The 9-Step SEO Strategy for 2019

The 9-Step SEO Strategy for 2019 [NEW]

Today I’m going to show you a VERY effective SEO strategy for 2019.


In fact, I recently used these exact steps to rank #1 in Google for “Video SEO”.

And “keyword research tool”.

Let’s dive right in…


Step #1: Find an “Opportunity Keyword”

Let’s face it:

A #1 ranking isn’t what it used to be.

That’s because Google keeps adding stuff to the search results.

For example, look at the keyword “SEO Tools”:

SEO Tools – SERPs

You’ve got ads at the top of the page:

SEO Tools – Top ad

A Featured Snippet:

SEO Tools – Featured snippet

And a “People also Ask” box:

THEN you get to the #1 result:

SEO Tools – Number one result

That’s why you want to focus on Opportunity Keywords.

Opportunity Keywords are keywords with a high organic click-through-rate (CTR).

How about an example?

I recently created a post optimized around the term “SEO Audit”:

SEO Site Audit – Post

And “SEO Audit” is an Opportunity Keyword.

Sure, there are ads:

SEO Audit – Top ads

But that’s actually a good thing.

(More ads=higher commercial intent)

Other than ads, there isn’t a lot to distract people from the organic results:

SEO Audit – Organic results

You can also estimate organic CTR with Ahrefs.

Ahrefs homepage

For example, when I put “SEO Audit” into Ahrefs, it says that 61% of searchers click on a result.

SEO Audit – Ahrefs

Not bad.

Which leads us to…

Step #2: Analyze Google’s First Page

OK, so you found an Opportunity Keyword.

Now it’s time to see what’s already working for that keyword.

To do that, just type your keyword into Google.

Scan the top 10 results:

And jot down any patterns that you notice.

For example, the first page for “SEO Tools” is PACKED with lists of tools:

SEO Tools – List post highlights

So you’d want to jot down: “lots of list posts”.

Then, move onto step #3…

Step #3: Create Something Different… Or Better

When it comes to content, you’ve got two options:

Option #1: You can create something different.

Option #2: You can create something better.

Here’s how…


Sometimes you want to create something bigger and better than what’s out there.

(aka The Skyscraper Technique)

But sometimes you’re better off with content that’s completely different.


Because it helps your content STAND OUT.

For example:

A few months ago I sat down to write a piece of content optimized around: “Mobile SEO”.

And I noticed Google’s first page was littered with list posts, like: “X Ways to Mobile Optimize Your Site.”

Existing mobile SEO content


I could have created a BIGGER list post like: “150 Ways to Mobile Optimize Your Site”.

But that wouldn’t make any sense.

Instead, I created something totally different.

Specifically, I published an ultimate guide to mobile optimization.

Mobile SEO Guide – Post

And because my content stood out, it got a ton of shares:

Mobile SEO Guide – Shares


Mobile SEO Guide – Comments

And most important of all, backlinks:

Mobile SEO Guide – Backlinks


This is a lot more straightforward.

All you need to do is find out what’s working…

…and publish something WAY better.

For example:

A while back I noticed that most content about “SEO tools” only listed 10-20 tools.

And I knew that publishing another list of 20 tools wouldn’t work.

So I decided to create a list of 188 SEO tools.

SEO Tools post

And it did GREAT.

In fact, it now ranks in the top 3 for the keyword “SEO Tools”:

SEO Tools – Backlinko SERPs

Step #4: Add a Hook

Here’s the deal:

If you want to rank in 2019, you need backlinks.

You need backlinks to rank

Question is:


First, you need to figure out WHY people link to content in your industry.

(“The Hook”)

Then, include that “Hook” in your content.

For example:

Last year I noticed more and more bloggers writing about voice search.

Bloggers writing about voice search

I noticed something else too:

When people wrote about voice search, they linked to content that featured stats and data:

Voice search writing linked to content featuring stats and data

So I decided to do a voice search study that was PACKED with stats:

And it worked!

To date, this single post has racked up 848 backlinks:

Voice Search SEO study – Post backlinks

And 90%+ of these backlinks cite a specific stat from my post:

Backlinks cite specific stats from post

That said:

Data is just one type of Hook that you can use to get links to your content.

Here are 3 other Hooks that are working great right now:

New Approaches and Strategies

Think about it:

What do bloggers and journalists LOVE writing about?

New stuff!

And if you create something new, you’ve got yourself a hook.

For example, a few years ago, I coined the phrase “Guestographics”.

How to Get Backlinks – Post

This was a new strategy that no one knew about.

And because Guestographics were new (and had a unique name), 1,200 people have linked to my post so far:

Massive Guides

When you publish a massive guide, your guide itself is The Hook.

I’ll explain with an example…

A few years back I published Link Building: The Definitive Guide.

Link Building Post

It was (and still is) the most complete guide to link building out there.

Here’s where things get interesting…

Every now and again a blogger will mention “link building” in a post.

But they don’t have room to cover the entire topic.

So they link to my guide as a way for their readers to learn more:

Bloggers link out to my guide

Very cool.

Case Study Results

Case studies are GREAT for getting links.

But to get links to your case study, you need to feature a specific result.

For example, a while back I published this case study:

Content strategy post

This was a SUPER in-depth case study.

But I didn’t feature ONE result in the post.

Instead, I listed out 20+ results:

Content strategy post – Results

Which meant my case study didn’t have a single Hook for people to link to.

And very few people linked to it.

Flash forward to a few years later when I published this case study:

Increase Conversions – Post

This time, I focused on ONE result (a 785% increase in my blog’s conversion rate):

And that single result was The Hook that led to hundreds of links:

Hundreds of links from one result – Focus


Step #5: Optimize For On-Page SEO

This step is all about keyword-optimizing your content for SEO.

And here are the 3 on-page SEO strategies that are working best for me right now:

Internal Linking

Yup, internal linking still works.

But you have to do it right.

Specifically, you want to link FROM high-authority pages TO pages that need authority.

High authority pages

For example, I published Google Search Console: The Definitive Guide earlier this year.

Google Search Console – Post

So I found a page on my site with a ton of authority…

Google Ranking Factors – Post

…and linked from that page to my new guide.


Short, Keyword-Rich URLs

Our analysis of 1 million Google search results found something that surprised a lot of people:

Short URLs crush long URLs.

Short URLs are better than longer URLs

That’s why I make my URLs either just my keyword…

SEO Checklist – URL

… Or my target keyword plus one more word:

Backlinks Guide – URL

Either way works.

Semantic SEO

Finally, I optimize my content for Semantic SEO.

In other words:

I find words that are related to my target keyword.

Then, I use those terms in my content.

Here are the deets:

First, pop your keyword into Google Images.

Enter keyword into Google Images

And Google will give you words and phrases they consider closely-related to that topic:

Google Images – Related terms

Second, type the same keyword into normal Google search. And scroll down to the “Searches related to…” section.

Searches related to

Finally, sprinkle some of those terms into your content:

And you’re set.

Step #6: Optimize For User Intent

In other words: The Skyscraper Technique 2.0.

I’ll show you how this works with a quick example.

A few years ago I wrote a post about getting more traffic to your site.

Increase Website Traffic post – Older

It did OK.

But it never cracked the top 5 for my target keyword (“increase website traffic”).

And when I analyzed Google’s first page, I realized why:

My page didn’t satisfy user intent.

I’ll explain…

Most of the content ranking for “increase website traffic” listed bite-sized traffic tips.

But my post gave them a high-level process.

Backlinko – Increase website traffic post – High-level process

So I rewrote my content to match this keyword’s User Intent.

Specifically, I turned my process into a list post:

Increase Website traffic is now a list post

And now that my content matches User Intent, it ranks in the top 3 for my target keyword:

Which led to a 70.43% boost in organic traffic compared to the old version of the post:

Increase Website Traffic – Organic traffic boost

That said:

You can also publish User Intent optimized content right out of the gate.

In fact, that’s what I did with my recent post: The Ultimate SEO Audit.

SEO Site Audit – Post

I saw that most of the content ranking for “SEO Audit” listed out non-technical steps.

SEO Audit – Existing content – Non-technical steps

So I included simple strategies that anyone could use:

SEO Audit – Strategy examples

I even emphasized the fact that my audit was non-technical.

SEO Site Audit – Non-technical emphasis

(This hooks people so they don’t bounce back to the search results)

And this User Intent optimization (and my site’s Domain Authority…more on that later) helped my post crack the first page of Google within a month.

Step #7: Make Your Content Look Awesome

Design is THE most underrated part of content marketing.

You can have the best content ever written.

But if it looks like this…

Bad website

…it’s not gonna work.

That’s why I invest A LOT of time and money into content design.

For example, you’ve probably seen one of my definitive guides:

Google RankBrain SEO – Post

These guides are designed and coded 100% from scratch.

(Which makes them super expensive to make)

That said:

Great content design doesn’t have to break the bank.

In fact, here are 4 types of visual content that are super easy to pull off.

Graphs and Charts

These work so well that I try to include at least one chart in every post.

Include at least one chart in every post


Because they make data EASY to understand.

For example, take this stat from my mobile SEO guide.

Stat as text

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time picturing 27.8 billion ANYTHING.

So I had our designer create a nice chart.

Stat as graphic

As a bonus, people will sometimes use your chart in a blog post… and link back to you:

Graphic used by site with link

Screenshots and Pictures

You might have noticed that I use LOTS of screenshots in every post.

Brian uses lots of screenshots in every post

In fact, this single post has 78 screenshots:

SEO Checklist post – Screenshots

To be clear:

I don’t use screenshots just for the sake of using screenshots.

I only use them if it helps someone implement a specific step.

For example, these screenshots make the 2 steps from this guide dead-simple to follow:

Easy to follow steps using screenshots

That said:

Screenshots only make sense when you describe something technical.

What if you’re in a non-technical niche… like fitness?

Well, pictures serve the same purpose.

For example, my friend Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness uses pictures to show you how to do exercises the right way:

Picture used to demonstrate an exercise

Blog Post Banners

Unlike graphs and screenshots, blog post banners serve no practical purpose.

They just look cool 🙂

Depending on the post, I either use a right-aligned 220×200 image…

Square post image example

…or a giant banner at the top of the post:

Banner post image example

Graphics and Visualizations

Graphics and visualizations are kind of like charts.

But instead of visualizing data, they visualize concepts.

To be clear:

These DON’T have to be fancy.

For example, in this post I explain how all 4 versions of your site should redirect to the same URL:

Visualization redirect example

This isn’t rocket science.

But it’s hard to picture this idea in your mind.

So our designer made a simple visual that makes this concept easy to understand.

Redirect visualization

Now it’s time to actively build links to your content.

Specifically, we’re going to tap into 3 link building strategies that are working GREAT right now.

Broken Link Building

Here’s where you find a broken link on someone’s site…

…and offer your content as a replacement.

For example, this is an outreach email that I sent to a blogger in the marketing niche:

Outreach email to blogger

(Note how specific I am. I don’t say “Please consider linking to me in a blog post”. I have a specific place on a specific page where my link makes sense)

And because I helped the person out BEFORE asking for anything, they were happy to add my link:

Blogger – Happy to add Brian's link

Competitor Analysis

This strategy is old school.

But it still works.

First, find a site that’s ranking for a keyword you want to rank for.

For example, I’m trying to rank for the keyword “SEO Audit”.

So I grab this result from the first page…

SEO Audit SERPs with Ahrefs highlight

…and look at their backlinks.

Ahrefs – Page backlinks

I can see that this page has links from 160 domains:

Ahrefs page – Referring domains

So I should be able to get at least a handful of the same links they have.

To do that, I go one-by-one through their backlinks.

Go through backlinks – Ahrefs

And find pages where my link would add value.

For example, this post mentions the Ahrefs content by name:

Post mentioning Ahrefs' content by name

There’s no reason to link to my post there. So I moved onto the next opportunity on the list.

And I came across this post:

Good candidate post

This time, the link to Ahrefs is part of a big list of resources.

Link to Ahrefs – Part of a resource list

A list that would be even BETTER and more complete with a link to my SEO audit post.

Evangelist Method

This strategy is less about links… and more about getting your content in front of the right people.

(Specifically: people that run blogs in your niche)

I’ll explain how this strategy works with an example…

A while back I wanted to promote a new Skyscraper Technique case study.

So I used BuzzSumo to see who recently shared content about The Skyscraper Technique.

BuzzSumo – Recent Skyscraper Technique shares

And emailed everyone a variation of this template:

Outreach template

And when they replied “sure, I’ll check it out”, I sent them a link to the post:

Outreach template reply

(Note how I DON’T ask for a share. This is a Judo move that makes your outreach stand out)

Which led to dozens of shares to my brand post:

Resultant shares of template use

Step #9: Improve and Update Your Content

This is working amazingly well right now.

You might have read about the time that I used The Content Relaunch to boost my organic traffic by 260.7%:

Content relaunch post

And I’m happy to tell you that this approach still works.

For example, last year I relaunched this list of SEO techniques.

SEO Techniques – Post

But I didn’t just re-post the same content and call it “new”.

Instead, I went through and removed old screenshots and images:

Removed screenshots

Added new strategies:

Added new strategies

And deleted strategies that didn’t work anymore:

Deleted old strategies

The result?

An 62.60% organic traffic boost to that page:

Organic traffic increase result

Bonus Step #1: Increase Your Domain Authority

This is the ultimate SEO superhack.

When you have a high Domain Authority, SEO gets A LOT easier.

For example, let’s look at the keyword “SEO audit”:

According to Ahrefs, you need backlinks from 108 websites to rank for this term:

Ahrefs – Backlinks needed to rank for term

But my content cracked the top 3 within weeks…

Backlinko content cracked top 3 for

…with only 38 websites linking to me:

Ahrefs – Only 38 sites linking to Backlinko's top 3 content

That’s the power of Domain Authority.

Here are 3 ways to increase your Domain Authority:

Content Partnerships

Partnerships can 2-5x the number of shares and links that you get from your content.

For example, my friend Larry Kim and I co-created this infographic:

Brian / Larry Kim – Infographic

And we both promoted it to our audiences on the same day:

Brian Dean / Larry Kim – Joint promotion tweets

Which got our infographic in front of thousands of people.

In fact, I still get links from this co-branded content… 2+ years later:

Cobranded content still gets backlinks years later

Publish Studies and Data

I touched on this in Step #4.

But it’s worth repeating.

In fact, if you look at my site, 3 of my top 5 most linked-to posts are studies or data-driven guides:

Most linked-to posts are studies or data-driven guides

Guest Posts, Interviews, Speaking Gigs (and Yes) Roundup Posts

In other words:

Get your name out there… and the links will follow.

In fact, when I first started Backlinko, I guest posted like crazy:

Brian guest posts from when Backlinko first started

I went on any podcast that would have me:

Brian went on many podcasts

And I spent hours flying to countries like Romania and the Czech Republic to speak at conferences:

Brian speaking at a conference

Even that wasn’t enough…

I was so determined to promote Backlinko that I added an “Interview Me” page on my site:

Brian – Interview me page

(That “Interview Me” page didn’t work. But at least I tried 🙂 )

Basically: I hustled to get my name out there.

It didn’t happen overnight.

But over time, all this work resulted in a ton of exposure… and links.

Bonus Step #2: Build a Community on Your Site

A while back Google said that comments can help your rankings:

Comments can help your rankings

To be clear:

I’m not convinced that blog comments are a direct Google ranking factor.

But I am convinced that a community indirectly helps with SEO.

(For example, community members are more likely to share your stuff on social media)

With that, here are 2 quick tips for getting more comments on every post:

Be Picky

This is counterintuitive.

But stay with me…

Imagine you just read an AWESOME post.

And you want to leave a comment with your two cents.

But when you hit the comments section, you see this:

Spammy comment

Are you still going to leave that comment? Probably not.

That’s why I’m SUPER picky about the comments I let through.

And this pickiness fosters great discussions, like this:

Great discussion in the comments section

Reply To Comments

I reply to 90% of the comments that come in.

And considering we have 24,189 total comments on the Backlinko blog…

Backlinko – Total comments

…that’s approximately 21,000 replies.

Wow. That’s a lot of replies.

And I have ZERO regrets about replying to so many comments.


These replies show people that I care.

Which turns random commenters into active members of the Backlinko Community.

Now I’d Like To Hear From You

There you have it:

My 9-step SEO strategy for 2019.

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Which strategy from today’s post are you ready to try first?

Are you going to update and relaunch older content?

Or maybe you want to try Broken Link Building.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

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