In May 2019, I started my blog from scratch. No content, no traffic, no audience, no network.

Less than two years later, I have 15’000 unique visitors coming to my website every month.

A big part of my modest success is coming from the learnings I got from other SEO experts.

Understanding what the other does, helped me to develop my strategies and tactics to acquire organic traffic. 

Today, it’s time for me to share and tell you:

  • How I created my first content?
  • How I got my first backlinks (without paying)?
  • How I built linkable assets?
  • How I promote and boost my articles?

And more stuff…

As you can see, I went through many milestones and increased my website’s traffic over time.

If you are building a B2B blog or running a business and need to grow your website traffic and brand, you might find these tactics helpful.

How to Grow a Blog

Together we are going to take 10 minutes and see what’s hidden behind each question mark… Ready?

Be outstanding, write long-form

When I started my blog, I didn’t really know what to write. I only knew that my blog would speak about SEO and Digital Marketing.

What will be my first article?

While browsing the internet, I discovered a new format of Stories powered by AMP: AMP Stories, now called Web Stories

My curiosity guided me to build my very first AMP Story

As I spent hours searching and learning about this new format. I told myself that I could simply share my findings in a blog post.

This is how I started my blog by sharing my research.

The AMP Stories format was already one year old in 2019, and a few notable blogs and websites were speaking about this topic. 

Does it make sense to write another blog post on the same topic?

How will I get traffic and compete with the articles already on Google?

(Did you already asked yourself these questions?)

My strategy was to write something outstanding and differentiate myself from the others. I have to offer content that is 10x times better than what is already available on the internet. 

I need to stand out with my content.

Brian Dean and his skyscraper technique inspired me a lot. The Skyscraper technique is a link building strategy. 

The strategy consists of creating content that is way better than other articles on the same topic and then reaching out to the bloggers linking to these articles, and asking them to link to you instead.

The Skyscraper technique

Therefore I decided to follow his advice. At least for the content creation part.

While drafting my first article, I’ve developed my SEO copywriting process.

My approach consists of analyzing the SERP and extracting essential information from each article on the first page of Google.

This is how I ended up with an excel file like the one below. Listing headlines ( H1, H2, H3), number of words, number of images and more data.

analysing the serp manually

This information helps to understand each article on the SERP and the topics they cover.

My goal is to create a “holistic article” covering every single topic already “available” on the SERP. On top of it, I will add extra information or go deeper into specific topics – fill the (content) gap.

create a holistic article

When I started SEO and my blog back in April 2019, I didn’t really know the search intent concept. But it became evident to me that the more topics you cover in your article, the more search intent you will cover. 

In other words, your article will be displayed for a larger variety of search queries.

Besides search engines, I assumed that by writing something detailed, comprehensive, and long, my readers would see me as an expert. 

Indeed when you are just starting a new website, it is better to start with something memorable. People landing on your article must have a “whoa effect”.

By the way, I’m not saying that long forms are the best SEO format. I’m just saying it worked for me. 

Long-form content helped me to:

  • Cover a large set of search queries and drive organic traffic
  • Build authority and expertise on a topic

Comprehensive / Long Form is still my main content strategy. (As you can see.)

To come back to my first article, once it was published, I did not instantly reach the first page of Google. (Indeed, I’m not a magician).

Writing comprehensive content is not enough. My domain authority was still close to zero back in May 2019. I needed to connect with other websites to be part of the world wide web. 

As I followed the Skyscraper technique, the next step was naturally to do blogger outreach.

Hey, you! Do you have a backlink for me?

Once you have this great piece of content, you should contact other bloggers. You must identify websites mentioning the topic covered by your article and contact them for a link.

It is the next step of the Skyscraper technique: Doing blogger outreach and sending cold emails.

Alright. 

I made a list of websites speaking about AMP Stories, and I will contact the owners and ask for a backlink. Easy.

My article is far better than any other articles. They won’t refuse this excellent opportunity to link to “samuelschmitt.com”.

I tried outreaching to bloggers for one week. Then I stopped.

SEO Meme - backlink - lionel richie

Let me ask you something: What will you do if a total stranger (and on top of this with a brand new website) asks you to replace a link on your site pointing to a popular website? 

You will press the delete button, or maybe reply, “No thanks.”

Nobody will replace his link to neilpatel.com with a link to samuelschmitt.com (Even if my content is ten times better than Neil’s one).

Maybe my outreach approach was not good enough to bring results, or I didn’t try long enough. But it was just frustrating, and I would instead use my time to create value by creating new content than sending cold emails.

Still, I needed my first backlinks to get more authority and rank my article about AMP Stories on the first page of Google.

Instead of doing blogger outreach, this is what I did.

Content seeding and finding influencers

I believed that my article about AMP Stories could help a lot of people.

So I decided to share it with people who are looking for help. If people find it helpful, they might reshare it and even link to my website. 

At the same time, I tried to engage with influencers to get my article share with a larger audience.

All my actions happened at the same place: Twitter. It is the perfect place to find SEO experts and engage with them.

So I started to search for people struggling with the AMP Stories. I engaged with them, offered help and invited them to read my article. 

I got positive feedback as my article was comprehensive. People were happy as I was delivering value. They shared it.

I got a few shares on Twitter, which was already incredible. But I needed something bigger. A key influencer of the SEO industry should share it.

One day, I saw a thread involving several people from Google speaking about AMP Stories. Including John Mueller. Maybe one of the most influential people in the SEO industry. 

I dropped a link to my article in the thread and crossed my fingers.

A few hours later, I saw an increase in my website traffic. 

What is going on?

John Muller just retweeted my article. His tweet helped me to be seen by a wider audience.

The snowball effect is that other influencers saw my content and published it in their newsletter (such as Barry Schwartz). 

The wheel started to spin, more people saw my content, and I started to get my first backlinks. 

I do believe that this approach is more gratifying than cold emailing bloggers.

First, you offer value to people who are looking for help. Second, you interact with them and expand your network. 

By being shared by influencers, it is as well a social proof. If an expert shares the content, I’m seen as a kind of expert as well.

This is the first jump I got in my website traffic. My domain authority increased slightly, and I reached the first page for the AMP Stories keyword.

I don’t know precisely the number of backlinks I got at this time. Maybe I could have got a similar amounts of backlinks if I would have done a proper outreach campaign. (But we will never know…)

In the end, seeding content was not only to get backlinks. But to engage with the community and start building a network.

In your niche, you must as well find a place where your audience shares and communicates. It could be social media or a forum. There are also influencers, people with a resonating voice. 

My advice is to focus on building a network by sharing content than doing cold outreach for backlinks. Comprehensive and long-form content could be as well a suitable format for content seeding. 

Content seeding is as well time-consuming. I needed to find a system that can naturally get me backlinks and build up my (brand) authority. This system should as well influence the way people from my niche (SEO) see me.

Linkable assets

Mentions are essential for the success of a website. More your brand is seen, more you get backlinks.

To get more mentions without begging for it. I decided to follow a product-led strategy to build links. This strategy is not new; other brands are doing this.

After analyzing a few companies and their strategy to generate backlinks and brand mentions, I decided to develop a free and awesome SEO tool.

The requirements were the following:

  • The tool must be free
  • Offer a lot of value
  • Be easy to use
  • Has no friction to start with
  • And generate recurrent visits to my website

I expected that the tool would help me build a relationship with my audience and also that my audience will start promoting the tool – because they like it.

This will result in backlinks, social media share and other mentions of my brand.

If you follow me for a while, you know what I will introduce now. 

Indeed, I’ve built a free tool back in summer 2019: thruuu, an awesome SERP analyzer.

thruuu is a free SEO tool and it will help you with copywriting.

The tool fulfilled my criteria:

  • It is free
  • It offers a lot of value (analyzing the SERP for free offer a lot of value)
  • It is very user friendly. In one simple click, you get access to a ton of data
  • It has no friction as you didn’t need to create an account to use it

On the 4th of September 2019, the first version of thruuu went live. (Discover all the great features of thruuu)

Releasing a new tool won’t give me backlinks overnight. Such as with the content, I have to promote it. 

My strategy was more direct, and my promotion campaign took the shape of an email blast. To be more precise, I didn’t send emails but connection requests on LinkedIn. 

At the same period, I discovered a tool that automates connection requests on LinkedIn. With ProspectIn, and its free trial, I could send 100 connection request per day for 15 days. 

I used the ProspectIn to connect with SEO experts on LinkedIn for two weeks. 

The invitation message was always the same. I asked SEO experts to try my free tool and give feedback audience. (Check your inbox, maybe you received it.)

You could consider this approach as spammy. (Shame on me…)

But as I was not selling anything and asked for a simple feedback, I got a lot of positive feedback. Something between 15% and 20% response rate (I don’t find the exact statistics anymore)

As people can test the tool without friction, they saw that my intention was not to capture their email address and later on spam them with other stuff.

My request was legit, by the way. I also wanted feedback to improve the tool (and got great feedback).

This initial outreach campaign helps me to spread the name of thruuu within the SEO community. People started to share it and speak about it. 

I got great articles about the tool and even one from a Japanese blog. Something that I could never reach with a blogger outreach campaign.

This is how I got a peak of traffic in November 2019.

This strategy worked very well, and now about 15% of all backlinks come from the tool.

Overall I earned more than backlinks and developed a brand.

You might be wondering how to do the same for your website, blog or company.

Suppose you work in the IT business and especially in the SaaS business. Building an application or giving away a part of your tool for free could be doable. 

If you are in another niche and can’t build complex tool, there is always stuff to consider, such as calculators (e.g. Insurance Calculator, Tax Calculator, Word Count calculators.)

First mover advantage

In May 2020, Google announced that the page experience will be a new ranking factor and introduced at the same time the Core Web Vitals. 

After reading this news, I had the feeling that it could become something big: A new ranking signal involving some technical aspect. I thought that this would make some noise in the next few months.

I posted a message on LinkedIn to evaluate if the topic is interesting. Surprisingly, I got a lot of engagement. 

I decided to spend the weekend searching and writing on the topic and offering the first complete guide about the Core Web Vitals.

On the following Monday, the first articles about the Core Web Vitals were already out. Neil Patel, Search Engine Journal and other big SEO publishers were ready before me. It was not a bad news. I could analyze what they were saying.

I noticed that they were not that complete. The articles explained the “what” but not the “how”. Topics such as how to improve your website or how to fix the Core Web Vitals were missing. 

I spend a few more days writing and add more details to my article. I covered the missing parts.

Writing comprehensive content associated with the “First Mover approach” worked like a charm.

Six days later. 6’000 words later. I published two articles: One in English and one in French. (Indeed, I’m French if you don’t know yet). 

After hitting the publish button, I started to promote the article. (We will speak in detail about “how to promote an article” in the next section). 

Luckily, my article was welcomed by the SEO community and by search engines. Here some stats, one week after its publication:

  • 3700 views of the article
  • 4’500 users on my site
  • 10+ backlinks ( one from Search Engine Roundtable)
  • 45 new subscribers
  • Mentioned by top SEO experts
  • 7th on Google US, 2nd on Google France 

Even John Muller liked it. And I didn’t seed any content this time.

This tactic has many advantages. 

First, you can compete against more authoritative websites. Your advantage is speed. You can be the first on Google. 

On top of this, if your article is more comprehensive, you will have the advantage to cover more aspects of the topic – meaning a widespread set of search terms.

A second advantage is that you will be the source for the futures articles on the same topic.

Everybody preparing an article or searching for “Core Web Vitals” in June 2020 might have read my article. It helped me to get additional mentions and backlinks. 

It built my website authority, and my expertise was again shared within the wonderful world of SEO.

Boost the promotion of your content on social media

Promoting content is as essential as writing it. You cannot just press the publish button and wait. 

To maximize your effort, you need to promote your new piece of content actively.

As I mentioned before, one of my first tactics was to seed content on Twitter. I used this a lot at the very beginning of my blog. To start building an initial authority and a network. 

Now, I focus more on an initial social media boost to expose my article to the largest audience possible.

For my recent articles, I follow more or less the same process to promote them. 

I will highlight what I’ve done for my article about Topic Cluster published in November 2020. This one got massive press coverage (and if you didn’t read it yet, it’s time to catch up). 

To promote my articles, I use only one social media. It’s not Twitter but LinkedIn. It is where I communicate the most with other people to build my network.

My promotion tactic happens in two steps. 

I start with a first post on LinkedIn to tease my audience about my next content. 

Here I follow the “best practices” of a LinkedIn post:

  • Two first lines to bring attention
  • An image that SEOs likes (such as a graphic from GSC or GA)

Then when people click on the post, they see more content where

  • I explain my story to get some interest
  • I ask if people want to know more
  • And finally, tell them that I’m coming soon with a new article, and if they want to read it, they have to drop a like or a comment

LinkedIn algorithm wants engagement. It is essential that people like and comment on your post. Then the post will be displayed to more people in the network and so on.

Writing a post like this follows the AIDA model. 

AIDA and linkedin

AIDA represents a marketing model and customer stages with Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. It can as well be used for copywriting, landing page copy or even cold email.

By the way, I’m not following this writing model all the time. Basically, I try to tell an engaging story in a few lines and ask for a like and comment.

You might tell yourself that I’m not the only one doing this kind of post on LinkedIn. 

But usually, what happens is that a few days later, the author will come back to you with a direct message containing the link to the article, whitepaper or webinar. 

My approach is slightly different. 

A few days later, once the article is done, I publish a new LinkedIn post with a link to the article.

(By the way, sometimes I start writing after the first Linkedin post. It gives me more motivation and a kind of deadline. Also, I can see if people are interested in the topic).

So how do I boost it? 

Well, I used the audience generated by the first post to boost the new post. 

My first post helps me get a segmented and engaged audience, and I will ask them to visit the new post and engage with it to promote the article.

promote content on linkedin

What I’m doing with the second post takes about one hour or two. I will contact manually every person who liked or commented on the previous post and share the link to the new LinkedIn post. 

Also, I asked them to drop a like and a comment. And, I chat a bit with them if they are available. That’s why it can take two hours… 

Thanks to their engagement, the new post is getting more and more visible in the network.

This tactic works pretty well as the audience coming from the first post is highly qualified. Meaning they are my target audience and waiting for the new article. So they are willing to drop a like and a nice comment.

My advice is to build your network over time by sharing quality stuff. Then you will get rewarded. 

This is what happened to me with the Topic Cluster article in November 2020. 

Starting from a good promotion on LinkedIn, the article has been viewed and shared by international experts on Twitter. Thanks to Cyrus Shepard, Glenn Gabe and other important people in the SEO business, more people saw the article.

I took this example because it’s the most outstanding. Also, I guess the promotion is key, and it is the quality of the article and the development of my network that helped me get this result. 

And here we come to the final part of this article.

Focus on quality

For me, quality rhymes with a comprehensive article full of researches. 

I can spend 20 hours or 30 hours on an article because I do a lot of research to understand the topic inside out before synthesizing it in 3’000 words or more.

As we speak about word count. My approach is not to write long content. But comprehensive, detailed, holistic content.

For sure, often my articles are long because it’s complicated to be detailed in only 800 words.

Don’t think about word count but about topic depth.

Don't think about word count but about topic depth.

Also, keep in mind that your audience has plenty of resources available on the web. Why will they take 10 or 20 minutes to read your article?

I assumed that people don’t want to waste their time browsing the internet to find an answer to their question. They need information and fast without wasting their time. 

If you offer all the information they need in one place, your chances of being read are getting higher. (But you can disagree)

Also, by focusing on quality, you are seen as an expert. You build trust with your audience.

By sharing, again and again, interesting articles, this trust will grow and increase the success of your next article to be seen, read, shared, liked, linked… 

Quality and expertise are important factors when you start a new website. 

If you write a new post right now, take one more week and make it more detailed. Do more research. I can bet that you will have more success.

Build your brand and network

This is not about on-page SEO or link building. It is even not about SEO… Or maybe it is? 

The importance of your network. 

All the actions that I have performed over the last two years helped me grow my network. 

By sharing great stuff, I met new people and got new collaboration opportunities (such as Guest Post if we speak about SEO). 

But it goes beyond SEO. 

To have a successful website, you cannot be alone. As your website needs backlinks, you need to connect with your peers. 

To have a successful website, you cannot be alone. As your website needs backlinks, you need to connect with your peers.

Overall your network will have a positive impact on your website as your online reputation matters. I assumed that all the brand signals, when you are mentioned somewhere else on the web, are used by search engines.

Don’t be afraid to connect and build new connections. 

Also, you can connect with me.

Experiment, fail and learn 

I shared with you today all the strategies that worked for me. Also, I tried stuff that didn’t work. 

When I started my website, I had an experimental approach. I was testing different types of content, different ways of publishing, different ways of building backlink. 

Today, I shared what works for me, and hopefully, this could help you with your strategy. 

Use them, try them. Maybe it will work for you. Maybe you will have to adapt them. Or maybe it won’t work in your niche.

But you have to try. You have to measure and repeat what works. 

Building a website from scratch, growing an audience and a brand need consistency. You will also see that over time your effort will pay off.

Don’t hesitate to come back to me and share your expertise, strategies and tactics. I’m always curious to see what the others do.

28 comments

  1. In order to grow your audience and brand without spending a dime, you need to provide consistent content. You also need to produce quality posts that are not just good, but GREAT! You see that over time your effort will pay off.

  2. To read this art was time consuming but time spent very well :). It will help me a lot with may poor website about Oriflame cosmetics. My next art will be a lot longer and comprehensive. Thanks 🙂 Do You have maybe a newsletter?

  3. Felicidades Samuel. Haces que lo difícil parezca fácil… Escribir un artículo mejor que nadie, como bien dices puede llevarte casi o tada una semana. Pero además conseguir eque alguien como Y.Muller de Google lo enlace y te nombre… es algo casi imposible de conseguir. A partir de ahí, entiendo que las puertas empiezan a abrirse. Pero además, has creado un app. Esto también ha dado muy buen resultado, pero también está la alcance de muy pocos… Luego está el uso de una herramienta para aumentar los seguidores en LinkedIn, lo que te ha dado más alcance. M egusta mucho como creas expectación antes de publicar un nuevo artículo, pero supongo que el resultado de respuesta está muy ligado a este alcance que has conseguido después de expandirte gracias al paso anterior… En fin has puesto en práctica muchas estrategias, pensadas, meditadas, pero alguna no son replicables por todos los públicos. Son bastante difíciles de conseguir. Pero… el que no arriesga no gana y para muestra ya estás tú.
    Muchas gracias.

  4. Thanks for a great article. I am from Norway. Has up to now only been doing Norwegians websites, but is thinking of also doing in English. In your article you mentioned publishing both in French and English. How does this work? Do you have two LinkedIn accounts for this? Different websites? Hope to hear from you

  5. Hi Yvette. 

    Indeed, I publish in both EN and FR.Usually, I start with the EN version, (even though I’m french ) and then once it is final, I translate to french.My website is almost available in both language.

    For my LinkedIn profile, I have only one personal account. I mix between English and French. But I share more often in English.

    What I could do is posting something on LI in EN… and then one week later post a similar message in FR. 

    HTH
    Sam

  6. Hi Mariola,

    I will reply in English. 

    Indeed, writing a long article is not easy. I spend about 30h+ … But I guess it is doable by many people. Just a matter of time.

    Being shared by John Muller is almost impossible, but I guess if you produce something really valuable you increase your chance to be seen and shared by key people in your industry.

    With thruuu, this is the complicated part. As I can develop, I didn’t need to invest too much money. But if you are a company you can invest in the development of an application that will support the growth of your brand, blog, business.

    At the end, Im only sharing my journey, Maybe it could help people. 

    And as you said, “Pero… el que no arriesga no gana y para muestra ya estás tú.” 😉

    Thanks a lot for your feedback.

    Muchas gracias.
    Sam

  7. This is really a great article with all required information. As you mentioned word count is not the matter. I have small posts on Google page 1 and top keyword ‘time is precious’ ‘always be happy’ etc. I am not an expert but self learning from blogs and doing.

  8. Hey Samuel, great tips you mentioned on the start, regarding pitching ideas to world known niche experts using Twitter. I believe most of new bloggers (including me by the way) are afraid to be ignored and decide to avoid loosing time for things like this. But if you truly believe that your piece of the content are of a top quality – it’s a great tip to start from.

  9. Awesome article, Samuel! I have used your free tool for a very long time now, but I didn’t know you had an awesome blog also until Ahrefs recommended this article in their newsletter 😀 Thanks for a great article – I’ll look forward to the next one 🙂

  10. Though the article is moderate in length but it contains majority of what i was looking out for especially on the area of backlinks which i am struggling to get myself.
    But thanks for it all the same. hopefully in your next article, i will like you to emphasize more on that skyscraper technique in building backlinks.
    Great writeup. keep it up

  11. Excellent article, Samuel. Like you, I learned early on that cold-emails requesting links is a poor use of my time. Social media outreach was a game-changer for me.

    This article was my first exposure to your work. It won’t be the last.

  12. Hi Mr. KingsHOK,

    The twitter tactics worked well at the beginning, when I started and needed to build a network.
    Now Im seeding less content than 2 years ago. I focus more on social boost.

  13. This article help me a lot develop strategy for my website. The thing I like a lot is everyone says “Word Count is matters” but you very well mentioned word count is not the matter.

    Awesome article. Love From India.

  14. Wow, I know that it is really difficult to write such long and comprehensive article, I admire. I will try to do it like You are . Thanks a lot for Your advices.

  15. Before I was a ahref blog fan but now I am yours too. Thank you for your article. Great value.

  16. Thanks for this awesome feedback.
    AHREF is one of my goto blog for SEO stuff… Happy that you like the quality of my content. I wish I could just produce content more frequently 🙂

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