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When (and When Not) to Outsource Link Building

This may be of some interest.

Posted by Alex-T

Have you ever outsourced link building? How did you like the experience?

To be honest, mine was terrible. Allow me to share my story.

When I had a typical 9-to-5 job as a marketing director at SEMrush, we made a decision to get more links from the top resources in our segment. We ended up hiring an agency to help us build these links. The agency was charging us an outrageous $13K a month, but, unfortunately, the high price didn’t equal quality. They weren’t capable of writing anything meaningful, not to mention publishing their content on trustworthy industry blogs. What made things worse was the fact that I brought them on board.

Needless to say, we stopped working with this agency. We decided to give another one a try, thinking that this time luck would be on our side.

Well, we were wrong. Although the second agency charged us nearly three times less and promised premium quality work with superb links and stellar results, the outcome was disappointing, to say the least. We ended up getting links from irrelevant content published on sites that wrote about everything, from the ten best sex positions to the ultimate guide on cleaning your toilet.

As ridiculous as it may sound right now, back then, I didn’t feel amused. These two failed attempts at outsourcing link building left me convinced in two things: getting high-quality links is a job to be done internally, and outsourcing is simply pouring money down the drain.

Fast forward to now, and I can honestly tell you that my opinion on outsourcing has changed. Since these two unfortunate scenarios with outsourcing, I went from working for SEMrush to being a freelancer, and, when the amount of work started to grow, I launched my own link building agency, Digital Olimpus. As I gained more experience in this field, I started to realize why our attempts at outsourcing failed so miserably.

At that time, I didn’t know the ropes of link acquisition. We weren’t thinking ahead to establish strict requirements to prevent us from getting links from low-quality sites. Thus, as I went through trial and error, I gathered some unique insights about the pros and cons of link building outsourcing. Today, I’d like to share these insights with you so you can better understand which option is the right one for you — to hire an agency or an in-house link builder.

When is outsourcing the right choice for you?

Here’s my perspective as the owner of a link building agency.

The majority of our clients come to us because they don’t have the time or resources to set up a decent link building process by themselves. Most of the time, their current focus is shifted towards some other business goals, but they still understand the value of links and have some pages that are trying to rank well on Google.

Usually, our ideal client knows what kinds of pages they want to boost via links, and they understand how SEO works. In most cases, they have an SEO team that has a lack of resources to step into link building, so they’re looking for someone who could help them get some juicy links.

So, at the end of the day, our clients pay for our knowledge and experience. But there are also other reasons why companies may choose to outsource link building to an agency as opposed to hiring an in-house specialist.

1. If hiring an experienced link builder is too expensive

The first reason to outsource link building is in the recruitment costs.

According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a junior-level link builder is about 30-40K, while those who are extremely experienced will be looking for an estimated yearly salary around 100K USD. As for the hourly rate, the lowest would be $13, while more experienced link building specialists expect you to pay them as high as $16 an hour.

Besides salaries, you also need to consider other points. For example, your in-house link building specialist would also need content developed specifically for link building purposes, which should have its own separate budget. Apart from that, to do the job properly, they need to have access to backlink analysis tools, like Ahrefs (costs $99/month), SEMrush (also $99/month), Moz (starting $99/month), and Pitchbox (starting from $300/month). All in all, you’ll have to pay for these tools, which alone will cost around 6K a year.

To put a long story short, hiring an in-house link builder will cost you a pretty penny. Moreover, it might take you quite a while to find the in-house link builder you’re looking for. So, while you’re searching for one, you could give an agency a try to get your link building strategy started.

2. If you need to get links straight away

The biggest difference between hiring an in-house link builder vs. an agency is the speed of acquiring links. Usually, an agency already has a tried-and-tested link building strategy, while an in-house link builder still has to develop one.

In my opinion, this is the biggest reason why our clients are choosing our fellow link building agencies and us. We have a well-established process of building links, but most importantly – we’ve already developed meaningful relationships across particular industries and niches. So, in some cases, it doesn’t take us longer than a few minutes to secure a link.

However, if you decide to do link building by yourself, you shouldn’t expect instant results. On average, it takes 3-4 months to start getting at least 10-20 links every month. Besides, it might take you a while to find the right and meaningful way to connect with other sites, and to learn how to pitch your ideas properly.

I should say that, even for my agency, it’s always a big issue to open a new niche and start building a decent number of links per month. The first few months are resulting in 2-4 links, and that for sure can’t be described as a decent flow of links.

3. If you need help educating your team on how to build links the right way

The exchange of knowledge and experience is another reason to outsource link building. It’s definitely why I outsource some tasks, and work closely with those who have substantial expertise in the areas where I don’t feel as confident.

Paying for knowledge is an excellent way to spend money, especially if you lack time. For example, I understand how long it would take me to learn before I could do technical SEO myself, so I’d rather hire someone to help me with that instead. And, while we’re working together, I’ll take this opportunity to enhance my knowledge as well.

For this exact reason, we have a few contractors on our team who are working on other projects, but gladly share their unique strategies and approaches with us. It’s like a breath of fresh air – their experience gives us new perspectives on building high-quality links.

By the way, if you decide to hire an in-house link builder, it might take them quite some time to learn how to work with such contractors, while a link building agency would already have well-established relationships with them.

So, with all that said, try to perceive outsourcing as a learning opportunity. If you already have some experience in link building, you don’t necessarily need to ask an agency to educate you. Instead, you can follow their strategy if you see that it’s working. We have a few clients who follow this logic, as they do link building in-house while still being under our guidance. Sure, one day, they might start building links independently, but it feels nice that we paved that path for them.

4. If you want links that would take you ages to acquire by yourself

Again, it’s all about the connections and how well you can build relationships with them. If you don’t have a tight circle of partners, you can’t expect quick results from your link building efforts.

Usually, the best link building agencies already have a great network of partners. However, it’s still very important to double-check that an agency operates within your niche and has some meaningful connections.

But even if the agency hasn’t worked in your niche before, don’t give up on it just yet. Most likely, the agency might still be able to network faster due to existing relationships with partners and word-of-mouth power.

Still, even for an experienced agency, developing the network of connections in a new and unexplored field will take some time. We’re always very transparent when it comes to telling a client that we haven’t yet worked within their industry, but some clients are ready to wait. However, your needs might be different, so always bring up this question to avoid misunderstandings.

5. If you need to scale your current link building efforts

Sometimes brands realize that link building can be a good strategy for them, but they might not fully understand how to approach it, considering the specifics of their industry and niche. If this is your case, the agency will help you select the right angle and review your current link building needs objectively.

Another pain point that makes our clients ask for our help is building links to problematic targets. Some pages — commercial ones, for example — are hard to build links to in an organic way. In my recent blog post, I talked more on the topic of building links to commercial pages and a few examples of how it can be done. But if you struggle with acquiring links to some pages, you can outsource this task to an agency, which will find the right way to address these difficulties and tackle them.

When outsourcing isn’t your best option

As someone who went through an unpleasant experience with outsourcing, I should say that you really have to know what you need when hiring an agency. This might be the first and most crucial reason not to outsource link building – you should know what to expect.

However, there are also other situations when outsourcing link building will be a waste of time and money. Let’s take a look.

1. You’re looking for digital PR and consider it link building

Over the years, I’ve met a lot of potential clients who ask for articles on leading sites in their industry just for the sake of having their brand mentioned by a popular resource. While getting links from such websites would be good for your brand image, this is a task for PR.

Here’s the thing: Links acquired from such resources are usually very weak from an SEO standpoint. Besides, there are cases when guest contributors sell links from these sites. In one of them, a well-known writer who worked for Forbes and Entrepreneur sold links under the radar, which is forbidden by Google’s guidelines.

As a result, links to such websites rarely bring any benefit, because they don’t carry the SEO value we are usually looking for.

From an SEO standpoint, the best links come from websites that are not involved in such suspicious activities. In addition, don’t be quick to trust influencers, since they often sell links on their websites as well.

Instead, try to find a website that doesn’t have guest posts. Google typically favors guest posting, while pushing the websites which are only used for link building to the bottom of search results.

2. You don’t have a solid SEO strategy and you just want to build some links

Many clients don’t understand that link building and SEO are interconnected. When it comes to link building, you need to remember that the results only come if you make links to the right pages from an SEO standpoint.

What does that mean? Such pages should target the right keywords relevant to your business, and that don’t have an insane level of competition. Also, content that is allocated on those pages should match user intent.

Just for context, it takes 10 times more time to get a page with commercial intent to the top of Google results, especially if the top 10 have informational intent.

Ideally, you should understand how many links you need in order to close the current link gap; otherwise, it might take ages for your page to rank well on Google. By analyzing what kind of links your rivals have already built, you can set up the right requirements for your link building agency.

3. You have very strict requirements and an agency can’t hit that mark

Sometimes, clients underestimate their link building needs. But other times, their expectations can be way too high, and it turns into a real problem. Let me give you some examples.

Once, we had a client that wanted us to implement a whole new link building approach just for his campaign. Everything should have gone great, except he forgot to tell us that he would need a unique approach, and what we were capable of providing at that time wasn’t what he was interested in.

Naturally, our partnership ended on that note. We decided to return the funds to this client and move forward. Now we do an in-depth interview with every client to give them a very detailed overview of our link building approach and our capabilities.

The same problem can occur in a few other cases:

  • You want links that will be allocated only in particular content. Ask the agency if it gets links through guest blogging. If not, this is not the best option for you.
  • You have a list of sites from which you want to get links. Contrary to what you might expect, link building isn’t an exact science, and it’s hard to predict or guarantee that a link will be secured on a particular site.
  • You want links only on pages that have already built a solid number of links and are already ranking well on Google. That’s a smart strategy, but it should only be done internally, since getting a link on such a page might take ages.

So, as I mentioned before, ask the agency about its capabilities before you outsource link building. It would be fair for both sides if you and the agency have clear expectations of the final result.

4. You expect to receive referral traffic from links that an agency will be building for you

Unfortunately, there’s minimal chance that referral traffic will come. Digital marketing experts confirm that there’s a very slim chance that even guest blogging on leading sites will bring you a solid flow of referral visitors.

Nowadays, steady referral traffic only comes through sources of organic traffic. A good example is this article with a list of SEO tools by Brian Dean that receives over 7K organic visitors per month:

Certainly, tools listed in Brian’s post are all getting some traffic, too, as those visitors are browsing through them and would love to learn more about them.

In general, we rarely see that our clients are getting referral traffic. Getting a good link is one scenario, but getting a good link that will send referral traffic is a whole other story.

In my opinion, building the links that will most likely send you a solid flow of referral visitors requires an analysis of current sources of referral traffic to your competitors and industry leaders. Then, you must try to understand the reason behind this traffic, whether it’s an active audience, being featured in a newsletter, etc. But the entire process differs from the link building strategy we usually follow.

5. You’re too busy to communicate your feedback to the agency

If you expect the link building agency to deliver the results you expect, communication is key. Outsourcing is not about delegating the task and forgetting about it. It’s about close collaboration.

With that said, be prepared to have to go on a number of calls with an agency just to figure out the link building strategy you will follow, not to mention other related meetings that will occur in the process. It is especially important if your link building needs are very specific.

So, let me reiterate – ongoing communication is crucial for building juicy, high-quality links. If you don’t have time to talk with the agency and articulate your needs and expectations properly, outsourcing link building is not the right option for you.

6. You don’t have a sufficient budget

If you are planning to hire an agency to outsource link building, you should evaluate your financial situation first, because it will cost you a fair amount of money.

To give you some context, we only take long-term contracts starting from $10K because one-time partnerships don’t help bring permanent link building results. In general, the entire process of building links should be ongoing, and your website should continuously show a rising link growth graph:

So, no matter how hard you try, the lack of a systematic approach to link building means no tangible results, and the client won’t get any profit from these links. That’s what made me understand that single-time link building is a waste of time and money.

What’s the verdict?

All in all, I should say that hiring a link building agency is worth every penny, as long as it has the experience you’re looking for, of course. Just from the rational standpoint, it’s much harder and more cost-intensive to do link building by yourself, especially if you have little knowledge of it.

There are also other perks of outsourcing link building. First and foremost, when you’re hiring an agency to build links, you’re paying for the speed of acquiring links. An agency already has all the connections to get links faster, in addition to a well-established process of building links in general.

Nevertheless, evaluate your needs first. Outsourcing might not be the best option for you if you are more interested in PR, not link building. You might also want to check what the agency can offer, as your requirements might not fit its profile. And, of course, outsourcing is not an option if you don’t have time to communicate with an agency or you have insufficient funds for such partnership.

However, in general, if you ask me now if outsourcing is worth it, I would say yes, but only if you are committed. Remember, outsourcing link building to an agency shouldn’t be a one-time occasion. If you want ongoing results, you need to commit to a long-term, close cooperation.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Thank you for reading.

75 Stop Words That Are Common in SEO & When You Should Use Them

This may be of some interest.

From blog titles to URL slugs, you might not realize how frequently you use SEO stop words. But, to be fair, if Google doesn’t pay much attention to them, why should you?

Research shows that 25% of blog posts are made up of stop words. However, these words have little to no relevance to the topic of the post. These are words that help you compose sentences and connect ideas together, and they don’t have much impact on Google’s search results.

But, excessive use of stop words can impact your brand in the long run. They make content harder for search engines to process which can end up negatively affecting how they index your pages.

In this post, we’ll walk you through exactly what SEO stop words are, how they can hurt — or help — your online presence, and which words are considered stop words by Google and other search engines.

What Are Stop Words in SEO?

We use stop words all the time, whether we’re online or in our everyday lives. These are the articles, prepositions, and phrases that connect keywords together and help us form complete, coherent sentences.

Common words like its, an, the, for, and that, are all considered stop words. While they’re important for communicating verbally, stop words typically carry little importance to SEO and are often ignored by search engines.

Let’s review some of the most common stop words in the section below.

Common SEO Stop Words

The most common SEO stop words are pronouns, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. This includes words like a, an, the, and, it, for, or, but, in, my, your, our, and their.

When people search for something online, search engines like Google omit these words in their results because they don’t relate to the keywords in the search. So, rather than looking up content that’s related to these words, Google removes them altogether and prioritizes the keywords.

So, the next time you’re trying to hit a word count when writing a blog post, try filling that open space with keywords rather than filler copy that doesn’t improve your SEO.

While it would be great to load up your content with only meaningful keywords, the reality is that stop words are needed for every type of copy. After all, even if you rank highly on Google, it won’t mean much if your content is incomprehensible or doesn’t resonate with your audience.

Are Stop Words Beneficial for SEO?

There’s a time and place for SEO stop words. First and foremost, stop words help the reader understand the content. It can be confusing to read titles and subheaders without stop words.

You also might find instances where stop words help you differentiate between two topics. For example, you can search ‘flamingos’ and you’ll see information about beautiful, bright pink birds. Add ‘the’ to the front, and you’ll be directed to YouTube to listen to the band, The Flamingos. This tiny, three-letter stop word makes a world of a difference in this case.

In the next section, let’s look at some other times when you should be paying attention to stop words to optimize your content’s search ranking.

Removing Stop Words

Should you be removing stop words from all of your content?

Like anything else, it depends on how you’re using them. If your titles, headings, URL slugs, and keywords make sense without them, then it can be beneficial to remove them.

SEO Stop Words in Titles

If your titles don’t make sense when you take out those articles or prepositions, then it’s best to leave them be. After all, you want your audience to actually click and read your content. If the most prominent parts — including the title — don’t make sense, the website could come off as unprofessional or even spammy.

It usually makes the most sense to leave stop words in titles and headings, as these are wayfinding elements for users navigating your content. Just keep in mind that the optimal character count for titles is 50-60 characters, as search engines cut off longer titles, which could omit important information for the visitor. If you have lengthy stop words in your title, consider rewriting them to balance brevity and clarity.

Stop Words in URL Slugs

When it comes to URL slugs, stop words typically don’t have much significance in SEO. They’re relevant, however, if they make your URL slug particularly long. Google ranks URLs based on their length, and longer URLs typically rank lower than shorter ones — as outlined by the chart below.

SEO-stop-words

Image Source

Stop Words as Keywords

As we touched on in the last section, there are some times when stop words are crucial to keywording because they differentiate a proper noun from something else. For example, if you searched “Jets New York” you’d probably get a list of flights coming in and out of New York City. But, if you searched, “The New York Jets,” you would get content about the professional football team instead.

Now that we’re familiar with what stop words are and when we should use them, let’s look at a broader list of stopwords that you should be aware of when creating and optimizing content.

75 Stop Words in SEO

There are many, many more stop words out there, but here’s a list of some of the most common stop words to be mindful of when creating content online.

A

About

Actually

Almost

Also

Although

Always

Am

An

And

Any

Are

As

At

Be

Became

Become

But

By

Can

Could

Did

Do

Does

Each

Either

Else

For

From

Had

Has

Have

Hence

How

I

If

In

IS

IT

ITS

JUST

MAY

MAYBE

Me

Might

Mine

Must

My

Mine

Must

My

Neither

Nor

Not

Of

Oh

Ok

When

Where

Whereas

Wherever

Whenever

Whether

Which

While

Who

Whom

Whoever

Whose

Why

Will

With

Within

Without

Would

Yes

Yet

You

Your

 

Using SEO Stop Words

SEO stop words are important if you want to create a strong SEO strategy and rank highly on search engines like Google. Overusing them can hinder your ranking, but avoiding them altogether will make your content confusing and unclear. By understanding what stop words are and which words qualify as stop words, you can craft content that works to your brand’s advantage.

For more ways to rank higher on search engines, read these SEO tips.

Thank you for reading.

The Campaign Comeback: What to Do When Content Fails — Best of Whiteboard Friday

This may be of some interest.

Posted by Shannon-McGuirk

We’ve all been there: you plan, launch, and eagerly await the many returns on a content campaign, only to be disappointed when it falls flat. But all is not lost: there are clever ways to give your failed campaigns a second chance at life and an opportunity to earn the links you missed out on the first time. In this popular Whiteboard Friday from 2018, MozCon speaker Shannon McGuirk graciously gives us a five-step plan for breathing new life into a dead content campaign.

What to do when content fails.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Welcome to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Shannon McGuirk. I’m the Head of PR and Content at a UK-based digital marketing agency called Aira.

Now, throughout my time, I’ve launched a number of creative content and digital PR campaigns, too many to mention. But the ones that really stick into my head are the campaign fails, the ones that got away from the link numbers that I wanted to achieve and the ones that were quite painful from the client-side and stakeholder-side.

Now, over the last couple of years, I’ve built up a couple of steps and tactics that essentially will help me get campaigns back on track, and I wanted to take you through them today. So, today, I’m going to be talking to you about content campaign comebacks and what to do if your content campaign fails.

Step one: Reevaluate your outreach efforts

Now, take it right back to when you first launched the campaign.

  • Have you contacted the right journalists?
  • Have you gone to the right publications?
  • Be realistic. Now, at this point, remember to be realistic. It might not be a good idea to start going for the likes of ABC News and The Daily Telegraph. Bring it down a level, go to industry blogs, more niche publications, the ones that you’re more likely to get traction with.
  • Do your research. Essentially, is what I’m saying.
  • Less is always more in my eyes. I’ve seen prospecting and media lists that have up to 500 contacts on there that have fired out blank, cold outreach emails. For me, that’s a boo-boo. I would rather have 50 people on that media list that I know their first name, I know the last three articles that they’ve written, and on top of that, I can tell you which publications they’ve been at, so I know what they’re interested in. It’s going to really increase your chances of success when you relaunch.

Step two: Stories vs. statements

So this is when you need to start thinking about stories versus statements. Strip it right back and start to think about that hook or that angle that your whole campaign is all about. Can you say this in one sentence? If you can get it in one sentence, amazing because that’s the core thing that you are going to be communicating to journalists.

Now, to make this really tangible so that you can understand what I’m saying, I’ve got an example of a statement versus a story for a recent campaign that we did for an automotive client of ours. So here’s my example of a statement. “Client X found that the most dangerous roads in the UK are X, Y, Z.” That’s the statement. Now, for the story, let’s spice it up a little bit. “New data reveals that 8 out of 10 of the most dangerous roads in the UK are in London as cyclist deaths reach an all-time high.”

Can you see the difference between a story and a statement? I’m latching it into something in society that’s really important at the moment, because cyclist deaths are reaching an all-time high. On top of that, I’m giving it a punchy stat straightaway and then tying it into the city of London.

Step three: Create a package

So this seems like a bit of a no-brainer and a really obvious one, but it’s so incredibly important when you’re trying to bring your content campaign back from the dead. Think about creating a package. We all know that journalists are up against tight deadlines. They have KPIs in terms of the articles that they need to churn out on a daily basis. So give them absolutely everything that they need to cover your campaign.

I’ve put together a checklist for you, and you can tick them off as you go down.

  • Third-party expert or opinion. If you’re doing something around health and nutrition, why don’t you go out and find a doctor or a nutritionist that can give you comment for free — because remember, you’ll be doing the hard work for their PR team — to include within any press releases that you’re going to be writing.
  • Make sure that your data and your methodology is watertight. Prepare a methodology statement and also get all of your data and research into a Google sheet that you can share with journalists in a really open and transparent way.
  • Press release. It seems really simple, but get a well-written press release or piece of supporting copy written out well ahead of the relaunch timing so that you’ve got assets to be able to give a journalist. They can take snippets of that copy, mold it, adapt it, and then create their own article off the back of it.
  • New designs & images. If you’ve been working on any new designs and images, pop them on a Google shared drive and share that with the press. They can dip into this guide as and when they need it and ensure that they’ve got a visual element for their potential article.
  • Exclusive options. One final thing here that can occasionally get overlooked is you want to be holding something back. Whether that’s some really important stats, a comment from the MD or the CEO, or just some extra designs or images for graphics, I would keep them in your back pocket, because you may get the odd journalist at a really high DA/authority publication, such as the Mail Online or The Telegraph, ask for something exclusive on behalf of their editor.

Step four: Ask an expert

Start to think about working with journalists and influencers in a different way than just asking them to cover your creative content campaigns and generate links. Establish a solid network of freelance journalists that you can ask directly for feedback on any ideas. Now, it can be any aspect of the idea that you’re asking for their feedback on. You can go for data, pitch angles, launch timings, design and images. It doesn’t really matter. But they know what that killer angle and hook needs to be to write an article and essentially get you a link. So tap into it and ask them what they think about your content campaign before you relaunch.

Step five: Re-launch timings

This is the one thing that you need to consider just before the relaunch, but it’s the relaunch timings. Did you actually pay enough attention to this when you did your first initial launch? Chances are you may not have, and something has slipped through the net here.

  • Awareness days. So be sure to check awareness days. Now, this can be anything from National Proposal Day for a wedding client, or it can be the Internet of Things Day for a bigger electrical firm or something like that. It doesn’t really matter. But if you can hook it onto an awareness day, it means that there’s already going to be that interest in the media, journalists will be writing about the topic, and there’s a way in for your content.
  • World events. Again, keep in mind anything to do with elections or perhaps world disasters, such as tornadoes and bad weather, because it means that the press is going to be heavily oversaturated with anything to do with them, and therefore you might want to hold back on your relaunch until the dust is settled and giving your content campaign the best chance of success in round two.
  • Seasonality. Now, this isn’t just Christmas. It’s also Easter, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day. Think about the time of year you’re launching and whether your content campaign is actually relevant at that time of year. For example, back home in the UK, we don’t tend to launch content campaigns in the run-up to Christmas if it’s not Christmas content, because it’s not relevant and the press are already interested in that one seasonal thing.
  • Holidays. Holidays in the sense of half-term and summer holidays, because it means that journalists won’t be in the office, and therefore you’re reducing your chances of success when you’re calling them or when you’re writing out your emails to pitch them.

So there are my five steps for your content campaign comebacks. I know you’ve all been there too, guys, and I would love to hear how you got over some of these hurdles in bringing your content campaigns back to life. Feel free to comment below. I hope you guys join me soon for another Whiteboard Friday. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Thank you for reading.

How to Outrank Big Companies When You Have No SEO Budget

This may be of some interest.

seo

There’s a formula to SEO and as long as you follow it, you’ll get rankings.

So, what’s this formula?

Well, you write amazing content, optimize your code, create a great user experience, and you mix in some backlinks.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, the formula isn’t too complicated, but it does require hard work and patience.

Now what makes SEO challenging isn’t the formula, or the time, or the patience. It has more to do with how you beat people who have more money than you because, in theory, they can do more of everything, which should cause them to outrank you.

But you know what? I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I love SEO because it’s the one channel where you can beat big companies even if you can’t outspend them.

How? Well, let’s go over that.

Let’s first start with the two mental shifts you’ll have to make.

Mental shift #1: Speed is everything

What most people won’t tell you is big companies need to spend more to get the same results that you can for pennies on the dollar. They have way too many employees and layers in their organization to move fast and nimble.

In other words, everything moves slowly.

So, what do they do? They spend money in hopes that it makes them move faster. But the reality is, spending more doesn’t necessarily get them faster results.

If you want to beat them, the first thing you’ll have to do is focus on execution. If you can’t move fast, you won’t win.

This is your biggest advantage.

The reason I have gotten to where I am today is due to my execution speed. And now that we keep growing in size, things are moving slower.

For example, because my business has continually been growing, we now prioritize based on what makes us the most revenue and I bet you SEO isn’t as high on that priority list as it used to be. Not just for me, but for all companies my size and bigger.

You have to remember, we have multiple offices, hundreds of employees… we have to focus on what pays the bills.

So how do we compensate? We spend more money in hopes that it fixes it. Just like how I write less content these days, and I spend money on things like Ubersuggest and Backlinks in hopes that it helps.

But that won’t fix everything.

The point is, if you can move fast, it will give you a huge advantage.

Mental shift #2: Scrappiness beats money

Alright, let’s recap the formula to SEO…

Content + SEO friendly code + user experience + backlinks = rankings.

I know Google has over 200 ranking factors, but the formula above encompasses the majority of it.

Now you are probably thinking that if you want to write content or build links you have to spend money, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

With my previous marketing blog, Quick Sprout, I grew it by partnering with other writers.

I wasn’t as well known in the marketing world back then, but I hit up people like Brian Dean and co-authored guides like this one on link building with him.

That guide is over 20,000 words. And Brian did the majority of the work and for free.

I also did something similar with Ritika Puri and we created a guide on marketing psychology.

And every time I partnered with other writers and marketers to create these in-depth guides my traffic skyrocketed.

The first time I published one, my traffic went up by 117% in 2 months.

quicksprout traffic

Now, that’s something that you can still do to this day to see great results.

Another way you can boost your SEO traffic is to get people to contribute content to your site for free.

I did this with the KISSmetrics blog before I acquired it. During its peak, it generated 1,260,681 unique visitors a month.

kissmetrics traffic

We grew the KISSmetrics traffic through one simple approach… we hit up tons of writers in our space and asked them to contribute articles.

At first, we had to pay a few because the blog wasn’t known and we barely had any visitors. But once we paid a handful of well-known writers who were guest contributors on competing sites, we now had a great foundation.

We still didn’t have much traffic, but having those writers publish content was enough to convince other writers to submit content for free.

It’s a simple approach that still works to this day.

There are many ways you can be scrappy, you just have to think outside the box. Don’t think you need tons of money to solve your marketing problems. Being scrappy in most cases is more effective.

Now that we’ve covered the two mental shifts you need to make, let’s focus on the 4 quick wins that will yield the biggest results in the least amount of time.

Yes, many of these “quick wins” are well known, but less than 1% of SEOs focus on them. I know this because I have an ad agency that works with large Fortune 100 companies… and it doesn’t stop there, most companies no matter what size they are, don’t focus on these quick wins.

Quick win #1: Land and expand

They say the more content you create the more traffic you will get.

Do you want to know what the big issue with this strategy is?

Writing more content doesn’t guarantee more traffic.

Content marketing has changed. Writing no longer guarantees you more traffic because there are over 1 billion blogs.

With people cranking out so much content on a daily basis, Google now has the choice of what content to rank and what not to rank.

Similar to me, your top 10 pages are going to make up a lot of your traffic… and probably more than me.

The top 10 pages on my site make up 29.23% of my traffic. That’s crazy considering I have 5,171 blog posts.

With your site, your top 10 pages will probably make up over 40% of your traffic as you probably don’t have as much content as me.

So instead of spending the majority of your time writing new content, why not get more traffic out of the content you have.

I call this the land and expand method. In other words, you already have pages that are getting search traffic and rank on Google, might as well adjust them so you can 2 or 3 times more search traffic to those pages.

Best of all, this method gets results within 1 month for most sites and within 2 months if your site doesn’t have as much authority.

If you want to leverage this technique, follow “step 2” in this article where I break down how to land and expand step by step.

Quick win #2: Optimize for revenue, not traffic

Your goal is to increase your search traffic, right?

Well, if you are reading this blog it is. 😉

But as you get more search traffic, what’s happened to your revenue?

Actually, let’s rephrase the question… as my traffic climbed, can you guess what happened to my revenue?

search traffic neil patel

That traffic according to SEMrush is worth $1.2 million.

traffic cost

But here is the thing: as my search traffic grew by 123%, my revenue only grew by 12.5%… not a good deal.

Yes, you want to optimize your site for Google so you can rank higher. But what’s the point if it doesn’t increase your revenue?

You need to look at the pages on your site that are responsible for revenue generation activities and first optimize those so they rank higher on Google. You can do this by setting up goal tracking within Google Analytics.

Once you set up goal tracking, you’ll now know what pages to focus your attention on so that those extra visitors you in bring will turn into revenue. You can then take that extra revenue and reinvest it in your marketing initiatives.

Quick win #3: Optimize for clicks, not rankings

Question for you…

If everyone did a Google search and clicked on the second results instead of the first result, what do you think will happen?

Well, it would tell Google that people prefer the second listing and it would move that ranking to the number 1 spot.

To prove this theory, Rand Fishkin told all of his Twitter followers to search for the phrase “best grilled steak” and click on the 4th listing instead of the 1st.

best grilled steak

And within 70 minutes the 4th listing jumped up to the top spot.

steak rankings

It was so effective that the listing Rand Fishkin told everyone to clicked on skyrocketed to the top of Google for the phrase “grilled steak”.

google rankings

If you want to boost your rankings, it isn’t just about the content you are creating or the links you are building. If people don’t want to click on your listing, you’ll find that your rankings will continually tank.

And if people click on yours more than the competitors, then your rankings will skyrocket even if you don’t build as many links.

So how do you increase your click-through-rate?

Well you don’t want to tell your friends to click on your listing as that is a temporary effect and your rankings will only climb for a short period of time. You want to optimize your title tag and meta description to encourage people to click on your listings over the competition.

This will cause your rankings to climb slower, but they will stick once you reach the top.

I won’t bore you with the details in this article on optimizing click-through-rates as I have already blogged on it… just head over to this post and follow hack number 1. 😉

Quick win #4: Update your old content

Have you noticed over time that your rankings fluctuate? No matter how good you are at SEO and no matter how much money you have, there is no guarantee you’ll be at the top spot.

Do you want to know why your rankings drop?

Most people assume that it’s a penalty. But Google is very friendly (believe it or not), and their goal isn’t to penalize sites. Their goal is to rank the best sites at the top.

You know… the sites that users love the most.

Just think of it this way, if Google hypothetically penalized BMW for building backlinks and removed them from the index, what do you think would happen when people search for “BMW”?

People would be pissed that BMW isn’t showing up.

And they wouldn’t be pissed at BMW, they would be pissed at Google and they may not use Google again.

Google’s goal isn’t to penalize your site or be mean to you or tank your rankings. Their goal is simple… always put the site that is best for the end user at the top.

When your rankings tank, it’s typically because someone else created a page that provides a better experience for the term you were ranking for.

The way you fix this, maintain your rankings, and even climb higher is to continually update your old content.

If you have content that is old, outdated, or if your rankings drop, read this. It breaks down what to do step by step, and it will help you outrank your competition because I bet they aren’t updating their old content.

This is so effective I currently have 3 full-time people updating my old content.

You don’t have to get as crazy as me, but you should update your old content.

Conclusion

Money isn’t stopping you from beating your competition. The only thing standing in your way is you.

That’s ok though. We can fix that.

With a few mindset shifts and some quick wins, things are about to change.

I’ve never let my competition get in my way. I don’t care if they have more money than me or that they have been at this longer.

If I started my journey cleaning restrooms and picking up trash and eventually got here… you can too.

There is nothing really stopping you from winning.

So what do you think, are you ready to beat your competition?

The post How to Outrank Big Companies When You Have No SEO Budget appeared first on Neil Patel.

Thank you for reading.