Strategy and copy can help small and growing businesses get more traffic to their digital door with SEO – search engine optimization. [Mikyta / Adobe Stock]
Oct 20, 20217 min read
Traditional online marketing techniques such as paid digital advertising work, but advertising costs have left small businesses struggling to compete. An effective alternative to paid advertising is search engine optimization (SEO), which allows your small business to stay competitive and keep costs relatively low. All it takes are the seeds of a robust strategy, a bit of hard work, and time for the fruits of your labor to become reality.
What is SEO and how does it work?
SEO is a technique to improve a website’s organic visibility online. The goal is to have your web property show up as close to the top of the first page of a search engine’s results as possible (such as Google). Well-executed SEO can increase traffic to your website without having to pay for an ad.
Many components can contribute to better organic visibility. A few that are the most important include the page’s content, targeting the right keywords, and backlinks. Good SEO also hinges on some technical aspects, such as site speed and mobile optimization.
What are the most common mistakes in SEO?
See what to do – and what not to do – to help boost your web content in search.
Before jumping into the details, here’s a glossary of common SEO terms:
- Organic search results: This is also called the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). When a search engine user types a query or search term into a search engine like Google, a list of results is generated. This list is made up of the most relevant pages to that keyword.
- Keyword ranking: This is your web page’s exact position in search results for a specific keyword. Most web searches result in hundreds of pages of results, and usually there are ten or more results on a page. The closer you are to ranking number one on the first page, the more visitors and in turn the more traffic your website will receive.
- Local search/Local SEO: This aspect of SEO is used to promote a local business online. For example, if a user types “shoe store Boston” into the search engine, the search results will list the web properties of any shoe stores in Boston that rank well for that keyword. This is very different from just typing in “shoe store”, which would likely turn up online retailers not specific to a geography.
- Backlinks: These are links from other websites to yours. Backlinks can help increase your page authority and keyword ranking. But if you’re not careful, they can decrease both and hurt your website’s ranking. Check to make sure you only have backlinks from reputable sources bringing traffic to your page. Every couple of months, keep an eye out for anything that looks spammy and disavow the links to prevent them from bringing down your ranking.
- Technical SEO: The technical side of SEO, as opposed to the content side, ensures that search engines can crawl and index your website (meaning “read” your content and know how to rank it against similar content). Technical SEO focuses on backend information like your HTML code, site speed and mobile optimization (see below), your sitemap, and website architecture.
- Site speed: How long does it take for your website to load? This is your site speed. Google considers this an important factor when ranking websites in search results. The search engine favors websites that load more quickly and efficiently because it improves the user experience. If your site is bogged down by heavy images or videos, for example, and not designed to load quickly, it will take a hit in search.
- Mobile optimization: How your website displays on mobile devices is another important factor in website ranking. If you built your web property on a desktop and did not check to see that it scales on a variety of mobile devices, your site will take a hit in its search results.
Five tips to do small business SEO right
- SEO is not only for Google. As a small and growing business, your site should look good on Google. But depending on your audience, other sites may be equally as valuable (or moreso), including Amazon, Reddit, Yelp, YouTube, Instagram, and others that have their own SEO strategies. Figure out where you want to spend the majority of your efforts and start there.
- SEO strategy is effective, but not instant. While SEO isn’t free or instant, it is effective. How long it takes for SEO to work depends on where you start. If you are in the early stages of building out your SEO strategy, expect at least six months to see results – even more if you’re building a new website. Remember that SEO is a continual process and it builds upon itself. The foundation you lay during those first months will make the process easier later. The more effort you devote to SEO, the harder it will be for your competitors to outperform you.
- Target the right keywords. Plan your online content with keywords specific to your business. Not sure which keywords to target? Use a keyword research tool such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, or BuzzSumo; there are a few that aren’t too costly. This will help the right audience find your most relevant content and website.
- Write for humans first, and search engines second. High-quality, engaging, and relevant content that incorporates the targeted keyword will entice people to stay on your website, read for longer, and interact with more content. If you can, consider answering popular questions relevant to your business. Showcase solutions your customers would want to see. Tempting as it may be, do not include irrelevant keywords and/or content that is stuffed to the brim with the same keyword. Your human readers won’t stand for it, and this content will negatively impact your search visibility. Search engines strongly take this into consideration when determining which results to display.
- Maximize local search to your advantage. Your small business can find huge success targeting local searches. As the stats prove, people searching locally are potential customers waiting to be converted. According to Sagapixel data, almost half of all the searches on Google have local intent. And “near me” search queries doubled in 2020. Seventy-two percent of consumers that perform a local search visit a store within five miles of their current location. When doing local search optimization, be sure to claim your Google Business page. This will help you show up in Google maps and in “near me” search results. For more localized results, weave your specific city or state in with your target keyword.
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Three benefits of SEO for small business
- According to BrightEdge research, organic search accounts for 53% of all online traffic and contributes to 44% of revenue share. SEO brings in more online readers through organic search – the largest digital channel.
- SEO improves brand awareness. Good SEO will help you to show up ahead of competitors in search results. If researching prospects come across your site, your brand will be top of mind when they are ready to make a purchase.
- If done correctly, SEO is highly effective – but it’s not something that happens overnight. It takes time and effort to set the foundation, but once you have it, the rewards are great. Like growing a plant, the more you nurture your SEO, the more it will grow.
How should small businesses get started with SEO?
The first step is to complete a technical audit and a content audit. Audits highlight areas where you are doing well and areas that need improvement. An audit is a great place to start whether you have done a little bit of SEO or none at all. Once your audit is completed, you will know the exact scope of work needed to improve your SEO.
How to do a content audit for SEO
A content audit should do two things: Help uncover opportunities for new content, and highlight existing content needing attention. It should be a full list of all your web content (i.e. blogs) combined with traffic, engagement, ranking keyword(s), and backlink data. Learn more about content audits here.
How to do a technical audit for SEO
The technical audit will show you areas where your website structure and backend need improvement. Highlight pages with missing or duplicative page titles or meta descriptions. You should also track page speed, broken links, or redirect chains on each page. You can even get more technical and dive into canonical tags, hreflang, or schema markup. Learn more about technical audits here.
How to choose SEO services for small businesses
Not sure you want to tackle this all yourself? There’s no shortage of SEO experts waiting to help small businesses with an SEO strategy. Finding the right agency or person should be as important as getting the right strategy.
While an in-house SEO expert is probably not a viable option for your small business, there are other ways to get your SEO needs met. Many agencies offer a variety of packages to suit small businesses. Some may even propose a flat rate contract based on the services you want. This option will let you know the project’s exact cost and guarantee fulfillment. If you are willing to do the work but need guidance to get started, you can look into hourly SEO consultants.
As with most business services, you get what you pay for when it comes to SEO. You want whomever you hire to provide you with quality recommendations. Here are some questions to ask a potential agency:
- What niches do you specialize in?
- What does the process look like, and what will you be working on month-to-month?
- What is your link building strategy?
- How do you track progress?
- How do you report?
- How often will you review and update the strategy?
- Do you have any case studies of similar projects?
- Is there a minimum term commitment?
Whether you decide to tackle SEO on your own or hire an expert, it is critical to have the right SEO foundation and strategy. In the long run this can be a huge benefit to your business and your bottom line.
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salesforce.com Inc. published this content on 20 October 2021 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 20 October 2021 23:53:06 UTC.
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The ultimate objective of marketers and business owners is to earn profit from their investments. In the digital era, it is based on your business website’s optimization.
The core reason for this focus is the direct relationship between the return of investment and website rankings. According to Backlinko, only 0.78% of searches receive visitors from the 2nd page of search engines. This clearly highlights the significance of search engine ranking for a business.
There are number of strategies that can be utilized for increasing optimization. SEO and SEM are two of the most used strategies in the marketing world today.
Let’s discuss the role and functionality of SEO and SEM for small businesses.
SEO V.s SEM
Prior to initiating the difference, it is necessary to quote that; the terms only differ in their functionality but works for a similar goal. The difference in simpler words can be written as;
- SEO: Earning traffic and search engine ranking through free or unpaid listings.
- SEM: Earning search engine rankings or traffic through paid listings.
As per the study, around 53% of the total web traffic is generated from organic resources. Therefore, usage of SEO and SEM collectively can create a significant impact on the optimization and website traffic.
Let’s discuss the collective functionality of SEO and SEM and their impact on business.
Similarities in Between SEO And SEM
SEO and SEM are two different strategies that work on a similar purpose. The functionality of both the strategies is completely opposite to each other, yet they both work for website optimization.
Keyword Research Goes The Same Way
Whether you are working on paid SEO strategies, the main focus of your campaign will be the right keywords. These are the main element that is used by the search engine algorithm to rank a website.
Optimizing your campaigns for the wrong keywords can reverse the situation. It is suggested to use long-tail keywords according to your niche and audience interest.
Target Is Better SERPs And Higher Conversion
To drive the traffic on the website is the next ultimate objective of both strategies. However, not all traffic is required. In rare cases, the excessively driven traffic will only increase footstep and fails to increase conversion rate.
All that is required from a visitor is sales. In order to keep your conversion rate high, you should look for lead-generating keywords. The keyword usage and psychology of the users play a significant role in the conversion rate.
For instance, if you are a table seller, keywords like ‘DIY table’, will not work effectively. You should use keywords like ‘buy tables and chairs’ that will create more impact on users.
Implementing SEO And SEM Together – An Approach
Well, this is probably the most crucial part of your campaign. Before diving into the steps, it is essential that you should keep a keen eye at your planning. It will help you understand the reasons why your marketing strategy is failing and how to move it to the right track.
SEO is a long process, and it takes time to show results. According to the analysis, only 5.7% of the pages move to the first page of the search engine within their first year of publication.
On the other hand, SEM or PPC shows results for a shorter period of time. While you are choosing any of the strategies initially, make sure you have a plan B.
The following steps will help you understand the process easily.
1. Search For The Keywords
Keyword research plays an important role in your marketing campaign. And when you are trying to optimize the search engine, its significance is increased by 100 times.
Follow this simple guide when you are looking for good keywords.
- Study your market and niche. Realize in which category your website or web page lands.
- Identify your goals and audience. You should know to whom your marketing campaign is targeted to.
- Create a list of relevant keywords that should be covered on your website. It can include blog pages or service pages as well.
- Research your competitors well. Which of your competitors are ranking high, and what the targeted keywords that are making difference are. You can simply use Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMRush for this purpose.
- Study the search intentions of your target audience. Are they looking for services, or they are just readers?
- Now, move towards different keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool, and others to create good keywords.
- Go for long-tail keywords, as discussed above. According to Ahrefs, 69.7% of search queries contain four or more words.
- For the search ads, the average CTR is 7%. Depending upon the competitiveness of your market, it can vary from 2 to 5% for the search ads.
Keep an eye on each targeted keyword that what is its CTR. Either people are clicking what they are seeing, or the impressions are of no use.
- Depending upon your aim, see if the visitors are converting. It does not only mean that you have an exceptional sales conversion. Maybe you have targeted to gain more sign-ups. So, based on your aim, see if your visitors are converting or not. An average conversion rate is around 3%. Something from 1% to 5% is considered good.
- It is important to analyze the bounce rate of your web pages. You should know why people are clicking your website and moving away without staying.
There is a possibility that you have not optimized the content for the correct keyword, or your content is not attractive and engaging. Look for it and resolve it.
2. Optimize For Proven Keywords
Once you are done analyzing your keywords. It’s time to hit the engine hard. Start with the SEO process, and now you are ready to invest with the SEM too.
- Target the perfect keywords with your PPC ads.
- Invest more in converting keywords.
- Optimize your on-page SEO for such keywords.
- Start creating backlinks on the proven keywords.
- Go with guest posting, infographics, broken link building, and other link-building strategies for Off-Page SEO.
3. Keep Your Pace Going
It is important to keep your backlinking at a suitable pace. It is suggested to avoid the excessive practice. SEO is a natural process, and Google loves the sites that rise slowly on the search engine.
Find authority sites to gain a backlink from and keep this practice for a longer period of time.
Wrapping it up
SEO and SEM, while working together, produce the best results. Firstly they maximize your appearance on the search engine. There are chances that you may appear twice on the search engine.
It not only helps you achieve short-term goals but also provides long-term stability. More importantly, it improves your brand awareness, resulting in higher ROI. What more do you need?
Author: Stella Lincoln
Stella Lincoln is a Digital Marketer and a Blogger. She loves to share her experience with the readers. Stella is a keen observer and always ready to help students with their academics and guide them regarding their career. She often conducts seminars at University of California, Los Angeles.
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Featured snippets are prime real estate in the SERP. They sit at the top of the organic results and immediately grab the attention of searchers.
They’re also increasingly common. Featured snippets are now present on 23% of all Google SERPs and get 8.6% of clicks, on average. If you’re doing SEO, you need to be optimizing for featured snippets.
What Are Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets are short extracts of information displayed at the top of Google search results. The content in a featured snippet provides a concise and clear answer to a query so that a searcher can quickly find the information they need.
Types of Featured Snippets
According to a 2020 Semrush study, the three most common types of featured snippets are:
Paragraph snippets are the most common, with 70% of featured snippets displayed in a paragraph format. This type of featured snippet provides definitions, short overviews of topics, and direct answers to questions.
List featured snippets are bulleted or numbered lists that show important information on a topic. They can also include step-by-step instructions. Google compiles the list by pulling the subheadings from a relevant web page. Over 19% of featured snippets are lists.
Tables appear in 6.3% of featured snippets. This format is used to provide a simple comparison of information or data such as pricing or sizing. Google can use an existing table on a web page or pull relevant data to create a dynamic table.
Google also pulls video content from YouTube for some search queries. To rank for video featured snippets, you’ll need to identify relevant keywords that trigger video content and focus on YouTube SEO.
Are Featured Snippets Important?
Featured snippets are important because they are the most prominent result on the SERP. Winning a featured snippet can increase your visibility in the organic results. You can drive more traffic to your website and leapfrog the number-one result.
According to Getstat, 70% of featured snippets are from results lower than the number-one organic ranking. If you rank as number 5 or 6 on the SERP, capturing the featured snippet can significantly increase clickthrough rate (CTR). For HubSpot, CTR for high search volume keywords was over 114% higher for pages that ranked for the featured snippet:
Featured snippets are also key to capitalizing on the increasing use of voice search. Brian Dean’s Backlinko study revealed that over 40% of voice search answers are taken from featured snippet results.
Google cites the content source with “according to…” when reading a voice search result. Getting your content featured as a voice search result can increase brand visibility and boost customer trust.
How to Optimize for Featured Snippets
1. Get On the First Page of Google Search Results
You need to rank on page one of the SERP to have a chance of capitalizing on featured snippet opportunities. According to Ahrefs, 99.58% of Google’s featured snippets are pulled from web pages that rank on the first page.
A solid SEO foundation is key to claiming the featured snippet. Focus on building your organic presence through proven SEO techniques. If you already rank on page one, optimizing for the featured snippet can provide a quick win and traffic boost.
2. Target Question-Based Keywords
Questions are some of the most powerful keywords for featured snippets. A 2020 Semrush study showed that 77.63% of search queries starting with the word “why” triggered a featured snippet:
Question-based keywords show clear, informational search intent. It’s easier for Google to determine what the searcher is looking for. It’s also easier for you to create optimized content that provides an answer to the query.
You can find question-based search queries by entering your target keywords into Google and analyzing the “People also ask” section:
You can also use AnswerThePublic and other keyword research tools to find featured snippet opportunities. The goal is to find high search volume questions related to your keywords and topics. You can use these questions to create new optimized content or add FAQs to your existing pages.
3. Analyze the SERP and Existing Featured Snippet
The next step is to verify that Google is already displaying a featured snippet for your target long-tail keywords. For example, the question-based keyword “how much does it cost to build a house from scratch?” displays a paragraph featured snippet:
A quick analysis of the SERP provides two vital bits of information:
- You will know that Google is already showing a featured snippet.
- You can see the type of featured snippet that is triggered by the search query.
These insights make the optimization process much easier. You can prioritize the search queries that you know will trigger a featured snippet and present the information in a format Google can easily use.
4. Prioritize Featured Snippets That Generate Clicks
According to Rand Fishkin, a whopping 64.82% of Google searches do not result in a click. Nearly two-thirds of all searches in 2020 were zero-click:
The rise of zero-click searches is largely down to featured snippets and answer boxes. If a searcher gets all the information they need from the featured snippet, they don’t need to click through to your web page.
When you’re determining which featured snippets to target, prioritize the snippets that generate clicks. Think about the search intent behind the query. For example, here’s the featured snippet for the search query “average google ad clickthrough rate”:
The searcher gets all the information they are looking for in the featured snippet. That’s great for the searcher but not so good for your CTR.
You can also use tools like Ahrefs and Moz to see estimated keyword clickthrough rates. If the keyword has a low CTR, claiming the featured snippet might increase your brand visibility but not your organic traffic.
5. Competitive Analysis
The next step is to determine if you have a reasonable chance of claiming the featured snippet. If the current owner has a much higher domain rating and hundreds of backlinks, you’ll struggle to steal the featured snippet through on-page optimization alone.
For example, let’s say you have identified “Facebook ads tips” as a featured snippet you want to claim:
You can use Semrush or your preferred tool to analyze the current owner of the featured snippet and the competing results in the SERP. For the above search query, you can see that the competition is very high:
If you can’t compete on domain rating and backlink profile, you may see more success by targeting another search query with less competition.
6. Optimize Your Content For the Target Featured Snippet
Once you’ve narrowed in on a keyword that you have a reasonable chance of winning, the next step is to optimize your content for the featured snippet. You need to tailor your content to the type of snippet you are targeting.
You can optimize your content for a paragraph snippet by crafting a short and concise answer to the search query. Here’s an example:
The target search query should appear with the appropriate header tag. The paragraph you want to rank in the featured snippet should be directly below in a <p> tag. Try to provide a word-for-word answer that Google can seamlessly insert into the featured snippet:
You can increase CTR and drive more traffic by inspiring curiosity. Use the first sentence to directly answer the query and the second sentence to deliver additional information that encourages the searcher to click and find out more.
List snippets are pulled from content that lays out specific instructions, items, or important points around a topic. You can optimize for this type of snippet by structuring your content so that Google can easily find the information it needs.
The heading should contain the target keyword, with each point listed below as H2 or H3 subheadings. For an instructional search query, you can number your list and include “STEP X” for each subheading:
The best way to increase CTR for list snippets is to include eight or more steps/items. Google truncates longer lists, so the searcher has to click through to read your content in full.
You can optimize for table snippets by presenting data in an easy to compare table with the <tr> tag. Google creates dynamic tables by pulling relevant information, but this data usually comes from an existing table on a web page.
For example, here’s the featured snippet for the search query “what are the different sizes of iPhones?”:
The featured snippet displays the information in three columns:
- DISPLAY SIZE
But looking at the table on the web page, you can see there are four columns. Google has pulled the information from the three most relevant columns to create a new dynamic table:
The best way to increase CTR is to make sure your table contains more than four rows of data. Google will truncate the result and include “X more rows” to indicate more rows on the web page.
7. Keep Word Count in the Optimal Range
According to a study by Moz, 60.36% of paragraph featured snippets are 40 to 50 words long:
For paragraph snippets, answer the query in a single, short paragraph directly underneath the relevant subheading. You can use the rest of your content to elaborate and go into more detail.
The average list featured snippet contains 315 characters. Google is very good at cutting out any unnecessary text and showing the most important information in a list snippet. Here’s an example:
You can optimize for a list snippet by keeping your subheadings short and concise. The above example contains 320 characters in total, including the header. Each subheading includes zero fluff.
Alongside word count, readability is an important factor for featured snippet optimization. This includes the text targeting the snippet and the content on the rest of your web page.
In 2020, Search Engine Journal conducted a study of 419 featured snippets. The average Flesch-Kinkaid reading level for the sample was grade 10. For the rest of the content on the 419 URLs, the average Flesch-Kinkaid reading level was grade 7.8.
These tools provide a readability score and highlight potential issues. To increase content readability, keep your sentences short, replace complex words and phrases, and avoid passive voice.
9. Date Your Content
According to Search Engine Journal, 70% of featured snippets are pulled from content posted within the last three years. The data also shows that 47% of list snippets and 44% of paragraph snippets include a date like the one below:
The data doesn’t show that Google has a preference for snippets that include a date. But recency bias may impact CTR. Users typically favor fresher content. By dating your posts and keeping content updated, you can improve CTR and possibly increase the chances of claiming the featured snippet.
10. Use High-Quality Images
A featured snippet with an eye-catching image can increase the space your snippet takes up on the SERP and boost CTR. Over a third of featured snippets include an image.
There’s no way to instruct Google which image to use in the featured snippet. Your best bet is to include lots of relevant, SEO-optimized images in your content. Rich visual content can also improve user experience and boost engagement.
Google seems to prefer 160 x 200px images with an aspect ratio of 4:3. You can optimize images by cropping them to this size and aspect ratio. To keep your images fresh in the eyes of Google, you can make periodical image reuploads.
Despite an unexplained temporary disappearance earlier this year, featured snippets are not going away any time soon. They are an increasingly important part of the SERP.
By following the above tips, you can take a data-driven approach to claim spot zero. You’ll answer the questions your audience wants to know, find new ideas for content, and improve on-page SEO to increase your ranking.
Make featured snippet optimization a key part of your SEO strategy. If you’ve already published great content, a few simple tweeks can help you pick up some easy wins and traffic gains.
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – Department store mogul John Wanamaker
It goes without saying that Wanamaker didn’t have a Google Analytics account to check to see how his ads were performing.
The Internet has ushered us into an era where many believe that everything can (and should) be measured and acted upon.
As the more modern saying goes: If you don’t measure it, you don’t care about it.
The thing is, while we clearly have more data than Wanamaker had over 100 years ago, we don’t always know which data matters the most.
Worse still, having the data doesn’t mean that we use it to make the right decisions.
This can apply across all digital marketing channels – especially SEO. More precisely, it is too easy to misunderstand and misuse data associated with link building.
When we measure the wrong data points and metrics, a bunch of not-great things can happen:
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- We think that we’re doing a good job but actually aren’t.
- The wrong behaviors can be triggered, leading to work that is below standard.
- We measure the impact of our work in a way that isn’t tied to real business outcomes.
Let’s take a closer look at some of link building metrics available and assess how we should – and shouldn’t – be using them.
1. Domain and Page Quality Metrics
The most obvious place to start is with the abundance of metrics that various tool providers have created to help assess link value and quality.
Here are a few:
- TrustFlow and CitationFlow from Majestic.
- Domain Authority and Page Authority from Moz.
- Domain Rating from Ahrefs.
- Domain Score from Semrush.
Most of these are available for free. We all have our favorites, and many use more than one or even our own proprietary versions.
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No matter which one(s) you use, there are a few things to think about if you’re going to use them and a few pitfalls to watch out for.
Use As An Indicator Of Ranking Potential
Many of these metrics are designed to replicate how Google PageRank works (which we no longer have access to) but are going to fall way short of what Google is capable of calculating and using across the web.
They are also generally designed to give an idea of how well a domain or page is going to rank in comparison to another.
They are not exact metrics that can give you an exact answer to a question and therefore should not be used in this way.
Instead, use them to understand one possible reason why one domain or page may rank better than another: The volume and quality of links pointing to them.
Of course, there are many reasons why one domain may rank higher than another, so checking a metric such as Domain Rating or Domain Authority can give you an idea of how links may be a factor.
That becomes a starting point to dig deeper into those links or to look at other areas that you could influence to improve organic search rankings.
Use To Sort And Filter Link Building Prospects
Another good use of metrics such as Domain Rating or Domain Authority is to sort large lists of domains so that you can focus your link building efforts.
While there are other factors such as relevance that need to be thought about, using a raw metric like this and ordering domains from the highest scores to the lowest ones can help.
Let’s say that you’ve gathered a list of 300 potential domains that appear relevant to your link building efforts, you’ll need to find somewhere to start.
Pulling in a metric can do this job pretty well so that you start your link building process with domains that are likely to be the strongest in terms of link equity.
Again, this isn’t a concrete rule, but this is a useful way to use these metrics.
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Use for Link Profile Auditing
If you are trying to audit a link profile, you’ll likely need to gather and review data on hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of linking domains.
When faced with this kind of task, using metrics can help you find potential problems with your link profile or unusual patterns.
As an example, if you pull data for your link profile and find that a high proportion of them have a Domain Authority or Domain Rating of below 10, then this gives you a good starting point for potentially low-quality links.
On the other hand, you may find an unusually high proportion of your links are in the DA90+ range. This could mean that some digital PR activity has taken place previously, leading to lots of links from top-tier domains.
Either way, gathering these types of metrics can give you direction for the rest of your link audit and show patterns that you may not otherwise spot.
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2. Link Attributes – Nofollow, Sponsored, and UGC
Next, let’s look at a very common data point that SEO pros use when link building – link attributes including nofollow, sponsored, and UGC.
We’re going to talk about nofollow because this is by far the most common, given that sponsored and UGC are relatively new.
Don’t Ignore The Value Of Nofollow Links For Ranking Purposes
Historically, the common belief has been that links using the nofollow attribute have zero impact on organic search rankings at all.
While there has been some debate and anecdotal evidence to the contrary, it was generally accepted because Google openly stated that these types of links would pass no PageRank.
Then, in 2019, Google announced that they were softening this stance a little and that, in fact, links with the nofollow attribute may be taken into account as a “hint.”
In classic Google fashion, they didn’t guarantee that they would or wouldn’t do this – simply that they reserve the right to.
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In reality, this is likely to mean that they use a bunch of other signals to determine if they should count a nofollow link in their link graph or not.
For example, if a domain has a good history, high-quality content, and is free of spam, they may well decide that these factors outweigh the nofollow attribute and that PageRank should flow across it.
On the other hand, they may see that the nofollow link in question is on a domain that allows user-generated links to be placed all the time, leading to it being taken advantage of and now being full of spammy links.
In this case, they may see that the use of nofollow is appropriate and will pretty much ignore this link for ranking purposes.
Overall, due to the uncertainty around Google using nofollow links (or not) to understand whether a page should rank better or not, it’s not wise to use a blanket rule that they all should count in the same way as standard links.
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At the same time, we can be reasonably sure that Google does count them at least to some extent.
Assuming you’re building generally good links with lots of other positive attributes, then it’s a fair rule to count any nofollow links to some extent for ranking purposes.
Remember The Value Of Traffic
One thing that often gets overlooked when it comes to nofollow links is that they still have the ability to send traffic to your domain.
Users can’t tell the difference between a link that has the nofollow attribute included; they just see a clickable link.
If a lot of people click on a nofollow link and end up browsing your website, then there is clearly value here that shouldn’t be ignored.
I like to think about how we’d approach link building if links themselves didn’t make any difference whatsoever to organic search rankings.
The fact that links can influence organic search results doesn’t mean that we can’t still have the same mindset and approach. Building links that send traffic can add another layer of value to your work beyond rankings.
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At a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to isolate the ranking impact of particular links, being able to show your value with traffic is going to become more and more important.
3. Links From New vs. Existing Domains
Many agencies and in-house teams will keep an eye on whether their link building efforts are leading to links from new domains or existing ones.
While this isn’t a bad thing to look at, there are ways to look at it that may not be immediately obvious or initially seen as valuable.
Increase Your Focus On Links From New, Relevant Domains
Assuming that the quality and relevance of your links is pretty high, getting links from domains that you’ve never received links from before can be more valuable than an existing link – but not for the reason you may think.
If you get a link from a domain where you’ve never been featured before, you’re getting yourself in front of a largely fresh audience.
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Increasing your reach like this to a relevant audience can come with benefits beyond organic search, such as increased brand awareness and new visitors.
Even if we’re not hoping for any value from an organic search perspective, links like this will add value to your work and should be considered as part of your digital strategy because they add real value to the business.
Don’t Discount Links From Domains You Already Have
On the other end of the scale, I’ve seen in-house SEO professionals (and even some agencies) completely discount links from domains that have linked to them before.
The rationale appears to be that once they have one link, any future ones will not be valuable.
The thing is, links from the same domains can add more value for a few reasons:
- The trust shown by linking to you is reinforced over and over again, showing Google that it wasn’t just a one-off or fluke.
- Pages get deleted from the web all the time. Just because you have a link already doesn’t mean that it will remain there forever. Getting more links from more pages will help to combat this.
- The more links you have, the more visibility you have on that domain and the more chances you have to generate traffic to your website.
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The last one is really important for me.
If you build a link from a domain, you’ll be able to see pretty quickly and reliably whether it sends traffic to you or not.
If you see traffic coming through and this traffic appears to be valuable, you should absolutely be looking for ways to work with the domain more and get more links in the future.
To Wrap Up
In summary, don’t let any single metric or data point distract you from what you’re really trying to accomplish – adding value to the business.
Metrics can help you in a number of ways but can also work against you if you’re not careful.
Ensure that when you’re using metrics and data points in link building, they:
- Drive the right kinds of behaviors.
- Ultimately lead to business outcomes.
- Allow you to understand whether you’re doing a good job.
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