Marius from marathon-training-schedule.com
Special thanks to Marius Bakken from marathon-training-schedule.com for being the first SBI-er to share his story on my blog. My questions to Marius are in bold…
1. Why did you decide for SBI?
I first heard about SBI in 1999 when I bough Ken’s hardcover “Make Your Site Sell” book on how to build a website. I signed up to his newsletter all the way back in 2000 and have been on it since, but only eventually gave in a little over a year ago to sign up 🙂
In the meantime I ran a personal site called mariusbakken.com. It did well but I wanted a more business type approach to building a website. So I finally decided for the SBI solution when I had some time to follow that idea.
2. Did you know what you wanted to write about or did you have to find a niche? How did you decide?
I choose my niche which is marathon training based on three things :
1) Where my expertize was. I am a two time Olympic runner and will finish up medical school next year for MD so anything within running + health would have been relevant. The marathon has both elements ; running/training and at the same time taking care of your health on the way.
2) Keywords/traffic. I used Nichebot and the SBI keyword tools and found the topic that was narrow enough but at the same time generating enough traffic of relevant keywords. I spent alot of time doing this keyword research and structuring the site which has been my main focus together with building quality links + content writing.
3) A topic where I could fulfill a need to the visitor. Now, training for/running the marathon is a huge challenge and if you are not well enough prepared for it you will get into trouble. Therefore, anyone training for the marathon are dependent on a plan on that way.
I wanted to do something else vs. just Adsense income to monetize it, therefore I looked for a niche with a need that I could later provide a solution to that through a published product.
3. How did you progress? Let us know the process and what you learned from the SBI Action Guide, what from forums or anywhere else. Include major things you remember like getting 100 visitors or earning $10 per day or something like that.
I was lucky enough to find your Freedomideas blog before actually posting my first page. Basically I printed out Tomaz’ advice, page by page and analyzed it together with the Action Guide. This is what I have used since, almost exclusively. I broke it down and set two goals initially 1) build keyword focused, visitor friendly content 2) go heavy on building quality relevant links.
The result was very good traffic from the start, a PR 4 already on the first PR update ; two months from the first published page. April this year I passed the one year mark of the first page published and averaged 794 unique visitors/daily through only about 95 pages.
4. Can you share a few tips of what really worked well for getting more traffic? (ideas about writing content, where and how did you get good links, …)
I have picked up a few tips on the way :
1) Build quality inbound links from relevant sites.
I think this one is huge. I never submitted to directories, mass published articles etc. The only time I actually saw a decrease in traffic to my site was for a period of 3 months where I outsourced some link building. In this period, a number of forum links, blog comments (not always from relevant sites) social networking links was added going to my site and another one (which I had started later)
Now, about 2-3 weeks into this, traffic to both sites started to level off. It almost seemed like a “level off” filter from Google. When I stopped that behavior and got back to normal link building again traffic started to climb (again parallell on the sites) rapidly again.
What I generally do is to write emails to webmasters and the response is quite good ; only about 3-5 emails for one PR 3 and above link. In the beginning (even after my PR4) this was about 1 in 10-15 but I have found how one approaches the site owners to be crucial to the link building success – at least for my sites. What has worked best for me is this way :
First I try to improve the open rate of the emails like I would for your Newsletter. If you want them to respond to you, you need to make them curious enough to open the email. I usually do it like this in the subject title, which is very specific and stands out : “Hi from Norwegian Olympic Runner and Visitor”. Then the rest of the email structured in the following manner ;
Dear [specific name of person]
[1. short intro of who I am]
[2. praising some specific parts of their site, in a personal manner ; often referring to previous posts back in time so that they actually know that I have been following their site, relating this to something that is personal to myself for a common connection]
[3. give them a reason to link to me ; focusing on what I could do for them. If this does not seem relevant – I ask them in a nice way, I have found most people will link to you if they a) really want something from you, like a link b) actually like you and your site]
[4. I usually end the emails with a suggestion for their site/a topic they might consider and form this as a question. Like ; “by the way, have you considered writing something about your training back from the shin splints injury you had a few months ago?”]
This I have found, improves feedback because it enourages interaction back. And even if they do not want to link to you right then, a few emails back and forth, most actually will because you are now have a personal relationship.
I have used this way for another site also (health related ), same results ; right up to PR 4 within only 2-3 months time of publishing the first article.
2) Write long (but quality) articles, especially the tier 2.
I found this out after a while. I only have abit over 90 pages but most of them are very long, especially the Tier 2 ones: for example half marathon training page. Some are up to 1400 words. The result is that I have lots of word combinations on well ranked PR pages and this seems to boost my long tier keywords (the site was found for about 8000 different keyword combinations in April)
3) The other stuff I have done is pretty basic. Keyword first in the title, in the beginning of articles in bold, a few in italic etc. In line with Tomaz advice that I’ve followed step by step in that regards.
One additional thing I have done recently though, with this site + the others is to implement a “call to action word” in the beginning of the meta description to improve clickthrough rates from the google search.The meta description does not seem to have much importance in the SERP ranking itself, so I use it to convince the visitors to take action and click on my site vs the other options that come up.
For example words like “discover, claim, pick, consider” such as “Discover the best training for the marathon…etc”. “Pick your shoes wisely. These are the top 5 tips….etc”. as the beginning of the meta description.
5. Your plans for the future? (or anything else you’d like to share!)
I have a couple of SBI sites going now, the marathon being the main one + the oldest one. I will release the product on the marathon site this spring/beginning of the summer.
If I were to start another site I would probably not start from scratch. It seems like the age of websites is starting to play a huge factor in the search ranking (and I suspect the total age of the incoming links to a site has that as well).
An interesting case is my personal domain www.mariusbakken.com. Now this is a site I started back in June 2000 so it is almost 9 years old – never dropped. It had a PR 4 early on so it has been well established.
Back in 2006 I finished my running career so I stopped working on it. No updates at all since then other than adding a couple of outbound links to my marathon site. (and probably no incoming either in that period)
I have followed the ranking for that site now and then for years and it has ranked for such as “marius bakken” but not high for any “major” keywords. Then (quite suddenly) about half a year ago it appeared on the 12th spot of google.no for the term “running” – which is a 360 million related “competing” pages term and has been there since.
Running is not even in the title of this site, not in the keywords and barely in the incoming anchor texts. Nothing has changed in 2 1/2 years to that site – the only thing is its age.
Other than that, I will continue working on my sites and building more quality content and traffic. Finally, thank you for all the nice info you provide through the Freedom Ideas blog.