The SEO Strategy We Used To Rank #1 for “Unhealthiest Foods”

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In today’s SEO case study you are going to learn the exact SEO strategy that we used to rank #1 for the keyword “unhealthiest foods” and #4 in the same search.

They have been there for over a year and are stuck in the top 5.

This is a white hat method with some grey hat mixed at the beginning since we “built some links”.

What You Will Learn

  • How we ranked #1 for “unhealthiest foods” for years
  • How to blend white hat content marketing with grey hat SEO for huge results
  • The exact SEO strategy we used

Revealing The SEO Strategy

We were approached by an online content distributor who wanted help with SEO. My company, Grey Umbrella Marketing’s (now Visiture) process back in 2014 was to pick target keywords, create content and then rank for them.

We didn’t use any black hat SEO strategy, but we did build links via relevant web 2.0 sites and we were very good at it.

This is how we did it step by step.

Step #1 – Keyword Selection

First we selected keyword phrases to go after. Here is what we chose-

Keyword Search Volume CPC
what happens when you quit smoking 5400 5.27
health benefits of honey 5400 1.57
how to increase libido 2900 2.62
honey health benefits 2400 0.21
how to communicate effectively 2400 2.4
coffee nutrition facts 1900 1.41
how to increase sex drive 1600 3.05
natural sex 1300 0.06
increase sex drive 1300 1.83
should i shave my head 1000 4.34
negative self talk 880 0.01
how to have good posture 880 0
shaving your head 880 2.35
college booty 880 0.04
how to increase libido in men 880 1.33
what happens when you stop smoking 720 5.43
foot massage techniques 720 0.11
how to increase your sex drive 720 1.69
what happens to your body when you quit smoking 720 5.81
how to increase your libido 590 1.42
how to have better posture 590 0
what happens after you quit smoking 590 3.26
different types of tea 590 3.68
benefits of smiling 480 0
how to declutter your house 480 1.73
how to prevent bronchitis 480 1.57
famous presidential speeches 390 0
how to boost libido 390 1
healthy frozen pizza 390 4.22
how to get good posture 390 0.74

Overall, 38,000 people a month searched for these phrases. If we could secure the top 1-3 positions, we would be able to achieve a lot of targeted keyword traffic.

We picked these phrases based on the relevance to the website and competition. The lesser the competition, the better the keyword to go after. I always recommend using Adwords keyword tool to do keyword research.

finding keywords for our SEO strategy

So once we had this list of keywords, we needed to create an article that targeted each one.

Step #2 – Content Creation

We used Buzzsumo to do all of our content research for each keyword.

BuzzSumo makes it really easy to see what is popular and we entered each keyword into the tool and then picked an article to replicate or “make better.”

This is what it looked like-


Once we knew roughly what we wanted to write for each one, a content team wrote the articles for us and published them on the site.

The content team did a great job with a significant amount of research in producing “bad-ass” pieces of content that really blew you away.

Here are all of the articles we created-

Keywords Article
what is personal development
personal growth and development http://
a diet to lose weight http://
medication for sleep http://
what is a heart healthy diet http://
best workouts to gain muscle http://
ways to lose weight in 2 weeks http://
foods you should buy organic http://
healthy high protein breakfast http://
healthy takeout options http://
health benefits of honey http://
worlds healthiest foods http://
healthiest food at mcdonalds http://
what happens when you quit smoking http://
unhealthiest foods http://
coffee nutrition facts http://
top ten healthiest foods http://

We then went in and optimized them for their target keyword.

This was really pretty simple, we just made sure the article was fully optimised for the target keyword using the SEO by Yoast plugin.

Each of the articles was written with a great deal of research and depth. You cannot create subpar content. It has to be the best on the top three search results – this is very important.

A good rule of thumb is to write the content, then look at the content on the top three results. Is your content better? Is it more in-depth or more informative?

If not, keep making it better.

on page seo optimisation

Once we had all of the articles optimised and published, it was time to do the real work!

Step #3 – Building Links

We built some web 2.0 property links to the individual blog posts first. Each one was basically a private blog network which had an article that we could link to each of the blog posts.

They were all created with relevant unique content and I suppose this is what would be considered a grey hat SEO strategy.

Here is a sample link that is still alive:


We used a service called POSI rank back then to create the web 2.0 properties along with some guest posts. We had them pointed directly to the articles and sure enough we popped into the first page for lots of terms.

Important Note About This SEO Case Study

Since we executed this SEO strategy we have updated it. Instead of creating web 2.0 sites now we just create 10 relevant high quality unique articles along with guest blogging on other sites to get them published with a link back to your target blog post.

Just make sure that you do not use the same anchor text as the keyword you are trying to rank for!

You should only need a handful of them and then promote the links and the post on your social channels. You can also use other successful pieces of content on your site to interlink to that particular guide.

Once we hit the first page with our posts, over time natural white hat links started appearing

The content we used for the SEO case study

Because the page was now easy to find on the first page, the natural links just kept on coming!

worst food on the planet

Then a crazy thing happened.

It exploded on social media.

Social share counters

We found that once someone had shared it, it got shared again and again until eventually a famous celebrity shared it and, sure enough, thousands shared it behind him.

Facebook share

After this, it exploded to the 2nd positon in Google and after one and a half years, it remains #1 (and now has the Schema markup) and the #4 position as well.

google search results

Then over the next year, it continued to be shared and now has 70 white hat acquired backlinks.

This page brought hundreds of thousands of views and tons of social signals and also attracted 151 real comments.

Results of our SEO strategy

I hope you understand that you can use link building to get a white hat campaign started, but at the end of the day – the content has to keep you there.

If the new engagement ranking factors for your content are poor then Google will drop you from the first page entirely!

Remember: Any health-related content/website is part of the YMYL category, which means that they need to be treated as such and respect the YMYL guidelines.

Lessons Learned

  • Social media has a huge impact on rankings & Google will always keep quality content at the top of search results.
  • One good retweet or share can make a huge impact. Promoting to the right people can make the biggest difference.
  • Acquiring White hat backlinks is often a “the rich get richer” scenario because the people who already rank high attract lots new links naturally with no effort.
  • Spending time & money to create quality engaging content is worth every penny

Wrapping It Up

What I want you to take away from this article is that no matter how much research you do, you will never really know what is going to work until you try it.

Don’t be scared to come up with a small list of keywords and create the very best content on the web for each of them.

With a few backlinks and social signals, you will be surprised at what sticks! The simple SEO strategy always wins!

But don’t forget – links will get you to the first page but engagement with your content will keep you there.

If you need help with your site, feel free to check out these SEO packages or, get in touch with my team by submitting an enquiry now.

41 Responses

  1. Mayette

    How does it affect the white hat with mix of grey hat?

    • Matthew Woodward
      December 7th, 2020 at 10:20 am

      Sorry, not sure to understand your question…

  2. Terry Madigan

    Nice case study. Thanks for sharing.

    • Matthew Woodward
      July 19th, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      No problem Terry!

  3. Joaquin Rios

    Great post! Thanks for show how to rank keys step by step

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 14th, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      No problem Joaquin!

  4. Anil Athri

    This article will helped to me very much.Thanks for sharing the articles.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 26th, 2017 at 7:45 am

      No problem Anil!

  5. Accounting

    This is great artiicle… i just follow this case study and apply to my blog, now m getting good results. thanks


    • Matthew Woodward
      December 13th, 2016 at 9:07 am

      That is awesome to hear :)

  6. Nicole

    I can’t wait to try some of your ideas in the list starting today. I’ve been scratching my head recently trying to think of distinct ways I ‘d be able to defeat the competitors in my new niche and this post has given me so many ideas.. many thanks Ron!

    • Matthew Woodward
      October 7th, 2016 at 10:11 am

      I hope you put it into action :)

  7. Hitesh Kothari

    Good one. The Key take away for me was to use different anchor texts on the different sites while building back links.
    Thank you :)

    • Matthew Woodward
      August 4th, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Yes you should always vary that!

  8. Dakshraj Shaw

    Great article off-course! Covering so many topics about SEO in a single post is quite impossible and sounds tricky too but I appreciate the way of writing and explanation step by step.

    • Matthew Woodward
      May 24th, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Hope you put it all to good use :)

  9. james mccallum

    Sounds like a job well done.
    But the big question is ,is the site making any money?

    • Matthew Woodward
      May 15th, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      Well getting traffic is only half the battle!

  10. Dat To

    Thanks Matt for once again showing us how it’s done! So you mentioned that you probably need 10 guest posts on different sites that point back to the page + handful of internal links. This is a huge commitment.

    Can you group a dozen related keywords into one giant post?

    • Matthew Woodward
      May 5th, 2016 at 10:21 am

      It’s not that much of a commitment, think about what it would take to achieve the same results with a brick and mortar business.

      Yes you can group related keywords, you should be doing that anyway :)

  11. Andre V Lopes

    Hi liked the strategy’ve been following your work here in Brazil, I will try to replicate this strategy in my blog. Thank you and Congratulations!

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 22nd, 2016 at 11:55 am

      Don’t just replicate it, improve it :)

  12. nandu web

    Awesome aricle! Thanks for going through the entire process and showing how rankings for even short competitive phrases can be achieved.

    • Matthew Woodward
      April 20th, 2016 at 11:34 am

      You can rank for any keyword you want if you try hard enough :)

  13. Lisa

    My question is for the guest posting outreach, and the anchor test used.

    Would you just target a variation of the keyword, or something else completely? So if the article keyword was “keyword research” would you have linked back something like “keyword research and SEO?”

    Thank you! Great article.

  14. ali murtaza

    thanks for the great post better is to focus on long tail keyword to increase traffic is the backlinks also point to these long tail keywords or just well research content is fine.

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 19th, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      Both =D

  15. Shaheen Adibi

    Hey Ron,

    Excellent post! As some support for the community would you mind breaking down your timeline there? It seems like there was a pretty straightforward 6 months of growth between April and October what were the phases involved and time applied on: content build out, gray hat link building social explosion, and then reaping the benefits of the rich getting richer? I’m mostly curious how long things were going until they started folding into each other.

  16. James Dunne

    Hi Matt, I’m new to your work and love your no-BS approach!

    Seems logical to me that this approach would work well for YouTube SEO too.

    What do you think?



  17. Ashutosh Jha

    Hey Matt,

    Really an awesome article. Usually bloggers don’t give the links of such sites but you were helpful enough. I am working on a niche site and so would be helpful.

    Thanks for share!

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 9th, 2016 at 11:57 am

      I can’t take credit for that one :)

      • Ashutosh Jha
        February 9th, 2016 at 12:04 pm

        Agree. Thanks to Ron as well :p

  18. Shawn

    Fantastic Post! I love the “How I did it” posts like this one, they are rare in a world of “Here’s what I’d do in theory” posts.

    Towards the end, you mentioned that engagement metrics were important because if the engagement metrics reflected negatively, the rankings of your site would be impacted. Were there any observations you made from a design and layout perspective that helped improve engagement that led to better performance overall?

    Thanks again for a great piece!

  19. Viral

    Hi Matt & Rod,

    What a great informative post! Thanks for going through the entire process and showing how rankings for even short competitive phrases can be achieved.

    Matt, out of curiosity, is the site that receives 1.2 million visits per month (as mentioned in your PBN course page)?

    • Matthew Woodward
      February 8th, 2016 at 10:34 am

      Nope :)

  20. Mojtaba

    Hi Matt,
    What a fantastic post as always, just few questions
    Could you explain more about this part: “Since we executed this strategy we have updated it. Instead of creating web 2.0 sites now we just create 10 relevant high quality unique articles and perform guest post outreach to other sites to get them published with a link back to your target blog post.”
    What is the reason behind that? : “Just make sure that you do not use the same anchor text as the keyword you are trying to rank for!”

    And finally do you still recommend using “POSI rank” ?
    Thank you so much in advance.

    • Ronald Dod
      February 6th, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      I hate “not recommending” a service but POSI is a grey hat solution so for us it doesn’t make sense to use it. We used it because it worked 2-4 years ago but not so much anymore in my opinion. Although maybe it works for others and they are fantastic people. They do have a great guest posting solutions but our new method would be just to do what they do. It’s generally pretty simple. Get really hard to get links to your popular content through building or pitching :).

  21. Henry Reith

    Hey Matt and Rod,

    Quick note Matt, read your stuff for ages but never commented so thank you for all the hard work you put in.

    Rod, wicked ideas, as ever it’s never too difficult, it’s all about the logical steps. I totally agree with the idea of going back into articles and checking them after they have had a few weeks to be indexed and all the rest. And continual optimizing off them. Great idea.

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