Anyone with basic knowledge of SEO knows that backlinks are a thing, and Ryan confirms this. Backlinks show Google your “social status” within your ecosystem. If Seth Godin quotes you, Google knows your marketing advice means something.
Ryan’s little freelancing blog has 31.4K backlinks, some of them from web behemoths like Apache.org, HubSpot, Sitepoint, Backlinko, Linkedin blog, GoDaddy, Yelp, and Money.com.
Some backlinks come organically. For others, Ryan has a few tricks up his sleeve.
His prized technique is to include influencers in his writing process. He will schedule a call with them, interview them, and mention them in whatever article he is writing. This, he says, dramatically increases the likelihood they will actually link back to you. As opposed to just writing a post and then reaching out with a Hey, I mentioned you in… type of message.
Since all of Ryan’s blog posts are ambitious, he easily justifies creating some marketing collateral to entice backlinks. For example, he sometimes creates a lengthy infographic to support his blog post. He does not always include the infographic in the post itself — he just uses it to reach out to people to get shares and backlinks.
4. He Updates His Blog Posts Regularly
Many people, myself included, think of blogging as a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. You write a blog post, it either soars or flops, and whatever happens next is out of your control.
If you scroll through Ryan’s blog posts, you’ll quickly see they all have an “updated on…” tag next to the title. Most of his posts have a year in the title. Right now, it’s 2020.
Ryan aims to update three or four posts each week. He adds a few tips, cleans out the no-longer-relevant bits, changes time-sensitive information, and hits re-publish. His posts may fluctuate in popularity, but they never tank.
5. He Keeps Things Personal
On Medium, it’s quite expected for writers to be personal, to share and be vulnerable. However, that is not necessarily what you might expect out of a Google first-page result.
Whenever he can, Ryan opens his articles with a personal story. He uses bits of his freelancing journey to illustrate whatever subject he is writing on. Here is how he started a list of motivational quotes:
He maintains the personal tone throughout the articles. If he’s writing about books, he will give the reader his own experience of reading those books. If he’s writing about business ideas, he will share his own takes on those ideas. He uses I instead of It’s.
A Few Additional Takeaways
1. He stayed in his lane throughout the years
Once you hit some success, it can be extremely tempting to start trying out other things. There’s nothing wrong with testing, but it’s easy to start digressing towards things that don’t work. Ryan found his formula with 10,000+ listicles and guides, and he stuck with that formula for years.
2. Most of his posts failed
Aside from Ryan’s 16 top-performing posts, his average blog post only scrambles a few hundred views per month. It’s an extreme case of Pareto distribution, but that is just the reality of content marketing. You have to keep pumping out 10,000+ word high-quality blog posts, knowing that 90% of them will fail.
3. He says video is going to be his next tactic
In addition to extremely long-form blogging, Ryan is looking to supplement his writing with videos, too. Video can be an extremely intimidating format if you’ve never done it before, but it really isn’t. If you’re really uncomfortable filming yourself talking, you can simply go for quick
4. He kept his day job
It took years for Ryan to start generating serious income from his blogging efforts. And writing 244 book-worthy posts is by no means a passive activity. But Ryan still has a day job and he still freelances. So making money from his blog wasn’t a life-or-death type of thing. It was a side hustle, and it still is.