To get started let’s just take a moment to clarify the Six Basic Steps of SEO. This will give us a framework to compare and contrast what regular business owners do to what the pros do.
So here we go, here are the Six Basic Steps of SEO:
The first step, is Market Research. This usually involves using a tool like Market Samurai to find keywords that have a good balance of traffic, commercial value, and acceptable levels of competition.
Step two is to build a website. Clearly you can’t rank in the search engines if you don’t have a site to rank.
The third step is on-page optimization. Which means optimizing the content and navigation of your site.
The fourth step is content creation. The higher the quality and the more relevant this content is to the keywords you’re targeting, the better.
Step five, which is probably the most important and often overlooked step, is building backlinks.
And the sixth and final step is tracking results. This involves keeping track of the search engines your site is ranking in and the keywords it’s ranking for.
So that’s it in a nutshell. These are the Six Basic Steps of SEO.
Now let’s take a look at each of these steps in more detail and compare what a regular business owner does to what the SEO pros do.
Regular Business Owner & The Pros
To do this, I’d first like to introduce you to a regular online business owner - Maree who owns a small website in the craft niche.
Next I’d like to introduce you to Dave - who runs a professional SEO company and is one of the experts we’ve been grilling over the last 18 months.
Let’s now take a look at each of the Six Steps of SEO and compare Maree’s approach to that of the SEO pros.
Step 1: Market Research
We’ll begin with Market Research:
Market Research - Regular Business Owner
While many people still skip this step completely, Maree understands the importance of Market Research, so she uses Market Samurai to identify three keywords that are relevant to her site, have good traffic potential, high commercial value and an acceptable amount of competition. Maree keeps these keywords in mind when she registers her domain and creates content for her site, but that’s about as far as her market research goes.
Market Research - Professional Approach
The SEO Pros on the other hand go much further.
Sure, they do Keyword Research. In fact, most of the people we interviewed use Market Samurai as their primary Keyword Research tool and they follow a very similar process.
First they find promising keywords that have great traffic, and good commercial value.
But then they also spend a lot of time assessing the competition for these keywords.
Reverse Engineer Competitor Link Network
To do this, they take a look at the number one ranking website for a keyword, and then use Market Samurai or a similar tool to reverse-engineer the strength and number of the site’s backlinks.
For example, they might discover that the top ranking site for the keyword they’re interested in has 15 Pagerank 6 links, 9 Pagerank 5 links, 12 Pagerank 4 links, 45 pagerank 3 links, 267 Pagerank 2 Links, 423 Pagerank 1 links, and 507 Pagerank 0 links.
Why did they do this?
To work out how many backlinks THEY need to build to outrank the top site!
Compare Expenses to Projected Revenue
The pros understand that if they can create a site that contains more good quality content and has more high quality backlinks, then they will eventually outrank their competitors and achieve the number one spot in the search engine rankings.
However, they also understand that creating a site that will out rank the current number one can be an expensive exercise. Therefore the SEO pros need to be 100% sure of the commercial value of their target keywords.
Since they are prepared to sink tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into link-building if that’s what’s required, they have to be absolutely sure that they will make money from that keyword once they reach the number one spot.
So how do they do this? They do what the vast majority of regular Internet marketers never do.
They test the keyword FIRST with paid traffic. That’s right. They use pay-per-click methods like adwords and buy a stack of traffic, send it through to their offer, and make sure that the traffic converts using the exact offer they are looking to promote.
Insurance against failure
They often spend thousands of dollars testing a keyword, but the way the Pros look at it, is that money spent on Pay per click is the cheapest form of insurance against failure that they can buy.
True Traffic Values
They also learn something else by testing. It allows them to measure the TRUE traffic for a keyword. You see, Google Traffic data is good. It’s the best data that’s available today. But for many reasons, sometimes it can be inaccurate, or just plain misleading! The SEO experts need to be 100% sure that they know the TRUE traffic values for a keyword before they are ready to invest any serious money into it. And buying PAID traffic is the fastest and easiest way to get this information.
Simple Financial Decision
When they have this data they are then able to make a simple financial decision. Does the upside outweigh the downside?
The list of their competitor’s backlinks tell them what kind of link network they will need to build to secure the number 1 spot. They understand how many links they need and how strong those links need to be.
This translates directly into how much money they will have to spend to build those links. As long as the expense of doing this is far less than the financial upside projected by their paid traffic test, then they will move forward on a project.
Some of the experts love to do this market research themselves because they enjoy it. Others, once they’ve identified the general market, employ a market research team of 3-6 people who repeat this process over and over, until they find a keyword that meets all the criteria.
So just to clarify, the Professional approach to keyword research is to:
(1) Identify high traffic keywords that have high commercial value.
(2) Reverse engineer the site that is currently number one in the search engines to work out how much it will cost to build a site that can secure the number one spot.
(3) Use pay per click traffic to determine the conversion rates of the product you are looking to promote.
(4) Only move ahead if the profit potential significantly outweighs the projected expenses.
Step 2: Creating a Website
Let’s now take a look at the second step of SEO which is Creating a Website.
Creating a Website - Regular Business Owner
When it came to creating a website, Maree elected to use Wordpress. While she was not very technical, she followed the instructions and asked her son for help when she got a bit stuck. Within a weekend, Maree had set up her site and was able to start blogging.
Creating a Website - Professional Approach
So what do the pros do?
The process of building a web-site for the SEO experts is not all that different from the average person. Most of the experts we spoke to still use Wordpress as the core platform for all their websites. What is different however is the scale at which they operate.
The experts have many, many projects on the go, and as you’ll learn, they often need to create dozens of new sites as part of their back-link building strategy
Website Development Teams
So instead of building the sites themselves like Maree, the pros have several teams dedicated to building web-sites (about 2-4 teams on average, with about 3-6 people in each team)
These teams consist of professional Graphic Designers, and Web Developers who work full-time building new sites. For sites that are going to be the focus of their link-building they often spend a lot of time and money developing a polished, high-quality site.
Step 3: On-page Optimization
OK, next, we’ll take a look at the third step of SEO – On Page Optimization.
On-page optimization - Regular Business Owner
After attending an Internet Marketing seminar, Maree learnt that optimizing her content and navigation could help improve the rank of her website. She therefore changed the title tags on many of her posts, improved her navigation, increased her internal links, and made sure she included the keywords she was targeting in her content and blog post tags.
On-page optimization - Professional Approach
Interestingly, the Experts approach to on-page optimization is virtually identical to Marees. They don’t spend hours working on this stuff. Instead, they just make sure they cover the basics. They check that their keywords are in their title tags, optimize their internal navigation, and make sure that their target keyword is in their content and tags.
The major difference between Maree's approach and the approach of Dave and his friends is again one of scale. Most of the web-developers in their website building teams are trained up to perform on-page optimization, as is anyone who develops content for the site.
This means that every post on every website is optimized for specific keyword phrases and is a strategic step forward to creating a site filled with good quality, keyword specific content that will rank well in the search engines.
Step 4: Content Creation
Now let’s look at the fourth step of SEO which is Content Creation and once again contrast Maree’s approach to the Pro’s approach.
Content Creation - Regular Business Owner
When it comes to creating content, Maree’s approach is to sit down each Thursday night and try and write a good quality article for her readers. Using this approach, Maree produces on average about four articles a month.
Content Creation - Professional Approach
In contrast to Maree’s approach, each of the SEO professionals we spoke to has an incredibly elaborate content-creation system, capable of generating literally thousands of unique pieces of content per month.
You’ll see why this is so important when we discuss backlinks, but it’s really worth studying exactly how the SEO experts generate content.
3 Key Principles
The central principle of content creation all the pros subscribe to is “do it once, apply massive leverage, and waste nothing”.
Content Creation Example
Here’s a typical example of how the pros create content.
It usually begins with a product.
To create a product they often deliver a seminar which is then recorded. Alternatively they might hire an outside topic expert and interview them or pay them to give a seminar.
From Seminar to Product
The pros then transform the seminar recording into a series of DVDs, workbooks, manuals, audio CDs and downloadable multimedia files.
Leveraged Content Creation
At the same time, small parts of the core product are re-written to become high quality articles about the subject matter.
These articles then have slides and images added to them, and are turned into a slideshow, which is then recorded to produce a YouTube video representing the same content. Finally the audio track is extracted to create a stand-alone piece of audio content that can be used as a podcast.
Every single piece of content gets turned into articles, videos, and audio files. The very best material gets used as web-site content. The rest is saved to use for link-building which we’ll talk about in a moment.
More Leverage With Teams
Many of the SEO experts outsource the entire product, web-site content, and article creation process. In fact they often have multiple product development teams, consisting of project managers, writers, and video editors.
On top of that all the SEO experts also have multiple dedicated article-writing teams, producing article after article of keyword-optimized content, to be used in their link-building strategy.
Step 5 - Building Backlinks
OK, Let’s now look at the all important fifth step of SEO – Building Backlinks.
Building Backlinks - Regular Business Owner
After spending a bit of time online, Maree came to realize the importance of getting links from other sites to her own.
To create some backlinks she tried a few techniques such as making comments on other peoples blogs, responding to questions in forums, social bookmarking, social networking and submitting articles to article directories.
Like most people, however, Maree found this process very tedious and gave up on it after building just a handful of links.
Building Backlinks - Professional Approach
The SEO Professionals approach to backlinks is very, very different.
Where most people build links themselves, the Experts have teams, often dozens of people working full-time day-in, day-out building links.
They do social bookmarking, often having dedicated teams using software that can socially bookmark every single page that they publish on the web. They do this to help quickly get these pages indexed on the right keywords, and also to make sure that these pages get every chance of remaining in Google’s index.
The pros also do blog commenting. They have teams dedicated to doing nothing else but commenting on blogs to get good quality links.
They do forum posting. Once again, dedicated teams posting on forums to get back links.
They use social media like Facebook and Twitter to get both traffic and links to their most important pages.
They also use web2.0 sites like squidoo, weebly and many others to take the content they’ve created, and create networks of interlinked web2.0 pages called “link wheels” that they can then use to pass authority through to their main site.
They buy ads and links on other people’s sites not just for the traffic value, but also for the search engine value of the high page rank link that gets created.
They buy existing domain names which already have high pagerank and existing links, and expand those websites with more articles and content. They then interlink these high authority blogs, and point them through to their main site.
The SEO experts also build large networks of blogs around topics related to their market, interlink them, and then link one or two of them back to their main site.
They take copies of the hundreds of articles that they had created, and get their teams to submit these articles manually to high quality article directories.
They take all the videos that they had created, and syndicate them to the video publishing sites such as youtube and vimeo using video syndication services.
They write press releases about their site, and use PR services to syndicate these documents to obtain both links and traffic.
And if they are an authority in a particular market, they use guest blogging to get traffic and high quality links from popular blogs.
As if that wasn’t enough, perhaps the most leveraged of their link-building systems is using Article Syndication networks. One common pattern across all the experts we spoke to was that article syndication really was the back-bone of their link-building strategy.
Lets take a closer look at how article syndication works.
The basic principle underlying article syndication is that you create a good quality article and then submit it to an article syndication network.
The syndication network then makes your article available to other website owners who are looking for content for their sites.
When these website owners publish your article on their websites, they include a link back to your website. So in effect, you are trading content for links.
Benefits of syndication
This is extremely powerful because it’s a white-hat, permission based system.
Many of the link-building methods available today such as blog commenting are often abused by people who post up spam comments just to try and sneak in a backlink.
Article Syndication however, is very different. It’s permission based, transparent, and there are literally millions of places that will happily let you swap your content for backlinks every day of the week.
It’s win, win. The website owners get good quality content and you get links.
And from a search engine optimization viewpoint, it just works. It’s actually one of the oldest and most reliable link-building methods and is used by every single one of the experts we spoke to.
And the best-bit is that with the exponential growth of the Internet over the last few years, there are now more and more sites that need content, and are happy to exchange links in order to get it. It’s a link-building system that actually gets easier the more competitive the web gets!
If you haven’t heard a lot about Article Syndication before, it’s important to understand that there are two different kinds of syndication networks available:
The first are Article Directories.
These are sites where you post your article and make it available to others. Web-site owners who are looking for content, can then search these article directories to find articles relevant to their market, they then take a copy of your article, and republish it on their website. You get a link from the article directory itself, and you also get additional backlinks each time a web site owner decides to republish your article.
The second kind of syndication network that are becoming popular with the SEO experts are Blog Networks.
These are networks of thousands of blogs, either individually owned, or collectively owned by a single service.
You submit an article, and then a copy of your article gets distributed to each blog in the network. Depending on the network, these articles may be automatically published, or they may be submitted for review first and need to be approved by the site owner.
The better networks allow individual website owners to indicate the keywords and categories that they’re interested in receiving content from.
Article Syndication - Regular Business Owner
OK, now let's take a look at how regular business owners and the SEO pros make use of these syndication networks.
Recently, Maree listened to an interesting webinar about article marketing and as a result she submitted a few articles to one of the main online article directories.
But that's pretty much the extent of her article syndication efforts.
Article Syndication - Professional Approach
In stark contrast to Maree, Dave and his SEO Expert friends employ one or more dedicated teams of article writers who write and syndicate articles day after day.
They also subscribe to dozens of article directories and blog syndication networks.
Their teams use these syndication networks to distribute content to thousands of directories and blogs around the world.
Which over time, results in the creation of tens of thousands of backlinks
Cost of Backlink Creation
Of course, access to multiple directories and subscriptions to syndication services cost a lot of money.
The SEO pros spend thousands of dollars each month in subscription fees and pay tens of thousands of dollars a month to their dedicated teams to make it all happen. But that's what it takes to generate tens of thousands of backlinks.
There is one more aspect to the backlink strategy that SEO professionals apply that most regular business owners do not, which is that they never stop link-building.
Even when they’ve got a number one ranking and they’re well ahead of their nearest competitor, they continue to invest in a generating more and more good quality links.
This not only helps them to continue to stay ahead of newcomers in their markets, but also avoids the situation in which the backlinks to their site suddenly stop.
The SEO pros know that a sudden stop in link-building is not wise, and may signal to the search engines that their websites are not as important as they were, which could negatively impact their rankings.
Step 6: Tracking Results
And finally let’s take a look at the sixth step of SEO – Tracking Results.
Tracking Results - Regular Business Owner
When it comes to tracking the performance of her website, Maree’s approach is pretty simple. Every now and then, she simply types each of her target keywords into a search engine, and tries to find out where her site is ranking for that keyword. Because this is a manual and time consuming process she tends not to do this very often.
Tracking Results - Professional Approach
The SEO professionals on the other hand are a lot more systematic about how they track the performance of their web properties.
First they use a tracking service. This might be the Rank Tracker module in Market Samurai or another similar service.
They also make use of an analytics package such as Google Analytics to monitor the traffic to their site and work out what new keywords they are ranking for.
How the Pros use Google Analytics
And here's one of the most powerful ways that the Pros use Google Analytics.
First they find and track any new keywords they are ranking for. If these new keywords produce good traffic and good conversions, they then aggressively target these keywords in the content creation and link building activities.
This improves their rank for these keywords and leads to rankings for other related keywords which means they can start the process all over again.
This process allows the Pros to work with the search engines and determine how best to focus their efforts moving forward.
Well, that brings us to the end of our comparison of how regular business owners and the SEO professionals approach the 6 basic steps of SEO.