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The SEO Impossible Experiment

by Matt Giovanisci | Last Updated: March 19, 2018 | Subscribe to get emails

This project is marked: running

I'm currently producing content in an attempted to rank for a very competitive keyword. This experiment could take 3-6 months to complete when all the results are in.

My rule for conducting a “Money Lab challenge” is it must have a tight deadline with the goal of making money. Experiments, on the other hand, can be ongoing and don’t have to make money directly.

The Hypothesis

This experiment is to prove I can rank on the first page of Google for a highly competitive keyword simply by creating the best page on that topic. That topic is “affiliate marketing.”

I’m trying to rank for this keyword to promote Lasso: an affiliate link manager for WordPress.

According to, “affiliate marketing” has a keyword difficulty score of 67 out of 100, which means it’s VERY competitive. A lot of pages rank for it (2.5 million) and sees about 61,000 searches a month.

Ahrefs overview for Affiliate Marketing

What I’m Starting With

I studied SEO for over 10 years and been hired by companies to improve their rankings. I own two websites that rank for highly competitive keywords and I created an SEO video course for bloggers.

I know how to design and code a web page from scratch. And I’ll be doing all the research and writing too.

I’m publishing the post on the Lasso blog, which is hosted on WPEngine Full Disclosure: I make money if you click this link and make a purchase. . This comes with some built-in SEO benefits:

  1. A free SSL Certificate. Google has made it clear that they reward sites that are protected by an SSL cert. All that means is you use HTTPS instead of just HTTP.
  2. The WPEngine servers are super fast! They even have a built-in page speed analyzer that lets me know ways I can improve the speed. And speed is VERY important for SEO. Not just for Google, but for users on mobile devices.
  3. A motherfucking CDN. It stands for “content delivery network,” and it makes your pages fast as balls by displaying your images from a different server!
  4. Built-in SEO power from WordPress. The guts of WordPress are SEO-friendly. And I use a popular plugin called Yoast SEO, which handles all the extra SEO goodies.

This is a brand new domain with zero content published. So this will be an especially hard challenge.

How I Plan To Prove That “Epic” Content Actually Works

The online entrepreneur and blogging community talks about creating “epic” content, but what does that mean? Long articles or well-designed infographics?

I believe it’s creating a one-stop-shop for solving a particular problem. In this case, that problem is affiliate marketing, which can already be solved by Googling to find the right articles in the right order.

But what if one web page had all the information you need in an easy-to-read format with lots of visual aid and downloadables?

I’m assuming that creating this web page will:

  • Allow me to share it on popular Facebook groups and not get banned because of self-promotion. If the content is over-the-top excellent, it wouldn’t be considered self-promotion. It would instead be a great resource to help the community. This happened with my Podcast Marketing article. Not only did I share it and not get banned, but other people shared it again in the same group. And they continue to share it to this day – years after I wrote it.
  • Help build lots of backlinks naturally. When you make something incredible, people share it and link to it on their own websites. This means I don’t have to do any manual link building to rank.
  • Get readers to bookmark it and refer to it often. I’m not sure if this helps SEO, but it helps actual humans.
  • Reduce “pogo-sticking.” In the SEO world, the act of pogo-sticking refers to clicking back and forth between results to find what you need. Apparently, Google penalizes sites that this happens to a lot. Meaning, people click on it and hit the back button quickly when they realize it’s not what they’re looking for.
  • Go viral when I first share it. When you create something so good and outside the box, the community will share it like crazy. And since the topic is something tight-knit internet people will love, that sharing happens more often.

And because of all these benefits, I’m hoping Google rewards us for the effort of creating the best content on the web for affiliate marketing.

NOTE: I understand that SEO is a touchy subject. I never speculate or assume what goes on behind closed doors at Google. So again, this is all speculative and based on my own theories. My assumption is that you can rank any web page, regardless of authority, with great writing and design.

The SEO Impossible Plan

1. Collect An Insane Amount of Data

To create a one-stop-shop, I have to cover all the bases in affiliate marketing. This means collecting a ton of data to make sure I cover everything.

My research tactic is simple: Google “affiliate marketing,” open up every link in the search results in different tabs, and start taking notes in a Google Doc.

2. Create a Massive Outline

Once I have all the research completed (or during my research), I will create an outline in a Google Doc.

This will be a long process, but the most important if I plan to make the best content on the internet for this topic.

3. Start Writing As Much As I Can

Once I have my outline and subtopics, I’ll add them all as tasks in Asana and assign them to myself one by one.

Writing is my greatest weakness, so this will be the hardest part of the challenge for me.

4. Edit Like Crazy

Editing will be non-stop. Even after it’s been published, I plan to continue editing the words and updating the content as the industry changes.

This will make the content “evergreen” – a dumb internet marketing term for timeless information.

5. Start Designing

I’ll be working on the design and user experience of the page while researching and writing.

One of the bigger challenges will be user experience. Since I’m dealing with a large amount of content on a single page, I may have to add some fancy javascript to make it easier to consume.

We’ll see. I would like to avoid that.

6. Share and Promote Like Crazy In a Single Day

My theory is that it’ll only need a jumpstart. I won’t need to tweet it multiple times a day or add it to an autoresponder. I can just spend a day promoting it and let it take off from there.

Here are some things I can do:

  • Send it to the email list: about 1,300 people (as of June 2018).
  • Share it with Facebook groups about internet marketing. Personally, I’m part of about 10.
  • Share it ONCE on other social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
  • Personally send it to a couple of high-profile entrepreneurs who might appreciate it.
  • This article might help it, too.

Other than that, it should take a life of its own pretty quickly. Then, it’s a matter of waiting and sharing the results as it climbs in ranking.

Traditional SEO Tactics I’ll Be Using

SEO might be a mystery to you; it should be. It’s even a mystery to people who study it professionally.

These are tactics I’ve used for over 10 years. They don’t go out of style, and most importantly, they help the reader.

  1. Title and Description – I spend a lot of time crafting the headline/title. First, I come up with a title that feels natural. Then, some research to make sure I’m using the right keywords.
  2. Headings – The title of the page will be the only H1 tag. Then, each section of the web page should have it’s own H2 headline (which we can use the Headline Analyzer tool for) and H3 tags to further breakdown content.
  3. Responsive Design – Google has made it clear in the past that they reward sites that work well on mobile. So it’s important that it’s responsive.
  4. Speed – Google has also made it clear that they reward fast websites. This makes what we’re doing a bit challenging because the page will be massive in content.
  5. Off-Page SEO – I’m not building backlinks. I’m focused on the content itself and how the page is designed. The only off-page SEO plan is to do a single day of promoting and sharing. I’m hoping that this little jump start is all it’ll need.

Step One: Researching & Outlining

All I did was search the term “affiliate marketing” in Google and opened up the top 20 results in different windows.

I scanned each page, looking for headings and topics to add to my post. I collected a lot of that information into a single Google Doc. Then, transferred all the good information into an Asana project with the copied text.

Here’s my outline in Asana:

SEO Impossible Asana Outline

The research and outline phase only took me a few hours. Most of what I found was all the same information. It’ll be challenging to come up with some new angles to write about. Challenge accepted!

I’ve assigned myself parts of the outline to start writing.

Step Two: Writing

I’ve been procrastinating on this. As much as I write on Money Lab, I still don’t like it.

I started writing one day as if I was teaching the subject of affiliate marketing to my readers. But I felt icky and gave up.

It took me a while to get back into finishing this experiment. I knew I had to come up with a different style for creating this post, especially since it’s going to live on Money Lab.

Day One: Focus

On June 5th, 2018, I shut down my email, Slack, and Twitter windows to focus. Instead of being on my big computer in my office (my iMac), I opted to work on the couch with my laptop (MacBook Air).

The goal was to just write my face off. And I can only write what I know. I’m not writing a research paper; I’m writing about my experience with affiliate marketing over the last 10 years. All while sprinkling in the facts I’ve researched.

I found this style of writing to be much easier. Plus, it fits with the writing style of Money Lab. My goal is to teach by example. I tell you exactly what I did, what worked, and what didn’t. I don’t teach at you.

With that said, I wrote 2,230 words in two hours. I edit while I write too. Also, I’m taking screenshots, doing research, and improving things as I go.

My goal is to get at least past 5,000 words by the end of the week if not sooner. Once, I’ve gotten the words down, I’ll spend another week editing and improving the flow/design.

Day Seven: Wrapping Up

It’s June 11th, and I’m finished writing the entire post. I ended up with 7,851 words. It’s a sloppy 7,851 words right now, but I’m taking a break to work on the other parts of the project.

My hope is that this break will detach me from the writing enough that when I go in for all the editing rounds, I’ll have fresh eyes.

Usually, when I take a long break between writing and editing, I edit a lot more aggressively. And I’ll find new stuff to write about.

So all in all, this took me seven days of on-and-off writing to finish. A lot of that time was spent coming up with new ideas and researching more ways I can improve on the project.

Added Mini Projects

I’m digressing a bit here. As I was writing, I came up with all sorts of ideas. And I’m acting on all of them.

But one thing struck me as I was researching content I wanted to link to in the post. I sent out a survey asking people to provide the best post they know of about content promotion. And a few good ones came through.

One, in particular, was 12,000 words. And while I was reading it, I had this sense of underwhelming. It was not an epic post, it was just long. And it was boring.

I want to avoid this. Just because something is lengthy, doesn’t mean its good. Anyone can write a book, but a good book is hard. What I’m trying to do is write a great post that gets shared so that it ranks. Even if it has fewer words on the page than what Google is currently ranking.

So with that said, I decided to add a bunch of extra content to the post that isn’t in the form of words. Here’s what I mean.

1. A Live, Updated Spreadsheet of Every Affiliate Program In The World

There is a fuck-ton of affiliate programs you could sign up for. But it can be hard to find. So I hired a VA to help me put together a Google Sheet of every damn affiliate program we can find. And I’m going to offer a link to this sheet in the article for free.

Here’s what it looks like so far:

Affiliate Program Google Sheet

2. A Massive Easter Egg

The post takes a lot of my personal stories of what NOT to do when starting an affiliate marketing site. And one of those stories from my past I decided to recreate as a joke.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise. But I’m planning to hide a big easter egg (probably a few) in the post. This is to reward people to actually read it.

The only issue with doing this is that the “deadline” is being pushed back. I want to put a lot of effort into this project to make it truly EPIC and worth anyone’s time.

3. Developing a Theme

I’ve been asked by a bunch of people to develop a WordPress theme based on my design philosophies.

In the post, I write about finding a theme that’s simple, fast, and responsive. But instead of sending people on a wild goose chase to find such a theme, I’m going to build one myself before this post goes live.

It took me a second to come up with the name. But I had some help from Twitter and this is what I landed on:

Carbonate WordPress Theme Logo

The name applies to all my brands. Carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid that is used in pool chemistry and brewing chemistry. And since this is Money LAB, it works there too. It’s also a “base” chemical, and that fits the goal of my theme: to build a foundational theme that anyone can build off of.

I already know there’s a handful of people who want it, and I was going to do it at some point, but I’m doing it now because it fits the post so perfectly.

That means pushing back the “deadline” even more to build more assets for the post.

As a person known to get things done quickly, I know this is very unlike me. But I’m trying to prove a point with this post. I’m trying to rank #1 for a very hard keyword. So in order to do that, I have to go above and beyond what anyone else will do for this position.

These are the only 3 mini projects I’ll be working on, but who knows what other ideas I’ll end up acting on. My goal is to launch this post by mid-July before I head to Philly for Podcast Movement and visit family for two weeks.

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