In addition, I’ll share an exciting development I discovered; a workaround to still use Keyword Planner like you used to.
Keyword Planner Workaround
This workaround will allow you to still use Keyword Planner without having to run an AdWords campaign (yes, you read that correctly – there’s a workaround that let’s you still use Keyword planner without inputting any billing information).
This was shared with me by one of my master keyword research customers, Andrew McWhaw.
But – since SEO’s can’t have nice things, and I would like for this to continue to work – I’m not going to share it publicly.
UPDATE: Reports are that the workaround has already been shutdown by Google.
Onto the other alternative tools you can use.
Free Keyword Tools (with account)
The following keyword tools are free to use, and deliver some real value – though some advanced features may require a paid account.
Not only will you need to create a free account to get any of the keyword data with this tool, but to unlock the real power here you’ll have to also verify your account either by phone or SMS (both automated) – but it’s still free. From there it may take 1 business day for them to manually verify your account – but again, it’s not that bad for free data.
Once in you’re limited to 10 results per query and 50 queries per month.
A free keyword idea generator that includes functionality for positive and negative filtering as well as an option to download essentially unlimited results. I also published a guide on how I’m going to rank for keyword tool.
Wonderful (pun intended) tool that scrapes Google for people also ask and people asl search for results, and then pulls back the average monthly search volume, average cost per click, and ad competitiveness, all of which can be selected as you desire and quickly (almost instantly) downloaded into a CSV.
It’s as free Chrome Extension that adds keyword search volume and CPC data right on the screen for other tools including Google Search Results pages, Google Analytics, UberSuggest, Soovle, Answer the Public, Keyword Shitter, Majestic anchors and MOZ’s Open Site Explorer.
Easily one of my favorite features of this tool is the list builder. This is functionality that TermExplorer’s latest version also has (but is paid only) and I find really useful for building targeted term and topic lists quickly.
Just an FYI – you’ll get a modal window asking you to create an account (still free) but you can close it by clicking the “no thank you” gray linked text at the bottom.
Another decent tool that you can dive right into, like keyword.io it also lets you build a list of saved keywords and export to CSV – my only gripe is the dataset is very limited – likely due to either 1) an smaller index overall or 2) a limited index for free users.
Paid Keyword Tools
The following keyword tools provide results in some limited form without payment, but provide pretty much no useful data for free. With that said, I’ve paid for each of these tools at some point in the past and did find them each to offer their own unique value.
What initially caught my attention about this tool was the individual scraped indexes from both YouTube, Amazon, and the AppStore – and while other tools now boast similar data, this is still my go to source for AppStore keyword research.
In addition, it has a built-in “questions” feature that’s wonderful for digging into TOFU topic content.
Wordtracker definitely has some cool features, my favorite of which is probably KEI. The only issue I have with the tool is the data seems to be sort of stale.. maybe it’s daily data they’re reporting on which is why all the volume estimates always seem low; but it’s not clear.. which is my only gripe.
If you’re an SEO Consultant (or work with one) maybe you struggle with things like:
charging project vs hourly
how much to charge
dealing with difficult clients
how to acquire clients and sell SEO
problems with “snake oil” SEO selling
how to stand out in the SEO industry
how to grow from a solo consultant into scaling an agency
Marie and I chatted about these struggles and much more on today’s show.
BuzzSumo – One of my favorite tools for coming up with content ideas, finding people who share content in an industry, and tons more (like alerts to keep an eye on your competitor’s links). Also, check out their new Question Analyzer Tool (formally Bloomberry – just launched within BuzzSumo!) Listen to the show for a special code to get 30% off BuzzSumo for 3 months.
Related Episodes You Might Like
Show Agenda and Timestamps
Show Introduction [0:19]
Marie’s introduction [1:23]
How Marie got into SEO [1:30]
Does Marie believe it is important that people associate her with Penguin and Panda? [5:23]
How to do SEO services well [6:44]
Is Marie trying to move beyond the perception of being the Penguin and Panda expert? [10:40]
Twitter Question: Client Aquisition and combatting the promise of #1 Google ranking spam emails [12:00]
Marie’s guest posting secret [15:55]
Dan’s optimizing LinkedIn profile advice [16:59]
Twitter Question: How do you talk about successes (or failures/learnings!) without breaching client confidentiality? [18:43]
BuzzSumo Sponsor Break with Discount Code [21:34]
How does Marie respond to people that say SEO is too expensive [22:27]
How does Marie feel about giving away things for free to land a client [29:20]
Twitter Question: Pros and Cons of consulting on an hourly basis versus retainers versus packages? [34:55]
How does Marie think about pricing the projects and packages? [36:47]
Does Marie increase prices for longterm clients? [38:40]
Twitter Question: Ideal ways to establish billing processes? [39:53]
Twitter Question: Any useful advice when you have completed your keyword research, the process of mapping tons of keywords into the content of a page for SEO 2018 best practice? [43:08]
Twitter Question: When you’re diving into a successful SEO project that’s already thriving, where is the BEST place to begin so that you add value and “do no harm”? [46:20]
Twitter Question: How to explain the amount of time spent on work and how different projects vary. [48:10]
Has there been an instance where Marie was unable to help a client recover from a penalty and how does she deal with charging for that work? [50:10]
Twitter Question: How much reporting is enough (or too much)? [52:50]
Twitter Question: Keeping your cool with some of the worst clients (and people) you’ll ever meet. [54:20]
When did Marie make her first hire and why did she decide to start hiring? [58:12]
Twitter Question: What to look for in staff hires and what does Marie’s interview process look like? [59:47]
Are their certain attributes Marie looks for in a potential new hire? [1:01:25]
Twitter Question: How to Scale Your Agency & Train New People [1:03:23]
How does Marie deliver work to clients? [1:05:12]
How much time do Marie and her team spending doing phone calls and meetings with clients? [1:07:54]
Twitter Question: What’s the best advice you can give to someone starting out? [1:08:52]
My team admittedly has a distinct advantage when it comes to link building and making connections. Our company has worked with bloggers in our niches (cooking and crafting) for years, making it easy for us to reach out often for a shout out or small promotion from our trusted blogger network. Surprisingly enough, however, this does not always lead to quality links.
In the past year, we have decided to dedicate a team to audience development. This team focuses on creating longform content, building reader relationships, and (of course) link building. Over the past year, our 35 websites have earned 707 links total from bloggers. 405 of those links were to our top websites. These are the links I examined for this article.
Links We Earned This Year
From January 1, 2017 until April 26, 2018, our editorial team has earned over 700 links to our websites and content that our bloggers told us about. My company manages 35 websites, meaning each site received around 10 to 20 links. For the purposes of this blog post I examined the incoming links to the 6 top sites. I looked at the first 300 of these links to see what our network was linking to and found the following:
Branded links, or links directly to the homepage, made up a bulk of these links at 29.14%
This was closely followed by project and recipe roundups or lists (23.71%). Working with a strong blogger base means this time-honored linking tradition is still going strong for us.
The other big chunk of these links were to the blogger’s own content on our site or their profiles (18.36%).
While a wide variety of content earned us links this year, we discovered three strategies that consistently brought in high-quality, long-standing links.
1. Appreciation and Best Of Posts – Earning Links from Your Network
Nearly 9% of all of the links we earned in 2017 and 2018 thus were to a handful of “best blogger” pages to our sites. These lists are not simply round ups of bloggers we like in the industry, but instead are round ups of bloggers we work with on a regular basis. These collections prominently feature our favorite video channels, collaborators, and more. Instead of reaching out for the first time, these pages leveraged our existing relationships. They promoted our friends and told their stories.
This content worked because it utilized pre-existing relationships with our contributors instead of just wishing for a link-for-a-link relationship with a stranger or new connection. We work closely with our blogger network and these posts were initially designed as a thank you and a shot out. Since this content was about them instead of simply mentioning them flippantly, people were excited to announce that they made they list. Creating content about your users, contributors, and connections shows you appreciate them and that genuine content and connection encourages linking. You’re telling their story. Not just baiting them with a PR mention.
How it Could Work for Other Brands
While we run a pretty specific type of website with a heavy amount of user-generated content, this process and general concept could easily be applied to plenty of other brands. Consider creating content about your users and customers. SaaS companies, for example, could utilize case studies to highlight the work their favorite customers are doing. Blog posts like 5 Ways Our Customers Are Transforming Their Industry with XYZ gives them a genuine, interesting brand mention that will likely lead to links and shares. Retailers could easily create content around particular branches and stores, earning local links and media mentions. What do you really love about your customers? What story do they have to tell? These stories are engaging, interesting, and linkable!
2. Hyper Specific How To and Q&A Articles- High Quality Linking Practices
While this type of content did not earn us a high volume of links (about 3%), it did earn us the highest quality of link. Rather than linking to our homepage or a simple brand mention, our reference and how to content outperformed all other links when it came to the link itself. These pages are consistently linked to with their title or exact keyword matching for our intended keyword cluster. If you’re hoping to boost your authority in your niche or a particular topic, this is the way to go.
Our top content for this particular content type was NOT a general or all encompassing topic like how to cook steak or how to crochet. Instead, the content that did the best here was for hyper specific skills and techniques or specific questions that are not often answered in those other general, higher level content. It helped solve one particular problem.
Why it Worked This content works on several levels. First and foremost, it is addressing an obscure question that by and large has yet to be covered on its own. While many articles on no bake cookies, for example, may mention issues with consistency and texture, a thorough explanation of them is a unique and engaging piece of content. These always do well on social. It answers a question that might have have been answered already.
Secondly, this content is much easier to link to than the dreaded listicle. This article provides a unique value that makes it very linkable. When reaching out, we are able to mention that we have a thorough explanation for a technique or recipe that might be worth mentioning.
We have also had success with the gentle nudge that the blogger failed to mention something in their recipe and providing the research for them. “I noticed you didn’t mention whether or not to thaw the frozen potatoes for your casserole. Is this something you would recommend? We actually just wrote an article about this since some of our readers were asking.” This allows you to create content that is adding to their own and participate in a conversation.
This type of content also does an awesome job of earning links naturally over time.
How it Could Work for Other Brands
What is often called pillar or reference content is not a brand new concept for any content marketer. We have all worked on creating this higher level, long-form content at one point or another. What is important to note about this strategy is the specificity. It solves a short-term and very specific problem a user might have, something that might be mentioned in these longer form pieces of content (and linked to)! Finding these topics can be tricky, but there are resources out there. Try perusing the “people also ask” sections of the search engine result page or the tool AnswerthePublic.com.
The trick here is to find a great topic that aligns with your goals. Our readers for our knitting site, for example, are generally retired women with limited income. Condo knitting is a vintage style of knitting that was popular in the 70s, so it offered a nice #throwbackthursday vibe. Our readers don’t tend to love higher end materials, so writing an article about how to care for expensive alpaca or cashmere yarn would not have done as well for our intended audience.
SaaS companies could do this by writing a shorter, snackable article about a specific solution their platform offers (like Buzzstream locating email addresses). Retailers can easily create articles on how to care for their product. Remember to find a specific topic. We’re not looking for “how to care for a mattress” and instead looking for something like “how soon after buying a new mattress should you flip it” or “can sleeping on a short mattress cause back problems”. As an added bonus these low stake, content snacks tend to do fairly well organically when you find the right topic. This article about thawing frozen hash browns we created last week is already receiving about 10 or more organic clicks a day and it took the team about an hour to put together. Staffing wise, it will likely pay for itself pretty quickly in leads and ad dollars.
3. Collaborative Content and Promotions – Working with your linkers!
Two of our biggest projects every year are National Craft Month and National Sewing Month. These month-long promotions and content calendars provide 30 days of new content to our readers as well as a myriad of giveaways, freebies, and more. Our entire editorial team gets on board to create the content, finding bloggers to help with projects, and promote the content. These large scale projects are link-earning machines. This year alone National Sewing Month earned us about 25 links while National Craft Month(on our biggest site) far exceeded that by earning around 3-5 links per project, earning us just under 90 links in total! These promotions consist of brand new high quality content created by our editorial staff as well as collaborators. With such a big group working together, the link building is natural and expected.
Rather than focusing solely on bringing links inward, these month-long promotions focus on creating content with creators we love. They share projects on our sites in full as well as promote them on their blogs. Readers have the option to win a ton of prizes. We send out social media blasts, tag everyone, and create a community around one promotion. Rather than just linking to us, collaborators on these projects feel as if they are part of something. They submit project ideas and applications to be apart of the promotion, giving it just a little exclusivity. It is something they are proud to be apart of and want to share. This means promoting their projects on our domain is also promoting their very own brand.
How it Could Work for Other Brands
While brands might not have as strong as a collaborator or blogger network to pull from, the overall idea of creating a community and an event instead of single pieces of content is easily transferable. Depending on your goals and resources, it would be just as easy for companies to create week-long promotions showcasing new content from talented collaborators and freelancers. Digital promotions like this one give collaborators a feeling of community. If they are part of something, they’re likely to promote and link to their own content as well as those within their network. SaaS companies could easily create a week of webinars and retailers or brands could easily borrow from influencer campaigns to create a week of DIY ideas or recipes using their products.
Creating week-long or month-long content calendars also has the added bonus of inspiring internal promotion. If your company does something new and exciting, your staff is more likely to share the engaging content on their personal channels and blogs. Organic social promotion is just as useful for brand promotions as link building even if it is a little more ephemeral.
Build Relationships and Links Will Follow
My team creates a wide variety of content with several goals in mind. We’ve created a lot of longform and reference articles for our site to add value for our readers and promote our Youtube content and videos. We’ve created shorter listicles for users who are just looking to browse. We’ve even created content focused solely on building links that involved a lot of ego-baiting within listicles. Many bloggers are willing to link back and share the love, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is because of our existing relationships and not the content itself.
After a year of link building and hundreds of reach outs, our main takeaway is that curating excellent content and working closely with the collaborators we love is the best way to earn links. Working with other content creators to create content either through shared promotions or offering them something extra (like a niche reference article) is going to earn you more links than a 1,000 cold emails ever will.
We’ve helped dozens of clients work through this complicated process – in this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about properly implementing hreflang tags on your site:
Let’s get into it.
What is an hreflang Attribute?
An HTML ( rel="alternate" hreflang="x") markup that denotes the language or region your webpage is targeting. The attribute makes sure Google knows which page to rank, in which language and in which location (i.e. in Google US, UK, etc).
The hreflang tag is important because it can help your website get more exposure for international search queries.
It’s important to note, hreflang will NOT:
If your website is only in 1 language, the tags will not improve performance.
Transpose rankings across SERPs. For example, ranking for “Nike shoes” in Google US will not translate into equal rankings in Google Mexico.
Fix errors with duplicate content. The hreflang tag does not function like a canonical tag.
When to use hreflang Attributes
Hreflang attributes should be used for content that’s specific to a local audience. The tags help Google understand the relationship is between your pages in alternate languages and regions.
If your pages are in the same language, but different markets (i.e. pages are in English, but targeting US, UK, Australia, Canada, etc)
If you have the same pages translated into different languages (i.e. you translate a page(s) into Spanish, French and German)
If you translate sections of your website into a different language (i.e. if you have a forum with UGC and multiple languages spoken)
How to use hreflang tags
The hreflang tag gets added to the head of each relevant page. A simple example could be:
link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/" hreflang="en" link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/en-gb/" hreflang="en-gb"
The attribute tells Google that http://example.com has an “alternate” (i.e. duplicate) page. That page can be found at http://example.com/en-gb/ and it’s written in British English.
There’s 2 elements of the tag:
Without these, Google understand won’t understand what you’re trying to communicate. These are standardized codes in ISO format. You can find them here:
Before hreflang tags, the common practice to capture international searchers was to use multiple Top Level Domains (TLDs). If you have multiple top level domains, you’ll still want to link them with hreflang tags.
ASOS uses a combination of TLDs, subdomains and subfolders to manage their international presence.
Step #3 – Make Your Pages Match Your Desired Keyword Or Message
The best way of lowering your bounce rate is by improving the engagement on your pages.
One reason why your pages have low engagement may be due to the fact your visitors don’t get what they want—or expect to get—based on the information shown in the Google results.
For example, if you’re running an ad on Google Adwords that leads to a page with high bounce rate (and low conversion rate as well), it may be that the ad promises something that the visitors don’t get.
The same applies to someone who reaches your site through an organic search result, email or social media.
It’s important that your content matches the intent of the keyword.
In the example below, you can see the results for the keyword “how do you start a blog post”
But none of the ads have anything to do with my search.
They are all about starting a blog, not writing a blog post.
I clicked on the third result, and here’s the landing page they offer:
Weebly is one of the largest website builders, yet in this case, their ad is completely irrelevant to what I was looking for, which is blog post writing tips.
How do you think this affects their bounce rate?
Make sure your title tags and meta descriptions paint an honest picture of what your pages are about. As the saying goes, underpromise and overdeliver.