Pareto SEO: The 20% of SEO That Actually Matters

Pareto SEO: The 20% of SEO That Matters

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When I started doing SEO, there was so much information I was learning that I was overwhelmed.

I didn’t know what was important and what wasn’t.

At one point I spent weeks worrying about schema markup; this turned out not to matter.

At another point, I tried learning the nuances of the rel=”canonical” attribute. This especially doesn’t matter as much now with top-of-funnel content so often being stolen and put on Reddit.

Now, years later, I’ve learned that SEO, like everything in life, abides by the Pareto Principle.

You get 80% results from 20% effort.

So here’s a good deal of this 20%.

Technical SEO

Google Search Console is Google’s proprietary tool for accessing its search index. It’s pretty easy to use.

Connect it to your site.

Then find your sitemaps. Different content management systems and plugins have different ways of generating a sitemap in case you don’t have one.

Submit said sitemap(s) to Google Search Console.

Whenever you add a new page to your site or edit one, submit the URL to Google Search Console as well. Do this in the top bar that says “Inspect any URL in…”

That takes care of the most pressing aspects of technical SEO.

When does serious technical SEO matter?

It matters if:

  • You’re not using a user-friendly CMS or builder like Webflow, Elementor or other WordPress site builders, SEO plugins like Yoast, Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, and more.
  • You’re doing programmatic SEO.
  • You’re developing your own web app.
  • You’re doing a migration.

If you’re not doing those things, you don’t really have to worry about technical SEO.

Now that that’s out of the way, what should you worry about?

What content to target

This is a simple trick for finding out what content to target.

Go to Google Search Console.

Go to Performance > Search Results > Export (to your choice: CSV, Sheets, Excel).

See what keywords you’re already ranking for.

Look for ones not in the top positions but between positions 6 and 25. These are low-hanging fruit. There are two ways to target them.

How to target keywords with an existing page

For keywords ranking on page 1 or at the top of page 2 of Google, use Google Search Console to see which page is ranking for the low-hanging fruit keyword.

Go to Performance > Search Results > Toggle On “Average Position” > Queries > Click on the keyword > Then click “Pages” to see which page ranks for it.

Add more text to the section on the page where the keyword is mentioned. If the exact keyword is not directly mentioned, use it and add a few extra sentences about it.

For keywords ranking between positions 11-25, create individual pages targeting these keywords. Then link to these pages from the page that is ranking for them.

You will also need a dedicated page targeting keywords that are more competitive (meaning many authoritative sites ranking for the keyword). You can use the MozBar for free to see the SEO Domain Authority of websites. It’s on a scale of 0-100. The higher the number, the higher the authority.

How to target keywords with a dedicated page

The following is 70% of on-page SEO. I learned this personally, but I also recently heard it from a guy who did over 400 on-page SEO experiments. After 400 of these rigorous experiments, he learned this too.

Put your target keyword in the:
– Page title
– Meta description
– H1
– Beginning of the first sentence

That’s it.

Bottom-of-funnel keywords

Targeting top-of-funnel keywords is generally a waste. If you avoid that, you’ll avoid years of unnecessary work.

Instead, you should target keywords at the bottom of the funnel.

These are easier, higher converting, and require less work.

Don’t go after “What is Collaboration Software.” Instead, go after “Collaboration Software with Intuitive Learning.”

How to find bottom-of-funnel keywords?

An easy way to start is to use any SEO tool to see what keywords competitors are ranking for.

Look for keywords that are a solution to a problem.

“Collaboration Software with Intuitive Learning” is a solution to many problems. “What is Collaboration Software” is a question, not a solution.

I’m also coming out with a product on how to do this, called Compact Keywords. It’s going to be good. I promise.


You don’t need a lot of SEO Domain Authority to go after bottom-of-funnel keywords, which are better.

So here are three easy ways to get enough backlinks to start.

If you have a new site, this will get your SEO Domain Authority from 0 – 20.

If you don’t have a new site, Featured has a high acceptance rate for journalist pitches. The site is journalists looking for expert sources to answer questions. If you’re accepted, you get links in the journalists’ articles.

I have a ~75% success rate on there.

Generally, look for directories in your niche. Submit your site to these directories. Use rich descriptions. These descriptions help tell Google what your niche is.


There are tons of SEO tricks, which I mention all the time, but the reality of SEO is that like most things in life, 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.

The greatest shortcut is knowing what not to do and the small simple areas to focus on instead.

Keep learning

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Edward Sturm

Edward Sturm is an entrepreneur, SEO, writer, and digital video and image producer.

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