Leaving Work Behind

5 Lessons Learned from My Failed Authority Blog Project

Written by Tom Ewer on August 29, 2013. 67 Comments

Failure

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently (tweet this).

~ Henry Ford

In my experience, a lot of people are under the impression that once you’ve “made it” as an entrepreneur (whatever that means), you stop making mistakes.

Well, I certainly haven’t. I’m probably making as many mistakes these days as I ever did. Fortunately, I’ve also had some success along the way to balance things out.

I don’t see failure as the enemy. Failure usually offers up huge learning opportunities. Furthermore, rarely is any failure a true “failure” in the literal sense of the word.

The failed project I am going to discuss in this post provides one such example of how beneficial failure can be. It has taught me an enormous amount and (to an extent) defined the direction of a major future project of mine. I for one am bizarrely happy that I was victim to such “failure.” Read on to find out why!

Recapping the One Hour Authority Site Project

The One Hour Authority Site Project was launched on 14th September 2012. At the center of the project was my authority site: Free Online Dating Advice.

FODA

It was originally intended as an experiment in producing content specifically for low-competition keywords in the hope of ranking for them without any backlinking necessary. When that experiment failed I decided to turn the site into a blog in the “traditional” sense, with a unique design, social media profiles and content that was more “bloggy.”

With a custom design and nearly 100 high-quality posts published, I consider Free Online Dating Advice a fantastic resource for anyone interested in online dating.

Not including this post I have written ten updates on the project here on LWB:

As you will see if you read through those posts, just about every aspect of my approach to the project has been documented in detail.

Just a few days ago, I decided to call time on the project. There were a number of reasons as to why I made this decision, but Free Online Dating is no longer an ongoing concern for me. I’m moving on.

In the twelve months or so that the project was ongoing, I learned a huge amount — mostly about what not to do when creating authority sites / blogs. Now I want to share those lessons with you.

1. Forget Google

I’m going to be frank about this: I am sick of talking about Google. Until I feel the need to feature another rant about search engine optimization, you are not likely to hear me talking about Google again.

Why? Because Google is unpredictable and still remarkably unsophisticated.

Glen Allsopp of ViperChill has recently written a bunch of posts on how Google still serves up low-quality results on the first page for popular keywords. To be honest, I do not have the inclination to keep up with the schemes of black hat scammers — especially when the efficacy of such schemes can shift from one day to the next.

But webmasters are not only fighting the scammers and spammers when attempting to rank — they’re also competing with bigger brands and budgets (regardless of the quality of the information on hand).

Consider for example the top five results on Google for the keyword “online dating advice”:

Google Top Five Results

On the face of it you could argue that these results are reasonable — they are all relevant articles published by well-known brands. But there’s more than meets the eye.

First of all, each of the above pages links to an article on a site that is not specifically related to online dating. It’s just one article. In fact, to call some of them “articles” is a stretch: Channel 4’s page is made up of nothing more than a collection of online dating tips totalling just 450 words.

Tips for Online Dating

Mmm…comprehensive.

So where does my site — with nearly 100 articles featuring online dating advice from experienced online daters — feature in the SERPs for the keyword “online dating advice”? Let’s see…

FODA Rankings

There it is! Ranked 104th, below awesome articles like top online dating tips men women and lazer-focused websites such as Romance Online Dating Sex Advice Horoscope.

I believe that in terms of both quantity and quality, my site should be on the top spot for the keyword “online dating advice”. I have worked hard to make sure that the content is informative, helpful and actionable. When a good friend of mine told me last week that she has started online dating, I didn’t hesitate to recommend it to her because I believe in what I have created.

Yet Google clearly disagrees. And I can see why by their parameters — the domain is less than a year old and there aren’t many backlinks pointing to the site. I’m not arguing against that. But I am arguing that Google consistently fails to rank the best content in the right places. And I’ve got no interest in playing their game.

Here’s how I see it: Google rankings come last. You create a great website, you work your ass off to get it in front of people, they start to link to it, and in time you get rankings in Google. At no point do you make a concerted effort to rank, but it will happen naturally. To engage in a focused effort to rank in Google above all other marketing strategies is to create an exercise in temporary success or total futility.

2. Only Write About What Other People Are Writing/Talking About

Online dating has come a long way in the past decade or so. It’s transformed from a closet interest into a mainstream activity. It is far less of a taboo than it was.

However, it is still something of a taboo. Although online dating is now a huge industry, you won’t find many high-quality online dating blogs out there. I would rank mine easily amongst the best, and thats with just ~100 articles published over twelve months or so.

However, competing with no one can be a bad thing. You see, bloggers typically thrive on reciprocation (not in the black hat Google sense, but in a real, organic sense). On LWB I’ll find an awesome blog post and link to it. Someone else will come across a post on LWB and link to it. These links spread across the web, then people browse from one blog to the next and stick to those that they like. It’s an effective system.

But if few people are actually talking about a topic (such as online dating), this “recycling” simply doesn’t happen.

Just do a quick search for “online dating blog” or even “dating blog” and you’ll see how woefully underserved the niche is. Far from this being an opportunity, it makes building an audience pretty damn hard. Unless you’re an SEO whizz and can rank for some decent keywords (let’s not go there again), your next obvious avenue is to reach out and network with other bloggers. If there aren’t any (or only a handful of questionable quality), you’re screwed.

I made a few connections in the dating/online dating niche and even had a couple of guest posts published. Those two guest posts sent me a grand total of nine visitors.

Furthermore, articles on online dating are not the kind of things that people will be keen to share. I said that online dating is less of a taboo, but it is definitely still taboo to an extent. While most people will admit that they are online dating, they’re not going to advertise it by sharing articles on online dating. If you want to build a successful blog, it helps if people actually want to share your content.

3. Be Exclusive

The first rule of failureThe common curse of the newbie blogger is to create a blog for everyone.

The best (or worst, depending upon your outlook) examples I see of this are those blogs that touch upon a number of broad topics. For example, a recent reader asked me to critique their blog on “Spirituality, Productivity and Personal Development.” What a confusing mess of topics.

In reality, successful bloggers should not only focus on a specific topic, but focus on a specific subset of people interested in that topic. To be vague in your approach is to melt into the background.

I made this mistake with Free Online Dating Advice. I didn’t make an online dating blog for men in their 30s or single mothers — I made an online dating blog for everyone. Because it was for everyone, it had a far smaller chance of resonating with anyone.

I’m showing how it should be done with my new blog, Healthy Enough. Here are some notes I have made relating to my target reader:

Target Reader

I got really specific with this — Healthy Enough is for a very particular type of person.

This will be to my benefit, as the above type of person will feel like the blog was made for him when he lands on it.

I’d like to make something clear though: being exclusive does not mean that you literally have to exclude everyone but your target audience. In an ideal world I would like everyone to love my blog, but that is not possible. So I’ve focused down on a subset, but in doing so, I will also be appealing to plenty of other people (both men and women) for whom the subject matter will still resonate with.

By targeting a specific type of person you include them wholly. However, you also include many other people partially — and that can be enough. For instance, a 25-year-old woman could match many of the above aspects of my target reader, and as such could still be interested in the blog.

This will result in a core audience of highly engaged visitors, surrounded by a much larger group of partially engaged visitors. Anyone else will bounce off your site, which is exactly what you want.

4. Create High Quality Content, Then Share It Liberally

The web is saturated with content. That means one thing: if you are going to make any kind of noise, you need to publish only your best content, then make sure that plenty of people see it.

If that means posting once per fortnight (or even less frequently) rather than twice per week, so be it.

A great example of how effective this can be comes courtesy of a blog called Forever Jobless. Its second post, How to Buy a Ferrari for $20k, has 240 comments, 143 Facebook likes and 40 tweets.

Forever Jobless

Not bad for a blog’s second post, right? It did so well because it was such a compelling post (bravo, Billy).

To go back to Healthy Enough again, that’s why at the time of writing I haven’t published a third blog post, despite my last post having been published eight days ago. I’m working on a post that requires a lot of research and a lot of work, and I’ll only publish it when I’m confident that people will get a lot of value out of it. Then I’ll spend the subsequent week sending it to everyone and anyone who I think could benefit from it or would be interested by it.

Derek Halpern put it really well in a recent article on Social Triggers:

If you spend time writing a piece of content, and that content only gets 1,000 readers, chances are there are one million other people in the world who can benefit from what you wrote.

Why, then, would you spend more time creating content when you already have something that your ideal customers can benefit from?

It’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more [content].

Or, in other words, create content 20% of the time. Spend the other 80% of the time promoting what you created.

Derek’s nailed it. If you truly spend four times as long promoting a piece of content as you did writing it, success is all but guaranteed (on the assumption that your content is suitably compelling).

5. Have a Striking Personality

Speaking of Derek, if you’re familiar with Social Triggers, you’ll know that he is a frank and (dare I say it) rather brash character. It works well for him, as it has for many others: Johnny B. Truant, Ashley Ambirge, Dave Navarro, et al.

I’m not saying you should be frank and brash, but you should be something. To blog without character is to serve up lifeless and uninspiring content. Even if you provide compelling content, if it reads like a college essay, the masses are unlikely to engage with it.

This is as much about clarifying who your target reader is as it is about not being afraid to be yourself. You’ll need to combine both pieces of the equation in order to create characterful content.

Let’s look yet again at Healthy Enough. The second post I wrote was 10 Ways You Know You Should Be a Healthy Enough Reader, and it pulled no punches.

The featured image and first line of the post is in itself enough to turn plenty of people off:

Healthy Enough

However, there are a group of people who will resonate with my (admittedly immature and slightly off the wall) personality. If you like pulling stupid faces, toilet humor and Family Guy (oh, and being healthy enough), you’ll love the blog. If you hate those things, you’ll hate the blog.

Dividing opinion with a strong character is part and parcel of building a successful blog. Leaving Work Behind has become a popular on the blog in part because I have always been utterly honest and forthcoming about both my success and my failures. I have promoted a personality of utter honesty and transparency (one that is rare in the “make money online” niche) and people have appreciated that. However, I’ve also published my fair share of forthright posts that not everyone agree with (such as this).

In short, don’t be afraid to piss a few people off. Just make sure that you’re also resonating with a bunch of other people.

So What Next?

In a beautiful stroke of irony, the day I finally decided to call it a day on Free Online Dating Advice was also the day when a new article on the blog hit the front page of Reddit, bringing in a few hundred visitors:

Clicky Analytics

However, that changed nothing. A blip of low-quality traffic wasn’t going to transform FODA’s fortunes.

At the time of writing I have a further nine posts (i.e. nine weeks’ worth) scheduled, so the site will actually rumble on for a while yet. After that, new content will cease and the site will be dormant.

I’m not going to do anything rash like shut it down — for those few people who actually come across the site, I hope they get a great deal of value from it. The published content is the result of a lot of hard work and I believe that it can help anyone interested in the world of online dating. But unless something drastic happens, FODA as an active project is over for good.

Healthy Enough has now taken FODA’s place as my active non-LWB project and I am seriously excited about its prospects. I feel like after just over two years of blogging, I am really starting to get a handle on what is really needed to create a highly successful blog. Most of what I have done with Leaving Work Behind has been trial and error — Healthy Enough is my opportunity to start from scratch and apply all of my experience from the very beginning.

If you have any questions or comments relating to my lessons learned from a failed authority site project, please do not hesitate to leave them in the comments section below!

Image Credits: Brett Jordan and Ilker.

The One Hour Authority Site Project: My Make or Break Strategy

Written by Tom Ewer on June 13, 2013. 31 Comments
Photo Credit: Kalexanderson

Photo Credit: Kalexanderson

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!

As my income has increased over the past few months and I have started making more than I ever have before, my attitude towards money has begun to shift.

I bought solid wood furniture for my new home office. I took my girlfriend to a very fancy (and rather expensive!) restaurant for her birthday. I paid someone to decorate my living room. These are all things I wouldn’t have done a couple of years ago. I would have shopped at Ikea, eaten at Frankie and Bennys and picked up a paintbrush.

You may be wondering what this has to do with my authority site project. Well, it’s related to my attitude towards money. Now that my business is profitable I have an opportunity, for the first time, to invest financially in my future success. And that is exactly what I plan on doing — I will be investing a sum of money in my authority site with the hope that it will offer me a return.

In this post I want to share exactly what my plans are in order to make this site a success. If it doesn’t work I will draw a line under this project and move on. If it does work then the potential for future growth could be huge (both with this project and others).

My Deadline

Just a couple of weeks ago I was floundering a bit. I had no direction.

What I needed was a deadline, as my friend Steve Scott told me in one of our mastermind meetings. He was totally right. I set myself a deadline for both my upcoming book and my authority site and my attitude towards the projects changed completely.

But how do you set a deadline for a blog? By their very nature blogs do not “finish,” do they?

Well, the deadline is intended to be an exercise in commercial viability. I have been working on my authority site (freeonlinedatingadvice.net) since September of last year, and in that time I have done a great deal of work and achieved very little. I have a site with over sixty articles, but no one is reading them.

So I decided that I would create an environment by which success was required in order for the project to move on. That’s what the deadline is about — if the site is unable to sustain itself (i.e. create an income that matches its outgoings) by my deadline, or at least shows the potential to do so, I will cut my losses and move on.

As I revealed in my last update, that deadline is Monday 12th August 2013. By then the site should be earning a minimum of $90 per month, which will enable me to hire writers on an ongoing basis to produce one post per week.

I am hoping that with the intensity of the project I will be able to surpass that goal comfortably, but I honestly have no idea of what the outcome will be. This is totally new ground for me.

My Budget

Once I had set my deadline I needed to define a budget — the amount of money I would invest in that time to give the project the best possible chance of success.

To be honest the budget is likely to be a bit of a moveable feast — I have no benchmark to compare against and no real idea as to what would be a sensible amount to invest. Provisionally I came up with a figure of $500, broken down as follows:

10x posts @ $20 = $200

10x guest posts @ $20 = $200

Infographic @ $100

I know one thing for certain — the budget will not go beyond $1,000. That is mental cutoff point at which I would have to draw a line. I don’t think expenditure will get that high though.

My Content Strategy

One of the things that had been holding me back from taking this project forward was a lack of time to produce new content. In reality I had become a bit burnt out from writing so many online dating articles.

However, that situation has now changed entirely. The content for my site is now in your hands — literally. In my last update I made a job offer to LWB readers and the response I got was far greater than I anticipated.

I received around thirty applications for the role of which many were really top quality. Although I had originally planned to hire just one writer, I ended up with three:

They will share writing responsibilities over the next eight weeks or so, with a schedule of 2-3 posts per week.

Not only that, I received guest posts from no less than seven other talented writers:

My sincere thanks go out to all of those who applied — it was a seriously tough decision narrowing the field down and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to pick from such a talented pool of writers.

My final choice of writers was led in part by a desire to have different “voices” on the blog, and I think I have achieved that. I’m really excited to see what Gina, Nick and Dave produce in the coming weeks.

My Marketing Strategy

I am delighted with future prospects for content on the site and have no doubt that my writers will produce great stuff. It is the marketing of the site that is the great unknown — will I be able to do enough of the right things over the next eight weeks to enable the site to break even?

Well, I certainly feel like I will be pulling out all the stops. My strategy will be based upon the advice contained within the awesome Point Blank SEO course, which I would recommend to anyone who wishes to boost the visibility of their site (both in the search engines and in general).

My approach will be made up of the following elements:

I will be spreading out this work over the coming weeks. My intended schedule is as follows:

The infographic is intended to be the coup de grâce — it will be sent out to every single website, blog and social media profile that I can dredge up in the niches of online dating, dating and relationships, women’s and men’s interests, and so on.

I have no doubt that I will think of additional tactics that I will implement as I go on as I am determined to give this site the best possible chance of success.

What Do You Think?

As always, I’d love to get your feedback on my plans. Do you think that I have a chance of success? Do you disagree with anything I have planned or do you have alternative and/or additional suggestions? Please let me know in the comments section below!

My Authority Site Revealed (Plus a Job Offer!)

Written by Tom Ewer on May 31, 2013. 41 Comments
Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: Dimitri C

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!

I tend to get a little itchy when I’m not regularly publishing case study posts here on Leaving Work Behind.

After all, this blog was built upon a foundation of case studies — whether it was my first niche site, my first authority site, my information product, or something else entirely. It’s an area I don’t like to neglect, and yet I have been over the past few months.

Well, that’s about to change. This post represents the resurrection of my One Hour Authority Site Project and will be the first of several upcoming case study posts here on LWB. As always, I will be giving you a front row seat on every aspect of my present and future projects — including both my successes and my failures. Read on to find out more!

My Authority Site Story to Date

I launched the One Hour Authority Site Project with ambitious intentions back in September 2012. From then until February 2013 I published nearly sixty posts optimized for extremely low competition keywords in an attempt to rank in Google without any backlinking. In short, it didn’t work — Google wasn’t interested.

With that first experiment behind me, I decided to build links to the site through a content marketing strategy based around guest posting. I revealed my planned strategy in a post, which was (briefly) as follows:

  1. Tweak the site’s design
  2. Publish some “bloggy” content
  3. Create a list of target posts to guest post for
  4. Comment on the top ten blogs in my list
  5. Guest post on each blog in my list
  6. Create and share an infographic

I got to (and completed) step four on my list before other commitments distracted me. Before long the site was all but abandoned, left in the shadow of other (more profitable) projects. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to give the site a fair chance; it’s just that life has got in the way.

But the fact is this: I still believe in the site. I believe that if more people were to find it, they would find the content genuinely helpful. I believe that it has the potential to generate an income. I just need to give it a proper chance.

Well, this post is my very public way of promising to give it the chance it deserves.

My New (Rough) Plan

The first thing I have done is set myself a deadline — a date upon which I will decide the site’s fate. That deadline is 12th August 2013.

At that time the site must be able to support itself (e.g. pay for a writer to regularly update it with fresh content) or demonstrate the potential to do so. If the site is not in that position by the deadline, I will cut my losses and move on. I believe that setting a deadline will allow me to better appreciate the task at hand and act accordingly.

Until then, I know I have my work cut out. The situation is complicated somewhat by my lack of available time — my freelance work coupled with this blog and the book I am currently working on (incidentally, you can expect a case study on that soon) takes up most of my working hours.

That is why I am turning to you.

I Am Looking for a Writer

Update 11th June 2013: please note that the writing positions have now been filled. Thank you to everyone who submitted a pitch!

While I am not typically in the habit of outsourcing, I am going to make an exception here. I want to give one promising freelance writer the opportunity to work with me in developing my authority site.

To put it simply, I want to find me, circa September 2011 — a hungry freelance writer who has raw talent but little experience. My offer to you is simple: the opportunity to earn some money and improve your blogging skills (and if the site takes off, who knows what else).

My initial plan is take a writer on board to write one article per week for the blog. I expect the job to expand from there but that is the baseline.

In short, I want someone who can take care of the content on the blog so I can take care of building links to the blog. Here’s my offer:

  1. A free copy of my guide to freelance writing (or a refund if you have already purchased it)
  2. A 30 minute Skype coaching call regarding your freelance business
  3. On the job training RE blogging best practice (i.e. headlines, style, structure, etc)
  4. $20 per post (500+ words)

I’m not just looking for any writer though; I’m looking for someone with very specific experience. Although I have been very keen to hide the identity of my authority site so far, I must now reveal it in the interests of explaining who I am looking for.

My Authority Site Revealed

So without further ado, cue the drum roll…my site is: freeonlinedatingadvice.net.

freeonlinedatingadvice.net

As someone who has dabbled in their fair share of online dating in the past (I met my girlfriend on Match), I thought the topic was both ideal for me to write about and also underserved in terms of quality content on the web. Furthermore, there are plenty of affiliate marketing opportunities with the commissions offered by the likes of Match and eHarmony.

My choice to reveal the site’s identity at this juncture is to make it clear what I am looking for in an ideal world: someone who has experience in online dating. That is my main consideration.

Of course, if no one comes forward with online dating experience I will have to to adjust my sights accordingly, so don’t feel put off if you are not an online casanova! I will consider all applications. Furthermore, if you do not think you suit the job but know someone that might, let them know or tweet a message out to your followers.

Here’s what I want from each applicant:

  1. A Pitch: i.e. why should I hire you?
  2. Samples: examples of your work.
  3. Headlines: three post ideas relating to topics that I have not already covered on the blog.

If nothing else this is an opportunity to test your pitching skills without fearing an unfriendly response — if you want me to critique your pitch then just mention it in your email; I’ll be happy to.

So what are you waiting for? Contact me now and let’s get the ball rolling!

Looking Forward

I’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of building “organic” links, so it is important that content is sorted out with relatively little involvement from me. I am also excited about the fact that I can help a budding freelancer develop their skills and nudge them in the right direction.

I hope you’ve got plenty to say in the comments section below. Now that the site has finally been revealed, perhaps you have thoughts on the viability of the niche I have chosen. Maybe you want to know more about the writing opportunity. Or perhaps you have a completely unrelated question. Whatever it may be, fire away in the comments section below — I’d love to hear from you!

My Authority Site’s Content Marketing Strategy Revealed

Written by Tom Ewer on February 21, 2013. 25 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!

Dice.Back in January I revealed my authority site’s plans for organic search engine optimization. Since then I have commented on related sites, had a few articles published on article marketing sites and have also created a couple of unique web 2.0 properties.

My work to date has had no discernable effect so far. While I don’t necessarily think this is an issue with the strategy — I’ve hardly been doing the process intensively enough to draw solid conclusions — my mind has been drawn to the efficiency of my efforts.

I have come to the conclusion that I could get better results in the same amount of time with an adjusted approach. In this post I am going to reveal the content marketing strategy for my authority site that I will be proceeding with immediately.

The Evolution of My Authority Site

For those of you who are new to the One Hour Authority Site Project, the overall aim is simple: to attract a consistent flow of traffic to an authority site with as little upfront and ongoing effort as possible. In effect I want to create passive traffic streams — quite different to the blogging medium, which requires ongoing input.

My approach to this project has been relaxed to date as I have used it as an experiment of sorts. First I wanted to see if I could rank pages in Google by targeting extremely low competition keywords using a brand new site with no backlinks. The answer was a resounding no. Stage two was to implement a conservative link building strategy based upon article marketing and web 2.0 sites, which is what I have been doing for the past few weeks. As I have already said, this strategy has had no discernable impact to date.

Stage three is “blog conversion.” This stage requires a lot of effort, including a complete redesign of the site and an ongoing commitment through social media and content production. As far as I am concerned, once you start blogging you can’t go back — the moment you cross that threshold, you are making a commitment to stick with the site. As I said in my post on the three stages of my authority site’s development:

…once you have a blog on the go, people will take note if you don’t post for a month. The same issue does not really arise when I’m still in stage 1 or 2.

I really don’t want to move to stage three unless it is absolutely necessary, as the whole idea of the project is to not have to commit too fully.

Finding a Compromise

In the past few days I think I have formulated a compromise in which I can get many of the benefits of committing to a blog format without actually diving in at the deep end. Most importantly, it will not require the establishment of social media profiles or involve a complete redesign.

My strategy is based upon a concentrated burst of activity followed by a period of observation in which I can gauge the results of my effort. Based upon those results I can then decide what to do next. The desired aim, quite simply, is to establish a base of consistent referrals via search engines and relevant websites.

There are seven steps to my strategy which I go through below.

Step 1: Tweak the Site’s Design

My site’s design is functional and intuitive. If you read the post on my site’s search engine optimized setup then you will know that it is a lightly modified version of the default WordPress Twenty Eleven theme. It is clean and simple, albeit not particularly eye-catching. In short — it’ll do for now.

However, I have decided to make one key change by adding a sidebar to the single post page. This means that people will be able to sign up to my email list and select categories from any post page.

I certainly could spend a lot more time working on the design, but in keeping with the theory of using my time efficiently, my logic is to start attracting the traffic first then react if engagement metrics are poor.

Step 2: Add “Bloggy” Content

As you will know if you read my post on my site’s search engine optimized content, my focus is on writing high-quality articles that are not overly optimized for search engines. In short, I want people to read and enjoy them.

However, the site is lacking a personal touch — you don’t really see any of “me” in it. As you will understand when you read through the rest of my strategy, this won’t work to my benefit. My site’s content needs to have a bit of personality — especially when you take into account the rather stark design.

Therefore, over the next few weeks I will be creating more “bloggy” content — stories, case studies and a biography of sorts as well. In doing this people who might consider linking to my site will see a much more “human” presence and theoretically be more inclined to send traffic my way.

Step 3: Build a List of Target Blogs

While creating my “bloggy” content I can start work on a list of blogs that I would like to attract links from. These will be blogs that are either directly or indirectly related to my niche. Each one will need to be active and regularly updated. Size won’t be so much of a concern as a healthy variety of links will certainly do no harm.

I’ll find these blogs in the good old-fashioned way: Google. I’ll start with simple search queries like “[my niche] blogs”, “best [my niche] blogs,” and so on. I’ll also search for related keywords from sites that Google would see as contextually related to my own.

Ideally I’ll have a list of at least ten top quality relevant blogs before I move onto the next step.

Step 4: Comment on the Top 10 Blogs in My List

This is the first step on getting on the radar of the bloggers that I plan to network with in the coming weeks. By leaving comments they’re not only more likely to recognize my name in the future and possibly even check out my site, I’ll get a free backlink to my site. Even if the link is no-follow, it does no harm in terms of diversity.

Each comment I leave will be thoughtful and insightful and I’ll comment with my name — not a keyword-loaded pseudonym.

Step 5: Guest Post on Each Blog

Once I have got my foot in the door, so to speak, my next step will be to submit guest posts to each of the blogs. I’ll do this even on blogs that don’t typically accept guest posts, as I can always re-use the article elsewhere if it isn’t accepted first time around.

I’ll take my usual approach of going straight in with a completed article rather than pitching something, in the hope that they will be more inclined to accept on the basis that I have already done the work.

Each guest post will result in a link back to an authoritative and contextually relevant my site. I’ll be careful to vary the anchor text accordingly and not always link back to my home page.

If you want to know more about guest posting then download my Kindle eBook on the subject.

Step 6: Create and Share an Infographic

Once I have had around ten guest posts published I should have established a decent relationship with a number of bloggers. I will seek to capitalize on this by publishing an infographic on my site and asking my new friends to share it and link to it from their own site. I hope that this will result in a number of fresh links and nice social signals (despite me having no social media presence).

The key will be to create something that is compelling and informative. I will probably spend a bit of money on getting a really nice design (something that I am terrible at).

What I Plan to Achieve

I estimate that the whole strategy will take me in the region of 20 hours over the next 4-6 weeks — a time commitment I can stomach for what is a highly speculative project. My hope is that the links from the guest posts, social sharing and so on will be enough to give my site a big of a kick up the backside in terms of Google rankings. At the moment my rankings are terrible:

Keyword rankings.

To be honest I am amazed that my rankings are so low despite the fact that my site has so few backlinks because the keywords I am targeting are extremely uncompetitive. Here’s an example (screenshot from Market Samurai):

Keyword competition.

I can’t help but think that with a few contextually relevant links to the homepage and other pages on the site that Google will sit up, take note and start moving me up the rankings. Whether or not this happens of course remains to be seen.

I’d love to know what you think about my adjusted approach and would especially like to read comments and criticisms — please let me know what you think in the comments section!

Photo Credit: darkmatter

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