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Testing: How to Up Your SEO Income by a Factor of 10

Testing: How to Up Your SEO Income by a Factor of 10

The above graph is based on an intensive questionnaire of over 2500 world class SEOs, including freelancers, in-house corporate types and SEO entrepreneurs. In the questionnaire, I asked one simple question - what is the most profitable activity in your business. The results are in, and as the graph clearly shows, Twittering away the day is by far the most profitable activity for most SEOs. Apparently there is more money to be made on twitter then there is in link building and out ranking the competition. Obviously (I hope), I'm lying. I didn't conduct any survey. I just made up the graph with Smart Draw. In fact, if I had to guess, I imagine the most profitable activities for companies would be conversion optimization, link building, and public relations. Here's the thing, though: I don't have to guess about any of these answers for my business. I know. If you're guessing or following other people's advice on pretty charts (even if it's backed up by third party expert opinions), then you're leaving a lot of money on the table. Let me show you how, with a little change in thinking and how you approach business, you can make a lot more money out of what you do, everyday.

Most SEO Blogs have an Agenda

Aaron recently mentioned that there are over 5,000 SEO blogs out there today. A lot of people read the more popular SEO blogs as if they were the Gospel itself. What most of them don't realize, or don't want to realize, is that almost all of these blogs have one of a few agendas: To promote the business running the blog so they can get more clients To promote the blogger as an SEO expert so he can get more clients. To get lots of links, so that they can rank for [SEO] and, you got it, get more clients and sell advertising Granted, there are a few exceptions. The bottom line is, however, that most of these blogs are fundamentally aimed at increasing their readership, their clients, and their reputation. That means that the information they offer is less aimed at being fundamentally useful, and more about furthering their goals. It very rarely is about providing concrete, useful tips that will lead to a direct increase in your ROI.

Don't Believe Anything Anybody says

Often, someone will come to me and tell me that they've stopped writing content, or that they don't want any reciprocal links, or that they don't want to be listed on site X. Then I ask them why. Invariably, the answer I get is "I read it on a blog" or "It was on a forum", or "I saw it on Twitter". You need to make a business decision based on data, not on what something written somewhere on some forgotten piece of the internet. Different sites will also have different focuses that provide higher ROI. E-Commerce stores may put more focus on optimizing for conversions from existing traffic, while sites like blogs and forums that sell advertising on a CPM or flat rate model will optimize for higher traffic - link baiting and public relations. Niche Adsense publishers and others operating on the longer tail of search will look to create volume quality content and build links in a more focused manner, sending link juice to the pages that need it most.

Data is King

The only way to make a decision is by looking at data gathered and seeing if the data provides you with enough information to make an informed decision. I think Diorex said it best: I will share with you the same answer that my employees get. "Do you have any data?" The answer is usually "No", or they would not have asked the question. To which I respond "Well why don't you run a test and get some data." Once a test has been run, they no longer ask my opinion because they now have an answer (good or bad, testing will give an answer) I have said it before and will probably say it again, buying data in the form of testing is the best investment you can make in your business. It is not cheap, which is what scares most would be internet marketers away.

Getting the Data

So Data is what helps make informed decisions. How do you get the data? If you're doing anything PPC/CPM based, you just need to start running a test campaign and use that data to scale, or alternatively shut down the project before you lose too much money. SEO is a bit different - no two web sites have the same link profile, and minor differences can lead to very different results in terms of how certain types of links and on page changes will effect changes in search results. That being said, it's best to have a secondary group of sites so you can measure the effectiveness of different link building methods, without endangering your profitable, money making sites. Ideally you also need to have a good idea of the link graph in the verticals you work in, and an idea of what competitors are trying to accomplish. To that end, I highly recommend Majestic SEO and SEM Rush (I'm a happy customer, nothing more). There's nothing like having fairly accurate data without being at the complete mercy of a search engine. It's a liberating feeling.

What Data Has Taught Me

Data has taught me that what works for one site doesn't necessarily work for another site. Strong sites with aged links have consistently performed better when they receive low quality links, while newer sites have languished until they received some better links. In one test, we sent low quality links to an aged authority site in a competitive niche. These are links that are probably not your top priority on your link building list, and certainly not given the time of day on most SEO blogs, yet we saw a definite increase in rankings on competitive terms. In the vertical we had a newer, less linked to site - there was absolutely no movement in either direction for that site. Our testing on authority sites has shown us that you can send almost any type of link and get some benefit, either in rankings boost on a specific keyword or a larger net for long tail keywords. Yet if you tried to rank a new site using the same tactics that clearly work on an old, trusted crusty site, there's a very good chance the new site would at the very least be filtered, and at the top end of the spectrum be penalized. Of course, defining what is an authority site is another issue - I suggest you go out and test what exactly is an authority site, and reach your own conclusions.

The Bottom Line

You need to be actively running tests and making efforts to build your business and your sites. The only data that you should trust is your own. While it's good to have an idea of what's going on in the larger SEO community, what really matters is your rankings. Everything else is, and should remain, secondary.

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