Editor Note: This was originally an email sent to my subscriber list 12 months ago. If anything bears updating, it'll be marked in red like this announcement. Also, the recent advent of ChatGPT making AI content and content tuning easily available to everyone makes a lot of this obsolete, but the concepts at play will serve you well to understand.
No idea what I'm referencing? That might be an unintended consequence of only mailing you a couple of times per year.
In our last little fireside chat, we discussed taking the 80/20 Pareto Principle and applying the 80/20 Pareto Principle to it, giving us the sweet ass 64/4 Principle. It would probably be easier to go search your email for "Yo...member when?" than it would be for me to rehash it all. Editor Note: Or you could just go read the 1st part in this series here.
What's that? You deleted that as quickly as possible? Fair. I would have too.
Ok, so continuing the Rehash-O-Rama, I said there are only 4 SEO factors I care about and then slapped some not that witty little name on them, the Big Four Factors and promised to refer to it as the BFF.
Now you're caught up.
The BFF that I care about.
Links - How & What
Content - How & What
Yes, I've listed them in order of importance too. How you anchor a link is much more important to me than what the actual link is, within realistic limits. And actually, the how in that case will depend on the what. But let's not get into that yet.
Let's tackle content instead.
Because it's easier, and sometimes I'll pick an easy target over a harder one. Sue me.
Before we attempt to wrassle the alligator that is SEO content, let's bring in one more potentially catchy abbreviation.
What Would Eli Do?
If you've lived under an SEO rock for the past couple of decades plus, Eli is the best SEO who ever lived. Full stop.
If you don't recognize this universal truth for some reason, you'd be much better served going and reading BlueHatSeo.com than you would be finishing this email.
When asked any SEO question, Eli would respond with 'SEO is game of match and exceed.'
But he wasn't wrong. He rarely was.
When it comes to Pareto Principling our content, he couldn't be more correct.
We just so happen to be alive and active at the time when there are a plethora of SEO tools available that all give us the ability to match and exceed.
Matching and exceeding content has never been easier.
Surfer, Frase, Cora, Pop, Website Auditor... twenty-five unknown to me viral-sounding brands on AppSumo trying to get on the playing field.
What you chose to make your stack probably determines your cognitive type or personality type or some new-age hypersensitive crap, but whatever you pick, it should have the following features:
1) Allow you to pick which page 1 sites to use for comparison.
If it doesn't have that functionality, throw it away. It's not worth your time. Google has been serving results based on intent buckets for at least two years now. Editor Note: 3.5+ years now
This means that they'll return a mix of intents for most queries to increase better their chance of getting the click. Hyper-specific long-tail queries where the searchers' intent is obvious don't fit this scenario, but I also don't rank those types of terms, so we don't care.
I don't care. Sorry if you do.
Most pages can be slotted into one of three intents:
Whichever page classification you have, you should only compare yourself to the similar pages on page 1.
You might outrank an eCommerce result with your info/review page, but you won't replace it.
Read that again. And again. Read it until it resonates within your soul. It's the most important concept you'll learn this year.
This paradigm shift is both good and bad. Most SERPs bring back 3:3:4 or 2:4:4 ratios of these buckets. This ratio will slightly change as you work thru the lower SERP pages; if page 1 is three eCom, three review/info, four news, then page 2 might be four eCom, two review/info, four news, etc.
To rank page 1, we have to be top 3 for our bucket. But it also means that to once we get the top 30, there are only ten sites we're competing with for page 1 real estate.
All of that is a long-winded way of explaining why you shouldn't be comparing your content on your eCom site with a news article on LA Weekly. Still, I've learned that I shouldn't assume that because I understand something at a reference, everyone will get it that quickly as well.
2) Have the ability to compare content both BEFORE and AFTER publication.
This concept seems simple enough, but some content tools can only grade it after publication, which will slow down your content scaling.
Also, some tools give your content a different score before it's published, which makes zero sense to me, but I don't use them anyway, so meh.
My Stack/How I Attack Topics
I've used everything else mentioned above, plus another 20 tools I didn't mention.
I also use different AI writing tools, but I'm not covering those today. Editor Note: Obviously 12 months later, it's pretty obvious that this was GPT-3.
That's my 64:4, and while it might be yours too, I'm not sharing any helpful AI content tips.
When everyone has access to the same information, how becomes more important than what. Sorry, not sorry.
Determine what my page is going to be about. Create a new document in Frase. Frase will want to analyze the top 20 results, let it. It's hard to get far if you don't.
Click outline, then 'Open SERP Explorer'.
Manually determine which of the page 1 sites match your intent; in this case, I'm going for 'best portable heaters', so I'll ignore the eCom results and any newsworthy results.
Editor Note: There's another very important part of this process now, considering that Google has given up the goods to any and all sites with decent domain Authority for at least a year now.
You can't tune your content that you're going to be posting on your low authority blog based on 5 results from Page 1 that have an average authority of DR83.
That's apples and oranges and a large part of SEO is eliminating noise to determine signal quality. If you're tuning content to fight in the parasite wars, great continue on.
But if you're tuning your content to post on your low authority site, then you need to find other low authority sites that are ranking. This might mean going to page 2 or page 3 even. The concept remains the same but Google's continuing lean towards authority requires we change up the process.
Once I've determined my 2/3/4 other Info/Review competitors, I'll start arranging their Outline topics in a way that makes sense (with regards to reader flow) into my own outline. I'm trying to make a mega article without duplicity or redundancy.
As an example, I won't want to select the opening paragraph from more than one site. I won't choose redundant feature paragraphs. I won't select redundant closing paragraphs.
I want to make sure I match all the content the competitors have and then exceed it by covering everything that all 3 (in this case) cover but all in my one mega article.
Now I have my outline, and I can assign it to a writer or run it through my AI process and then pass it off to an Editor.
It's pretty simple, and once you've done it a couple of times, you can put together a match and exceed article outline in 10 to 15 minutes.
The other primary tool in my stack is Grammarly, which my Editors use to make sure everything is up and up; Google rewards content that is more grammatically correct.
And that's mostly it. I know many SEOs prefer Surfer to Frase, and that might be the case for you as well, so check it out. I found the Surfer workflow A LOT less efficient, and I can't wrap my head around why my scores change when it's just a raw piece of content versus published on a URL.
Some of you more seasoned content matching exceeders are going to read this and wonder, 'what about grading your content vs. the competition?'
Simple. I'm doing it upfront by using Frase to select which sites I'm emulating/exceeding. Sure, I'm not hitting the same 22 instances of 'keyword' that you might be using Surfer. Still, I've tested this extensively, and by matching/exceeding topics vs matching/exceeding keywords, I'm getting better results, and it's faster to put it all together. Editor Note: This is more important than ever considering what I pointed out in the last section of red text above. Topical authority is how you compete when you don't have link authority. Real terms require both but you get it...hopefully.
In those rare instances where I feel like I need to fine-tune my content against the competition, I have a lifetime deal on Website Auditor, and it's the bee's knees for this purpose.
Its visual-based content audit process allows you to get in that laser-focused KW by KW tuning, especially where it matters, in the Page Title and Meta Description.
Great, time for a conclusion paragraph.
Content. Match & exceed. Do it. You'll still need links. Build your own or buy some over at GrindstoneSEO.com
I hope you learned something. I hope you enjoyed yourself while doing so.
P.S. If you want to get on the mailing list this post originally saw over 18 months ago, sign up below.
Editor Note: This was originally an email sent to my subscriber list over 18 months ago. If anything bears updating, it'll be marked in red like this announcement.
I said I'd only mail you 1-2 times per week?
I really meant 1-2 times per year.
So why break that sweet sweet silence now?
I probably should try to sell you something, the goo roos say that Always Be Selling is the whey.
But really, I just want to talk about SEO.
I assume that you're on this list because you too enjoy the optimizing for the search engine.
If not, scroll down and hit that unsubscribe button yeah?
If so, stick around. Things are going to get good.
First though, I should probably tell you a little about myself.
Who I am, why you should or shouldn't listen to what I have to say.
Things like that.
Most of you know me by Grind, Grindstone, that dickhead from Wickedfire or some variation thereof.
That's just a nickname though (shocking, right?).
My real name is Pasha and no, I'm not Russian. It's a long story. Short version, parents were hippies. 70s were hard on their brains methinks.
Before I decided that fighting with Google for dollars was my future I also was a (mostly in reverse order, best I can remember):
web designer, owned a vinyl graphics and screen printing brick and mortar, owned a drive thru espresso stand, bartender, operated a mobile espresso business @ festivals and whatnot, owned a tree removal and landscaping business, rappelled out of helicopters for the US Government, worked on a Hot Shot Crew (wildland firefighting), grafted fruit trees, cooked in a restaurant, bucked hay bales, peeled logs and chinked log homes.
That takes me back to about age 10 or so, and I'm sure I forgot a couple things.
Been a full time SEO since 2007, first started dabbling in it in 2005 when I was spending $6k/month in PPC for my graphics business and asked the infamous question we've all probably asked at some point:
'How do those guys on the left get there without paying?'
This was before Google started running ads on top of the SERP to the fold of course, back when #1 ranking positions were even MORE valuable than they are now.
And the without paying part is hilarious, because we all know that you're either paying in time or money and the former is more expensive than the latter.
From the mouths of babes indeed...
Anyway, I've always been a quick learner and when combined with full immersion tactics, it wasn't long before I started ranking sites well enough to get traffic and start making monies online without handing over large chunks of the profits to the Google. Editor Note: It would have taken a lot longer if I hadn't been lucky enough to be exposed to Eli at BlueHatSeo.com and Rob over at Contempt in my formative years. Thanks guys, you have no idea how much those first couple conversations steered my life.
Needless to say, I was hooked. And I'm still hooked because I'm still here, in the trenches, day in day out, figuring out how to best make Google submit to my tactics.
Some days go better than others but one thing that all real SEOs know is that Always Be Testing is the only consistent route to success. Yeah, you'll take your lumps. You'll have those days when it feels like nothing is working and Google is winning.
But then you get lucky (where preparation makes hard work) and twist just the right knob the right amount and suddenly everything clicks and everything ranks and even updates don't matter anymore because You.Have.This.Shit.On.Lockdown!
Those are the times that make it all worth it. Those are the days that fuel our soul.
And they're pretty freaking kind to pocketbook too...
To be honest, I've only been testing variations of the same thing for the last 2.5 years with consistently great results. Google gave it up and I'm not letting up. Editor Note: 4+ years now. Deal with it, Mueller.
At this point, I'm just trying to 80/20 my 80/20 to get to that sweet 64/4 spot.
Where 4% of the actions are responsible for 64% of the results.
Smarter, not harder.
Speaking of the number 4, it's one of my favorite numbers.
When I'm trying to explain SEO to n00bs, I use it often.
Because at it's most pared down Pareto Principle, there's only 4 SEO factors that matter.
Links - How and What
Content - How and What
That's the whole enchilada.
I can hear you now...
'But Grind, what about __________'
'Wrong, you can't ignore __________'
'Grind, you're forgetting about ___________'
No. Have a big drink of Shut Up and sit down over there.
Yes, you can focus on 1000 things in SEO but most of them would be sub-factors of those Big Four Factors (BFF forever from here, because I just made that up on the fly and am feeling particularly smug about it) and, more importantly, aren't the needle movers.
Most of the shit SEOs concern themselves with are good for looking busy.
Or making reports shinier.
Or making them feel like they're really on that hustle grind.
Screw all that.
We want to focus on the primary drivers of the BFF.
Because that's the only way to scale SEO.
And scaling SEO is where you start stacking zeros.
And stacking zeros when you're not spending 60-80 hours/week in the office is a life well lived.
No, I don't have a pitch here to teach you how to stack zeros without spending 60-80 hours/week in the office.
It's not easy, if it was everyone would be doing it.
If you can figure it out, you'll never regret the time you spent making it happen.
What I can do though is help you figure out how to Pareto Principle the heck out of the BFF.
And we will.
Just not today, this is already too damn long and I still have to proofread and edit it.
Watch your inbox, whitelist this email, go shopping for links over here and we'll dig into that soon.
I promise it won't take another year. Editor Note: It did. But you can read Part 2 in this series here.
(He said, hopefully)
Until then, Cheers!
P.S. If you want to get on the mailing list this post originally saw over 18 months ago, sign up below.