7 Advanced SEO Tips You Probably Haven’t Seen: Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard is the founder of Zyppy, SEO keynoter, and former director of SEO at Moz–and today’s he sharing some un-be-LIEVE-ably powerful SEO tips. Some of these are fresh trends, some are just expert-level insights from a 9-year SEO veteran. ALL of these are absolute gold for SEO-focused bloggers though. Enjoy! 🙂


Basic Keyword Research.

Spammy backlink outreach emails…

If you’ve been blogging more than a month, you’ve probably read countless articles about this stuff.

That is NOT this blog post 🙂

Below are DYEB-certified-fresh SEO tips geared towards non-beginners (mostly)– some of which I had never heard before Cyrus shared them with me.

Buckle up.

Here is my podcast interview with Cyrus! It’s amazing (but I’m bias).

or listen on Apple Podcasts \ Google Podcasts \ Spotify

Ok, on to the tips.

What Kind of Content Gets Links in 2018+?

In the blogging world, we’re often trying to decide between two types of content…

  1. SEO-optimized blog posts specifically built around KW research
  2. Non-optimized “passion” content (i.e. stuff we really want to blog about).

So #1 obviously has benefits for SEO, but what about #2?

Believe it or not, non-optimized content can be HUGE for SEO–for a very specific reason: backlinks.

In 2018 and beyond, it is more difficult than ever to get organic backlinks from anything less than unique, STELLAR content. Non-optimized blog content might actually be your best bet at getting those backlinks).

(they may not always be highly contextual backlinks to posts you’re dying to rank for, but let’s talk about that separately)

When I look at my most linked-to articles, I Believe in Blogging is at the VERY top of the list.

i believe in blogging excerpt
Part of my manifesto, which is NOT optimized at all.

That post is 1,000% unique and interesting.

People linked back to it.

My 2nd most linked-to post is a FinCon takeaway post, also non-optimized.

My 3RD most linked-to post is a massive How to Monetize a Blog guide, which IS optimized…

…I had to fight tooth and nail to get every single backlink to it.

The Biggest Mistake People Make When Doing Backlink Outreach

is to not plan in advance who they’re going to reach out to.

Most of us write, hit publish, then start reaching out to folks we think might link back us. Influencer or reader.

spammy backlink outreach
Hey it could work. (sigh)

While that can work, it’s also hard as heck in 2018 (in most niches).

Instead, we should write our content with a very specific backlink audience in mind.

This could make the outreach process WAY easier.

  • Are you writing something influencers will actually link back to?
  • Is it something aimed at less-influential bloggers?
  • Media?
  • Specifically targeting round-up posts?

The more (and earlier) you can identify the small group of people MOST likely to link back to your content, the better you can shape the content to make that process easier.

SEO Tips for Content Research

So you have some keywords and a topic in mind.


How do you actually craft content on the page that will rank in Google? Cyrus dropped a few SEO research tips in our interview.

1 – Look at the Format of SERP Page One

SERP page one seo research
steps 1, 2, and 3

Step one is Googling the keywords and check the format of the SERP top-1o.

What do you see?

  • mega-guides?
  • videos?
  • short-form content?
  • PDFs?
  • product pages?

You’re just trying to get a feel for what GOOGLE thinks should be at the top of the results!

2 – Discover User Intent

Figuring out how people search is very, very important for blogging and SEO:

User Intent = Google trying to figure out EXACTLY what people are actually looking for when they enter a query.

When a user enters in a query, are they looking for…

  • data?
  • products?
  • how to?

It is your job as a blogger, for any given keyword, to figure out that user intent, and…

  • solve their problem
  • answer their question
  • give them EXACTLY what they’re looking for
cyrus user intent
Sorry Cyrus Shepard. Gonna take some time to rank 1.

Fully satisfying a Google users’ intent is actually the most critical SEO success factor in all of SEO, per Cyrus.

Check out his infographic btw, legendary.

Zyppy SEO success factor
Click to head to Cyrus’s post!

3 – Cyrus’s Single Most Important Question for Crafting Your Content for SEO

After you’ve done a bit of browsing through some SERP results, it’s time to ask a vital question.

How can I make MY content better?

How can I make it stand out (so people find it interesting or intriguing or new enough to link back to?)

How can I make it different?

Important Note: Don’t feel like a newb when you can’t sit down and say “Oh ok! I got it! Here’s baby-steps 1, 2, and 3 to making my blog post the best! IT’S NEVER THAT EASY.

Good news though.

Answering that question is never easy for anybody.

You and your competitors are always on the exact same playing field for any given page.

(Yes, there are several other site factors like authority, page speed, optimized category pages, your backlink profile–but none of these reflect satisfying a user intent on any given blog post).

What can you do differently in your content to make it satisfy user intent better?

Answer and profit.

(Then come on my podcast and tell me how you did it)


A Bloggers Job Is to Answer the Search Question AND the Next 10 Questions

This is a GOLD SEO tip.

So you’re reaching new bloggers and answering the ancient question “how do I optimize a post for SEO?” (lol)

Now what?

Walking through the user experience, what are the NEXT 10 questions a new blogger might ask?

A quick Google search for any question yields a “people also ask” box.

people also ask seo
Literally, use these in your post. (H2s perhaps?)

Cyrus said this is an emerging trend in SEO (along with using tools to scrape these automatically).

Try using these questions directly as H2 or H3 tags in your post.

The goal in creating “the best piece of content” for any given keyword is based on being a complete, definitive, one-stop-shop for not only their initial query, but the next 10 queries on the same/similar subject.

Readers will fall in love with your content, therefore Google will fall in love with it.


Cyrus is a damn-smart?

  1. Arm yourself with this post
  2. Arm yourself with my interview with fellow SEO guru Grant Sabatier
  3. Do a quick blog audit.
  4. Publish A++++ content.
  5. Publish A++++ content again.

One more note:

Something else Cyrus said struck me as wise.

His own site, Zyppy, is essentially being treated as a new site by Google. His SEO success factors post isn’t currently ranking, but he’s not worried.

Good SEO is a long-term game.

Cyrus stated he plans on continuing to produce content, again and again–and he does his job producing, his current posts WILL rank.

But it takes time.

(Shoutout to my newer bloggers out there.)

The best time to start focusing on SEO was 2001. The 2nd best time is now.

Drop me a comment if you enjoyed this post!

seo tips cyrus shepard
Pin me!

Keep Reading

10 Responses

  1. Hey Pete,
    Great SEO episode! I just listened to it today. I’m stoked to hear you’re going to be speaking at FINCON in Orlando this year. I actually currently live in Orlando and officially decided that I will be purchasing my tickets to go as soon as possible! So excited!
    Anyways, I wanted to expand on your question about transitioning from SEO Research to putting the words on the page. This is something that, I too, have been struggling with. Recently I found this tool called http://www.answerthepublic.com, and I think it’s impressive, especially for a beginner. This is valuable for figuring out the questions you want to answer in your blog post. I thought it might be something you could use for your “How to Start a Blog” blog post. Have you ever heard or seen this before? I’m curious about your opinion. I only recently discovered this tool and think it’s wildly underrepresented!

    1. Yup! I’ve used that a few times, and it’s awesome. Especially for generating “seed” questions to use for “People also ask” in Google.

      Come find me at FinCon! You’ll love it btw 🙂

  2. Hey Pete,

    Awesome tips! I just found this post from Twitter (where you originally shared it) and now I understand how much I’ve missed by not finding your blog earlier.

    Now I literally have 10 browser tabs opened with your latest posts, I have quite a lot to catch up.

    I’m planning to give those tips a try and see how it goes, thanks once again for sharing them!

    1. Ha thanks for that Velin. Pace yourself! Plenty of time to digest and internalize 🙂

      I appreciate the kind words though. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.

  3. This is probably the best post I’ve found in months. I’ve been blogging for about eight months now and there is a ton of outdated information. This blog post is a lifeline.
    That SEO tip was a nice nugget to find too. Thanks for that. ?

  4. So much good stuff in here! Gonna pin and revisit for the next post I write! Some great stuff to add to the process that Brendan teaches! (100daysofseo.com)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.