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

What is DR and UR in Ahrefs?

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

How is DR Calculated?

According to Ahrefs’ own website:

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

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

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

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

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

How is UR calculated?

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

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

what is ur in ahrefs

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

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

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

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

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

So you’ve gotten this message…

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

and you want to see this:

90 google page speed

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

Log into your file manager on your hosting

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

find .htaccess

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


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


Save it and check that it worked

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



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

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

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

Why This is Good


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 – An Independent Rundown of What You Get

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

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

What Does a Typical SEO or Content Marketer Need?

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

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

What Majestic Does Very Well

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



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


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

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

What Ahrefs Does Very Well


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.


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.


While it is as easily manipulated as Majestic’s TF, I find Ahrefs a little more reliable.

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.


Majestic vs. Moz For Linkbuilding – Which Is Better?

Majestic vs. Moz For Linkbuilding – Which Is Better?

In a nutshell:

  • Typically, Majestic indexes far more many backlinks  than Moz
  • Majestic tends to be a little less forgiving than Moz when it comes to rating the “spamminess” of those links, allowing you to better spot toxic links
  • Majestic includes topic categories, which is vital to backlinks building, while Moz does not.  If you have a basketball blog, backlinks from a home improvement website are not going to be particularly helpful.

1. Majestic indexes far more many backlinks  than Moz

Pretty much across the board, Majestic finds a lot more of a site’s backlinks than Moz.  Here is an example of the backlink profile of a prominent law firm in Philadelphia:

Majestic finds more backlinks than Moz

You’ll see that it has indexed around 40k backlinks.  Now let’s see how many Moz Open Site Explorer found for the same site:

Moz finds less backlinks

Moz found a fraction of the links pointing to this site (1,150).


This leads to a big question: can you rely on Moz to determine the quality of the backlink profile of a website if it only finds 1 in every 10 links going to it?  My opinion is that you cannot.

  • Will it tell you with any accuracy if a site has a huge spam backlink profile?  Maybe, maybe not.
  • Will it help you to find backlink sources?  Not if it misses 9 out of 10 of them.
  • Can you use it to guess where a site should be ranking?  Again, I can’t see how you can if it misses such a large number of backlinks.

2. Majestic is a lot less forgiving when it comes to spam

One of our client’s competitors has a backlink profile that is almost entire spam comments.  The site has roughtly 2 million links like this one, which we found on a blog about Mercedes Benz:

spam comments

This site should set off every alarm when its URL is placed into an SEO tool.  Let’s see what we see with Majestic:

Majestic rating of site with spam backlinks

It has a very low trust flow, and a 1 to 6 TF to CF ratio, which indicates a spammy backlink profile.  What does Moz find for the same site? (click here to learn about Majestic TF and CF)

Moz rating of site with spam backlinks

According to Moz, this is a fairly authoritative website, with a DA of 39 and a PA of 48.  The “spam score” is only a 2 of 17, despite the 2,000,000+ spam blog comments pointing to the site.  In this case, Moz really falls short.

3. Majestic includes topic categories and Moz does not

If you are building links, you want to get links from sites that are about the same topic as your website.  Majestic provides a “topical trust flow” metric, which lets you know what kind of websites are linking to a specific domain or URL.  This can help you to:

  • determine whether you want to reach out to a blog or not
  • tell if the blog seems to be spamming (if it has dozens and dozens of links from sites with unrelated topics, there’s a chance that the owner is spamming)

This can be vital when trying to keep a clean backlink profile.

Ultimately, Majestic provides more of the information that you need to perform backlink research, but it is still just one tool available.

As I’ve written in past posts, these tools are all like the blind men feeling the elephant.  Moz Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, Majestic, Spyfu, SEM Rush, and all of the other tools are measuring just a part of what is going on with a site.  None of these tools have the click data that SEOs hypothesize play a significant role in how RankBrain works, none of them factor the historical data of the website, and none are measuring things like page speed or user experience.  These tools are valuable when looking for opportunities to build links, to create content, or to try to break down a competitor’s online strategy.  They all fall short when it comes to the bottom line goal: why is a specific site ranking as well as it is?

7 Invaluable Steps to Marketing a Construction Business Online

7 Invaluable Steps to Marketing a Construction Business Online.

Here’s the list:

  1. Build a responsive website
    1. Include calls-to-action, contact forms, and click-to-dials on every page of the site
    2. Make sure that your title tags and headlines include the geographic areas you serve
  2. Claim and verify your Google My Business and Bing Places listings
  3. Claim your local listings. We call these “local citations” and they will help you show up in the Google local 3-pack.
  4. Get some links from local websites
    1. Sponsor a little league team?  Get a link from their website
    2. Get links from partners and vendors.
    3. Join local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and get links to your site.
  5. Develop a strategy for online paid advertising on Google and/or Facebook.  This strategy will differ based on your business’s particular niche and customers
  6. Develop a plan to get reviews from your customers.
  7. Prepare a plan to deal with any negative reviews.

Need some guidance on how this is all done? Read on.

1. Build a Responsive Website

A responsive website is a website that automatically adjusts itself to the dimensions of the screen that the visitor is viewing the site on.

If he is on a a massive 40-inch monitor, it occupies the entire screen.

If he is on a mobile phone, it rearranges the site so that it all fits and is legible.

Why do I need a responsive website?

It is really important to have a responsive website for a number of reasons.  To start, most people are searching on mobile phones, not desktops.  If you offer repair services, this is even more pronounced.  Let’s think about the process that a typical person goes through when she needs a garage door repaired:

Mary is on her way to the supermarket on a Saturday morning.  She tries to get her car out of the garage, but when she hits the button, the door seems to be stuck.  She needs it to be fixed fast, so she doesn’t go upstairs and boot up her computer; she takes out her phone and Googles “garage door repair guy near me.”  Google knows that she is on a cell phone and will give preference to mobile-friendly websites when picking results.  She clicks on the first result, and gets to a mobile-friendly website.  There is a little green button on the bottom of the screen with a phone icon on it, which she taps and the phone starts ringing.  In a few seconds, she is on the phone booking an appointment.

This scenario probably looks completely familiar.  If the site that she landed on weren’t responsive or mobile-friendly, it would have been hard to read and would not have had the call button at the bottom.  The odds of her actually getting in touch with the garage door repair guy would have tanked.

What is a call-to-action and why do I need them?

People only do what we tell them to do.  Advertisers have known for decades that when you tell people to “call now!” they are much more likely to do so.  If you feel like your site has about 2x more calls-to-action than it needs, you almost have enough of them.  A lot of your visitors are going to simply skim your site and they will miss some percentage of these calls to action.  The more of them you have, the more likely they are to contact you.

What is a title tag and a header tag?

The blue letters in the Google Results usually are set by the person running the website.  They are called a title tag.

rich snippets example

The header tags are all of the headlines to each section of your page.  You set them with an html markup.

It is important to include the keywords that are relevant to your business.  If you want to rank for “plumbers in Vineland, NJ” and the word “Vineland” is nowhere on your site, you’re not as likely to rank as another website that includes it in the title tags and header tags.

2. Claim and verify your Google My Business and Bing Places listings

Go to business.google.com.  Sign up.

Do the same for bingplaces.com.

Make sure that you keep an eye out for the verification postcard they send you. It is really important that you verify this listing.

3. Claim Your Local Listings

There are a lot of local directories out there.  While listing a site on 150 different sites used to help quite a bit with SEO, that’s not necessarily the case any longer.  However, it is still important that you list your website.

Your NAP is really, really important.

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number.  As I have outlined in other articles, your NAP must be consistent.

In the case of Sagapixel’s mailing address, there are three different formats that I’ve seen:

  1. NJ-73 North
  2. Route 73 North
  3. RT-73 North

This can be further complicated by forgetting the “North” or abbreviating it with an “N.”

Pick a format and stick with it. 

The same goes for your phone number.  Don’t list your sales department on some listings and your business cell on others.

The search engines are going to compare the NAP that you have on your site with what they are finding on other sites.  If your site does not match with all of the other listings, the search engine may not understand that they are just different formats of your information; they may think that you’ve moved.

Once you’ve established a NAP to use, start claiming your local listings.

We have a checklist of websites that you can use to do your local citations.  If you don’t have time to do it, click here and contact us.  Local citations are not expensive and are a one-time fee until you move or change your phone number.  We highly discourage you from paying a monthly fee for this service.  There are companies like Yext Superlistings that will charge you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your business for what is essentially a couple hours of work.  Just pay it once.

4. Get Some Links From Local Websites

While some of these may coincide with the local citations from the previous section, many won’t.  If you do business with other local vendors, you should try getting links from them.  The same goes for local organizations that you are a member of, as well as others that you sponsor.  All of these links serve as further proof that you operate in the area that you say you serve and that you have an actively maintained website.

5. Develop a Strategy for Online Paid Advertising

This is a blog post in an of itself.  Frankly, it could be a college degree.  Regardless, I will try to give you a rough explanation of how you can go about it.

You are probably best off hiring a local company to do it for you

But before anything, make sure that you check out their online reviews.  Many of the companies that handle digital marketing have the following business model: focus resources on getting new leads and spend the least amount possible on actually delivering results.  As long as you have more coming in than leaving, you’re going to make money.  You can usually tell if this is the case with an organization based on the reviews that you see online.  Just Google the company and see what you find.  Don’t let any of them rope you into a long-term contract.  If you look around enough, someone will handle it for you on a month-to-month basis.

Should I advertise on Facebook or on Google?

It is next to impossible to answer this question well without knowing your business and market.  A rule of thumb is that if your customers are actively out looking for someone to provide your service, Google Adwords may be worth exploring. If your customers are not necessarily out searching for your services, you might whet their appetites by putting an ad in front of them.


If you want to get in front of Mary when she’s looking for someone to fix her garage door, Adwords is definitely worth looking into. 

If you want to get Mary to decide that she wants to redo the tile in her bathroom, showing her a picture or video of a beautiful renovation that you did through Facebook ads may do the trick.

I highly advise against doing Adwords yourself.  Remember that Adwords is an auction and as a result, a sort of competition—you can blow through a lot of money fast and not see any results if you’re going up against a bunch of seasoned professionals that know all of the tricks.

Facebook boosted posts are probably not going to help you much.  Again, FB ads are a competition just as Adwords is, and you are going up against highly trained pros that have sophisticated sales funnels.  Additionally, boosted posts are rarely targeted properly by a non-pro.

6. Develop a Plan to Get Online Reviews

People are busy.  They need a good reason to leave a review for you online.

Either you need to make them really happy or really mad if you want them to review you on their own.  Usually, the really mad people are the ones that take the time.

By offering your customers something in exchange for a review, you greatly increase the chances that your normal happy customer will leave you a review.  But where should you have them review you?

Google is the best place for them to leave your reviews.

By emailing them a link to the search results page with your snippet, they can easily leave a review for you.  The reason that this is the preferred place is that Google will show these stars and reviews before reviews from any other site.  The downside to having your customers review you here is that they have to log into their Google account; if they don’t have a Gmail account, they won’t be able to leave the reviews.

There are other places that your customers can leave you reviews

We have seen reviews from the following websites show up in our contractor clients’ search engine results:

  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Homeadvisor
  • Angie’s List

If your customers don’t have a gmail account, have them leave you a review in one of these places.

7. Prepare a plan to deal with any negative reviews.

Even the best contractor gets unhappy customers.  Some of them will be mad enough to leave a negative review and you need to have a plan to deal with it.

Don’t write the response with the reviewer in mind; write it with the person reading the review in mind

Your response to the review isn’t going to change the reviewer’s mind, but it will affect the way other potential customers view you.  There are a lot of posts online about the best ways to handle bad online reviews, but here are some pointers for when your construction business gets a negative review:

  1. Mention in the response that you offered to address the reviewer’s issues and give details. Did you try to finish the job the way they wanted but they wouldn’t let you?  Did you offer money back and they were still difficult?
  2. Do not, under any circumstances, become defensive or dismissive.  The readers of the review are going to judge your ability to address problems by your response.  They are going to be asking themselves if they would be happy with the response you gave the negative reviewer if they too have an issue with your work.
Online reviews are going to become more and more important in the construction business as time passes.

My own guess is that eventually, online reviews will become a bigger ranking factor than links, especially in the home services/construction industry.  Contractors and construction companies that actively build their online reputations through a solid review acquisition strategy will reap the benefits down the road.

What is Google My Business Messaging?

What is Google My Business Messaging?

Google My Business Messaging allows a mobile user to text your business from the local 3-pack or knowledge panel result for your business.

First, Why Did Google Roll Out “Google My Business Messaging?”

People want to get information through short text messages and they prefer to not have to go through email to do so.

Think about it; instant messaging has been a regular part of our lives for a good 20 years.  I vividly remember every kid at Rutgers using AOL instant messenger as a freshman in college in 1997; that means that today’s freshman were -2 when instant messaging first caught on, so the only surprising part of this decision is that it didn’t happen 5 years ago.  People are accustomed to being able to send a text message, Facebook chat message, Whatsapp, Skype, or Slack message and be able to receive a response quickly.  With this feature, a potential client that doesn’t feel like calling your business can now get a response to his or her query through a quick text message.

Is This An Instant Messaging or Chat Feature?

Not exactly.  This is a feature that allows you to send a text message to a business.  As a matter of fact, desktop users do not even see it in the results for your business, only mobile users do.

How Do I Set It Up?

Log into business.google.com and go to where it says “turn on messaging.”

Google my business messaging

You will have a code verification that you will have to enter, after which you will see this screen:

google my business chat auto responder

Click on “done” and you are all set up.

Is This a Game Changer?

Personally, I don’t think so.  As a matter of fact, I think that calling it a “chat” is a bit of a stretch; this is simply an application of a feature that has long existed for Adwords.  When a visitor is able to send you a message without actually leaving the SERP, then it will be more appropriate to refer to this feature as a chat.  For now, this is a texting feature.




What Are the Best Tools to Estimate the Traffic of a Website?

What Are the Best Tools to Estimate the Traffic of a Website?

There are a few options out there, but you really need to take all of them with a huge grain of salt.  The most reliable tool to estimate the traffic of a website is Similarweb, but SEM Rush can get you a ballpark number as well—just remember that there’s no tool that will give you exact traffic without access to a site’s analytics.

Just to illustrate my point, I’m going to give you the example of one of our client’s website.  We have access to the actual site analytics, which we will compare with the data that we pull from the following tools:

  • Similarweb
  • SEM Rush
  • Spyfu

First, the actual analytics of the website

Below are screenshots of the analytics for the month of May, 2017 for our client’s site.  First, the overall traffic, including direct traffic, paid search traffic, and organic search traffic:

tools to check website traffic - actual analytics

Next,  just organic traffic.  I thought that it should be important to show this since several of the tools that I am about to show you screenshots of claim to track the organic traffic to a site.  Overall, there were 549 sessions that came in through organic traffic during the month.  Let’s keep this number in mind while we see the estimates of some of the SEO tools out there.

tools to check website traffic - actual analytics of organic traffic

#1: SEM Rush

Even though it is a local company and I know that they work really hard to make it a great tool, SEM Rush has never been my favorite SEO tool.  It doesn’t really fill my needs as well as some of the other options out there, but I thought that it would be worth seeing what its estimate of my client’s traffic would be for the month.

tools to check website traffic - SEM Rush

It estimates our client’s organic traffic at about 1,200/mo, much higher than the actual traffic coming to the site.  It also missed the paid search campaigns that we have done, all of which have been about $1k-$2k mo.

#2: Similarweb

Similarweb is one of the most popular tools for estimating a site’s traffic.  I do use it (I have the browser toolbar installed) and it does get a decent ballpark estimate of the traffic of a website.  So how close to 549 did it get?

similarweb estimate of website traffic

For May, it was pretty damned close.  I can tell you that this website’s traffic does not fluctuate much, and had we done this for the month of March, it would have been a pretty bad fail for this tool.

What the hell, let’s check the analytics for March!

Like I said, the March numbers in Similarweb were pretty far off…

similarweb estimate of website traffic

#3: Spyfu

This is a popular tool as well and I do occasionally check sites with it.  What estimate did it have of activefitnesscenter.com???

spyfu estimate of site traffic

Waaaay off.  These numbers are laughable.

So how do you estimate the traffic of a competitor website?

Unless you have access to that website’s analytics, there is no tool that you can reliably estimate traffic with.  You can almost always get an idea of whether the site has traffic in the hundreds, thousands, or millions, but if you want to drill down and see if it is getting 250 or 750 visitors a month, you’re probably not going to be able to.

Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO in 2017

Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO in 2017

Most of the articles that I find that compare black hat and white hat SEO reference practices like cloaking, keyword stuffing, and all kinds of other practices that no one really uses any more.  Most also neglect to mention that many “white hat” practices are in reality against Google guidelines. Let’s set the record straight and update what is actually going on out there in 2017.

It’s Time for a Revisit of the Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO Topic

Since the early days of SEO, Google has made it pretty clear that they don’t want us doing anything to impact the results it delivers.  The company wants the search engine to be a judge of the quality of web content and it views any attempt to impact the results as manipulative.  Regardless of what Google wanted us to do, practices that emerged from people trying to improve search rank, which have been categorized into black hat and white hat SEO. 

Some of these practices are incredibly annoying to an internet user, while others can be quite helpful.  Many of the techniques that were ubiquitous 5 years ago have completely disappeared now.  Let’s get into what is actually going on in the world of SEO in 2017.

What Is White Hat SEO in 2017?

Today, white hat SEO is 99% content marketing and proper structuring of a website.

Some may make arguments that “on-page SEO” such as the changing of title and header tags and metadescriptions are key parts of white hat SEO, and that is true given certain circumstances, but one thing is certain: if you put up a website and just “pick the right title tags” you will not rank for even a mildly competitive keyword.  It will not happen.  Successful white hat SEO is in many ways “digital PR” in which a person creates an online presence that serves an online community which “earns” links.

Successful White Hat SEOs Engage in the Following Practices
Content Creation

They create valuable (or at least interesting) content on their blogs.  This content serves as references for content on other blogs. For example, I linked to an article from SEER Interactive earlier in this post; this article outlines how metadescriptions can affect SEO, which supports a point that I’m making.

Cultivation of an Online and Offline Audience

Successful white hat SEOs make themselves well-known in an online and offline community. They create an audience for their content, which generates awareness of blog content that could later be linked to.  To illustrate, I learned about the aforementioned SEER article through an email blast, and here I am linking to it on my blog.  They did not ask me to link to their website and I did not find the article on Google.  I am part of their audience and in turn, I have linked to their content because it is relevant to what I am writing about.

What is Technically Not White Hat SEO

Guest posting with the intention of getting backlinks is not white hat.  Guest posting on another website should have the intention of building a reputation and audience and not the intention of earning links.  This is a common “white hat” SEO practice that is technically not white hat.

Depending on how you do it, backlink outreach may not be white hat.  Sending hundreds of emails out to webmasters requesting that they link to your blog would certainly not be considered white hat.  Emailing the owner of a blog to let him know of content that could support a post that he wrote would be white hat.

What is Black Hat SEO in 2017?

Black hat SEO has changed more than white hat has.  Google has successfully cracked down on many of the practices of this community, but it still has a lot of work to do.  I have also noticed that the majority of the articles on the topic have no clue of what these guys are doing these days.

I work primarily with small businesses and know what websites are ranking highest in my clients’ industries.  I also know how they got there and can safely say that the majority are engaging in some degree of black hat SEO.  Whether it’s buying links, purchasing old domains and redirecting them to their websites, or engaging in link exchange schemes, a ton of them are doing it.

Practices that black hat SEOs are still using

A quick visit to a black hat SEO forum will show hundreds of service providers offering all kinds of black hat services.  By simply skimming them and taking note of what seems to be offered over and over, you can get a very good idea of what is in demand.


PBN stands for private blog network and is hands-down the most common—and arguably effective—black hat method.  A person buys a domain right before it expires and builds a blog on it.  The sole intention of this blog is to link to other sites in order to increase search rank.  Usually these sites are put up to boost the search rank of the owner’s “money” site, but they do sell links to outside buyers.

These networks do get deindexed by Google and the sites that they link to can be penalized, but according to John Mueller, only the most egregious violators are getting penalties for buying PBN links.  Google has adopted an “ignore, don’t penalize” policy in which the purchaser of PBN links is basically throwing away money, since the links do not help a website once they have been identified as purchased.

Comment Spam

The bane of any blog owner is this practice.  The owner of a website will spray the internet with hundreds of thousands, or even millions of blog comments with links to his web site.  Getting tons of “you’ve got great content on this site, but 98% percent of your visitors leave…” comments is INCREDIBLY annoying, but it seems to work.  One of my clients has a competitor that has been outranking him for two years through comment spam as seen below:

example of comment spam

It’s incredibly frustrating, since this is a nuisance for the owner of the blog and a terrible experience for someone that is genuinely interested in a topic and wants to see what others have to say.

Redirects from old domains

This is similar to the PBN method, only instead of putting up a new website and linking to a “money site,” the SEO puts up a redirect to the main site.  This is an example of a black hat method that even high-profile SEOs such as Neil Patel have discussed.

 What have I missed?  Are there any major white hat or black hat SEO practices that I have neglected to mention?  Please comment!