Over the years, the core meaning of SEO has been corrupted by black-hat marketers and manipulative – or downright illegal – techniques. Agencies and businesses around the world have invested thousands with these dodgy operators in pursuit of the coveted first page of Google. Their sales pitch typically goes along the lines of:
‘Look how search-friendly my website is! If you want to know my super-secret recipe for optimisation, you’ll have to pay me $XXXX and I will share everything there is to know.’
Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the ‘why’.
Guess what? The folks at Google didn’t forget. They really don’t care about your business, or how much money you’ve spent trying to appease its algorithms. They care about one thing: the end user.
If you’re not creating content that’s genuinely engaging, insightful and attractive, you cannot expect to rank in this day and age.
Today, I’m going to show you step-by-step how I do SEO and more importantly, how these methods can be used to grow your website. You can use this framework to build other digital funnels, such as sales or social media.
Before we dive in, there’s something I need to emphasise. This is not a cheap, nor super simple way to do SEO. Quality is king in the world of search, so prepare to invest for long-term returns.
In this article, we’ll cover:
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Constructing an off-page SEO framework may seem like a simple first step but it’s one that requires careful planning. Just as the foundations of a house must be sturdy in order to support a structure, your framework needs to be durable enough to manage the weight of growth and logically mapped out to support expansion. If you rush to implement a flawed SEO strategy, your framework – much like the imaginary house – is likely to crumble.
Okay, enough analogies. The best way to explain how an SEO framework should be set up is with a visual.
You may have heard the terms ‘content hub’ or ‘content cluster’ before. These components are part of the tiered link building model – the method we recommend adopting when building out your framework. It’s similar to the pillar and cluster model, coined by Hubspot, but with additional levels.
The goal of this approach is to build relevant resources worth linking to.
Here’s a mind-map demonstrating the tiered link building model:
The content hub sits towards the bottom of the framework as it’s the page to which other content links (and relates). The topic of your content hub must be chosen based on key services offered.
For example, the content hub or pillar you’re reading right now is on SEO strategies. Meta, I know. This means that all NO-BS blogs linked to this hub are related to SEO strategies, too. It’s best to go broad when selecting topics for content clusters; the more there is to write about, the better.
Read more about tiered link building by reading our strategy guide here.
Let’s break down some of the main components you’ll need in your cluster.
Content hub or pillar page – The content hub is the most pivotal part of any off-page SEO framework. Also known as a power or pillar page, your hub is essentially a high-quality piece of content with in-depth information, intuitive formatting, custom graphics and even videos. This page should stand out and offer more than just 5,000 words of dense, repetitive copy.
Blogs – Whatever you do, don’t waste people's time with boring blogs. The blog topics in your framework should be useful to users, not just Google. They should also relate to the theme of your content hub.
Services – Service pages are designed to target people ready to buy. For online stores, these are your product or category pages. If you’re a service-based business, these are your sales pages. Service pages are intended to convert warm audiences into paying customers; however, they still need to answer key questions. Don’t neglect this key part of the marketing funnel in favour of top- or middle-of-the-funnel content.
Content Hub – Plumbing Tips
Blog – How To Unclog A Drain
Service – Blocked Drain Repair
Content Hub – Plumbing Tips
Blog – X Common Home Renovation Mistakes
Service – Blocked Drain Repair
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘content is king’ before. It's a cliché that was drilled into me when I first started in this industry. But you know what? It’s true – more so now than it was 10 years ago. If your website doesn’t have a blog, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
However – and this is a big however – there’s a difference between useful content and filler content. Many will tell you that word count is everything but these people are missing the point. If the top result on Google is 5,000 words long, this doesn’t mean you need to bulk up your copy to match. Content is more than just words; it’s also images, videos and design.
In order to build content that is not only useful but aesthetically pleasing, you need to get creative. Here are some tips to level up your content.
a. Give examples
One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating content is failing to include enough detail. Here's a paragraph from one of our older blog posts to demonstrate:
Power words. Ever heard of them? If not, you’re not alone. Power words are, overall, general words that give power or life to written content. They’re designed to evoke excitement, danger, curiosity, and other emotions in the reader. Power words come in different categories depending on the emotional reaction you’re trying to gain from the reader.
This example gives a top-line explanation of power words. It was taken from an article about devising good blog titles. While the prose is engaging, it doesn’t really give enough information, nor context, to help readers fully comprehend the concept.
For example, it mentions that ‘...power words come in different categories...’ But doesn’t provide examples of these categories, nor does it explain how said categories evoke emotions.
The second example is far meatier, with more useful information and examples to support each point. When executed well, this approach will help you to build authority and create a much more engaging piece of content. Just make sure every word counts. Adding sentences for the sake of reaching a rudimentary word count can have the opposite impact.
To read the full article above, click here.
Power words. Ever heard of them? If not, you’re not alone. Power words are, overall, general words that give power or life to written content. They’re designed to evoke excitement, danger, curiosity, and other emotions in the reader.
Power words come in different categories depending on the emotional reaction you’re trying to extract from the reader. These categories include:
• Greed – For triggering the desire for more money or engaging those who want to save money.
• Curiosity – For triggering the desire to investigate something.
• Unmotivated – For triggering motivation in those who are unmotivated.
• Lust – For triggering the sensation of desire.
• Vanity – For triggering self-imagery.
• Trust – For triggering trust in someone.
• Anger – For triggering feelings of anger.
• Fear – For triggering the experience of fear.
b. Balance white space with content
If a web page is packed with dense paragraphs or appears disorganised, it doesn’t matter how insightful the content is, it’s unlikely to capture attention. That’s why page layout is almost as important as the words themselves.
White space is a consideration in all design mediums, from logos to paintings, but it’s particularly pertinent to digital content. The term refers to the empty areas between design elements; despite its name, it can be any colour. Achieving an effective balance of words and white space is key to maintaining user experience but it’s also important for search engine readability.
To balance the ratio of white space to content, consider including the following formatting elements:
Subheadings (these should be H2 or H3)
High-resolution images (with alt-tags)
Effective paragraph spacing
Here are two identical passages of content, presented in two different ways. You decide which one is more engaging.
Each time a new web page is created, whether it be a timely blog post, an evergreen article or a product category on an ecommerce website, it’s crucial that the URL is well-positioned within the site’s link hierarchy. Hierarchies are created by building a parent-child connection between all indexable web pages. Forget complex rules; the best guideline to follow when creating your hierarchy is common sense. Let’s say you own a Mexican restaurant. Rather than having a bunch of articles, products and booking pages sitting on the same level of the URL structure and competing with each other in search engine results pages, it’s more effective to determine your site’s key categories, then work your way down the hierarchy accordingly to subcategories (if needed). For example, if your domain is https://www.mexicanrestaurant.com, you could create three main categories: bookings, blog and products. Then, build subcategories into the lower tiers of the hierarchy.
Each time a new web page is created, whether it be a timely blog post, an evergreen article or a product category on an ecommerce website, it’s crucial that the URL is well-positioned within the site’s link hierarchy.
Hierarchies are created by building a parent-child connection between all indexable web pages. Forget complex rules; the best guideline to follow when creating your hierarchy is common sense.
Let’s say you own a Mexican restaurant. Rather than having a bunch of articles, products and booking pages sitting on the same level of the URL structure and competing with each other in search engine results pages, it’s more effective to determine your site’s key categories, then work your way down the hierarchy accordingly to subcategories (if needed).
Here’s a sample hierarchy:
Website homepage URL:
For broader categories, you may wish to incorporate subcategories into the hierarchy.
c. Dress (your content) to impress
Just as white space is an important part of an article’s design appeal, so too are other visual elements. These include:
Infographics – preferably your own
Visual elements play a number of roles in digital content. They break up the page, add colour and support your copy, ultimately helping readers to understand your points.
But beware: there is such thing as going overboard with visuals. Before you turn your blog into a meme page, remember the following:
Keep your visuals clean and avoid anything sexual in nature. Unless, of course, you’re in the adult niche – in which case, go wild (pun very much intended).
Ensure all images and videos are high resolution.
Size your visuals appropriately. There’s no point adding an infographic too small to read, or a photo so large that it distorts the page format.
Only add relevant visuals.
For more information on what to include in your off-page SEO content, check out our extensive guide here.
d. Inject personality
Nothing kills a blog quicker than a generic tone or lack of personality. There are millions of articles on the internet employing the same boring, straight-down-the-line phrasing and advice – afraid to rock the boat.
How many times have you heard a blog say something like...
To gain more traffic, you will need to increase brand recognition and promote yourself via social media.
Instead, sprinkle in some analogies and tackle topics from unique angles.
You’re not going to compete with the top-ranking articles using identical examples and bland sentences, so you may as well stand out!
e. Prohibit plagiarism and spun content
Plagiarism – the word alone is enough to strike fear in writers and cause cursing at the editor’s desk.
It's well-known that stealing and re-publishing content you didn’t write is bad practice, but did you know it’s also a search engine risk? Not only do you risk being penalised, but you may not be indexed either.
Although you may not intend to plagiarise, it’s common to accidentally copy sentences or phrasing – particularly when you’re researching and writing about a complex topic. Always double check your copy with tools such as Copyscape to make sure there are no inadvertent clashes.
Spun content is a lesser-known evil within the same realm as plagiarism. While not as overt, spun content involves re-packaging a piece of content by changing the wording just enough to avoid detection in most plagiarism tools. Common content-spinning techniques include:
Changing the title, yet copying the opinions
Using the same subheadings
Copying the format
Using synonyms but keeping the sentence structure and flow the same
Unlike exact-match plagiarism, spun content can be created accidentally, but unfortunately, it’s also a black-hat practice performed by some intentionally. Why not save time by using someone else’s ideas, right? Wron
This approach is a big no-no because:
People may recognise the blog you’ve rewritten
The original writer or site owner may find out and take legal action
Your rankings are more likely to be hindered than helped by regurgitating opinions that have already been indexed
Long term, it will hurt your reputation and your brand