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seo mistake
Blog, SEO,

Ups, I made an SEO mistake!

“I like learning from errors. In fact, I like that so much I am thinking about making some more.”

The SEO mistake you don’t want to make…

Making mistakes is awesome if you learn from them. If you follow my blog, you know that I’ve been working very hard on SEO, as I want to diversify the sources of acquisition in terms of readers, and SEO is a very solid way of doing that.

In early April, I set a few challenges for the second quarter. For a 1-year-old blog, I was doing very bad. My Page authority was 24 and my Domain Authority was only 10 (trust flow was 7 and my citation flow 17). This was because I only had 524 follow links – yes, only a little over 500 links after 1 year of blogging! This was less than 10% of all the links pointing to my blog. Or, in other words, 90% of the links pointing to my blog were nofollow links.

I started to do a few things that should help my SEO, including link building (mainly through guest posting) and keyword researching. I aimed at 42 guest posts in 3 months. In fact, I spent hours and hours doing keyword research, until…

I figured I was ranking well for the keyword “my stocks”, which has a volume of hundreds of thousands a month. If you’re new to SEO, that is A LOT and only the biggest sites will get these. If you manage to rank page 1 of Google to a keyword like that you’ll get tons of traffic from that keyword alone. I got excited and went for it… but  I forgot the exceptions!

So, here’s the thing. I started working on boosting my page that ranked to that keyword. And in about 1 month, I brought my blog from page 3 to the beginning of page one. And in one week, I brought it to number 5. I thought “this is it, I’ve won”. I’ll sit down and enjoy the traffic boost. I was so wrong…

I was so wrong…

At first, I thought I made a mistake with the volume of the keyword – it would not be possible to have hundreds of thousands of searches on that keyword a month. I re-checked on different sources and I wasn’t wrong. Maybe some tools told me I ranked 5 but I was ranking something else?

When in doubt, check out Google Analytics. And that was what I did:

seo impressions google 2017

You can see that my impressions spiked from 560 impressions a day to 5,300 in early April (a 10x increase!!!), and eventually reached over 10,000, in early May!

This means that, without a doubt, my website was shown by Google to 5,300 a day. Therefore, I should have received way more clicks, right? Wrong!

seo clicks google 2017

Although I’ve been increasing the number of clicks I get on Google, they haven’t increased with the same proportion of the impressions. Have a look at this graph, where this is probably more clear:

seo clicks impressions 2017

Check out the number of impressions (dark blue) vs the number of clicks (light blue). Let us get to the bottom of this… How the heck can I rank for a high volume keyword so fast, 10x my impression count but having an ever lower click count?

Mistake 1 : don’t go after a shark if you are a small fish…

I am still a small fish when it comes to SEO. I managed to boost my authority over the last months (to 43 and 33 – page and domain authority, respectively) but these are still small fish numbers.

Going after a big keyword when you’re small can lead to terrible results and a huge waste of time!

First off, build your authority and see what you rank for – don’t try to rank for any keyword. Once you start to understand what keywords you can easily rank for and your authority is large enough target keywords…

Mistake 2 : check the semantics of the target keywords

In my case, it was not even an authority problem. Tthe first hit on Google for the keyword “my stocks” is an Android App, and that is the reason why everyone googles out that word. Therefore, even if you rank 2nd, you’ll get very little traffic from that keyword!

The lesson?

Keywords are not all the same. Some keywords have specific semantics and nobody will try to rank for them because even if they rank, the first hit will get 100% of the traffic, simply because it is not a topical keyword but a keyword with a specific semantic.

Let me give you another example: if you manage to rank 2nd for  “Ben Davis From cents to retirement”, I bet I will still rank 1st and you’ll get almost 0 traffic from that keyword. Why? Because the people who google that keyword are actually interested in coming to the best blog ever, not yours 😉

I personally find myself googling “From cents to retirement XYZ” when I want to reach a post I wrote on XYZ. Yes, I could do that through my blog (in the search bar up there) but I find it more convenient to type this in the URL field of the browser – which ends up in a Google search in my case.

The bottomline

First off, build your authority before thinking about targeting keywords and see what you rank for naturally. Then, go after those keywords if you think they are worth it.

Secondly, I advise to check out the semantics of every keyword you target. Go after keywords that don’t pertain to a specific brand or don’t have a specific semantic. I know it may be easy to rank for those keywords, but that won’t generally translate into traffic.

Any comments? Let me know down below!

link building strategies
Blog, SEO,

101 legitimate link building strategies

As you know, I am putting considerable effort into building dofollow links for my blog. However, most link building strategies are risky and can end up destroying the authority of one’s site, and therefore our chances to rank. Thus, after many weeks of intense researching, I decided I had to write a post on legitimate link building strategies because I learned a great deal about this topic.

Before you proceed, be advised that the list below is time-consuming and will not grant you backlinks in a few seconds. I decided to collect strategies that require hard work but deliver the best results because that is what I am interested in. I will progressively update this list with more strategies – each update will have at least 10 ideas (last update: May 31st, 2017).

Without further due, here’s what I came up with…

Legitimate link building strategies

1 – Create (awesome) “101 lists”

…just like this one! I found this to be one of the best way to collect backlinks if you do it right. SEO today is all about user experience. And people want to have insanable actionable content, that fully satisfies their need for information. You want to kill any search that may lead to your site. What you absolutely do not want is people to find your site on Google and return to the same search, because you could not satisfy them.

“101 lists” are awesome because they provide the readers with so much information that it is not likely that they return to the same search. Yes, they do require a lot of work, but I advised in the beginning of the post that these strategies do require work. At the same time, it is easier to reach a high word count this way, which will probably make you look good before search engines.

2 – Create articles with actionable tips to do something

Although “101 lists” can be pretty actionable, articles that are written to be extremely actionable are another great way to earn backlinks. Have a look at posts that are called “[X] you can do right now” and see how much they get shared – this will provide you with an idea for how much they are linked to.

3 – Guest post a lot

My favorite way to build some very valuable, very relevant links.

My suggestion is to guest post on blogs in the same niche. I am in the Early Retirement topic, and I feel that I know the most important blogs in the niche, so I can pitch a guest post directly. If you don’t know them, look around and build a list of your own. I have done this.

If you want to do this faster, you can access platforms like Blogger Link Up and My Blog Guest, where you can find bloggers to pitch guest posts. If you are interested in writing a guest post for me, check out my guidelines before you e-mail me. Note that many bloggers are tired of being pitched guest posts, as this tactic has been pounded, so you must make your pitch stand out. What I appreciate in my own case is that the prospective guest poster knows my blog and what it is all about, and offers a topic based on that.

I always advise aiming blogs that are selective when it comes to accepting guest posts and have some domain and page authority. You can also check the trust flow, but you should keep your expectations realistic.

Some sources have reported that Google will take action on “large scale guest blogging” eventually, so make sure you don’t fall into the bad patterns: write good and unique content, have other outbound links in the article and two to your own site, have at least one internal link and change your bio often. If you plan to use guest posting as one long-term strategy to build backlinks, make good pitches, don’t create predictable patterns, and show that you know which blog you are writing to.


As for the guidelines to write guest posts, I came up with a few, after researching this subject for a looonnnng time:

  • Your bio should change pretty much every time you write a new guest post, and contain 1 or 2 links – to your blog and Twitter handle
  • Minimum of 4 links – to high authority sites. No spammy sites whatsoever. Remember the practices to write your own articles? Same here.
  • Internal links – the guest poster should link to other posts on your blog (or let they know you’ll add them yourself).
  • 1/2 links to your own blog – in the middle of the text, as natural as it can be.
  • No spelling or grammar errors – otherwise it tells you that the author didn’t spend much time on the post.
  • Must fit your blog theme entirely. Pretty much self-explanatory and obvious, yet people keep making this mistake.
  • You must like the article. I’ve used a lot of sweat and tears to build From Cents To Retirement. I am not publishing something I won’t believe in.
  • Include images – not a must, but I personally like this (both when I guest post or host posts). Make sure you own the rights.

This quarter, I’ve set the goal to write 50 guest posts. I will also write a comprehensive article on the results of this.

There are various recipes out there to find places to guest post, including this one suggested by Neil Patel. I personally suggest contacting the bloggers in your niche you know offhand, provided that their DA is above your own. I do agree with Neil Patel on some other aspects, including good practices on guest posting.

4 – Create extensive resource lists

Did you have a look at my books list? With such an extensive list of books, I am sure that there are not many awesome books on personal finance that are not covered there. This makes this page highly susceptible to be linked to. Bloggers looking to provide their users with the best information will likely link to these extensive resource lists because they want to link to as much information as possible.

People tend to prefer a source that contains everything that there is to know about that topic, other than a group of them. Also, just like I am doing with this post, keep it to date and refine it as time goes by. If a few things become deprecated, this will lower your chances to be linked to.

5 – Create a list of the top 10 myths of a specific topic within your niche

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions in virtually every industry out there. Chances are there are some in your own. Make sure everyone knows about it. This type of posts tends to get very viral, especially if you promote them correctly.

6 – Create lists of the experts in your fields

Create your own directory about the blogs in your niche. For instance, on personal finance and early retirement, J Money put together this ultra extensive list, with almost 1000 blogs. Not sure how many links it has, but I am sure it has been linked a lot!

If you create your own, make sure you list your own site. From what I’ve been able to see, the longer the list, the higher the chances to be linked!

7 – Spend some time on the story of your site

A site with an identity is something that people tend to trust in. And trust is absolutely needed if you want people to link to your site. Have a look at the biggest blogs out there and how they have their story so clear and so upfront.

8 – Publish reports on your site

I post reports on my online income. Some reports were shared and linked to. However, the majority of links I’ve obtained came from extensive lists (remember tip #4) of online reports.

It doesn’t have to be about money… just report something that can easily grip some attention and be linked to from large resource lists.

9 – Do roundups

Have you read the roundup I’ve made with top bloggers in the Early Retirement niche? This has granted me a few backlinks (and a lot of traffic), as many other bloggers linked to it. It is just a monumental piece of information. I brought the best of the best to talk about a topic that is the essence of my blog. Other bloggers interested in Early Retirement may obviously link to this article, as it provides a lot of information!

Do the same. Go out there and invite the top bloggers in your niche for a roundup. It takes a lot of work, but it can be highly beneficial! Here’s a simple recipe that I’ve used successfully:

  • Think about a topic – something that connects well to your blog (and not necessarily the core topic of your blog).
  • Write the questions – ideally something that your readers asked before and you’re sure they are interested in.
  • Pick the most qualified bloggers to answer those questions – not necessary the top bloggers in the niche though.
  • Convince them to join – from my experience, everyone is really open to joining unless they are swamped with work.
  • Grab the answers and publish them – this may a huge post, so this will also account for some work!
  • Promote the post and ask the participants to promote it to – hopefully, it will be viral!

10 – Create infographics and reach out influencers

Another tough task, but a very profitable one! Infographics are among the most shareable and linkable posts out there. They are also well seen by search engines with the latest algorithms, thus providing some additional exposure.

goals for the new quarter 2017
Blog, Planning, SEO,

Another quarter, new hard goals for the blog!

You know what I like the most? A hard challenge. I’ve bought myself one with this SEO story, really.

So the story goes that I didn’t rank for anything on Google, even if I had the best keywords. I’d work very hard to find the best keywords and be left on the 4th page of Google. Can you relate? Yes, I know, it sucks! As a result, I told myself I would not let this happen much longer, and I started a crazy SEO experiment (check out the first part here). The SEO experiment will include several parts, and cover various angles of SEO, from backlink building to social media. Of course, I had to start off with backlink building because despite what all other metrics may impact your rankings, backlinks are still the most important one.

Although I’ve been successfully executing most tasks, I failed most deadlines of the end goals I had defined. I said that I expected 10%-15% of traffic from organic search, but I am still at 7%… so something was wrong.

Looking at the backlink profile that I have built, you’ll see it is not the best one. I clearly made a mistake building so many nofollow links, as this generated a bad link profile. I committed myself to fix this ASAP and I am ready to make it right.

I’ve got a new challenge now, and I am publically assuming that I am in the SEO business now!

For now, let’s have a look at my ugly stats. I am still comparing myself to the competitor I used in the first part of the SEO experiment  – once I beat him, I will progressively compare myself to stronger competitors:

page authority domain authority moz

vs my competitor:

page authority domain authority moz

Yes, he got me. However, according to my estimates, I think that I can beat him by the end of this quarter, assuming he continues to grow at the same pace! Keep in mind that this guy is blogging for over two years whereas I just crossed the 1-year mark.

I can’t ensure dates on when to show my PA and my DA because Moz is not keeping the updates on the announced dates. I am not sure when they will be released. Let us now look at the rest of the stats.

As of March 24th, I had 5.420 backlinks:


Not only I don’t have many backlinks, as my ratio of follow/nofollow backlinks absolutely sucks:

backlinks follow dofollow nofollow

My trust flow is 7, my citation flow is 17, making both of them well below average. This low number of backlinks (especially follow backlinks) translates in very little organic traffic from search engines:

traffic organic search

The reason why I have been increasing my traffic from search engines isn’t that much connected to the number of backlinks I built so far. It has primarily to do with the fact that I managed to rank for many keywords with low competition. Keep in mind that most SEO tools estimate your traffic based on the volumes of the keywords you rank for. So very high-volume keywords may actually lead the tool to think that you’re getting a lot of traffic, even if you rank 20th!

BTW – this is really me – I am never truly happy with the results I achieve as I always want more and more. I expect to hit the points above to reach 2000 by the end of this quarter as I expect to increase by at least 100% every month (meaning, for the worst case scenario, 400 by April, 800 by May and 1600 by June).

Clearly, my long-term efforts didn’t pay off so far. However, I am aware that I have chosen the hardest approach there is. Great keyword research won’t do the trick unless I increment my number of follow links substantially. I need to change this.

So, I am calling myself out and as always I am going big… I am setting the bar high for this quarter, and boy, I will do everything in my power to crush it!

The Goals

Goal 0: Fix my link profile

Drastically sanitize my link profile and have more follow links than nofollow links in the long term.

Goal 1: Increase my traffic from organic search to 20%

As I said, I failed my goals until now, in terms of traffic from search engines. I thought I would be at 15% and I am still at 7%. This time, I will play a little bit more conservative and aim at achieving 20% (instead of 50%, which is what I had planned to be in the beginning of the year). I am confident I will reach and cross this mark, but I’ll play conservative, as I said. Either way, this is enough time for SEO to take on, so I won’t have any excuses.

Goal 2: Reach 3000 subscribers and 6.000 likes on Facebook

Another bar I set very high – 6.000 subscribers until the end of the year. I think that it will be easier than Facebook’s goal of 25.000 likes, but a hard nut to crack, still.

There is not much secrecy on what it takes to increase the number of subscribers, as far as I know. Have awesome content and get your blog out there for people to visit it. Those who really like your content will subscribe. I will consider using more techniques – such as giving away small (yet valuable) e-books, but not in this quarter. What I will do is to guest post a lot, as I said, and hope that I bring a lot of targetted viewers who like my site and subscribe.

I am now on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (if you haven’t followed yet, please do). In this quarter, I need to ridiculously increase the number of likes/followers to meet my goals for the year (which I only set for Facebook – 25.000 likes). Maybe I set the bar ridiculously high for Facebook but I prefer to go big and fail then go small and win. This quarter, I will use a few tricks I have been learning!

Most people say that social media platforms are not that relevant for SEO. I agree that they are not that tightly connected (even though social signals are part of Google’s ranking metrics for sure!). However, I feel it is a great way to disseminate my material and get the word out – which may get me some organic backlinks (and views, obviously). I do have a solid strategy to increase my facebook likes substantially, but I won’t reveal it before testing it. I will detail everything on my next SEO experiment update.

Goal 3: Publish every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

I have been accomplishing this week after week and I am confident I will not fail in the entire quarter. I try to schedule myself out for 2-4 weeks and that is the trick, really.

The strategy

So, in order to accomplish these goals, here’s what my strategy will revolve around…

Build more high-quality dofollow backlinks

Right now, most of my backlinks are nofollow. Although I’ve nailed it at keyword research, I need to dramatically increase my PA and DA for the keywords to work.

As I said before, nofollow backlinks are great for various reasons, but they won’t help with SEO. Plus, I believe that Google assesses the dofollow:nofollow ratio and penalizes sites with a bad ratio. That is my case (at least the bad ratio part – not sure I am being penalized), as I showed you above. So, the first thing is to build lots of dofollow links, and revert the situation. But there is more… my trust ratio and my DA are so bad I shouldn’t even be showing them. This means that I need links from highly trusted / high DA sources. In essence, I need lots of guest posts on great blogs. Guest posts are not the only way to increase backlinks from high DA sources, but as I don’t have my name out there yet (because I haven’t been guest posting enough, which means low DA, which means that very few new readers come to my blog) I don’t have many organic backlinks yet. See the catch 22? Me to! So…

Task no. 1: Write at least 40 guest posts and generate at least 80 backlinks

The key is to seek and find high DA sites that will accept a guest post from me. Sites with lower DA won’t help in the rankings, and guest posts do take a lot of time (at least for me – I like awesomeness), so I need to have a time-efficient MO. At this point, I feel confident that From Cents To Retirement has a lot of great content and I won’t have problems in getting the guest posts I am looking for. I will write 40 guest posts this quarter, which will generate 80 backlinks (at 2 links a pop, on average). 40 guest posts in the quarter mean one guest post at ever 2.25 days. Feasible? I am not sure yet but I will try my very best to do this. I am not starting from scratch, though, as I arranged some guest posts in March. I will aim at publishing 14 guest posts per month, in the next 3 months.

Interviews are a quicker way to get backlinks and exposure. I prefer to guest post than to give interviews, although I love to host interviews with other bloggers on From Cents To Retirement. I will give some interviews (instead of writing guest posts) depending on my schedule and preferences of the hosts.

As I said, I expect 80 backlinks from this experiment (an average of 2 links per posts). This will definitely be the hardest (and most time-consuming) task in the entire experiment. Although, I believe it will be the most profitable one – or at least the one with most impact.

Task no. 2: Legally “steal” competitor backlinks

On top of that, and just to make sure I attain my goal, I will also use other strategies to get bloggers linking to my site. In particular, I will test one strategy (of 3) per month. I am sticking to whatever generates 10 links a month! From this, I expect 20 backlinks for the quarter, thus reaching 100 dofollow backlinks in 3 months.

The idea is quite simple: spy on my competitors and go after the same links. I have done this in the past, successfully, for nofollow links! Now I will go after dofollow links (a much harder task, obviously), but I also have better tools and more experience now. Dofollows are much more complicated because they depend on the will of the admins of the sites where you’re looking to get a link from.

Of course that with so many guest posts, I will start to put my name out there and that will generate views and (hopefully) some organic backlinks, as people find my content. However, I won’t rely on that as a means to generate backlinks. On top of that, I can ensure you that I will publish 3 posts per week despite I have to allocate most of my time to write guest posts.


This is it, let us see how I do in the next quarter. As you can see, I could not be more transparent about this. I am working hard and I will work harder and above all more efficiently in the next quarter. Wish me luck!


Blog, SEO,

Crazy SEO experiment Part I: improving my SEO through high quality backlinks

crazy seo experiment backlink

Do you want to see a crazy SEO experiment with simple SEO free tools (if you have no idea what SEO is, check out this page)? Check this article out…

Although I have successfully improved many metrics of my site, the current “popularity” of my site among search engines is pretty much ridiculous, especially if we consider that I want to hit 100-150k views per month until the end of this year. The most important metrics for sites are 1) domain authority, 2) page authority and 3) Alexa rank. So let us proceed with those in mind.

Blog, SEO,

Bloggers: how to improve your content and traffic

I started in March 2016 and this has been a truly amazing journey. I engaged with awesome thinking-alike people, was provided with multiple opportunities and the blog has helped me tremendously in keeping disciplined with my finances, looking for new income opportunities and keep updated regarding the world markets.

This page will teach you the most important stuff I’ve learned after blogging as a pro (despite I haven’t made that much money with the blog…) for 9 months. This is BS-free, direct information you can apply right away. Here we go:

Rule #1: You have views when you create value for viewers

I personally think that the best way to create a business today is by providing high value to people. Give them what they want. Yet, many businesses are still focused on spamming people, squeezing costs and improving margins, in the hopes that they sell a lot. Honestly, sounds wrong to me; I’d rather focus on delivering what people want and make them happy, creating recurrent costumers that will stick with the brand for years.

The vast majority of blogs out there are not businesses. Take my own example: even though I try to monetize my blog, I don’t really blog for money. I blog to keep myself motivated, to engage with people, to improve myself and to have people reading what I write and extracting value from it. I am a true believer of karma. Give so you can receive. That is why I intend to assemble one of the biggest online collection of summaries and reviews of books on personal finances (see it here, if you haven’t yet).