5 Powerful SEO and Content Marketing Techniques that Took My Website to 320k Visitors Per Month

by Marcus Sheridan

increased web traffic

I was looking at the traffic for my swimming pool website today and a smile came to my face as I saw we had annihilated our previous traffic records for a single month by reaching over 320,000 visitors to the site during the month of June. As I sat and pondered these numbers, I was brought back to thinking about the different ways we were able to achieve this incredible growth, and what exactly this means for other businesses looking to achieve the same:

From 2k to 320k Visitors Per Month: How River Pools Did It

1. They Ask, You Answer: You’ve all heard me talk and speak about this over and over again, but it’s significance is greater today than it was when we started this process 5 years ago. More than ever, Google and the other search engines want to perfectly match the thoughts of their customers (online searchers), which is exactly why the process of taking every question you’ve ever received from a prospect and addressing it on your website (each question being a new page/article on the site) is an absolute imperative today if you want a content marketing and SEO strategy that is built to last.


For years I’ve watched SEO companies freak out every time Google has a new update in their algorithm. And with each of these updates, all I could do was sit back and laugh, mainly because my clients that had been using this strategy continued to crush it more and more while their competitors that had used shortcuts were being punished for dancing with the digital devil. :-)

2. We Didn’t Look For Shortcuts: This relates to #1 but here is the thing: Like any company striving to get traffic to their website in 2009 and 2010, we could have bought links, farmed out links, traded links, done guest posts on crappy websites just for cheap anchor text links, etc.

But we didn’t.


Simple: It never felt right. Seriously. I never felt good about trying to manipulate something knowing that eventually, the machine (Google)would be smarter than humans and all those persons that had attempted to game the system would suffer.

Yep, I'd agree ;-)

Yep, I’d agree ;-)

Eventually, all my suspicions would come true in the form of interesting animals: Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and surely more yet to be named updates in the future.

3. The Power of the Long Tail: When we started learning about the power of search at River Pools in 2009, I knew we’d never be able to rank for many of the major phrases in our niche, as we were simply a small fish in a big pond. So instead of focusing on words like “fiberglass pools” or “inground pools” we directed our attention to long tail keyword phrases. Here are a few of our early targets:

This one article on River Pools was really the catalyst to a long tail strategy that would eventually dominate short tail keywords as well.

This one article on River Pools was really the catalyst to a long tail strategy that would eventually dominate short tail keywords as well.

  • How much does a fiberglass pool cost?
  • Fiberglass vs concrete pools
  • What are the problems with a fiberglass pool?

Each of these articles attained massive success, so much so that instead of just ranking for the long-tail, they also ended up ranking for a slew of short tail phrases that we never dreamed of being able to dominate, as shown in the following list:

Using our HubSpot analytics you can see the short tail keywords we now rank for.

Using our HubSpot analytics you can see the short tail keywords we now rank for.

4. The Big 5: You’ve heard me talk about the Big 5 before, but to reiterate, these are the subjects that move the needle in almost every single industry but few companies actually want to address them. The Big 5 are:

  • Cost/Pricing
  • Problems/Issues
  • Vs/Comparisons
  • Reviews
  • Best

To see exactly how this works, take a look at some of the top read articles for River Pools for 2014:

The top viewed pages from the River Pools site in 2014 so far, look how many (red) are relating to subjects in the Big 5...

The top viewed pages from the River Pools site in 2014 so far, look how many (red) are relating to subjects in the Big 5 (as shown in HubSpot)…

5. We Didn’t Follow the Rules: Every industry has certain unwritten “rules” in terms of what they do and do not talk about. Well, I’m here to say those rules are dumb—at least if you’re trying to gain the trust of real consumers searching the answers to real questions and problems. Many of the subjects we addressed on the River Pools site would never have been addressed by others in our space as they were too “controversial” or “the competitors would steal our secrets” or “we’d scare customers” away. Instead of giving in to those foolish thoughts, we allow truth and honesty to be our guiding light through the process, which eventually paid huge dividends.

At River Pools, we didn't ask permission to write about other companies...we just did.

At River Pools, we didn’t ask permission to write about other companies…we just did.

As I mentioned a few months ago, River Pools is now entering the manufacturing phase of our business. Because we have web visitors from all over the world on a daily basis looking to ask us questions and use our service, we’re finally getting to the point where we won’t be limited to simply be “Pool guys” in Virginia and Maryland. Soon, our pool shells will be in backyards around the globe, but it will all be made possible because of a content marketing philosophy that made real people, and the search engines, incredibly happy.

This is the same philosophy we use for all of our clients at The Sales Lion. That’s the beauty of the 5 strategies I mentioned above. They’re not industry or niche specific. Whether you’re a B2B, B2C, blue collar or white collar—the strategies discussed here are built to last, at least as long as we have this thing called “the internet.”

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate McQuillan July 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

That is amazing Marcus!!! You should be so proud of that achievement!!


Marcus Sheridan July 10, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Thanks so much Kate, and I’m proud of you too!!!


David Peralta July 8, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Marcus, as always, thanks for the inspirational post. We are in the process of implementing exactly these recommendations within our own company, and look forward to the results.

One question though, did you at any point implement any kind of link-building strategy, or did you just let the links flow in by themselves?


Marcus Sheridan July 10, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Zero link building strategy bud. None at all.

I really do feel killer content–the Big 5 especially– is your greatest link building strategy.



Don Stanley July 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Wow, wow, wow! The story of River Pools and Spas and TSL only continues to get better. So happy for you and thrilled to see the continued explosive growth. #SuperAwesomeSauce bro


Marcus Sheridan July 10, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Thanks brother, really appreciate it and your friendship during this process as well!!!



FantasyLogic July 8, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Congratulation on your achievement! A lot of hard work and patience is needed though. Looking forward to accomplish similar results as we focus on the same strategy. Fingers crossed. Thank you for your inspirations :)


Marcus Sheridan July 10, 2014 at 4:40 pm

So glad it helped :)


Ryan Hanley July 8, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Congratulations bro. Hard work pays off…

Keep blowing minds.



Marcus Sheridan July 10, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Appreciate it man…Now if I only worked as hard as that guy in upstate NY, then I’d be getting where I want to be brother!! :-)

Thanks for all,



myrujukan July 8, 2014 at 10:15 pm

wow, I agree with you about natural link. When panda, penguin comes it a scary news for link farm user, the natural link will help us for long journey. Sorry for my bad English… :)


Pat Palingo July 9, 2014 at 11:51 am

Congrats Marcus,

Awesome results and good luck with the new manufacturing business. Take care!


Marcus Sheridan July 10, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Appreciate it brother, just trying to keep up w my friends at Yale ;-)


dave rosenthal July 9, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Marcus, One of your best posts ever! Forget about Google’s latest critter and just write useful stuff.


Marcus Sheridan July 10, 2014 at 4:37 pm

So glad you enjoyed it Dave! :)


Ignite SEO in San Diego July 13, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Kudos to you/clients for not manipulating the system when almost everyone else was doing short cuts for short lived success and now they are banned while you reap the benefits of honest hard work.


Carmen Sognonvi July 14, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Hey Marcus, congrats on reaching another awesome milestone! I’ve always enjoyed your common-sense advice when it comes to content marketing. At our martial arts school, we’ve been blogging and creating videos for quite a few years already, but it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really focused on making sure we include our top keywords in each post title. And I’m already seeing a big difference in our traffic.

One challenge I have though, is that much of the traffic we attract is not local. And since we’re a bricks-and-mortar business, we only service people in this specific area. I believe you also service a limited area in your pool business, so maybe you’ve found this to be the case as well.

Do you have any tips on how to tweak content marketing so that you’re reaching more of a local audience? (It feels weird and unnatural to include “Brooklyn NY” in every post title, so I’m curious to hear your take) Thanks! :)


Mitch Mitchell July 18, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Great stuff Marcus. I also have never adopted a link building strategy because I thought it was a bit smarmy and, turns out I was right. I never instituted a guest posting policy for other blogs, but on one of my blogs I did accept guest posts because I wanted it to grow and thus be more of a money maker. It worked for a short while but having to read and edit all those horribly written articles and fend of irritatingly badly written introduction emails was enough for me to say “enough”. I’m just glad it’s never been a strategy I’ve recommended with any gusto to anyone else.

You’ve done very well and should pat yourself on the back for your hard work and ingenuity. Way to go.


Christian Newman July 19, 2014 at 9:53 am

Great tips and I love #2 because it doesn’t feel right to me, either.

When I was first getting started with my website and blog, nobody was reading it. Ok, maybe my wife. And my mom. But that’s it.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, some guy started following my blog, commenting, emailing me with praises and such. Hallelujah! I’m helping someone – or so I thought.

It didn’t take long before I got an email from this guy offering me “S4S” – and I thought to myself, what the hell is S4S? So as any good marketer would do, I asked Google and quickly discovered this thing called share-for-share and before I knew it I had this icky feeling I just couldn’t shake. So I turned it down. And guess what…

I never heard from him again! I was back to my two best fans (and still am, as far as I can tell) and that’s okay because the law of compound content says that someday more people will join my movement.



Ruban Kt July 25, 2014 at 12:26 am

Hey Marcus,

Useful post and like the quote from Matt “Don’t try to be natural be natural”.


N I Singh July 27, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Thanks a lot for creating such an article.


Amrish August 11, 2014 at 1:40 pm

It’s true making a great content can definitely bring about a good marketing strategy and also help in promotions. The social media plays a significant role in SEO and sharing contents could really benefit the page ranking and the SERP results.


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