Communicating up the authority chain inside companies
Thinking of SEO projects like a product team
Estimating the ROI of SEO projects
What to do when you’re a company like Coke and you don’t need SEO traffic to sell things
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). Listen to the show for a special code to get 30% off BuzzSumo for 3 months. Also, check out Brian Dean’s Definitive Guide to BuzzSumo.
What can SEOs learn from the world of advertising [3:10]
How to begin to incorporate story into SEO work [4:10]
How do you create tension when telling a story [5:36]
What is VML? [7:12]
What does Heather do at VML? [8:18]
What caused the rebirth of the Organic Search team at VML [9:04]
How directly involved with clients is Heather? [11:16]
Heather’s Moz Talk [13:02]
“Buying your services doesn’t mean buying in” – why do companies do this? [13:20]
Does Heather find clients want education in SEO [15:12]
Speak to everyone you can in the company [17:08]
How to deal with a CEO (or the decision maker) who doesn’t want to talk [19:01]
What things should SEOs be thinking about beyond SEO? [21:47]
Don’t stay in your lane [24:18]
Sponsor break with discount code!! [29:31]
Formulas for Forecasting ROI [30:29]
Cost of inaction [32:48]
Twitter Questions [40:49]
How do you prioritize SEO work amongst other dev work? When x, y and z are broken (tech debt etc.) how do you work out where to start? [40:55]
And then persuade team to come with you with, at best, educated guesses as to their impact?[43:18]
Do individuals on her team take on very specific roles and stick to going deep across all clients? Or, do they vary by project and availability? [45:15]
How does she balance testing new ideas/tactics with clients asking for results? [47:09]
How does she balance testing new ideas/tactics with clients asking for results? [50:28]
Wil Reynolds- It’s easy to identify leaders who are vocal, but for those of you in larger orgs how do you identify the quieter leaders? [53:38]
If you were working with a startup client seeking to compete with any of these bigger clients you have like etc., in search, how would you go about it? [56:05]
I always struggled developing good task completers and process followers in to free thinking strategists that could lead fortune 500 accounts. How do you turn raw, promising talent into SEO leaders/strategists? [59:24]
There’s no doubting that links are a staple of any SEO diet. In fact, it’s widely known that it’s one of the most influential ranking factors search engines take into consideration when ranking URLs (domain and page level). However, I want to pose a question many people may not be asking themselves – do you need links? The key part of this question is you.
Before I begin here I want to say that every domain should always have a thorough technical audit conducted before any link building happens. There’s absolutely no point building high quality links if your domain is leaking value like a sieve. Once your domain is optimised for crawl accessibility and efficiency, you give links the maximum chance of impacting your domain and giving you the best return for your efforts.
With that said, we all know that every domain need links to a degree, but in this post I want to outline a process that enables you to benchmark your link profile against your competitors in each SERP, so you can work out if link building will lead to the best returns for your money. Before investing heavily in creative campaigns or contentless link building tactics, you’ll want to know if an increase in organic revenue is likely or if the changes needed are closer to home (i.e. technical issues or content improvement).
So, we begin with a piece of keyword research. The same that most of you will have done dozens of times. I won’t go into detail on how to do keyword research, but by exporting from a collection of resources like Search Analytics, Answerthepublic, Keywordtool.io, Keyword Planner, SEMrush, etc. you’ll need to end up with a keyword list that closely fits in with your target audience. I typically spend half a day reviewing the keywords at this point to make sure I remove any branded competitors and queries that aren’t relevant for me. Using whichever search volume tool you like (Keyword Planner or SEMrush typically) you’ll want the volumes associated to each keyword, to end up with the below:
From here, our goal is to find out if your domain ranks for each keyword and how your ranking URL benchmarks against the best ranking pages. My favourite tool to do this is AWR Cloud, with the setup to run manually. The reason being that this tool tells you the ranking position and ranking URL, along with all of the top 50 ranking URLs for each keyword (make sure you get a Top Sites report). So now, not only do I know if and where I rank for each keyword, I know who ranks in all the other positions so I can benchmark my URLs against theirs.
However, before we start benchmarking, we want to know where we rank and what the size of the opportunity is with each keyword. In this case, we’re going to kindly borrow the latest unbranded CTR’s from AWR’s monthly study. This will tell us what the expected CTR is in each position between 1 and 20, so we can estimate how much traffic each keyword is giving us currently and how much more that would be if we reach the top of the SERPs. Like so:
Note: We can’t use Search Analytics data for this. Although it does a decent job of telling us our ‘clicks’ in the current position, we then couldn’t benchmark it against the change, so we use a constant value, like AWR’s, instead.
If you’ve got GA setup and configured for goals and goal values, you can also take the above one step further. By overlaying your ranking URLs conversion rate and goal value, you can also multiply that by your expected traffic now vs expected traffic if you hit P1, to work out how valuable each keyword will be for you based on the revenue increase. Unfortunately, I’ve seen numerous GA setups where goal values don’t exist or the client isn’t comfortable using them, but when they do exist, they should absolutely be used for this.
So now we know which keywords are potentially the most profitable for you, either through pure traffic increase or based on your actual goal values (much preferred). Now, we want to know what’s the most realistic keywords to go after and what you have to do to get there.
To do this part, I would recommend using Majestic data because it’s isolated by link quality (TrustFlow) and link quantity (CitationFlow), in simple terms. You can use whichever metric you feel works best for you, but as we want to isolate links, I feel Majestic’s data is the only one capable of doing so because of how the metric is calculated. DA is probably the most popular people use, and a lot of clients do speak in ‘DA’, but as the metric is worked out using a combination of on page and off page signals, we can’t isolate with it, leaving us with more questions at the other end. It is a useful metric, but not here. If you want to read more about how these metrics are calculated, you can check out this comparison on the BuzzStream blog.
We want Majestic data on a page level, and to do that easily, I use URL Profiler.
By putting all my ranking URLs in, as well as the top ranking URLs from my SERP data (positions 1 – 3), I can then benchmark how much TrustFlow my ranking URL has, and how that then measures up against the average of the top 3.
This bit requires a lot of Excel legwork, and unfortunately the width of the screenshot I want to show you would enrage even the most laidback mobile user reading this. However, what we’re trying to do is keep the keyword as the constant, that’s our A column. Then, we want each ranking URL (our URL (if any), P1, P2 and P3) on the same row, along with each ranking URLs Majestic metrics from our URL Profiler export.
Then, on each row, we average the TF and CF of the URLs in the top 3 positions using an AVERAGE formula (even if we rank there), and use that average to take away our ranking URLs TF or CF – this is our variance.
If the variance is positive, primarily TrustFlow is the one we’ll want to focus on, we know we have more than enough link equity to be competitive at the top of the SERPs with that URL. Therefore, you don’t need links.
However, if the value is negative, it indicates that a strong potential reason (but not the only) why you don’t rank is that you don’t have the right quality of links, so therefore, you do need to do link building.
With all of the URLs ran through this approach, you can start to see which keywords present the biggest financial opportunities for you, and whether or not your URL (if any) already has the links to be competitive.
If your TrustFlow variance is greater than -10 (e.g. your ranking URL has a TF of 10 and the top 3 on average have a TF of 21 or above), this isn’t a keyword to consider in the short term because the amount of link building or internal funnelling required would need a considerable investment. But anything with an achievable variance (below -10) is one you should focus on.
I really hope that’s useful for anyone who is doing link building and not really seeing the right return, or looking to start investing without really questioning if it’s right for you.
Any questions or feedback at all, please do let me know!
The same study found that ~13% of all search results now return a featured snippet:
Featured snippets steal organic traffic from all the other search results, including the content ranking in the #1 position.
This presents a couple BIG opportunities:
If you rank #1 AND land a featured snippet you could be getting over 28% of the clicks (i.e. almost a third of the potential organic traffic for a given search term)
If you don’t rank #1, but still manage to land a featured snippet you can exponentially increase organic traffic (i.e. pages ranking outside the top 3 positions would be getting single digit CTRs, so you could effectively 2-3x the traffic potential)
It doesn’t require a ton of time and money to land a featured snippet and reach “position #0”.
In this section of the guide, I’m going to walk you step-by-step through:
The different types of featured snippets
How to identify your featured snippet opportunities
How to optimize existing content to win featured snippets
Before we jump in, here are a few things to keep in mind as we work through the tutorial:
99.58% of featured snippets are taken from content ranking in the top 10 positions.
Even if you’re already ranking #3, you can land yourself a big spot at the top of the page — just 30.9% of featured snippets are taken from content at the #1 spot.
If a search result contains a featured snippet, this saps the CTR of the #1 placement by almost 25%.
A single page can rank for thousands of different featured snippets.
Imagine the instant impact on your organic traffic if you were able to land dozens, hundreds or even thousands of featured snippets across your articles:
Now you know each of the different types of featured snippets at your disposal, let’s take a closer look at how to get them.
2 Ways to Quickly Find Featured Snippet Opportunities for YourSite
Tactic #1: Find Quick-Win Featured Snippet Opportunities
Your best shot at winning a featured snippet lies with all the keywords you are already ranking on the first page that have featured snippets.
Ahrefs’ (affiliate) keyword filtering options make it very easy to find these opportunities.
Go to the Ahrefs Site Explorer, and paste in your domain. Click on “Organic keywords”, then open the SERP features filter and select Featured Snippet:
You will see a list of all the keywords your site ranks for on the first page that contains a featured snippet. These are your “quick-win” opportunities.
My link building tools post ranks #1 for the term “link building tools”, but is getting valuable organic traffic skimmed off the top by Search Engine Journal’s featured snippet:
Let’s take a closer look at why this is happening.
With half the number of referring domains and lower rankings (#3 spot vs. #1), it doesn’t make immediate sense why SEJ would snag the snippet.
But, after taking a closer look at the post it starts to become more clear…
Check out SEJ’s predictable list post format:
As explained earlier, Google will often pull in H2s from a list post as bullets for a snippet, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.
My post — while much more in-depth — is formatted in a way that Google might not immediately understand:
Google likes to use headings as bullets for its list snippets, but here the headings can’t be condensed to answer the question. And, the tool lists are formatted as paragraphs (<p>), whereas Google is likely looking for numbered lists (<ol>) or bulleted lists (<ul>).
While there are no shortage of list types in this post…
…The formatting is not predictable enough for a machine quickly scanning the page to parse.
So, what could I do to be a stronger contender for the featured snippet?
The safest bet would be to include a new section that starts above the fold and consists of a numbered or bulleted list of the names of the most recommended tools in the post.
Something like this:
This would make it easier for Google to understand the “best tools” listed in the post. And, since the post is already ranking #1, it would have a great chance of stealing the featured featured snippet away from SEJ (~30%).
Tactic #2: Find new keywords with featured snippets
We just covered how to find featured snippet opportunities for keywords you already rank for.
Now, you’re going to find new keyword opportunities containing featured snippets.
Head back over to Ahrefs (affiliate) and enter a seed keyword into the Keyword Explorer Tool. Go to the Phrase Match report >> Search Features >> Featured Snippet:
In seconds, I’ve found 362 different featured snippet opportunities for the seed term “beard oil”.
Awesome, right? It gets better.
Next, click the SERP dropdown to reveal the site currently occupying the featured snippet:
In this example, the site baldingbeards.com is winning the snippet.
Copy the domain URL and paste it into Site Explorer. Go to Organic Keywords >> SERP Features >> All Features >> Featured Snippets to see a list of all the keywords they are ranking for that have featured snippets:
This returns a list of 53,773 different search terms that contain featured snippets!
If you want to narrow this down more and only look at the keywords the competitor is shown in the featured snippet for, simply select Target domain must be featured from the dropdown:
Now there is a list of 2,284 keywords:
Note: If the returned keyword set is still massive, you can use the KD, Volume, Word Count filters to make it more manageable.
Next – you’ll want to start analyzing the featured snippets for each of the target keywords to see if there is any opportunity to steal the snippet away from the competition.
After clicking through to the first featured snippet for “best beard oil” I can see why baldingbeards.com is winning so many snippets. Every one of their long form list-based review posts is well formatted with h2 tags that are populated in a bulleted list snippet:
This asset has a stronghold on the featured snippet. But, if I was going to try and steal it away, I’d focus on the following:
Write a more in-depth review looking at a greater number of products
Include a review leaderboard with the top products in the introduction
Format each product name inside a h2 tag in order to match the content to the current format of the snippet (in this case – bullet list)
Include the text “an in-depth review of the best beard oil products” in close proximity to the ordered list in the introduction (in order to induce a title in the snippet)
Ghergich found that the terms “how” (46.91%) and “have” (17.71%) were present in most question keywords earning list snippets, while “which” (16.2%) was the top-performing inclusion for table snippets.
Almost all question-based keywords are effective at earning paragraph snippets:
This is something of an inexact science, but generally Google will pull in the paragraph from your content that provides a direct answer to the user’s question.
Here’s how to quickly find quest-based keywords to target:
You can check out Answer the Public to get a list of popular questions in your niche.
Answer the Public can give you either a visual map of question keywords divided up by type, or an exportable CSV you can work through or analyze further:
If I was an open source software blogger, I’d have a big chunk of my content strategy laid out for me already using the result above!
It doesn’t stop at questions. You can also get keywords that include prepositions and comparison terms. From the studies shown earlier in the post, you know these exact keyword types are what win the different kinds of featured snippets:
2. Include summaries in list posts and how-to guides
The easier you make it for Google to understand your content the more likely it is they’ll award you with a featured snippet. For that reason, choosing the right keyword is only half the battle. You should also include numbered and bulleted lists that summarize the key points or steps in a post.
This is a special episode of Experts in a few ways. For one, Gaetano shares for the first time how SEO played a role in the just announced acquisition of Salehacker. And we get really into the details on his growth strategy that exploded their traffic 426% in 16 months.
Second – this was an experimental on-location episode – recorded in person in Boston while sipping espresso. See the video below!
Growing Salehacker to 19,000 monthly visits to 100,000+ monthly visit in 16 months
What he did on day one and week one
Their content clean up process
How to run a blog that’s almost entirely guest posts
How he created a content strategy for SEO growth
How they rank for highly competitive sales topics
Finding and vetting writers
And… how their SEO success contributed to recently being acquired
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.
Listen to the show for a special code to get 30% off BuzzSumo for 3 months.