Leaving Work Behind

Organic Search Engine Optimization: How I’m Doing It

Written by Tom Ewer on January 10, 2013. 28 Comments

The following is part of an ongoing series, The One Hour Authority Site Project. If you’d like to read more about it then click here!

The best SEO is organic and costs nothing to do (tweet this)

Padlock and chainSince I started with my authority site back in September 2012, my aim has been for it to be a case study in producing a successful website without having to resort to blatant “black hat” techniques. That aim remains the same as I advance into the SEO stage of my project.

My approach to date has been carefully considered and measured, and I intend for that to also be the case with what is one of the most pivotal strategies in attracting traffic. SEO can be a minefield — I have certainly been burned before — which is why I have decided to take what I consider to be a completely “organic” approach.

For the complete lowdown on everything I plan to do to get my site ranked in Google, read on!

There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!

What is Organic Search Engine Optimization?

The word “organic” has multiple meanings in the English language, but in the context of SEO we are interested in just two of them:

  • Denoting or characterized by a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole.
  • Characterized by gradual or natural development: the organic growth of community projects.

This is how I define organic search engine optimization:

A gradual development of links that point to a contextually relevant site in a natural manner.

Ultimately, I intend to stick to one key concept — building links that align with what Google wants, rather than how its algorithm currently works. The idea is for effective, future-proofed and risk-free SEO.

The Source of My SEO Inspiration

At various times in the last six months or so I have added SEO ideas to a folder in my Evernote. My list gradually grew without the pressure of “needing” to devise a strategy overnight, and by December I was pretty happy with my collection of ideas.

Point Blank SEOHowever, my eyes were well and truly opened when I got my hands on a copy of Point Blank SEO — an SEO course devised by a chap called Jon Cooper. The course was initially introduced to me by Spencer Haws of Niche Pursuits.

I devoured the course within a few hours and was able to develop my ideas list even further. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking for an exhaustive guide on search engine optimization, Point Blank SEO is it — I was seriously impressed.

With the brainstorming period over, it was then just a case of putting my ideas in some sort of coherent order and presenting them to you!

My Organic SEO Strategy

Phase one of my strategy (i.e. what I am covering in this post) represents all of the link building ideas I have that can be done to a site that is not yet ready for “mainstream” exposure. By this I mean that I don’t want to represent this site as a fully-formed blog to other bloggers in my niche — it needs some design work and social media accounts to get to that stage.

This is very much a link building (as opposed to “curating”) stage. Whilst I may engage in the likes of email outreach and guest posting in the future, my approach for the time being will be relatively limited.

Another thing to bear in mind is that my SEO strategy costs nothing to implement. I am relying upon no special software or link building automation services. It’s just me and my keyboard.

So let’s take a closer look at each link building method I will be engaging in.

Directory Submissions

This is an easy way to build some low-value links to your site. There are a huge number of directory sites out there and Point Blank SEO seemingly has a list of all of them, sortable by PageRank. Some examples include:

The key is in building relevant links to relatively high-quality sites. I’m not going to submit my site to 100 directories — more like a handful that have particularly appropriate categories for my site.

Blog Commenting

Blog commenting is a popular pastime of black hat SEO spammers, but my method will be far apart from theirs.

I have built up and fed into my RSS reader a long list of blogs that are directly related to my niche. I will check through new posts regularly and comment whenever I feel that I have something valuable to add. The anchor text will be my name rather than the domain’s name, in order to keep it natural.

Some (or many) of the comments will be nofollow, but that doesn’t concern me — a few nofollow posts will add variety to my backlinks portfolio. This method will also serve as a subtle way of introducing myself to my niche’s blogging audience.

Web 2.0 Sites

As with blog commenting, building web 2.0 sites is a mainstay of black hat SEOs. However, I plan to take a totally value added approach to my web 2.0 sites and establish them as worthwhile resources of their own.

I currently have an assortment of ideas for different Web 2.0 sites:

As you can see, each site is unique and offers something of value to people who are interested in my niche.

This is an area in which I intend to do a lot of work, and I will do it all myself to begin with. I might outsource it in the future if I could so whilst maintaining the quality of the content, but that’s not something I’m thinking about currently. I’m not going to make the same mistakes that I did with my mass niche site project.

Forums and Q&A Sites

I intend to take the same “quality responses only” approach to forums and Q&A sites as with blog commenting. I will browse relevant forums and Q&A sites and offer my advice when it seems pertinent to do so. Popular Q&A sites include:

I will try to target forums that allow you to include a website within your profile (and preferably within your signature) and Q&A sites that allow you to list a source (which would of course be my site).

Article Marketing

This is yet another celebrated black hat SEO strategy, but as with the others, I will be taking a far more measured and value-added approach.

I will add unique articles to what I consider the top article directories:

These will be rewritten versions of the best posts on my site.

A Bunch More Random Links

The Point Blank SEO course includes a huge list of assorted link opportunities, so I’ll no doubt be tapping that for relatively high-quality links that I can point towards my site.

Principles to Abide By

There are a few things that I will bear in mind as I build these links:

Finally, I must remember that patience is a virtue when it comes to SEO — this is a long play and it may take time for results to develop. As such, I am committing to this course of action for no less than two months. If I think of additional interesting link building ideas in that time I will of course consider integrating them into the strategy, but I won’t formally take stock of the results until two months have passed.

That’s It!

Above is the sum total of my phase 1 plan for search engine optimization. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear certain internet marketers scoff at it, but given that the articles I have written on my site target extremely low-quality keywords, I am confident that I will see positive results.

It remains to be seen whether or not this approach to link building will be sufficient for my ambitions. I suspect that it won’t be, but only time will tell. One step at a time. One thing is of course for sure — if I am successful in my efforts, I will be sure to give you a comprehensive guide as to what exactly I did.

Now I’d like to pass the discussion over to you — I’d love to know what you think of my ideas. Please fire away in the comments section!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Darwin Bell

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28 Responses to “Organic Search Engine Optimization: How I’m Doing It”

  1. Tory
    January 11, 2013 at 1:23 am

    Creating links to improve your search results is in itself crossing the line from white hat to black, but with that being said, it’s semantics and I understand what you’re trying to do here. 🙂

    If I could offer a few quick strategies that you didn’t mention here that have been working well on my personal and client sites (for links and real traffic), it would be:

    1) Certainly you’ll want to incorporate social signals. Use the free service JustRetweet and get real retweets, fb likes and plus ones for all your sites articles. Takes just minutes day.

    2) Use PiktoChart and create a free Infographic to put on your site and then submit it to Infographic directories and spread it through your social channels. Could even go viral.

    3) Use powerpoint and turn your sites articles into quick videos to upload to YouTube, etc. I do this all the time and have my wife narrate them. 🙂

    Good luck buddy!


    • Tom Ewer
      January 11, 2013 at 1:57 am

      Hey Tory,

      Long time no speak — Happy New Year! I was wondering if you would surface in this post 😉

      I’m glad you get the gist rather than focusing on semantics — you’re absolutely right (and I’m inferring from your comment here) that one could argue against my tactics being “organic”, but why don’t we talk about more interesting things? 🙂

      In response to your suggestions:

      1. You know what, I’d completely ignored social because I had decided not to produce my own social media profiles for this website (for now), and somehow that led to me ignoring any kind of social strategy. I’ll check JustRetweet out now — cheers!

      2. Excellent idea (minus the social channels — I won’t have them ;-)) — I’ll look into that too. I’m graphically challenged but if the service can do a good enough job for me then I have some ideas for infographics.

      3. Have you got some examples of this that I could check out?

      Thanks for all the suggestions!


      • Tory
        January 11, 2013 at 2:13 am

        Happy New Year to you too! Let me gather some info and I’ll email it to you. I had a question actually that I’ve been meaning to ask you anyways. Talk soon.

    • Lis D
      January 11, 2013 at 8:11 am

      Great tip for PiktoChart! I’ve used Easel.ly once (in the beta stages so it was a bit clunky) and good old Photoshop (which takes forever) so anything to make it much, much quicker sounds like a grand idea! PiktoChart looks great, I’ll have to have a peek around and see what I can come up with. Thank you!

      Good luck Tom! I’ve watched you (mostly silently, in a non stalkerish way I promise!) for a year now and you’ve done superbly well! 🙂

  2. Dennis
    January 11, 2013 at 4:44 am

    I’ve never really understood the Article Marketing. Google wants us to add value to the internet. Article Marketing adds links to your site, but does anyone read those articles? If your article is unique and adds value, it should be on your own site. Or, if you want to spread your value out beyond your site AND get backlinks, wouldn’t the real white-hat technique be guest blog posts that add value to others in your niche?

    Troy’s point about video marketing is very real. If you approach videos with the same white-hat techniques as you want to with your blog post marketing, you’ll definitely win in the long run. Video SEO is a few years behind text SEO and you, by taking the high road, will be way ahead of everyone when the SEO landscape tightens. Remember: Google wants value-added content. Do that in video for long-serving success!

    I’ve been using video more and more. In fact, I’m starting to do more video than writing simply because it’s becoming a much easier workflow with practice. Due to the nature of my day job (military commitment), my online adventures are only part time and I can do it much more efficiently with video.

    Disclaimer: What I know about SEO is mostly a combination of implementing good practices (behind the scenes…video example: write your own closed captioning/transcript) and what has worked for me (adding video, commenting/guest posting on competitor sites, etc). I can afford to ignore some SEO practices that I feel “dirty” my hands a little too much because sites are more for fun than profit…though I don’t complain about the profit!

    • Tom Ewer
      January 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm

      Hi Dennis,

      Put simply, article marketing can be as trashy or as high quality as you want it to be (in terms of the content). If you have a great article you might choose to put it on EzineArticles.com in the hope of it being syndicated. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t article marketing is a way of building quality links — but it’s another string to your bow.

      I’m definitely keen on video — it’s something I’ve thought about for this site from the start. However, I’m not ready to take the leap yet.

      The point with this case study is to take things step by step and see how each strategy benefits (or doesn’t) my rankings. So we start with the above and see how things go 🙂



  3. Travis
    January 11, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Organic link building — the bane of the “get rich quick” crowd. How admirable of you, my friend!

    Obviously you’ll be spending a lot of time creating each of these backlinks. However, once you’ve created the Posterous and Tumblr curation sites, is that then on auto pilot? Or do you still have to manually add the content? (Wow…I sound like one of those lazy marketers, don’t I? 😉 )

    I was also wondering if you are utilizing any video content in your strategy? If so, where?

    • Tom Ewer
      January 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Hi Travis,

      I will be continuously updating these sites for the foreseeable future. That may sound labour-intensive but I think it’ll be a pretty quick process once everything is set up. I can schedule stuff out for a few weeks and ignore one site for that period, and keep cycling.

      No video content — yet. If things go well it’s bound to be something I’ll branch out into.



  4. Charley
    January 11, 2013 at 10:39 am

    You were initially disinclined to acquire backlinks yourself, but not that you’ve embraced the importance of backlinks and therefore reality, welcome to the world of SEO. You have a viable strategy outlined above.

    • Tom Ewer
      January 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      Hi Charley,

      You occasionally have a way of phrasing things in a way that could be inferred as patronising but I’m sure you don’t mean it that way 😉

      I’ve always been well aware of the importance of backlinks — the point of the first phase of this project was to see if I could get a foothold in Google without building any. I’ve demonstrated that not to be the case, so now it’s time to move onto link building.



  5. Dustin Small
    January 12, 2013 at 2:50 am

    Hi Tom, I’m curious why you are opposed to creating social profiles right away. It takes very little time to setup — at least for the “big 3”, and although you won’t get many hits right away, it does take quite a while to build a following so it’s good to start early. Is there a specific reason why you’re holding off? Just the time factor maybe?

    • Tom Ewer
      January 12, 2013 at 4:01 am

      Hi Dustin,

      Two reasons:

      1. I’m doing this stage by stage as a means of determining how easy it is to rank in Google with the minimum amount of ongoing effort.
      2. Time is definitely a factor — I’ll only get involved in the social media side of things if I decided to turn it into a fully-fledged blog.



  6. Bree
    January 14, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Hi, Tom,

    Thanks for being brutally honest with your audience about whether or not your phase one will work – I’m sure this is why so many people enjoy reading your site and continue to stick with you through your journeys!

    Though I think I agree with you that this phase may not produce any substantial results, I’m still very curious to see how it turns out, and I appreciate the organic approach you’re taking. As I prepare my blog for release, I too am realizing organic is the best way to go and even though it’s the slowest, it usually seems to produce the best results in the long-run.


  7. Vi
    January 15, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Did you submit your site to ODP ? It seems they don’t accept any new sites. I submitted mine couple times in three years but never got any response.

    • Nina
      January 31, 2013 at 11:54 am

      I’ve tried several different sites over the past 6 years and never had any luck with this.. I can’t understand why Google includes this outdated, horrible looking directory anymore anyway

  8. Nicolas
    January 15, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Thats a list I will definitely keep in mind and try to use some items…
    But the truth is, there are so many ways to explore that I feel a bit overwhelmed – and i’m only doing this on my free time so I guess I should focus on the 20% that could give me 80% of the results.
    Knowing i’m also going social (twitter, fb, …) and planning to have some guests posts, what should I put my effort on : guests posting, or one of the thing you mention above?

    • Nina
      January 31, 2013 at 11:56 am

      I think the key to successful SEO is having great diversity in the backlinks you create. So if you’re doing this over a period of years I think you can’t have too many different ideas to work with.

  9. Joe
    January 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    This seems like the safest approach. Are you going to do any YouTube videos for backlinking purposes?


  10. Slavko Desik
    January 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    The link building part is something that almost crossed the line in terms of being excessively and not appropriately used. But alas, it is what it is. This post is great in terms of refining and strengthening the link building strategies. I especially respect the principles which you outline at the end. That being said, I favor the organic adjective attached to SEO.

    Though I realize that this is a post centered on link building above all, and here is not the place to discuss SEO in a broader sense, I must say that SEO tends to be more user experience oriented. And Google favors such a route being taken.
    Point blank is probably the single most creative place on the net for doing link building in the true sense of the term (or at least how it is supposed to be done), but I would strongly recommend following SEOmoz as to grasp a better picture of the ever-evolving SEO landscape (Rand made what is probably one of the biggest statements in SEO recently with his Whiteboard Friday video on “the dead of anchor text” /not the actual title/ )

    For that purpose I also recommend reading “the art of SEO”, which influenced me to direct all of my SEO efforts towards user experience first and foremost. I love how you point that part in your link building strategy. Organic- you used the perfect word.

    • Tom Ewer
      January 15, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      Hey Slavko,

      Thanks for the comment and suggestions!

      I am an ardent SEOmoz fan and have in fact seen that video you refer to. I am all about the user experience which is why I have concentrated on producing top-quality content for the site and now want to follow that up with link building practices that do not add more junk to the web.

      Appreciate your support 🙂



  11. Nina
    January 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Tom, I found your blog a few days ago and have been devouring the information here for a few days. I find it exceptionally informative and useful. I love that you have so many links to other resources and information you’ve found useful and will definitely be trying the Point Blank SEO.

    Your posts also relevant for me because I started my authority website exactly a month ago, so I’m researching pretty much the same things as you are right now. My niche has medium competition so I’m working on my site with quality in mind above all else.

  12. J Munro
    April 27, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Hi Tom,

    I’ve also been devouring your blog & am very much looking forward to seeing where this goes. I’ve got a couple of websites that I use to get actual freelance work but have decided to set up an authority site simply because of all the requests for advice that I keep getting.

    I’m also going to chime in about video marketing. I discovered quite by accident that it brings huge traffic to one of my sites. I was testing out the video recording software ‘Jing’ & uploaded the video to YouTube just because it seemed a waste not to (It was a video talking you through an Excel spreadsheet I’d designed to categorise your expenses). so far it’s had 11.5k views and, because I offer the template as a free download, it’s been downloaded 800 times so the hits to my site have also shot up.

    These people don’t want the service I offer (CV writing, but those clients find me using local search terms) but it’s really helped my traffic & made me £30 in Adsense earnings as well. Not bad for a little screen recording I made sitting on the floor in my back bedroom. I only did 2 takes & I already had the content so it was minimum effort for quite a valuable return. I’m certainly going to be using this method again for my new project.

    Thank you for posting up such useful free content (I’ve bought your E-book by the way & subscribe to you via Feedly) & may I also mention that I love the UI & clean design of your site; it’s lovely.

    • Tom Ewer
      April 27, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Hey J,

      Interesting! I’ve just started a blog that will chart my progress with P90X (p90xjournal.net) and I plan to shoot a lot of video for that. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes…



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