking in terms of a 2-3 year plan.

There are different approaches depending on your tolerance for risk and experience.

You might invest high and aim to profit only on a sale after 18 months. Ie, invest $50k, get a site up to $5k-10k/mo within 18 months then sell for $200k-$500k.

If you're just building up to grow then you're looking more at breaking even after 18 months to 2 years, then going into profit. SEO is pretty damn long term. I don't know many people who can have a site profitable within 6 months or less other than very low-end sites making a few hundred $ a month.

It comes down to this. The longer you're willing to wait to breakeven, the more you'll make. If you invest with the goal of breaking even after 18 months, then you're going to build something pretty impressive in the $10k/mo+ region. Ie, if you invest $15k in the first 3 months, then $1k/mo for another 12 months, you're going to be hitting $10k/mo after 12-18 months.

So, the way you approach it is to have a set budget for your project. Set aside an initial amount $x, and a monthly amount $y. Your initial amount is your content and initial base link building(not expensive, just a press release, social, some niche directories potentially and high quality profile listings). Your monthly $y is split between your link building and on-going content. 50/50 for the first 6 months is good, then 70/30 in favor of link building for the next 6 months, then 50/50 again from 12 months onwards.

And you just keep a spreadsheet with all your costs to date and earnings. A tab for each month with each expense and the income for that month, and 1 tab with a summary of total income, total expense per month.
 

KelvyTheBlacky

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Great post. Got one qyestion for you, though. How long on average do your new sites stay in the sandbox? Got a 3 month old domain with hq content (30k words) and properly researched keywords that's only ranking for 3 keywords in position 100ish.

I've done a couple of guest posts to it over that period and have been dripfeeding socials.

Been only dealing with expired domains, so this is kinda strange for me.
 

Sebastian324

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@splishsplash I'm not into SEO but I've seen some of your posts and love the way you think. There's some pure gold you're sharing on here for those who wanna go big. When I'm in UK again please allow me to get you a nice bottle of wine or something lol.
 

JinxerCraft

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Also, I didn't mention, but external links are important. No one uses them. Always add at least 3-4 external links to every page. MINIMUM of 2 for short articles. If you want to add 20, add 20. :) They don't hurt you. I did an experiment a couple of years ago on an article ranking in position 17 or 18. It was about 7000 words. It was very big. I added about 30-40 external links to it. Relevant, to topics surrounding the main article. Within about 1-2 weeks it rose to about 12-13.
To other website or my own website? ******** or nofollow?
 
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