SEO Articles

Are Web Directories Still Relevant for SEO in 2020?

Web Directories have been the norm for the world wide web and for search engine optimization for a long time. But are they still relevant in this age of advanced AI Google Updates?

 

Well, as Head of Web SPAM at Google John Mueller said, “in general, no”. But the key words in that answer are “in general”. That’s the usual answer we get from John and, as much as we’d like to say we will dissect it, the truth is that we can only be speculating and interpreting things based on own knowledge and experience.

 

Are_Web_Directories_Still_Relevant_for_SEO2020

 

Let’s jump to it and find out whether web directories are still useful for SEO in 2020.

 

  1. What Are Web Directories Really?
    1. Why Directories Were Created
    2. Why Directories Died
    3. The Web Directory Legacy
  2. Do Web Directories Still Work for SEO in 2020?
    1. The Problem With Today’s Directories
    2. Local SEO & Directory Listings
    3. Directories That Are Still Good
    4. Why Do We Still Have Web Directories?
  3. Should You Disavow Directory Links?
 

What Are Web Directories Really?

 

In order to better understand why directories work or not in 2020 we have to create a background for them. Like an introduction.

 

Most people probably think of directories as just sites that list other sites. While that’s true, the reality is that they’re much more.

 

Before modern search engines, such as Google, web directories were THE INTERNET.

 

Why Web Directories Were Created

 

In the very early days of the internet, only a few people had websites. Internet connections were uncommon and there wasn’t much profit to be made out of it. Still, different websites emerged, in different niches.

 

However, you had to actually remember the domain names in order to access those websites, as there was no Google.

 

But, as the internet grew, more websites started showing up. Soon enough, people couldn’t remember all those names. But some clever guys from Yahoo! had the brilliant idea to store the best website into something they called a web directory.

 

yahoo web directory seo

 

At first, only a few websites were listed, the most ‘popular’ ones or the ones that they thought were worthy of being listed. This way, you would only have to remember one website (Yahoo!) if you wanted to find all the other good sites.

 

At first, the sites were listed alphabetically but, as the number grew, they started getting listed under categories and subcategories. This way it was easier for users to find what they needed.

 

Web directories made money out of selling advertising space or boosting certain results in exchange for a fee.

 

Why Web Directories Died

 

Unfortunately, when the number of sites started getting way too high, people soon realized it wasn’t so convenient to browse through all those categories. It would take too much time and, ultimately, the best results were mixed up with the less good ones.

 

This is how search engines appeared. It was by far more convenient to type in a keyword and get a list of top results than to browse through categories trying to figure out which website is the best.

 

web directories died

 

The search engines worked on algorithms, just as they do now (although not as complex). Depending on the keywords in the title and other factors, some sites would rank better than others.

 

Yahoo! had its own search engine. However, it is no secret that Google took the lead because of their improved algorithm, but this isn’t the only reason why Google eventually took the lead. Yahoo! was a giant back then, in the days of Yahoo! Mail, News, Answers and Messenger, but a number of bad decisions made them fade out.

 

The Web Directory Legacy

 

Even though web directories dropped dramatically in popularity, people still used them. But not for what they were supposed to used them.

 

As much as people say that web directories are still useful, the truth is that people have been using them merely for link building and online marketing for a long time.

 

I’m 25 now and I’ve been using a computer since I was 6. My first contact with the internet was in 2002 and I can’t recall ever browsing on a web directory. I remember Yahoo! and Google. I remember ODC ,DC++ and other popular hubs. I remember Floppy disks with drivers. But I don’t remember web directories.

 

In fact, my first contact with web directories was back in 2013, when I first started learning about SEO. I had probably ended up on similar websites before, but not solely for searching a specific website.

 

Although the truth was that web directories weren’t of interest to the general public, new web directories kept popping up.

 

There were of course, useful directories, such as business listings (Yellow Pages), which people visited if they wanted to search for a particular business (name, phone, address, legal details, etc.).

 

There were also niche directories, which only listed websites in a particular field. Those might have got some organic traffic and potential customers when people searched for things like “list of XYZ websites”.

 

But the truth is that, most of the time, web directories were only there because links brought better rankings. People found ways to get listed on as many directories as they could, therefore destroying the purpose of a directory. Even paid directories were full of SPAM.

 

Fees were usually low, ranging from $5 to $20 if you wanted to get a listing on the homepage. However, most of the time that wouldn’t bring much more traffic to your site, since most of the users visiting web directories were SEOs trying to build links.

 

I’m not afraid to say that I only visited web directories for link building purposes. Everybody was doing it and it worked. It was easy and convenient.

 

But the question is… do they still work now?

 

Do Web Directories Still Work for SEO in 2020?

 

In a local SEO social media group somebody tried to prove a point by showing us a #1 result for a keyword, claiming that he had only built 2 directory links to that page and it’s now #1.

 

He was trying to attack us “white hats” that always state web directories don’t work when, in fact, he had proof that they do. Only problem was the keyword he was ranking for had virtually 0 searches and the competition was basically inexistent.

 

Did the web directory links actually helped him to rank better in Google’s search results? Probably… Did he prove any points? Definitely not.

 

Web Directories probably still have a small impact on your rankings, just like any other site that links to you and passes Page Rank. However, because they’ve been abused as an SEO tactic over the years, Google penalizes people that use web directories. With the rise of Penguin 4.0, many of them are probably ignored.

 

Or, as John Mueller (the current Head of Web SPAM @ Google) said:

 

 

Bu that answer can be interpreted in very many ways. Let’s see first why web directories got such a bad reputation in SEO.

 

Web Directories’ Main Issues for SEO

 

I’ve already discussed how web directories don’t really provide much value as users don’t really use them for anything other than SEO.

 

However, the story doesn’t end there:

 

Web directories got spammy & tricky: As people always want the quick way, they started automating processes. With more automation, more SPAM came along. These types of things are inconvenient for Google because they waste a lot of resources. Don’t you just hate spam comments? I know I do.

 

Google eventually figured out that the best way to deal with this was to penalize people that would use directories as a way of improving their rankings. So when important updates such as Penguin started to roll out, web directories had the perfect opportunity to make money.

 

Although some websites were listed for free, now that Google was penalizing websites for spammy link profiles, some web directories asked for removal fees.

 

Web directories are not managed anymore: Even if you do find a good web directory, chances are that nobody is going to answer you.

 

A couple of years ago, I was in the process of building links for someone. Advertorials were too expensive for his budget and all their competitors had the directory links. Without exception. They ranked well, so I thought I’d better try it at least.

 

After a few days of efforts, it was pretty clear that it won’t work. Not because Google penalized me or anything, but because the directory sites either had errors on their submission forms or nobody replied/approved my sites.

 

Since they don’t make as much money as they used to, people have stopped putting effort into managing them.

 

Web directories are not efficient: Even if you manage to get some business directory listings, they will probably have a very little impact, if not none at all.

 

Your time is better spent creating content and engaging with your audience. 1-2 links won’t help at all and scaling this is risky and can result in penalties.

 

Google penalizes you: Of course, the biggest issue with web directories these days is that your website can get penalized if it tries to trick the Google algorithms.

 

Building links in mass, be it through web directories, blog commenting, article submission, guest posting, you name it, is risky and can get your site in trouble.

 

Now I’m not saying that you’re going to be penalized if you submit your site to a directory. By all means, if you find an interesting site that also happens to have a list of other interesting sites, go for it!

 

But it’s a good idea to check their background a little bit. What’s their domain authority? Is their backlink profile spammy? Are they linking to quality websites or a bunch of phishing potholes full of malware?

 

In other words, does that website bring any value at all to the internet or for any users? Is it in any way relevant to your site? If the answer is no, then you should definitely stay away from it.

 

Local SEO & Directory Listings

 

When it comes to local, it’s probably the only field where people actually still visit renowned “directories” to find a good location.

 

For example, Google My Business is considered to be a web business directory. To some extent, it is. It lists businesses. However, it’s turning more and more into a search engine itself. The rankings are done based on algorithms.

 

google my business directory

Local Search Listings | Google My Business

 

People do browse and look for reviews, but most of them just stick with the top businesses (the ones that get listed first by Google My Business on local search and Google Maps) because they are, usually, the best results.

 

When it comes to local SEO, it does help if your NAP details (name, address, phone) are listed on multiple websites. However, title, distance from the user and reviews probably play a more important role.

 

The key thing with NAP is consistency. Google might have some issues if you keep having a mixture of different names, phones and addresses all over the place.

 

However, let’s all be honest that citations here and there aren’t the key to local search SEO success. It’s not that they don’t help (they do, you get brand visibility) but whenever you have a citation, you should accompany it with a backlink.

 

Local business directories are a great start. For example, you might find sites such as “yourcitynews.xyz” that have a section called “Great Locations in Our City”. If you can list your local business there, that’s great because the relevancy comes from the local orientation of the website itself. Most news will be about your city, which means your business should be there to rank better in that particular city.

 

If you can’t find a local business directory, you can also find these types of backlink opportunities with BrandMentions. This tool monitors when your name/brand is mentioned on the web. You can then engage with people and build relationships (and also ask for a backlink in case they haven’t made one).

 

Directories That Are Still Good

 

Now obviously you’re probably asking “Hey, where can I still find good web directories if all are bad?”

 

Well… there are some. This isn’t really the purpose of this article, but I’ll only list a few so that you get an idea how modern, useful web directories actually look like.

 

White Hat SEOs will probably jump and say “How can you recommend profile link building or any sort of web directory link?”

 

web directories bad for seo

 

The key word here is RELEVANCY. If the listing is relevant to your site, it is going to help you. 

 

I don’t want you to take “web directories are bad” for granted and miss an opportunity that might actually be helpful to you.

 

Many search engine optimization experts react badly to blog commenting or forum posts, because they know it doesn’t work. However, blog comments are still the fuel of blogs. Forums are still popular in industries such as music, automotive, health and even fashion.

 

Matthew Woodward built an award winning blog and much of his direct and organic traffic was thanks to the posts he made in the BlackHat Forums. Just don’t spam. Be relevant. Be useful.

 

An example of good directories were the local sites that might have listings. I can’t really give a specific example, but I hope you get the point. If they have an active social media account, post from time to time and bring in some traffic, you can try to list your local business there.

 

It all comes down to relevancy. Is the listing relevant to your scope/niche? If yes, go for it!

 

Here I can give a specific example. SoundCloud is a directory for musicians, for example. If you’re a musician, you can get a profile backlink from your SoundCloud profile. Another similar example is last.fm.

 

Is this spammy? It could be if you just create a profile and leave it like that. But if you’re a musician, maybe it also makes sense to post on your SoundCloud account from time to time, build an audience there and actually send some traffic to your site through that link and maybe even get some potential customers.

 

Other good local listing sites are Yelp or maybe Yellow Pages. Although Google has heavily bashed them because they’re evil, it’s still a good place to list your business.

 

Why Do We Still Have Web Directories?

 

Most businesses, such as Moz or Yahoo, have closed their directories (Dmoz and Yahoo Directory).

 

The truth is probably that the web is still full of directories because of low maintenance costs (hosting and domain).

 

Many directories if not all lack moderators (which actually cost money), but still probably make some small amounts of revenue from advertising.

 

This whole article idea started from us observing these weird anchor texts such as “.2523765 yourdomain.com” in our tool for multiple clients. You might see these anchor texts in your cognitiveSEO dashboard as well.

 

They’re generated by The Globe network, a sort of directory that crawls and indexes websites by simply linking to them on pages which contain thousands of external links. The network is owned by Ascio Technologies Inc (a domain registrar). Luckily, I’ve looked at their backlink profile and they also have the spammy anchor texts, so at least it’s fair.

 

Their model is different. They want to sell the entire network of sites for millions of dollars. They present it as some sort of world wide web, the most visited site on the planet (which obviously, it isn’t). I’m not sure how old this thing is or how it started, but there’s a BlackHat Forum thread about the network where you can read more about this.

 

Should You Disavow Directory Links?

 

One thing that people rush in to do is disavow links that they think Google might consider spammy or that might get their websites penalized.

 

This is an entire topic to discuss and I really recommend that you read my article about disavowing links.

 

However, just to give you a short answer, in general, it’s a good idea not to play with the disavow tool unless you’re sure your site has been penalized and you have isolated the reason to be the link profile, after you’ve checked and excluded everything else.

 

For example, most of The Globe network, the site I’ve mentioned above, isn’t even indexed in Google, so it doesn’t really make any sense disavowing those links, since Google already doesn’t count those links in any way.

 

Conclusion

 

Generally, you should avoid them, but sometimes web directory submissions might be useful, especially when it comes to local businesses and local SEO. Before you submit your links, make sure that the online directory is relevant to your niche and has a good link profile.

 

What do you think about web directory submissions? Have you ever used them? Do you still use them? Do they still work? Let us know in the comments section (but be careful with the links if you’re a WhiteHat SEO as you might get penalized!)

 

The post Are Web Directories Still Relevant for SEO in 2020? appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

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Apple Maps Adds COVID-19 Testing Locations

Just stumbled on to this new feature in Apple Maps for healthcare providers to add COVID-19 testing locations:

Businesses can submit locations by putting the info in Apple’s COVID-19-Locations-1.0 and emailing the sheet to [email protected]

This FAQ info is available here because the Apple team didn’t bother marking their version up with FAQPage schema :):

Apple Maps COVID-19 Testing Program Frequently Asked Questions

How will the information you provide about your testing locations be used?
Information about the locations you submit will be validated by Apple and may be viewable by people using Apple services such as Apple Maps.

Will I be notified if the information I shared is used in Apple Maps and other Apple services?
We are focused on collecting and adding as many locations as possible, which means you may not be notified when your information has been included.

How long will it take for my testing location information to show up in Apple Maps?
We can’t provide an estimate right now. But we’re working to verify and add as many testing locations as we can, as quickly as possible.

How do I change the information that I shared?
You can download a new template from register.apple.com/covid-19, fill it out and share it via email, or send details about the current location(s) and your proposed adjustment(s) to [email protected]

How do I share new testing locations?
You can choose “Add a missing place” by tapping in the upper right corner of Maps, you can download, fill out, and share via email a new template through register.apple.com/covid-19, or you can send an updated spreadsheet of testing locations to [email protected]

Who can I contact if I have any questions?
Send an email to [email protected] with your question in the subject line, and include as many details as possible in the email body so we can work toward resolving your issue.

Where else can I go for information about COVID-19?
Please visit www.CDC.gov or www.WHO.int. You can also see special coverage from Apple News at www.apple.news/covid-19.

 

The post Apple Maps Adds COVID-19 Testing Locations appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

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Is SEO Really Recession-Proof?

I have seen a lot of “It’s the best time to invest in SEO!” chatter on the socials. The Rt value of that message is definitely >1 in this industry, and it is certainly in my interest to believe it. But is it true or just the usual self-serving rap boast by a profession that thinks itself the most gangsta in all of digital marketing? Oh sorry, that’s the affiliate marketers…

In 2008, at the height of the Vampire Squid craze, my consulting business grew by something like 25%. I was a solo practitioner at the time with a modest number of clients, so all it took was a few new ones to grow like that. I assume it was a good investment for our clients (some are actually still with us!), but is past performance an indication of the future?

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PPC IS NOT PPE?

We have certainly seen many clients pause their PPC campaigns. The ease of setting them up works in reverse after all. One of the reasons we have not as an agency embraced PPC is that it can make clients feel like you had your hand in their pocket every day.

But SEO is such a longer-term game than PPC, or even Social (which can require brands to spend time actually building some kind of relationship with customers), so why would companies that are furloughing and laying off employees invest in something that is not going to show immediate results?

      1. For many businesses there are no immediate results to be had.
        It’s hard to buy demand that isn’t there, but what about demand down the road? Last week we got contacted by a small hotel in Baja. They have no business now, but were planning on adding more rooms by the end of the year and knew they would need their SEO issues solved by the time the economy came back if they wanted to make it. Same with the event venue in Brooklyn that was under construction when shelter-in-place started. If you are in “about to open” mode, SEO is one of the few digital marketing investments that makes sense at the moment. It’s a bet on the future (which tends to be a good bet, even if the odds of an actual future keep getting lower).

      2. Now you really don’t want to screw up your SEO
        When most things in your business are not going great, the last thing you want to do is to make them worse. As those of us who have been plying the SEO trade for way too long know there are many more ways to destroy your organic traffic than there are to grow it. We are seeing a lot of businesses using the current slowdown as an opportunity to redesign, replatform, rebrand, etc.

        There’s a reason this is the hero image for our SEO for Website Redesigns page:

        And this is the hero image for our SEO for Domain Name Changes page:

      3. Not Being Prepared For The Future Is How We Got Here In The First Place
        If you are the kind of business leader who guts your ability to fight pandemics two years before you have the worst pandemic in the past century, you may not care about what your business will look like two years from now. But if you are used to spending a large part of your marketing budget buying customers via clicks, you now are in the midst of a grand experiment about how powerless you are when that budget goes away.

        SEO, for all its frustrations as a reliable marketing channel, is one of the few that keeps paying off over the long term, like compounding interest. Hopefully we may all be able to emerge from our shelters this summer, but it seems highly likely next winter we could be in a similar situation. Even though the economy has slowed down, people are still buying stuff, just not as much of it. In times of lower demand and limited ad budgets, it’s probably not a bad idea to be ranking at the top of Google for your $ terms. And that takes time.

I am not saying everyone should plow what’s left of their marketing funds into SEO. And rereading this, it does seem like I am a bit too proud of all them Benjamins flapping around back there. I don’t know whether or not SEO is recession proof. But what the great master himself said nearly four years ago is still true today:

And for those of you interested in chatting about doing SEO during a recession, please join BayAreaSearch.org’s free webinar on April 30th. Details at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bayareasearchorgs-april-seo-virtual-meetup-on-zoom-tickets-102230269488

The post Is SEO Really Recession-Proof? appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

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Marketing During Coronavirus: Claim a Free First Tier Press Release to Respond to COVID-19

Eager to know more right away? Head straight to https://www.marketersmedia.com/grant for more information.

Marketing during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. Schools, restaurants, and businesses have all closed down in hopes of limiting the spread of the coronavirus. 

The pandemic has also changed or more appropriately thrown our business processes into chaos. We know a lot of you, our readers, are small business owners or digital marketers and SEOs in their own right, might be feeling the same sentiment. 

Honestly, the impact of this pandemic can be awfully scary, especially when it looks like there is still no end in sight. However today we’re not here to focus on how scary this pandemic can be, but how we can strive to keep our business afloat in this tragic time. 

As a small business owner, you might be seeing fewer customers with people spending more money on necessities, rather than for products and services. 

Unless you sell face masks or hand sanitizer, you may be thinking of conserving your funds and putting your marketing efforts on hold. Think again. 

Except for businesses that are physically unable to operate right now, cutting your marketing budget means no resulting sales, and will cause your business to come to a halt. That’s why, now more than ever, we need to invest smart – not more – into marketing. 

We understand. In this age of coronavirus, you might think it’s superficially commercial to discuss marketing or brands and pricing, but the practical reality sees that we must continue marketing to help those in need and also for the good of the business. 

Because though we might not know what is going to happen in the upcoming months, what we do know is that one day the coronavirus outbreak will end and businesses who can rebound the fastest are those who haven’t stopped their engagement with customers. That can be YOU. 

Digital Marketing Is More Essential Now 

If anything, digital marketing has become more important amidst this crisis when everyone is being on lockdown. Consumers are anxious, paranoid but they are mostly active online. 

This also means it is time for us as marketers to rethink our marketing strategy to be more cost-effective and digitally proficient in reaching our target audiences.

But above all, as a business owner, we should first and foremost post our response to the COVID-19 situation, for our users and customers. 

Guess what, there’s a super-effective way at zero cost. 

Oh, wait, it’s already in the headline. 

We found out that MarketersMEDIA, a press release distribution company has recently set up a marketing aid of $1.5 million in press release credits to help all ventures and businesses that have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

MarketersMEDIA Grant for Businesses

Specifically, the marketing aid will provide businesses with a First Tier press release, which apparently is their best plan for free. You can send your news to over 500 authoritative media outlets like AP News, USA Today, MarketWatch, Comtex, ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and VNN, and it’s all at zero cost. How amazing is that?

In fact, we have actually already submitted our application and now we are sharing this out so you wouldn’t miss it. 

Cause just imagine, using this MarketersMEDIA press release, you can get your business message heard by both journalists and the general public. 

This can be a great opportunity whether it is to let your audience know regarding the immediate steps you’re going to take to deal with this crisis or even as a channel to reach out to more potential consumers. 

Virtually everybody is online during this crisis, but they are not only online. Many of us are on our mobile devices checking the news, looking for the daily updates on coronavirus and actively seeking out news regarding it. 

At a time when everyone is checking in on news, it’s only obvious that issuing press releases and press statements should be an important part of your marketing strategy. 

That’s why now is the time for business owners to issue press releases and press statements in relation to the coronavirus news. 

Caution: Read This Before You Send Your PR

However, it’s also important to note that any marketing strategies which incorporate messaging around the coronavirus should be executed with caution. 

If you get this wrong and look as though you are trying to profit from the pandemic, you will get a negative response from target audiences and it will be incredibly damaging for your reputation as a brand both in the short and long-term.

However, when done right, it can bring good results. With the neutral nature of press releases, businesses should be safe but still, the messaging is important. 

So before you head to claim the free First Tier press release, here are some tips on the message and positioning your press release should take. 

How to Position Your Brand and Value During the Pandemic. 

1. Be Transparent & Share How Your Business is Navigating COVID-19

Brands response to coronavirus

Transparency has always been the key to build trust with the customers. Like this press release from Yum! Brands, if you are working in the food and beverage industry, share with your customers the procedures you have in place to ensure that the safety of both your customers and employees are taken care of. 

2. Stay Proactive and Make Sure Your Customer Service is Still Flawless

Customer service is more important than ever, and especially now in this time of crisis, your customers will need reassurance from your business whether you are in affected industries or not. 

That’s why you should take the extra mile and let your customers know that your operations and team are always ready for them. 

3. Be Supportive and Provide Assistance and Aid During The Crisis

It’s important to let consumers know that your company is here to help. Offer them long term free trials or loyalty programs that you know will come in handy for them and bring financial reassurance during this crisis. 

Business response to coronavirus

But don’t just provide the resources in silence, market it out and let everyone know about your marketing aid and support. 

With that said, the key here is to take this opportunity to tell your customers that your company is taking ownership of the situation, as much as possible, and reassure your valued customers. 

The next quarter will undoubtedly be challenging for businesses worldwide, but pulling back for the short term will only hurt your business in the long term.

Most importantly, you should always show customers your business care and offer assurance that you are thinking long-term and prepare for the ongoing crisis. 

SEOPressor has already claimed their First Tier press release, so what about you?

For more information on MarketersMEDIA’s $1.5M grant for SMBs, visit https://www.marketersmedia.com/grant.

Lastly, we hope you share this message with other business owners who are struggling in the pandemic and always, remember to stay safe. 

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SEMRush Review: Ultimate Guide for 2020

SEMRush is one of the most powerful search engine marketing tools on the market in 2020. In this guide, I’m going to show you how to use SEMRush like an SEO pro.

Let’s jump right in.

Secure your 14-day free trial of SEMRush (affiliate link).

What is SEMRush?

“SEM” stands for “Search Engine Marketing” and that’s exactly what SEMRush focuses on. They created this tool to help both SEO experts and paid search professionals achieve even greater results.

In this guide, I’m going to show you how to use SEMRush for SEO-driven purposes.

7 Ways to Use SEMRush for SEO

1. Analyze Trends + Competitor Analysis

The “Overview” section within SEMRush can gives powerful insights at a glance. Enter your domain and click on “Overview”.

SEMRush Overview

Traffic Trend

The first section to analyze is the traffic trend section.

Traffic Trend

These traffic numbers are nothing more than estimates from SEMRush based on the search volume and click through rate of the keywords you’re ranking for. Take this section with a grain of salt.

However, it can be useful if you don’t have access to Google Analytics and you need a high-level overview of performance. That said, Google Analytics will show you your true organic search traffic numbers.

And not to be captain obvious, but you want to see these “Traffic Trend” numbers rising.

If they’re declining or flat, then you’ll need to investigate further. Conducting an SEO audit is good first step.

Position Changes

The next section worth investigating is the “Top Position Changes”. This is useful to see what keywords are performing well and which ones are losing traction.

Top Position ChangesYou can double down on the ones that are moving well and figure out why the others aren’t performing. I recommend reviewing this section on a weekly basis.

Branded Search

In the “Overview” section, you’ll find the “Branded Traffic Trend” chart.

Branded Traffic Trend

Your branded search volume is an indication of how well you’re marketing your company. In general, your goal should be to increase branded search volume overtime.

That’s because it’s the most reliable type of organic search traffic.

Branded Search Performance

For example, let’s take a doomsday scenario.

One day you wake and Google decides to strip you of all your non-branded keyword rankings. If you hadn’t been working to grow branded search volume, your revenue from organic search would go to $0.

However, if you’d been working to grow your branded search volume, you may still have 20-30% organic search traffic.

Branded search can be the difference between surviving and going out of business. It’s critical.

Branded vs Non-Branded

Organic Position Distribution

Competitive Positioning Map

Main Organic Competitors

2. Find Low Hanging Fruits

I classify “low-hanging fruits” as any keywords that’s ranking from positions #2 – #15. These keywords often just need a little push.

That means you can grow your organic search traffic without a huge investment.

These types of keywords should ALWAYS be your targets at the onset of any campaign. That’s because you’ll be able to score some quick wins out of the gate.

Fortunately, SEMRush makes it super easy to find these low-hanging fruits.

Click on “Organic Research” and then “Positions”.

Positions

Then click the “Positions” dropdown and enter 4 – 20 in the “Custom Range”.

custom range

These keywords should be your targets at the beginning of any campaign.

low hanging fruits

Sometimes some additional on-page SEO is enough to push these terms up. However, if they’re competitive, you’ll likely need to acquire more backlinks to these pages.

If both of those actions don’t move the needle, then you should add more content to the page.

3. “Steal” Your Competitor’s Keywords

Some of your competitors are likely ranking for keywords that you aren’t. SEMRush’s new Keyword Gap tool can help you narrow the gap.

Click on “Keyword Gap” under “Domain Analytics”.

Keyword Gap

Then enter 1-4 of your competitors domains.

gap

The “Keyword Overlap” section will give you an idea of how much opportunity you’re missing out on.

Keyword overlap

But the real value is when you scroll down and get to see all of the keywords that your competitor’s are ranking for. By default, SEMRush will show you “Shared” keywords.

The “Missing” tab is where you should focus because these topics can become targets for future content and pages.

Missing

Keep in mind, you still need to go through the process of keyword qualification. You also need to always compare your website against your competitors.

For example, Moz has a much more powerful and established domain they Gotch SEO.

Therefore, it makes sense that they can compete for some of these highly competitive keywords. It would be a waste of time and resources for Gotch SEO to attempt to compete on some of these.

That’s why it’s critical that you always qualify your keywords.

4. Qualify Keywords

Anyone can build a huge keyword database, but it takes skill to qualify and prioritize that keyword set. In fact, keyword qualification is 100x more critical than finding keywords.

That’s because going after keywords that your website isn’t capable of ranking for can burn resources and even waste time.

Secure your 14-day free trial of SEMRush (affiliate link).

This needs to be avoided.

Now SEMRush is a powerful tool, but it alone isn’t enough to qualify your keywords to the fullest extent. It should be used to supplement your keyword qualification process (not replace it).

Here are a few ways to use SEMRush to help qualify your keywords:

Find keywords with high CTR

Keywords that have many SERP features will likely decrease your organic CTR. The opposite is true as well.

For example, less SERP features can increase your organic CTR. Now it’s becoming rarer-and-rarer to find SERPs without features, but here’s how to find them:

Enter a competitor’s domain in SEMRush and click on “Positions”. Then click the “SERP Features” dropdown and select any of the SERP features.

Not on SERP filter

You can then mark what keywords have the least amount of SERP features.

You can then estimate that you’ll get a higher CTR (more traffic) when you rank for these keywords.

Keep in mind, that it can change fast. SERPs are always changing.

Take Advantage of the “Keyword Difficulty” Tool

This tool can give you a nice high-level overview of the keyword competition. Go to “Keyword Analytics” and click on “Keyword Difficulty Tool”.

Keyword Difficulty

Just enter your target keywords into the box and start the analysis:

Keywords

The Keyword Difficulty tool will show the estimated difficulty, the search volume, the total number of search results, the quantity SERP features, and even how well the keyword is trending.

Keyword Difficulty

I recommend stacking SEMRush’s and Ahrefs‘ keyword difficulty metrics to get a strong high-level overview of competition.

5. Acquire More Backlinks

SEMRush has a lot of competition on the backlink analysis side of SEO. For example, I lean more towards Ahrefs when it comes to link analysis and research. However, SEMRush has really improved their capabilities.

Here are a few ways you can use it to acquire more backlinks:

Use Backlink Gap

Backlink gap helps you identify link opportunities that your competitor already secured, but you haven’t. This is super important because you want narrow the gap between you and your competitors link profiles.

In other words, you need to acquire as many (if not more) backlinks than they have.

Just go to “Gap Analysis” and click on “Backlink Gap”.

Backlink Gap

Then just enter your domain and a couple of your competitor’s domains:

backlink gap tool

You can then see what domains are linking to your competitors domains (but aren’t linking to yours):

links

Qualify Your Link Opportunities

For the remaining portion of this checklist, go to “Domain Analytics” and click on “Backlinks”.

Topical Relevance Analysis

The “Categories” feature is super useful. It does remind of Majestic’s Topical Trust Flow Topics (which is great too). You can use SEMRush’s Categories to review your own link profile.

Topical Relevance

For example, if your link profile isn’t relevant to your niche, then you’ll want to focus more on relevant opportunities. This ties back to the concept I created years ago called The Relevancy Pyramid.

Relevancy Pyramid

In short, you want to focus all of your time acquiring links from your most relevant opportunities first. Then once those are tapped, move down the pyramid towards less relevant opportunities.

Naturally, there will be more opportunities as you descend down the pyramid.

Another way to use SEMRush’s Categories feature is qualify link opportunities. You can run any link opportunity you have through this tool to see if it’s relevant to your website.

Traffic Cost

Relevance is king when it comes to link building, but you should also aim to get links on websites that have organic search traffic.

Think about it: If Google if sending organic search traffic to website, then it’s an indication that the website is doing something right. That means it will likely be a link opportunity worth pursuing.

SEMRush’s “Traffic Cost” isn’t just based on total organic search traffic though.

traffic cost

It calculates the search volume and CPC for each keyword to settle on the traffic cost. That means that a website can have large organic search traffic numbers, but have a low Traffic Cost and vice versa.

In other words, not all traffic is created equally. Some keywords are far more valuable than others. And how is value determined? It’s determined by how much a company is willing to pay per click for Google Ads.

You should prioritize link opportunities that have higher traffic costs because the traffic is of high value.

Link Profile Analysis

Link Authority Analysis

It’s normal for most of your backlinks to come from lower authority websites. However, if your link profile is lacking high-authority links you’ll need to fix it.

Look at the Referring Domains by Authority Score section to audit the strength of your link profile.

Referring Domains by Authority Score

Link Distribution Analysis

One thing that many people overlook is how backlinks are being distributed across your website. It’s natural for some pages to have a much larger number of backlinks. That’s because some pages will do better than others.

That said, you’ll often find a correlation between pages that aren’t performing well and a lack of backlinks to those pages.

That’s why it’s important to first identify what keywords aren’t performing well. Then see if those pages are lacking the necessary backlinks to perform.

You can see the quantity of links that each page on your website has under the “Top Pages” section.

Top Pages

More often than not, low performing pages/keywords just need more backlinks. There is one thing you need to consider though.

Why doesn’t the page have backlinks?

If it’s because of a lack of promotion then you know what to do. But if you’ve been promoting the page and you’re still not getting backlinks, then you may need to revisit the page itself.

Ask yourself a simple question: would YOU link to your page?

It’s important to be honest about your answer. Your page needs to be worth linking to. That means it needs to add tremendous unique value that impels websites to link to it.

If you’re getting enough backlinks, always go back to the page itself. If you believe it’s truly link worthy, then work to promote it more.

Link Profile Growth Trend Analysis

Your backlinks profile should be growing steadily overtime. SEMRush gives a nice high-level overview of your link profile growth. Look under the “Referring Domains” section:

Referring Domains

I recommend checking this on a quarterly basis to make sure you’re growing. If not, you’ll need to revise your link building strategy.

Secure your 14-day free trial of SEMRush (affiliate link).

Link Profile Analysis

I recommend auditing your existing link profile at least bi-annually to make sure nothing low-quality has slipped in. That means you’ll need to manually analyze your link opportunities.

new Backlinks

In most cases, you can just analyze new links that have popped up. I’m a little obsessive and I monitor new link activity on a daily basis. That helps me stay on top of negative SEO attacks that may occur. I recommend you do the same.

Anchor Text Analysis

Anchor text is the easiest thing to over-optimize in an SEO campaign. Most people think using keyword-rich anchor text is the best way to drive SEO results. It isn’t. In fact, it’s the best way to leave huge footprints of link building.

semrush anchor text

You can achieve great SEO results without having to use aggressive anchor text. I recommend using SEMRush to analyze your anchor text to make sure you’re on the right path.

6. Rank in Featured Snippet Position

You may have noticed that featured snippets appear on many Google search results. Landing in these featured snippets can produce huge organic search traffic gains. The cool part is that SEMRush allows you to find all of the featured snippet opportunities you need.

The first step is to enter your domain:

Featured Snippet 1

Click on “Organic Research” > “Positions”:

Featured Snippet 2

Click the “SERP Features” dropdown:

Featured Snippet 3

Select “Domain doesn’t rank” and click on “Featured Snippet”:

Featured Snippet 4

Set a filter so you only see positions #1 – #10 because these are the low-hanging fruits to tackle

Featured Snippet 5

You’ll now have a nice list of featured snippet opportunities to attack.

Try SEMRush Today

If you’re serious about growing your organic search traffic in 2020, then you need to use SEMRush.

SEMRush has been stepping up their game recently and I’ve actually been using it more than Ahrefs for keyword research, keyword qualification, and competitor analysis.

IMO, they have more comprehensive and accurate keyword data.

Here’s a 14-day free trial (affiliate link) if you want to give it a test drive.

Affiliate Disclaimer: Gotch SEO is an affiliate of SEMRush. That means we will earn a small commission if you decide to invest in their software. We only promote tools that we personally use and believe are the best in the industry.

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The Biggest SEO Trend You’re Ignoring

The screenshot above is my Google traffic over the last 12
months.

As you can see, my traffic is growing. And there are many reasons for that, but there is one trend that’s really caused the majority of my SEO growth.

You might be thinking it is Ubersuggest because it makes up 22.4% of my traffic now. But Ubersuggest has been integrated into NeilPatel.com for years, so that’s not it.

Sure, that is responsible for some of my growth, but it’s not responsible for it skyrocketing like it has been.

So, what do you think it is?

Well, I’ll give you a hint…

My traffic per region

Let’s look at my SEO traffic in a few different regions.

Here’s my traffic in the United States over the last 12
months:

Now here’s my traffic in the United Kingdom:

And here are the stats for Canada:

And Australia:

You can see that they have all increased, but not enough to
cause the big spikes.

Now let’s look at some of the international markets we have been focusing on over the last few years.

Here’s Spain:

Here’s India:

And here is the first international market we expanded to,
Brazil.

As you can see, the international markets are growing at a much faster pace, especially Brazil. But that is because we have been focusing on our SEO in Brazil more than any other country (outside of our main English markets).

Why you may ask?

Because a Google employee told me to

The most vital SEO lesson I learned came from a friend at Google, but they didn’t tell me anything that was really a secret…

They told me that the majority of the searches on the web aren’t done in English, they are done in other languages.

And in the English markets, everyone is competing, which
means tons of sites and content from Google to choose from when it comes to determining
which site should rank number 1 for any given keyword.

But the international markets are the opposite. There is a lot of demand but not enough sites for Google to choose from when it comes to rankings.

So even though there are tons of algorithm
updates
and SEO is becoming more difficult, it isn’t always the case with
many international markets.

And the graphs above show it. As you can see, I’m getting huge traffic growth in those regions.

So, what should you do? Especially if you are starting
off and don’t have a big budget or any budget for that matter…

Follow Amazon

Wherever you see big corporations like Amazon investing, it
means there is money to be made in those regions.

Amazon has invested billions into regions like India:

It’s safe to say over the years Amazon will pour in well over $10 billion into India.

That’s a big bet for someone to make. And you can assume it’s a calculated bet because they think there is much more money to be made.

And it’s not just India…

Amazon is investing $236 million into Brazil to boost up their cloud infrastructure. And they’ve invested over $2.26 billion dollars in France. They are pretty much going after the whole world.

As you can see from the graph, Germany is its second-biggest market and Japan is also up there. But what’s interesting is the green bar as that represents the “rest of the world” and that green bar has been growing at a fast pace.

Now, I get that none of us are Amazon and we don’t have huge
budgets, so I wanted to take a minute and break down how you can do this on a
global scale without breaking the bank.

International SEO on a budget

When I first started to expand internationally, my business
was much smaller and we didn’t have much money, if any, to spend on
international SEO.

Yes, I am an SEO, so you would think that it makes it easier, but not really because the only language I am fluent in is English.

And if you fast forward to today, I’m still only fluent in
English, but we have 7 offices around the world.

And we did it without laying out any of our own money. Yes, it did take time and it will for you too, but that’s the only way to do it when you are starting off and are small.

So how did we expand internationally without spending upfront?

We partnered with locals.

Why not find people in these regions who speak English as well as the local language of the country you are trying to expand to?

There are so many people without jobs, you’ll be shocked by how many people will be open to a partnership. All you have to do is look at Facebook groups and forums to find people in your space who live overseas.

Here’s how I structure each partnership:

  • I have the person, or a group of people, translate my content to that region’s language.
  • I have them read my English blog posts so they can learn SEO (if they don’t already know it… nowadays I look for people who already know SEO as I have been doing this long enough and can spend some money).
  • In exchange for them growing my traffic in that region, I give them a portion of the profits I make within that region. You can structure where you give them anywhere from 10% to 30%. You don’t want to go too low on the profit-sharing as you want them to work hard, but you also don’t want to go too high where you are giving away everything.
  • They put in the work each day, and they have 3 months to show some traction, and within 6 months they should have significant growth. Keep in mind it is less competitive, so it is easier to get results. You can also work with them on creating goals and milestones.
  • If they don’t show results, the partnership ends, and I don’t have to give them anything. If they show results, we keep pushing forward.

Now that we’ve covered structuring your international SEO expansion, let’s go over how you do it.

International SEO

I’ve written a handful of blog posts that break down the
steps on growing your traffic in new languages and countries, but before I
share them, I wanted to break down the 2 biggest lessons I learned:

  1. Transcribe the content, not translate – when you work with a partner overseas, they may think you want your content translated or that you want content written in their language just like how people would write the content in the US. That won’t work because cultures are different and keywords are different, so transcribe the content and adjust it to each country.
  2. You want a partner that lives in that country – if you expand into a country where you don’t have a partner on the ground you won’t see great results. By having people on the ground, you can more easily build up your brand, which has a big impact on rankings.

Here are some resources that will show you how to do
international SEO:

  • This post will break down how to create a global SEO strategy.
  • And follow this to setup SEO correctly for different languages and countries. Keep in mind that Google doesn’t penalize for duplicate content, so don’t worry about having similar content or the same content for different regions.
  • Here’s how to expand internationally profitably.
  • This will teach you the fundamentals of reaching a global audience.

Funny enough, one of the reasons I created Ubersuggest was
to build a tool that would help my team and I expand internationally.

Here’s a feature in Ubersuggest that will help you, that
most people don’t know about.

So head over to Ubersuggest
and type in a competitor that you know is big and has a global presence.

I want you to click on the “Top Pages” navigational option
in the sidebar.

This shows you all of the top pages that your competitors
have.

But don’t focus on those results. I want you to look at the regions that make up some of your competitions’ traffic… you’ll see that number next to each flag.

Click on one of the regions that you are considering
expanding into. You’ll now see the results adjusted.

As you can see from the screenshot above, those are all of the pages on my site that are really popular in Brazil.

Now, I want you to click on “view all” under “Est. Visits”
as that will show you all of the keywords that drive traffic to that page.

This will provide you with a laundry list of international keywords that you can give to your team so they can start creating content to go after them.

I also want you to click on “view all” under “Backlinks” as
this will show you who links to your competition. You can then create a list of
sites to reach out to so you can get them to link to you.

That’s the simple strategy we used to hit it hard in regions like Brazil and what we are also doing in countries like India, Spain, Mexico, France, Germany, and countless other countries.

Conclusion

English is a great language. And I love the United States as
well as other English-speaking countries.

But that’s not where the opportunity is. There is more opportunity in global markets, which is why you need to follow the trend of international SEO.

Even if some of these countries don’t have as high of a GDP compared to the United States, it’s fine. Remember there aren’t as many competitors, which means you will have a lot of opportunities to still do really well.

So what region are you going to expand to first?

The post The Biggest SEO Trend You’re Ignoring appeared first on Neil Patel.

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