Robbie Richards


Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

I’d like to introduce one of our members, Robbie Richards, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank him for the participation.

Robbie is the Co-Founder and Lead Strategist at Virayo, a search marketing agency that helps growth-stage B2B SaaS companies scale traffic, trials and MRR.

Since positioning in the SaaS market, he has helped dozens of SaaS companies such as Placester, Spotio, Ziflow and SnapApp (aquired by Uberflip).

Robbie is the author of, and the creator of The SEO Playbook training program, which now has over 600 students.

Robbie has spoken at marketing conferences across the US, and more recently, in Bali.

If you have any questions on SEO strategies and techniques, please feel free to pick his brain. He has a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.

Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until he asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock value goes to zero.

2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s successes and strategies.

3) Please do not PM him and bother him. If you have a private question, ask for his permission on this thread when appropriate.

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Table of Contents

What does your content generation process look like for a cluster of keywords within a specific topic?

Once we’ve established that a given cluster has enough traffic potential, we’ll typically break down the process like this:


1) We’ll usually speak to the client execs and even support folks to get an idea of the core problems for each of their target personas.

2) We’ll use the problems that surface as our seed keywords to see what topics emerge, building out a list of the ones with traffic potential.

3) We’ll then run some simple site: searches or a quick content audit to see if they are already targeting any of the keywords that have emerged.

If they do, we’ll look for ways to re-optimize the content and internal links to better fit into the cluster.

4) For the newer topics, we’ll run some SERP analysis to ensure – based on link metrics and intent – we can actually rank those keywords within 6 months.

An important note here is to always ensure each keyword in the cluster warrants its own dedicated article.

i.e. you couldn’t target multiple keywords with a single article.

We want to be very mindful of cannibalization in this process.

5) Once we’ve qualified the KWs, we’ll then build out briefs for the writers. Nothing super fancy here.

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We just analyze the top 10-15 results for each topic, and make sure that we are providing the best possible resource on the topic.

We also use tools like Surfer to do some on-page analysis too. But, most of it is fairly manual.

6) Once the draft is approved, we make sure to place exact or partial match anchors for internal links back up to the pillar page.


1) Main pillar – this is going to be the broader topical keyword that often has the most volume that we can then link internally down to our cluster pages/posts.

We try to have dedicated sections or chapters that relate to the cluster topics we mapped out. i.e. we give a high level overview of the cluster topic, and then internally link down to it so the reader can dive deeper.

2) Clusters – we try to go for at least 3-5 supporting cluster pieces.

And, within those pages we try to make sure at least one is a “linkable” asset such as a roundup, stats or tools list, visual asset etc so that we can run some outreach and drive some links and disperse them with the internal linking.

3) Internal links – making sure every cluster links back up to the main, and that the pillar has keyword-rich anchor pointing back to the relevant supporting clusters.

How are you using entities in your SEO process?

Nothing too fancy, but a few core things that really tie into how we approach link building, SERP analysis and competitor research.

1) Look very closely at SERP intent. Specifically, what types of content (and format) is predominant on the first page. We make sure to model that and directly satisfy the intent.

Can’t tell you how many times we work with clients that are trying to rank a feature or product page for a KW/topic that has page one filled with list-based blog content, for example.

2) We look at competitor content to see what types of entities are being mentioned. Also – are they using schema? What type?

This is a handy tool: Surfer also added in the NLP feature too.

3) Prioritize relevance over authority when kicking off link building campaigns.

4) Continually updating and relaunching content, especially if there are new entity relationships to add.

Wikipedia and People Also Ask boxes are a good place to scout these.

The beauty of entity optimization is that it doesn’t really add any extra legwork to the process, we’re still, by and large, doing the same things.

What is your internal linking strategy? Do you hammer one or two top anchors or use dozen of different keywords when interlinking?

This depends on the quantity of internal link opportunities. I don’t have a set ration % that I follow per se. But, I am much more aggressive with my internal linking.

For a small number, I go almost entirely exact match or close partial match.

For larger, I scale it back so only ~half of the internal links are exact.

For a new website what could a content strategy in order to rank higher in google? Like I should be more concerned about publishing a comprehensive article targeting a high volume keyword or something else?

I like to follow the cluster model outlined in an earlier comment on this thread.

This allows you to stay ultra focused, incorporate the one big pillar piece which you can start building links to right out of the gate (very important to be doing from day #1).

And you get some longer tail (often, less competitive topics into the mix) that you can see some faster gains with.

Keep the topical focus of the site very tight in the beginning too. You can branch out down the road once the authority is built up and you are landing rankings.

Take a “parasite” approach for the ultra competitive topics. i.e. target competitive keywords in blog posts on high authority domains.

You piggyback on their authority to rank for the terms, and drive referral traffic back into your site.

Another we do, budget permitting, is to pay for placements in top ranking third party sites, or even Google Ads for higher intent KWs while we are waiting for rankings to marinate for a new site.

Eg: we work with a lot of SaaS, so you want to make sure you on sites like G2, Capterra, Software Advice, Alternativeto etc, as they rank for a lot of mid-bottom funnel intent queries, and you’ll likely never outrank them with a newer site.

If creating blogs on a new domain, with decent information, maybe Even entertaining to read, basic seo optimized, but No backlink building.

1 Could this ever achieve backlinks?

2 What would you do to improve the chance of succes?

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3 how long would it take, to actually start getting clicks?

4. Any secrets you have that would improve my chances of succes, No matter what they might be.

Depends on a lot of variables. Largely, the level of competition around the topics you’re going after.

I would recommend targeting tightly focused topics, one by one, using the cluster content model.

Include a pillar, and then 3-5 supporting pieces under it. Try to make one of the supporting pieces a “linkable” asset too. Eg: list or stats post.

The window to rank also depends. Without knowing the topic and competitors, I can’t really say.

But, I generally like to go after topics I think I can crack the page for within 90 days.

No “secrets”, but make sure you map out the clusters on your site, properly qualify keywords by traffic/competition/business value.

Brief out the content based on competitor analysis so you are positioned with the best resource to rank, and then promote it like a mad man – links, ads, communities, social etc.

One other note: always work backwards in the content planning process. Specifically, start with the end conversions and business model in mind.

Eg: an AdSense sight might prioritize top funnel high search volume topics to drive more eyeballs to their content.

An affiliate will go down funnel to investigational intent topics with modifiers like “best, vs, compare, review, alternative etc”.

An ecommerce site will go after transactional and commercial investigational terms tied to products, discounts, and qualifiers like color, size, etc.

Prioritize the content creation process around the intent that maps most tightly to your site monetization model.

And – always ask: “what is the next step?”. What CTA would drive people further into the funnel – download, case study, trial signup etc.

Not SEO related but related to Saas companies in early stage, hope that’s ok. What strategies would you implement for turning free triallists into MRR?

Lots of options here, but a few ones I like:

1) Define your “Aha” moments. i.e. the point where a user truly realizes value from the product.

Now, map the journey to that Aha moment. This might be facilitated with in-app messages, event-based email triggers etc.

But, knowing what that is, and get people to it as quickly as possible is huge.

2) Try to get as many personal demos as possible. Offer to jump on a call or video with trialists.

3) Map an email sequence to your time-based trial. This is a good article:

4) Ask for the credit card info on sign up. If thats too much, offer free trialists some sort of discount at the end of the trial to get them into a paid account.

Eg: Get 50% off your first month.

What’s your opinion on building 2nd tier links to you best 1st tier links? Is it worth it?

To be honest, I don’t do it. I know a lot of people that do, and have success with it.

Just not something I’ve needed, or wanted, to spend time on.

That said, for local SEO clients I do occasionally do tiered linking to some of their citations to get them indexed faster and passing some more juice.

We’ve found this to help a lot.

Been following your blog for a while now. Please shed some light on having a niche-specific expertise when it comes to SEO and any pros/cons.

I’m a huge fan for having niche focus. Right now my agency is focused on working with B2B SaaS companies mostly, but even that could be a lot more niche.

The beauty of niching down is that you instantly position yourself above a see of other general agencies. A great example of this is Chris Dreyer from

He has built a successful business servicing high-retainer personal injury attorneys. Not just law firms in general.

So, when a personal injury attorney sees his business and his messaging, he instantly stands out from the generalist law fim SEO agencies. This is HUGE for the first impression.

Second, by working within a specific niche, it’s easier to find a process that works, and build out repeatable SOPs to scale that service offering.

Also – when it comes to hiring subcontractors for writing etc…you can re-use them across all the clients, rather than having to find new writers for dozens of different subject matter areas.

If you could give an intermediate SEO one tip what would it be?

Great question. So many directions we could with this.

I’m sure there are other critical ones, but something I am more focused on now, that often gets overlooked, is intent.

Specifically, when qualifying keyword opportunities and creating content, making sure it serves the intent of the user head on.

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This comes down a lot to targeting topics with the right type of content, in the correct format.

It’s simple, but get it wrong, and nothing else matters when it comes to ranking content.

How do you write articles or blog posts to get people to sign up for a free trial? I mean, I guess you are meeting people’s search intent and then transcends over to the intent you have. Do you have a content template for it?

It definitely comes down to the intent.

I actually write a post on 7 content frameworks my agency has found to do well for trial signups for our SaaS clients:

What is the most challenging part of working with SaaS businesses?

Aligning resources.

While we try to set expectations as clearly as possible in the discovery, proposal and kick off calls, this some times becomes an issue.

We engage with clients in a range of capacities. Starting from pure strategy and direction, all the way up to end-to-end implementation.

I much more prefer the last case, not just because the retainers are larger, but we have more control over speed of execution and quality, which almost always ends in better results, and happier clients.

Sometimes we have issues where we lay out a strategy,, but execution gets bottlenecked on the client side due to competing internal priorities, or a transition of resources/ turnover during the engagement.

Overall though, I have enjoyed working with SaaS companies more than any other.

What are the best ways to optimize your posts with relevant entities?

In your opinion, how big of a role does an exact anchor backlink has in getting your posts ranked?

Which is the most important metric for on-page optimization?

1) Analyze competitor content, look at sources such as Wikipedia, Google Image carousel and People Also Ask boxes to see what other entities are mentioned.

2) Exact match backlinks do help. But, be very careful. I try to keep these limited to around 5-7% of my profile.

3) Not a metric per se, but intent is huge. Make sure you are targeting a term or topic with the right type of content, and position it in the right format.

Just look at the first page, Google is telling you what it wants to rank. Before you write a single word, get crystal clear on what that is.

Any tips on motivating yourself to write content?

Not sure it’s motivation, but more habit. Break it into manageable chunks instead of trying to do it all in one sitting.

Eg: carve out one hour first thing in morning (I prefer to do it early before client side work begins). You’re fresh, and haven’t been side tracked.

Have a clear plan from the night before it what you want to achieve.

Day 1 – write a detailed brief
Day 2 – write the first couple sections

Maybe for a longer form it might take a week to write. But get in the habit and you’re writing 3-4 good pieces a month.

Way better than a lot of shorter stuff.

Once you see things going live, and things ranking, you’ll start to manufacture that motivation through habit.

Do you have advice for a B2B SaaS client in a VERY niche market? Despite a very high price, the product virtually sells itself. However, it harnesses an innovative concept that users aren’t actively searching for until they stumble across it by accident.

A couple things here.

1) Pay to play – If you have a niche customer profile, used LinkedIn InMail ads to generate some exposure.

I have a client at the moment in a similar spot, and inmail is there #1 lead driver at the moment.

2) Are there secondary topics you can write about. Maybe not directly product related, but stuff that your ideal audience is searching for still.

An indirect way to get in front of them, and the start to create some demand.

Then – leverage retargeting ads with mid funnel case study type content.

Is there money still to be made in the SEO Tools market? We debuted a new local SEO Audit tool last week and right now getting more folks to start using it.

Definitely a saturated market with some well established players.

There is always opportunity, but you need to nail to positioning. i.e. what is your differentiator?

Why would someone choose you over another tool – price, unique feature? What is the value?

All standard questions around the unique selling proposition.

Also – are there any opportunity to partner with another platform that white label your functionality?

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