Sep 29 2008

7 Steps to Seo Success: A Beginners Guide

Those of you who know me well probably are aware that I enjoy chess. It is a game of strategy, it is a game where you must think for yourself and also speculate what your opponent will do and how the game will end. Some people have this idea that chess is a gift, that those who are good at it were either born that way or had a champion mentor. This is not always the case, in fact many of these people were ordinary people, who put their all into the game and studied it day and night, strategized and calculated each move and that is why they won. So why am I comparing Chess to Seo? What does a board game have to do with seo anyways?

Because essentially the same strategy works for both games… in fact the main reason why webmasters never attain success is because they don’t have a strategy… and the ones that do often have a faulty concept of it. Most webmasters do not even calculate their own steps let alone anticipate those of their competitors. So how do they expect to win? They jump into the game much the same as a amateur Chess-player does, playing moves on a whim without realizing or contemplating the final outcome of that decision or calculating the risks and benefits to such a move. And THAT is the reason why in both games we have so many losers, its not because they don’t know the game, the rules of the game or the general ideas. Its because they don’t have a strategy and they aren’t planning ahead, there focus is on NOW and they don’t see the big picture.

So how does this analogy and realization help us become better seo? Well first once we realize an error we must take steps, careful steps to fix that error. If we lack a strategy and have been running our seo campaigns half-hazardously without thinking about the consequences, if that is the case then the logical solution is to create a fool-proof strategy. But how does one start a strategy? Using the following guide…

Strategic Planning in Seo

Identify your market…
The first step is to identify your market and target. Walking into a seo campaign without identifying your targets is like walking onto a ball field and not knowing which team you are competing against. The idea that you are targeting “everything” doesn’t work, it creates an ineffective strategy and a perfect environment for failure. Just like in competitive sports you take on one goal at a time, you don’t compete against multiple teams at once. You identify your goal and that is what you fight for… that is not to say you can’t have multiple secondary goals but they should indeed be secondary.

I can hear somebody saying

“wait a second Randy, I have been targeting multiple goals for years and have been very successful”

You missed the point, the point is not that you CANNOT target multiple goals, the point is that the more goals you have the broader your playing field and the less effective you will be across the board. And by goals I am not necessarily referring only to specific keywords, I am talking about specific market strategies here. You should have a number of goals, many of which should be dependent on completion of other goals. For instance a small music site dedicated to selling hand-crafted guitars should not immediately set a goal to take on the banjo business. They should first develop strategies to take out the guitar business, one-step at a time.

So how does one identify their market? Well I suggest you do some Keyword Research to get some ideas to start from…

#1. Keyword Research, create large lists of keywords which can be narrowed down to specific keywords to target immediately, secondary keywords for later on and maybe a third list of “maybes” which you can save for later on. You should create lists of non-competitive and low competition keywords which get some traffic, you should use these to write articles and create resources, that way you are slowly building some traffic and rankings while you work on larger and larger keywords. To do this keyword research I use Keyword Elite because I find it is the best tool on the market, the most effective and the fastest. Unfortunately few tools are what they claim to be, that is why I whole-heartedly recommend Keyword Elite because it lives up to its wildest claims. If you would like a tutorial on how to do this I have written one entitled How to find low competition high traffic phrases – it details everything… however if you should have questions feel free to let me know.

If you want to just check individual keywords for traffic volume in Google than use Google Adwords Keyword Tool however I have found Keyword Elite far better in creating lists of keywords as it seems to find a larger volume of keywords to build from… so I suggest you get Keyword Elite just for this step… it has a money back guarantee so you have nothing to lose. After your first campaign you will realize how much time it has saved you and how many new prospects you have discovered that you would have likely never known about before.

#2. Develop content based on these keyword targets. Please note I did NOT say to create articles, I said content, something of value to your targeted audience. This is not to say that articles are not content… bear with me please. For instance if you are selling hand-crafted guitars then a good link bait might be to develop a tutorial/e-book detailing how to make a handmade guitar. If this resource is developed correctly and distributed correctly it alone could take you to the top for your main keywords. This is the fastest way to get to the top. People will link to valuable resources all day long… the keyword though is valuable ;-)
If you would like some consultation on creating a valuable linkbait send me a email at randy[at] and let me know about your site. I will see what I can come up with. However little research and brainstorming should turn up some good ideas… let me know what you come up with and where you feel it lacks and we will figure out something for you!

Uniqueness is everything. You need to start your site off immediately with a unique approach, a simple yet inviting atmosphere and the resources and content in demand by your niche. How do you determine this? See above under Keyword Research.

#3. Develop YOUR link building strategy
This part of your strategy is important to develop even before you start your site. I don’t think many people realize how important it really is. If you have developed your link building strategy prior to starting the site everything you do will be in harmony with that, so everything you do will compliment your link building plans… which tends to produce much higher inbound links both naturally and by request.

Methods of Link Building (by rating)

Link Baiting 10/10 – We have discussed this briefly above however I cannot over stress the importance of creating exceptional link baits. It is the wave of the future and definitely the best of today. Focus a lot of effort on link baiting and you will find it is far more effective than any time spent on other link building methods. Link baiting is not something that can be taught but is generally unique to each niche however some of the same principles apply to any form of link baiting. And those are uniqueness, demand, relevance and usability.

If you create a article based completely off a hot article from another site do you think that will do much good? Not at all, you will be considered a copycat and nobody will link to you. You need to create something unique, something in demand and relevant to your niche and which is usable by YOUR users. If you can do this you will gain links naturally, how many will depend greatly on how unique and how demanded your article information is.

Perhaps your niche is in need of a tool, software, service or product. If you can fulfill this demand it can also be a great link bait, especially if your able to offer it free and the service is in high demand. Maybe you don’t realize that your niche is even in need of such a tool or service. Do some research and brainstorming, read blogs, forums and authority sites in your niche and discover a common resounding need… fulfill that need and you have discovered a VERY effective link bait.

I use a piece of software called Seo Elite to spy on my competitors and what link baits they are developing. I then use this data to outdo them. I highly recommend this software for this process is only… some of the other tools it offers have become outdated but it is well worth the price alone for its spy on competitors feature. Sometimes I find brilliant link bait ideas using Seo Elite and sometimes I find them by just brainstorming and following the above suggestions.

Again 1st Search Engine Rankings would love to help you develop a link bait idea. Feel free to contact us for help…

Links by Request 7/10- Perhaps the easiest to perform and yet the most discouraging is requesting links. It seems like very few people actually answer and far fewer will link to your site. This is the nature of this particular method however there are reasons why you might be doing even poorer than average. Here are some tips when you do link requesting in the future…

Here is THE method for requesting links:

Tell the webmaster who you are, what you have that is relevant to their audience, where they can find that relevant content, and why it’s relevant to their visitors.

Michael Martinez a writer for SeoMoz noted this as the only way he would accept a link request. I would have to agree, I will not consider a link request unless it offers me or my visitors something of value. I have had webmasters send me requests that I review their tools for them, some are so poorly written I never check out the product cause I feel that if you cannot write a good letter to me than your tool cannot be that great. Write me a great email explaining why it is so wonderful to ME and you have won my interest and I will look at it. Many link requests never entice the webmaster to even click the link…

Lastly on this method I highly recommend you sign your full name in a signature with your email, phone number and address… it makes you more personal. It has been shown to increase response greatly.

So do link requests still work? YES they do if they are done correctly. Above I quoted Michael Martinez. He wrote an article for SeoMoz entitled How to request links from picky sites – read that article and follow his advice. It is very good information and if you do follow it you will find it does work, sometimes very well.

Social Bookmarking 7/10 – While I don’t recommend this as direct method of obtaining links I recommend it as a method of gaining a web presence. It is the fastest way I know of letting people know about your great articles and if they agree on the usefulness of said articles then there is a very good chance you will gain links from them. So Social Bookmarking definitely has its place. I know some webmasters get 100K uniques a month just from social bookmarking sites, if your site is of tremendous value imagine the link bait power… if you develop great link baits with this kind of social bookmarking traffic you can gain 1000s of links.

Forum Posting and Blog Commenting 3/10 – this method has little link value but it does carry with it the great possibility of gaining a valuable reputation and authority in your niche. If you spend your time giving valuable advice(without spamming your links) then eventually people will discover who you are whether it be in a valid sig, via a profile link or just asking you via pm. They will come to respect you for giving your knowledge freely and will link to your site and recommend you as a authority. I rated it has 3/10 for its indirect link building benefits. But its far greater value is in the reputation you will gain.

Directory Submissions 2/10 – The problem with directory submissions is that the directories that are worth submitting to generally have a very high submission contrasted with a very low moderation rate. Which means it could be 6 months before your site is even reviewed let alone added. And those directories that aren’t so careful and who accept most “manual submissions” are worthless. DON’T submit to general directories, you will see no benefits from it. If you must go the directory submission route than find related directories with quality standards and submit your site.

Link Exchange 1/10- Does link exchange still work in Google? Yes it does but it is IMO one of last methods you should use, I don’t attempt it at all. I spend all my time working on developing link baits, requesting links and developing content on my site and I find after that I have no time for link exchanging. The worst thing about link exchanging is that you have to link back to get a link, that means that if you want to acquire 1000 links using the link exchange method than you need to find 1000 places to link back to sites. Thereby greatly devaluing the quality of your site and the value of a link on your site… also most sites that respond to link exchanges aren’t worth getting a link from. In fact I find it easier to get links via link request than asking for a link exchange. Webmasters are more readily willing to link to you for a great resource than to exchange links.

FFA or Free for all Links 0/10 – Free for all links have the same problem as free for all directories, they get filled with spam and then nobodies link is worth anything. Obviously if your resorting to FFA links you either don’t know about the other methods or your site is not good enough for the other methods… in which case if you can get a link on a FFA site then you can be sure a thousand other webmasters with equally worthless sites can do the same. Don’t even bother trying to get links from FFA sites. Don’t chase after links on “links” pages, as I said before, if they are easily acquired by you then it won’t be long before there will be a hundred other useless links on that page. And each time a new link appears on that page your link becomes less and less valuable. I rated this method 0/10 because I do not recommend it at all. Yes some links pages still pass some value but, as time goes on and more and more links appear on that page your link becomes more and more valueless… multiply this by the number of links page links you have and you can see how easily rankings can be lost.

#4. Make a splash… without scaring the fish
This is actually two parts… you want to be seen and recognized as an authority by THE authorities in your niche. This will help you build credence and loyalty. However you can get all the traffic in the world who love your content but they may not link to your site based on other factors… such as your stinking-blinking pop-up ads. This is the age of modern marvels, don’t use 90′s advertising on your site, stick to clean ads or none at all. It is better to build a large repeat visitor base then to make a few bucks now on ads. Ads can also be very counterproductive if your site is in the sales business as you may lose a sale due to an ad on your own site. Many times affiliate links will perform a thousand times better than your regular contextual ads. For instance for each dollar I make on adsense I make $100 in affiliate commissions. So where do you think most of my advertising is focused? Around affiliates… find affiliates who offer a tool, service or product you can recommend honestly and which you have tried and tested. You will sell more effectively because your readers will be able to tell you have a very well rounded understanding of what you are reviewing.

#5. Seo budgeting
It is a very good idea that you create a budget, it will help you keep a systematic approach to your campaign and keep things running smoothly. Budget link buying, whether it be direct paid links or payment for the acquisition of links. Decide whether or not you need to hire a seo/link buyer/consultant and factor this into your spending. Don’t overspend assuming you will soon have the money to pay it off, stay within your budget and you will make progress.

#6. Take advantage of a killer resource
I have seen some wicked link baits in my time and what surprised me about many of them was the lack of strategy around them. They were written/produced effectively as far as gaining popularity but the owner never received any real benefit from them. Make sure you are taking every step to monetize good content and resources on your site. I am not saying you should charge for it as that is generally less than effective. Instead try some affiliates, if you gain trust for integrity in your niche then you will be able to sell more easily. Put your link baits to good use so that the links they gain can acquire you more rankings. What good is a killer link bait which produces 20K links if they all have irrelevant anchor text… sure you’ll have a ton of link juice but a lot of wasted link value.

#7. User behavior and Analytics
While we are now aware that Google tracks user behavior on our websites(when they are able to do so) that is not what I am going to be talking about. Many webmasters fail to watch their own traffic, to analyze it and check user behavior. If you have an article which is gaining huge amounts of traffic but a great portion of that number is bouncing regularly, what is the problem? If you can determine the problem you may have solved the mystery to keeping these visitors and perhaps making some extra sales. That is however easier said than done…

If you want to use what I consider to be one of the best Analytics tool in the industry that would be Google Analytics however I don’t use their service anymore due to their factoring my user behavior statistics into ranking my site – instead I have found what I find to be a very competitive analytics tool which offers what Google Analytics does including some extra features which many of us webmasters demand, they offer all of this at a very reasonable price. Here is my review of Clicky Web 2.0 Analytics. You can use it effectively to track user behavior and find those trouble pages where you are getting large percentages of bounces. Don’t tell me you can’t afford analytics, you can’t afford NOT to have analytics.

Some webmasters can increase their conversions from 20-50% and sometimes as much as 80% just by checking their user behavior issues. It may be something as simple as a dead link or it could be much harder to diagnose but whatever it is due your best to check that problem. Clicky Web 2.0 Analytics also makes it very easy for me to check specific visitors from specific sources and determine how long they stayed at my article page before bouncing… this helps me determine whether the user/s theoretically read the article before exiting or if they exited very soon after entering the page. Why does this matter? Well if the majority of users read your article but still bounce then your article obviously either has done one of three things…

1. It has answered there question so they no longer need your site
2. It has not answered there question hence they are leaving
3. They found what they were looking for but you gave them no reason to stay on the site.

Many times you can keep users on your site you just need to figure out what will entice them to stay and continue through your site, whether your ultimate goal is to have a newsletter subscription or whether you are looking to make a sale… you need to do some research to fix these problems.

Analytics is also very effective in determining what campaigns are performing and which are not. Perhaps a certain link/ad you have purchased is sending a great deal of traffic but is performing very low in conversions. If you can’t find an on-site problem perhaps you should consider removing that link/ad from your campaign next month.

Keyword tracking is also very convenient with tools such as Clicky Web 2.0 Analytics as you can determine which keywords are converting best for you. Which are doing poorly and which are easiest to monetize, this information can be invaluable in future campaigns.

Action tracking can be very effective in determining not only what type of visitors but how many of them perform certain tasks on your site such as begin/finish an order, sign up for a newsletter, click an affiliate link, click ads, visit certain key pages etc. If you have a high percentage beginning an order but a low fulfillment than you should check for errors in your shopping cart system and annoying, useless and time consuming forms that would lose your buyers mid stream. If you have not implemented action tracking I highly suggest you do. It will help you keep your traffic and convert it into money.
One thing Clicky makes easy which Google Analytics did not is the ability to track off-site action tracking. This can be affiliate links, off-site order processing(paypal), off-site newsletter subscription etc… I think you get the picture.

I could go on and explain the benefits of Analytics but I have written several articles previously on this topic, please goto our archives and read these for reference.

This article is already getting pretty long. I struggle with the 10 step approaches, they are easy to create but I feel a lot of the meat is lost in those simple articles. So I tend to elaborate and do extensive descriptions of what I am talking about. I hope you appreciate the time I put into this article cause I can do a simple 10 step approach next time if you don’t :P

I didn’t list every last thing that doesn’t work, instead I tried to accurately present those steps that DO work. You can find previous articles discussing some of that or you can email us and ask us regarding specific seo questions and we will do our best to get back to you with the answers.

You can email me at randy[at]1st-rankings[dot]com and I will do my best to answer your questions.

Copyright © 2008, 1st-rankings Co in partnership with 1st Search Engine Rankings
This article may NOT be redistributed in any way, shape or form. If you would like to link to the article we would appreciate it but republication in part or in whole is strictly forbidden and 1st Search Engine Rankings will file legal suit due to any illegal reproduction of its content.

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22 Comments on this post


  1. Thoman said:

    Thanks for your sharing the tips.They are very helpful for our SEO.

    September 30th, 2008 at 3:18 am
  2. Lipsig Price said:

    Very Nice Information and Very Good Tips Thanks

    September 30th, 2008 at 4:47 am
  3. Karunakar Pokala said:

    Thanks for your nice article on SEO for beginners.

    September 30th, 2008 at 7:40 am
  4. Rienarry said:

    Bookmarked. :) lots of thanks for this great article.

    October 2nd, 2008 at 2:19 pm
  5. Shaukat said:

    Definitely an excellent guide for beginners. Great work!!

    October 2nd, 2008 at 2:35 pm
  6. mecozz said:

    Cool article!

    October 3rd, 2008 at 8:22 am
  7. Pushkar Gaikwad said:

    Woah, pretty big list …and Good effort indeed


    October 3rd, 2008 at 10:34 am
  8. Quality SEO experts said:

    This topic about How to get more traffic is a great information for beginners, Thank you for sharing this information. I know this will help a lot

    October 3rd, 2008 at 1:18 pm
  9. Bart said:

    great read .learned a lot thanks.

    October 3rd, 2008 at 3:42 pm
  10. Raina said:

    Great tips for the newbees. Thanks

    October 5th, 2008 at 5:55 pm
  11. Credit Helper said:

    Excellent tips. So easy to read but often so difficult to follow – at least until you figure out how necessary they all are!

    October 7th, 2008 at 3:24 am
  12. digital camera forum said:

    This is a very good and detailed list. Some of those suggestions I have never heard of, and I thought I knew a lot. I also like how you rated each popular suggestion with a 1 – 10 scale.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 7:47 pm
  13. visio said:

    My ratings were based on my experience, I have been involved in SEO for nearly 3 years. Have moderated one of the largest SEO forums in the industry and worked in various situations under different SEO strategies… so they are all based on my experience, what I have seen work and what doesn’t work.

    February 4th, 2009 at 7:08 pm
  14. Loda said:

    Really Fantastic words ,
    Good Work Randy
    i have got a lot of info :)

    February 21st, 2009 at 5:27 am
  15. WebHosting said:

    Hi there !
    Nice vision of things. SEO it`s in a continuous change and re definition. For a web-designer , or web-developer it`s vital nowdays to know the basics and principles of SEO . Best Regards , Albert !

    February 24th, 2009 at 7:36 am
  16. Drupal Development said:

    These are very good & beneficial tips for SEO methods…
    Grate Work…

    March 20th, 2009 at 11:36 am
  17. Egipat Letovanje said:

    Nice post Randy and thank you!I am just a rookie in SEO but with this post i will start to study more.Thx again!

    June 20th, 2009 at 5:40 pm
  18. Aditya said:

    Great work! Great tips on seo.

    July 8th, 2009 at 5:53 am
  19. funny flash games said:

    such a long article but much appreciated. lot of useful information. thanks :)

    July 13th, 2009 at 6:04 pm
  20. sasi said:

    Nice article given keyword tracking .. used in mioot live chat and tested

    July 27th, 2009 at 1:16 am
  21. 4_Reyes said:

    thank great guide
    looking for an advanced seo guide btw

    August 1st, 2009 at 4:27 am
  22. alice said:

    nice tips.going take help from these.lets see if I can utilise them and get success.

    August 15th, 2009 at 1:49 pm


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