In September 2017, we identified a problem. Despite being a high-growth company for nearly five years, our website traffic (overall and organic) at G2 Crowd had become stagnant, even dropping, and new content wasn’t helping our cause. We couldn’t beat certain brands – particularly, our important competitors – in certain areas.
After a quick audit to determine what could be going wrong, we realized our new backlink and domain acquisition strategy was the problem. Specifically, we didn’t have one – and our competitors did.
Identifying Our Backlink Gap
Taking a look at who was beating us in SERP, we saw that two main brands were hammering us on overall domains linking to them.
One of these brands (let’s refer to it as Competitor 1) was a relatively new website that had acquired a ton of new domains quite quickly. We were shocked that this new website had stolen a big chuck of our SERP out of nowhere, but we quickly realized that its edge on us was the sheer number of domains linking to its site. In a brief period of time, it had actually surpassed G2 Crowd in total number of dofollow domains linking to its site.
The other brand (let’s refer to it as Competitor 2) was a site that has been around much longer than we have, and at the time had nearly three times the overall amount of dofollow domains linking to it.
As of October 2017:
G2 Crowd had a total of 3,835 dofollow domains
Competitor 1 had 4,030 (105% of G2 Crowd)
Competitor 2 had 10,011 (261% of G2 Crowd)
As of September 2018, G2 Crowd had 6,223 (62% year-over-year growth) do-follow domains; we surpassed (and gapped) Competitor 1, which stood at 5,179 (83% of G2 Crowd), and significantly closed the gap on Competitor 2, which sat at 12,800 (205% of G2 Crowd).
Our growth in dofollow domains didn’t happen overnight. But how did it begin? With a dedicated strategy and a focus on developing new campaigns with backlinks in mind.
Here is what we did.
Identifying an Opportunity Through Ahrefs Research
In October 2017, with our traffic waning, our competitors beating us in backlinks, and lofty year-end goals in our sights, we needed to find strategies that we were fairly certain would work. Late on a Sunday night sitting around an apartment, three of us dug into our site data on Ahrefs. Our goal: to look for content we could replicate that would get backlinks.
We saw a pattern with our “Vanity Grids.”
The Grid is our recognizable visual quadrant that places similar software products head-to-head in their respective categories. The Vanity Grids we’d done in the past grouped products by location or event, rather than by software category (best software in Boston or at Dreamforce, for instance, rather than best CRM platform).
A few of the most backlinked pieces of content on our site were these Vanity Grids based upon a geographic location. In a way, it was a surprise to the group: If we’re being transparent, these Vanity Grid articles were downright embarrassing. They would cram dozens of product logos, from different SaaS spaces, on a Grid with no context to why they were being compared, with almost no content under the Grid.
Yet they still drove backlinks. We all know that “best of” lists drive links because they draw on the pride of the companies mentioned. Well, these were our “best of” lists.
We theorized that if we took the Vanity Grid concept and fleshed it out into large, pillar page-type reports on 25 American tech hubs and 10 countries, created quality content and an appealing design template, and used our customer review data, we could create a successful campaign that would crush new backlinks.
And it worked.
Building the Project
We’re in a special situation at G2 Crowd. Our platform has an enormous number of user-driven insights; this empowers our research team to create reports and best-of lists that are backed with high data integrity.
A main goal of our website traffic project was to acquire new domains and backlinks. But as a data-driven, users-come-first company, we needed to ensure the project continued with a high-quality and reputable series of reports that we felt comfortable releasing.
(In general, this should be a rule for all types of content production.)
Ranking products from vendors that are also customers can become a tricky (and sticky) situation. We needed to ensure the project was communicated to everyone involved, both internally and externally.
Releasing this much content also required sitting down and scheduling out releases over the course of a month. (I’m very thankful for project managers.)
All in all, this took a lot of (fun) cross-team collaboration. Here is a breakdown of responsibilities:
The data team pulled the rankings from our database
Our design team provided feedback on the layout, and created a theme for cover images and graphs that fit our project and style guide
Marketing sent out vendor communications to products that made the reports
PR worked with media outlets to acquire media coverage
The community development team worked to reach out to companies included in the lists to acquire quotes and put together press kits for those companies to share the news (people love when you create content for them!)
Research team members connected with industry leaders in each city for quotes and insights, and wrote the content
Editing and publishing front-end designed each individual report in the series (believe me, this took a LOT of time)
While the entire planning and content-creation process was a huge time suck, the efforts paid off. The pieces were some of the best work our content and research teams had ever produced.
Pieces in the American tech scene series included quotes from major players in the SaaS world, timelines that were custom designed and branded by our design team, and company profiles on all the brands listed in our reports.
Promoting and Distribution: Getting Eyes on Our Campaign
As the cliche goes, “build it and they will come.” Many content marketers stress that the most important part of content marketing is creating great content, and benefits will come.
I don’t buy either of those things.
Yes, building great content is extremely important. Probably the most important aspect of content. But if no one sees that great content, who cares? Especially if you’re publishing that content on a site that doesn’t have a high domain rating. A promotional plan is the Ying to great content’s Yang.
Before our content was published, we made sure brands and influencers knew this series was happening. Our PR team pitched to business publications in each city, leading to placements such as Boston’s American Inno and Indianapolis’ TechPoint.
Our marketing team sent out vendor communications to all the companies highlighted in our reports. Included in the vendor comms was a PR kit personalized for those included in the report, including a custom badge highlighting the award, and a prewritten press release and blog announcement.
Our content team connected with influencers and tech leaders in the cities they were responsible for to gather quotes to include in their reports. Through different social media networks and our large network of software connections at G2 Crowd, we were able to gather many well-known thought leaders in different cities.
Once individual city posts went live, we had a huge social push behind them. We crafted tweets from the author of each piece of content that tagged local tech leaders, VCs, top companies and more. This led to social ecosystems grabbing hold of our content, helping us reach our geo-specific targets.
The Campaign’s Impact
The series released over the entire month of January. And once we had visibility into our campaign, the backlinks poured in. The majority came from our vendor communications campaign that included the media and PR kit.
The prewritten press releases were a hit: a win-win for everyone involved.
This strategy enabled the brands receiving recognition to promote their award, while not having to spend the time crafting the announcement. It also allowed us to select the exact anchor text and links we wanted from these domains.
In total, the campaign resulted in over 350 new domains linking to G2 Crowd. A majority of these domains included links not just to our reports, but also to what Google considers our most-valued content: category pages.
The Residual Impact
The campaign was a major success in terms of sessions, backlinks/new domains, brand engagement (specifically with brands that were previously unresponsive), and overall brand recognition.
The campaign also has had a major impact on overall organic traffic here at G2 Crowd. It’s hard to say this specific campaign can cause major bumps in organic traffic as SEO has so many varying factors, but it’s foolish to deny how this wouldn’t be a major influence (that January was by far our biggest traffic month to date).
It also allowed our content team to begin to wrap our minds around what types of content people wanted and would link to.
Our strategy has adapted and evolved over the past year. But examining our past successes, and learning how to replicate those and do them at scale, helped jumpstart our backlink strategy and rejuvenate our organic traffic growth.
Find all websites already linking to you (with ‘natural’ editorial links).
Load them into a custom search engine.
Use the search engine to find likely link prospects for future content.
Let me walk you through it from start-to-finish (note: you can read my complete Ahrefs review here).
First, use the “backlinks” tab in Ahrefs Site Explorer to export a list of all websites currently linking to you:
NOTE: I also recommend adding these filter settings before exporting (this will weed out the junk and make sure most of the remaining links “natural” editorial links from blogs):
Export this file as a csv.
Now, before you do anything else, make a copy of this spreadsheet and import the Ahrefs .csv export into the first tab (i.e. the tab appropriately labelled “IMPORT AHREFS EXPORT HERE”), by selecting cell A1 then going to:
File > Import > Upload > Select a file from your computer (note: choose the Ahrefs export csv file)
NOTE: Make sure your import settings are as follows:
Click “Import” and you should see all of the data from the csv imported into the tab.
IMPORTANT: Don’t close this spreadsheet; you’ll need it again in a sec.
On this next screen, it’s going to ask you to enter at least one website you want to search + also name your custom search engine.
Go back to the spreadsheet and navigate to the next tab (note: this is labelled “1. First website”); you should see a value in cell A1 (hint: this should be formatted as “domain.com/*”).
Copy/paste this into the “Sites to search” box on your custom search engine; also give your search engine a name.
You now have a custom search engine that will allow you to search one domain from your backlink profile. But that’s not much use, so we need to add the rest of the domains.
To do this, click “edit search engine” from the left-hand menu and select the search engine you just created.
Under the “sites to search” section, click the “add” button to add more sites.
Select the option to “include sites in bulk” then copy the list the big list of domains from the next tab of your spreadsheet into the box (note: this is the tab labelled “2. More websites”):
That’s it – your custom search engine is now set up and ready to go
Now, whenever you have a new piece of content to promote (i.e. build links to), you can use your custom search engine to search for prospects who have written about that topic before.
For example, if I wanted to build links to my on-page SEO checklist, I could search enter the phrase “on page seo” into my custom search engine to search for sites that have written about on-page SEO before:
Tip: This link building tactic becomes more powerful as your link profile grows because you have a larger database of websites to search across.
If you only have a small number of sites linking to you, use semantic keywords to widen the pool of potential link pospects.
When I perform a keyword search for “seo checklist” there are several results showing for on-page SEO checklist, local SEO checklist, technical SEO checklist, and WordPress SEO checklist:
Google is telling us it sees those variations as semantically similar to the main query, “on-page SEO checklist”.
Try entering some of those other keyword variations into your Google Custom Search Engine to see if any new link prospects surface:
There are a lot of different ways you can find semantic and related keywords. Here are a few:
It’s now a case of sifting through these backlinks and trying to figure out how your competitor is attracting these links.
Here are a couple of common link acquisition strategies to look out for:
Guest posts — these can be found quite easily by checking out the page itself as it’ll probably state that it’s a guest post. Most guest posts will also have links with branded anchor text (e.g. “Robbie Richards”):
Simply hit Details >> Referring Domains to verify the source of the links:
Make a note of the strategic guest post placements in this competitor link tracking template:
Recurring backlink sources — if you see the same domain popping up time and time again, it’s likely that your competitor has built a relationship with that website. It’s also likely they’re happy to link to good content, so it may be worth forging a relationship and reaching out when you publish a quality content asset:
NOTE: I dedicated an entire post to this link building strategy, where I go into much more detail regarding a number of tactics for finding and stealing competitor backlinks. I recommend giving it a read!
In essence, once you’ve identified the methods your competitors are using to acquire backlinks, it’s then a case of replicating their tactics.
For example, let’s assume your competitor was acquiring a lot of links from guest posts.
You could simply round up a list of prospects (using Ahrefs) then ask if they’d be interested in a guest post from you, too.
Here’s a sample outreach email:
It’s Robbie here from RobbieRichards.com.
I was just reading a couple of posts on your website and noticed [COMPETITOR NAME] wrote a guest post for you a while back.
I loved his tip about [INSERT PERSONALISE CONTENT HERE TO PROVE YOU READ THE POST].
Are you still accepting guest posts?
If so, I’d love to write something for you, too. I have a ton of ideas, so just let me know and I’ll send them over.
It’s as simple as that!
I used this exact strategy to find that one of my competitors was guest posting on Digital Marketer. So, I wrote one for them too:
866 referral visits and 68 new subscribers (7.85% conversion rate).
I’ve since scaled this strategy, driving thousands of new visitors to the site. But, more on this later…
Just thought I’d give you a quick heads-up as you may want to fix it?
PS. If you’re not sure what to replace the link with, I have a huge list of link building strategies (which covers most of the stuff the broken resource used to cover, and more) here: https://www.robbierichards.com/seo/13-killer-link-building-strategies/
BOOM…you just landed a link (probably).
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
“Robbie, this seems like a CRAZY amount of work for just one measly link…”
I hear you.
So, here’s a simple trick you can use to (potentially) turn a single broken link into hundreds of link building opportunities:
Once you’ve found a broken page that looks promising, recreate the content on your website.
IMPORTANT: For this technique to succeed, you NEED to be asking people to replace the link with a similar link. If you ask them to replace the link with a completely different link, it ain’t going to work!
When you have the content, export the list of backlinks pointing at the dead page from Ahrefs:
It’s then simply a case of sifting through the pages, plucking out the ones that you feel should add a link to your resource, then contacting the blogger/webmaster with an email like this:
It’s Robbie Richards here. How are things?
I’m reaching out because I recently created a free calorie calculator (here’s a link: http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html) and I was hoping you might add it to your list of paleo-related resources?
I think it would be super-useful for your visitors, as it’s a useful resource for anyone interested in aligning their caloric intake with personal fitness/diet goals
Let me know what you think!
Most tools make solving a problem easier.
For example, take a calorie calculator tool—this makes it super-easy to figure out how many calories you need to consume each day:
Without such a tool, you could have to do some pretty complex math yourself!
Just enter a “how-to” query in the search bar and select “in title” as the location:
As you can see, there are over 12,000 articles with the phrase “how to lose weight” in the title!
That’s a LOT of link prospects!
I recommended filtering these down to only the best prospects. I usually do this by adding an organic traffic filter so only pages with 500+ organic visits/month are shown.
You can also filter by domain rating. For example, I like to set the filter for sites between 25-45 as this will return a lot mid tier blogs that might be a little more receptive to cold outreach efforts:
It’s then simply a case of sifting through the results and looking for solid link prospects.
This will usually be pages that talk about calorie counting (or whatever your tool is about) but don’t link to a tool that solves the problem.
If you find a page like this, simply reach out to them and saying something like:
It’s Robbie Richards here. How are things?
I’m reaching out because I just read your post about how to lose weight and, well, that is definitely one of the most in-depth guides I’ve ever come across. You really nailed the process!
Also, I noticed you talked about the importance of counting calories (which, I agree, is important). But, as you know, this can be quite difficult to do, as it involves some pretty complex math.
That’s why I wanted to quickly reach out and let you know about a free calorie counter tool that I’ve just created. Basically, you enter your details – height, weight, gender, fitness goals – and it spits out EXACTLY how many calories you should consume each day.
I would love to get your feedback on it and, if you think it’s useful, perhaps you could add it to your guide? I think it would be super-useful for anyone reading that post!
No matter how great your free tool happens to be, it’s likely that similar tools already exist.
For example, a simple Google search for “calorie calculator tool” returns over 600K results!
That’s a LOT of calorie calculators!
But, luckily, competition is a good thing when it comes to link building, especially if your free tool knocks the competition out of the water.
Why? Because this makes it a prime candidate for shotgun skyscraper outreach.
Here’s how this works:
Find tools that are similar to yours, yet not quite as good
Reach out to anyone linking to those tools and explain WHY they should link to your tool instead (i.e. because it’s better!)
As mentioned above, I’ve used this strategy to quickly build hundreds of quality links to my client’s content:
Here’s the basic process for doing this at scale:
Use google to find similar tools (this is as simple as searching for “calorie calculator” or whatever you’re looking for)
Scrape the results (again, use LinkClump)
Extract the backlinks for inferior, yet highly linked-to tools (that are similar to yours)
Reach out to those people with a “skyscraper” outreach email
Let’s go back to the 600K+ results for “calorie calculator tool”.
Most of these are, as you would expect, calorie calculators.
So, let’s use Linkclump to gather these into a nice neat list.
#6. Establish a Link Velocity Target (and StayCompetitive in the SERPs)
Your competitors are actively building new links to their most valuable content.
Therefore, you need to understand two things:
The number of links needed to get first page rankings at a point in time
The rate at which you need to acquire newlinks in order to stay on the first page
You can quickly get an answer to the first part of the equation by looking at the Ahrefs (affiliate) SERP Overview report:
Here’s how to find a monthly Link Velocity target to remain competitive in the SERPs:
Enter your target keyword into the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer:
Scroll down to the SERP overview report again:
Note: Beardbrand has the highest number of referring domains (96) pointing to it. It also has the highest UR in the top 10 results, which is driving the #1 ranking position.
This is where they are now. We want to understand how quickly they are building new links to create more page-level authority and remainin the #1 position.
Next – click the green drop down arrow next to the competing page URL and select the Overview link:
This will generate an overview report for that specific URL. Click on the “New” link the Referring Domains header:
This report will show the number of links won and lost over different date ranges:
Scroll to the bottom of the report to see the number of new links acquired over the last 7 days:
Two new links – only one looking topically relevant. But, this doesn’t tell us much.
Next – filter the report to the last 30 days:
We can see 6 new referring domains in the past 30 days. Apart from the low DR link from beardshapeup, the quality and relevancy of the links look pretty low.
Important: Pay closer attention to the QUALITY and RELEVANCE of the referring domains. You can have 100 poor quality links pointing to your page and it won’t move the needle. But, if you have 5-10 med-high DR links from industry-specific sites, it’ll have a big impact.
Finally – filter the report to the last 60 days to gauge the consistency of link acquisition:
Looking at the data broken out over the last 60 days, it looks as if beardbrand is only getting a couple new links a week to its beard oil product category page. And, only a small percentage of these are even relevant.
If I was setting up a link building campaign for a beard oil category page, I’d be trying to build 15-20 quality links to the page in the first 60 days, and then acquire new links at a rate of 2-3/month to remain competitive.
#7. Build Links from MASSIVELY Authoritative Resources by Catering to Multiple Learning Methods
People learn in different ways.
There are visual learners…
And so forth!
Nearly all of the content on the web is the same…it’s written blog posts that are made-up of mostly text.
This means if you’re an auditory or visual learner, well, you’re flat out of luck!
There’s no video…
No audio version…
Nope. It’s just written blog posts, and that’s it!
So, how can you get links from these high authority sites to “ultimate guides”?
Simple…convert that content into a different format (aimed at different types of learners) and give it away for free.
Here’s the process:
Identify informational “how-to” articles and “ultimate guides” in your industry with a ton of links
Create a video or audio version of that post (or at least part of it)
Contact the website owner and give them the content for free
Let’s say you had an ecommerce website selling rice cookers.
And you wanted to build links to the rice cooker page.
(pretty difficult task, right?…it’s always SUPER HARD to build links to ecommerce pages!)
Here’s how you could do it:
Take a look at the SERPs for the term “how to cook rice”:
Straight away, you can see that the SERPs are showing video content—this shows that the people searching for this term really want to see a video.
And, in fact, a lot of the websites in the top 10 have realised this…
That’s why they have a video showing how to cook rice on their page.
But, some pages don’t have a video…
This means they’re not catering to different learning styles. And in this example, they’re not providing the content in the format that people really want to see!
Here’s how to take advantage of this:
Identify the pages without videos
Create a video showing how to cook rice (hint: bonus points if it’s uniquely created for them and features their branding etc.)
Reach out and offer the video to the websites for free (to include in their content)
Most of them will probably give you a link without you even having to ask.
But, how do you do this at scale? First, identify some informational terms (e.g. “how to X, ultimate guide to X, beginners guide to X, etc) related to the content/website you’re trying to build links to.
So, if it was the rice cooker page, it would be terms like:
“How to cook rice”
“How to cook risotto”
Next, search Google for these terms and scrape the top 10-100 results (with Linkclump).
Do you have a lot of high-quality imagery on your website?
I’m talking infographics, photography (that you own the copyright to), diagrams, screenshots, etc.
“Yes, Robbie…I do!”
In that case, I have bad news: you’re probably a target for image theft.
But here’s the good news: you can leverage image theft to quickly build quality links
Here’s how to do it (in 3 simple steps!):
Roundup any high-quality images on your website (this will generally be infographics, photographs, diagrams, etc)
Find websites using these images without permission
Make sure these websites are giving you credit for those images (if not, reach out and reclaim the link)
Let’s go through this step-by-step.
Step #1 – Find high-quality images on your website
It’s important to note that you’re not really looking for any ol’ images here; you’re mainly looking for:
IMPORTANT: You MUST own the copyright to these images; this won’t work if you’re using an infographic/photograph/diagram that isn’t yours.
Let’s assume we were doing this on behalf of Brian Dean (i.e. Backlinko).
I know Brian’s content pretty well, so I know he has a really cool infographic about on-page SEO:
Most of the time, bloggers will link to the original source of the infographic when they embed it on their own website. But because some bloggers won’t remember to do this, there are probably a fair few links we can reclaim.
I’m going to add this link to a Google Sheet (make a copy here) along with any other images/graphics on Brian’s website that I feel are highly-stealable (note: this is just to keep track of the images for the next stage of the process).
Step #2 – Find websites using these images (without permission)
Next, we need to find websites that are embedding these images without giving us credit (i.e. without linking.
The results were staggering: 74,000 referral visits and close to 4,300 user registrations!
So, we know that guest blogging can be a powerful vehicle to build quality links and drive targeted referral traffic…
But, where do you start?
Basically, we need to find websites that (a) we want to write for, and (b) accept guest posts.
Here are 2 ways we can do this:
Use Google search operators (this is more powerful than you might think!)
Reverse engineer prolific guest bloggers (in your industry)
IMPORTANT: Any sites you target should meet the following criteria:
High domain authority
Related to your niche
Post high quality content
Receives lots of traffic (use Alexa)
Has an engaged audience
Provides contextual links
Active social presence
OK, let’s go over each of these tactics one by one.
How to find guest post opportunities using Google Search Operators
Head over to Google and start entering the following search queries (one by one):
Keyword “guest post”
Keyword intitle:“write for us”
Keyword inurl:”write for us”
Keyword “submit a guest post”
Keyword “submit” AROUND(4) “guest post”
Keyword “guest post by”
Keyword “accepting guest posts”
Keyword “guest post guidelines”
Keyword “submit blog post”
Keyword “contribute to our site”
Keyword “submit article”
Keyword “guest author”
Keyword inurl:“guest post”
Inpostauthor: “guest + post” Keyword
Inpostauthor: “guest + blog” Keyword
You can also use the wildcard operator (*) to expand your results. The previous search strings included quotation marks which returned phrase matches (all keywords had to appear in exactly that order):
The wildcard operator will help returned slightly different search results, without sacrificing relevancy. For example, if your write “submit * guest post”, search results will include:
“submit a guest post”
“submit your guest post”
“submit a new guest post”
We can take this a step further using the tild (~) sign. This will help us return guest blog opportunities for sites using synonyms of of our target keywords.
For example, “~SEO” might return the following synonyms, “SEM”, “online marketing”, “link building”:
If you read popular blogs in your industry you will have a good idea who the prolific guest bloggers are.
For online marketing, these names include Brian Dean, Neil Patel, Kristi Hines, Marcus Sheridan, to name a few.
Head over to Google and enter NAME “guest post by”. This will show you all the sites where these influencers have written guest posts:
Add these sites to your list of guest blog targets.
Another way to uncover where influencers are guest posting is by using this Google search operator:
link:COMPETITORWEBSITE.com “guest post by COMPETITOR NAME” -COMPETITORWEBSITE.com
This will show you pages that link to your competitors website + also contain the phrase “guest post” – these pages are usually places your competitor has submitted a guest contribution.
You can also search this term in Ahrefs Content Explorer to supercharge this tactic:
author:”COMPETITOR NAME” -COMPETITORWEBSITE.com
Add any worthwhile sites (like the one below) to your spreadsheet:
Note: Pay attention to the keywords and topics your competitors are targeting in their guest posts. Are they using tenant SEO as part of their broader search strategy?
It’s time to pitch your targets
Now that you have an extensive list of guest post targets, it’s time to reach out and pitch to them.
Before you email the site, try to build a relationship with the guest post target. There are a number of ways to do this –
Engage them on Twitter
Connect on LinkedIn
Actively participate in forums and comment on their post
Email them and let them know how much you love a particular post they have written
After you have engaged the prospect it’s time to reach out and request a guest post opportunity.
Here’s a template:
Subject: You should blog about [insert your guest post topic]
First, I just want to say I’m a big fan of [INSERT BLOG NAME].
Anyways, I’m writing to you today because I’d love the opportunity to contribute a guest post to [insert blog name].
I’ve been reading through some of the content on the blog and have put together a short list of topics that I think would provide a ton of value to your readers –
I have a personal SEM blog that will give you an idea of the style and quality of my writing. You can view some of my recent posts here [insert blog URL].
Let me know if you’re interested.
Keep up the great work!
Instead of simply listing guest post ideas, you can take it a step further and include a link to the complete article you’ve written. Some bloggers prefer this because they don’t have the time to communicate back and forth with everyone pitching to them.
The definitive guide to guest blogging written by Brian Dean over Backlinko is one of the best posts I’ve read that covers this link building tactic, and has heavily influenced my guest posting strategy.
When it comes to link building, a lot of businesses jump straight into creating new campaigns with the single goal of landing BIG wins. (i.e. backlinks from massive sites like Washington Post and NBC).
While these links are incredibly valuable, they require a lot of resources – time and hard work – and the success rate is very low.
Before you go after the big fish, make sure you’ve first collected all the “quick-win” link opportunities. This will help generate faster results, and build trust with new clients.
One of the fastest ways to do this is recover lost link equity from 404 pages.
Think about it:
Websites change all the time. Products come and go. Information is pruned. URL structures get updated. Content is moved around.
All this movement can have a big impact on all the existing backlinks pointing to your website.
If you created a piece of content that acquired a bunch of quality links, and then made a minor update to the post/page URL without properly implementing a 301 redirect, you’d waste valuable link equity.
Therefore, one of the best ways to land quick link wins is to ensure you don’t have backlinks pointing to dead pages.
Here’s how to do it:
Head over to the Ahrefs “Best by Links” report. Filter by “404”, and sort referring domains (RD) in descending order:
The first 404 page in the list has 6 referring domains pointing to it.
Not a huge number. But, check out what happens when you click on the Referring Domains link:
The 404 page has two solid links pointing to it:
Search Engine Watch (DR 71) ReputationX (DR 48)
High authority backlinks like these are very hard to get even with great content and a dialed in outreach campaign. But, we managed to find them in a matter of seconds.
Important: Scan down the list and only attempt to reclaim links from quality sites relevant to your industry:
Only the first two opportunities in this report are worth looking at closer. The others are low DR, and look completely irrelevant. Redirecting these types of links into other important assets on your site would do more harm than good.
Once you’ve gathered a shortlist of “safe” backlinks to reclaim, you can either:
301 redirect the 404 page into a relevant asset on your site. Ideally, a page/ post with some type of search traffic potential.
Reach out to the owner/ author of the site linking to your 404 page. Ask them to update the link.
Since 301 redirects leak little-to-no link equity, option #1 is my preferred course of action.
#12. Build Links with Blog Comments (Hint: This Isn’t Your Usual Spammy Blog Commenting Strategy!)
I know what you’re thinking…
“Building links with blog comments, Robbie!? You know it’s not 1995, right!?”
I feel you, but hear me out….
I’m absolutely not talking about spammy mass blog commenting here. In fact, this technique doesn’t involve leaving any blog comments at all, but rather utilising existing blog comments (on your own blog) to create a list of link prospects.
Let me explain…
Most blogging systems ask commenters for their name, email address, and website (if they have one) when submitting a comment. This is even true of my blog:
And those who choose to enter their website URL in this box will see their name hyperlinked to their website when the comment goes live:
“Where are you going with this, Robbie?”
Well, these people are clearly interested in what you have to say, meaning it’s highly likely that their blog (i.e. the site they linked to when commenting) is in the same niche.
Let’s click through to Jeff’s website to see if this is true…
BOOM. Jeff also runs an SEO-related website.
With this in mind, here’s my 3-step process for building links with blog comments:
Scrape the websites of everyone who left a blog comment in the last 30 days.
Check if they have any content on their website related to your niche (e.g. in my case, this would be SEO/marketing-related content).
If so, reach out, thank them for the comment and ask if they’d consider linking to your post.
To get started, we need to scrape the websites for those who’ve left comments in (roughly) the past 30 days. This can be done manually but life is much easier with this Google Chrome add-on.
Simply right-click on commenter’s name (hint: make sure it’s a linked comment!) and select “scrape similar”:
This will “automagically” scrape a list commenters name + URLs from the page:
Click “Export to Google Docs…”
You should now have a list of websites + names in a Google Sheet, like this:
It’s now a case of using the “site:” search operator (combined with a keyword related to the topic of your website/content) to find sites with content related to your niche.
Here’s an example (for the SEO niche):
No results for this site; let’s try another:
BINGO. Looks like these guys have a few SEO/marketing related posts, one of which is this post about generating more blog traffic:
Definitely a great post, but it doesn’t even touch on many of the blog promotion strategies mentioned in my post. I’m, therefore, pretty sure his readers would also get a lot of value from my post.
Stuart clearly enjoyed my post (see his comment below) so let’s reach out and kindly ask if he’d be willing to add a link to my post in that article:
Here’s our message:
It’s Robbie (Richards) from RobbieRichards.com.
I was just reading through the comments on my blog and noticed you commented a while back (on this post) – thanks for that! It’s always good to know my posts are of value to other bloggers
Also, I ended up reading your blog promotion case study on your blog. Really cool stuff…loved the tip about not focusing on vanity metrics. I, too, see so many people doing that!
Don’t mean to sound cheeky, but is there any chance you’d consider adding a link to my post at the end of that article? I think it follows on nicely from what you had to say, so I’m pretty sure your visitors would find it interesting, too.
Either way, have a great weekend. Keep in touch!
Do this for every prospect that fits the bill (note: make sure to personalise the email as much as possible first, of course!)
This is not only a great way to build links but also, a great way to forge relationships with other bloggers.
Pro tip: You can scale this strategy by creating a Custom Google Search engine similar to the one we created in the first link building strategy mentioned in this post.
The only difference is instead of uploading the domains already linking to your site, you will add the domains of the people commenting on your site:
Quora links may be nofollow, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless.
In fact, Quora links can be an amazing source of referral traffic. They’re also great for diversifying your link profile (a link profile consisting solely of dofollow links won’t look natural at all!)
Here’s a three-step process for getting a ton of referral traffic (and links) from Quora:
Plug Quora into Ahrefs (to find the highest traffic threads).
Search for a keyword related to your content (this will filter out relevant threads that have rankings and ongoing passive traffic).
Write a top notch answer on the threads with lots of traffic.
OK, so the first step is super simple; just paste “quora.com” into Ahrefs Site Explorer, then go to the “top pages” tab (under “organic search” on the left-hand menu).
This will list all URLs on the domain in order of search traffic:
Next, enter a keyword related to your niche in the search box (note: the aim here is to search quora for high-traffic threads related to your industry).
Let’s use “fitness” for this example:
We now see a list of URLs (i.e. threads) on the site related to fitness — some of them have a ton of traffic!
It’s now simply a case of combing through the threads for those with the following criteria:
Niche-related (e.g. fitness related).
Plenty of search traffic (note: the ones near the top of the list in Site Explorer have the most search traffic).
No good answer currently (this is super important!)
If you find a thread that fits the bill, answer the question yourself (note: make sure to answer with a well-crafted, useful response – this will increase the chances of your answer being upvoted and, in turn, the chances of you receiving referral traffic from the thread).
Here’s a thread that fits the bill:
It has 500+ visitors per month from search (from the US alone), only has 2 answers (none of which are particularly in-depth), and is clearly niche-related.
Because Quora allows you to reference sources when writing your answer, it’s easy to link back to relevant websites when writing.
This means that should we have a page on our website listing some great fitness-related subreddits, we could simply answer with a condensed version of that list and quote our website as the source.
The question was: “What are some simple things companies can do to create a stronger Internet presence?”
You can see that Rand’s answer is extremely thorough, useful and helpful, yet it isn’t overly promotional. He includes a link to a Moz blog post where appropriate, but also mentions other notable tools/sources, too.
I’d be willing to bet that this drives a couple hundred visits per month to that blog post (if not more).
He also gets a nice juicy link (albeit a nofollow one).
Quora is the second highest source of referral traffic for Wishpond:
Use the technique above to identify relevant high-traffic threads, engage in the conversation, and start driving targeted referral traffic to your site.
Expert roundups are one of the easiest (and quickest) ways to build backlinks and generate serious traffic to your site.
Here’s the basic process:
Think of a question to ask influencers/experts in your niche (e.g. “what are your top 3 keyword research tools?”)
Gather a list of influencers/experts in your niche
Consolidate responses into a blog post
Tell the influencers about the live post (and ask them to link to it)
Because you are featuring insights of influencers in your industry, those people (and many of their followers) are very likely to link to, or at least share your blog post across their social channels.
Let’s walk through the process from start-to-finish.
First, think about a topic related to your industry that people will be interested in. For example, SEOs will likely be interested in the following topics:
Best link building tools?
Link building tactics to focus on 2014?
Are black hat link building tactics dead?
How do you measure the success of an SEO campaign?
If you could only use three link building tools, which three would you choose? (Richard Marriott put together a fantastic roundup for this topic)
These are all topics people in the SEO field would be interested in.
Once you have a solid topic, the next step is finding experts to pitch.
The easiest way to build a list of influencers is to identify the round ups already out there in your niche. Influencers that have already taken part in an expert round up will be more likely to respond to your pitch.
Go to Google and search for roundups in your niche:
“link building experts” + roundup
As you can see, the roundup “55 SEO Experts Reveal 3 Favorite Link Building Tools” attracted 155 backlinks from 77 domains:
Now, scroll through the post and add all the featured influencers to a spreadsheet.
Check their Twitter profiles to see if they have a website listed:
Go to website and collect their email address or contact page URL:
Tip: I use Voilanorbert to scale the gather of contact information.
Add the name and domain of your roundup targets into a spreadsheet and save it as a .csv file.
Next, run a bulk upload inside Voilanorbert:
Let the tool run for 5-10 minutes and it’ll go through and scrape the emails for you. Huge time saver!
Still short of influencers? Here are a few other tools/ways you can find them:
Pre-curated lists: Head over to Google and do a search for “top [kw] bloggers” and find pre-curated lists of influencers.
Other bloggers have already done the heavy lifting for you:
Ahrefs Content Explorer: enter a keyword, then click the “who tweeted” button. It’ll then show you everyone who tweeted that post and also, tell you exactly how many followers they have on Twitter.
Buzzsumo: Head over to Buzzsumo, select past year and the “influencers” tab. Enter a broad search term related to your niche or the topic of your question.
You’ll notice many of these people have tens of thousands of followers and a lot of authority. These are the type of people you want sharing and amplifying your content:
I have put together a number of expert roundups for clients in different industries here and here.
In a lot of these cases, I’m looking for specialists in very specific occupations. So, I’ll use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to get laser focused with my roundup prospecting:
And extract contact information using the SellHack chrome extension:
This process allows me to work faster and build a very specific list of outreach targets.
It’s then simply a case of reaching out to everyone on your list and ask them the question you decided upon.
The key here is to make sure that your outreach email is short, to the point and personal.
Here is a template you can use:
Robbie Richards here, from robbierichards.com. I came across your LinkedIn profile today and thought I’d reach out regarding an expert roundup I’m putting together.
Here’s the question:
Please leave your response on this form: [URL]
I’ll include a link to your website and promote the article to my 35,000+ audience.
Deadline for contribution is [DATE].
P.S. Here is an example of similar article I published (shared over 10,000 times). https://www.robbierichards.com/seo/best-seo-tools/
#16. Drive Traffic (and Build Relationships) With “Targeted” Blog Commenting
I can already hear the trolls coming out on this one
Blog commenting is a spam tactic. Blog comments are no follow. Blog comments don’t boost rankings. Etc..
All of these arguments hold merit if you’re just dropping hundreds of blog comments to boost rankings.
But, that’s not the basis of what we’re doing here.
We’re going to use blog commenting to accomplish the following objectives:
#1: Pillow your link profile to make it look more natural #2: Get your content (and brand) in front of more people #3: Drive targeted referral traffic to important content on your site #4: Build relationships with influential content creators in your industry
The process is simple: Identify high-traffic blog posts, and leave value-add comments that drive people back to your most relevant content.
After two weeks the startup saw the following results:
Total blog comments: 40 Unique referral visitors: 452 Visitors Per Comment: 11.25 Number of sign ups: 72 (16% conversion rate!) Total time invested: 6.5hrs ROI: 11 sign ups/ hour spent
While this strategy might not open the traffic floodgates, it does provide a low-cost opportunity to get your content (and brand) in front of a very targeted audience.
Here’s how to scale finding relevant blogs with high traffic potential:
Open the Ahrefs Content Explorer (affiliate) and search for a relevant phrase. Filter out the pages that get a lot of organic traffic and are written in the same language as your site:
Note: the volume threshold will depend on the niche you are in. For a larger topic like “content marketing”, we could ramp up the volume threshold to 1,000+ and still get a long list of blogs to look at:
Scan through the list of results and see which ones have an active comment thread. If it does, put together a comment that adds value and insert a link to a relevant piece of content on your site.
Tip: Focus more on the blog comment sections where the moderator is (1) actively responding to commenters, and (2) allows relevant link placements in the comments.
This will not only improve the chances of your link being approved, but will also provide an opportunity to form relationships with industry influencers. This opens the door to guest post opportunities, and an increased likelihood they drop an editorial link to your content in the future.
What do Halloween, the winter holidays, and the Fourth of July have in common? For PR pros, these times of the year represent not only a festive season, but more importantly a competitive, short, and oversaturated pitching landscape.
There are few things in the PR world worse than going to pitch to a top-tier outlet and finding out that their editorial calendar is full or that similar content has been placed by the publisher before yours. At Fractl, we’ve executed Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s holiday campaigns on behalf of our clients for the past 6 years. What have we learned?
Read on and avoid these three mistakes to ensure that all your holiday campaigns will succeed.
Lesson 1: Prepare Your Campaign Well in Advance
We’ve heard this lesson loud and clear in one instance when promoting one of our clients’ holiday “gadget” gift guides. Even though the writer over at SimpleMost loved our pitch, she knew her editor wasn’t going to have time to read through the pitch and assign it out.
“Unfortunately, it takes a while—sometimes a month or more—for editors to go through story pitches, so I will not be able to write this in time. If you ever have any other less timely stories, however, please feel free to send them my way!”
Holiday campaigns with a minimum of three to four weeks in active outreach before the actual holiday are more likely to succeed. Most major online publications already have a full content calendar during the holidays. If by chance your pitch piques their interest and there is room for your story, journalists still need time to read the pitch, find their angle for it, pitch their own editor the idea, get approval, and then go through multiple drafts before actually publishing the article.
In addition, any extra time you spend beforehand creating the campaign and developing the pitch strategy will ensure the highest-quality content is delivered to potential publications while the holiday is still relevant. The time spent strategizing, list-building, pitch writing, and content writing is crucial to the success of holiday content.
If you’re still unsure when to begin pitching your holiday content, ask a writer or editor how much lead time they need when receiving a pitch. Amanda Cargill, food content director at The Latin Kitchen told mediabistro that “pitching online only requires about six weeks lead time. Four could work, but the writer has to be able to write it in that time, and promote it.”
You can also consult the publication’s editorial calendar directly. Most print and online publications include an editorial calendar in their media kit. For example, the Men’s Health’s media kit clearly states that the theme for their December coverage is tech and gear. Have a tech-themed holiday gift guide you’re hoping to get featured on Men’s Health? Late November would be the time to pitch it!
Content Marketers are aware of major holidays on the calendar, yet we’re usually pushing to produce a holiday campaign just weeks before the holiday. Others might miss out on links and coverage by getting a late start. With a clear plan in mind and a focus on preparedness, your content has the potential to be one of the first holiday content campaigns that a publisher sees.
Lesson 2: Appeal to the Masses By Including Regional Data
Regional data that is broken down by state or city is always a great way to help holiday campaigns succeed. Across the board, campaigns with some regional aspect earned more do-follows and total press mentions than campaigns lacking in a regional angle.
So, why did our campaigns perform better when they had some regional appeal to them? Having regional data allows you to send pitches at a highly efficient rate. Once the exclusive has been secured and published on a top-tier website, having a regional strategy in place is a quick and efficient way to blast your campaign to relevant audiences. In one instance, our team secured the exclusive to a Halloween campaign on Mashable at the last minute. Within 48 hours, we were able to send over 500 tailored and targeted pitches to regional publications across the U.S. This resulted in a total of 70 dofollow links and 126 total pickups—all on a time crunch.
We also heard this idea reflected back in some feedback from an editor at a regional newspaper:
“I took a quick look at the story and would be interested in doing a local story that uses some or all of your graphics and data. The more specific information you have, the better — particularly you have any data specific to the state of Tennessee or the west TN region, [and] the greater Memphis area.”
In situations like these, it pays to be able to comb your dataset for regional data that you can offer to smaller publications when the situation arises. Say the exclusive you placed didn’t earn as many engagements as you hoped. Being able to fall back on the regional aspect of a campaign can take performance to the next level.
Lesson 3: Highlight Unique and Newsworthy Stories
Content marketers need to realize that there are only so many viral holiday ideas you can produce—you can’t bank on being the first to produce an idea, especially when the success of your campaign is limited to a few weeks. We realized this at Fractl when we received this piece of feedback from a writer at SheKnows:
“We actually ran a very similar story in our food vertical last week, so we’re going to have to pass. But thanks for thinking of us!”
Focus on producing something with a truly unique and noteworthy methodology in future newsjacking or holiday campaigns. This will help it stand out as well as potentially add an evergreen variable.
In our case, miraculously, we were able to spin an over-covered topic to our benefit. A similar Halloween campaign to our client’s went viral about 2 days before our content was ready. Our topic was the same, but their methodology was different. We rewrote our outreach pitch to highlight what made ours unique and sent pitches to all the people who covered the other project. Once we explained that our methodology was different and highlighted our original findings, the performance of the campaign exceeded our client’s expectations. Phew!
How can I come up with unique holiday ideas? Everything has already been done.
Sure, it’s easy to say you will generate unique content, but what does that actually look like? How can a team come up with ideas that are both relevant to the holiday and haven’t been done before? It’s hard, but it’s not impossible.
Here’s an example. Say your client wants to come out with a holiday gift guide. Your team might be thinking, “oh no, not another gift guide. The internet is already saturated in gift guides! How can we stand out?”
A quick Google search for “best holiday gift guide” churns out 473,000,000 results. When you analyze the keyword in Buzzsumo from only the last two years,there are 42 pages of related articles. Everyone from the New York Times to Buzzfeed to Prevention to BroBible are covering the best holiday gifts.
But, is anyone covering the “worst”? What happens when you search in Google for “worst holiday gift guide”? There are far fewer results—about a tenth of the results—coming in at 43,800,000.
And results in Buzzsumo? Nonexistent.
See where I’m going here? Take a risk, and put a unique spin on topics that have been covered before, and reap the rewards. Hannah Agran, senior food editor of Midwest Living told mediabistro that for holiday content, the “challenge is to hit those key visual and topical notes without repeating the same stories we did two years ago.”
Build out a list of topics that have been covered by the publisher during last year’s coverage. Is there any way you can update a story they wrote with new data, or put a spin on a recurring topic (i.e. gift guides)? If you’re still struggling to come up with a unique hook for your holiday campaign, check out 98 Ways to Find Inspiration for Content Ideas.
During active outreach of your holiday campaign, it’s important to listen to how journalists and editors reply to your pitch. Not only is publisher feedback valuable for calculating open, click, and response rate, it’s also incredibly useful information to use to optimize to your content creation and promotion process. All three lessons we learned above were highlighted by publisher feedback we received with pitching a campaign. These conversations can also be a starting point to build a relationship, which is what media relations is all about.
When thinking about holiday content marketing strategies, it’s important to consider these three overarching factors. Calendar awareness, mass-appeal, and newsworthy content are all equally important when planning and promoting your holiday content. Without proper time, a unique angle, or regional data, your campaign your campaign may fail to have a healthy promotions report, if one at all.
This article is about the development and purpose of standard SEO reports in particular. Not to be confused with SEO platforms, like Conductor and Sitebulb for example, which are extraordinary in giving you insights to dig through. The result of those platforms would fit nicely with this post.
The SEO report. It’s a calling card for some agencies. These reports can be ornate or no-frills (everyone has their own style). Smart companies use APIs to compile reports without spending manual hours. Some rely on automatic SEO reporting tools. For other companies, it’s a time-intensive and considerably low-value exercise.
At the end of the day, the SEO report can be a tool by which you can gain insights and build powerful campaigns for organic search. They say, “teaching is the best way to learn.” We often think of this as a client deliverable, or a monthly expectation to appease your boss, but an SEO report provides the opportunity to dig into your data. It’s a tool to enhance your existing marketing acumen. It can cover everything from organic traffic, external and internal link building, social media, and more.
What is an SEO Report?
For those entering the field, an SEO report is the common name given to any type of document meant to inform the viewer of their SEO status. It can be built by tools, humans, or a combination of both. Most SEO agencies provide a monthly SEO report to their clients. Sometimes, however, it is more of a ticking of the box than a valuable endeavor. It’s one thing to export data from Google Analytics and rank tracking software. It’s another to inquire into what should get exported. There’s no value in creating any kind of website report if the data can’t help you answer questions.
What does the data tell me about our visitors?
What direction should I take based on the data?
Why is “X” happening?
What dubious claims and theories can we correct?
What campaigns should we renounce, and how can I change direction for the better?
What data can I use to sell back the SEO investment?
Prospects often ask me what our SEO reports look like. For some, this client report is a staple in their previous agency relationship (or the “calling card” I mentioned above.) It’s a valid question, to which my answer can be unexpected and welcomed. I explain, “we develop reports with a data-first philosophy, to which the KPIs that move your business are primary. Sure, we include the obligitory ranking, traffic, and conversion data, but we want to benchmark against the particulars that your business is based on.” If the prospect hasn’t developed a KPI set or set goals in GA, we will help them. We do everything in our power to make sure rankings aren’t the main KPI.
I’m one of the many SEOs who don’t live and die by keyword rankings anymore. You won’t see me exhaustively tracking keywords before focusing on other performance indicators (like traffic, conversions, time on page, bounce rate, and revenue). Although SEO ranking reports are traditional, rankings are an imperfect metric. Expect flux in search engine rankings. Keywords that typically perform for a business can appear lower in the results on any given day. It’s important that a report doesn’t capture a snapshot of rankings (like a monthly report). If a keyword is down on the day you compile the report, but high on other days, you’re going to get a faulty signal.
Below is a ranking trend for a keyword that has much competition. If this report was made around 5/15/2018, it would look like a victory with a top 10 ranking. In truth, this is a keyword that is not performing well.
Instead, you should make sure to reflect the average position. The average position for the keyword above is position 48. This represents organic visibility in a clear and digestible way.
It’s important to group keywords to appropriate landing pages. Instead of thinking of each keyword on its own, I prefer an organic visibility score for a page. This allows the target keywords and your non-target keywords to represent the traffic to the website. Identify the pages you are working on and average the ranks for all the keywords that are driving organic. Repeat each month for a trend. SEMrush now gives page level data so you can easily extract the keywords with a download or API call. That’s a very helpful addition.
Different SEO tools offer visibility scores of their own, using their own preferred formula. More than just averages, sometimes traffic and impression data is calculated. Here is a visibility score from Rank Ranger that’s telling me how well one of my important pages is performing (check out their calculation description). I’d rather learn from this report and drill into each keyword only as needed. It’s a perfect chart for any SEO reporting dashboard.
Follow The Numbers
Rankings can help define traffic intent, but qualified traffic is the most important data in any Google Analytics report. After all, it’s why we are all so focused on studying Google’s ranking factors. We are looking to attract traffic that does something – make a purchase, become aware of a brand, inquire about a service, read content, and so on. The key to receiving qualified organic traffic starts with understanding your best visitors’ wants and needs. Every query done in search engines represents a need by a user. Your website data discloses what this need is, and it gives you the ability to update your website accordingly. As long as you take the time to dig into your organic search data.
If you have a website with properly themed pages, seeing the organic growth is telling. High click-through rates and engagement signals two things – you’re on the right track with your visitors, and you’ve convinced Google that you’re worth the traffic. Using the keyword groupings we discussed earlier helps paint an even clearer picture. A good SEO report should allow you to see this, and help you consider a need for improving the page or moving onto another SEO campaign. Alternatively, if your reports are not showing webpage success, it should report on the reasons why and suggest the efforts that should be made.
Your Time Is Too Important
In a past life, I was part of an agency that spent too much time – by hand – downloading Omniture reports (remember them?). I was copying and pasting cells, customizing charts, running formulas, and beautifying spreadsheets. I could make a spreadsheet look like a work of art, but it wasn’t the work I should have been doing. This exercise took 10+ hours a month. Clients would receive these reports in the middle of the month. In summary, my clients were paying me to be a report monkey. I was spending far too much time building spreadsheets, and not enough time analyzing. That’s a problem.
Improved technology has given SEOs various methods in which data collection can accelerate. APIs from Google Analytics and Search Console can plug into Google Data Studio or Google Sheets (with a plugin like Supermetrics). No longer do we have an excuse for being a report monkey. Instead, we can use this extra time wisely. We can use this available time to find the stories in the data. We can use this time to provide actionable insights pulled from the data.
As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a need for a duplicated version of something that can easily be exported from an analytics tool. Businesses need our talents and research to raise the ROI. Keep that in mind as you draft SEO reports for clients, customers, or even your boss. It will certainly keep you held in higher regard as you continue your SEO journey together.
SEO Report Example
I’ve talked a bit about quality reporting, but I haven’t shown any examples of what we do at Greenlane. This is a default report designed in Google Data Studio. It’s our most current “out of the box” version (as of this writing). It has not been customized for client KPIs. But it’s clean and clear. If you’d like to download this to use as an SEO report template, you can download it here.
So far, pretty standard stuff. So what happens when a client has their own SEO metric requests? You simply build them in (as you’re about to see).
Additionally, in this next example, you’ll see where insights tell the story of the data. The benefit to API driven reports, you don’t need to spend the time pulling data. They essentially become automated SEO reports. You can use this saved time to really understand what is going on with the site.
There’s no limit to how much customization you can do to your report template. As long as the data is relevant, and the insights are valuable, you’re on your way to creating the best SEO reports you can possibly deliver. Developing the template is certainly a bit of upfront work, but it pays off in the long run.
There are a number of key business reasons you should know how much demand exists within an online niche; or the size of your total addressable market.
The most common ones are:
Assess your business’s current market share
Identify opportunities for expansion
Analyze investment potential
Calculating the total addressable market (TAM) offline is an age-old practice when it comes to assessing and deploying investment capital, but it’s always been a bit of a fickle process — data sources are mediocre at best, and you are almost always left approximating.
While a degree of approximation is still required when calculating online market size, we can at least use more quantitative data sources, like search data.
We are hired with increasing frequency to help companies determine their online TAM, almost exclusively for one of the 3 reasons I’ve mentioned above.
We tend to perform these analyses mostly for ecommerce companies, but we are starting to work with more and more enterprise software and SaaS companies to help them define both their keyword strategies and even product roadmaps informed by TAM data.
Attention: Before we get any further into the process, this section that you just read is massively important.
Everything you and your team does from here on must be goal-oriented. Whether it be for one of the reason listed above or any another you may have in mind, you will waste your time collecting data and sorting through thousands and thousands of keywords if you do not have a focused goal in mind.
WATCH Video Version
Putting Keyword Data to Work
As with almost all quantitative approaches, the more data we have the better – we recommend collecting as much data as possible in the beginning stage because it will decrease the number of times you will need to filter.
We collect data from the following four sources:
One of the best initial data sources to start with is historical AdWords, if you have it. This becomes even more powerful if you’re an ecommerce website and you have at least 12 months of historical PLA data.
The caveat to having AdWords data is we can match up clicks and conversions at the keyword level and infer which head terms and modifiers are driving the most conversions for our client.
2. Google Search Console
If you are not an ecommerce brand and PLA data is not available to you or your team, the next (or equally as important as historical Adwords data) data source is Google Search Console (GSC.) We use the Google Sheets plugin SuperMetrics to pull in the last 16 months of raw search query data from GSC.
This allows us to immediately grow the list of keywords and we can begin to see what users in that particular industry are looking for.
We use Ahrefs to identify which sites have the largest keyword footprints, downloading all of their terms and then also pulling in all the data from their lists of top competing domains.
At this point, we’re only focused on expanding our total list of terms and not worried so much about all the additional keyword level data, we’ll get that later.
First, we need to sanitize this data so we can extract insights from it to use to expand our term list.
To do this, our SEO Analysts painstakingly review the term lists (often between 30,000 and 50,000 terms) looking for modifier patterns to then query against the list, and build new lists of included modifiers and excluded modifiers, as well as pulling out core head terms.
You’ll want to score each modifier as Included or Excluded in its own column, and then build this into the formula logic for aggregating all the data for the report.
For ecommerce sites these head terms are typically going to be your category and subcategory terms. We exclude terms that are branded because it will be extremely difficult to rank for and aren’t worth the effort.
Here’s an example of what one of these lists looks like:
Next, we take the list of included modifiers and head terms and multiply it using a keyword multiplier tool, giving us a new base term list.
Expanding the List Using Modifier Cohorts
Now that we have identified patterns of terms that include topical keywords and intent or product focused modifiers, we can get to scraping.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that keywords can also be grouped into cohorts using keyword-level metrics, such as highest traffic, lowest difficulty, lowest CPC, and so on – like this:
Once we’ve blown out our total list of terms to a place we feel is representative of the majority of the niche online, which involves pulling the keyword ranking data for the top 10-20 websites within each modifier cohort, we go to work expanding the list even more.
At this stage in the process we user Term Explorer to expand the list to include all related keywords across Wikipedia, Google Suggest, Amazon, and eBay.
Here is what the UI looks like inside of Term Explorer for our Social Security example once we inputted our entire list:
We can then export the data from Term Explorer (upwards of 200,000 keywords sometimes), add any newly found unique keywords to the list, and query the modifier lists against the new list. Any keywords that are not relevant can be removed from the data set.
Refining The List of Keywords
A lot of the time there are going to be terms in the list that inflate the total monthly search volume (MSV.) This is because search engines see terms that are similar in nature or include the same terms as having the same MSV, CPC, and Competition.
Here is an example:
Google groups ‘veteran disability benefits’ and ‘benefits for disabled veterans’ as the same keyword, so we must remove these or the MSV and total keyword count will be inflated.
This is most easily done using the AdWords API, but can be done also copying and pasting all your terms into Keyword Planner, which as a bonus will also sanitize your terms list by grouping synonyms that Google sees as so semantically related that it returns the same volume, CPC, and difficulty data for each.
Understanding Search Intent
Understanding what exactly a user wants out of their search is most certainly one, if not the, most important aspect of doing any sort of keyword research.
If your site or specific page that you are conducting keyword research for is targeting a term that is informational in nature but your actual intention is to target users in the commercial phase of the sales funnel, you are not going to see any results.
Here is the search intent funnel that we use during this process. Notice that it is directly related to the sales funnel:
Mapping Search Intent
Once you have a firm understanding of what search intent is, it’s time to put the funnel to use.
This process can often become quite a tedious but a great place to start is with the included modifier list that you created just a few steps ago.
Here’s an example from the Social Security research our team put together:
Informational terms are perhaps the easiest to identify in a data set. You can start by using modifiers “how”, “why”, “when”, or “where” to begin the mapping process.
These are the terms that show that the user is not yet ready to apply, buy, or sign anything just yet but they are looking for the best resource in order to make that next step.
Once you are at the bottom of the funnel you are looking for terms that are transactional in nature. Users here are using modifiers like “apply” or “file” or “application” which shows they are looking for a place to fill out a form or application.
By the way, when we say “transactional” that doesn’t necessarily mean an exchange of anything of monetary value but instead whatever the intent of your site or page is.
Whether it be getting users to enter their email, request a demo, or fill out a contact form, there are transactional intent keywords for any business.
Creating a Priority List
This is the best part of the process by far. By this time you have collected data, went through it line by line, identified modifiers, expanded the list using modifier cohorts, and began to understand search intent for you target audience.
When deciding which terms to prioritize there are a few different things you can do:
Sort the list by monthly search volume, then pick the top 100 terms that your site does not rank in the top 5 for.
Add in a competitor layer of data so you can find the low hanging fruit that competitors are not optimized for or targeting.
To design holistic and comprehensive SEO strategies you need to be aware of the key metrics that exist within your online SEO landscape;
The size of your market (both in terms of the number of keywords and the average search volume of those terms).
Who your online competitors are (these offer vary significantly from your offline competitors).
Your current market share, and areas where you have little to no visibility (which usually identifies areas where your product or service offering is either weak or doesn’t exist).
We have helped FTF clients identify literally hundreds of millions of dollars in additional SEO revenue opportunity using this data.
Put in the time, aggregate and organize all the data (we’ve given you the process), and identify those large growth opportunities.
A Special Thank You
This process has been refined significantly throughout 2018, and it’s thanks directly to the hard (and brilliant) work of 2 our FTF SEO Team Members: Matt DiMenno and Kurtis Nysmith. Follow them… they’re doing big things.
We did it! One hundred episodes of Experts on the Wire.
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 this episode will be about – 3 listeners ask their own questions for Dan and Marie to answer [2:05]
Show Begins [2:46]
Marie Haynes’ Podcast Search news You Can Use [4:04]
What has Marie learned since the August 1st Google update and have there been more updates since then? [5:24]
Local update [5:57]
Organic update- update that hit businesses with trust issues [6:44]
Has Marie seen any recoveries for those sites affected? [8:44]
1st caller Steve [10:10]
Steve runs a website builder review website and also has a blog for seo purposes. Steve doesn’t know if his blog helps with seo and is unsure which direction to take the blog in to help with SEO. [11:09]
Marie’s thoughts on blogs [12:48]
Dan’s Thoughts [16:00]
Marie’s thoughts on blog content unrelated to the business site [17:50]
More thoughts on the Google update and how EAT and trust plays a factor [20:25]
2nd caller Talmage [24:54]
Can you optimize for TF-IDF, Proof Terms, Semantics, LSI? [25:18]
Dan’s response [26:14]
Marie’s response [27:28]
Google update caused some of Talmage’s clients to suffer what can he do to counteract it [29:16]
Marie’s thoughts [30:31]
Dan’s thoughts [33:38]
Marie’s addition recommendations [34:55]
How to best build links and what are Dan and Marie’s thoughts on link building? [36:56]
Dan’s thoughts [37:33]
Marie’s thought [38:58]
3rd caller Victor [42:06]
How to optimize for an “hours open” listing site?[42:42]
Marie’s response [44:17]
Dan’s thoughts [46:43]
Marie’s additional thoughts on providing value that people can’t find elsewhere [49:02]
Dan’s additional thoughts on Victor’s website [51:46]
Marie’s final thoughts on link building and user experience [52:32]
Dan and Marie’s final thoughts on incorrect business models [54:11]