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https://relativityseo.com/seo-services/ Andrew Dennis – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 04 Dec 2019 21:24:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 Now is the time to position your site for a successful start to 2020 /now-is-the-time-to-position-your-site-for-a-successful-start-to-2020-326014 Wed, 04 Dec 2019 21:23:28 +0000 /?p=326014 If your strategy has a heavy focus on link acquisition, the end of the year is a good time to shift some of your efforts to other areas.

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It is the holiday season again, and you know what that means… the year is almost over and it’s time to start preparing our SEO strategies for next year!

Along with eggnog frappuccinos, cooler weather, and people putting Christmas lights up (way too early), the end of the year signifies a time for reflection – and this rings true for SEO as well.

As your current SEO strategy winds down, now is the time to position your site for a successful Q1. Specifically, if your strategy has a heavy focus on link acquisition and manual outreach, the end of the year is the perfect time to shift some of your efforts to other areas – response rates to outreach are traditionally lower in November and December as people are away from their emails on holiday vacations.

I want to share some of the ways you can use this “downtime” to invest in strategies that will lay the groundwork for a successful start to next year.

Prioritizing the future

First off, I am in no way saying you should abandon your current link building strategy – backlinks are just as valuable in December as they are in March. 

However, you should know website owners (the people who would link to you) are typically less responsive during the holidays and your time is better spent on activities that will prepare your site for links in the future.

Rather than making a desperate push to squeeze the last bit of ROI out of this year, I suggest investing in long-term initiatives that will pay dividends down the road. These initiatives include:

  • Competitive analysis and review
  • Content planning and creation
  • And auditing technical and onpage SEO issues.

Optimize your end-of-year SEO efforts by prioritizing activities that will impact the long-term future of your website.

Competitive analysis and review

As the year comes to a close, it’s a great time to check in on competitors and review what they’ve been up to in terms of search.

A good place to start is with your competitors’ content, analyzing which pages are helping them earn organic visitors. Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush make it easy to compile a list of the top pages on competitor sites. Review these pages to determine if it would be viable or necessary to create similar pages on your own site. During your review, consider:

  • Is this topic relevant to my audience?
  • Do I already have an existing page that covers this topic?
  • What type of traffic would come from ranking for this term (top, middle, bottom)?
  • Do I have the resources and time to invest in creating a page that will compete?

It’s important to ask these questions rather than simply copying your competitors – not all top competitor pages will make sense for your site, audience and goals.

You can also use these tools to track keyword movement for your competitors over the past year. Comparing this data with your own site’s performance can help you identify areas where the competition might be overtaking you. 

SEO isn’t just about earning new keyword rankings and sources of organic traffic. Search results are always changing, and if you don’t defend your rankings you will lose them. Keeping an eye on competitor keyword growth will help you spot potential threats before they become losses. If you see competitors making gains in areas where you’re slipping, consider:

  • Updating your existing page with fresh content and more depth
  • Optimizing onpage factors
  • Reviewing internal linking opportunities
  • Manual promotion for external backlinks

Whether you uncover new opportunities or identify potential problems, reviewing competitor strategies will provide valuable insight, and the end of the year is an ideal time to conduct this analysis.

Content planning and creation

Along with analyzing competitor content strategies, the end of the year provides an opportunity to review your own content initiatives.

The start of a new year is always hectic, and it’s easy too quickly fall behind your editorial calendar with everything else going on. Instead, I suggest you take advantage of the slow(er) time at the end of the year to begin planning your editorial calendar and get ahead of schedule for the coming year. 

Of course, the holidays are a critical sales time for many businesses and creating seasonal content might be a priority for you. However, if you want this type of content to be visible during the holidays, most of that work needs to be done long before the holiday season is upon us.

Instead, by leveraging insight from your competitor analysis, you can prioritize future content marketing activities — such as refreshing and updating existing pages, repurposing content to new formats, and creating new pages — to complete the most impactful tasks first. Plotting everything out and creating deadlines before the craziness of the new year starts will prevent important initiatives from inevitably slipping through the cracks.

Furthermore, you can spend this time creating content and building a queue of content to launch steadily throughout the coming months. As a content creator myself, I can tell you how much more effective it is to work ahead of schedule rather than fighting to meet deadlines.

If you have the time and resources available in Q4, allocating those resources to content planning and creation is optimal.

Audit technical and onpage SEO issues

Finally, take some time at the end of the year to audit your website’s technical and onpage SEO.

Unfortunately, technical improvements and fixes are often the first items to be put on the backburner when bandwidth gets tight. So, if you’re considering making a late link building push or finally getting around to making those technical fixes you’ve been putting off, I recommend investing your time into fixing technical issues.

Some common issues that creep up over time include:

  • Broken images and links
  • Redirect chains
  • 404 and other status errors
  • Duplicate content
  • Missing alt text
  • Etc.

Cleaning up these issues will help improve the overall search performance of your site.

Most of these issues will be uncovered through a sitewide audit, with a tool like Screaming Frog, but you should also take this time to review SEO issues at the page level.

As mentioned before, there are small-scale onpage optimizations that you can make to your top pages to fend off new competitor pages in the SERPs. These optimizations include:

  • Page speed and mobile-friendliness improvements.
  • Transcriptions for multimedia content.
  • Increased keyword focus and header optimizations.
  • Schema markup and optimized formats for SERP features (snippets, knowledge box, video results, etc.)

These optimizations can coincide perfectly with updates and refreshes to content for the new year, and they can often be the difference between a position or two in the search results.

Conclusion

The end of the year can be a slow time, particularly for link acquisition, with holidays and vacations meaning people are away from their offices. However, there are still plenty of other SEO tasks you can work on to finish the year strong and set your site up for future success.

To review, these activities include:

  • Competitive analysis and review
  • Content planning and creation
  • And auditing technical and onpage SEO issues.

Instead of getting another out of office reply, utilize this time of year to prepare your website and brand to hit the ground running in the coming year.

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Competitor content analysis: Here’s what you can learn /competitor-content-analysis-heres-what-you-can-learn-322714 Mon, 30 Sep 2019 12:10:19 +0000 /?p=322714 Understanding your competitors’ content strategies will help you outperform them where it matters most, in the search results.

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It’s 10 pm – do you know where your competitors are?

Like the effect those PSAs had on parents in the 80’s and 90’s, this message likely brings up feelings of concern and uncertainty, especially if you’re a brand fighting for your spot in the marketplace.

Competitor analysis is an integral part of running a successful business and this holds true for online brands as well, particularly when it comes to search marketing and SEO. While it may take quarterly or even annual studies to discover when you’re losing market share to the competition in terms of positioning or share of mind, you can see your competition start to outrank you in the search results immediately.

Since search engines largely rely on algorithms to determine the results they show searchers, these results are constantly updating, and if you’re standing pat with SEO, you’re losing ground.

To mitigate these losses – as well as find growth opportunities – you need to monitor competitor strategies, and one of the best places to start is with their content.

Analyzing competitor content to identify content gaps

Keeping an eye on the competition is important because it can help you find gaps within your own content strategy and where your pages might be missing the mark.

Start by identifying your competitors’ top pages. One way to find these pages is to use a tool like Screaming Frog to see which pages have the most internal links pointing to them. Internal links signal importance to search engines, so these are the pages your competitor has flagged as their most important. Review these pages to see if there are any relevant pages you need to add to your site.

Another great way to find missed opportunities through competitor content is to identify which pages are driving organic traffic to competitor sites. Tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs make it easy to identify top pages based on what percentage of organic traffic they earn. 

If you see a page that is responsible for a substantial percentage of your competitor’s traffic – and you don’t cover that subject on your site – it may be worth exploring what it would take to create your own page on the topic. Furthermore, if your competitor’s content is thin, poorly structured, or you are otherwise confident you can create something equal or better, you’ve just found a prime opportunity to capture more search visitors.

Analyze your competitors’ top pages, and the keywords associated with those pages, then examine your own content to see if there are any gaps you could fill to create new sources of organic traffic.

Competitor content analysis for content improvement

Analyzing competitor content can also empower you to improve your existing pages.

As you analyze your competitors’ top pages, don’t just focus on keywords – scrutinize the structure and organization of the page to understand why it might be performing so well.

Does the page go in-depth and perhaps it’s ranking based on thoroughness? Or is the page answering a specific question quickly and succinctly? Or does it do both?

These are important questions to answer if you want to understand why their page is ranking, and more importantly, how you can improve the performance of your pages.

You should also pay attention to the formats and types of content used. Is the content broken up with images or screenshots? Do they use bullet points and sub-headers to make the page easy to scan? Is video or audio present on the page? Again, these are your competitor’s top pages, and that short video they’ve embedded on their page might be the difference between their content’s performance and yours.

However, don’t stop at your competitor’s page. Go examine the corresponding search results where they rank and analyze the other pages featured there. While these pages might be from brands you don’t consider traditional competitors, these are the pages you’re competing with for visibility in search. Also, these pages can provide further insight into how you can tweak and improve your existing content.

Other information you can glean from competitor and current ranking pages includes:

  • Primary intent that search engines associate with the given topic.
  • Relevant and related sub-topics or questions.
  • Associated SERP features (rich snippets, knowledge graph, local packs, etc.)
  • And credible external sources and relevant citations.

With this information, you will have all the tools necessary to update your page to best answer the query you’re targeting. 

At this point, the only thing standing between your content and page one rankings might be backlinks. However, with backlink tools like Majestic and Moz you can identify the sites linking to those top pages – if you work to improve your page to the level of quality of the ranking pages, it’s likely these sites would be open to linking to your page as well.

Leveraging competitor content for linkable asset ideation

Speaking of backlinks, analyzing competitor content can help you generate ideas for link-worthy content too.

Before, you were scrutinizing competitor pages based on organic traffic, but many of the tools I’ve discussed here will also help you identify your competitors’ top pages based on backlinks. Just as you analyzed their top trafficked pages to understand why they rank so well; you can analyze these top linked pages to understand why they attract so many backlinks.

This analysis provides you with a host of topics that generate links and interest within your niche. You can also dig into the backlink profiles of these pages to learn how they are linked to gain insight into what types of pages and websites would want to link to this content.

For example, your competitor may have executed an original study that produced one interesting statistic that is being cited by numerous websites. It’s likely you won’t be able to replicate that study – and if you do, other sites are more likely to find your competitor’s site when searching for a citation – but you can analyze their study and identify what made it interesting to springboard ideas for tangential or supportive research.

Of course, improving on their idea, also known as the skyscraper technique, is an option as well, but this approach typically requires significant investment.

The key to this analysis is identifying linkable topics and pivoting them to be unique while maintaining the attributes that made your competitor’s pages link-worthy.

Benefits of competitor content analysis

Content marketing continues to be an integral part of successful digital marketing and SEO as search engines constantly provide the advice to “create good content.” However, consistently generating quality content ideas and executing them well is difficult, particularly if your goal is to rank your content in competitive SERPs.

Fortunately, your competitors are here to help! Through competitor content analysis you can learn:

  • Which pages and topics your competitors identify as important.
  • How your competitors earn organic traffic from search.
  • Where gaps exist within your current content marketing strategy.
  • Which low-investment content opportunities are available.
  • Ways to improve existing content for better search performance.
  • Which topics generate interest and backlinks within your niche.
  • And how and why websites link to content within your space.

Understanding your competitors’ content strategies will help you outperform them where it matters most, in the search results.

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Finding content marketing opportunities that influence search performance /finding-content-marketing-opportunities-that-influence-search-performance-320258 Thu, 01 Aug 2019 19:15:56 +0000 /?p=320258 Start with your existing pages to identify opportunities, which typically involve some form of repurposing, reformatting and updating.

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Content marketing is a broad term that can be interpreted in multiple ways within the greater marketing spectrum. For some, content marketing is a blog post, for others, it could be large, interactive pieces. For John Deere, content marketing took the form of a print magazine all the way back in the 1800s!

Regardless of the format or type of content being marketed, presenting useful or entertaining information to your audience – in a way that speaks to them – has always been an important part of good marketing. Things are no different within search, where content marketing equates to promoting your webpages (content) to relevant audiences online (marketing via social media and other websites).

Today I want to walk through the process I use to help clients identify and capitalize on the content marketing opportunities available to them. Let’s dive in!

Start with existing content

The best place to start when searching for content marketing opportunities is with your existing pages – these are the opportunities that will take the least upfront investment as the content already exists.

You can easily identify your top pages – in terms of organic traffic – in Google Analytics. While it’s important to understand how your site is earning traffic, we’re looking for new opportunities – your best pages are already performing, and to achieve growth you need to capture new opportunities.

Find new opportunities with existing pages

To find fresh content marketing opportunities, start with Google Search Console. In GSC, you can analyze which keywords or queries are associated with your website and see how many clicks and impressions they’re earning in Google search. You can also analyze clicks and impressions for your individual pages. 

Compare queries and pages to ensure you have pages that are good matches for your top queries. Are these the pages you would expect to be earning clicks and impressions? Do you have a better page that isn’t showing in Google Search Console? Ask yourself these questions as there may be an opportunity to optimize and promote an existing page that could rank better and earn more clicks than the page Google currently associates with a given query.

If you have the budget, there are also some great tools available that can help you identify your top pages and those that are barely missing the mark. Tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush all offer various ways to analyze your content.

These tools will help you find your most successful content, but more importantly, you can find pages ranking on the first page. Often, some light optimization (tweaking titles, header tags, etc.) and updating can be the difference between page two rankings and appearing on the first page. 

It’s much easier to update existing pages than create new content, so you should always start by analyzing current rankings to see if you have any of these opportunities available.

Updating, repurposing, and promoting existing content

Once you’ve identified new content marketing opportunities for your existing pages, it’s time to execute.

Most, if not all, of your content marketing opportunities for existing pages will require some level of updating or reformatting or both. In some instances, you might find a page that was simply underpromoted and needs more links to perform better, but for the most part, you will need to do some on-page optimization as well.

Updating content

Updating your pages means more than changing the publish date.

To improve search performance for an existing page, you need to make substantial updates in terms of depth and recency of the information on the page. For example, I recently found that a guide I had written that was ranking for a few keywords. To help push it onto the first page of the search results, I updated the post. 

These updates included:

  • Restructuring the content for improved scannability and a clear hierarchy of information.
  • Deeper research into the topic to provide more actionable information.
  • Rewriting outdated sections to offer more accurate information.
  • Adding relevant links to authoritative external sources.
  • Fixing and updating broken external links.
  • Adding internal links to related pages.
  • Adding fresh, high-quality images.

Making these updates was a significant time investment, but still took less time and effort than generating a new content idea and writing a post from scratch. And best of all, the updates helped push the post at the top of the results I was targeting!

Repurposing and reformatting content

Along with updating your pages, repurposing or reformatting content can also improve rankings.

Converting content to a new format or adding new formats to an existing page can often help that content perform better in search. For example, if you notice there are multiple video results for the term your page is targeting, chances are your page could benefit from adding video content. Some other reformatting options include:

  • Adding a concise definition or bulleted list at the top of the page for informational queries to optimize for rich snippets.
  • Creating complementary interactive elements such as a tool, quiz, game, etc.
  • Converting long-form text into an easily digestible infographic.
  • Developing high-quality, original photography and imagery.
  • Transcribing video or audio content into a blog post.

Repurposing content not only breathes new life into a page, but it can also improve that page’s performance in organic search if it creates a better user experience and better answers searcher intent.

If you have pages that rank well but not on the first page, consider analyzing the current top results to see if you can identify trends in formatting – if your page is missing these elements, adding them could help your page rank better.

Finding opportunities for content creation

While optimizing existing pages is the path of least resistance, to sustain long-term success in organic search you will also need to create new content.

Content inspiration can come from a variety of sources, but if you want to build content that performs in search you should focus on niche analysis and competitive research.

Niche analysis

Niche analysis for content marketing involves researching how your audience is searching online and which topics they interest them.

You need to understand how your audience searches for topics related to your business and the language they use. Subtle differences in word usage can equate to large differences in search volume and you want to optimize your content for the terms your audience is using.

For example, look at the difference between the search phrases [coffee mug holder] and [coffee mug rack] (using Moz’s Keyword Explorer):

This small distinction between “holder” and “rack” equals a difference of ~2,000 in terms of monthly search volume. If you had asked me which had more volume, honestly, I would have guessed “rack” – therefore, it’s critical to understand the language your audience is using to find information relevant to your brand.

Paying attention to formatting is important during niche analysis too. If you notice that your audience prefers a certain format – and that is demonstrated in the top search results – make sure you build your content in that format as well.

Competitive research

Competitive research is one of the best ways to identify gaps in your content marketing. If there is a topic that is driving organic traffic to multiple competitor sites, and you don’t have a page that addresses that topic, you have a gap in your content marketing.

SEMrush is one of the best tools for competitive research as it will give you a report on which keywords and pages are earning the most traffic (in terms of a percentage) on competitor websites. If you export these reports for a handful of competitors, you can compare trends and find opportunities to create new content that will bring a relevant audience – since you share the same audience as these competitors – to your site.

The key point here is to look for trends across multiple competitors because that confirms the topic is something that resonates with your audience.

Another important point is to review the quality of your competitors’ pages. Can you realistically create something that is equal or better? If the answer is no, move on to another opportunity because that is the bar you will have to meet if you ever want to rank for the associated terms.

Conclusion

Content marketing opportunities are easy to find if you know where to look.

Start with your existing pages and identify where you have opportunities to make small changes that can have a big SEO impact. These opportunities typically involve some form of repurposing, reformatting and updating.

After exhausting the available opportunities with your existing pages, glean content inspiration from analyzing your audience and niche, as well as researching top competitor pages.

Following this simple process will fuel your content marketing for years, ensuring you’re building content that will perform well in search and help your site earn organic traffic.

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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.

The post Aligning content and SEO for search success appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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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.

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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.

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

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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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