[TUTORIAL] Voice Assistant Schema Markup for Your Website

How to Add Voice Schema Markup to Your Website

Google recently announced the beta of Speakable, a schema markup that allows you to identify sections of your content that is most suitable for text-to-speech audio playback.

This new schema markup will help you to deliver news content over Google Assistant, the voice assistant used by Android devices, including Google Home.  Use of voice assistants is growing significantly and this structured data markup will help Google Assistant and Google Home devices to deliver voice content from news website to users.

It is important to note that as of July of 2018, the speakable schema will only have an effect on news sites.  Google has stated clearly that a website will have to be part of its news publisher program in order to deliver voice content using speakable schema.

How is Voice Schema Structured?

Naturally, there are a few different ways to implement your speakable schema markup.  It is important to consider the application and what would make the most sense for your content.

Here are two different ways to implement your speakable markup:

{
“@context”: “http://schema.org/”,
“@type”: “WebPage”,
“name”: “Jane Doe’s homepage”,
“speakable”:
{
“@type”: “SpeakableSpecification”,
“cssSelector”: [“headline”, “this is a summary of the data”]
},

“url”: “http://www.janedoe.com”
}

TYPES: speakable
PRE-MARKUP:
An example of ‘speakable’ markup (JSON-LD only, initially).
MICRODATA:
TODO

RDFA:
TODO

JSON:
{
“@context”: “http://schema.org/”,
“@type”: “WebPage”,
“name”: “Jane Doe’s homepage”,
“speakable”: [ “#myhead1”, “#thesummary”],
“url”: “http://www.janedoe.com”
}

Test Your Structured Data

Google provides a tool to test whether you’ve implemented the speakable schema properly.  You can find the tool here.

A Few Tips to Optimize Your Content for Voice Assistance

Remember to “Keep it Short”

It is important to ensure that the content that you mark up with “speakable” microdata be concise.  Amazon provides the following advice at https://developer.amazon.com/designing-for-voice/what-alexa-says/

One-breath test

When writing what Alexa will say, read aloud what you’ve written. If you can say the words at a conversational pace with one breath, the length is probably good. If you need to take a breath, consider reducing the length.

For a response that includes successive ideas, such as steps in a task, read each idea separately. While the entire response may require more than one breath, make sure you only take breaths between and not during ideas.

Make Sure It Makes Sense and Feels Natural

Do not mark up sections of your content that won’t work well with voice assistants.

Imagine listening to Google Assistant as it reads a timeline, or goes through a bunch of photo captions on your site.  Read aloud what you are marking up and ask yourself if it sounds like something that a human being would say in response to a question.  If it doesn’t read naturally, expect people to stop the playback and move on.

 

 

 

 

Google Advanced Operators [Cheat Sheet]

Google Advanced Operator Cheat Sheet

Advanced operators are extremely useful set of commands that every SEO should know.  These operators can help you to gain insights into the competitive landscape in which you are competing as well as help you to gain insights into Google’s view of your website.

I’m going to share a few of my favorites, then give you a chart with a number of the advanced search operators that are most useful to SEOs.

The Most Useful Advanced Search Operators for SEOs

1. How to check local search Google results in different cities

This is a somewhat underused technique that few SEOs know how to use. Using this feature, you can see how the search engine results page changes from city to city.

1. Open up your browser in incognito

By opening a browser in incognito, you’ll automatically depersonalize your results. This will keep any past searches from affecting the search results that you see on the page. Remember to start from google.com afresh every time you search. Failure to do so will further change your search results based the previous search you performed.

search results page with default local results

Now click on the url bar:

url of search results page

Now replace everything past “q=divorce&lawyers” with “&near=Other City”

search url bar for other city

Hit enter and you’ll see the search engine results are now personalized for a city:

Local results boston

There are some results that are being delivered due to my ip address, (namely, the Adwords placement in the 3-pack and one organic result below for a divorce lawyer with “locations” in Cherry Hill and Boston (don’t ask how he managed that).

2. How to Find Websites with Keywords in Title

This one is particularly useful for finding guest posting opportunities if you don’t have access to Ahrefs, SEMrush, or a similar content explorer.

The most useful way to use it is like this:

inurl operator example

This way, you’ll get search results for pages about “SEO” that have the keywords “guest-post” in the URL.  This can be used for any number of things, including finding job pages, bios, or whatever you may need.

SEO-Favorite Search Operators

Search Operator Example What it does
inurl: OR allinurl: inurl:seo-tips Displays webpages w/ keywords in url
intitle: OR allintitle: intitle:adwords Find sites w/ keyword in the page title
intext: OR allintext: intext:pizzerias find competitors ranking for keywords you select
inanchor: OR allinanchor: pizzerias inanchor:brick oven find websites using a given keyword in its anchor text
&near=City: https://www.google.com/search?q=lawyers&near=Philadelphia check search results from specific cities. Read paragraph above for more details.
region: region:Pennsylvania/td> This will give you search results from certain cities. It differs from the previous technique in that it delivers you region-specific websites, as opposed to the search results for a given city, which may have high-ranking non-local websites.

Advanced Search Operators

Search Operator Example What it does
cache: cache:sagapixel.com View Google’s cached version instead of current version
filetype: lawyers info:.pdf Find files in a specific format with a filename containing the keyword you enter
daterange: intext:pizzerias find competitors ranking for keywords you select
site: site:sagapixel.com “content marketing” find pages on a site containing specific keywords
&near=City: https://www.google.com/search?q=lawyers&near=Philadelphia check search results from specific cities. Read below for more details.
region: region:Pennsylvania This will give you search results from certain cities. It differs from the previous technique in that it delivers you region-specific websites, as opposed to the search results for a given city, which may have high-ranking non-local websites.

Finding Content Ideas & Keywords For a Blog Using Ahrefs

Finding Content Ideas & Keywords For a Blog Using Ahrefs

Transcript

First, Content Research

Hey everybody, this is Frank and Max at Sagapixel. We’re going to be doing a little bit of content research for one of our clients that does basement waterproofing. We’re looking for some low hanging fruit as far as getting some traffic to his blog. We’re starting off with the Content Explorer. We’re going to enter the topic “french drains” and we’re going to see what posts seem to, I’ll just do “French drain” singular, and we’re going to see what posts seem to be getting traffic for the website.

Find Topics That We Can Rank For

Filter out sites with high domain ratings (DR)

Obviously, we’re not going to try to compete against bobvila.com. This is a new website and it has nowhere near a domain rating of 80.  We’re going to filter that out. We’ll go to domain rating. We’re not going to get anything that’s over 25 actually. Try to just narrow it down like that. All right. Now we’re down to 2,000.

Filter out posts with low traffic and those with a high number of referring domains

I don’t want anything that’s not getting any organic traffic at all so let’s set this from 50. All right. We’re down to 25 already. We can already take a look at some of the posts that we can get some information from. As I go down, some of these have like, this one has 46 referring domains. I don’t want that either so I’m going to set this to a max of let’s say, a max of 20.  Obviously, this post is not off the bat, going to have all these links.

Find articles to choose a topic focus

Here we have a number of articles that we’re going to take a look at. This one grabbed my eye. It’s a Blog Spot post so it’s interesting that it’s ranking at all. Let’s open it up and take a look at what it says.
French drain design.
The cool thing about this one is that it has a whole bunch of pictures. We’re unfortunately not going to have that but we’re going to be meeting with this client next week. We’re going to tell him, “All right, I’m starting this post. I need you to get me a whole bunch of pictures of a French drain design you’ve given and what we can do as far as beefing up the content.”
I think we may have a winner here as far as getting a starting point for what we need to talk about. We’re going to look at some other ones here as well. As we go down, all right. Drainage system types. This isn’t mentioned explicitly, “French drains,” and it has a very low domain rating but it seems to be getting organic traffic of 80 posts a month so that’s intriguing as well. Here we’re going to review this and we’re going to see what we can get. There really isn’t much here. I’m surprised this is ranking at all.

Find keywords to target in the new topic

We’re going to look into what kind of keywords we can be targeting from here. On step  we grabbed two articles and we know that they’re ranking for things related to french drains but I want to see what else they’re ranking for so I’m going to grab this URL to start off with and we’re going to go to Site Explorer.
Set it to that exact post, prefix. Okay. This post has 111 organic keywords that it is ranking for. We’re going to download them. Full export. Export it. Now we’re going to go over to the dry basements. SEO work. Okay. We’re going to do check folder for blogs. We’re going to go in there. All right. We’re going to start off by create and share. French drains. Okay. From there, I’m going to go back SEO work, keyword analysis.

Place keywords in spreadsheet

I’m going to add onto this sheet. This one is going to be called French drains. I actually haven’t downloaded it yet so let me go in here. I’m downloading this list and basically, what we’re going to be doing with it is, we’re going to take all of the keywords that this blog is ranking for and we’re going to make sure that we find the most attractive ones and include it within the blog post. Delete these. I’m going to grab all of these. I don’t care about the CPCs.

Use keyword list to create the post outline

We’re go in here and go back over to the keyword analysis for French drains, paste it in and then the next step is going to be that Max is going to highlight a number of these to look for keywords that are going to make sense within the post that we’re going to write and he’s going to make sure that we have sections that are really covering all of these different topics. I hope that this was a good insight into how to find topics, how to identify keywords that you’re going to actually have a chance to rank for.

Wrapup of what we did

Again, step one; we went to the Content Explorer, looked into French drains. Step two; we grabbed a couple of these posts and we threw them into Site Explorer. We downloaded all the keywords that they’re ranking for and now we have A, a topic to cover and B, the keywords that we know that we really need to touch upon when we’re writing the post.

The Impact of Voice on b2b SEO Is Likely Overstated

The Impact of Voice Search on B2B SEO Is Overstated

picture of an amazon echo

The impact that voice will have on our daily lives is undeniable.  It will change the way we shop, the way we organize our lives, even the way we communicate with one another.

One thing that it will not greatly affect will be b2b search.

Whenever a new technology comes along, everyone gets super excited.  Remember when the Segway was going to rack up $1 billion in sales faster than any company in history?

In the case of voice search, the predictions will be half-right.  People will use voice search when it is more convenient, but for a number of reasons, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri will not enter the office. 

Voice search will be a part of our daily mobile lives, but for those of us that are tethered to a desk all day, there will be a number of reasons that we will not start yammering at our devices all day long.

Digital Assistants Are Not Right for the Office. (Bye Bye B2B Voice Search)

There are many reasons why digital assistants won’t become the default  in many workplaces.  Here are a few:

man covering ears because of noise from digital assistants1. The Cacophony of People Talking to Devices Would be Unbearable

Can you imagine the chaos of your office full of people talking to their digital assistants?  <shuddering at the thought>

Voice search would become so disruptive of a typical office that “no voice assistant” policies would likely be put in place. While this could possibly be less of an issue in private offices, the typical office full of cubicles would not be conducive to having a few dozen employees performing internet searches on voice assistants.

I expect that some offices will adopt a “no voice assistants” policy.

2. B2B Consumers Sometimes Need Various Options, not Just One

Few b2b purchases are low involvement purchases.

Let’s take the example of a local insurance agent and the typical purchases that she may make.

  • Need to reorder business cards? A voice assistant could help with that. 
  • Need to find a company to order business cards for a new venture? A voice assistant is not going to let you efficiently look at all of the different options and compare costs.
  • Looking to find a developer to build a new website? You’re going to want to look at a few different portfolios; a voice assistant won’t allow you to see the work.
  • Need to hire an IP attorney? At the very least, you’re going to want to see her website and read about her a bit. 

While voice search excels at handling small tasks, it will always be an awkward way to do research.  Any sort of involved b2b purchase is likely to involve traditional desktop or mobile search.

3. People Want Privacy

In an office environment a worker can research different vendors without having to worry about prying coworkers.

We’ve all worked with these kinds of people…

“Did you hear Tom asking Alexa to find a janitorial company this morning?  He wasted so much time on it; why didn’t he just get a couple numbers and make some calls?”

Some people don’t want their coworkers listening to their searches all day (I fall into this category).

4. Desktop Search is Faster; You Can’t Skim Alexa

As I mentioned above, it’s a lot faster to do a quick Google search and browse a few websites for options for a b2b purchase. Asking a digital assistant to perform the search will force us to sit and listen to all of the results.

 

“But It’s New Technology!” You Protest…

screenshot of web traffic by device showing 85% desktop traffic for our websiteI’m the furthest thing from a Luddite when it comes to technology.

That said, just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it does everything better than the current alternatives.

A perfect example would be the smartphone and b2b SEO.  Mobile devices have largely taken over internet traffic, but for a b2b website like Sagapixel.com, the vast majority of our traffic still comes from desktop users.  Apparently, business owners don’t take our their cell phones to look for a web design or SEO company; they use their desktops, just like they do for their payroll, paperwork and virtually everything else.

Just because the smartphone took over web traffic for the majority of the internet doesn’t mean that your traffic is going to be mostly mobile.  The reason that mobile traffic has increased is that the smartphone is more convenient for someone on the go. We can get what we want right now, a benefit that outweighs the less-than-optimal experience of awkwardly tapping and reading a 6 inch screen. At the same time, someone sitting at a desk is unlikely to forego using the 27″ screen right there in front of him, opting to squint at a 6 inch smartphone screen while searching for a WordPress developer.

He’s even less likely to ask Google Assistant to find a developer for him.

Overall, Voice Search Will Take Off, Just Not In The Office

 

How to Find Easy-to-Rank-For Keywords and Blog Topics w/ Ahrefs

How to Find Easy-to-Rank-For Keywords and Blog Topics w/ Ahrefs

Be sure to view in full screen!

Video Transcript:

Find easy topics that you’re likely to rank for

Hey everybody, this is Frank, rocking the Sagapixel t-shirt today and I’m going to be showing you how we use the tool Ahrefs to identify blog topics that are going to be relatively easy to rank for, but that actually drive some search traffic to a website.

So let’s check it out.

Start with keyword research

Here we have a topic that I’ve selected for a client of ours, that we did an eCommerce website for a few months ago. He basically sells different products to help you bind your own book or report or presentation at home. He’s been struggling to rank against some really big players in the market, but players that have not really done virtually anything in the ways of content marketing.

Let’s start with book binding and what we can find. The number two topic right here is this DIY book binding. I expanded it out into the keyword explorer and clicked on the search engine results page and found that most of what is actually ranking right now is social media stuff, YouTube, YouTube, YouTube, there’s a DIY book binding page and DIY Network is the top related result here.

What other keywords does the page rank for?

What I found was interesting was that there are 687 other terms that this page ranks for. I think that that will be really helpful in helping our client to organize his thoughts and the topics that he’s going to be covering in his complete guide to DIY book binding for the total newbie or something along those lines. We’re gonna see there’s some decent search volume behind some of these queries, like how to bind the book, DIY book binding, some of the other ones that I saw in here, bind your own book, photo book binding, not super high volume but this could be something that we throw maybe a little section within the guide.

Earn some trust signals

But basically, have this be a blog post, a 2000 word everything that you need to know guide to basically the product that this guy sells so that maybe one of them is gonna be something he starts driving some traffic through and eventually he’s able to earn some trust signals that then tell the search engine that this post, people that land on this post after they search for how to make a book by hand, that they land on that page, maybe this is a little less difficult to rank for, and maybe the search engine will learn that people that come to the page for this term seem to like it. Maybe we should throw this page as a result for some of these other queries such as how to bind pages. If he’s going to then start sending some trust signals for these searches, then maybe create like a snowball effect where he is now ranking for a whole bunch of different terms that are related to this topic.

I have used this tactic to great success for a lot of our clients and even our own website at Sagapixel.com where I have a whole series of reviews and tutorials that I’ve done, such as this one, just talking about SEO tools that have driven a lot of search trust signals and I’ve seen that a lot of our posts that only started off ranking for a couple terms here and there over time started ranking for a lot of other things that were kind of like secondary topics that we touched upon in the post that afterwards ended up driving a decent amount of search traffic to the website.

Find keywords that we might be able to rank for

For him, basically we’re going to go through this tool, we’re gonna look through all of this different stuff to identify first of all things that have a keyword difficulty that’s going to be in a reasonable range where we’re going to be able to rank. I don’t think he’s gonna be able to rank for a 33 key word difficulty, but maybe he will for a 12. Once we’re actually in there, finding a whole bunch of different topics that other websites have been able to drive some search volume for that we’re also going to be able to target kind of as secondary topics.

Grab a trial with Ahrefs

Hopefully you’ll be able to grab Ahrefs. They have a seven day, seven dollar trial that you can use. I recommend that you give it a shot. Use the keyword explorer, check the organic keywords, look for stuff that has volume of at least 50 or 100 and that doesn’t have key word difficulties that are not going to be something that you are potentially going to be able to rank for on your site.

Make a mind map

Pro tip, before I go, if you have a hard time finding what parent topics you think you’ll be able to cover, I highly suggest you do a mind map of your entire business. If you are in the basement waterproofing business, so you could start off with basement waterproofing and then have some lines coming off what we’re talking about, okay, well with the basement waterproofing you have French drains, you have sump pumps, you have those leech runs, the things that go … I forgot the name of them, they run along the exterior of a basement.

Then from there, there are all kinds of other topics, like from sump pumps you can then get into the topics of how much does it cost to get a sump pump installed? What are the different types of sump pumps? What kind of sump pump do I need for this sort of … If I have a floating slab, what do I need if I have something else? Then using that to prepare yourself mentally for the different topics that you can then throw into Ahrefs like this. This is perfect when you’re running into a wall as far as like, “What the hell should I be throwing in here in the first place?”

Hopefully this was helpful. I really recommend that you subscribe to our YouTube channel or our blog so that you can keep up to date with these different types of tutorials that I’m showing you.

 

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

Moz:

new moz link explorer screenshot of legal niche website metrics

Ahrefs:

ahrefs screenshot of legal niche website metrics

SEMrush:

semrush screenshot of legal niche website metrics

Majestic:

majestic screenshot of legal niche website metrics

Site 2, Home Improvement

Moz:

screenshot of moz metrics for contractor

Ahrefs:

screenshot of ahrefs metrics for contractor

SEMrush:

screenshot of semrush metrics for contractor

Majestic:

screenshot of majestic metrics for contractor

Site 3, Dentist

Moz:

screenshot of moz link data for dentist website

Ahrefs:

screenshot of ahrefs link data for dentist website

SEMrush:

screenshot of semrush link data for dentist website

Majestic:

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
MAKE YOUR SITE EASILY CRAWLED AND UNDERSTOOD

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.
SOLVE PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS
  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.
SERVE AS A SOURCE OF INFORMATION TO OTHER WEBSITE
  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”

FACEBOOK ADVERTISING

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.”

INFLUENCER MARKETING

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

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.

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