When I became the copywriter at the call technology company Phonexa, I had to crack down on several unexplored topics, one of which completely fascinated me and had me spellbound during and after work hours. While immersed in my research and pumping out at least 2,000 words a day on the topic, I noticed that I was slowly consumed by the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

I read, breathed, and slept on the topic. I practiced it on my own personal blog site before publishing my findings on forums and professional platforms. I worked day and night, sometimes sleeping at 4 a.m. on weekends, trying to optimize my content just right so that I could become a thought leader in my field and get my buried website ranking on big search engines like Google.

The miracle

One day, while trying out my two key phrases on Google search, a miracle happened. I made it onto the first page of Google for both key phrases.

I had literally beat out over 10 million other related websites in the same niche and climbed my way to the first page. I remained in that spot for two months straight. Those were probably the most exciting two months of my blogging life.

How I did it

This was what I did to start ranking quickly—without the use of authority backlinks because I didn’t give myself enough time for that. Yes, you can still rank highly without backlinks! You just won’t make as large of an impact (we’ll talk more about that in a bit). These were my top SEO essentials during those few weeks:

  1. I minimized images to increase my page loading speed.
  2. I injected keywords in all of my image titles and added alt descriptions.
  3. I published daily keyword-rich articles that matched my meta descriptions.
  4. I optimized my meta descriptions, article headlines, and website titles to reflect the page content.
  5. I commented on a wealth of related blog posts from authority domains (and left a trail of my links behind).
  6. I submitted my blog to reviewing websites.
  7. I engaged in forums and left a trail of my links behind.
  8. I optimized my links to be as clean as possible, without unnecessary numbers or extraneous characters
  9. I submitted my sitemaps to Google.
  10. I created a complex internal link structure within my blog articles.

When it collapsed

These were my chores, day in and day out. Everything worked perfectly as planned—until I recognized a disheartening trend.

Despite doing everything in my power to climb onto the first page within a matter of days (and succeeding), I still didn’t earn many organic clicks. If anything, my metrics looked better before I started ranking.

Here’s a chart of what my metrics looked like during that time (I was ranking during September and October):

This was definitely not the most encouraging sight, but data doesn’t lie. I was clearly doing something wrong.

I finally went back to the drawing board, this time determined to not let my ego speak louder than the facts. After careful observation and analysis, I realized that I had committed a few common ego-driven mistakes that many SEO newbies tend to make.

The common beginner SEO mistakes I was making

The gravest failure of all was that I had purposefully chosen highly unsaturated key phrases so that it would be easier for me to rank on the first page. It’s common practice to see marketing blogs advising SEO beginners to choose a website niche that is less competitive, or “unsaturated.”

The problem with this is that it doesn’t actually teach the SEO beginner how to maximize his or her traffic. The less impacted a niche is, the less traffic you will get—even if you rank highly. For example, if a webmaster decides to write about blogging, he or she will naturally have a larger pool of audience than a webmaster who writes about the habits of sun bears. The topic is just too specific.

This is why choosing a more saturated niche might be a whole lot more difficult to start ranking, but will pay off in the end; whereas choosing a hyper-unique, unsaturated niche will make it easier to start ranking, but won’t pull in as much traffic in the long run.

Secondly, I neglected the marketing schedule I was previously committed to because I was so focused on optimizing my page for the ultra-specific niche I had chosen. I stopped posting regularly, stopped marketing on my social media channels, and completely halted my regular meetings with Facebook group leaders for project collaborations.

Google Keyword Planner reported that both of my two key phrases have an average of 0-100 searchers per month. That’s close to nothing at all. Although I knew of their search frequency before I attempted to improve my rankings, I thought that it wouldn’t make much of a difference if I were to land on the first page of Google, anyway. What a grand misunderstanding of SEO!

It’s no wonder why my traffic plummeted.

It’s not about the ranking

My advice to you is to aim higher. If you’re going to rank, rank for something worthwhile. Be brave and choose saturated keywords.

By the words of the millionaire blogger Jon Morrow “Crowded niches got that way for a reason: they work. […] For a savvy marketer, no niche is ever too crowded. Standing out is a matter of having a more intimate understanding of your readers than the competition.”

This means that the more competitive a niche or keyword may be, the more you’re able to gauge the audiences’ interest in those topics. Alas, it’s not about the ranking. It’s about the keywords that you’re trying to rank for.

Although it was nice to be at the top of the ladder for two months, I eventually swallowed my pride and went back to doing the real grunt work of SEO marketing: guest blogging, consistently producing high-quality content, and pitching my articles to authority blog sites.

Now, I’m probably on the third or fourth page of my previous key phrases and on the tenth or twelfth page of my new, saturated key phrases, but my incoming traffic is gradually increasing at a consistent pace. I’m earning organic readers and returning customers. People spread my blog posts on social media on their own without my begging or coaching.

These social media shares and word-of-mouth advertisements might not have any true SEO value, but they are absolutely critical for extra marketing support. If you want to courageously rank for a saturated keyword or key phrase, you will need to rely heavily on relationship marketing tactics like email drip campaigns, word-of-mouth, social media campaigns, and things of a similar nature to help you.

Ranking on big search engines is just another traffic stream. It’s an important stream, but not the only stream. While you construct your SEO stream and wait for the incoming traffic to flow through, don’t neglect your other equally qualified streams of traffic as well.

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