Displaying items by tag: SEO
It is no secret that link building is one of the most challenging, yet most vital tactics in search engine optimization. Google holds such high regard for high-quality backlinks, because they are the best indicators of whether or not your website is authoritative in the space.
Through basic crowdsourcing, Google can use website data (number of links pointing toward your website) to determine the viability and relevance of your website on certain topics.
So why is link building so difficult?
Over the years, SEOs from all over the world have been able to manipulate Google’s algorithm through black-hat link building tactics like link farms and link buying. In response, Google has determined what patterns are a result of such tactics and severely punish websites who continue to use these methods.
As a result, websites must now be creative with how they utilize different strategies that result in a higher volume of backlinks naturally. There are several things to consider, however, when executing link building strategies, including:
- The difference between unique referring domains and backlinks
- The importance of link flow
- The influence of digital PR
You may also be interested in: Social proof and testimonials! As a sales engine
Focus on unique referring domains
When you are approaching link building, it can be tempting for your team to chase after as many backlinks as possible, regardless of where they come from. That may be beneficial for the first few links; however, after a while, you will start to see diminishing returns.
The reason why the crowdsourcing analogy is so helpful to explain this is simple: the more that authoritative websites approve of your website’s content, the more Google will recognize your website as authoritative as well.
If you continue to receive backlinks from the same website over and over, Google may think that you are participating in questionable techniques, and you may be impacted negatively.
By having a goal of increasing unique referring domains, you naturally go after links from a variety of websites rather, minimizing your risk in getting negatively affected by Google’s algorithm.
With that being said, there are plenty of websites that use content aggregation methods, like Databox, where you can easily obtain a link. You will not ruin your authority by submitting content through their website because:
Databox is an extremely reputable source of content.
- The number of links that you get in return from them are not high enough for Google to flag them as an issue.
- The best advice I can give is to additionally seek other unique link building partners to improve your overall authority even further.
You may also be interested in: Learn how to create an email list from scratch (a step-by-step guide)
Why link flow is critical
Link flow is defined as the rate at which new backlinks are flowing into your website. To understand why link flow is important, you must grasp Google’s E-A-T guidelines. E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
To determine authoritativeness and trustworthiness in your industry, create new content that gains high volumes of quality links. This continuous flow of content and links shows Google that:
- You are active in your industry and community.
- Other authoritative websites are still cosigning your authority.
A slow link flow can indicate lost relevance or trustworthiness in your industry or on the internet as a whole. Continue to create relevant content and actively engage your audience in an ongoing attempt to gain quality backlinks. Quality over quantity is the key.
Influence of digital PR
Digital PR (public relations) is a pillar of digital marketing that focuses on media relations, thought leadership, and relationship marketing. While link building is not the primary (or even secondary) goal of digital PR, it can be a pivotal link building tool.
One of the main focuses of digital PR is brand awareness, which can include outreach to relevant podcasts for a company representative to be a guest or pitching the digital media to cover a new company story. Most of the time, when you, your company, or a subject matter expert at your company is featured on a podcast, is at an event, or is in the media, the website will link back to your website.
These tactics do not directly affect your SEO goals, but if your website starts gaining backlinks from highly authoritative websites, your ability to rank for more challenging keywords will improve significantly.
It is crucial to have your PR team and web strategy team work hand-in-hand on digital initiatives. For an effective digital PR strategy, you need:
- A designer to create infographics or other marketing materials
- A dedicated outreach strategist who is the face of the PR team
- A web strategist who works hand-in-hand with a link building lens
Some creative teamwork can help improve your digital outcomes drastically.
3 tactics to try on
Because link building can take a large portion of your time, think of creative ideas that are simple to execute on and powerful enough that your return will be worth it.
I have broken down three data-backed link building tactics that have proven continuously to grow brand authority.
Think about all of the blogs, newsletters, or podcasts that you consistently read, listen to, and refer to on a daily basis. For marketing blogs, it’s Marketo, G2, and SEMrush. For general business blogs, it’s Mashable, Business Insider, and Forbes. In tech, it’s TechCrunch, Gizmodo, and ReadWrite.
There is a reason as to why you keep returning to these blogs. Why? They are known to publish content representing high-quality, their content is data-driven, and their pieces are written by experts in their respective industries.
Not only do people constantly refer to them verbally; they backlink to these sites as well.
Business Insider ranks with an Ahrefs rank of 242 (out of the entire Ahrefs database), with over 114M backlinks from over 458K websites.
TechCrunch ranks with an Ahrefs rank of 294, with other 73.1M backlinks from over 319K websites.
Depending on the industry your company is in, these thought leaders differ vastly. However, one feature is very much consistent: good authoritative content generates a high volume of backlinks with the right audience. It’s not rocket science.
Some companies create reports that cover multiple verticals or sub-verticals. For example, for digital marketing that would be content, social media, SEO, email, advertising, web strategy, and market research. They create unique infographics for each research report and make them highly shareable, with little to no friction.
- By putting out the annual report, they generate thousands of backlinks from many websites, in addition to generating unique referring domains.
- By creating a report that is widely respected and referenced in your industry, you can generate a large amount of SEO value, in the form of authority, to your website.
Guest posting (or guest blogging) is the process of sharing content with or writing content for another website, with the hopes of gaining a backlink in return. Companies utilize guest posting strategies to produce high-quality content on authoritative publications throughout their industry. Guest posting can also improve companies’ organic reach through SEO, social media, and more. Overall, it helps your brand be more visible and shows that other companies trust you to share your expertise as well. Think about it, they trust you enough to share content on their own website.
In return, the writer typically includes a useful link back to their website to further authoritative value. Depending on the company you write for, they may reserve the right to remove that link whenever they please. If you haven’t already written the content for them, you might have to burden that risk.
Regardless, guest posting can be helpful in your digital PR efforts and improve brand awareness to audiences that you previously have not had access to. You may gain a link directly from that website, and you also might indirectly gain backlinks from the subsequent readers of their website and blog.
Directive utilizes guest posting as one of their main drivers of referring domain growth (as seen below).
Link building is, and always will be, one of the more influential ranking factors in search marketing. Google continues to view quality backlinks in high regard and will continue to crack down on inorganic link building schemes that “trick” their algorithm.
Building audiences who continuously consume your content will, at the least, slowly link back to your website. Creating relevant and unique content will organically build links to your website. Creating professional relationships with other websites in the same space and sharing content will continue to build links for your website.
There are other simple link building techniques such as broken link building and brand mention outreach; however, these should not be the centerpiece of your link building strategy.
Understanding the power of the basics of relationship and content marketing will prove to help you out more than anything else. Take advantage of the relationships you have set, and focus on creating more down the road. Continue to provide value to your target audience and to partners you work with, and link building will be smooth sailing from here on out.
As marketers plan their content marketing strategy for 2020, SEO is top-of-mind — or at least it should be! For advanced marketers it looks something like this: you have an SEO plan and best practices in place, you have your list of premium keywords, you’re actively blogging and your website is optimized. You have an on-page and off-page plan. Your monitors are covered with dashboards from Google Analytics, an SEO ranking tool like ahrefs, Moz or SEMrush, reports from your CMS or marketing automation tool, and a few Google sheets keep your results organized to monitor your search engine rank positions.
For most marketers the process is not as complex. Time is an issue and weekly tracking makes you guess, second guess, pray, cross your fingers, and read a few blogs to get the latest SEO tips, tricks and trends. You need to increase leads and high quality website visits. Your content marketing plan needs help. And you’re sick of seeing your competitor’s name above yours when you search your best keywords on Google. Sound about right?
If you’re struggling to get to page one on Google or working tirelessly to stay there, you’re not alone. Very few businesses have an easy time achieving and keeping page one rankings, there are only ten spots after all. And with the addition of Google's longer meta description snippets, featured snippets, knowledge panels, image packs, videos, local packs and more, you've got your SEO hands full! If you’re one of the 99-percenters who struggle to get to or stay on page one — take these actionable steps, and let organic SEO take its course.
1. Understand SEO in its simplest form.
Strip out all the SEO tactics and think about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and more importantly, why Google is doing what it’s doing.
When you search online, you’re seeking an accurate answer, item, detail, date, image, address, or definition. And you expect your answer in a split second. Sometimes you want Google to read your mind. Your prospects want this too. Google delivers this and it’s pretty good at it. Think about it — if Google served up ten links that didn’t provide what you’re looking for, you’d take your business elsewhere. This is the simple psychology behind user experience on SERPs. Google is looking to you to provide the data your prospects are looking for. If you provide it and you do it better than anyone else, your data and content will be promoted to a better position.
First step: Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Run a search query on Google using your best keywords and most common questions. Make a note of who’s on the first page. Do you see the same organizations showing up in these prime spots? Make a note of any direct competitors who are claiming top rankings. It’s important to understand what your prospects are experiencing.
Quick trick: Take three minutes to listen to Matt Cutts explain what happens when you do a web search. This video is dated, but most of the material is still relevant today. Join the 2.5 million viewers who invested three minutes.
Advanced tactic: Take a deep dive into how search engines work. Get an inside view of how Google determines its ranking and algorithm changes directly from Google pros, Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst & Paul Haahr, Software Engineer. Watch time: 30 well-spent minutes.
2. Listen to how your customers speak, then speak their language.
Understand what questions they’re asking, how they’re asking, what their needs are, and what keeps them up at night. Your company is already solving their problems and fulfilling their needs or you wouldn’t be in business, right? Translate this on your website.
First step: Understand your customer and prospect needs, start a list. This is an essential step. You can’t focus on improving rankings if you don’t understand what your prospects and customers are looking for. Then, transfer this knowledge to your website. Translate the products and services that make your business a success in a clear format using the natural language understood by your industry. Become a resource for your clients and Google will reward you.
Quick trick: To find out what the most popular search terms are, type your keywords and prospect questions into Google’s search bar. Google will show you a list of related searches. Use these terms to update your copy and inform blog topics. Free and easy!
Advanced tactic: Use one of the top SEO tools to research keyword alternatives and search volume. At Stream Creative, our favorites are Moz and SEMrush, both offer free trials. Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a great place to start. You’ll get keyword suggestions and monthly search volume. Select a mix of the most searched terms to use within your copy. Remember to do so in a natural voice — this will make content consumable and shareable, while keeping Google happy at the same time.
3. Provide insanely useful content.
Content means more than just your blog. Content covers video, articles, webinars, live chat, lists, how-to guides, and much more. Content should be provided on your site and across the web on channels where your prospects hang out. Use different content types to answer your client questions and understand their obtacles and provide solutions.
According to Ann Handley, “...be sure you know the purpose or mission or objective of every piece of content that you write. What are you trying to achieve? What information, exactly, are you trying to communicate? And why should your audience care?” Provide answers. Be helpful. Solve their problems. Make your content relevant and rich. And when possible provide narrowed, niched content. Ensure your content has sharing value and gives your highest quality visitors what they’re asking for.
First step: Seek out the thought leaders in your company and make friends with them. You might find them in the executive suite, in a biz dev cube, working remotely, in the lab or in the manufacturing plant. If they have answers to your hottest industry questions, sit down with them, ask them the questions, record their answers and turn it into a post. This is about progress not perfection. Get the information out there. Remember it’s digital so you can always revisit and refine.
Those who know me best know I'm a Rand Fishkin fanatic. In a Whiteboard Friday that focuses on SEO best practices Rand says, "Have the most credible, amplifiable person or team available create content that's going to serve the searcher's goal and solve their task better than anyone else on page one."
Quick trick: Ask these internal thought leaders to forward their emails to you that show the types of questions they receive from prospects and customers, and their helpful responses. Use these to formulate new content.
Advanced tactic: Consider sharing your expertise through video. According to Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi, video is a top content format. And Mark Zuckerberg states, "...if you go back ten years ago on the internet, most of what people shared and consumed was text. Now a lot of it is photos. I think, going forward, a lot of it is going to be videos, getting richer and richer.” Take it to heart. With users accepting videos delivered in an every-day quality/natural presentation format, making video part of the plan is a reality for many marketers.
4. Give your website a check-up.
Look under the hood. If you don’t have your page titles, URLs, image tags (alt-tags), and meta descriptions (yes, they matter) in place, you’re doing your SEO a disservice. These on-page SEO factors affect your individual page rank in search results.
First step: Locate your most popular web pages in search results. Review your meta description and compare to competitors on the page. Does your title accurately describe the content of your page? Does your description encourage clicks? Consider upgrading your meta content using best practices.
Quick trick: Use HubSpot’s Marketing Grader to get a quick snapshot of your website. Marketing Grader will uncover on-site issues and advise on next steps.
Advanced tactic: Download and run ScreamingFrog on your site. This is a free tool that will scan up to 500 pages. If you have a larger site a paid version is available. This tool scans your website and shows what on-page data needs your attention.
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals.
5. Check out who’s linking back to you.
If no one is linking to you, why should Google? Backlinks (links from other sites back to yours) can be golden, especially if they’re from sites that Google respects. On the other hand, links that Google recognizes as blackhat (unscrupulous search engine optimization tactics) can negatively affect your search engine rankings. A research study by Moz shows that there’s a direct relationship between quality backlinks and Google search rankings. The higher the quality of your backlinks, the higher your search rankings. Watch this edition of Whiteboard Friday to learn how to build a good process for link acquisition:
Advanced tactic: Check out your competitors' backlinks. See who’s linking to them and explore backlink opportunities. And don't stop there - backlinking is just one tactic covered by off-page SEO.
Off-page SEO embodies all marketing techniques that happen outside of a website (i.e. off-page) with the potential to positively impact search engine rankings. “Link building” and exposure of your product/brand to relevant audiences are the two main building blocks of off-page SEO.
6. Get listed!
Company listings (called citations) on local, national and niche directory websites let Google and your prospects know where to find you. Consistent, authoritative, and up-to-date citations create more exposure for your business and improve Google rankings.
Doing business locally? SEO is critical to local business. Google serves results differently depending on your location. With the solid growth of mobile engagement, getting found means mobile searchers become your buyers. To positively affect Google rankings right in your hometown, there are a number of essential steps you can take to outrank your local competitors.
First step: Ensure your Google My Business profile is complete. Don’t just submit the minimum, take advantage of all the opportunities to promote your business through this profile. Google is looking for images, hours of operation, and more. Take the time to get this done!
Quick trick: Create a local landing page for each physical location for your organization. Remember to optimize the page with your city, state and zip/postal code.
Advanced tactic: Quality directory listings have an impact on your score and there are many quality directories waiting for your submission. Check out tools like BrightLocal and Yext to get listed on hundreds of recommended directories for a reasonable price.
7. Take care of business:
SSL certificate: Google wants everything on the web to be travelling over a secure channel (https). That’s why in the future your browser will flag unencrypted websites as unsecure. The good news is that this is a pretty easy fix! It only takes a few hours to get an SSL Certificate and get everything up and running on your site.
Page speed: Best-in-class webpages should load within 3 seconds. Any slower and visitors will abandon their journey to your site. Google uses this information in their algorithm. Use HubSpot’s Marketing Grader to check your page speed. if it’s loading slowly, check out this article for tips, then have a face-to-face with your tech lead.
8. Create less, promote more.
According to Salma Jafri (and I agree), “Spend 20% of your time creating. Spend the other 80% of your time expanding your reach in different formats and to more channels to reach a wider audience. See who it can help. Reach out to them. Share it on all your networks.” Don’t expect organic SEO to do all the heavy lifting. Let others know you have valuable content to share. Be creative in spreading the word. And remember, Google is watching.
First step: Make it easy for your visitors to share content by including social sharing icons on every post. In addition, make sure to include the most relevant social channels for your industry. Lastly, consistently post your content on your social channels. If you’re active in your social communities you’ll pick up a few shares. Thank people for sharing and always respond to comments.
Quick trick: Save time by using a social media management tool to manage posting for you. There are great free and paid versions - find a social media tool that works best for you. If you’re using a marketing automation tool like HubSpot or Act-On, you already have this covered.
Advanced tactic: Mobilize your internal team and ask them to share your content with their social networks. Your business development team should be excited to help spread the word. If they’re doing social right, they’re connected to the people who will eat up your posts and insights.
9. Track your progress.
Time to evaluate all your hard work. Tracking your progress will inform your SEO strategy and marketing tactics for ongoing strategy iterations. Remember to track with a purpose. Not every number matters. These metrics, or KPIs, should be based on your specific business goals. Here are a few of our favorite and most relevant metrics that point specifically to search engine optimization:
Tracking Quick Tip - Use Free Dashboards like this Google Search Console Basics one from Databox to track your progress. (We are a proud Databox partner and affiliate) The Search Console Basics dashboard reveals which pages are most visible on SERPs and which ones actually drive organic traffic.
Keyword rankings - Check your rankings for the premium keywords selected for your business as a whole and the specific keywords that you’re targeting with each blog topic. There are free options available like serpfox and paid keyword tracking tools like Rank Tracker from Moz. Word of caution — track only your most valuable keywords or you’ll get lost in the minutia.
Organic search traffic - this can be measured using Google Analytics or your CMS. HubSpot’s SEO tools make it easy to quickly track your organic search traffic with just a couple clicks.
Page visits (from organic search): Tracking your best converting website page visits is a key metric. Understanding which blog topics are most viewed will provide insights and direction for future blog posts and topics. Your audience may respond best to “how to” type posts, comparison posts (“Type A vs. Type B”), in-depth articles, lists, or short copy with images assisting in telling your story. To measure this, list your top pages, then note your monthly traffic. If you’re not seeing improvement month over month, revisit your SEO strategy and tune up the pages that are struggling to provide results.
Time on page - Clicks to your page are great but mean nothing if those visitors aren’t spending time on your page. Content engagement measured by average time on page is a key metric that can be measured using Google Analytics. If you want to get a deeper look into user behavior, check out HotJar’s recording tool.
Backlinks: Quality and quantity - backlinks are among the most important factors that affect your search engine rankings. Track the root domains linking back to your site. Tools like SEMrush Backlinks Checker, Moz Open Site Explorer, and MajesticSEO Bulk Backlink Checker allow you to input your domain in order to track the number of backlinks you’ve gained over a certain period of time. You should see an upward trend if you’re doing things right.
Visits: pages per session: This might not sound like an SEO metric, but ensuring that your content is on topic and relevant to your site should mean that visitors are interested in more than one page of your website. Adding internal links to your content will encourage your visitors to learn more and increase time on site! Use Google Analytics for this metric.
Returning users: For the same reason as pages per session, if your visitors aren’t returning then you’re either not providing relevant and useful content or you’re reaching the wrong audience. You’re getting clicks to your site, make sure you’re delivering on what visitors are craving so you become the authority they’re looking for.
Page load speed score: This is important to Google. They want to deliver quality. Your site needs to display quickly and appropriately. Check your speed score monthly with HubSpot’s free marketing grader.
Mobile bounce rate: Over 50% of web traffic coming from mobile devices. Make sure your pages load quickly and you're giving your visitors all the information they came for. Then, keep an eye on your mobile bounce rate to make sure you're not missing out on potential business.
Conversions: One of the most valuable SEO metrics. Increased conversions means your SEO strategy is working! You’re finding high quality visitors and delivering the right content that successfully encouraged them to take a next step.
Keyword rankings: Understanding which keywords are most relevant to your business, then keeping track of SERP rankings will let you know where you stand with the competition. Word of advice: track changes using a three-month rolling calendar. Focusing on week-to-week changes will (in most cases) cause unnecessary anxiety with the natural ebb and flow of search results.
Blog visits (from organic search): Understanding which blog topics are most viewed will provide insights and direction for future blog posts and topics. Your audience may respond best to “how to” type posts, comparison posts (“Type A vs. Type B”), in-depth articles, lists, or short copy with images assisting in telling your story.
Domain Authority and Page Authority. Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) are scores (on a 100-point scale) that predict how well a website will rank on search engines. These scores can be increased by improving overall SEO and providing excellent content. Tracking this score is easy with this free MozBar tool from Moz. Mark your baseline then check in on your score monthly, and compare to competitor websites. This score changes very slowly so be patient!
Social likes and shares: Like blog post views, your customers and prospects will let you know what they like by sharing it with their individual networks. You'll know you've selected the right topics and keywords to resonate with your audience. With this data you can be sure to give them more of what they want.
And if you’re ready to dive into deeper measurement, these metrics will help you knock it out with your CXOs:
ROI: Depending on the length of your sales cycle this number may take time to track, but it’s necessary. Evaluating which tactics are converting to marketing qualified leads, then to sales qualified leads, and on to customers is what it’s all about. Measuring results from specific tactics will help you improve the bottom line and make your CEO happy!
Customer Retention Rate: New customer acquisition costs more than retaining your current customers. And if you like your current customers, this is a metric for you! Not only does marketing have a role to play in customer retention, your job is much harder if you have to keep replacing the relationships previously solidified.
10. Don’t dawdle.
You don't have a plan for your business yet?