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Andrew Dennis – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tue, 28 May 2019 19:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Content goals: Links, keywords and conversions /content-goals-links-keywords-and-conversions-317497 Tue, 28 May 2019 19:18:09 +0000 /?p=317497 A good understanding of what types of content are linkable will guide your link development strategy. Here's what you need to know.

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Ever since the early days of the internet, content has been a driving force in how we interact with the web. Bill Gates famously stated, “Content is king,” and even Google told us that content and links are driving forces behind their search rankings algorithm.

We get it…content is important. But do we really understand how to leverage content to be successful online?

The first step towards executing content well is understanding the primary goals of online content. For marketers, the main three goals of content are link acquisition, keyword improvement and conversion assistance. There is a case to be made for a fourth goal — branding and awareness.

However, branding bleeds into link acquisition and keyword growth as search visibility is a means of increased awareness online. The one exception might be publishing content on authoritative third-party websites where you don’t receive the benefit of earned backlinks or organic traffic, but still earn exposure and the potential for referral traffic.

But I want to focus on the three main KPIs marketers need to consider with their content marketing — links, keywords and conversions.

Crafting linkable content to build authority

Search visibility and success, start with links.

Links, along with content, are a primary factor in how search engines rank pages within their results and if you want stronger search rankings, links must be a consideration. While links can be earned passively, you can’t rely on others to find your pages serendipitously if you want to earn visibility in the most competitive search results — you need strategic content promotion and link building.

However, not all the content you create will be link-worthy or suited for link acquisition campaigns. Promoting the right pages is key to link building success and a firm understanding of what types of content are linkable will guide your link development strategy.

Linkable content targets a broad audience at the top of your marketing funnel; this content is intended for people in the awareness stage who may be engaging with your brand for the first time. You want your content to apply and be useful to as many people as possible, making it link-worthy — people don’t link to irrelevant content, no matter how good the outreach email is.

Some common examples of linkable content include:

  • Definitional or foundational content.
  • Well-designed, visually compelling content.
  • Controversial, opinionated content.
  • Engaging, interactive content.
  • Trendy, newsworthy content.
  • Etc.

These types of pages cater to larger audiences and can sustain link building campaigns.

Almost ironically, it’s difficult to get these linkable pages to rank in search because they are often competing for visibility in highly competitive SERPs (due to their broad topic coverage). However, if you can rank in these results, it’s very likely you’ll continue to earn links passively via citations from others covering these broad topics.

Ultimately, even if your linkable pages never rank well in search, they will still help you secure links that build topical authority and credibility for your brand and website, helping other more keyword-focused content rank.

Leveraging keyword-focused content for increased visibility

Links support rankings, but linkable content doesn’t always rank well — it’s designed for links, not rankings. However, you should also craft strategic, keyword-focused content with the intent of earning search rankings and visibility.

The primary goal of keyword-focused content is to rank well for a set of keywords and themes, and unlike linkable content — which targets a broad audience — this type of content addresses a more narrow, specific searcher intent and audience.

To find this audience, you need to execute strategic keyword research and niche analysis. Finding the right keyword targets is an extensive process, but you can get started by considering the following:

  • Which terms and phrases are directly associated with your products and services?
  • Does Google provide any “related searches” for these terms?
  • Which terms does your audience use? Are they different?
  • Do you see common synonyms or alternative phrasing on the current ranking pages?
  • Are your competitors using different terms on their site?
  • Etc.

This is not a comprehensive list, but these questions should get you started in the right direction.

As you tease out potential keyword targets, you also need to assess the viability of those terms and think about whether you can create something that could rank well for those searches — what is the search opportunity associated with each?

While there are a variety of factors that go into search opportunity, it essentially boils down to search volume and competition. The higher the search volume, the greater the traffic opportunity and lower competition mean a greater likelihood of ranking your content.

One important thing to remember with search volume is that estimates (from tools like SEMrush) can be low for an individual term because they only provide volume for that specific phrase. However, if you build a page that ranks well for an individual term, that page will also likely rank well for all the associated long-tail keywords, which can add up to a significantly higher total search volume.

While it can be difficult to secure links to keyword-focused content — again, this content focuses on a smaller audience — ranking your pages will provide the opportunity to earn passive links as citations from other content creators exploring the same subject. You should pursue any link opportunities available, but these pages typically rank based on their laser-targeted focus and the merit of other relevant pages (linkable content) on your site.

Building converting content to capture qualified traffic

Linkable content and keyword-focused content work together to improve organic search performance and bring more people to your site. However, you still need converting pages to capitalize on this increased exposure.

Converting content targets visitors at the bottom of your marketing funnel, prompting them to take a specific action (email signup, phone call, purchase, etc.). The promotional nature of these pages makes it hard to convince other sites to link. For the same reason, Google will only show these pages in searches that are commercial and specific to your product or service, and these are typically the most competitive search results.

However, with proper internal linking you can support rankings for your converting pages by transferring authority from your linkable pages. You can also use internal links to guide organic visitors to converting pages from high-ranking keyword-focused content.

Converting content is crucial to the success of your business, and I recommend checking out these resources to learn how to write converting pages and optimize your site for conversions:

Holistic content marketing for the win

Different types of content should have varying goals, and the three main goals of content online are link, keywords and conversions. To build a successful website, you need to address all three of these goals with your content.

The most effective content strategies account for these KPIs with various types of content that all work together to support each other — linkable content builds authority and supports rankings for keyword-focused content. The same content earns visibility and attracts new visitors to the site, internal links from those pages funnel organic visitors to converting pages where they fill out a form and get in touch with a sales person.

Investing into content is paramount to digital success, and when all your pages are working together as part of a holistic content marketing strategy, it can be a beautiful thing.

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Aligning content and SEO for search success /aligning-content-and-seo-for-search-success-315304 Fri, 12 Apr 2019 13:01:47 +0000 /?p=315304 Here are some best practices to get content and SEO teams working together throughout the creation process to ensure your pages are well-suited to succeed in organic search.

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From a 30,0000-foot view, capitalizing on organic search as a customer channel seems so simple. You need to create good content and secure good links — that’s it!

Of course, in practice, this process is much more complicated. What is “good content?” And what are “good links?” These questions themselves could each be their posts. If you want to learn about these topics, I suggest reading these resources:

But I want to focus on process. More specifically, I want to discuss how to align your content and SEO strategies to work in the same direction and drive sustainable results for your website.

Many SEO professionals cite a lack of understanding of SEO initiatives as a barrier to success. By lifting some of the burdens of search success from the SEO team and incorporating more of the broader digital marketing team in the elements of SEO they influence, you’ll achieve better outcomes.

To be successful with search, you need to integrate workflows and build a foundation for collaboration, as well as continue to foster teamwork before content development, during creation and through publication.

Let’s walk through some best practices to help you align your respective teams and get content and SEO working together in harmony.

Integrating workflows

Building a foundation for collaboration is the first step towards aligning content and SEO. If you have two separate departments executing content and SEO, you need to integrate their workflows.

Joint meetings are a simple, but effective way to increase collaboration. You don’t need long, wide-reaching brainstorming sessions together, but quick weekly or monthly updates between the two departments can work wonders.

Another way to encourage collaboration is by aligning KPIs for both departments. When each team has the same measurements of success, they will naturally be more open to cooperating. Every team wants to be successful and demonstrate their value, so sharing a common goal and making both teams equally accountable for organic search success will bring your content and SEO teams together. One can’t succeed without the other.

Finally, you need to ensure that lines of communication are established and remain open. Tools like Slack or Google Hangouts can support this communication, allowing team members to collaborate in real time.

With these elements in place, your teams will be positioned to work together to align content and SEO for optimal results.

SEO research informs content creation

Coordination between content and SEO teams should be happening long before any content is developed.

Content teams should be given creative freedom for topic ideation — they are the experts and creatives — but your SEO team can help them make more informed decisions. Much of the keyword and niche research SEOs can inform content marketing to be more strategic and positioned to capitalize on search.

If you want to earn organic traffic you need content — but not just any content, you need the right content and your SEO team can guide your strategy to target the right opportunities.

SEO teams can guide content strategy in two primary ways — competitor and audience analysis through the lens of search.

Competitor analysis for content creation

SEOs can analyze competitor content to understand which pages are performing best and driving visitors to the competition.

Using tools — such as SEMrush, Majestic, Ahrefs, Moz, etc. — SEOs can identify competitor pages with the most organic traffic as well as top linked pages on competitor sites. This information is critical for the content team because these competitor pages represent opportunities. These are topics that your audience has a proven interest in, and if you don’t have similar pages, you need to create them (and improve on what the competition is doing).

By identifying a competitor’s top posts, your SEO team can also gain strategic insight into:

  • Optimal formats for content (video, checklists, image-heavy, etc.).
  • Unique SERP opportunities (snippets, knowledge box, carousel, etc.).
  • Ideal content length and structure.
  • Potential linking audiences.
  • Potential promotional opportunities.
  • Alternative and related keyword ideas.

This information empowers your content team to craft pages that earn visibility for your site and have the potential to reclaim audience share from your competition.

Audience analysis for content creation

The audience analysis SEO teams are uniquely suited to deliver can also benefit content creators before content development.

The keyword research SEOs perform will provide valuable insight that can help the content team prioritize opportunities and topics. This research will uncover the true opportunity associated with top keywords and themes based on search volume, competition level and most importantly, searcher intent.

Understanding intent is critical to building a complete marketing funnel for your website. You need to craft content for each stage of the funnel and the associated intent with each of those stages. While searchers with commercial intent typically have the shortest distance to becoming a customer, they are also at the bottom — most narrow — portion of your funnel. Focusing solely on these searchers means your missing a significant portion of your audience with your content.

In many niches, commercial pages are often among the most competitive or present the least opportunity in terms of organic search performance, particularly when it comes to e-commerce sites.

Providing a range of valuable content on your site that focuses on different parts of your marketing funnel and is targeted to keywords with the most opportunity is essential to SEO success. The best opportunities are typically a combination of:

  • Low competition and
  • High search volume.

Or

  • Search results where the existing ranking pages are lacking, and you can create something better.

Crafting these pages is integral to building a complete content marketing strategy. These strategies start to move the needle when combined with conversion rate optimization (CRO) best practices and a solid user experience on-site, like sound internal linking and proper use of calls-to-action.

It can always benefit your content creation team to dig into the SERPs, see what’s ranking and determine why.

For example, if you sell ergonomic keyboards, there will undoubtedly be searchers with commercial intent that want to find your product pages. However, there will also be an audience searching for general health tips for the office. Through keyword research, your SEO team can find relevant topics that target these larger audiences and bring them to your site. Topics such as:

  • [chair exercises] – Search volume: 8,100
  • [desk exercises] – Search volume: 5,400
  • [desk workouts] – Search volume: 1,900
  • [exercise at work] – Search volume: 1,000

Furthermore, each of these opportunities has even more search potential with associated long-tail keywords. For example, if we dive deeper into [desk workouts] in SEMrush, we can see even more opportunity:

  • [desk exercise equipment] – Search volume: 1,300
  • [exercise at your desk] – Search volume: 1,300
  • [under desk exercise] – Search volume:1,300
  • [exercise at work] – Search volume: 1,000
  • [exercises to do at your desk] – Search volume: 880
  • [workout at work] – Search volume: 880

That’s 6,000-plus cumulative search volume that our hypothetical content team could be missing if they aren’t aligned with our hypothetical SEO team.

SEO research can also inform content formatting once an opportunity is identified. Going back to our ergonomic keyboard website, if the SEO team flagged [deskercise] — a term that has 720 search volume — as a good opportunity for content creation, they should also share that there is the opportunity for video content in these results:

This knowledge will empower the content team to craft content in the format searchers prefer, increasing the page’s ability to rank.

Competitor and audience research are integral to creating strategic content for search, and by aligning SEO and content, you can craft pages that are positioned to be competitive in the search results.

Keeping SEO involved throughout content creation

The SEO team’s job isn’t finished after they hand off the data from their research — SEO should remain involved throughout content creation to consult on content optimization.

Consider developing a templated checklist your content and SEO teams can run through together that addresses important optimization questions for each piece of content you create. Your checklist might look something like this:

Content-focused questions:

  • What is the goal of this webpage or piece of content?
    • Which pain points can this address for my audience?
    • How does this content relate to our business goals?
      • Does this piece of content serve an SEO goal — will it rank for target keywords or earn links?
  • Who would read this, and why?
  • What should someone who visits my site do after reading this content?
  • How might this content perform socially?

SEO-focused questions:

  • Are images optimized?
  • Are title tags and headers properly applied?
  • Are meta descriptions properly created and reader-centric?
  • Does this page meet speed requirements?
  • What is the bounce rate on this content?
  • Have proper conversion rate optimization factors been considered?
  • Are there opportunities to build internal links? External links?
  • Would this page benefit from schema markup?

Particularly for some of these SEO-focused items, your team will need to review content performance after publishing, so make sure everyone on the team is aware of the company content calendar. Set reminders for SEO and content team members to review each post after they’ve had a few weeks to perform.

And remember: just because these questions are divided by focus, everyone on the team should be accountable for both sets. This will help prevent “reactionary” SEO and siloing.

Simply getting your SEO team to share research and data with your content team isn’t enough, make sure these teams continue to work together throughout the creation process to ensure your pages are well-suited to succeed in organic search. Even after publication, SEO and content should be in communication about content performance in terms of social awareness, keyword rankings and link building.

When content and SEO are aligned, you’ll not only see better results, but your team will be more broadly empowered to take responsibility for search success.

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Targeted SEO: Here’s how to grow a page from 200 visits per month to 30,000 /targeted-seo-heres-how-to-grow-a-page-from-200-visits-per-month-to-30000-311252 Wed, 30 Jan 2019 15:04:33 +0000 /?p=311252 Pages need to be optimized, linkable and have search opportunity to grow.

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Spoiler alert: SEO works.

Strategic, targeted SEO can drive huge results for the right pages. Of course, the catch here is that you need the “right” pages to see the best results. These pages need to be optimized, linkable and most of all they need to have opportunity.

Search opportunity is defined by a variety of factors, such as relevant audience size and competition, and this opportunity determines what results are possible — the greater the opportunity, the greater the results. Essentially, search opportunity boils down to the amount and type (qualified vs. unqualified) of organic traffic you could potentially receive from ranking for a given search term.

Recently we had a project where we were able to work with a client that had a page on their site that checked all these boxes: it was optimized, linkable and focused on a topic with search opportunity. The results from our SEO work on that page were incredible, growing monthly organic traffic from ~200 visits to ~30,000 in just six months!

In this post, I want to walk through the strategies and processes we used to achieve these results to provide you with takeaways for your pages and projects. The steps for this process include:

  1. Identify organic traffic opportunities.
  2. Create a new page or optimize an existing page.
  3. Secure valuable backlinks.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Let’s dive in.

1. Identify organic traffic opportunities

The first, and most important, step of this process is identifying organic search opportunities.

Crafting useful content and earning authoritative links are critical elements of ranking well in search, but if you’re not targeting the right opportunity, these efforts could be in vain.

Identifying search opportunities begins with competitive analysis. You need to understand how your competition is earning organic traffic to understand how you can win organic traffic for your site. For our project, we evaluated our client’s competitors’ top pages based on:

  • Organic traffic per month.
  • Content type or format.
  • Volume and types of backlinks.
  • Percentage share of organic traffic across the domain.
  • Ranking keywords and the associated searcher intent.

Analyzing the top pages on competitor websites helped us better understand our client’s search audience and content marketing strategies, and identify where gaps and opportunities existed for our client’s website.

To learn more about identifying your most important opportunities, check out our guide on how to do keyword research.

2. Create a new page or optimize an existing page

Our competitive analysis uncovered a handful of key terms with the potential to drive large quantities of qualified traffic to our client’s site if they could rank well for those terms.

After identifying these opportunities, we audited the client’s site to see if there were any existing pages that could capture these opportunities with some optimization, or if new pages needed to be created.

We found the client had a page with a useful calculator — typically a highly-linkable page — that was relevant to a key term with a monthly search volume over 20,000 that also happened to be responsible for 11% of a major competitor’s organic traffic. However, the page was under-optimized for the term we wanted to target.

To better optimize the page for this important term, we made simple recommendations:

  • Adding the term to headers (H2s and H3s).
  • Expanding information on the term’s topic.
  • Converting a static image into crawlable text.
  • Making organizational changes to the page to increase linkability.

These slight tweaks and optimizations were all it took to position the page to better answer the search query we were targeting.

Some other common recommendations we make include:

  • Optimizing internal linking.
  • Adding new formats (visual, video, audio, etc.).
  • Deprioritizing promotional language from informational pages.
  • Including more variations and long-tail versions of a key term.
  • Adjusting site structure and moving pages.
  • Link externally to trusted sources (scientific studies, governmental departments, educational institutions, etc.).

Often, there will be a page on your site that has the potential to capture new search opportunity but is slightly missing the mark. Typically, small tweaks are all that is needed to help your page better target new terms.

However, some opportunities will require you to build an entirely new page. In these instances, ask yourself the same question you would ask when optimizing an existing page: how does this answer searcher intent? How am I using the target keyword on my page? What variations of the term can I leverage?

For more information on optimizing content, check out Nate Dame’s checklist here.

3. Secure valuable backlinks

Once you have an optimized page, it’s time to earn some links.

Useful content and on-page optimizations will set your page up for success, but links will solidify your page as a worthy resource and secure visibility in the search results.

For the project we’re highlighting here, we set a quarterly goal of fifteen links. This goal was based on competition levels, linking tendencies in the niche, and the knowledge that we had a page that was optimized for intent and citation (links).

Since our client’s page featured a tool, we were able to leverage resource page link building as a tactic: the process of promoting an existing resource to earn links on third-party resource pages. Resource link building isn’t always an option — your page must be inherently valuable as a resource — but the utility of the calculator made this a viable option.

Of course, if we limited our prospecting to resource pages focused on the client page’s main topic (sleeping and the sleep cycle), we would quickly exhaust our opportunities. To broaden our prospect pool, we targeted tangential niches where our client’s tool would be applicable — health-related resource pages, resource pages for students, parenting resource pages, etc.

Connecting these niches with our client, through the need for adequate sleep, opened the door to many more opportunities. This ability to find tangentially relevant audiences is critical to expanding your opportunity and securing enough links to move the needle.

Additionally, we identified blog content on the client site where internal linking opportunities existed. These blog posts expanded our link building opportunities, and through internal links, we directed link equity from these pages to the target calculator page.

4. Rinse and repeat

The best part of the process I’ve laid out here is that it’s scalable.

This case study focuses on one target page on our client’s site — which experienced tremendous results — but the process can be applied to multiple pages. In fact, we leveraged the same process to grow another page from essentially no traffic to over 500 visits per month in a similar timeframe.

The key component is identifying the most critical search opportunities available to you. Once you’ve identified these opportunities, and the pages that could address them, you can use this process to improve their organic performance and drive large amounts of relevant traffic.

If you can execute this strategy consistently, and across multiple pages, over time your entire site will grow in leaps and bounds.

Keep in mind that competition will dictate how long it takes to see results. Even if you already have an optimized page that deserves to rank, you’ll still need to secure enough links to be competitive — which takes time — and then your rankings should improve, as Google begins to recognize the authority of your links — and then traffic will start to flow.

SEO is not a short-term process, but if you’re strategic and consistent, the results should have a compounding effect on your website’s organic performance.

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The importance of understanding intent for SEO /the-importance-of-understanding-intent-for-seo-308754 Fri, 30 Nov 2018 12:45:20 +0000 /?p=308754 Search engines are getting more sophisticated at measuring how well a page matches intent so here are some tips on how to build a better strategy for it.

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Search is an exciting, ever-changing channel.

Algorithm updates from Google, innovations in the way we search (mobile, voice search, etc.), and evolving user behavior all keep us on our toes as SEOs. The dynamic nature of our industry requires adaptable strategies and ongoing learning to be successful. However, we can’t become so wrapped up in chasing new strategies and advanced tactics that we overlook fundamental SEO principles.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common thread of questioning coming from our clients and prospects around searcher intent, and I think it’s something worth revisiting here. In fact, searcher intent is such a complex topic it’s spawned multiple scientific studies (PDF) and research (PDF).

However, you might not have your own internal research team, leaving you to analyze intent and the impact it has on your SEO strategy on your own. Today, I want to share a process we go through with clients at Page One Power to help them better understand the intent behind the keywords they target for SEO.

Two questions we always ask when clients bring us a list of target keywords and phrases are:

  1. Should your site or page rank there?
  2. What will these rankings accomplish?

These questions drive at intent and force us, and our clients, to analyze audience and searcher behavior before targeting specific keywords and themes for their SEO strategy.

The basis for any successful SEO strategy is a firm understanding of searcher intent.

Types of searcher intent

Searcher intent refers to the “why” behind a given search query — what is the searcher hoping to achieve? Searcher intent can be categorized in four ways:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Commercial
  • Transactional

Categorizing queries into these four segments will help you better understand what types of pages searchers are looking for.

Informational intent

People entering informational queries seek to learn information about a subject or topic. These are the most common types of searches and typically have the largest search volumes.

Informational searches also exist at the top of the marketing funnel, during the discovery phase where visitors are much less likely to convert directly into customers. These searchers want content-rich pages that answer their questions quickly and clearly, and the search results associated with these searches will reflect that.

Navigational intent

Searchers with navigational intent already know which company or brand they are looking for, but they need help with navigation to their desired page or website. These searches often involve queries that feature brand names or specific products or services.

These SERPs typically feature homepages, or specific product or service pages. They might also feature mainstream news coverage of a brand.

Commercial intent

Commercial queries exist as a sort of hybrid intent — a mix of informational and transactional.

These searches have transactional intent. The searcher is looking to make a purchase, but they are also looking for informational pages to help them make their decision. The results associated with commercial intent usually have a mix of informational pages and product or service pages.

Transactional intent

Transactional queries have the most commercial intent as these are searchers looking to make a purchase. Common words associated with transactional searches include [price] or [sale].

Transactional SERPs are typically 100 percent commercial pages (products, services and subscription pages).

Categorizing keywords and search queries into these four areas makes it easier to understand what searchers want, informing page creation and optimization.

Optimizing for intent: Should my page rank there?

With a clear understanding of the different types of intent, we can dive into optimizing for intent.

When we get a set of target keywords from a client, the first thing we ask is, “Should your website be ranking in these search results?”

Asking this question leads to other important questions:

  • What is the intent of these searches?
  • What does Google believe the intent is?
  • What type of result are people searching for?

Before you can optimize your pages for specific keywords and themes, you need to optimize them for intent.

The best place to start your research is the results themselves. Simply analyzing the current ranking pages will answer your questions about intent. Are the results blog posts? Reviews or “Top 10” lists? Product pages?

If you scan the results for a given query and all you see is in-depth guides and resources, the chances that you’ll be able to rank your product page there are slim to none. Conversely, if you see competitor product pages cropping up, you know you have legitimate opportunity to rank your product page with proper optimization.

Google wants to show pages that answer searcher intent, so you want to make sure your page does the best job of helping searchers achieve whatever they set out to do when they typed in their query. On-page optimization and links are important, but you’ll never be able to compete in search without first addressing intent.

This research also informs content creation strategy. To rank, you will need a page that is at least comparable to the current results. If you don’t have a page like that you will need to create one.

You can also find (a few) opportunities where the results currently don’t do a great job of answering searcher intent, and you could compete quickly by creating a more focused page. You can even take it a layer deeper and consider linking intent — is there an opportunity here to build a page that can act as a resource and attract links? Analyzing intent will inform the other aspects of your SEO campaign.

Asking yourself if your current or hypothetical page should rank in each SERP will help you identify — and optimize for — searcher intent.

Answering intent: What will this accomplish?

A key follow-up question we also ask is, “What will ranking accomplish?”

The simplified answer we typically get is “more traffic.” But what does that really mean?

Depending on the intent associated with a given keyword, that traffic could lead to brand discovery, authority building, or direct conversions. You need to consider intent when you set expectations and assign KPIs.

Keep in mind that not all traffic needs to convert. A balanced SEO strategy will target multiple stages of the marketing funnel to ensure all your potential customers can find you — building brand affinity is an important part of earning traffic in the first place, with brand recognition impacting click-through-rate by +2-3x! Segmenting target keywords and phrases based on intent will help you identify and fill any gaps in your keyword targeting.

Ask yourself what ranking for potential target keywords could accomplish for your business, and how that aligns with your overall marketing goals. This exercise will force you to drill down and really focus on the opportunities (and SERPs) that can make the most impact.

Searcher intent informs SEO

Search engine optimization should start with optimizing for intent. Search engines continue to become more sophisticated and better at measuring how well a page matches intent, and pages that rank well are pages that best answer the query posed by searchers.

To help our clients at Page One Power refocus on intent, we ask them the following questions:

  1. Should your site or page rank there?
  2. What will these rankings accomplish?

Ask yourself these same questions as you target keywords and phrases for your own SEO campaign to ensure you’re accounting for searcher intent.

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This SEO nerd says its OK to ask for links /this-seo-nerd-says-its-ok-to-ask-for-links-304496 Tue, 28 Aug 2018 15:22:00 +0000 /?p=304496 Contributor Andrew Dennis shares recent tweets made by Google public Search Liaison Danny Sullivan and looks at how they've helped SEOs get a better understanding of what's OK when it comes to link building.

The post This SEO nerd says its OK to ask for links appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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I feel invigorated.  For the first time in what seems like a long time, a Google representative provided some clear and constructive communication regarding links!

I’m putting on my SEO nerd hat and want to dive into why this tweet excited me and give more context around the conversation.

Google’s public search liaison

Danny Sullivan was the Chief Content Officer at Third Door Media and co-founded Search Engine Land in 2007.  He retired from Third Door Media in 2017 and three months later, accepted a position with Google to be their public Search Liaison.  The position was created with the goal of helping Google and search engine optimization specialists (SEOs) better understand one another.

I feel this is a much-needed role and Danny has been doing a great job. Danny is uniquely qualified for the liaison position since he’s been on all sides of the discussion — as a citizen; as an SEO, content specialist and journalist; and now as a Google search representative. In fact, he used to be the one asking questions, trying to get clear information for SEOs.

This unique experience means Danny can truly appreciate the importance of the relationship between the SEO industry and Google.  Because both Google and our industry are constantly changing, it’s important to keep lines of communication open and the dialogue going.  Let’s look at a number of tweets made by the new Google public Search Liaison and how they’ve helped with those goals especially as they pertain to links.

Asking for links

The tweet I highlighted above came from a conversation started by Rand Fishkin, where he asked the following and tagged Danny’s Search Liaison account:

This should be an obvious yes, if someone is going to use or republish your content, they should be citing said content with a link. Plagiarism issues aside, these types of citation links benefit search engines as they help them recognize and return the original version of a page in their results.

However, these questions can be nuanced and it’s always good to get information and advice from someone associated with Google when possible.  Here is what Danny Sullivan, Google public Search Liaison (GPSL) responded with:

Keep in mind Danny had previously worked on the SEO-side of this conversation so, no surprise he provided further context by adding:

Asking someone to cite the original source of your content with a link is not a link scheme, however trying to dictate anchor text or demanding multiple links quickly approaches manipulation.

The GPSL went on in a series of tweets to further explain the nuances associated with this question, and two key points stood out to me:

  1. Intent is very important
  2. And making specific demands can be manipulative.

These two points are integral to securing links in a way that benefits our businesses and clients and falls within Google’s quality guidelines to create a better web.

A common sense approach

It’s refreshing to have a Google representative say asking for links to your work is okay rather than saying asking for links can do more harm than good, or you should add nofollow attributes to all external links.  But let’s not forget about the nuance and perspective Danny stressed.  These nuances are why a common-sense approach is needed when thinking about nofollow, links and link acquisition because building links can be complicated!

This reminds me of an idea my colleague Cory Collins has often preached — link building isn’t about the tactic, it’s about the application. Any given link acquisition tactic can be leveraged for legitimate links, or spammed and manipulated. Of course, there are a few tactics that are outright labeled as link schemes (buying links, link exchanges, large-scale article marketing with keyword-rich anchors, and using automated programs to generate links), but for the most part, link acquisition comes down to the intent.

A smart way to think about intent is to ask yourself:

Does this add value to the web and benefit users or am I doing this purely to manipulate search rankings?

When asking for links, consider the editorial review process; did a “human being” associated with a legitimate site link to your page?  If yes, that’s a good link, regardless of whether you asked them to link or they found your page and linked on their own.

Approaching links with a value-driven mindset should take care of Danny’s second point about making specific demands regarding links. This mindset focuses on relevance, audience, and reputation, rather than anchor text.

These are the types of links Google should be okay with, and the types of links we should strive for.

Conclusion

Yes, I’ve gone full SEO nerd here over just a handful of tweets from Google’s public Search Liaison but that’s because I’m genuinely excited by this type of communication.

We don’t always get such measured and thorough advice from Google, so I want to celebrate the effort to engage with the SEO community and help us work more efficiently. This common-sense approach to communication is what will benefit all parties involved (SEOs, users, and search engines) and help us build a better, more-connected web.

Now it’s on the SEO community to take this information and apply it to our work. So — demand all the links with exact match anchor text you want!  Whoo hoo!

JUST KIDDING!

We should all have a common-sense approach and acknowledge we are trying to market a business and gain exposure but also understand the best way to do that is by providing value and helping solve problems by creating helpful content and link worthy pages.

I’m encouraged to see such reasonable and open communication from Google and I think we should all celebrate this type of conversation as it helps both sides better align themselves to the common goal of optimizing the web experience.

The post This SEO nerd says its OK to ask for links appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Internal links: Link building’s secret sauce /internal-links-link-buildings-secret-sauce-301300 Mon, 02 Jul 2018 16:28:00 +0000 /?p=301300 Contributor Andrew Dennis explains why you shouldn't overlook internal links on your site: They leverage link equity from external links and direct organic visitors to important, converting pages.

The post Internal links: Link building’s secret sauce appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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I’ve been writing about link building for years now. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to dispel the idea that link acquisition has a magic button you can simply push and earn links.

I’ve heard countless clients ask me at Page One Power (my company) to ” just get us some links” and we constantly have to explain that’s not how it works.

While the process of link acquisition can be simple, securing quality links is not always so simple.  Everyone struggles with this, but we’ve found, after many campaigns, that there is a “secret sauce” that helps us acquire more links.

So what is the big secret? Internal links.

Yes, I know, not a sexy answer, but it’s true. An optimized internal linking structure is critical to link-building success.

Internal links won’t make securing external links easier, but they absolutely will make the links you earn more powerful for your site.

Directing link equity

Internal work works as a magic bullet for link building by directing much-needed link equity to pages that are inherently less likely to earn links.

The pages that struggle to earn links are typically the most important pages on your site: product and category pages. While you value your product pages and think they’re important, that doesn’t mean other sites value them. Since these pages are self-serving, they don’t offer the type of value that compels other sites to link.

Pages that serve as linkable assets for link-building campaigns possess one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Informational or educational in nature (guides, how-tos, case studies).
  • Entertaining and engaging (infographics, data visualizations, quizzes).
  • Utilitarian and useful (tools and calculators).
  • Newsworthy or timely (breaking news, industry coverage, interviews).

Linkable pages tend to live in the top to middle portions of the marketing funnel, where people are still searching for information rather than looking to make a purchase. These pages work well as target pages in link-building campaigns, since they offer value to another site’s audience.

The most difficult aspect of link building is convincing another site owner to willingly direct visitors away from their site, which is essentially what a link does. Webmasters need to believe it’s in their readers’ best interest to have direct access to your page, so it rarely makes sense to send their readers to a product page.

This is where the magic of internal linking comes into play.

Using internal links, you can direct link equity from popular pages to the important, conversion-oriented pages on your site.

While the link equity is diminished slightly as it flows through an internal link, the internally linked page still benefits from the external link.

We’ve seen the power of internal links firsthand:  Here is a graph that shows organic traffic for a new service page we recently launched:

The major gains in traffic coincide with the addition of two internal links from our two most popular (in terms of backlinks) pages. These gains were made before we even started pursuing external link opportunities for our page, and during the time frame represented above, we had secured a single external link — the power of internal links is real.

Internal link direct visitors

Linking internally throughout your site allows you to direct visitors to important pages as well.

Channeling the flow of internal link equity to your converting pages is critical for search visibility and user interaction. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find and navigate to your product and services pages, internal links do this by helping people navigate your site.

If you’re earning worthwhile links, your informational pages will be visible in organic search and capture relevant traffic. Once these people come to your site, you need to make sure they have a clear pathway to your important pages. In fact, as you select target pages for link building, you should also be mindful of the customer journey on your site and add internal links accordingly.

Internal links help signal importance to search engines, but they also tell users where they can find specific information or pages on your site.

You want the anchor text on your internal links to be descriptive and clear. Anchor text for internal links should be explicit about what page visitors will be taken to and entice them to explore your site further. If you want people to find your converting pages, make sure you’re linking to them appropriately throughout your site.

Internal link examples

Now that I’ve highlighted the main reasons internal links are so important, I want to show a few examples from the web where sites get internal linking right. For my examples, I’ll analyze sites in spaces that represent a couple of my favorite things: beer and sports.

Starting with the beer example, here is a guide on how to brew beer from Kegerator.com:

This is an informational page with a lot of depth. There are six detailed sections in all. As I scroll down the guide page, I can also see this is a well-designed page with vibrant imagery and video:

This is a page other site owners would willingly link to because it offers value. With the right process, promoting this page for links should be very successful.

But what about internal links? How does Kegerator get maximum value out of any links built to this page? Well, all we have to do is look at that previous image, and we can see it has an internal link:

The anchor text here explicitly states the product’s name and gives the reader a clear indication of what to expect when they click the link.

And what do you know? This link points to a page where Kegerator sells the sanitizer:

This is an excellent example of using a linkable page to drive visitors and link equity to a conversion page.

In our second example, I’m going to look at a baseball glove buying guide from BaseballMonkey.com:

Again, this looks like a solid, informational page. Scrolling down, I’m quickly shown helpful images of the different types of webbing options:

This is another page that I would confidently tag as highly linkable. Features such as this sizing chart could be leveraged to entice webmasters to link:

So, how does Baseball Monkey do in terms of internal linking? Great: Toward the bottom of the page, after they’ve informed the reader about all the criteria to consider when buying a glove, they include internal links:

Again, these links point to converting pages:

These are some prime examples of how you can build a linkable asset that includes strategic internal links to funnel visitors and link equity to your product and service pages.

Securing external links is an essential part of search engine optimization (SEO), backlinks increase organic visibility, which earns more organic traffic.

However, don’t overlook internal links on your site that can leverage equity from external links, lift converting pages in search and direct organic visitors to those important pages.

The post Internal links: Link building’s secret sauce appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Link building is complicated: A rebuttal /link-building-is-complicated-a-rebuttal-297593 Mon, 07 May 2018 18:14:00 +0000 /?p=297593 Contributor Andrew Dennis (kinda) disagrees with a previously published SEL article and offers his view on why link building may be difficult.

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Search Engine Land recently published a column by Julie Joyce about how we often overcomplicate link building, and when I read it, something surprising happened. I actually disagreed with her.

Well, I sort of disagree with her.

I do agree the process of securing a link, finding a site, contacting that site and getting a link is pretty straightforward. But I contend that if you want to achieve meaningful results with link building, matters are more complicated.

I see clients oversimplifying link building in terms of results all the time. They have a myopic view of link building and feel it is a simple math equation where increased input means increased output and success is determined by the number of links secured.

However, links are a means to an end; the intended results are more visibility, increased traffic and improved conversions. When the goal of link building is to drive search engine optimization (SEO) results instead of simply acquire a set number of links, link acquisition becomes much more complex.

Factors that can impede link-building success include:

  • On-page and technical elements.
  • Internal linking.
  • Client or departmental complications.

These issues can impact link-building performance, making a link campaign convoluted when viewed through the lens of SEO results.

Technical SEO Presentation

On-page and technical SEO

While links are vastly important to search visibility, backlinks only represent a portion of the SEO picture.

The best links in the world won’t achieve anything if they point to a site that’s a mess from a technical standpoint. There are a number of technical issues that could hamper your ability to drive organic search performance, including:

  • Speed issues.
  • Duplicate content.
  • Page errors.
  • Improper redirects.
  • Broken links and images.
  • Suboptimal uniform resource locator (URL) structure.

These factors affect crawling and indexation, which diminishes your external optimization — backlinks.

On-page optimization for the page you’re linking back to can either boost or hinder the SEO value of your links. Link quality and quantity are often the differentiators between ranking pages, but a well-optimized page has the advantage from the start.

Optimizing a page for important keywords with a targeted title and header tags is important, but don’t forget to optimize your page for searcher intent as well.

For example, if your page is targeting a question-based query, you should optimize your content for featured snippets Google often returns for these searches. Short, quick, clear answers typically perform best here.

Other considerations should include format, length and design. The best place to look for guidance on optimizing for intent is the relevant SERPs you’re targeting. If your page doesn’t come close to the quality (in terms of design, answering intent, preferred format and so on) of the ranking pages, your link acquisition efforts might be futile.

Your page should deserve to rank on its own merit. Links reinforce the value of your page to search engines. But if you’re securing links to a poorly optimized page, achieving desired results becomes tricky.

Internal linking

Internal link structure is often a forgotten part of link building and optimizing links for search.

Although internal links don’t have as much influence on search rankings as external links, they still play an important role and add another layer of complexity to a link campaign.

If you ignore internal links and focus solely on securing external links, you will be leaving equity on the table and making it harder to earn the results you want.

The internal link architecture of your website will determine how link equity is distributed throughout the site. If you’re not strategic with internal links, then the value from your external links might not benefit the important pages on your site.

Product pages are important to your business and have tremendous value for your site, but that value doesn’t necessarily translate to other sites and entice them to link. This is why you need internal links to direct link equity from linkable assets to product pages.

As Julie alluded to in her post, the process of securing links is simple, but the execution is difficult because you have to rely on someone else to put your link up.

With internal links, you’re the person putting the link up, at least in theory. If you’re an outside vendor or simply not in control of the website at your company, optimizing internal links can be frustrating.

While accounting for internal linking adds another level of complication to a link-building campaign, optimizing these links is integral to maximizing the search benefit of external backlinks.

Complications

Whether you’re an agency or an in-house SEO, dealing with bureaucracy and red tape can convolute even the most well-designed link campaigns.

There are many possible complications that can limit the success of a link campaign, some common issues include:

  • Restrictions on target pages. Link acquisition needs to be targeted and strategic, but opportunities are missed when the best pages aren’t promoted.
  • Micromanagement with outreach. Interference with outreach can negatively impact efficiency and efficacy.
  • Slow approval process. Lag time during multiple approval processes can kill the momentum of a campaign.
  • Limits on prospects. Limited prospect pools lead to limited links and results.
  • Communication issues. Effective link building requires open and consistent communication.
  • Lack of buy-in from upper management. Even successful campaigns can be failures if the C-suite doesn’t understand the value.

Bureaucracy can impact link building from beginning to end, and even after links are secured. This red tape complicates link acquisition, often making it more difficult than it needs to be.

Wrap-up

Okay, so I don’t really disagree with Julie! As SEOs and link builders, we do often overcomplicate link acquisition. In trying to explain this difference in strategy and tactics, we sometimes overthink link building and make it more confusing than necessary.

The process of finding a website, contacting them and securing a link is simple, but driving SEO results, beyond the number of links secured, quickly becomes more complicated.

There are a number of extenuating circumstances and outside forces that contribute to the complexities of managing a successful link campaign. Whether they are technical issues, suboptimal internal linking structure or restrictions on outreach messaging, securing results from link building is more complicated than securing the links.

Securing one link might be simple and straightforward, but understanding how that link supports a broader SEO and digital marketing strategy requires research, creativity, analysis and coordination.

The post Link building is complicated: A rebuttal appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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How using search opportunities can guide link-building content strategies /using-search-opportunities-can-guide-link-building-content-strategies-294147 Wed, 14 Mar 2018 19:34:00 +0000 /?p=294147 Why should you outline a link-building strategy before content is published? Contributor Andrew Dennis explains how smart research and planning boosts rankings and linking success.

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Content and links are still pillars of search engine optimization (SEO).

In fact, Google has told us in the past these components are two of the top three factors in Google’s search algorithm.

By now, we should all know this, but many people are still making a critical mistake when it comes to content and links and how they relate to each other in terms of search optimization.

The majority of webmasters brainstorm, design and execute content initiatives, then pursue links. I feel this may not be the best strategy. Link building should be a consideration before content is published and should be used to guide content strategy.

When search opportunity dictates content strategy rather than the other way around, the results can be tremendous. When you can consult on content strategy before linking begins, the results can be positive:

As you can see, we had success securing links and expanding keyword rankings, and because the content was targeted and strategic, it only took a handful of links to see growth.

Here is a breakdown of where those keywords land within the top 100 search results:

Now you might be thinking, “Two keywords in the top 10 — that’s not very impressive,” but these keyword rankings are high-value terms that drive qualified traffic with a strong chance of conversion to a site.

Because we had influence over content strategy from the start, we steered the client toward tactical content that would support these results.

It should be noted that content marketing has multiple purposes; not every post should have links as the end goal. Many content marketing campaigns are brand-driven and have nothing to do with SEO and links.

However, if you’re building SEO content, there are three main goals you should consider:

  • Overall organic traffic.
  • Links.
  • Targeted traffic to specific pages.

Let’s walk through a simplified, three-step version of the content consultation process you can use to find ranking and linking success.

1. Identify search opportunities

SEO content consultations start where all content campaigns should start — with keyword research.

For this hypothetical example, I’ll be executing light keyword research, but you’ll want to go deeper with your own research as you build out your content strategy.

My goal is to identify baseline keywords and themes where improvement is achievable. Once I find these base terms, I’ll target them by creating blog posts and pages focused on the long-tail keywords associated with that corresponding theme.

To explain this concept, I’m going to use and analyze the website x.ai, an artificial intelligence-powered personal assistant, and walk through it as if I am consulting with this company on SEO content.

I picked x.ai at random and because the company named its artificial intelligence program “Andrew,” which is a great name, don’t you think?

I start my research by analyzing how x.ai is currently performing. You can use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to look for relevant baseline keywords.

Examining the data, I can pull out a handful of key terms that will give me an idea of how x.ai is currently performing:

  • [personal assistant] — Rank: 29; Volume: 22,200.
  • [meeting scheduler] — Rank: 12; Volume: 6,600.
  • [ai assistant] — Rank: 3; Volume: 2,400.
  • [personal assistant app] — Rank: 42; Volume: 1,600.
  • [virtual personal assistant] — Rank: 51; Volume: 1,600
  • [scheduling assistant] — Rank: 11; Volume: 1,300.

I quickly notice that x.ai is ranking for the main term, “meeting scheduler,” so I want to investigate more.

Digging deeper into this keyword phrase, I find there are a number of related long-tail keywords that x.ai could target as well:

Individually, these search volumes aren’t massive, but in aggregate they could make a significant difference for x.ai in terms of relevant traffic if they start ranking for a handful of these terms.

But is there an opportunity for x.ai to rank? To find out, I’ll need to analyze the competing pages in these respective search engine result pages (SERPs).

2. Analyze competing pages

After finding potential opportunities, I need to understand what’s driving success in those spaces, which involves examining competitor pages.

Since I’m brainstorming content ideas, I want to analyze the pages that are ranking for my key terms, rather than analyze entire sites or brands.

For example, one important term I’ve identified that’s related to “meeting scheduler” and x.ai’s business is the term, “meeting request email.”

Here’s what I see when I go to the search results:

I notice immediately that there is a featured snippet, which means if I optimize my content properly and reach page 1, I should be able to leapfrog the other results by securing the snippet.

This snippet is a brief two-point bullet list, but I would expect that an actual email template might be more helpful for users here.

An approach that aims to secure a spot in the snippet might be the best way to improve performance since the top three results here are authoritative sites that could be difficult to unseat from the top ranks.

However, looking at the rest of the SERPs reveals more insight:

I notice another interesting SERP feature: images in the middle of the results. This further reinforces my belief that an image of an email template could be useful.

Clicking on some of the results, I quickly realize I could create better content…

… if nothing else, at least from a purely aesthetic standpoint:

Researching the actual search results tells me what searchers are looking for and what type of content to create: informational content with helpful examples and usable templates.

This information provides me with direction for a potential new webpage, but before I consult with my content team, I want to know if x.ai could be competitive in this search engine results page.

The best way to measure SERP competition is through links. To analyze links, I’ll use a backlink explorer like Majestic so I can analyze the results in terms of referring (linking) domains.

As mentioned before (Images 5 and 6), the SERPs are top-heavy with authoritative sites; however, I think I can compete with the lower-position pages:

  • letters.sampleinvitationletter.info/meeting-request-email Root: 1,133.
  • sample-resignation-letters.com/writing-a-business-meeting-request-letter-with-sample.html Root: 518.
  • newoldstamp.com/blog/examples-of-a-good-invitation-letter-for-an-important-business-meeting Root: 692.

The numbers being reported for these three pages suggest link competition is actually fairly low for this SERP. Given x.ai’s own authority, it could have a real chance to build a page that ranks well.

Furthermore, the higher-authority pages, like The Muse in Image 5, have a fair number of inbound links pointing to them. This means my page will have built-in link prospects, as these referring domains might also be interested in linking to my content.

3. Execute content creation

Now, the goal becomes building something that is best in class and optimized for searcher intent.

I would advise x.ai’s content team to build a page that thoroughly explains how to write a meeting request email, complete with example emails and downloadable templates. Potential link partners could easily link to these downloadables or embed them on their site.

I would also track the performance of this page in terms of links and keyword rankings to gauge SEO impact over the following months. Even with sufficient planning, factors such as changes in search behavior and market shifts can pop up and cause a pivot in strategy, so keep an eye on trends.

It is also a good idea to keep an eye on internal linking strategies as new pages are developed and strategy shifts. Some internal links may need to be added or removed.

I now have a strategic content idea that would serve user intent for a relevant term. This primes my link campaign from the start, as I know if I do my job and secure worthwhile links, this page should rank and bring in relevant traffic.

Repeat this process a few times, and you can start to see how growth is achieved.

Scaling SEO content consultation

The hypothetical example I’ve provided discusses the creation of just one specific page. However, this example outlines a scalable model that can be used again and again to build strategic pages.

To review, this process:

  • Identified search opportunities by examining current site performance and finding opportunities where improvement is achievable.
  • Analyzed competing pages by researching target search results and analyzing ranking content.
  • Identified common themes and styling while checking for competitive links.
  • Researched target search results.
  • Developed better content than the content currently ranking.
  • Reviewed content intent and “linkability” factors.
  • Track content performance.
  • Tweak content when necessary.

This simple three-step process provides an easy-to-follow framework. As you implement this strategy to build out new pages, keep in mind:

  • This strategy works best with top-funnel content but can also apply to some types of mid-funnel content.
  • Be mindful of internal linking. New pages should link to important product or category pages as a way to direct people and boost link equity.
  • Have clear goals in mind, and set proper expectations regarding SEO content. Each new page is a piece of a larger strategy.

By no means should SEOs dictate your entire content strategy. Content serves numerous purposes beyond SEO, such as branding, reputation management and messaging. But if you want to build content that drives SEO results, you need to involve an SEO in your content strategy.

The post How using search opportunities can guide link-building content strategies appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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A link-building case study: Using brand mentions and competitive linking tactics /a-link-building-case-study-using-brand-mentions-and-competitive-linking-tactics-290048 Wed, 14 Feb 2018 15:12:08 +0000 /?p=290048 Columnist Andrew Dennis walks through link-building tactics implemented on a new website, resulting in an increase in links and traffic.

The post A link-building case study: Using brand mentions and competitive linking tactics appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Today I want to showcase a successful link-building campaign we conducted for a new website and walk through the process in the event others may learn and benefit from what we did.

The situation

This campaign launched in March 2017 and was done over six months. The website was five months old and had roughly 15 core pages when the campaign began. The brand had historically relied on offline marketing and was new to digital marketing and SEO but wanted to grow organic traffic for the site as a whole.

Analysis showed that although the site was relatively small and underpromoted, it had a realistic ranking opportunity.

The campaign

Initially, the campaign was to run for a three-month trial period and include a blog launch, but complications came up, and the blog was unable to launch until several months after the campaign started.

This setback led to an adjustment in link-building strategy toward tactics that didn’t rely on fresh, link-worthy content.

Tactic one: Mention links

While the company was relatively new to digital marketing, it had a recognizable brand through its offline efforts. This provided the opportunity to pursue unlinked mentions.

Through these brand mentions, the company earned links to their home page, as well as to relevant, geo-specific pages when appropriate. We were also able to find other types of online publicity and mentions aside from brand-specific mentions. Additional links were secured through the following link-building tactics:

  • Employee quotes.
  • Newsworthy partnerships.
  • Interviews.
  • Business announcements (e.g., IPO filing, investments, promotions).
  • Charity events.

The company had a strong brand and also operated within a niche frequently talked about in the news. This created an ideal environment for unlinked mentions. Even lesser-known brands can effectively pursue mention links if they work in an industry with lots of news coverage.

How to get mention links

To help you understand and apply the “mention-link” tactic for your own campaigns, here’s a real-world example to demonstrate this tactic (Note: I have no affiliation with this company).

The company 3dRudder (no affiliation) has a foot controller used to enhance a virtual reality experience. I noticed they have an unlinked mention opportunity on TechRadar:

Despite being a lesser-known brand, the link opportunity is noteworthy since the brand exists in a newsworthy niche, and the link next to the mention points to an additional unlinked mention opportunity!

Mention links can offer a significant boost for a link-building campaign and should be part of a link strategy for recognizable brands or those within a newsworthy industry.

Tactic two: Competitive research

Competitor research should be explored at the beginning of any link-building campaign, since it helps create and inform a campaign strategy.

In my experience, understanding how and why the competition is succeeding is vital to beating them. The majority of link opportunities your competitors earn will be relevant to your site, so it stands to reason you should get the same links.

Since the client lacked linkable assets at the beginning of the campaign, we focused on competitor links that didn’t require content creation. This research uncovered a handful of relevant directories and resource pages which helped them round out their link profile in the early months of the campaign.

How to get links like your competitors’

Here’s how you can find and get some of the same links your competitors have. I am going to use 3dRudder in my example again, plus SprintR (Note: I have no affiliation with this company).

Using a tool like Majestic, I can quickly find sites linking to SprintR, such as TheVirtualReport:

TheVirtualReport appears to be relevant to 3dRudder:

Since SprintR has a directory listing there, it’s likely 3dRudder could secure a listing as well:

Competitive research at the onset of a link project is essential, as the analysis should uncover link opportunities and provide insight that can guide strategy throughout a campaign.

The results

Here’s the section you’ve been waiting for. What were the results of implementing a campaign of mention and competitive backlinking?

Well, in a nutshell, this campaign was very successful. The client saw steady growth in the keywords tracked and sustained gains in organic traffic.

The campaign achieved:

  • 64 links secured over six months.
  • 146% average increase in ranking position for 17 tracked head term keywords.
  • 43% growth in organic traffic overall.
  • 868% increase (+1,007) in organic traffic to geo-specific pages.

These results were even more impressive considering the website was new, with no established organic presence or backlinks.

Key takeaways

As you can see from the chart above, the client experienced overall success with growing traffic to location-specific pages.

Here is a traffic graph for one of these pages:

While the gains here are modest in terms of raw numbers, these were conversion-oriented pages where focused traffic was much more important than volume. A single conversion on these pages meant a high revenue return for the client.

This project reinforced a philosophy I have believed in for some time: It only takes a handful of links to drive rankings, especially if you’re focused and strategic about which pages you secure links to. This model has shown success in improving visibility and traffic time and time again. Of course, we’re dealing with a smaller, fresh domain here. But you can imagine how this success could be extrapolated for a larger site.

Another lesson learned from this project is that industry and niche can play a large role in the viability of mention link building.

Typically, mention links are most viable for larger, more recognizable brands. However, you can somewhat supplement brand authority with a newsworthy niche to find mention opportunities as a lesser-known company. For example, some industries that receive regular press coverage include:

  • Cybersecurity.
  • STEM education.
  • Hotels and lodging.
  • New payment platforms.
  • Eco-friendly or green living.
  • Fitness trackers and new diets.
  • Venture capital and crowdfunding-backed businesses.
  • Emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, virtual reality, IoT).

Of course, your brand needs to be involved in the industry. If you want coverage, you must do something worth covering. However, if you work in a niche that receives regular press, there is more potential for unlinked mentions.

This project reinforced the power of relevant links to drive organic results. Hopefully, you can apply some of these lessons to your own link campaign and improve your website’s performance in search.

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How to increase B2B traffic by 192% in five months /increase-b2b-traffic-192-five-months-285100 Tue, 24 Oct 2017 15:27:10 +0000 /?p=285100 Looking to increase traffic and links to your site? Columnist Andrew Dennis shares the process he used to greatly improve search engine visibility for a B2B client.

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SEO is a long-term strategy.

It takes time to build authority and reputation, and spammy tricks that work for a short time are eventually devalued by the search engines.

However, we’ve found a strategy that’s delivered results relatively quickly and proven particularly effective in the B2B space.

Some of our best projects have seen near double traffic growth:

Not surprisingly, this traffic growth corresponds with our efforts to secure links. Here is a look at the trends for referring domains to the site above (via Ahrefs):

Of course, seeing a case study where links helped grow traffic isn’t earth-shattering. But I want to share the strategies we used to achieve these results so you can experiment with them on your own site.

Our strategy included:

  • analyzing competitive content.
  • expanding topics to build linkable assets.
  • building targeted pages and resources.
  • identifying opportunities for hyper-relevant, linkable content.

These were the four cornerstones of our process.

To better demonstrate these strategies, I’ll reference a hypothetical example throughout the post. Since our project was in the B2B space, I’m choosing a B2B brand for my example: Absorb LMS, a learning management system for employee training (not a client).

Without further ado, let’s dive into the process we used to grow traffic in the B2B sector by 192 percent in roughly five months.

Analyzing competitor content and pages

We started by examining what was working for our client’s competitors.

There are a wide variety of excellent tools available for competitive analysis — for our project, we used Ahrefs to analyze competitors’ top pages. By analyzing competitors’ top content, we could identify keyword gaps on our client’s site, as well as low-difficulty opportunities.

For our client, we focused on larger (respective to their niche) search volumes first and worked our way down from there, but there is no set search volume that’s appropriate for every strategy. Instead, consider your niche and the potential value of capturing leads from a given search result. If one lead is potentially worth thousands of dollars, you don’t need much volume to justify the value of ranking for that term.

For Absorb, competitor content analysis would involve scrutinizing competitors such as:

  • TalentLMS
  • Litmos
  • Bridge
  • Docebo
  • Growth Engineering
  • Dokeos LMS
  • Administrate

For example, looking at Bridge in Ahrefs, I can see some of their top pages define various eLearning terms:

It appears TalentLMS has similar pages that are performing well, and they are also securing traffic from e-learning subtopics like [authoring tool], [constant learning] and [microlearning].

From just a quick glance at these competitors in Ahrefs, I learned that Absorb could pursue some opportunities creating pages that define prominent e-learning terms or target tangentially related topics.

Since Absorb doesn’t currently have any pages like this in their top 15 pages in Ahrefs, this strategy should be a real consideration.

If Absorb were really a client, I would analyze all their competitors to uncover trends and find as many opportunities and gaps as possible. But for this post, I’m going to move on to the next part of our strategy: building linkable assets.

Expanding topics to create linkable assets

The next step is creating highly linkable assets.

Many B2B brands work within narrow, specific niches; this was the case for our client. It’s certainly possible to secure links within these small online neighborhoods, but you can quickly exhaust all available worthwhile opportunities.

We discovered that broadening our topics gave us the opportunity to promote them to a much larger outreach market. To better understand this topic expansion, let’s consider Absorb LMS.

Absorb’s primary audience and buyers exist within the e-learning niche. However, this is a relatively small outreach market, which can mean limited exposure and links when it comes to content promotion. By expanding, I could target broader topics like:

  • learning styles and the psychology of learning.
  • employee benefits and retention.
  • business management.
  • career advancement

These topics have larger audiences, which means bigger outreach markets and more visibility, yet they’re still relevant to Absorb’s service and their audience.

A quick comparison of search volumes for the head terms of [learning management system] and [business management] in SEMrush demonstrates the difference in audience sizes:

  • [learning management system] — 6,600
  • [business management] — 18,100

Broader content topics will have broader appeal and provide more opportunities to secure exposure and links, while still being relevant and providing the opportunity to reach your target audience.

Building targeted pages and resources

We also built strategic pages to target the most important and relevant terms for our client.

While we wanted our linkable assets to have broad appeal, we wanted these pages to answer a very specific question or issue pertinent to the client’s business, and answer it better than any other page on the web.

To create best-in-class pages, we followed content strategy best practices such as:

  • providing in-depth, long-form coverage of the topic.
  • adding rich media and interactivity via sunk cost differentiators.
  • maintaining a strong and consistent focus on keywords and key phrases.
  • optimizing on-page factors — e.g., URLs, title tags, H1s, page speed, image optimization.

Although these resources had limited outreach markets, they also had lower competition. Because the quality of the content was high, the pages were optimized, and the competition was low, these pages could perform well in search with little promotion.

While the traffic from these pages was small in volume, it was highly qualified traffic. These pages also built credibility and overall brand awareness as our client began to show up consistently for hyper-relevant queries. It’s even possible to passively acquire links to these pages if they are the leading resource in the space.

Ideation for these pages came from a combination of the insights from competitive content analysis and keyword research.

Using my Absorb example, I could revisit competitor top pages to find direction for new page creation. For instance, TalentLMS has a page that ranks number one for [e learning technology]:

The search volume is relatively small (150), but this is a relevant term for Absorb, and ranking here would be beneficial. Furthermore, after looking at TalentLMS’s page, I’m confident Absorb could easily build something better for searchers.

The TalentLMS page is essentially one large block of text:

This is an opportunity for Absorb to create something that is best-in-class and builds authority and visibility in their niche.

Identifying when volume intersects with relevance

The combination of linkable assets with broad appeal and strategic, targeted pages built a strong SEO foundation for our client. However, the major successes came when we could identify opportunities where large search volumes corresponded with hyper-relevant topics.

These situations are less prevalent but can be extremely rewarding if you can find them. Capitalizing on these opportunities means you get the best of both worlds: increased link opportunities and the chance to rank for key terms for your business.

Regarding Absorb LMS, I would again turn to their competitors. For example, Bridge has a page that ranks on page one for the term [scorm] which has a search volume of 5,500:

Again, it appears there is an opportunity for Absorb to build something that could outperform Bridge’s page, which is just a few large chunks of text:

If Absorb built a page focused on SCORM, they could secure both links and highly relevant traffic.

Strategy recap

We achieved phenomenal results for our client with this strategy. Of course, your results will vary depending on a variety of factors (website, competition, goals) but the concepts outlined here could help you grow traffic on your own site, particularly if you operate within a very niche category in the B2B space.

To recap, our strategy involved:

  • analyzing competitive content: Analyze top-performing pages on competitor sites to identify potential content opportunities.
  • expanding topic groups: Broaden topics when creating linkable assets to extend the reach of those assets and target larger outreach markets.
  • building strategic pages and resources: Create best-in-class pages that target hyper-relevant terms and traffic.
  • identifying opportunities for hyper-relevant, linkable content: Find situations where substantial search volume intersects with highly relevant topics to secure large numbers of links and capture qualified traffic.

Hopefully, you can apply some of these strategies to your own pursuit for better search performance.

The post How to increase B2B traffic by 192% in five months appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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