Biz Tips: The 3-step SEO facelift you didn’t know you needed

Biz Tips: The 3-step SEO facelift you didn’t know you needed


The 3-step SEO facelift you didn’t know you needed

Keep your room clean, kids.

I had the messiest room as a kid.

I never made my bed. There were clothes and books and pillows all over the floor. My mother used to joke that it was a minefield.

…right before she yelled at me and told me for the umpteenth time to pick it up. Oops. (Sorry, Mom.)

As an adult, I have much cleaner habits and that cleanliness has extended into other areas of my life. I love structure.

And, as it turns out, so does Google.

“A busy living room with various trinkets and decorations and a window looking out on the street” by Eduard Militaru on Unsplash

Clean rooms get more traffic

I’m talking about your blog.

Think of your blog as a library. Every blog post is like a book.

How are books organized in a library? For nonfiction works, they’re separated using the Dewey Decimal System. Category (History), then topic (French European History), and then subtopic (French History). And so on.

While I really don’t recommend using something as complex as the Dewey Decimal System for your blog posts, I do recommend some kind of organizational system.

Why? Let’s back up a second.

Who are we organizing for?

Your readers. And Google.

That said, your readers are smarter than Google. Google is like a 5th grader, and your readers are (probably) older than that.

Let’s optimize for the lowest common denominator.

Before that, let’s talk about how your blog got messy in the first place.

“books on brown wooden shelf” by Susan Yin on Unsplash

How rooms get messy

Let’s look at what your blogging process probably looks like right now.

Step 1: Create a new blog post

Step 2: Publish that new blog post

Step 3: Return to step 1

And while this is fine as a basic strategy, but it’s the equivalent of throwing clothes in the closet and leaving them there.

(You could at least separate your shirts and socks.)

I’m talking about internal linking.

Internal linking is the process of adding hyperlinks to other pages on your website in a blog post. It helps users and Google discover new content on your blog.

There’s another important function.

It tells Google which pages are important and related.

In other words, it tells Google which pages to prioritize in the search results.

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Steps for cleaning your room

Step 1: Cluster your blog posts by topic

This is the room-cleaning equivalent of sorting your socks from your shirts. (Mom would be proud.)

Think about the topics you write about. Can you identify 3–5 “buckets” the topics you write will go into?

If you own a business in the language-learning space (you help people learn foreign languages), you might cover the following:

  • Study + Retention Techniques
  • Mindset
  • Course Reviews
  • Case studies
  • Benefits of Language Learning

Or maybe you run a business coaching practice. You can identify 3–5 buckets — perhaps the following:

  • Money Mindset
  • Pricing + Packaging
  • Market Research
  • Lead Generation
  • Sales

Run a conference all about training dogs? This is cake, guys.

  • Health + Nutrition
  • Training Techniques
  • Gear Reviews
  • Behavior + Psychology
  • Dog Show Preparation

Some of your existing blog posts might fall outside of these topics, and that’s okay. We want at least 80% of your posts to fit in these 3–5 buckets.

“Artist dips paintbrush in bucket of paint among other pots of different colored paint” by russn_fckr on Unsplash

Step 2: Create a Cornerstone for each bucket

If a new visitor to your website could only see one post from each bucket, which would they be?

If you help people learn languages, maybe your Cornerstone from the Mindset bucket is teaching people how they need to embrace failure as feedback, because ain’t nobody be speaking Portuguese perfectly at the end of their first lesson.

If you’re the business coach, maybe your Cornerstone from the Sales bucket is all about getting your target market to understand that they need to get good at sales; otherwise, they’ll never have a functioning business.

Run the doggy conference? A Cornerstone from the Health and Nutrition bucket could be a comprehensive guide to doggy nutrition.

But let’s back up a second.

2A: Why bother with a Cornerstone post?

Don’t we want all of our posts to be visible on Google?

Well, yes and no. And here’s why.

There’s a phenomenon called keyword cannibalization, and yes, it’s as horrifying as it sounds. (Okay, slight exaggeration.)

Keyword cannibalization when multiple pages or posts from your website rank for the same keyword…the result? They compete with each other.

One page eats the other, basically.

In other words, you’ve diluted the ranking power of your site for that keyword.

Ranking #5 for your target keyword is better than ranking #8 and #12.

This is because click-through rates on the search results follow a power law; basically, position #1 will, in the majority of circumstances, get more clicks than positions #2, #3, and #4 combined.

(That said, if you’re already ranking #1 for a target keyword and you’re doing it consistently, by all means, try to rank another page on position #2.)

That Cornerstone post we’ve identified? That’s going to be your gateway. The Golden Gate to your San Francisco. The wardrobe to your Narnia. The rabbit hole to your Wonderland.

The River Styx to the resting place of your future client’s problems, if you will.

Step 2b: Consolidate into that Cornerstone

Three important things need to be true for your Cornerstone:

  1. Completeness. It acknowledges all the subtopics your other blog posts cover.
  2. Authoritativeness. Your “lesser” blog posts link to your Cornerstone.
  3. Consolidation. Your Cornerstone does not link to any top-level pages, except for in the nav.

I covered the issue of completeness in this post:

How to Rank in Google: A (Super) Basic Seo Primer | Jake Ballinger

Authoritativeness is also simple. Linking every other blog post in that bucket to your Cornerstone signals to search engines that this Cornerstone is the most important page.

You should also link from your Cornerstone to a few of those lesser posts, where it makes sense.

Consolidation means you’re not linking from your Cornerstone to anything that’s already in the navigation. These are called “top-level pages”; in other words, don’t link to your top-level “work with me” page in your Cornerstone. It’s already getting linked to in the nav.

Photo by Nikola Knezevic on Unsplash

Step 3: Clean Your Non-Cornerstone posts

Remember: internal links help search engines discover more of your site.

But, because we want to avoid keyword cannibalization, we don’t want much overlap between our non-Cornerstone posts.

In other words, we want to do the following:

  • Identify one keyword per post
  • Combine or delete posts that have matching keywords
  • Link to other posts in the same bucket

Let’s look at each.

3a: Identify one keyword per post

The best way to avoid keyword cannibalization? Ensure each post targets a different keyword.

If you’ve been judicious about tracking keywords with the Yoast WordPress plugin, you’ve already fought half the battle. Yoast alerts you when you’re trying rank two pages for the same keyword.

…but what if you’re ranking for a keyword you didn’t target? What then?

(Remember: a post can rank for more than one keyword in Google.)

Use a tool like Ahrefs to figure that out.

How to Find and Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues (in Seconds)

3b: Combine or delete posts with matching keywords

Now that you’ve identified some potential problems, it’s time to consolidate.

This means either deleting or combining posts.

Which one should you do? It depends on the situation.

I like to delete underperforming posts. If it’s not very valuable, doesn’t have any shares or comments or backlinks, I delete it and add a 301 redirect either to another post (your Cornerstone) or the home page.

If it’s just feeling incomplete, I take that information and include it in another post (or my Cornerstone). Then I delete that post and make a 301 redirect to whatever post I added the information to.

Why delete those posts?

Because every additional post or page on your site that’s indexed in Google dilutes your site’s overall ability to rank.

Fewer posts = more concentrated ability to rank in Google.

Just like a car that goes faster with less shit in the trunk.

3c: Link to other posts in the same bucket

Finally, you want to link to other posts in that same bucket.

This accomplishes a few things:

  1. It signals to Google that those posts are related. This is the equivalent of placing similar books together in the library.
  2. It makes it easier for Google to find those posts because all they have to do is follow your links.
  3. It makes it easier for your readers to find those posts. 🙂

Do you want to link to every other post in that bucket? Of course not. That’s overwhelming.

But you do want to link to other posts in that where it makes sense.

And here’s a little hack for you:

Update your old posts to link to a new post you just published.

That ensures your new post gets all the benefits I just listed above.


Here’s what we covered:

  • The 3-Step SEO strategy you’re not using (Cluster, Create, Clean)
  • What a Cornerstone post is and why it’s important
  • How to avoid Keyword Cannibalization

Can I challenge you to take some action?

Let me know in the comments below what your 3–5 buckets are.

Let’s Connect

Jake Ballinger is a marketing coach for heart-centered entrepreneurs and course creators. If you liked this article, join my growing army of drag queens and receive weekly marketing, SEO, and mindset tips just like this (plus the occasional promotion.) The best part? You get to be a queen. 👑💃

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