How to Get 5,000+ Visitors with a Forum Traffic Funnel

If you’re overlooking forums as a serious traffic source, you’re leaving a lot of visits on the table. Do this right and you’ll get thousands of clicks without spending any money.

I’m not talking about using signature links or spamming forums for traffic. If you’re doing that, you won’t be very successful.

Very few people know how to market on forums the right way, which leaves the door wide open for you to swoop in and steal the show. I’ve used this strategy to launch 8 successful blogs that still get loads of new traffic from old posts.

In this post, I’ll show you how to:

  • Develop a forum traffic funnel
  • Find the best forums to use
  • Funnel users back to your site without being spammy
  • Make really cool posts that get clicks (or even stickied at the top)
  • Avoid getting banned
  • Get tons of traffic without using signature links
  • Use forums to get search engine traffic

Why Forum Traffic?

Forum traffic is highly targeted and visitors are very passionate about the subject at hand. If you’ve ever frequented a forum, you’re probably really into that topic. You probably even spend money on it.

Even better, forum traffic has little to do with Google. You don’t have to outrank other sites to get clicks or build links or research keywords. This makes it perfect for highly competitive niches, like weight loss or online business.

Even if your site is blacklisted from Google, you’ll still be going strong.

Forums get insane amounts of traffic. Here are a few examples:

  • (Fitness) – 130,000,000+ Posts
  • (Computer Hardware) – 13,000,000+ Posts
  • (Online Marketing) – 17,000,000+ Posts

Even very specific forums get tons of traffic. has 5.4 million posts – and that’s a forum about one car model. Not enough? has another 8.4 million posts. has over a million posts about building a computer into your car. has 2.3 million posts about cosmetics.

And these are just posts – traffic figures are much higher.

Ready to get a slice of that pie? Let’s look at how this strategy works.

Forum Traffic Funnel

The “Forum Traffic Funnel” is a term I coined after I noticed hardly anyone else knew about this strategy.

Here’s an image to demonstrate a basic overview:

Your regular forum posts reference your own (highly detailed) tutorial threads on the same forum, which in turn link back to your site for even more detail. You end up with a lot of traffic when this is done right.

This looks simple, but when you see some examples you’ll understand how awesome this method is.

Let’s jump to the middle – tutorial threads are the engine behind this tactic.


Tutorial Threads

To kick things off, you need to formulate an awesome, super in-depth guide that is immensely helpful to forum readers – something you can post as a new thread.

This guide will take some time (content marketing is amazing, but it requires you to provide some value up front). The good news is that once you crack the code and write something cool, it can bring you traffic for decades.

To get an idea of what kind of content this is, you can look at “stickied” threads that are pinned to the top of popular forums. Sometimes these are just announcements from moderators, but lots of them are stickied because they are the most helpful posts:

These are long, really helpful guides that have been sticked because they are so useful.

Note: You do NOT need to get your thread stickied for this method to work. You’ll see why in a minute. This is just an easy way to see examples of helpful tutorials. Use them to get ideas of what kind of content you’ll be creating.

Here are some other popular tutorials on various forums:



And finally, one from

You can use this process to get traffic from nearly any niche. If you can find a popular forum on the subject, your chances are good.

Let’s look at a more detailed example from Matthew Woodward. He’s an expert marketer who built a 6 figure blog, and it all started with forum traffic.

He was kind enough to give me a quote:

“I have seen many people fail at forum marketing and that is usually because they try to get away with the bare minimum and are then banned by the moderators.  When you start posting on forums you must treat it like a long term relationship.  Spend significant time helping people so you become a familiar face in the community and THEN start pushing traffic to your site.  That way people will love you and the moderators won’t ban you :)” – Matthew Woodward

Here’s one of his tutorial threads on the Traffic Planet forum:

Immediately, you’ll notice a few things about this thread:

  • It’s incredibly helpful to nearly anyone who visits the forum.
  • It’s VERY detailed – 2+ hours of solid video takes ages to write and produce.
  • It addresses one of the most common problems people on the forum face (getting links).
  • It’s too much content to post in the thread, so it must be linked to (on his own site and YouTube channel).

That last point is very important. The links to each video are what funnel readers from the forum to his own blog, where he can collect their email addresses and build his following.

You have to present a good reason for linking back to your site for the content, so make it very interactive (with lots of images and embedded material) and/or just so long that it reasonably needs to be linked.

His thread is so helpful that not only do the moderators allow him to link back to his site for the core of the material, they even stickied it at the top of the sub-forum.

Your guide doesn’t need to be this detailed, but more work will yield better results. You definitely don’t have to get your thread stickied, but you should aim to “wow” people with unique advice. A simple article isn’t going to cut it.

Don’t worry, in a moment I’ll walk you through this process step-by-step.

Once you have a solid tutorial thread posted with links, you have something you can reference all the time without getting banned.


The Posts

When you browse the forum and find a question that can be answered or expanded on with your content, you can post a link to your thread:

These posts will be easy to find since you’ll formulate your tutorial around the most popular questions on the forum (more on that below).

You can post your link a lot, since it’s just an internal link to another thread.

When your thread is helpful enough, other people will even link to it for you:

This creates an ongoing feedback loop – when new people find your thread, some of them will post in it, bumping it up to the top and getting you even more traffic.


Here’s why this forum traffic funnel works so well:

  • The vast majority of your posts link to a thread on the same forum. You can’t get by with posting a dozen links to your own site every day, but literally nobody minds if you link to another thread on the forum. No moderator would ban you for that.
  • The threads you link to are packed with so much in-depth, legitimately helpful content that they provide immense value. They will continue to get traffic for years, and you can promote them all the time. You only have to do the hard work (creating the tutorial) once – although you have the option of scaling this up with multiple tutorial threads.
  • The content on your site (or even YouTube channel) expands on your thread in such a way that it makes sense to link to it, so you get away with funneling visitors off-site even when others might fail.


So… How do you make a KILLER tutorial thread?

A good plan takes a little legwork. A few hours of research will give you 1,000x more traffic than if you just dive in blind.

Step 1: Finding Forums

We need to find relevant forums to post on. There are usually multiple forums on any given subject, so don’t limit yourself to just one.

There are some dedicated blog search tools / directories, but I like to keep it simple and just use Google. A search for “your industry + forum” is easy enough.

You can also find forums based on the popular Vbulletin platform by using the query “inurl:showthread.php”:

If you scroll to the bottom of most main forum pages, you can often see visitor statistics posted:

This gives you an idea of how popular a forum is. Try to find as many forums as possible so you can expand later on, although you’ll want to start with just one.

Register an account and spend a few days making quality posts and answering questions. This will give you some validity when it comes time to post a new tutorial thread. New members with few posts raise a lot of suspicion upon posting threads containing links.

Step 2: Gather Data

It can be tempting to just “go with your gut” and make content you feel people will enjoy – but intuition is no substitute for real data.

Spend an hour or two browsing threads and get a feel for the biggest problems / questions users have. You’ll want to keep an eye out for the most frequently asked questions.

While I’m at it, I also like to use some advanced search options to find the most popular threads posted in the past year:

That gives me an idea of what content has been the most popular in the past.

As I find the most popular topics (preferably ones that have yet to be answered in great detail via a definitive guide), I keep notes in Excel. I’ll group questions into categories to help get an overall feel.

Eventually, I end up with something like this:

The best topic is one with a lot of views that also lacks definitive information. It has to be something I can produce a guide for that provides information that isn’t easily found elsewhere.

Step 3: Making the Content

Before it’s time to post your thread, you’ll need to make something awesome that’s worth sharing. Aim not to promote yourself or your site with this content, but to legitimately help people – that’s what makes a content marketing campaign successful.

This kind of content will build trust, establish you as an expert, build your following, and place you in a position to sell a lot of products down the road.

Also, remember the goal here: It needs to be content that warrants you posting links to your site to share it. A simple blog post can easily be pasted into a thread, so it’s hard to sell the idea that you have a real reason to use external links to share it.

This leaves you with a few obvious options:

  • An in-depth video series
  • Super-long (4k+ words) content with lots of embedded images
  • Guides with separate chapters located on different pages
  • A podcast / audio series

Less obvious options might be custom software tools or downloadable software, but these cost a lot more to produce.

Videos are my personal favorite. The production value doesn’t have to be high if it’s helpful content. I use Camtasia Studio to record my screen or a Powerpoint presentation along with a cheap USB microphone.

Matthew Woodward’s video tutorials posted above are excellent examples of this strategy.

Whichever you chose, do a lot of research and make your content as helpful as possible. It will go on your site after all, so it will help grow your following far beyond this forum traffic funnel.

Step 4: Post Your Thread

Once everything is uploaded, it’s time to share it with the world!

Make your thread as genuine and helpful as you can:

When you link to your site, you want to make sure those pages continue the funnel. That means using lots of internal links to your other content and using email opt-in boxes to capture users and turn them into subscribers.

That will ensure they come back to your site to read more content and click ads or purchase your affiliate products / more advanced courses.

Good content will also get a lot of replies and follow up questions. Make sure you check in regularly to respond to people and keep building your following. This will also bump your thread up each time for more exposure and clicks.

You will have put some solid work into creating this content, but you can probably see how this will bring you continuous traffic for many years. This kind of work sets you up for the long haul.


Continuously Promoting Your Thread

Once your thread is up, you can use it to answer questions. Since you did your research in step 2, you know you’re answering a question that is brought up often.

Simply respond to people who ask this question in the future and provide the link to your super helpful thread.

Since constantly browsing forums takes some work, you can do a search once a week on the topic – or even better, setup some custom Google Alerts to notify you when new questions are posted. Forum posts are usually indexed by Google within hours. Then you can answer right away with your link.

Here’s an example of using a “site:” search to alert to new posts on a forum:

I like to setup several of these for different queries. You can also change the “Sources” option to setup alerts for all sites or new blog posts you can comment on with your links.

You’ll get a nice, organized email each day full of new opportunities.


Forum Traffic Funnel Tips:

  • If external links aren’t often posted, it never hurts to drop a message to a moderator first to make sure they are cool with you posting your tutorials. Just the act of asking up front can increase your chances of making your thread stay online.
  • Target multiple forums. You can use the same content, but write a new thread for each forum (some consider it disrespectful to copy & paste to cross-post).
  • If you have trouble getting your threads approved with links, consider posting a shorter tutorial first. Then edit your post to expand on it once it’s gained some traction and has proven to be legitimate. You can then add the links to your site and complete the funnel.
  • Don’t stop at forums – if your content is truly amazing, you should reach out to bloggers and other communities to ask for a share.

While we’re at it, if you found this post helpful, please share it with your communities. And let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

How I Built a HUGE Blog, Step-by-Step (You Can Too!)

This a step-by-step account of the strategies I used to build 5 huge blogs in different niches.

“Huge” in this usage means my blogs got a lot of readers, won awards, and got their content syndicated by major news websites.

Of course, huge can also mean huge profits. Advertising alone can make a lot of money if your blog is large. If you learn how to monetize your blogs from a business perspective, you can make even more.

I don’t say this to brag, but… I’m good at building successful blogs.

Knowing how to do this isn’t magic. I’m good at it only because I’ve failed a lot in the past, so I learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work.

These days, I can turn a profit pretty fast. My first projects were complete failures, and my first success only made about $40 a month.

If you aren’t yet successful, keep going, keep learning, and keep trying. Most of us fail at first. Successful people are the ones that failed in the past but didn’t give up.

As you follow along with me, you’ll learn:

  • How to setup your blog from scratch
  • How I optimized for SEO the right way
  • How I made a killer content plan
  • How I outranked everyone else in the search results
  • How I finally became successful enough to live off my blog profits
  • How you can do the same thing by following along

I’ll show you how to do all of this in a moment. First, I need to quickly touch on two concepts that changed everything for me: Hard work and adding value.


What Happened When I Learned the Value of Hard Work

When you read about making money online, most people follow the same trend – they want easy money. They somehow think it’s possible to make hundreds of thousands of dollars by clicking a few buttons and sleeping all day.

It doesn’t help that there are a thousand courses out there promising exactly that.

Look, if there were some magic button you could press (or a template you can copy) and make $100k a year, the person with that button would spend all day pressing it. They wouldn’t waste time writing sales copy and pushing courses on people.

^^ Don’t give guys like this your money or believe any of the garbage they teach.

There are no overnight magic millionaires in this (or any) business.

The faster you realize that hard work translates into success, the faster you’ll have money.

By all means, take some time and learn how to do internet marketing the right way (you’ve started in the right place by reading this site). Then, work your ass off. Don’t stop until your goals are a reality.

I had a realization one day that changed everything. I looked at the super-successful people in this industry and realized they all talk about how many hours they put in. The top 5% pour every waking hour they can into their work.

I had to finally start believing in myself and commit to my goals. And I can’t expect anything from the world until I start working my ass off to get it.

When I started pulling 10 hour days on building my blogs, everything changed. I started getting recognition. My traffic grew. My sales grew. I finally started making real money.

Turns out, I actually love working hard on my blogs. The feeling of making lots of progress at the end of the day is completely worth the work.

You don’t have to work 10 hours a day. But the more hours you can put in, the faster and bigger you’ll grow your blog.


Learn to Think Backwards: Putting My Visitors First

Successful bloggers make money from their blogs, right?

Wrong. Money doesn’t come from a blog. It comes from people – from my readers.

Value those people, and you’ll make more money than ever before. Before starting, I ordered my priorities on paper. Here are the blogging priorities I came up with:

Providing value to my readers through quality content comes first.

Building a following on social media comes second.

Growing my email list to promote content comes third.

Writing content worthy of being shared on other sites comes fourth.

Making money through CPC ads and affiliate sales comes last.

Most people don’t put earning money in last place, because that seems counter-intuitive. You’re doing all of this to earn a paycheck, after all. But this order of priorities is what started making me more profit than before.

I had written content in the past about getting in shape, and I would build that content to try to sell affiliate products.

The results were terrible. Then I tried it again, instead trying to legitimately help people. When I briefly mentioned a product that had helped me in the past, I noticed my sales were several times what they had been in the past.

The concept is simple:

You earn trust from people by helping them.

People buy things from people they trust.

Therefore, you make money by helping people.

I had to address these two concepts before moving forward. Now, let’s get into how I started these blogs.

As you follow these steps, remember to follow my W.I.S.E. approach to online marketing. This formula is exactly what I used to go from struggling to successful.


The Planning Process

Picking a topic to blog on should be pretty easy.

We all have a couple of areas of interest in which we already have a lot of knowledge or would love to learn more.

Blogging is a time commitment. You’ll be researching and writing a lot on this subject, so make sure it’s something you love. If you aren’t passionate about it, your apathy will show in your work.

Of course, it has to be a big enough topic to attract a significant number of readers. But this is pretty easy to qualify.

My guideline is simply this: “Are there any existing blogs on this subject that get decent traffic?”

If there are, I know there’s a market.

Just do a Google search for:

your blog topic + blog

Snag a couple of the top blog URLs and head over to for an idea of how much traffic that blog gets:

If there’s an existing blog with good traffic, it’s a market you can tap into.


Setting up Domain Name & Hosting

I used to waste precious time trying to “make sure” I wanted to start a blog on a specific subject.

It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of “analysis paralysis” – where you over-think things to the point of never taking action. If I had gotten started earlier, I’d be earning even more passive income today.

If you decide you’d like to blog about something else, you can always open a second (or third) blog later. In fact, I highly recommend diversifying your work across a couple of blogs to help make your income more secure.

To get your blog live, you’ll need both web hosting and a domain name. Hosting is the server space needed to store all of your files, and your domain name is your address so people can find you (“” is an example of a domain name).

I host most of my blogs through Bluehost. They are cheap and are who WordPress recommends for blog hosting. WordPress is the publishing platform most big blogs use (and it’s what I recommend using, since it’s free and easy to learn).

When you get started on Bluehost, they let you check to see if the domain name you might want is taken. They include the domain for free with hosting, so it saves some money over registering them separately.

Just Host is also a decent alternative.

Once you click to get started on the Bluehost site, you’ll get to choose your plan:

(These might look different from the time of writing this guide.)

The basic plan covers what you need to get started. You can go with plus if you’d like to have a little extra growing room for the future.

Next, they will ask you to choose your free domain name:

Your first ideas for a domain will probably be taken. Play around with variations to find something you like that’s available.

Don’t feel like you have to be too descriptive. Having a keyword in your domain isn’t nearly as powerful as it used to be.

Your domain doesn’t even have to make sense at first glance.

HubSpot, Moz, Yahoo and Yoast are great examples. Do those names really mean anything? HubSpot at least vaguely hints at a concept, but they are pretty much just noises.

Yet, these are big brands that are easily recognizable. If Yahoo! were called “Search the Internet”, I doubt it would have become a household name.

Just go with something you like the sound of.

Next, just fill in your account information and your site will go live.


Setting up WordPress

WordPress is the blogging platform that almost everyone uses. I use it for my blogs, as do most successful bloggers.

It’s free, powerful, and making a new post is as simple as sending an email.

Let’s get WordPress installed on your new blog. One of the reasons I love Bluehost is because they automate the installation process for you.

Here’s how:

Login to your Bluehost account to access your cPanel screen. Click on One-Click Installs:

Then choose WordPress:

Then just click the Install button:

When it asks you where to install WordPress, just leave the “directory” field blank. That will put the blog on your home page, instead of in some folder somewhere.

Easy enough.

Now you can login to your WordPress account and pick your theme. Click Themes under Appearance on the left side:

There are tons of themes you can download for free. Many of them give you a “Customize” option under the same menu as above so you can tailor it to your liking.

The WordPress Support Page can help you customize everything as much as you want.


Optimizing for SEO

Before I write a word of content, I make sure everything is optimized for the search engines.

For this, I use a WordPress plugin called SEOPressor.

SEOPressor is easy to install, and gives you a nice dashboard to keep up on your blog’s SEO health:

It manages your meta tags, analyzes keywords, and does all of the behind the scenes stuff to optimize your on-page SEO.

As I post new content, I get suggestions on how to optimize my blog to get more search traffic:

Being able to make these changes immediately saves me a lot of time and gets me more traffic.

SEOPressor isn’t free, but it’s only about $9 to get started (at the time of writing this). It’s worth it to me since it does more than any of the free plugins.


Planning Your Content

Content will make or break your blog.

You don’t have to be an amazing writer to produce good content, you just have to understand things from the perspective of your readers.

Before I write a word, I like to make a content plan. Doing this ensures my blog is helpful to readers (which will keep them coming back), and it lets me make sure my posts are cohesive. When you can flow easily from one post the next, letting the content answer your questions as you go, you know you’re reading a quality blog.

To get content ideas, I use

When you search for a topic, you see content that has performed well in the past.

Don’t steal anyone’s titles word-for-word – just use this data to get a good feel for what type of content performs well.

If I see a title like “7 Ways to Eliminate Credit Card Debt” that has gotten tons of Facebook shares and retweets, it’s safe to assume that format and content performs well.

I might then do a post called “9 Ways to Pay off Your Credit Cards”.

It’s not plagiarism, but it’s close enough that I can assume it will perform well – and it usually does.

Use this method to give titles to your first 10 posts. During this process, I keep an eye out for any titles that would make good pillar content.

Pillar content is a long, super-informative post that represents the most substantial content on your site.

I use internal linking from my normal posts to give more attention to these pillar articles:

I cover pillar content in more detail in my How I Made my First $2,500 / Month post.

Another source of data you can use to craft content is keyword research. Here’s the guide I used to find a single keyword that makes me $800-$1,000 a month in autopilot income.

Before you start writing your content, brush up on basic grammar rules.

I aim to write in a conversational tone (like I’m talking to a friend, not writing for a magazine). I don’t worry too much about formal grammar. Still, you don’t want to come across as unprofessional. You need to know when to use “an” versus “a” and “their” versus “there”.

Beyond that, all I can say is to write content you would enjoy reading. Chances are strong that you have a lot in common with your readers (if you’re both interested in the subject of the blog).

If your post isn’t something you would enjoy reading, it’s time to reevaluate.


Starting Your Email List

An email list is the difference between someone who visits your site once and someone who becomes a loyal reader.

You can use your subscriber list to notify readers when new content is published and even to push recommended affiliate offers.

A big email list is worth a LOT of money.

An email list isn’t something you should do alone. It takes a strong software backend to comply with the CAN-SPAM act (which, if you don’t like legal trouble, you need to do). It also takes a lot of software to manage the email database, collect subscribers from your site, and automate the sending of emails.

I use Aweber for list management. They collect all of the emails for me and I have content scheduled to automatically send for a full year.

They give you a bunch of pre-made boxes you can customize to collect emails:

My list makes me 30-100 times what I spend on Aweber each month. Clearly it’s a good decision.

As you build your autoresponder (your messages that are sent automatically), keep your users in mind. This isn’t the time to spam a bunch of affiliate products. You can make a very occasional recommendation, but sales pitches are the quickest way to lose subscribers.

Linking to your most popular posts is a great way to make autoresponder messages. It gets readers back on your site, builds your brand presence, and gets them clicking links / ads while they’re on your blog.

I aim for no more than 1 soft sales recommendation per 15 emails I send out. More than that and your open rates will go south.


Getting Love from Google

Once I have my blog online and several interesting posts published, it’s time to do some tweaking for SEO.

Good SEO helps Google index your site and gets your blog exposure on other websites (in the form of links). The more Google likes your site, the more traffic you’ll get.

First off, DON’T do any of these things:

  • Keyword stuffing. Your keywords should be there to help you understand user intent. Using your keyword more often on a page won’t help you at all (it only signals to Google that you’re trying to game the system).
  • Don’t spam anything. Don’t put your link in forum posts just because, don’t spam blog comments, and don’t send spammy emails.
  • Get outdated links. Don’t submit your site to a bunch of directories, buy links, submit articles to article directories, or anything like that.

Doing these things can push you lower in the search results and give you less traffic. Worse still, you could get banned by Google if you push it too far.

Start off by optimizing your internal links.

Linking to your other (related) content keeps users on your site. It can turn a casual visitor into a serial reader, and we tend to remember sites we’ve spent a lot of time on.

Wikipedia is a great example of good internal linking:

When you land on a page, there are plenty of links to explore other concepts in great detail. It’s also easy for Google to crawl from one page to another and to see how those pages relate to each other.

Of course, you won’t have as much content as Wikipedia, but you can still benefit by using internal links wherever relevant. Just don’t stuff them in there unless it helps your readers.

As you write new posts, go back and add internal links from older ones.


Getting External Links

External links are when another site links to yours. Getting these is important to getting more traffic.

These links form your backlink profile, and each quality link counts as a “vote” in the eyes of the search engines.

Quality is more important than quantity.

I can’t stress that enough. Read more on link quality here.

If someone is selling a link package, run away. If you can post a link yourself (like on a forum or in a blog comment), run away.

Google isn’t dumb. They know when you’ve earned a link and when you’ve just built one yourself. Only the former will help your site.

Here are 18 creative ways to get super-powerful links that will actually help your site.

Don’t bother with links until you have content worth linking to. Once you do, some links will help grow your traffic.


Resources used in this post:

Check out these posts for more detail:

Get Backlinks: 18 Creative Super-Powerful Techniques

Links are still as important as ever, and that’s not likely to change.

Moz’s Google ranking factors survey still shows links as the most powerful factor in ranking highly in the search results:

Links are really important. Still, you shouldn’t focus on them first (even though they are at the top of the list).

Before you begin to care about links, you should make sure your content is absolutely top-notch. Great content will amplify all of your link-building efforts.

You probably wouldn’t link to lousy content, and neither will anyone else. You don’t need a big budget or an English degree – just make sure your content is in-depth, helpful, professional, and unique in some way.

When I started taking the time to really polish my posts, I got way more links than ever before. Plus my average time-on-page improved dramatically, and Google knows how to use metrics like this to determine if your content is garbage or not.

Quality is a large pillar of my W.I.S.E. approach to digital marketing.

With that said, let’s look at 18 awesome ways to get backlinks. We won’t waste time with lousy links (like directory listings or article directories).

Here’s how to get really powerful links that will make a big difference in your traffic.



HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out.

How would you like to get a link from CBS, Forbes, or You probably assume this would never be possible for you.

It’s easier than you think.

Journalists often work with tight deadlines, and when they don’t have time to arrange meetings with high-up people (who have super busy schedules), they reach out for advice from people with knowledge or experience in a given area.

By providing a few lines to use as a quote or some helpful guidance, you can get cited as a contributing expert in a big-name publication.

It’s free and easy. Here’s how:

Visit and sign up for free as a source. That will put you on their email list, and you’ll get 3 emails a day with requests from journalists.

Then just look for questions related to your blog. Here’s one I’m qualified to answer:

Now send an email to the listed address with your response.

Don’t get crazy with your answer. Just answer the questions as asked (which usually only takes a paragraph or two of typing). If they want more detail, they’ll write you back.

At the end, include a quick bio (one or two sentences) telling the journalist about your knowledge / experience that qualifies you to answer the question.

When you sign your name, include a link to your blog at the bottom.

That’s it.

Do this every day, if you can. It only takes about 10-15 minutes to answer most requests, so try to do several.  It will take a few pitches to get a bite, but doing this right can give you a super powerful link every week or two.

When it pays off, your pitch turns into in-content links like this one on Entrepreneur:

Links like this let you destroy your competition in the search results.


Create an Award

This is stupidly simple to do, and it can result in a lot of links every month.

Make a few different awards and periodically give them out to bloggers. It’s really easy to do – all you need is to make a few different graphics:

You don’t have to be anyone special to give someone an award. Anyone can do it.

This works so well because it’s a huge ego boost.

If you won an award, wouldn’t you want to tell people about it? Especially if it’s something you worked hard at (like blogging). If it’s their first award, they even get to start bragging about being “An Award-Winning Blog”.

You can create a few different awards, like “Blog of the Month”, “Post of the Month”, “Funniest Blog of the Year” and so on.

Make a blog post each month about the winners, and then contact those blogs to give them the awards. You can send them a little award image to display on their site, along with a link back to the post where you announced the winners.

They will want to link back as proof that they won!

Best of all, if you create a recurring award (like a monthly one), you can repeat this every month for a new stream of links to your site.

This is also a great way to make friends with bloggers. If you have something cool you’d like them to share in the future, having given them an award in the past is a great foundation for your pitches.


Broken Link Building

Broken link building is a scalable way to get a bunch of high-power links to a page on your site.

I’ve used it to get hundreds of links from one attempt, and many of them were from .GOV and .EDU sites.

When a page no longer exists, it’s common for that page to still have a bunch of links pointing to it from other websites. The owner usually has no idea that the page they linked to no longer exists.

By contacting the site owner and informing them of the broken link, you’re doing them a nice favor that helps improve their site. Of course, they will need to replace the link with a new one, which gives you a nice opportunity to pitch a similar page on your site to be the replacement.

There are tons of opportunities out there in every niche. This one I found has 1,700 links pointing to it, many of which are from .GOV and .EDU sites:

That’s 1,700 opportunities to get a link to your blog.

And the results are powerful. This is after getting only 14 of these new links:

So, how do you find opportunities like this for your blog?

You have to go about it the right way. Most people don’t use a process as powerful as mine, so their results aren’t as substantial.

I made two video tutorials that walk you through it step by step (with a special focus on .GOV and .EDU links). It’s too much detail to include in this post, so check out those videos.

If you can follow along with my mouse clicks, then you can find awesome opportunities.


Visual Assets

Most of us know how powerful infographics can be.

A beautiful, data-rich image can attract tons of backlinks.

The problem is, they are expensive. The ones that get shared are created by professional designers, and the research that goes into them can be immense.

Sadly, most new bloggers don’t have the resources or experience to pull off a truly successful infographic.

But you can save a bunch of time and money by creating visual assets, and still get a ton of links from them (sometimes even more, since they are easy to share).

Visual assets are little charts or graphics that help explain a concept or provide a small amount of data.

Here’s an example of a really simple visual asset from Rand Fishkin:

This image illustrates a concept nicely, and it’s started to get shared by other blogs who link back to the source.

How long do you think that image took to make? 5 minutes? 10?

Unlike infographics, visual assets don’t have to be visually stunning. They just have to help people understand a concept. They can be ugly as long as they work.

Once you’ve made a couple of cool visual assets, find some blogs that recently wrote about related concepts. If your charts or images could help better explain their concept, drop them a polite email.

Don’t be pushy or ask for a link outright. Effective outreach looks something like this:

That’s it. Notice that this example focuses only on adding value to the blogger. I’m not even asking for a link back.

This approach gets far greater response than if you ask for something right away.

Notice all of the details needed to link back (name and website URL) are included in the email. Most people will automatically give you credit for the image. If they do share it without credit, it’s easy enough to drop another email asking them to give you credit.

This method is simple and effective.


Promote Your Content

This is one of the simplest and most often ignored ways to get extremely high-quality links.

Most people don’t like sending emails. Or, when they do, they give up easily. What these people are missing is that outreach is still one of the single most powerful ways to get links.

When you write on a specific topic, take the time to gather a list of blogs / sites that have wrote about closely related material. Then email as many of them as you possibly can.

You can’t contact 20 or 30 sites and call it quits. It’s a numbers game. You should be reaching out to hundreds of bloggers.

I wrote an article containing homemade baby food recipes. Then, I contacted related blogs using this outreach:

I reached out to 280 blogs and got 16 extremely high-quality links. These are in-content links on very powerful pages, and I shot to the top of the search results in just a few days.

There’s just one catch: Your content has to be high quality. You have to take the time to make it in-depth, thoughtful, genuinely helpful, and grammatically correct.

Ask yourself if you would take the time to link to your content if you were someone else. If not, polish it until it exceeds those standards.

Content quality is one of the pillars to my W.I.S.E. approach to online marketing. Yes, all of this takes a bit of work. But hard work is another pillar of the W.I.S.E. approach, and you’ll get much better results than if you spent the same amount of time goofing around with the same lousy techniques everyone else is using.


Steal Your Competitor’s Links

This is one of my favorite tactics.

If you want to push ahead of your competitors in the search results, then get the same links they have.

This simultaneously helps strengthen your site and remove any advantage they might have by holding powerful links that you don’t.

Outreach tends to yield decent results. If your sites are vaguely similar, you can try to get listed on the same pages they are on.

If you want to be more aggressive, you can try to produce better content than they have, and pitch site owners on replacing their links with links to your own site. While your results will vary massively, if you truly have better content, you have the chance to boost your site up while demoting your competitors.

This works especially well if the content in question is outdated. If you can point out information in the original link that is no longer relevant, you can sell your much improved version as a link replacement.

To do this, we’ll use one of my favorite tools: SEMrush

SEMrush provides competitive data. It lets you look up your competitors and see a ton of information about their site’s estimated performance.

You can get data on how much search traffic they get, how much they spend on advertising, and – important for this link building method – what kind of backlinks they have.

Further down, you can see the top organic keywords they rank for and an estimation of how much traffic they get from each keyword. You can use this data to help with your keyword research.

Below that, there’s another list of their top organic competitors (so you have more ideas of who to steal links from):

Under the backlinks tab, you get a whole list of all of the links pointing back to their site. Go through and see which ones you might be able to steal:

When you find a decent list, hit the Export button to save all of the links in a handy spreadsheet for your reference:

Before sending any emails to website owners, make sure the content on your site presents something worthwhile for them to link to in this specific situation.

If not, take some time to refine your content or do a few more posts. It’s worth tailoring your content to be link-bait.

Head over to SEMrush to look up your competitors and see what kind of links you might be able to steal.


Accept Guest Posts

We hear a lot about guest posting for links (which isn’t such a great idea anymore, as Google has warned against it), but what about the other way around?

By accepting high quality posts on your site, you can get free exposure from the author.

If you had a post accepted by a site, wouldn’t you want to share it to get more attention?

By accepting guest posts from high quality writers, you can get them to leverage their social media following and email lists to promote it, and even get some links down the road as they reference their own content.

The key phrase here is high-quality. Most people trying to get guest posts are newbies with lousy content and no social influence. You’ll want to politely turn these pitches away.

Stick it out, and accept only the best writers. You can speed things along by reaching out to people who have guest posted before and asking them to contribute to your site.

A quick Google search for “guest author” along with your industry can help you find successfully published guest authors who are likely willing to write a guest contribution again. Just email them with your offer.


Answer Questions on Quora

Quora is an amazing resource.

It’s a lot like Yahoo! Answers, but with qualified people answering questions in an intelligent manner. It’s much more professional and valuable.

You can’t just spam your links on this site, but you can use them to provide more information or to backup your answers with additional data.

If you take the time to write a thoughtful response, Quora answers can get tens of thousands of views. The traffic can be worth it alone, with the link being just a nice bonus at that point.

Give it a try. You can build up a reputation before inserting any links, and then use them to support your ideas whenever relevant.

Just don’t link for the sake of linking. If it doesn’t make sense, you’ll get banned quickly and it won’t contribute to the community or build your reputation.


Trade Favors

We all know link-swapping is bad. It hasn’t been a viable SEO tactic for a decade.

But if you get creative, you can network with other bloggers in your niche and get a link out of the deal.

What do you have to offer other bloggers? You probably have something like an email list, a social media following on Facebook or Twitter, or maybe you have a skill like making video content or tutorials.

Reach out to some bloggers. You can send a message to your email list sharing a great post that they wrote, and in exchange, they can share some of your content on their blog.

Don’t have an email list? Then maybe you can do a video tutorial for their readers. They get free content, you get a link, and you also get exposure to their audience (which is great for click-through traffic).


Create Data

When people are trying to make a point, they love being able to reference data.

References support arguments. Being able to link to raw data that proves your point is an amazing thing.

How can you generate data?

My favorite (and the easiest) way is to host a survey on your site.

PornHub isn’t the kind of site you’d think would be able to get many links from legitimate sites, but they hosted a political survey for the 2016 elections.

Just by collecting that data, they received a host of exposure from all around the web. They got links from Maxim, NY Daily News, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Yahoo, and thousands of other sites.

If such a raunchy-themed site can get links by creating data, just think of what you can do with your site. Once you’ve collected data, post the results on your site and reach out to bloggers who have posted related content.

Chances are, they’ll love having a citation to back up their claims. You can even turn it into a visual asset to make the data more easily shareable.


Write About Someone Powerful

Writing about someone who is influential in your industry is great ego-bait.

If someone writes about you or your business (especially if they have nice things to say), you’d probably share that article with your friends, family, and followers.

You can maximize your results by targeting experts who already have a big social media or blog following.

For best results, drop that person a line ahead of time and ask if you can do a quick email interview to get some more information. That way, they are warmed up ahead of time and expecting your write-up.

When it’s live, just drop them a line via Twitter or email and let nature take its course.


Do an Expert Roundup

What’s better than writing about one influential expert? Writing about a bunch of influential experts.

Interview 6-10 experts at once and mash all of their advice into an expert roundup post.

This maximizes your chances of success, because even if all of them don’t share you content (no response rate is 100%, after all), odds are good that at least a few of them will.


Get Syndicated

Syndication is where another (more powerful) site picks up your content and directly shares it with their readers:

You get credit in form of a link to your site, and even get to keep internal links within the content back to your other pages.

Once you get picked up on a site, most will be happy to share lots more of your posts.

But wait, isn’t this duplicate content?

Nope, believe it or not.

Search Engine Land did a great post explaining how to syndicate content properly. When done according to best practices (clearly letting Google know that this is syndication, not plagiarism), duplicate content is not an issue.

It’s a really effective way to get a lot of links and quality click-through traffic.

Check out BuzzBlogger’s list of 500+ places to syndicate your content.


Get on a Podcast

If you enjoy a subject enough to start a blog based on the topic, chances are high you enjoy talking about it.

Either way, getting on a podcast is a great way to get exposure, and it often comes with a link from the site. They usually mention which guests are interviewed in the episode description, so that’s a great place to earn a link.

Not to mention all of the listeners who hear about your site and decide to check it out.

Finding podcasts is easy, and the podcast organizers are often so busy that finding people to interview gets to be a chore.

Just do a Google search for:

your industry + podcast

When you drop a line offering to appear on their show, many will be excited to hear from you.

Doing your first podcast is probably going to feel stressful, but if you loosen up and have fun with it, it can be a great time.


Leave a Testimonial

An often overlooked way to get a high-quality link is to leave a testimonial.

Many sites who display testimonials will link back to the person leaving it. Doing so helps prove that the reviewer is a real person, which adds a lot of legitimacy to the testimonial being legitimate:

Chances are you’ve used a product, software tool, or something else related to your industry. Make a list of any products you genuinely enjoyed (don’t try to game the system just for a link).

Then just send an email to the companies with a few lines summarizing how their product helped you or how you like the functionality.

If all goes well, you might just snag a nice link.


Turn Content into a Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million.

As a blogger, I can tell you that it’s sometimes a struggle putting complex ideas into words.

When I see a video that explains something better than words can do, I love embedding that video into my posts. If I know who the creator is, I’ll give them credit for it (usually with a link).

Real blogs grow by creating value for their readers. If a video helps make my post more useful, I’ll use it in a heartbeat (even if someone else made it).

Try to think of some topics that are difficult to explain with words – things that might be visual concepts. Once you have a cool video, share it with bloggers who write about the topic at hand.


Search for Unlinked Brand Mentions

This works best for larger brands, but it’s worth a quick search even if you just have a small blog.

It happens quite a bit – someone writes about you or casually mentions your site / brand and fails to include a link.

These are some of the easiest links to get. Most writers will be flattered that you even noticed that they mentioned you, and will be happy to change their text-only mention to a link.

Moz has a nifty little tool called Fresh Web Explorer. Just put in your brand or site name, and it will show you sites that mention you but don’t link.

You can also do this manually, but it’s a lot of work.


Give Something Away

Do you have a product for sale, or even something simple like an ebook or premium subscription course?

You can get a bunch of coverage by giving away your product to bloggers in exchange for a review. People love getting free stuff, and if they will write about you in return, you’ll probably get a link (in addition to coverage in front of their blog audience).

What’s your favorite way to get links? Let me know below.

How I Made My First $2,500 / mo on Autopilot (in 60 Days)

This is the story of how I went from being a complete failure to making enough money on autopilot to cover my basic living expenses.

When you aren’t worrying about rent or groceries, you can focus on doing your best work and planning for long-term goals.

I did all of this with just 60 days of hard, smart, focused work and a $0 budget.

It took slightly longer for rankings to kick in, for my readership to grow, and for profit to reach full potential – but once that 60 days of seed work took off, everything changed.

That effort grew enough monthly traffic to sustain a $2,500 per month income stream on complete autopilot:

Later, I ramped up my efforts to grow it even further – but this initial income lasted for years, with me only doing basic maintenance.

Why not start your own blog and follow in my footsteps? Check out my guide:
How I Built a HUGE Blog, Step-by-Step (You Can Too!)

I wrote high quality guides that I knew would help people for years. As long as my site remained helpful, it would stick around and continue to grow in popularity – allowing me to collect advertising revenue along the way.

My Journey in a Nutshell

In a moment, I will break everything down in detail. For now, I will give you a very vague idea of how this journey worked. I:

  • Picked an industry in which I already had some knowledge (no, it wasn’t online marketing). I was going to be spending a lot of time on this site, so I wanted to make sure I had a pre-existing interest.
  • Wrote 10 pillar articles to provide massive value. These were all 4,000+ words long, and served as the core of my website. They covered each sub-topic in immense detail with actionable steps. These guides have been linked to thousands of times, just because they are helpful.
  • Used keyword research to drive traffic. These keywords were all low-competition, and I focused my blog posts around answering the question presented in the search query. I used internal links to my pillar articles to expand upon each blog post, building interest in my site as a whole.
  • Tried to make every post as helpful as possible. It’s easy to forget that our readers are real people. Would you go back to a site if the content wasn’t exciting enough to really grab your interest? Me either.
  • Did a lot of broken link building. I followed the same process outlined in my video tutorials to get a bunch of links to my site, some of which were from really powerful sites. I’m always impressed with how effective this process is.
  • Built up a list of loyal subscribers & followers. Allowing me to email / post on Facebook whenever new content is released helped turn visitors into devoted fans.
  • Made my first money from Adsense and affiliate programs. It wasn’t ideal as a long-term plan, but there’s no sense in letting any time elapse in which your site isn’t profitable.
  • Launched a paid video course. I waited until I had a strong following on email and social media, until I had taken the time to understand the needs and wants of my readers, and until I had enough credibility as a blog to get other bloggers to help share my course.


Want Success? Change Your Approach

I had built a few sites before that produced a bit of income ($20 to $40 a month in Adsense earnings), but nothing BIG.

Still, those failed sites were proof of concept. I knew if I worked harder and smarter, I could make something that was a real success.

I made some massive changes to my approach – which would eventually evolve into my Wise Internet Success Elements (W.I.S.E.) approach to digital marketing.

Working W.I.S.E. means I had to focus on 7 things:

  • Creating genuine value for my readers.
  • Educating myself with quality material.
  • Working hard and consistently.
  • Building beneficial relationships (with journalists, other websites, etc).
  • Making everything high quality (layout, links, content – everything).
  • Diversifying my income streams for stability.
  • Building a real, authoritative brand.

These 7 things are what most people get wrong.

Once I started focusing on all of these areas, my sites all started to take off. It’s still what I follow to this day in order to build real online businesses.

Tired of struggling? Then figure out how you can apply these 7 elements of W.I.S.E. to your own projects.


Making the Most Helpful Content Around

If you want loyal readers (and you do – trust me), then you need to establish yourself as a valuable resource.

A few “articles” containing information available on a thousand other blogs isn’t going to set you apart.

My most successful posts have been in-depth guides. These are the “pillars” of your site – the most useful content your viewers could possibly hope for.

If I want to take up woodworking as a hobby, I don’t just want to read a few basic articles and move on with my life. I want to learn everything I need to know about woodworking tools, materials, techniques, bits and blades, and I’d even love a bunch of step-by-step tutorials with pictures and videos to help explain everything.

Most importantly, I don’t just want to hear about what people do – I want actionable advice. Things I can start doing immediately.

It’s this kind of site that people follow, share, contribute to, and even spend hard-earned money at.

Moz is a good example. They make guides that are visually beautiful, easy to follow, and help you learn.

Guides like these are shared often and grow your credibility by establishing you as an expert.

You might not have the budget to go all-out with fancy graphics and visual assets. Diagrams don’t have to be pretty if they help explain a concept.

I used this high-quality content approach to write my most important pages first – the pillar content.


Writing the Pillar Content

When new users discover my site, I want to provide them immediate access to a handful of guides that will hook them in.

These pillar pages are around 4,000 words each (a few are a bit more). This is done not to reach a word-count goal, but to cram as much useful information into those pages as possible.

This is the kind of content many people might make to sell in a course – it should be that high quality. Instead of selling it, I decided to use it to provide value to hook new readers, a decision which paid off.

A large chunk of my 60 day effort was spent writing 10 definitive guides. I used a lot of internal links to point new readers to these valuable pillar content pages.

These pages are almost like chapters in a book (though not as long). One guide raises related questions, which can be answered by another guide.

This series of definitive guides is one example of how your pillar content can all work together:

When a new user lands on their site, they can easily find a series of book-quality guides on all of the topics a new reader might be interested in.


Bootstrapping from Keyword Research

At this point, I had 10 awesome pillar content pages that serve as a great source of information.

However, as Rand Fishkin puts it – there is no prize for hitting publish.

I needed to actually get visitors to my site in order to hook them in with these awesome guides.

Remember that image above, showing how my blog posts funnel traffic to my pillar content pages?

With no marketing budget to work with, I needed to get some blog posts bringing traffic into my site to actually get my name out there.

These posts needed to rank quickly, get a lot of traffic, and keep people interested long enough to push the meaty pillar content their way.

Enter keyword research.

I’ve already shown you how to do advanced keyword research that will help you get traffic. I used that process to uncover a single keyword that has enough traffic that I still make up to $1,000 a month from it – with no link building.

This term is a very specific search query, so once I’ve answered the question presented in the search, I push users towards my pillar content. Those random visitors end up subscribing to my email lists, following me on social media, and they keep coming back to the blog as repeat traffic.

My future blog posts all functioned in this way – targeting great keywords and hooking those random clicks in with pillar content guides.


Broken Link Building

Some keywords are so great that you don’t need link-building, but most pages will need a push to get to the first page of the search results.

If you have no budget and need quality links as soon as possible, broken link building is for you.

Look at the kind of traffic boost I’ve gotten from doing broken link building on my sites:

Most people go about this process all wrong. Check out my broken link building video tutorial, which walks you through this process step-by-step.

I’ve had amazing results from this method – I’ve even gotten links from .GOV and .EDU domains.


Growing my Social Following & Email List

To make sure this site was successful, I didn’t want traffic, I wanted loyal followers.

There’s a big difference.

Traffic lands on your page, maybe reads it once, clicks an ad (if you’re lucky), and moves on to the next site.

Loyal followers, on the other hand, love your site / blog. They read all of your new posts. They recommend your site to friends. They share your content on Facebook. They even buy your products and other products you recommend.

I would trade 100 traffic-style visitors for just 1 loyal follower.

My lists became exponentially more profitable when I realized that respect is a two-way street. If you want followers who respect you and are, in turn, willing to spend money on your site you must first treat your followers with respect.

When it came to growing my email list and Facebook followers, that meant two things:

  • Sharing awesome material. If it’s worth the time to message your followers, it should be something they will enjoy, not just things that help you make money. If you find a cool and relevant YouTube video, article, or something else, share it with your readers – even if it’s not on your own site.
  • Minimizing sales pitches. When you reach 5,000 email subscribers, it can be tempting to just blast out pitches for affiliate products. You’ll make some commissions immediately, but you’ll damage their trust. Most messages shouldn’t directly make you money, but that’s what builds trust in your brand, which will get you more attention when you launch something big.

You can make the most of your lists by analyzing the demographics of your Facebook followers – a really neat feature that most people overlook.

Based on this data, I should be writing content that women between 35 and 60 will enjoy. By taking the time to understand who was reading my material, I was able to make it as engaging as possible.


Adsense & Affiliate Programs

My initial revenue came from Adsense and (to a lesser extent) affiliate products.

This is a great way to start out and make some money to help cover hosting fees and other costs, but it’s not the best long-term strategy.

40,000 monthly visitors could yield you a few hundred dollars with this approach. Or, if you take the time to really understand the needs of your readers and create a valuable offer of your own, you could potentially make a full-time living.

During my Adsense days, I took the time to split-test ad placements, ad unit sizes, and number of ads. This was completely worth the time, as I was able to earn 20% more each month from a couple days of playing around.

Making a Product

Many sites can make over 10 times as much income by graduating from Adsense and developing a well-tailored, genuinely-useful product.

When you identify the needs of your loyal followers and create something that solves their problem, you’re on the right track to making a lot of money.

Making a product isn’t something you can (or should) do right away.

You need time to understand your followers, what they want from a product, and how you can offer it to them in a package they will be happy to pay money for.

You can create a lot of products with minimal budget (or even none at all).

The tried-and-true product types include:

  • E-Books
  • Video Courses
  • Premium Webinars
  • Software Products (or Software as a Service)
  • Downloadable Content
  • Coaching Programs

But you can expand this even further. Neil Patel created a product by white-labeling an existing fish oil supplement and selling it to his readers. He pitched his idea, ordered a bunch of supplements from an existing company, and put his own labels on the bottles.

This is a super-easy way to launch your own product under your new brand.

Something else you can launch is a consulting service.

If you develop a loyal following and establish yourself as an expert, you can use your blog as a lead-generation portal for consulting. This profit potential far exceeds Adsense revenue if done right.

In my case, I made my first $2,500 /mo on autopilot using only Adsense and affiliate programs.

I knew that was a sign that huge potential profits were being flushed down the toilet. I launched a video course 8 months later, and everything took off from there.

Using the W.I.S.E. approach allowed me to focus on what is important and to finally build an online business that made profit on autopilot.

Autopilot income should be used to free up your time in order to work on more projects or to further build your current one. Don’t use it as an excuse to slack off. Updates can appear overnight that can demolish your earnings if you aren’t building up other projects at the same time.

With some hard work and a W.I.S.E. approach to marketing, just about anyone can make this work.

Keyword Research Walk-Through for 2016 and Beyond

Type a few words into Google Keyword Planner, make a list, and… congratulations, you’ve done exactly what everyone else is doing, including your competitors.

When you take your methods to the next level, you find terms that nobody else has uncovered.

Two years ago, I used this exact approach to generate keyword lists for the fitness niche. I uncovered a gem with over 200,000 monthly searches that almost nobody was actively targeting. I wrote two pages (one for the main keyword, and one for a closely related term), and didn’t even build links since there was no competition.

To this day, I still make $800 to $1,000 a month off this one search term and have snagged 1,300+ email subscribers.

Five or ten of these finds can solidify you or your client’s presence for years to come.

This is the same process I’ve used to do enterprise-level keyword management while consulting for Fortune 500 corporations. It helped me make my first $2,500 a month on autopilot. Needless to say, it will work for your site or blog.

What You’ll Need

I’m a big fan of bootstrapping your way to success, and I’ll assume that you don’t want to spend money on tools if you don’t have to. Good news – great keyword research can be done completely free.

You’ll need:

  • Microsoft Excel (or use Google Docs as a free alternative).
  • A web browser.
  • Free or trial accounts on a couple of sites.

The other big thing you’ll need is time and work ethic. Yes, you can find some good keywords during a casual search, but we want great keywords. Ones that can make you thousands a month with minimal linking or promotion.

Don’t be mediocre. Be amazing. Roll up your sleeves, follow along, and spend some time on this step. I promise, everything you do in the future will be wildly more successful if you just take your time with keyword research.

Everything Great Begins With an Idea

To find keywords, you first need ideas – the more, the better. Don’t get your ideas from Google Keyword Planner (GKP). We’ll use it later to refine, but it’s not a good place to start for two reasons: Your competitors are all using it, so you can’t make money flying under the radar without fighting for rankings. Also, GKP hides phrases that aren’t highly transactional, or that aren’t closely related to your search phrase.

Here’s where we’ll get ideas instead:

Step 1: Grab a Pen & Paper

If you’re running a website, chances are you know a thing or two about the subject of your niche. Let’s start with the obvious ideas. Try to write down at least 20 things you might search for if you were finding information on your subject.

For an acne blog / site, my brainstorming list might look like this:

  • Types of Acne
  • Body Acne
  • Acne Products
  • Why Do I Have Acne?
  • Proactiv
  • Acne Cure
  • Acne Treatments

These are very broad ideas. They aren’t going to be your keywords, but instead they provide parent categories. As you move along, you’ll find low competition keywords that are way more specific – but we have to start somewhere.

Write down everything you can think of. Also ask friends / family for some ideas if they are around.

Step 2: Forums

Forums / message boards are a wonderful place to get ideas. Topics on these sites directly reflect the questions your readers have, and what words they might be using while searching.

Finding forums is easy. Just Google “XYZ forum” and click around to find the most popular sites.

From there, browse the various sections to find some great content ideas:

Tip: Pay attention to how many views / posts a topic has. The higher these figures, the more popular the topic.

Step 3: Suggest / Autocomplete Tools

Ever notice how Google suggests terms as you type? These are keywords that are often not considered important enough to be shown by Google Keyword Planner, but can yield huge value as keyword ideas:

Doing this manually, it could take hours of typing to form a reasonable list.

Instead, head over to (or a similar tool). This scrapes tons of ideas from Google suggest, automatically. A search for “acne” gives me 697 ideas. Click Copy All and paste the results into your Excel file.

You won’t get keyword volume from the free version, but that’s okay – you can paste these lists into Google Keyword Planner later and export the results back to Excel for volume metrics.

Step 4: Top Related Products

Beyond informational terms, what products or brands are related to your industry? Keywords in this category can sometimes produce huge traffic, and competition is less, because authoritative sites (like Wikipedia or a news site) are far less likely to cover specific product information.

Head over to Amazon and check out the top selling products related to your subject. You can also check out the categories that pop up on the left – these can yield some really specific keyword ideas:

Ideas from this step can be very profitable, since you often have the chance to do review-style posts and include affiliate links for a direct commission. In addition to Amazon, check out sites like Clickbank, Commission Junction, and niche-specific ecommerce sites.

Step 5: Competitor’s Top Pages

If you haven’t identified a few competitors, now’s the time to do so. Pick out a few sites or blogs related to your own – they should contain content similar to what you plan to create.

Head over to Open Site Explorer. A free account gets you all you need for this step.

Plug in your competitor’s site, and check out the “Top Pages” tab.

This will show you their top-performing content. Check out the titles for some keyword ideas that have already been proven to work.

You can also plug some of their landing pages into Google Keyword Planner, like so:

This will give you specific keyword phrases from their top performing pages.

Step 6: Analytics Data

This step only really applies if you’re already getting a bit of traffic to your site – otherwise, move on to the next step.

From Google Analytics, click Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries on the left.

Now, look for inbound keywords that you weren’t even trying to target. This “accidental traffic” can be a huge indication of the type of keywords you really should be targeting:

Step 7: Google Trends Data

Take a few of your more promising / important keywords and look them up on Google Trends. Scroll down to “Related Searches”, and check out both the “Top” and “Rising” tabs:

The “Rising” one is my favorite – it shows new phrases that have recently become more popular. Since their keyword volume would have been lower in the past, chances are that competition will be less intense.

Adding Google Keyword Planner Data

Whew! That was a lot of work, but you should have a massive list of ideas that will maximize the number of absolutely insane keywords you will find.

Now let’s finally involve Google Keyword Planner (GKP). Visit GKP, click on “Search for new keywords” – choose this option instead of “Get search volume”, as this option will continue to provide new keyword ideas.

Paste in chunks of your keyword ideas at a time. You can paste a ton of these in at once, but I like to do it in small groups of around 25 if time allows – that way we get plenty of extra keywords, instead of just volume on our existing list.

After each batch, click “Add all” to add them to your plan.

When done, hit “Download” to get a nice CSV file to import into Excel.

Throwing it all Together in Excel

At this point, you’ll have a massively overwhelming Excel spreadsheet.

Look at all of those keywords! Way too much to deal with. Let’s simmer this list down to something more manageable:

  • Remove Duplicate Values. There’s going to be a ton of extras, so clear these out. Highlight the column, hit Data and Remove Duplicates.
  • Filter by search volume (local). Get rid of the ones that are too low to be worthwhile, or are massively huge (usually indicating extreme competition). Narrow this range as needed to create a more manageable list.

Browse through and highlight keywords that look vaguely interesting. Just give each page a quick skim and select keywords that you might be interested in using. I do this super quick – don’t spend time thinking about it, just go with your gut for now.

Now we can really turn this list into something awesome!

Gathering Competition Metrics

Your list will have a ton of high-volume keywords, but only a handful that you can easily rank for. Let’s weed out the fluff by adding competition metrics to the equation!

I can’t stress this enough: Ignore the “competition” figure in Google Keyword Planner. It’s designed for PPC campaigns, not organic search results, and is next to worthless for keyword research. I’ve ranked overnight for some “High” competition keywords, and have failed to reach the top 10 for some rated “Low”.

The only tool I use for competition is MOZ’s Keyword Difficulty tool. This is where things get complicated – it’s only available under a pro membership, which is $99 a month. However – you can upgrade to pro as a free trial, and as long as you cancel within 30 days, it doesn’t cost you anything.

Check my link above, it’s not even an affiliate link, and I have no association with MOZ. It’s just going to make that much of a difference in your results. Cancel your membership after you’re done if you don’t want to pay anything, but these metrics are going to tell you immediately what keywords are worth your time.

Take your most promising keywords, and paste them into the tool 20 at a pop:

You can paste the next batch before the current one finishes. This takes a bit, but after a while, you get a nice list of keyword difficulty ratings you can export to Excel to form your updated list.

Alternate Keyword Difficulty Method

If you don’t want to do the trial membership to use this tool, you’ll have to look up keywords individually. Use mozBar for Firefox or Chrome to show the metrics of the top few results:

Once you find a term with top results that have a PA and DA around what your own site can achieve, you know you’re onto a winner.

Here’s my list after adding Keyword Difficulty data:

This list is an amazing resource that can be used to build hundreds (possibly thousands) of incredibly easy-to-rank content pages. Anything below 45% should be fairly easy to rank for, and a new site can rank for anything under 35% practically overnight.

Which of These to Choose?

If all has gone well, you should have a new problem: Too many great keywords to choose from! The obvious solution is to choose the lowest difficulty keywords to yield the easiest results.

I also consider:

  • Profit Potential (Monetization). Which of these keywords can I use to make money? If I’m running an Adsense site, which has the highest Estimated CPC (the cost advertisers will pay to advertise on my pages)?
  • What Ranks Above Organic Results? Check how your keyword appears in Google. Just because it’s easy to be the number 1 organic result doesn’t mean you’ll be on top. Sometimes there are multiple ads or multimedia content that pushes even the #1 result fairly far down the page. These types of results offer less value in terms of real traffic potential.

Writing the Content

Even if your selected keywords are low competition, there’s always going to be some level of competition. Don’t just write content around these keywords – provide something that is, hands-down, the best result for that query.

If you provide your users something of real value, that will increase your average time-on-page and reduce your bounce rate, which helps improve your rankings for those terms. Plus, user experience should always be number one if you want to develop a real long-term readership.

When writing content, I base the page around one primary keyword – but I also check for long tail terms to include throughout the content as well. Doing so has allowed me to rank for many times more queries than I would otherwise.

Wise Internet Success Elements (The W.I.S.E. Method)

In the past 10+ years of being a Webpreneur and Consultant, I’ve seen a lot of successes and I’ve seen a lot of failures.

I’ve learned a lot about what sets future millionaires apart from those who fail, quit, and go back to their day jobs.

Most people struggle to make more than pocket change online or to deliver substantial results to their clients, but it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

By making a shift in 7 of your core marketing values, you can rise to the top in a dramatically short period of time. I call this collection of 7 values the WISE method (Wise Internet Success Elements).

Take these concepts to heart, and you can go from struggle and failure to owning a digital empire. I’ve followed this method to build multiple successful websites and to drive enterprise-level websites far beyond their competitors.

Here are the 7 elements of WISE:

  1. Value
  2. Education
  3. Work Ethic
  4. Relationships
  5. Quality
  6. Diversification
  7. Authority & Branding


Here’s what usually happens: You start a website, blog, or any other type of business, focused around one idea: “I want to make money”.

By starting off this way, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot.

Think of any massively successful website. They got to where they are by creating value for their users – something genuinely helpful that keeps people coming back for more. And they are making more money than anyone who started off trying to make money.

Stop selling. Start helping.” –Zig Ziglar

Anyone can make a blog with some generic keyword-based content, get a few links, and hope to make a few sales or get some ad clicks – and plenty of people do. To make a real, substantial income stream, you have to do something different. You have to create a real resource that genuinely helps your readers.

Visit your own site (or picture your planned site), and try to view it as if you just stumbled across it for the first time. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this site help me? Everyone is looking for help with something. People visiting a dog training site need help raising a more obedient dog. Those reading about computer hardware want help making an informed purchasing decision. Does your site provide real, comprehensive help – or is it just filler content trying to show ads or make sales?
  • Would I come back to this site? If you stumbled across one random page, would it be so helpful that you would remember the site, bookmark it, and regularly come back for more?
  • Does this site do something better than anyone else? Does your site provide the same type of content as all the others in your niche, or is there something truly unique about it? What one thing sets your site apart from anyone else in the industry?

It takes more effort to offer something genuine, unique, and helpful – but doing so is the best way to skyrocket your earnings. In the words of Einstein, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value”. The success will follow.


To produce real results, you need to work smart. Education on modern content creation, optimization, promotion, and overall strategy is vital to your success. But many sabotage themselves by getting this all wrong.

Let’s start with who you should NOT take advice from:

  • Marketing forums. I feel bad saying this, because there are a few competent, successful marketers who give advice on forums – but for every one of them, there are 99 others who give absolutely terrible guidance. By the time most techniques hit the forums, they are already outdated by years.
  • Anyone trying to sell you something. Unless it’s from a well-known professional whom you already trust, avoid any type of paid system or course. You can pick up the basics for free.
  • Blackhat sources. To build a real business, you need reliable, honest income that won’t get banned overnight. There’s nothing worse than slaving away, only to have your entire project prove worthless a few months down the road.


Instead, try to get your information from places like:

  • Industry-leading blogs. These are the blogs that real professionals use, like MOZ, QuickSprout, Search Engine Land, and (of course) Inbound Wisdom. They post case studies, tutorials, and actionable advice that’s still relevant today.
  • Conferences. If conference advice is good enough for Fortune 500 corporations, it should be good enough for you. Actual conferences are quite expensive, but you can sometimes find videos of the speakers online after the conference has ended. Many are available for free.
  • Mentors. Nothing quite touches personal advice from those who have already accomplished goals similar to your own. It can be hard to find a mentor willing to guide you, but if you get the chance, jump on it. Some people have offered to help out with basic tasks (like collecting emails for outreach) free of charge, in exchange for some quick guidance from an expert.


Work Ethic

To be successful in the online industry, you have to work SMART and you have to work HARD.

Research is important. You have to be well informed and educated in order to make your action plan. It’s impossible to work smart if you don’t know what you’re doing.

But, all the time, I see people who are stuck in a cycle of analysis paralysis – where you’re overwhelmed with options, or just don’t know what to do. You might spend hours reading, trying to find the perfect strategy, looking for the key to success, and getting stuck without taking any real action.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” – Eric Thomas

Educate yourself, pick a strategy, and then get off the blogs and forums and start putting it into action.

Write down the next 5 to 10 things you need to do. Now go down the list, one by one, and knock them all out without doing any extra research. By all means, educate yourself before making your list to ensure you’re working smart, but when it’s time to work – it’s time to work.

Get off the forums, put your phone down, quit checking your traffic stats, stop looking for different methods that will be easier, and just get it done.

This one change will set you apart from 9 out of 10 of your competitors.

After your list is finished, you can start researching and reading in order to make your next to-do list as helpful as possible. But when it’s time to work, that’s all you need to be doing.

“Fall in love with the process, and the results will come.” – Eric Thomas

Quit focusing on the end results, and start pouring your heart into the work you do each day.


Quality: Content, Links, and User Experience

There is no better way to make money than to focus on quality.

The web isn’t young anymore, and Google isn’t stupid. They have gotten very adept at offering the highest quality search result to their users.

Money comes to those who quit trying to game the system, and instead try to simply be the best result – rankings, traffic, and profit follow naturally.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle

Forget about building an empire with generic content you bought for 1 cent per word. That doesn’t work anymore, and never will again.

On the bright side, it’s easier than you might think to create high quality material. A bit of extra planning, some tweaking to your writing style, and some editing can do amazing things to your results.

I would even argue that ranking with quality material is easier. You don’t have to worry about all the little tricks traditionally needed to make a mediocre page rank well. You can instead just focus on making your site / blog as awesome as it can be.


Great content will rank well naturally, earn links from other sites easily, add value to your readers, and make it far easier to earn money from your efforts.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Word counts. Stop focusing on standard word counts (like 500-700 words), and instead try to cover a concept in as much depth as possible without adding unnecessary fluff. A great post at 1,000 to 2,000 words will rank higher than short content – but never add fluff or filler content to accomplish this count. Every word should be helpful.
  • Be the best result. Before writing, do a search to see what other content is out there covering the subject at hand. Make some notes, and work out how you can offer something even better. Not just a little better – try to figure out how you can make your post ten times better. From information provided, to layout, graphics, linked material, embedded videos – anything you can do to make it even slightly better.

    Imagine how easy it is to get a link when you can contact all of the sites that link to those existing results and offer them something 10x better. Why wouldn’t they want to link to you?
  • Give away the farm. It’s easy to want to save your best secrets for later opportunities (like paid courses). Don’t. Aim to help your readers to the furthest extent of your capabilities, and you will be handsomely rewarded down the road.

Content written in this manner will take more time, and you won’t be able to publish as often. That’s okay. It’s still worth far more than even a hundred times the amount of generic content.

Of course, all things equal, more content is always better. Aim to publish as often as possible without sacrificing any quality.


Most of the links people build are worthless at best, and possibly even harmful.

If you’re getting links from low-quality sources like the following, it’s time to reevaluate:

  • Blog comments
  • Profile Links
  • Forum Links
  • Personal Blog Networks
  • Paid Links
  • Article Directories
  • Automated Link Building Software
  • Links on “Links” Pages
  • Guest Posting

Some of these, like forum posts and guest posting, can have value in terms of brand-building and direct click-through traffic, but they no longer help you rank higher in search results.

You want links from sites that are super-relevant, that are respected authority figures in your industry.

5 links from these sources will do more for you than 500 links from the above list.

Here are a few methods you can use to build higher quality links:

  • Content promotion. Remember that great content you’re going to start creating (from the above section)? Once you have something awesome, it’s time to tell the world about it. Find sites that have published similar material in the past, and drop emails to as many of them as possible. It helps if you’ve worked ahead to establish a relationship.
  • Broken link building. This is a great way to land some very powerful links. I’ve gotten plenty of .EDU and even .GOV links through this method. Craft your content around a broken link opportunity (here’s my video tutorial) when possible.
  • Journalistic links. A single link from a site like the Huffington Post can set you up for success right away, and if you use the right methods, those links are absolutely attainable for anyone. Try HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to find opportunities.
  • Visual assets. These are things like infographics, or even much more simple images like charts or graphs that support data or give advice. Once you’ve made a cool image, share it with sites that have posted similar content in the past. Offer to write a mini-post to accompany it (blog owners love when you offer unique content), and pop in a link to your own post that explains the concept in more detail.

Even one or two of these links will help you WAY more than even a hundred or a thousand lower quality links.

UX (User Experience):

Your site / blog isn’t made for search engines or for ad placements – it’s made for users.

It’s easy to forget that every click to your site is from a real person, sitting in front of a real screen.

Work on making your site:

  • Visually appealing.
  • Professional.
  • Comprehensive.
  • Easy to navigate.
  • Able to provide content in a manner that flows fluidly from one topic to the next.
  • Well edited and free from grammatical errors.

Providing an all-around quality experience is the difference between readers who click off of your site, never to return again, and those who fall in love with it and hang on your every word for years to come.

I bet you can guess which is more profitable!


It’s easy to think of online business as something that can be done in solitude. Introverts flock to e-businesses, only to eventually discover that this industry is like any other one – much of it comes down to who you know.

Don’t just do cold outreach, like asking for links or shares – build relationships. This is the difference between an unsolicited email that gets dumped in the trash (like the 1,000 emails before it), and getting someone to go out of their way to help you grow your business.

Connect and give before you ask for anything, which will help form genuine relationships.

Make a list of the most beneficial people you could get to know. Such as:

  • Journalists. Game-changing links and exposure come from editorial mentions. Find a few journalists in your industry that publish in relevant media outlets, and get to know them a bit better. Eventually, you can pitch your own story ideas or offer your knowledge to gain an expert mention.
  • Website owners. Links don’t come from websites, they come from people. The cost of taking a blogger out to lunch to chat about their site is nothing compared to the value of exposure you can get from that relationship.
  • Joint ventures and collaborators. Other site owners in your industry aren’t necessarily competitors – you can often find like-minded webpreneurs that will be happy to share mutually-beneficial exposure, like blog mentions, cross-promotions, and even email list swaps.

Get to know them by:

  • Commenting on and sharing their work. Don’t just throw out blog comments with links to your site, but offer actual feedback and thought-provoking points related to their material. After a while, they will begin to recognize your name, which helps lend you some respect.
  • Connecting through social media. Did someone on your watch list write something interesting? Share it with your followers. Tweet at them about it. Link to it in your own content. After a decent period of time, add them on Facebook.

    After a while, send them an email to try to be of service as a knowledgeable resource in your field. Once they know who you are, you can even ask for an introduction to someone in their organization that could set you up as a contributing author.
  • Use message boards and forums to connect. For relationships with other marketers, use forums to make friends with those who are on the same page as you and have a similar following. From there, it’s easy to work out mutually beneficial promotions.

Like it or not, your website is a business even if it’s just a small blog. To be successful, you have to stop thinking like a blogger and start thinking like a business owner, and business is all about networking.



A real e-business is one stable enough to pay your bills – a revenue stream that won’t disappear overnight due to a search algorithm change or a hosting glitch.

To diversify, you need:

  • Multiple sites / blogs / channels. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Even wildly successful sites have been known to fall off the charts in almost no time flat. A stable portfolio contains a number of different sites in multiple industries.
  • A variety of traffic sources. Relying on only one source of traffic, like organic search, leaves your entire business vulnerable. You should work to get traffic from a mixture of channels, like visitors who access your site directly, traffic from direct links, social exposure, media coverage, and even YouTube traffic – in addition to visits from Google.
  • Multiple monetization methods. What happens if Adsense randomly blocks your site, or your most profitable affiliate program or CPA offer disappears? Aim to create multiple streams of income – preferably by selling your own tools, products, or materials.
  • Email lists and social followers. Even if the worst happens and you have a site shutdown, maintaining contact with your readers can keep your efforts from being completely wasted. You can direct your subscribers to your new site once finished, and in the mean time, you can pitch promotions to them to keep your revenue from entirely disappearing.

Things online can change in an instant, with little or no warning. A bit of diversification ensures you create a career for yourself, not just a short-term income stream.


Authority & Branding

Long gone are the days of small “micro-niche” sites with a few pages of content that make thousands per month. It very rarely works anymore. You’re better off trying to become the go-to authority in your arena.

Blogs / sites that gain substantial followings cover everything an interested person would want to know about said topic. They build real followings that keep people coming back to read material, click ads, and buy things from you.

More importantly, establishing yourself as an authority lets you build a brand. Brands are real businesses – they can be scaled, they can sell products and services, and they can even be sold to someone else down the road for money.

Brands make you likeable to your readers, they allow you to be recognized when you’re mentioned someplace else, they gain trust to kick-off your sales process, and they establish your site as an expert resource.

You can build a brand by:

  • Offering lots of comprehensive material, published on a regular basis.
  • Using a consistent writing style, color scheme, and overall feel.
  • Covering new news in your industry in a timely fashion.
  • Building a loyal social following.
  • Having a unique, recognizable logo and blog theme.
  • Using pillar content as a way to hook readers instantly.


Used properly, the WISE method can take you from making pennies, to building a real digital business.