“What DOES SEO Stand For?” A Quick Guide for the Average Business Owner

“What DOES SEO Stand For?”

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” In plain terms, it is a series of activities that helps your website become the one that potential clients find when they search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

Some of the activities that comprise SEO include:

  • Technical SEO – ensuring that your site loads properly, while making sure search engines can easily and efficiently crawl your site
  • Keyword research – research to identify relevant terms and topics that people search ford
  • Content creation – creating blog posts, videos, or other media that provide maximum value to potential customers as they search the web
  • On-Page SEO – structuring content in a way that features the keywords that you identified during your keyword research
  • Linkbuilding – reaching out to other websites that would be interested in sharing the blogs and media that you’ve produced
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What is Technical SEO?

As one may imagine, technical SEO is the most technical step of the SEO process, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s difficult. Technical SEO encompasses making sure that the site offers the best user experience while being easily navigable by search engine crawlers such as Googlebot.


It usually begins by creating a sitemap and submitting it to Google through Google Search Console (GSC).  Bruce Clay has a pretty comprehensive guide to setting up your Google Search Console here.  Check it out and get it set up today.

Page Speed

Google has stated that while page speed does not increase your likelihood of ranking, it does demote sites that load slowly.

It tracks the page load time for websites using Chrome, and studies have shown that page load time does affect user interaction with your site. A slowly loading site will be marked as slow by Google and probably have bad user signals, so get your site up to speed.

There are tools like Google PageSpeed Insights that will give you some tips to speed up your site.  You will usually find suggestions to minify your CSS, JS, and html, optimize a number of images on site, and set expiry headers for your browser caching (I wrote a post that walks you through that process here)

Proper Indexing

There are some highly technical aspects of technical SEO that you want to leave to a pro. Decisions about whether you should allow Google to index your images, or whether to set a rel canonical for a post that is on a similar topic to another can only be made based on experience. It’s worth hiring an experienced SEO for this.

Keyword Research

In 2004, keyword research was “do people look for ‘divorce lawyers’ or ‘divorce attorneys?'”

In 2018, keyword research is doing research that results in you finding out that there are no thorough blog posts covering “how to obtain sole custody of your child in the state of Arkansas.”

By identifying this topic and keywords related to it, you’ll be able to easily get your website out in front of potential family law clients that are searching on the web.

In the case of a person needing a “divorce lawyer,” he is not using the terms “divorce” or “lawyer;” he is searching for a topic that indicates that he needs the services of a family law attorney.  He may search for “do you have to pay alimony if your wife cheated on you?” Since few other website will have created content optimized for this topic, you should be able to rank fairly easily for it.

Content Creation

Let’s say that in the keyword research phase you identified the keyword “how to remove paint from brick.”

You are a local painter that is able to answer this questions quite well, so you write a thorough guide to removing old paint from brick.

You are ready to publish the blog, but decide to find a few relevant keywords that you may not have touched upon.  Using a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs, you enter the term “remove paint from brick” only to realize that there is different kinds of brick that require different techniques.

You put off publishing the blog so that you can write sections that outline the process for removing it from smooth vs. enameled vs. rough textured brick.

Once you publish the post, you’ll be able to help people that have questions about removing paint from each of the types of brick that you identified in the post.  Eventually, you start getting a few dozen visitors from all over the world every week, sending positive user signals that tell Google that there’s something good on your site and it should consider you a “trustworthy resource.”

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO encompasses two things: identifying the right topics to write about and marking up the page in a way that will drive user engagement while making it easy for Googlebot to crawl your page.

What are Title Tags and Metadescriptions?

You want to make sure that you set the title tags and meta descriptions for your site. Many SEOs have indicated that this less important that it was in previous years, and I happen to agree with them, but it doesn’t take long and it is worth doing.

This is a title tag:

example of title tag

This is a metadescription

You’ll have some control over the text that Google displays on the search engine results page (often abbreviated as the “SERP”), but it’s important to note that Google often dynamically generates metadescriptions based on the user query.  You won’t have 100% control over what shows up on the SERP.

It’s worth noting that many SEOs believe it to be important to include the keywords that you want to rank for in your title tags. While this was certainly crucial 10 or 15 years ago, things have changed. Back then, the search engine wasn’t as effective at understanding what a page was about.

Today, Google’s machine learning is pretty darn good at it. I’ve seen plenty of examples of websites that rank without ever even setting these tags.


Linkbuilding is the process of getting other sites to link to your content.

Ideally, you’ve written some great post that really covers a topic thoroughly and in a way that hasn’t already been done. If you have written the ultimate guide to cooking plantains that blows every other guide out of the water, you’re in business.

The process involves sending emails, tweets, sharing the content on social media.  It can be extremely tedious and unsuccessful when done wrong.

Link outreach is best when done carefully.  You should cultivate relationships with others in your industry and try to create a reputation for your blog. It’s a lot easier to get a site to link to you if they know who you are. If you’re just some random guy or girl asking for a link, it’s going to be a lot tougher.

Should you buys links?

Buying links is against Google’s guidelines. If you get caught, your site could potentially be penalized, but that is reserved for the most egregious cases of buying links.

Typically, if you get caught buying links, the links will simply be ignored and you’ll be out the money you spent.

At the same time, there are plenty of people out there doing it and ranking well, so it’s hard to say that it’s all bad.  Ultimately, it’s a question of whether you think the PhDs at Google will be outsmarted by your Chinese link farm or not.

User Review of the New Moz “Link Explorer” Compared w/ Other Tools

User Review of the New Moz “Link Explorer”

Does the new Moz “Link Explorer” address the problems with Moz’s Open Site Explorer and its problematic Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) metrics?

For many years, Moz’s Open Site Explorer and its DA and PA metrics have been widely used to estimate a site’s likelihood to rank for a keyword or its ability to influence rank through links.  Despite its continued popularity, any SEO that’s been paying close attention has realized that it’s been largely unhelpful in accomplishing either of these tasks.  Tools like Ahrefs and Majestic have become preferred by many SEOs and a visit to any SEO forum will uncover comments like this:

screenshot of SEO saying that no one uses moz open site explorer

Moz does an exemplary job of marketing its products and its thought leadership is second to none.  If it weren’t for its excellent content marketing, Open Site Explorer may have died long ago, since most of its features lag far behind alternatives on the market.

Moz is a wonderful company and most of the SEO community really does want to see it remain relevant, so most of us are happy to see that it is making an effort to improve its Open Site Explorer.  The company announced that it is dramatically increasing the size of its index, allowing much more data to be used to calculate its proprietary DA and PA scores.

It’s much better at finding links and it features a very clean interface, but lacks a few features

The index is BIG

The new index that is powering Link Explorer can clearly rival that of Majestic and Ahrefs. I have yet to find a case in which Link Explorer could not find as many links as another tool that I have access to.

Domain Authority (DA) is a lot more reliable

Moz now relies on a much larger index to calculate Domain Authority (DA) and is much more usable as a result.  No longer do I find sites that dominate the search engine results showing a DA of 10-15.  Additionally, the score updates so frequently that a site owner or SEO can now see changes in the score within a few days of building new links.

Is the spam score better?

As far as picking up on spammy linkbuilding, my experience has been that Majestic is the best at picking up on it.  Below I give an example of a site that has built its backlink profile almost entirely through comment spam and it has a solid DA.  It would be nice to see the DA decrease from such tactics.  The new “spam score” has not yet been deployed, so we’ll see how it performs when it is released.

It has a really clean interface and does most basic SEO tasks very well

Given that it finds about the same amount of links that Ahrefs and Majestic find, what advantage is there to Link Explorer and Moz Pro? My impression is that its very simple interface and limited features are perfect for a novice SEO or blog owner that just wants to use a tool for link prospecting.  Logging into Ahrefs is a bit like stepping into an airplane cockpit. Someone that is new to SEO is likely to feel overwhelmed by it, but not Moz Pro and its Link Explorer. A more experienced SEO is likely to prefer a tool like Ahrefs, since it offers so many more features for virtually the same price.


What Changes Has Moz Made to Open Site Explorer?

Technically, Open Site Explorer (OSE) is no more.  It is being deprecated and Moz is now launching its Link Explorer.  Rand Fishkin goes over the changes in infrastructure that have allowed for the “improved” Link Explorer in this article, but I’ll give you the rundown.

What Moz has announced as being “new” in the “new Moz Link Explorer:”
  1. The Moz index is now significantly larger than it was before
  2. Domain Authority and Page Authority update much more frequently (daily)
  3. Moz Spam Score replaces MozTrust
  4. The interface is much nicer
  5. Link distribution can be viewed by Domain Authority

How Does Moz Stack Up Against Competitors Now?

This is not going to be an exhaustive study.  I am going to simply compare the number of links found by Moz with the links found by Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Majestic and see how the larger Moz index is making it a more usable tool for me.

After a few weeks of trying Link Explorer, I can confidently say the results that I found with these sites were pretty consistent with what I’ve found through using the tool

Site 1, Legal Niche

In the case of this site, Moz can finally hang.  It found just about the same number of active links as the other tools and did a good job of not reporting dead links as active (as in the case of SEMrush).  Overall, the tool that indexed the most links and correctly identified the dead links as no longer active was Majestic, but in the case of this website, Link Explorer is showing some promise


new moz link explorer screenshot of legal niche website metrics


ahrefs screenshot of legal niche website metrics


semrush screenshot of legal niche website metrics


majestic screenshot of legal niche website metrics

Site 2, Home Improvement


screenshot of moz metrics for contractor


screenshot of ahrefs metrics for contractor


screenshot of semrush metrics for contractor


screenshot of majestic metrics for contractor

Site 3, Dentist


screenshot of moz link data for dentist website


screenshot of ahrefs link data for dentist website


screenshot of semrush link data for dentist website


majestic metrics Dentist

It Looks Like Moz Can Finally Hang with Other Linkbuilding Software

Although this is a small sample set, it is reflective of what my experience has been with SEO tools.  Typically, Ahrefs and Majestic have found more of the links that we’ve built for our clients, SEMrush would lag a bit behind, and Moz Site Explorer way behind the pack.  It appears that Moz has finally built an index that rivals those of Ahrefs and Majestic.  I still will not be adopting it as my main tool, since it doesn’t have the wide amount of tools available to tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush (namely, the content explorers and keyword planning tools) but it is certainly a usable tool for backlink research.  With the wide adoption of their tools, Moz will finally be able to deliver a much better tool to its subscribers.

What’s the difference between SEO, SEM, and SMM?

SEO, SEM, and SMM are Marketing Channels

  1. SEO is an abbreviation for search engine optimization. The goal of SEO is to get search engine users to your website.
  2. SEM is search engine marketing.  This includes SEO and paid search (the paid ads that you see at the top of Google when you perform a search).
  3. SMM is an abbreviation for social media marketing. Social media marketing includes paid Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ads as well as non-paid social media marketing efforts.

All three abbreviations are commonly used when discussing online marketing. Most successful websites engage in some combination of these marketing channels, including most of the top websites that you visit every day.


We added a video below, so scroll down if you’d prefer a video to reading!


SEO stands for search engine optimization, but what does that mean?

SEO used to be about gaming the algorithm

20 years ago, search engine optimization largely involved writing as many times as possible the keyword that you wanted to rank for. Google came along and heavily weighed the value of backlinks, resulting in a new focus on acquiring links from other sites to the site that the SEO worked for.  SEOs promptly began engaging in practices to manipulate the search engine results page, resulting in measures by Google to penalize sites caught trying to manipulate the results.

Today’s SEO is about providing value

In 2018, the goal of SEO is to gain the trust of the search engine by giving people what they want. This is accomplished by designing websites that:

  1. are easily crawled and understood by the search engine
  2. solves people’s problems
  3. serve as an information resource to other websites

There are a number of ways that you can help the search engine to understand and navigate your website:

  1. Create a sitemap and submit it to Google.  If you are using the Yoast SEO plugin, this gets generated automatically and can be found at www.exampledomain.com/sitemap_index.xml.  Go to Google Search Console —> Crawl —> Sitemap.  Submit your sitemap there.
  2. Use title tags as well as H1-6 tags.  By using header tags you will make your content more “skimmable” to visitors as well as the search engine.  It’s a great opportunity to place keywords relevant to your article.
  3. Link to other articles and pages within your site.  The search engine wants to understand which pages you consider to be the most important and authoritative; link to your most important articles that are relevant to the piece that you are writing.  If you’re writing an article about painting your kitchen and you did a piece about priming and sanding, link to the priming and sanding article.  It is both relevant to the current article and could provide value to future visitors.  Additionally, it can potentially pass some link equity that will help the other article to rank.
  1. Focus your content on solving people’s problems. Google has a number of ways to determine whether a website is solving people’s problems.  It is collecting all kinds of data on the way people interact with search engine results and websites; if your site seems to provide the knowledge on a given topic, you are likely to be worthy of consideration when the next person does a search on a similar topic.
  2. Google is not interested in “rewarding your website”—it wants to provide the best, most relevant results to searchers.  If you are able to demonstrate that you are able to provide the value to searchers that they need, you will be trusted and more likely to be recommended as a result for queries related to your content or business.
  1. Create unique content that provides value to other sites.  How-to articles, information related to your industry, anything that another website would want to reference will eventually earn your site links.
  2. Contribute to a community.  My experience has been that sites seldom earn links on their own. Usually sites earn links when their contributors are members of a community that refers to the content, makes its existence known in that circle, then earns links via references.


SEM Stands for “Search Engine Marketing”

Search engine marketing includes SEO, but also includes paid search.  I did a comprehensive guide on paid search that you can follow to learn the best practices in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.


SMM is “Social Media Marketing”


This is a term that many marketers were using up until around 2016.  SMM has largely morphed into “Facebook Advertising” since Facebook has captured such a large percentage of the money spent on social media.  Additionally, it’s become largely a paid channel since the organic reach of FB pages is now so limited.  Today, Facebook marketing largely means “paid advertising.”


Much—if not all—of “influencer marketing” is done on social media.  A brand reaches out to the representative of an influencer such as Kim Kardashian and pays her to put up a post related to the brand on social media.  Influencer marketing is arguably a subset of social media marketing, though it is rarely described as such.


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.




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.

Comparison #3

Let’s get right into it:

semrush organic traffic dentist

Compared to:

analytics dentist

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.

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


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.


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.

Ahrefs vs. Majestic SEO – A Review After 3 Years Using Both

If I Had to Choose Between Ahrefs and Majestic, Which Would I Pick?

Ahrefs has a lot more features than Majestic, they are equally as good at finding backlinks, but Majestic seems to excel at helping us to spot spammy sites.

If you have the budget for one or the other, which should you pick?


It all depends on your needs.  This post will help you to identify what Ahrefs and Majestic can offer you.

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 help identify new topics for a site’s blog
  • 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

Both Majestic and Ahrefs are excellent at finding backlinks. I’ve written posts with examples of how both of their indexes leave SEMrush in the dust, sometimes finding 50% more links than SEMrush.  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 than SEMrush’s authority metrics.  There are SEO tasks that Majestic excels at, however.



My experience has been that sites that engage in comment spamming and other spammy methods are less successful at manipulating Majestic than they are with Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz.  Its TF/CF ratio is a valuable tool for identifying sites that have tons of low quality backlinks; according to the company, the ratio between the two should be no greater than 2:1 or 1:2.

Just as an example, this is a spammy site that loves comment spam:

Majestic rating of site with spam backlinks

It’s the 1:6 TF/CF is a red flag.  Upon closer inspection, one can see immediately that it has spammed millions of comments like this:

spam comments

On the other hand, Ahrefs rates this domain quite highly:

ahrefs rating of spammy domain


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, some SEOs believe it may not help it 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.


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.  No other SEO tool offers this feature.

What Ahrefs Does Very Well


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).


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.



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.

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.


Can a WordPress Theme Help Your SEO?

Can a WordPress Theme Help Your SEO?

Your WordPress Theme Cannot Help Your SEO, But It Could Hurt It

There is no WordPress theme that will give you an SEO boost, but picking the wrong theme could prove to be a slight hindrance to your efforts. A poorly coded theme could potentially result in a slower load time, which could have some undesirable effects:

  1. It can raise your “I clicked on your result and got tired of waiting for the page to load, so I went back to Google” score
  2. The algorithm could register it as a slow-loading website and decide to rank faster sites higher than yours, especially on mobile devices.

Even if you did pick the “wrong” theme, that doesn’t mean that you need to scrap it for a new one. Read on.

There Are Ways To Speed Up Your Site

Start off by seeing where you are as far as your page speed.  Google provides a tool called Pagespeed Insights that will:

  • tell you how fast (or slow) your site is
  • how to improve its speed

And best of all, it’s free.

WordPress Plugins to the Rescue

While you’re unlikely to ever get a poorly coded WordPress theme to rank particularly high on PageSpeed Insights, you can definitely get it to a respectable level.  Just for comparison, these are the results for bbc.com:

pagespeed insights for bbc.com

Follow the recommendations for possible optimizations and you’re on your way to a much faster loading website that is unlikely to lose (impatient) visitors.

The most common recommendations that we see are:

  • Optimize images

  • Leverage browser caching

  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

  • Enable compression

  • Minify JavaScript

There are a number of free and paid plugins that can help you with all of these recommendations.  In the next section I’ll go over a few of them.


This is my go-to when it comes to image optimization.  It will optimize all of the images that you upload so that they are as small as they can be without losing quality.  I don’t build a WordPress site without it.


This is a popular plugin to accomplish the “minify” recommendations that everyone seems to get with PageSpeed Insights.


WP Cache is a massively popular caching plugin.  There’s no way that you haven’t heard of it unless you’ve been living under a drupal rock for the last 5 years.

Ultimately, Pick The Theme That Will Help You Create Something Great

Even if your theme isn’t blazing fast out of the box, as long as it coded well enough to not weigh down your load time, your focus should be more on the quality of the site that you’re going to be able to build with it.

Can Your Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate Impact a Site’s SEO?

Can Your Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate Impact Your Site’s SEO?

The short, but incomplete answer is no, shopping cart abandonment will not lower your rank.  However, the complete answer is more along the lines of “it matters what they do after the shopping cart is abandoned.”

Your Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate Will Not Lower Your Rank, But You Should Still Be Concerned

John Mueller has stated pretty explicitly that your cart abandonment rate will not affect your SEO.  Nonetheless, this does not mean that you are completely in the clear.  Aside from the fact that search engine rank is useless if people don’t buy anything from you, if they are returning to the search engine after visiting your site, it may negatively impact your rank.



Mary wants to buy some widgets (she went to business school and can’t get enough of them now).  She searched for “best widgets on a budget” and found you at #2.  She clicked on your site, added one of your widgets to the cart, but then felt confused by your site’s checkout system.  Not wanting to fight to figure it out, she performed another search for “best budget widgets” and clicked on the #3 result, which is one of your competitors.

What message was sent to the search engine?  Mary clicked on your site looking for widgets, but had to go back a second time to look for them on another site, which indicates a less-than-ideal user experience.   If this happens to your site at a much higher rate than your competitors’ sites, you very well may be negatively impacted.

If You Have a High Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate, SEO Is The Least Of Your Concerns

There’s obviously something wrong with your site.  While you don’t want to lose search rank, the bigger problem is that you are losing out on sales.  Figure out what is going on and take care of it ASAP.