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7 Reasons I suck at SEO and still get 1 million+ monthly visitors

If I called myself an SEO, the SEO community would scoff and rightly so. I'm not an SEO. I don't really do SEO in the technical sense, yet my sites get millions of visitors. What gives? Find out more here.

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Podcast Version:

The other day I had the good fortune to be able to jump on a Skype chat with a very experienced and capable technical SEO.

My questions were about rich snippets and schema.  After some back and forth, we figured out what I really wanted to know is how could I get more of my content in Google’s knowledge graph.  You know, the info boxes that now show up at the top of the organic search rankings.

Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about.  I didn’t know then either.  Here’s a screenshot:

Knowledge graph in Google serp screenshot

I was under the impression the knowledge graph were rich snippets which were dictated by schema markup.

Turns out I was wrong.

After all that, the SEO told me there is no magic formula for snagging knowledge graphs.  He suggested to analyze content of sites that do snag the knowledge graph spots.

The thing is a lot of my content does end up in knowledge graph boxes.  I wanted to know what is I was doing that gave me those results (so I could do more of it).

I left the chat grateful to understand the distinctions among rich snippets and knowledge graph.  I still don’t fully understand where schema markup comes into play.

Which leads me to conclude at the end of the day I suck at SEO which is an odd conclusion to arrive at given my sites attract well over 1 million monthly visitors.  Yeah, it’s not Huffpost or Wikipedia, but for a one-man outfit, it’s not terrible.

What else makes me so bad at SEO?

That’s easy.

1. I don’t build links

A lot of SEO talk revolves around links. Billions of dollars are spent every month on link acquisition.  Short of paying some guest posting service a small fortune or begging for guest posts, I don’t really know how to go about building links.  Nor do I care to know how.

Like you, I’ve read all the link building hacks, tricks and tips such as skyscraper method, broken link method, buying links, quid pro quo arrangements, etc.

I do none of it.  I don’t have an infrastructure in place to do it at scale.  The best I could do is pay exorbitant amounts of money to have it done.  Paying for this work does not make me an SEO.

2. I have no clue about anchor text for inbound links

It’s the anchor text that freaks me out.  Get this wrong when building piles of links and you could hurt your site’s SEO.  So I’ve read.

I know enough that if I were to build loads of links, I need to vary the anchor text of those links.  Exactly what variations and in what ratios, I have no idea.  My eyes glaze over reading about it.  My brain hurts thinking about trying to figure it out with some analytical formula.

3. Keyword density what?

Then there’s keyword density where you insert your target keyword X% in the content.  That sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  Are you suggesting I actually count different words and phrases?

I’m being a bit facetious because I am mindful about keyword stuffing.  In the past I’ve received content from writers that was keyword stuffed to the point of being profane.  It wasn’t my fear of poor SEO results that made me hate those articles but instead the fact they were so poorly written.

While I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, I do understand the benefit of including targeted keywords and synonyms in content.  But that makes sense since after all the Google algo is a computer.  You need to actually communicate to the algo what your article is about.

I’m not a naive purist or anything like that.

I just believe there’s a balance between wasting time on silly things like hitting some arbitrary magical keyword density percentage and ensuring the article clearly communicates to a computer what it is about.

4. “25 Best Reviews Lacrosse Sticks”

Like many site owners, I get a lot of guest post submissions.  Most are not good.  My favorite article title suggestions are the ones that target keyword phrases as they’re strictly searched.  Many people type in condensed phrases when searching in Google.  While it’s fine to search like that and Google often makes sense of it, using many of those search phrases as article topics is ludicrous.  In fact, it’s incorrect grammar.

Sorry, but I can’t publish an article with the title “25 best reviews lacrosse sticks” even if the exact phrase has decent search volume and low competition.  As a rule of thumb, I don’t publish any review-oriented content as guest posts unless it clearly demonstrates the writer actually used the product (which is never).

5. “My article is so good you’d be a fool not to link to it”

I know a lot of effective link building campaigns is a numbers game. You reach out to 1,000 websites asking for links.  A small percentage link to you.

I get these requests all the time.

I ignore them.

What’s in it for me baby?  Usually nothing.  Hence I do nothing.  The promise of a “fee” does not interest me because I’m not in the business of selling links.  Okay, if offered $10 million for a link, I’m in, but otherwise, I’m not interested.

I’m not going to take the time to build a link in some old article because your article rocks.

Heck, I loathe building internal links.  What could be more boring?  Actually, I can answer that.  Outreach is more boring.

Do you really think I’m going to link out to another article once it’s published and forgotten?  Nope.

Yet, and this is incomprehensible to me, some publishers will take the time to link out.  It’s a small percentage, but if you’re paying some person next to nothing to contact 100,000 publishers and .01% link back to you, that’s 100 links built.

6. What’s the Search Console?

I jest.

I know what Search Console is.  I’ve actually logged in a few times.

But ask me to do some analysis in there you’ll lose me.  I don’t check much out in Search Console. I certainly don’t know how to do any in-depth analysis of what’s going on.  I’ve never taken the time to learn.

I have spotted problems before in Search Console which I get fixed, but that’s about it.

I’m so clueless I’ve had to hire someone to upload a sitemap into Search Console.  I couldn’t figure it out.

Let’s just say I know enough to ensure there are no major problems and that I’ve submitted all the necessary info as per requested by Google when adding my sites to it.

7. My FAILED $4,000 infographic effort

This one hurt big time.

A few years ago when infographics were all the rage for building links, I thought I could do that.  How hard could it be to pay some outfit to create a killer infographic and shop it around?

Turns out it’s not as easy as it seems.  At least for me.

I figured if I’m going through the hassle, I might as well swing for the fences and invest in a killer looking infographic.

I researched a few professional infographic design agencies.  I hired one that charged an insane $4,000 per infographic.  I paid ’em with eager anticipation.

The infographic looked good.  It was data-based.  Lots of research.  Cool illustrations.  The whole nine yards.  They even threw in some nifty social media cards.

Armed with the best infographic I ever commissioned, I commenced my outreach campaign.  Day after day after day I reached out to any site I thought would be interested.

I can’t remember the exact number but I reached out to hundreds of sites.

Then I waited for the onslaught of inbound links.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, a few positive responses came in.  Awesome.  I acquired some links.

Waited some more.


When the smoke cleared I acquired 7 inbound links for a total cost of $571 per link.  Ouch.

Interestingly, since then I’ve figured out different types of graphics and illustrations that cost me $50 that haul in links without research.  But that’s another matter altogether.

My simpleton approach to SEO (that actually works)

Instead of building links I attract them.

Not every article I publish attracts links.

Some attract a lot, some a few and some none.

It’s a numbers game, just like outreach link building.

I have a few methods that help attract links.

I also target low competition keywords so it’s not hard to rank.  Some stuff ranks with no links.  Talk about easy.  Of course, it doesn’t haul in loads of traffic but it pulls in enough to make some money.  Do this enough times over and over and a business you will have.

Be patient though…

If starting out, this simple approach takes time.  A lot of time.

If you want fast, build links.

I admit that building links works

Despite all of the above, I’d be delusional if I maintained building links doesn’t work for SEO.  Yes, it works.  If done well, it’s very low risk.

In fact, I believe investing in link building can result in a much-improved ROI because you can rank content faster and rank for higher search volume keywords.

What gives? How do I get SEO traffic without being an SEO expert?

The secret is I’m a publisher first and foremost. It’s not a secret. Just a mindset and a preference. I like publishing content.

I’m not a learned SEO.  I know about SEO.  I love SEO traffic.  I read about it. But I don’t roll up my sleeves with Screaming Frog software combing through reams of data.

I don’t do any serious off-site analysis.  I don’t track inbound links and analyze them.

No learned SEO would say I know much about it.

What I do study, practice, hone, experiment with and am fanatical about is publishing as much excellent content that covers smart topics as possible.

That’s it.

My secret in that statement is twofold:

  1. Excellent content: as stated above, some of my content attracts links.  That’s a signal it’s good so it ranks.  It includes decent research, very well formatted (I’m fanatical about formatting), images and other graphics – anything to make it good.
  2. Smart topics:  I look for low competition topics that I think has some solid search potential.  I use Ahrefs, Keywordshitter.com and my BRAIN.

I do have an advantage though…

My advantage is I’ve been doing this for several years.  Some of my sites are several years old and I know the niches very well.  The more you dig into a niche, the more gold you find.


2 thoughts on “7 Reasons I suck at SEO and still get 1 million+ monthly visitors”

  1. Hi Jon,
    Great piece on sharing a blogger’s perspective regarding the outreach process on link building . As one who practices SEO, I agree that its very important that “link builders” know how to do an effective outreach process which is to create a situation where both parties can benefit from each other. By the way, I would like to know you personal twitter handle if you have one. Looking forward to connect with you since I seldom see entertaining posts about blogging or SEO – no stupid flattery aside. Cheers!

  2. Your the second person that I have come across in the last month that is successful blogging but doesn’t focus on SEO like most preach.

    Personally I don’t think it matters as much as it used to with Googles recent algorithm changes.

    Lets say that you have a great keyword optimized post that gets ranked on the first page. But the content sucks and visitors are just leaving as soon as they hit your post.

    Googles gonna drop you back to the 2nd or 3rd page.

    That leaves room for a blogger with better content but maybe a less optimized article to work their way to the first page.

    It looks like your doing it right!


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