We all know that clients want to see swift, measurable results, and that they’re likely to drop you if they don’t see something within half a year or so. This is one reason why we like to stress the importance of referral traffic and brand impressions, in addition to instant channels like PPC, in order to build client trust.
Still, if you can’t get your clients onboard with SEO in a short period of time, they may end up considering other options, even with the referral traffic. Fortunately, we’ve found that it’s possible to get results with SEO in a fairly short period of time, without resorting to risky link building behaviors and tactics that could do long-term damage.
1. Post a simple, free, world-class tool
We’ve been talking about the power of tools quite a bit lately, and touched on this over at Venturebeat. As we’ve said before, if you take a look at the top ranking sites on the web, almost all of them can be thought of as tools, not content outlets. Free tools pick up links and press coverage so easily that we sometimes wonder why we do anything else.
Let’s take a new tool called Dillinger.io as an example. It’s not a complicated tool that took half a decade of ingenuity to develop. It’s just a simple tool that solves a simple problem. Type and format text in the left window, get the HTML markup version in the right window. An easy way to get formatted HTML for any one of the many reasons you might need it.
Near as I can tell from the Way Back Machine, Dillinger.io has only been around since about November of 2012, and it may not even have been fully operational at that time. Seven months later, no blogging, no content marketing, it’s built up a domain authority of 45. That’s not Facebook level growth, by any means, but it’s a bit more than our own domain has managed to pick up, even after guest posts on Moz, Venturebeat, Copyblogger, Problogger, press coverage in Forbes, regular posts here at Search Engine Journal, and other Grade A linking opportunities.
The tool was mentioned in PC Advisor, and if you take a look at their Web Apps section you’ll see that Dillinger.io’s story is anything but uncommon.
Tools are such a powerful source of natural links that you hardly need to do any promotion at all. So when you set up a press release, contact a few influencers, and do some outreach, the results become absolutely astronomical.
It makes your job a lot easier when you have a free tool to talk about. Trust me on this.
2. Contact every expert in your niche and build a list of one-line quotes
While a tool does a lot for your domain authority, and can certainly build some credibility, it doesn’t quite establish you as a thought leader the way that content can. Of course, content alone accomplishes nothing. Anybody can produce content. How can you be authoritative about it?
Easy. Borrow the authority of all the other experts in your niche.
The process is simple. Do a search for your major industry keywords, and find the most authoritative bloggers and other influencers. Build up a list of the ones who like to answer questions. Now think of an interesting, open-ended question that can be answered in any number of ways with a single sentence.
Now just email all those influencers with your question.
Collect the quotes, compile them into a list, post it as a blog post, and let the influencers know that you quoted them in your massive post full of industry expert knowledge.
The great thing about this approach is that it lets you borrow the authority of experts, establish credibility, build influential relationships, and produce one amazing piece of link bait, all at the same time. Since you’re not asking for much from the influencers, just a sentence or two, the response rate is surprisingly high, especially since you’re already dealing with people who like to answer questions for their audience.
Gianluca Fiorelli is awesome at this. Take a look at his Moz post, Road to Mozcon: The State of Search in 2012. In it, he interviews some of the biggest names in the SEO industry and puts together a massive post on the state of the industry at that time. Posts like these are appealing because they distill the knowledge of some of the biggest names in the industry into one organized collection. These collections resonate with readers. Influencers, meanwhile, have a motive to promote the post, because they get mentioned in it.
These types of posts don’t have to consist entirely of proprietary answers you picked up from industry experts. If some or all of the influencers you reach out to are too busy to answer, you can always research anything they’ve said on the matter and quote their previous content.
Aaron Wall of SEObook is great at this. While we don’t always agree with Aaron’s approach to SEO, we have to admire how much he can get done just by cataloguing conversations. Consider one of his latest posts, Inbound, Outbound, Outhouse. In it, he catalogues quotes from Jon Henshaw, Randy Milanovic, John Andrews, Andrew Goodman, and many more. He uses the quotes not just to inform, but to tell a story, and establish himself as a part of that story.
3. Post 10 blog posts on keywords dominated by Yahoo Answers
If you followed steps 1 and 2 correctly, by now you should have a domain authority somewhere in the twenties or thirties without too much trouble. If not, you may want to rinse and repeat a bit before moving on, although that’s not completely necessary.
From here it’s all about solid keyword research followed by well-researched, entertaining, surprising content. You should know the drill by now when it comes to keyword research. Head over to Google’s keyword tool.
Look for keyword phrases that have about 2,000 or more exact searches and whose SERPS are dominated by sites like Yahoo Answers, WikiHow, forums, or other user generated content sites. These are fairly easy targets when your domain authority is this high.
We’ve found that even though sites like Yahoo Answers have us dominated in terms of domain authority, Google tends to favor our content, most likely because there is more text to work with, and possibly because of CTR and pogo-sticking user behavior.
Don’t bother building links directly to these pages. You shouldn’t need to. The content will typically make the first page and crawl its way up near the number one spot within a month or two.
These kinds of posts typically start bringing in about 500 visitors per month each within a fairly short period of time. Ten of these posts will earn you a solid 3 to 5 thousand passive visitors each month with no additional promotional efforts on your part.
Once you start seeing levels of traffic about this high, if the content is good enough you’ll also start seeing some natural links show up in Webmaster tools. You certainly won’t be overwhelmed with them just yet, but it’s the beginnings of a beautiful thing.
From this point forward, things start to snowball. It starts to get easier to rank content against more competitive sites, and your traffic levels start to grow faster with each new post. You’ll want to push your limits a bit with each new post in order to see just where your content stands in Google’s eyes.
We feel this strategy is one of the best ways to balance swift results with consistency and long-term value. From what we can tell, most companies who try to get into content marketing and inbound without doing a lot of manual link building struggle for years before breaking 1,000 visitors per month. That’s not profitable, so it’s no wonder there are so many churn-and-burn link spammers out there.
The key is to mix tactics that make link building and link earning easy, like tools and collaborative projects, with targeted content. I think a lot of SEOs and inbound marketers either put too much focus on virality or too much emphasis on targeting. It’s the happy medium between the two that works wonders.