Following my post about the state of my first passive income website, several people wanted to know specifics about my SEO strategy, or how I get traffic to this website. Most traffic comes from search (Google). It boils down to creating content targeted to user intent. More specifically, it means doing research to discover what people are searching for, and creating content that answers all these questions, in the most specific way possible.
First, I had to discover which keywords were used. At this point, Google Keyword Tool is your friend. I looked for “gift certificate templates” because I thought it would be the main term. By mining the keyword tool for info, I learnt that:
- ”gift certificate template” gets far more searches than “gift certificate templates”. It seems the difference is ludicrous, but it’s not for Google.
- There are alternative keywords that refer to the same concept:
- printable gift certificate
- gift voucher template
- blank gift certificate
- there’s a long tail of searches for specific templates, by occasion and by business. For example
- christmas gift certificate template
- spa gift certificate template
- restaurant gift certificate template
- there are searches that refer to gift certificates without being about templates. For example
- gift certificate wording
- how to make a gift certificate
Tying keywords to content ideas
Should “gift voucher template” and “gift certificate template” have a dedicated page each? That’s something I was not sure at the beginning, and created different pages for these keywords. In the end Google decided that it should be one page only (by showing my home page to people searching both “gift certificate template” and “gift voucher template” even though there was one blog post about “gift voucher template”). So here the takeaway is: if the keywords are different but refer to the same concept, make only 1 target page, use the different keywords on the page, and eventually build links using the alternative keywords as anchor text.
It also makes sense to make more powerful pages for more competitive keywords. In our case, it is “gift certificate template” and so it should be the homepage focus, and the focus of link building campaigns. Depending on the competition and how much resources you want to throw in the game, you can also decide which keywords need special attention. As a hypothetical case, if we wanted to target “gift certificate wording” real bad and there was tough competition for this keyword, maybe it’d need more than a blog post. A blog category pointing to several posts teaching how to word gift certificates would be more powerful and could attract natural links more easily. What I mean is that you should be very strategic in the way you create content.
Google loves content. More specifically, it loves content that is laser-targeted to what people search online. Schematically, there are 2 components to the website:
- a template gallery, which targets all the certificate template searches
- a blog, which targets all searches around finding templates, making your own gift certificate and selling them.
Each page needs to be properly optimized. For example, a restaurant gift certificate template page will present the following optimizations:
- URL: http://www.giftcertificatefactory.com/templates/personal/restaurant/25/ (notice the words “restaurant”, “gift certificate” and “template” are all in the URL)
- page title: Restaurant Gift Certificate Template | Seafood
- page header: Free Restaurant Gift Certificate Template | Seafood
- a certificate image with an alt tag: “Restaurant Gift Certificate Template”
- and some text such as tips to make a gift certificate, and links back to some helpful blog articles
So this page is going to quite easily rank well in Google for the keywords “restaurant gift certificate template”.
I pumped out quite a few articles on the blog around all aspects of making gift certificates. Each blog post addresses a specific question, as analyzed in the keyword research stage. So I have blog posts about gift certificate wording for example.
At the beginning, I spent some time writing articles about gift certificates and posted it on article directories such as ezinearticles, goarticles, etc. It was mostly repackaged articles from the blog: I would use the same content and manually modify it, changing titles, adding or removing paragraphs. Some people use software (spinning software) to automate this process, but it usually gives low quality results that pollute the web, which I’m trying not to do.
So I wrote several dozen of short articles in the span of 2 or 3 months.
I also asked to a few small business blogs if I could guest post on their blog, and I managed to score a few posts on relatively well-established blogs, which helped gain authority for search engines (if you ask me, this is a better strategy than pumping out articles to article directories, who don’t usually have much audience).
The next step: scalable SEO
Patrick Mackenzie occasionally writes about scalable SEO: what he did was to create a system that allows other people to create content that is easily published to his website (a custom content management system). That’s something I’m thinking about for this website: creating a custom system to enable creating more certificates to target more long-tail searches. Why is it a good idea? Because more content translates directly into more revenue by driving more visitors who end up clicking on more ads. It certainly would be a great idea if it would translate into more sales (unfortunately, selling templates didn’t work in this case). But still if you put $1000 in and get $3000 out, it becomes by definition a scalable system.