This is a contribution by Ryan Stewart.
Starting from scratch is not fun.
About a year ago, I had a falling out with my partner.
And when I say, “Falling out,” I mean really falling out. Like, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, kind of falling out. Like, watch out Hulk Hogan because there’s a new royal rumble, falling out. Like, zero money in the bank and having to start a brand new company, falling out.
But even though I was strapped for cash, I did have many years worth of marketing skills. Through these skills, I was able to increase web traffic and take my brand new site from 0 to 38k page views in just 7 months.
I’m going to let you in on EXACTLY how I did it.
Table of Contents
I own an organic search agency. I would have to be a moron of catastrophic proportions to not rank for my own keywords. My goal was to rank first for the keywords “Miami SEO Company”, and I managed to hit the #2 spot within three months.
How did I do it? Technical optimizations, content creation, and content promotion.
I built a beautiful, blazing fast website on the Shopify platform, which I’m really comfortable with. Because I specialize in eCommerce SEO, and because of the improvements Shopify has made over the years, it made their solution a total no-brainer.
From there I just made sure to follow standard SEO 101 principles, like proper URL structures, descriptive page titles, proper use of images, and creative meta descriptions that would grab users.
If you’re not sure about what web host to build your site on, there are a ton of great ones out there. WPEngine, Bluehost, LCN, DreamHost, GoDaddy, along with many others, are solid options. Each one has different strengths and weaknesses, so pick the one that caters best to your preferences.
Face it. Unless your product or service is incredibly interesting, you’re only going to get so much traffic. You can only make SEO so sexy. If you want the traffic to come, you’ve got to get really serious about creating content.
And not just any content. There are enough cat videos and idiotic memes on Facebook. You need to create amazing, unique, valuable content. I was successful in building traffic because I busted my butt creating kick-ass content that generated a lot of interest.
If you’re not willing to do that, your only other option is cat videos and Photoshopped pictures of Samuel L. Jackson.
I focused on creating evergreen content that I knew would rank well in search engines over time, thus allowing me to increase web traffic while focusing on other things.
Google looks at a lot more than just links and keywords when it comes to ranking content. If you want to rank for significant terms, you’re going to have to fight to create buzz around your site. That buzz only comes from creating seriously relevant content and promoting it through the right channels.
SEO isn’t actually all that complicated. Basically, it works like this. If you want to rank for any keyword on the planet (business, cheese, roundhouse, extra-terrestrial, etc.), then follow these two simple steps:
- Create something that is freaking amazing and fantastically valuable for your business / keywords.
- Relentlessly promote that material.
If you want to rank for competitive keywords, you’ve got to generate some serious buzz. Social signals, powerful links, and press mentions are a great way to generate that buzz.
And you can’t fake those things.
If you create good stuff, it’s not hard to promote it. As long as it doesn’t seem spammish, you can promote it in forums, on social media, and in communities. You can also reach out to relevant blogs for links.
Remember in Field of Dreams when the disembodied voice says to Kevin Costner, “If you build it, they will come,”? When it comes to organic search, that’s part of the equation. You’ve got to build. Then you’ve got to promote it like crazy.
Quora is a seriously underrated source for generating traffic. People are literally asking you for help. They want to talk to you. If you can create a high-value response that doesn’t sound showy, spammy, or slimy, then a link is acceptable.
Over the past 6 months, my Quora answers have gotten over 71,000 views, which in turn has pushed 4,000 people directly to my website.
You need to know though, that there aren’t any time hacks or shortcuts when it comes to Quora. You’ve got to be willing to do the work finding relevant threads and answering questions in a super helpful way.
Here are some tips that helped me succeed on Quora:
- Fill out your profile to completion with a bio, a nice profile image, and relevant links. People will click through to see your profile and won’t upvote your answers if you look like shady spam.
- Post to relevant threads. All you have to do is use the Quora search bar to seek out your keywords.
- Write well thought out responses that answer the question asked. Don’t be overly sales-y in your response and make sure you answer their question! Don’t try to bend your answer to benefit yourself.
- Add images to your answer. This will help you stand out from the other responses and draw attention to your answer.
- Be consistent and answer threads regularly. You’ve got to commit to building a presence there – that means writing at least one response a week.
It also helps to push out your answers onto your various social media accounts. This often leads to more engagements and upvotes.
With over 1 billion users, Facebook is absolutely massive. If you want to push traffic to your site, you simply must use Facebook.
But if you can’t afford Facebook advertising, don’t worry. I’ve had significant success driving traffic from various Facebook groups I’m a part of.
Finding groups is easy. You just type in whatever keywords you’re looking for in the search bar.
Though finding groups is easy, finding groups that aren’t completely overrun by spammers is not. You’re going to have to do some digging to find groups that are policed by strict admins who don’t let spammers run rampant.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Search for your keywords and join 50 – 100 Groups (yes, that many).
- Check each Group you join and manually check it for spam.
- Look for active threads with no links – this is the true sign of a healthy Group.
Even if you find healthy groups, you can’t just go in and start spewing your content everywhere. You’ve got to get people to trust you and to believe that you’re delivering high value stuff. What I do in order to gain trust is:
- Comment on threads regularly.
- Friend each of the Group’s admins.
- Post a relevant thread (with NO link) 2 – 3 times a month.
If you’re active and people begin to trust you, you’ll eventually have permission to promote some content, assuming it’s relevant.
Online Communities (GrowthHackers, Inbound)
If you do anything digital, you MUST be a part of the Inbound and GrowthHackers communities. Seriously. Like right now. Not only are they amazing places to promote content, but they’re also great places to network with other marketers and discover helpful resources.
It can be tough though because there is so much material being published to these sites on a daily basis. Overcoming all the noise takes strategic action.
What works well for me is reaching out to the top users of the platforms. For example, Inbound let’s you see which users have the most “Karma”. Users with lots of “Karma” have more powerful upvotes on articles.
Now, unless you want to come across as a greedy, grubby upvote grabber, you can’t just email them asking for their votes. You need to distinctly add value to them in some way.
I like to do that by linking out to their site within the body of the article I’m promoting.
Then, a simple outreach email to let them know.
This particular strategy has worked for me OVER and OVER.
Because I’ve got a relatively small email list – less than 600 – I didn’t generate any traffic from my personal list. But I did stumble across an email traffic opportunity that I didn’t expect.
I’m a big fan of Moz and all the brilliant content they put out. Every week they send out a “Weekly Top 10” email that contains their 10 favorite posts of the week.
One day, as I was reading through a Moz email, I noticed the following at the bottom.
I decided to give it a shot and sent them one of my posts. Sure enough, they featured it in one of their emails.
Then I went out and subscribed to about a dozen other high-profile lists. After being a subscriber for some time and actively engaging with their content (opening emails, clicking links, etc.), I started submitting pitches to these lists as well.
My success rate with these pitches has been pretty low (1-2%), but given how little effort it takes and how much traffic it returns, it’s worth it.
I wish I could say that it has been easy to increase web traffic, but it hasn’t.
I’ve been busting my butt, logging 18 hour days as I do client work and build my business.
But the results have been outstanding and, honestly, I don’t mind the work.
When you see success by giving away value to others, it’s a really rewarding feeling.
About the Author
Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing consultant with over 8 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies and government organizations. He holds a number of Google and Adobe certifications as well as a Master's in Business Administration. He currently runs Webris, a digital marketing and SEO agency based out of Miami, FL. Ryan offers a number of white hat link building trainings available on his personal website.