I frequently interview SEO professionals on The Daily Interview because I think search engine optimization is connected in some way to every blog or business. Even if you don’t consciously focus on SEO, it still impacts you in some way.
My guest today, Jon Cooper, has an amazing SEO resource at Point Blank SEO. In this interview, he discusses keyword strategy, and answers the common question about how often you should use your target keywords as part of your “anchor text” (i.e. the text you use when creating a hyperlink) when building backlinks.
Let’s jump to the interview.
Jon, I’m a huge fan of Point Blank SEO. You have an AMAZING SEO resource, and it’s no coincidence that I see people linking to your site from all over the place.
Tell us a bit about your background and your business today – how did you get into SEO? Are you more focused on creating resources and doing SEO for your own sites, or do you spend more of your time with clients?
I first got into SEO because I was in high school and looking for a first job. A neighbor, and friend’s parent, was looking for some help with their website, and they wanted to hire me (I had no prior experience on anything). She showed me SEO, and then I ran with it. I read a few books, a lot of blogs, tested some things out on a few sites of my own, and then eventually started my blog.
I’ve recently pivoted to focusing on my own sites with a lot more of my time. I still have a few clients, but they’re only sites I absolutely love working on, and that I believe in.
Without revealing URLs (obviously), can you share with us the types of sites you have built outside of Point Blank SEO?
Unfortunately I can’t reveal the URLs or niches, but the two main ones I’ve been working on are eCommerce websites. I prefer the model over others because Google can take away a traffic source, and in turn i.e. leads, but they can’t take away a customer list that can be used to target for more sales.
What has been your greatest success (or successes) so far with your blog or SEO business?
My greatest success sticks out like a sore thumb; this blog post I published in February of 2012.
(Note from The Daily Interview: The link above is for a MASSIVE resource that Jon has created, which allows you to basically look at nearly every type of link building tactic that exists. This is something you will want to bookmark if you haven’t already).
Since then, it’s been responsible for over 40% of all my traffic to my blog (see image below for proof).
The path to success usually doesn’t come without obstacles – what do you consider to be your biggest failure with respect to your blog or business, and what did you learn from it?
My biggest failure has been trying to consistently publish on a regular basis. I know for a fact that consistency is a huge factor in growing a blog, but I just fell out of touch with it as I’ve started to take on more clients & worked on more sites of my own.
I regret this, and hope that in the near future I can start finding the time again on a weekly basis for it, as it’s something I love doing and has been proven to be profitable.
The SEO-landscape is always changing, and while some aspects seem to become more challenging, it also seems like a lot of the same tricks and tactics continue to work. In your opinion, what is the most effective SEO tactic or strategy that everyday bloggers/website owners need to be aware of today?
The majority of the people coming to me looking for link building services have had a sub-par, or just plain bad, keyword strategy. I have no idea why people neglect this aspect of SEO so much. You can’t rank for what you’re not targeting, and if your strategy is all about finding a couple head terms and sticking them on your pages, then trying to get links, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot from day one.
Keyword strategy is a fairly straightforward thing; you find relevant, profitable, and hopefully uncompetitive keywords, then build pages around them. It’s really not rocket science. You just need to be willing to sit down and invest time into finding as many different keywords as possible, figure out how you can group them together for a single page, and for sites that do eCommerce, reorganize products into more user friendly, and keyword optimized, categories.
Again, it’s not a head-scratcher, just a time suck that you need to get over. I revamped the keyword strategy for an eCommerce site of mine, and in 3-4 days we saw a 25% jump in organic traffic.
On-page keyword strategy definitely seems to be crucial. Looking off-page, what are your thoughts on anchor text for backlinks in today’s SEO environment? (Is it as important/effective as it used to be? What strategy do you typically recommend now, as it relates to your target keyword(s)?)
It’s something that I generally avoid as a factor to be used to take advantage of. I never ask for anchor text, and with any links that I do control, I always go with branded or generic anchors.
Anchor text has turned into something that can be used against you, more than for you. Algorithmic and manual action trends have shown that it’s a great, easy way to identify spam. I’m not saying it’s irrelevant; it’s still an important off-site factor, but generally you’re playing with fire if you go for commercial anchors.
Can you share with us a couple lesser-known SEO tactics that you think people might not be doing enough of?
I’ve seen some sites that publish new & noteworthy images in their blog posts (i.e. celebrity news sites posting pics of different people), and those images get taken & put on different sites, and they link back to the image file location as attribution.
Go into a backlink analysis tool, find all links pointing to image file URLs, and reach out to all those blogs to get them to change the attribution to the blog post’s URL that the image is featured in.
Let’s take a step back and look more generally at SEO for a brand new website: If you had to take your best advice or inspirational thought and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
I’m going to sound like a broken record, but:
If you’re not the most genuinely helpful & useful website in your vertical, then from an SEO perspective, you’re starting at a disadvantage.
That’s not to say it can’t be done (I’ve built sub-par, bootstrapped sites to high rankings), it’s just going to make things more difficult (i.e. lower success rates in outreach, user behavior metrics in Google on the rise even if not present today, etc.)
What are your favorite online resources?
My undoubted favorite resource is Ahrefs. I use this tool more than anything. I also love Buzzstream & Authority Labs.
Finally, where can people find you online?
Thanks Jon for sharing some of your SEO insights with us!
What are some SEO strategies working for you lately? Leave a comment below!
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