The Secret to Search Engine Optimization

For most of us, marketing is more than digital, and digital marketing is more than search engine optimization (SEO). Nevertheless, anyone who wishes to build an audience online must follow some fundamental SEO best practices. The secret to search engine optimization is there is no secret.

Learning from Affiliate Sites

Doug Cunnington

Doug Cunnington, founder of Niche Site Project

Doug Cunnington is the founder of the Niche Site Project, where he writes about using effective project management and digital marketing techniques to create profitable Amazon affiliate sites. Affiliate sites contain highly focused content – product comparisons for instance – that earn high search engine rankings. The sites also include “buy now” links that point to When visitors use those links to navigate to Amazon and make a purchase, the owner of the referring affiliate site earns a small fee. For example, I Googled “best juicer” and the top result was (“Guide to the Best Juicers”). The site is chock full of comparison tables, ratings, product photographs, demonstration videos, articles, tips, recipes, and other content very useful to somebody shopping for a juicer. Of course, “buy now” buttons are ubiquitous:
Juicer Fanatics Screenshot

Juicer Fanatics Amazon Affiliate Site

A highly trafficked and effective affiliate site can generate thousands of dollars per month of “passive” income for its owner. Furthermore, such sites rely almost entirely on organic search traffic. Consequently, people like Doug are highly motivated to develop and apply effective search engine optimization techniques. You don’t have to manage affiliate sites to learn from those who do. VISIT NICHE SITE PROJECT

The Secret to Search Engine Optimization

According to Doug, search engine optimization results stem primarily from the disciplined and consistent application of a handful of best practices.

Here are the four key action items I took away from my conversation with Doug:
  • Focus – really work hard to define your niche. Value is personal and situational. Put yourself in your target’s shoes. What kind of questions is she likely to ask? It’s not a coincidence that Juicer Fanatics is focused on, umm, juicers and not the much broader category of home appliances.
  • Create Great Content – Doug emphasizes the need to do your homework in order to create content that hasn’t already been done a million times before. If your content isn’t useful to visitors, your site isn’t going to rank high in search results.
  • Research Keywords Upfront – search engines yield results for specific search phrases. Use a tool such as Google Keyword Planner to find out what phrases people actually use. Why guess?
  • Solicit Backlinks – identify other sites that might find your content useful and ask them to link to your website. Links to your site from numerous, authoritative sites will increase the visibility of your site. As a rule of thumb, Doug recommends that you spend as much time marketing your content as you invest in producing it.

What Is Great Content?

My mom thinks all of my work is great. That means diddley when it comes to search engine optimization. Notwithstanding the artistic merit of your content, the requirement for cutting through the noise of the internet is quite high. That means there is never an end to your efforts to improve. A few years ago, Rand Fishkin (a co-founder at Moz, the SEO tools company) asserted “uniquely valuable” content is the goal:
Unique content simply means that those words, in that order, don’t appear anywhere else on the web. Unique value refers to the usefulness and takeaways derived by visitors to the page. Many pages can be “valuable,” but few provide a truly unique kind of value — one that can’t be discovered on other pages targeting that keyword phrase. Whenever I advise marketers on crafting pages, I ask them to put themselves in the minds of their potential visitors, and imagine a page that provides something so different and functional that it rises above everything else in its field.
It seems like an impossible task. Each one of us must compete with the aggregate and cumulative output of the world wide web. That’s why there is no shortcut to success. The good news is that discipline, hard work, and perseverance have a cumulative effect on success, too.