SEO Journal | Learning the Art at a Snail’s Pace

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SEO Journal – Prologue


Quick jump:

Noob

Amateur

Pro (in the making)


Are you ready for some raw, unfiltered content? Read on.

Okay, this page is created with the sole purpose of adding details of every single method that I’ve done for SEO. That’s the main reason why it’s titled SEO Journal specifically.

I’m sorry to point out that unless you are here for reading the journal, you would easily lose interest. If you happened to stumble upon this page, let me escort you back to the homepage. But, you’re always welcome to stay and keep reading.

So, the review and blog sections are on the other side. I would like to specify the following:

  • The journal entries will follow a chronological order.
  • Real screenshots will be used for images throughout the journal for making certain things easy to follow.
  • I do not intend to be a teacher. But if you are a beginner and somehow find this journal useful, that would be really amazing.
  • I am not The Critic. I don’t even know who or what that is. But, he/she/it/they are doing a great job contributing to the website while all I have to do is effortlessly type what I do here.
  • Please feel free to suggest any corrections that you find along the way. There would be many because it’s all spontaneous writing with unfiltered content.
 Alright, let’s get on with it then.

Phase 1: Noob

Day 1 – Aug 9, 2017, 3:10 am

~I had already created content for the home page about three days back. I managed to pull an all-nighter without even sipping a cup of coffee or playing a music track. I’ll consider that as an achievement.

There is this great feeling of accomplishment which cannot be explained when you put in much effort into doing something productive. Right now, my brain is generating faint memories of mugging up before those final exams.

Ugh, absolutely dreadful!

~Two articles were pre-written by The Critic. I downloaded the Yoast SEO plugin which the experts consider to be a beginner’s best friend. So, I took up the first post for reviewing and loaded up the plugin. The first thing I notice is the “focus keyword”.

I have an average understanding of how certain things work – the title tag, the description tag and how the content has to be optimized for the target keywords. So, I chose a certain keyword for the first article under The Light Side section.

Keyword research was performed prior to the creation of content. A few edits here and there for keyword optimization along with alt tags for the images and it was good to go. The article being edited was a product review, about the OnePlus 5.

~The first post was a product review about the OnePlus 5. Since there was no option for getting backlinks or affiliate links at the infant stage, I just decided to link it to the product page on Amazon followed by an internal link to the review under The Dark Side section. [Note: The Light Side and The Dark Side were two subsections where The Critic wrote reviews about the products]

3:25 am

~First review on the website posted!  No crackers to pop. But, only the sound of chirping crickets. I realized that it was getting late and I had to wake up early to go to the office in the morning.

I moved on to the review of the same product in The Dark Side section. I noticed that the content is optimal and I decided to target a certain keyword for the post.

So, I just went back to the other one and checked the Yoast plugin to find a yellow bullet. It said that the page I’m linking to could potentially affect the rankings of the page because of similarity in keywords.

I made a few on the way and searched for a potential solution. And the solution was pretty simple indeed. All I had to do was change the URL part (or the slug) which contained the keyword targeted for the first post. Yep, as easy as that.

 

seo journal first
Happiness is finding green bullets under the Yoast SEO Analysis 🙂

3:45 am

~I started working on the second post. As I was about to post it, I realized that the meta description is missing. Now, if you do not enter a meta description, the plugin assumes the first paragraph of your content as the description.

This can go wrong in many cases. In my case, the description mixed up with a caption for an image which was a bizarre combination. Once I was done with the description, I was all set to publish it. Here’s a tip: Always check the title and the description tags.

3:50 am

~I published the second post under The Dark Side section. Hurray! I rushed through both the posts to see if they are interlinked well. Then, I moved to the Home Page that was never published yet.

Just a quick check on the content after having made sure everything is on point. The only thing missing was an outbound link.

4:05 am

~Home page. Check. But guess what went wrong? The page went bonkers. It looked like this.

 

home page bonkers

 

What an ungodly sight! Luckily, the only change that had to be made was in the static front page section. Switched over to ‘Front page displays: A static page’ and voila. Fixed! WordPress seems to be so easy at times.

 

home page fixed
Much better!

~There was one more thing left to be done. I had installed a plugin which creates outcome polls based on the questions answered. These polls could be later added as widgets.

I decided to place the widget on the home page section. The creation part was easy because there were just two articles which meant only two outcomes.

Initially, I had some trouble setting it up because I did not know where to add it. The problem was that I clearly missed out on the instructions they provided. One line of code had to be pasted into the page or a post where I’d want the widget to appear.

And it was complete. The home page was ready. I could finally sleep.

4:45 am

I published this page.


Day 2 – Aug 11, 10:30 pm

At this point, I still haven’t let the search engines crawl my site. I was trying to find some blogs or articles related to my first two posts. That is an essential part of link building. I started feeling the signs of difficulty.

The first place where I looked was on Twitter with the use of hashtags filling in relevant keywords. I noticed two tweets which had links to related blog posts and also watched an informative video review of the product. I commented on the video with a link to my post.

Waited for thirty minutes and then, I gave up.

11:00 pm

Link building is no easy task! Especially, if you’re going to play safe and not link to spammy sites or buy tons of links. I decided to focus on that part later.

Shortly, I started making content for the two categories – The Dark Side and The Light Side clearly stating what the visitors can expect. Also, the focus keywords were chosen.

After almost an hour creating content and reading the link building guide from Moz, I finally had something worthwhile to add to the SEO journal. I ended up reading a series of related articles. It was about time to step into the game.


Day 3 – Aug 15, 8:00 pm

I had successfully added the Analytics code to let Google monitor the website traffic. It helped me see real-time reports of active users on the website, average time spent by users, the number of page views per session and much other stuff. These are really important indicators that reflect the performance of a website.

I came across a website called Attracta. They had SEO services and offered three 3 PR 5 backlinks from their business directory. I applied without hesitation and ticked three categories where this website could be added.

8:30 pm

I kept scouting around to find places to link to. There were 2 YouTube videos on which I laid my eyes on. I contacted two channels with personalized emails. One of them demanded the video be embedded perfectly with a properly placed hyperlink.

But, he turned down my proposal and refused to link to my article. Oh boy. Rejection #1 and counting. I tried to contact the other guy but he never responded. So, I went ahead and embedded his video referring to the channel.

Of course, there were many links on YouTube related to reviews but they were all hard to acquire. So, I just thought to myself, “I’ll get on with my work and create more content for now”. Then, I added two articles which were prepared in advance.

Meanwhile, I was reading a number of other articles and learned about jump targets. Eventually, I implemented the tags in all the necessary places. It makes the navigation experience for users much easier.

A jump target is like a wormhole, it takes you to different places on a website. Click To Tweet

10:30 pm

When you start reading an article related to SEO, you can never stop. In a few minutes, there would be 10+ tabs opened in the browser. I realized that I need to work on the official Facebook page.

Social media has its own perks.

A friend advised me to build up the page with good content first and then move onto the website. But, I went ahead and made the website anyway because I like multitasking.

Shortly, I made lists of relatives, friends, acquaintances, and social media groups. I had to create a message which concludes with a direct proposal to follow the page.

Simple, short and straightforward.

After cooking something up for five minutes, it was ready. I kept the message safe and secured. It is quite hard to build up a page from scratch. Period.

And with a burst of confidence, I finally unchecked the option to let Google bots index the website.

seo journal live
It was about time to let the spiders crawl

11:45 pm

I did a few tweaks on the Facebook page, the Twitter account and shared the first two reviews of the website. Fingers crossed. I knew the initial phase would be hard but, not this hard. The SEO Journal keeps getting bigger. At least, that’s a good sign.

At the end of the day, I learned a very important lesson which I’ll never forget – when you have no authority, nobody accepts you.


Day 4 – Aug 20, 9:00 pm

The day started off with me linking the website to the Google Search Console. I proceeded to verify the website by copying the unique property tag and pasting it into the Search Console of the Yoast SEO plugin.

That’s pretty simple.

The sitemap was shortly submitted with the few pages in my arsenal. Sitemap submission is necessary for Google to get an idea of the layout of the website. That’s as far as I know.

9:20 pm

After I was done with the sitemap submission, it returned two crawl errors: URL not found. There were 2 URLs which never existed in the first place. I don’t even recall adding those. One of them was an alternate URL to “The Dark Side” and I wasn’t really sure what needed to be done. The other URL was that of “The Critic”.

I manually excluded the author from the sitemap and this resulted in the missing URL getting redirected to the homepage. Meanwhile, I just checked the Alexa Rank to see if my website had a presence on Google. Unfortunately, nope. Zero pages indexed.

But, it had a rank – a whopping 15 million. I was confused. How did a website receive a rank without any indexed pages? Well, I knew the answer after reading an article about the importance of Alexa ranks.

Lower the Alexa Rank = Greater the website traffic

That was how it worked. The time spent for the social promotion paid off, a bit. I observed the Google Analytics Data and it left me impressed as well as disappointed.

10:00 pm

Rich snippets are like billboards to get your website noticed in the Google search results provided you can rank for the right keywords. These include different types of details about the posts on a website.

Since this website had a section for product reviews, I knew exactly which snippets to add. I downloaded this plugin called ‘Rich Snippets’ to make the task easier.

If I had been working on a website with HTML pages, it would have been much harder mainly because it requires a lot of involvement with the Schema Markup, JSON-LD or other methods of encoding linked data. I would have had to identify each category, choose the appropriate tags and items and include it in the HTML.

But, this WordPress plugin made things much easier.

10:20 pm

Shortly, I decided to add snippets to the review posts. I chose the ‘Item’ category for all the posts, filled in the required information and tested the rich snippets. The screen changed to one that resembles an editor on the left and the item tags on the right. The panel which read, “4 Error(s), 1 Warning(s)” caught my attention and made me feel disheartened for the rest of the night.

The night was full of errors, misconfigured snippets, and non-indexed pages. Certainly, a big blow to the SEO journal. I gave up again.


Day 5 – Aug 27, 9:00 pm

I started off attempting to correct my snippets. Initially, I tagged the incorrect item type for the product reviews. This led to many errors popping up in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. After making sure every field is marked well and good, the errors were gone for good.

9:20 pm

When I thought of starting the website, the first thing that lit up inside my head was – affiliate marketing. I knew it was pointless to do it on a website with low traffic. But then, I decided to do it anyway.

I enrolled in affiliate programs of two popular giants – Amazon and Flipkart. Setting it up is quite elementary. It’s as simple as creating a new email account. I obtained the affiliate links and placed those in the articles.

10:10pm

I noticed two URL not found errors in the Google Search Console. It required attention because it could affect the accumulated rankings. Shortly, I installed a plugin called Redirection. The interface was very user-friendly.

how to redirect 404 pages
Mark the source and destination URLs and voila!

 

The missing URLs included the author page which was hidden and a ghost page of The Dark Side which was published during the launch. The author page was made to redirect to the homepage. I had the option to display the author page but I chose not to because The Critic loves privacy. Who doesn’t?

The Dark Side page was properly redirected and a mini headache was cured. Another thing I noticed was the total number of indexed pages dropped by 2. Perhaps, this was due to the redirections not being fixed earlier.


Day 6 – September 1, 11:00 pm

The night started off rather well. I often check the Alexa rank of my website and it has turned into a habit. As usual, I expected some progress and ran a check again.

Rank Update: 15 million -> 11 million

It took about 3 weeks and it seemed to be not much of a progress. But, it was certainly a glimmer of hope for me. A serious link building campaign had to be planned and executed. I had to find a proper way to link to this SEO journal which is long-form content and is regularly updated.

Since most of the articles were reviews, I needed to find an established website to do some guest posting. Luckily for me, I already knew a website which was famous for their influencer marketing strategy. It was called Xberts.

I thought about writing guest articles with links to my website. If the links were do-follow, it would have been super beneficial if they had a considerable Domain Authority.

I quickly sent an email wanting to know if I could acquire some links via guest posting. I also tried applying for their contests. If I ever get accepted to review their freebie products, I get to keep the product and as a bonus, people would read my review and notice the website. It would be a win-win situation.


(a long break)

Phase 2: Amateur

Okay, I was going through that period of transition. This was one of the many reasons why this section hadn’t been updated in a while.

Well, let me tell you something.

A lot of things changed. I learned various things.

  1. I understood the basics of link-building which I will explain in due time as I apply the techniques on this platform or elsewhere.
  2. I realized writing quality content is pivotal to success, provided it’s super unique.
  3. Investing time for writing good content is worthwhile only if is shareable. For real! You can spend 2-3 hours writing a piece and if nobody notices it, consider your time lost.
  4. If it isn’t shared naturally, you have to find ways to get it shared across different channels.
  5. AI content creation tools look promising. The more you train, the easier it gets. It seems like human content writers will soon turn into content moderators.

There’s much emphasis on content already.

Google would soon have algorithms that can distinguish between AI created content and those created by a human.

So, feel free to read on as I update the journal with every new trick I learn.


December 27, 8:00 pm

Moz Metrics update [DA: 10, PA: 24]

It was just a random check after the Christmas break.

Certainly, a moment of happiness. After 4 months and a few backlinks later, there’s a growth.

But, I knew that DA is just a mirage of power. A person who blindly believes a website with higher DA is better than one with a lower number is…well, he or she better have more reasons to prove their point.

For instance, one technique I’m experimenting is called Domain Authority Stacking. In simpler words, it’s just tiered link building. Well, it involves using a number of Web 2.0s stacked in different tiers with the intention of passing link juice to upper tiers and ultimately, the target page aka the money site as SEOs fondly call it.

There are two approaches- one follows the conventional method, using a tier-based link building strategy. Let me illustrate with a diagram I made.

domain authority stacking diagram

If you’ve noticed, the blocks used in the stacks are all Web 2.0s. They’re easy to set up because they are created by end users and largely contribute to diverse link profiles.

For DAS, I set up the accounts, linked to the stacks exactly the same way as depicted in the diagram and waited a while. I didn’t invest too much time on this and in about two weeks, the following metrics showed an increase:

Root domain: PA +1, CF +1, TF +4

Target page: PA +4, CF +2

If the profiles were maintained before blasting the links, there would have been room for more improvement. I shall provide updates once I’ve maintained these for a while. The only hard part was creating five 500-word unique articles for the WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr blogs. There’s a lot left to be done.

The other approach I mentioned earlier includes the creation of a super Web 2.0 with an extensive backlink profile. This will be covered on another day. See you later, alligator!


March 3, 2018 – 8:35 PM

I revamped the website. Got rid of the static home page, ‘The Light Side’, ‘The Dark Side’ and created a straightforward menu interface.

It feels good if it looks good.

There should be no compromise on readability, the user experience and quality of content.

Many things had changed during the end of 2017. Rankbrain came up and it meant huge posts which answered queries were the winners. This made me think of something.

I had created 8 blog posts in two categories during the initial phase. Well, I decided to condense them all into one single mega post about outdated flagship smartphones.  Shortly, I assigned redirects from the old posts to the updated one.

This one had potential.

Now that I think about it, I had spent close to 30 hours writing and 0 hours promoting the content. Here’s what the 80-20 rule of content marketing describes: write content for 2 hours, spend 8 hours for promotion.

Because that’s what really mattered. Promotions. And more importantly, links.

I had plans for the individual posts so I drafted those and locked them away. And, here’s an update.

Moz Metrics update [DA: 14, PA: 28]

My vision was clear. If you can’t earn links, you build them.


September 12, 2018 – 10:55 PM

Following a huge break,The Two Sided had already reached the 1-year milestone with a monthly average traffic of 600. *fireworks in the sky*

Months passed away just like the minutes of an hour. If you were expecting another metrics update, you’d be disappointed. The statistics are as follows:

Moz Metrics update [DA: 12, PA: 18]

But, am I concerned due to the drop?

Not anymore.

There’s much more to the quality of a website rather than some third party metrics which means little sense. However, there are metrics that greatly influence keyword rankings (UR) and some are capable of moving the needle in the SERPs.

I learned this while I was preparing a short-term roadmap strategy for a client. The competitor analysis made me drill deep into the backlink profiles of competitors. Noticed that Ahrefs sorts by UR in default and that there’s a strong correlation with UR and the number of referring domains.

A deeper dive into the backlinks of the target page showed even more surprising results; we’re talking about backlinks of backlinks here (so meta). All of those had around 40-50 backlinks and appeared to be part of PBNs.

I did not stop there. I wished to know what was powering the PBNs. Well, the answer is- a lot of spammy stuff, GSA blasts of forum profile and Web 2.0 links. But, in the end, the results were positive- the tier 1 backlinks had a high UR boost.

Ahrefs define UR as the URL rating of a certain link. The fact was that it could be manipulated, just like Page Authority (PA). I repeated this analysis for some other clients who were ranking in the top 5 for a few money keywords.

Here are the classifications of links from the small study:

Tier 1 -> (30-50) 20+ UR links [PBNs] and other links

Tier 2 -> (500-2000) 0-5 UR links [forum profiles, spam]

This kind of setup looked really nasty but it was doing the job right. Google’s algorithms may not have figured it out yet but PBNs are a risky investment, much like cryptocurrencies- they’re promising but super dangerous.

Imagine if you could scale this process with guest posts or other natural link profiles.

Why do bloggers who accept guest posts encourage us to share the content with as many people as we can? Have you ever felt the need to do that?

If you haven’t, then you should.

I learned that guest posts can get you real, contextual links to your target pages and is often regarded as the best link-building strategy that’s highly scalable. [Tip: If you have a small PBN network and know how to operate it without getting flagged, consider boosting the guest post page.]

In other news, I successfully complete a year at an SEO agency (and I’m done for real). Hoping to log more updates throughout this week.


September 16, 2018 – 1:00 PM

I had to display some gratitude to the agency which gave me a platform to work.

Well, my learning curve would have been a straight horizontal line if I hadn’t put any effort from my side- working more hours per day to learn new stuff and reading more.

I thought about doing a bit of personal branding as part of an outreach campaign with 50 prospects. It did pretty well, with a reply rate of ~50% and 3 successful conversions.

Want to know the exact word-to-word template I used? DM me on my Instagram, Rahul V J

For the writing part, I did it myself and it felt good because these were things I already did/knew.  Here’s the status of the campaign if you want to take a look. And, here are the published posts as of today:

  1. Keyword Audit Guide
  2. PR Tools Roundup

Scored 2 author bio links for The Two Sided. Does that matter much? Not really, but it’s still great.

Also, I experimented with HARO. Sent out a pitch to an editor and he accepted my contribution.  +1 for the agency. Researching about the PR tools was a bit hard and I was amazed because there were so many that were unheard of.

Want to know where I found those? Feel free to ask using the contact form below.

Anyway, I was ready, to step out into the real world, unbound by the shackles.


September 20 2018 – 10:30 PM

I realized I had to get my name on top of Google.

But, there was a major hurdle. There were over three hundred Rahul V Js on Facebook alone. Imagine how many would have been there on other platforms.

This is what the SERPs looked like, for my name as the query.

My guest posting efforts helped me build some credibility as an author but my social pages didn’t have enough power to beat the other 400 doppelgangers.

There were two things I could do- create an alias or beat everyone. I wanted to learn the hard way.

Decided to change my username on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram (I don’t use Twitter) hoping to send some signals telling Google I’m the best version of myself.

And, for anyone having difficulties finding me on FB, my username is realrahulvj.

It’s a shame when an SEO can’t even rank his/her name on the first page (no insult to the other SEOs out there, just my thought). My short term goals were clear.

First, personal branding, second, selling SEO services.


 

 


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