Want even more detailed SEO tips and tricks? Head over to the podcast with Jeff Lenney to find out more about how he's built a career around SEO.
Anik recently sat down with someone he goes way back with, Jeff Lenney. Jeff actually started off as a coach here at Lurn, but he became so successful in his SEO efforts that he now works 100% for himself both on his own projects and for high-ticket clients.
And he does pretty darn well.
Over the years, Jeff has learned quite a bit about what actually works in SEO and what doesn’t. Luckily for you, he was kind enough to take over an hour out of his day to sit down with Anik on the latest podcast to share his most important SEO tips and tricks.
Here’s what we learned.
1.) Is SEO still worth it?
TL;DR: Yes, it's still worth it, and people who say it's dead are wrong.
While you may have heard various “experts” claim that SEO’s dead, SEO is actually alive and well. In fact, Jeff says that it's actually become easier because Google has become transparent with more of their ranking factors.
In the past, there was a lot of guesswork to SEO.
People resorted to various black hat methods like keyword stuffing and purchasing low-quality backlinks to increase their rankings because that’s what they thought they had to do to increase their positions.
However, SEO is much more about focusing on writing high-quality, valuable content now, but people are often intimidated by it.
Because people are intimidated by SEO and don’t have the patience to wait for the results, they claim that it’s “dead”. What that means for you is that there’s a ton of opportunity to fill in that gap in the market while everyone else is focusing on social media.
And it’s never too late to start.
No matter what niche you’re in, there’s an opportunity for you to increase the organic traffic that you drive to your website via SEO.
2.) How long does it take for a website to start driving traffic, and what metrics should I be paying attention to?
TL;DR: You can expect to wait between 3-6 months before you start seeing results, and you need to pay attention to time on site, bounce rate and number of pages clicked.
One of the biggest aspects of SEO that people struggle with is that they don’t get the instant gratification that you get with paid traffic.
You can’t just turn it on or off like you can with ads.
Thus, it’s important that you don’t freak out if you aren’t seeing results immediately. Generally, don’t expect much traffic out of your site for the first 3-6 months that you’re posting on your blog. That’s about how long it takes for your site to start picking up a reputation in the search engines.
Here’s what Jeff typically does with a new site:
- Puts up 5-10 articles immediately.
- Gives those articles a few weeks to see if they rank anywhere in Google.
- If those articles rank (whether on the first page or 10th page), that shows there’s some momentum there.
- He then puts out 1-2 articles a week on a regular basis if there's momentum.
It takes a while to generate momentum in Google, so don’t get too frustrated if it takes you some time to figure out how to get yourself ranked and generating traffic. Now, if you don’t see any improvement after a year, you may want to reconsider your strategy.
In terms of what metrics you should be watching as you gain traffic, a few to keep an eye on are:
- Time on site: 2-3 minutes is good to aim for.
- Bounce rate (how many people leave after viewing just one page): 25%-65% is a good range to aim for.
- The number of pages they click to: The higher the better.
If you notice any of these metrics struggling, see what you can do early on in the process to improve them.
3.) What on-page SEO elements are important to be aware of?
TL;DR: Put the keyword in the URL, the H1 tag, an H2 tag, the beginning of your title, in the first 100 words, in your meta description and throughout the post. Use internal linking and external linking, add images throughout the post and make it easy to read.
On-page SEO refers to what you need to do to each individual page to optimize it for search engines. While there’s a lot that you could go into in terms of on-page SEO, what you really need to know are the basics:
1. Include your keyword in the URL of the page.
When Google crawls your website to figure out what each page is about, one of the first things it does is look at the URL to see what the topic of the page is.
That's why you want to keep your URL easy to read and keyword rich.
Remember that it's a computer viewing your page, not a person.
Be as clear as possible.
2. Put The Keyword In An H1 Tag (In The Beginning)
You should almost always only have one h1 tag on a page, and it should be your title. To tell Google what your post is about, you should include your keyword(s) as close to the beginning of the title as possible.
Take this title from one of our posts as an example.
Google will know exactly what this page is about because the keyword phrase is in both the URL and in the beginning of the title.
3. Include your keyword in an h2 tag (a subheader).
Although experts don't believe this factor is as important as it once was, it's still helpful to include your keyword in at least one h2 tag on your page.
An h2 is just a subheader like this.
You don't need to go and. put your keyword in every single h2, but try to get it into one.
4. Include your keyword in the first 100 words.
Again, Google is trying to figure out what your page is about as quick as possible. Another way to help that process is to include your keyword as early on in your post as possible.
The current best practice is to include it within the first 100 words of your page.
5. Include your keyword a few times throughout your post.
While keyword density isn't nearly as imortant as it once was, you should sprinkle the keyword throughout your post a few times to give the search engines an idea of the topic of. the page.
Try to make it sound as natural as possible.
If you try to stuff your pages with keywords, you're likely to penalized.
6. Include your keyword in your meta description.
The meta description is the text that Google displays beneath your page title in the search engine to give users an idea of what the page is about.
You should always include your keyword in the metadescription.
It should sound as natural as possible because this is another opportunity for you to get the click over other results.
7. Use internal linking.
Internal linking just means linking to other pages within your website.
When you link to other pages on your website in a post, you accomplish three important things:
- You show how your page is related to other pages.
- You pass authority to your other pages.
- You keep people on your website longer
You should have at least 3-5 internal links in every article.
8. Add external links.
In addition to internal links, you should also link to other reputable sources to show the search engines that you've done your research.
While linking to other pages may take people away from your content, it ultimately makes your website more authoritative and trustworthy.
9. Make sure external links open in new tabs.
When someone clicks one of your external links, it's important that you have your website set to have that page open in a new tab.
If it opens in the same tab, people are likely to forget about your page and never return.
10. Add at least one image.
Google values user experience, and an easy way to improve user experience is to include images, videos, and GIFs in your posts. You need at least one image, but Jeff's recommendation is to aim to have an image for every 100-150 words on the page.
You can also include your keyword in the file name as an extra signal to Google.
Because search engines can't yet understand what an image is, you need to help them with words.
11. Add alt tags to the images.
Speaking of helping search engines understand pictures, you also need to ad alt-text for every image on your page.
Doing so tells the search engine what exactly the image is. Bonus points if you can include your keyword.
12. Write At Least 1,000-1,500 Words Per Post
Search engines want to send people to highly valuable content, and content that's really short typically isn't viewed as being that valuable.
While some tools will recommend at least 300 words, you should actually aim for around 1,000-1,500 words per post to show the search engine that you're providing real value.
You don't have to go up to 5,000 all the time, but sometimes it may be necessary depending on your topic.
13. Use bullet points to help people scan the text.
Always remember that search engines value people spending time on your page. One way you can make that happen is by making your text easy to read and scannable.
Bullet points are one of the easiest ways to do this.
Anytime you have any sort of list, just turn it into bullet points.
14. Avoid big walls of text.
Speaking of making text easy to read, stay far far away from big blocks of text like this:
When people see something like that on your page, they'll click away immediately.
15. Use sub-headers.
Another simple way to make your page easier to read is to organize it with subheaders.
It also gives the search engine an idea of what the sections are about.
16. Add your site to Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
If you want to grow your website, you absolutely have to be connected to both Google Analytics and the Google Search Console.
It's one of the most powerful analytics platforms out there, and it's 100% free for you to use.
17. Use Page Optimizer Pro to make sure you did everything right.
If you want some help with making sure your page is properly optimized, Jeff recommends Page Optimizer Pro.
It helps you optimize your page in four simple steps:
Typically, you don’t need to worry about doing anything with Google to get your pages indexed because they will eventually find your pages on your own. However, if you do want to get your page ranked a little bit faster you can submit the URL to Google’s index via the Search Console
If you follow those 17 recommendations for every post, you’ll have done most of the optimization work necessary.
4.) What off-page elements are important to be aware of?
TL;DR: Backlinks are the most important off-page SEO element.
Off-page SEO refers to everything you do off of your website to help increase your domain authority and positions in the search engine results.
To this day, backlinks are still the most important off-page SEO element to focus on.
For those who don’t know, a backlink is simply a link from another website to one of your pages. These are valuable because Google sees links to your content as a sort of “vote” for the quality of that content.
However, obtaining backlinks can be a bit difficult.
Unfortunately, in many niches, there’s no such thing as a free backlink. The most common way for people to get backlinks is to write guest posts on other people’s websites.
Some other people will pay webmasters for backlinks to their site, but this is definitely risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. When the Google Penguin update came out a few years back, websites all over the world were penalized for buying backlinks.
What that meant was that they lost a ton of their traffic.
To avoid risking a penalty, focus on building backlinks through white hat methods like guest posting and sharing content via your email list and social media.
In terms of social media, what the research has shown is that shares, comments, etc. on social media sites don’t factor into search engine rankings. While useful in other ways, there is no established direct correlation between social media and rankings.
5.) How do you choose keywords?
TL;DR: Go for long-tail keywords, use Ahrefs or SEMrush and research using sites like Answer The Public, forums, and Quora.
One thing about keyword research is that it’s almost necessary for you to have a paid tool if you want to understand how much search volume a particular keyword has and how competitive it’s going to be.
A couple of good paid options are:
With these two tools, you can research keywords (and related keywords) to see approximately how many people are searching for those keywords each month and how difficult it’s going to be for you to rank on the first page for those keywords.
If you’re a newer website or a niche blog, you’re going to want to look for really targeted keywords that don’t have a ton of competition.
These are called “long-tail” keywords and are typically at least four words.
You should set the max volume to be around 5,000 searches per month because these are usually going to have a little bit less competition, which means you have a higher chance of ranking.
So, how do you get ideas for keywords? There are a few ways:
- Internet forums
- Recommended searches inside of Google
To get a better idea of what level of keywords you can actually rank for, one thing you can do with paid tools is see what keywords you’re already ranking for.
You can take that list of keywords and find the average difficulty of those keywords to see what you can expect to rank for.
Remember, higher search density isn’t necessarily better.
If you can consistently rank for keywords in the 500-1,000 search volume range, that traffic adds up.
6.) How important is it to pay attention to Google’s algorithm updates?
TL;DR: As long as you aren't trying to game the system, most of Google's updates shouldn't affect you too much.
If you spend any amount of time working in SEO, you’ll hear a lot about the different algorithm updates. Every couple of years there’s a major one (like Penguin or Panda) that changes the landscape of the industry.
These major updates typically penalize people for misbehavior of some sort.
For example, people who were keyword stuffing or purchasing a bunch of backlinks were penalized in previous updates.
There are also smaller “health” updates that have a more limited scope.
While these updates certainly are important, you don’t necessarily need to pay too much attention to them if you’re following Google’s guidelines and focusing strictly on creating high-quality unique content.
The people who get punished by these updates the most are those using questionable tactics.
If you do want to keep up with the different updates, or you’ve noticed that traffic to your site has dropped dramatically, you can simply do a Google search of algorithm updates to see whether or not something has changed and how it may affect you.
Alternatively, Moz keeps an updated list of Google algorithm updates.
7.) How do you monetize your organic traffic?
TL;DR: Writing reviews and including affiliate links in those reviews.
While there are several ways to make money from organic traffic, Jeff’s favorite way is to rank for product names in various niches and then write reviews for those products.
What those reviews typically look like is:
- A few thousand words
- Why the product is good or bad
The biggest thing he recommends is that you never lie to sell a crappy product since your reputation is all you really have in the SEO and review world.
To give you an idea of how much money he’s been able to make off of this system, there was a cryptocurrency launch a few years back that was one of the biggest launches of all-time.
It did something around $25 million for the launch.
Jeff was able to rank a review for that product, and he went on to make $135,000 in commissions for himself in just one day and $250,000 in commissions over the week.
Then people saw that work and hired him for a nice five-figure retainer!
All from organic traffic.
However, most days and weeks aren’t like that for him. Some days, he’ll make $50, some days he’ll make $500, and some days he’ll make $3,000.
It all depends on the amount of traffic he’s getting to his pages each day.
8.) What should you look out for if you’re hiring an SEO expert?
TL;DR: There are a lot of people who don't know what they're doing in SEO, so do your research before hiring someone.
Unfortunately, something that SEO is notorious for is that there are a ton of “experts” offering their services who don’t actually know what they’re doing. They typically rely on outdated methods or say over and over again that there aren’t results because “it just takes time”.
While SEO does take time, these people are just looking to collect money for as long as possible before the business owner catches on.
If you do decide to hire someone, do your homework:
- Find out who that person or agency has ranked for.
- Ask for a portfolio.
- Talk with people who have worked for them before.
- Look for proven results.
Above all, educate yourself.
You need to be able to ask specific questions about their methods and have a basic understanding of SEO to be able to tell the difference between those who are legit and those who are just scamming.
Want More SEO Tips And Tricks?
The thing about SEO is that it's a field that's constantly changing and evolving.
Because of that, you can't stop learning.
With that said, the primary thing to focus on producing high-quality, valuable content on a regular basis. As long as you do that (and don't try to trick the search engines), you'll see results if you stick with it.
If want to go more in-depth with SEO, be sure to check out our SEO Crash Course here at Lurn.
(Note: Want even more detailed SEO tips and tricks? Head over to the podcast with Jeff Lenney to find out more about how he's built a career around SEO.)