Advanced Content Building for Insane ROI

by Spencer Haws

In the last lesson, we talked a bit about the best practices for writing your first piece of content and getting on-page optimization right.

Today, we’re going to take it a step further. We’re going to talk about writing absolutely AMAZING content.

If you’re asking, “Spencer, why should I even be interested in spending time on perfecting my content?” I’ll tell you: it’s probably one of the best possible things you can do for your revenue.

Great content converts like crazy.

1. Shoot for a friendly and personal—but expert—tone.

This is something I learned from my sales days at Wells Fargo.

Personal, friendly writing converts much, much better than cold, awkward “professional” writing.

Don’t get me wrong: your writing should be professional (more on this in a second). You just don’t want it to be totally weird.

If you’ve ever heard that old adage that people don’t buy products, they buy the person who is selling it, that’s just as true in blog content as it is with in-person sales.

You need to know enough to appear as if you’re an expert (or at least know more than your reader), but you need to be personal and friendly first.

The tone you should be shooting for can be pretty well summed up in 4 words: friend you can trust.

2. Your content has to look clean and professional.

This is kind of what we talked about when we were discussing themes. If your content doesn’t look professional, people are going to bounce right off your page without clicking anything.

We don’t want that.

Your pages should appear clean, professional and aesthetically pleasing. They should not only be content. They should have all kinds of other elements, such as pricing tables, product tables, images, videos, calls to action, content upgrades, pages sections, countdown timers, and anything else that makes sense with a given article.

One way to get all of those things in one place is Thrive Themes & the Thrive Content Builder.

These are my personal favorite tools for crafting pages that look amazing. Plus, after you create an amazing page, you can just save it as a template and use it for all your other content, which speeds up the writing/posting process significantly.

It also makes posting much easier to outsource.

3. Your content should be highly skimmable.

This is one of the biggest lessons I learned.

Most people in the Internet don’t read every word on your page. In fact, very few of your readers are even going to read half of the words on a blog post.
And if they’re not reading, what are they doing?

Skimming!

A very large percentage of readers on any website will be skimming. This means they’ll be scanning the pages, finding headings or elements that look interesting, and then reading that section in more detail.

For that reason, your page should be structured in such a way that it’s easy for skimmers to find information.

What’s that mean? Basically, to make your content easy to skim, you should (more or less) follow these guidelines:

  • Your headings should have good information in them
  • Your headings should generally be sequential (or follow some sort of pattern)
  • Ideally, your headings themselves should tell a story
  • Your page should be broken up with images, tables, infographics and other informational elements
  • Your paragraphs should only be a few lines long (2-5 lines)
  • Your language should be really clean and very simple

4. You should provide lots of value.

This is super important, and if you’re only going to remember one thing from this whole email, it should be this: it’s much, much more important to provide value to your readers than it is to sell something to them.

And trust me, if you go out of your way to provide tons of value to your readers, they’re going to buy from you anyway. Because they trust you.

Plus, people are smart. Don’t B.S. them. Write great stuff.

Wrapping it up…

Tools mentioned in this lesson:
Thrive Themes & the Thrive Content Builder

Writing Content & Getting On-Page SEO Right

by Spencer Haws

So you’ve got a domain, you’ve set up hosting and WordPress, and you’ve found a bunch of good keywords.

Now it’s time to write your first piece of content. Awesome!

However, that can be a bit daunting. I know this better than anyone.

Sometimes it can be difficult to enter a market that you don’t know a lot about.

If you’ve been a Niche Pursuits reading for a long time, you’ll know that this is exactly what I was doing when I started Niche Site Project #1. I was entering into a market I knew very little about(at first): survival knives.

How was I going to write about something I knew very little about?

Plus, I had to somehow write content that would actually get people to click on the stuff I wanted them to click.

Over the years, I’ve nailed down a pretty good system for writing fantastic content.

Today, I’m going to give you some short, simple best practices for writing great content. In a few days, after you’ve had some time to digest it a bit—and maybe even try your hand at writing—I’ll send you some more detailed blog posts I have on Niche Pursuits that covers this in a bit more detail.

For now, though, here are some best practices

1. Shoot for 1,000-3,000 words.

For most pieces of content on your site, you’ll want to shoot for 1,500 words or more. Most of my articles on most of my sites are between 1,000 and 3,000 words.

This is mostly because there’s a long of really strong evidence that longer pages rank better.

Now, that doesn’t mean that just making a long page is going to get you to the top of the search results. It just means that if everything else is equal, longer pages rank better than short ones.

They also attract more natural links because they look more authoritative.

2. Make sure your keyword density is less than 1%.

Back in the day, you could just stuff your pages full of your keyword and rank them super easily. That’s not the case now. Google has very sophisticated algorithms that penalize you for this kind of thing.

So, in the contemporary SEO landscape, we shoot for a keyword density less than 1%. And that’s especially true if the keyword is a long tail one—because who’s going to naturally mention “best safety razor for men” 10 times in an article? No one.

3. Find a few related keywords with very low search volume, and include those in the article (headings if possible).

After you’ve got your article, go back into Long Tail Pro and plug in your keyword. Set the parameters to look for keywords that get less than 500 searches (or even less!).

Poke around and try to find some that are very, very related to the keyword you’ll be targeting in your article.

For instance, if your keyword is “How to get rid of wasps,” your related keywords may be “get rid of wasps with wasp spray” or “burn wasp nest” (p.s. these are just examples—I haven’t looked these up; I just want to communicate the kind of relevance you want to shoot for).

Then, work these keywords into your article. Even better, use them as headings and craft sections around them.

The idea here is that Google will (1) see a bunch of highly relevant keywords on the same page, which lets them better know what your pages is about, and (2) rank you for more, small, related long tail keywords.

4. Use EasyAzon to easily put in your Amazon affiliate links.

As many of you know, some of my niche sites are monetized with the Amazon affiliate program.

However, if you’ve ever tried to manage Amazon affiliate links on a large niche site (or multiple niche sites), you’ll know that it can be difficult.

My preferred solution is EasyAzon.

It just makes the whole process super easy by letting your search for links directly in the WordPress editor. This one simple plugin has saved me hundreds of hours of work.

5. Make sure your keyword is in the title, URL, at least one image alt tag and at least H1 tag.

This is SEO 101, but I wanted to mention it again here.

You need to make sure your keyword is in each of those places. Usually, you want it to be towards the beginning, since Google gives less weight to words at the end of URLs and titles.

You also want your keyword to be in at least one image alt tag and at least one H1 heading. All of these things are signals to Google saying, “Hey, my page is about this keyword!”

6. Above all, write naturally.

Google doesn’t like you writing for search engines. It wants you to write for real people.

In the past, it wasn’t very good at telling which pages were written for people and which were just stuffed with keywords. But it’s getting a lot better at it.

So, in the long-term, you’ll be much better off if you write great content targeted at real readers. It’ll convert a lot better too!

 

Which Theme is Best for Your Site?

by Spencer Haws

I get this question a lot. A lot. More than you would imagine.
Choosing a great theme is really, really important. If you choose a bad theme, you might have a whole range of problems—from your site just not looking professional to serious technical issues.

On the other hand, everything is easier and more effective with a great theme.

Luckily, there are about a million good themes out there. So, in this lesson, I want to talk you through what I look for when I’m looking for a theme that fits my site.

1. Trust your first impression.
As your browsing for themes, your very first impression is going to tell you a lot about how good a theme is—at least aesthetically. If it stands out to you and looks professional, it will probably seem that way to your readers, too.

2. Consider what type of site you’re building, and pick a theme that makes sense.

Are you building a store? Get a good eCommerce theme.

Are you setting up a huge authority site that provides timely information on new products/research/sales/etc.? Then you probably want to look into a good magazine theme.

Is your site going to be more personal, and will you be selling yourself as part of the brand? Go for a good blogging theme.

Basically, it just has to make sense.

For example, Perrin started a shaving site in Niche Site Project 2. He was adding content in batches of about 20, and most of those pieces were covering different products and providing reviews, but none of those products were new. He was also getting a few interviews and guest posts from people in his market.

Lastly, he was updating on a fairly regular basis, but he wasn’t posting enough to really be a news site.

So, Perrin went with a good blogging theme. It just made the most sense. And, in that case, it worked out really well.

As another example, just look at Niche Pursuits. I also chose a blogging theme. I update on a fairly regular basis, and I sell myself as part of my brand.

So a nice blogging theme makes a lot of sense.

I’m not trying to say blogging themes are the best themes, though.

We use a magazine theme on our new authority site because we create lots of content and post fairly often. Lots of authority sites do the same—even those that only post every week or two.

So it’s really up to you, and it’s going to be something of a judgment call. But the point is that not every theme fits every site. Every site is different, and your choice of theme should be part of your branding process.

3. Choose a theme with lots of flexibility.

There is nothing worse than wanting to do something on your blog but having a theme that doesn’t support it.

One of the themes I look for in my themes is a ton of flexibility. I personally like Thrive Themes because you can basically do anything you want with any of their themes.

Tables, landing pages, call out boxes, countdown timers, etc. It just has tons and tons of amazing features, which translates to tons and tons of flexibility.

And, to me, that’s important. I don’t want to have to write code to put in a button. I just want to drag-and-drop it in. Thrive lets you do that.
Whatever theme you choose, just make sure it’s robust and has a lot of options. If you’re not sure, here’s a small checklist:

  • Does it have a lot of reviews?
  • Is it made by an active developer?
  • Is the developer active in the comments?
  • Does it have an easy-to-get-to support page?

You want to be answering “yes” to all of these questions before you settle on a theme.

4. Pick a theme with good support.

Listen. You’re not going to install a theme and have it work just the way you want it to.

It’s not going to happen.

I’m telling you: something will go wrong.

It’s happened with every theme I’ve ever installed.

So, one of the most mission-critical features of any theme is an active, live support structure.

I’m not talking about some orphan FAQ page here. I’m talking about a real person who will actively answer your questions. This is really, really important.

Believe me.

I’ve wasted a lot of money on themes that looked good but had dead support. It’s almost always a waste of both time and money.

And that’s another reason I usually use Thrive Themes. Their support typically responds in a few hours—not days. Because I’m trying to use my site to make money, having an active support structure lets me implement new features and fix bugs sooner, making it extremely high value.

5. Pick a lean, fast theme.

You don’t want a theme with a bunch of convoluted code adding several seconds onto your load time.

That’s a recipe for a high bounce rate.

You want a theme that loads fast. I won’t go into site speed here, but there are plenty of guides out there to help you understand what to look for.
Again, I prefer using a set of themes I already know works really well, but if you go a different route, this is something to research.

Wrapping it up!

Don’t skimp on themes!

A good theme is NOT expensive. A few bucks a month can get you a fast, flexible, professional theme. It’s a small-dollar expense that can make you a TON of money. So remember, if I see you using the default WordPress theme, I’m going to be angry! 🙂

Tools mentioned in this lesson
Thrive Themes

Up next…
I’ll give you a day or two to digest this, and then I’ll follow up with you and give you (1) a checklist for looking for a theme and (2) a few blog posts to help you if you want to read a bit more on this topic.

How to Set Up Hosting and Domains

by Spencer Haws

Hey there!

Now that you have found some great keywords and have a general plan for the site you want to build, you need to actually get something live on the internet!

If you have never set up a site before setting up web hosting, buying a domain, and messing with domain name servers can seem overwhelming…but it’s really not!

In this simple email, I’m going to share with you how to go from no site or domain to a live website.

First, you need to buy a domain name from a domain registrar. A couple that are very common to use (and that I use) are NameCheap.com and GoDaddy.com.

Once you find the domain that you want and it’s available…buy it!

Next you need to get a hosting account. I personally do not recommend going with GoDaddy hosting (expensive and not easy to use).

The easiest and most reliable hosting that I have found is Bluehost. Oh and they are not very expensive either.

For around $5 a month (or less), you can your website up and live for the world to see.

In fact, you can see what the current price of Bluehost is right here.

Once you have your hosting purchased, you need to tell your domain registrar where to point your new domain name.

Again, this is very simple. Just go into your GoDaddy or NameCheap account and click on the change Domain Name Servers (or DNS).

If you are hosting your site on Bluehost, the DNS will be ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com (most likely). If you are hosting your site somewhere else (oustide of Bluehost), you will need to ask your hosting company what your DNS is.

Once you’ve done this, you should be live and ready to install WordPress. Bluehost offers a one-click installation of WordPress; so just look for the WordPress icon in your Bluehost Cpanel.

Bonus Tip:
Did you know that you can host multiple sites on one Bluehost account? So, for $5/mth (or less), you can host dozens of sites…you don’t have to get a new hosting account for each new site! Pretty cool, huh?

In order to add a second (or third+) domain in your Bluehost account, just click on “Addon Domains” in your Cpanel. Then simply walk through the steps and it will be added to your account in a minute or two.

Overall, I hope you found some value in these quick tips for getting your first domain and hosting account all set up.

I’ve used Bluehost since 2006 and I still use them to this day. They have great customer service, they are VERY easy to use, and of course they are not too expensive either.

That’s it for today. But be on the lookout for my next email in the next week or so.

Using Competitors for Advanced Keyword Research

Using Competitors for Advanced Keyword Research

by Spencer Haws

Here are our goals with this lesson:

  • Find a few good competitors
  • Find 3-5 extremely profitable keywords
  • Increase the volume of keywords we’re finding
  • Look at our competitors to find keywords with better odds of success

Why finding competitors is critical…

If you remember the last lesson, we chatted a bit about why seeing a few good competitors in your market is a good thing. Basically, if you see competitors doing well in your market, it’s a REALLY good sign that you can do well, too.

However, having a lineup of competitors you can research provides you with a lot more than just confidence.

By researching competitors, you can also get all of this awesome stuff:

  • Amazing, obscure keywords
  • A list of the most profitable keywords on websites that already exist in your market
  • Lists of your competitor’s competitors, which gives you even more sites to look at
  • Examples of content strategies that have been proven to work
    Link opportunities you may not have known about

In other words, most of the time, researching your competitors will tell you EXACTLY what you should be doing.

If you have a list of just 3-5 competitors in your market—sites that are doing exactly what you want to be doing—it’s basically like having an instruction manual.

All you need is the right research tools (more on this below).
Let’s talk about how to find them…

First, what kind of competitors should I look for?

There are three types of competitors: large, medium and small. Here’s what that means:

  • Large competitor: A site that is both bigger and more authoritative than you can expect your site to be in about a year. So, if you think your site will have 100 articles and a domain authority (DA) of 40 in a year’s time, a large competitor would have more than 100 articles and have a DA in the 50s or above.
  • Medium competitor. A medium competitor will be similar in both size and authority to your site (in about a year’s time).
  • Small competitors. These are sites that will have less content and authority than your site in a year’s time. So, if we’re still using the example above, small competitors would have fewer than 100 articles and a DA below 30.

These aren’t hard and fast rules, but you get the idea.

When you’re looking for competitors, you need at least one big one, at least one small one, and several medium competitors. Why? Well, mostly because you’ll be using them for different things.

Your medium competitors will be most useful by far, since you can basically copy most of what they’re doing. If they are the same size and authority of your site, you can be relatively sure that if you employ the same strategies, you can capture some of that same market. I typically keep a list of around 5 medium-sized competitors.

Your small competitors are going to be used to get you started. These guys are going to have low authority, so any keywords they’re actually ranking for will be very low competition.

Finally, your large competitors will be kept in your back pocket for later. After you gain some authority, you’ll want to transition to the keywords, content strategies and business plans your largest competitors are using.
So how do you find them?

Finding competitors using Google

One of the simplest ways to find competitors is just to use Google.
I like to type in an obvious keyword that someone in my market would probably be trying to rank for. As an example, if I wanted to start a hunting site, I might Google “best hunting rifle.”

Then, I’d use Mozbar to check the DA of all the sites listed on the first and second pages. I’d organize the sites by DA and put them into small, medium and large categories.

I’d then filter them out by the quality of site and keep the best-looking ones.
My sites usually end up being around DA35 in a year’s time, so I spend the most time gathering sites with 50-200 pages of content with a DA between 30 and 45. These are the medium competitors, and they’re most important. But I also find at least one big one (usually around 2-3) and at least one small one.
However, it’s not the most efficient way to find competitors…

Finding competitors using SEM Rush

My favorite way to find competitors is to use SEM Rush.

As long as you have one, good, medium-sized competitor, SEM Rush will automatically generate a bunch of competitors for you. You’ll also be able to see which have the most traffic—plus a bunch of other cool stuff.

Most of the time, you’ll have at least one competitor in mind when you go into a market. But if you don’t, just use the method above to snag one.
Here’s how:

  • Go to SEMRush.com.
  • Plug your competitor’s URL into the search box
  • Click “Overview” in the left sidebar
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page
  • Control + Click on “Competitors in Organic Search”
  • Control + Click on “Competition Graph” (same section, small print, bottom of the box)

This should give you a MASSIVE list of competitors. It should also help you visualize which competitors are the most relevant and have the most traffic.

Ok, ok, great. But how do you USE your competitors?

The best way to use your competitors, by far, is for keyword research.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just plug your competitors into a tool and see EVERY SINGLE KEYWORD they were ranking for?

You can!

And that’s exactly why I love SEM Rush.
Here’s how:

  • Plug your competitor into SEM Rush
  • Click “Positions” in the left sidebar

And that’s it!

You’ll be able to see literally every keyword they are ranking for. And this is SUPER useful.

Why? Because you can see exactly how much traffic each keyword is bringing in.

When you combine this with Long Tail Pro, this is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Honestly, it cuts your risk in HALF.

We wrote a whole blog post about this here (it includes a tutorial video), and it goes into much greater detail, but in general, these are the types of keywords you should be watching out for:

  • Keywords that are ranking in the top 5 for that also look good in Long Tail Pro
  • Keywords that are ranking on the second page for that still bring in lots of traffic

That’s it for this lesson!

Remember, there’s a much more detailed version of this material in the blog post mentioned above.

Tools mentioned in this lesson