As you can see from the screenshot above, I directed 30 million SEO visitors to my website.
Technically, it's more, but who counts.
What is funny, however, is that I hardly look at my traffic, even though Google is constantly introducing algorithm updates.
I know that sounds contradictory, because if you're an SEO, why shouldn't you be obsessed with traffic?
That's because I've learned some hard lessons over the years … mainly because I've made a lot of mistakes.
That's why I wanted to share it with you today so that you can learn from my mistakes.
Lesson 1: Don't worry about rankings, but about conversions
I checked my leaderboard every day. Literally.
In addition, I logged in to Google Analytics 4 to 5 times a day and continuously checked my data traffic.
That's all that was important to me at the time … to increase my organic traffic.
But here's the thing: As my rankings and traffic have increased over the years, my earnings have not increased proportionally.
For example, during a quarter of 2017, my SEO traffic increased by 39.52%, but my SEO revenue only increased by 4.29%.
I quickly learned that traffic is not everything. If you can't turn traffic into revenue, it doesn't matter.
That taught me that you need to focus on the right keywords, drive conversions, and continually optimize your website for conversions.
An easy first step for you is to install Crazy Egg and run a heat map to see where people click so you can customize and copy your design for more sales.
Lesson 2: The easiest way to increase your SEO traffic is by international expansion
You already know that I get a lot of SEO traffic, but do you know which country drives most of my traffic?
If you guessed USA, you are wrong.
Brazil is my most popular region, followed by India.
International SEO is the easiest way to expand and increase your traffic. Here are some posts that you should read before expanding your SEO globally:
Lesson 3: Keywords are very, very, very, very important
When I wrote my content, I wasn't obsessed with keywords when I should.
My team actually proved the opposite to me.
I used to focus on writing content for people, not caring about search engines. My team, however, is obsessed with keywords.
Just look at the growth of our traffic in Brazil because we are obsessed with the right keywords.
One simple thing that I do before I write and that has really helped is that I go to Ubersuggest and enter some of the keywords that I want to search for.
After loading, a report like the one shown above will be displayed. I would like you to click on "Keyword ideas" in the navigation on the left.
You'll see a report with a list of keywords that you might target.
Make sure you click the "Related" tab, "Questions" and "Comparisons". Scroll through the list. You see hundreds of keywords. Select all relevant that ideally cause high cost per click (CPC). These are the keywords that not only increase traffic, but also sales.
Whenever I write a blog post, I go through this step. Every time.
Lesson 4: AMP sites can generate more SEO traffic
AMP pages load faster on mobile devices than non-AMP pages.
If you are not familiar with the AMP framework, read this.
What most people don't tell you about AMP sites is this:
- In regions such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, countries with decent internet infrastructure, traffic will hardly increase.
- In regions with poor internet infrastructure such as Brazil, mobile SEO traffic through AMP pages is increased by 10 to 15%.
- AMP pages do not turn visitors into customers and normal responsive web design. So you need to work on testing your AMP pages to increase your conversion rates.
Lesson 5: SEO will never convert ads as good as paid ads
When I started SEO, I made predictions about how much traffic I would get.
But the numbers were always wrong, even if I could get the ranking.
Here's the main reason: If you bid on terms such as auto insurance, you can take people to a landing page that looks like this:
However, if you want organic ranking, you have to do it through content. Your well-placed page looks more like this and converts less …
That doesn't mean that SEO is bad. In reality, it is much cheaper than paid ads in the long run and leads to better ROI. However, don't just assume that with 100 visitors from paid ads and 3 purchases, you'll get the same conversion rate as your SEO traffic.
Chances are that it will be 2 or 3 times significantly lower, but because SEO is cheaper, it will be much more profitable.
Lesson 6: Remarketing is one of the best ways to get ROI with SEO
If you get a lot of traffic from SEO, there is a simple strategy that you can implement to increase your conversions.
Remarket everyone on Facebook, Google and YouTube.
This way, people come to your website, read your content, and build trust in you and your brand.
They are then advertised across the web to advertise your product or service and sent to a landing page that increases sales.
I've been doing this for years. Just take a look at my old remarketing ad.
In the regions where I use remarketing, it is responsible for 46% of my leads.
Lesson 7: Don't forget to update your old content
I publish a new blog post every week. I'm working on increasing this when I have more time, but right now it's one a week.
Can you imagine how many blog posts I update daily? Technically it's 0 (at least me), but my team is focused on updating at least 3 old blog posts a day. That's about 90 a month.
If you have a few hundred pages, you should focus on updating your old content, otherwise the traffic will decrease quickly.
With this content expiration tool, you can see which posts you should update first.
This will help you continuously increase your SEO traffic instead of reaching plateaus or seeing your traffic drop massively.
Lesson 8: Don't forget to tweak your title tags
One of the easiest ways to improve your rankings is to optimize your title tags.
If you can write a compelling copy and get more clicks, you will quickly move up to Google.
We spend more time in Brazil than in the United States.
We're getting a similar number of impressions in Brazil, but we have more people focused on improving and testing our title tags. Therefore, we get 95% more SEO traffic in Brazil.
For tips on increasing your clicks, read this article.
Another simple hack is to use the Content Ideas report in Ubersuggest.
On the right side of this report you can see the number of social shares from Facebook and Pinterest. And on the left hand side you can see titles of articles.
When people like a title, they usually share it more. So look for titles with lots of content, as they will give you ideas on how to get more clicks on your website and improve your rankings.
Lesson 9: Don't put any data in your URL
I have inserted the following data into my URLs:
As a result, search engines assume that your content is linked to a specific date. And after that date grows old, search engines assume that your content is irrelevant and out of date.
The moment I removed the date from my URLs, I increased my SEO traffic by 58% in 30 days.
If your URL contains data, make sure to redirect your old URLs to your new ones once you've made this change. Otherwise your rankings will decrease.
Lesson 10: Don't be afraid to use popups
Don't you hate popups? Well, who isn't?
But people use them because they work.
The majority of your pages that get ranked are blog-related content. And blog posts tend to result in less direct conversions because users are on your website to read the content.
To maximize your conversions from SEO, consider using exit pop-ups so that you can convert more of these visitors into customers when they leave.
If you leave this website in most cases, a popup will appear that looks like this:
And it brings you to this quiz that I can use to turn SEO visitors into customers.
You can just copy me with Hello Bar. It works for all industries, including B2B and e-commerce, and even for lead generation websites.
Lesson 11: Brand inquiries affect the ranking
Everyone is talking about how you need links to improve your ranking.
But very few people talk about trademark inquiries.
As a former CEO of Google and former head of web spam, both emphasized the importance of brands.
One of the main reasons for my growth in SEO traffic is the growth of my brand. I've seen a direct correlation where the more people find me by my name, the more SEO traffic I get.
Just look at my brand growth over time:
I've received over 1.9 million visitors from people who entered variations of my name on Google in the past 16 months.
Lesson 12: Don't waste your money on paid links
I've been doing SEO since I was 16. That's a long time…
When I started as a child, I was concerned with paid links and dominated Google for terms like online casino, online poker, web hosting, auto insurance, and even credit cards.
And I killed affiliate income from these sites.
But it was all short-lived.
Because I bought links. Finally, Google punished all of these websites.
If I had never bought links, the ranking of these websites would have taken longer, but they would have existed today and I would have generated more income overall.
Don't buy links, it's bad and short-sighted.
Lesson 13: Guest post on building a brand, not building links
I have already discussed the importance of branding above.
A great way to build your brand and indirectly increase your SEO traffic is to post guests.
However, do not use guest posts to create links.
Most websites that offer guest posts don't follow them (what they should), and Google is smart enough to know what a guest post is. Therefore, they ignore links to guest posts from websites like Forbes.
It is fairly easy to find a guest post for both a human and an algorithm.
But if you use it to build a brand, great. Concentrate on the quality of the content and not on links.
Lesson 14: Don't forget to link
Do you know what some of my top rated sites are?
Those who are connected.
It takes between 6 months and a year for many of the interlinks to be activated, but it is still effective.
Every time I wrote content, I made sure to point to my older content if it made sense. But I made a big mistake … I didn't go over my older content and then I added links to my newer content.
This one change changed me. It took some time to see the results, but it worked exceptionally well.
So I rank high on terms like "email marketing".
Lesson 15: Google is not the only game in town
Although Google is the most popular search engine, it's not the only one you need to focus on.
Did you know that YouTube is the second most popular search engine?
Even Bing gets a lot of traffic.
If you want to get a high rank at Bing, follow these instructions.
Or if you prefer a video, check out the following:
In this guide, you will learn YouTube SEO on YouTube. It works really well, just look at my YouTube SEO traffic:
In the last 28 days I received 429,501 video views via YouTube SEO.
Lesson 16: Speed is everything
The faster your server and the more optimized your website is, the more traffic you will get.
Years ago my friend Otis added more servers to his GoodReads website.
Within a month, his SEO traffic increased by over 20%.
Speed is part of the Google algorithm. So optimize it for both the web and mobile devices.
A quick way to measure the speed of your website is to enter your URL here.
You'll see a report listing mobile and desktop charging times and ways to improve.
Lesson 17: Quality over Quantity
SEO used to be a game of quantity over quality.
That is no longer the case. With over a billion blogs, Google has a fair share of websites to choose from.
Just have a look at About.com. Eventually they renamed it Dotdash and changed their strategy.
They moved all of their About.com content to 6 vertical websites and deleted 900,000 pages of junk content.
This increased their traffic and sales by a whopping 140%.
Focus on writing high quality content. That's why I blog less and try to make my content amazing.
Lesson 18: Tools are better than content marketing
I used to focus all my energy on content marketing because it caused a lot of links and SEO traffic.
But over time, I realized that creating free tools creates more natural connections than anything I've ever tested.
Just look at Ubersuggest. I spent years creating it and looking at how many links it generated …
30,603 backlinks! That's a lot of links.
If you don't have the resources to create a custom tool like me, you can always buy a Code Canyon white label tool for $ 10 or $ 20. They literally have tools for almost all industries.
Lesson 19: Don't just rely on SEO
When I started SEO I could only think of SEO.
For me it was the best marketing channel out there because it allowed me to compete with big companies.
To date, I love SEO more than any other channel.
However, it doesn't prevent me from using other marketing channels.
Years ago you were able to build a business from a single marketing channel.
Yelp was built through SEO. Dropbox on social media recommendations. Facebook by e-mail invites …
These days no longer exist. You can't just create your traffic on one channel.
Although you should be doing SEO, you should also try paid ads, social media marketing, email marketing, push notifications, and everything else that comes out.
Diversify your traffic sources and don't just rely on SEO.
Lesson 20: People love to link to data
If you invest the time and money to collect your own unique data, you can easily create links.
Check out my posts on content marketing trends and social media trends.
I've added tons of unique data, statistics, and charts to each of these posts.
The final result? Additional backlinks. 🙂
The contribution to content marketing trends received 447 backlinks.
If you don't have the time to collect custom data, you can always find someone at Upwork to help you.
Lesson 21: Don't forget infographics
One of my favorite SEO strategies that still works well today is infographics.
I have tons of them on the NeilPatel.com blog.
I didn't start with infographics here … I did them in my old blog Quick Sprout and KISSmetrics.
Here is an interesting statistic for you when I created infographics on KISSmetrics.
Within a period of two years, from 2010 to 2012, 47 infographics generated 2,512,596 visitors and 41,142 backlinks from 3,741 unique domains. They also generated 41,359 tweets and 20,859 likes.
If you don't have the money to hire a designer, you can create one yourself using Infogram or Canva.
Lesson 22: Google doesn't punish duplicate content
You don't want to post tons of duplicate content on your website as this is not the best user experience. However, keep in mind that Google won't punish you for duplicate content.
You can't just rate duplicate content.
So if you spend all the time creating amazing, unique content, you can publish it FIRST on your own website.
If you want to be safe after a few hours or days, take this content and post it on Facebook, LinkedIn and anywhere else your content is accepted.
Literally take all the words and paste them into these social channels.
You get additional awareness and branding. In addition, the content should already be indexed on your website so that Google knows that it came from your first. I doubt you care if the duplicate version ranks on LinkedIn. It's still great branding.
In other words, don't be afraid to reuse your content, even if it means duplication.
For example, take a look at this post. I also use it for a 4 part podcast series.
Lesson 23: Don't re-create the wheel
I used to spend hours a week doing keyword research to figure out what new terms to rank for.
Finally, I found an easier and better way to find new content topics and keywords.
Go to Ubersuggest, enter your competitor's domain name and click "Search".
Click Top Pages in the left navigation.
You'll see a report showing you all the popular pages on your contest's website. This will give you ideas for the type of pages you should create on your website.
Then I would like you to click on "Show all" under Est. Visits (Estimated Visits). This will show you all the keywords that drive traffic to this page.
You now have a list of topics and keywords for each topic.
Lesson 24: Don't choose a generic domain name
Do you remember how I talked about trademark queries in lesson 11 and how they helped with the ranking?
After learning this, I decided to buy exactly matching domain names where the domain name was the key word.
That way I would get a lot of trademark inquiries without trying.
Well, there is a problem. Even if you have a high rank, in most cases you will have a low click-through rate.
If you have a low clickthrough rate, Google will be told that your brand is not strong and that users do not prefer it. This can affect your ranking.
Instead of focusing on domains that match exactly, you should focus on building an unforgettable brand, unless you have to spend millions on branding like Hotels.com.
Choose something that is unique, easy to spell, and easy to remember.
Lesson 25: Learn from blackhat SEOs, but don't go to the dark side
Blackhat SEOs provide some interesting data and experiments.
Many of them don't work long, but they're still interesting.
Although I don't recommend doing blackhat SEO, I recommend following them.
The easiest way to learn from them is to read Blackhat World.
The people there share some interesting insights, especially every time a major Google algorithm update is done.
Again, I don't recommend practicing blackhat SEO, but if you follow these, you may be able to uncover "white hat" techniques that can improve your rankings. Not everything they do is bad … many of them also use legitimate tactics.
Lesson 26: Short URLs are better than long ones
My URLs used to be the title of my blog post.
For example, I would have used this URL in the past with this post …
Finally I switched to short URLs.
Google just prefers them. And I saw it firsthand. That's why I'm using short ones now.
URLs at position 1 are on average 9.2 characters shorter than URLs at position 10. So, keep them short.
Lesson 27: The achievement is in the list
If you want your content to rank high on Google, you need more people to see it.
No matter whether it is social shares, push notifications or email explosions. The more people see your content, the more engagement it will get and the more people will link to it.
Every time I posted a new blog post, I made a lot of manual contacts and I emailed people to link to me.
And it works, it's just time consuming and painful.
Nowadays I have a better strategy … send an email every time I post a new post.
I can now receive between 20,000 and 50,000 clicks per email I send.
Of course, you won't get that from day one, since it took me years to build up my email list.
However, you can start collecting emails today. You can easily do this through the Hello Bar.
And as your list grows, your blog clicks and the number of links you get, which in turn increases your rankings.
Lesson # 28: Don't let your peddler walk
This was one of the most difficult lessons I've learned.
It is tiring to blog and constantly do your own SEO. Sometimes you just want a break.
With my old blog, Quick Sprout, I published 12 blog posts per month and did it consistently for 3 years.
One day I decided to quit for a month. So I took a 30 day break.
Guess what happened to my traffic?
It fueled 32%.
So I started blogging again. And guess what happened to my traffic after I started blogging?
It didn't come back right away.
It took me 3 months to go back where I was.
If things work for you, don't slow down. Keep pushing even when you're exhausted. Because once you stop you will fall and it will be a lot of work to go back to where you were.
Lesson 29: The best SEO advice comes from conferences
The best SEO advice I've learned over the years comes from conferences.
And no, I don't mean that you attend the sessions, although you can learn from them too.
The best SEO secrets and advice I learned came from networking. When you go to these conferences, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other SEOs. And if you go to the bar after hours and mingle with people, you will quickly pick things up.
You will be shocked by what people say to you. This way I learned a lot of good tactics that I still use today.
Lesson 30: Never stop learning
This may sound obvious, but when things go well, people become complacent.
Google does an average of 3,234 updates a year, and that number has grown over time.
Think about it a bit … that's about 9 algorithm updates a day.
Because they change so quickly, you won't survive unless you keep up to date.
Yes, the ideal strategy is to do the best for your users or visitors, as Google wants to promote these websites over the long term. However, this does not mean that you can ignore the changes in the industry.
Read all the SEO blogs out there, attend conferences as mentioned above … experiment on test pages … try to get better.
This urge to keep improving and wanting to learn more and more has helped me enormously. This is one of the reasons for my growth in the rankings over the years.
There are many lessons that you will learn as your rankings grow and you spend more time on SEO.
But hopefully you don't have to waste time and make the same mistakes I made. You don't want to learn these lessons the hard way.
That's why I decided to share them. I want to save you time and help you reach your traffic destinations faster.
What SEO Lessons Did You Learn?