17 Unexpected SEO Lessons

It’s been ten years since I started blogging. It began as a fun thing (and it still is!). Also, blogging was just another random stuff that I used to do at that time. But today my blog is much more than a random thing for me, and that’s the only difference.

I don’t know if I’m one of the so-called professional blogger or a hobby blogger or yet another nerd. It’s something that I’m trying to figure out. But I just know for sure that it’s been a long amazing journey so far. :)

And it didn’t happen in one day and it didn’t happen in a couple of years time. It happened over time and is something that’s still happening.

I don’t know if you have read this blog post of mine:

Over 201 Google Products & Services You Probably Don’t Know

Well, you should. You know why? Because that’s my first (original) evergreen blog post and apparently that’s my first (real) listicle too. It eventually became one of my first pillar blog post and taught me a lot of things that I never thought of.

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First things first.

I didn’t write Over 60 Google Products & Services You Probably Don’t Know (the original blog post — thanks to Wayback Machine) for SEO. And I didn’t write it for traffic either.

I did it as I was using (or tried) almost all of Google’s web products and services. So I just wanted to show my gratitude plus create a useful list as it wasn’t there on any other blogs.

Moreover, it was also just another random blog post that I did which happened to became the foundation of my blog’s SEO. You know why? Because it taught me a lot of things about Google SEO that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Oh yes, that post was published way back in 2009 when there was no Google Pandas or Penguins. Also, I didn’t know any Neil Patels or Rand Fishkins of the SEO world. Back then I gathered most of my internet marketing knowledge from the Digital Point forum.

Coming back…

Here are the things that I learned about blogging and SEO from my favorite blog post — let’s call it “Google 101“. Okay? So yeah, they are all more or less related to SEO Google SEO. :)

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1. It’s all About Quality, Not Quantity!

I must had at least 250 blog posts back then but the majority of the traffic was contributed by a handful of blog posts. “Google Products” being the primary one.

I realized that I don’t have to publish a blog post daily and that it’s all about quality. One single blog post that’s useful and perfectly optimized has more worth than 100 mediocre blog posts.

2. Scannable Blog Posts

People do not read your blog posts. They scan it.

“Google 101” was one such blog post. It didn’t have much paragraphs to read though it was over 1,500 words. You know why? It was a listicle. It did not make the content boring or make it lengthy (even if it had more than a thousand words in it).

That’s how I started spending many, many, hours formatting a blog post by customizing its images, heading tags, paragraphs, lists, etc. to make it as much organized as possible. And now it’s something that I love to do.

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3. Listicles = More Social Sharing

Whenever I shared “Google 101” on Twitter, it used to immediately attract hundreds of visits and that’s how I realized the power of listicles and viral titles (though I didn’t mean to make it a viral post like the BuzzFeeds and HuffingtonPosts of the world are doing).

4. Don’t Write For Google

The best SEO happens when you do not do any SEO. You don’t believe it? Let me explain. As mentioned earlier, I listed all the Google products for fun.

After few quarters I noticed that it’s sending me a lot of organic traffic. So, when I checked my traffic stats I was surprised to see that my blog post was ranking on top for the keyword “Google Products”.

I was totally surprised as it was a top keyword (and that too a short tail keyword). Also, my primary competitor was Wikipedia and Google’s own “About” pages. Plus, there was already a service named “Google Product Search”.

So, I started researching about how it went on top and then I got my answer.

  • It was the most comprehensive blog post for that particular keyword.
  • It’s got less competitors though the keyword was super-competitive (in terms of number of results).
  • It was a blog post and not a static HTML web page (that was the time Google started loving blogs).

What did I do after that? I started creating more blog posts thinking like an “algorithm”. Every single time I asked myself what makes it stand out. Or, why should Google rank it on top? Of course, I have also published a lot of “for fun” blog posts as well.

5. Use Compelling Titles

I didn’t choose the title “Over 60 Google Products & Services You Probably Don’t Know” with the idea to make it a compelling story or to make it a linkbait article. Instead, when I wrote it I actually meant it.

Because the top 3 Google products was Search, Mail, Images. Even today, it must be less than 50 and never 200.

Now how do I know that it was indeed a compelling title? Well, someone told me. So, I started writing titles in a similar fashion for more blog posts (when I think is relevant).

And that’s why you won’t see a blog post titled “Over 101 Google Products & Services That Will Absolutely Blow Your Mind” on Minterest. Ever.

6. Use Sub-heading (H2-H6) Tags

When I started updating Google Products I also tried to optimize it by placing optimized images, and meta tags, and headings.

However, I can’t say in a definite way whether it’s going to help or not (actually no one can say except the folks at Google).

Anyway, now I try to add sub-headings whenever I can — by following a hierarchy that makes sense.

7. Use Personalized Images/Screenshots

I was using images and screenshots ever since I started blogging but “Google 101” was one of the first few blog posts in which I started placing personalized screenshots (from my own accounts).

So, how is it useful? Well, it adds more clarity (or at least I think so) and it makes the blog posts more casual and friendly. Since then, I started placing customized screenshots rather than placing press images or cliparts.

8. Use Timeless URLs

As I have already mentioned, when I first published “Google 101”, it was a list of just 60 Google Products & Services. Because Google had only around sixty products at that time.

And the original URL was: https://www.matrics360.com/60-google-products-services-you-probably-dont-know/.

When I updated the blog post to include more Google products the original URL looked boring and outdated (because of number ’60’). So when I updated the blog post, I published it as a fresh blog post in order to change its URL, images, etc.

As you can see, now the URL is timeless and I won’t lose its SEO advantage or don’t have to care about future 404 errors. I now try to make sure that my URLs are all timeless.

9. Use Effective Natural Keywords

I was already on top for the primary keyword “Google Products”. So what I did was I modified the article over time to include related long tail keywords as well.

And it worked too! That said, I never over-optimized that page and everything was done naturally and organically.

10. Link Out Generously

The SEO community believed that having more than 100 links on a single web page is a bad idea. Because Google once said so. But I didn’t care. I was linking to whatever blog post or web page that I thought was relevant without caring the number of external links.

My idea was pretty simple and it’s something like Wikipedia Citation. When I was linking out to another web page I was actually bookmarking it (for my own personal use) and I thought it would be useful for users as they can get deeper insights about what I have written.

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11. Comprehensiveness Counts

Let me repeat. “Google 101” was the most comprehensive blog post for the search query “Google Products”. Because that was listing almost all the products Google ever launched in an easy to scan way.

It basically means that, if a blog post is the most comprehensive (or rather most useful) web page for a specific keyword then it eventually ranks on top (without any SEO expertise). And that’s why they say, write as if Google doesn’t exist. ;)

12. Do Competitor Analysis

Oh yeah, it taught me about competitor analysis as well. My primary competitors were Wikipedia and Google.com. So, did I beat them? Well, yes and no.

It doesn’t make sense for Google to rank my domain #1 for obvious reasons. But I was able to beat all the other competitors and it includes several high profile blogs. How? Simple. I made it more useful and more comprehensive and more optimized. And it worked!

13. Show Post/Comment Dates

I have expressed my anger over bloggers who hide the published dates of their blog posts on 30 Things I Absolutely Hate About Your Blog. And most of them hide the dates of the comments as well.

I know why they are doing it but I strongly believe that it’s not a good practise to follow. Because I still remember the first person who pointed out the published date problem on my blog though I never hid the blog post or comment dates on Minterest.

First Published. Last Updated.

See, readers notice everything.

14. The Wikipedia Way

You know what inspired me to update my archived blog posts? It’s Wikipedia. I’m pretty sure that you have noticed that Wikipedia ranks on top for almost all the keywords for which there’s a Wiki page.

So why is Google rewarding Wikipedia in a big way? The answer is simple. Wikipedia is always fresh and its domain name has high authority.

And I tried to replicate it on my own blog. I started updating Google products list as Google launched more products and then I noticed that it became one of the most popular posts on my blog retaining its organic rankings.

15. Duplicate Content Is Okay

Google penalize duplicate content, right? Well, I would say it depends. Because it depends upon how you define duplicate content.

If you copy-paste this entire blog post and publish it on your own blog (as you own content) then it’s duplicate content + plagiarism.

But if you have used only a few excerpts and is even giving me credits for the same then it neither becomes duplicate content nor becomes plagiarism.

“Google 101” showed me that duplicate content can be effective. Because if you check out that blog post then you can see that almost all the product descriptions are actually copied from its source page itself.

My job was only to list all the products in a useful way. And it’s not just “Google 101”. If you check out inspirational quotes then you can sense the same thing. So, it’s all about how you are doing it and why you are doing it.

16. Fill Content Gaps

When I published “60 Google Products”, Wikipedia already had a dedicated web page listing all the Google products and yet I did it. Why? Because the Wikipedia list was less useful than mine as it lacked external links (links to actual product pages on google.com).

I wanted to list products and add links in ways that I wanted. And what I did was I filled a content gap. Because at least some people expect the links on Wikipedia to redirect to actual product pages and not to another Wiki page.

17. Update Evergreen Content

Freshness is rewarded. I used to update “Google 101” every once in a while and then I noticed that whenever I updated that blog post it started sending more organic traffic (and referral traffic too).

So, I started updating it more often and it had a positive impact on that blog post’s organic rankings. And then I did the same for almost all the evergreen blog posts on my blog. And it worked like magic.

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Closing Thoughts

Whenever I think of my blogging journey on Minterest, I see three levels. Level 1.0 was the beginning phase (2006-2012) and was apparently my learning phase.

And then I started to get very obsessed with writing and spent many, many hours to compose a single blog post and that was Level 2.0 which lasted until mid-2016. Like I said,  “Google 101” was the base of my blog’s Level 2.0. :)

What about Level 3.0? Well, I can’t exactly say anything simply because I haven’t yet figured it out totally. All I know is that it’s time to change the way I’m blogging (unless I don’t want to scale up my blog).

So have you ever composed a blog post that changed the way you blog? If so, do let me know as a comment below and don’t forget to include its link.

Happy Blogging! :)

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Mahesh Mohan

Hey there, I’m Mahesh (@maheshone) — Chief Content Strategist @ Minterest and an organic marketing evangelist. I write about tech, marketing, and everything in between that truly excites me. Outside of that, I’m equally passionate about the financial markets, and also spend A LOT of time doing random things. Also, the Chief Everything Officer (@Infirn Labs).

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Meet The Blogger

Mahesh Mohan

Hey there, I’m Mahesh (@maheshone) — Chief Content Strategist @ Minterest and an organic marketing evangelist. I write about tech, marketing, and everything in between that truly excites me. Outside of that, I’m equally passionate about the financial markets, and also spend A LOT of time doing random things. Also, the Chief Everything Officer (@Infirn Labs).