Archives November 2019

February Algorithm Update: Google Refactors Social and Verticalized Content Rankings – Jordan Koene // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: Google stirred the SEO hornet’s nest once again releasing another algorithm update just a few weeks after they released their first one of the year in January. Join host Ben as he meets with Searchmetrics’ Strategic Advisor Jordan Koene to discuss what he calls an “Algorithm adjustment,” and the major content updates by Google to refactor social and verticalized content.

Summary

  • The update caused Twitter, Instagram and URLs to decrease in presence, as it narrowed the scope for what they’re ranking as. Twitter decreased the most as Google analyzes massive social platforms and corrects what they should, or shouldn’t, rank for.
  • Medical sites Mayo Clinic and WebMD experienced volatility in niche medical terms such as “Narcissist,” “Belly fat,” and “Vertigo.”
  • Amazon and Macy’s were affected as well with Macy’s seeing a 10% drop in visibility.
  • Jordan’s key piece of advice for brands regarding the update is “Don’t overreact, stay calm, focus on looking at your data. Once you understand your own position, then and only then start looking at your competitive set and seeing what’s happening in your market, especially with these verticalized updates or changes. It’s super helpful to be conscientious about yourself first and then the market second.”

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome to another emergency Google update version of the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’ll be discussing how Google has shaken up the SEO landscape. Again, joining us today is Jordan Koene, who is a world renowned SEO strategist and an advisor for Searchmetrics. Okay. On with the show. Here’s my conversation with Jordan Koene, SEO strategist and advisor for Searchmetrics.

Ben:                 Jordan, welcome back to another emergency episode of the Voices Of Search podcast.

Jordan:             I think they’re going to start getting concerned. I mean, we’re the boy that cries wolf all the time, right?

Ben:                 I honestly think that it’s not an emergency. It’s like a Tuesday. It’s every week now there’s a some sort of an update. I feel like we just recorded this episode three weeks … Oh, wait. We did record an update episode three weeks ago.

Jordan:             We did.

Ben:                 And then two weeks before that. And then a month before that. And then a week before that. What the hell is going on?

Jordan:             Well, sooner or later we’re just going to have to dump the word emergency and just say Google update.

Ben:                 It’s great copywriting.

Jordan:             It is great copywriting.

Ben:                 We’re too lazy to write new copy.

Jordan:             Right. Good marketing, bad good marketing. But, no, on a serious note, I think part of this is just that, and we’ve talked about this in previous episodes, Google’s just getting more vocal about things. This is an interesting one because this was a release that happened on February 7th or 8th just after my birthday, so they must have known and then they released this update.

Ben:                 Happy birthday to … Did I even say happy birthday to you in real life?

Jordan:             You did. You did. Thank you, Ben.

Ben:                 Did I? Okay, good. Happy birthday.

Jordan:             Yup. You did. In real life you did. But no, on a serious note, they released this on the 7th and 8th. There’s a lot of chatter in the SEO community, blog posts, tweets about it, of all the different tools and indices were jibber jabbering, including us here at Searchmetrics who were heavily reviewing our data and looking at what was going on. And then on February 13th Danny came out and publicly stated that there was an algorithm adjustment. It was no core update. It was essentially an update to the algorithm and it was impacting rankings.

Ben:                 So talk to me about what the impact was. Have we been able to gather enough data to say how the winds have changed?

Jordan:             Well, in classic Google fashion, it was a little light on the details, which I will give them their criticism now, which is please give us more advice than just the normal links to your Twitter account and the general Google guidelines. It’d be kind of nice if you just said, directionally we tried to do X or Y and we want webmasters to follow this. Just saying, we have these guidelines, but it doesn’t help anything. It’s just too broad for us to really take grasp of what you want us to improve. That’s why these podcasts are so successful because people are grasping at straws and trying to figure out what actually happened. We see a few things here. We see some major content adjustments by Google to refactor in some cases social content, as well as in other cases very verticalized content. And that’s where we see Google making their biggest adjustments.

Ben:                 So talk to me about what you mean by social and by verticalized content. Let’s pick those apart. When you say Google is refactoring for social content, tweets now showing up in search results? What’s that actually mean?

Jordan:             Yeah, so technically just the opposite. So tweets, Instagram, URL saw a decreased level of presence. So Google’s factoring for what is happening in a specific tweet or happening in an Instagram post has become a little less broad. They’ve narrowed the scope of what those are ranking for. And that’s what we saw in our data is quite a significant adjustment in the way they look at those very specific social actions.

Ben:                 So they’re only showing political tweets and stuff from Kanye West? Just the ones that matter.

Jordan:             As long as it’s fake news, they’ll show it at the top of the SERP. So no, I’m just kidding. Not true. On a serious note, the biggest loser in the last week or so has been Twitter. I don’t think anyone at Twitter’s crying over this, but it’s an adjustment to how Google takes these really, really, really massive platforms and then course corrects for what they think they should be ranking for or not ranking for.

Ben:                 So if they have a couple of large data sets that they’re starting to comb through and figure out what’s relevant and what should be at the top of the search results. You also mentioned that there’s some more horizontal or industry specific adjustments. What are the other segments that you’re seeing volatility in?

Jordan:             Yeah. So one of the interesting ones that we saw some volatility in is in the medical space. So, Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and a few others saw an adjustment in their rankings. And this adjustment was really predicated not on the core areas where they do very well, like when you search for a disease or you search for some sort of pharmaceutical drug, these were very on the periphery, on the outside of the normal ranking that you would expect a Mayo Clinic to show up for in Google.

Ben:                 So tell me some of the things that the Mayo Clinic improved on and where did privacy start to kick in?

Jordan:             So Ben, it’s a great question. There’s a couple of different sets of keywords where we saw some volatility for, Mayo Clinic in particular. It’s kind of interesting. These keywords where in theory they seem like medical like related keywords, but they’re much broader than that. One of the examples is narcissist or vertigo. These are medical-type topics and things, but there’s a much deeper, broader set of reasons behind these topics. It’s not a very linear disease-like structure.

Ben:                 Jordan, you’ve got to give me a couple of more examples. I have a feeling that there’s going to be some good stuff in the Mayo Clinic list.

Jordan:             Yeah, there is some pretty interesting things in here. I think one of the more interesting ones is belly fat. What exactly are users searching when they search for that keyword? Not exactly sure.

Ben:                 I’m kind of tell you it starts with how to get rid of.

Jordan:             Probably, but then also Mayo Clinic, I don’t know if they’re necessarily the right site to rank for that. But in any case, it’s interesting that the topics that we’re seeing volatility from Mayo Clinic, they’re not topics that are just wildly off the mark, but they’re corrections by Google. It’s not that Mayo Clinic fell off the map, it’s just that they adjusted this. I’m not trying by any means to pick on Mayo Clinic. I just think it’s an interesting example where you have somewhat topical keywords, but as Google makes these changes on a vertical basis they might course correct for what they think is the best experience on the SERP as well as rankings.

Ben:                 So if you’re searching for how to cure hemorrhoids, you’re going to get hemorrhoid cream ads instead of listings from Mayo Clinic now?

Jordan:             Yeah, they doubled the ads on that page. No, I’m just teasing. I’m sure that they should now. That’s probably the best approach.

Ben:                 Okay, so we’re seeing some verticalized adjustments by Google. We’re seeing them in the healthcare space. They’re separating out what is the core set of keywords for medical providers and giving some other people some opportunity to ranks outside of the biggest brand names. Are we seeing this in other industries or is it just the health?

Jordan:             Health and social were the two most prominent categories where this took place. We also saw some major players just have some drops in visibility in our data. Some of those include an adjustment to YouTube who we’ve been talking about a lot lately. Nothing major, no reason for them to lose their number one position. But again, I think in the same vein as Twitter and Instagram had a correction, Google was also looking at YouTube in that similar light.

Jordan:             And then we also saw a little adjustment in the commercial space in the retail space with Macy’s and Amazon taking hits in their visibility. Macy’s taking a much larger hit, over 10% of their visibility corrected over this update. Still digging into those reasons. They very well may not be related to the algorithm update, just coincidence that it happened at the same time.

Ben:                 So as we take a step back and we think about all of the adjustments that Google has made, what are your conclusions or what are your takeaways from this ongoing series of updates? It’s like the never ending more over here.

Jordan:             Yeah, well I mean the first thing I think folks need to recognize is that part of this is just Google communicating more, right? In this example the industry mentioned at first and then Google followed up with confirmation. So back to some old trends of 2012 in the past when Matt Cutts was around. But the reality here is that the SEO community has always had a very heightened sensitivity around Google changes. I really believe how we continue to embark and communicating about this over the rest of the year is what’s going to really matter because it’s going to happen more. We’re going to see more changes from Google. Google is spending a lot of time looking at not just the rank position, but also the SERP experience and they’re communicating about these changes. We just need to figure out how better way to ensure we know what to do next, how to follow these guidelines and requirements of Google in a more specific way. And I really want to encourage Danny Sullivan and the rest of the Google folks to focus on specifics and not just send us back to your general guidelines.

Ben:                 So I guess there’s good news and bad news. The positive news is Google is listening. When they get caught making an algorithm change or when things are clearly shifting, they’re actually fessing up to it. On the flip side, we’re seeing more and more volatility. We’re seeing more frequent updates, which just means that there’s going to be ongoing optimization for you SEOs. Jordan, I guess the last question I have for you is knowing that we’re going to see more of these updates likely to be coming soon, how do you manage through this process and what do you do when one of these updates affect you?

Jordan:             Yeah, so the first thing is to really get heavy into the data, right? Look and see what’s happening to your traffic, what’s happening to your rank positions, especially on your money keywords, keywords that are driving the majority of your revenue. Ultimately, I think that the key here for our listeners is don’t overreact, stay calm, focus on looking at your data. Once you understand your own position, then and only then start looking at your competitive set and seeing what’s happening in your market, especially with these verticalized updates or changes. It’s super helpful to be conscientious about yourself first and then the market second. A lot of people get really dizzy starting to look at all the SEO news and trying to analyze the forecast for the entire US. Just focus on your city and you’ll probably end up with a much better result.

Ben:                 Okay. you got to keep your head down, keep fighting, and keep optimizing. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices Of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, SEO strategist and advisor to Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, his handle is JTKoene, that’s J-T-K-O-E-N-E. Or you could visit his website which is JordanKoene.com.

Ben:                 Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast head over to voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices Of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voicesofsearch on Twitter, and my personal handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feeds soon. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


How encryption can enhance your SEO ranking

Two of the biggest continuum any business faces are how to rank high and how to maintain the ranking. Incidentally for both, you are indirectly dependent on search engines and hackers. However, the question is, for how long do you want to continue being dependent? 

On one hand, you have both on-page technical best practices and off-page methods to enhance your ranking, while you can use encryption to fight cybercriminals.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO for all intents and purposes shouldn’t be about only performing on-page technical best practices. You also need to come up with out-of-the-box ideas that will enhance your website’s visibilities.

In as much as social media is a means of communication, it shouldn’t ordinarily improve organic search rankings. But be as it may, you need social media platforms to share your content since your website alone cannot give you the required reach.

You need social media platforms to boost traffic to your site as well as to enhance the profile. While the business world is still grappling with whether Google looks at social signals when determining the rank of a web page, the fact remains that if a large number people are able to share your content on social media, then it’s expected that more people will link to it, and links are a hugely important SEO ranking factor.

On the other hand, Google according to an article, as of October 2019, Google dominated US search queries but Bing was also able to achieve more search in a fair share. This should be interesting to marketers because according to Bing, social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results.

Whether you are grappling with on-page technical best practices or off-page methods to increase your website’s visibility in order to enhance SEO and ultimately your ranking, the most important thing is ensuring that your website is up and running. One thing that can bring your website crashing faster than any other thing is the activities of cybercriminals.

Encryption

As you plan to use social media to enhance your ranking, it’s important you know that cybercriminals earn nearly $3.25 billion per year violating social media. This is a good reason for you to consider encryption which is a surefire means of converting information into secret code thereby, hiding the true meaning.

The technology involved in encryption and decryption of information is called cryptography.

While your unencrypted data can also be referred to as plaintext, the encrypted one is known as ciphertext in the computing world.

You make use of encryption algorithms or ciphers to encode and decode messages. Before an unauthorized person can make any sense out of your encrypted message (if it is intercepted), such an entity has to guess which cipher you used to encrypt the message and also work out what keys were used as variables.

While it may sound outlandish to you, the simple truth is that the task can be very herculean and frustrating. This is why encryption has become such a valuable security tool.

The following are two of the best methods of encryption you can use to secure your website and enhance your SEO rankings.

1. End-to-end encryption (E2EE)

E2EE is a means of ascertaining that data being transmitted by you to another party cannot be viewed by an attacker that may probably intercept the means of communication. However, ordinarily using an encrypted communication circuit, as provided by Transport Layer Security (TLS) between the web client and web server software, is not always an assurance that you have an E2EE. The actual information you are transmitting must be by client software before being passed to a web client and decrypted only by the recipient.

Messaging apps such as Facebook’s WhatsApp and Open Whisper Systems’ Signal provide E2EE. It is also possible for Facebook Messenger users to get E2EE messaging with the “Secret Conversations” option.

2. Quantum cryptography

What could be more heartwarming than knowing that your website and social media account can’t be messed with? This is what quantum cryptography can do for you.

Based on the quantum mechanical properties of particles, your data is protected. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle postulates that the two properties you can use to identify a particle, both its location and its momentum, cannot be measured without changing the values of those properties.

This means that once you quantum-encode your data it cannot be copied and if an intruder attempts to access the encoded data, the data will change. Since you will be alerted by any attempt to copy or access the data the aim of the intruder is roundly defeated.

With encryption, you are secured from SEO spam-infected sites that typically redirect visitors to spam pages. The motivation behind this method for cyber attackers is simple – its ease.

One thing attackers won’t be able to do to your website is to gain access and steal your hard-earned SEO ranking as they consider it a big task to start from scratch to build up their own new rankings from the ground up. You are also protected from damages to your SEO rankings and brand reputation that will definitely lead to loss of traffic from SEO spam.

Access to your website for the purposes of SEO and comment spam which can be very tricky to detect is checkmated. Usually, hackers tend to inject spammy links on a website knowing fully well that they are visible only to Search Engines and visitors, whereas, you may not even be aware of it.

The end result would have been that malware will steal your domain authority and tarnish your reputation to boost their own.

Being an entrepreneur or a decision-maker, encryption is surely something you should get started with to safeguard your business from losing its reputation, credibility, and dollar bills. Feel free to share your queries in the comments section.

John Ejiofor is the founder and editor in chief at Nature Torch. He can be found on Twitter @John02Ejiofor.

The post How encryption can enhance your SEO ranking appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


Timeless SEO tips: 6 universal SEO tactics that never go out of fashion

Things are always on the move in the SEO world. Google regularly updates its algorithm and the competition is never far behind. So if you’re not sure about the latest best-practices, wouldn’t it be nice to have a list of timeless SEO improvements to focus on? We thought it might be! Arm yourself with these timeless SEO tactics and you’ll never go wrong.

1. Stay on the light side

If you’re desperate for quick results, you may be tempted to use blackhat SEO tactics. Well, don’t! Never, ever buy links, try to trick search engines or visitors with redirects or spam links on other sites. It may work for a short while, but search engines actively discourage this kind of thing, so it always backfires in the end and harms your rankings. You don’t want those tricks or bought links coming back to haunt you, do you?

Here at Yoast, we advocate Holistic SEO, which means you need to be the best result! Give your visitors high-quality content, a great user experience and a secure, technically superior website. It may take more time and effort, but it’s much more sustainable in the long run. Let’s take link building as an example: approached holistically, you produce quality content that people actually want to share. You can then reach out to relevant websites to see if they’ll consider linking to you. The links you’ll get this way will be much more valuable than any link you can buy. So go the extra mile and stay on the light side of SEO. Your website will benefit in the long run.

2. Optimize your site speed

In SEO, faster is better. We’re pretty confident that this will always be the case, as people expect to get content served to them quickly. Nobody likes waiting, even for a split second, so it always pays to invest time in improving your site’s speed.

There are several ways to speed up your WordPress site. We can’t cover them all in this article, but a good start is to install a caching plugin. This keeps static parts of your site saved on your server, and serves users these lighter HTML pages instead of processing the relatively resource-intensive WordPress PHP scripts. There are both free and paid caching plugins available and they can significantly speed up your site.

Read more: Improving site speed: tools and suggestions »

Images are another factor that’s often overlooked as people build their website. Big, high definition images will take a long time to load, while most of the time, a lower resolution image will do just fine. Always take the time to resize your images using an image optimization plugin.

And a final speed optimization tip: if your visitors come from all over the world, it may be worthwhile to use a CDN (or Content Delivery Network). It’ll direct visitors to the servers closest to their location, thereby greatly improving loading times. 

3. Work on excellent content

Another timeless SEO tip: don’t compromise on the quality of your content. Create the best quality content that you can, and consistently review and improve on it wherever possible. SEO isn’t just about improving your website, it’s also about beating the competition. In many cases, this means content that’s only ‘good enough’ simply won’t do. You have to demonstrate your expertise and stand out from the crowd. That means a big investment of time and effort; research into your topic, your audience and what they’re looking for.

Keep reading: It’s not enough to ‘write content’-you have to publish resources »

You may not always be able to do this right away, which is why you need to keep improving your articles, so they become valuable resources for your audience. How? Well, that all depends on your topic and what you’re trying to achieve. It’s always a good idea to ask yourself whether your questions would be answered by visiting your pages, and whether it aligns with what you’re seeing in the search results. These next tips will also help you improve the overall quality of your content.

4. Keep your audience in mind

Whether the aim of your website is to help you sell your product, or to attract followers for your blog posts, you will only succeed if you focus on what your audience wants and needs. That’s something that isn’t going to change, as search engines always aim to give users what they’re looking for. This is evident from the growing importance of search intent, so doing keyword research without first considering search intent is no longer an option. Are you really offering searchers what they’re looking for when they type in their search term -your keyword? Are they looking for information or to take action, and what do they need from you? Take a good look at the search results for your keywords to answer those questions.

There’s another reason to really focus on what your audience needs: the competition for people’s attention is fierce. So users can be picky, and they want to know whether you can solve their problem, or what they will get out of reading your blog post. They don’t much care about your product-related jargon, or why you want them to read your blog post. So, don’t overlook your visitor’s perspective in your SEO copy. That also includes not writing too much ‘I’ in your content. Make it about your user, not yourself!

Read on: Engaging your online audience: 8 practical tips »

5. Improve your internal linking structure

It’s always a good idea to make it easy for search engines to crawl your site to work out which articles are most important and to help your users find what they’re looking for. That’s why you can’t go wrong by improving your internal linking structure. Make sure that your most important articles also have the most internal links pointing to them. And don’t forget to add links to your most recent posts, to avoid orphaned content. It’s key to make sure that links are relevant to the context of a post or they won’t make sense to either the search engine or the user.

6. Keep your content well-maintained

A final timeless SEO tip: staying on top of your content maintenance always pays off. Not only will you save yourself the effort of cleaning up a load of posts in one go, but your content also stays fresh and relevant. Both search engines and users like that! What’s more, keeping track of your content and the topics it covers helps you avoid keyword cannibalization. And, you don’t want to impair your own chances of ranking by offering too much similar, competing content.

Of course, cleaning up is not generally people’s favorite task, so this is easier said than done. It helps to approach things systematically. Do a site search for one of your most important keywords and see what comes up. Do articles overlap, and do you still need to keep everything? How are pages performing? You’ll probably see some articles that can be deleted or merged. Doing this regularly helps to keep on top of things.

Timeless SEO: Be the best result! 

In the end, these timeless SEO tips boil down to the same thing: if you want to rank, you need to put effort into being the best result. Search engines may change their algorithms, but they ultimately want to offer their users what they’re looking for: high quality content that’s up to date and served on a fast loading website with no dirty tricks. It may seem like a lot of work, but at least it’s a clear objective to work on, right? So, let’s get on with it!

Keep on reading: WordPress SEO: the definitive guide »

The post Timeless SEO tips: 6 universal SEO tactics that never go out of fashion appeared first on Yoast.


Custom LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms Increase CVR by +31%

Seasonality Got You Down?

To find a solution, you need to first identify the problem.

In this case, a client at Seer was entering their off-peak season, which began impacting conversion rates in their LinkedIn campaigns. While this can certainly be an expected trend in seasonality, it can also be a great time to test new strategies or hypotheses, rather than just sit back and watch your goals slowly but surely decline in your off-peak season. Therefore, we knew that now was the time to get a little creative.

Hello Problem. Meet Solution.

Initially, we were testing LinkedIn Sponsored Content versus Lead Generation Forms and found that Forms performed significantly better in terms of driving qualified leads for this particular client.

These two content types look similar in the engine, however, a Lead Gen Forms include a Call-to-Action Button which, when clicked, auto-populates your information based on your LinkedIn profile. Once the Lead Gen Form is submitted, you can directly receive a link or email to the content or offer, without ever having to leave LinkedIn.

But as conversion rates began to slow down, we wanted to take it one step further. 

While our campaigns had unique ad copy and landing pages tailored by audience, we were only using one generic Lead Gen Form for all of our active campaigns:

Sure, the messaging on the generic Lead Gen Form could work for any of our active ads, but we couldn’t help but pose the question: 

What would happen if we created unique Lead Gen Forms for all of our ads?

So we did exactly that. And let’s see what happened.

Using unique Lead Gen Forms on LinkedIn resulted in a +31% improvement in overall conversion rate, despite lowering budgets.

Here’s some additional background information to help paint the whole picture:

  • Timeframe: 12-week test, with a 6 week period before and after Lead Gen Forms were implemented.
  • Hypothesis: Unique Lead gen Forms that ladder up to the ad copy and landing pages of unique audiences will create a more frictionless user path to their conversion
  • KPI Measurement: Conversion Rate increases during this client’s off-peak season.

Problem

Conversion rates began to decrease on LinkedIn as peak season ended.

Solution

Along with a creative refresh, Seer recommended testing unique lead forms on LinkedIn for each specific Whitepaper download to create a tailored user experience. 

We hypothesized that if that content on the Lead Gen Form mirrored the content on the ad rather than use the same generic Lead Gen Form for each ad, that would create a better experience for the user, and CVR would increase.

Test Results:

  • +5.6% stronger CVR of whitepaper-specific forms vs. original generic forms.
  • +31.4% higher CVR Period Over Period, despite a decrease in budget.

Now it’s Your Turn

If you’re advertising on LinkedIn with the goal of driving higher qualified leads, start testing Lead Gen Forms. And if you’re already using Lead Gen Forms, try testing customized ad copy on your form that’s tailored to the copy on your LinkedIn ad.

New to LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms and want to start testing? Check out our blog on getting started with LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms. Or are you brand new to LinkedIn advertising? Reach out – we’re here to help!


The Secret to Agency Life Success – Chris Long // Go Fish Digital

Episode Overview: A key aspect to developing a career in SEO is finding the right agency for you that is credible and offers plentiful opportunities to explore. Join host Ben as he continues his discussion with Go Fish Digital’s Senior SEO Manager Chris Long reviewing the best practices for working for, or with, an SEO agency and how to find one that aligns with your career goals.

Summary

  • “So, you want to partner with an agency that’s going to first, talk about your specific needs. What do you think is the biggest issue with your SEO? Do you have a problem with users generated content or something like that? So, an agency that really takes the time to dive in to the problems that you specifically think are the biggest problems with your SEO, as well, agencies that are going to give you an indication of priority on things.” – Chris Long, on how to evaluate whether an agency is right for you.
  • On partnering with a credible agency: “One, for me personally, I would want to partner with an agency that kind of thinks like I think, right? Are they data focused? Have they written things before and that kind of showed that their data focus? Maybe you can look for, ‘Hey, does this agency speak at industry events like SMX or MozCon or Pubcon?’ If you see that a lot of their employees are speaking to those events, it could be kind of a good sign that they may be a little bit more of a credible agency.”
  • On the most surprising aspect of working with an agency – “I would think the constant mind shifting that it takes to put yourself from one client to another within the same day. Right? So, in the same eight to 10 hour period, we might have to think about five to 10 different clients, and whether that’s thinking about a particular implementation, whether that’s popping on a client call and actually getting an ID and findings, this kind of ability to constantly shift your thinking from one problem to the next.”

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                 Welcome to agency month on The Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re discussing the best practices for working for, or with, an SEO agency. Joining us again today is Chris Long who is the senior manager of SEO at Go Fish Digital, which is a leading agency for online reputation management, providing their clients with expertise in search engine optimization, content marketing, social media marketing, influencer marketing and more. Yesterday Chris and I have talked about his career and how he’s gone from entering the working world to growing up in an agency, and leading SEO at Go Fish Digital. Today we’re going to talk more about what life is really like working inside an agency. Okay. On with the show. Here’s my conversation with Chris Long, senior manager of SEO at Go Fish Digital. Chris, welcome back to The Voices of Search podcast.

Chris:               Yeah, I appreciate you having me back Ben.

Ben:                 Great to have you here. Yesterday we talked a lot about you and your career and you’ve got a quickly developing career. You’ve gone from breaking into the working world, to working for multiple agencies at this point and also specializing in SEO. This month we’re talking a lot about what life is like working with and finding the right agencies, and I wanted to take a second and flip the table around and talk about what life is like finding the right agency and building great agency relationships from the agency partner perspective. You’ve had a handful of experiences going through this. Let’s talk a little bit about how you figure out what the right agency for you is and what to expect when you’re actually starting. Give us your thoughts on evaluating an agency from an agency employee’s perspective.

Chris:               Right. Yeah, so that’s a great question. I mean, I would say one of the biggest things for people evaluating an agency would be, “how does that agency specifically try to tailor their solutions to your problems?” I would think you would maybe want to partner with an agency that is just going to give you this blanket advice. “Hey, you need to fix all of these redirects. You need to low index all of these pages.” It’s a very kind of boilerplate solution. I think one thing that sets us a bit apart is that we try to come up with very custom solutions. So you want to partner with an agency that’s going to first, talk about your specific needs. What do you think is the biggest issue with your SEO? Do you have a problem with users generated content or something like that? So an agency that really takes the time to dive in to the problems that you specifically think are the biggest problems with your SEO, as well, agencies that are going to give you an indication of priority on things.

Chris:               One of the most dangerous things of I think a lot of a lot of SEO audits is, once again, they’re fairly boilerplate, right? There’s a lot of tools out there that can say, “Go fix these 256 meta descriptions.” But the issue might be is there could be way higher priority things to fix that might be more specific to your situation. So finding an agency that’s going to tailor solutions to your problems, and to give you an idea of kind of the priority on things and be able to confidently tell you why they’re making certain recommendations and why they’re higher priority.

Ben:                 So for sure I understand why it’s important for the in-house SEO, or marketer, to make sure that their agency is customizing their solutions. But let’s play out a scenario here and I want your take on how to evaluate the validity of an agency from somebody who’s worked in them. Hypothetically, let’s say Go Fish Digital just ceased operations tomorrow, and you’re out in the world and you’re starting to look for a new agency. What are some of the things that you’re looking for to evaluate whether it’s a credible agency as a place of employment?

Chris:               Yeah, so there’s numerous things. One, for me personally, I would want to partner with an agency that kind of thinks like I think, right? Are they data focused? Have they written things before and that kind of showed that their data focus? So, you could spend a lot of time reading their blogs to get an idea of kind of how their process seems and an idea, of hopefully, a post on how the agency thinks. As well, things that kind of establish some form of credibility. Maybe you can look for, “Hey, does this agency speak at industry events like SMX or MozCon or Pubcon?” If you see that a lot of their employees are speaking to those events, it could be kind of a good sign that they may be a little bit more of a credible agency.

Chris:               Taking a look at the brands that they work with on their websites. Also kind of another sign of credibility there. I think that personally, the number one would be reading posts, seeing do they think like I think, and as well if you’re interested in looking at another agency, I think one of the best solutions is to reach out to members who used to work there for their opinion on the agency. What was it like? What was the culture like? Especially if they have a new role, they’re a little more likely to be less bias and give you an honest and genuine answer.

Ben:                 The culture is obviously a very important part. You mentioned a couple of different important aspects here. One, how much credibility does the agency have? Do they think like you think? And also the culture. As you’re evaluating the culture of an agency, how much do you look for who your direct manager is, what the brand is, or who the leadership is? How do you prioritize those three things?

Chris:               Sure, so I think the most important of those three would be one, who your direct management would be, the person that you’re going to be working with and interfacing day to day. That’s probably going to have one of the biggest impacts in terms of your quality of life at work, but two definitely, who the overall ownership, and I truly believe that kind of everything trickles down from there, right? That the owners or partners, they’re going to set the tone for the culture and if that vibe isn’t as positive, then I think it’s going to be reflected in the rest of the company. However, vice versa, the owners or partners can set definitely a great culture, a great vibe for the company, and I think it does affect and reaches the rest of management all the way down to maybe more entry level employees.

Ben:                 One of the things, and this isn’t agency specific, but I think that organizations do take on the culture of their founders, right? It all starts with them and grows from there. Generally when you’re working for an agency, the founders are out shaking the trees, trying to drum up new business, right? Working on strategic problems and they’re very infrequently primary operators in the company. With limited time and exposure to them, how do you evaluate your connection with an agency founder?

Chris:               Yeah, so there’s multiple ways to do it. One in terms of just seeing how they think, I mean a lot of agencies, while they might be 50, 100, 200 people now, that wasn’t always the case, right? So a lot of times there is evidence out there online of previous publications that they’ve written for, previous speaking engagements that they’ve had, maybe they were doing that stuff to generate new business before it started happening a little bit more automatically for the company.

Chris:               So you can start to still look for previous work from agency owners like that, to see if there’s a connection between you and the agency. As well, going back to reaching out to former employees, while a lot of people might not have day to day direct access with kind of ownership, they likely still have had quite a few interactions with them, and they will probably be able to tell you, “Hey, here’s what I thought of the owner, here’s what I thought of leadership,” based on maybe a little bit more limited interactions. There’s definitely still ways to get that information despite maybe less ease of access.

Ben:                 Not all agencies are created the same. Once you feel like there is a cultural fit and you’re thinking about evaluating an agency role, how do you understand how to make a fit and carve out a role that works for you? It seems like you’ve done a great job of this at Go Fish Digital, you’ve had multiple promotions and new iterations of your role. When you do find the right agency, how do you figure out where you can make a difference in the organization?

Chris:               Yeah, I mean I truly believe it’s just whatever interests you, right? Whatever you find yourself doing more often. Whichever tasks or initiatives that you wake up on Monday and actually look forward to doing, and don’t push off till maybe a day or two later. Those are the things that you should probably be going more down the rabbit hole with, right? There’s always value in having someone with an extremely deep expertise. That’s one, what truly interests you. Second, finding the opportunities or gaps within the organization, right? If you can kind of look around and look at your organization’s work as a whole, just thinking to yourself, “Hey, what could we improve on?” Maybe your organization doesn’t have strong SEO visualizations, but that you can be the person to actually go out and use something to figure out how to make those SEO visualizations, and there’s value in that.

Chris:               So one, figure out what you like to do, and then two, figuring out gaps between what the organization already has and ways that you know, you could add value in that specific area. Those are probably two of the best ways to kind of make a defined role. Sometimes it just takes just kind of that initial impetus to become that person. I remember one of my first months of the agency, I took on a structured data initiative for our client, right? All it was I was going to invest just a little bit more time into figuring out how to make this structure data implementation work. We ended up getting it implemented and had success for the clients. Kind of from that point on I became known as the structure data guy, right? So sometimes it just starts for that initial impetus, until you can start to be able to be defined by more of a specialty within the organization.

Ben:                 I think that’s one of the things that impresses me the most about your experience, is that you started off very broadly working in digital marketing, realized very quickly that SEO was a place that you wanted to specialize, and then have become the SEO guy within your agency within a relatively short period of time. It’s not always as easy for the rest of us to figure out what our niche is, how were you able to find that fit and brand yourself and market yourself within the agencies so successfully?

Chris:               Yeah, so I think it just comes back to finding your true interests. When I first started what I, and a lot of the other SEOs and agency noticed is, I was doing a lot of the architectural tasks. I naturally would gravitate toward the crawling and indexing and I really got excited about anything that we could scale, right? Anytime we could make this one change in this one place and it’s going to apply to thousands or millions of pages. That was what really interested me. So by knowing that’s what I kind of gravitated toward, that helped me carve out my niche because then I started doing more tasks based on that. Started to look at innovative solutions were we do stuff related to call it an indexing, but we don’t do a lot of stuff maybe related to crawler depth, and I became the person to kind of jump on that. Then figure out, “Okay, how can we take a look at this specific architectural element from maybe a different perspective? And how can the agency go deeper there?”

Chris:               So really it was just kind of a matter of finding the things that naturally interested me and just asking questions from other SEOs, other SEOs have an expertise in something you’re interested around, not being afraid to go out and ask questions, “Hey, how did you implement this structure data for our clients? How did it work out? What were the results?” Constantly being curious about things that you can see yourself growing into is highly beneficial. I think that’s also really useful advice is, within an organization, don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially when you see things are going well for a client, ask questions, whoever’s on that account, ask what they think is making it so successful. Don’t be afraid to go out and kind of ask those questions within an organization.

Ben:                 The last question I have for you, having worked at agencies your entire career, what is the thing that you think that in-house SEOs would find most surprising about what the lifestyle and benefits of working at an agency are?

Chris:               Yeah, that’s a good question. You probably have to ask one of them. I would think the constant mind shifting that it takes to put yourself from one client to another within the same day. Right? So in the same eight to 10 hour period, we might have to think about five to 10 different clients, and whether that’s thinking about a particular implementation, whether that’s popping on a client call and actually getting an ID and findings, this kind of ability to constantly shift your thinking from one problem to the next. I think, that would be the most surprising.

Chris:               I think that can be one of the more mentally challenging things with an agency side, is constantly having to navigate between all of these different clients, and make sure that not only are you able to think about all these different aspects in different ways, but do it very quickly where you can jump on a call and then instantly shift from thinking about one client’s organization and SEO challenges to another with about five minutes in between. So I think that’s probably one of the things I think in-house people would be most surprised about.

Ben:                 The context switching is something that definitely surprised me. Moving from my in-house roles to working in a service based business. I think that’s great advice. Chris, I appreciate you coming on the show and telling us a little bit about what life is like at an agency, what to look for in an agency, and how they really work from the inside. Thanks for being our guest.

Chris:               Yeah, I appreciate you so much for having me, Ben. I hope we get to do it again soon.

Ben:                 Okay, and that wraps up this episode of The Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Chris Long, Senior Manager of SEO at Go Fish Digital. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Chris, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is gofishchris, or you could visit his company’s website, which is gofishdigital.com.

Ben:                 Just one link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes, the contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions, or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on The Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media, our handle is voicesofsearch on Twitter, or you can reach out to me directly. My handle is Benjshap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.

Ben:                 If you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes four to five times a week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and check back in your feed soon. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


4 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Got a Remote Job in SEO

Ever since I started college, I knew I wanted to work remotely. I hated the idea of having to work in an office; it felt restricting and, well, boring.

This became especially clear when I started my first job: a cubicle farm position at a failing software company. I was supposed to be a marketing coordinator, but there was never any work to do. I savored the two hours I was alone in the mornings. Sure, I never had to work hard, but being chained to a desk and surrounded by people was hell for an introvert.

Just a year later, I (along with my entire team) were laid off due to a merger. I swore I was never going back to an office job again.

By some stroke of luck, the kind folks at LSG took me in. I knew virtually nothing about SEO, but I had taken a college course on it once and I was pretty good at focusing when I was by myself. And God, I was willing to do anything to work remotely!

This year will mark two years working at Local SEO Guide. Although it’s not what I had originally intended to do, I can’t tell you how happy I feel that this is the way things turned out. My remote job in SEO is freeing and fulfilling. I don’t feel trapped anymore, and it lets me be part of a team without having to drive to work or sacrifice my introverted nature. The job definitely came with its share of surprises, and I wanted to share some things I wish I had known at the beginning.

Leave Your Degree at the Door

All of my coworkers come from vastly different backgrounds. We have an ex-political scientist, a phone sales guy, a bridal shop co-owner, a bicycle mechanic, a landscaper, and a retail employee in our ranks. Very few of my coworkers had a background in SEO before joining us, and even fewer of us originally aspired to become SEOs. But here we are, working with Fortune 500’s and helping huge companies get even huger. Our pasts don’t matter; only the results that we’re able to bring.

Even if you think you know SEO, every company does it differently. What one company says is right is going to be completely backwards to another. In a sense, this makes learning SEO easier for someone who originally knows nothing; they aren’t going to be stuck in their old ways.

Obviously, going to college for SOMETHING helps, but it’s not always necessary. Your attitude and ability to stick to your word is far more important. As a result, SEO can be a great job for people going through a major career change.

Of course, this is completely dependent on the company. There are, I’m sure, plenty of companies that require all of their employees to come from marketing backgrounds!

SEO Isn’t Cool (And That’s Okay)

No one is going to know what SEO is when you tell them what you do. Your friends are not going to think it’s cool. 

For the sake of not making us all look stupid, please don’t call yourself a ninja, or a guru, or whatever other stupid title you think is going to make your job sound more interesting than it is. You are not in a band. You are not the owner of a store that sells tiny hats for dogs. You are a person that helps people’s websites “go up on Google”. And that is nothing to be ashamed of! 

I feel like American culture bases our identities too much on what we do to make a living. When you meet someone at a party, one of the first things they’re going to ask to get to know you is, “What do you do?”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people to think of me as “an SEO”. I want them to think of me as someone fun to be around, that enjoys learning 3D modeling and watching true crime documentaries.

Of course I could’ve pursued a cool job in 3D modeling if I’d worked for it, but honestly? I don’t want to. If you work doing what you love, what you love becomes work. And I like my hobbies.

Forget the 9-5

This is completely dependent on the company, but at my job it doesn’t necessarily matter how long you work. What matters is that you got the job(s) done like you said you would. Accountability and the ability to be someone that the team can rely on is crucial in a work from home job, especially in a work from home agency job.

If you come from a cubicle farm job (like I did) or a retail environment (like one of my coworkers did), this can be a very bizarre change. In an ultra-corporate or hourly environment, you’re expected to “serve your time”. This is also known as the “if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean” mentality or the “time-based” work style. It doesn’t matter what you get done, because you’re just gonna have to keep going. My job in SEO isn’t like that–it’s “task based”. If I get my work done early, I can go do whatever I want. I’m still expected to be available, but I’m not expected to engage in “busywork”.

Personally, I absolutely adore this work style. I feel like it encourages hard work and finding shortcuts and ways to do things faster. Ever heard the quote “Always choose a lazy man to do a hard job, because a lazy man will find an easy way to do it”? It’s true. And the same lazy person will sit for eight hours at an eight hour job because they’re rewarded for serving their time, not working hard. 

Of course, a task-based work style can have its disadvantages. It can be hard to break the habit of striving for eight hours of work, and it’s surprisingly easy to miss deadlines when you work this way. Missing deadlines is a huge no-no at an agency job, so working in a time-based style can ironically result in having to work longer hours to make up for it. (Personally, I think more companies should switch to the task-based style!)

Time Management is #1

What you know about SEO doesn’t matter if you have poor time management skills. I firmly believe that time management is the number one skill for succeeding in a remote and/or task-based environment. 

At a remote job, especially, no one is there watching over your shoulder to make sure you get your work done. Sure, this is a blessing–no one likes to be micromanaged–but it also means you have to kick your own ass if you procrastinate for too long. It’s a double-edged sword. This makes it a great job for people with self-motivated, goal-driven personalities, but a poor fit for people who tend to be easily distracted and disorganized.

Conclusion

If you’re considering a job in SEO (or working remotely in general) I hope you found this article helpful. I know a new job can cause a lot of anxiety, especially when you’re entering a new type of work or have never worked remotely before. 

SEO and working remotely aren’t for everyone; it takes a lot of self-discipline to be able to do successfully. But for the people that are built for it, it’s a pretty awesome job.


What is SEO Content? How to Write Content that Ranks

In the past 12 months, we’ve published 79 pieces of “SEO content” on the Ahrefs Blog. 96% of them rank in Google and get organic traffic month after month.

One post even ranks for 10,000 keywords and gets over 57,000 monthly organic visits:

How did we do this? By taking an SEO-driven approach to our content.

In this guide, we’ll run through the 8‑step process we use to write content that ranks.

But first, the basics…

What is SEO content?

SEO content is, quite simply, content that’s designed to rank in search engines like Google.

You might think that all content is SEO content, but that’s not the case. For example, we have a lot of studies on our blog, and most of them get little or no organic traffic.

Does this mean those posts failed?

Not at all. We published these posts to bring new insights to the SEO community—not to rank in Google.

It’s also important to note that any kind of content can be “SEO content”: product pages, landing pages, interactive tools, and even videos. But when most people talk about “SEO content,” they’re talking about blog posts.

For that reason, that’s what we’ll focus on in this guide.

But before we talk about how to write posts that rank, let’s make sure we understand why this type of SEO content matters.

Why is SEO content important?

No matter what your business does, you can only get so much organic traffic to your “money pages.”

For example, we have five landing pages—one for each of our main SEO tools:

2 ahrefs landing pages

2 ahrefs landing pages

In total, these pages get around 25,000 monthly visits from organic search, and we rank in the top five for all of our main keywords:

3 ahrefs rankings

3 ahrefs rankings

But, these pages account for less than 4% of search traffic to our site:

5 ahrefs traffic

How? Because we’ve also written hundreds of pieces of SEO content for our blog.

In total, these posts get over 300,000 monthly visits from organic search alone:

6 ahrefs blog traffic

6 ahrefs blog traffic

If we didn’t do this, we’d be leaving a lot of money on the table because potential customers aren’t always searching for our products directly.

Many are just looking for a solution to a problem that our tools happen to solve.

For example, we have a competitive research tool called Site Explorer. One of the things it does is show who’s linking to any website or web page.

But, potential customers might not know we offer this product and instead search for something like “who links to my website.”

So we decided to write a blog post about that:

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 17.30.07

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 17.30.07

Writing “SEO content” like this is important because it brings more potential customers to our site.

Make sense?

Good. Now let’s talk about how to actually write this stuff.

How to write SEO content

Not all blog posts are SEO content, and pouring your heart and soul into your content doesn’t guarantee rankings and traffic.

Just look at the stats for one of my favorite blog posts:

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 17.33.49

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 17.33.49

It’s 7,600 words long, has been shared over 50,000 times, has fantastic illustrations, and is super well-written. It’s a masterpiece.

But look again at how much traffic it gets from search engines:

34. Measly. Visits. A. Month.

So, if you want your post to get organic traffic, you need to write it around a proven SEO framework.

What is that framework? It looks something like this:

  1. Find a proven topic
  2. Analyze search intent
  3. Write an outline
  4. Write a draft
  5. Edit your draft
  6. Make your content visually appealing
  7. Write a compelling title and description
  8. Upload your post

Let’s go through each of those steps in more detail.

1. Find a proven topic

Before you even think about putting pen to paper, you need to find a relevant topic with “traffic potential.”

To do this, think about broad topics that your potential customers might be searching for.

If you sell baking supplies online, then this might be recipes for baked goods, cookware reviews, or other things related to baking.

From there, search for those broad topics in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, and then check the “Phrase match” report to see keyword ideas:

7 phrase match ke

7 phrase match ke

Because this gives us a lot of keyword ideas (almost seven million in this case!), let’s filter out super-competitive competitive keywords and those with little or no search volume.

8 phrase match filters

8 phrase match filters

Right away, we see some good topic ideas like banana bread recipe, apple pie recipe, and pizza dough recipe, each with tons of monthly searches.

9 keyword ideas

9 keyword ideas

But here’s the thing with search volume: it can be misleading.

For example, take a look at the search volumes for these two keywords:
10 search volume

10 search volume

Because “butter cake recipe” has almost five times more searches than “chocolate chip cookie cake recipe,” you’d expect this topic to have the most traffic potential.

However, if we look at the top-ranking page, we see that it gets an estimated 2,383 US visits a month from organic search….

11 butter cake recipe traffic

11 butter cake recipe traffic

… whereas the top-ranking page for “chocolate chip cookie cake recipe” gets more:

12 chocolate chip cookie cape recipe traffic

12 chocolate chip cookie cape recipe traffic

This happens because the top-ranking page ranks for—and gets traffic from—more queries.

So, before you settle on a topic, always look at the estimated traffic to the top-ranking page to get a better sense of true traffic potential.

2. Analyze search intent

Search engines like Google have invested billions of dollars into understanding the true intent behind searches.

This is how they’re able to return relevant results—even for vague queries.

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 18.38.24

If you’re writing SEO content, this is important, because if it doesn’t align with search intent, your chances of ranking are slim to none.

But, how can you figure out search intent?

The answer is to take clues from the top-ranking results by analyzing what we call the three C’s of search intent.

These are:

Content type

Are the top-ranking pages blog posts, product pages, category pages, landing pages, or something else?

If they’re not mostly blog posts, then go back to step one and choose a different topic.

Content format

What type of posts rank? Are they how-to’s, list-style posts, opinion pieces, news articles, something else?

For “best baking pans,” they’re all lists:

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 18.44.24

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 18.44.24

Content angle

Look at the page titles to understand more about the type of person searching for this. Are they a beginner or an expert? What do they value? Are they looking for a quick solution or something more in-depth?

For example, many of the pages ranking for “french bread recipe” pitch how easy the recipe is:

14 french bread recipe results

14 french bread recipe results

For flat dough bread recipe, speed seems to be what appeals to searchers:

Recommended reading: Search Intent: The Overlooked ‘Ranking Factor’ You Should Be Optimizing for in 2019

3. Write a data-driven outline

The average top-ranking page ranks for nearly 1,000 other relevant keywords in the top 10.

00 average number also rank for keywords2

00 average number also rank for keywords2

For that reason, it pays to know which other keywords the top-ranking pages also rank for when creating your outline—so you can rank for them too.

How can you find them?

Paste the URL of the top-ranking page into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, then go to the Organic keywords report. To weed out irrelevant keywords, filter for keywords where the page ranks in position ten or higher.

16 organic keywords position 10

16 organic keywords position 10

You’ll probably notice that many of these are synonyms or less popular ways to search for much the same thing, but some should give you insight into what searchers want to see from this page.  

For example, we see that the top-ranking page for “flatbread dough recipe” also ranks for things like “no yeast flatbread,” “quick flatbread pizza recipe,” “homemade flatbread”:

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.02.27

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.02.27

Note that you shouldn’t stuff these words and phrases into your post, but instead use them to iron out the angle of your content and create a rough outline.

For example, if we were writing a flatbread dough recipe, we’d probably want to mention speed in the intro, and we might want to have separate sections on making the flatbread with and without yeast.

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.05.07

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.05.07

If you don’t use Ahrefs, then you can do the same thing by looking at the top-ranking pages and using some common sense.

4. Write a draft

Good news: It’s finally time to put pen to paper and draft your post.

Because this doesn’t have much to do with SEO, we won’t dwell on this process too much. Just remember that the aim here isn’t to write a perfect draft right off the bat, but rather to turn your thoughts into something tangible to work with.

Screen Recording 2020 01 31 at 07.19 pm

Screen Recording 2020 01 31 at 07.19 pm

Here are a couple of tips for doing this as quickly as possible:

Write as you speak

Most of the best blog posts are written in an informal, conversational tone, so there’s no need to agonize over every word. Just write as you speak.

Don’t worry if it sounds silly; you can correct this in the next step.

Use the Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique is simple: you set a 25-minute timer, and a goal you want to achieve in that time.  

For drafting blog posts, a good goal is a certain number of words.

Most people type at around 40 words per minute, so that’s 1,000 words in 25 minutes. However, drafting a blog post is more mentally taxing than just typing, so let’s assume 30–40% efficiency, or 300–400 words every 25 minutes.

Take a short break after 25 minutes, then repeat.

Continue this process until you have a complete draft.

Sidenote.

Test your typing speed here. That way, you can set a more custom goal.

5. Edit your draft

Pulling readers into the flow of your content is important if you want them to stick around—which you do.

Not only is this good for conversions (which is ultimately the point of ranking), but it also has a positive impact on user engagement metrics like time on page, dwell time, and bounce rate, which some SEOs believe may indirectly influence rankings.

Here are three things to focus on:

Correct spelling and grammatical errors

Most word processors and writing apps have spell check built-in, so you don’t have to be a genius to get things right. Just right-click and choose the right spelling.

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.21.58

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.21.58

For grammar, run your draft through a tool called Grammarly. This will tell you about misplaced commas and sentences that don’t make sense.

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.22.49

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.22.49

Make sure it flows

If your content sounds unnatural or robotic, now is the time to rephrase.

Keep it simple

Most Americans read below an eighth-grade reading level. If you’re using complex sentences and words, that’s going to confuse readers, and they won’t hesitate to hit the back button.

Solve this by running your draft through Hemingway.

This is a free browser-based tool that helps you simplify your content using more straightforward sentences, paragraphs, and words.

17 hemingway

17 hemingway

Get feedback

Sure, it’s soul-crushing to hear that your content isn’t quite up to scratch. But the truth is that the opinion of others can help improve things exponentially.

Send your draft to a friend, tell them to be honest, iron out any creases.

ahrefs blog post comments

ahrefs blog post comments

6. Make your content visually appealing

Nobody likes reading a wall of text. If you’ve written more than a few sentences, then you should work to break up the copy.

The most obvious way to do this is with images.

They don’t have to be anything special. You’ll notice that a lot of our posts on the Ahrefs Blog include annotated screenshots like this one:

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.42.56

Not only does this make things easier to skim, but it also helps to demonstrate what we’re trying to explain.

You can also use videos to do this:

Screenshot 2020 01 31 at 19.43.47

Many studies show that visuals help people understand and comprehend content, so including useful images and videos can improve user satisfaction—which we know is important to Google.

Including images and videos can also help your content rank in Google’s image and video tabs.

Don’t overlook this. We’ve had over 5,500 visits from Google Images in the past three months…

18 image clicks

18 image clicks

… and 32,000 from video results:

19 video clicks

19 video clicks

But images and videos don’t always make sense. So another thing you can do is break lengthy chunks of text into subsections using H2-H6 headers.

7. Write a compelling meta title and description

Search engines see more than just the text on the page. They look at metadata in the page’s code to learn more about your content.

The two more important pieces of metadata are your meta title and description. Both of these show up in Google’s search results, and they’re effectively your sales pitch to searchers. Use them to explain why they should click and read your post.

title and description

title and description

Sidenote.

 Google sometimes rewrites these two things, so what you set isn’t always what shows up in the SERP. But it’s still best to set them.

This is another place it’s useful to match search intent.

Whatever searchers value, pitch it in your title tag. Just make sure it’s still an accurate description of your content. Do the same with your meta description.

This will entice more clicks on your page in the search results, which leads to more traffic.

Some SEOs believe that clickthrough rate also impacts rankings, but Google says this isn’t the case because the metric is too noisy.

Either way. SEO is not just about rankings, but also getting clicks from searchers.

8. Upload your post

Nothing to do with SEO, but here’s a tip to save you some serious time if you use WordPress: Write your content in Google Docs and upload it with Wordable.

It takes just one click to send your content—complete with images—to WordPress. It’s ready for publishing in seconds.

wordable

wordable

This is what we use to upload every post to the Ahrefs Blog.

Is “content” enough to rank?

Google tells us that the two most important ranking factors are content and links.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8VnZCcl9J4&feature=youtu.be&t=1820

So, while creating perfectly optimized content is often enough to rank for less competitive topics, links are still important for those harder topics that a lot of brands want to rank for.

But here’s the thing: content and links are somewhat intertwined.

In other words, nobody wants to link to poor or mediocre content; they link to content that’s valuable for their visitors.

While link building is a separate—and complex—topic of its own, there are ways to use your content to improve your ability to win links.

1. Make it the go-to resource on a topic

Pull this off, and people are more likely to link to your guide over others.

We did this with our guide to Google search operators, which has attracted backlinks from over 560 websites:

20 referring domains google search operators

20 referring domains google search operators

2. Include unique data

Having unique data means people have to cite you as the source when quoting that data.

This is why our studies usually get tons of links:

21 referring domains studies

21 referring domains studies

3. Make it as accessible as possible

People aren’t going to link to something they find confusing or difficult to read. (This is another reason why step #6 is so important).

Final thoughts

Following a proven SEO framework to write content makes sense, and it certainly improves your chances of ranking. But it’s important to remember that things don’t always work out, even if you do everything “right.”

Just look at traffic to our post on influencer marketing:

22 influencer marketing no traffic

22 influencer marketing no traffic

It’s a proven topic, the post aligns with search intent, and it covers the topic comprehensively… yet it doesn’t even rank in the top 100.

If this happens, it’s not the end of the world. Just rewrite and republish the content and try again.

We did this with our guide to driving more traffic to your website, and traffic and rankings went through the roof:

23 more organic traffic rewrite

23 more organic traffic rewrite

You can also rewrite content when traffic starts to drop.

This is what we did with our list of top Google searches:

24 google searches rewrite

24 google searches rewrite

Did we miss anything important in this guide? Give me a shout on Twitter.


17 Actionable Content Marketing Tips

This is a list of actionable content marketing tips.

In fact, these same strategies helped grow my blog to 304,265 monthly visits:

Backlinko – Monthly visits

So if you want more traffic from every blog post that you publish, you’ll love this list of tips, techniques and strategies.

Let’s get started.

1. Publish “X vs. Y” Posts

“X vs. Y” posts are posts like:

  • “Convertkit vs. MailChimp”
  • “Paleo vs. Keto”
  • “UberEats vs. Postmates”

And “X vs. Y” posts are a GREAT way to get more traffic to your site.

Why?

First, X vs. Y keywords don’t have a lot of SEO competition.

For example, I recently published a post optimized around the keyword “Ahrefs vs. SEMRush”.

Backlinko – Ahrefs vs. SEMrush post

Sure enough, that page rocked to the top of Google within a few weeks.

SERP for Ahrefs vs. SEMrush

Second, people that search for “X vs. Y” keywords tend to be pretty advanced.

Think about it this way:

Somebody searching for “Ahrefs vs. SEMRush” already knows about SEO. They’re just looking for the best tool.

Which is why CPCs on “X vs. Y” keywords tend to be super high.

Aweber vs. Mailchimp – CPC

This is an EASY way to get more replies to your outreach emails.

All you need to do is add links to your social profiles in your signature.

Add links to your social profiles in your signature

Seriously. That’s it.

And there’s data to back this up.

When we teamed up with Pitchbox to analyze over 10 million outreach emails, we discovered that social profile links increased response rates by up to 23.4%.

Linking to Social Profiles May Slightly Improve Outreach Response Rates

Our data also showed that adding a link to your Instagram profile seems to make the biggest difference.

Links To Instagram, LinkedIn And Twitter May Lead To More Outreach Replies

Which leads us to…

3. Use The Animalz Revive Tool

I boosted my organic traffic by 260% simply by updating and relaunching an old post.

Organic traffic boost for White Hat SEO

Question is:

How do you know which posts to work on first?

Enter: The (free) Animalz Revive tool.

Animalz revive tool

This tool uses your Google Analytics to find pages with the biggest traffic drop.

Animalz revive – Advice

When you find a page that’s dropping, you have two options:

You can revamp and relaunch the post like it’s brand new.

For example, we update and relaunch our “Guide to SEO This Year” every November.

Backlinko – SEO This Year post

Or, you can quietly update your content. In fact, last year we gave our guest posting guide a much-needed update.

Backlinko – The Definitive Guide to Guest Blogging

And that single update boosted search engine traffic to that page by 17.68%.

Search traffic boost for guest blogging guide

4. Try The PBC Formula

Your blog post introductions are HUGE.

After all, they’re the first thing people see when they land on your post.

Unfortunately, most blog post intros are way too long.

Long post intro

Well, I recently developed a short blog post intro formula that works GREAT.

I call it: “The PBC Formula”.

The PBC Formula

Here’s the full breakdown.

First, you quickly Preview what your post is all about.

Blog post intro – Preview

Then, you list out a bunch of Benefits that someone will get from reading your post.

Blog post intro – Benefits

Finally, cap things off with a Call-To-Action.

Blog post intro – CTA

That’s all there is to it.

5. Publish “Power Posts”

When we joined forces with BuzzSumo to analyze nearly 1 billion articles, one finding stood out:

A very small number of “Power Posts” drive the majority of social sharing online.

Power Posts

Our data showed that 1.3% of the articles published are responsible for 50% of social media shares.

I call these high-performing articles “Power Posts”.

To be clear:

There’s no formula for creating content that will get shared like crazy.

(If there was, everyone would do it 😀 )

But when you publish epic Power Posts you increase the odds that people will share your stuff.

For example, we recently published a Power Post called: “How to Write a Blog Post: The Definitive Guide”.

Backlinko – Write a Blog Post Guide

This single post took 50 hours of work.

  • 20 hours to write the post
  • 15 hours to design illustrations and visuals
  • 10 hours to take and edit screenshots
  • 5 hours to code and assemble the page

But in the end, that hard work paid off.

Our Power Post brought in 10,555 visitors in the first week alone.

Write a Blog Post – First week visitors

And a good chunk of those visitors were from all the shares we got on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Write a Blog Post Guide – Shares

In fact, that single page has 5369 total social shares.

Write a Blog Post Guide – Social shares

Let’s face it:

Most topics are SUPER competitive.

For example, take a super niche keyword like “seo site check up”.

According to Ahrefs, this keyword only gets 90 searches per month.

Ahrefs – "seo site check up" search volume

And it has a keyword difficulty score of 86.

Ahrefs – "seo site check up" – Keyword Difficulty

It’s the same story with most topics nowadays.

By the time you write an article about something, there are already hundreds (or even thousands) of posts out there on that topic.

What’s the solution?

Write about trending topics.

Trending topics are popular topics that aren’t super competitive (yet).

And if you want to find trending topics, I recommend checking out a free tool called ExplodingTopics.com.

Exploding Topics – Homepage

This tool lists out topics that are growing fast in 29 different categories.

Exploding Topics – Keyword overview

That way, you can pounce on these topics before they really take off.

7. Include Native Content With Social Shares

“Share your content on social media” used to be a useful content marketing tip.

Not anymore.

Today, most social media algorithms (like Facebook) bury posts that send users off of their platform.

Social Media Algorithms Prefer Native Content

While there’s no way to totally get around this, I recently found a little loophole that does help:

Post native content with your link.

For example, my social media posts used to just be my blog post title and a link.

Social share with link only

And these posts would get BURIED.

Today, I write a little bit of native content to go along with the post.

This native content gives social media algorithms what it wants (original content and engagement).

And once the post starts to spread around the platform, you get what you want (more traffic to your post).

For example, this LinkedIn post got over 41k views.

LinkedIn post views

And that’s mostly due to the fact that the post wasn’t just a link to my site.

My post had a little bit of valuable content to go along with my link.

Valuable content in LinkedIn post

8. Use Padlock Posts

You may have noticed these greyed-out posts in the Backlinko blog feed.

Padlock post on Backlinko

Internally, we call these “Padlock Posts”.

They’re basically normal blog posts that only Backlinko email subscribers can get access to.

And when someone clicks on a Padlock Post, a little popup appears that asks for their email.

And while it’s still early, these seem to be working REALLY well.

In fact, this Padlock Post has brought in 1,614 email subscribers so far.

Padlock post – Email subscribers

Not bad.

9. Include a Keyword in Your URL

Keyword-rich URLs aren’t just for on-page SEO.

(Although they definitely help with that too).

As it turns out, including a keyword in your URL can increase your organic click-through-rate by up to 45%.

Keyword-Rich URLs Correlate With A Higher Organic Click Through Rate

I should point something out:

Your URL doesn’t have to be a 1:1 match for the keyword someone’s searching for.

As long as the text in your URL is similar to the keyword, you’ll usually get a nice CTR boost.

Our method for seeing if keyword-rich URLs positively impacted CTR

For example, a few months ago I published a post called: “17 Ways to Improve SEO Rankings”.

Backlinko – Improve Your SEO post

My target keyword for that post is: “Improve SEO Rankings”.

Improve SEO Rankings – Keyword in title

Even though my URL doesn’t contain that exact term, it’s close enough.

Improve Your SEO – Keyword in URL

10. Add More Cuts to Your Video Content

People want videos that move FAST.

This is something that I struggled with when I first started shooting videos.

I wanted my videos to look “natural”. So I filmed entire YouTube videos with only one or two cuts.

And this made my videos move SUPER slow. My videos were full of “umms”, “aaahs” and “you knows” that slowed things down.

Today, my videos have 80-100 cuts each.

That way, each video moves along at a super rapid pace.

Which helps my Audience Retention stay nice and high.

YouTube video audience retention

11. Write Longer Headlines

Want to get more social shares from your content?

Try writing longer headlines.

The BuzzSumo study I mentioned earlier found that longer headlines are strongly correlated with high levels of social sharing.

This was true when we measured headline length in terms of word count:

Long Headlines Are Correlated With Increased Social Sharing

And character count:

Long Headlines (80+ Characters) Are Correlated With More Social Shares

We actually found that long headlines generate an average of 76% more shares vs. short headlines.

For example, this headline from one of our posts is 15 words.

Page Speed Stats post – Headline

Which may have helped that post rack up 2036 shares.

Page Speed Stats post – Social shares

12. Optimize Around Untapped Keywords

Most keyword research tools have the same problem:

They show everyone the exact same set of keywords!

What if there was a way to find untapped keywords that your competitors haven’t found yet?

Well, there is.

Here’s how to do it:

First, log in to the Google Keyword Planner.

Then, click on the “Start With a Website” tab.

Keyword Planner – Start with a website

And enter a competitor’s homepage…

Keyword Planner – Enter website

…or a blog post.

Keyword Planner – Enter blog post

And the tool will scan the page for keyword ideas

Ideas that most people don’t see.

Keyword Planner – Keyword ideas

Very cool.

13. Use Blog Post Templates

Templates can REALLY help you scale up your content marketing.

For example, whenever I start on a new post, I don’t open up a blank Google Doc.

Instead, I work from one of our proven blog post templates.

For example, when I sit down to write a case study, I use this PDF workbook to help me get the important parts on paper.

Case study PDF worksheet

Then, I transfer that to a Google Doc and start writing.

In fact, working from a set of templates has helped us scale up our publishing schedule. We used to publish a new post once a month. Now, we publish a new post every 2 weeks.

14. Use Emotional Titles

According to our analysis of 5 million Google search results, titles that pack an emotional punch get more clicks.

Emotional Titles Have A Higher Organic Click Through Rate

That said:

It’s possible for your titles to be TOO emotional.

That same study found that headlines with “Power Words” had a lower CTR.

Power Words In Title Tags Were Correlated With Lower Click Through Rate

So I recommend using titles that have some emotional sentiment. But if you go overboard, your CTR can start to suffer.

For example, this title is emotional. But it’s not “clickbaity”.

NerdFitness – Emotional headline

15. Optimize Around Brand Keywords

“Brand Keywords” are just like they sound:

They’re keywords optimized around brands and products.

Here’s an example of one of our posts that’s optimized around a Brand Keyword.

Backlinko – BuzzSumo Guide

So: why optimize your blog content around Brand Keywords?

Because they’re usually NOT competitive.

For example, take a keyword like “BuzzSumo”.

According to Ahrefs, that keyword gets 49K searches per month. And it has a decent CPC too.

Ahrefs – BuzzSumo – Search Volume and CPC

Despite those impressive numbers, the keyword difficulty on this term is only 13.

Ahrefs – BuzzSumo – Keyword Difficulty

The downside of Brand Keywords is that you’ll never rank #1 in Google for that term.

And depending on the SERPs for that brand keyword, you may not be able to crack the top 3.

For example, we published this guide to the Google Search Console last year.

Backlinko – Google Search Console Guide

And considering that the top 5 results are all Google.com pages, #6 is about as high as this page will ever rank.

Even so, that post still brings in 1,126 visitors per month from Google.

Google Search Console Guide – Monthly visitors

16. Tell Relatable Stories in YouTube Videos

One of the powerful things about YouTube is that it’s a very personal medium.

Unlike a blog post, someone is actually watching YOU deliver your message.

Which makes it the perfect place to take your guard down. And reveal some personal tidbits about yourself.

For example, I try to include a 30-60 second little story in every single one of my YouTube videos.

Most of these stories share how I initially struggled with the topic that I’m covering in that video.

That way, I don’t come in like some know it all.

It shows that, like anyone, I had to learn things through trial and error.

As long as these stories are short and relate to your topic, you’ll find that your audience will appreciate them.

YouTube comment relating to a story

17. Write Compelling Meta Descriptions

No, Google doesn’t use the meta description tag to understand the content on your page.

But users use your description to figure out which result to click on.

Pages With A Meta Description Have A Higher Average CTR vs. Pages Without A Description

Now:

The copy in your meta tag will depend a lot on the page.

But here’s one template that tends to work well:

Meta Description Template Formula

And here’s an example of that template in action.

Meta description formula in action

Bonus #1: Reverse Engineer Your Competition

There’s a place for originality.

And creative thinking.

But there’s also a place for straight up copying what your competitors are doing.

And you don’t need their Google Analytics password to do it either.

In fact, there are a bunch of awesome content marketing tools that will show you what’s already working for someone else.

If your main focus is on link building, Detailed.com shows you where the top blogs in almost every niche get their links from.

Hubspot links from Detailed

And if you want to see a specific site’s most-shared content, BuzzSumo is the tool for you.

BuzzSumo – Backlinko, most shared content

Or maybe you want to see the pages on a site that bring in the most organic traffic. Well Ahrefs can hook you up with that info.

Ahrefs – Top pages by organic traffic

Bonus #2: Create Stats Pages

Stats Pages are a great way to build backlinks without needing to do a bunch of outreach.

Here’s why:

Stats Pages are optimized around “[Topic] + Stats” keywords.

And who tends to search for “[Topic] + Stats” keywords?

That’s right: bloggers and journalists!

And when they use one of your stats in their article, they’ll usually link back to your stats page.

For example, we published this list of email marketing stats a few months ago.

Backlinko – Email Marketing Stats post

And it quickly hit the first page for keywords that bloggers and journalists search for (like “email marketing statistics”).

SERP – Email Marketing Statistics

Which helped it pick up some solid links, like this one:

Email Marketing Stats – Backlink

Nice.

What Do You Think?

Now I’d like to turn things over to you:

Which content marketing tip from this list was your favorite?

Or maybe you have a tip that I didn’t cover here.

Either way, let me know and leave a comment below.


Six must-know international SEO tips to expand your businesses

The start of international expansion is an incredible milestone for any business, and gearing up to take your venture around the world will be one of the most exciting moments of your career. But just because your business is thriving at home doesn’t mean that it will be a success abroad. To achieve that, you’ll need to give attention to your international SEO strategy.

Achieving online visibility on an international scale can be tricky, particularly when you factor in differences in language, culture, and search habits. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach where one size fits all across all regions. However, you’ll be more than ready to tackle the challenges of international SEO once you’ve followed these six must-know tips, and should soon see your business soaring in search rankings across the globe.

1. Pick an effective domain strategy

A .com TLD is usually considered the cream of the crop when it comes to domains and the authority afforded to them by search engines. But this can be far too generic to attract international customers. Instead, your domain should clearly target your country of choice and show users around the world that your website is catered specifically to them.

A ccTLD, for example, cocacola.fr, is often popular because the country code immediately shows users and search engines what the target country is. However, if you have multiple localized versions of the website across a number of ccTLDs, search engines will treat these as separate entities, meaning each domain will need to build up backlinks and authority from scratch.

A subdirectory, like, nike.com/fr maintains all your pre-existing SEO efforts as you’re simply adding a localized folder to your current domain. However, this risks causing internal cannibalization if different international landing pages are optimized for the same keywords, such as a US subfolder and an Australian subfolder where the language is largely the same.

A subdomain (such as fr.airbnb.com) is often the default for CMS tools, but users are less likely to associate your site with their country as the country code comes first rather than last, meaning click-through-rates could take a hit.

All domain strategies have pros and cons, so it’s important to ascertain how each option would work for your business specifically. Matthew Finn, one of the SEO specialists at Go Up, highlights several points that could determine your international domain strategy decision. Budget obviously comes into play – ccTLDs can be particularly expensive – and your branding could be a factor too.

As they explain: “If your company has a logo which features your domain, or brand guidelines which stipulate talking about your business as YourBrand.com, then a ccTLD wouldn’t work.” You also need to consider possible limitations of your CMS and current domain. For instance, subdirectories and subdomains only work with an existing generic top-level domain like .com.

Look at the domain structures of competitors in your new target countries to see what Google favors. You might decide to use a combination of all three strategies to target different markets.

2. Conduct localized keyword research

You may feel like you have a good understanding of your current audience’s search habits, but these keywords may not be popular across the board. Conducting localized keyword research will help you judge the online queries likely to serve you best in each country.

This isn’t so difficult when you’re targeting other English speakers, though you still have to take slang and regional variations into account. For example, if you’re a shoe business going after an Australian audience, you would probably be better off targeting “thong” rather than “flip flop” keywords. This is especially relevant to voice search.

Of course, things become more complicated when dealing with entirely different languages. You may not understand the words themselves and also need to consider how cultural context can impact intent. Findings from Webcertain showed significant differences between the search habits of US and Chinese users. Roughly 60% of US searches about chairs related to style and shape, yet only 20% of Chinese searches had the same intent. In fact, 5% more Chinese searches were action-based – what to do with the chair. Culture can hugely influence how people formulate their online queries and you can’t ignore this factor when choosing location-specific keywords.

3. Don’t assume one language means one culture

One size does not fit all when it comes to international expansion, especially considering the diversity of languages. There are many differences in Standard Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, while there are plenty of Spanish variations spoken across North America, South America, and the Caribbean, let alone the many regional dialects in Spain itself. You may think that translating your website into a “standard” language will enable you to connect with all relevant markets, but you risk alienating millions of potential customers if you don’t tailor your content to each target location.

First of all, remember that idioms or colloquialisms may make sense in one place but not in another, even if the same language is spoken. If an Ireland-based furniture business used the word “press”, it’s highly unlikely any English-speakers outside the country would realize this referred to a kitchen cupboard. Similarly, some words, images, and practices are accepted in one place but offensive in another. Though Arabic is the official language of both Morocco and Saudi Arabia, references to alcohol would only be permissible when targeting the former as drinking is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. You also need to use the correct measurements, currencies, and other details, which may vary from country to country regardless of language. French-speaking Canadians would be puzzled to see prices in euros rather than Canadian Dollars.

Errors like this could deter users and damage a business’s trust, authority, and click-through-rate. Therefore, it would be a huge mistake to focus on accurate translations without considering the unique historical and cultural factors making every place unique. Consulting people familiar with the nuances of each target location will ensure your content is suitable for all the potential customers living there.

4. Think beyond Google

Google is normally the holy grail when it comes to all SEO efforts, but there may be other search engines to prioritize during international expansion. The majority of users in China and Russia, two of the largest markets in the world, direct the majority of their online queries to entirely different platforms, so focusing on Google alone could be detrimental to your visibility and profits.

In Russia, the leading search engine is Yandex which holds 56% of the market share. This success has been put down to the search engine’s deeper understanding of Slavic languages. Meanwhile, Google has been blocked in China under the country’s Internet censorship policy. Most Chinese users conduct their online searches through Baidu, which held between 60 to 77% of the search engine market share in China during 2019.

You can’t afford to ignore alternative search engines when targeting markets like these, and it’s also important to recognize each has its own unique algorithms. There will be some similarities—for example, Google, Yandex and Baidu all reward quality content – but you’ll need to be aware of the differences. Indexing can be very slow for both Yandex and Baidu which means it will take longer to see the benefits of your efforts, so long-term results should be the priority. Paid search is crucial to Baidu, as paid results are given much greater precedence than organic results. Meanwhile, Yandex still values meta keywords – a metric that Google removed from its ranking algorithm some time ago.

5. Implement hreflang tags

Hreflang tags signpost which languages and locations your pages are aimed at, helping Google to understand which version of a page is most appropriate for its users. For example, if someone in Paris typed in a search term relevant to your product page, the hreflang tag signals to Google that the French version of the page should appear in search results.

To target users as accurately as possible, you should include hreflang tags for both language and region. For instance, an ‘en’ tag shows Google that your page is for all English speakers, but you could also add tags to emphasize the specific geographic locations you’re targeting, en-ca for English speakers in Canada and en-us for English speakers in the US. It’s crucial you use the correct codes—for instance, the UK is ‘gb’ rather than ‘uk’—and a hreflang tag generator like Aleda Solis’ SEO tools recommended by Moz that could help minimize mistakes.

6. Start localized link building

Just as with any domestic SEO strategy, links are essential in building the authority of your website within a target locale. To elevate your brand in local search, it’s vital to source links from local platforms within your industry. The more hyperlocal, the better. For example, if you’re opening a new hotel in Berlin, links from travel platforms in the German capital will be more valuable than those in Munich or Hamburg.

Seek out journalistic opportunities and serve as a source of expertise, guest post on influential sites within a region, and use social channels to build connections with local influencers and businesses. It’s also recommended that you use a translator or someone accustomed to the language and customs of a target region to handle the outreach. The more you extend your brand in a target market, the more you will be rewarded with high authority backlinks.

Edward Coram James is an SEO professional and the Chief Executive of Go Up Ltd, an international agency dedicated to helping its clients navigate the complexities of global SEO and the technical aspects of delivering location-specific pages to targeted audiences.

The post Six must-know international SEO tips to expand your businesses appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


Yoast SEO 13.1: Schema.org structured data enhancements

Yoast SEO 13.1 and WooCommerce SEO 12.6 are out today! In these two updated SEO plugins, you’ll find several fixes and enhancements, mostly focused at improving our Schema.org structured data implementation. In this post, you can learn more about the latest versions of Yoast SEO and WooCommerce SEO.

Yoast SEO 13.1

Back in Yoast SEO 11.0, we launched an innovative and expansive Schema.org implementation for Yoast SEO. For the first time ever, we can build a complete graph for a site and present it to a search engine on a silver platter. In subsequent releases, we fine-tuned the structured data implementation and we are continuously making improvements. You can find more technical detail on our implementation on Schema.org markup documentation.

In Yoast SEO 13.1, we’ve fixed a number of bugs and added a couple of enhancements in our Schema.org implementation. For one, we now set the Schema HowTo name and Article headline to the post title with a fallback to “No title”. In addition, we’ve added the inLanguage property to the Schema CreativeWork pieces. We try to determine the language of a specific piece of content in various ways, including the WordPress site language settings. This paves the way to handle a form of internationalization using Schema.org structured data.

WooCommerce SEO 12.6

Today, we’re also releasing WooCommerce SEO 12.6. This time, we’ve fixed a number of bugs and enhanced the Schema.org implementation. In WooCommerce SEO 12.5, we added the possibility to add a product identifier to your product, which makes it possible to output that number in the product Schema.org. In the 12.6 release, we’ve added some explanatory copy above the input fields for GTIN, ISBN et cetera to make this feature a little clearer.

At the end of this week, we’ll be raising the price of the Yoast WooCommerce SEO plugin. Are you serious about selling online? Get it today for only $49! That’ll save you some serious $$$. Don’t miss this chance…

Another enhancement to the structured data powers is the possibility to choose if you want to display the price in Schema.org structured data and OpenGraph with tax included. Simply check the box for the setting and you’re good to go.

WooCommerce SEO now lets you choose between tax or no tax for output in structured data

For bug fixes, we fixed a bug where the internal linking and additional keyphrase functionality went missing from the product edit page. Also, we fixed a bug where the meta description and Twitter and Facebook description could still contain HTML tags and redundant spaces.

Update your plugins

That’s it for today’s releases! We’ve enhanced both Yoast SEO and WooCommerce SEO, while also fixing a number of bugs. Please review the changes and update the plugins at your convenience. Thanks for using Yoast SEO!

The post Yoast SEO 13.1: Schema.org structured data enhancements appeared first on Yoast.