4 SEO Blogs to Learn About Different Aspects of SEO

1. Best Blog to Learn Strategy and Fundamentals

moz blog photo

The Moz Blog

Moz has a huge mix of really great SEO topics that it covers in its blog.  I’ve found that it is an invaluable source for strategy and learning fundamentals.  I’ve also never seen any content on the site that differs from what I’ve seen or that doesn’t make strategic sense.  Its Whiteboard Friday videos are particularly good (I watch them as I run on the treadmill).  If you’re interested in learning SEO, the Moz Blog should be at the top of your list.

2. Best Blog to Learn Linkbuilding and On-Page Techniques

ahrefs blog

The Ahrefs Blog

If you’ve ever heard me speak at any events or simply talked shop with me, you know that I’m a huge fan of Ahrefs.  It finds more backlinks than most of the other tools that I’ve worked with and as a result, I trust it more than most. Aside from the actual tool, the Ahrefs Blog is a “hands-on” blog that focuses on best uses of the tool to complete actual SEO tasks.  If you’re looking for lessons on how to use their tool to find linkbuilding opportunities, content ideas, or any of the other basic skills that an SEO needs, this blog is what you’re looking for.

3. Best Blog to Stay on Top of SEO News

searchengineland screenshot

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land is CNBC for SEO.  If John Mueller or Gary Illyes say anything of any import to the SEO community, it will be reported on this blog.  I rely on this blog to stay abreast of new announcements and algorithm changes.

The non news-related articles are also very informative and valuable in increasing an SEO’s grasp on strategy and fundamentals.

4. The Best Blog to Keep Up with Technical SEO

google webmaster blog

Webmaster Central Blog

This is where Google makes all of its important announcements.  Whether you do technical SEO or not, it may be worth your while to check in on this blog every once in a while.  If you’d rather not get into the technical weeds, Search Engine Land does do a decent job of reporting on posts on this blog, so you might be able to get away with simply reading that and following Search Engine Land on social media.

 

 

 

What is an MVP Website? What are its Benefits?

An “MVP” Website is an Ongoing Experiment

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product that is developed quickly and placed in the market with the intention of learning consumer wants and revising the products to meet those wants.

An “MVP” website isn’t meticulously developed until it is perceived to be perfect; it is developed with the intention of seeing how people interact with it so that it can be changed.  Developers collect data on how people interact with the site and revise the site accordingly.

The primary benefit of developing an MVP website is that one doesn’t run the risk of meticulously developing a website only to find that it doesn’t accomplish what the owner wants. An MVP website is developed quickly and inexpensively and elements are placed in response to what the developer learns about its user. This differs drastically from the traditional process of developing a website, launching it, and not changing it until an overhaul is requested after some period of time.

Born from the Lean Startup

The Lean Startup is a methodology born from the lessons of lean manufacturing and agile product development. It offers a marked departure from the traditional “stage-gate” method developing software. The author, Eric Ries, developed the Lean Startup as a way to eliminate waste from the software development process and avoid spending time developing features that no one wanted. The Lean Startup methodology has proven itself invaluable and has been used in unexpected industries, such as the development of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

How an MVP Website is Built

The web design project begins by building a site quickly and inexpensively. Upon launching, the owner begins to test a number of hypotheses that he uses to develop the website.  He may begin with a hypothesis such as “users will purchase more widgets from our site if we use a super simple header with a search bar” and split test the feature on the site.

One version would feature the search bar and the other could feature something like a coupon. The developers run an a/b test run and the results determine whether to place the bar or the coupon in the header.

The process of split testing various elements of the website continues and the developers focus on developing a “work-in-progess” website rather than spending all of the project’s resources in the initial design phase.

Some Common Features

  1. The site is often built with some sort of pagebuilder such as Divi. This allows the team to easily and quickly make changes to the website. Some criticize these pagebuilders as “bloated,” but that criticism is largely unwarranted.  These themes can be optimized to load quite quickly and the agility that they offer the website owner outweigh any drawbacks that their detractors point out.
  2. There is a robust tool to collect user dataHotjar is widely used service, as is CrazyEgg.
  3. The site uses tools and methods to split test headlines, forms, landing pages, and copy.  There are tons of software that are covered in this article: https://kinsta.com/blog/wordpress-ab-testing-tools/

The Benefits of an MVP Website

  1. Actual user data guides the design process, not gut feelings or what a designer likes
  2. The site is built rapidly and launched.  Precious time is not wasted guessing what people will respond to.
  3. It allows a site to “fail fast”—if  no one wants or needs what the website offers, the developer can learn this without spending a fortune

The Drawbacks of an MVP Website

  1. You only have one chance to make a first impression; if the MVP website is particularly underdeveloped, it could damage the brand in the eyes of consumers
  2. It is hard to gain buy-in from decision makers that are accustomed to waterfall methodologies. It may be difficult to convince your boss to put up a “work-in-progress.”

Do You Use the Lean Startup Methodology in Web Design?

I’d love to hear about the MVP websites that you have developed. Leave your comments below!

Oshine vs. Divi WordPress Themes

Oshine vs. Divi… which is better for you?

The short of it is that Oshine is a lot more intuitive, but Divi allows for more customization. If you’re a tinkerer and are willing to take the time to learn a new WordPress theme, Divi is probably the right choice for you.  If you just want to get up and running and get your site up quickly, my recommendation is that you go right for Oshine; rest assured that it is an easy alternative to Divi. Let’s get into some of the details.

A Sagapixel Website Is Built with Oshine or Divi

WE BUILD LOTS OF SITES AND NEED TO GET THEM DONE FAST

We build a large volume of websites for small businesses in NJ. The majority are have small budgets, which means that we need to get them up quickly and efficiently; if we don’t, we either a. don’t make any money or b. have to jack up the prices to levels that are unaffordable for most of our clients.  For this reason, we use Oshine and Divi.  Both feature visual pagebuilders that allow us to see what we’re doing as we do it, greatly speeding up the development process—no need to keep a separate window open to check edits.

THEY COME WITH MOST OF THE PLUGINS THAT WE NEED

Both themes come packed with most of the modules that we would ever need to build a site.  I like this particularly because I don’t like relying on third-party WordPress plugins; often, you don’t know what you’re getting when you install them.  By having a suite of modules and plugins preinstalled with Oshine or Divi, we decrease our reliance on third-party plugins and decrease the security risks associated with them.

OSHINE AND DIVI MAKE IT EASY FOR OUR CLIENTS TO EDIT THE SITES THEMSELVES

Most clients don’t like the idea of being entirely reliant on a developer to edit text or images on a site.  Many WordPress themes can be a pain to make such edits to, resulting in diminished abilities to split test landing pages, longer times to get new content up, and major headaches if they ever need to change developer.  With Oshine and Divi, we can provide tutorials that show clients how to make edits to their own sites, allaying any misgivings that they have about being reliant on a developer to edit their sites and enabling them to be more proactive with editing their websites to support their marketing.

THEY CAN BE FAST WHEN OPTIMIZED

We regularly get Google Pagespeeds of 80+ and even up to 100 with both themes, so people that claim that they are “bloated and slow” simply don’t know how to optimize them.  Compress all of the images, minify the CSS, Javascript, and HTML, set up a good caching plugin, get good hosting, and you’re going to have a fast site.

How Are Oshine and Divi Similar?

  • Both contain visual pagebuilders
  • Both come with tons of modules to add features and effects to your site
  • Both come with importable demos that can serve as a starting point for your website
  • Both allow for tons of menu layouts

What Does Each Theme Have That the Other Doesn’t Have?

OSHINE
  • oshine bg overlaysBackground overlay option.  Oshine allows you to add an overlay to any section or column; this can allow you to add some color to a photo without putting it into Photoshop.  Divi has a similar feature, but it affects the entire column, including any text that you may have included.  This is how we get the effect to right.  You can get the same results with Divi, but it is way more complicated than it is with Oshine.
  • Way more portfolio options.  Portfolios are where Oshine really “shines” (funny, huh?)  Just go to the Oshine website and take a look at all of the different beautiful layouts that you can use for your portfolios.
  • Minification by checking a box.  This is a newer feature, but I love that Oshine enables CSS, Javascript, and HTML minification by checking a box.  All WordPress themes should have this.
  • Slider Revolution.  The free version comes with the theme, which is really nice.  Granted, you can always download it and install it with the Divi theme, but it’s nice to have it already there when you install Oshine.
  • Setting an entire column as a clickable link.  Aita Law’s “Areas of Practice”I really like being able to set an entire column as a link (similar to the image above, only something that you can use to click to another section on the site).  An example of this would be what we did with section on the home page.
DIVI
  • Photoshop-like editing of photos.  Divi basically comes with a “Photoshop-lite” module that allows you to adjust saturation, hue, brightness, and a bunch of other attributes of images on the site.  Oshine only allows you to adjust the darkness of the image through the overlay feature.
  • Custom Login.  Divi allows you to customize the login screen; Oshine does not (you need a 3rd party plugin)
  • Blog modules can be set by category. Oshine is very limited in its blog module.  Divi allows you to organize a blog by category; in other words, you can set a module in one column to only feature posts from one category and allow another column to be about another category.  Oshine does not have this feature.
  • Audio player.  Oshine doesn’t have this feature.
  • CSS modules per section and column. Oshine does provide a custom CSS module under the theme options, but Divi gives it to you right in the editor.  This is nice since you don’t have to continuously switch between tabs or screens.
  • Cool section transitions. This is probably the coolest design feature that Divi has and Oshine needs.  Divi allows for sections to have cool geometric transitions between sections, freeing designers from having to do custom CSS to get away from the 90° angle rectangular section transitions.  Styling a section transition as seen below can be a major pain in Oshine, but is a breeze in Divi:

divi cool transitions between sections

Divi has many more features, but Oshine is easier to use

Most experienced web designers will likely prefer Divi, but Oshine is probably better for the novice that wants to take a step up from paint-by-numbers WordPress templates. It’s comparable to a Wix or Weebly that enjoys the flexibility of WordPress.

How Does PPC Work? A Guide for the Total Adwords Novice

How Does PPC Work?

This guide is going to explain:

  1. What PPC ads are
  2. How much PPC costs
  3. What industries/businesses that can benefit from PPC (and how to tell if PPC will not work for you)
  4. A quick guide to setting up PPC ads that are profitable

What are Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads?

You’ve seen these ads.  You’ve searched for something and the results looked something like this:

example of ppc ads

The first four results are all paid placement that the advertiser only pays for when someone clicks on the ad.

In the case of this search, an instantaneous auction took place when I performed the search for “modular home dealers in pa.”  The placement and cost of the ad placement was determined by four factors:

  1. Maximum bid on the keyword
  2. Ad and landing page quality
  3. Expected clickthrough rate
  4. Availability of ad extensions

Here is a video about the auction that Google produced:

As the video explains, this process often results in the the top result costing less than the results below it.

What Each Factor Means

Maximum bid on the keyword

This one is self explanatory.  How much are you willing to pay for a bid?  This doesn’t mean that you’ll pay it; you’ll just end up paying a little more than the result that is right below you.

Ad and landing page quality

If you are bidding on “modular home dealers” and sending people to a page about sheds, your ad will be considered irrelevant and may not run regardless of how much you bid. Additionally, if you are sending people to a page covered in ads and/or poorly-written content, your ad rank score will suffer.  Finally, Google tracks user signals; if large numbers of users click on your ads, leave the site and return to Google to click on other results, your landing page quality score will suffer.

Expected clickthrough rate

If no one clicks on your ads, your PPC efforts will suffer. First, your ad is wasting valuable ad space.  Second, Google knows that a given percentage of users should be clicking on your ads depending on their placements.  If people aren’t clicking on them, there’s likely a reason (i.e. something is wrong with your ad copy).

Availability of ad extensions

Ad extensions are additional text that go below the ad and provide additional information about your offerings.

example of ad extensions

“Services: Project Management, Timeline Creation & View…” and the “Meet Your New Way To Work” are ad extensions.  If you don’t set them up when you configure your Adwords account, you’ll end up regretting it.

Do people actually click on PPC ads?

Yes.  Over 60% of Google’s revenue comes from these sorts of ads.

Additionally, we have several clients whose entire lead generation model centers on PPC ads. While you may usually scroll past these results, our clients have ads with click through rates (CTR) of up to 8%.  In other words, it’s safe to say that for some searches, at least one in ten users click on these paid results.

How much do PPC ads cost?

The cost of a PPC campaign varies, and frankly, “how much does it cost to run PPC ads?” is the wrong question.  The question should be “how much will it cost to get business with PPC ads?”  The cost per click isn’t what matters; what matters in the cost to get a new client.

Since we are dealing with an auction, the cost-per-click will vary based on the bids of your competitors.  Google has a tool called the “keyword planner” that gives some imperfect, but usable data on keywords that you may be interested in targeting.

Take the expected cost-per-click, divide the budget that you think you’ll be able to dedicate to PPC, and that’s the number of clicks you can expect.  Multiply that number by 2%, 5%, and 10% and you’ll have an average, good, and best scenario of your account and the cost to get a customer.

Let’s give an example

Let’s say you’re a local personal injury lawyer.

If you log into the keyword planner, you’ll click on the second box titled “get metrics and forecasts for your keywords.” You’ll type in some of your keywords and get an idea of the costs and likely return on investment.  This is what the interface looks like:

keyword planner ppc

 

You’ll need to set the location at the top.  It will default to the entire USA, but you’ll change it to the areas you want to reach

keyword planner cost forecast

This tells us that for $800, we’re likely to get 82 clicks.  If we manage to get the following percentages to “convert,” which in this case means contact us, we can calculate a cost per acquisition and return on investment.

  • If we get an average 4% conversion rate, we’re looking at 3 contacts.  If I manage to get half of them to hire me, I’m looking at spending $800 to gain a new personal injury case.
  • If we get a solid 8% conversion rate, we’re looking at 6 contacts.
  • If you manage to get the 10%-20% conversion rates like we get for attorney clients at Sagapixel, you’re looking to pay $50-$100 for a client contact.

A rule of thumb is to aim for a cost-per-acquisition that is no more than 25%-33% of customer lifetime value, so if a new case is worth $5000, you should be aiming to spend no more than $1250-$1666 to acquire a new client.

What industries are PPC ads good for?

If your customers search for your goods and services on Google, it is worth testing PPC ads.  If Google is not part of your customer journey, don’t waste resources.

The personal injury lawyer example from the previous section should run PPC ads.  The land use attorney that helps hospitals get approval to build new offices would likely be wasting his time.

Why is that?

In the case of the personal injury attorney, clients are turning to Google to find representation.  In the case of the hospital and its $10 million expansion, it most certainly is not turning to Google to find an attorney.

You need to know your customers and whether they are turning to Google.  If search is not a part of their customer journey, don’t waste money.

How to run a profitable PPC campaign

An example of how we lowered our cost per conversion From $584 to $45

We inherited a wildly unprofitable Adwords account from another agency.  The client was a regional real estate appraiser that chose his former agency because they claimed to specialize in marketing home appraisers online.  He reached out to us after receiving a recommendation from a attendee at one of our events and granted Sagapixel access to look under the hood at the account.

how to lower cost of adwords

Overall metrics from the previous agency’s campaign over roughly 100 days. $584 per lead.

 

overall numbers from when Sagapixel managed this ppc account

Metrics after 100 days of having Sagapixel manage it. Cost down to $45 per lead.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN HAVING US DO THIS FOR YOU? CLICK HERE!

A Massively Mistaken PPC Strategy

I log into the account and as always, go straight for the cost per conversion.  In my view, the most important metric of a marketing campaign is its effect on cost per customer acquisition and its relationship to customer lifetime value.  An ad campaign that costs a client $10 to make an $11 sale is rarely going to profitable once fixed costs are factored in.  I ask the client to estimate how much profit is made on a new home appraisal, and learn that his $584 cost per client contact is nowhere near profitable.

Find Stuff to Cut Out

TIME OF DAY AND DAY OF WEEK

The first thing that I do is look at the time of day and days of the week that have seen the most conversions:

ppc conversions by time of day and day of week

Conversions by time of day and day of week (over lifetime of the previous campaign)

In most cases, I have found that PPC campaigns perform best during certain times of day and days of the week.  This being the case, it would only make sense to concentrate one’s ad spend during these high-performing times.  One look at the previous campaign and it becomes clear that it makes no sense to run the ads during the weekends, since not one conversion was tracked on a Saturday or Sunday over the lifetime of this account.

I also notice that there were no conversions outside the hours of 7am-7pm, and the highest converting times were between 11am and 2pm.  The previous campaign was running 24/7, despite the fact that no one was clicking on the ads and converting:

There were clicks all times of day

There were clicks all times of day; they just didn’t convert

We limited the ads from 8am-6pm, Monday through Friday.

WHAT WORDS SHOULD WE NOT BID ON

Often, I log into accounts that have no negative keywords, but that wasn’t the case with this account.  There was a healthy list of negative keywords, but there was one clear thing missing: negative keywords generated from search terms that triggered the ads.

A thoroughly managed Adwords campaign has its search terms monitored constantly.  From the nature of the list that I saw, the keywords were clearly a predetermined list that was simply added to the account:

premade negative keyword lists are not a panacea

Clearly, no account manager would add terms related to Utah for a campaign running in NJ; this was a premade list devoid of any NJ-specific keywords.

You need to look for search terms such as the following:

negative keywords from search terms

Real estate appraisers do not do mass advertising.  If a person is searching for an appraiser by name, he or she is likely already a customer of that appraiser or has already received a recommendation from a friend.  Bidding on branded keywords in this industry does not make sense in this case (this was confirmed by the 0% conversion rate for these search terms).  There were no such negative keywords in this account, so we added them (a lot of them).

This is how you do it.  Click on “keywords” on the left bar, then click on “search terms” across the top:

how to generate negative keywords from search terms

Find the search terms that you don’t want triggering your ads, and add them as negative keywords.  That’s it.

WHAT ADS OUTPERFORM THE REST

There are thousands of blogs out there that explain how to a/b test (or split test) your ads.  I have little to add to that conversation outside of “you have to do it because it really helps.”  I recommend that you start learning about it here.

Today, Our Real Estate Appraiser Has a Profitable Adwords Account

One does not have to be an expert in the real estate, legal services, or construction industry to make PPC work.  The important thing is to make decisions based on the numbers and common sense.  If a keyword, time of day, specific type of device, ad, or anything else that you can use to adjust your bidding doesn’t work, stop bidding.  Cutting out what doesn’t work is almost always the best approach for accounts that have limited budgets and it is likely the best approach for you.

 

 

Is SEMRush Accurate? A User Comparison with Actual Analytics

SEMRush is on Your List of Prospective SEO Tools, but is It Accurate?

In this post, I’m going to run a few of my client sites through SEMRush and compare it to the data in their Google Analytics accounts.  I won’t be sharing any client names, but you’ll see that there are some striking conclusions that this comparison can help you to come to.

Comparison #1

This is a law firm that we have been working with for some time.  The site recently suffered a negative SEO attack, so the numbers in the analytics account are unreliable between August and October 2017, so we’re going to omit any analytics data from before that date.

SEMRush Data Site #1

data from SEMRush about a law firm website

Google Analytics Organic Traffic

google analytics chart to compare with semrush

SEMRush’s Estimate of Organic Traffic

While the tool is definitely in the ballpark—the site is drawing in the hundreds, not the thousands or millions of monthly visitors—it underestimated the site’s actual organic traffic by 75%.  SEMRush estimates 108 visitors in January 2018, but analytics show that the number was actually 488.  Additionally, the increase in traffic that it estimates for March was reflected in the analytics, but it was not as pronounced as the tool would lead you to believe.

semrush comparison with paid search analytics
SEMRush’s Estimate of Paid Traffic

The tool’s paid search traffic estimate is unusable.  It didn’t even pick up the traffic until September of 2017 and even when it did, it vastly under reported the amount of traffic.

semrush comparison of backlinks with ahrefs

SEMRush’s Estimate of Backlinks

Since Search Console is rather unreliable when it comes to reporting backlinks, we used Ahrefs.  Apparently, SEMRush has found 200k+ more backlinks to this site than Ahrefs has.  As I wrote earlier, this site did suffer a negative SEO attack (which didn’t really have any sort of noticeable effect on rank) but the tool seems to have done a better job of finding these spam links than Ahrefs did.

Comparison #2

This is a high traffic entertainment business that is highly seasonal.  Its peak season is in the Summer and Fall and it actually closes in Mid-Winter.

semrush metrics for site 2

analytics of site traffic to compare to
SEMRush’s Estimate of Organic Traffic

As you can see, this business has volatile organic traffic, but SEMRush did not pick up on it at all.  The site saw ballpark numbers of 9k visitors per month, then 35k in October, but the tool tracked it as getting a steady 20k or so.

This client does not do any PPC and SEM Rush correctly picked up on it.

SEMRush’s Estimate of Backlinks

ahrefs backlinks found

In this case, SEMRush did not find as many backlinks as Ahrefs, but it was comparably in the same ballpark as Ahrefs.

The Verdict: SEMRush is Getting Better at Finding Links but Struggles to Estimate Traffic

It found a lot of spam links

I was surprised to see that SEMrush found so many more backlinks for site #1 than Ahrefs.  Site #1 did suffer a negative SEO attack and SEMrush did a better job of finding many of those links; this is just one case, but maybe it is a valuable tool for creating disavow files following negative SEO attacks…

Estimating organic traffic is all guesswork.

You have to know what keywords a site ranks for, the estimated number of searches for that term, and the likely CTR based on its position.  Ahrefs and Similarweb aren’t particularly reliable for this data either.  The conclusion that you should come to is that these tools are useful if you want to tell if a site is getting traffic in the hundreds, thousands, or millions, but don’t use them to compare your analytics data with that of another site.

 

Domain Authority is a Vanity Metric Making You Lose Focus

Domain Authority—Like the Easter Bunny—Does Not Exist

There is a myopic focus on third party domain metrics that is undermining SEO efforts throughout the industry.  Moz Domain Authority (DA), Ahrefs’ Domain Rating (DR), and Majestic’s Trust Flow (TF) are not 1-to-1 measures of a site’s likelihood to rank, yet SEOs treat them as if they were.  In Facebook groups, on Twitter, and in conversation with other SEOs I constantly encounter marketers talking about successes in increasing Domain Authority, which indicates that they are likely using the wrong KPIs to measure progress and drive decision making. While these metrics are helpful in gaining a ballpark measurement of a site’s likelihood to rank or pass link juice, pursuing increases in these numbers is pointless.  Far too many marketers are wasting time and effort in doing what they can to “increase domain authority” despite the fact that Google has stated that they do not have a “domain authority-like” metric.

There is No Value in Tracking Your DA, DR, or TF as if It Were Your Credit Score.

In conversation with other SEOs and owners of websites, I often encounter a preoccupation with DA, DR, and TF.  Even “gurus” like Neil Patel will talk about doing things to raise the Domain Authority of a website, as if Google were referring to Moz to help rank websites.  This focus on increasing the DA that Moz assigns to a website is a distraction and a waste of time that could be better spent doing outreach, doing keyword research, or creating content.  There are benchmarks that we should be using, but DA shouldn’t be one of them.

I have written numerous times about the reliability of metrics such as DA, DR, and TF.  To start, they are manipulated very easily.  There are plenty of terrible throwaway PBNs that have metrics that would be considered “good” but show very little impact on rank when they link to other sites.  One can go on Fiverr and find pages of gigs selling “TF 15+” “DA 20+” links are great at raising your TF or DR, but do very little to rank your website.  Additionally, several of these tools are generating domain metrics based on incomplete data sets. Moz Open Site Explorer (OSE) and SEM Rush find a fraction of the links that our client sites have acquired, greatly hindering their ability to give any sort of accurate estimate of the site’s trustworthiness or “link juice.”  Ahrefs and Majestic often rate sites as having high DR or TF, only to see these sites outranked by other sites with markedly lower metrics.

The Traffic and Audience Size of a Website is What Matters

Here’s a question:

You’ve written a great, thought-provoking article on cigars and are in the process of pitching it to sites as a guest post.  You take a look at Moz and Ahrefs to determine which would be the preferable site for this post.

This is what you see:

Site A:

 

screenshot of site a domain authority

Site B:

site B domain authority is a vanity metric

Which one do you pick?

Site B has a higher DA and DR and may or may not drive link juice your way, but site A is more attractive.  To start, site A has higher estimated traffic because of the keywords that it ranks for, a much better indication of what Google thinks of it than Moz’s DA.  Additionally, site A is more likely to actually get you in front of readers, which should be just as high of a priority as driving link juice to your site.  It is a no-brainer that you should offer the guest post to site A, despite the fact that site B has higher DR and DA, but how many SEOs would actually do so?  Most would see the XX DA and jump on it without really questioning the correlation between this number and the link’s ability to help her site.

Pro Tip – Pay Attention to Ahrefs’ Estimated Traffic

When looking up a website in Ahrefs, the first number that you look at should be the daily traffic.  This number is nowhere near the actual amount of traffic that a site receives, but that’s not the point.  Ahrefs is tracking the keywords that the site ranks for, offering you an insight into its ability to pass link juice based on its performance on search engines, not its backlink profile. Moz’s and Ahrefs’ algorithms are very limited in comparison to Google’s and are limited in their ability to predict a site’s likelihood to rank or pass link juice.  However, their tracking of a site’s actual rank on Google is valuable, since this data is a reflection of Google’s take on the site.  By targeting sites that have higher estimated traffic, you will be able to better identify sites that can pass link juice than if you focus on DA, DR, of TF.

Do Not Use Third Party Metrics to as KPIs for Your Website

Raising your Domain Authority score 5 points is useful if you want to rank on Moz (if it ever launches its own search engine).  If you want to rank on Google, you should be tracking your site’s performance through Google Search Console and Google Analytics and you should be making decisions to drive impressions, average rank, referral traffic, time on page, or whatever benchmark works for your website.  Don’t treat your DA, TF, or DR as if it were Google’s PageRank score.

What is DR and UR in Ahrefs? A Quick Explainer of SEO Metrics

What is DR and UR in Ahrefs?

Domain Rating (DR) and URL Rating (UR) are the metrics Ahrefs uses to rate the backlink profile of a website.  DR is a measure of the quantity and quality of the backlinks going to an entire domain, while UR rates the backlinks going to a specific page.  While these metrics are useful, it is important to remember that websites do not rank solely because of their backlinks, and sometimes even a high ranking will not turn into traffic.

How is DR Calculated?

According to Ahrefs’ own website:

To put things simply, we calculate the DR of a given website the following way:

  1. Look at how many unique domains have at least 1 dofollow link to the target website;
  2. Take into account the DR values of those linking domains;
  3. Take into account how many unique domains each of those websites link to;
  4. Apply some math and coding magic to calculate “raw” DR scores;
  5. Plot these scores on a 0–100 scale (which is dynamic in nature and will “stretch” over time).

I can also add that from personal experience, Ahrefs indexes far more links than Moz, and a bit more than Majestic, so the numbers that you are getting for DR are probably a more reliable indicator of the strength of a site’s backlink profile than any other tool.  At the same time, it is clear that the above calculation of DR is way simpler than the algorithm that Google uses to determine rank.  This is why you cannot rely on DR to determine whether a site is going to help you to rank.

Wil Reynolds recently illustrated this through an anecdote from a few years back:

Here both he and Rand speculate that the reason that the link from the NY Times did not help the site to rank was the impact of spam from other sites, but they fail to take into consideration the user history of the sites that were already ranking.  In other words, the sites that were previously ranking had been successfully fulfilling user needs (I want a product, I search, click on this product, and don’t go back to Google).  In the eyes of Google, these sites were already filling the need of the searchers; it would make sense that a link from the New York Times wouldn’t necessarily make the algorithm change its mind about its results.

How is UR calculated?

Ahrefs explains its calculation here. In a nutshell, this number is rating the backlink profile of that page and not the entire domain.

I can tell you that there is definitely a correlation between a site’s rank and its UR, but thinking that you need to “raise your UR” in order to rank your site is flawed thinking.  As you can see in this screenshot of sites ranking for “web design companies in south jersey,” there is little correlation:

what is ur in ahrefs

The UR of these sites is all over the place as you go down the rankings.

How To Fix The “Expiration Not Specified” Message In Google PageSpeed Insights

We’ll give you some lines of code to add to your .htaccess file and walk you through the whole process.

How to fix the message “Setting an expiry date or a maximum age in the HTTP headers for static resources instructs the browser to load previously downloaded resources from local disk rather than over the network”

  1. Log into your hosting
  2. Go to your .htaccess file
  3. Add this code to the .htaccess file:
    1. # BEGIN EXPIRES

      ExpiresActive On
      ExpiresDefault “access plus 10 days”
      ExpiresByType text/css “access plus 1 week”
      ExpiresByType text/plain “access plus 1 month”
      ExpiresByType image/svg+xml “access 1 month”
      ExpiresByType image/gif “access plus 1 month”
      ExpiresByType image/png “access plus 1 month”
      ExpiresByType image/jpeg “access plus 1 month”
      ExpiresByType application/x-javascript “access plus 1 month”
      ExpiresByType application/javascript “access plus 1 week”
      ExpiresByType application/x-icon “access plus 1 year”

      # END EXPIRES

  4. Save the .htaccess file.

Read on if you need a bit more guidance…

Site load speed is important for two reasons: user experience and SEO.  Needless to say, with Google getting ready to penalize mobile sites for slow load times, it’s important to make sure that your site is as fast as it can be.  But you already know this.

So you’ve gotten this message…

Setting an expiry date or a maximum age in the HTTP headers

and you want to see this:

90 google page speed

Although you may think that doing this with a plugin would be easier, my experience has been that it is not easier.  WP Cache wouldn’t allow me to do this at all and W3 Total Cache ended up crashing my site, leading to several hours of trying to fix whatever it broke.  Ultimately, adding a script to my .htaccess file did the trick.

Log into your file manager on your hosting

You should see this screen at the root of the website that you are trying to work on:

find .htaccess

You are going to edit your .htaccess file by adding the following code:

# BEGIN EXPIRES

ExpiresActive On
ExpiresDefault “access plus 10 days”
ExpiresByType text/css “access plus 1 week”
ExpiresByType text/plain “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/svg+xml “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/gif “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/png “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/jpeg “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/x-javascript “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/javascript “access plus 1 week”
ExpiresByType application/x-icon “access plus 1 year”

# END EXPIRES

Save it and check that it worked

You should make sure that you saved the .htaccess file, then try PageSpeed insights.  There’s a good chance that you just hit the green!

Why Did My DR Drop in Ahrefs (and why it doesn’t matter)

Big Changes Just Came to Ahrefs’ Domain Rating (DR)

For some time, it has been really easy to game the Ahrefs DR and Majestic’s TF.  With Ahrefs’ new calculation of DR, it is likely to become much harder to pass a site off as having a strong backlink profile.  There will be many more websites with DRs of 0-5 and a lot less with DRs of 15-30.  The new calculation aims to stop reporting sites that do not rank well as having domain ranks in the same range as sites that do rank.  As a result, you may find that your website’s DR has dropped dramatically; there is no reason to panic.  Nothing has happened to your site’s backlink profile and you have not incurred a penalty—the only thing that has changed is the way that Ahrefs reports on your site.

Why This is Good

HELPS WITH COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

To start, this will be very helpful to SEOs trying to do competitive analyses.  How often do we look at a highly ranking website in Ahrefs and see that it has a domain rating of 30, which is roughly what we’re seeing for our new client’s, which is buried on page 8?  Reporting to a client should be much easier now that we have metrics that better reflect the strength of the backlink profiles that are helping to position both the client and competitors.

HELPS DOMAIN BUYERS

Whether you’re trying to build a PBN, or you’re looking into buying a domain that was previously owned, or looking to purchase a website for income, it’s helpful to have accurate information about that website’s backlink profile.  As of now, it can be difficult to glance at Ahrefs’ DR and tell whether a site has solid links coming from a variety of sources or if it has 50 links coming from different blogspot properties.  With this change, it could save domain buyers some time by helping us to weed out sites that have a DR of 40 that is being driven by a bunch of garbage links.

Why This Doesn’t Matter

Ahrefs does not report to Google.  It does not buy data from Google.  It crawls the web and indexes it (similar to the way a search engine does).  It is entirely possible to have a sky-high DR and still not rank, just as it is possible to rank a site with a DR of 30.  Additionally, DR does not take into consideration the actual rankings of a website, which is a much better indicator of Google’s opinion of the site.

Skeptical?  Here is a screenshot of a website that dominates the SERPs in the ubercompetitive legal niche.  It ranks nationally and has generated tens of millions of dollars in cases for the firm:

ahrefs dr drop doesn't matter

A legal niche site with a DR of 42 should struggle to rank even in the local Philadelphia market, let alone throughout the country, yet there it is.  There really are two lessons to be learned from this: first, not all of a site’s rank is driven by its backlinks.  In the case of this site, which belongs to a competitor of my client, it once had a powerful PBN powering it and driving tons of traffic to it.  Today, we think that it is still ranking thanks to the historical user data (he had a falling out with his SEO and no longer has the PBN).  In other words, you can’t rely on DR as the “end all” of determining what it will take to overcome a competitor.

Second, although Ahrefs is working to improve this, it is still easy to manipulate these metrics.  Seeing an increase or decrease in your DR isn’t something to worry or celebrate about; just throw some web 2.0 links to your site and you’ll see the number go up without any discernable change in Google rank.  Don’t focus so much on your site’s DR and focus more on building links and good content.

How to Increase File Upload Size in WordPress (No Need to Code!!!)

The Easy Way to Increase File Upload Size in WordPress

Godaddy and many other shared hostings’ default settings are set to not allow for particularly large files to be uploaded.  This is very easily remedied by changing some basic settings within cPanel; you do not need to start messing with pnp.ini files or even know how to code. This guide will walk you through everything; if you prefer to watch a video, scroll to the bottom!

How to Fix “File Exceeds the Maximum Upload Size for This Site.”

Works for Godaddy, Namecheap, Bluehost, and a number of other common shared hosting providers.

The infuriating “uploaded file exceeds the upload_max_filesize directive in php.ini.” with Godaddy hosting.

increase file upload size wordpress cpanel godaddy

You’re in the middle of uploading a theme or a photo to your WordPress website when you get the dreaded “exceeds the maximum upload size for this site” message.  You are incredibly frustrated and turn to Google.

For whatever reason, the top results all tell you to create a pnp.ini file and start coding, though there is a much easier way to address this.  Godaddy, along with a number of other shared hosting providers, all set limits to the file sizes that you can upload, though these defaults can easily be changed.  You do not need to create any files and you don’t need to know how to code.

Step 1 – Log into Your Cpanel

increase file upload size godaddy

Log into your hosting and scroll down to the “software” section of your Godaddy cPanel.

Step 2 – Click on “select PHP version.”

increase file upload size in WordPress

While you’re in here, it’s probably best to make sure that your hosting is set to version 7.1, but make sure that you check that your theme and plugins are compatible with it (I assume no liability for you messing up your site, by the way, so make sure that you have a valid backup of everything before you change anything).

On this screen, you’re going to

Step 3 – Click on “Switch TO PHP Options”

set file upload sizes in cpanel on godaddy for wordpress

Step 4 – “Increase your upload_max_filesize”

The three number in orange are the numbers that you need to change.  Click on each one and a drop down will appear; select the new value and click “apply” (if you forget to click apply, it won’t take).  Once you’ve changed all three values, click on the save button below “upload_max_filesize.”

You Have Increased Your Max File Size Upload

This is a really easy, fast fix, but for whatever reasons, the top results on Google all tell you to create a pnp.ini file, which often doesn’t work to fix the issue with Godaddy’s file upload limits on shared hosting plans.  I’d like to help people avoid the headaches involved with this and finally start outranking those other convoluted, yet ineffective solutions, so please comment and link to this post so that we can get the word out that there is an easy fix to Godaddy’s 2mb limit on file uploads on shared hosting.

Just to wrap up, you can increase the file upload limit in just a few steps:

  1. Log into cPanel
  2. Click on “select php version”
  3. Click on “switch to php options”
  4. Select “upload_max_filesize,” increase it to 64mb, and click apply
  5. Save

Ahrefs vs. Majestic – An Independent Rundown of What You Get

If I Could Only Use One, Which Would It Be?

The short of it is that Ahrefs has a lot more features, but lacks one or two valuable features that Majestic offers.  Additionally, Majestic has a much cleaner interface, making it easier to use for a beginner.  However, if I had to pick one over the other, I would go with Ahrefs.

That said, which tool is better for the average SEO or content marketer?

What Does a Typical SEO or Content Marketer Need?

There are a few features that any SEO or content marketer needs in an SEO tool.  Though it may be far from a comprehensive list, below are a few of the big ones:

  • A backlink tester that finds links and rates their quality accurately
  • A rank explorer to track the number and ranking of keywords of a specific site
  • A tool to measure the relevance of a website to the SEO’s website (links from a home improvement site to a web design site will not help as much as links from a site about CSS)
  • A content explorer to see what content is performing well on a specific website
  • An audit tool to see if there are any technical problems within the site, such as:
    • Broken links
    • Broken redirects
    • Missing title tags or metadescriptions
    • Missing alt tags
    • all kinds of random stuff that loves to pop up right when you’re busiest
  • A keyword explorer to help identify long tail keywords to create content around
  • A bulk backlink checker
  • A domain comparison tool
  • A crawler to find broken internal links or any other technical problems

What Majestic Does Very Well

Comparatively speaking, both Majestic and Ahrefs are good at finding backlinks. Both tools leave Moz in the dust, usually finding three to four times the number of links that Moz’s Open Site Explorer finds.  As a result, both are more reliable to measure the quality of links, making Ahrefs Domain Rank (DR) and Majestic’s Trust Flow (TF) much more reliable that Moz’s Domain Authority.  There are features that Majestic excels at, however.

CHECK OUT MY ARTICLE THAT TALKS ABOUT HOW TO READ AHREFS AND MAJESTIC METRICS

TOPICAL TRUST FLOW

A feature that Majestic offers is “topical trust flow.” Basically, it does a rudimentary job of classifying the categories of the websites that are linking to another site.  This is good because it gives a good idea of the relevancy of the links coming to a site.  For instance, if you are looking at site A that has a 5 links from sites focusing on 5 unrelated topics, it is unlikely to outperform another site that has 5 links from sites focused on relevant topics, even if the TF or CF is lower.  This is extremely valuable to grey hat and black hat SEOs that are vetting domains for a PBN, or someone doing backlink outreach; in either case, you want links from sites focused on topics related to your own.  Google knows that there’s no good reason for an online casino to link to a local painter.  Even if that online casino may appear to have high numbers in your SEO tool, it’s unlikely to help Joe the Painter.

NEIGHBORHOOD CHECKER

If you use shared hosting, you are on a server with a lot of other websites.  LOTS of them.

Unfortunately, you are bound to have some bad neighbors on your server.  If you are REALLY unlucky, you might be on a server loaded with porn, viagra sales, and steroids.  Considering that you’re sharing an IP address with these sites, that’s not the best thing for your site, but you are likely to not even know.  A unique feature that Majestic has is its neighborhood checker, which lets you take a look at the other sites that share an IP address with you and look for any red flags that may negatively impact your search performance.

What Ahrefs Does Very Well

RANK TRACKER

Ahrefs has features that focus on rank and traffic, something that Majestic is only beginning to roll out.  It tracks keywords that a site is ranking for, along with estimated traffic and search volume.  This is valuable in doing competitive analysis and determining how a site is generating organic traffic (ignore the paid search estimates, they are all WAY off).

CONTENT PLANNING

Majestic doesn’t have any features to help you come up with a content plan.  Ahrefs has tools to identify content topics that a competitor has covered that you do not cover on your site.  It also gives keyword difficulty (as is, the competitiveness to rank) and search volume estimates.  A feature that I particularly like a lot is the ability to filter content result by number of backlinks and domain rating.  This is very helpful to identify topics that will be easier to rank for than topics that are already being covered by some of the Goliaths that you’re unlikely to outrank.

 

BACKLINK OUTREACH

While it is nowhere nearly as powerful as Buzzsumo, Ahrefs does have some features that can help you identify Twitter influencers to reach out to and share content.  I really like that the tool actually lists the number of followers that a person that tweeted an article has.

DOMAIN RANK

While it is as easily manipulated as Majestic’s TF, I find Ahrefs a little more reliable.  Now that Ahrefs has changed the way it calculated DR, it’s a bit more usable since all of the websites aren’t falling into the same range of 20-30 DR as they once did.

If You Can Afford It, Get Both

While there is a lot of overlap in the features of the two tools (features that I don’t get into in this post) there are a number of unique features that can prove very valuable to an SEO.  If you can swing it financially, it is well worth it to get both of them.

What Is A Good TF? DR? DA?

These metrics should always be considered rough estimates, not steadfast rules.

The generally accepted metrics that are considered “good” depend on the niche, but for local websites, the following numbers are often cited by SEOs as acceptable:

For websites that are in more competitive niches:

Trust Flow/Domain Rank/Domain Authority are not the new PageRank

None of these numbers come from Google and all that they measure are the quality of the backlinks going to a website.  Google does consider links as a ranking factor, but it’s not the only factor.  A site that has a TF of 15 and a CF of 22 but that has 5 years of clicks from the search engine for relevant terms will outrank a website with a TF of 25 and CF of 40 that has been around for a year and a half.  Additionally, the computing power that these companies possess would be akin to an Uzi, while Google is using a Howitzer.  None of them have the capacity to collect the amount of information that Google has about a website, and therefore, none will be able to give you a full picture of a website’s competitiveness.

These metrics are not great for deciding whether you can outrank a site or not

Over time, I’ve noticed that these numbers rarely correlate with ranking.  As you can see in this graphic, there doesn’t seem to be a huge correlation between the numbers and each site’s placement on the SERP:

what is a good TF DA DR

These numbers are better used to identify the impact of getting a link from a site than they are to predict a site’s rank—use them accordingly.

There is a lot of misinformation flying around the internet when it comes to SEO.

Ultimately, make a good website, with good content, become a member of online communities, and get to know the influencers in your market.  Ideally, you won’t even need these metrics to tell the influence that a website wields.