Posted by randfish
Making money with SEO today is nowhere near the same practice
it was in 2009. Sketchy, manipulative practices and simple,
straightforward tweaks no longer do the job — to be successful in
2019, you need to be smart, strategic, and in tune with what
searchers want. Rand Fishkin outlines three steps you need to have
down if your goal is to improve your bottom line with the help of
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Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard
Friday. This week we are talking about how to make money with SEO.
Now, for many of you who might be watching this video because
perhaps you have googled or searched on YouTube about how to make
money with SEO, well, what I want to do is talk about how that
practice has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.
In 2009, if you were searching for how to make money with SEO,
there were a lot of sketchy and manipulative and actually
relatively simplistic, straightforward things that you could do to
make money online with SEO, and that has changed. That is not the
case anymore, and I think this is why you see so many people who
are in worlds like affiliate marketing and the worlds of creating
small websites and many networks of small websites and trying to
sell relatively simplistic, unbranded products or services or
advertising revenue, that a lot of those sites have disappeared.
Certainly part of that is because the margins on many of those
products has gone way down. Some of it is big competition from many
new entrants, including big companies like Amazon, but many others
A big part of this is the way that you think about making money
online and how you might be able to use SEO to do that. Now if you
are not one of those folks who’s trying to do that and you are
instead a professional marketer, I still think this video is going
to be very valuable for you because there are a few key sources of
change that have been brought to our industry by what Google has
done and what websites have done and how users behave that shift a
lot of this thinking. So stick with me.
Step 1: Find (or create!) a business/website that fits important
If you want to make money online in the SEO world in 2019, your
general step one is to either find and buy or create a new business
or a website that fits some important criteria or to modify a
website you’ve already got to fit these important criteria.
A) Produces a relatively high amount of gross margin per search
The first one is you want a relatively high amount of gross
margin per search visit. This is fundamentally different from the
past. In the past, I knew plenty of people who built their living
in the SEO world with, “A visitor is worth a penny to me. A visitor
is worth a hundredth of a penny to me, but it doesn’t matter
because I can make up for it in volume.” But today, earning search
visitors is so much more challenging than in the past, especially
for a new website or an emerging one or a startup, that I believe
you need this high gross margin to be able to do that.
So you want to find people who are searching for a variety of
things. I want this thing. Do a search. Come to your site. Take an
action of some kind. That could be sign up for an email list. It
could be view some advertising. It could be actually buy a physical
product or buy a software product, whatever it is. You make revenue
that is significantly more than the cost of serving that customer,
the cost to you of maintaining the website, doing the marketing,
your time and hours and whoever else you employ, keeping the lights
on, paying the bills and the taxes, and the product itself,
whatever you’re shipping or whatever you’re creating and serving,
software, advertising, etc.
B.) Inspires/incentivizes users to
amplify their experience and your brand
Then it inspires and incentivizes users to amplify their
experience and as a result your brand. You might say like, “Well,
why do I need that? Why do I need someone who’s going to go and
share?” Not every visitor, but you need a certain percent of people
to go and say, “Gosh, their site is great. I am going to post about
it on my social media. I’m going to link to it. I’m going to talk
to my friends about it. When people see this thing that I’ve made,
I’m going to say, ‘Oh, it came from such and such place.'” You need
that because these types of online and offline word of mouth and
amplification is core to a business’ survival on the web, and that
is fundamentally different than 10 years ago.
Ten years ago you could do a lot of sketchy, spammy,
manipulative stuff to earn links and to earn rankings. Google has
removed almost all of that ability for 99% of websites, especially
in the English language world. If you are operating in other
languages, especially where Google’s Web Spam Team has not done as
well, there’s still some more of those opportunities. But generally
speaking, this is crucial. You need people who are going to link to
you and amplify you.
C.) Over time, creates branded demand rather than generic search
You need a business that fits the criteria of over time it
creates branded demand rather than generic search behavior. Why?
Because otherwise you do not create a competitive advantage that is
sustainable with time, and other people who do will certainly
recognize that and enter your field and compete with you and put
you out of business.
“I want this thing” is a fine search phrase to target for your
SEO. But you know what’s way easier? “I want yoursite.com.” When
you have people searching for your brand and your branded products
or the keywords that they were searching for generically plus your
brand as a word in there, what they’re saying is, “Google, don’t
serve me up just any result. Take me to that website.” That is a
competitive advantage, a barrier to entry that has huge amounts of
protection for you as a business owner.
Step 2: Design a unique value prop/strategy that resonates with
searcher intent & produces search-optimized content that people
want to link to
All right, step two. You’ve found a business that fits these
criteria or you’ve created one or you’ve modified your business
such that it does this. Great. Now you need to design a unique
value prop and a strategy that does a couple of things. It’s got to
resonate with searcher intent, meaning you are serving what
searchers actually want rather than just serving searchers with
what you want them to do but that does not actually serve them.
This is because Google has gotten too sophisticated about being
able to match searcher intent with the keyword phrases and rank the
sites that solve the searcher’s problem.
Ten years ago, that was not the case. Ten years ago, in 2009,
someone could search for “best pasta,” and you could serve them up
a site that tried to sell them a certain kind of pasta as opposed
to comparing a bunch of different brands and varieties and trying
to truly serve the searcher’s intent. That’s almost impossible
today. There are a few exceptions, but those gaps are closing
It also needs to produce search-optimized content that people
and publications want to link to. Totally different from 2009, when
you could manipulate the link graph, acquire links in ways that
searchers didn’t necessarily love, but Google would put you on top
anyway and you could sort of take advantage of that for a while.
Not the case. Now you need people to want to link to you, to have a
reason to link to you. Otherwise, you will not be able to get those
top ranking positions.
A.) Build a keyword research list
So first, build a keyword research list. You can use Moz’s
Keyword Explorer, which is
what I personally use. But there are many keyword research tools
out there on the web. You can type in phrases. I love Italian food,
so I’m using examples like that, so “best pancetta,” “3-year aged
parmigiano,” “Rustichella d’Abruzzo,” which is like this pasta
variety that I personally think is the best one out there. There’s
search volume, there’s difficulty, and there’s click-through rate
percentages. So I’m building this list. You can go check out the
videos on keyword research if you want to dive deeper on
B.) Answer 3 questions
But essentially I want this list because I want to be able to
answer some questions about the search phrases and terms that I’m
targeting with my business.
1. What will I create to be 10X better than what’s currently
ranking on page one?
First, what will I create to be 10 times better than what’s
already ranking on page one for these terms? If I search for “best
pancetta” and I cannot come up with a way that I think I could
outperform, have a better web page than what everyone else has got
there, what’s my competitive advantage? How am I going to take that
over? You better come up with those things. I need those answers
for the crucial terms and phrases that I’m going after, that are
going to bring me the gross margin dollars that I need for my
product, my services, my advertising, what have you.
2. Who will help amplify/link to this and why?
Second, when I produce that content, who will help amplify or
link to this and why? Who will help amplify this and why? If you
don’t have a great answer to that question, don’t publish the
piece. Wait until you do. Find that great answer, because you need
that amplification in order to perform, especially in the earliest
stages. Once you have lots of links, high domain authority, lots of
visibility in Google, you can put a lot of things out there on the
web and basically coast on your brand’s strength and the fact that
Google already likes your domain and is going to bias toward you.
But in the early stages, when you have a new business, not the
3. How will I build a moat that can protect against Google’s own
incursion into these results?
Third, how will I build a moat around this business that can
protect from potential incursions by Google themselves? If you look
at the search results today versus 2009, you will see a dramatic
difference, which is that Google’s results, from Google Maps to
Google’s own instant answers to their featured snippets to their
tabs and systems where they try and answer a query fully with their
own stuff, Google Travel, Google Flights, Google Hotels, the list
goes on and on and on and on, they are taking away a lot of that
opportunity, and you need to have a way to protect yourself from
that. One of those ways is certainly branded search. Another way is
to make sure that the words and phrases that you’re going after,
especially early on, are not ones where you have to compete with
Step 3: Find what customers do before they search for
high-competition keywords/around your topics
Step three, finally, find what customers do before they search
for these high-value keywords to you, high competition keywords
around your topics. What do they search for before they get to
that? What do they search for around that stuff? How can I capture
this customer prior to that money search? Then I can create a new
keyword research list and a new set of content that I’m going to
create to target those people, which will be vastly easier to
capture them earlier in their buying cycle, earlier in their
So exposure keywords would be things like “carbonara recipe.”
Someone’s going to search for carbonara and how to make it before
they ever look up, “Now, where do I get pancetta?” This one
potentially is easier to rank for than this one. This may be an
imperfect example. But “types of parmesan” — first off the English
American spelling — versus “3-year aged parmigiano,” this is a
transactional keyword. I know what I want. This is an “I’m still
learning about this” thing. You’re going to need content in both of
“Pasta brands,” I’m learning. “Rustichella d’Abruzzo,” I know
what I want. Got to serve both.
Finally, as part of step three, you want to find what
link-likely sources are willing to cover. What is going to be the
thing that gets you the amplification? Sometimes it’s not the same
thing as the exposure keywords or the money keywords. So you need
content that is going to affect influential publications and
people, things like, “Okay, we’re going to produce a piece. It
doesn’t necessarily serve a lot of searchers, but we know we can
get links to it. We know people will tweet about it. We know
they’ll post to their Facebook page. We know they might talk about
it on Instagram.”
“The best American cities for Italian food,” ooh, competition
between American cities, whoever it is, whatever, Philadelphia, we
put them low in the rankings. New York, we put them high in the
rankings. They’re going to fight about it relentlessly. Tons of
people are going to talk about it. The “New York Post” is going to
write about it. “The Philadelphia Inquirer” is going to be all
pissed about it. Great.
“Where to visit in Italy if you’re really just there for the
meals.” Hmm, that’s the kind of thing someone would cover. “Cooking
pasta in cold water isn’t madness. It’s better.” What? I actually
do this, by the way. I do recommend starting pasta in cold water.
We’ll talk about that in another episode when I have my cooking set
up here. But regardless, the idea behind this is that I have
influencer and publication targeted content in addition to exposure
keywords and money keywords.
This sort of strategic thinking is how you can make money with a
new business, a new website in 2019, and it is vastly different
from what you saw 10 years ago.
All right, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Look forward to
your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of
Whiteboard Friday. Take care.
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