Some Digital Agencies Treat SEO Like Wearing a Face Mask

Posted by on Jul 29, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Some Digital Agencies Treat SEO Like Wearing a Face Mask

Some Digital Agencies Treat SEO Like Wearing a Face Mask

LSG is hiring for a Senior Director of SEO position and I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of great SEOs over the past week. Thanks to the growth of our industry over the past few years and COVID-19, it feels like there’s an ocean of highly skilled talent out there. But the pandemic has exposed an ugly side of the digital marketing industry – most agencies are happy to take SEO money while simultaneously not giving a shit about SEO.

From my admittedly limited perspective, the agencies who were hit hardest post-SIP seemed to be those who had big PPC businesses and those who had SMB-focused service businesses (v SaaS subscriptions which seem to have kept chugging along). It kind of makes sense in that PPC spending came to a halt and many SMBs’ businesses hit a brick wall. We lost an SMB client the day SIP went into effect, but we didn’t lose any PPC clients, because we don’t do PPC.

In my conversations with candidates for the Director position, those who work at agencies have had a consistent refrain – “we lost a lot of PPC budget so they cut a few heads in the SEO group”. I am sure the PPC groups were not immune to cuts either, but over and over I have heard claims that an agency “doesn’t really care about SEO”. Sure they’ll sell it. They’ll even hire people to do it. But it’s not the business’ priority. That kind of makes sense in that SEO can be harder to service and measure than buying clicks. Perhaps most important, it can be harder to explain to clients, particularly clients who are worried about going out of business. Selling a steady stream of customers at a (hopefully) predictable cost per click probably feels like the path of least resistance so why fight it?

The challenge as I self-servingly see it is that to do SEO right, you have to fund it appropriately. Of course, there are cases where companies have great brands and products and everything just takes off on its own, but for most of us, this is not how it works. And SEO for most sites that want to compete, requires expertise at a wide range of unrelated disciplines – technical analysis, content strategy, content production, backlink acquisition, and data analysis, to name but a few. And let’s not forget about people and client management. Those are probably the top two ranking factors these days.

But it’s easy to sell that your agency does SEO, particularly if you have already sold a client on a PPC campaign. It’s basically free money for you. And it’s likely more profitable than the PPC business, but at lower volumes. So agencies like it, but maybe don’t care enough about it to give it the funding it really needs for its teams to succeed because it’s more profitable not to. And most clients maybe pay more attention to the $ you are spending every day for them on PPC because it’s so much more significant.

I am sure there are plenty of you out there who will say “not my agency!” and good for you. But one of the things COVID has exposed is how much we each care about a lot of things. And it seems like there are a bunch of you out there who treat SEO like Trump treats wearing a face mask.


The post Some Digital Agencies Treat SEO Like Wearing a Face Mask appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

Easy for You

Posted by on Jul 28, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Easy for You

Easy for You

To Teach, One Must Learn

One of the benefits of writing is it forces you to structure your thoughts.

If you are doing something to pass a test rote memorization can work, but if you are trying to teach someone else and care it forces you to know with certainty what you are teaching.

When I was in nuclear power school one guy was about to flunk out and I did not want to let him so I taught him stuff for days. He passed that test and as a side effect I got my highest score I ever got on one of those tests. He eventually did flunk out, but he knew other people were rooting for him and tried to help him.

Market Your Work or Become Redundant

Going forward as more work becomes remote it is going to be easier to hire and fire people. The people who are great at sharing their work and leaving a public record of it will likely be swimming in great opportunities, whereas some equally talented people who haven’t built up a bit of personal brand equity will repeatedly get fired in spite of being amazingly talented, simply because there was a turn in the economy and management is far removed from the talent. As bad as petty office politics can be, it will likely become more arbitrary when everyone is taking credit for the work of others & people are not sitting side by side to see who actually did the work.

Uber recently announced they were laying off thousands of employees while looking to move a lot of their core infrastructure work overseas where labor is cheaper. Lots of people will be made redundant as unicorn workers in a recession suddenly enjoy the job stability and all the perks of the gig working economy.


We have a great graphic designer who is deeply passionate about his work. He can hand draw amazing art or comics and is also great at understanding illustration software, web design, web usability, etc. I have no idea why he was fired from his prior employer but am thankful he was as he has been a joy to work with.

Before COVID-19 killed office work I sat right next to our lead graphic designer and when I would watch him use Adobe Illustrator I was both in awe of him and annoyed at how easy he would make things look. He is so good at it that and endless array of features are second nature to him. When I would ask him how to do something I just saw him do frequently it would be harder for him to explain how he does it than doing it.


Our graphics designer is also a quite solid HTML designer, though strictly front end design. One day when I took an early lunch with my wife I asked him to create a WordPress theme off his HTML design and when I got back he was like … ummm. 🙂

We are all wizards at some things and horrible at others. When I use Adobe Illustrator for even the most basic tasks I feel like a guy going to a breakdancing party with no cardboard and 2 left shoes.

There are a number of things that are great about programming

it is largely logic-based
people drawn toward it tend to be smart
people who can organize code also tend to use language directly (making finding solutions via search rather easy)

Though over time programming languages change features & some changes are not backward compatible. And as some free & open source projects accumulate dependencies they end up promoting the use of managers. Some of these may not be easy to install & configure on a remote shared server (with user permission issues) from a Windows computer. So then you install another package on your local computer and then have to research how it came with a deprecated php track_errors setting. And on and on.

One software program I installed on about a half-dozen sites many moons ago launched a new version recently & the typical quick 5 minute install turned into a half day of nothing. The experience felt a bit like a “choose your own adventure” book, where almost every choice you make leads to: start again at the beginning.

At that point a lot of the advice one keeps running into sort of presumes one has the exact same computer set up they do, so search again, solve that problem, turn on error messaging, and find the next problem to … once again start at the beginning.

That sort of experience is more than a bit humbling & very easy to run into when one goes outside their own sphere of expertise.

Losing the Beginner’s Mindset

If you do anything for an extended period of time it is easy to take many things for granted as you lose the beginner’s mindset.

One of the reasons it is important to go outside your field of expertise is to remind yourself of what that experience feels like.

Anyone who has been in SEO for a decade likely does the same thing when communicating about search by presuming the same level of domain expertise and talking past people. Some aspects of programming are hard because they are complex. But when you are doing simple and small jobs then if things absolutely do not work you often get the answer right away. Whereas with SEO you can be unsure of the results of a large capital and labor investment until the next time a core algorithm update happens a quarter year from now. That uncertainty acts as the barrier to entry & blocker of institutional investments which allow for sustained above average profit margins for those who make the cut, but it also means a long lag time and requiring a high level of certainty to make a big investment.

The hard part about losing the beginners mindset with SEO is sometimes the algorithms do change dramatically and you have to absolutely reinvent yourself while throwing out what you know (use keyword rich anchor text aggressively, build tons of links, exact match domains beat out brands, repeat keyword in bold on page, etc.) and start afresh as the algorithms reshuffle the playing field.

The Web Keeps Changing

While the core algorithms are shifting so too is how people use the web. Any user behaviors are shifting as search results add more features and people search on mobile devices or search using their voice. Now that user engagement is a big part of ranking, anything which impacts brand perception or user experience also impacts SEO. Social distancing will have major impacts on how people engage with search. We have already seen a rapid rise of e-commerce at the expense of offline sales & some colleges are planning on holding next year entirely online. The University of California will have roughly a half-million students attending school online next year unless students opt for something cheaper.

Colleges have to convince students for the next year that a remote education is worth every bit as much as an in-person one, and then pivot back before students actually start believing it.

It’s like only being able to sell your competitor’s product for a year.— Naval (@naval) May 6, 2020

What Resolution?

I am horrible with Adobe Illustrator. But one of the things I have learned with that and Photoshop is that if you edit in a rather high resolution you can have many of your errors disappear to the naked eye when it is viewed at a normal resolution. The same analogy holds true for web design but in the opposite direction … if your usability is solid on a mobile device & the design looks good on a mobile device then it will probably be decent on desktop as well.

Some people also make a resolution mistake with SEO.

If nobody knows about a site or brand or company having perfect valid HTML, supporting progressive web apps, supporting AMP, using microformats, etc. … does not matter.
On the flip side, if a site is well known it can get away with doing many things sub-optimally & can perhaps improve a lot by emulating sites which are growing over time in spite of having weaker brand strength.
Free, so Good Enough?

Many open source software programs do not do usability testing or track the efforts of a somewhat average user or new user in their ability to download and install software because they figure it is free so oh well people should figure it out. That thinking is a mistake though, because each successive increase in barrier to entry limits your potential market size & eventually some old users leave for one reason or another.

Any free software project which accumulates attention and influence can be monetized in other ways (through consulting, parallel SaaS offerings, affiliate ad integration, partnering with Hot Nacho to feature some great content in a hidden div using poetic code, etc.). But if they lack reach, see slowing growth, and then increase the barrier to entry they are likely to die.

When you ask someone to pay for something you’ll know if they like it and where they think it can be improved. Relying on the free price point hides many problems and allows them to accumulate.

The ability to make things easy for absolute beginners is a big part of why WordPress is worth many multiples of what Acquia sold for. And WordPress has their VIP hosting service, Akismet, and a bunch of other revenue streams while Acquia is now owned by a private equity company.

The ability to be 0.0000001% as successful as WordPress has been without losing the beginner mindset is hard.

Categories: marketing

SEO Best Practices → Guide to Skyrocket Your Google Rankings

Posted by on Jul 28, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on SEO Best Practices → Guide to Skyrocket Your Google Rankings

SEO Best Practices → Guide to Skyrocket Your Google Rankings

SEO is hard. But it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t have time for well-defined strategies or plans, it’s crucial to at least follow a series of SEO best practices.


Therefore, let’s see the checklist you need to go through to make sure you’re securing high Google ranks.



Is SEO Still Relevant in 2020?
What Are the Best SEO Practices for 2020

Optimize for Search Intent
Perform In-Depth Keyword Research
Target One Main Topic & Keyword
Use Your Focus Keyword in Titles and Descriptions
Write Optimized Content for Your Users & Google
Use Short and Human Friendly URLs
Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile Friendly
Optimize Your Site’s Loading Speed
Improve Your Site’s User Experience
Organize Your Site Hierarchy & Navigation
Use the Secure HTTPs Protocol
Optimize Images for SEO
Use Video in Your Content
Perform Regular Site Audits
Use Internal Links with Relevant Anchor Texts
Link to External Pages with Relevant Anchor Texts
Actively Acquire Links to Your Website
Consistently Add Fresh, High Quality Content
Update Your Best Performing Content Once in a While
Don’t use Javascript or JS Frameworks Extensively
Use Hreflang for Multi-language Websites
Check your Schema Markup
Track Your Results With Google Search Console

How to Check If You’re Following the Best Practices for SEO


Is SEO Still Relevant in 2020?


Just in case you’re wondering, yes. SEO is still relevant in 2020. If you want to drive huge amounts of traffic to your website long term, with high return on investment, then SEO is the way to go.


Just think about last time you searched for something on the internet. What did you use? Chances are it was Google.


In a way, things are getting more and more complicated, but that’s a good thing.




Well, because when things get more and more complicated, people simplify them.


And by that, I mean they’re giving up.


They give up all the ‘tactics’ and ‘secret methods’ and they return to the basics.


As SEO gets more and more advanced and Google harder to trick, people start abandoning BlackHat SEO techniques.


I see more and more genuine SEO agencies. I see more and more people talking about real long-term strategies. I see a lot more quality websites.

What Are the Best SEO Practices


In order to simplify the SEO process and get good results in terms of rankings, follow this list of SEO best practices:

1. Optimize for Search Intent


Search intent is the big thing in 2020 and forward.


When a user searches for something, Google has to return relevant results to match their search intent.


Otherwise, their experience will be a bad one.


I’ll give a simple example. If you have an affiliate shoes review website and try to optimize for “buy shoes online” you’ll probably have a hard time ranking for it.


The reason behind it is that people searching that phrase are looking to shop for shoes, which means they want to see offers and eCommerce websites.

So, if users start seeking eCommerce websites, Google will figure that out and display the proper results.


Instead, a better option would be to target something like “best shoes for running”, or other keywords where people look for informational content rather than a store.


You can clearly see the difference in search intent for this keyword, with more informational content showing.


There were also some ads and a featured snippet, but I removed them to show only the vanilla organic search engine results.

Based on the keywords you use, the search engine might interpret your query as having different intents behind it:


informational (if you search for “sunglasses polarized meaning”);
navigational (if you search for the name of a particular brand of sunglasses);
transactional (if you search for “cheap sunglasses” or “buy sunglasses”);


And if you’re wondering which search intent is the most popular,  you need to know that more than 80% of the total search intents are informational, 20% being almost equally split between navigational and transactional.


So, before you start writing content, think very well what you’re optimizing it for. You can check out a previous articles of ours on how to optimize for each type of search intent.

2. Perform In-Depth Keyword Research


Keyword research is always the most important step when it comes to SEO.


It’s vital to know what your users search for, otherwise you’re chasing wild geese.


It’s also very useful to know what your competitors are doing, so make sure you research that as well.


You can use the Content Optimizer & Keyword Tool to find relevant keywords.



Then you can use the Ranking Analysis tab to see what types of pages rank well for each keyword you want to target.



This way, you’ll better understand user intent and can properly build your content around this information.

3. Target One Main Topic & Keyword


I don’t want you to understand this the wrong way. You don’t have to target a single keyword.


However, it is important to target one main topic. Again, it all comes down to user intent.


If you think two keyword phrases are very similar, but you’re not sure of the intent, do a Google search.


Does Google show similar search results for both keywords? Or are they different?


For example, “travel tips indonesia” and “travelling to indonesia” might seem very similar, but the intent is very different.


In the first one people want to see traveling destinations from popular blogs while in the second one they want to know if it’s OK to travel there, so .gov official sites make for really relevant

search results.


It might not be the best example but I hope you get the point.

When you do keyword research, always test out what type of results rank for each particular keyword.


If the search results are similar, you can try to combine the keywords. This way, you’ll get more traffic.


However, if the intent is different and the results are different, don’t try to catch two rabbits with one shot.


You’ll end up with none.

4. Use Your Focus Keyword in Titles and Descriptions


Title Tags and Meta Descriptions are a really important for SEO.


For once, Google actively looks for the keyword inside your Title Tags to figure out if your content is relevant or not for their particular search queries.


Second, these titles affect CTR, which means more clicks to your website.


The secret is to make it catchy. You can make it catchy just by adding the keyword in the title.


Studies show that users like to see the keyword inside the title or description. That’s also why Google puts they keywords in bold text all the time.



Don’t forget about the meta description. Try to add keywords there as well, and also a CTA or something to convince the users to click on your result.


Discounts, free shipping and similar things work well for eCommerce websites.


Mastering title creation for SEO is probably one of the most valuable skills an SEO professional can have.


Sure, when it comes to really big sites, you will use patterns and create titles dynamically.


However, when you’re looking to maximize results, you’ll have to manually adjust each and every title.


It’s also a good idea to keep the title catchy, especially for social media. Sometimes, it’s hard to also include the keyword AND make it catchy.


So here’s where Open Graph comes in handy. It allows you to have a title for Google, and another one for social media.


On WordPress, you can use plugins such as Yoast SEO to set up different titles for social media.

5. Write Optimized Content for Your Users & Google


Do it in that order. First your users, then Google.


Writing well optimized content is one of the most important SEO best practices.


The truth is that you still have to make things a little more obvious for Google, sometimes.


For example, the best headline you’re thinking about might just not include that very searched for keyword…


You’ll have to make a compromise and try to add the keyword in those headings, if you want to see better results.


Many times, when people write things just for the sake of SEO, the content feels… robotic.


Makes sense, doesn’t it? Since it was written for robots.


When I talk about the cognitiveSEO Content Optimization Tool, I always mention how you should actually use the keywords it provides.


Many people just try to add them in wherever they can.


However, try to think of them as subtopics or important key elements you should talk about.


For example, I have a section about internal links, and multiple sections about technical SEO in this article.


This way, I can ensure those keywords will naturally occur in the article. I’ve just used two of them right now!


But sure, sometimes it makes sense to just replace “Google, Yahoo and Bing” with “Search Engines”.

6. Use Short and Human Friendly URLs


Don’t forget the URLs!


Warning: Don’t change URLs that have already been indexed by Google without doing a proper 301 redirect. This can heavily affect your rankings.


It’s always the best idea to get the URL right from the beginning and stick with it.


URL length isn’t a ranking factor, but there is a correlation between shorter URLs and higher rankings.


Keep URLs short, friend!


Now that doesn’t mean short URLs cause higher rankings. Maybe better optimized pages just have tidier URLs.


The point is that a URL should properly describe what the content is about.


This way, there will be more chances that people click them. Actually, it increases CTR by up to 45%.


Keywords inside the URL also help Google figure out what the content is about.

7. Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile Friendly


In this day and age, almost everyone browses the web on the phone. More than 50% of the traffic on most websites come from mobile searches.


If your website isn’t properly optimized for mobile usage, you might lose a lot of traffic.


Google uses mobile first indexing, which means it will first look at the mobile version of your website and rank it according to that.


To test if your site is mobile friendly you can use this tool.


If your site isn’t mobile friendly, make sure you follow these steps to make it mobile friendly.


You can also take a look at these best practices from Google.

8. Optimize Your Site’s Loading Speed


Loading speed is very important. Some studies show that you can lose 7% conversion rate for every extra second your site takes up to load.


That can be devastating!


Fixing speed issues includes multiple things such as image size and JavaScript, which we will cover soon.


However, the focus shouldn’t be on fixing issues or checking bullets provided by tools, but speed itself. In seconds.



Another thing that affects your site speed is the server. Make sure you have a good server.


The more traffic you drive to your website, the better the server should be to handle it properly.

9. Improve Your Site’s User Experience


Now this is a general tip, which kind of combines everything, but it’s not limited to only these tips.


Many things make up for a good user experience, from fast loading speed to high quality content.


However, things differ from case to case.


The best way of improving the users’ experience is to ask them about it.


Survey your users with Qualaroo and SurveyMonkey and use tools such as Hotjar to monitor their activity on the website.


You’ll figure out UX issues pretty quick, for example if a mobile button is too small or users can’t seem to figure out what they have to do next in a funnel.

10. Organize Your Site Hierarchy & Navigation


Structure is one of those SEO best practices that are often overlooked. It’s really good to get things right from the start.


That’s why you need an SEO before you start creating a website.


While user experience is the driving factor, there’s more to structure than that.


The way your navigation looks usually dictates the click depth to your pages.



And Google favors pages that are not too far down, the same way users do.


If  huge digging is required to pull important pages out from your site, then they’ll most likely not get found or be ignored.


Structure your website accordingly to favor important pages.

11. Use the Secure HTTPs Protocol


This tip is short and to the point. Connections should be secure.


Google favors websites with secure connections, especially when sensitive data is sent through them.


So, if you have a contact form, a login page, a payment system, it should run through HTTPS.


Warning: Moving from HTTP to HTTPS can negatively impact rankings if done wrong. Make sure to follow this HTTP to HTTPS migration guide.

12. Optimize Images for SEO


One of the biggest problem with images is related to their size, especially the disk size.


Images are BIG and they take up a long time to load. They make your site slow.


Make sure you follow these rules:


Compress the images with a tool like Smush for WordPress or ShortPixel
Display them at the right size and not just scale them down with CSS
Load images that are outside the user’s view later on, with LazyLoad


However, image optimization doesn’t end here. Make sure you also add a relevant Title Title and Alt Tags to your images.


Images are a great way of adding keywords that can’t be used properly in sentences.


However, don’t just spam the image alt text in there. Try to briefly describe what’s in the image using those keywords.


If you need HD images on your site, you’ll need a really good server or a 3rd party image hosting / CDN.

13. Use Video in Your Content


Not too many people do this.


You can add video to support your content, or you can even fully repurpose content and then interlink it.


For example, if you have a pretty good article, turn it into a video. Same way around.


Then, embed the video into the content and also link back to the post from your video’s description.


However, don’t just copy paste a piece of content from one platform to another, as you might not get the results you want.


Each social media platform requires a different strategy. What works on Facebook might not work on Instagram or LinkedIn.


Let me tick this SEO best practice off the list by sharing this video with you:

14. Perform Regular Site Audits


Auditing your site is very useful for spotting small issues that can become huge ones.


Over time, small changes start to sneak in and sometimes, things might escalate.


But auditing a site takes time. That’s why a tool such as CognitiveSEO is so useful!

It does the job for you and constantly notifies you of issues that arise so that you can spot and fix them before things get too bad.

15. Use Internal Links With Relevant Anchor Texts


Site structure can be constantly consolidated by using internal links.


We know Google penalizes backlinks with exact match anchor texts if done too much, but we don’t know of any penalty for internal links.


Both Google representatives John Mueller and Gary Illyes have confirmed this.


Screenshot from


Don’t force it, though. One day, there might be a penalty, who knows.


The key is to make them relevant for the users as well.


Also keep in mind that boilerplate content internal links from sections such as the header, footer or sidebars are less valuable than contextual links from the body.


Whenever you’re publishing new content, keep in mind when you can reference old content in relevant cases and link to it.


Your focus is to highlight those pages that you consider to be most important.


If your most important money page has a low number of internal links compared to other pages, Google might not understand its importance.

16. Link to External Pages With Relevant Anchor Text as Well


Recently I’ve had a consulting session with a client that confessed me that an SEO ‘expert’ told her not to link to external pages because she loses Page Rank.


If you’re a real SEO expert, you’re probably laughing with me right now.


While there’s an ounce of truth that eventually you’ll lose Page Rank when linking out too much, there are signs that linking to other relevant websites could help increase your rankings.


If you have something relevant and useful to share with the world and your audience, link away.


It will help you build relationships and the favors will return.

17. Actively Acquire Links to Your Website


Luke 6:38. Give and you shall be given.


If you don’t link to others, why would you expect them to link to you?


However, you’ll also have to work for those backlinks.


There is a saying: “God helps those who help themselves.”


So go that extra mile to promote your content after you publish it. Be it via outreach or social media advertising, make sure it gets to the right people.


Try to build relationships and offer value and the links will come.


You can follow these steps to develop an effective link building campaign.

18. Consistently Add Fresh, High Quality Content


While adding more content doesn’t guarantee you higher rankings or more traffic, one thing is for sure: the more content you have, the higher the chances of you getting more traffic.


It’s actually pretty simple: the more content you add, the more keyword you target. The more keyword you target, the more traffic you get.

However, once you’ve reached that point when you kind of covered everything, things start to stagnate.


For example, here at cognitiveSEO we’ve been focusing on writing new high quality content for the past years. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.


If you’re just starting out, targeting lower competition keywords and writing more articles can be an effective strategy until you build some authority.


If you’re already a big brand, a better solution would be to go after high competition, high search volume articles.


Land one of those big ones and you’re set.


But make sure to read our next SEO best practice…

19. Update Your Best Performing Content Once in a While


After a while, we’ve reached a point where most of the SEO topics were already covered in our old articles, one way or another.


Finding new topics has become harder and we’ve noticed we are repeating ourselves in many cases.


So we’ve decided to update old content instead of writing new one.


Updating and improving old content that performed well can really help you with search engine rankings.


One such experiment was on an SEO Copywriting article.


After updating the content and optimizing it better for user intent (first step in this SEO best practices list), rankings and traffic went up.


You can see in the screenshot below an increase in clicks and impressions right after after the optimization was done, in December 2019.

By keeping the content up-to-date, you’re also keeping it relevant.


Don’t just do this for the best content, but also for old content that doesn’t seem to satisfy the user intent.


Are you covering two topics into a single article? Split it in two. Are two or more articles covering the exact same topic but none are ranking? Merge them into one.

20 . Don’t Use Javascript or JS Frameworks Extensively


JavaScript is a God given, just like Ice Cream. But too much of it can lead to some nasty things.


While JS can fix burnt crawl budget and indexation issues in an eCommerce Faceted Navigation scenario, it can also heavily impact the performance of a website if used too much.


Usually, the issue with JavaScript is that plugins load the scripts everywhere even when they are not needed.


A very good example are Slider plugins. Usually, revolution slider is only used on the homepage, yet the script can be found on every WordPress page.


Sliders are known to negatively impact CTR so maybe it’s a good idea to ditch it for good, if you don’t have a solid reason for keeping it.


Combining and Minifying JS files can help, but that usually breaks the code. Deferring it also works, until it doesn’t (ReCaptcha doesn’t really like that).


Sometimes, people render content through JavaScript. This is also a bad idea because Google has a harder time indexing that content.


If you do use JS to generate content, make sure it generates the content as HTML in the source of the web page.

21. Use Hreflang for Multi-Language Websites


Search results have become more and more personalized and geo-targeted.


If you have a multilingual website, correctly implementing the hreflang tag can mean business.

There are websites that use the tag but don’t use it the right way.


The problem with this? It can actually do harm!


Make sure you don’t make these hreflang mistakes when you implement this on your website.

22. Check Your Schema Markup


Or add it if you don’t have Schema already.


However, don’t rush on doing this first. While Schema Markup and Structured Data can be useful, other things such as properly optimizing your Titles are more important.


Once you have those things done, you can take a look at Schema Markup as well.


To test your implementation, you can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Usually, this works best for eCommerce stores, but can also be used by blogs and informational websites to their advantage.

23. Track Your Results With Google Search Console


The Google Search Console is your best friend.


You can also track things with Google Analytics. However, when it comes to SEO, the Search Console is the proper monitoring tool.


Analytics and Search Console work differently.


Google Analytics tracks the users after they reach your website, while the Search Console tracks them from Google’s side, on the search result pages themselves.


So, for the most accurate results, it’s best if you use the Search Console.

Not only will it show you how your content is performing in Google, but it will also pinpoint a lot of SEO issues your website might have.

How to Check If You’re Following the Best Practices for SEO


The first tip would be to make an SEO checklist of the things mentioned above and check them off.


However, the best way is to create a system of your own and stick to it. Be it yourself or your entire company.


Develop a strategy, create rules and follow them all the time. Have a process. That’s the key to success.


What SEO best practices are you planning to use in 2020 an onward in your strategy? Let me know in the comments section below.

The post SEO Best Practices → Guide to Skyrocket Your Google Rankings appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.


How to Read Google Algorithm Updates

Posted by on Jul 28, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Read Google Algorithm Updates

How to Read Google Algorithm Updates

Links = Rank

Old Google (pre-Panda) was to some degree largely the following: links = rank.

Once you had enough links to a site you could literally pour content into a site like water and have the domain’s aggregate link authority help anything on that site rank well quickly.

As much as PageRank was hyped & important, having a diverse range of linking domains and keyword-focused anchor text were important.

Brand = Rank

After Vince then Panda a site’s brand awareness (or, rather, ranking signals that might best simulate it) were folded into the ability to rank well.

Panda considered factors beyond links & when it first rolled out it would clip anything on a particular domain or subdomain. Some sites like HubPages shifted their content into subdomains by users. And some aggressive spammers would rotate their entire site onto different subdomains repeatedly each time a Panda update happened. That allowed those sites to immediately recover from the first couple Panda updates, but eventually Google closed off that loophole.

Any signal which gets relied on eventually gets abused intentionally or unintentionally. And over time it leads to a “sameness” of the result set unless other signals are used:

Google is absolute garbage for searching anything related to a product. If I’m trying to learn something invariably I am required to search another source like Reddit through Google. For example, I became introduced to the concept of weighted blankets and was intrigued. So I Google “why use a weighted blanket” and “weighted blanket benefits”. Just by virtue of the word “weighted blanket” being in the search I got pages and pages of nothing but ads trying to sell them, and zero meaningful discourse on why I would use one

Getting More Granular

Over time as Google got more refined with Panda broad-based sites outside of the news vertical often fell on tough times unless they were dedicated to some specific media format or had a lot of user engagement metrics like a strong social network site. That is a big part of why the New York Times sold for less than they paid for it & after IAC bought it they broke it down into a variety of sites like: Verywell (health), the Spruce (home decor), the Balance (personal finance), Lifewire (technology), Tripsavvy (travel) and ThoughtCo (education & self-improvement).

Penguin further clipped aggressive anchor text built on low quality links. When the Penguin update rolled out Google also rolled out an on-page spam classifier to further obfuscate the update. And the Penguin update was sandwiched by Panda updates on either side, making it hard for people to reverse engineer any signal out of weekly winners and losers lists from services that aggregate massive amounts of keyword rank tracking data.

So much of the link graph has been decimated that Google reversed their stance on nofollow to where in March 1st of this year they started treating it as a hint versus a directive for ranking purposes. Many mainstream media websites were overusing nofollow or not citing sources at all, so this additional layer of obfuscation on Google’s part will allow them to find more signal in that noise.

May 4, 2020 Algo Update

On May 4th Google rolled out another major core update.

Later today, we are releasing a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. It is called the May 2020 Core Update. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before. Please see this blog post for more about that:— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) May 4, 2020

I saw some sites which had their rankings suppressed for years see a big jump. But many things changed at once.

Wedge Issues

On some political search queries which were primarily classified as being news related Google is trying to limit political blowback by showing official sites and data scraped from official sites instead of putting news front & center.

“Google’s pretty much made it explicit that they’re not going to propagate news sites when it comes to election related queries and you scroll and you get a giant election widget in your phone and it shows you all the different data on the primary results and then you go down, you find Wikipedia, you find other like historical references, and before you even get to a single news article, it’s pretty crazy how Google’s changed the way that the SERP is intended.”

That change reflects the permanent change to the news media ecosystem brought on by the web.

The Internet commoditized the distribution of facts. The “news” media responded by pivoting wholesale into opinions and entertainment.— Naval (@naval) May 26, 2016


A blog post by Lily Ray from Path Interactive used Sistrix data to show many of the sites which saw high volatility were in the healthcare vertical & other your money, your life (YMYL) categories.

Aggressive Monetization

One of the more interesting pieces of feedback on the update was from Rank Ranger, where they looked at particular pages that jumped or fell hard on the update. They noticed sites that put ads or ad-like content front and center may have seen sharp falls on some of those big money pages which were aggressively monetized:

Seeing this all but cements the notion (in my mind at least) that Google did not want content unrelated to the main purpose of the page to appear above the fold to the exclusion of the page’s main content! Now for the second wrinkle in my theory…. A lot of the pages being swapped out for new ones did not use the above-indicated format where a series of “navigation boxes” dominated the page above the fold.

The above shift had a big impact on some sites which are worth serious money. Intuit paid over $7 billion to acquire Credit Karma, but their credit card affiliate pages recently slid hard.

Credit Karma lost 40% traffic from May core update. That’s insane, they do major TV ads and likely pay millions in SEO expenses. Think about that folks. Your site isn’t safe. Google changes what they want radically with every update, while telling us nothing!— SEOwner (@tehseowner) May 14, 2020

The above sort of shift reflects Google getting more granular with their algorithms. Early Panda was all or nothing. Then it started to have different levels of impact throughout different portions of a site.

Brand was sort of a band aid or a rising tide that lifted all (branded) boats. Now we are seeing Google get more granular with their algorithms where a strong brand might not be enough if they view the monetization as being excessive. That same focus on page layout can have a more adverse impact on small niche websites.

One of my old legacy clients had a site which was primarily monetized by the Amazon affiliate program. About a month ago Amazon chopped affiliate commissions in half & then the aggressive ad placement caused search traffic to the site to get chopped in half when rankings slid on this update.

Their site has been trending down over the past couple years largely due to neglect as it was always a small side project. They recently improved some of the content about a month or so ago and that ended up leading to a bit of a boost, but then this update came. As long as that ad placement doesn’t change the declines are likely to continue.

They just recently removed that ad unit, but that meant another drop in income as until there is another big algo update they’re likely to stay at around half search traffic. So now they have a half of a half of a half. Good thing the site did not have any full time employees or they’d be among the millions of newly unemployed. That experience though really reflects how websites can be almost like debt levered companies in terms of going under virtually overnight. Who can have revenue slide around 88% and then take increase investment in the property using the remaining 12% while they wait for the site to be rescored for a quarter year or more?

“If you have been negatively impacted by a core update, you (mostly) cannot see recovery from that until another core update. In addition, you will only see recovery if you significantly improve the site over the long-term. If you haven’t done enough to improve the site overall, you might have to wait several updates to see an increase as you keep improving the site. And since core updates are typically separated by 3-4 months, that means you might need to wait a while.”

Almost nobody can afford to do that unless the site is just a side project.

Google could choose to run major updates more frequently, allowing sites to recover more quickly, but they gain economic benefit in defunding SEO investments & adding opportunity cost to aggressive SEO strategies by ensuring ranking declines on major updates last a season or more.

Choosing a Strategy vs Letting Things Come at You

They probably should have lowered their ad density when they did those other upgrades. If they had they likely would have seen rankings at worst flat or likely up as some other competing sites fell. Instead they are rolling with a half of a half of a half on the revenue front. Glenn Gabe preaches the importance of fixing all the problems you can find rather than just fixing one or two things and hoping it is enough. If you have a site which is on the edge you sort of have to consider the trade offs between various approaches to monetization.

monetize it lightly and hope the site does well for many years
monetize it slightly aggressively while using the extra income to further improve the site elsewhere and ensure you have enough to get by any lean months
aggressively monetize the shortly after a major ranking update if it was previously lightly monetized & then hope to sell it off a month or two later before the next major algorithm update clips it again

Outcomes will depend partly on timing and luck, but consciously choosing a strategy is likely to yield better returns than doing a bit of mix-n-match while having your head buried in the sand.

Reading the Algo Updates

You can spend 50 or 100 hours reading blog posts about the update and learn precisely nothing in the process if you do not know which authors are bullshitting and which authors are writing about the correct signals.

But how do you know who knows what they are talking about?

It is more than a bit tricky as the people who know the most often do not have any economic advantage in writing specifics about the update. If you primarily monetize your own websites, then the ignorance of the broader market is a big part of your competitive advantage.

Making things even trickier, the less you know the more likely Google would be to trust you with sending official messaging through you. If you syndicate their messaging without questioning it, you get a treat – more exclusives. If you question their messaging in a way that undermines their goals, you’d quickly become persona non grata – something cNet learned many years ago when they published Eric Schmidt’s address.

It would be unlikely you’d see the following sort of Tweet from say Blue Hat SEO or Fantomaster or such.

I asked Gary about E-A-T. He said it’s largely based on links and mentions on authoritative sites. i.e. if the Washington post mentions you, that’s good.

He recommended reading the sections in the QRG on E-A-T as it outlines things well.@methode #Pubcon— Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) February 21, 2018

To be able to read the algorithms well you have to have some market sectors and keyword groups you know well. Passively collecting an archive of historical data makes the big changes stand out quickly.

Everyone who depends on SEO to make a living should subscribe to an online rank tracking service or run something like Serposcope locally to track at least a dozen or two dozen keywords. If you track rankings locally it makes sense to use a set of web proxies and run the queries slowly through each so you don’t get blocked.

You should track at least a diverse range to get a true sense of the algorithmic changes.

a couple different industries
a couple different geographic markets (or at least some local-intent vs national-intent terms within a country)
some head, midtail and longtail keywords
sites of different size, age & brand awareness within a particular market

Some tools make it easy to quickly add or remove graphing of anything which moved big and is in the top 50 or 100 results, which can help you quickly find outliers. And some tools also make it easy to compare their rankings over time. As updates develop you’ll often see multiple sites making big moves at the same time & if you know a lot about the keyword, the market & the sites you can get a good idea of what might have been likely to change to cause those shifts.

Once you see someone mention outliers most people miss that align with what you see in a data set, your level of confidence increases and you can spend more time trying to unravel what signals changed.

I’ve read influential industry writers mention that links were heavily discounted on this update. I have also read Tweets like this one which could potentially indicate the opposite.

Check out . Up even more than Pinterest and ranking for some real freaky shit.— Paul Macnamara (@TheRealpmac) May 12, 2020

If I had little to no data, I wouldn’t be able to get any signal out of that range of opinions. I’d sort of be stuck at “who knows.”

By having my own data I track I can quickly figure out which message is more inline with what I saw in my subset of data & form a more solid hypothesis.

No Single Smoking Gun

As Glenn Gabe is fond of saying, sites that tank usually have multiple major issues.

Google rolls out major updates infrequently enough that they can sandwich a couple different aspects into major updates at the same time in order to make it harder to reverse engineer updates. So it does help to read widely with an open mind and imagine what signal shifts could cause the sorts of ranking shifts you are seeing.

Sometimes site level data is more than enough to figure out what changed, but as the above Credit Karma example showed sometimes you need to get far more granular and look at page-level data to form a solid hypothesis.

As the World Changes, the Web Also Changes

About 15 years ago online dating was seen as a weird niche for recluses who perhaps typically repulsed real people in person. Now there are all sorts of niche specialty dating sites including a variety of DTF type apps. What was once weird & absurd had over time become normal.

The COVID-19 scare is going to cause lasting shifts in consumer behavior that accelerate the movement of commerce online. A decade of change will happen in a year or two across many markets.

Telemedicine will grow quickly. Facebook is adding commerce featured directly onto their platform through partnering with Shopify. Spotify is spending big money to buy exclusives rights to distribute widely followed podcasters like Joe Rogan. Uber recently offered to acquire GrubHub. Google and Apple will continue adding financing features to their mobile devices. Movie theaters have lost much of their appeal.

Tons of offline “value” businesses ended up having no value after months of revenue disappearing while large outstanding debts accumulated interest. There is a belief that some of those brands will have strong latent brand value that carries over online, but if they were weak even when the offline stores acting like interactive billboards subsidized consumer awareness of their brands then as those stores close the consumer awareness & loyalty from in-person interactions will also dry up. A shell of a company rebuilt around the Toys R’ Us brand is unlikely to beat out Amazon’s parallel offering or a company which still runs stores offline.

Big box retailers like Target & Walmart are growing their online sales at hundreds of percent year over year.

There will be waves of bankruptcies, dramatic shifts in commercial real estate prices (already reflected in plunging REIT prices), and more people working remotely (shifting residential real estate demand from the urban core back out into suburbs).

People who work remote are easier to hire and easier to fire. Those who keep leveling up their skills will eventually get rewarded while those who don’t will rotate jobs every year or two. The lack of stability will increase demand for education, though much of that incremental demand will be around new technologies and specific sectors – certificates or informal training programs instead of degrees.

More and more activities will become normal online activities.

The University of California has about a half-million students & in the fall semester they are going to try to have most of those classes happen online. How much usage data does Google gain as thousands of institutions put more and more of their infrastructure and service online?

Colleges have to convince students for the next year that a remote education is worth every bit as much as an in-person one, and then pivot back before students actually start believing it.

It’s like only being able to sell your competitor’s product for a year.— Naval (@naval) May 6, 2020

A lot of B & C level schools are going to go under as the like-vs-like comparison gets easier. Back when I ran a membership site here a college paid us to have students gain access to our membership area of the site. As online education gets normalized many unofficial trade-related sites will look more economically attractive on a relative basis.

If core institutions of the state deliver most of their services online, then other companies can be expected to follow. When big cities publish lists of crimes they will not respond to during economic downturns they are effectively subsidizing more crime. That in turn makes moving to somewhere a bit more rural & cheaper make sense, particularly when you no longer need to live near your employer.

The most important implication of this permanent WFH movement are state income taxes.

The warm, sunny states with affordable housing and zero taxes will see an influx of educated, rich workers. States will need to cut taxes to keep up.

The biggest loser in this is CA.— Chamath Palihapitiya (@chamath) May 21, 2020

Categories: google

How to Fix WordPress Plugin Conflicts

Posted by on Jul 28, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Fix WordPress Plugin Conflicts

How to Fix WordPress Plugin Conflicts

WordPress is a wonderful Content Management System and that goes without a doubt. The sheer seamless of the platform makes it the beginners’ favorite. However, as a WordPress novice, you might often encounter a whole new range of hiccups and errors that plague the smooth running of your site. While some of them might be of the common nature, there are a few that simply don’t make sense given the ease of seamless-ness offered by the CMS. One such curious case is that of PLUGIN CONFLICTS.

A lot of you might not have even heard of or witnessed a plugin conflict issue because plugins with malicious codes or outdated versions top the list of plugin induced website troubles. There are various popular plugins available with certain features and you should avoid using plugins with similar features.

What causes a site to experience WordPress plugin conflict?

A plugin conflict is rather unusual but not uncommon. If your site faces a plugin conflict, your site might start acting up or it might display the highly dreaded white screen of death. If that’s not what’s happening, you might experience that certain plugins and the modules/functionalities offered by them are not working as they used to. Some plugins might stop functioning at all.

In any case, you come across a plugin conflict issue because of any of the scenarios mentioned below:

Your newly installed plugin conflicts with an existing one
Theme and newly installed plugin conflict or vice-versa
A conflict between a plugin and the latest WordPress version
A resource conflict as a result of complex coding
Poorly coded plugin messing with other plugins
Functionality conflict caused due to issues arising out of a batch auto-update

The above scenarios come alive when the code for plugins doesn’t work well. You might have already experienced a plugin conflict or might be completely new to the situation as you read through, the right thing to do is know how to troubleshoot and act quickly. In this blog post, we have discussed the many ways you can respond to a plugin conflict situation on your WordPress site and fix it right away.

The most common WordPress plugins that are conflict-favorites

WooCommerce: Some known conflicts experienced by WooCommerce plugin users have been with plugins such as W3 Total Cache, Yoast SEO, WP Customer Reviews and many others.

Divi builder: This theme/page-builder is quite the powerful one and that reason alone is enough to cause various conflicts with other plugins. When a conflict with this theme comes up, the drag-and-drop visual editor just fails to launch. Other times, users have experienced modules failing to load.

Gravity Forms: Gravity forms plugin comes with some very interactive elements and might not be conflicted with many plugins out there. However, Debug Add-on has been pointed out every now and then.

Slider Revolution: If you ever used an image slider plugin on your site, you probably came across a time when images failed to show up on your site. This probably is due to a plugin conflict, along with the usage of plugins such as The Events Calendar and Page Builder by SiteOrigin.

Finding the troublemaker

The common path to finding and fixing a plugin conflict issue on a site follows a similar pattern. Users often begin by trying one or all of the ways mentioned below:

Users trying to clear their browser cache to get rid of the problem
Users trying to verify that all of their plugins are updated
Users trying to uninstall a recently downloaded plugin to see if the issue is resolved
Users trying to verify that they have the latest WordPress version
Users seeking professional help

The truth is you cannot fix and prevent WordPress conflicts if you don’t know how to locate the plugin that is causing the conflict. If you are a developer or someone who is familiar with coding and troubleshooting, this will be easy for you. However, a person who hasnt worked with coding or is new to the platform, this could be a nightmare.

But worry not. Here’s how you can figure out which plugin is causing the nuisance by following the process below:

If you recently downloaded and installed a new plugin on your site and your site broke down, you probably know what’s causing the trouble. This entirely new plugin might be the culprit but there are fair chances that an existing plugin might be in conflict with the new one. However, if that isn’t the case, you still need to figure out the root issue by deactivating all your plugins.

If you don’t have access to the back end, follow the steps below:

Connect to your server via FTP
Go to wp-content > Plugins
Delete the files after creating a backup of them all
You can also choose to rename the files on your server
Now it’s time to re-active the plugins, one at a time.
As soon as the conflict re-appears, you will now be able to catch the plugin at play. Make sure that you drop the concern with the plugin’s developer so that they can look into the issue and fix the same.

Fixing Plugin conflicts 

To be able to fix plugin conflicts, you need to begin by identifying them. As mentioned above, your site might go hazy or it might stop working completely. In either of the cases, you need to first start by restoring your backup.

We cannot emphasize enough on the importance of backing up your site’s data. It is not only a safe move but comes to your rescue in situations such as this and helps you get access to your lost/corrupted data.

Let’s move on.

Based on your chosen web hosting options, you will have to go the manual way of restoring the data if you’re experiencing a plugin conflict and are unable to access your site’s back end. While that might get a bit complex, if you are entirely new to the process of handling website backups, here’s how you can do it:

Log in to your web hosting account and enter phpMyAdmin
Select the most recent website database. Now click on ‘Import’
Now click on ‘Choose File’ and then select the desired backup database. In this case, you should choose the backup from when your site was functioning properly.
Choose the ‘SQL’ format and hit ‘Go’ to finish restoring your database.

Once the above process is done, you will have to restore the files using an FTP client. The FTP client has to be connected to your site’s server. Once you can locate the backup files, you simply have to drag them to your server in the public_html directory.

This is where you overwrite the current files to complete the restoration process.

If the above process does not work, you can try going back to the default WordPress theme to fix the possibility of theme-plugin conflict.

Preventing WordPress Plugin conflicts in the future

Let us tell you something that holds quite some prominence in the context of plugin conflicts. Whenever you want to go ahead and download a new plugin on your WordPress site, you need to do the following as part of the detailed Plugin vetting process:

Begin by checking through the WordPress version of your WordPress installation and PHP version compatibility of it. Make sure that you note the date of the most recent version release.
Always choose a plugin that’s recently updated because plugins that haven’t been updated within the last six months are more likely to produce conflicts. Make sure that you don’t’ fall for a plugin with impending issues.
Check for the plugin rating because that says a lot about the plugin’s build and performance. This review and feedback monitoring should not only be kept limited to the WordPress repository but also to the other plugin forums where such issues are openly brought up and discussed for resolution and review.
Go through the plugin’s details and other technical specifications to be absolutely sure of what the plugin offers and if there are any special directives for its installation and usage.
Customer reviews aren’t just quality confirming touchpoints, they also reflect the issues that users might be facing with the plugin. Knowing them in advance will help you know what to expect and not be caught off guard if things go wrong.

Plugins such as Health Check & Troubleshooting and Plugin organizer can lend you a helping hand in how you choose and manage plugins on your site.

The Health check and troubleshooting plugin has over 2,00,000+ active installations and can immensely help you detect common configuration errors and known issues by performing a number of checks on your WordPress installation. The plugin lets you have a clean WordPress session where it disables all the plugins. While this happens, the default theme is allowed to run only for one user. And once you choose to log out of this user session, you will also disable this allowed user. On the other hand, the Plugin organizer also helps you selectively disable plugins by any post type or WordPress managed URL.

If you ever come across a plugin conflict that is entirely out of the blue, you can try seeking help from the’s Plugin conflict forum.

As they say – Prevention is better than cure. And going by the same, it is always smart to be informed and prepared with your site’s functioning. Here are a few other things that you need to take care of, if you do not want to fall victim to the plugin conflicts.

There’s no point in having too many plugins on your site. If any plugin is now useless or no longer needed, you should remove it right away. If there’s a plugin that you are currently not using but might want to a later point in time, save its preferences and settings.
It is a good practice to keep your themes and plugins updated because updates tend to weed out any fault with coding and further make the plugin/theme better.
Always download your plugins from a reliable source such as the official WordPress repository. Don’t fall for discounted plugins that are available with random online vendors.
Bulk plugin updates might sometimes cause various issues. So, it is recommended that you update one plugin at a time so that if you run into trouble, you don’t have to put up with the above processes again and again.
Make sure that your site is regularly backed up. We are mentioning it again because this is absolutely compulsory and not optional at all, if you mean the best for your WordPress site.
Never make changes to a live website. It is recommended that one use a staging website or local site to make change so that any errors or mishaps can be easily rectified.
Always choose plugins that offer impeccable support to help you troubleshoot such abrupt issues.

If you are going to be handling your site all by yourself, take out some time to hone your HTML, PHP, and JavaScript skills. Knowing how to code will help you tackle all sorts of future code-related issues without much hassle. And if there’s a problem with your site ever, you will be able to save a lot of your time and money which might otherwise be used up to consult a professional developer.


WordPress errors can be frustrating sometimes because we expect this CMS to be smooth, efficient, and seamless. Issues such as that of conflicting plugins can really erk the new website owners and throw them off the edge with their entire website building experience. However, learning to handle and troubleshoot such issues can help them and others fix and prevent any future website downtime or breakdowns for their sites.

If you ever came across the plugin conflict on your website, kindly drop a comment below and tell us how you handled the issue. If there are any other concerning issues related to the core topic of this blog, please drop a comment and share the same with our readers. We also have a list of services here at WP Fix It that can fix any issue you are experiencing.  See this list at

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The latest news in SEO and WordPress: July 2020

Posted by on Jul 9, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on The latest news in SEO and WordPress: July 2020

Every few weeks we have an SEO News video in which Jono Alderson and I, along with other experts, share the latest SEO news with our academy subscribers. Last week, we decided to try this in the form of a webinar where viewers were able to ask us questions right away. Because this was such a success, we’re already planning our next webinar. In this blog post, I’ll discuss the highlights of our July 2020 webinar to give you an idea of what’s new in the world of SEO!

Stay on top of the latest changes in SEO by getting a Yoast SEO academy training subscription. This also gives you the opportunity to watch earlier videos of SEO News and develop vital SEO skills by completing a variety of courses.

What’s new with Google and Bing?

Our friends at Google and Bing have not been sitting idly by, so we had lots of news to share. Here, I’ll give you a few highlights of what we discussed.

Scroll to text

Google has been testing it on AMP for quite a while, and now it’s probably here to stay: scroll to text. So, what is it? When someone does a search on Google and clicks on a featured snippet result, Google will send this user to the specific piece of text on the page and highlight it. Seemingly, without the context of the introduction above or content surrounding this answer. And although this focus on getting a quick answer is understandable from a user’s view, it seems quite contradictory to Google’s view that long-form content provides more quality and a better user experience.

So, what does this mean for us? It might mean some changes to your design, for example considering a sticky header to keep your brand in the picture wherever someone is on your page. But mostly, it means that structuring your content becomes even more important to make sure that each part of your text can stand alone. To make it easy, you’ll have to treat every piece of text on your page as its own landing page. Our SEO Copywriting training, which is part of our Content SEO training course, can definitely help you out with that.

Licensing program for news publishers

With an increase of zero-click searches (where questions are being answered at the top of the SERPs), it’s becoming more difficult for certain businesses to get people to click through to their site. And this makes it more difficult to make money and create new content. That’s why Google has launched an early pilot for news publishers. A licensing program in which they’ll pay publishers for high-quality content, to make sure they’ll be able to keep their business running and provide people with complex and deeper stories on different issues and interests. Now, this is still a pilot for specific countries and specific publications, so we’re curious to see where it goes.

Free product listings in the SERP

Google has a product tab in their search, but they seem to be shifting more and more to showing products directly in the search results. And the latest announcement in this is that if you have and structured data for the products on your site, your products become eligible to being shown directly in the search results. Without paying Google. And this is pretty cool because it’s a step in opening up the web further for everyone. Anyone who uses and implements their structured data the right way can compete, even with the bigger players. If you haven’t implemented yet, our Yoast SEO plugin and WooCommerce SEO plugin can help you with that.

Bing Site Scan tool

Bing has launched the Site Scan tool, a potential competitor to existing tools where you can crawl your site to find technical SEO issues. It’s not as extensive as other tools you might be familiar with, but it gives you reports on things that are broken and can impact your rankings. So it’s definitely worth having a look at.

There’s lots and lots of more fun news we discussed in the webinar, such as a page experience update, the latest on structured data for recipes, a new fact check label, and more. To get access to this and other videos to stay on top of the latest news in SEO and WordPress, you can subscribe to one of our Yoast SEO academy training courses:

Show me the Yoast SEO training subscriptions!

What’s new in WordPress?

Web Stories (beta)

The upcoming release of WordPress 5.5 comes with a few noteworthy features which we discussed in the webinar. But in this blog post, I want to highlight one of them: Web Stories. Now, this is still in the beta stage, but this editor shows us a promising next step in the way we create and present content. To put it in understandable words: Web Stories makes it possible to present your content in a visual, engaging and swipeable way on your site (think Instagram or other visual social platforms).

The cool thing with this new feature and others like it, is that the Google team actively collaborates with us to make sure it will work together well with our plugin. In the case of Web Stories, someone from Google made a pull request on our Yoast SEO Github. Which is essentially a request to review the changes they will make before they’re final. This gives us the opportunity to anticipate them and make sure our plugin will seamlessly work together with this new editor by giving out the right metadata.

XML sitemaps in core

Another feature worth mentioning is that WordPress will be adding XML sitemaps in its core. This is pretty cool because it’s a feature that was still missing from WordPress. For everyone using our Yoast SEO plugin, we will disable this default sitemap for the simple fact that Yoast SEO already adds a sitemap which helps Google find your content. Don’t worry, we know what we’re doing. We’ve actually worked with a team from Google on optimizing our sitemap feature and the one Yoast SEO provides is just more up to date concerning metadata.

What’s new in Yoast?

With an ever-changing SEO world around us, we understand the importance of improving our work to keep up with these changes. Not just in terms of adding more languages to our Yoast SEO plugin, but also in providing everyone in the community with an easy and natural workflow.

Duplicate Post

That’s why we recently acquired the Duplicate Post plugin from its original developer Enrico Battocchi, who has also joined our team as a senior developer on the plugin. This plugin lets you duplicate any post or page in WordPress, and all its settings, with just one click. You can read more about this plugin, and what it can help you with, in our announcement post.

Improved publishing workflow

What’s new in Yoast SEO is an improved publishing workflow and the possibility to tell search engines how to treat links that you add to your content. These are both features to help our users create quality content that fits into a good SEO strategy. The improved publishing workflow helps you keep an eye on the rankability and readability of your text, but also makes it easy to share your new post right away.

Rel attributes for links

The rel attributes we’ve added for links, might not be recognized as a Yoast feature right away, but they are. And I’ll tell you what they’re for. This feature helps you mark external links as nofollow, which is always a good idea if they lead to pages you don’t really want to endorse. Also, you can use the sponsored attribute to show search engines that an external link is commercial. These attributes help Google get a better sense of what happens with links on the web.

You can read all about these new features in our Yoast SEO 14.4 release post. And if you’re curious about the other topics we discussed, have a look at our Yoast SEO academy subscriptions to get access to these SEO News videos.

The post The latest news in SEO and WordPress: July 2020 appeared first on Yoast.

Parent and child pages: Linking hierarchical post types for SEO

Posted by on Jul 8, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Parent and child pages: Linking hierarchical post types for SEO

Parent and child pages: Linking hierarchical post types for SEO

When we talk about site structure on WordPress we often focus on blogs post: “Use tags and categories and link to your the best fitting related posts!” But you probably have hierarchical post types on your site too. An example of a hierarchical post type is the Page post type; a page can have parent, child, and sibling pages. Inherently, these pages fit in a certain structure and, with little effort, you can leverage this structure to boost your SEO. Let’s have a look!

Site structure and SEO

A solid site structure is essential for SEO. Users and search engines love content to be findable and well-organized. Therefore, your site should have a clear structure, your menu should reflect this structure and users should easily navigate your site to find what they’re looking for. Navigating often means following links, and just like readers do, search engines follow links. So, in fact, by organizing and connecting your content in a sensible way, you’re able to hit two birds with one stone: please users and search engines.

Internal linking

Smart internal linking leads users and search engines to related content, and ideally, to your best content. For instance, if we write about keyword research tools, it makes sense to link to other posts about keyword research (and not, let’s say, posts about the robots.txt file). Moreover, if we want to keep users engaged and show our expertise, it’s a good idea to link from all these related posts to our best and most complete resource on the topic: our ultimate guide on keyword research.

Doing so, we’ll not only guide readers to this guide but search engines too; as this post gets so many (internal) links, it must be an important post. As a consequence, Google will rank it higher than other topically related posts on your site. We call this a cornerstone strategy. And, in fact, your hierarchical pages offer some great opportunities here!

What is a hierarchical post type?

In a hierarchical post type, you can place posts in a certain hierarchy by selecting a parent page. This often means the parent page covers an overarching theme and groups various child pages that are topically related. A child page can only have one parent page, but a parent page can have multiple child pages. So a child page can have sibling pages on the same level. For instance, on a company website, a Team and Mission page are probably child pages of the About us page. And, in that case, the Team and Mission page are siblings.

Hierarchical vs non-hierarchical

Hierarchical means that there are different levels: the parent page is on top, followed by child pages on a sub-level, which could again be followed by grand-child pages on a sub-sub-level. A non-hierarchical system means that all items are on the same level. You can compare it with the table of content and the index of a book. The table of content structures topics in a hierarchical way. For instance, in a book about big cats:

Big cats

Africa’s big cats Lion Leopard Cheetah Asia’s big cats Tiger etc

While you’ll have an index like:

African savannahp. 33cheetahp. 10Himalayan mountainsp. 18lionp. 21snow leopardp. 12etc

Both structures will help you find content in a slightly different way. In WordPress, blog posts usually are a non-hierarchical post type; you can’t give them a parent. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t structure these posts! You should definitely organize them by giving them tags and/or categories and interlinking them properly. The main difference here is that you can put non-hierarchical posts in multiple categories and give them various tags, while hierarchical pages will only have one parent per page.

How do you set a parent page?

On a hierarchical post type, you can easily set a parent for your page. In the WordPress block editor, you should go to the settings sidebar and scroll to Page attributes:

Setting the parent of a WordPress page in the post sidebar in the WordPress block editor

Under Parent Page you’ll find a list of pages on your site. Just select the parent page of the page you’re creating and you’re done. If you do this, the hierarchy is reflected in the URL and breadcrumb of the page too: just look at the URL of our About us and Mission page:

Yoast’s mission: SEO for everyone

And the breadcrumb also shows where this page sits on our website:

The breadcrumb of a page shows where the page sits on your site: the Mission page is a child page of About us.

When do you choose an hierarchical post type?

Not all content fits in a hierarchical post type. But some pages, like your About us pages, definitely do; they all fall under one overarching them: About us. But also topical content, for which you’d like to rank, can fit very well.

An example: Let’s say you’re a fan of big cats and you write about them to raise money to support their survival in their natural habitat. One section of your site is dedicated to describing these big cats, which species belong to this group, and giving more details about each one of them. In that case, using hierarchical pages makes sense. You could have:

A parent page about all big cats: here you can write about which species belong to the big cats, what they have in common, how they live, why they are such awesome creatures, and a short description of all of them.An African big cats’ page, which tells you everything about the group of big cats originating from Africa: the lion, leopard, and cheetah. This is the child of the big cats’ page. On the same level, you can have two sibling pages: big cats from Asia and big cats from the Americas.Pages about every single species, for instance, the leopard. This parent is the child of the Africa’s big cats’ page and the grandchild of the big cats’ page. It goes into more detail about the single species.

Link your hierarchical posts for users and SEO

As all this content with one parent page is related, it makes sense to connect it! You can do so by internal linking. For instance, you can link from the leopard page to the lion page and the cheetah page. But of course, as you’ll probably mention these species belong to Africa’s big cats, you should link to the parent too. From the parent pages, it also makes sense to link to the child pages; when reading about Africa’s big cats, people probably want to know more about the species belonging to this group.

For search engines, all these links show the connection between your content; they create a sort of cluster and make clear how pages relate to each other. Moreover, all this related content and its context helps search engines to better understand what entities you’re talking about: not Lion the candy bar, but the lion, Africa’s big cat (although that might be quite obvious in this example).

Linking them is easy with Yoast SEO Premium!

Since Yoast SEO 14.5 we have a new feature in Yoast SEO Premium! As you’ve read above, linking hierarchical post types is beneficial for SEO. And linking them is super easy with the block editor in Yoast SEO Premium. We’ve created two blocks:

a sub pages block: a block that lists and links the child pages of a pagea siblings block : a block that lists and links the siblings of a page

Adding them is super easy: if you create a new block, search for sibling or sub-pages and the blocks will pop-up. In this video, you can see how it works:

Want to have this feature, and loads of other awesome functionalities, like internal linking suggestions or a redirect manager, too?

Get Yoast SEO Premium ▸Only $89 USD (ex VAT)

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Declining Visitor Values

Posted by on Jul 7, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Declining Visitor Values

Declining Visitor Values

Late Funnel SEO Profits

Before the Panda update SEOs could easily focus almost all their energies on late funnel high-intent searches which were easy to monetize without needing to put a ton of effort into brand building or earlier funnel informational searches. This meant that SEOs could focus on phrases like [student credit cards] or [buy earbuds] or [best computer gaming headphones] or [vertical computer mouse] without needing to worry much about anything else. Make a good enough page on those topics, segment demand across options, and profit.

Due to the ability to focus content & efforts on those tiny subset high-intent commercial terms the absolute returns and CPMs from SEO investments were astronomical. Publishers could insert themselves arbitrarily just before the end of the value chain (just like Google AdWords) and extract a toll.

The Panda Shift / Eating the Info Supply Chain

Then Panda happened and sites needed to have stronger brands and/or more full funnel user experience and/or more differentiated content to be able to rank sustainably.

One over-simplified way to think of Panda and related algorithms would be: brand = rank.

Another way to look at it would be to consider the value chain of having many layers or pieces to it & Google wanting to remove as many unneeded or extra pieces from the chain as possible so that they themselves are capturing more of the value chain.

That thin eHow article about a topic without any useful info? Not needed.
The thin affiliate review which was buying Google AdSense ad impressions on that eHow article? Also not needed.
All that is really needed is the consumer intent, Google & then either Google as the retailer (pay with your credentials stored in your phone) or another trusted retailer.

In some cases there may be value in mid-market in-depth reviews, but increasingly the aggregate value offered by many of them is captured inside the search snippets along with reviews directly incorporated into the knowledge graph & aggregate review scores.

The ability to remove the extra layers is driven largely by:

the quality of the top players in the market
the number of quality publishers in a market (as long as there are 2 or more, whoever is not winning will be willing to give a lot of value to Google to try to play catch up against their stronger competitor)
the amount of usage data available in the market
the ad depth of the market

If your competitor is strong and they keep updating in-depth content pieces you can’t set and forget your content and stay competitive. Across time searcher intent changes. Those who change with the markets should eventually have better engagement metrics and keep winning marketshare.

Benchmarking Your Competition

You only have to be better than whatever you are competing against to win.

If you have run out of ideas from your direct competitors in an emerging market you can typically find many more layers of optimization from looking at some of the largest and most successful players inside either the United States or China.

To give an example of how user data can be clean or a messy signal consider size 13 4E New Balance shoes. If you shop for these inside the United States a site like Amazon will have shoe size filters so you can see which shoes from that brand are available in that specific size.

In some smaller emerging markets ecommerce sites largely suck. They might allow you to filter shoes by the color blue but wanting to see the shoes available in your size is a choose your own adventure game as they do not offer those sorts of size filters, so you have to click into the shoe level, find out they do not have your size, and then try again. You do that about 100 times then eventually you get frustrated and buy off eBay or Amazon from someone who ships internationally.

In the first case it is very easy for Google to see the end user flow of users typically making their purchase at one of a few places like, the official New Balance store, or somewhere else like that which is likely to have the end product in stock. That second experience set is much harder to structure because the user signal is much more random with a lot more pogos back to Google.

Bigger, Better Ads

Over the past couple decades Google has grown much more aggressive at monetizing their search results. A website which sees its rank fall 1 position on mobile devices can see their mobile search traffic cut in half overnight. And desktop search results are also quite ad heavy to where sometimes a user can not see a single full organic result above the fold unless they have a huge monitor.

We tend to look at the present as being somewhat static. It is a part of human nature to think things are as they always were. But the general trend of the slow bleed squeeze is a function of math and time: “The relentless pressure to maintain Google’s growth, he said, had come at a heavy cost to the company’s users. Useful search results were pushed down the page to squeeze in more advertisements, and privacy was sacrificed for online tracking tools to keep tabs on what ads people were seeing.”

Some critics have captured the broad shift in ad labeling practices, but to get a grasp of how big the shift has been look at early Google search results.

Look at how bright those ad units from 2001 are.

Since then ad labeling has grown less intuitive while ad size has increased dramatically.

Traffic Mix Shift

As publishers have been crowded out on commercial searches via larger ads & Google’s vertical search properties a greater share of their overall search traffic is lower value visitors including people who have little to no commercial intent, people from emerging markets with lower disposable income and

Falling Ad Rates

Since 2010 online display ad rates have fallen about 40%.

Any individual publisher will experience those declines in a series of non-linear step function shifts. Any of the following could happen:

Google Panda or another algorithm update from a different attention merchant hits your distribution hard
a Softbank-backed competitor jumps into your market and gains a ton of press coverage using flammable money
a roll-up player buys out a series of sites in the supply chain & then tries to make the numbers back out by cramming down on ad syndication partners (sometimes you have to gain enough scale to create your own network or keep rotating through ad networks to keep them honest)
regulatory costs hit any part of the supply chain (the California parallel to GDPR just went live this month)
consumer interest shifts to other markets or solutions (the mobile phone has replaced many gadgets)
a recession causes broad-based advertiser pullbacks

Margin Eaters

In addition to lowering ad rates for peripheral websites, there are a couple other bonus margin eaters.

Junk Sunk Costs

Monopoly platforms push publishers to adopt proprietary closed code bases in order to maintain distribution: “the trade group says Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format was foisted on news publishers with an implied threat — their websites wouldn’t show up in search results.”

Decreased Supply Chain Visibility

Technical overhead leading to programmatic middlemen eating a huge piece of the pie: “From every £1 spent by an advertiser, about half goes to a publisher, roughly 16p to advertising platforms, 11p to other technology companies and 7 per cent to agencies. Adtech companies that took part in the study included Google’s dv360 and Ad Manager, Amazon Advertising and the Rubicon Project.”

Selection Effect

Large attention merchants control conversion tracking systems and displace organic distribution for brands by re-routing demand through a layer of ads which allows the central network to claim responsibility for conversions which would have already happened had they not existed.

Internal employees in the marketing department and external internet marketing consultants have an incentive to play along with this game because:

it requires low effort to arbitrage your own brand
at first glance it looks wildly profitable so long as you do not realize what is going on
those who get a percent of spend can use the phantom profits from arbitraging their own brand equity to spend more money elsewhere
those who get performance based bonuses get a bonus without having to perform

Both eBay and Microsoft published studies which showed how perverse selection effect is.

The selection effect bias is the inverse of customer acquisition cost. The more well known your brand is the more incentive ad networks have to arbitrage it & the more ad networks will try to take credit for any conversion which happens.

2) Why does CAC (mostly) only go up?

When you think about, CAC is “lowest” in the beginning, because you have no customers. You can get the low-hanging fruit cost effectively.

Think ad spend. Outbound sales spend. etc. First movers are ready to buy quickly.— Elizabeth Yin (@dunkhippo33) July 6, 2020

These margin eaters are a big part of the reason so many publishers are trying to desperately shift away from ad-based business models toward subscription revenues.

Hitting Every Layer

The commodification of content hits every layer from photography….

Networking is an art and a skill… but if the gold you hold are your images, don’t trade them for the passive networking value.

Simple lesson that is difficult to accept.— Send it. (@johnondotcom) July 4, 2020

…on through to writing

When you think about it, even $1000 is really inexpensive for a single piece of content that generates 20,000+ visits from search in the 1-3 years it’s alive and ranks well. That’s only about 1,000 visits a month. Yet companies only want to pay writers only $200 an article — Dan Shure (@dan_shure) July 6, 2020

…and every other layer of the editorial chain.

Profiting from content creation at scale is harder than most appreciate.

The idea that a $200 piece of content is particularly cheap comes across as ill-informed as there are many headwinds and many variables. The ability to monetize content depends on a ton of factors including: how commercial is it, how hard is it to monetize, what revshare do you go, how hard is it to rank or get distribution in front of other high intent audience sets?

If an article costs $200 it would be hard to make that back if it monetizes at anything under a $10 RPM. 20,000 visits equates to 20 units of RPM.

Some articles will not spread in spite of being high quality. Other articles take significant marketing spend to help them spread. Suddenly that $200 “successful” piece is closer to $500 when one averages in nonperformers that don’t spread & marketing expenses on ones that do. So then they either need the RPM to double or triple from there or the successful article needs to get at least 50,000 visits in order to break even.

A $10 RPM is quite high for many topics unless the ads are quite aggressively integrated into the content. The flip side of that is aggressive ad integration inhibits content spread & can cause algorithmic issues which prevent sustained rankings. Recall that in the most recent algorithm update Credit Karma saw some of their “money” credit card pages slide down the rankings due to aggressive monetization. And that happened to a big site which was purchased for over $7 billion. Smaller sites see greater levels of volatility. And nobody is investing $100,000s trying to break even many years down the road. If they were only trying to break even they’d buy bonds and ignore the concept of actively running a business of any sort.

Back in 2018 AdStage analyzed the Google display network and found the following: “In Q1 2018, advertisers spent, on average, $2.80 per thousand impressions (CPM), and $0.75 per click (CPC). The average click-through rate (CTR) on the GDN was 0.35%.”

A web page which garnered 20,000 pageviews and had 3 ad units on each page would get a total of 210 ad clicks given a 0.35% ad CTR. At 75 cents per click that would generate $157.50.

Suddenly a “cheap” $200 article doesn’t look so cheap. What’s more is said business would also have other costs beyond the writing. They have to pay for project management, editorial review, hosting, ad partnerships & biz dev, etc. etc. etc.

After all those other layers of overhead a $200 article would likely need to get about 50,000 pageviews to back out. And a $1,000 piece of content might need to get a quarter million or more pageviews to back out.

Categories: publishing & media

The Unique SEO Content Strategy to Rank #1 with Zero Links

Posted by on Jul 3, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on The Unique SEO Content Strategy to Rank #1 with Zero Links

The Unique SEO Content Strategy to Rank #1 with Zero Links

We keep hearing that content is king. Write great content, content here, content there. But how true is that statement? Is there such a thing as an SEO Content Strategy that you can use to rank #1 with zero backlinks?



Like most answers in SEO, this one is also ‘it depends’.


Keep reading and I’ll explain exactly why.


While you might not be able to get to position one without any backlinks for a highly competitive keyword, you’ll definitely be able to increase your rankings in Google just by optimizing your content and having in place a great SEO content strategy. 


By the end of this blog post, you’ll have a better understanding of how Google treats links and content and you’ll get the SEO Content Strategy that might help rank #1 on Google with zero backlinks.


Can I Really Rank #1 with Zero Links?
Why Is Google Pushing More Weight to the Content Ranking Factor?
Step-by-step SEO Content Strategy to Rank #1 with Zero Links

Identify Your Primary Audience and Their Pain Points
Perform an In-depth Keyword Research & Audit
Make a List of the Keywords You Can Realistically Dominate
Analyze the Search Intent of Your Keywords
Optimize Landing Pages / Per Keyword & Per Search Intent
Write Content That Stands Out and Is Share Worthy
Launch & Share Your Content with Key Influencers
Monitor How Your Content Is Performing
Update Your Content Once in a While


1. Can I Really Rank #1 with Zero Links?

Not long ago we performed a lot of searches for pharma, gambling and skincare keywords, in a nutshell on highly competitive keywords and niches. 


Our bet was to figure out if there are pages within these niches ranking based on high quality content only. 


As you can see in the screenshot below taken from cognitiveSEO’s Content Optimizer, you can see that there are many pages with no or just a few links but highly optimized content, that rank really well. 


Of course, we cannot answer to this question with a simple yes or no, yet, with Google giving so much weight to content lately, we might say that a good SEO content strategy can help you out big time.


Of course, it depends based on what you mean by rankings and it depends on what you mean by links.


For example, someone might claim they rank without any links, but what are they ranking for?


Are they ranking for a high competition, high search volume keyword, or a long tail, low competition and low search volume one?


Some time ago, Steven Kang started a contest in the SEO Signals Facebook Group, with a prize pool of $1000, to whoever could find or pinpoint a website that ranked #1 on Google with no backlinks.



However, the rules for this contest were very specific:


There can be no external backlinks present. Any single external backlink to the domain discovered will disqualify the site.
The site can have internal links since some claim internal linking shouldn’t count for such claim.
The site must be written in English.


One year after, the contest is still available. Nobody has won it yet.



By the looks of it… it seems that it’s difficult to rank on Google without backlinks.


However, in one case a website was eliminated and it had backlinks only from Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.



While those are indeed backlinks, almost every website has them and they don’t pass as much value as a contextual link from a high quality, relevant website.


Other contestants have said that the contest is not fair, as they did not buy or build the links, but they simply came naturally, just as Google wants.


However… they’re still links, aren’t they?


The contest therefore excludes all links, not only purchased, built or bought ones. Considering this, Social Media is also excluded and probably any other form of online promotion.


So when it comes to ranking with zero links… Are you talking about links to that specific web page, or links to the entire domain?


Are you talking about a made-up keyword with no search volume whatsoever, or about a profitable, competitive, highly searched for keyword with a great market value?


If you’re trying to rank for a very competitive keyword, where the top-ranking domains have thousands of backlinks pointing to them… tough luck!


The truth is that beside a solid SEO content strategy, links still matter and if your competition is building, buying or obtaining backlinks naturally, you’ll have a difficult time ranking #1 with zero backlinks.


But if the competition doesn’t have many backlinks either, it is possible to outrank them, even without links, in some cases.


There are many examples of websites which outrank their competition with fewer backlinks.


For example, we’re outranking Moz for the keyword “does meta description affect seo” although we only have 23 referring domains, while Moz’s page has over 1500.


For another similar phrase, “does meta description matter”, another website is ranking very well, with only 1 referring domain.


However, in both cases the results are an answer box. If you remember, some time ago you could have the answer box position and another spot. 


Luckily, when Google changed this and only let you keep one or the other, they let us have the answer box.



These are pretty specific keywords and for the most competitive phrase, “meta description”, Moz still dominates the top spot.


Ranking with just a few backlinks to a web page is possible, if you have the right content.


But it’s probably necessary to have at least some backlinks pointing to your domain.


The internet doesn’t really work well without links. Search engines use links to crawl the entire web.


It’s also true that without any backlinks pointing to your domain, Google will have a hard time crawling and indexing your site.


However, keep in mind that backlinks on their own won’t do very much if the content doesn’t satisfy the users. They can even do harm.


After the Penguin updates, it was pretty clear Google was set to fight back against link spam.


Maybe the top spot isn’t achievable with absolutely zero links, but you don’t need the top spot to increase your search traffic.


You can greatly improve rankings in Google simply by optimizing your content even for competitive, high search volume keywords.


Many other SEOs and content marketers have improved their rankings following this OnPage SEO technique.


If you stick around, I’ll show you exactly how you can do it, too.


But first, let’s see why Google is pushing away from backlinks and more towards content.

2. Why Is Google Pushing More Weight to the Content Ranking Factor?


Back in 2017, during our numerous tests, we found a big correlation between the Content Performance score we had developed and rankings.


We repeated the test after 2 years, in 2019 and it seemed that content is even more important now.

The algorithm we use is complex, using a mix of AI technologies and things such as LSI and Flesch–Kincaid to determine what makes a piece of content rank high.

Attempts to remove backlinks from the algorithms have been made before.


Why? Mostly because of spam. As long as backlinks are a ranking signal, people will try to abuse them.


In 2013, Yandex, the Russian search engine, removed backlinks from their algorithm in an attempt to stop link spam.


Although it only took effect in the Moscow local search results and only for commercial queries, the change was short lived, as they brought links back only a year after.


Officials at Yandex stated that the change was “quite successful technologically”, but people still bought links and spammed the web regardless, so they decided to bring them back.


However, they brought them back with a substantial change: The links would not only be a positive ranking signal, but also a negative one, just like with Google’s Penguin update.


Could it be that the officials at Yandex are not willing to admit their failure? Maybe, who knows.


But if it was a success, couldn’t they just use spammy links as a negative signal only? Without using other links as a positive one?


Google has also tested rankings without backlinks in their algorithm.



However, they came to the conclusion that the results look much better when backlinks are a ranking signal.


Unfortunately, there are other issues with backlinks other than buying them.


Take a look at Negative SEO, for example. Google claims they can spot and ignore these types of links with Penguin 4.0, but is it really possible?


I’m not convinced. I’ve seen many cases in which websites have a drop in traffic immediately after an unnatural spike in backlinks clearly built by others.


You’d think that people engaging in Negative SEO will try to mimic link building… but that might also result in positive results for the target.


So, these attacks are usually very obvious. Pure spam. And Google still penalized the site.


So, it’s obvious they have a hard time dealing with all this link trading and spam.


This, combined with the constant effort from SEOs to obtain backlinks in unnatural ways, has pushed Google into wanting to back away from backlinks.


Backlinks are something you don’t have much control over. Yet, an SEO content strategy you can control.


With algorithm updates such as Penguin (which penalizes spammy links) and Panda (which penalizes spammy content), Google shows us it’s putting more weight on content.



But although search engines don’t like them, it seems like links are still going to stick around for a while, as Matt Cutts states in the video above.


However, with AI software that can also write content like humans getting better and better every day…


It’s hard to tell where this will go.


We might have the same issue as with links, with AI written websites constantly trying to compete to the top.


It would be a battle of the algorithms… one in which users won’t have a say.


We could bring the law into the equation, but that would spark a whole new lot of bigger and more complex issues.


However, I could see how in the future, the law would require you to specify that the content is written by a robot and not by a human.


While AI written content can be used for good, it can also be used for harm, from the relatively harmless blackhat SEOs to the highly harmful fake news outlets.



We’ve known for a long time that content was an important ranking factor, but now we also wanted to know why.


Google was moving away from backlinks (our tool and marketing strategy was mostly built around backlinks) so investing in this was in our own interest.


So let’s take a look at how exactly you can improve your rankings in Google without any link building, only by optimizing your content.

3. The Step-by-Step SEO Content Strategy to Rank #1 with No Links


OK. Now you know that it’s possible to rank without links in some situations and also why Google puts more and more weight on the content side of SEO.


You also know that backlinks are something you don’t have complete control over.


But how exactly do you rank without links? What step-by-step SEO content strategy can you apply to succeed?


Here are the steps you need to follow to have a chance on ranking without links.

3.1. Identify your Primary Audience and Their Pain Points


The first think you should do before writing anything is identifying your target audience.


You can start with what’s top of mind and build from there.


Who would be interested in your content and how can you make your content appeal to them?


Who are your clients? How old are they? Who are their friends? Where do they hang? How do they talk?


It’s easier to do this when you already have some clients or readers. Just look at your best clients and readers so far.


Who’s buying from you? Who’s reviewing on products? Who’s commenting on your blog and social media profiles?


If you’re just starting out and have no idea… then consider doing a market research.


I know it sounds complex, but you can start by simply creating a Google Form and sharing it on a couple of Facebook Groups, asking for help.


Sure, it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.



Don’t focus on features with your product but on benefits. Don’t think in terms of needs but in terms of wants. Want is stronger than need.


And don’t seek answers from your research but feelings and emotions which you can then use to convince them to buy.


That’s what you want to ultimately address and that’s what will get you sales / engagement.


This step is probably more useful for products and commercial keywords and less for informational queries.


However, you can still address things such as the tone of voice for your audience.


You can also try to create a persona of your ideal customer / reader and try to write as if you were speaking directly to that person.

3.2. Perform an In-depth Keyword Research & Audit


The really important step when trying to optimize content is always keyword research.


What are you targeting now?


You can use the Google Search Console to easily determine the keyword you’re already ranking for.



Can you improve this existing content? Or should you target new keywords? These are questions you should ask yourself when putting together your SEO content strategy. 


You can also use the CognitiveSEO Keyword Explorer to identify new topics you can target.



Once you’re done, map out these keywords into an excel file and sort them out by relevance and importance.

3.3. Make a List of the Keywords You Can Realistically Dominate


Now comes the more difficult part.


For which of those keywords can you realistically rank better?


After you’ve determined a list of keywords you’ll go after, you have to take a look at two things:


Content Performance and Domain Performance.


You can use the Ranking Analysis section of the Content Optimizer Tool.



While the Content Performance is something that we have control over and will improve in a future step, backlinks aren’t something we have that much control over.


So you want to see websites with as few referring domains as possible compared to your site (which you can check with the Site Explorer).


Of course, if you see a lower content score and/or word count, those are also good indicators that it will be easier to improve your content.

3.4. Analyze the Search Intent of Your Keywords


Search intent and user experience are very important. It’s the key metric in 2020 and onward.


If you don’t match the search intent well, users will have a bad experience on your website.


One of the best examples of search intent is transactional vs. informational.


Given the keyword “men’s running shoes”, eCommerce websites will tend to rank better.


However, for a keyword such as “best running shoes for men”, reviews and buyer’s guides will tend to rank better.


People are simply looking for different types of content on each of those keywords.


What you ultimately want to figure out is what your user is looking for when searching for a particular query and accessing your website.


For this blog post I know that there are two possible intents that are very closely related to one another: “can you rank with zero backlinks” & “how to do it”. My article simply appeals to those needs.


Knowing my audience in general, I know that I want to provide proof for the first group, and step-by-step tutorials for the second.


A good way of analyzing search intent is to look at what’s already ranking well.


You know they’re already doing something well, since they’re ranking.


If you can spot some gaps you can fill, such as questions asked in the comments that remain unanswered in the content itself, that’s even better.


Did you know?


The Content Optimizer & Keyword Tool from cognitiveSEO automatically classifies the search intent for you. 

You just need to type in the keyword you are interested in optimizing for, and the tool does most of the job for you. The tool performs keyword research, it will tell you what is the user search intent, how popular is that keyword, how difficult it is to rank on it, and cream of the crop: what it takes to rank on that keyword, meaning, what are the exact keywords and links that boosted that page in the top of the search results. 


3.5. Optimize Landing Pages / Per Keyword & Per Search Intent


On with the actual optimization. Don’t worry, it’s probably the easiest step.


First, consider that it’s always best to optimize for a single main keyword and a single search intent per page.


You can sometimes combine very similar keywords, but try as much as possible to stick to the same search intent.


Remember, if the search engine results are similar for these keywords, they probably have a similar search intent as well.


You should keep in mind that writing naturally is the best way to go.


Open the Content Assistant section and hit Start Optimizing.


It’s easier to work on something you’ve already written, but you can also start from scratch. However, you’ll have to write at least a title for the tool to work.


You can also import a URL if your content is already live.


Then, just click Check Score, the tool will analyze your content, tell you the score and recommend you some keyword ideas.



The idea is to add those keywords into your blog post. However, don’t just throw them in, or else you’ll end up with a Keyword Stuffing warning.


The keywords with dots on their left are the most important ones. You should be using them multiple times throughout your content.


The idea is to think of these keywords as subtopics or areas of interest that you should cover in your content.


If a keyword that the tool recommends doesn’t seem to fit or has grammar mistakes in it, don’t force it in.


You don’t need a 100% score. The tool will pinpoint how much you need to reach.


However, you can also try doing it in phases. First, optimize for a few points above the average, then update your content after a few weeks to the recommended score.

3.6. Write Content That Stands Out and Is Share Worthy


A great way to do this is to write content about complex questions that are very often asked in your industry, or case studies.


For example, this article about meta descriptions affect SEO or not has been linked to multiple times by other SEO blogs trying to make a quick point without getting into too much detail.


Also, make sure you have great Titles, Headlines and Descriptions.


Optimize your titles with keywords for SEO, but also keep them catchy for Social Media.


You can use the Open Graph property to set different titles for SEO and Social Media


Long content tends to perform better in organic search results.


When people search for something, you already know they are interested in it. That’s why SEM has such a high conversion rate and people spend time reading in depth articles.


You can look at the top ranking search results for your keyword in the Ranking Analysis section of our Content Optimizer Tool.



For this particular keyword, you can see that the top ranking content is between 2500 and 5000 words on average, although we can even see articles with only 1800 words in top 10.


Usually, it’s a good idea to go for at least the top 10 average plus a few hundred words, just to be sure. But it’s not really about quantity, it’s about quality.


However, you’ll probably not be able to fit all the depth required for this particular topic in just 200 words, at least compared to the competitors.


Nevertheless, take this content length thing with a grain of salt. While long form content performs better in search, shorter content might perform better on social media.


On Social Media, people are browsing different things and not really looking for a particular topic, so they might prefer things straight and to the point.

3.7. Launch & Share Your Content with Key Influencers


Once you’ve written and published your content, it’s time to promote it. This should be an important part of your SEO content strategy.


We made a study a few years ago on weather social signals influence rankings and it seems that a strong presence on social networks is correlated with better rankings.



Once you have your content live, it’s time to share it with the appropriate influencers.


Who are these influencers? Well, people who have a following which matches your target audience.


If they don’t hear about your content… they can’t share it or talk about it.


It’s also a good idea that the influencers themselves are interested or resonate in the topic and the way you present it.


One of the even more advanced SEO strategies is to plan your content ahead.


And by this I don’t mean having an editorial calendar, but actually targeting influencers beforehand, analyzing them and writing something that you already know they will be willing to share.


You’ll have to be persuasive and it’s also a good idea to build trust with them beforehand, by sharing their content and commenting on it or engaging with them.


I know it sounds evil and manipulative and you can be if your sole interest is only to get what you want, but being genuine and truly offering value in exchange usually works best.


I can recall the easiest response I have ever got. It was from a person named Reiner, which reminded me of a character in the anime show Attack on Titan.



Luckily, he did see the anime, so we how now had a personal connection and he was willing to give me a hand.



Another easy-to-implement technique is to ask for quotes from experts in your industry or take interviews.


Two examples are my article about SEO mistakes and my colleague Andreea’s article about SEO tips from 22 experts.


While we offered a lot of value, it’s true that we also used the guests’ reputation to leverage our content’s reach.


Of course, it’s not guaranteed to work, but most of them will gladly share the content on their social profiles or blogs.


To find influencers, you can use a tool such as Brand Mentions.


You can spy on your competitors and see which influencers have mentioned their content.



Then, engage with them and try to build relationships.

3.8. Monitor How Your Content Is Performing


You should make sure you’re able to track your progress if you want to know how successful your modifications were.


The Google Search Console is a great way of monitoring organic search traffic and positions.


However, the data there might sometimes be a little confusing and hard to filter.


You might also be interested in a third party tool, such as our Rank Tracker.



Moreover, not all traffic comes from Google, so you might also want a tool such as Google Analytics to monitor other traffic sources.


You can also try a tool such as Brand Mentions to monitor mentions about your brand and content on Social Media and the internet.


To precisely monitor the effectiveness of this OnPage SEO technique, make sure you don’t make any other major changes to the website.

3.9. Update Your Content Once in a While


Google loves fresh content. That’s why updating it from time to time should be part of your SEO content strategy.


Our method works really well for old content as well, so don’t just focus on new content.


We’ve improved many of our old blog posts using the Content Optimizer Tool.


In fact, we did it on a mass scale, with pretty good results.


Although some of the articles did lose a couple of rankings instead of gaining them, the overall process was a success, both in terms of rankings and traffic.



One of the articles we’ve constantly updated over the time is our Google Easter Eggs article, which is one of our top performing piece of content, although not directly related to SEO. 


It’s a good idea to check the content’s score from time to time to see if it’s still in good shape.


The Content Performance score is relative. This means that as other articles improve, your score might drop over time.


However, even if the score is still really good, don’t try to trick Google by simply changing the date to make your content look fresh.


It’s best if you actually review the content and make a few improvements / modifications.



To get high ranks, the focus shouldn’t be on backlinks, but on a solid SEO content strategy. Get your content under the right people’s eyes, and you’ll see the links pouring in.


Applying this SEO content strategy can help you easily rank without going through the hassle of obtaining links. Attack the content creation and promotion from the right angle and backlinks will come naturally.


The truth is, you don’t need backlinks for every article. You just need a handful of articles that bring in the links to grow the authority of your domain.


Then you can use those links to pass that authority to all your articles, making it easier to rank everywhere.


So, let us know in the comments section below: Do you consider it’s possible to rank a page without any backlinks? Have you every managed to rank one on a decent search volume keyword? Do you know any content marketers at all able to rank websites on Google without backlinks? What other marketing strategy have you used to rank your content except building links?


The post The Unique SEO Content Strategy to Rank #1 with Zero Links appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

How to Build Links Using Google Alerts

Posted by on Jun 30, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Build Links Using Google Alerts

How to Build Links Using Google Alerts

Link building is hard. But did you know that Google makes it easier for you?

Seriously… they do make it easier because they provide you with free tools.

No, I’m not talking about the ones you already use like Google Search Console and Google Analytics

They actually have tons of other tools. Some you may have heard of, but I bet you don’t use them.

And today I am going to show you how you can build links using Google Alerts.

What is Google Alerts?

As the saying goes, if it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist.

Google is the most popular search engine in the world. Their database contains hundreds of billions of web pages and is over 100,000,000 gigabytes in size.

Because of their massive size, they are able to crawl web pages more frequently than any SEO tool including my own, Ubersuggest. This is precisely why you want to start using Google Alerts to build links.

So, what is Google Alerts?

As I mentioned above, they have a bigger database of web pages than any other link building or SEO tool. So, you’ll want to use their database to find easy link opportunities and ideally without wasting time digging through billions or even thousands of web pages.

Google Alerts allows you to create notifications on any subject, topic, or keyword.

So, when a new web page talks about anything that could be an easy link opportunity, you’ll get notified in an email.

Just like this one…

So, let’s set it all up step by step so you can get some backlinks.

How to set up Google Alerts

First, I want you to go here.

You’ll see a screen that looks like this (make sure you sign in at the top right).

I want you to type in your domain name without the www or the https part.

In my case, I would type in:

You may see an alert preview like the one above, but if you have a newer site you probably won’t see any results, which is fine.

Then I want you to click on the “Show Options” link next to the “Create Alert” button.

Your settings should match mine:

How often – at most once a daySources – Blogs, Web (select those 2 options, you don’t want news as an option as it tends to create more irrelevant results and we’ve found that it is harder to get news sites to link back to you)Language – English (or the language you are targeting)Region – any region (or you can select the country you are targeting although I recommend picking “any region”)How many – all resultsDeliver to – should be your email.

And then click “Create Alert.”

Up to once a day, you’ll get an email with a list of pages that mentions your website or domain.

I want you to repeat the process and create an alert for the following items:

Your domain – you should have just done this.Brand name – in my case I would create an alert for “Neil Patel.”Product names – if you are selling any services or products you can create an alert around that. In my case, I would create an alert for “Ubersuggest.”Industry terms – create alerts for anything related to your industry. When people are talking about your space, it is an easy link opportunity. In my case, I would create alerts for the terms: digital marketing, online marketing, and SEO.Your email address – create an alert anytime someone gives out your email. Again, another easy link opportunity.

Here’s what mine looks like:

You’ll also notice for all of my two-word phrases I have quotation marks around them.

For example, I would not create an alert for: Neil Patel

But, I would create an alert for: “Neil Patel”

The reason being is that alerts for two-word phrases without quotes aren’t as relevant. For example, here are some alerts from the term: online marketing.

When I use quotes, here are the results.

See the difference?

Getting links

Now that you have alerts set up, it is time to get links.

Keep in mind that when you get an alert email, someone could have already linked to you. So, not every alert will be a link building opportunity, but many will be.

Typically, more than half will be opportunities.

Depending on the alert type, some will be easier than others. So, let’s go over how to convert each opportunity into a link.

Your domain

You’ll find that a good portion of the mentions of your domain will contain a link back to your site.

For those, you don’t have to do anything as you’ve already got a link. 🙂

For the ones that aren’t linking to you, I want you to send the following email to the webmaster…

Subject: Did you make a mistake?

Hey [insert first name],

First off, I just wanted to say thanks for mentioning [insert your domain] in this article [insert a link to the URL that mentions your domain].

I know you are busy so I will just cut to the chase.

Would you mind hotlinking my domain to my website? I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but that extra traffic really helps small companies like mine.


[insert your name]

PS: Let me know if I can do anything for you.

Brand name

When it comes to brand names, it is a 50/50 shot. Roughly half the people will link to you when they mention your brand and the other half won’t.

For the ones that didn’t, send them this email:

Subject: You forgot to do this

Hey [insert first name],

I’m flattered.

Thank you for mentioning [insert your brand name] in your article on [insert the title of their article].

[insert the URL of their article]

You really made my day with that.

Again, thank you!

I feel bad doing this because you already mentioned us, but it would mean the world to me if you also linked our name to our site.

Would you mind doing that?

Sorry to bug you.

[insert your name]

PS: Let me know if I can do anything for you.

Product names

With product names, usually 70% to 80% of the websites will be linking back to you and the rest not. For the ones that don’t, send them an email similar to this:

Subject: Did you mean to do this?

Hey [insert their first name],

I just wanted to take a minute to tell you how much I appreciate that you mentioned [insert your brand name] here [insert the URL of the webpage that mentions your product].

Seriously, thank you!

Now, I feel bad doing this, but would you mind hotlinking [insert your product name] to this page on our website where people can find the product [insert the URL on your site that covers the product]?

Sorry to bug you.

And again, thank you for mentioning us. It really means a lot.

[insert your name]

PS: Let me know if I can do anything for you.

Your email address

Now this one is rare as most people won’t be publishing your email address.

And when they do, they usually aren’t linking to you.

If you try to get them to link the email address, you will find it hard. But what’s easier is to get them to remove your email address and link to your contact page instead.

Here’s the email template I use for this.

Subject: Privacy issue

Hey [insert their first name],

I noticed you mentioned our email address, [insert your email address], on this page [insert the page they mentioned your email on].

Would you mind mentioning and linking to our contact page instead [insert your contact page URL]?

For privacy reasons, I would rather have people get in touch with us through that page instead of our email.

Thanks for your time.

[insert your name]

You also notice that in this template I didn’t include the PS at the bottom. The PS typically helps boost your success ratio, but when it comes to this email, you want to be a bit more firm as it is related to your privacy.

You ideally want the link and fewer people sharing your email because then you’ll have to deal with a ton of spam messages.

Industry terms

In almost all cases, alerts that contain industry terms won’t be linking to you. And this group will also be the largest number of results you get with each alert email.

You’ll have to go through each alert and look at the context of the web page.

If they are talking about something that you have already covered on your website and did more in-depth than they have, there is a good chance you can convince them to link to you.

For example, if there is an article about SEO and they mention how you need to build links, but they don’t go into how to build links, I would email the site owner pointing to this article as it breaks down how to build links.

Here is the type of email I would send:

Subject: Some feedback for you

Hey [insert their first name],

Love your article on [insert the topic of their article] [insert the URL of their article].

I just have one piece of feedback for you (hope you don’t get offended), but you mention [insert the subject they mention that you go more in-depth on within your own site], but you didn’t go too in-depth on it.

I think if you adjusted that it would provide a lot more value to your readers.

Or if you don’t have the time to, I already have an article on it here [insert the URL on your site where you go in-depth on that topic] that you could just link to.

Let me know your thoughts.

[insert your name]

PS: Let me know if I can do anything for you.

How do I get in touch?

Now that you know what kind of emails to send depending on the alert you receive, you’ll have to, of course, get in touch with the site owner.

So how do you find their email address?

Well, the simplest way is to go to their contact page and see if their email is there or if they have a contact form.

You can also check out their terms of service or privacy policy.

Another option is to use tools like Hunter. Just type in a domain name into Hunter and you’ll see a list of people you can contact.

Their free plan allows 50 requests per month, which should be enough to get you started.


Google Alerts is an easy way to build links so I would start with that.

What’s beautiful about it is that you’ll get notified of opportunities. This will save you a lot of time.

And if you find yourself with a bit of extra time, I recommend one more strategy to build links.

Go here and put in your competition’s URL.

Once you hit “search” you’ll see a report that looks something like this:

These are all of the websites linking to your competition. What’s interesting about this list is that it is sorted.

The results at the top have more authority, in which they typically boost SEO rankings more than the ones at the bottom of the list.

You’ll want to go through the list, click on each site, and see if it makes sense to reach out to that website and ask them to link to you.

Typically, if you have similar content to your competition that is more thorough, it’s possible to convince someone to link to you. You’ll have to send them emails like the one below…

Hey [insert their first name],

Question for you…

How do you think it makes you look to your readers when you link to another site that doesn’t really help them?

It kind of makes you look bad and maybe even lose a little bit of trust with your readers, right?

In this article [insert the URL on their site], you link out to [insert the competition’s URL].

The article you are linking to doesn’t cover [insert the areas the competition missed].

I actually have an article [insert your article URL] that covers [insert what you cover that the competition doesn’t and why it benefits readers more].

If you aren’t interested in linking to us no worries. I just know that you care about your readers and you want to do the best for them.


[insert your name]

PS: Let me know if I can do anything for you.

If you follow the steps above, you’ll start building links.

It isn’t that hard and you can do it. You just have to be willing to put in the time and not get discouraged if you send out a handful of emails and no one links back to you.

Just think of your email as a sales pitch and it may not be perfect the first time… so you may have to modify and adjust it.

If you have any questions on the steps or are confused about anything, just leave a comment below.

The post How to Build Links Using Google Alerts appeared first on Neil Patel.