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7 Simple Steps to Grow Your Online Business

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7 Simple Steps to Grow Your Online Business

Running an online business is an excellent way to be your own boss, work on your own terms, and (hopefully) make a lot of money.

But growing an online business can be challenging. There’s a decent learning curve, and the way people interact with the digital world is constantly changing.

I’ve personally grown three separate six-figure online businesses over the last 10 years, and I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to earn more. I’ve distilled everything I’ve learned about growing an online business into the following seven steps.

Step 1. Figure out where your best customers are

Before you start investing in ads or spending countless hours trying to grow a social media account, you should do some market research to find valuable information about your market and audience—one of the most important things being where your potential customers go for their information.

You can post all you want on Instagram. But if the people buying your products don’t use Instagram, that time and effort will be wasted. I like to avoid wasted effort, so here are three ways to figure out where you should spend your time:

1. Research your niche on forums

Forums like Reddit are a gold mine of information for consumer research. There’s a subreddit for nearly any topic imaginable, and people share all kinds of information there.

For example, let’s say I want to start selling dirt bike parts. I could type “dirt bikes” into Reddit and immediately find the r/Dirtbikes subreddit, which is full of dirt bike owners and enthusiasts.

Reddit forum research

As I scroll through the posts, the first thing that stands out to me is the massive number of YouTube links and videos in the posts.

YouTube links in RedditYouTube links in Reddit

That tells me the dirt bike community probably watches a lot of YouTube videos. So that could be a potential marketing channel for me that I know my community is using.

2. Check social media to see what kind of content does well

Obviously, dirt biking is a pretty popular hobby, and there’s going to be a lot of content about it on pretty much every major platform. But if I check Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook groups, I can see what kind of content is promoted in each place and compare that to the kind of content I personally want to create.

For example, Instagram tends to have a lot of pictures and videos of women on dirt bikes.

Instagram dirt bikes searchInstagram dirt bikes search

This isn’t the kind of content I want to create, so I’ll skip this platform. But if I check YouTube, I can see tutorial videos and riding videos with millions of views.

YouTube viewsYouTube views

Since I’m looking to sell parts, I can definitely do videos of riding and parts replacement tutorials on YouTube to promote my brand. I also noticed that TikTok has a lot of cool videos, and I could use the videos I’m already making for YouTube to also create content on TikTok.

You can also use a tool like SparkToro to save time in this process. It’s a customer research tool that gives you insights about what people follow, including social media accounts, websites, podcasts, YouTube channels, and more.

You just type in a keyword your audience would be interested in…

SparkToro search functionSparkToro search function

… and it displays demographic and social information about your target audience.

SparkToro audience researchSparkToro audience research

You get five searches for free, but you do have to pay for the full suite of information available.

So now we’ve covered forums, social media, and consumer research tools. But I saved the best for last…

3. Do some keyword research to see if you can rank on Google.

Chances are, if you own an online business, you have customers searching for your products or services on Google.

I’m a strong believer that every online business can benefit from search engine optimization (SEO). It’s my favorite marketing channel because it can bring highly targeted, relevant traffic on autopilot… without needing to constantly spend money on ads.

However, some niches are extremely competitive and, while you should still use SEO for the long term, it may not be your best focus in the short term.

The best way to figure that out is with some keyword research. Head over to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and plug in some keywords that characterize your niche. For example, I can search for things like “dirt bike parts” or “dirt bikes” to start.

You’ll get some information about a keyword, such as how many people search for it every month (volume) and how difficult that keyword may be to rank for (Keyword Difficulty). 

Ahrefs' keyword explorer dirt bike partsAhrefs' keyword explorer dirt bike parts

But what’s more important are the keyword ideas below these stats. If you click anything under Keyword ideas on the left-hand menu, you’ll be taken to keywords that match or are related to the one you searched for.

Ahrefs' Keyword IdeasAhrefs' Keyword Ideas

From here, you can filter this list based on search volume, Keyword Difficulty (KD), Traffic Potential (TP), and more.

But what are you looking for?

If most of the keywords have a KD of <40, it could mean you have a solid chance of ranking on page one of Google for those keywords with good enough content. Keep in mind, however, that this is just a rough metric—a quantification like this can never be perfect, and you can still rank for keywords that have high KD with enough effort.

By now, you should know which social media platforms you want to be active on and if SEO may be something you really want to focus on. Next, let’s make sure your business is actually ready for growth.

Step 2. Create a solid user experience

Too many businesses neglect the usability and appearance of their websites. If your website looks outdated, loads slowly, or is difficult to navigate, you’re going to miss out on sales no matter how good your marketing is. 

Here’s how to make sure your customers have a first-class experience on your website:

1. Ensure your website loads fast

Your webpages should all load within two to three seconds at most (faster is always better). If people spend too long waiting around for a page to load, they will leave and go somewhere else.

You can check your website’s load speed for free with a tool like PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed Insights ToolGoogle PageSpeed Insights Tool

You’ll also see whether or not your website is passing Google’s Core Web Vitals test, which is one of Google’s many ranking factors.

Google Core Web Vitals testGoogle Core Web Vitals test

Click here to read our guide on website speed optimization if this is an issue for you. Consider hiring a developer if this is beyond your ability and you don’t have time to learn.

2. Improve your website structure

Your website structure is important for both your users and search engine crawlers. It’s an important step in building a strong online business.

Ask yourself:

  • How easy is it for users to navigate your website? 
  • Can they find the page they’re looking for in three clicks or fewer from any page on your site? 
  • Does the navigation menu make it easy for customers to flow through your funnel?

The best way I’ve found to improve your site’s structure is by creating a visual map of all the pages on your site and how they connect to one another. 

You can use a tool like XMind to do this. Here’s how we use it at Ahrefs:

Your goal should be to create as flat of a website structure as possible—meaning, none of your pages are more than a few clicks deep to get to. Here’s a visual:

Flat vs Deep Website StructureFlat vs Deep Website Structure

You should focus on basing your categories around keyword research and properly using internal links to keep everything tied together.

3. Use high-quality media

Tell me—what looks better?

This…

Cheesy office stock imageCheesy office stock image
Source: A free image from Pixabay.

… or this?

Paid stock imagePaid stock image
Source: A paid stock image provided by Canva.

The former is a free stock photo; the latter was paid for. 

Stock photos and videos can look cheesy and unprofessional. It’s worth investing a couple of bucks into purchasing higher-quality stock assets like Shutterstock or Canva Pro.

You can also find tons of really high-quality free and paid photos on Unsplash.

It can even be worth investing in a photographer or videographer, or learning these skills yourself, in order to improve your website. These media assets are the first thing a customer sees when they visit your website; these impressions matter.

Beyond these three things—speed, navigation, and media—there are a few other things to pay attention to:

  • Fonts used
  • Color scheme
  • Overall theme/layout
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • And more

If you follow our guide to creating an SEO-friendly website, you’ll hit on all these points AND have an optimized website. That said, it may be worth looking into hiring a developer to help you if website design isn’t your strong suit.

Step 3. Decide on two to three key marketing channels

Social media, SEO, paid advertising, content marketing…

As entrepreneurs, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it all. And that’s just the marketing side—only one of the many things we need to focus on to build and grow a successful business.

To avoid burnout and spreading yourself too thin, I highly recommend focusing on just two or three main marketing channels—at least at the start. You can expand as you earn enough (and learn enough) to hire people for these roles.

Some of your options include:

  • SEO
  • YouTube
  • Paid ads
  • Social media
  • Podcasting

My personal favorite marketing channel is SEO. 

However, which channels you decide to pursue first should always be the channels you believe will be most effective for your business. The best approach is to mix channels that target your audience in different parts of the customer journey:

Customer journey exampleCustomer journey example

In step #1, you should have done some basic keyword research to see if you may be able to rank highly on Google. If you find that the keywords are relatively easy to rank for and relevant to your products or services, I always recommend learning and implementing SEO. The fact that SEO focuses on the whole customer journey makes it even more compelling.

Beyond that, you should also have a rough idea of which social media platforms or podcasts your audience cares about and what kind of content you prefer to create. Pick one of those channels to use in conjunction with SEO.

Lastly, you can use paid advertising. However, there is a greater risk of losing money on paid ads if you don’t know what you’re doing. I will only consider it if you already have some experience with it or if you can afford to hire someone else. Otherwise, learn one of the free channels and branch into paid ads once your business is already making money.

Step 4. Create high-quality, relevant content

Regardless of which marketing channels you decide to pursue, there is one thing you’ll always need: quality content.

Whether it’s videos for TikTok or YouTube, photos for Instagram, blog posts for SEO, or another medium, your content needs to stand out among the sea of mediocre stuff online.

But what does it mean to “create high-quality content”?

It means your content is some combination of:

  • Engaging
  • Relevant
  • Unique
  • Informative

This means it’s something that your audience cares about and is put together in a way that’s interesting and captures their attention. The way to do this varies depending on your audience and the platform(s) you market on.

For example, ranking on page one of Google requires your content to be accurate, well-formatted, unique, and authoritative. 

Making quality content for TikTok, on the other hand, requires a different approach. TikTok viewers value things that make them happy or surprise them above anything else, according to this study.

Percentage of popular videos and their corresponding emotion on TikTokPercentage of popular videos and their corresponding emotion on TikTok

That means the idea of what makes “quality content” is hard to define and depends on the platform.

What’s important is that you put a lot of effort into creating and continuing to improve your content. 

Quality will come over time as you learn what your audience likes and how to be a better writer, videographer, photographer, or podcaster—as long as you yourself continue to stay focused and improve.

Dedicate to learning as much as possible about your niche and your business and using what you learn to do better on the next piece of content, whatever that may be.

Here are some guides that can help you hone your craft:

Step 5. Develop strong partnerships

You understand your customer. Your website rocks. You chose your marketing channels. And your content game is on point.

Next up, it’s time to become a player in the bigger game that is your industry.

One good partnership can skyrocket your online business and your brand. I was able to grow one of my blogs to a half-million-per-year income on a single strong partnership simply because I took the time to connect with them and come up with ideas to promote one another.

Partnerships can help you build links for SEO, market your content, and even put more money in your pocket directly through affiliate marketing. It’s not something you should ignore.

But how do you find brand partners?

Easy. Think about all the products you already use and love and reach out to those brands. Send them an email. Or better yet, pick up the phone.

Tell them about your traffic and your capabilities to help promote them and their business. Offer to promote them to your email list and your social media following. Add their products to your blog posts on your website.

For example, here’s an email template you can use:

Hey [name],

My name is [your name]. I run [your business], and we [explain what your business is about in a few words]. 

I’m reaching out because I’ve been using [their product(s)] for a few years now and absolutely love it (them). In fact, [personal story about using their product].

Our website/social media accounts gets/get [number of visitors] people every month looking for information on [their product]. I would love to work something out where we can promote you to our audience. Can we hop on a quick phone call to discuss?

I’m free X time on X date or Y time on Y date.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Cheers,

[Your name]

If you can’t think of any brands you love off the top of your head, the next best thing to do is to start Googling products or services in your niche. Find websites with a decent number of social media followers but aren’t so big that you’ll likely be ignored. I find 10,000 to 100,000 followers to generally be a good, sweet spot of influence and size.

You can find brands to partner with while doing your regular keyword research. For example, while looking up the search results for keywords I might want to use, I found the local website “RideNow Chandler.”

Dirt bike trails Google resultsDirt bike trails Google results

If we check its Instagram, we can see it has around 3,500 followers. A little lower than I prefer, but it could still be worth trying.

Ride Now Chandler Instagram accountRide Now Chandler Instagram account

Since it is a local group, I may be able to work with it on local events on top of digital ones. So even though it doesn’t have a huge online audience, it could still be a high-value partner.

One last tip: Picking up the phone, sending a hand-written letter to the right person, or even meeting people in person at events are the quickest ways to get on someone’s radar. Don’t be afraid to network.

Step 6. Automate, delegate, and delete

It’s time to stop thinking like a solopreneur. At this point, you need to think like an executive.

Executives of giant companies like Apple or Microsoft have a literally infinite to-do list. There’s always something they could be doing. And the same is true for you.

Instead of frantically attacking your to-do list, you should be removing as many tasks as possible so you can focus only on the most important things.

To do that, start with a brain dump. Write down every single task you need to do, including the tasks you do more than once. For example, my list can look like this:

  • Research keywords for SEO
  • Outline, write, edit, and publish blog content
  • Share the content on Facebook, on Twitter, and with my email list
  • Communicate with affiliate partners
  • Send invoices
  • Send outreach emails for link building
  • Outline, write, edit, and send guest posts
  • And a million other things 

Now, let’s take a look at these tasks. Some of them are pretty simple and repetitive, such as uploading an article to my blog. Others require specific skills, such as keyword research and outlining an article.

What I’m trying to figure out is which of my tasks need to be done by me, which can be automated using software or settings, which I can delegate to a freelancer or employee, and which simply don’t need to be done at all.

For example: 

  • If I bill a client the same amount every month, I can set up automatic invoicing so I don’t have to go in and create one every time.
  • I can use a tool like Wordable to upload my articles from Google Docs to WordPress and completely cut out the task of uploading.
  • Instead of writing my own content, maybe I can hire a freelancer or content creation agency to do it for me.
  • I can hire a relatively cheap virtual assistant to post my articles on social media and email for me.

By going through this exercise, you can save yourself a lot of time, energy, and money on tasks that you simply don’t need to be doing yourself. This is one of the secrets of highly successful people and businesses.

Step 7. Scale your efforts

Finally, it’s time to take everything you’ve learned and scale it up. Once you’ve figured out how to make a profit online, you can cut what isn’t working and double down on what is.

In this step, you’ll want to focus more on removing yourself from as many tasks as possible to focus on overall business strategy rather than the day-to-day operations.

This means hiring people to do all of the business tasks that don’t directly require you to do them. But to do that, you need to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) that outline how to do each of those tasks in detail.

For example, here is part of the SOP we use for blog posts at Ahrefs:

Ahrefs' content creation SOPAhrefs' content creation SOP

Here are some guides you can follow to learn how to scale your online business:

Final thoughts

Learning how to grow an online business takes time. Don’t be discouraged if your results don’t pay off right away. These skills that you’re learning will continue to pay off for a lifetime to come.

I personally started and “failed” five different businesses before I found the one that I enjoyed enough to continue to work on. I put “failed” in quotes because I don’t view them as failures. Rather, I see them as learning experiences. 

If I didn’t “fail” five times, I wouldn’t have succeeded in building the following three businesses that I’ve run. Like anything else, consistent effort and the occasional “failure” are the things you need to master the skill of growing an online business.

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The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024

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The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024

Choosing the right website builder may depend on your goals. They have a variety of features, and some platforms excel in areas that others don’t.

Not all builders will fit if you need advanced SEO or ecommerce capabilities.

We compared 10 website builders based on price, data limits, core use cases, and whether they provide domains.

The 10 Best Website Builders Compared

Website Builder Starting Price Free Option Premium Content Gates Limits Free Domain Great For Extras We Like
WordPress.com $9/month Yes Yes 1-50 GB Yes (annual plans only) Blogging and text-based sites
  • Easily work between the .com and self-hosted sites.
  • Customizability.
Wix $17/month Yes Yes 2 GB-Unlimited Yes Small businesses & entrepreneurs
  • Educational programs and support.
  • Scheduling.
  • Ad management.
  • Email campaigns.
Duda $25/month 14 days Yes 1-4 sites No Getting started
  • Excellent help and support.
  • Zapier integration.
  • Multiple language sites.
  • Content library and free assets.
HubSpot $15/month Yes Yes Up to 30 pages on the free plan No Scaling
  • Conversational bots.
  • Wide range of free tools for sales, marketing, and services.
  • Extensive site and business owner education.
  • Mobile app.
Squarespace $25/month 14 days Yes Unlimited bandwidth, 30 minutes of video storage Yes (annual plans only) Quick, no-fuss sites
  • Custom product creation without worrying about fulfillment and shipping.
  • Integrated ecommerce on larger plans.
Webflow $18/month Yes Yes Starts with 1 GB bandwidth and 50 CMS items Yes Designers & Agencies
  • Schema markup and structured search support.
  • Pre-built interactions.
IONOS $6/month No No 50-75 GB Yes Small businesses on a budget
  • Affordable.
  • Competitor tracking.
  • Online booking included.
  • Built-in privacy and SSL.
Shopify $5/month 3 days No Unlimited products, bandwidth, and online storage No Ecommerce
  • Wide range of ecommerce features.
  • Large app store for extensions.
Weebly $12/month Yes No Unlimited storage Yes Beginners
  • Ease of use.
  • Built-in SEO tools.
Hostinger $2.99/month No No 25,000 visits,
100 GB SSD storage,
400,000 files
Yes Budget sites
  • Very affordable plans.
  • 24/7 customer support.

10 Best Website Builders For 2024

1. WordPress.com

Screenshot from WordPress.com, June 2024

With 62.7% of the market share held between WordPress.com and .org, WordPress is the largest and most prominent website builder.

Key Features

  • Over 50,000 plugins and 8,000 themes for customization.
  • Ability to transition between hosted and self-hosted options.
  • With paid plans, custom domains, site security, and advanced features are available.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • User-friendly interface suitable for beginners.
  • Flexibility to create various types of websites.
  • Built-in SEO tools and options to optimize your site for search engines.

Cost

  • $0-$70/month ($0-$45/month, billed annually), plus custom options.

2. Wix

Wix webpageScreenshot from Wix.com, June 2024

Wix controls only 4% of the CMS market, but that small number translates into hundreds of millions of users and makes it one of the most popular website builders.

It offers ease of use and flexibility, making it suitable for creating professional websites with expanded functionality.

Key Features

  • Customizable templates with drag-and-drop editing.
  • Wide range of elements and third-party apps for added functionality.
  • Comprehensive business solutions, including ecommerce and marketing tools.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Suitable for beginners and those needing advanced features.
  • SEO Wiz tool for optimizing your site’s SEO settings.
  • Extensive help, resources, and guides for website creation and promotion.

Cost

  • $0-$159/month, plus custom options.

3. Duda

Duda.coScreenshot from Duda.co, June 2024

Duda is a website builder that balances ease of use with advanced customization options, making it popular among designers and developers.

Key Features

  • Drag-and-drop interface and customizable templates.
  • Widgets and add-ons for expanded functionality, including ecommerce.
  • Mobile editor for creating mobile-friendly versions of your site

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Suitable for businesses and individuals seeking a professional website.
  • Built-in SEO optimization features, including meta descriptions and sitemaps.
  • Excellent customer support with live chat, email, and resources.

Cost:

  • $25-$199/month ($19-$149/month, billed annually), plus custom options.

4. HubSpot

HubSpot webpageScreenshot from HubSpot.com, June 2024

HubSpot is an all-in-one marketing, sales, and customer service platform with a powerful website builder.

Key Features

  • Drag-and-drop interface and customizable templates.
  • Pre-built modules for forms, CTAs, and social media integration.
  • Integrated CMS, marketing automation, and sales tools.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Ideal for businesses seeking a comprehensive solution.
  • Built-in SEO tools for keyword research, on-page optimization, and analytics.
  • Scalable platform that grows.

Cost

  • $0-$450/month, plus custom options.

5. Squarespace

SquarespaceScreenshot from Squarespace, June 2024

Squarespace is a website builder that offers beautifully designed templates and powerful ecommerce features.

Key Features

  • Customizable templates that work across devices.
  • Ecommerce tools for inventory management, order tracking, and payment processing.
  • Marketing tools for SEO, video, and audience management

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Ideal for businesses focusing on ecommerce and brand promotion.
  • Built-in SEO features and integration with Google Analytics.
  • Mobile app for managing your site on the go.

Cost

  • $25-$72/month ($16-$52/month, billed annually), and enterprise plans.

6. Webflow

Homepage of webflow.comScreenshot from webflow.com, May 2024

Webflow is a website builder offering advanced design and development features suitable for users of all skill levels.

Key Features

  • Free plan for getting started with basic features.
  • Ecommerce plan with advanced tools for selling products and managing orders.
  • Team plan with collaboration features and client billing.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Suitable for individuals and teams looking for advanced customization options.
  • Advanced SEO features, including schema and Open Graph.
  • Unique features like scheduled publishing, logic flows, and animations.

Cost

  • $0-$235/month ($0-$212/month, billed annually), including enterprise plans.

7. IONOS

Homepage of ionos.comScreenshot from: ionos.com, May 2024.

IONOS is an affordable and simple website builder that offers all the essential features for creating a functional and beautiful site.

Key Features

  • Three-step site design process: choosing a design, adding content, and promoting.
  • Search engine-optimized templates built for performance.
  • Presence Suite for managing and promoting your site

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Ideal for quick website setups, test projects, and DIYers.
  • Templates are pre-optimized for search engines.
  • Affordable pricing plans with essential features.

Cost

  • $6-$15/month ($4-$8/month billed three years in advance).

8. Shopify

1721393763 166 The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024Screenshot from: Shopify.com, June 2024.

Shopify is a comprehensive ecommerce platform that enables businesses to create online stores and sell products easily.

Key Features

  • Customizable templates and drag-and-drop editing.
  • Powerful ecommerce tools for inventory management, payment processing, and shipping.
  • The app store has thousands of apps to extend functionality.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Ideal for businesses of all sizes looking to create an online store.
  • Built-in SEO features and the ability to edit meta tags, URLs, and site structure.
  • 24/7 customer support and extensive documentation.

Cost

  • $19-$399/month ($29-$299/month billed annually).

9. Weebly

1721393763 174 The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024Screenshot from: weebly.com, June 2024.

Weebly is a user-friendly website builder that offers a wide range of features for creating professional websites and online stores.

Key Features

  • Drag-and-drop interface and customizable templates.
  • Ecommerce functionality with inventory management and payment processing.
  • Blogging platform and app center for additional features.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Suitable for beginners and small businesses.
  • Built-in SEO tools, including meta descriptions, alt tags, and sitemaps.
  • Responsive customer support and community forum.

Cost

  • $$0-$29/month ($10-$26/month billed annually).

10. Hostinger

1721393763 885 The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024Screenshot from hostinger.com, June 2024.

Hostinger offers an easy-to-use website-building tool in its web hosting plans, designed to help users get sites up and running fast.

Key Features

  • Intuitive and user-friendly interface.
  • Suitable for beginners and those needing a website up and running quickly.
  • Free domain, website migration, email, and SSL are included in the hosting package.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Optimized for speed using LiteSpeed Web Server technology, advanced cache solutions, and Object Cache for WordPress.
  • Advanced security features, including unlimited SSL certificates, DDoS protection, automatic backups, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee.

Cost

  • $2.99-$9.99 for the first month ($7.99-$19.99/month on renewal).

Find The Right Website Builder For Your Needs

When choosing a website builder, consider your needs, budget, and skill level.

  • WordPress.com offers flexibility and customization for bloggers and content-heavy sites.
  • Small businesses and entrepreneurs may prefer all-in-one solutions like Wix or HubSpot for marketing integration.
  • Ecommerce stores should evaluate dedicated platforms like Shopify for robust selling tools.
  • Beginners can start with user-friendly builders like Weebly, while designers and agencies may prefer more advanced options like Webflow.

With the variety of website builders available, there’s a solution for every need.

More resources:


Featured Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Getting to the top of Google can be quite slow. Especially so for small, new websites. And the competition can often be too strong, which makes it quite unlikely for you to outrank your rivals in the first place.

Well… if you can’t win, change the rules.

There’s a very simple trick for getting search traffic for the keywords that you want to rank for—without actually ranking for them.

Enter…

One of the most common pieces of marketing advice is to “go fish where the fish are.” Whatever product or service you want to sell, you have to follow three simple steps:

  1. Figure out who your ideal customers are.
  2. Find the places where those people are hanging out online.
  3. Go to those places and find ways to promote your product.

Quick example: if you want to sell fitness gear, it would be good to figure out how to tap into the r/Fitness community on Reddit, which has over 12M members.

What does it have to do with SEO though?

Well, whatever search traffic you want to drive to your own website… someone is already getting it to theirs, right? And their website is not necessarily your direct competitor.

If you own a bagel joint in Singapore, you definitely want your website to rank in Google for “best bagels in Singapore.” But the pages that actually rank for this keyword are listicles, which give readers a bunch of different suggestions. So your job is to get featured in as many of those top-ranking listicles as possible.

Ranking for a keyword with your own website isn’t the only way to get customers from Google. Getting featured on other pages that rank for this keyword is incredibly effective too.

I call this tactic “second-hand search traffic”.

The underlying idea is not new though.

You might have heard of the concept called “Barnacle SEO,” shared by Rand Fishkin back in 2014. There’s also a concept called “Surround Sound,” coined by Alex Birkett. And another one called “SERP Monopoly strategy” by Nick Eubanks. There’s also a reverse concept, called “Rank & Rent.”

The idea behind all of these tactics is practically the same: if a page gets a lot of relevant search traffic from Google—you have to try and get your business mentioned there.

1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything
Source

But that’s easier said than done, right?

Why would anyone bother to feature your business on their website?

Well, one simple answer is money.

If a website owner can make money from mentioning your business on their page, there’s a good chance they’ll do it. This money could come in the form of an affiliate commission or a flat fee for an annual or permanent placement. Sometimes these things can also happen as part of a broader partnership deal.

Getting listed for free is very, very hard. Especially so if you’re not already a big and respected business that people naturally want to feature on their website.

And yet—it’s not completely impossible to get listed for free.

Case in point, we just published our own “best SEO conferences” post, in order to rank for relevant search queries and promote our upcoming event, Ahrefs Evolve Singapore.

And then we went ahead and reached out to all websites that rank for the “best SEO conferences” keyword and asked them to add Ahrefs Evolve to their listicles. So far 10 out of 17 featured us on their pages, without asking for any payment whatsoever.

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The most straightforward way to execute this strategy is to compile a list of highly relevant keywords (with high business potential scores), pull all the top-ranking pages for each of them into a spreadsheet, and start your outreach.

But there’s one other fruitful source of pages to get second-hand search traffic from. These are pages that are linking to your competitors, while getting a decent amount of search traffic themselves.

Here’s how to find these pages in 3 simple steps:

  1. Put the website of your competitor in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the Backlinks report.
  3. Apply the “Referring page > Traffic” filter.
How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for AnythingHow to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Here’s an example of a page I found while trying this out for the ConvertKit website:

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As you can see, this page is not about “email marketing” (the primary topic you’d go for, if you wanted to promote an email marketing tool). And yet, this page is receiving 2.6k visitors per month from Google (as estimated by Ahrefs), and it recommends a bunch of email marketing tools to its readers.

So if you own an email marketing tool—like ConvertKit—you definitely want to get mentioned on that page alongside your competitors.

The moral of this story is that you should look outside of the topics that are immediately relevant to your business. Any page that gets traffic and mentions a competitor of yours should become your target.

And Ahrefs makes it super easy to find such pages.

That’s it.

I hope you found this tactic useful. Don’t sleep on it, because there’s a good chance that your competitors won’t.

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

For the SEO industry, the Google documents leak offered an important view behind the scenes. Although the leak was not a blueprint of how the algorithm worked, there was considerable confirmation that SEO professionals were right about many elements of the algorithm.

From all the analysis and discussion following the leak, the one insight that got my attention was how important the brand is.

Rand Fishkin, who broke the leak, said this:

“Brand matters more than anything else … If there was one universal piece of advice I had for marketers seeking to broadly improve their organic search rankings and traffic, it would be: “Build a notable, popular, well-recognized brand in your space, outside of Google search.”

Mike King echoed this statement with the following observation:

“All these potential demotions can inform a strategy, but it boils down to making stellar content with strong user experience and building a brand, if we’re being honest.”

Mordy Oberstein, who is an advocate for building a brand online, posted on X (Twitter):

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand.”

It’s not the first time that “brand” has been mentioned in SEO. We began to talk about this around 2012 after the impact of Panda and Penguin when it first became apparent that Google’s aim was to put more emphasis on brand.

Compounding this is the introduction of AI, which has accelerated the importance of taking a more holistic approach to online marketing with less reliance on Google SERPs.

When I spoke to Pedro Dias, he said, “We need to focus more than ever on building our own communities with users aligned to our brands.”

As someone who had 15 years of offline experience in marketing, design, and business before moving into SEO, I have always said that having this wide knowledge allows me to take a holistic view of SEO. So, I welcome the mindset shift towards building a brand online.

As part of his X/Twitter post, Mordy also said:

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand” (a lot of which is the direct result of @randfish’s & @iPullRank’s great advice following the “Google leaks”).

As someone who has straddled the brand marketing and SEO world for the better part of 10 years – branding is A LOT harder than many SEOs would think and will be a HUGE adjustment for many SEOs.”

Following his X/Twitter post, I reached out to Mordy Oberstein, Head of SEO Brand at Wix, to have a conversation about branding and SEO.

What Do SEO Pros Need To Know About ‘Brand’ To Make The Mindset Shift?

I asked Mordy, “In your opinion, what does brand and building a brand mean, and can SEO pros make this mindset shift?”

Mordy responded, “Brand building basically means creating a connection between one entity and another entity, meaning the company and the audience.

It’s two people meeting, and that convergence is the building of a brand. It’s very much a relationship. And I think that’s what makes it hard for SEOs. It’s a different way of thinking; it’s not linear, and there aren’t always metrics that you can measure it by.

I’m not saying you don’t use data, or you don’t have data, but it’s harder to measure to tell a full story.

You’re trying to pick up on latent signals. A lot of the conversation is unconscious.

It’s all about the micro things that compound. So, you have to think about everything you do, every signal, to ensure that it is aligned with the brand.

For example, a website writes about ‘what is a tax return.’ However, if I’m a professional accountant and I see this on your blog, I might think this isn’t relevant to me because you’re sending me a signal that you’re very basic. I don’t need to know what a tax return is; I have a master’s degree in accounting.

The latent signals that you’re sending can be very subtle, but this is where it is a mindset shift for SEO.”

I recalled a recent conversation with Pedro Dias in which he stressed it was important to put your users front and center and create content that is relevant to them. Targeting high-volume keywords is not going to connect with your audience. Instead, think about what is going to engage, interest, and entertain them.

I went on to say that for some time, the discussion online has been about SEO pros shifting away from the keyword-first approach. However, the consequences of moving away from a focus on traffic and clicks will mean we are likely to experience a temporary decline in performance.

How Does An SEO Professional Sell This To Stakeholders – How Do They Measure Success?

I asked Mordy, “How do you justify this approach to stakeholders – how do they measure success?”

Mordy replied, “I think selling SEO will become harder over time. But, if you don’t consider the brand aspect, then you could be missing the point of what is happening. It’s not about accepting lower volumes of traffic; it’s that traffic will be more targeted.

You might see less traffic right now, but the idea is to gain a digital presence and create digital momentum that will result in more qualified traffic in the long term.”

Mordy went on to say, “It’s going to be a habit to break out of, just like when you have to go on a diet for a long-term health gain.

The ecosystem will change, and it will force change to our approach. SEOs may not have paid attention to the Google leak documents, but I think they will pay attention as the entire ecosystem shifts – they won’t have a choice.

I also think C-level will send a message that they don’t care about overall traffic numbers, but do care about whether a user appreciates what they are producing and that the brand is differentiated in some way.”

How Might The Industry Segment And What Will Be The Important Roles?

I interjected to make the point that it does look a lot like SEO is finally making that shift across marketing.

Technical SEO will always be important, and paid/programmatic will remain important because it is directly attributable.

For the rest of SEO, I anticipate it merges across brand, SEO, and content into a hybrid strategy role that will straddle those disciplines.

What we thought of as “traditional SEO” will fall away, and SEO will become absorbed into marketing.

In response, Mordy agreed and thought that SEO traffic is part of a wider scope or part of a wider paradigm, and it will sit under brand and communications.

An SEO pro that functions as part of the wider marketing and thinks about how we are driving revenue, how we are driving growth, what kind of growth we are driving, and using SEO as a vehicle to that.

The final point I raised was about social media and whether that would become a more combined facet of SEO and overall online marketing.

Mordy likened Google to a moth attracted to the biggest digital light.

He said, “Social media is a huge vehicle for building momentum and the required digital presence.

For example, the more active I am on social media, the more organic branded searches I gain through Google Search. I can see the correlation between that.

I don’t think that Google is ignoring branded searches, and it makes a semantic connection.”

SEO Will Shift To Include Brand And Marketing

The conversation I had with Mordy raised an interesting perspective that SEO will have to make significant shifts to a brand and marketing mindset.

The full impact of AI on Google SERPs and how the industry might change is yet to be realized. But, I strongly recommend that anyone in SEO consider how they can start to take a brand-first approach to their strategy and the content they create.

I suggest building and measuring relationships with audiences based on how they connect with your brand and moving away from any strategy based on chasing high-volume keywords.

Think about what the user will do once you get the click – that is where the real value lies.

Get ahead of the changes that are coming.

Thank you to Mordy Oberstein for offering his opinion and being my guest on IMHO.

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Featured Image: 3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock

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