What is Link Building SEO: Top 100 Killer Tips for link building 2018
Link building is a methodology that results in getting external pages of another site to point to your website. They may be links from a blog, affiliates, or any relevant source. Inbound links help search engines understand the popularity of a site and hence are important.
Because each inbound link to a site results in an SEO boost for that website, the link enhances the rankings significantly. Unfortunately, at one time, SEO experts misused the power of this factor and advocated using underhanded techniques to manipulate the SERPs, such as link farming, which included many external sites pointing to a site that had no relevance to the page.
In other words, links from hundreds of sites pointed to the target site just to boost the SEO rankings for that site. In this blog, we have to learn about the Top 100 Killer Tips for link building.
As a result, Google, in particular, cracked down on this behavior and introduced penalties, because these tactics defeat the purpose of users getting relevant and meaningful information in their search results. However, getting links from other sites is a major ranking factor and is crucial to the SEO process of any site.
Thus the new concept of following and no-follow links were established. Follow links are considered by the search engines and result in higher page rankings. On the other hand, no-follow links are not considered valuable by Google and other search engines and so are of little consequence in getting an SEO boost.
For example, the reference section in Wikipedia was used to promote personal sites, leading to irrelevant links. Therefore, Wikipedia assigned the no-follow method to the reference section to dissuade people from using the Wikipedia platform for black-hat techniques.
But you need to remember that no-follow links are not worthless—if the links are genuine and keep user intent in mind, they can still result in substantial traffic for a site, thereby opening up opportunities for boosting site rankings.
If the links are useful, users will check out and recommend your site, resulting in effective traffic. Referral traffic is valuable if you consider the user perspective. So, you cannot totally discount the effect of no-follow links when it comes to SEO implementation. Generally, SEO experts recommend a natural link profile with a healthy balance of following and no-follow links as well as domain authority for boosting your SEO process.
Important Factors for Link Building
This section looks at the factors that play a role in link building. Rather than focusing on quantity, link building is more quality based. Before you delve into how to get quality links, you need to understand what these factors are and why they are crucial from an SEO perspective.
Relevance is imperative for link building. For example, suppose you have a website that caters to the plumbing business. Links from external sites catering to flooring businesses, plumbing equipment, and plumbing wikis carry more weight than links from irrelevant sites that focus on tourists, flights, hotels, and so on.
The search engines are getting smarter and understand relevance better than in earlier days. Google and the other search engines value relevance and topic-specific link building more than most of the other SEO factors. Localization is another relevant attribute. For example, links from plumbing equipment manufacturers in London are more relevant to a plumbing site in London than plumbing equipment manufacturers in California.
Trustworthiness and Popularity
Link building takes into account the reliability and popularity of external websites that point toward your site. For example, if your site is related to software development or web design, links from domains such as Stack Overflow have more weight than newly built sites.
Social Media Links
Getting inbound links from social media platforms is a given and no longer an option. At one time, social media platforms such as facebook and Twitter were not given much importance; but with the advent of social networking, this has evolved into a crucial factor. You cannot overlook the social media platform.
For example, a link from a product page on facebook to an e-commerce site hosting similar products definitely helps and also increases your site’s visibility to a large audience. Another example links from sites such as Zomato, Foursquare, or TripAdvisor pointing toward a restaurant or hotel site, thus increasing traffic significantly.
Although the text is important, nowadays content is based more on intuitive and interactive media such as infographics, videos, and images. Links from external pages with efficient media content result in more traffic for your website and are certainly a driving factor for link building. For example, suppose you have a site that sells computer peripherals and hardware.
Sites that contain tips and troubleshooting videos for computer peripherals are preferable and fun to watch, in addition to being informative. Therefore, links from these sites result in more traffic and are very important from a user perspective.
Links from spammy sites are a definite no-no because they result in penalties. For example, a site with adware or malware is disturbing to users. Search engines quickly sniff out these sites, and if your sites receive links from such sites, your site’s SERPs will suffer. Another spammy behavior is flooding your pages with inbound links from irrelevant sources in an effort to make your site popular. Eventually, the search engines will out this deceit. You can even be delisted from the SERPs.
Domain authority is an important factor in link building. Sites such as Stack Overflow have been in business for a decade. Therefore, these sites have a higher reliability quotient—but that’s not all. Most popular domains have existed for quite a while and are linked to relevant sites. The link juice spread by these domains is handy because these sites have established themselves.
Studies suggest that a new website receiving backlinks from an authoritative site is more visible and may rank earlier in the SERPs compared to sites receiving links from unknown sites. In addition, being linked to malware-infested sites can result in your site being delisted from the SERPs; but if a site like Stack Overflow or Quora receive inbound links from spammy sites, it holds its own.
Tip Remember the follow and no-follow attributes explained earlier in the blog. Your site can get substantial referral traffic even if the no-follow attribute is assigned by site owners and moderators of these trustworthy portals.
Your link’s popularity is also based on the informative content found on your website. If the content is top-notch, bloggers, influencers, and subject matter experts will link to your site. For example, people link to Stack Overflow for troubleshooting tips and informative articles. Such websites are often referred to and therefore are considered more reliable due to their user-engaging content.
Another aspect is the freshness of links. If the information on your site and the links to your site were created a long time ago, there is little user engagement. Freshness of links and page content is a prime factor in link building. You can always create new links and keep your content updated to receive more links from people in your niche industry.
Link-Building Resources and Utilities
Now that you have seen the major link-building factors, you understand the resources that can optimize your link building and lead to higher traffic, resulting in more leads and eventually higher revenue for your organization. Although many SEO experts suggest using a mix of white-hat, black-hat, and grey-hat techniques for link building, it is better to steer away from black-hat and grey-hat techniques because they are bound to be discovered and lead to penalties from the search engines (especially Google).
We only discuss white-hat techniques, because we believe that doing research and not being manipulative is the key to SEO success.
This section looks at the following resources that can result in maximum optimization of your link-building strategies:
E-mail outreach campaigns
Guest posting methods
Forums, RSS feeds and blogging
Social media, social bookmarking, and web directories
Networking with influencers and subject matter experts
Relevant content is king, and any SEO implementation is incomplete without user-engaging content. If your content is top-notch, it may be what users are looking for. Use interactive media such as infographics and videos in your page content. Enable users and readers to embed that content in their web pages and blogs, which will link back to your site. Use innovative words that are unique and catchy, thereby building up a persona for your site and the team behind it.
Hold user-engaging contests and include contextual deals in your content. For example, if your site is into renting out musical instruments hold contests and post quiz that reach out to a large user base. If your site is an informative one, build up tutorials and learning videos to engage users positively.
Moderate the reviews and answer customers’ queries on your website so you’re in sync with users and show that you care. Use Google Hangouts and other tools, such as Skype, to connect with users for a better UX. This approach encourages customers and users to link to your site and will increase traffic significantly. Keep your customers updated about the latest products, and ask them to link back to your site, thereby increasing interaction.
Guest posting is definitely an opportunity that you do not want to overlook in your link building strategies. Find out the target audience and prospective readers for your guest posts. You can use search strings such as (Your Keyword/s) + Guest Posts, (Y your Keyword/s) + Submit Posts, (Your Keyword/s) + Blogger posts, and (Your Keywords) + Tips and Troubleshooting guest blogs, to name a few.
Use Google, Twitter, and Pinterest to find the latest guest posts and interactive content along with tweets, which throw open a host of possibilities for guest posts. You can locate guest posts by other authors, which will help you locate guest-post opportunities for that niche. Once you get the information, start guest posting on those avenues. Acknowledge tweets or comments from other guest authors and send requests to them to backlink to your site.
You can even sneak a link to your website into those guest posts. Just be sure you don’t post anything that is not relevant or not contextual. For example, you can type in the link of your advanced HTML tutorials in a guest post on a web design education site. You can also throw in troubleshooting code errors, tips, and tricks to enhance the HTML code, or links to videos that explain the designing aspect, prompting backlinks from the intended audience.
Guest posting on authority domains is supposed to have a better chance of acquiring backlinks. For example, troubleshooting tips about CSS styles for coding errors on Stack Overflow can get you more backlinks from prospective readers and subject matter experts from the web design industry, who are always looking for solutions to problems. Introducing a backlink in your posts or sending requests to the target audience is a good way to acquire backlinks.
E-mail Outreach Campaigns
Although some SEO experts are skeptical about e-mail outreach methods, they are an awesome way to get backlinks. Create outstanding templates that are catchy and creative in addition to using the power-pitched content.
Find broken links on your target sites using tools such as Open Site Explorer, and approach the sites’ webmasters. Once you tell them about the broken links, you can request via e-mail that they replace those links with links to your site or, even better, use the same anchor text to link back to similar content on your site. If the content is good enough and fresh, there is a higher probability that the sites’ webmasters will link back to the sites using those very links.
Interact with and give suggestions to the webmasters of those sites regarding techniques that can boost their SEO. Ask them to backlink to your website. If your site has informative content, you can list the benefits and encourage the target site’s webmaster to link back to the site. For example, contacting web design–based education sites to link back to the basic tutorials on your site that will encourage them to backlink to your site.
You can find a plethora of e-mail templates on the web that you can customize and send to your prospective audience. As mentioned, SEO experts argue about the viability of e-mail outreach, but these tactics work on a micro level and you may get a good response from people in your niche industry.
We recommend the templates for e-mail outreach campaigns found on the Quick Sprout website by Neil Patel, who is a subject matter expert in the industry.
Forums, RSS Feeds, and Blogging
Forums and online communities are an excellent way to build rapport with like-minded professionals. Be active and participate in questions and answers, include your suggestions on the topic at hand, conduct online discussions, and try to become a reliable source of information for users. Be relevant, and do not try to spam the forums, because spamming will lead to your site being delisted by the forum moderators.
Once you are accepted by forum users as a go-to person for those topics, you can request a link back to your site. Do not over-optimize on forums, and be appreciative of any good forum posting because it can expand your network significantly.
RSS feeds are another excellent utility for link building. If users use the content on your site, you can ask them for a link back to your site’s pages. Wordpress and other CMS platforms have the RSS feed facility and using extensions and plug-ins, you can ensure that a link is added to your blog for every post. Submit your RSS feeds to RSS directories such as Blogdigger, FeedListing, and RSSFeeds.org for more exposure, resulting in link juice for your feeds that are linked to sections of your posts.
Blogging is also an important factor in getting link juice for your site. You can respond to topic-specific content in third-party blogs and eventually expand your network. You can create user-engaging blogs for various products. Create blogs not only for your site but also for other users and trade links with them.
Reach out and pass links to reliable blogs that are specific to your niche; this will help you build a good rapport with people in your community, following which you can ask for a backlink to your site. Submit your blog to directories such as Blogdigger for more link juice and exposure. Create useful blogs for engaging content such as “Top Fashion Trends in 2016” or “15 tips and tricks to get the most out of your SEO Keyword strategies” or “Top 20 Hotels in London,” depending on your niche.
Blogging is all about credibility and reliability. Once you have a foothold in the blogs for your niche or related product categories, you can expect more links to your site in a natural way. (You always get what you give.)
Social Media, Social blogmarking, and Web Directories
Social media, social bookmarking, and web directories are also potential sources for link building. Social media platforms can be used for links for your site or advertising your products and services. You can build rapport with like-minded professionals via conversations on Twitter.
Word-of-mouth publicity from users through portals such Facebook and Google+ can be excellent for your business, and users will link back to your site. Connect with users using Google Hangouts, and reply to their reviews or feedback.
Promote surveys and feedback forms on social media sites. You can send discount coupons or deals using sites such as Groupon and, at the same time, use anchor text in them that point to your site. You can take advantage of the benefits of Reddit and Pinterest to further your cause in your niche. Building brand awareness is also possible through these platforms, and users will link back to your site depending on product quality and their UX.
Web directories are handy when it comes to link building. You can benefit from their exposure (although it is less than that of social media) and use a backlink to your site. There are several web directories specific to various categories or niches. Advertising your site or brand on these directories is useful, and backlinks in the directories to your site or product pages may result in more link juice.
Networking with Influencers and Subject Matter Experts
Influencers and subject matter experts (SMEs) are a vital cog in the wheel for your link-building process. Build a rapport by initially contacting them through portals such as LinkedIn. You can also respond to their Twitter tweets (make sure your tweets and responses are credible and genuine). Interact with them on forums and in specific online communities. Contribute and give suggestions to your niche.
For example, explaining certain things (such as troubleshooting framework issues, explaining coding techniques, or recommending software development tools) on Stack Overflow or answering topic-specific queries (such as which programming language is the best for creating an e-commerce platform) on Quora can help a lot in social networking. E-mail outreach using catchy e-mails is another way of communicating with them.
These people have a certain authority in their niche, so you need to be sure your communication with them is relevant and straight to the point. Do not use kiddy measures such as responding to every tweet or response, which may backfire. Your approach should be meaningful, and you need to really earn your links with these experts.
Cover topics that can be of use to readers in your niche category, and leave insightful comments or videos that can actually be good resources for readers to prove your reliability. Send links to the blogs of these influencers when users want information related to your niche or product category.
Collaborate with experts in prelaunch events and promotions, and gain credibility through social traction. Be authentic and not pushy. Subscribe to their RSS feeds and create good content to further your cause. Eventually, you can ask them for backlinks to your pages that are relevant to the products or services and ask them for recommendations and suggestions.
Competitor-based research is always necessary when it comes to effective link building. You can find out what backlinks are received by your competitors and save those interactions to analyze the prospective audience and user groups. You can also learn about their partners or affiliates in that niche.
Competitors have people who work with them and supply goods or services. Find out more about these indirect competitors. Consider an example of a plumbing business. Plumbing-related items such as water taps and pipes are supplied by manufacturers for your plumbing competitors. By connecting with the manufacturers, you can gain more exposure and ask them to recommend your business by providing backlinks to your site.
Also remember that localization plays an important role. You can learn more about your competitors’ business in your vicinity, such as those offering plumbing services. Connect with authors who have recommended your competitors or engaged with them over their products or services. Once you establish a connection by using online surveys, forums, social media, or e-mails, you can send a request to those authors to review your products, recommend your business, or share reviews and point toward your business using backlinks.
Many toolsets can help you streamline your link-building efforts, including SEOquake, MozBar, Open Site Explorer, Rmoov, and Majestic SEO gave you an overview of SEOquake and MozBar.
OpenLinkProfiler is a free tool used for in-depth analysis of backlinks. You can get data on the freshest backlinks to your site (including the complete set of backlinks). You can download exactly 1,000 in a CSV format. With customized link-filtering and link-disinfection attributes, this can be a handy utility in your link-building strategy.
Alltop enables you to start networking with influencers, SMEs, and hardcore professionals prior to undertaking your link-building process. a snapshot of influencers and professionals in their respective niches. You can create a personal online hub for your favorite blogs and sites. Using Alltop’s Feeds functionality, you can receive e-mails and alerts about the latest updates and posts on your favorite sites and blogs. Using this utility, you can be the first person to comment on those posts.
This networking ability helps you build relationships with prospective influencers. You can reach out to SMEs who regularly create posts on their blogs or sites and develop a rapport with them, eventually coaxing them to link back to your site if the site has good, relevant content in their niche. More information can be found at http://alltop.com/.
Flickr (https://www.flickr.com) is a photo and video sharing and hosting site with a large, vibrant community. When you upload images or videos to Flickr, you can add a link in the description to gain credit for that media. This method can get you real, genuine backlinks.
Alternatively, you can use Google Images search (https:// images.google.com) or TinEye (https://www.tineye.com) for a reverse image search and locate sites that are using your video or image. You can request a backlink from them if they have not done so already. Another important use of Flickr is finding potential users and SMEs in your industry.
Initially, locate images and videos in your niche. You can then use a backlink analysis tool to find pages linked to those images. This way, you can reach out to professionals in your niche who are using these images on their sites. This is a potentially great resource for reaching out to a wider audience. It not only expands your social-networking scope but also sheds lights on leads that can result in more traffic on your site and, eventually, more sales and revenue
Content plays a major role in your SEO strategy. Creating engaging content is extremely important because it results in users being glued to your website. You need to remember that users use the power of search engines to search and locate content that is relevant and meaningful.
Therefore, the purpose of SEO content is to provide meaningful information based on users’ search queries. It is important that while writing content, you think about users and not search engines: first write good, user-engaging content, and then tweak it for better visibility.
For example, suppose you have an informative website related to troubleshooting Windows 7 systems. You need to ensure that your content actually helps users repair and remove errors from their Windows 7 OS. Once you write troubleshooting tips and tricks for resolving several issues, you can then tweak the content by introducing keywords. But remember not to stuff keywords or over-optimize the content, because that will result in penalties from Google and the other search engines.
Content Consideration Factors and Subsequent Implementation
Let’s look at the essential factors when you are considering content and how to achieve efficient SEO implementation on your site.
Writing meaningful content is the most important factor in content creation. The evolution of search engines was to help users find out information they need and it is all about creating an efficient user experience. The content should be crisp and meaningful to engage users. If the content is thin (meaning it is of less value from the user’s perspective or so commonplace that it is not useful to readers), then you will see a huge bounce rate (because users will not stay on a site that’s of no value to them), thereby adversely affecting the site’s rankings.
You can streamline your content once it is written by using a calculated (not manipulative) and creative approach. Ensure that users get valuable information on your web pages, which will encourage them to share or recommend your site and thus enhance the site’s visibility.
You also need to consider the appropriate target audience when you publish content. Using Google Analytics, you can gauge your prospective and existing audience. Catering to the correct audience makes your content more relevant. An investor is more likely to view content about Wall Street than web designers. On the other hand, a site displaying content about troubleshooting website design errors is more likely to be viewed by web designers and UX designers than investment bankers.
Remember that once you write content, you can tweak it for maximum optimization. However, you need to find appropriate keywords that do justice to the content. You can include a keyword in the first line or heading and then use synonyms in the next paragraph. But do not include a keyword if it is not relevant.
Studies suggest that search engines prefer to map keywords that appear in the initial portion of the content than later in the web page. So, try to include a keyword or key phrase in the first few paragraphs of the page to position it better so it can be mapped easily by the search engines
Headings and Subheadings
Use headings and subheadings to give your content a concise structure. Heading elements help to organize your content. Insert keywords or related terms in the headings, because they are cached easily. Search engines prefer keywords to be included in headings because they are topic-specific and the hierarchy helps users locate and access content. Having a structured format such as a heading, body, and conclusion also makes your site more readable.
When you’re writing topic-specific content, link jargon (industry-specific words) and buzzwords to authoritative sites. For example, if you are writing about web design, topic-specific words can be linked to sites like Stack Overflow.
Suppose your site is a travel website where users can rent hotels, cars, and tour packages in Australia. Koalas and kangaroos can be sighted frequently in certain places in Australia. If users are ignorant about animals such as koalas, you can link the word koalas to the appropriate Wikipedia page. Such links make your site seem reliable and genuine and help provide a good UX.
Lists and Fonts
If users want to view troubleshooting steps for their operating system, a site displaying paragraphs of text and numbers will be boring and tedious to read. However, if you specify the troubleshooting steps using numbered bullets, it helps users by giving them concise, specific instructions to resolve their system issues.
Instead of writing a comprehensive paragraph explaining all the steps, use lists; for example, something like “Top 10 resources for Windows 7 troubleshooting” is useful, and users may recommend or share your site on social media and other platforms.
Also, consider using bold fonts and italics on your web page. Keywords can be assigned a bold font or italics style to help the search engines map those terms and relevant information. But take care that you do not over-optimize too many terms on a single page because that can be ambiguous for the search engines. You can also use alternate text for listings, images, and videos. It helps the search engines map appropriately and gives the relevance.
Proofreading and Plagiarism
Before you publish content on your website, be sure you have edited and proofread it. Spelling and grammatical errors can be an absolute turn-off and reflect poorly on the quality of your site, thereby adversely affecting the rankings. Sentence structure issues can also result in a negative experience for users. They may even doubt the authenticity of the site, which can affect your site’s reputation.
Remember to check your site for plagiarism. Search engines penalize sites that have copied content from other sites. Your content must be original and specific from the user’s perspective. You can use plagiarism tools such as Copyscape to deal with this issue.
High-Quality, Intuitive Content
The most important factor is to publish quality content. Quality matters, and using sharp, intelligent content will lead to good results. For example, informative blogs are in vogue, because they supplement the main product and educate users about various aspects of the product.
Use interactive media such as videos, audio, and infographics to engage users and increase the popularity of your website. Use social media plug-ins and links so that users can share your content or recommend it to other users. Compress images for optimal page-load times.
Be as informative as possible, but keep in mind that the length of your content matters. It is a good practice to have a word count of approximately 2500–3000 on a single web page. Depending on the type of site, you can also use 4000–9000 word articles that provide in-depth information.
It also helps to include a few key terms to enhance your SEO implementation. Generate fresh content for your users, because freshness is a key SEO factor. Users are not interested in redundant, stale content; they want to read the latest and are always on the lookout for trendy updates.
Tools Used for Content Consideration and Curation
When it comes to content consideration and curation, many toolsets and utilities are available for the SEO and digital marketing industry. You can use the power of these utilities to acquire and provide the latest information on your site.
Digg is a news aggregator that provides compelling content and caters to a global audience. It has articles and news related to ongoing trends, caters to several categories, and is powered by social signals. It is an abundant source of information, and you can find the latest and most relevant updates in any genre here. You can find more information at http://digg.com/.
Quora (www.quora.com) is a questions-and-answers website where you can find views and reviews for almost any niche. It is a platform that acts like a blog, forums, social media, and wikis and that caters to a widespread community. Its reach and unique content are useful; for example, the questions in Quora resemble search queries and hence can be used as long-tail terms. The community-based approach, with industry experts sharing information, is a bank of content in itself.
LinkedIn Pulse (www.linkedin.com/pulse) is LinkedIn’s blogging platform. Creating a blog requires the ability to write; but, more important, blogging builds up a wide audience. LinkedIn Pulse helps you connect with a large audience in addition to categorizing and sharing your content; in particular, you can build a network with subject matter experts (SMEs) and influencers in your niche. You can also keep your users engaged by posting fresh content on a regular basis.
As mentioned earlier, Copyscape is a plagiarism-checking tool that looks for duplicate or copied content. It provides information about URLs that have words matching content found on the web. Although it offers additional premium services such as daily scanning for content copied from your site and sending plagiarism banners to potential plagiarists, the plagiarism checker is free to use. You can determine which content is redundant and used on sites across the web. To access this tool, go to www.copyscape.com.
SEO Hub: Utilities and Toolsets
A plethora of SEO Toolkits can help you check, manage, analyze, audit, and streamline your SEO projects. In earlier blogs, you looked at some Google utilities that can be used for SEO projects. You also gained a basic understanding of the different aspects of SEO. In a real-time scenario, you cannot check each and every factor to boost your SEO process.
To help you implement SEO quickly, you can use several tools. Some of them are freeware and open source; others offer a free trial or are commercial. This blog looks at some of these tools, which can be handy in your SEO projects.
This overview presents SEO tools in the following categories:
Keyword research and analysis
Deep site crawlers
Link building, link removal, and link analysis
Content building and optimization
Keyword Research and Analysis
Many tools (both free and premium) can aid you in keyword research and analysis. You saw Google’s Keyword Planner earlier in the blog. This section look at several toolsets you can use to find appropriate and competitive keywords, long-tail phrases, and related analytics.
Soovle is a handy utility that helps with keyword research and site optimization. It is tailored for small- and medium-size businesses that do not have the budget of enterprise-grade setups. You can generate suggestions from several search engines for keywords or long-tail terms, and you can analyze the performance and frequency of those keywords on multiple platforms including Google, Bing, Amazon, Answers, and Yahoo!. For information about this tool, go to www.soovle.com/.
WordStream’s tool suite has keyword suggestions, grouping, analysis, and negative keyword utilities baked in on its platform. You can take advantage of these utilities to generate terms and analyze their potential. More information can be found at www.wordstream.com/free-keyword-tools.
Ubersuggest is batteries included, meaning you can not only search for potential keywords but also filter them by region (country-specific) and medium (such as Web, Images, and News).
Deep Site Crawlers
Several crawler tools are available that can crawl your site’s URLs and help you find bottlenecks and quickly identify technical and architectural issues. This indicates potential issues that may arise when a real-time search engine spider crawls through your site. You can also use these tools for SEO audits; doing so abstracts away the need to perform manual checks.
There are several kinds of free and commercial web crawler toolkits. The most popular are Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl, and Rob Hammond’s SEO Crawler.
Screaming Frog Spider
Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a compact desktop application that crawls all the links, images, and CSS on a website to find flaws. It helps you analyze different on-site attributes such as page titles, heading tags, external links, redirect chains, canonical elements, and images, to name a few.
The Lite version is available for free and has a URL crawl limit of 500. You can also opt for the Premium version, which includes unlimited crawling, access to all configuration functionality, a custom code-search facility, and technical support. More info about this robust tool can be found at www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/.
DeepCrawl is a commercial web-crawling tool with a cloud-based SaaS model where you can define the crawl depth, do custom URL rewrites, and compare reports. You can schedule crawls, create tickets (with the ability to re-verify whether defects such as broken links have been fixed), and conduct a gap analysis in addition to crawling tons of pages. More information can be found at https://www.deepcrawl.com/.
DeepCrawl’s heavy-lifting capabilities and premium report features (such as comparing your site reports with your competitors’ report) make it a vital cog in the wheel for enterprise-grade websites.
With capabilities such as comprehensive checking of backlinks, link research, and link building, Majestic SEO is a premium tool that helps you gain insight into external backlinks, referring domains, referring IPs, and referring subnets. You can find information such as sites that provide quality links and sites that link to your competitors and gather link-building ideas. More information about this tool suite can be found at https://majestic.com/.
Open Site Explorer
The Open Site Explorer is one of the utilities present in the Moz ecosystem (https://moz.com/). It helps you track inbound links to your site and comes with features such as enhanced comparison metrics, finding broken links, social media-based links, and information about domain authority.
You can learn about anchor text on other sites that point to your website, do spam analysis, find link opportunities, and generate advanced reports for analytics and strategies. You can also learn what type of content has helped your competitors to get inbound links and scale your link-building processes significantly.
This toolset also suggests missed-link opportunities, including potential mentions of your brand that are not currently linked. This tool also facilitates the process of exporting link research and analysis data in Excel format, and it supports visual tracking by displaying statistics in pie charts. This systematic and highly organized utility is a vital cog in the wheel for link building and research and can streamline your digital marketing campaign processes. You can find more information at https://moz.com/
Inbound links are a crucial factor in SEO. However, inbound links should be relevant and from popular, safe domains. Inbound links from spammy websites and questionable sources can result in penalties from Google and other search engines. In order to fix these problems, you need to generate a list of spammy URLs and then address it to Google by using Google’s Disavow tool. (For more information on the Google Disavow tool, see the article at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2648487.)
At some point, your site may be penalized, and you need to send a reconsideration request to Google. Enter Rmoov: a handy utility that auto-generates reports that can be uploaded to Google’s Disavow tool. This utility helps you contact domain owners and sends them a link-disavow request. You can also send reconsideration requests to Google if you are penalized.
This link-pruning tool also ensures that spam links are cleaned up and records every step you take in a Google doc, helping you stay in sync with the latest link-pruning actions performed on your site. This site has a free version as well as an enhanced commercial version that can help you remove low-quality and bad links, thereby detoxing your site. You can find more information at www.rmoov.com.
Site Speed is an important factor in SEO, and several tools are tailored to give you insight into your site’s performance. Some of the tools include suggestions and reports that will help you analyze issues affecting page speed and determine any hindrances so your site can achieve optimal performance.
GTmetrix helps you analyze the performance of your web pages. Google PageSpeed and Yahoo! YSlow rule sets are baked into the application. You can generate statistics such as the total page size and the number of requests for that site. You can also compare your site’s speed with the average performance of sites analyzed on that platform. Generated visual and interactive reports, along with scheduled monitoring, make this a handy toolset for your SEO projects.
This utility also passes your URLs through real-time Android devices to gauge performance on mobile platforms. Other features such as connection throttling and browser-based performance comparisons help you understand how your site performs at a high level. More information on the toolset can be found at https://gtmetrix.com.
DareBoost helps you diagnose and monitor the quality of your site using a web-based interface. This is a no-frills toolkit that grills your website by taking it through 100 checkpoints including desktop and mobile testing. You can check your site’s rendering speed and receive a list of suggestions that explain any issues in a nutshell. You can find more information at www.dareboost.com.
Content Building and Optimization
User-engaging content is the driving factor in SEO; and, as you have heard a million times, Content is king. Various tools can help you build and optimize content.
Content displayed on your website should not have grammatical errors or incorrect words. Poor content can be a turn-off, especially when it is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Grammarly is a robust tool that can make a significant difference by helping to weed out grammatical and writing errors in your website content. You can also use it as a Google Chrome add-on.
A built-in contextual spelling checker and context-optimized word suggestions result in content clarity and vocabulary enhancement, thereby improving readability significantly. Shows the Grammar tool. More information on this plug-in can be found at https://www.grammarly.com/.
Siteliner is a tool that helps you find duplicate content in your domain and common content due to navigation, header, and footer issues. It helps you determine whether the content used is shallow and not unique, which may result in a bad UX. With features such as internal linking analysis and text-to-HTML ratio in addition to finding plagiarized content, this useful toolkit helps you gauge the viability of your content. Shows the Siteliner user interface. More information can be found at www.siteliner.com/.
Hootsuite is a social media management ecosystem. Content plays a relevant and significant role in your social media campaigns, so it is imperative that you have a tool to help you choose and categorize your content. Hootsuite also helps with content distribution and scheduling.
You can find a comprehensive list of auto-generated conversation starters in your news feed and manage multiple content streams from social media networks such as Twitter, FourSquare, and LinkedIn. More information on this enterprise-grade toolkit can be found at https://hootsuite.com/.
The BuzzSumo platform helps you discover engaging content and provides you with content data that can be useful in your campaigns (see 10-14). You can locate influencers and industry experts related to specific content categories. This tool also assists you in identifying trends and patterns related to your content in addition to providing a great deal of information via its content-research capabilities.
You can analyze your competitors’ content strategies and tactics using insight-driven competitive analysis. Alerts can be set up to keep you abreast of the latest developments, plus the tool provides domain comparison results. BuzzSumo is a tool that SEO and digital marketing experts must incorporate in social media campaigns and strategies. You can find more information at http://buzzsumo.com/.
Several tools are available to perform a complete site checkup and list bottlenecks and problems. These audit tools can save you a lot of time and effort by pointing out the deficiencies of your site from an SEO perspective. It is impossible to check every factor manually. Plus, the factors change and may be rated higher or lower depending on the importance given to them by the search engines.
You saw Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider earlier in the blog; it is a good audit tool that provides a panoptic view of your website’s SEO needs. Let’s look at some other efficient, popular tools that are widely used by SEO experts.
SEO SiteCheckup performs a fast audit of your site and generates reports. The suggestions and fixes are explained in a straightforward manner. You can check and compare the results for your site and your competitors (currently up to five competitors). The Professional Monitoring feature keeps track of weekly alterations and auto-generates the latest SEO score for your site. More information about this utility can be found at http://seositecheckup.com/.
Once you enter a URL and click Checkup, a comprehensive report containing audit statistics is displayed, along with an SEO score. In addition to performing a complete checkup, this site has many utilities to check factors manually including testing Robots.txt, sitemaps, favicons, doctype, and HTTPS.
The WooRank tool performs a fast, comprehensive audit of your site and can detect and list on-page and off-page factors that are crucial to SEO success (see 10-17). The SEO audit gives you a wide view of the mobile optimization and usability factors for your site. Complete with features that indicate crawl errors, localization, social media, and monitoring SERPs, this tool is used widely by SEO experts. Note that WooRank is a premium tool; you can learn more at www.woorank.com/.
Keyword Research and Strategy
Keyword strategy and research rank among the top factors that influence your SEO strategies. Keywords indicate the line of business your website caters to. They help you gain traffic from users looking to buy something or searching informative content on your site., we looked at the Google AdWords Keyword Planner utility.
However, Google Keyword Planner often displays terms and phrases related to seed keywords (base keywords that form the foundation of terms on your site related to your niche market); these are geared more toward advertising and result in bringing more traffic to the website using non-organic means (pay-per-click or AdWords).
For example, if you enter the term tennis in Google’s Keyword Planner, it displays words that are strongly tied to the keyword. But because almost everyone is using Google Keyword Planner, the results are ambiguous and span a massive range. For example, type in tennis, select the United States as the location and choose the date range January 2015 to January 2016. Click Get Ideas to see lists of terms on the Ad Group Ideas and Keyword Ideas tabs
Keyword Ideas list
The keywords related to tennis equipment include tennis shoes, tennis racquet, tennis bags, and so on. These ideas can help you plan your SEO strategy. (Google Keyword Planner is an awesome utility) At the same time, you need to understand that results such as tennis shoes, tennis racquet, and tennis bags are super-competitive.
If you are a small company, you cannot match the advertising and reach of enterprise-grade setups. So, targeting these keywords may not give you the desired results. Your keyword strategy is important, and you need to ensure that your website makes the best use of the various keyword-research methods available.
Types of Keywords
Usually, keywords are divided into the following categories: head, body, and long-tail terms.
Head keywords are usually one- or two-word terms that span a massive, generic range. These head keywords are not specific and cater to nothing in particular. For example, the word tennis is an example of a head keyword. When you talk about tennis, topics can span such things as Wimbledon, tennis equipment, tennis shoes, tennis live broadcasts, and tennis world rankings. Head keywords are used in various topics and are super-competitive but are not good for optimizing conversions.
Body keywords are specific and are limited to two or three words. For example, online shoe shopping is a body keyword. Other examples are black canvas sneakers and Shirts online UK. As you can see, they cater to a specific audience and are apt to be used in SEO projects.
Long-tail keywords are very specific and usually consist of four, five, or more words—for example, online shoes Aldo Amazon Canada. These terms are highly specific and are used as search queries by users. Other examples are Organic Tea India online order Alibaba and Reebok black sneakers under $150 Amazon.
Of these categories, you should target body keywords, because they are not too specific and help you gain a wider audience from various streams. For example, if a user searches for tennis shoes in Toronto, then Tennis shoes Toronto may be an example of a body keyword. A long-tail keyword would be something like Tennis shoes Reebok store Downtown Toronto sale. See the difference?
The body keyword used here is not too localized and can fetch you customers from a target audience all over Toronto, whereas the long-tail keyword is extremely specific and is limited to the Reebok Store in downtown Toronto. Therefore, body keywords are your best bet and may be more useful because they span a sizeable audience.
Sources of Keywords
Finding appropriate keywords can be quite a juggle due to factors such as competition, budget, and search volume. You can look at several avenues to find appropriate keywords. For example, type tennis equipment in Google search: in addition to the list of results, at the bottom of the page are other searches related to your search query.
This shows how deep you can delve to get relevant information and keywords for your SEO processes.
Wikipedia, Ezine, eHow, How Stuff Works, Yahoo Answers, Quora, and Stack Exchange are several reliable sources where you can not only find appropriate keywords or long-tail terms but also link anchor text with these sites, thereby giving your site more credibility from an SEO perspective.
In addition to Google’s Keyword Planner, there are several other tools such as WordStream’s suite of keyword tools (Free Keyword Tool, Free Keyword Niche Finder, Free Keyword Grouper, and Negative Keyword Tool), UberSuggest, and Soovle.
Another useful utility is the Keyword Tool at http://keywordtool.io/. Using it, you can generate 750+ body and long-tail terms for each seed keyword for free. Based on the Google platform, this open source tool uses the best of Google AutoComplete and Google Suggest. It also supports multiple languages and multiple search engine portals such as Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon, and App Store.
Keyword Tool at http://keywordtool.io/
Keywords generated include terms such as athletic shoe stores, sports shoe shop Edmonton, exclusive tennis shoe stores, and top 10 athletic shoe stores, to name a few. These terms can be copied to a clipboard and then pasted into Notepad or any CSV file list. Furthermore, you can upload the list to Google’s Keyword Planner to see the search volume, CPC, and competition, which lets you narrow your search to terms that are most relevant and have high commercial value.
This tool also has a commercial version called Keyword Tool Pro that lets you find more information such as the search volume, CPC, and AdWords competition.
In keyword research and strategy, what matters most is the type of words you use to streamline your website for users. For example, keywords such as buy, buy now, Deal of the day, offers, and sale are expected to lead to more conversions, whereas informative keywords like How to, Free Download, and Installation procedure do not help with conversions. You need to consider the conversion potential and commercial user intent before deciding which keywords to use.
Sizing Up the Competition
Your marketing strategy should always take your competitors into consideration before any implementation. Similarly, there are sites that can help you gain information about your competitors when you’re doing keyword research. The best tools on the market for comprehensively gauging your competitors’ tactics and keyword strategies are SpyFu and SEMrush.
SpyFu is a handy utility for keyword research: it is a comprehensive data mine that can help you gain insight into the statistics of your competitors. You can find out details of their organic searches, paid searches, and inbound links from Google (both organic and paid). You can also get statistics for keywords reflected on the first page, top organic competitors, top paid competitors, shared organic and paid keywords, AdWords history, organic ranking history, and domain strength of the competitors’ sites.
SEMrush is a utility that helps you delve deeper into keyword strategies, similar to SpyFu. From organic and paid searches, backlinks, referring domains, and organic keyword distribution to main competitor analysis, top anchors, and full-fledged reports, this toolset is a goldmine for SEO keyword strategies. More Information on can be found at https://www.semrush.com/.
MozBar is one of the best utilities when it comes to checking domain authority. You can check your site’s domain authority, page authority, and spam score, including Facebook and Google+ activity. You can install a MozBar extension for Firefox and Google Chrome. For example, if you go to the Wikipedia home page, you can view the metrics on the MozBar strip interface.
In addition to these metrics, you can view link analysis metrics from an SEO perspective. You can also check the metrics for your competitors’ sites and find out more about the referring domains, affiliate links, and domain authority for rival websites.
The SEOquake utility is an add-on that works with Firefox and Google Chrome. You can not only determine the page rank but also find information such as internal and external links and keyword density. You can perform a mini-audit related to On-page factors and learn crucial information about two-word, three-word, and four-word phrases.
Clicking the various tabs, such as Page Info, Diagnosis, and Compare URLs leads to a fast audit of your website. Similar to MozBar, you can learn about your competitors’ metrics and plan a strategy after gaining insight into the competition’s keywords and other SEO-based tactics. Boosting Your On-Page SEO Using Keywords and Long-Tail Terms.
Once you prepare a list of keywords and phrases, the next step is to implement the list of keywords on your site. The following points suggest some ways to implement keywords as part of your on-page SEO process:
Title tags educate the search engines about the web page and are important from an SEO perspective. Ensure that you have a keyword at the beginning or near the middle of your title tag. Also be sure each page has its own title tag. You can also enter synonyms or related words that have less competition but have strong potential for conversion optimization and streamlining the title tag.
For example, tennis shoes have high competition and span a huge range. Instead, you can use something like tennis footwear and accessories, which has less competition. Moreover, this kind of a long-tail term not only covers tennis shoes but also attracts attention for accessories usually associated with tennis equipment.
Do not stuff keywords into the title tag.
For example, if you are in the real estate sector in Toronto, stuffing similar keywords for your niche repeatedly in the title tag will be considered spammy by the search engines. An example of keyword stuffing in a title tag is as follows: Real Estate: Homes sale, House sale, Real Estate Sale, Sale real estate Toronto. On the other hand, here is a streamlined keyword-containing title tag: Toronto, Real Estate & Homes for Sale, XYZ Realtors.
From the SEO perspective, the first example is spammy because it uses too many of the same or similar terms in one line in an attempt to manipulate and fool the search engines. The second example is crisp and concise, and mentions Toronto as the location, Real Estate & Homes for Sale, and the name XYZ Realtors.
Include keywords in the content on the page. You can use a maximum of 2-3 keywords or related terms in the content. Remember, the content should be relevant and informative for the user. For example, if you are writing a blog on tennis shoes, you can include tennis shoes or its synonyms (such as athletic tennis sneakers and cross trainers) in the content. Be sure you do not stuff the content with keywords, or your site will be penalized by the search engines.
Studies suggest that the initial part of a page’s content is more likely to be mapped and stored by search engines than content at the end.
Use short sentences, and wrap text around media such as infographics, videos, and images. Interactive content with captions and image text containing relevant keywords or related terms are rated more due to its user-engaging paradigm. Using just text is boring and does not attract users.
With search engines evolving, along with their ability to understand interactive media, it is important to make optimal use of interactive content along with relevant keywords for better results leading to higher rankings in the search results.
Using keywords in your Heading tags can also streamline your On-page SEO efforts. If your page has a lot of sections, it is a good practice to use Heading tags. Start with Heading 1 (<h1>) tags and use Heading 2 and Heading 3 (<h2> and <h3>, respectively) for subsections. Make optimal use of relevant keywords in the content between these tags.
As mentioned earlier, do not stuff Headings with too many or irrelevant keywords, to avoid a penalty. For Heading 2 and Heading 3 tags, use synonyms or alternative text keywords so that the search engines understand that the content is relevant and has a good workflow.
If possible, incorporate keywords or relevant synonyms in the URLs and internal content. Given how competitive SEO is, most URLs are already taken. However, you can use relevant keywords if such a URL is available. Use specific keywords in your anchor text if possible. The keywords should be distinct and not generic so that the search engines can establish that the keywords are relevant and used appropriately.
Content Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was my least favorite term until I learned that it could send all my hard work down the drain — if I ignored it, that is. From then on, our relationship has improved to a point where I can assure you that there has never been a more loyal friend to a content manager.
Optimizing for search engines is, far from creating for robots, creating for humans. Humans who need, search and discover. Curious humans, like you and me. Bots are just guides in this global information tour. The catch? They need to like you before curious humans can find you.
How Do You Get Bots to “Like” Your Content?
As simple as it sounds, making humans like your content is probably the safest way to appeal to bots, too. Search engines are increasingly trying to emulate human behavior, attitudes, and responses. Search engineers (yes, they exist) are trying to anticipate our judgment, coming up with strange algorithms to imitate our reasoning.
Do we trust a source if more people are linking to it? Does longer content seem more reputable to us? Can we expect a site that has published quality content in the past to maintain that high level in the future? Does using lots of terms from the relevant jargon mean the author knows what he is talking about?
All these questions are central in SEO, which is just a fancy way to say making it easy to find you and demonstrates how this is particularly important when we are catering to those highly involved users in our audience. For them, central cues like in-depth analyses, long-form content pieces, or detailed reports are the best forms of persuasion. Instead of us having to reach out to them, many of these users are already immersed in an active search process when they run into our content.
A few years ago, the dominant belief in SEO was something along the lines of “think like a search bot.” Today, as algorithms become smarter and more attuned with human motivations, I would suggest you face SEO in terms of “think like a searcher.” A human one, that is.
At its most basic level, an SEO strategy involves dealing with these 15 items, or ranking factors, that I have grouped in the following three main categories:
Outbound or external links
Visitor engagement and traffic
On-page keyword and semantic keyword usage
Title and “meta description” optimization
Image and media optimization
Content quality and length
Responsive design and user experience
This list isn’t exhaustive and is subject to change as algorithms evolve. Based on developments we have observed in recent years, these factors correspond with the direction that popular search engines are pursuing. With close to 90 percent of online users using Google’s search engine, optimizing for its algorithm is almost synonymous with optimizing for search engines in general. Later in this blog, we will go over what the aforementioned 15 factors mean and how you can improve your performance in each.
Exercise: Wearing Your Bot Glasses
We have agreed that quality content should primarily target searchers’ behavior and focus on being relevant to them. However, we also have mentioned that search bots act as middlemen between what you have and what people need. Linking those two is going to take some additional effort on your part as well as wearing bot glasses to analyze how your site is actually being read or crawled.
For a quick reality check, look at how your blog is being cached by Google. That text-based, raw version of your content is exactly what bots are looking at to determine whether you are useful to searchers. There are a few major things you will immediately notice in your article pages:
All the pretty images are gone, and unless you have included informative alternative text and title tags there is simply no trace of them. Your awesome styling choices are also gone. Bots are judging you by the text-only version of the piece.
Videos and other multimedia formats are nowhere to be found. Unless you have included text backups or transcripts, all that content will be nonexistent from a search engine standpoint. This does not mean you should avoid multimedia content. Quite the contrary, these interactive elements can increase the time users spend on the page and decrease the number of visitors who leave quickly (bounce rate); these two improvements, in turn, send positive signals to search bots.
Your basic heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) still make certain ideas seem more important than others. Despite removing all the additional styling, bots can still detect the importance you have assigned to certain concepts based on the HTML tags you have used.
Links are still there, intact. Search engines crawl links to perfection, making them the basis to establish domain and page reputation — along with many other factors.
This black-and-white vision of your content catalog can be difficult to assimilate at first. Yes, you are crafting engaging pieces for humans who can actually see color and appreciate interactivity. But yes, you are also submitting this bare-bones version to the bots in charge of showing your content to humans in the first place. Tricky, I know.
A NOTE ON VISUAL CONTENT FOR SEARCH
If you have ever used Google’s Image Search tab to find what you need, you likely would prefer to avoid text results in favor of a more visual search. In addition, many searchers append terms like “infographics” to the concept they are looking for to prevent being bombarded with an overwhelming amount of text.
Google shared a few helpful suggestions to optimize for these more visual-oriented search algorithms:
Bots can crawl both the HTML page in which the image is embedded as well as the image itself.
The image should be in one of Google’s supported formats: BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, or SVG.
The image filename should be related to the image’s content.
The alt attribute of the image should describe the image in a human-friendly way.
The HTML page’s textual contents, as well as the text near the image, should be related to the image.
My goal in showing you this is to help you to understand how SEO principles operate, but I know that these suggestions might come off as overly technical. Please look at these points as very specific words in “search engine language” — words that you should learn if you want to communicate with bots like Google.
These are the rules of engagement, and it is to our content’s benefit to at least comply with the aspects that can make it visible to search bots.
Common Content SEO Mistakes
We are going to cover a lot in this blog. It might be helpful to focus on what you can begin fixing now. These errors are common, they’re easy to repair, and they can make a big difference in the way search engines crawl and rank your content:
Not redirecting links that have changed
This results in broken links that search engines and users are not too fond of. Your reading experience can actually suffer if there are many broken internal links. If an external site is pointing to you and something in your URL has changed, make sure to notify their site administrator or editor so that you avoid losing that backlink.
Without a doubt, this is one of the most frequent errors in content SEO. Google defines it as a situation in which “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely matches other content or are appreciably similar.” There are resources like canonicalization with which you can indicate the preferred content version (in the <head> tag of all duplicate versions), redirect everyone there, and avoid getting penalized by search engines.
Imagine that you are a search bot for a second. If every one of the 1,500 pages in your site is targeting the same core/focus keyword, how are you supposed to pick one to show searchers? That is the entire issue behind keyword cannibalization: your pages are literally eating each other for attention. A popular solution for this problem is to redirect traffic to the most relevant page.
You are not using headings and titles properly, and that is confusing both your audience and your search bot. Although it is true that bots crawl entire pages, there is a reason why some HTML tags denote importance: they are indicators that enclosed ideas demand more attention.
What Does a Perfectly Optimized Content Piece Look Like?
The first step in any sound content SEO strategy is to understand that no one, except Google, knows what Google’s algorithm looks like. Strategists around the world are constantly trying to decipher what it contains by reverse-engineering it, approximating it, and reading between the lines of search engine patents.
That said, many experts concur that those 15 factors do contribute to improved search engine rankings. All of them can be remembered easily if you think in terms of what they are helping search engines to discern:
Whether your content is reputable
Whether it is relevant for the searcher’s intent
Whether it is readable and provides a quality experience
Without assigning any of them special weights (that is something only the algorithm would be able to determine), I will walk you through what these factors mean and how you can go about optimizing for them. Toward the end of this blog, we will learn about the different metrics used to track your performance in each of the following factors.
Optimizing for Reputation
These factors relate to the level of authority that search engines assign to your domain.
Inbound Links (Backlinks)
As the term indicates, these are links coming from the outside that point to you. Think about blogs, influencers, companies, and brands in general that have included links to your content. The more reputable the sources of these links are, in turn, the more valuable those links become in helping establish your authority. Makes sense, right? Trustworthy references will always make a bigger impact in your resume; well, the same goes for search engines.
How do they determine what is trustworthy? Not all backlinks are created equal. Here are some of the items search engines take into account to determine how valuable those links are:
Are the two pieces of content somehow related?
Are the domains where the links are inserted reputable? (See “Domain Reputation” later in the blog.) Do you own them by any chance?
Are the pages where the link is inserted popular? Engaging?
Are they linking to you using meaningful, descriptive (anchor) text? Or is everyone linking to your content using the exact same words (within links)?
Some ways to increase the amount of links back to your content pages include building up your social channels, investing in guest blogging partnerships, answering relevant questions, reaching out to fix broken links to your content, securing your presence in reputable directories, including influencers in roundups so that they will link to them, pitching your content in discussion forums, and fostering relationships with other relevant brands in your space. This brings us to our next factor.
Outbound Links (External Links)
Your content shouldn’t live on an island. Outbound links are the way in which you send traffic to other domains. In linking to third-party sites to provide more context for your audience, you are not only opening the door for valuable partner relationships, but you’re also improving the user experience by offering relevant, informative content. Other sites’ outbound links pointing to you become your inbound links.
Sometimes, you want to extend the content experience by suggesting other pieces hosted in your own site. These links pointing to other pages within the same domain are part of what is called an internal linking strategy. You want to help users navigate a topic and provide meaningful connections to guide them there.
Search engines value these kinds of links because they pass on authority from one page to another. Identify your content pieces with the strongest positions in search and find ways to add links that allow you to pass some of that “page authority” on to other pieces.
How established and reliable is the domain in which you are publishing your content? The site’s overall reputation can send positive or negative signals to search engines. Well, here is where it all begins to make sense: as your content helps establish your brand’s authority, the site’s “search prestige” rises.
Similarly, if your site is a credible source within your space, that will give any content you publish an extra boost. Therefore, in selecting a self-hosted, same-domain blog as your content hub, you are effectively building up several areas of your business at the same time.
The links we just analyzed contribute greatly to a certain domain’s reputation. Having authoritative backlinks, meaningful internal linking, and removing those that might hurt your standing are all essential tactics to improve your site’s domain reputation over time. At the end of this blog, we’ll look at the key metrics available to track your success.
Visitor Engagement and Traffic
This factor is probably one of the most logical indicators that something is worth looking at. The fact that many users have found it useful in the past is a basic predictor that others will benefit from it in the future. As you look at traffic, however, be aware that it is also one of the easiest metrics to manipulate — and search engineers are well aware of this fact.
Therefore, as logical as it is, popularity in terms of traffic isn’t one of the most stable building blocks of search engine authority.
Engagement, on the other hand, is increasingly becoming the focus of major search algorithms. When people land on your content pages, do they find fast page speeds, intuitive layouts, and device-responsive experiences? Are they incredibly frustrated by what they find? Are searchers likely to bounce, or leave that page without interacting with it? If asked, would they express satisfaction?
Social metrics are the various indicators that we use to track our content’s performance in relation to social networking sites. The first thing you need to know is that we can’t be 100 percent certain of the impact of social engagement in your content’s ability to rank in organic search.
We know that social shares indirectly increase your pieces’ chances of making it to other sites’ external links, drawing even more traffic, increasing the time spent on page, and expanding brand awareness, among many other SEO-related factors. What is still pending is a definite assertion that your social reputation is factored into your content pages’ position in search. We do, though, have strong reasons to believe that it will — if it does not already.
However, that is only one part of the search conversation. What about the search that takes place inside all major social platforms? What about the terms you type into an actual search box within Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Instagram, just to name a few? Have you thought of how video content is organically discovered using YouTube’s search box? The internal search algorithms these sites have come up with heavily weigh your links’ popularity.
Being discovered organically after a searcher has used certain inputs to find a solution — is the essence of strong SEO. Moving forward, social metrics will become an even more essential part of the puzzle.
Optimizing for Relevance
The following factors point to the way search engines connect searchers’ queries with your content to ensure that it is appropriate to satisfy their need.
On-Page Keyword and Semantic Keyword Usage
If there is one SEO factor that has completely changed over the years, it is keyword placement. We have gone from shameless keyword stuffing to more subtle, humane, seamless insertions; from “splatter these terms everywhere” to “explore this topic in depth.” That isn’t to say that keywords don’t play a central role in SEO; they still do. But that the way in which we approach them has changed radically.
As search engines draw closer to humans in their “understanding” of content, it has become more important to think semantically. Although this might appear to be a complex word, semantics is simply the study of meaning in the language we use. Focusing on semantics involves going back to what keywords stand for in order to come up with more useful ways to serve and insert them. It also implies finding other related keywords that users would also think of when typing in a search box.
Instead of splashing specific words everywhere, new algorithm changes focus on figuring out if a certain page answers searchers’ needs — a principle also known as user search intent.
Getting Started with Keyword Research
If you wanted to find a set of keywords to work with right now, where would you begin?
To ensure that you can follow every step in this process, I use free tools provided by Google. Recall that this engine currently captures close to 90 percent of online users’ search queries. It is safe to say that Google is the dominant search engine in the market today, and it is adamant about keeping that position.
More than ever before, SEO has become about understanding your searchers’ intent. Keep this in mind as you go through the following steps:
1. Define an audience persona that you want to target. Choose one of these personas and complete all subsequent steps with that particular persona in mind.
2. Understand how different types of search intent influence your persona’s behavior.
For content creation, we will focus on two types of intent: informational and transactional. Remember that informational search intent is related to someone’s desire to learn something, whereas transactional intent points to a person’s desire to do something. Define the searcher’s main mission or intention as she uses a search engine.
3. Create a list of core topics that correspond with the search intent from step 2.
As you consider this persona’s intentions and desires, come up with a rough list of topics that would satisfy the needs of your persona. These topics don’t need to be structured in any particular way yet; that is something we will worry about in the next few steps.
4. Create a list of main terms (keywords) that are relevant within the topics in step 3.
You just came up with a list of potential topics to respond to your searcher’s intent. Now, it is all about narrowing down those broad topics to specific terms that will become your keywords. If you need help coming up with ideas, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner to get a list of keyword suggestions. You can also look at your competitors’ content to understand how it is producing articles on those topics and the search terms it’s likely targeting.
5. Decide whether the keywords in step 4 would be valuable, looking at search volume, competition, and conversion potential.
Again, Google’s Keyword Planner can give you solid data to work with. When you type in the terms of interest, Google lets you know the number of times people have searched for that exact keyword (average monthly searches) and what level of competition you can expect as you target it (low, medium, or high). This last data point is gathered from the number of advertisers that showed on your keyword in comparison to all other keywords across Google.
Keep in mind that some keywords might be rising in popularity and still not reflect well. Google’s search data covers a certain time period, and it might not be current enough to show, for example, search interest in certain trending topics. Every time you assess a potential keyword, also ensure that you go directly to the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and make a note of a sample (top ranking) result that you could use as inspiration to create your own content.
6. Find even more related keywords by trying out similar concepts and variants.
Remember that search engines are trying to mimic human behavior. We look for information using natural (versus robotic) language. Therefore, it will be crucial to complement your main keywords in step 4 with an augmented list of terms and phrases that relate naturally.
To find these additional words, you can use the Related Searches snippet supplied by Google, look at the SERP for that keyword, or pay for a more automated recommendation tool like Moz’s or Ahrefs Keyword Explorers.
7. Outline content pieces based on those semantically related keyword groups. At this point, you have multiple terms that relate to the topics your persona is searching for. When you looked at average monthly searches in step 5, you evaluated those words in terms of how valuable they would be to bring in organic traffic. Now it is time to outline actual content pieces based on these terms. As you do, consider how natural the reading experience feels and whether the content is truly adding value to your intended audience.
In the upcoming section, we will see how choosing which keywords and keyword phrases to use is as important as deciding where to place them on the page. The two major search engines (Bing and Google) have filed patents suggesting that specific HTML tags are used to determine how important certain terms are. But before we move on to the next SEO factor, try this simple keyword exercise.
Exercise: Your First Keyword Analysis
Take a deep breath. The seven steps we just went over can look intimidating at first. They are part of a content manager’s daily life because it is how many of us spot new SEO opportunities. However, there is a way to begin optimizing your content for search engines without starting with a blank slate. You can actually use existing traffic data to detect which keywords to target more intensely based on current search behavior.
When you connect your content hub (blog, resource center, or whatever you call it) to Google’s Search Console, it will show you the search queries that are bringing you organic traffic at present. Search Console is part of Google’s free Webmaster Tools, and it collects, among other data, the words that online users are typing on Google before they click and land on specific pages of your site. You can also connect Search Console to Google Analytics and analyze this data within that dashboard.
Those search queries reveal the value that searchers are currently finding in your content, and can provide direction on the pieces you should optimize. Instead of starting the process from scratch with a persona study (as in the previous seven steps), we are now reverse-engineering it: looking at what is being found in order to understand who is looking for it and how to improve the experience. The great starting point, right? That is why I recommend this simple exercise before you begin brainstorming any new keywords.
1. Connect your site to Google Search Console if you have not done so already. Search Console begins storing data from the moment at which you authorize the connection, so if you just set it up, you need to allow some time before proceeding with step 2. The amount of time is relative to the size of your traffic — for some sites, a couple of weeks will capture significant search volume, whereas, for others, you might need to wait a few months. Monitor your console daily to see if any new data comes up.
2. Go to Search Traffic and click Search Analytics. The figure depicts what that screen would look like for a small blog getting around 2,000 clicks from Google Search every month. You can filter this search traffic by using parameters like the country from which the click originated and the device used. Select the date range that Google should look at when reporting these search traffic numbers.
Notice that the radio button next to the Queries filter is selected. If you select any of the other options (Page, Countries, Devices, etc.), Search Console will report on the number of clicks per page, country, or device, rather than the query that drove them.
3. That is step 3. Make a note of the search queries that are directing the most clicks to your site. If you click the small arrow icon next to each query, you will see the SERP that is displayed when users type that query in Google. If you click the double-right-arrows at the end of each row, you will access an identical dashboard for each specific query.
That would allow you to see, for instance, how many of those interested in “branding packages” are searching from tablets (device filter) in the United States (country filter).
4.Now that you know the most popular queries driving search traffic to your content pages, complete one or all of the following tasks:
Link the most popular content pages to other relevant pages so that searchers spend even more time on your site.
Turn one-time visitors on those pages into regular subscribers or followers by adding a lead capture form.
Strengthen those content pages’ positions in the search by adding more in-depth discussion, engaging visuals, or inbound links from third parties, among other techniques. Look at mobile and desktop numbers (step 3) and ensure that searchers coming in from various devices have an equally great experience.
The rest of the SEO factors in this blog will give you more tools and techniques to further optimize these pages. For now, I hope to look at Search Console data showed you how important it is to stay on top of content SEO — I know it definitely worked for me when I was just getting started!
Content managers get to wear lots of hats throughout the day. One such that requires basic HTML knowledge. Congratulations, you are also a part-time developer! You can choose not to be one at your own risk, but I guarantee that your online content will benefit from some (very) basic code skills.
After you have narrowed down a list of keyword phrases that work for the content piece you are planning, as just explained, it is time to find a place to insert them. HTML contains different tags whose goal is to inform search bots and humans alike what is most important, not as important, and least important on the page.
Behind every content page you publish, no matter how text-intensive, there is a basic source code that determines what is shown. Some content creators might try to function without ever looking at this code, but I can’t say I have high hopes for the future of their careers, considering where all of this is going.
The table looks at some of the basic HTML tags and the kind of importance they convey.
HTML tag What it means Usually devoted to
<h1> main heading Titles
<h2> Secondary headings Subtitles
<h3> Tertiary headings Divisions within subtitles
<p> Paragraph Body copy
Try to place important ideas in equally important spaces on the page. Many SEO experts claim that including your main/focus keyword in the first paragraph has a positive impact on the way search engines rank the piece for that term. Reserve your main container and headings for outstanding, strategic content.
Title and Meta Description Optimization
There is an HTML tag we have not mentioned yet and whose importance can’t be overstated: <title>. To optimize for search engines, make sure you work with title lengths that prevent cutoff. Remember that <title> tags are what search engines and other platforms display when they “read” your pages.
Google, for example, builds out a snippet that includes your title, meta description, date, and URL. When searchers see your content piece in results, they should be able to garner either a complete or pretty good idea of what it is about.
Most SEO experts claim that the ideal title length lies somewhere between 50 and 65 characters, but you should test it yourself and see where the cutoff takes place in your audience’s most popular devices. SEO specialists at companies like Moz and Yoast claim that your focus, or most important, the keyword should be at the beginning of the title. Both humans and search engines see your initial words first.
Just like the title is important for your visibility in SERP listings, the content page’s meta description directly informs searchers what they are about to find when they click your search engine result. SEO specialists recommend keeping your meta description text between 150 and 160 characters long.
Although they’re no longer weighed heavily in search rankings, these descriptions can be crucial to improve your listings’ click-through rate. Nobody complains when organic traffic goes up, especially given that it can indirectly affect your links’ positions.
A good rule of thumb when thinking about URLs is to avoid making them obscure: if your URLs look excessively long and incomprehensible you are probably doing it wrong. So, here is what you want to avoid: http://www.example.com/index.php?id_session=4045&sid=30349503495000
Unnecessary parameters and session IDs make it difficult for both bots and humans to understand what you mean. For the preceding link, a structure like forexample.com/ipad-accessories would have been much more descriptive and meaningful. Remember semantics — search’s improved focus on meaning? Again, it is all about making sure human searchers want to read you when bots serve your content to them, based on what they deem most relevant.
As with titles, most SEO consultants recommend placing your focus keyword in the actual URL. Additionally, they also are part of that snippet that is served in search results, and send signals to searchers that could attract them to or repel them from your content. Like titles, they also can be truncated.
Google also has spoken openly in favor of using hyphens instead of underscores in URLs. When you use hyphens, bots will read the words as two separate terms. Something like for example.com/content-marketing.html is much more useful to them than forexample.com/content_marketing.html.
To serve the most relevant content possible, search engines also consider how up-to-date it will be perceived by users. Of course, not every topic on Earth depends on newness to appear relevant or useful. Sometimes, evergreen pieces, those that have a longer shelf-life, can become important reference points that continue to bring traffic regardless of their publishing date.
Freshness weighs in when we are dealing with time-sensitive content that provides value insofar as it is updated. Yearly roundups, current-events pieces, and social trend coverage are all good examples.
The key here is to continuously look at your content catalog and maintain a list of pieces that need to be refreshed periodically. As you publish new content, link to older, related pieces that would still be pertinent pending minor updates. Complete those minor updates as needed.
I learned the hard way (as in losing a lot of organic traffic) that whenever content pieces contain years in their titles (e.g., 2014, 2015, 2016) they will quickly age unless you update them. When you do, it is crucial to redirect incoming traffic to the new version of the piece. In case the URL has changed, this means implementing 301 redirects to avoid losing search and referral traffic. You will quickly find value in removing any aging factors from your URLs and opting for easily updatable titles instead.
Image and Media Optimization
At the beginning of this blog, I asked you to look at a raw, black-and-white version of your site to understand how bots actually read your content. We noticed that images and other media types receive special treatment when crawled by search engines.
Essentially, unless we implement proper alt tags or text backups, it will be very difficult for all kinds of good bots to understand what our multimedia content is about. Because these kinds of formats add to the quality of our content experience, it is in our best interest to define them in a way that search engines can make sense out of them.
Optimizing for Readability
The next group of SEO factors relates to the user’s experience after she has landed in a particular content piece.
Have you ever left a site because it was taking too much time to load? Exactly. So, do most users, no matter where they live, what they do, or what device they are using. Page loading impatience is universal.
Search engineers know this and design search engines so that they reward fast loading times while punishing slow pages. Google publicly announced that page speed became a ranking factor in 2010. In 2016, they announced that mobile page speed would also become a ranking factor for mobile sites. What does all of this tell us? There is an interest in improving search experience via speed, so our content pages better measure up.
Many of the most impactful improvements you can make to page speed will require close communication with a web developer. After you have done everything in your power to optimize all the files you are loading in the content section of your page, the developer will be able to work on more technical improvements. Those include implementing Content Distribution Networks (CDNs), improving browser caching, optimizing code, removing scripts that prevent page load, and speeding up your server’s responses, among many others.
Content Quality and Length
Needless to say, higher-quality content is the number one source of satisfaction for any visitor — whether he is coming in from search, a referral, or anywhere else in the World Wide Web. That is how you get top-ranking pieces from content hubs that don’t look particularly stellar. They have nailed the quality side of the equation and continuously offer value in the form of trustworthy, long-form information.
Even though there is no such thing as an ideal length that will get you the first position in search results, many experts have noticed patterns in the top-ranking content pieces. Social shares, backlinks, and search positions have all been found to relate to an article’s word count.
Most studies report that top-ranking content pieces are somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 words (Quicksprout, serpIQ). Publishing platform Medium studied thousands of data points and concluded that seven-minute reads captured the most total reading time on average. At 300 words per minute, that is around 2,100 words.
With factors like shareability, time on page, and linking improving with long-form content, it is no surprise that these pieces end up ranking better in search — at least it shouldn’t be, considering everything we have analyzed in this blog.
Responsive Design and User Experience
As search engines move toward rewarding positive user experiences, making sure your content hub is optimized for mobile is essential.
In 2015, Google startled website owners everywhere with a simple warning: it would begin penalizing sites that were not optimized for mobile (penalizing in search, of course). A new algorithm change introduced mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. The upcoming section will help you verify that this isn’t hurting your content site’s standing.
How to Know Whether You Are on the Right Track with Content SEO
We have reviewed various factors that play a role in search ranking, but you are probably wondering how to track your own progress to improve your own content’s position.
SEO is, without a doubt, one of the most important topics you will have to tackle as a content manager. Securing strategic positions in search engines when your audience needs what you offer can turn into a strong competitive advantage. With time, and assuming you regularly update them, your top-ranking content pieces will become reliable traffic drivers. Even with all its complexities, SEO is one of the most game-changing content distribution tactics in existence today.