How I ranked at the top of Google… On accident.
Why new marketers shouldn’t be afraid of Hummingbird.
If you’re new to online marketing, you might have read quite a few anecdotes of how Google has ruined search with their latest update, Hummingbird. Black and white hat marketing forums were littered with stories of how their keyword packed pages that were once reigning the top of Google search are now in the dark abyss (read: second page of search results).
This was because Googlers got smarter. On an average, people were typing more words into their Google search results. People are no longer writing vague, short-tail keyword terms to find their desired information. They’re now writing keyphrases. Keyphrases have been what replaced keywords.
For example, if I were selling low-priced blankets (I’m writing in bed right now) I would want any customer who searched “Where to buy the cheapest blanket?” to see me immediately. This is what would be known as long-tail keywords in the old days. Essentially multiple keywords that people are less likely to type into search. While long-tail keywords were less competitive and can convert better because they’re more precise, they were also searched significantly less. Now these are keyphrases, and they just became a whole lot prettier.
I recently began a new startup. I admit, when I was first was thinking of writing the copy for the site, I was still under the old ways. The days of keyword density, blindly typing keywords and sifting through the results that Google returns for you in hopes that you can find a word that isn’t competitive but is also sought after. Fortunately, the Google keyword search tool is dead. If you are an old marketer, you probably read that last sentence and wanted to punch me in the face. I get it, but hear me out. With the Google keyword tool dead, this allowed me to write freely. Instead of having a specific keyword in my head to cram a million times into the <h1> and <title> tags, I stepped back and put myself in the shoes of my target customer.
When you fully understand who you are delivering value to, you’re able to deliver even more value without even thinking about it. Writing with keywords in mind can greatly dilute the quality of the content you are writing. With keyword density no longer being as an intense focus, I was able to write copy material that strictly delivered value. Something I like about the Hummingbird changes is that the keyphrases you type aren’t so strict. You can use synonyms and they will still add to your SEO score.
Within a few weeks, our site ranked at the front page for some relatively competitive search results. A few weeks more, we were at the very top search result for our targeted keyphrase in mind. Now, it’s hard to find a variation of even the most short-tail searches relevant to our industry without us being on the front page.
So what happened?
If ranking at the top of Google is as easy I just made it sound, then everyone would be able to do it. Well with some things changing, some stayed the same as well. What stayed the same was that Google still has to find a way to trust your site and make sure it consistently delivers high-quality content. It does this primarily in the form of linkbuilding and providing outbound links. After we were done creating our site and optimizing it for conversions, I started posting on high-traffic sites and using my charm to get blog writers to write about us.
This is where getting inbound traffic from sites like Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, and such help a lot. These are heavily trusted sites in Google, and if users are matriculating to your site from these sites and spending quality time there, then this will boost your SEO score. In our case, our main driver to get us to rank high on competitive keywords was Reddit. We ran a series of promotional events and just really drove customer engagement on there which often led to users heading to our site. We have had less than ten Reddit posts and more than half of them hit the front page of our targeted subreddit. I actually have an anatomical structure to a successful front-page Reddit post, but that piece will come another day.
Bloggers, these people are your key to the top of the rankings. A while back I watched a Fireside Chat with Airbnb Co-Founder, Brian Chesky and he mentioned how he started getting press for Airbnb. It was quite brilliant. He started by e-mailing bloggers with barely any readers who would have a higher chance of writing about him. They usually would and link back to his site. He would then write to bloggers with more readers. They would screen Airbnb by Googling them and seeing if they were actually legitimate. Eventually this process was repeated until the local CNN picked them up. While every step of this was great press for Airbnb, it also built their linkbuilding repertoire and SEO ranking because eventually more trusted and high-traffic sites started writing about them and linking back to their site. In my case, I copied this EXACTLY and it is one of the most important things I recommend to everyone I work and consult with.
I added to the blog fuel by writing blogs of my own. Pretty much all of the ones I’ve written so far for this company haven’t generated much traffic, but I got lucky on one. I wrote a juvenalian satire on a highly controversial news article written attacking the industry I am in. My post was a direct attack written for humor and gathered nearly 20,000 unique visitors on our site for two days. It remains one of the most upvoted posts on the targeted subreddit to this day. As you would imagine, this helped our SEO ranking quite significantly. My lesson for blogging, you don’t need to write everyday or all the time. You just need to write posts that are high-quality. In a parallel, would you rather watch a mediocre Game of Thrones episode every day of the week or one absolutely amazing episode once a week?
If you’re new to marketing, you’re at an advantage. You’re not plagued by all the previous thinking of altered keyword filled copy. You’re in marketing’s purest form. Just write to deliver value. I recently read something that greatly defined all of Google’s new changes which I think summarizes how SEO is done.
“You’ve gotta give to get.”