Let’s look at how to build a killer audience with a blog.
There are two primary ways to drive traffic to your blog:
- Through social media
- Through search engine traffic
Many people focus on one or the other.
For instance, Brian Dean of backlinko.com focuses almost all his traffic-building attention on search engine traffic, while Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of makingsenseofcents.com focuses almost all her traffic-building attention on Pinterest.
You can experience success with either method or a combination of the two.
In this post, I want to focus on building traffic by ranking in search engine results.
This post may get technical at times, but when in doubt, just remember that for your blog to succeed:
- You need to drive visitors to your blog.
- One of the best ways to get visitors is to get your blog on the first page of Google search results.
I know that entire books have been written about driving search engine traffic and gaining quality backlinks, but in this post, I aim to give you enough information to really make headway on building links to your blog without overwhelming you with information.
How to Research Blog Topics
Before you do anything else, you need to figure out which keywords within your niche to blog about, because not all keywords are created equal.
For example, blogging about “weight loss” might drive a lot of traffic to your fitness blog, whereas blogging about “fitness information” might not.
Only the data will tell.
SEO marketer and link-building expert Brian Dean made the mistake of building content around keywords with massive traffic but little commercial intent.
This blog brought in an impressive 60,000 unique visitors a month from search engine traffic alone, yet generated just $400 a month in revenue!
In other words, successful blogging is all about the keywords you target.
The good news is that everything you need to know is available for free.
For instance, did you know that the number of web searches for any keyword is public information?
And did you know that you can also find out how much advertisers pay to show up in the search results for these phrases?
Google, along with dozens of free keyword research sites, provides an unbelievable amount of free data to anyone who’s interested.
This information is invaluable because it allows you to find out exactly what people in your niche are searching for, which in turn tells you the exact articles you should write to drive traffic to your blog.
So how does this work?
First, enter some topics into a keyword tool like kwfinder.com to find out their monthly search volume.
For instance, if you want to start a health and fitness blog, you might enter “weight loss” into your keyword planner tool.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the monthly search volume is over 300,000, which is enormous!
It might be tempting to build a blog post around this keyword, hoping that someday your post will be the number one result when people search “weight loss” on Google.
But it’s probably not a good idea.
Odds are, you will never be able to rank for this keyword because the competition is so stiff for keywords with this kind of search volume.
Instead, find a keyword that is searched somewhat frequently and has low-quality search results.
What qualifies as “somewhat frequently?”
SEO experts Ahrefs.com found that you have a good chance of ranking on the first page of Google search results for keywords with monthly search volume of < 20,000 in less than a year, as long as you’re producing high-quality content and obtaining the necessary backlinks for your post (I’ll discuss backlinks more later). (reference)
Here’s how this works.
Let’s say you start a healthy eating blog and want to write about the benefits of kale.
You perform a keyword search and discover that “kale health benefits” is searched ~5000 times a month, and that the number one search result is a mediocre blog post that leaves out several important health benefits.
You just found a prime opportunity to create a better article.
To summarize, you’re looking to create fantastic content in areas of low competition where you can knock the number one search result out of the water.
I’ll discuss how to create fantastic content in a minute, but first, let’s look at commercial intent.
How to Determine Commercial Intent
The second part to keyword research is commercial intent.
“Commercial intent” is the degree to which the audience is looking to make a purchase.
You can spend a lot of time building great content and driving significant traffic to your blog, but if your audience isn’t looking to buy anything, making money will be nearly impossible!
Thankfully, measuring commercial intent is easy.
All you need to do is use a free keyword tool to find out what advertisers are paying to advertise to people searching that keyword.
This is usually represented by average cost per click or CPC.
The more advertisers are willing to pay per click, the higher the commercial intent of the keyword’s audience, and the more likely you will be able to turn those visitors into customers.
I typically look to target keywords with a cost per click > $1.00, but the higher, the better.
The 10x Content Creation Rule
The 10x Rule is a philosophy for content creation.
Rand Fishkin, founder of the wildly successful SEO company Moz, sums it up best:
“Because of content saturation, content overload, the idea that there’s just so much in our streams, and standing out is so hard, we can’t just say, “Hey, I want to be as good as the top 10 people in the search results for this particular keyword term or phrase.” We have to say, “How can I create something ten times better than what any of these folks are currently doing?” That’s how we stand out.”
This is a reliable strategy to follow when you’re trying to outrank another article.
Sometimes, you can even take the “10x” literally.
For example, there are a lot of articles on the web that discuss ten ways to make money online. Matt and I took the 10x principle literally when we wrote our e-book “100 Ways to Make Money Online.”
Another simple way to knock the competition out of the water is to include beautiful visuals like stock photography, diagrams, and videos.
These make your page look more appealing and will attract people who don’t have the patience for plain-text articles (hint: this is nearly everyone).
Also, consider outdoing the competition by using unique data in your post.
The data doesn’t have to be academic in nature – it can simply be a poll of your readers’ opinions, or even publicly available information organized in a uniquely helpful way.
In general, the moral of the 10x Rule is to provide exponentially better content than your competitors.
In the kale article example from before, you could accomplish this by writing an article that’s ten times as long and filled with eye-catching visuals.
This puts your blog in a league of its own.
It also makes marketing much easier and will help establish your credibility as someone who cares deeply about the quality of your work.
Being a successful web entrepreneur means establishing trust with an audience willing to exchange their hard-earned cash for your product.
If you establish this trust early in your entrepreneurial career, you will have a much easier time earning money moving forward.
So to recap, when you find a keyword that has:
- Adequate search volume (between 1,000 and 20,000 searches a month)
- Content you can 10x
- Strong commercial intent (I suggest a CPC > $1.00)
you know you’ve found a great keyword to build content around.
How to Promote Content
Once you’ve spent hours crafting the perfect blog post, it’s time to promote it.
It’s very tempting to skip this last step.
Ironically, this is the most important step in determining whether your blog sinks or swims.
According to marketingprofs.com, two million blog posts are published every day, and this amount is only growing.
Without proper promotion, your blog is sure to get lost in the shuffle.
Before I dive into how to promote your content, let’s take a step back and look at how Google and other search engines work.
Search engines are unbelievably complex, but their basic algorithm is actually very simple.
At their core, search engines rank results based on keywords and links.
I’ve already talked about keywords, so let’s look at links, specifically links to your blog from other sites.
Also known as “backlinks,” these play a big role in helping search engines determine the quality of your blog.
To put it in simple terms, you want to get as many quality backlinks as possible, because the more you get, the higher your articles will rank.
The good news is that if your content is high-quality, other high-quality sites should be excited to link to it.
The main challenges are:
- Knowing how many link prospects you need to contact to obtain the backlinks necessary to rank number one in the search results and
- Finding that number to contact and request they link to your post
I’ll address each problem in turn.
1. The Magic Number of Backlinks
Going back to our kale health benefits example, if you want to be the top-ranking result for that search term, your goal should be to acquire more high-quality backlinks than the current number one search result.
Though this isn’t a hard and fast rule, the highest ranking result often has the highest quantity of high-quality backlinks.
So how do you figure this out?
You use a backlink checker tool like openlinkprofile.org to find all links referencing the top ranking article.
If you’ve plugged the top search engine result into your backlink checker and it has 50 quality backlinks, you should try to obtain at least 51 quality backlinks to your blog post.
How many outreach emails do you need to send to get 51 backlinks?
Unfortunately, sending outreach emails is a numbers game where you must send hundreds if not thousands of emails to get just a handful of links.
Though marketing gurus like Brian Dean and Neil Patel get a 5-10% success rate with their email outreach efforts, I’ve only had about a 3% success rate in my link building experiments so far with my various blogs.
In other words, for every 100 emails I send asking for a backlink, three people actually fulfill my request.
So I recommend you take a conservative conversion estimate like 3% especially if you’re just starting your blog and it doesn’t have any authority or backlinks.
In our example, if you’re shooting for 51 backlinks at a 3% conversion rate, you’ll need to send 1,700 emails!
Where do you find 1,700 prospects to email?
I’ll address that in the next step.
2A. Finding Backlink Prospects: The Skyscraper Technique
One excellent method for finding backlink outreach prospects is Brian Dean’s “Skyscraper Technique.”
Here’s how you do it:
- Plug in each of the first-page search engine results for your keyword to a backlink checker tool. This will find all the websites that link to each of those search results. A free option for a backlink checker is openlinkprofiler.org but all the pros use ahrefs.com.
- Use an email address finding tool like hunter.io to find the webmaster or contact person for those websites.
- Send each of the website owners an email letting them know that you have created an updated and superior post for them to link to.
- Get backlinks to your blog post.
This is a genius method because not only are you gaining quality backlinks, you’re also taking them away from your competition.
However, I’ve found there are two big short-comings to this method.
- The skyscraper technique only works for “exact match articles.” (I’ll explain what this means shortly)
- The skyscraper technique alone typically won’t provide you with the number of backlink outreach prospects you need to rank number one for your search result.
I explained the issue with the skyscraper technique and exact match articles briefly in the January income report.
Basically, if your kale health benefits post isn’t EXACTLY like the other top ranking post (but 10X better, of course), you might not obtain very many backlinks.
Here’s an example of why this can happen.
At one point I was trying to rank number one for the search term “how to make money online” with my article “70 ways to make money online.”
The current number one search result for this term happens to be written by a college student (I thought nothing of this at first).
At first glance, my article about making money online seems very similar to this article.
However, many of the backlinks I attempted to replace referenced “ways college kids make money online,” or “how some university students make money,” etc.
Though my post covered the same general topic, the anchor text of referring links, and sometimes even the articles as a whole, weren’t perfect substitutes for my article because so many of the people that linked to that article were focusing on the fact that a college student wrote it, not on the ways to make money themselves.
As a result, many of my backlink email requests went unanswered because my post wasn’t a perfect substitute.
You’ll see this frequently in search engine results where the ranking articles seem to deviate from the keyword focus, and your article ceases to be a perfect substitute for links to those currently ranking articles.
Now I’ll explain a technique to help you find more backlink prospects besides just using the skyscraper technique.
2B. Finding Backlink Prospects: The Pinterest Backlink Mining Method
I know, I know.
This post is supposed to be about getting search engine traffic, not social media traffic.
This is actually a tip on finding backlink prospects and getting more search engine traffic.
Once you’ve gotten as many exact match link prospects as you can find, I recommend the Pinterest Backlink Mining Method to find even more.
Pinterest is an incredible social media platform for bloggers because it’s literally used primarily for sharing blog posts, unlike Facebook (for sharing everything), Twitter (for sharing text), Instagram (for sharing images and video), or Snapchat and YouTube (for sharing video).
So let’s say you’ve used the Skyscraper technique to find 500 backlink prospects, but you still need 1200 more to meet your 1700 email target that I mentioned earlier.
Head over to Pinterest and search your keyword “kale health benefits.”
You should see numerous relevant articles you can plug into your backlink checker to find as many backlink prospects as you need.
3. Optimizing Outreach
Let’s say you’ve used the Skyscraper Technique and the Pinterest Backlink Mining Method to gather all 1700 email prospects.
How do you efficiently send all 1700 emails?
Using a mass mailer like Mail Chimp is out of the question since none of these people opted in to any list you own.
Instead, I recommend Mail Merge.
This tool allows you to automate sending up to 250 emails a day from your personal email account.
So with these 1700 names and email addresses, you can come up with one email script, then send all the emails over the course of 8 days with the click of a button.
How to Use These Tools to Build a Profitable Blog
Let’s look at some numbers to give you a clearer picture of how bloggers use this approach to gain traffic and sales.
Continuing our health blog example, say you’ve discovered 15 keywords that represent topics you want to cover on your blog.
They all have great commercial intent (CPC >$1.00), a number one search result you can 10x regarding quality, and an average monthly search volume of 5,000 for each keyword.
Now let’s say you create 15 stellar blog posts, one for each of these keywords, send thousands of promotional emails, obtain more backlinks than the current top results, and after 3-6 months, your articles show up as the first result for their respective keywords.
According to Search Engine Watch, the number one search result receives 33% of that search term’s traffic, meaning you’re receiving 24,750 monthly visitors (that’s 33% X 15 blog posts X 5,000 monthly searches).
Search Engine Land indicates that a good conversion rate for sales is 2% of your web traffic.
So if 2% of your monthly visitors make a purchase, that’s 495 monthly sales (2% X 24,750 monthly visitors).
Now imagine you’re promoting affiliate products that earn you $10 a conversion.
That puts your monthly revenue at $4,950, or yearly revenue at $59,400! Not bad for just 15 articles.
This example demonstrates the power of a high-quality blog and how you it’s completely possible to build a profitable business around your passion in less than a year.
Want to increase your income?
Produce and promote more content or sell more expensive products.
This is how entrepreneurs like Patel make over $381,000 per month with just one blog.
To summarize, the formula for blog success is straightforward:
- Create spectacular, keyword-optimized blog posts.
- Send promotional emails to get backlinks.
- Move up in the search engine rankings for the keywords you target by obtaining backlinks and thus generating reliable traffic to your blog.
- Monetize that traffic.
Most posts about finding backlink opportunities are a mile wide and an inch deep with 50 different tactics specific enough to get you excited, but vague enough to be unhelpful once you start attempting them.
I tried to fix that in this post by taking a deep dive into one of the best backlink building methods I know so that you can start your blog the right way today.
How do you find backlink prospects?
I’d love to hear about it in the comments!