Conversation mapping: The new rules to win in search and content marketing

Conversation mapping: The new rules to win in search and content marketing

Almost two-thirds of marketers now admit that digital content strategy powers their entire digital plan and yet the majority of those that use it struggle to create a mix of content ‘good enough’ to win.

That is the main finding from the second annual State of Content Marketing Survey, an annual temperature check of the UK’s top digital marketers.

In it we discover that not only is the game getting harder to win, but skill and resource shortages are holding many of you back from the results you demand.

And with an average of 23% of overall marketing budget now being attributed to content marketing it has to work.

Marketers also made clear that a very significant gap still exists between being able to create a strategy that resonates with audiences but also delivers measurable ROI. Only one in five of those that took part can confidently claim to know how to tie those two things together and more than half claim to struggle in terms of creating the type of content that will actually work.

You can dive deeper into the full survey, but this post is designed not just to share that top-level view of opinions, but instead go some way to offering a solution for those key challenges.

Overall the takeaways from the study tell us that there is a single, overriding question to fix the challenges of producing content that delivers ROI – ‘How do we create a content strategy that aligns with search growth, consistently?’

This post is designed to answer the ‘how’ element with an appreciation that designing such a digital content strategy has never been more complex and nuanced.

Where do we start?

With multiple touchpoints and a plethora of different journeys through to your product or service, there is no shame in feeling like you have no idea where to start.

And that’s a problem.

It’s an issue because of the emphasis, and rewards, now placed on the overall content experience.

It’s a challenge I’ve spent thousands of hours contemplating and the result of that thinking is captured in this post. A process focused not on content ideas, or keywords, but on the audience. I call it ‘Conversation Mapping’.

It’s a concept that borrows from the world of user experience and is designed to focus on the shift towards ‘conversational search’ and Google’s quest to solve the entire journey and follow the intent.

So, rather than thinking of the traditional ‘keyword research’ approach to designing a content strategy around what people are searching for we instead use the brainstorming process to develop and capture a number of theoretical conversations being had around our products and services.

That process can, and should, be backed by data of course.

Here’s how it works in detail…

Start with people. Always.

All marketing must start and end with people. It’s a statement I’ve made many times before in my Moz posts and it’s central to this strategic approach.

As a marketer, you’ll probably already be sick to death of posts explaining how to extract and turn data into useful personas so I’m not going to go into full detail on that again. You can always read a previous post on that process, or take a look at this one for some great tips.

And the best way to bring the conversation mapping process to life is to walk through it end to end with an example. In this case, we’re going to choose the PC components market.

This critical initial work will leave us with two to four personas such as in the example below:

conversation mapping personas

With these in place, we can then use a tool such as the Global Web Index to understand things like internet use motivations for each of our personas – against the overall audience profile (Grey) (Blue = Gary, Purple = Tim, Turquoise = Imogen).

graph on conversation mapping personas

For details of how to build this yourself follow this brilliant guide by the GWI team if you’re interested in giving it a go for yourself.

This kind of data mash-up helps shape the more detailed picture that we can capture from qualitative research sessions and bigger data crunching.

With a clear picture of who it is that is likely to be interacting with the products or services, it means you can more accurately map that conversation and the corresponding conversation map (more on what this looks like a little later!) because there is clear understanding about the likes and dislikes of the intended audience. It becomes much easier to imagine their conversations with this picture in your head!

Mapping the conversation with data

With the personas clearly outlined, the next phase is to gather all the data insight you can to better inform the understanding of the key questions Tim is asking around your product or service.

In this example, Tim is in the market for a new gaming PC and we want to understand what his journey is at present and where he is obtaining his information. Do this and then build a super-targeted content plan around it.

What else do you need to know?

Before we start diving into the data it is important to remind ourselves of what we are trying to achieve here. We know from the state of content marketing research that marketers are struggling to align results’ delivery to content planning and need to upskill and resource to deliver that.

Delivering it means focusing and prioritizing on the opportunity closest to the ‘cash register’ – and that almost always means the search channel comes first.

By diving into organic search engine traffic, we are most likely to be able to tap into buying intent – therefore impacting traffic, conversions, and revenue fastest.

The upside to this approach is that search really is aligned now to the wider audience picture anyway, so in building out a search-focused content plan first you are working on solving the biggest pain points that your customers have and helping them in the process.

In doing so you stay front of mind and add value, meaning that you’ll be the first port of call when they do decide it’s time to buy.

Keyword research

The obvious place to start then is by digging into the keyword opportunity for your market.

That doesn’t mean having to trawl through every opportunity in your niche but instead, we want to focus on the informational and functional content opportunities.

Informational content

By far the most important area from a content strategy perspective is the informational piece – as it is here that we can create assets that answer three of the four key micro-moments that your customer will experience.

As a reminder here are the four key moments that an audience will work through as they search for answers to key questions.

graph on key audience moments

Informational content focuses on the ‘I Want to Know’, ‘I Want to Do’ and ‘I Want to Go’ moments and this taps into a huge pool of traffic opportunity.

To give you a feel of what that looks like I have included a visual here showing the size of the prize from a selected keyword set of 4,502 phrases in the PC component niche.

Let’s look then at the process for pulling that data into useful formats to aid the content planning process.

The objective now is to establish where to focus effort in content creation to ensure you have the assets necessary to cover the entire user journey, which you can join together later.

To kickstart the process, I’ve used a tool that Zazzle Media built specifically for this task called the KIT (Keyword Identification Tool) but here’s how it basically works:

The ‘KIT’ process

We begin by extracting a large set of both functional and informational keywords using a mix of competitor keyword research and keyword explorer research. To maximize the size of the set, you can opt for multiple sources and then de-dupe using tools like Ahrefs, Moz and SEMrush.

Once you have the keyword set you are going to be working from, it is best to get ranking data, so you can see where your site is ranking for this content already. This will help later when creating your content strategy, as being able to see where you currently rank for a keyword lets you know whether you need to optimize an existing page or create a new one.

We have our own in-house tools to gather this position data in bulk, there are however third-party tools you could also use, for example:

Whatever rank tracker you decide to use, after it has scraped your position data you will need to export a CSV then use VLOOKUP to pull that information into the ‘Keyword Research’ tab in this free Google sheet tool we’ve created to help pull it all together easily.

There is more detail about the different ways to then categorize that data in this blog post by Zazzle Media’s Sam Underwood, and below you can see a couple of my personal favorites:

  • Incremental informational keyword opportunity by category

graph on incremental informational keyword opportunity by category

  • Incremental traffic by an operator

graph on incremental traffic by an operator

This is useful as it helps us to understand where the persona ‘Tim’ is looking for information and across which product categories. This is the gateway from which you can dive deeper into specific areas to prioritize where to focus next.

To get further value, you could also combine the category information you already have with the most frequently used search operators. From this, you are able to not only work out where Tim is searching, but also how – allowing you to shape and prioritize what questions and pain points you write content for first.

In this example, it might make sense to prioritize ‘motherboards’ for instance and look to create content around ‘best’ and ‘reviews’.

Content auditing

Next up we need to take a closer look at the quality of what is already out there to understand the level at which we must compete to win.

‘To know your enemy, you must become your enemy.’
Sun Tzu

To do that, you need to look both at what you already have and also what is currently out there and working.

This subject is enough to fill a post all of its own so I’m not going to dive into both elements of that here. Instead, for the content auditing part, I implore you to read this recent post by Everett Sizemore, which does a brilliant job of walking you through the perfect process. A lot of this focuses on the technical elements of content auditing but this is still an important element as to maximize ROI (the key fix here) we must also ensure that the platforms from where we publish are ‘fit for purpose’.

However, we need to focus more on the other half of this, by diving into the wider picture and answering the question, “what is working now?”.

To do that you can jump into Buzzsumo or Ahrefs’ content explorer. There are already excellent guides on using Buzzsumo for content research, such as this one so we won’t go over information that has already been covered in-depth.

The output from content research should really be some solid data on what kind of content we know people like related to a specific industry and niche. You should be able to explain the following things:

  1. The types of content that work
  2. Which social networks you should be promoting on
  3. What the ideal word count is
  4. Any topics that work well

For this piece of work, some other beneficial things to gather are below:

  • Most popular content types

graph on most popular content types

  • Traffic by word count

graph on traffic by word count

It’s incredibly clear that for Tim, articles work best and videos where in-depth ‘how’ questions are asked and that’s hugely powerful for shaping your overall content strategy.

In scenarios where we know that written content is key, the next important step is to get a better understanding of how to go about creating it – and the biggest variable is word count. Here we can look at organic traffic by word count and therefore understand the most visited (and visible) content length as well as the most shared content through social (second chart).

This data is not to be viewed as a suggestion that word count affects rankings, or indeed has any effect on the SERPs; instead, we are using it to understand content consumption patterns – and the takeaway here is that Tim likes more in-depth content, as is more willing to share it.

Conversation mapping

The challenge, of course, is bringing all this to life in the context of the user/visitor and this is where our ‘Conversation Mapping’ concept comes into play. To bring that to life let’s follow our current example journey for Tim.

The idea here is to use the usual ‘brainstorming’ meeting to work through every possible conversation around the purchase journey for your product or service.

Instead of looking for individual content ideas, we instead think about the buying process and journey Tim might take through our fictional PC component site.

Clearly, this can be a lengthy process that will spit out multiple examples. For the sake of this story, however, we will look at one – the motherboards opportunity.

And to do so it requires a second voice, not just a list of questions that Tim may ask, and as a result this is where we can also start to think about the emerging voice search opportunity and know more about where Google is taking search following the logical user journey from beginning to end around intent.

Not following what I mean? Let’s look at an example:

conversation mapping example

This theoretical ‘conversation’ is one of the many Tim will be having around this product and the idea is to take the ‘motherboard’ concept and sit in a room to brainstorm the potential conversation variations that may exist around the product.

You may find there are only one or two – or it may be there are dozens, in which case distill them down to a core of the most important ones post brainstorm, to make it easier to then think about designing the content plan around it.

Content planning around the conversation

The next phase is to then map content opportunity against that conversation, as in the below example:

So, what we have done here is to think about all of the opportunities there are along that conversation to create content to help make Tim a smarter consumer.

content planning around the conversation

Turbocharging the opportunity

With your informational and functional plan in place and your conversation mapping exercises complete you’re already looking good for returning a greater ROI when it comes to measuring impact at year end. But there’s also another reason to focus on this approach – and it’s all to do with future market share.

Featured snippets

Unless you’ve had your head under a rock these last few months you’ll have been bombarded by news about the importance of featured snippets. For those that don’t know what they are, snippets are the SERP feature that pulls out and highlights content designed to answer the question being asked by the searcher.

An example of one that Tim may come across in his search for his PC components can be seen below for clarity.

google snippet example

Claiming a snippet requires you to create the best answers to those specific informational queries and doing so better than anyone else.

Google and Bing both do a lot of testing of contenders for these slots to ensure they have the best of the best by measuring bounce rate, dwell time and other factors, and that gives you a really good opportunity to use your content prowess to claim them.

And don’t expect the format to go away anytime soon. Google has been very open in its end game plan to produce a ‘Star Trek’ computer with one answer for everything, as those answers will be triggered by snippet results. It’s something I’ve written about recently here and how the plan will push voice search to the forefront of our planning within the next couple of years as a result.

Given then that such features will only grow in prevalence and importance in the coming months and years then it pays to ensure you have a very solid snippet plan as part of your ROI-focused content planning process.

To do that we can dive back into the data to understand the current snippet share and also where the opportunity still lies ahead of you.

Snippet market share

Before we dive into the planning process it is important to benchmark. To do this we dive into an internal tool called ORT, but it is possible to use a manual process utilizing data from a tool such as Ahrefs or Moz that allow you to extract snippet information and to then use VLOOKUP to push it into separate tabs that show you pieces of insight such as:

Overall snippet market share:

overall snippet market share

  • Featured snippet opportunity by category

featured snippet opportunity by category


  • Featured snippet opportunity by an operator

featured snippet opportunity by operator


And while this level of traffic is clearly a welcome opportunity it is all critical to understand what it means for the future as well.

We’ve already discussed how snippets will play a key part in the move to voice interfaces, as they provide the ‘direct answers’ given by voice assistants such as Google Home. With 50% of all search queries expected to be delivered by voice by 2020, that key SERP has never been more important as part of a rounded strategy.

Claiming them 

Snippets themselves are important as Google is building SERP ‘real estate’ around them simply because they are part of its growing conversational search strategy. As we move towards voice-led searches the phrases we use naturally become longer and contain much more natural language.

Google wants to incentivize the building of more useful, conversational content to fuel its voice plans and snippets are therefore precisely that – a reward for creating such content and are, as a result, the perfect way in which to test your own voice strategy. Snippets serve as the perfect signposting to a great ‘conversation mapping’ plan.

To give yourself the best possible opportunity of claiming snippets the key factor is a focus on content quality and structure. Numerous recent studies like this and this have pointed at the importance of precisely structuring pages to separate paragraphs into bite-sized 40-50 word direct answers and make the use of bulleted list and tables to present information.

Other useful insights include:

  • Create lists if your users are predominantly mobile-first
  • Write succinct headers that exactly describe the answer being given
  • Use strong external links to trusted sources
  • Use HTTPS
  • Make sure your site is mobile friendly and fast
  • Use multiple images
  • Use tables where appropriate

To make it really easy you can download a really simple guide to page and content structure for snippets here.


In short, the key to getting over this clear disconnect between content strategy, production, marketing and a return on growing investments is to double down on data and make search the key focus for activity.

Of course, by becoming successful, content has the unique power to positively affect many other key indicators as it never works in a silo.

And with search engines now much better at rewarding people-based marketing efforts with more traffic, rather than keyword focused strategies, a content-led approach is the only way to attack.

Data plays a critical part of that as the days of subjectivity are behind us. By leveraging search data, we can truly understand what our audiences are looking for, what pain points they have and how we can make their journeys more informed and easier to navigate.

The process for doing that starts with the insight piece, defining key persona groups within your target audience and then in understanding their ‘I want to go’, ‘I want to do’, and ‘I want to know’ moments through the informational content research process.

In short, we need to be using data to help us map conversations and not ‘keyword opportunity.’ Do that and you’ll ensure that you deliver positive ROI from your owned and earned marketing activity.

And if you missed the wider findings from the state of content marketing survey then here’s that link again.

Simon Penson is the founder and Managing Director of Zazzle Media. He can be found on Twitter at @simonpenson.

The post Conversation mapping: The new rules to win in search and content marketing appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

How to Find High-Value Competitor Keywords (Actionable 5-Step Guide)

How to Find High-Value Competitor Keywords (Actionable 5-Step Guide)

Keywords form the base of any successful SEO campaign

But, finding the right keywords that drive the right type of traffic to your business can often feel overwhelming, especially if you’re strapped for time.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way:

What if you could reverse engineer the SEO success of others, and exploit their weaknesses to land higher rankings and more organic traffic?

Enter: competitor keyword research.

By finding all your competitor’s top performing keywords you’ll emerge with a proven blueprint for success. No more guessing which keywords drive the most traffic or conversions.

In today’s post, I’m going to walk you step-by-step through a series of competitor keyword research tactics you can use to quickly mine for keyword gold.

Specifically, we’ll look at:

Whether you’re an established business or starting a new website, this guide will give your keyword research process a running start, while laying a rock solid foundation for all your future keyword research and content efforts.

Let’s jump in…

Robbie headshot

Editor’s Note: If you want to learn the exact keyword research processes I use to scale organic traffic for my clients, check out my premium training course, The SEO Playbook.

You’ll learn how to find, qualify, prioritize and map keyword data:

Keyword Research Playbook gif

Screenshots of the Aggregate and Keyword Mapping tabs in The SEO Playbook

Disclaimer: This article does contain affiliate links. If you purchase a tool through one of my links I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

What Is Competitor Keyword Research?

There are two methods of keyword research.

Traditional keyword research uses seed keywords to build a larger set of related search terms that can qualified, prioritized and mapped to posts/pages on a site. While this process works well, it requires some guesswork, and a lot of upfront legwork.

Competitor keyword research lets you reverse-engineer the keywords that are already driving traffic and conversions for your competitors. It allows you to quickly see where you’re falling short, and spot critical gaps in your content strategy.


Use a competitor-based keyword research tool like SEMrush (affiliate) to quickly discover which high-traffic keywords your competitors are already ranking for across each stage of the buyer journey.

Grab a free 30-day trial (affiliate) and follow along with the tutorial. 

Why Competitor Analysis Should Be The Bedrock of Your Keyword Research Process

Time and again you hear about marketers sweating over their content planning. They spend endless hours researching topics and keywords when all they had to do was look at what was already working for their top competitors.

When it comes to keyword research, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. 

It’s much easier to discover what’s already working for your top competitors and do the same. Only better.

Here are seven ways you can use competitor keyword research to plan your content strategy:

  1. Find new keyword opportunities fast – Analyze your competitors to see what keywords they’re ranking for that you hadn’t thought of yet.
  2. Find (and fill) important content gaps – See which keywords are driving targeted traffic to the competition that you are missing out on. . Then create or update your content so that it outranks them.
  3. Find where competitors are beating you – Analyze your competitors to find which common keywords they’re ranking above you.
  4. Find which terms competitors are bidding on – Keywords that your competitors have been bidding on PPC campaigns over an extended period likely have more commercial intent, so prioritize content creation around those topics.
  5. Find lower competition long tail keywords – Pages rank for more than one keyword. Drill down into your competitors content to discover low competition long tail keywords you can add to the content calendar.
  6. Find secondary keyword opportunities – One article can rank for hundreds or thousands of different search terms. Mine top ranking articles for secondary keyword variations/ topics that can help you expand the organic footprint (and traffic potential) of existing content.
  7. Find featured snippet opportunities – More keywords are triggering featured snippets. If you’re able to pinpoint which topics are triggering them, you can optimize for placement, rank in position #0, and exponentially increase organic traffic potential.

Establish a Keyword Difficulty Baseline for Relevant Search Intent Buckets

Not all keywords are created equal. Some are more competitive than others.

Targeting the wrong terms can result in a LOT of wasted time and money.

As a result, you want to focus on only the competitor keyword opportunities you can realistically rank for in say the next 3-6 months.

One of the best ways to narrow down the competitor keyword set to these terms is to establish a keyword difficulty baseline.

I’ll show you how to quickly set this baseline using SEMrush (affiliate) in the video below:

Make a note of your keyword difficulty baseline across each relevant intent bucket – informational, investigational and commercial – because you’ll be using this to narrow down the competitor keyword opportunities later on.


Now it’s time to identify your top primary (and secondary) search competitors. 

How to Quickly Identify Your Top Primary (and Secondary) Organic Search Competitors

Before you can identify competitor keywords, you first need to know who your competitors are.

This includes both your primary and secondary competitors.

Primary Competitors

Primary competitors sell the exact products or services as you, to the same target audience. Start with them.

Here are two ways to find your primary organic search competitors using SEMrush and Google search.

1) SEMrush

Using the Domain Overview report in SEMrush (affiliate), enter your domain in the search bar. For example, “”:

Entering a domain into SEMrush

SEMrush displays all the top-level information for your site including Organic Search, Paid Search, Backlinks, and Keywords: 

Domain Overview report in SEMrush

Scroll down the page to find your Main Organic Competitors. In our example, the main competitors of Beardbrand are Beardoholic, Beard Resource, Beard Style, Zeus Beard, and Balding Beards:

Organic competitors report in SEMrush

Click on “View full report” to see more details on the common keywords and total keyword/traffic metrics:

SEMrush organic search positions report data

SEMrush shows Beardbrand has 9,697 competitors. But we’re most interested in sites that have similar or higher organic traffic (242K), plus a high number of common keywords as this tells us they have the highest degree of topical overlap and potential to highlight new opportunities.

Here’s how to quickly qualify the competition:

Qualify by traffic 

At first, exclude sites that have much lower traffic than yours. These sites have a lower probability of delivering any new keyword opportunities.
If you’re a new site, this obviously doesn’t apply.

In our example, Beardoholic (194.5K) and Balding Beards (268.3K) have similar traffic to Beardbrand:

Organic keyword competitors

Note: don’t analyze hugely authoritative broad-scope domains in this step. I.e. sites selling loads of different products like Walmart or Amazon. Focus on the businesses selling the exact same products or services as you. We’ll come to the bigger players at a later stage in the process.

Qualify by keyword overlap 

Include sites with a high number of common keywords. This will help drill down to the sites with the highest degree of topical overlap.

In our working example, this is Beardoholic and Balding Beards: 

Common keyword report in SEMrush

Note: While GQ has the highest number of common keywords in this example, it is also a large broad-scope industry publication ranking for almost 2M different keywords. We’ll skip this site since we’re mostly interested in direct competitors selling competing products.

Make a list of at least 3-5 primary competitors.

List of primary organic search competitors

Screenshot of the Competitors tab in the Master Keyword doc from my training program, The SEO Playbook

2) Google

You can also check your competition in Google by searching for your products and their alternatives.

Search your product in Google

For example, if you simply enter “beard oil” you can see a potential competitor is Badass Beard Care:

Identifying organic search competitors in Google

Since the competitor is not a large publications, and is selling the exact same products, I’ll add them to my list of Primary competitors. 

Search for your product/brand + alternative

For example, if you search for “what’s an alternative to boars hair beard brush” there are several potential competitors including Elegance Beard, Beard Resource, and Balding Beards:

Back in SEMrush (affiliate), you can use the Organic Research Overview report to look at the traffic and keyword position trends over time to get an idea on which competing sites have the best keyword and content strategies in place. 

From the four potential competitors found with the previous Google search, Balding Beards looks like another good site to analyze:

Competitor organic traffic and keyword trend reports

Organic traffic has been steadily increasing over the last 12 months, along with the number of keywords ranking in the top 10 positions. 

Secondary Competitors

In addition to researching primary competitors, it’s a good idea to broaden your search to neighboring sites which have related content topics that your audience might be interested in.

These sites won’t sell a directly competing product or service, but they will produce content for a similar target audience.

For instance, is an affiliate website that would be considered a secondary competitor since they don’t sell competing products, but do produce a lot of top and middle funnel content (i.e. reviews, and “best of” articles) read by the same target audience:

Beard Style

In SEMrush, you can see that ranks for a lot of the higher volume topics, as well as less competitive longer tail keywords including “beard style for curly hair” and “how to style a long goatee”:

Example of secondary competitor keyword report in SEMrush

Depending on budget and resources, you can also broaden the scope of your secondary competitor analysis.

For instance, Beardbrand targets men who want to groom their beards. But those same men are likely interested in other grooming products like hair styling products.

For example, searching for “men’s hair products” brings up Fashionbeans:

Secondary organic search competitor

In SEMrush, you can see they rank for keywords including “man bun”, “long hairstyles for men”, and “mens haircuts”:

Competitor keywords report in SEMrush

All businesses will eventually hit a “keyword ceiling”. These shoulder topics provide an opportunity for Beardbrand to extend the scope of their content strategy to attract a wider audience.

Below, you can see they are already branching away from strictly beard-related topics:

Example of broader scope informational keyword topic

In a couple weeks, the article above has already jumped into the top 20 positions for its target topic:

Keyword ranking report for individual URL in SEMrush

And, over time it will likely crack the top 5 and start to drive a nice stream of targeted traffic to the site.


Once you’re done, make a list of at least 3-5 secondary competitors:

List of secondary keyword competitors

Screenshot of the Competitors tab in the Master Keyword doc from my training program, The SEO Playbook 

You’ll be using the secondary competitors to blow out the keyword set in the section of the post.

Quick Summary:

By this point, you have:

  1. Established a keyword difficulty baseline across each of the relevant intent buckets (more on that below)
  2. Identified 3-5 primary and secondary organic search competitors

Now it’s time to dive and find your competitor’s highest value keywords. 

5 Actionable Ways to Find High-Value Competitor Keywords

Before we jump into the tactics below it’s important to note that the types of keywords you’ll prioritize depends mainly on your site monetization model:

  1. AdSense sites will prioritize higher volume informational terms 
  2. Affiliate sites will prioritize more investigational terms
  3. Ecommerce sites will prioritize commercial intent terms 

Take a look at these three examples.

Healthline is an example of a site monetizing primarily through top funnel content:

Healthline organic search competitor

They’re interested in ranking for high-volume informational keywords so they can get as many impressions and clicks on the Adsense ads.

The Top Pages report in SEMrush (affiliate) includes informational topics like The Ketogenic Diet 101, How to Lose Weight Fast: 3 Simple Steps, Based on Science, 6 Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar, Backed by Science, etc.

For example, their top-ranking page on the Keto diet ranks for 1,700 different keywords and attracts 516K visitors per month:

Top traffic pages report in SEMrush filtered by keyword intent

The average monthly search volume for the “keto diet” keyword is a staggering 1M:

High volume competitor keywords

Wirecutter is an example of an affiliate site monetizing primarily through mid-funnel content:


They’re interested in ranking for investigational keywords with modifiers like “best”, “review”, “alternatives”, “comparisons”, etc. so they can get as many visitors to click on the product review affiliate links.

Their top-ranking pages include The Best Humidifier, The Best Smart Doorbell Camera, and The Best Vacuum Cleaner.

Each piece of content ranks for thousands of different keywords:

Top ranking review pages for The Wirecutter

Many of these secondary keywords (more on this later) contain the “best” modifier:

Keywords with the Best modifier

These “best” keywords all rank in position 1 and drive a tonof targeted organic traffic to the site each month.

Traffic Safety Store is an example of a site monetizing primarily through bottom funnel content:

Traffic Safety Store homepage

They’re interested in ranking for commercial intent keywords so they can drive visitors to their category and individual product pages in order to make a direct sale:

For example, top-ranking pages include the Traffic Cones, Traffic Barricades, and Parking Blocks categories:

Finding top ranking product categories in SEMrush

These type of pages typically rank for fewer keywords than the top and mid funnel examples above. But because they have commercial intent, they provide a ton of value for Traffic Safety Store.

For example, the Traffic Cone category includes “safety cones”, “construction cones”, and “road cones”:

Product variation keywords

Remember the difference in intent as you analyze competitor keyword data. 

Ask yourself:

Where does my site fit in the matrix? What is my primarily site monetization model?

The answer to this question will dictate how you approach the rest of competitor keyword research process below. 

Let’s jump in.

#1: Find High-Intent Keywords Using Subfolder Analysis

Using filters in SEMrush, you can find specific types of keywords.

For instance, you can use URL subfolders like “/collections” or “/product” to return all the commercial intent product-related terms for an ecommerce site. On the other hand, using a URL subfolder like “/blog” would return all the informational keyword ideas.

Here’s how it works.

We said earlier that Beardoholic is a competitor of Beardbrand. When you check their site, you can see they use the “shop” subdomain to house all their products:

Beardaholic shop subdomain

In SEMrush (affiliate), when you use the Organic Research Positions report for Beardoholic, it returns 35K keywords: 

Unfiltered organic research report in SEMrush

But if you apply filters to the report, you can zoom in on the commercial intent terms and drastically reduce the number of keywords:

  • Include > URL > Containing “shop.”
  • Include > Words Count > Greater than 1
    (to eliminate single-term keywords)
Applying keyword filters in SEMrush

I’ve also restricted the query to keywords ranking in the Top 20 positions to maximize the relevancy of the results.

And now the results return only 3 high intent commercial keywords:

Using keyword filters in SEMrush

Each keyword comes from the “shop.” subdomain: 

Selecting competitor keyword targets in SEMrush

Use the Export Manager to save your selected keywords.

Editor’s Note: if we look at the Beardbrand site, you’ll notice they house all their products under the /collections subfolder:

Beardbrand product subfolder

If you enter the Beardbrand domain back into SEMrush, navigate to the Organic Search Positions report and use the /collections path in the URL filter you’ll see only the product-related search terms driving organic traffic to their site:

Beardbrand product-related keywords

If Beardbrand was a primary competitor of mine, this is where I would start the competitor keyword research process. 

Inside the Organic Search Positions report you can view the individual URLs ranking for each keyword:

Analyzing URL structure inside SEMrush

Pay attention to how top performing competitors are organizing their URL structure. For ecommerce sites, pay attention to the way relationship between categories >> subcategories >> product pages.

Place a check next to potential keyword opportunities to add them to the master keyword list in the Export Manager.

Repeat the process for 3-5 primary search competitors.

Note: if you owned a beard blog monetizing primarily through AdSense, you’d be more interested in looking at all the high volume informational topics BeardBrand was ranking for.

BeardBrand houses all its blog content under the /blogs/urbanbeardsman/ subfolder:

Beardbrand blog URL string

So, you’d add that string as a URL filter in SEMrush (affiliate):

Filtering keyword results by URL string in SEMrush

You’ll be left with thousands of new high-volume informational keyword opportunities to consider. 

#2: Find High-Traffic Keywords with the Top Pages Report

When you’re researching keywords, it’s important not to obsess over search volume. Instead, focus on finding pages and topics that drive traffic.

To do that, you can use the Top Pages report in SEMrush to reveal all the top traffic generating pages on a site.

For each page, you can check the primary topic that is driving the traffic. And then drill deeper to view all the other keywords the page is ranking for.

Similar to the subfolder analysis, you can use URL, Position, and Traffic filters to find the best keyword opportunities for your site monetization model.

Let’s take a look at a couple examples.

1) Informational Intent Keywords

Healthline uses different categories to separate their blog content:

  • Health Topics
  • Symptoms
  • Nutrition
  • Health News
  • Diabetes Mine
  • Human Body Maps
Informational content categories

In the Top Pages report, apply a URL filter to select pages in the “/symptom” subfolder with traffic greater than 50,000

Filtering keyword data by URL inside SEMrush

Now you can see the top pages in that category, in descending traffic order:

Keyword data broken down by URL inside SEMrush

The top page gets 83.5K organic visitors per month and ranks for 2.7K keywords!

Click on the “2.7K” link to see the complete list of keywords the page is ranking for:

High traffic competitor keyword targets

You can see loads of related keywords rank in the Top 10 positions and bring significant amount of traffic to the article each month.

Another high organic traffic page can be found in the “/nutrition” subfolder. “How to Lose Weight Fast” ranks for 11.2K (11,211) different keywords and brings in 449.2K (449,221) visits a month:

Article ranking for thousands of different keywords

The primary keyword – “how to lose weight fast” – brings in 94,700 visitors – that’s 21% of the page’s overall monthly organic traffic. The remaining 79% comes from the other 11,210 semantic and long tail secondary keywords:

Organic traffic breakdown by keyword
2) Commercial Intent Keywords

Beardbrand uses the subfolder called “collections” to list all their products. (Tip: “Collections” is the standard naming for product categories on Shopify ecommerce stores.)

In the Top Pages report, apply a URL filter to only include the top traffic pages housed under the “collections/” subfolder.

Note: Traffic volumes and keywords are lower for commercial intent pages, so there’s no need to filter on traffic.

Filtering keyword data by subfolder

Click on the “56” keywords link to see the complete list of keywords that the page “beard oil” is ranking for:

Branded keyword data

You’ll notice a few branded keywords, like “beardbrand beard oil”, so let’s apply a filter to exclude those terms and another one to only include keywords in the Top 10 positions:

Exclude branded terms from competitor keyword reports

That leaves 14 keywords in the list. But notice how traffic drops after the main keyword:

Check the boxes next to the keywords you want to save to your list in the Export Manager.

#3: Find Keyword Gaps (And Low-Hanging Fruit)

Strapped for time?

The SEMrush Keyword Gap tool (affiliate) lets you make direct comparisons with your competitors. For instance, you can discover:

  • What keywords are unique to your competitor
  • What keywords you have in common

In these examples, Beardoholic is analyzing its competitor Beardbrand.

1) Find high-volume keyword gaps

Start by entering the two domains you want to compare; e.g. Beardbrand and Beardoholic:

Analyze competitor keywords with the Gap Analysis tool in SEMrush

Then select the type of intersection; e.g. “Unique to the first domain’s keywords”:

Identifying keyword gaps in SEMrush

To make the list more relevant, add advanced filters; e.g. find the keywords in positions 11-20 that you could target:

Filtering keyword data in the Gap Analysis report

Now you have a list of high-volume keywords that your competitor ranks for in positions 11-20, that you could target.

In our example, those are keywords unique to Beardbrand that Beardoholic could target:

High volume keyword gaps in SEMrush

Note: also look at the keywords your competitor is ranking for in the top 10 positions, but you are not even targeting yet:

Using position filters in SEMrush

This will return a different set of keyword opportunities:

Top 10 ranking keywords for competitor

Play around with the filters to find all the content gaps you need to fill.

2) Find low-hanging fruit

Start by entering the two domains you want to compare; e.g. Beardbrand and Beardoholic. But this time, select the “Common keywords” intersection:

Common keywords report in SEMrush

Next, apply advanced filters to see where your competitor ranks on Page 1 (positions 1-10), but you rank on Page 2 (positions 11-20) for the common keywords; e.g. Beardbrand on Page 1 and Beardoholic on Page 2:

Low hanging fruit keyword opportunities

Now you have a list of common keywords – “low-hanging fruit” – that you can target:

By improving your content for these common keywords, you can climb from Page 2 to Page 1 and increase traffic to your site.

#4: Expand Your Organic Footprint with Secondary Keyword Analysis

It’s possible to get a single article ranking for hundreds or even thousands of different keywords relative to the industry, niche, and type of content.

In the examples above, you’ve seen some wide variations:

  • Healthline’s top-ranking informational page on the Keto diet includes 1.7K keywords.
    Wirecutter’s vacuum cleaner review page ranks for 4.6K keywords.
  • But the parking blocks category page on Traffic Safety Store ranks for 500 keywords.

You can expand the keyword footprint on your pages by finding and adding otherrelated keywords to the primary topic.

For example:

The top-ranking page for Beardbrand is “How to Grow a Thick Beard Fast: The Only Guide You’ll Need”. And it ranks for 3.5K keywords:

Beardbrand article ranking for 3,500 different keywords

It ranks in the top position in the SERPs for the topic “how to grow a beard”:

Beardoholic is in second position in the SERPs for their article “5 Simple but Effective Steps To Grow Your Beard Faster”. But it only ranks for 1.6K keywords:

Beardaholic article ranking for 1,600 different keywords

So, it looks like Beardoholic could add more keywords to their content.

Here’s how to find additional keywords in SEMrush.

Click the keywords link in the Top Pages report:

Viewing all the keywords a page ranks for in SEMrush

You can see the primary topic for that page is “how to grow a beard”:

Scan down the list and place a check next to any other secondary keyword ideas you could add to your article.

Note: one thing to keep in mind here is that as you scan the list, keep an eye out for keywords that you could target with a new section in an existing article.

Once you’ve selected keywords from the list, click Add to Export Manager.

Next, enter the primary topic – “how to grow a beard” – into the Keyword Magic Tool:

Expanding keyword list with SEMrush

From the results list, you can find additional long tail variations:

Finding long tail keyword opportunities in SEMrush

Note: The “Related %” tells you how closely related the keyword is to the primary topic so you can keep your content relevant.

On the left-hand side are groups of keywords. For example, you could click on “faster” to show all the keywords related to growing your beard faster:

Grouping keyword topics in SEMrush

Scan the list and check the new keywords you want to add to your list in the Export Manager:

Building a keyword list with the Export Manager inside SEMrush

Finally, export the keywords your article is already ranking for from SEMrush, and use conditional formatting in excel to highlight all the duplicate values from the list you just built by analyzing the competition.

Find a way to naturally infuse the unique secondary keyword opportunities into your page/post.

This is the fastest way to expand the keyword footprint and organic traffic potential of your existing content. 

#5: Mine “Money” Keywords from Competitor PPC Reports

Competitors often bid on keywords that have more commercial intent.

Think about it.

If they’re prepared to spend money on these keywords, they must be valuable search terms.And that means it’s probably worth prioritizing those keywords in your content strategy.

Using the Keyword Gap tool (affiliate), you can find the paid keywords that your competitors are bidding on that you don’t yet rank for.

Here’s how:

Note: In this example, Traffic Safety Store checks the paid keywords of their competitor Traffic Safety Warehouse.

Enter “Paid Keywords” for your competitor’s domain, and then “Organic Keywords” for your site:

Analyzing competitor PPC keywords in SEMrush

Next, set the intersection type to “Unique to the first domain’s keywords”:

Identifying keyword gaps in SEMrush

Now, you can see all the “money” terms your competitor is bidding on that you don’t rank for organically: 

Identifying commercial intent keywords in SEMrush

These are high-value terms that you’ll want to prioritize in the content queue, and consider bidding on too, at least until you get visibility in the SERPs for those keywords.

Robbie headshot

Editor’s Note: Want to dive deeper? Check out the video below showing the simple 4-step process I use to reverse engineer competitor PPC campaigns:

Bonus: Find Featured Snippet Opportunities

Featured snippets offer one of the fastest ways to steal traffic from the #1 position. 

Since they occupy so much valuable real estate at the top of SERP, they get a lot more impressions and clicks:

Average CTR for featured snippets

Using SEMrush, you can find your competitors’ Featured Snippets, and then optimize your content to steal Position 0 from them: 

Ranking in the featured snippet for how to get a featured snippet

Even if you don’t rank #1, you can still land a Featured Snippet and increase your traffic:

Average rankings for featured snippets

Here’s how to do it:

Enter a competitor in the Organic Research Positions report:

Organic Positions report in SEMrush

Use the “Advanced filters” to find “Featured snippet” opportunities: 

Featured snippet filters in SEMrush

Now you have a list of all your competitor’s featured snippets: 

Click the SERP icon to see how each Featured Snippet looks in the SERPs: 

Featured snippet example

Next – use the tactics outlined in this guide to better understand how the content landed the snippet placement, and then optimize your content and steal it from your competitor.

Next Steps

  1. Export keyword data from the SEMrush Export Manager
  2. Qualify and prioritize the terms
  3. Map them to pages
  4. Move them into a content calendar
  5. Upload to the SEMrush Position Tracker to monitor ranking performance
Robbie headshot

Editor’s Note: If you want to learn the exact keyword research processes I use to scale organic traffic for my clients, check out my premium training course, The SEO Playbook.

You’ll learn the data-driven approach I use to qualify keyword targets and map them to pages/posts:

Keyword Research Playbook gif

Screenshots of the Aggregate and Keyword Mapping tabs in The SEO Playbook

Ready to Level-Up Your Competitor Keyword Research Process?

Competitor keyword research lets you find the terms that are already working in your niche. Whether you’re targeting terms with informational or commercial intent, you can quickly analyze competitors and use their best performing keywords to build a proven blueprint to quickly scale your own organic traffic and conversions..

How do you find competitor keywords? Do you use any tactics not covered above? Which ones are you going to try?

Let me know in the comments below 🙂

The post How to Find High-Value Competitor Keywords (Actionable 5-Step Guide) appeared first on Robbie Richards.

How to keep your page out of the search results

How to keep your page out of the search results

If you want to keep your page out of the search results, there are a number of things you can do. Most of ’em are not hard and you can implement these without a ton of technical knowledge. If you can check a box, your content management system will probably have an option for that. Or allows nifty plugins like our own Yoast SEO to help you prevent the page from showing up in search results. In this post, I won’t give you difficult options to go about this. I will simply tell you what steps to take and things to consider.

Why do you want to keep your page out of the search results?

It sounds like a simple question, but it’s not, really. Why do you want to keep your page out of the search results in the first place? If you don’t want that page indexed, perhaps you shouldn’t publish it? There are obvious reasons to keep for instance your internal search result pages out of Google’s search result pages or a “Thank you”-page after an order or newsletter subscription that is of no use for other visitors. But when it comes to your actual, informative pages, there really should be a good reason to block these. Feel free to drop yours in the comments below this post.

If you don’t have a good reason, simply don’t write that page.

Private pages

If your website contains a section that is targeted at, for instance, an internal audience or a, so-called, extranet, you should consider offering that information password-protected. A section of your site that can only be reached after filling out login details won’t be indexed. Search engines simply have no way to log in and visit these pages.

How to keep your page out of the search results

If you are using WordPress, and are planning a section like this on your site, please read Chris Lema’s article about the membership plugins he compared.

Noindex your page

Like that aforementioned “Thank you”-page, there might be more pages like that which you want to block. And you might even have pages left after looking critically if some pages should be on your site anyway. The right way to keep a page out of the search results is to add a robots meta tag. We have written a lengthy article about that robots meta tag before, be sure to read that.

Adding it to your page is simple: you need to add that tag to the <head> section of your page, in the source code. You’ll find examples from the major search engines linked in the robots meta article as well.

Are you using WordPress, TYPO3 or Magento? Things are even easier. Please read on.

Noindex your page with Yoast SEO

The above mentioned content management systems have the option to install our Yoast SEO plugin/extension. In that plugin or extension, you have the option to noindex a page right from your editor.

In this example, I’ll use screenshots from the meta box in Yoast SEO for WordPress. You’ll find it in the post or page editor, below the copy you’ve written. In Magento and TYPO3 you can find it in similar locations.

How to keep your site out of the search results using Yoast SEO

Advanced tab Yoast SEO meta box

Click the Advanced tab in our Yoast SEO meta box. It’s the cog symbol on the left.
Use the selector at “Allow search engines to show this post/page in search results”, simply set that to “No” and you are done.

The second option in the screenshot is about following the links on that page. That allows you to keep your page out of the search results, but follow links on that page as these (internal) links matter for the other pages (again, read the robots meta article for more information). The third option: leave that as is, this is what you have set for the site-wide robots meta settings.

It’s really that simple: select the right value and your page will tell search engines to either keep the page in or out of the search results.

The last thing I want to mention here is: use with care. This robots meta setting will truly prevent a page from being indexed, unlike robots.txt suggestion to leave a page out of the search result pages. Google might ignore the latter, triggered by a lot of inbound links to the page. 

If you want to read up on how to keep your site from being indexed, please read Preventing your site from being indexed, the right way. Good luck optimizing!

The post How to keep your page out of the search results appeared first on Yoast.

Lessons learned from launching 100+ content-led link building campaigns

Lessons learned from launching 100+ content-led link building campaigns

Throughout 2018, I was responsible for the launch of just over 100 content-led link building campaigns.

They all had a shared goal of earning links and coverage from the world’s biggest publishers for clients across retail, travel, finance, and other sectors.

Here’s a small selection of publications where I earned links from across the year:

example publications where the author was able to get links

These links, however, came from articles based around content campaigns.

They ran with headlines such as:

examples of headlines included in link building campaigns

In total, upon looking back on the year, I earned over 2,500 links from a whole host of publications. That taught me a fair few things about link building.

You see, link building, especially when using digital PR as the primary tactic, evolves quickly.

Some approaches which worked two years ago aren’t worth bothering about today. And even those tactics which do still deliver keep changing on an almost continual basis.

So how do you make sure that, as a link builder, you’re continuing to stay ahead of your competitors?

It’s simple; you run a fairly large number of campaigns, analyze the data you collected from these and refine your approaches.

I looked back at 2018 and did just that, and below you’ll see the key lessons which I’ve pulled out and learned.

1. Journalists cover stories, not content

Ask a journalist what their job role is, and they’ll likely respond that it’s to tell stories to their audience — not to cover content produced by marketing agencies.

When creating and promoting content campaigns, you need to know what your story is. What headlines could a journalist take from a campaign?

“Brand X Launches An Infographic Which Shows How Much Kim Kardashian Earns” is NOT a story. It’s simply a statement about a format.

“Kim Kardashian Earns The Average UK Salary In 6 Hours” on the other hand, IS a story.

Don’t lose focus on the stories in a campaign and keep asking yourself what these are whilst it evolves. Without stories and enticing headlines, you’ll struggle to land coverage and links.

2. Forget about content formats until you’ve found your headlines

One of the biggest mistakes made in ideation and brainstorming sessions is to go in with a format-first approach.

By this, I mean adopting a mindset where you make a decision to design an infographic or launch an interactive asset before you know the story behind it.

As far as I’m concerned, this often leads to underperforming campaigns, for the simple reason that focus moves away from the story onto the format.

If you’ve got a great story to tell, the format becomes less important and can often be executed in a number of different ways. It’s the whole concept of letting the story do the talking.

Avoid talking about formats until you’ve got a solid story in place. You’ll ensure your primary focus remains on headlines and hooks to publishers whilst coming up with concepts.

3. Campaign concepts need to be validated

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great concept for it to later be stopped in its tracks for a reason you hadn’t considered.

Trust me when I say I’ve learned the hard way here.

It’s important that you take the time to validate ideas with key stakeholders to prevent delays or roadblocks further down the line.

Common roadblocks to campaigns and things which need to be checked before investing too much into a campaign include:

  1. Data sources – is the data which you need for your campaign available? Great sources include public data, social statistics, internal company data and research, surveys and more. You just need to make sure you can get what you need and, if you can’t, there’s a way to collect this within your budget and other restrictions.
  2. Legal restrictions – be sure to have a chat with your own (or your client’s) legal team to validate concepts. If let’s say, the campaign is being run for a financially regulated brand, there may be things to take into consideration which a marketer wouldn’t usually think of. Also, legal teams are a great way to double check that there are no restrictions on the data you want to use.
  3. Brand restrictions – whilst you need to fully understand that content marketing or digital PR and advertising aren’t the same things, there’s often a requirement to adhere to brand guidelines. Again, get feedback from various teams at the start of a campaign and everyone’s input can be considered as it moves forward.
  4. An audience of journalists – is there an active pool of journalists who regularly write about topics relating to your campaign concept? If not, ask yourself who you’re going to outreach to. There’s nothing wrong with launching campaigns in small niches, there’s often less noise to cut through which can maximize performance. However, you need to understand the link potential and be realistic on this stance before investing heavily. Unless there’s an active audience of journalists and publications, be mindful that this can present further challenges at the outreach stage.

4. The wider your audience, the more potential to earn links

Are you limiting the impact which your campaign can have in terms of the number of quality links earned by not thinking wide enough?

As an agency, over 60% of the links we earn come from international publications; for us, that means those based outside of the UK.

With this in mind, always consider how you can make a campaign appeal to a wider audience simply by thinking a little bigger.

To bring in a working example:

  • The best London boroughs for foodie tourists – has the potential to pitch to niche food, London travel, and regional news publications.
  • Best city in the UK for foodie tourists – has the potential to pitch to the above as well as national news publications too.
  • The best country in the world for foodie tourists – has the potential to pitch to all of the above as well as international and global publications.

The base concept on these is the same: studying the best locations for foodie tourists.

You can clearly see, however, how the audience can be maximized (and, as such, the link potential) by widening the focus of the campaign.

You can also achieve this be thinking, at the ideation stage, on how you can take a campaign out to other verticals.

5. Your campaign needs to be linkable

Despite what many say, a journalist doesn’t owe you a link. Not even if they cover your campaign.

Of course, as SEOs, we place great value on links and that’s often the end goal. However, it’s easy to forget that in order to earn links, a campaign must actually be linkable.

During ideation and production, you need to consider a campaign’s linkability throughout.

What do I mean by this?

If there’s nothing worth linking to (not referencing stats and quotes and the like here), why should a journalist link? A brand mention would suffice.

A press release isn’t usually linkable, neither is an infographic hosted on your blog (a publisher could take the visual, upload to their own CMS and reference you as the creator).

A link needs to make sense to the story and become a vital part of any article which is published.

Launched a tool or interactive which is being written about? It’s hard to tell the story without a link being in place. Carried out a data study with multiple angles? It’s likely that a journalist has covered one hook and a link adds value, allowing a reader to study the findings in more depth.

The more a link makes sense to be included, the easier you’ll find it to minimize unlinked brand mentions.

6. You need to spend time optimizing & testing different outreach email subject lines

Too many people focus their efforts on writing a great outreach email. But if it’s not being opened, no one is reading it.

The most important element of any outreach email, in my opinion, and experience, is the subject line. The more opens you get, the more people are reading the email and, hopefully, click through to the campaign.

If a journalist hasn’t opened your email, they’re not going to see your campaign and, of course, certainly won’t be linking.

How can you improve open rates, however?

  • Use emojis – it may sound simple but in a busy inbox, you need to stand out. We’ve found the inclusion of emojis to be a great way to do this. Don’t go overboard, but clever inclusion can draw eyes to your email over others’.
  • Don’t be cryptic – it’s tempting to try and engage a journalist to open your email by being cryptic and using mysterious subject lines which try to use intrigue. But this rarely works. Journalists are busy people and we need to accept this. Get straight to the point with subject lines.
  • Use key statistics – Include key campaign statistics in subject lines to make it instantly clear what your story is. Lead with the most shocking and surprising stats and use this as a way to gain opens. If you’ve got a great story and headline, this is where it’s the most effective.
  • Use coverage headlines – if you’ve already had some early coverage on a campaign, test the headline published from one of these as your subject line. Journalists are often better at writing enticing headlines than marketers so don’t be afraid to try this out. It’s often successful at landing further links!

7. Not every campaign earns hundreds of links

When you’ve had a great campaign idea it’s easy to set your sights on viral success. However, the biggest lesson we all need to learn is that this isn’t the norm.

Yes, I’ve had campaigns which have earned link volumes into the thousands in just a few weeks, but it’s not how most campaigns play out and that’s OK.

Link building is hard, and it’s only getting harder.

Does that mean that links are becoming less impactful? In my opinion, not at all. The exact opposite, in fact.

Whereas a few years back it was relatively easy to earn links from top-tier media with sub-par infographics and listicles, times have changed.

A campaign doesn’t need to earn hundreds of links to be successful and deliver the results which it needs to.

Be realistic.

Our average link acquisition per campaign in 2018 was 32 unique domains.

However, our focus is typically not upon straight numbers earned. There has to be consideration towards the quality of the links you’re building. Trust me when I say that 10 links from top-tier publications will do far more for your brand than 50 from bloggers.

Stop placing a focus on the number of links you’re earning but start to look at other metrics which reflect the quality of the publications.

8. Sustainable link building > One viral campaign

Taking the above point into consideration, it’s important that you’re working on a sustained link building strategy.

A one-off viral hit of links is nice for your ego. But does it really have the impact on your search engine visibility that you’re focusing upon?


Link building needs to be a sustained activity and the most effective campaigns are those which earn links month in month out, not once.

Take the time to map out a strategy which earns links on an ongoing basis and you’ll see more benefit to your brand. If one of those campaigns goes viral and earns hundreds of links, that’s fantastic (and as part of a wider campaign there’s absolutely benefits to be had there). But you need to ensure your primary focus is upon a long-term strategy for continued results.

Above all else, you need to make sure you’re collecting data around your own campaigns and using this to evolve your approach.

These are the lessons which I took away this past year from our own campaigns, but they may not be the same for everyone. Use them as inspiration to gather thoughts around areas to test and changes to make, and combine with your own ideas and thoughts to continue to push your campaigns forwards.

James Brockbank is the Managing Director of Digitaloft.

The post Lessons learned from launching 100+ content-led link building campaigns appeared first on Search Engine Watch.