17 Ways to Get More YouTube Subscribers (2019)

17 Ways to Get More YouTube Subscribers (2019)

How to Get More YouTube Subscribers

In this post you’re going to learn how to get more YouTube subscribers in 2019.

In fact:

These are the exact strategies I used to grow my channel from zero to 188,100 subscribers.

Backlinko YouTube subscribers increase

And today I’m going to show you how I did it…

…and how you can do the same thing.

1. Use “Power Playlists”

“Power Playlists” are like regular playlists… but better.

Here’s exactly how they work:

You see, most playlists are organized by topic.

Power playlists

But Power Playlists are different.

Instead of topics, Power Playlists are organized by outcomes.

Here’s an example from my channel:

Backlinko – Power Playlist example

As you can see, the title of that playlist is an outcome:

Backlinko's Power Playlist title gives an outcome

Which makes people MUCH more likely to watch my playlist… and subscribe.

And that leads us to…

2. Publish LONG Videos (10+ Minutes)

Yup, this goes against conventional wisdom.

But stay with me.

I recently did the largest YouTube ranking factors study ever.

YouTube Ranking Factors study

In that study we analyzed 11 factors that might help video rank in YouTube’s search engine.

And we found something surprising:

Longer videos rank better in YouTube’s search results.

Longer videos tend to rank better in YouTube

For example:

A few months ago I published this video.

As you can see, my video is almost 14 minutes long:

Backlinko YouTube video length

And that’s one of the main reasons that it ranks #1 in YouTube for the keyword: “backlinks”:

Backlinko YouTube video – Ranking for

3. Promote Videos In Your End Screen

Here’s the deal:

The more of your videos someone watches, the more likely they are to subscribe.

The question is:

How do you get people to watch 2, 5 or even 10 of your videos?

Promote another video in your End Screen.

Here’s an example from my channel:

Backlinko End Screen – Next Video

This simple “Next Video” has led to TONS of bonus views and subscribers:

Backlinko – End Screen – Extra views and subscribers

Here’s how you can do the same thing:

First, include 10 seconds of time at the end of your videos specifically for your End Screen.

Here’s what mine looks like:

Backlinko – End Screen template

Then, use YouTube’s End Screen editor to add a link to a related video:

Backlinko – End Screen editor

That’s all there is to it 🙂

4. Branding Watermark = Subscribe Button

This is the ultimate YouTube subscriber hack.

You probably know that you can add a Branding Watermark to your videos.

Branding Watermark

This watermark lets viewers subscribe to your channel inside of your video.

Branding watermark with Subscribe button

Unfortunately, most Branding Watermarks are completely ignored.

For example…

Last year I added this watermark to all of my videos:

Backlinko – First watermark

And it did absolutely nothing.

So I decided to try something new.

Instead of a watermark that looked cool…

…I used one that looked like a normal YouTube subscribe button.

Backlinko – Latest watermark

And it worked!

My new watermark generated 70% more subscribers than my old one.

Backlinko – New watermark success

Pretty cool.

5. Focus On Quality… Not Quantity

When I first started my YouTube channel, I read the same advice over and over again:

“If you want to grow your channel, you need to upload videos on a regular basis”

As it turns out, this is HORRIBLE advice.

I’ll explain.

When I first started my channel I published videos on a consistent schedule…

…but no one watched them.

Backlinko – Low YouTube view rate

And the few people that watched my videos didn’t even bother to subscribe.

Backlinko YouTube channel – Low subscriber conversion

It was REALLY frustrating.

So I decided to change things up.

Instead of quantity, I decided to focus 100% on quality.

And this “quality over quantity” video marketing approach worked like magic.

Flash forward to today and my channel generates over 200k views per month from only 24 total videos:

Backlinko – 200,000 views per month

And because I pour my heart and soul into every video, 7k+ people subscribe to my channel every month:

Backlinko – 7,000 monthly subscribers

6. Reply To EVERY Comment

This is one of the EASIEST ways to get more subscribers.

In fact, YouTube’s internal data has found a clear correlation between replying to comments and subscribers:

“When creators take the time to interact with their loyal community, it can encourage audience participation and ultimately result in a larger fanbase.”

Why does this help?

Well, most YouTubers never reply to comments.

Which means you instantly stand out when you do.

Brian replying to YouTube comments

That’s why I do my best to reply to as many comments as I can.

(Especially right after a new video comes out)

7. Write a Compelling Channel Description

Your YouTube Channel Description is HUGE.

(Especially when it comes to video SEO)

Sadly, most Channel Descriptions look something like this:

Bad YouTube Channel Description

Imagine that you’re considering subscribing to that channel.

Is that description going to make you lunge for the subscribe button?

Probably not.

Contrast that weak description with this one:

Good YouTube Channel Description

This about page works because it:

  • Tells you what the channel is all about
  • Gives you important information on the channel (like the upload schedule)
  • Includes a strong call to action to subscribe

Here’s a template to help you write your own Channel Description:

YouTube description template

Pro Tip: Sprinkle in a handful of keywords in your description. This can help your channel rank better in YouTube search.

For example, I sprinkled in a few different relevant keywords that people searching for my content would use…

…like “SEO”, “link building” and “content marketing”.

Backlinko YouTube channel keywords

8. Funnel People to “Subscriber Magnets”

This is working GREAT for me right now.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

First, head over to your YouTube Analytics.

And click “Subscribers” → “YouTube Watch Page”.

Next, identify the video that brought you the most subs last month:

Identify the video that brought the most subscribers

(This video is your “Subscriber Magnet”)

In my case, this ONE Subscriber Magnet from my channel brings in as many subscribers as 13 other videos from my channel… combined.

Subscriber magnets

Why is this important?

Your Subscriber Magnet video is PROVEN to generate subscribers.

And if you can get these video in front of more people, you’ll get more subscribers

Here are 3 ways to get more eyeballs on your Subscriber Magnet.

First, feature that video in your End Screen.

Feature your Subscriber Magnet on your End Screen

Second, make a playlist that starts off with that video:

Make a playlist that starts with the subscriber magnet

Finally, promote that video in a card:

Promote video in card

You can even make your Subscriber Magnet your channel trailer.

For example, Evan Carmichael uses his high-converting Steve Jobs video as his trailer:

Evan Carmichael – Trailer

That way, Evan’s high-converting video gets in front of everyone that visits his channel page

9. Use an Awesome Channel Icon

Your Channel Icon shows up EVERYWHERE on YouTube.

Channel Icon

Your icon is like a custom thumbnail… for your entire channel.

That’s why it’s really important to use the right one.

So if you’re a personal brand, use a high-res headshot:

Personal brand – High-res headshot

If you’re a company channel, use a version of your logo designed for YouTube.

For example, ESPN rounded their logo so it works perfectly as a Channel Icon:

Company Channel Icon

10. Create a Channel Tagline

Let’s face it:

Most YouTube channels do NOTHING to stand out.

And hey, I’m not judging.

In the early days of my channel I completely ignored my channel’s positioning.

Backlinko – Old YouTube channel

And it was one of the main reasons that I struggled.

Once I started to strategically position my channel, my monthly views and total subscriber count shot up like a rocketship.

Views and subscribers rising from strategic positioning of channel

Fortunately, you don’t need an MBA to position and brand your channel.

In fact, all you need to do is create a simple tagline.

Here’s the 3-step process:

First, identify ONE thing that makes your channel unique or different.

Maybe you’re a busy mom that can deadlift 500 pounds.

Maybe your channel teaches software companies how to grow their blog.

The exact “thing” doesn’t matter.

As long as it’s different than the other channels in your niche, you’re set.

For example:

My videos teach people marketing strategies they can use to grow their business.

Backlinko videos

But if I made my tagline “I teach marketing strategies” or “I help you grow your business”, I’d blend in with thousands of other channels on YouTube.

So I decided to focus on the ONE thing that my channel focuses on:

Higher rankings and more traffic.

Second, put that tagline in big font on your Channel Art.

Here’s mine:

Tagline in Channel Art

Finally, say your tagline in your Channel Trailer.

Say tagline in channel trailer

11. Heart Awesome Comments

A while back YouTube launched “Creator Hearts”.

YouTube creator hearts description

Creator Hearts make it easy to highlight awesome comments from your community:

Backlinko – Creator Heart example

Now for the interesting part…

When you heart a comment, that person gets a notification:

Brian hearting a comment

And according to YouTube’s own data:

“We’ve found that viewers who have received a heart on their comment are three times more likely to click on the notification (than with other types of notifications), potentially leading more viewers back to your channel.”

That’s right:

Heart notifications get 300% more clicks than average.

So whenever someone leaves a solid comment, hook them up with a heart:

Brian hearting a comment

As you just saw, this will bring them back to your video… and make them VERY likely to subscribe.

12. Make a Killer Channel Trailer

You probably know that a channel trailer can help you get more YouTube subscribers.

Here are 3 tactics for making a channel trailer that converts:

Kick things off with your tagline

Start your trailer off with your channel’s tagline.

(Don’t have a tagline. Check out technique #10 from this post)

For example, I say my tagline (“Higher Rankings and More Traffic”) within the first 5 seconds of my trailer:

Tagline in the first 5 seconds of the trailer

Stick to 60 seconds (or less)

YouTube themselves say that shorter trailers convert best:

Shorter trailers convert best

That’s why I made my trailer about a minute long:

Backlinko's trailer is about one minute long

Show off your best stuff

Your trailer is a GREAT opportunity to promote your best content.

That’s why the middle of your trailer should be a 20-30 second highlight reel.

For example, my trailer includes LOTS of clips from my other videos:

 

That way, viewers can quickly get a feel for the type of content that I publish.

13. Create Videos That CRUSH Watch Time

Yup, Watch Time is a massively important YouTube SEO ranking factor.

And not just for YouTube SEO.

Videos with high Watch Time numbers get promoted more often on the YouTube homepage:

YouTube watch time promoted

And in the Suggested Video sidebar:

YouTube watch time sidebar

That’s why YouTube states that:

“The longer you can keep people watching on YouTube because of your content, the more your content may get surfaced.”

Question is:

How do you maximize Watch Time?

Use lots of Pattern Interrupts.

PI

Pattern Interrupt

noun

Definition

An event that changes a person’s thought patterns.

Pattern Interrupts make your videos more dynamic…

…which keeps people watching.

That’s why I use TONS of Pattern Interrupts in every video.

Including graphics:

 

Jump cuts:

 

And corny jokes:

 

Remember:

Pattern Interrupts don’t need to be anything fancy.

For example, check out this video from Safiya Nygaard:

Safiya uses lots of super simple Pattern Interrupts (like camera angle changes and simple graphics) to keep things fresh.

Safiya pattern interrupts

14. Embed YouTube Videos In Blog Posts

Your blog is a HUGE untapped source of views and subscribers.

Why?

Well, if someone’s reading your text content, they clearly like your stuff.

Which means they’re primed to subscribe.

That’s why I embed lots of videos in my blog posts.

Sometimes the video makes up an entire step or tip:

Video as an entire step

But I also embed videos as a way for people to learn more about something from the post:

Embed videos to impart extra information

Either way, these embeds get my videos in front of more people.

And not just random people.

I’m showing my video content to people that are SUPER likely to subscribe to my channel.

15. End Videos With a Strong CTA

When someone get to the end of your video, they think:

“What’s next?”

And unless you give them something to do, they’re going to click over to another video from another channel.

User clicking on another channel's video

So tell them to subscribe to your channel.

And don’t be afraid to tell people exactly what to do.

For example, here’s how I end all of my videos:

Video ending captions

I literally tell people to click on the subscribe button below the video.

That way, there’s no guesswork or thinking involved.

And that’s one of the main reasons that so many people subscribe right after watching one of my videos:

People subscribe after watching Brian's videos

16. Promote Your Channel In Ebooks, Webinars, Presentations and Lead Magnets

The next time you create ANY piece of content, ask yourself:

“How can I funnel people from this content to my channel?”

For example, I include a link to my channel in every lead magnet:

Link to channel in lead magnet

I even promote my channel in podcast interviews:

Brian promotes the Backlinko YouTube channel in podcast interviews

17. Optimize Your Channel Page

When someone lands on your channel page, two things can happen:

  1. They leave right away
  2. They watch more of your videos and subscribe

And I can tell you from experience that an optimized channel page can increase your subscribers by 2-5x.

For example, my channel used to look super unprofessional:

Old Backlinko YouTube channel – Unprofessional

Needless to say, VERY few people that landed on my page decided to subscribe.

That’s when I decided to put more time and effort into my channel page.

Specifically, I hired a pro designer to make my Channel Art:

Backlinko Channel Art

And I organized my videos so that my best stuff appeared at the top:

Backlinko YouTube channel – Best things at the top

That said:

There’s no “perfect” way to organize your Channel Page.

But here’s a template that I notice a lot of top YouTubers use:

Top YouTube users template

Bonus #1: The “Social Media Preview”

I used to share my videos on social media like this:

Brian – Old style of social media video sharing

And my posts got BURIED.

Why?

Because Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites want to keep people on their platform.

Which means they don’t like posts that send people to YouTube.

Well, I recently discovered a way around this problem:

The “Social Media Preview”.

And this simple strategy has helped me get INSANE views on social media:

Social media preview – High number of views

In fact, one of my recent Social Media Previews got over 30k views on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn – 30,000 views

Here’s how to do it:

First, grab a 30-90 second clip from your YouTube video.

This clip should be a single technique, idea or point.

Next, upload that clip as native video content.

Upload clip as native content

This is key.

Like I mentioned earlier, social networks (like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit) want to promote native content on their platform.

And there’s data to back this up.

Native video Facebook posts get 10x more views than posts that linked to YouTube.

Native Facebook video posts get 10x more views than LinkedIn / YouTube videos

Finally, include a link to your video as the first comment on the post.

Include link to video as first comment on post

That way, if someone wants to see more, they can easily head over to the full video on YouTube.

And you’re set.

Bonus #2: Include a Subscribe Link in Your Channel Art

This is one of my favorite ways to get subscribers on YouTube.

You probably know that you can link to external sites in your Channel Art:

Linking to external site in channel art

But what you may not know is that you can sneak in an extra subscribe button there.

Here’s an example:

Subscribe button in Channel Art

All you need to do is create a YouTube subscribe link:

YouTube subscribe link

Then, add that link as one of your Channel Art links:

Add a

Make sure to give your link a compelling title:

Give your link a compelling title

And when someone clicks on that link, they’ll see this high-converting prompt:

Confirm subscription to Brian's channel

Nice.

Now It’s Your Turn

So I hope this post helped show you how to get more subscribers on YouTube.

And now I’d like to hear from you:

Which strategy from today’s post are you excited to try first?

Or maybe you have a question about something you read.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

The post 17 Ways to Get More YouTube Subscribers (2019) appeared first on Backlinko.

Which Is The Best WordPress Hosting? 7 Hosts – 6 Ruthless Tests

Which Is The Best WordPress Hosting? 7 Hosts – 6 Ruthless Tests

Choosing the best WordPress hosting for your site is critical.

And the most important thing you need to consider is…

How fast it is!

Why?

Because if your website loads slowly, you will suffer from-

  • Lower search engine rankings
  • Higher bounce rates
  • Lower page view numbers
  • Lower conversion rates

And last but not least…

 A SLOW WEBSITE = LOWER PROFITS! 

Your websites speed is critical to the bottom line of your business.

And all of that starts by making sure you choose the best WordPress hosting for you.

PRO TIP: With WordPress hosting- “best” does not mean “most expensive”

Keep reading and you’ll understand exactly what I mean…

Because the tests below will help you save $1,080 this year.

Which Is The Best WordPress Hosting?

Choosing the best WordPress hosting is easy.

You want to make sure that the host you choose-

  • Is super fast on the front and back end
  • Loads your website quickly globally
  • Takes security seriously (automatic backups & SSL)
  • Offers great support
  • Provides value for money

The problem is, that is much easier said than done.

So to find out who really offers the best WordPress hosting…

I setup 18 test blogs across 7 popular managed WordPress hosting providers.

And then I ran 6 tests across each of those 18 blogs-

  1. Speed of loading from different locations around the world
  2. Ability to cope with a plugin-heavy WP blog
  3. Ability to handle a heavy simultaneous traffic load
  4. How each hosts hardware benchmarks
  5. Support speed & quality
  6. Value for money (very surprising result!)

who is the best wordpress host?

Note: I chose the cheapest plan with multiple sites. Cheaper plans are available.
  1. Kinsta – Who are the current host of this blog
    • Cost: 2 websites, $60 monthly, $600 annually
    • CDN: Yes – KeyCDN included
  2. WPX Hosting – The previous host of this blog before Kinsta
    • Cost: 5 websites, $24.99 monthly, $249.99 annually
    • CDN: Yes – WPX Cloud included
  3. WP Engine – My host before WPX Hosting (it wasn’t great)
    • Cost: 5 websites, $115 monthly, $1150 annually
    • CDN: Yes – MaxCDN>Stackpath included
  4. SiteGround – Specifically their managed WordPress hosting option
    • Cost: unlimited website, normally $19.95 monthly, $239.40 annually
    • CDN: No – Free CloudFlare recommended
  5. Hostgator – The managed WordPress Hosting package
    • Cost: 3 websites, $27.95 monthly, $335.40 annually
    • CDN: No – Free CloudFlare recommended
  6. Liquid Web – Again, their managed WordPress hosting offering
    • Cost: 10 websites, $99 monthly, $1,188 annually
    • CDN: No – Free CloudFlare recommended
  7. Amazon EC2 – Not a managed WordPress host, but a DIY wildcard alternative
    • Cost: Unlimited websites, $14.99 monthly, $179.88 annually
    • CDN: No – Free CloudFlare recommended

So with WPEngine & LiquidWeb being the most expensive  of all of them by a long way.

You would expect them to be the clear winners…

Right?

 WRONG! 

Not even close.

How I Tested WordPress Hosting Speed

I setup a total of 18 test sites across each of the 7 hosts.

Hosts that included a CDN as part of their package had 2 sites installed on them (WPXHosting, Kinsta & WP Engine).

Hosts that ask you to use a free CDN like CloudFlare had 3 sites installed on them (Siteground, Hostgator, Amazon EC2 & LiquidWeb).

All of the sites are hosted in the USA.

Then I created 3 different types of blog on 1 host and cloned that across each host using this plugin

Blog Type #1
Image Heavy

Cronus Theme
11 photos
2,000 words

Blog Type #2
Plugin Heavy

Cronus Theme
30 plugins
No text/images

Blog Type #3
CloudFlare

Blog Type #1
Plus Free CloudFlare CDN

And to help make things a little easier for you…

You can see the live versions of all of test blogs below-

Siteground

HostGator

LiquidWeb

Amazon EC2

WPX Hosting

 
Kinsta

 
WP Engine

Feel free to click through to any of them and run your own tests!

But if you’re too lazy to do that…

Here are the results of my 6 tests-

Test #1 – Image Heavy Site Loading Speed

In this test:

I took the Blog Type 1 (image heavy) install for each host and ran it through GTMetrix twice.

Often a sites content is cached on the hosting server and CDN.

So I ran 2 passes of GTMetrix to make sure all caches were primed.

Then I tested each site from 7 global locations and averaged out the results.

This is what it looks like-

Wordpress hosting speed test results

Test #1 Conclusions

 The clear winner here is WPX Hosting. 

But it’s fair to say that all of the hosts performed within acceptable levels in Canada and North America (except for Amazon EC2).

It’s only when you start taking a global look at things do you see dramatic differences in the load times.

But having globally fast loading times is critical in the modern economy.

Test #2 – Plugin Heavy Site Loading Speed

A plugin heavy site can cause huge problems when it comes to load times.

And it’s easy to get carried away!

This blog has 56 active plugins at the time of writing-

56 active plugins on the blog

And plugins can have such a big impact on load time…

WP Engine maintains a list of plugins that are banned on their platform.

So for the Blog Type 2 (plugin heavy) installs, I installed 30 popular plugins with no other content whatsoever.

This test is different because we are testing the computing power of the host, rather than the speed of delivering static image files.

Then I tested each plugin heavy install from 7 global locations & averaged out the results-

wordpress hosting plugin speed test results

Test #2 Conclusions

Like the first test, WPX Hosting is the winner here.

Although it is a marginal win over WP Engine.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the tested page had absolutely zero content.

And the slower hosts seem to have started choking with the higher number of requests.

Test #3 – WordPress Performance Tester Benchmarks

The WordPress Performance Tester plugin is specifically designed to stress test WordPress hosting servers.

It does that by running a number of tests-

  • Math – 100,000 math function tests
  • String Manipulation – 100,000 string manipulation tests
  • Loops – 1,000,000 loop iterations
  • Conditionals – 1,000,000 conditional logic checks
  • MySql – basic mysql functions and 1,000,000 ENCODE() iterations
  • $wpdb – 250 insert, select, update and delete operations

And then outputs 2 performance metrics-

  •  Execution Time    – how long it took to do all of those tests (lower is better)
  •  Queries Per Second    – how many queries per second processed (higher is better)

I ran each of the Blog Type 1 (image heavy) installs for each host through the plugin.

And these were the results…

wordpress hosting benchmark test results

Test #3 Conclusion

As you can see 2x of the more budget friendly hosts WPX Hosting & Siteground performed incredibly well here.

But interestingly:

 The more expensive hosts like Kinsta, LiquidWeb and WP Engine failed to perform. 

That is the exact opposite of what I would expect to happen…

You would think those extra $$$ translate into better hosting hardware and setups!

But the data is telling a different story.

Test #4 – Load Impact

Next I wanted to know:

How would each host perform under stress from 500 simultaneous visitors?

However I had a huge problem:

Most hosts automatically block tests like this because it reseambles a DDOS attack.

But it was critical  that I conducted anonymous testing because I didn’t want the hosts to know I was testing them.

So I created a new page on each Blog Type 1 (image heavy) install with 1,000 words-

Then I set Load Impact to work by sending 500 simulated visitors to load each page on each host.

This is how it played out-

wordpress hosting loadimpact test results

Test #4 Conclusion

From the tests I was able to complete-

 WPX Hosting was the hands down winner here   – it wasn’t even close.

And although WPEngine, Amazon and LiquidWeb were slower…

They did not collapse under the testing and remained online.

As for the other hosts I had problems testing with-

  • Kinsta – LoadImpact was reporting a problem with overloaded Amazon VPS’s
  • SiteGround – Either the hosting failed or they automatically blocked LoadImpact
  • HostGator – Fell down during testing , the site went offline with a 503 error

And while I would have loved to get a result for them…

It would have brought attention to my testing & I wanted to test anonymously.

Perhaps in the future I will be able to run this test again for the missing hosts.

Test #5 – Hosting Support

Speed of your website is one thing.

 But speed (and quality) of support is another. 

And given that the tested hosts are self proclaimed “WordPress Experts”

I wanted to put that to the test.

So I opened an identical support ticket with each host to see-

  1. How long it took to respond
  2. If they would fix the problem for me

Here is the support ticket I sent to each host-

Hi Support,

I am not a very technical person and need help with the setup of this redirect on my site hosted with you thanks:

hostingtest2.space – all pages except hostingtest2.space/wp-admin

to redirect to

hostingtest2.space

Thanks in advance.

Matt

It’s not a super easy problem to fix…

But it’s not super difficult either.

Any WordPress expert should be able to tackle it.

In my opinion the easiest way to solve this problem is with a .htaccess edit like this-

RewriteEngine On RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^(/wp-admin|.wp-login.php.) [NC] RewriteRule (.*) http:/hostingtest3.space//$1 [R=301,L]

But:

There is always more than one way to skin a cat!

Test #5 Conclusion

As expected –  the test results varied wildly here. 

Some hosts took full control and deployed a solution on my behalf…

Where as others… didn’t.

Here is how they performed-

Wordpress hosting support test results

 Kinsta, LiquidWeb & WPXHosting solved the problem successfully. 

And out of those 3-

It was WPXhosting that solved the problem the quickest and with minimum fuss.

However:

 WPEngine & SiteGround seriously fell short here 

Their “WordPress experts” were not able to solve the problem.

Test #6 – The Free CloudFlare CDN

4x of the hosts I tested  did not include any kind of CDN-

  1. SiteGround
  2. LiquidWeb
  3. HostGator
  4. Amazon EC2

And it is common advice for hosting companies to recommend you setup the free version of the CloudFlare CDN.

Supposedly this will help increase site speed.

But is that really true?

To find out I cloned the Blog Type 1 (image heavy) install to a new domain on each host and then activated the free CloudFlare CDN-

Then I tested each of these installs with GTMetrix from 7 different global locations.

And the results were very interesting…

WordPress Hosting Features Compared

So far we have focused purely on speed, reliabiliy and support.

But what about other hosting features…

wordpress hosting features compared

As you can see:

There really isn’t that much difference between them on the face of it…

Except for price!

It’s only with the nitty gritty testing that you see huge differences in quality of service.

The Worst Things About Each Host

Regardless of which host you look at, each of them have their own cons.

The best wordpress hosting for me, isn’t necessarily the best WordPress hosting for you.

For example:

WPX Hosting is clearly the fastest, but if you need phone support…

They aren’t right for you.

So here is what I didn’t like about each of the managed WordPress hosting options-

WP Engine

WPX Hosting

  • No phone support
  • No Git support
  • Servers are only available in USA and UK
  • Back end control panel could be easier to use

Hostgator

  • Terrible trust score
  • No CDN on base plan
  • No free SSLs, only paid
  • No staging area
  • Long list of banned plugins
  • Automatic backups are a paid upgrade
  • Terrible loading speed from non-US locations (see above tests)

Liquid Web

  • Very expensive
  • Not exactly the quickest based on my testing
  • No CDN on base plan (but free Cloudflare CDN worked best of tested hosts here)
  • No free email, costs $10 monthly extra + $1-$3 per email address
  • No discounts for annual subscription
Kinsta

  • No phone support
  • Expensive for multiple websites
  • No email support – additional costs with Google Apps etc
  • List of banned plugins
  • No live chat for pre-sales questions
  • No free migration on the base plan

SiteGround

  • Pricing virtually triples in year 2
  • No staging area on base plan
  • After first month, no monthly payment option
  • No real CDN on base plan (free Cloudflare doesn’t count)

Amazon

  • Not really a WordPress host
  • You need to configure everything
  • Very technical, requires command line
  • No CDN
  • No automatic backups
  • Support is for their hardware only
  • No cost saving reason to choose Amazon over dedicated WP hosts

Wrapping It Up

While it is usually true that “you get what you pay for” in life..

That isn’t true when it comes to choosing the best wordpress hosting.

WP Engine ($115/mo) & Liquid Web ($99/mo) are the most expensive but also failed to perform.

HostGator were also consistently poor.

That leaves SiteGround, Kinsta and WPX Hosting to consider.

Kinsta and WPX Hosting performed consistently faster than Siteground.

But Siteground did hold steady throughout all of my testing.

I suspect if you added a quality CDN to SiteGround rather than the free CloudFlare suggestion they would perform much better.

But that’s an extra cost and Kinsta & WPX Hosting already include good CDNs for free.

So if I was going to rank them…

The Best WordPress Hosting Is…

  1. WPX Hosting – Cheap but also the fastest with the best support
  2. Kinsta – Solid performance, fantastic support & the current host of this blog
  3. SiteGround – Budget friendly and fast but support was lacking

best wordpress hosting final test results

The great irony of these results is that…

WPX Hosting used to host this blog (I famously ditched WPEngine for them).

Then 2 years ago…

I moved the blogs hosting over to Kinsta because I needed-

  • A server level backup/restore system
  • A staging area
  • Access to new technologies like HHVM (which is now deceased)

But:

Since I moved this blog to Kinsta

The WPX Hosting team have added a bunch of new features such as-

  1. Their own backup/restore system
  2. A staging area
  3. A free custom CDN called “WPX Cloud”

In fact I still have 9 sites hosted with WPX Hosting including my SEO agency site and my black friday deals site (neither of which have WPX Cloud activated right now).

Where as Kinsta are currently hosting this blog and my SEO course.

But as they say:

The proof is in the pudding.

And based on all of my testing and personal experiences…

 The best WordPress hosting is WPX Hosting 
(assuming you don’t need phone support)

And remember this:

A faster website will result in-

  • Higher search engine rankings
  • Lower bounce rates
  • Higher page view numbers
  • Higher conversion rates

And most importantly…

 HIGHER PROFITS! 

So don’t waste your time and money with a slower host.

Who do you think the best WordPress host is right now?

I would love to know!

Which Is The Best WordPress Hosting? 7 Hosts – 6 Ruthless Tests was originally published on Matthew Woodward

101: Internal Links, Content Marketing & ASO w/Jackie Chu of Uber

101: Internal Links, Content Marketing & ASO w/Jackie Chu of Uber

It’s not often we get to learn from experienced in-house SEOs but today’s guest is Jackie Chu, formerly an in-house SEO at Square and now the SEO Lead at Uber.

You’ll learn:

  • How Square Ranked For “POS System”
  • Internal Linking Tips
  • How to use SEO as a Product Function
  • How Facebook Ads Can Help SEO
  • App Store Optimization Tips (a first on Experts!)
  • And tons more… you don’t want to miss this!

Listen Now!

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.

Related Episodes You Might Like

Show Agenda and Timestamps

  • Show Introduction [0:22]
  • Quick show description [0:58]
  • Jackie’s Introduction [1:42]
    • How Jackie got into SEO [1:51]
    • How does Jackie stay on top of SEO trends [3:08]
    • How does one know who they should be following [4:18]
  • InHouse Content Marketing [7:10]
    • When educating companies internally on the benefits of SEO why is there often push back and how to handle it  [7:26]
      • Advice for consultants for how to be more engaged as she is internally when they are on the outside [10:56]
    • How does she get people excited about successes when they aren’t excited about the metrics measuring that success  [13:11]
    • How does Jackie communicate the value of top of funnel content [16:03]
    • What are some strategies Jackie uses for ranking and getting product pages visible and Point of Sale at Square [18:31]
    • What sort of things does Jackie do to help Internal Linking [21:55]
    • What does Jackie mean by for bigger companies SEO happens at the product level [24:42]
  • Sponsor Break – BuzzSumo with discount code! [28:09]
  • Does Jackie do Content Cleanups and what are her tips [31:22]
  • How does Jackie find Featured Snippets opportunities [34:37]
    • Branded Searches and Featured Snippets at Square [35:35]
  • Does Paid Social Help SEO [40:18]
  • App Store optimization [49:28]
    • What is ASO and what is the goal [49:47]
    • What are the ranking factors? [52:34]
    • How to influence download velocity [54:33]
  • How to contact Jackie [56:23]
  • What does Jackie look for when hiring [56:45]
  • What does Jackie look for in resources to help train her team [57:59]
  • Does Jackie believe in “fire fast” [59:18]

Tools Mentioned

Articles, Resources, and Links Mentioned

Find Jackie Online

Content Quality Images Mentioned

The post 101: Internal Links, Content Marketing & ASO w/Jackie Chu of Uber appeared first on Evolving SEO.

50 Experts Rank Best Backlink Checkers for 2019 (with Leaderboards)

50 Experts Rank Best Backlink Checkers for 2019 (with Leaderboards)

*** In a hurry? Check out the overall leaderboard here. ***

What are the best tools for checking backlink data?

Run a Google search and you’ll come across almost 2,000,000 results…

Picture of SERP results for backlink checkers

 

You’ll see posts listing dozens of different backlink analysis tools. And, while the lists are comprehensive they aren’t organized in a way that allows you to easily identify which tools are best for specific use cases, or the entire backlink analysis process.

Truth is:

Some tools are good for picking apart competitor link profiles, and others for running backlink audits.

But, the BEST backlink checkers can handle it all:

  1. Perform deep analysis on competitor link profiles
  2. Highlight new link building opportunities
  3. Perform in-depth backlink audits
  4. Uncover toxic/spammy backlinks
  5. Identify negative SEO attacks
  6. Monitor new and lost backlinks
  7. Compare link acquisition rates across websites
  8. Measure campaign success/failure

So, how do you cut through the noise and find a backlink checker that provides this level of analysis?

To get you an unbiased answer, I reached out to 50 SEO practitioners and asked the following question:

Which tools do you rely on most when checking/analyzing backlink data for your business and/or clients?

Respondents listed their top tools, and explained which specific features provide the most value. The votes were tallied and used to create the leaderboards below.

Whether you’re looking to analyze a competitor’s link building strategy, check the health of a link profile, or simply measure the performance of your own link building campaigns, this post will give you a shortlist of field-tested tools to look at.

Use the jump links below to quickly navigate to sections of interest in the post:

  1. Overall leaderboard
  2. Best tools for checking competitor backlinks (Leaderboard)
  3. Best tools for checking link profile health (Leaderboard)
  4. Top 8 features to look for in a backlink analysis tool (based on votes)
  5. Expert responses

 

Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in this article. If you decide to purchase a tool through one of those affiliate links, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

Backlink Checker Content Upgrade

Ok:

Let’s dive in…

 

Best Backlink Checkers (Overall Leaderboard):

Ahrefs was the overall winner, with SEMrush in a distant second position.

You’ll notice there are more votes than roundup contributors since the votes were tallied across each of the two major categories – competitor analysis and audits. A tool could have received multiple votes from a single person.

Here is a list of the 10 best backlink checkers (by vote count):

1. Ahrefs (65 votes) [Review // 7 Day Trial]
2. SEMrush (17 votes) [Review // 30 Day Trial]
3. Majestic and Google Search Console (14 votes)
4. Moz (4 votes)
5. CognitiveSEO (3 votes)
6. Linkody and OpenLinkProfiler (2 votes)
7. LinkMiner (1 vote)
8. SimilarWeb (1 vote)
9. BuzzSumo  (1 vote)
10. Mention, Twitter and Google Alerts (1 vote)

Note: Ahrefs was also voted the best link building tool by 67 SEO practitioners.

 

Now, let’s take a look across each of the two major backlink analysis categories…

Best Tools for Checking Competitor Backlink Data:

Competitor Backlink Analysis Leaderboard

#1: Ahrefs (38)
#2: Majestic (7)

With 23 votes, Ahrefs was a clear winner in this category. The tool has the largest backlink database (15 trillion links) of any SEO tool, and provides an intuitive UI that makes it easy to slice and dice competitor link data from countless different angles.

Here are 5 ways experts use Ahrefs to perform competitor backlink analysis:

  • Use the Domain Comparison tool to get a side-by-side view of how your site’s domain rating, backlink count and distribution stacks up against the competition.
  • Monitor the link acquisition rate of top competitors.
  • Identify which content types and topics present the greatest potential for new links.
  • Use link intersect reports to surface your highest-probability link targets.
  • Mine competing articles for hundreds of outreach prospects.

Bonus resource: This 10,000+ word Ahrefs review covers dozens of different ways you can use the tool to analyze competitor backlink data.

Best Tools for Checking the Health of Backlink Profiles:

Check backlink health leaderboard

#1: Ahrefs (31 votes)
#2: SEMrush (11 votes)

Ahrefs tops the list again, and for good reason. The tool makes it incredibly easy to perform deep backlink audits – analyze anchor text distribution, spot negative SEO attacks, identify low quality inbound links, spot PBNs, monitor CTLDs, build disavow files inside the application etc. – and identify potential risks.

SEMrush’ Backlink Audit tool came in at #2 in this category. Outside of it’s large link database, SEMrush allows users to upload external backlink lists (.csv files) and pull in additional link data directly from Search Console. This provides a comprehensive view of the entire link profile.

SEMrush will then analyze the data using 45 different “toxic markers” to automatically assign risk scores to each of the backlinks. Users can then send any toxic links directly to Google’s Disavow Tool.

Here are 5 ways experts use Ahrefs to perform comprehensive backlink audits:

  • Spot negative SEO attacks (spikes) in the Referring Domains report.
  • Identify unnatural link activity from “spammy” CTLDs.
  • Uncover risk markers in a site’s anchor text distribution.
  • Spot PBN footprints in the Referring IPs report.
  • Find broken backlinks and lost link equity.

8 Features of a Top Backlink Checker (According to the Experts)

This section calls out 8 features (in no particular order) the experts found most valuable in a backlink anlysis tool.

#1: Top-Level View (and Comparison)

Backlink overview report

The very first question you need to be able to answer: how many backlinks and referring domains are pointing to my site? 

The experts look for a tool that provides an accurate domain rating and backlink/referring domain baseline to compare against top organic search competitors. The insights are used to identify gaps (and opportunities) that can be sold to clients or upper management.

#2: Monitor link acquisition rates

Link acquisition rate in Ahrefs

(Source)

Looking at top-level metrics is helpful for understand how you stack up against the competition at a given point in time, but it doesn’t provide much context.

Have competitors been acquiring link consistently over time? Have they recently started building links more aggressively? Has link acquisition stalled? 

The experts look for a backlink checker that provides accurate data around link acquisition rates over time, and use the insights to guide their own campaigns.

#3: Assess quality and relevance

Majestic Trust Flow(Majestic Trust & Citation Flow metrics)

Ahrefs DR and UR

(Ahrefs Domain & URL ratings)

The site with the most links doesn’t always win.

Experts look for a backlink analysis tool that allows them to quickly assess the quality and relevancy of inbound links. This helps identify high risk (spammy/irrelevant) backlinks, as well as identify high-value link prospects.

#4: Mine competing content for valuable link prospects

Ahrefs backlinks report

One of easiest ways to find high quality, relevant link building opportunities is to look at the sites linking to competing content (product pages, blogs etc).

Experts look for a backlink checker that makes it easy to find and evaluate the quality of sites linking to competing assets, and filter by different data points to pinpoint the most relevant and high-probability targets.

#5: Identify “linkable” content types (and topics)

Best By Links report

Not all content types and topics are created equal. Some are better for driving traffic and/or social engagement, others for acquiring links.

The experts place a lot of value on backlink checkers that make it easy to quickly identify which content types and topics provide the greatest backlink (and referral traffic) potential at given point in time, in different industries.

#6: Analyze anchor text distribution

Anchor text report

Over-optimized anchor text is an old school tactic that can get your website on the Penguin radar. i.e. your anchor text profile should have a natural blend of exact match, partial match, generic, and naked URLs.

Spammy anchors

(Source)

Experts recommend using a backlink analysis tool that allows you to get a quick top-level view of a site’s anchor text ratios,  and spot spam.

#7: Spot negative SEO attacks

Negative SEO attack

(Source)

Experts look for a tool that constantly refreshes link database, and makes it easy to spot anomalies (drastic spikes in new links) indicative of a negative SEO attack. The quicker you spot the attacks, the faster you can take the necessary steps to fight it (disavow).

 

#8: Drill deep into toxic link activity

Experts recommend using a tool that allows you to dig beneath surface level issues, and find hidden “toxic markers” in your link profile. For example:

CTLDs: Is the website getting a ton of links from suspicious CTLDs?

i.e. a site serves a US audience, but has hundreds of links coming from .ru domains. Probably need to investigate:

CLTDs report

PBNs: Google does not like PBN activity.  Therefore, it’s important to have a tool that allows you to analyze IP classes to quickly determine if the site you are working on is currently building PBN links, or used the tactic in the past. Regardless, it’s very important to disavow these links to help prevent any possible manual action or algorithmic penalties.

IP report

 

50 Experts Reveal Best Backlink Checkers for 2019 (and How to Use Them)

Ok:

That’s a quick recap of the top backlink analysis tools (and features to look for). Now it’s time to dive in and find out how the experts are using the different tools to analyze competitors and check the health of link profiles.

Daniel O’Leary

Overit Media | Digital Strategist

We use Ahrefs (aff) to analyze client and competitor backlinks. Things we consistently review include:

1) The ratio of referring domains and total backlinks. A million backlinks from several thousand referring domains is a profile quite distinct from a million backlinks from a few hundred. High ratios are not necessarily indicative of spam or low quality link building efforts, but are something to review further.

2) The range of pages that secure backlinks and where they reside in the site architecture. This is found in the Best by Links section on the left hand navigation. Sites with higher levels of “deep links” are typically indicative of content value add for users, and also more effectively distribute link equity to deeper sections of the website.

Sites with backlinks pointing almost exclusively to the homepage will have their own challenges: they lack value-add content deeper within the site or may struggle with link equity “trickling” down to deeper pages.

3) Range and distribution of anchor texts. Sites should have mainly branded anchor texts to stay well clear of Google manual penalties and algorithmic filters, but backlinks with even partial keyword matches are strong relevancy signals for the purposes of keyword ranking. An effective ratio might be 80% to 90% branded, with the rest including partial and exact match keywords within the anchor.

Ian Howells

My day to day tool of choice is Ahrefs (aff).

For sites where I’m analyzing on an ongoing basis, the new/lost reports get used a ton to track if I’ve got a good link that dropped, or if new ones that I haven’t seen yet are popping up.

For more ad-hoc work, the referring domains report, filtered to “dofollow” links and sorted by DR high to low is typically how I’ll dive in to get a look at the best links for a competitor or potential purchase.

For building outreach lists, the Link Intersect tool is always my first stop – great shortcut to pull together a list of sites where my competitors have been covered, but I haven’t.

Adam Rowles

Ahrefs (aff)

1. Overview: As a starting point, I look at the graphs to gauge any unnatural link patterns. i.e. spike in referring domains/pages & CTLD distributions from countries the website doesn’t service. I also look at anchor text distribution that is too heavy on exact-match keywords.

2. Referring domains: I’m looking for three things here:

Domain Rating distribution – do they have a good spread of domains?
Organic Traffic – do referring domains get organic traffic?
Domain Relevancy – are referring websites relevant to the destination website?

3. Domain comparison – we need to know the link profile gap between them and competitors i.e. look at TLD domain distribution, referring domain-to-backlinks ratio, and total referring domain count.

Aleyda Solis

My favorite tool for checking backlinks is CognitiveSEO and Ahrefs (aff).

Each tool provides the most complete and fresh link data for Websites worldwide. The reports are highly usable, already segmented to facilitate the analysis -level of popularity and potential toxicity, placement, anchor text, linking pages, location, etc.- and allow users to easily compare metrics against the competition in order to identify existing gaps and opportunities, which is critical to establishing a successful link building strategy.

kevin indig

Atlassian | Head of Technical SEO
Since no tool is perfect and covers all links, I usually combine data from Ahrefs (aff), SEMrush (aff), and Search Console. I’m usually much more drawn to look at domain strength, than URL strength. I check factors like content quality and publishing frequency, when I dive really deep and want to assess a link’s strength.

Brodie Clark

Optimising | Senior SEO Specialist

I mainly use Ahrefs (aff), although am increasingly starting to use Google Search Console now that the new interface has the link features.

In Ahrefs, I try not to get too caught up in anchor text ratios etc – more so just for an overview of the number of, and specific domains, linking to a site and how growth has been over time.

GSC is nice to have as a comparison of what Google is seeing, which is the most important part of link building.

James Norquay

Prosperity Media | Consulting Director

Ahrefs (aff) – We use the tool to check the backlinks of our clients & their respective competitors. This ensures we have a good understanding of why our clients rank where they do & what is required to rank in the first position from an off-site SEO point of view.

The tools allow us to identify some easy quick wins within the niche in terms of link acquisition for our clients & potential websites which we can collaborate with to gain authority industry related links.

Ariel Kozicki headshot

Ariel Kozicki

Wpromote | Senior SEO Manager

Ahrefs is my go to tool for analyzing backlink data!

Ahrefs is incredibly valuable for assessing lost backlinks, broken backlinks, and newly acquired links. It’s excellent for mapping out timeframes for backlink acquisition and churn, and has proven to be incredibly useful at evaluating how link fluctuations have an overall impact on keyword rankings and organic traffic.

Sam McRoberts

VUDU Marketing | Chief Everything Officer

I mostly use SEMrush (aff), and my use cases are generally threefold:

– identify top organic search competitors
– look at domain-level metrics for overarching competitive analysis
– look at metrics for content strategy and page-level competitive analysis.

SEMrush is great at quickly surfacing organic competitors by looking at keyword overlap, which is extremely helpful. It’s a quick way to see who you compete with across a broad set of terms.

At the domain-level, I’m looking primarily at the authority score and total number of linking domains; if a site has more linking domains AND a higher authority score than competitors, they’re probably in good shape. If their score is lower than the competition, but they still have more linking domains, that tells me the quality of their links isn’t great and they need to do better.

At the page-level, I’m looking to see the number of external links and linking domains, the topics and content those links are coming in from, as well as the mix of anchor text. I also do a page-level analysis with Buzzsumo, to get the social share data for specific pages.

I don’t look at link toxicity at all. I think it’s a bogus metric. Thanks to Penguin 4.0, the only link-level penalties Google really levels these days are for link selling or link buying, and if you’ve done those, you don’t need a tool to tell you where you messed up :/ In most cases, people who check their “link toxicity” and set-up a disavow file are probably just doing more harm than good.

Andy Crestodina

Orbit Media | Co-Founder and CMO
I use several tools, but the best for finding new backlinks seems to be Ahrefs. The weekly alert I get from them is excellent. It shows things that the other alerts seem to miss AND the links are ordered by level or authority (“Domain Rating”). This means authoritative links are at the top and spam is at the bottom. Super helpful way to see link quality right there in my inbox.

Christina Blake

Seer Interactive | SEO Account Manager

I’m a big fan of Ahrefs for checking backlink data.

The Backlinks report is great for identifying opportunities where we might have a 404 page that can be redirected to related live content OR for finding out what sites are consistently sharing our content  – this could showcase a major opportunity for partnerships.

I love to compare URLs and anchor text in the Backlinks report to understand what keywords other domains use when linking to our pages – in short, how do other people describe our content – this can help uncover potential keywords to optimize for, or uncover new opportunities for additional content on those pages.

The Top Referring Content report is a great way to understand not only what content is the most shareable, but what types of content are most shareable on different social networks. We use these insights to optimize content for specific audiences.

And last but not least, the Link Intersect tool (aff) makes it easy to find sites that are linking to your competitors, but not you. This will help guide ongoing outreach strategies.

Miles Anthony Smith

Imaginasium | Digital Marketing Director

Ahrefs is great for a quick and dirty backlink profile review!

If you need a quick assessment of a website’s link profile (toxicity, on-page-SEO, competitors, etc.), Ahrefs is where I start. That said, I would put SEMrush in a close second for a quick view; not only can you use it to do keyword research (which is what it’s primarily known for), it has a good backlink audit tool (aff).

If you want to do exhaustive backlink research, then Screaming Frog is my number one. The real power comes by plugging in various other tool APIs like Google Analytics, Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMrush, etc. to layer additional data points for in-depth analysis.

Corey Northcutt

Northcutt | CEO

The tools have evolved a lot, but right now my agency mainly uses raw data (CSV exports) from Ahrefs. I’ve tried maybe two dozen automated auditors, written our own software, and I just keep coming back to a ridiculously manual process. Every other method still seems to have frustrating accuracy problems.

Right now, we’ll look for about 40 types of issues, from anchor text ratios to odd growth/loss trends. We’ll also hunt for about a dozen “spammy” tactics that were really popular in 2005 and haven’t aged well.

Other stuff, though — like automated statistic/whois sites that link to 100% of the web by default and every automated auditor tells you to disavow — we’ll leave completely alone.

Joe Howard

WP Buffs | Head Buff

1) SEMrush – their mention tool (aff) allows me to track new backlinks to our website, but more importantly mentions without links. This allows us to follow up and earn backlinks we may have never gotten without it. Always start with the “low hanging fruit”!

2) Google Alerts – this allows us to passively monitor mentions of our company and links to our website. We receive a weekly email.

3) Twitter – often when somebody mentions or links to us, they’ll tag us in a tweet. We’ll always take a look at the article, thank them and take any next steps necessary to ensure a solid link.

Venchito Tampon

SharpRocket | Co-Founder and Marketing Director

I use Ahrefs regularly for these activities:

a. Getting full reports of pages linking to similar content and identifying which of them are suitable for a specific client’s campaign (we use the Prefix/URL feature of Site Explorer for this).

b. Identifying new audiences and potential content topics by using the “Top Pages/Best By Links” feature.

c. Finding new competitors from a brand and content perspective using the “Competing Domains and Competing Pages” features.

Sankar ponnusamy

Searchly | Product Management, Organic Growth SEO

SEMrush, Ahrefs, and recently I’m in love with linkminer.

Along with these tools you need a spreadsheet to track things on a continual basis. It is very important to measure backlinks based on anchor text type and ratio to avoid unnatural links.

Once exporting the backlink data from any of the tools mentioned above, add them to the spreadsheet and filter the backlinks by anchor text. After filtering assign percentage based on the anchor type.

Anchor Text Types Percentage example:

– Branded (Brand Name) 0%
– Generic (click here) 0%
– LSI (Some Long tail keywords) 44.40%
– Exact Match (Money Keyword) 44.40%
– Naked URLs 11.10%

If you have a heavy percentage of exact match anchors, it could indicate unnatural link activity. Based on my experience keep the exact match ratio below 20%.

Alexandra Tachalova

Digital Olympus | Digital Marketing Consultant

To check a site’s backlink profile, I use a combination of Ahrefs and SimilarWeb. For a top-level view, I look at the following metrics in Ahrefs:

1. The historical growth of links. From this graph, I can tell whether a site is working on acquiring links as well as if it has any suspicious activity that can be identified by sudden dips and spikes.

2. The number of referring domains vs. the number of backlinks. This metric tells me about the quality of the backlink profile since, ideally, those two numbers should be quite close to each other. If the number of backlinks is much higher than the number of referring domains, I can refer directly to the domains report where I can review what kind of domains have the highest number of referring pages.

3. Anchor cloud. It should have a natural mix of branded, generic, exact/partial-match and naked URLs.

4. The top referring content. This report is a gem if you only have a few minutes before your pitch, as it allows you to see whether they’ve already built top tier links or not. Depending on this, you can structure your offer in the most persuasive way.

SimilarWeb is a must-have tool if you’re interested in understanding how much referral traffic links are generating.

Shane Barker

There are various backlink checker tools that help you analyze links for their quality and credibility.

Ahrefs gives you a complete look at your backlink profile. You not only get access to the total number of backlinks, but you can also examine each of those links for quality and relevancy.

You can reach out to high DA websites that include an unlinked mention to your brand and earn high-quality links from them.

You can track links competitors gain or lose, which can help you rise up the ladder with a solid data-driven link-building strategy.

Joe Williams

Learn SEO Fast | Founder and SEO Trainer

My top tool for checking backlink data is Ahrefs

Assessing link quality—At a superficial level, I use link metrics on Ahrefs, such as URL and Domain Rating. That said, assessing link quality properly becomes more subjective when you dig deeper. I’ll look at whether a link is industry relevant and topical.

Backlink audits—I usually start with low-hanging fruit. Ahrefs has a broken backlinks report which highlights backlinks that are no longer passing link juice. For example, the tool currently reports that the bbc.co.uk has over 2 million broken backlinks. Yikes!

Anchor text—If a backlink profile has been over-optimized, you’ll see cracks appear in the over-use of transactional anchor text. So, it’s always good to get a sanity check over in the anchors report.

Competitive analysis—I find Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool handy. It spots common backlinks that a list of competitors have, but your site does not. And rather than just focus on SEO or business competitors, you can find gold by casting you net further into neighbouring industries.

Sounds obvious, but instead of just researching travel insurance companies, you research travel vacation companies, as well as insurance companies.

Ryan Mendenhall

Big Leap (an SEO Agency) | Digital Marketing Manager

I love ahrefs for backlink data.

In the Site Explorer, I look at a few things to give me a broad picture on what’s happening. In all of the items described below I’ll be looking at how a client compares to their main competitors, as identified in Competing domains report under the Organic search section of the left hand navigation.

1. What’s the trend in my client’s industry with regard to speed of obtaining new referring domains? Who’s best at it? What are they doing?

2. What’s the trend in my client’s industry with regard to anchor text? What percentage of dofollow links are branded (filter by dofollow, note the total # of phrases, then filter by brand name/part of brand name)? Then compare that (on the overview tab) to number of organic keywords they’re ranking for as well as the organic traffic they’re getting.

3. What percentage of referring domains are sending dofollow links? I use the live links index. If it’s low, that’s a point of improvement for backlink building for the client.

4. What percentage of links are coming from 10+ UR pages in the URL rating distribution chart? The more in the higher ranges the better (addressing link quality). Most clients will have most of their links in the 0-10 range, but if there aren’t a smattering in the higher ranges, that’s a goal for improvement.

5. Are there any spikes in the New & lost referring domains chart? If so, I use that date range to filter backlinks in the New report. I sort by dofollow links and note the kind of content & link building strategy driving those links.

I don’t often look at spammy links or take time to disavow them. My understanding is that Google’s pretty good at sorting through all that. I’m open to revisiting though if the situation arises with a client.

A lot of this is covered in Sam Oh’s 3 part training series.

Chris Dreyer

Rankings.io | Founder & CEO

While we check link data from a variety of perspectives, the tool we rely on most is Ahrefs. We use it to analyze competitor backlink profiles (which helps guide strategy) and to measure our client’s success in search following campaign execution.

The reason I like Ahrefs is that their metrics are reliable for gauging the authority of a domain and they have tools that simplify the process for popular backlink analysis strategies.

The Link Intersect tool (aff) is especially helpful for competitor link comparison. You can take the top ranking sites for a keyword phrase, plug a few of them into the Link Intersect tool along with a domain you’re working on and get a complete report of what domains you may need to target to gain market share.

There is also a lot to be said for their holistic approach to SEO software. For instance their Keywords Explorer tool has become our go-to platform for keyword research and the Content Explorer provides insightful data on the types of content people are sharing most online.

Daniel Pawlak

ServiceTitan | SEO & Content Strategist

With a database of over 12 trillion links, the second most active search engine crawler after Google, and an array of options to perform audits, analyze backlinks and gain competitive insights, Ahrefs is the clear winner for me.

Here are my favorite functionalities on Ahrefs:

High Level Domain View: This section uses a few helpful metrics to get a high level overview of domain health.

I can quickly understand on both a page and domain level the authority of my site, with higher numbers correlating to a higher likelihood of better rankings.

I can also view historic and live numbers of backlinks, as well as referring domains pointing towards my site. I tend to pay the most attention to referring domains, looking for a diversified link profile from numerous relevant and/or high DR sites.

Another useful feature is the URL rating distribution, which shows me what percentage of backlinks come in from different UR ratings. This gives me a quality pulse, and can help justify implementing more aggressive link building campaigns.

However, backlink metrics don’t mean anything unless you compare them to your top competitors.

I like to use the Competing Domains report to find a list of top competitors taking up real estate in my industry.

After I get my list, I use Site Explorer to check organic traffic estimates, compare backlinks profiles, and find “linakable” content opportunities.

After identifying content in the Top Pages report we can replicate and improve (shoutout to Brian “Skyscraper” Dean), I uncover all the backlinks competitors acquired for that piece, and perform outreach.

Anchor text report: Most anchor text to your site should be branded. Too many keyword-rich anchors is a big red flag to Google, as it signals potential manipulation or attempts to game the system.

According to Ahrefs, 20% of referring domains should use branded anchor text. Utilize your “Live” view to get a gauge on this distribution.

Benjamin Beck

Online Stampede | Digital Growth Marketing Consultant

I love to use the Ahrefs “Best Page By Links” report to find quick link wins.

This report is great at finding pages that have a lot of existing backlinks going to dead pages. If it’s my clients page I simply redirect it to the correct page.

If it is a competitors page we can remake the content or asset and then email everyone who is linking to the dead page.

This report also is a great way to find out what has worked well for the competition in acquiring links that we could also try doing.

iEva Zelca

1. Majestic. We use this tool for almost everything, from reviewing our own backlink profile to competitor analysis. Majestic is great at filtering out links from spammy domains.

Topical Trust Flow is another awesome feature. It shows you whether referring domains are relevant to your niche.

2. Google Search Console. This is our favorite tool for checking what Google knows about sites linking to AccuRanker. We want to keep our profile healthy and disavow spammy sites.

3. Mention. This tool allows us to turn brand mentions to links on the fly. When someone mentions our brand, we immediately share the content across our social media channels and send an email to see if it’s possible to add a link.

Sharing the post is a mandatory element of this strategy since we’re bringing value to this person, then asking for a favor in return. Always try to reciprocate value!

Linda Kyzar

Stream Creative | Marketing Director

Moz’s Link Explorer is my favorite tool for analyzing backlinks for clients.

Our SEO team downloads the data and creates a Google Sheet with tabs for each competitor. To find the best backlink opportunities, we sort by Link Equity (follow vs. no follow) and remove the no-follow links. Then sort to find and remove links with high spam scores and low domain and page authority.

The final sort is by URL so that we can create categories (i.e. General Directory Listings, Industry Directories, Publications, Sponsorship Opportunities, Guest Blog Opportunities, Conferences and Expos, E-commerce, etc.)

The final step is to compare opportunities to the client’s backlinks, then create a Backlinks Opportunities Report and worksheet to operate from. The time put into this process leaves us with a powerful list of outreach opportunities.

Dave Michaels

Sage Groove | Marketing Communications Consultant

I use Linkody to track progress, spot new opportunities, and audit existing backlinks. Linkody provides quick information to create actionable steps.

Linkody provides several metrics to assess link quality. First, I sort Domain Authority to target top sites. It also includes social share data and Alexa rank to indicate traffic and engagement levels.

The Total External Follow Links determines what percentage of that SEO juice I get. I start with my own site to find domains to contact, then review competitors for new opportunities. I also derive new strategies based on the source and content type.

With Google’s algorithm updates and site reviews, avoiding unnatural links is as important as gaining new backlinks. Linkody’s Spam Score is helpful for flagging links to investigate. Country origin (IP) and source page title (URL From) help identify backlinks that are potentially not relevant.

If a takedown request doesn’t work, Linkody has a convenient Disavow tool. Linkody’s Analytics section is particularly helpful for analyzing top anchor terms and Follow/Nofollow ratio to find potential risks.

The real-time reports allow quick competitor comparisons. And, the Landing Page section lets me see how individual pages (and campaigns) are doing.

Sean Si

SEO Hacker | CEO and Founder

If you are looking for an all-in-one toolset for backlink analysis, check out Ahrefs.

Enter the URL/ doain you want to analyze and a helpful overview report will appear. You will find a range of backlink data points in this tool: new, lost, and broken backlinks. Specific dates are available, showing when it was crawled and discovered by Ahrefs.

We also use other tools to cross-check and make sure the information we get from Ahrefs is accurate. For that, I’d also recommend Cognitive SEO for backlink quality assessment.

Cognitive SEO is a little more complex than Ahrefs in that it allows you to find the “link influence” of each backlink. I find this more helpful than Ahrefs’ Domain and URL Rating scores.

If I had to choose between the two, I’d go with Ahrefs 🙂

Tyler Thursby

Zion & Zion | Senior Search Analyst

For the sake of variety — hopefully this is a new tool for some — I’d recommend OpenLinkProfiler (OLP). It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that come with a paid tool, but I’m impressed with the amount of data it actually provides for something free to use.

OLP gives you an in-depth summary of your website’s active links and even provides a ‘Link Influence Score’, which provides an estimate of the link’s quality.

There’s a lot of utility with this tool; you can see which pages have the most unique backlinks, get a general overview of how old your backlinks, and a bunch of other cool things you can cram into a compelling SEO report. This tool is awesome for freelancers operating on a shoestring budget.

Adam Chronister

Enleaf | Director of Digital Marketing

As of late, I have been using Ahrefs more than any other tool for backlink analysis and review.

All-around Ahrefs does a good job at keeping its menu clean and user-friendly. You don’t have to filter through multiple menues to find various insightful data points. This is especially true of the backlink profile tool. It’s broken out by New, Lost and Broken Links making regular link reviews and check-ins a breeze.

You can quickly see the traffic volume for each backlink, as well as the domain and page-level authority. You also use the external links report for each new backlink to find additional prospects to target.

Chris Makara

Chris Makara | Senior Digital Marketing Analyst

The tool I rely on most is Aherfs when checking backlink data. With just a few clicks you can get some high level data about your site and competitors. I typically look at data around anchor text, domain and URL rating, as well as organic traffic.

They have really helpful pre-built reports. I typically use the anchor text report, best pages by backlinks, and general backlinks report.

Each report can be conveniently filtered inside the Ahrefs application, or exported to analyze in Excel/Google Sheets.

Ahrefs is  always releasing new features to improve the product and make it more functional for users.

Callum Mundine

Munday Digital | Digital Marketing Director

Ahrefs & Google Sheets.

Ahrefs: In my opinion, Ahrefs has the most up-to-date link index. When I build a new link, it’s usually reported quickly inside the tool. When performing a backlink audit for a client, I usually export all the backlink data into Google Sheets, sort and manipulate it from there. That way I know what to Disavow and keep.

Another great feature is the ability to check what links your competitors have, but you don’t.

Aaron Agius

Louder Online | Managing Director

We primarily use Ahrefs for link analysis due to its index size, web based tools and API capability.

Different customers have different needs and how we use the data varies wildly between them.

Two of the most regular pieces of work that require link data for us is defining opportunity and reviewing page performance. On the page performance side it is not rocket science, we are just looking for volume and quality of links, anchors to build a plan of attack for improvement.

For the opportunity piece, we analyze the number and quality of links that a set of page one search results has for a specific keyword. Using this data, we can determine the relative difficulty to rank (assuming our content is better and more relevant than all others).

Doing this over a large set of terms helps focus our efforts and deliver results quickly for our customers.

Ady Berry

CTI Dgital | SEO Consultant

For client backlink audits, Majestic is my go-to tool. I also use Google Search Console and SEMrush. I merge all the results together into a single spreadsheet, and de-duplicate for analysis.

You can take these links and run them through a link detox tool of choice to identify any toxic links/issues/opportunities. Similar process for competitor link audits, but without GSC of course.

The more backlink analysis tools you use, the greater chance of capturing a “complete” view of the link profile.

Kristen Vaughn

KoMarketing | Associate Director, Online Marketing

There are a lot of ways you can use Moz Link Explorer to pull backlink data; however, I think one of the most valuable ways to leverage this tool is for competitive backlink audits. You can simply run your competitors’ websites to figure out where they are getting backlinks from, sort by domain authority, and quickly discover new link building opportunities.

Google Alerts and BuzzSumo are great for monitoring brand mentions, which can lead to some “quick wins”. Set up alerts around the brand name, strategic assets, reports, etc. to find mentions that may present the opportunity to reach out and request a well-deserved link back to your site.

Devin Schumacher

Ahrefs – I use Ahrefs first because it is the best crawler and aggregates data well. After a bit of practice, you can very easily uncover low hanging fruit and amazing opportunities for your clients based on what they rank for, and what their competitors rank for (gap analysis)

Majestic – I use majestic when determining link strength of websites with low traffic. Their topical trust flow tool is not perfect, but it helps provide a quick glance at the category of links a website is getting – if I see the backlink topical trustflows are relevant its a good sign the website is legitimate.

SEMrush – I use this tool sometimes – they have a cool tool for keyword research called Keyword Magic which I like using to help jumpstart keyword opportunity research.

Steve Barringer

InventHelp | Digital Brand Manager

Ahrefs – You can get a general idea of the quality of the links by looking at the DR and UR scores. You can also see if any of the links are ranking for certain keywords, and if they are bringing in any organic traffic.

I also look at the New and Lost backlinks reports to see how things have been over a period of time.

There’s also a section for broken links to make sure you fix any important links pointing to a non-existent page. And, the anchors tab allows you to see how sites are linking to your content.

SEMrush- Not as good as Ahrefs for analyzing backlinks, but I find it more useful for analyzing the potential of a link or mention. You can see if the domain itself is getting organic traffic (has this organic traffic been increasing or dropping). As a secondary source it can help to see if links and mentions have a good chance of referring targeted traffic.

Tyler Tafelsky

Yisoo Training Courses | Senior SEO Specialist

Ahrefs is my favorite tool for checking backlink data.

I use the tool to delve deep into the referring sources, anchor text distribution, and see what pages on a site are getting the most links. There are also great features that show trend analysis and dropped links, which can be helpful for a number of reasons (i.e. broken link building).

You can also use the tool to assess the specific backlinks pointing to an individual URL and what keywords a page is ranking for to generate organic search traffic. Ultimately, it’s my favorite tool for backlink analysis, and it also helps with keyword research and re-optimizing legacy content.

Natalie Athanasiadis

Ormi Media | Founder & Head of Growth

Ahrefs: You have all the tools on-hand to not only to track backlinks and keywords, but also gain insights into the activities of your top competitors!

Google Search Console: This is often overlooked because it’s a free tool, but there is a lot of valuable information available. You can quickly export a list of links pointing to your website, very handy when running a thorough backlink audit. You can submit a disavow file through your Search Console account.

Christopher Grundy

CGrundy | Head of Marketing

The tool I use to analyze backlink data is Ahrefs.

I think Ahrefs has the most comprehensive backlink database, and provides great insights into the strength of the URL the link is on. Ahref’s Domain and Page Rating are particularly helpful in this regard.

I also love that I can check for broken backlinks. With this data, I can reach out to sites referencing me with a broken link, and ask them to fix it. This is a really easy win.

Greg Mischio

Winbound | Owner and Strategic Director

We rely on SEMrush to analyze backlink data.

We focus on the site the links are coming from, quality score and the anchor text. What we really like is their listings of contacts for the particular sites. These may not always be accurate, but it’s a nice start for outreach. We also like the ability to gather follow / no follow data. It’s helpful in deciding where to place content.

Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell | SEO Trainer & Consultant

I’m a big fan of SEMrush’s auditing tool.

In recent months, the tool allowed users to pull in Majestic SEO’s backlink data with an easy integration. I would also use data from Google Search Console, which you can also integrate with SEMrush. This provides a comprehensive view of a site’s entire link profile.

From there, use the tool to audit and disavow any toxic links, an important part of maintaining a healthy backlink profile.

Ahrefs is also another tool worth considering. I’d lean towards using it if I was just analyzing a competitor’s backlink profile.

Michael Salvo

Whitecap SEO | Chief SEO Strategist

We use Ahrefs for checking backlink data.

As an SEO agency that services ecommerce brands, we complete a thorough backlink evaluation of clients and competitors as a necessary first step in any comprehensive link building and/or content creation initiative.

We’ve found that using a combination of Ahrefs and proprietary tools is the best way to compile an accurate list of thousands of backlinks across multiple profiles. We then use Ahrefs’ comprehensive index and domain rating scores to place values on those sites, and determine how to best approach them (influencer outreach campaign, etc).

Note: When it comes to building any SEO strategy, there’s no substitute for the trained human eye, but these tools ensure we’re fully utilizing all of the available data for our clients’ success.

Josh Spilker

ClickUp | Content Manager

Ahrefs is my #1 backlink analysis tool.

It’s so simple to see all the links pointing to your site, as well as the competition. The menu is intuitive, and I like the export features I can use to slice and dice the data the way I need it.

The Domain Rating seems pretty spot-on, though I think Majestic is better for determining site quality/relevancy.

Jim Stewart

We rarely look at backlinks.

We have not built backlinks since 2009. They are not part of the way we do SEO. The best backlinks go to the businesses with the best brands in their category. We focus on building brand not backlinks.

On the rare occasions we come across manual penalties, we’ll use Majestic & Google Search Console data. Since Gary Illyes revealed at Pubcon last year, that you really don’t need to disavow, we don’t anymore.

Ronald Dod

Visiture, LLC | CMO & Co-Founder

I like using Ahrefs for analyzing backlink data because it is the most accurate in my professional experience.

For backlink audits, I usually like to use Majestic as well to get additional historical data. But, Ahrefs is always my main go-to tool especially for doing live SEO audits with potential clients.

Robbie Maltby

Search Alchemy | MD & Lead Consultant

Ahrefs is by far my favourite backlink analysis tool.

It helps you quickly gain actionable insights. In three clicks, I can find the highest authority backlinks pointing to competing pages or domains, along with anchors and a bunch of other helpful data. Great for competitor link building.

Ryan Scollon

SEO & PPC Freelancer | Head of SEO & Marketing Team Leader
I use Majestic to check backlinks. I like the Trust Flow and Citation Flow scores it provides to give you an initial idea as to what the link profile looks like. From there, I will review and filter the anchor text used.

Stacy Caprio

Stacy Caprio

Stacy Caprio | Search Marketing Manager

I rely on Ahrefs to check backlink data for myself, clients and competitors. When performing competitor link analysis, I find it helpful to go to the main Backlinks report and enter a competitor URL. I filter by DR and UR to find the highest authority links pointing to their site, export the page, and filter the list to URLs we can use to reach out for similar guest posts and backlinks.

Eli Schwartz

Eli Schwartz

Ahrefs is my go-to SEO swiss army knife.

When doing backlink analysis on my site or a competitor’s, Ahrefs will give  me the links, domains and anchor text which gives me a great top-level view. From there, I can dig deeper into how a site is acquiring links, whether they are valuable, and if there is any action I need to take.

Ahrefs also has a great tool to compare links between different domains if I am looking for a quick metric, but I think the real value in the tool is how much data they have on each site.

Luke Sousa

Luke Sousa

Gustin QuonSEO Manager

SEMrush is great for quickly gauging link toxicity and identifying competitor backlink gaps.

For a quick answer to anchor text ratio/health, nothing beats running a domain through Majestic & scrolling to the bottom. Majestic is also great for assessing link quality and relevancy as their TF & CF metrics are widely trusted within the industry.

If you really need to dig deep and get your hands dirty with manual link checks, referring domains and IPs, Ahrefs is absolutely the tool for that as it typically finds more links than any other tool available.

What Tools Are You Using to Check Backlink Data in 2019?

There you have it – 50 SEO experts revealed the tools they use to perform deep backlink analysis for their business and/or clients.

Here’s the list of the 10 best backlink checkers (by vote count):

1. Ahrefs (65 votes) [Review // 7 Day Trial]
2. SEMrush (17 votes) [Review // 30 Day Trial]
3. Majestic and Google Search Console (14 votes)
4. Moz (4 votes)
5. CognitiveSEO (3 votes)
6. Linkody and OpenLinkProfiler (2 votes)
7. LinkMiner (1 vote)
8. SimilarWeb (1 vote)
9. BuzzSumo  (1 vote)
10. Mention, Twitter and Google Alerts (1 vote)

Which tools are you using? Any new ones you’re going to try?

Let me know in the comments below. 

The post 50 Experts Rank Best Backlink Checkers for 2019 (with Leaderboards) appeared first on Robbie Richards.

Demandware Commerce Cloud SEO Issues & Solutions

Demandware Commerce Cloud SEO Issues & Solutions

Demandware (aka Commerce Cloud) is an enterprise eCommerce management solution.

There’s a number of unique SEO challenges associated with Demandware, all of which our agency is familiar with from servicing dozens of clients who run on the platform.

This article will cover the most common Demandware SEO challenges we’ve come across and how to address them.

TL;DR

  • Demandware has funky out of box configurations, mainly issues with URLs
  • Failure to understand and manage these issues can be severe at the enterprise level, mainly leading to a wasted crawl budget and decreased indexation rate
  • Make sure you’re consistently crawling your website to check directive, indexation and status codes – we recommend re-crawling [at least] quarterly

Our team of expert SEO consultants are standing by, ready to assist you if necessary. Drop us a line, let’s chat.

1. Category page duplications

Category pages are incredibly important in eCommerce SEO because they satisfy a different search intent than a product page.

For example, say you’re searching Google to “buy protein powder”.

Even though you’re looking to buy, the intent behind that search is NOT to view a specific protein powder (i.e. a product page), but instead to browse various proteins (i.e. a category page).

When searching for “buy whey protein”, the SERP supports this – all results are category pages.

protein powder SERP results

Now imagine you own a Demandware store that sells various types of protein supplements:

  • Soy protein
  • Whey protein
  • Protein bars
  • Protein drinks

Your keyword research should identify that each of these has enough search demand to warrant it’s own product category page. For example:

  • Soy protein = yoursite.com/protein/soy-protein/
  • Whey protein = yoursite.com/protein/whey-protein/
  • Protein bars = yoursite.com/protein/protein-bars/

Let’s say you carry 100 SKUs of whey protein powders – it’s a general best practice for user experience to “hide” more than 12 products on initial load.

Demandware gives you the option to “hide” some products in order to save on page load times, and then a visitor can “unhide” all products by clicking a “view all” button.

category-pages-seo

Upon clicking “view all”, Demandware will append ?viewAll=true to the end of the category page URL.

demandware-category-page-canonicals

Since this is a crawl-able URL, this creates duplicate content issues on key category pages that need to be addressed.

Solutions

On ?viewAll=true pages, you can add canonical tags pointing back to the root category page, or alternately you can block this URL parameter from being crawled outright via the robots.txt file (more on that later).

<link rel=”canonicalhref=”https://www.site.com/protein/whey-protein/” />

These changes (along with targeted link outreach) provided a massive boost to our client’s category pages.

demandware technical SEO

 

2. Issues with Faceted Navigation

“Faceted navigation” refers to how your store filters and sorts products using a secondary navigation; usually housed within a sidebar.

faceted navigation

Demandware’s faceted navigation appends parameters to URLs each time a new search filter is added.

Using our whey protein category page as an example, let’s say you want to filter by brand:

fixing-faceted-navigation-errors-demandware

As you can see, &prefv1 was appended to the category page’s URL. This page alone has 40 options to refine the whey protein category, including sorting by:

  • Brand
  • Price
  • Size
  • Serving

Each of these serves up a different URL parameter, creating thousands of new URL variations, all indexable by Google.

If you don’t address this you will deplete valuable Googlebot crawl budgets on useless pages. On an enterprise eCommerce website with tens of thousands of products that need to be crawled, this will cause harmful indexation issues.

Solutions

There’s 2 options:

  1. Block these URL parameters URL’s from being crawled outright utilizing via Robots.txt file, or
  2. Configure Google Search Console’s URL Parameters so Google knows which URLs to crawl and which to ignore

Here at FTF, we use GSC’s URL parameter settings whenever possible because it allows us to implement the changes without burning programmer hours.

Below is a Demandware example we put together on behalf of a client:

demandware URL parameters

You can then take these, add them into the URL Parameters report in GSC manually, and then set them to not be crawled:

configuring URL parameters

NOTE: If these URLs have already been indexed by Google, we suggest using the “noindex” tag on all URLs that contain these parameters. Check the indexation in Google Search Console to verify once these pages have been removed from the index, then proceed with URL Parameters.

3. Product Page Duplication

Let’s go back to the whey protein category page one more time .

When a visitor clicks on a product in your grid, the platform will append URL parameters based on the position of the product in the grid.

demandware-duplicate-product-page-urls

For example, if you click on the product in the first position, the URL will read:

https://www.predatornutrition.com/whey-protein/predator-nutrition/predator-whey.html?cgid=Whey%20Protein#start=1

Again, this will create Googlebot crawl traps – wasting your crawl budget on low quality URLs.

Solution

Use canonical URLs to point to the root product page. So for this instance, the canonical would read:

<link rel=”canonicalhref=”https://www.predatornutrition.com/whey-protein/predator-nutrition/predator-whey.html” />

 

4. Dealing with /demandware-{}/ directories

Whenever we crawl a new client’s website we always discover directories that are not useful for crawlers and search engines.

These directories can include:

  • Staging domains
  • Login pages
  • Product variations

directories

These pages are carbon copies of the root page, creating [you guessed it] issues with duplicate content and wasted crawl budgets.

Solution

We recommend disallowing and “noindexing” /demandware.store/ and /demandware.static/ in your robots.txt file.

Below is a sample from our client’s file:

demandware robots txt file

 

5. Silo’s Within Internal Link Structures

Internal links help distribute equity across your pages. Since Demandware has so many issues with URLs, it’s easy for the system to default to linking to the wrong version of a page.

internal linking visualization

A visualization done for an FTF client to show internal links across the site.

When we go back to the whey protein category page and click on the first result, you can see the page is linking to an appended product page URL.

demandware seo issues

While this URL is canonicalized, we’re losing some of that internal link equity being passed through.

You can see how Adidas fixed this issue on their site (they also run on Demandware):

better commerce cloud seo

Solution

Double check your page templates to ensure that all internal links are pointing to the absolute URLs. Once the template is updated, we suggest blocking the “?cgid=” parameter in your robots.txt file.

6. Check your 404 page setup

It’s SEO best practice for your site should deliver a 404 error for a page that’s not found. For some reason, almost every Demandware install we’ve seen defaults to a 302 redirect or a 301 redirect when a page is not found.

For example:

yoursite.com/dead-page/

Default redirects to:

yoursite.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-leatherman-Site/en_US/Default-Start

Which is a duplicate version of the home page.

Solution

Make sure to setup a custom 404 page on your site. A great example of a custom 404 page on Demandware is 1 800 Contacts. Their 404 page notifies users (and search engines) and distributes equity to key pages on the site.

demandware 404 page

 

 

7. Title Tag and Description Defaults

Title tags are not only a ranking factor, but they influence a searcher’s click behavior.

It’s critical to create page title’s that capture keywords but also drive user action.

Demandware let’s you set default page titles and meta descriptions – take advantage of this. If you have thousands of products, it will save you a ton of time.

You’ll still want customize your titles, as sometimes the defaults can backfire if not periodically reviewed (see below).

Recommendation

Set default titles and metas.

  • Title tags should default to the product name
  • Description tags should default to the product description

We always suggest split testing page titles and metas to increase CTR in SERP, but for Demandware clients we insist on reviewing page titles for accuracy quarterly.

Additional SEO Limitations of Demandware / Commerce Cloud

I didn’t want to give each of these their own section, but I did want to mention them as well.

1. No access to server log files

We’ve discussed a lot of issues with Demandware URLs. This increases the importance of analyzing your site’s crawl budget using server log files.

This is not possible on Demandware. Commerce Cloud is a self hosted solution – they manage your data, code and hosting. Shared hosting means no access to server log files, making crawl optimization ….challenging.

You’ll need to be extra diligent using other tools (mainly GSC) to monitor your crawl.

2. Capitalization in URLs

Using uppercase letters in a URL can confuse search engines by causing duplication issues. While this isn’t a huge issue, we suggest getting out front of the issue to manage it.

3. Automate image ALT attributes

Editing image ALT tags on Demandware is a ridiculously tedious process.

Work with your developers to see if they can automate image ALT tag creation.

4. Homepage Configuration

Sometimes Demandware will generate long, ugly alternate homepage URLs. This will probably look familiar to you:

yoursite.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-YOURS_US-Site/default/Home-Show

Identify these URLs and make sure you use 301 redirects pointing back to the root home page.

Next steps

Commerce Cloud is a great solution for enterprise eCommerce management. However, it comes with a built in set of technical SEO challenges.

We strongly suggest evaluating the technical elements of your website quarterly with a fresh crawl.

If your website is too large for enterprise SEO crawlers, contact us, we’ve built a number of custom crawlers in Hadoop for clients.

The post Demandware Commerce Cloud </br>SEO Issues <i>& Solutions</i> appeared first on From The Future.

SEO Case Study – 313% More Organic Traffic with REAL Examples

SEO Case Study – 313% More Organic Traffic with REAL Examples

Everyone loves a good case study, especially in SEO.

Funny thing is there are so many SEO case studies but there’s still a gap in available content, more specifically, there aren’t case studies that provide truly actionable strategies and takeaways.

I’m here to fill in that content gap with this post.

To prepare this post I’ve reached out to thousands of people (almost 22 thousand to be exact) and presented them with the site’s I planned to report on for this case study; asking them to reply with what they would want to see from a case study.

What I got back was a great list of what folks are most interested in seeing from a case study on organic search.

If you would like to be one of these people in the future, make sure you join the mailing list so you too can receive the email nice time I send it out (likely once per year).

First, let me show you the results I’ll be diving into – and how I got to the number in the title.

For this case study I’ll be reviewing the SEO results from 3 different websites, in 3 totally different niches, that all have different conversion metrics for “success.”

Here are the screenshots of the organic traffic results from SEMRush:

SEO for Ecommerce

SEO for B2B Lead Generation

SEO for Hotels (or Hospitality SEO)

Before I dive into the numbers, I wanted to share some of my favorite responses that I received via email. These will frame out most of what I go into in this post.

What People Want from an SEO Case Study

These are some of the email responses I received when I asked what would make this a truly valuable case study:

*All email screenshots used with permission from senders.

To Summarize the Points Above

What that breaks down into is the following case study criteria:

  • How to grow traffic without scaling content
  • How to increase keyword spread
  • What the critical issues are that need to be addressed and how to identify them
  • How many backlinks are needed
  • How to approach building links in each of these niches
  • The time from receiving backlinks until the effects are seen
  • How to map keywords to content
  • Step by step what actions were taken
  • What are the KPI’s during the campaign and why
  • What’s the time to rank and see results
  • How to marry UX and CRO, especially for mobile SEO
  • For Ecommerce SEO is it better to rank category or product pages
  • How does mobile impact SEO for B2B Lead Generation
  • What are the sources of links for each niche and how were they identified
  • How to optimize content for SEO

So the above list is EXACTLY what I’ll be diving into for this post.

Back to the 3 Example Websites

Before I dive into breaking down all the SEO components listed above, let’s first run through the numbers from the screenshots I cited at the beginning of the post.

For the purposes of this post I’m going to use the data from SEMRush and supplement with GA data as needed, the reason being is GA data can be manipulated with filters to paint the picture of whatever you might want it to look like – relying solely on core organic views from a trusted 3rd party (like SEMRush) keeps this clean.

The Ecommerce Website

Work began on the Ecommerce website in Spring of 2015.

It was a new-ish site (only a few months old) and as you can see from the screenshot, results were slow at first – and in my experience this is common for Ecommerce SEO *IF* your main focus is to build rankings and traffic for commercial keywords.

If you *just* want to “build traffic” all it takes is some creative blog posts and big niche specific guides. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking these, it’s different strokes for different folks is all I’m saying.

So from March 2015 (when we got started) until February 2017 (as I’m writing this post) we took organic traffic from approximately 35,000 organic visits per month to ~225,000 organic visits per month, for a total net increase of 542%.

The B2B Software Website

avid-rankings

This was a different project all together.

This wasn’t a pure-play SEO project, this was a BIG design and development undertaking. More specifically, this project included the design and build of a new site for a core brand, but then also needed to support meticulously folding in 3 other brand websites (that had been acquired) into one seamless master site, and then re-launch.

These are my favorite projects in all honesty – they tend to be very complex in terms of content management, and brand alignment in terms of information architecture for products and solutions is one of my all time favorite tasks.

The project kicked off in September 2016, with a target launch date for the new site in December.

None of the acquired brands really had any organic rankings to speak of and were more so bought up to acquire the technologies and fold-in the customers under the core brand umbrella (very smart growth strategy!)

So the important pieces here were to scrape all current rankings (if any) for each site, review all the content, and create a master content map for what needs to live where on the new site – to then inform the redirect map.

The site re-launched in December (as planned) and you’ll notice the immediate increase of organic traffic, initially in December but then really in January of 2017; going from approximately 800 organic visits per month to around 3,600 organic visits per month.

It’s worth noting the slight dip in February as Google reshuffles all the new rankings and tests the waters to make sure these URL’s have the rankings they should – taking into consideration qualitative metrics such as CTR, time to long click, and dwell time.

Overall the gain from SEO traffic was approximately 350%.

The Hospitality Website

This website is special. For starters, it’s a giant international brand and the cherry on top is the website is beautifully designed.

What was surprising is how much of a rats nest the front-end code was from purely an SEO perspective – the good news is for any SEO worth their salt, all you see in this case is opportunity.

For this site, we went to work in August of 2016 and the initial focus was 100% in cleaning up the client-side layer of the site – we specifically audited things like the crawl budget and efficiency, index rate, and internal links.

It’s a pretty big site, so it took a couple months to get all our ducks in a row and then wait to have everything implemented by their development team.

Most of the work went live in November and then you can see the first movement of organic traffic in December 2016. When we started the site was getting approximately 210,000 organic visits per month which grew as of February 2017 to 306,000 organic visits per month, an increase of 46%.

Averaging Out a Growth Number

So for the purposes of coming up with a number for the post title (because having 3 numbers was really confusing, I asked :)) I took 542% + 350% + 46% = 938/3 = 313%.

So that’s where that comes from – ok onto the MEAT!

How To Run SEO Campaigns For Success

Coming back to the list of strategies and tactics that were asked about on how these results were achieved, I’m going to do a deep dive into each of the bullets I listed above, one at a time.

How to Grow Traffic Without Scaling Content

This is a great question and everyone wants to know how to make SEO easier, i.e. how to do less and get more.

While content is important, it’s still not the King, and there are ways to get more SEO juice out of your current site.

google-lovePer my post linked above, promotion is one of the easiest ways to crank more traffic out of existing content, and for specific details on promotion strategies I recommend checking out this smart post by Robbie Richards.

What I’m going to get into instead, is action you can take on your site to get more love from Google.

With that said, one of the fastest ways to increase your organic traffic without creating any new pages is to optimize your crawl budget.

More times than not this is considered technical SEO, and while doing this to the full extent does get technical – there are elements of it that any intermediate SEO can implement and see results from.

The best place to start is to run a full crawl of your website and analyze your results.

What you’re looking for is the following:

Thin Pages

Thin pages are URL’s on your site that have a low text to html ratio, and the best way to identify these is to use a proper site crawler.

Here’s the thin pages report shown in DeepCrawl.

Generally speaking you don’t want pages with less than 500 words of original content being crawled, as with everything in life (and especially SEO, there are always exceptions to this, but this is a sound standard practice).

For thin pages you do not wish to “thicken up” with more content, consider blocking them via robots.txt.

Query Parameters

Query parameters are those nasty looking URL’s you often see on Ecommerce sites, they usually start with ?= and can stack to the moon and back.

They tend to be generated from core shopping cart code on many platforms but also from site search driven (like Endeca) and database driven websites.

The big issue with these, is each one of these URL’s, by default, is crawled and considered a unique page. Fact of the matter is, more times than not, these pages do not have enough unique content / user value for them to be included in your crawl budget.

These can be attacked through a combination of blocking Googlebot from specific parameters within the url parameters report in search console coupled with hard disallow directives in your robots.txt file

Index Rate

Your index rate is simply the ratio of pages submitted into Google for indexing vs the pages actually included in Google’s index.

Here’s a screenshot of a healthy index rate, where 564 of the submitted 568 pages are indexed.

Another key component to consider when looking at your overall index efficiency is edge case variations of URL’s that shouldn’t be accessible, for example if your homepage at your root domain lives at yoursite.com, but then there are duplicate variations of the page that live at yoursite.com/main/ and yoursite.com/index.html these should be redirected using a 301.

Taking the above steps is often the very first thing we do as part of our process, think of these as cleaning up your site’s foundation before you embark on building new content on top of it.

How To Increase Keyword Spread

I found it a bit funny this was a question, since I’ve written on this before, but I do think I can expand on this more specifically in the context of this case study.

With the advent of the Mobile-First index, and Google now able to render full CSS and Javascript, means that hiding content to improve user experience is no longer a discount factorfrom an On-Page SEO perspective.

The practical application of this is the ability to increase the LSI keywords and contextual relevancy of your pages for additional keywords, without having to screw up conversion rates by stuffing walls of text into your layout that no one reads.

To show you a real world example, here’s how we implemented this on TrafficSafetyStore.com:

Slide-Down-Content-Example

And if you do a search in Google.com for the target category keyword here “roll up construction signs” you will be greeted with this beautiful SERP:

Now I’m not saying the results we’re seeing are because of putting this content behind a jQuery window shade, but I will share with you that this also improved our conversion rate by a considerable percentage, likely due to improved UX from a shopping perspective.

The other consideration based on these recent changes from Google is that content that is hidden on Desktop due to it being Mobile content, may still be crawled and scored, and in fact influence Desktop rankings.

What Are The Critical Issues That Need to be Addressed and How To Identify Them

This circles back to the point of cleaning up your foundation before starting to build on top of it.

The critical issues that were analyzed, identified and immediately addressed with each of the 3 sites in this study were:

Ecommerce

  • Reign in crawl budget by auditing the sites crawl efficiency and index rate.
  • Select a champion version of a product to be set as master and canonical all slave variants to the master.
  • Filter down thin pages and non-representative category and sub-category results pages and remove them from the XML sitemap you will submit to Google.
  • Build out unique and compelling content on key landing page to be established as hub pages based on topics.

B2B Lead Generation

  • Crawl the site and look for pages targeting the same keywords. Consolidate these pages to reduce keyword cannibalization, deprecate the weaker pages by first moving their content to the master page (take this chance to clean-it up and refresh it) and then redirecting them.
  • Once you’ve completed your keyword research, and have developed your matrix and prioritized your target terms, create keyword buckets. These buckets are then used to inform your on-page content requirements and page design.
  • Internal links are important in every vertical, but especially in B2B lead-gen as so many of the pages and themes are so closely related to one another, make sure you architecture is built in a way that supports logical horizontal linking.

Hospitality

  • First and foremost, check for rogue canonical tags. If you have pages that contain a canonical tag pointing to another URL on your site, those pages are effectively set to NoIndex.
  • Make sure all the images on your site are being called from/linked to in the HTML of the body content on the page and NOT using CSS or JS.
  • This may be argued by some, but I still find tiering of pages, i.e. building master topic hubs and then building inter-linked children underneath them, to work very well in the hotel vertical where geo-targeting is so critical.
  • Local SEO, make absolutely sure every location has a fully built out (and CLEAN) local citation profile.

To identify these issues you need to become familiar with running a crawl report and analysis and then being able to sketch out and understand a sites information architecture.

How Many Backlinks Are Needed

Short answer here; more.

But in all honesty, this is such a hard question to answer – which is why I’m sure it has not yet been answered to the level that satisfies most SEO readers.

So with that said, I will take you through roughly how many links we’ve built to each of these sites, and then in the next section I’ll go into details on how.

Ecommerce

Velocity is key for retail sites – what this meant was building up a steady base of new inbound linking root domains coming in day after day and week after week.

This particular retailer is in an extremely competitive space, so we built up a steady base of acquiring 30-40 new linking root domains each month, and continue with this campaign running in the background as we build out new pages and add new products.

Ecommerce-Link-Building

B2B Lead Generation

In the B2B space, velocity is not as important as securing higher authority placements with much higher trust metrics. When building links for businesses selling to other businesses credibility is key and works like a flywheel; the more high trust links you drive the more linked mentions you tend to pick up organically.

Hospitality

To put this bluntly, link building in the travel and hospitality space is weird. Working with name brands is great in some ways but very difficult in other capacities, and what I’ve learned is that the link turnover rate in the Hospitality niche is incredibly high.

What this means is links get placed and then re-placed frequently – I think a lot of this has to do with how incentivized many of the big linking sources are. To paint a better picture of the churn I’m speaking about look at this graph:

The mix of links that are being lost are from a mix of spam sites (woohoo!), affiliates, and images that are being replaced or updated by the site managers.

I have some specific ideas on how to build more specific assets to combat this in the future, but at this time we’re just getting to the content part of this campaign, so the links we’ve gained so far have only been from very specific strategies that I will go into in more detail in the next section.

How to approach building links in each of these niches

I’m going to combine this section with another since it’s *so* closely related. The other question was “what are the sources of links for each niche and how were they identified?

I would never call myself a link building person, so the strategies we use to source links for these sites are not going to be new information to many of you, but with that said – they still work.

I’m going to include how prospective link targets are identified within each section, and then show real world examples in the wild of companies putting them to work to acquire shiny white hat links.

The way most of these campaigns are run is good old fashioned outreach.

The trick (if you want to call it that) is to take a page out of Ryan Stewart’s book and develop a tight, repeatable process that you can scale by adding bodies.

Below are the primary link building strategies we used for each of our 3 case study niches, one key consideration is that these aren’t directory links, social profile links, and other manufactured link acquisition techniques:

Ecommerce Link Building

Link building in Ecommerce takes attention to deal and almost always requires incentivizing your link targets – they understand you’re a commercial entity and they expect to be rewarded for the value they’re providing to you with their link.

Reviews

This is a very scalable strategy for getting links to an Ecommerce site if you have the budget and margin on your products to make this worthwhile. For our client in the fashion space, our process for identifying sites to approach for reviews is as following:

  1. Use advanced search operators to find sites that already contain posts with specific leading keywords in them such as review, how to wear, what to wear, what I’m wearing, my outfit, or the specific product keywords that represent your link targets product catalog.
  2. Scrape all of these sites into a Google sheet (I like to use LinkClump)
  3. Qualify them based on your link quality criteria (ours minimum is DA25/TF15)
  4. Load all the domains into your outreach tool of choice (we use BuzzStream) and kick off your campaign
  5. Follow-up 4-5 times with your link targets, even if they say no I suggest pursuing until you get a response.

Donations

Same as with reviews, you’ll need a budgetbut it doesn’t have to be cash. Many times, depending on your products you can find groups that need what you sell and are willing to show off your logo (with a link of course) in exchange for some free products.

A personal example I’ll share with you is how at TrafficSafetyStore.com we donate 12″ traffic cones to driving clubs around the country, in exchange they will put their logo on their club sites with a link.

Sponsorships

The only difference between donations vs. sponsorships is this tactic does usually come in the form of cash.

Think beyond just sponsoring articles though, and instead look for opportunities to support either causes that are important to you or that exist ion your local area.

A good example of these could be youth sports leagues, local chapters of the ACLU, or pretty much any local non-profit or independent organization that has a website.

Contests

Contests work incredibly well when done right. The hardest part about pulling off a contest is giving away something compelling enough that people REALLY want to win. This usually means it’s a pretty big expense for you or your client, but I’m serious when I say when the idea is solid and the execution is done right – these things can crush link acquisition, like to the tune of 100+ new LRD’s.

Here are a few examples of some of my favorite contests from Ecommerce sites, all of which landed them over 100 new root domain links:

^Notice the size / amount of product each site is giving away to drive entries, engagement, and interest.

B2B Lead Generation Link Building

Scalability is a challenge in any vertical, but it seems to get exponentially more difficult in the B2B space. The tactics I’m going to review in this section have varying degrees of scalability, and are more so focused on outcomes: high quality links that can be stacked to move the needle on organic rankings.

Broken Link Building

Far from new information, this is a near timeless link building strategy that can still get results and be scaled quickly.

The biggest challenge when running a BLB campaign is finding a piece of content that is a critical reference point in terms of making the argument or legitimizing the pages that are linking to it.

From there the caveats are:

  1. It needs to be at least tangentially relevant in context to the clients site, so it makes sense for it to live on the client’s domain (even if it’s a separated resource section).
  2. It needs to include as much of the content from the old (now broken) version as possible, and then take the level of usefulness one step further.

The last consideration I’ll leave you with for BLB is who the pitch is coming from; it better be 1) and email address on the client’s domain or 2) an “independent 3rd party” that is advocating for the content being pitched as it aligns with their core mission or values.

Evergreen Resource Development

Buying guides still work really well for this, but it’s becoming incredibly competitive with many affiliate players starting to invest serious resources (and dollars) into their content, and new affiliates popping up every day.

The trick here is to bridge the gap and provide something of true value, beyond a buying guide, but to do so in a way where your content offers something new and unique that does not yet exist within your vertical.

Here’s a great example from Buffer on how to manage daily social media updates for millions of followers:

That has earned them 310 links from 44 domains:

b2b-evergreen-links

Problem Solving & Process Content

If we weren’t talking about link acquisition I would probably address the creation of problem solving content by speaking to the traffic potential of larger platforms with installed, high intent audiences such as LinkedIn or Quora, but – since this is about links building, let’s look at some native examples.

KISSmetrics is known for their content marketing prowess, but what’s not often reflected upon is their level of SEO in the B2B software space.

These guys crush lead generation from SEO, and a bit reason behind their rankings success is their ability to nail process and problem solving content to attract gobs of links.

Take for example this post on how to boost conversions, which earned them over 400 links from over 60 linking root domains.

Interviews & Influencer Marketing

Ego-baiting is still alive and well, especially in all of the verticals where it hasn’t been played to death (like in SEO for example).

As such, landing an interview with an authority in your space or leveraging the audience and trust of influencers in your space is a great way to build visibility for your content that can ultimately leads to a nice inflow of links.

The Harvard Business Review uses interviews, like this one with the Founder of Starbucks, to rake in links to the tune of ~180 from ~80 domains on just this single post.

Case Studies

One of the smartest ways this can be done is actually through using properly messaged case studies with a high level of production value.

Take for example Bitly did a case study on Omnichannel Ecommerce, that resulted in over 30 links from 19 LRD’s, and I’d be willing to bet these are all organic links earned without outreach.

This becomes even more believable when you look at their case study landing page which has racked up over 700 links from well over 200 linking domains:

bitly-links

Hospitality

Unlike the other 2 SEO niches, hospitality tends to be a bit easier in terms of scaling link building since you usually have more assets at your fingertips to leverage for results. All of the below tactics, which while useful in other verticals, have driven the most effective link acquisition results specifically for our Hotel clients.

Link Reclamation

Link reclamation can be incredibly scalable and effective if you get the pitch right, and put the energy into efficiency (i.e. scale).

The 2 most commons approaches we use to reclaim links to support Hotel SEO are:

  • Image-based (either exclusive or unlicensed) – using reverse image search engines like Google Images of TinEye to find 1) unlicensed (and unlinked / unattributed) images, contact the website owners and politely, but sternly alerting them to either provide attribution to your client or take the image down, or 2) offering publishers and authority bloggers exclusive images for use on their site in exchange for the link back to your client.
  • Unlinked Brand Mentions – John-Henry already wrote a great process piece on scaling unlinked brand mentions, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. But to re-cap, this is running searches for brand queries, scraping the sites, getting contact details, and then sending emails asking for the existing mention of your Client’s brand to be linked to their site. In my experience the average results of these campaigns are high, usually with link acquisition rates between 20 and 30%.

Discounts & Affiliate

This one is pretty straight-forward, the nuance here is approaching this from a second tier – what that means is offering your link targets something to offer to their audience.

This is also commonly use in Ecommerce to help build relationships, but this makes the offer more attractive to more established blogger and niche publishers since not only do they get something for themselves, but they are also now able to offer something of value to their audience, reflecting additional value on them as a trusted advisor.

Where this becomes less straight-forward is when you’re out proactively building an affiliate network with travel bloggers. The way to leverage this from an SEO perspective, opposed to just using it to increase brand awareness and stand on the shoulders of other networks to drive more bookings, is by setting up your affiliate links in an SEO friendly way.

There are several ways to do this but the 2 that are the most common are:

  1. The easiest way – Deliver affiliate URL’s using URL shorteners that use 301 redirects, like Bitly, Snip, Tiny, etc., or
  2. The better way – Setup an affiliate platform that uses hashtags to pass the affiliate ID so all links point to a single URL (without any messy query strings or tracking parameters that dilute the value of the link)

The Time From Receiving Backlinks Until The Effects Are Seen

This is one of those questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

And the answer is only going to upset you – but here it is: it depends.

Let me explain that this is based EXCLUSIVELY on my experience and may vary wildly from what others may experience, but here goes:

  • It depends on the trust, crawl rate, and citation flow of the site that’s linking to you.
  • It depends on your established link velocity.
  • It depends on how Google is currently treating new links from the site(s) that linked to you OR to your site.
  • It depends on if Google is currently delaying link value passed within your target vertical or for that keyword.

On top of all of this I’ve heard stories about link velocity being built up over a few month period, no movements at all in terms of rankings, and then all of a sudden a big pop (not related to an algorithm update), which makes it really hard to attribute to individual links.

Here’s an example of what this looks like:

The best advice/insight I can provide on this question as a whole is this:

Don’t try to attribute individual activities in SEO to any one strategy or tactic

SEO works best when it’s executed and managed holistically as a system, not a vacuum.

How to Map Keywords to Content

I took a stab at sort of answering this question in detail when I created my guide on how to implement a keyword strategy, but I’m going to try to dive back in for the purposes of this post.

This is a really difficult activity for a lot of SEO’s, and the reason (IMHO) is because I think most SEO’s a very analytical – which in most areas of SEO serves you very well.

However, this particular element of implementing and SEO strategy is as much an art as it is a science.

For parts of this process it is very straight-forward; the keyword list includes 12 keywords that are all variations around a single, identifiable topic. Create a new URL, select the root term for the URL, write the page title to focus on the root term + value prop + include 2-3 modifiers, create the content on the page to lend context to the additional term variations.

Boom, easy (relatively speaking).

Where this gets difficult is when the keyword lists get big, and the variations begin to blur, and more times than not, SEO’s overcomplicate their targeting.

More times than not, when we’re brought into a new project, mass cannibalization is afoot.

The previous SEO or marketing manager though that the best way to build relevancy for their target keywords was to place their head term in the page title and URL of 3-4 blog posts per month and then crank out thin, non-value creating posts as fast as they could.

What a waste.

It’s true that topic relevance can be built in concert, and also that often it takes time… but amassing a troth of posts using the keyword “best yeezy boost 350” never worked for anyone. I promise.

Instead, categorize your keywords into themes based on topic overlap.

Find connections between terms that don’t share any of the same words, but speak to the purpose of the page, support a process where multiple terms are included, or can be woven into sections on the same URL to lend context to the focus topic.

Here’s how we do this for the 3 niches in this post:

Ecommerce

Mapping keywords to content for Ecommerce is all about intent, and supporting intent at each level of the conversion funnel and site architecture.

  • Categories – Head and shoulder keywords;2-3 words
  • Sub-Categories – Shoulder and body terms; 3-4 words
  • Product Pages – Product specific keywords and long-tail terms focused on solutions
  • Pages – Use case terms, i.e. “Buying drill bits for drywall”
  • Blog Posts – Audience interests to support top of the funnel discovery, brand awareness, and gain links.

B2B Lead Generation

Intent is of course important here to, but for Lead-Gen it’s not as straight forward since you don’t have cut and dry “category” and “sub-category” pages, instead I prefer to approach B2B sites in the following content groups:

  • Brand Pages – Brand keywords, including the name of the company but also any words or names used to represent exclusive products or services.
  • Hub Pages – Non-brand keywords, these are going to be the most difficult terms to go after and will likely be anywhere from 2-4 words. This is where all the search volume is going to be, so it’s important to embrace the Bigfoot strategy on these pages.
  • Persona Pages – Very similar to use cases, these are pages that focus on the specific benefits for the various roles that should be using your product or service. For SaaS companies these are generally built based on professional title within the organization or can be based on the specific responsibilities a user may have at their company.
  • TOFU – Unqualified searches at the top of the funnel that are representative of visitors who are just starting their research and at the very beginning of their buyer journey. These pages are best linked to off the homepage.
  • MOFU – Commercial investigation queries where the user is more informed and in the process of finalizing their requirements for a solution and making sure your product checks all their boxes. This content should be benefits focused and is often linked to from the Footer.
  • BOFU – Whitepapers, case studies, lead magnets, and content upgrades. Be sure to build enough content on these pages so they’re not thin (i.e. min 400-500 words) and make sure the value you offer on the landing page is enticing enough to drive the form fill conversion.
  • Blog Posts – Use blog posts to leverage marketing tactics not suitable for the rest of the pages on your site, i.e. influencer marketing, ego-baiting, statistics and other time sensitive information/data that is likely to change. Build blog posts to widen your traffic net to rank for more abstract and edge case keywords and then link into the above listed pages.

Hospitality

If you’ve learned nothing so far in this post, I hope it’s at least become apparent how different SEO strategy is across different verticals – and that SEO for Hotels and Resorts is a different beast all together.

Hospitality sites tend to have an extreme focus on 2 core functions for content:

  1. Geo-focused
  2. Activity-focused

Because of this it makes grouping keywords in topical buckets to map them to pages relatively easy.

Geo-focused keywords with modifiers such as [country], [city], [state], [zipcode], and [near] shoudl all be attacked in sections where the architecture is centralized under the geo-targeting.

What does that mean?

It means Google uses geography targeting as a leading indicator for search results ranking, and hence it should be the parent of all the rest of your content in your document tree.

The practical application of this means if you’re targeting terms for hotels near Six Flags in New Jersey, New Jersey needs to be the parent directory with child pages for the activities and attractions, so /new-jersey/six-flags-great-adventure/ vs. /six-flags-great-adventure/new-jersey/.

Make sense?

For content that lives outside of geography (which in reality is nothing for location-based businesses) but if we’re going for big SEO wins here, i.e. the likes of “best places to [activity name]” then blog posts are a solid content vehicle for achieving this.

Here’s a great example:

activity-content

Funny enough this post ranks for Geo terms (keywords including the “Caribbean” geo-modifer) in addition to a slew of “best diving spot” keywords, good for them.

But this is exactly the kind of content I would be focusing blog posts on for Hotels.

Step by Step What Actions Were Taken

The beautiful part about refining an SEO process that works, is that the process itself is the same across all verticals – so for this section I only need to write it out once 🙂

Most SEO Companies start their process with an exhaustive audit, more times than not I see this as a bastardized derivation of Annie Cushing’s Audit Template (which is stellar if you’re looking for one).

We do this a bit differently.

We DO an audit, but we’re only looking for critical elements or super fast wins, we DON’T blow tens of hours doing a comprehensive audit that include 80% of changes that will result in a minimal increase for a maximum amount of effort.

The 80/20 rule is alive and well in SEO.

1. Crawl The Site

We run a full site crawl (with permission from the site owner) on DeepCrawl and on a ScreamingFrog instance we run on an AWS instance.

We then review:

  • Redirects – Looking for non-301 and chains
  • Link Tags – Canonical, NoIndex, NoFollow, and Alternate. You’d be amazed at how many times a tag is set by accident and something as simple as removing it opens up floodgates of traffic. This was actually the case for our Hospitality client on one of their highest revenue generating pages 🙂
  • Header Tags – This is mainly to check for the presence of pages with no H1 or multiple H1’s (which again, happens constantly).

2. Analyze Core SEO Data

I mentioned most of this in the earlier section. We start on-site (before moving onto traffic sources, rankings, etc.) first by gathering our findings from the crawl, but then also include a manual review of:

  • XML Sitemap – For starters, does it exist? You’d be surprised how many big sites don’t have one. If there is one, review it manually for syntax / formatting and then log into Google Search Console and check the last time it was submitted.
  • Index Rate – If the XML Sitemap has been submitted through Search Console, check the index rate, i.e. how many pages were submitted versus how many Google is indexing.
  • Redirects Rules – To do this we review the htaccess file, NGINX config file, IIS redirect configs, etc. depending on the server configuration.
  • Robots.txt File – Based on crawl data, the XML sitemap, and the crawl rate, tune up the robots.txt file to better manage the efficiency of the crawl budget and crawl rate.
  • URL Parameters – Audit the current URL Parameter settings in Search Console to make sure they are set to accurately reflect the actions they drive on the site, and are set to block all URL’s where necessary.

3. Make Recommendations For Immediate Implementation

Herein lies our core differentiator; besides me being an owner/operator of an 8 figure Ecommerce website (which lends hands-on experience to growing revenue for transactional websites), IFTF employs more developers than we do analysts.

This is because I never wanted to be in a position where we made specific, technical recommendations but the Client was unable to implement them due to lack of technical resources.

4. Build a Keyword Matrix

This is our proprietary take on keyword research. What makes it proprietary is simple our process, the extreme amount of data we pull in, and the takeaways this enables us to deliver in terms of keyword prioritization.

sentinel-searchintent

5. Conduct a Content Gap Analysis

This has been written about in-depth before here, here, and here. What we do a bit differently is not the process (which is sound and again, pretty standard) but ours is based on the data we find and bake into our keyword matrix.

6. Create a Content Map

This is a breakdown of all the content that we recommend building, moving, enhancing, deprecating, or redirecting based on:

1) new keyword opportunities identified in the keyword matrix and

2) content gaps identified in organic search.

This includes all individual configuration details at the URL level which means meta attributes (title, description, slug, and header structure), content requirements (keyword use, content length, topics to cover), information architecture (where the page should live in the document tree, how it should be linked in navigational elements, and internal links to and from the page), and lastly which design patterns should be used to support the user experience (mobile first of course).

7. Development New Content as Required

If new content is needed to support specific campaigns elements, whether it’s increasing the overall contextual relevancy of pages, the creation of linkable assets, or content required for partner sites, this is run contemporaneously with the next task set.

8. Content Promotion

Content that doesn’t get seen earns no links and shares and is exponentially harder to rank. While the depth and breadth of your content does matter, it doesn’t matter nearly as much as your efforts to promote that content.

9. Link Building

Please refer back to the previous section for how we built links for each of the 3 cast study sites.

What Are The KPI’s During The Campaign and Why

Before I jump into the specific KPI’s we used for these campaigns, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some insights from a friend and fellow SEO, HubSpot’s Global Director of Growth, Matt Barby:

“Each SEO campaign is different and requires an element of customization when it comes to reporting on its success. That said, there are a few KPIs that come up time and time again that I rely on to get specific insight(s).

The first is the obvious one – overall organic traffic.

Depending on the scale of the project I’ll look at this daily/weekly/monthly. Moving further down the funnel I’d be looking for conversions from organic search.

This could be in the form of direct sales, leads generated or even data capture (all depends on the project).

To support these two, I’d keep an eye on branded search volume growth (tracking general awareness) and monthly backlink acquisition – these KPIs are way more skewed towards the top of the funnel but are really important to track in order to identify trends in your overall data.”

Matt Barby
Global Head of Growth, HubSpot
For more SEO insights from Matt, check out MatthewBarby.com

The following set  of data points are the key performance indicators we track during the life of an SEO engagement:

Number of Pages Indexed + Index Ratio – There are some other metrics that we look at while we’re looking at this like average crawl rate, but overall the indexed page count over time and the index ratio are like the pulse of a website. This let’s use know how valuable Google is finding the content / pages of the site and if we are chopping out loads of thin or duplicate pages (general culprit is parameterized URL’s) we want to watch and make sure Google is picking up that these URL’s have been deprecated.

Query Impression Volume – If you’re running an SEO campaign the literal goal is to increase the visibility of your website in organic search, the volume of impressions where your website URL’s are being shown to people in organic search results is the literal measure of this.

Number of Page 1 Rankings – This is a report we have set up to run automatically daily and weekly. For weekly reporting we use AWR Cloud and for daily tracking, especially of SERP beta (or the rate of flux among rankings for a particular keyword), we use SERPwoo. This report is grouped in number of rankings on page one (overall), top 5, top 3, and those sweet #1’s.

Organic Traffic (Brand and Non-Brand) – Another literal measure of pure SEO success, the total number of visitors from organic search. This is best looked at month over month, but there are certain campaign elements that when they’re launched will cause us to keep an eye on the realtime traffic report in GA. The important part about this KPI is the split between brand versus non-brand traffic. This is extremely difficult to dial in with a high level of accuracy, thanks to “not provided,” but there’s still value in trying to split this out the best you can. This shows the impact of brand awareness campaigns vs. the correlation against % of total traffic from new visitors which is driven mostly from non-brand keywords.

Number of Keywords Ranked – This is your measurement metric for your site’s overall keyword footprint. Step one here is to grow your overall footprint by building rankings for more keywords initially, which will will start out looking like this:

where most of your rankings are not on page 1 (i.e. positions 1 through 10), and then using the strategies I’ve outlined in this post to move from the above scenario, to one that ideally looks more like this:

Revenue from Organic Search – All the traffic in the world doesn’t matter if you’re not able to monetize it, so this is a critical KPI that we track and report on to make the ROI for SEO is always positive.

What’s The Time To Rank and See Results

For starters it’s easiest to answer this question in reverse, when the rankings come – so do the results.

The time to rankings has everything to do with the size of the opportunity relative to how established your site is and how big of an impact fixes might have.

This question has a ton of overlap with the previous one on “time to see results from links” – and the answer is honestly the same – it depends.

It’s going to be different in every vertical and to a large extent, every keyword.

The best way to approach answering this is on a keyword by keyword basis, looking at individual difficulty scores.

Here’s my extremely generalized rundown using one of my favorite keyword difficulty scores still to this day, TermExplorer’s.

Based on TermExplorer’s Keyword Analyzer results and provided keyword difficulty scores:

Difficulty score: 1-3
What’s needed to rank: dedicated page targeting keyword at meta attribute level, minimum content equal to average word count of top 10 ranking pages. Trust signals from minimal external sources, i.e. links, social signals, click-through from SERP for target keyword.
Time to rank: if your site’s DA/TF is above the average of all sites currently on SERP1, likely 3-4x your sites average total crawl rate, but give it 2-3 weeks to be safe. If your site’s DA/TF is below the average of all sites currently on SERP1, double the time.

Difficulty score: 4-5
What’s needed to rank: dedicated page, not more than 1 directory off of root directory, targeting keyword at meta attribute level, minimum content equal to average word count of top 10 ranking pages. Minimum linking root domains equivalent to average of URL’s ranking in top 5 positions.
Time to rank: if your site’s DA/TF is above the average of all sites currently on SERP1, likely 4-6x your sites average total crawl rate, but give it 4-6 weeks to be safe. If your site’s DA/TF is below the average of all sites currently on SERP1, double the time.

Difficulty score: 6-7
What’s needed to rank: dedicated page in root directory, targeting keyword at meta attribute level, content equal to 150% average word count of top 10 ranking pages. Minimum 150% linking root domains equivalent to average of URL’s ranking in top 3 positions.
Time to rank: if your site’s DA/TF is above the average of all sites currently on SERP1, likely 4-6x your sites average total crawl rate, but give it 6-8 weeks to be safe. If your site’s DA/TF is below the average of all sites currently on SERP1, triple the time and signals needed.

Difficulty score: 8+
What’s needed to rank: DA65+ or likely 8+ months of established link velocity, earning 25+ new linking root domains each with DA25/TF15+ per month.
Time to rank: Extremely variable based on competitors, net link acquisition of top 10 ranked sites, and overall audience engineering capabilities of sites currently in top 10.

How To Marry UX and CRO (Especially for Mobile SEO)

I love this question.

It’s become so extremely relevant and I’m thrilled that Google made the move to no longer discount content hidden for the benefit of the user experience.

What we’re seeing as a result of this (as of January 2017) is content that is hidden for mobile users based on media queries is being used to score the relevancy of the pages for those keywords.

This is YUGE, and means you can have a big, beefy desktop experience where you select design patterns so as not to overwhelm users with too much text, e.g. accordions, tabs, jQuery window shades, etc. – but that Google will still crawl and score all of that juicy content towards your SEO efforts.

In terms of focusing on CRO for Mobile, the biggest mistake I see sites making on their responsive page versions is not being “finger friendly” enough.

I’m not saying make your buttons enormous, but you do really need to think in terms of how to best utilize this real estate.

One interesting trend is how meticulous we as mobile power users have become at inspecting what’s on the screen, even when it seems very small.

What I’ve been doing to keep tabs on this, and leverage CRO to the best of our ability to help drive conversions from the increasing amount of mobile traffic we’re seeing across all websites, it to stay abreast of shifts in design patterns.

I do this by following pattern libraries that track mobile design trends, like this one.

For Ecommerce SEO is it Better To Rank Category or Product Pages

Simple answer here: follow the search volume.

In some mercantile verticals all the search volume is for the products (Amazon tends to kill it in these verticals) where as in others, there’s virtually no search volume for product specific keywords and instead all the volume is for 2-4 word terms.

In these verticals, it’s best to run with a silo’d category or sub-category architecture and build large stores of relevant child pages to bubble up their relevancy to a parent directory.

We’re in a time where this can be done using item-prop tags and blown out structured data mark-up, and it can even be done in many instances using internal links, but there are edge cases to everything in SEO.

For keyword niches where there is heavy competition for both the category terms as well as the product terms, i.e. if you’re a distributor for very established brands; think Nike, North Face, BBS, Thule, Burton, etc., you likely need to be approaching your SEO via a flat architecture.

In the above instances, I would be building large content hub pages targeting the brand terms, extending those hub pages incrementally by adding keywords on the sub-cat URL’s but not as child directories, and then also placing the product pages in the root.

So for example, if I was selling winter sportswear, and carried Burton snowboard bags, my architecture may look like this:

  • /burton
  • /burton-mens
  • /burton-mens-snowboard-bags
  • /mens-burton-space-sack-snowboard-bag

How Does Mobile Impact SEO for B2B Lead Generation

The impact here simply forces innovation and creativity, which is awesome!

It means you need to keep a tighter experience to drive conversions and pander to the intent of users who may be searching, reading, and experiencing your B2B content on their phone.

In my experience, the intent of someone reading B2B content on their phone is they are either at the very beginning of the customer journey – having just been told about your business from a friend or saw an ad, or – they are at the very bottom of the buyer journey and have just been told to FIND A SOLUTION NOW!

In either case it’s critical if you’re going to have a chance at the sale that you accommodate this lead by providing useful solution content to answer their most common questions, provide options to quickly email pages to colleagues, offer downloadable resources, and if possible, use a design pattern such as a sticky footer or gesture-based element to show the phone number.

sticky-footer-example

These are more CRO-focused tips than SEO-focused, but I figured at this point in the post I’ve sort of maxed out all the SEO questions in this context 🙂

Wrapping This All Up

I hope you found something of value from this now over 7,000 word post that I’ve spent weeks writing.

If not, that’s cool too.

What I would ask in return, if you either found it useful, are going to send it along to someone you know, or if you’re seething in disappointment – please take a moment and drop me some feedback below in the comments.

The post SEO Case Study – 313% More Organic Traffic with REAL Examples appeared first on From The Future.

SEO Case Study: How I Increased My Organic Traffic 652% in 7 Days

SEO Case Study: How I Increased My Organic Traffic 652% in 7 Days

SEO Case Study: How I Increased My Organic Traffic 652% in 7 Days

There’s a new SEO strategy that’s crushing it right now.

(“Skyscraper Technique 2.0”)

I recently used this strategy to increase organic traffic to one of my pages by 652.1%.

Skyscraper Technique 2.0 – Traffic increase

(In 7 days)

This same approach helped my brand new post hit the #1 spot in Google… within weeks.

Backlinko – Mobile SEO – Number 1 spot SERPs

And today’s SEO case study I’m going to show you exactly how I did it, step-by-step.

My Content Was a Smash Hit… Then It Flopped

On July 26th, 2016 I published this post:

SEO Checklist (2016)

My post got a huge spike in traffic in its first week:

SEO Checklist – Traffic spike in first week

Lots of shares:

SEO Checklist – Social shares

And people quickly started linking to it:

SEO Checklist – Links

Sure enough, my page cracked the top 10 for my target keyword (“SEO checklist”) a few weeks later.

SEO Checklist – Cracking the top 10

All good right?

Well… not really.

You see, my posts usually get more traffic from SEO over time.

Not my SEO checklist page.

In fact: organic search traffic to that page decreased as time went on.

SEO Checklist – Traffic drop over time

It got so bad that my post averaged only 4-5 visitors per day.

SEO Checklist – Low daily visitors

And my rankings dropped to the middle of the second page:

SEO Checklist – SERPs, low

That’s When I Wondered: “What Happened?!”

On paper my content had everything going for it:

200+ backlinks.

Lots of comments (which Google likes).

And social media shares out the wazoo.

What was missing?

User Intent.

User Intent + SEO = Higher Rankings

Remember:

Google’s #1 goal is to make users happy.

Which means they need to give people results that match their User Intent.

Never heard of User Intent? Here’s a simple explanation:

UI

User Intent

noun

Definition

The main goal behind a user’s Google search.

And Google is REALLY good at figuring out User Intent.

In fact, a big part of Google RankBrain is to give users “results that it thinks searchers will like the most”.

RankBrain summary

And the 2018 Google Quality Rater Guidelines has an entire section on User Intent:

Google Guidelines – Understanding user intent

Google has even started asking users about their User Intent:

Google user intent survey

That’s when it hit me:

My post was getting buried because it didn’t satisfy user intent.

Here’s what happened next:

Skyscraper Technique 2.0: (An SEO Strategy That Works GREAT In 2018)

After I optimized my page around User Intent, organic traffic shot up like a rocketship:

SEO Checklist – Traffic increase

And my rankings went from #11 to #5:

SEO Checklist – Rankings change

(And these improved rankings have stuck 4+ months later)

SEO Checklist – Sustained traffic increase

With that, here are the steps for The Skyscraper Technique 2.0:

Step 1: Figure out User Intent

Step 2: Satisfy User Intent

Step 3: Optimize for UX signals

To be clear:

The original Skyscraper Technique still works GREAT.

For example, this list of SEO tools is classic “Skyscraper” content marketing.

SEO Tools

Most SEO tools posts list 10-20 tools. So I decided to review over 180:

SEO Tools – Number of tools

And because my page is bigger and better, lots of people have linked to it:

SEO Tools – Ahrefs backlinks

That said:

This page also satisfies User Intent.

Which is why it ranks in the top 3 for my target keyword:

SEO Tools – Top three

In short:

Ideally, you want to use Skyscraper Technique 1.0 AND 2.0.

Skyscraper Techniques 1 & 2

Skyscraper Technique 1.0 helps you get the links you need to hit the first page.

And Skyscraper Technique 2.0 will make sure those rankings stick.

Let’s dive into the steps…

Step #1: Figure Out User Intent

Here are two simple ways to identify User Intent:

Analyze the First Page

Google’s first page gives you a HUGE insight into User Intent.

Why?

If something ranks on Google’s first page, you KNOW that it satisfies User Intent.

So all you need to do is search for your keyword…

Sample Google search

…and scan the SERPs.

Sample Google search results

Specifically, answer the question:

“What kind of intent do these results satisfy?”

Do people want information? If so, are they looking for the basics… or advanced strategies?

Do they want to buy something? If so, are they ready to buy… or comparing two different products?

Types of user content

For example…

If you search for “Office Space Brooklyn”, the results are 100% transactional:

In fact, 10 out of 10 results are product pages for booking an office space:

But if you search for “Coworking Space Brooklyn”, you get something completely different:

The results are mostly blog posts about the best coworking spots in the city:

Coworking space Brooklyn – Website

So:

On the surface these keywords seem similar.

But Google’s first page reveals that the User Intent is VERY different.

Look At the Keyword Itself

Sometimes the keyword itself tells you all you need to know.

For example…

With my SEO checklist post, I asked myself:

“What does someone searching for ‘SEO checklist’ actually want?”

Duh! They want an SEO checklist.

Despite that, my original post was a case study… not a checklist.

SEO Checklist – Case study highlight

Sure, there were some steps that resembled a checklist.

SEO Checklist – Steps highlight

But it wasn’t the type of detailed checklist that searchers wanted.

And Google noticed.

Which leads us to…

Step #2: Satisfy User Intent

At this point I had User Intent figured out.

And now it was time to publish a piece of high-quality content to match that User Intent.

Here’s exactly how I did it:

Covered the Basics

I noticed that other content ranking for “SEO checklist” had steps for people new to SEO:

Other SEO Checklist content had steps

And I quickly realized something:

My original post was WAY too advanced.

In fact, the first step was: “Delete Dead Weight Pages”.

SEO Checklist – Delete dead weight pages

This is a strategy that people new to SEO should absolutely NOT use.

So I replaced this advanced strategy with steps for SEO newbies:

SEO Checklist – New first step

Changed the Format

Like I mentioned earlier, the original version of my post was a step-by-step case study.

So I changed the format.

This time, I made the content more checklisty.

SEO Checklist – Add SERPs

Covered More Stuff

Google’s top 10 results were clear:

People searching for “SEO checklist” want checklists that cover LOTS of different stuff.

People want SEO checklists that cover a lot

Despite that, my post had ZERO info on:

  • Technical SEO
  • Link building
  • Keyword research
  • SEO software and tools

So I expanded my post to hit on these important subtopics:

Important subtopics

I Emphasized “2018”

I noticed a clear pattern in the search results:

Most of the content pointed out that their checklist worked in 2018.

SEO Checklist – SERPs year focus

So I emphasized that my checklist was up-to-date.

How?

I included “2018” in my title tag…

SEO Checklist – New title tag

…in the introduction…

SEO Checklist year in intro

…and I even mentioned “2018” a few times in the content itself:

SEO Checklist year in content

Now:

In this case I rewrote an existing post.

But you can use this same strategy for brand new content.

For example…

A few months ago I wanted to write something about mobile optimization.

The first thing I did was search for “Mobile SEO”… and scan the results.

And I noticed 3 things about Google’s first page results:

They covered WHY mobile SEO is important.

Importance of Mobile SEO result

So I led off my guide with a handful of stats:

Why is Mobile SEO Important?

2. They wrote about responsive design vs. dynamic serving vs. “M. mobile sites”

Other site – Responsive design section

So did I:

Responsive design section

3. They had tips for improving sitespeed.

Other site – Site speed section

So I included a section on that.

Site speed section

The end result was “Mobile SEO: The Definitive Guide”.

Mobile SEO Guide

And largely thanks to The Skyscraper Technique 2.0, it quickly climbed to the #1 for my target keyword:

Mobile SEO Guide – SERPs

(Above heavyweights like Moz, Search Engine Land… even Google itself)

And now it’s time to…

Step #3: Optimize for UX Signals

Here’s the deal:

Your content can be a PERFECT match for User Intent.

But if it looks like this…

Ugly website

…people are gonna leave your site like it’s on fire.

And Google will quickly downrank you:

Google downranks sites that are poor matches for user intent

So now that you’ve nailed User Intent, it’s time to optimize for UX Signals.

Specifically, this step is all about engineering your content to:

  • Maximize Dwell Time
  • Maximize organic CTR
  • Minimize bounce rate

Here’s how:

Embed Videos

Wistia found that: “people spent on average 2.6x more time on pages with video than without.”

Average time spent on page

Now:

I’ve never seen a video work THAT well.

But videos can definitely keep people on your site longer.

That’s why I embedded a few videos in my SEO checklist post:

SEO Checklist – Video embeds

Table of Contents

I added a table of contents to the top of my new post:

SEO Checklist – Table of contents

And this table of contents got me some sweet sitelinks in the search results:

SEO Checklist – Sitelinks in SERPs

Needless to say, these sitelinks boosted my organic CTR.

Short Introductions

What’s the first thing someone does when they land on your post?

They read your intro.

In fact, take a look at this heatmap from the Backlinko blog:

Backlinko blog – Heatmap

As you can see, there’s A LOT of action on the first few lines of my intro:

Backlinko blog – Heatmap intro focus

And if you start your post off with a long intro… users are gonna bounce.

That’s why I write short and sweet introductions (5-8 sentences).

SEO Checklist – Intro

LOTS of Examples

Examples INSTANTLY separate your content from the regurgitated garbage that most people publish.

So don’t be afraid to use tons of examples in every post.

For example:

I included 19 examples in my new SEO checklist post:

SEO Checklist – Examples

H2 and H3 Subheaders

Subheaders break up your content into chunks:

SEO Checklist – Subheaders

(Which makes your content MUCH easier to read)

In fact:

My SEO checklist post has over 9 subheaders:

SEO Checklist – Subheaders count

Short Sentences. Short Paragraphs.

Here’s how to make your content 10x easier to read:

Short sentences. Short paragraphs.

That’s why I write short sentences:

Short sentences

And use 1-2 sentence paragraphs:

One-to-two sentence paragraphs

Which is a big part of why my post’s average time on page is 5:53.

Google Analytics – Average time on page

Over To You

Now I’d like to hear from you:

What do you think of this SEO case study?

Or

Maybe you have a question about The Skyscraper Technique 2.0.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

The post SEO Case Study: How I Increased My Organic Traffic 652% in 7 Days appeared first on Backlinko.