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7 Lessons to 1 Million Monthly Visits



7 Lessons to 1 Million Monthly Visits was able to reach over 1 million monthly visitors from Google search results. The best part? It did so without any manual backlink outreach or even having a focus on SEO.'s Google Search Console traffic

That’s not all. Despite not using outreach, it acquired links from sites like The New York Times and Forbes—on autopilot. 

How? I spoke with the co-founder, Sol Orwell, to find out. 

He shared the site’s entire approach to SEO with me, including how it recovered from a 90% traffic drop and how the business grew to over 30 employees. Here are a few lessons learned from a multimillion-dollar company.

What does Examine actually do?

Examine provides evidence-based analysis of supplements and nutrition through its team of researchers with varying backgrounds, including PhDs in physiology, neurobiology, nutrition, and more.'s homepage

It makes money by selling a subscription service that gives you access to its in-depth research on health conditions and goals. So if you want to learn how to improve osteoarthritis, for example, you can access the most actionable and up-to-date research that exists online.

If you were paying attention, you’d notice I already revealed some of Examine’s SEO secrets. But let me break down the seven specific SEO lessons you can learn from it:

Lesson 1. Focus on relationships over link building

Examine has received dozens of extremely high-quality links from The Guardian. How? Sol attributes it to a by-product of caring about people. 

He met someone years before they ever got a link, and that person happened to make a connection with a writer for The Guardian and mention Examine to them—the writer loved what they saw and now regularly links to them in their articles.'s backlinks from The Guardian

Of course, Examine also needed to have content worthy of receiving these links. Relationships alone won’t build links for you, at least not the best links.

But how can you build relationships that lead to backlinks? 

Mostly from meeting and assisting as many people as possible. One of the best ways to do that is by going to in-person meetups and events. But if that’s not possible, being active in forums and online communities is also a great option. 

Check out these online marketing communities to get started. Just remember—you’re trying to build genuine relationships, not just manipulate people into linking to your website. Be helpful and give without expecting anything in return.

Lesson 2. Provide unique data to journalists

This is where Examine truly shines. It summarizes over 150 studies every month with key findings and actionable takeaways.

Unique data is one of the best ways to capture extremely high-quality backlinks. 

For example, Examine’s research page on L-theanine contains all of its findings about L-theanine’s effects on the body in a single, easy-to-digest page with unique data.'s research table for L-theanine

This page has attracted over 1,000 backlinks. Some of these links are from strong sites like Psychology Today and The Huffington Post and were acquired organically without outreach.

Backlinks overview for Examine's L-Theanine research summary page

Don’t worry—you don’t need to create 150 study summaries every month to use this strategy. Instead, just a few targeted statistics summary pages can do the trick.

For example, we created a summary of SEO statistics. It ranks #1 on Google for keywords like “seo statistics” and has accumulated nearly 4,000 backlinks.

Ahrefs backlinks report for SEO statistics page

Want to learn how we did it? Check out our full case study.

Lesson 3. Create the best content that exists

In addition to incredibly strong backlinks, Examine regularly receives mentions on the “Huberman Lab” podcast—one of the most renowned science and health podcasts in the world. 

This is because it publishes ridiculously good content.

So what’s its secret?

Well, it lays out its exact content creation process on its editorial policy page:

  1. Researcher and reviewer create outline to fully address the question/topic at hand
  2. Researcher writes the article
  3. Article is copyedited by content editor
  4. Article is edited by editor
  5. Article is reviewed by reviewer
  6. Corrections and clarifications are incorporated at every level
  7. Article is published on the website

It also discusses how it minimizes bias.

All in all, it has several layers of edits and reviews for each piece of content that’s published on the site. 

More importantly, these reviews are done by “a diverse team of researchers who fully read all relevant scientific papers completely and have no conflicts of interest.”

This rigorous process is expensive and time consuming, but it has to be in the health and science space. More lax spaces can get away with much less scrutiny, but you still need to do the work to ensure your content is top-tier.

Here are some ways to make your content better:

  • Create content outlines for your articles before you write them
  • Do extensive research and give your articles at least one “editorial pass-over”
  • Back up your claims with evidence where possible
  • Read up on how to become a better writer—and practice every day
  • Invest in graphic design, photography, and/or video to enhance your content with media

It may also be worth hiring an editor if you don’t already have one. You can find one on job sites like Indeed or on service sites like Fiverr.

Lesson 4. Delight your customers

I mentioned earlier that Examine never focused on SEO as part of its strategy. 

Yes, it optimized its headings and added schema markup—but it never did extensive keyword research or wrote articles specifically to rank on Google.

Instead, it focused on providing the best possible experience for its customers. This is highlighted in a story Sol told me about his company:

One of Examine’s employees was on her way home from a company retreat. The Uber driver was feeling chatty and asked her the typical question, “What do you do for work?”

When the employee answered, the Uber driver proceeded to pull over and bawl her eyes out. 

Apparently, the driver’s chronic health conditions had got so bad that she could no longer work. But Examine’s evidence-based information helped her deal with her health conditions to the point where she felt well enough to work again, allowing her to give that very Uber ride. 

She told the employee she was so grateful for Examine and that it changed her life.

Experiences like these with companies are exceedingly rare in a profit-driven, cut-throat world. But what does this have to do with SEO?

It comes back to building a strong brand and a company that people love. 

One of the reasons this is important is because it increases your search visibility, i.e., the percentage of people who click on your search result when they see it. This is one of the most important SEO metrics to track because the higher your search visibility, the more people value your result over competing results.

If people know who you are and love your brand, they’re more likely to click on your result over a competitor’s. Speaking of branding, let’s move on to… 

Lesson 5. Build a strong brand

Examine was hit with a major traffic loss after a 2018 Google core update related to E-A-T. traffic report in Ahrefs

After the algorithm hit, 90% of its traffic came from branded searches, such as “ creatine.” This means these people are searching specifically for resources from Examine’s brand as opposed to other websites.'s branded keyword rankings

In fact, it was receiving almost 4,000 visits per day from these branded search terms. This is important because even if your site loses on an algorithm update, you will still retain your rankings for branded terms.

But how did it manage to get a “cult following” of people who specifically want to search for its brand? By focusing on the other things I mention in this case study:

  • Provide an amazing customer experience
  • Create the best content in the world
  • Build strong relationships 

There’s, unfortunately, no shortcut for hard work in this case.

Lesson 6. Be trustworthy (E-E-A-T)

As mentioned above, Examine lost the majority of its traffic back in 2018 to a Google update related to E-A-T (now E-E-A-T, or experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). 

In other words, Google only wants to display content that is written by people who actually have the qualifications to write about a given topic.

When Examine relaunched the website, it wanted to be more trustworthy. Here’s how it did that:

1. It added a section above the fold of each article showing exactly who took part in researching and fact-checking said article.

    Examine's author box

    2. It deeply expanded its “about” page to add bios for everyone in its company, an explanation of how it is funded, and a section on why you can trust it.

    3. It created an “editorial policy” page showing exactly how its team researches, writes, and edits each article before publishing.

    Essentially, it is as transparent as possible about where the information is from, who found the information, and why they are qualified to write about that information. This transparency helped the site recover its traffic to the tune of over 1 million visits per month.

    The takeaway here for you is that you should have experience or expertise in a given topic in order to write about it and be displayed on Google. You should also effectively demonstrate E-E-A-T on your website, as Examine did in its relaunch.

    That means:

    • Use the products you’re reviewing
    • Go to the places you’re talking about
    • Speak with real experts if you aren’t one
    • Create an “about” page and “editorial policy” page showcasing why people should trust you

    Lesson 7. Run regular SEO site audits

    While Examine never focused on SEO as a main strategy, it wasn’t oblivious to it either. It runs twice-a-year SEO audits on its site to ensure it’s not missing simple things.

    Its SEO audit consists of asking questions like:

    • Are there any orphaned pages?
    • Are there dead links?
    • Are there pages covering the most frequently asked questions from its users?

    You can quickly and easily run an SEO audit like this on your own site with Ahrefs’ Site Audit. Just plug your site in, and you’ll get actionable advice on how to fix any issue:

    Top Issues report, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

    From here, it’s easy to find and fix all the SEO issues on your website. Go through and fix each one to improve your odds of ranking highly. 

    If you don’t understand an issue, it may be worth hiring a developer to help you make the fix.

    Final thoughts

    There are a lot of reasons Examine has been so successful. But if I had to narrow down to just three that you could replicate, they would be the following:

    1. Create world-class content by spending time becoming a better researcher and writer and consider hiring people to help you, such as an editor
    2. Build quality relationships with other professionals in your industry by offering to help them with no expectation of getting anything in return
    3. Become an expert in your field through research and experience, and create an “about” page showcasing why people should trust you and your website

    Sol told me he attributes most of Examine’s success to being an extremely high-quality resource for journalists, doctors and, most importantly, customers. 

    This level of trust isn’t easily won, but it can be done. I’ve outlined everything you need to do to achieve it in the lessons above.

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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions



Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

You’ve probably heard about the recent Google documents leak. It’s on every major site and all over social media.

Where did the docs come from?

My understanding is that a bot called yoshi-code-bot leaked docs related to the Content API Warehouse on Github on March 13th, 2024. It may have appeared earlier in some other repos, but this is the one that was first discovered.

They were discovered by an anonymous ex-Googler who shared the info with Erfan Azimi who shared it with Rand Fishkin who shared it with Mike King. The docs were removed on May 7th.

I appreciate all involved for sharing their findings with the community.

Google’s response

There was some debate if the documents were real or not, but they mention a lot of internal systems and link to internal documentation and it definitely appears to be real.

A Google spokesperson released the following statement to Search Engine Land:

We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information. We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh, while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation.

SEOs interpret things based on their own experiences and bias

Many SEOs are saying that the ranking factors leaked. I haven’t seen any code or weights, just what appear to be descriptions and storage info. Unless one of the descriptions says the item is used for ranking, I think it’s dangerous for SEOs that all of these are used in ranking.

Having some features or information stored does not mean they’re used in ranking. For our search engine,, we have all kinds of things stored that might be used for crawling, indexing, ranking, personalization, testing, or feedback. We even have things stored that we aren’t doing things with yet.

What is more likely is that SEOs are making assumptions that favor their own opinions and biases.

It’s the same for me. I may not have full context or knowledge and may have inherent biases that influence my interpretation, but I try to be as fair as I can be. If I’m wrong, it means that I will learn something new and that’s a good thing! SEOs can, and do, interpret things differently.

Gael Breton said it well:

I’ve been around long enough to see many SEO myths created over the years and I can point you to who started many of them and what they misunderstood. We’ll likely see a lot of new myths from this leak that we’ll be dealing with for the next decade or longer.

Let’s look at a few things that in my opinion are being misinterpreted or where conclusions are being drawn where they shouldn’t be.


As much as I want to be able to say Google has a Site Authority score that they use for ranking that’s like DR, that part specifically is about compressed quality metrics and talks about quality.

I believe DR is more an effect that happens as you have a lot of pages with strong PageRank, not that it’s necessarily something Google uses. Lots of pages with higher PageRank that internally link to each other means you’re more likely to create stronger pages.

  • Do I believe that PageRank could be part of what Google calls quality? Yes.
  • Do I think that’s all of it? No.
  • Could Site Authority be something similar to DR? Maybe. It fits in the bigger picture.
  • Can I prove that or even that it’s used in rankings? No, not from this.

From some of the Google testimony to the US Department of Justice, we found out that quality is often measured with an Information Satisfaction (IS) score from the raters. This isn’t directly used in rankings, but is used for feedback, testing, and fine-tuning models.

We know the quality raters have the concept of E-E-A-T, but again that’s not exactly what Google uses. They use signals that align to E-E-A-T.

Some of the E-E-A-T signals that Google has mentioned are:

  • PageRank
  • Mentions on authoritative sites
  • Site queries. This could be “site: E-E-A-T” or searches like “ahrefs E-E-A-T”

So could some kind of PageRank scores extrapolated to the domain level and called Site Authority be used by Google and be part of what makes up the quality signals? I’d say it’s plausible, but this leak doesn’t prove it.

I can recall 3 patents from Google I’ve seen about quality scores. One of them aligns with the signals above for site queries.

I should point out that just because something is patented, doesn’t mean it is used. The patent around site queries was written in part by Navneet Panda. Want to guess who the Panda algorithm that related to quality was named after? I’d say there’s a good chance this is being used.

The others were around n-gram usage and seemed to be to calculate a quality score for a new website and another mentioned time on site.


I think this has been misinterpreted as well. The document has a field called hostAge and refers to a sandbox, but it specifically says it’s used “to sandbox fresh spam in serving time.”

To me, that doesn’t confirm the existence of a sandbox in the way that SEOs see it where new sites can’t rank. To me, it reads like a spam protection measure.


Are clicks used in rankings? Well, yes, and no.

We know Google uses clicks for things like personalization, timely events, testing, feedback, etc. We know they have models upon models trained on the click data including navBoost. But is that directly accessing the click data and being used in rankings? Nothing I saw confirms that.

The problem is SEOs are interpreting this as CTR is a ranking factor. Navboost is made to predict which pages and features will be clicked. It’s also used to cut down on the number of returned results which we learned from the DOJ trial.

As far as I know, there is nothing to confirm that it takes into account the click data of individual pages to re-order the results or that if you get more people to click on your individual results, that your rankings would go up.

That should be easy enough to prove if it was the case. It’s been tried many times. I tried it years ago using the Tor network. My friend Russ Jones (may he rest in peace) tried using residential proxies.

I’ve never seen a successful version of this and people have been buying and trading clicks on various sites for years. I’m not trying to discourage you or anything. Test it yourself, and if it works, publish the study.

Rand Fishkin’s tests for searching and clicking a result at conferences years ago showed that Google used click data for trending events, and they would boost whatever result was being clicked. After the experiments, the results went right back to normal. It’s not the same as using them for the normal rankings.


We know Google matches authors with entities in the knowledge graph and that they use them in Google news.

There seems to be a decent amount of author info in these documents, but nothing about them confirms that they’re used in rankings as some SEOs are speculating.

Was Google lying to us?

What I do disagree with whole-heartedly is SEOs being angry with the Google Search Advocates and calling them liars. They’re nice people who are just doing their job.

If they told us something wrong, it’s likely because they don’t know, they were misinformed, or they’ve been instructed to obfuscate something to prevent abuse. They don’t deserve the hate that the SEO community is giving them right now. We’re lucky that they share information with us at all.

If you think something they said is wrong, go and run a test to prove it. Or if there’s a test you want me to run, let me know. Just being mentioned in the docs is not proof that a thing is used in rankings.

Final Thoughts

While I may agree or I may disagree with the interpretations of other SEOs, I respect all who are willing to share their analysis. It’s not easy to put yourself or your thoughts out there for public scrutiny.

I also want to reiterate that unless these fields specifically say they are used in rankings, that the information could just as easily be used for something else. We definitely don’t need any posts about Google’s 14,000 ranking factors.

If you want my thoughts on a particular thing, message me on X or LinkedIn.

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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It’s Unlikely.



Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It's Unlikely.

I studied the correlation between rankings and content scores from four popular content optimization tools: Clearscope, Surfer, MarketMuse, and Frase. The result? Weak correlations all around.

This suggests (correlation does not necessarily imply causation!) that obsessing over your content score is unlikely to lead to significantly higher Google rankings.

Does that mean content optimization scores are pointless?

No. You just need to know how best to use them and understand their flaws.

Most tools’ content scores are based on keywords. If top-ranking pages mention keywords your page doesn’t, your score will be low. If it does, your score will be high.

While this has its obvious flaws (having more keyword mentions doesn’t always mean better topic coverage), content scores can at least give some indication of how comprehensively you’re covering the topic. This is something Google is looking for.

Google says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality contentGoogle says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality content

If your page’s score is significantly lower than the scores of competing pages, you’re probably missing important subtopics that searchers care about. Filling these “content gaps” might help improve your rankings.

However, there’s nuance to this. If competing pages score in the 80-85 range while your page scores 79, it likely isn’t worth worrying about. But if it’s 95 vs. 20 then yeah, you should probably try to cover the topic better.

Key takeaway

Don’t obsess over content scores. Use them as a barometer for topic coverage. If your score is significantly lower than competitors, you’re probably missing important subtopics and might rank higher by filling those “content gaps.”

There are at least two downsides you should be aware of when it comes to content scores.

They’re easy to cheat

Content scores tend to be largely based on how many times you use the recommended set of keywords. In some tools, you can literally copy-paste the entire list, draft nothing else, and get an almost perfect score.

Scoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draftScoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draft

This is something we aim to solve with our upcoming content optimization tool: Content Master.

I can’t reveal too much about this yet, but it has a big USP compared to most existing content optimization tools: its content score is based on topic coverage—not just keywords.

For example, it tells us that our SEO strategy template should better cover subtopics like keyword research, on-page SEO, and measuring and tracking SEO success.

Preview of our upcoming Content Master toolPreview of our upcoming Content Master tool

But, unlike other content optimization tools, lazily copying and pasting related keywords into the document won’t necessarily increase our content score. It’s smart enough to understand that keyword coverage and topic coverage are different things.


This tool is still in production so the final release may look a little different.

They encourage copycat content

Content scores tell you how well you’re covering the topic based on what’s already out there. If you cover all important keywords and subtopics from the top-ranking pages and create the ultimate copycat content, you’ll score full marks.

This is a problem because quality content should bring something new to the table, not just rehash existing information. Google literally says this in their helpful content guidelines.

Google says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the tableGoogle says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the table

In fact, Google even filed a patent some years back to identify ‘information gain’: a measurement of the new information provided by a given article, over and above the information present in other articles on the same topic.

You can’t rely on content optimization tools or scores to create something unique. Making something that stands out from the rest of the search results will require experience, experimentation, or effort—something only humans can have/do.

Enrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your contentEnrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your content

Big thanks to my colleagues Si Quan and Calvinn who did the heavy lifting for this study. Nerd notes below. 😉

  • For the study, we selected 20 random keywords and pulled the top 20 ranking pages.
  • We pulled the SERPs before the March 2024 update was rolled out.
  • Some of the tools had issues pulling the top 20 pages, which we suspect was due to SERP features.
  • Clearscope didn’t give numerical scores; they opted for grades. We used ChatGPT to convert those grades into numbers.
  • Despite their increasing prominence in the SERPs, most of the tools had trouble analyzing Reddit, Quora, and YouTube. They typically gave a zero or no score for these results. If they gave no scores, we excluded them from the analysis.
  • The reason why we calculated both Spearman and Kendall correlations (and took the average) is because according to Calvinn (our Data Scientist), Spearman correlations are more sensitive and therefore more prone to being swayed by small sample size and outliers. On the other hand, the Kendall rank correlation coefficient only takes order into account. So, it is more robust for small sample sizes and less sensitive to outliers.

Final thoughts

Improving your content score is unlikely to hurt Google rankings. After all, although the correlation between scores and rankings is weak, it’s still positive. Just don’t obsess and spend hours trying to get a perfect score; scoring in the same ballpark as top-ranking pages is enough.

You also need to be aware of their downsides, most notably that they can’t help you craft unique content. That requires human creativity and effort.

Any questions or comments? Ping me on X or LinkedIn.

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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers



Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, scaling a brand effectively requires more than just an innovative product or service. For B2B and e-commerce marketers, understanding the intricacies of growth strategies across different stages of business development is crucial.  

A recent analysis of 71 brands offers valuable insights into the optimal strategies for startups, scaleups, mature brands, and majority offline businesses. Here’s what we learned. 

Startup Stage: Building the Foundation 

Key Strategy: Startups focus on impressions-driven channels like Paid Social to establish their audience base. This approach is essential for gaining visibility and creating a strong initial footprint in the market. 

Case Study: Pooch & Mutt exemplified this strategy by leveraging Paid Social to achieve significant year-on-year revenue gains while also improving acquisition costs. This foundational step is crucial for setting the stage for future growth and stability. 

Scaleup Stage: Accelerating Conversion 

Key Strategy: For scaleups, having already established an audience, the focus shifts to conversion activities. Increasing spend in impressions-led media helps continue generating demand while maintaining a balance with acquisition costs. 

Case Study: The Essence Vault successfully applied this approach, scaling their Meta presence while minimizing cost increases. This stage emphasizes the importance of efficient spending to maximize conversion rates and sustain growth momentum. 

Mature Stage: Expanding Horizons 

Key Strategy: Mature brands invest in higher funnel activities to avoid market saturation and explore international expansion opportunities. This strategic pivot ensures sustained growth and market diversification. 

Case Study: Represent scaled their efforts on TikTok, enhancing growth and improving Meta efficiency. By expanding their presence in the US, they exemplified how mature brands can navigate saturation and seek new markets for continued success. 

Majority Offline Brands: Embracing Digital Channels 

Key Strategy: Majority offline brands primarily invest in click-based channels like Performance Max. However, the analysis reveals significant opportunities in Paid Social, suggesting a balanced approach for optimal results. 

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