SEO Articles

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

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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

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.

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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)

The post Parent and child pages: Linking hierarchical post types for SEO appeared first on Yoast.

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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

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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.

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