Foreword by Matt Diggity
In a moment I’m going to introduce you to Mico Martinez.
He had caught my eye in The Affiliate Lab member’s group by posting back-to-back SEO wins.
In his latest win, he took a unique approach to starting a new site. Instead of building from scratch, he contacted an influencer in his niche (one with an existing website) and pitched a win-win joint venture (JV).
Combining that head start with excellent technical, onsite, and offsite SEO, you end up with a 13x increase in traffic in a few months.
Back in October, I was given the opportunity to collaborate with an influencer in the beauty/lifestyle niche. This particular influencer has been blogging for over 10 years and has a strong social media presence (800k+ followers on Instagram and 400k+ subscribers on YouTube).
However, with the rise of these social media platforms, focus was shifted away from her website. Before I came on board, the website was getting around 150 organic visitors per day (mostly searches for the influencer’s brand). It was basically just being used as another portal pointing toward the social media properties.
By implementing a well-rounded SEO strategy, I was able to increase organic traffic from 150/day to around 2000/day in 6 months.
In this case study, I will walk you through every step I took to achieve this broken down into technical SEO, content, and link building. And also, how I managed to land this fruitful JV in the first place.
So how exactly did I score this JV?
Well, it all starts with finding the right influencer.
Finding The Right Influencer
Every niche has influencers, whether they’re on YouTube or Instagram. The key here is to find influencers that have a website that is being under-utilized. In this case, my partner had a very strong social media presence, but was getting less than 5,000 organic visitors per month to her website.
I knew there was a lot of potential because I’ve built sites on expired/auction domains in the past. Her domain had a 40+ DR and backlinks from sites like The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, and BuzzFeed. I assumed that it would be like working on an expired/auction domain on steroids.
After finding the right influencer, you need to learn how to pitch them.
Before reaching out to influencers, it’s important to first get to know them, their work, and their audience. This will help you come up with the perfect pitch for them.
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to reach out. There are some great points on how to do this in the “The Influencer Pitch” lesson taught in the Affiliate Lab. When reaching out to influencers, you want to do two very important things:
- Make sure it is crystal clear what’s in it for them – Whether it be traffic, influence, or cash, you should let them know. You want them to immediately understand how this will benefit them.
- Demonstrate your SEO expertise – Show them some of the projects you’ve worked on in the past. And the results you’ve achieved.
These two things are key when you first reach out. You obviously need to discuss other specifics such as what’s possible or what’s expected, but you can do this later on in the process.
In my case, my partner had a very strong following outside the US and wanted to grow her reach. I simply pitched to her that we could grow her following in the U.S. by driving organic traffic to her site through SEO. All the while, increasing her income through online affiliate marketing. After a little back-and-forth, she was sold on the idea.
Now that you know how to score a JV like this, let’s talk about the SEO strategy implemented to achieve these results.
The first step I took was a technical audit since I believe that technical optimization is key to any well-rounded SEO strategy. Because this site was not originally optimized for SEO, I found plenty of technical issues.
They are as follows…
The first thing I did when I took on this project was switch hosting providers. I switched for 2 reasons:
- The original host’s servers were outside the USA (closer to where the influencer is from), but I wanted the new content to rank in the USA
- I wanted to upgrade to a premium host to improve page speed and get access to a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
I switched to Kinsta because it’s what I use for the other sites in my portfolio. They offer great support and free migrations.
The website didn’t have HTTPS. HTTPS is a MUST for every website nowadays. Google even announced that HTTPS was a lightweight ranking factor way back in 2014.
To set up HTTPS all you need to do is contact your hosting provider and they will guide you through the process.
Note: If you’re migrating from HTTP to HTTPS, make sure that all pages on your site are already on HTTPS and that all your internal links have been updated to HTTPS.
Page Speed Optimization
The site was very bloated because of the use of a lot of unnecessary plugins to decorate the site. She used a plugin to add her Instagram feed to the footer of the website, slowing down every single page of the site. To improve page speed, I simply removed plugins like these.
I optimized all images using Shortpixel, which reduced the size of the media library by around 70%, drastically reducing page size and improving page speed.
Lastly, I used WP Rocket for page caching, file optimization, cache preloading, and to LazyLoad images.
Here are the settings I use on WP Rocket:
- Enable mobile caching and separate cache files for mobile devices
- Disable user cache
- Everything should be selected here
- Enable LazyLoad
- Disable Emoji
- Activate Preloading
- If you use a CDN, don’t forget to integrate your CDN
The result: by implementing these simple changes, we improved GTMetrix Perfromance Scores from E to A.
Because this blog has been around for over 10 years, there was a lot of thin content, media, archive, author, and even comment pages indexed.
Because we only want to serve valuable, SEO-optimized content to Google, I had to remove these pages from the index.
I removed the majority of these extraneous pages from the index using the Rank Math plugin and the Removals Tool on Google Search Console.
Removing Extraneous Pages From The Index
Using the Rank Math plugin, you can easily ‘noindex’ Attachments, Author, Category, Tag, and Misc Pages by using the setting below:
Note: Don’t forget to set this for every meta type you want removed from the index.
Removing Thin Content From The Index
To remove thin content from the index, I used two approaches: (1) I decided to set some of the older posts to private, resulting in a 404 and (2) I actually went to each of the remaining posts and manually set them to ‘noindex’ using the Rank Math setting below:
After that, I went to the Removals Tool on GSC and submitted removal requests for these URLs.
By removing these pages from the index, we allow Google to focus on the pages that we want to rank. Not the extraneous pages that don’t add value.
The result: I got rid of over 23k pages of index bloat.
After the technical audit, the next step I took was to come up with a winning content strategy. Like technical optimization, I believe that content is also key to any well-rounded SEO strategy.
Before I started working on this project, the website was merely a blog. This meant that none of the content was SEO-optimized or written with any intention to rank. The website was full of 300-word articles on “January Favorites” or “My Quarantine Workout Routine”. These are great for social media marketing or if you have a large following, but these articles don’t actually satisfy any search queries and won’t rank.
This basically meant that I was starting from scratch. I had to pick the right niche, perform keyword research, and then have the new content written.
Picking the Right Niche
I knew we wanted to work within the beauty/lifestyle niche given the links already pointing to the website. However, I still had to decide on a sub-niche.
For niche research, I like using Exploding Topics. It allows you to discover topics that have been rapidly growing over the last couple of months/years.
You can simply select a category like ‘beauty’ and start browsing possible niches.
Profitable Niches with Weak Competition
Picking a niche isn’t as simple as picking something that’s currently trending. CBD oil is trending, but when you’re just starting out, it’s unrealistic to believe you can compete with the authority sites already dominating the niche.
That’s why I prefer to start with a sub-niche with weak competition (sites with a low Domain Rating (DR) and few referring domains) and then working my way up. So instead of CBD oil, I might do CBD syrup, CBD chocolate, CBD lozenges, CBD gum, etc. at the beginning.
To find sub-niches with weak competition, you can use a tool like Ahrefs.
Using Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, you can gauge how difficult it would be to rank for a specific keyword.
The SERP overview above is an example of what I’d like to see when looking for these profitable sub-niches with weak competition.
For a fairly strong keyword – best massage tables, three of the sites above have a DR below 30 and very few referring domains.
Note: You should plug in as much potential target keywords in the sub-niche as you can to determine the overall difficulty of ranking within that sub-niche
For this project, we decided to go with a rapidly growing topic in the beauty niche with low competition (average KD below 5).
Keyword Research & Content Planning
My approach to keyword research and content planning is fairly simple — to target the keywords your competition is already ranking for. That’s why it’s very important to start with a sub-niche with weak competition.
To do this, you can use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. Simply enter your competitor’s domain and take a look at the “Top Pages” tab.
I would do this for every competitor in the niche and build out a list of all the keywords they rank for.
With this list of keywords, you can then come up with a complete silo of highly-related content. This allows you to have a “topical authority” for that specific silo of keywords.
For this website, I came up with an initial list of over 30 keywords, all highly-related. At the same time, I had all the internal linking already planned out.
The Editorial Process
Now that I had a list of keywords, I had to get these 30+ articles written.
Luckily, because I manage a portfolio of affiliate/content sites, I already had an editorial team and process in place.
Our editorial process is loosely based off of the ‘Editorial System Blueprint’ by Authority Hacker.
First, I determine the search intent behind the keyword and assign it a “Content Type”. Examples of some of the content types we use are: Single Product Reviews, Round-Up Reviews, How-To Post, Vs post, etc.
The reason I determine search intent first is because we use different templates and guidelines depending on the search intent/content type.
To determine search intent, you just have to Google the query and take a look at the types of content already ranking.
For the query “best massage tables”, you easily tell that most of these are round-up reviews.
For this project, we wrote 24 round-up reviews, 9 question posts, and 2 how-to posts.
After determining search intent, I use Surfer SEO, specifically the content editor to help us write SEO-optimized content.
Surfer’s content editor gives you data-driven suggestions on how you should write your content.
Based on the top organic competitors, you get guidelines for word count, headings, prominent words, common phrases, etc.
Using Surfer has been so effective for us in the past that it is now built into our editorial process. Every single article we write is optimized with Surfer.
I can go on and on about how we use Surfer to optimize content, but this case study would be too long. If you want to learn more about Surfer, I suggest visiting their blog.
Now that I have Surfer’s content editor set up, I simply send the shareable link to my editorial team so they can start working on the first draft.
This draft is then passed between the writer and editor until they come up with a final draft that follows all the templates and guidelines we set out in the beginning.
Once the final draft is complete, the content should be ready for upload.
If you’re interested in content written and optimized this way, I actually provide this as a service at BoostZeus.
Link Building Strategy
The last step I took was to come up with the right link building strategy. Backlinks are still considered to be Google’s number 1 ranking factor and key to any well-rounded SEO strategy.
I started with a backlink audit and then used that to determine what type of links we needed to build moving forward.
The first thing I did was perform a full audit on the website’s backlink profile. Because the site owner is a popular influencer, the domain actually had a pretty strong backlink profile with around 900 referring domains and a 40+ DR.
Luckily, a lot of these links used branded anchor text (~80%) and were pointing to the homepage (~70%).
However, it was a mixed bag because over 60% of these referring domains had a DR less than 10. A lot of these come from aspiring bloggers inspired by this influencer.
But because these links were acquired naturally, I ultimately decided to leave them alone.
After the backlink audit, I immediately started sending guest posts to the most competitive keywords in the silo.
For these guest posts, I went with ABC Plus. The reason I went with ABC Plus is not only because they provide high-quality backlinks, but also because they could provide these backlinks at a consistent velocity.
I also left it to them to decide on which sites and anchor text were optimal. I highly recommend ABC Plus for those who want a hands-off link-building campaign executed by one the best in the industry.
We leveraged the fact that the persona behind the site is an actual influencer and used the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) platform to build high DR links to the homepage.
Using HARO, we’ve been able to get at least 1 high-quality link (average DR over 70) every month with minimal work put in.
The HARO platform is relatively easy to use. You just need to sign up to their mailing list and answer any queries you believe you are qualified to answer. If your answer is chosen, you’ll get a link.
Considering most the links you get from HARO are high DR, it’s definitely a link-building strategy worth pursuing.
The Tier 2 Network
We also recently started building tier 2 links to guest posts.
Because guest posts are brand new posts, they don’t have any referring domains pointing to them. Meaning they don’t have a high amount of page rank power.
To add power to your guest posts, you can simply build tier 2 PBN links to them.
For tier 2 links, we use The Tier 2 Network.
Unlinked Brand Mentions
*credit to Mark and Gael for giving me this idea
Because this influencer has such a strong social media presence, I assumed that there must be a lot of websites linking out to her social media properties and not her website.
This presents an easy link-building opportunity.
To find these websites, you can use Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool.
With the help of this tool, you can easily find sites that link to these social media profiles but don’t link to the website (yet).
Once you have added the respective links, click on “Show link opportunities”.
Once you find the websites linking to these social media properties but not the website, you can then reach out to these webmasters asking for a link to the website as well.
This case study presents a different path you can take to build your own affiliate/content sites. It’s not the typical build on a brand new or expired/auction domain.
As I’ve presented in this case study, an influencer partnership like this could lead into a huge win-win.
In the Affiliate Lab, Matt Diggity teaches us how to leverage influencer partnerships to build real E-A-T.
This case study is an example of that, but taken a step further. And by taking it a step further, results like this are easily achievable.
I hope this case study provided some value to you, whether you decide to actually partner with an influencer or learn something from one of the steps I took to get these results.