Simple SEO

Simple SEO with the stats to prove

The simple SEO guide here will get you farther and for less effort than other guides. In this day and age, everyone should have a basic understanding of online marketing. I think it’s important because the new economy is more about personal branding than ever before.

Here’s how I built a site that went from 0 visits to 100K visits per month in 7-8 months while giving SEO very little thought and I didn’t pay for advertising.

Results and niche

The site in question was rocketbrainsurgeon.com, a strategy website around a game called World of Tanks. Articles were 700+ words long and included at least 2 images. Often there was an associated video that was hosted on YouTube. Content was released every weekday for 7 months.

Simple SEO with the stats to prove

According to Google Analytics, 41% of my traffic came from Organic Search. And I did very little to earn that traffic.

Understand how organic search works

“Where do you hide a dead body? On the second page of Google’s search results” – Funny joke, but true. 97% of searches don’t get to the second page. If your average position is over 10, it might as well not be ranked at all. Page one or bust.

Rank 1 in Google still means you’re not shown on the screen for some search results – Google didn’t get to be the gigantic company that it is by giving away things for free. Ads fill the screen for most searches. Realize that all the hard work you do on SEO can still mean that you don’t even show up without scrolling!

Users click on a search result within 3 seconds – There’s 1,000+ words on the page, how to users make a choice? By skimming. Google highlights the words the user typed into the search box and people click on the results that have the most highlighted words.

Content is devalued over time because people want recent search results and not something from 2003. So all that effort you put into getting Rank 1 for your keyword needs to be maintained. Forever. The second you stop is the second your results drop.

Personalization and Localization is huge – Search engines tailor results based on things you’ve searched before and where you are located. So two people doing the exact same search will get different results. Don’t be afraid to go niche, because there are lots of people out there who want very specific content just for them.

SEO is slow, subject to the whims of the search engines, and incredibly time intensive. This article exists so we can get the biggest impact for the least effort… which still equates to a ton of effort because that’s the reality of SEO.

Basics

SEO consists of three main ideas: finding keywords, content, and on-page optimization. People more familiar with the process will notice I omitted linkbuilding, which I’ll talk about later.

Finding keywords

Reduce your broad keyword to a niche. For example, “GoPro camera” is pretty broad. The search results page will be filled. But “GoPro travel camera” will be less competitive. And phrasing it as a question, “Is the GoPro camera good for travel?” will be even less occupied. Go small. You’ll rank better and get more clicks than trying to go broad. Using the above method got me 114 clicks and 3 affiliate conversions for half an hour of effort of writing the article. And counting.

Tips to find a good keyword:

Do a Google search, and then look at the results page.

  • Few to no ads (good)
  • The exact search phrase doesn’t appear in bold 50+ times (better)
  • The exact search phrase doesn’t appear often at all (best)

If you don’t see the exact phrase you typed in very much on the page, that’s a good keyword. Don’t stress out about how much volume this keyword gets. If the keyword is relevant to your business and you have exactly what they are looking for, there will be traffic.

But also don’t bend over backwards to get some weird phrase that no one uses. Think of normal, yet specific phrases relevant to your business.

Use the words your customers use!

Search engines are basically word-matching. If you don’t have the exact words your customers are using, you won’t show up! Don’t use business language.

Here’s how the business thinks vs a customer:

  • Business: “We offer the best in outdoor simulated driving experiences!”
  • Customer: “go-karts near me”

The business will never rank because when Google looks at your site for “go-karts”, it finds “simulated driving experience” instead.

On-Page optimization

Now that you have a keyword, you need to structure your page properly to make sure the search engines can see it.

General rules:

  • One page, one idea – don’t try to make one page do everything
  • Keyword goes at or near the start
  • Keyword remains the same in every element
  • Keyword is spelled correctly and in the same order each time
  • Textual content starts as high on the page as you can get it: NO BIG IMAGES PUSHING CONTENT DOWN

Place your keyword in the URL, title, meta description, hero image alt text, H1, and content of the page. That’s it!

Using this page as an example: “simple-seo” is in the URL, “Simple SEO” is the title, “simple SEO” is in the meta description, “simple SEO” is in the alt text of the image, “simple SEO” is in the H1, and in the first sentence of the content. There’s no huge image taking up the screen.

Linkbuilding

Linkbuilding is the practice of pointing links towards your site to give more credibility to search engines and thus getting a higher position in the search results. These are called “backlinks”. Backlinks are so important that people even go so far as to build fake websites specifically for the purpose of gaming this system.

So how do you do it? Simple. You don’t. The only links you are interested in are ones real humans actually follow. Instead of scouring the internet looking for some obscure directory with a high PageRank (Google’s “power” rating) and begging them for a link to your site, let your audience build backlinks for you.

If your content is good, it WILL be shared. It WILL be linked.

Share your content with your Facebook friends. Share it on social media. Share it on forums. Share it on Reddit. Share it on StumbleUpon. But only put links where it adds something to the conversation. Don’t spam.

“Content is king. Context is God.” – Gary Vaynerchuck

If no one shares your content, that means it sucks. No amount of spammy backlinks would have helped you anyway because once they got to your site, they’d just leave. That’s the most important point. If your content can’t convert people, it doesn’t matter one bit that you’re Rank 1 for that keyword. If you have good content, it converts. It builds backlinks on its’ own.

According to Google Analytics, referrals and social media shares made up 36% of my traffic. I put out only one link per day, in front of people who would be interested in what I had to say.

Linkbuilding: not even once. To back up my point on this, Google will declare that links bring little to no benefit to ranking. For them to come out and acknowledge this publicly means that links have been of low to zero value for some time before this.

Common misconceptions about search

“I can get you Rank 1 in Google!” – If an agency or product says this to you, RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN. The top ranking in the search engines doesn’t matter, you want quality traffic that converts.

How to get Rank 1 in Google:

  • Optimize for gibberish or an obscure phrase. Examples: “dfuaiopr3ewjdklafd878cc” or “Pinky rings enhance pickles while playing Call of Wartoads”
  • Wait
  • Boom: rank 1 on Google for a phrase no one is searching for

Or, pay for AdWords advertising to get Rank 1 in Google in less than an hour.

“Organic search is free” – nothing is further from the truth. Organic search takes a lot of time and effort. An article that took 8 hours to write may only gather 10 clicks a month, and one conversion per year. And that’s after waiting two months for it to get indexed and ranked.

Instead, in that 8 hours that took you to write it, you could have worked at McDonald’s for $10/hour, made $80, and gotten 160 clicks and 2 orders in a few hours from Facebook advertising. Then you could have put that profit towards more advertising and built your business from there.

Oh, and that was one article we were talking about. To get good at organic search, you’re going to need several pieces of content every week. Organic traffic is one of the most expensive ways you can possibly advertise because of the overwhelming amount of time it takes.

“I never click on ads” – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAH. People say this to me all the time, and it’s just not true. Even if you have ad blockers, you still click on ads. I click on ads. Advertising has changed, and what an “ad” can be is very fluid. The top organic results for Google might not have advertising on them directly (ie, clicking on them doesn’t give Google money for that click), but I guarantee you there’s a pile of money and effort behind that #1-3 ranking for a competitive keyword.

“Every page needs SEO” – Nope. While this page has basic SEO done to it (because it’s so easy), it’s not intended to gain traffic through organic search. It’s intended to be shared. Companies waste a lot of time SEO’ing pages that are never meant to generate traffic.

Most common failures

Poor keyword selection

Most people optimize for keywords where they have no chance, like “real estate agent”. Instead, get more specific. “real estate agent in Minneapolis” is better, but not perfect. “real estate agent in Minneapolis for single family homes” is what we’re looking for. Will something like that get a lot of traffic? No, but the traffic it does get has a high chance of conversion because it’s exactly what they are looking for. Getting 100 clicks and no conversions for the month is a failure, but getting 10 clicks and one conversion instead is a success.

Think small. Specific.

Very little content

The vast majority of businesses throw up a few pages and then never touch their site for a few years. And then they wonder why they aren’t getting traffic. You absolutely have to keep producing content if you want to rank well. Organic search is very time intensive if you want to compete for high volume keywords. Most companies discover very early that this isn’t what they signed up for and that they’d rather pay for traffic than earn traffic.

Short or copied content

An article must be 700 words or longer to rank effectively. It also must be unique. You can’t just copy from somewhere else, you have to sit down and write it. Don’t believe the people that say programs can write unique content that will evade search engines.

Summary

SEO is much easier than most people make it out to be. Yes there are things you can and should do to help search engines find your content. But it doesn’t replace great content. Spend your time creating content people love, and everything will grow from there.

Round the world trip top 10 and bottom 10 experiences

Croatia fun boat tour

We went around the world for 365 days exactly. Went to 17 countries in that time across South America, Oceania, South East Asia, and Europe. Here’s our top 10 and bottom 10 experiences.

Top 10 experiences, worst to first

10. Boat tour in Sibenik, Croatia

We met so many wonderful people on our trip that I could fill the top 10 with them alone.

Croatia fun boat tour
Guess who loves sunscreen, dark rooms, and keeping their shirt on?

The guy runs a boat tour service and the other girls are friends of his. They took us to their home for lunch and then out to swimming spots. We then went to a 16th century fort and jumped off of it into the water. If I hadn’t jumped out far enough, I’d have broken every bone in my body. Scary stuff. Good thing I had been drinking!

Related: this is the weirdest thing I’ve experienced in a 16th century fortress. They were just standing there rocking out.

9. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

angkor-wat

Easily the most impressive religious site we saw*. The ruins go on forever. Stupidly, we rented bikes and experienced dehydration in the 100 degree heat. A full day of biking and we only saw 1/4 of it.

*No Machu Picchu didn’t make this list. Pretty sure it doesn’t make my top 30. Don’t hate the messenger.

8. Robot Restaurant and walking around Tokyo’s red light district

robot-restaurant

Robot restaurant is an experience not unlike Cirque du Soliel. It’s a visual spectacle that you have never seen before and will never see again. A short video of a piece of it.

7. Oktoberfest

oktoberfest-dude-passed-out
People passed out in public have the name “beer corpses”.

At first it reminded me a lot of the Minnesota State Fair. Booths and tents and a pile of people. Then the madness starts as people start standing on tables and singing and pounding beer that only comes in one size: gigantic. Soon there are people passed out in the streets. Others are bleeding all over the pavement from fist fights. Despite all that, I still felt safe as there’s infinite police around during this time.

I’m not sure I’d go back, but for a one-time experience it was pretty great.

6. Cooking classes and EatWith.com meals

Both cooking classes and EatWith.com are great ways to meet and talk to locals and have authentic food. We did them in Tokyo, Istanbul, Myanmar, Thailand, Peru, Argentina, France, and Croatia.

The French guy above was telling a joke about how the French work hard. (Whoops, he was serious!)

5. Climbing a mountain over Delphi, Greece and hiking to a faraway cave

Delphi, Greece
Looking down from Delphi, Greece. They believed this was the center of the world.

The first part of the climb is up the mountain is the “stairway of death” where ancient Greeks threw deformed or sickly babies off a cliff. Once over the mountain, it’s a long walk to another mountain. At the top of this mountain is a cave where they held orgies in celebration of the hedonistic god Pan*. The whole trek takes 8 hours.

*No orgies this day

4. Hot air balloon ride over Bagan, Myanmar

inflating balloon

Expensive at ~$600 USD for two people in a group ride, but absolutely worth it. Bagan is an area with thousands of temples. The ride at dawn was just magic.

3. Swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos islands, Ecuador

I was chased off by a male protecting his harem. Those are HIS bitches! A male is only head of the harem for a few days. It’s hard defending all day and sexxing all night.

It’s also quite the shock coming up from swimming to be face-to-face with a sea lion sunning himself on a dock.

2. Discovering kebab

kebab

The fast food of Europe is kebab. It’s slow roasted, shaved lamb with lettuce, carrots, and other fixings or sauces. It tastes great and is actually healthy. To find it in the US, go to a Greek restaurant and order “gyros”. Don’t try the fast food chain Dino’s Gyros because that crap is terrible and terrible for you.

1. SCUBA diving the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Australia

clouds of life
Our divemaster gets lost in a cloud of life as thousands of fish spring from the reef

Imagine yourself in a zoo playing with the animals. Then imagine you and all the animals are tripping and you’re floating through space and time in a dream-state. That’s the closest I can get.

Get certified while diving abroad.

night diving coral
Several of us shining light on a coral while night diving in Thailand

Bottom 10 experiences

No I didn’t like that place that’s your total favorite. Please get all worked up and spend time typing a long response to someone over the internet you’ve never met. Then delete said response and get on with your life. Thanks.

10. Graffiti all across Europe

Europe, you’ve lost your spray paint privileges. Your cities are incredibly ugly due to this mess. It’s unreal how pervasive it is. A random shack in the middle of a field 50 miles out of town will have spray paint on it too. If someone tries to remove the paint or put up an artful spray, it’s scribbled over by assholes. The entire continent has just given up trying to fight it.

MISSING: a picture because your cities are fugly

9. French cuisine

beef-tartar

This is beef tartar. It’s a baseball sized piece of raw hamburger on a plate. You can tell it’s gourmet by the knife marks they hastily put in it. “French fries” are called as such because the French have no other side dish. It’s almost always fries, and they are usually the limp greasy ones and not good. The only good meal we had was in an EatWith dinner. Everything else was just mediocre bar food.

8. Paris, the city of urine, scammers, and thieves

Paris looks nice on the movie screen because you can’t smell the horrible stench of hobo piss that pervades the city. Movies also don’t show the graffiti that covers everything. Walking into a subway, the smell of urine nearly knocks you backward. The smell comes from the hordes of homeless peeing everywhere. Don’t want to see unwashed hobo penis? Too bad, it’s going to happen. How’d this city gain the reputation of being romantic?

7. Buenos Aires, the city of dog poop

buenos-aires-poop
You *could* click for large, but I’d recommend against it.

This is the most Buenos Aires picture I could take. Dog crap capital of the world.

6. Experiencing Peru’s modern day slavery

Peruvians are poor by any metric. But even they have full-time maids and childcare because the Quechua (local indigenous people similar to Native Americans) are even poorer yet. Imagine someone in the US making $15K/year having a full-time maid who takes care of the children, and you get the idea. Quechua build their homes out of mud. Their ovens are made of mud too. They still use aqueducts made by the Inca and farming practices used thousands of years ago. Oxen yoke you literally see in museums about ancient cultures long extinct. We visited people making clay shingles for houses. Their “tools” were an old construction worker’s helmet they were using for a pail and a few boards nailed together. Shovels were simply their hands. 12 hour days in the blistering sun.

5. Smoking in Europe

The cities are filled with the litter from smoking. Trying to enjoy your meal is nearly impossible as people light up all around you. Smokers: you are assholes.

4. Myanmar cuisine

burmese-food
Looks fine. Tastes atrocious.

Fish sauce is used a lot in SEA, but the Burmese take it to a new level. They put it on everything. And this fish sauce smells and tastes like 3 day old, sitting in the sun, rotting fish. So your eggplant will taste like rotting fish. So will your rice. So will the chicken. Don’t like the taste of rotting fish? You came to the wrong country, bro.

3. Food poisoning in Pai, Thailand

We spent a week laying on the concrete floor of a moldy, wet-bathroom while spewing liquid out of every orifice. The worst part about food poisoning is that you can’t sleep. There’s a persistent pain in your kidneys that prevents it.

2. Disney Paris

The rides were decades out of date. The park was very dirty and smelly, largely due to all the smoking in the park (technically smoking is limited to certain areas, but no one cares or enforces it). And the worst part was that half the rides close for lunch and dinner because the French need their 2 hour lunch and dinner breaks. This kills the fast pass system and greatly increases the wait time for rides.

paris-disney-disappointment

This picture was after the park’s final kick in the nuts, where all we could do is laugh. The 5 other Magic Kingdoms around the world end the day with a light parade that’s quite spectacular. So we waited for 30 minutes for the parade to come around. It was Elsa and Cinderella in a horse-drawn buggy, waving to the crowd. The look on the children’s faces behind us tell the whole story. 7 years old and already dead inside.

1. Pai, Thailand in general

pai-thailand-sucks

A cute little Thai town was destroyed by Western failures looking for a cheap place to get drunk.