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It’s gotten a lot harder to rank in Google but it’s still doable. And because it’s still doable, I’m sitting on my laptop right now writing you this exclusive SEO report. (By the way, this really is a one-of-a-kind deal. The people at SEMRush have been good to me so I wanted to hook them up.)
There are multiple layers to ranking well in Google now, you have to have a dynamic and flexible outlook on improving your SEO. Gone are the days where you could be a caveman ala “ME BUY LINKS, ME GET ANCHOR TEXT, ME RANK #1 NOW AND MAKE LOTS OF MONEY HAHAHA.”
In this May 2014 SEO report, I will offer my latest and greatest SEO gold nuggets of information.
Critical Update: Word on the street is a massive algorithm chance is coming quickly. The gist of the rumors is anchor text links are out and any low quality link residue will doc you. Also, supposedly the new algorithm will look to hammer out links from non-related sites. This is all hearsay but my experience and intuition tell me the anchor text days are coming to a rapid close.
Who Am I?
I’m known via my Amazon ebooks as Von Money. Obviously, that’s not my real name but I prefer to stay low key when possible. I love making money online. As such, I like to experiment and play with stuff to see what works, what can be exploited, etc.
These experiments lead to the SEO Leo and SEO Gold Kindle books on Amazon. Before Penguin, Panda, etc. I knew SEO like everyone else knew SEO: Build anchor text back links and count your money. After that stopped working, I gave up on Google for a long time before I eventually came back around and started experimenting. The result of the experimenting was first SEO Leo (guerilla warfare tactics for ranking) and then SEO Gold (ranking your actual site).
I’m not an SEO wizard. I don’t know how to build SEO Wordpress themes and I can’t rank for mega keywords. Think of me more as a guy who experimented and case studied until he found some stuff that worked for him in low to medium competition niches.
9 Specific Tips to Ranking Better in Google
#1 Your domain is extremely, extremely important to ranking. If you brand yourself as your keywords, it’s a beautiful thing because Google will confuse you with your keywords as soon as they deem you to be a legitimate site (usually takes 6 months+). Furthermore, you’ll gain even more search benefits for long tail keywords.
You actually want to make your domain as compact as humanly possible. I recommend one to two base keywords. And yes, if you’re serious about ranking, it’s worth it to buy a one-word domain.
The best example I can give you is Lawyers.com. Because they’ve branded the term lawyers, they show up for just about any search with “lawyers” in it. Try searching any US city + lawyers. I just typed in New York lawyers and they showed up #2.
A strong 1-2 keyword base will go a long, long way. BestBuy.com is another example of a beautiful keyword base. Best and Buy are money keywords and BestBuy shows up for a ton of great searches. For example, they show up as #1 for buy laptop.
The longer your domain gets, the less powerful it becomes because Google is more likely to see someone else as trumping you. They’re the brand; you’re just someone copying the brand.
Example: Let’s say you want to rank for “Godaddy web hosting”. You can buy GodaddyWebhosting.net (TM infringement btw) but it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever outrank Godaddy. Why? Because Godaddy has the all-important keyword base and thus any searches including “Godaddy” will be seen as someone looking for a subpage of Godaddy, not a general keyword search. This applies to generic domains just like it does brandables.
Get the shortest cutoff base possible. It gives you more possibilities and stronger rank for anything including your keyword(s).
#2 Get a strong SEO theme. The Wordpress theme you use really does matter in getting results. The one I go with after an hour of research is StudioPress. It’s got a Plain Jane look out of the box but how can you not love that it’s created by Yoast?
I use a manipulated version of the StudioPress basic theme (Genesis Framework). It’s light. It loads fast. I know it’s optimized. I don’t have to worry about the code. With what’s at stake with SEO, it’s worth it to go legit and get the top of the line so you don’t have to worry about anything else. Start with a strong foundation and go from there.
Thesis is really good too (also looks better) but I talked to people that use it and it sounds more difficult to make customizations. I went with the one created by Yoast. The guy obviously knows his stuff so after looking everything over, I went with the sure thing.
#3 Take advantage of free backlinks. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube - they’re all free. So are Tumblr, Weebly, and Live Journal. So are YellowPages, Yelp, and Merchant Circle. And there are even more if you keep looking.
These are natural looking (the blogs are naturalish), quality free links you can grab over the next couple of weeks. I strongly urge you to not use anchor text links. Just get a URL link and you’ll instantly strengthen your site.
#4 Don’t Rush SEO. Your first wave of search engine optimization should always be on-page. Sure you can set up your social account links but don’t go crazy gathering links because it won’t work.
I sense Google has every new site set to slow by default. I’ve tried many times with many different sites in all sorts of niches. Even with zero competition keywords and an EMD, it’s hard to get on page one.
My SEO philosophy as of 6/1/14 is you should wait at least a month before trying to consciously build backlinks. Build up your content and number of pages first and then try to slowly drop a few backlinks.
I haven’t been able to do it and I haven’t seen anybody else be able to do it (rank well fast). Google now thwarts people just by testing their patience.
If you start with a new domain, it’s going to be at least, at least 3-4 months before you can rank in the top 5 for your primary homepage keywords (assuming they’re worthwhile).
#5 Buy aged sites. If you can buy an aged site in Google and work around the general site theme, that’s 20x better than starting with a new domain as far as getting quick results. I recommend you search for sites ranked on pages 2-8 with no artifical backlinks (meaning anchor text or spammy) inquire about buying them.
I wouldn’t buy a site with a lot of iffy backlinks. Google might have just locked them in Google hell (just out of the reach of any eyeballs).
The sneaky good news is most of these sites have been abandoned and can be picked up relatively cheap even though their raw potential is very high.
Age matters a lot. Like a lot, a lot. I think Google now sandboxes you for your primary keywords for at least 3 months right off the bat. For higher competition, you’re probably looking at 6 months to a year.
#6 No inter-page anchor text linking. Any time I’ve tried to link to other blog posts internally with my desired keywords, I’ve been docked a few spots in the rankings – and this is with a blog that indexes fairly well in the SERPs right off the bat.
What this tells me is Google really hates keyword optimization. Yes, you read that right. Basically, if you’re trying to optimize for a particular keyword, it works against you, and with the pending rumors this is pretty much confirmed.
As time wears on, I keep linking less and less with anchor text whether it be internally or from another site (though I still do selectively dash in prime anchor text from external sites). As tempting as it may seem to exact anchor link (because of our conditioning), it hurts you. Dilute all internal backlinks with long, drawn out keywords (ie read my blog post on tree hugging here) or just use URLs or click here as your anchor.
Update: As mentioned in the intro, there’s a massive update coming and it looks like anchors are completely out. My official stance on anchor text is you should no longer target keywords with them. We’ll see if diluted keyword anchor text is still ok.
#7 Blog commenting still works. With Google anti-anchor text, blog commenting works out beautifully. Grab a few quality no-follows by leaving real, genuine blog comments and you’ll get non-targeted backlinks from authority domains.
This isn’t a ScrapeBox type of deal for me. I gather my blog comment links one link at a time. I’ll either hand write them or have a very trusted VA do them.
I never even try for anchor text. I leave a long version of a name. For example, Jason “The Riddler” Maleshki. This accomplishes a couple of things: 1) my comment looks more authentic vs. Kitchen Mixer Reviews (better approval rate) and 2) it waters down the anchor text just like Google likes.
#8 Wait out blog/guest posting link networks. I have a feeling the blog networks are about to get their ass busted. If you’re on the fence, wait until the dust settles on this new roll-out to see if link networks are still viable sources of increasing rank.
#9 Linking will be significant but not everything. Links are always going to have a place in SEO but I think Google’s going to devalue their importance to significant factor rather than BIG CHEESE factor. Right now, links are probably 60-70% of SEO. I think after a few more series of algorithm updates, they’ll be more like 25-35%. Obviously still very important but the quality of links and the way they’re accumulated will be crucial to how they’re interpreted.
Changes are a’coming. Google knows having links dominate their algo leaves them susceptible to being manipulated so they’re progressing towards a sharper link evaluation and overall valuing links less while emphasizing site quality and organization more. At least, that’s my opinion.
I think the biggest shifting you’ll see in the near future is sites that use anchor text dropping like flies and sites with some questionable link profile residue getting docked.
Von Money Bonus: Intriguing Simple Case Study
One of my favorite SEO tactics is to improve the rank for web properties by linking to them. A SEO hack, if you will. Anyways, it’s a lot easier to rank strong web properties and it’s much less likely anything will happen to them (though it can).
When I released SEO Gold, I noticed the GoodReads.com page for the book ranked #85 off the bat for SEO Gold. SEO Gold is a low competition keyword. There are a handful of sites with title tags of SEO Gold but nobody’s really going for it hardcore.
In this thread at MoneyProForum.com, I linked to the Good Reads page once with SEO Gold and the rank improved 11 spots in 6 days. I linked to it one more time using the exact same anchor text a week later and now, after less than 2 months, it ranks #35.
The current rank isn’t impressive. What is impressive is how this little bit of external linking effort impacted rankings by 50 spots.
Given the coming update, it’ll be interested to see how anchor texts to any pages (website or strong web property) will be treated. As of now, my official stance on anchor links is not to use them.
First of all, thanks to SEMRush for partnering with me on this project. They want to provide as much value as possible to their subscribers, which is awesome.
To learn more about me and my projects visit my home at VonMoney.com.