Link Auditing and Best Practices for Acquiring Authoritative Links – SMX Liveblog

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Link Auditing and Best Practices for Acquiring Authoritative Links – SMX Liveblog was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Link Building, Research & Removal at SMX East 2015

In April 2012, Penguin made its first flaps in the Google algorithm. Since that time, the SEO industry has developed stringent best practices around link building, also called link acquisition or link earning, and backlink auditing and SEO penalty removal. This SMX East session starts with timeless methods to attract quality relevant links through content marketing. Then speakers lay out the backlink auditing process and critical tools for link research and removal.

Moderator: Alex Bennert, SEO Consultant, Independent (@alexbennert)

Spotlight sponsor: Bruce Clay, Founder and President, Bruce Clay, Inc. (@bruceclayinc)


  • Eric Enge, CEO, Stone Temple Consulting (@stonetemple)
  • Megan Geiss, Director, Marketing Strategy, Merkle | RKG (@MeganGeiss)
  • Sha Menz, Penalty Recovery Specialist, (@ShahMenz)

Bruce Clay kicks off the session on link building and auditing by explaining how we can crowdsource disavow files. We give Google our disavow files and have no idea if our links have been disavowed, or if we our own site and links have been disavowed. As individuals and as an industry, we can collectively empower ourselves to get all that info we give Google. Users of DisavowFiles can tell if someone is linking to you with a link that’s been disavowed. It’s a tool designed for the Bruce Clay, Inc. SEO analysts and it’s free for all to use.

Since launching the tool at SMX Advanced this past June, here are stats of DisavowFiles users and how many disavowed links are included in the DisavowFiles database. Enter your site into the external lookup tool at to see if your pages have been disavowed now!

seo tools disavowfiles stats

Eric Enge: How to Excel at Content Marketing Or, How Can I Get Me Some?

Content marketing is a way to build SEO value, and overall reputation and visibility online.

Little known fact: He had brain surgery in 2003. It’s a long story, it’s all fine, and 100% fixed.

So, how does content marketing drive SEO? There are a number of myths:

myths of content marketing

Content marketing goals:

  • Build your reputation
  • Grow your visibility
  • Grow your audience
  • Yes, get some links too

Why links are secondary:

  • Google risk reduction
  • It’s about the ecosystem
  • The ecosystem is about relationships
  • Focusing on links strains relationships
  • The content marketing approach gets the best links anyway

Today’s environment online is an ecosystem.

the ecosystem of content and links online

You should be reaching out to media, influencers, bloggers, and your audience.

The basic mechanics of content marketing:

1. Publish great content on your site.

Great content… it’s important to understand that great content is non-commercial content and things that are designed to help people. Good content isn’t good enough. It has to be 10x content – way better than what’s in the space.

Links pass value via a bank shot:

the link value bank shot

The other thing that great content does is enable offsite opportunities. Studies allow for related guest posts on third-party sites, such as interviews for major media publications.

great content enables off-site opportunities

2. Publish great content on third-party site.

You have a bit of control over where you want links to go. Publishing on third-party sites gets you exposure to other networks. Some people who view your content there wander over your site and you build your audience. Links to your guest post make the links back to your site more valuable.

Working the Ecosystem

Social media links are nofollow. The links from social media sites don’t directly help you.

Another point – do people always read the articles they share? This graph says no. Content with high social activity had low read time, and high read time articles have low social activity. This explains why search engines don’t put much value in social signals.

chartbeat: do we read the articles we share?

What social media CAN do is drive links indirectly. You get traffic, links and new subscribers through content shared on social media.

Social media sharing can build your audience. Larger audiences increase visibility. More visibility through influencers, more media, and larger secondary audiences happen through social media sharing.

influencers are an accelerant

Building Relationships with influencers:

how to build relationships with influencers

Bottom line: it’s not about you but about what value you can add to them. Sometimes that value is simple, but you need to figure out how to start engaging with them. Don’t pitch yourself. Wait until they start noticing you.

How do you create content that stands out?

It’s not that there’s too much content. It’s that there’s too little high quality content.

  1. Leverage a megabrand. Megabrands may partner with you because they don’t have the budget, focus, subject matter experts, they can’t make the business case, and you may be faster moving.

leverage megabrands for content marketing

  1. Invest more. Best Made invested more in Instagram. Find a vertical area to focus on one brand theme. Then invest more in that area than others do.
  2. Be unique. Seventh Generation pushes an eco-friendly theme. If you go to their website they push eco-friendly at a strong level. Their home page gives an appearance of a blog. Find a vertical concept that you can lead. Focus your content on that concept. Develop the subject matter expertise. Engage and build followings around that area and establish a leadership role.
  3. Get the early mover advantage. The risk is that the platform won’t take off. But the potential reward means you can be the big star of the platform before anyone else is there.
  4. Promote better. This is the basics. Use best practices like attention grabbing titles, compelling images, leveraging influencers ad doing follow-on content.
  5. Work harder. Do something that others won’t. Take one thing and work harder on that. Leverage data others haven’t, go deep.

Megan Geiss: Link Practices Keeping You Out of Jail

Is it Penguin or a manual action?

  • Peguin: A significant drop in traffic that is not due to other site architectural or crawling issues
  • Manual action: Notification in GSC


  1. Gather all backlinks: Get the most comprehensive list. No one source will give you all your backlinks. Don’t use only one source. Then de-dupe the list.
  2. Rank by quality. This is the first pass. Majestic lets you filter by Citation Flow and Trust Flow. Kerboo (formerly LinkRisk) and DisavowFiles flag you to suspect links.
  3. This is the most time consuming step. You don’t want to get rid of all your links so you manually evaluate the master list. When you’re analyzing, look at quality metrics, referring domains, C-blocks, anchor text. A lot of links with the same anchor text to the same place is a huge red flag. You may also look at the geo-location of links, for instance, if the top-referring international domain is from Malaysia – does that make sense for your business? Highlight Citation Flow and Trust Flow via Majestic.
  4. Outreach for removal requests. Gather contact info for the identified removal targets. Minimum of 2 outreach attempts. Document all communication. You most often don’t get a response. If payment is requested, document it.
  5. Follow up.
  6. Disavow tool. After you’ve reached out to webmaster and they don’t reply, you have a way to tell Google that you want to be disassociated with the website. There are specific things you should know including the file type, one URL per line, disavow whole domains or URLs. Avid mistakes including disavowing everything or disavowing “just enough.” Don’t overwrite your previous disavow file without including all your older disavowed links.
  7. Reconsideration request.

Shah Menz: Penguin Wars

She goes to war with rampaging penguins. She recommends thinking about some of the interesting things that Eric was saying about how to naturally acquire links.

In case you think you only want to build good links, know that the smartest people listen to the best experts. Actively disavow and remove low quality stuff because otherwise it’s there and dragging down your good links.

Google has been talking about building Penguin into the core algorithm for a long time. (link to Gary Illyes interview with Bruce here)  When it will happen, just be prepared so that the penguin doesn’t get you.

Look at high risk links: not relevant, obviously scaled and repeated, manipulative or SEO focused intent – the ultimate guide to manipulative links by spamflag

If you think you found the next great trick to fool Google – that’s a bad idea.

Examples: Links in Exchange for Promotion

  • Rap Genius is an example of this. If they purely promoted people rather than making it for links, that’s when it went wrong.
  • Thumbtack tried to gamify link acquisition. Gamification in a community can naturally earn links because it’s something shareable and which people want to promote. They could have done it right by not explicit asking for links.

If you can sell it, it isn’t natural.

Disavow works. It has multiple uses. Actively managing negative SEO, trust management, and penalty resolution. There are some pitfalls you need to be aware of:

Site variants:

site variants can be a challenge for backlink audits

If you’re only seeing one variant of a site, you may never see notification of a manual action.

Here’s a tip from Maile Ohye. Disavow is canonical.

disavow is canonical

Don’t update your disavow file without adding the old and new information otherwise you lose your previous disavow list.

Beware of comment bloat which could put you over the 2Mb file size limit. Comments in your disavow file should be for your own information.

Heads up! Don’t disavow IP addresses unless you have absolutely no other option.

The best practice is to disavow entire domains, although there are some edge cases why you might want to do URL level disavow. is another crowdsourced tool that searches a disavow files database. If Google cache has updated, the disavow file is processed. Don’t think of disavow as a temporary fix. Know that disavowed links won’t be removed from the Search Console.

combine and de-dupe your backlink inventory

On using Trust Flow:

trust flow metric

Don’t use Citation Flow or Trust Flow as a direct metric. Rather, divide TF by CF and locate links under a threshold.

One final point to remember before disavowing or requesting link removal: check your analytics and don’t remove high referrers.

October 3rd 2015 SEO

Ask the SEOs: Expert Q&A Session at #SMX East

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Ask the SEOs: Expert Q&A Session at #SMX East was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Four expert SEOs take the stage in SMX East 2015’s “Ask the SEOs” session. This popular Q&A free-for-all is where the audience can ask them … anything! But first, let’s meet the SEOs:

  • Mike King (@iPullRank), founder of iPullRank
  • Hillary Glaser, SEO manager at Campbell Ewald
  • Cindy Krum (@Suzzicks), CEO at MobileMoxie
  • Marshall Simmonds (@MDSimmonds), founder and CEO of Define Media Group
Ask the SEOs speakers

SEOs Hillary Glaser, Michael King, Cindy Krum and Marshall Simmonds

Can you share some best practices for embedding keywords in content body?

Hillary: Tread that fine line between SEO and user experience. If a long-tail keyword makes no sense in the content, it’s not good for anyone.

Mike: I think Google is a lot more sophisticated — they understand the semantic value of words on a page. I don’t think it’s about shoving in keywords any number of times, but showing what the content is about. Which can be accomplished through co-occurring keywords.

This is what I call the poetry of SEO. It’s like a haiku, where you get five syllables, then seven, then five — it’s a constraint, but that’s no excuse for the resulting poem to suck. And it’s the same with SEO content.

Marshall: If it reads weird, it is weird. And if there were a magic number, we would all know it.

Can we expect to see more JSON-LD expand across categories?

All: Yes.

How do you feel about Facebook Instant Articles and other instant loading?

Mike: There’s already a specification that’s been around for seven years. You can use it on your own site. Let’s say you have a series of pages, the first load can preload the second one. This isn’t a new thing. They have apps built into Chrome for this.

In October 2015, what works to rank best for a term in Google?

Cindy: History and keywords? There’s not one thing

Hillary: It’s such a combination of things.

What would you do if you were starting a brand new website?

Marshall: Find a niche and exploit it in a good, quality way and stir up ancillary answers that aren’t easy.

Mike: Change dates on the content and you can get a rankings boost — there are a lot of tricks. But long-term … make something good and be proactive about doing them. There are hacks, though.

How do you approach doorway pages?

Mike: They still work today.

Marshall: They’re not doorway pages — they’re landing pages. And you can hustle with them. It’s still a valid tactic if it’s done with the right perspective and strategy. And it’s a long-game approach for head terms.

Someone’s doing a paid search campaign. There’s a landing page that hasn’t been blocked. Should I nofollow this page’s links?

Mike: It depends on how they’re implementing their landing pages. Most pages like that are orphaned pages anyway, so they don’t have link equity.

Any generic suggestions for ecommerce sites?

Hillary: Have really good meta data. Whatever your page is about and whatever action your page is about, put it in your title and meta description. Make sure people understand what they’re getting to. Don’t surprise them.

Mike: Make something interesting. Add a content experience below the fold on the category page so it becomes something worth linking to.

Cindy: Test it on mobile and the whole conversion process all the way through.

What disruption can I expect after moving to https?

Google has to recrawl it and it’s essentially a new URL. It takes time. And you’re going to lose traffic and social shares. Traffic will be in complete flux. You can do everything right and you might not see traffic come back at full force for six weeks. But it will only take a few days for it to be reindexed.

Is guest posting still a relevant way to earn links?

Cindy: No. But it’s a great way to create content.

Hillary: Or PR.

A company merges and becomes global and crates one website. What are some risk factors?

Cindy: There are so many larger business considerations before SEO. You need to understand the business goals before you can even think about the SEO. And internationalization is hard. You have a big translation process on your hands. Good luck to you.

October 3rd 2015 SEO

Meet the Search Engines: Bing’s Duane Forrester and Google’s Gary Illyes Answer SEO Questions

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Meet the Search Engines: Bing’s Duane Forrester and Google’s Gary Illyes Answer SEO Questions was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

We start with a little Darth Vader music and a theme is emerging. Duane Forrester of Bing (@DuaneForrester) has got a Star Wars cap on, and Gary Illyes of Google (@methode) is sporting a shirt with Darth Vader on it. As Danny Sullivan (@DannySullivan) enters, the long-time camaraderie is apparent among the search trio on stage. So, get ready for answers to SEO questions coming fast and furious.

Danny Sullivan, Gary Illyes, Duane Forrester

Danny Sullivan, Gary Illyes and Duane Forrester at “Meet the Search Engines”

Anything to announce?

What about changes to the name Bing Webmaster Tools?
Duane says: Bing Webmaster Tools is the only tool in Microsoft that hasn’t had a name change in the last year!

Can the KG sort through bad and incomplete data to identify brands at the local level?
Gary: That’s the goal. I don’t know anything about local SEO.

Can you tell us more about G’s hotel booking engine?
Danny says that this question will be answered in the Ask the SEMs session happening now in another room.

Updates on crawling AJAX and JS?
Gary: There’s a blog post being finalized right now. It’ll be sent out for final approval next week and published 2 weeks. No longer recommending AJAX crawling scheme. We’re not deprecating AJAX but no longer recommending AJAX crawling scheme, the weird escaped fragment. We’ve tried to make sure whatever publishers have will continue to work and not deprecate the index. They want the crawlers to be able to crawl hashbang and other URL fragments.

In this blog post, Google will recommend snapshots because it might be better for users, not for Google. If you generate a snapshot on your server, that can be loaded much faster. That’s a simple HTML rather than reading resources. For users, snapshots are great.

Duane on AJAX: Bing has run into the same problmes as Google and what Gary explained. Nothing to announce at this time.

Does Bing still use meta keywords?
Simple answer is not in the way you think. If you’re looking at meta keywords and thinking they have any impact on ranking. Their usefulness is in other areas. They’re clues. Contextual ad networks may take your meta keywords for relevance. If you’re going to do them, then don’t stuff. Matt Cutts said: if you’re thinking about meta keywords for SEO, you’re already thinking in the wrong direction. But there’s a lot more to running a business than SEO. You may still want to do them for serving relevant contextual ads, for instance. Don’t keyword stuff because you won’t get a pass from Bing for doing manipulative SEO stuff.

Danny says that Google still uses meta keywords for Google News. Barry Schwartz is sitting next to me and nodding vehemently. Gary says he doesn’t know.

What’s going on with Google+ and why’s it so hard to combine profiles? Did you have to worry about it for search?

Gary says you never had to worry about Google+ for SEO. Danny says that the +1 button was put into search and Google said it was one thing they might be looking at. For signed in Google users, Google+ signals can influence content ranking.

The partnership between Google and Twitter – there’s integration of tweets in search results, mobile and desktop.

Do you look at links in Twitter posts?
Gary: He doesn’t know of any such plans. In general, using social signals in search ranking is a terrible idea. The social network you’re working with may just shut off the fire house and your ranking system relies on it. SEs need long-term, reliable, consistent ranking signals.

Duane: Predominantly, social data is used for the Knowledge area. It can be used for ranking, like a check and balance, but as Gary mentioned, you can’t rely on it, but if social signals like high number of followers, then it supports the rest of the data.

Danny asks: Is this right? Bing doesn’t penalize for paid links, just discounts them. Google comes down on paid links on both sides of the link.

Duane encourages people to step back and look at a higher level. If your plan is to buy links and hope Gary doesn’t notice it and Bing doesn’t penalize it. What is the value of the link? Inbound traffic – that still has merit. He tells business that when pursuing links, be smart about it. It’s easy to tell the algo that when you see new links, don’t pass any value for the first 90 days. “If you want to dumb it all down into a sound bite: take the approach: get links naturally. Produce an awesome experience. If you crack the quality content nut, you’ll be rewarded.” It’s incredibly important to study and get in the minds of millennials. Every brand is susceptible to millennials right now. Authenticity. Quality of engagement. Millennials don’t care about brands. They care about experiences and authenticity. It will come back to you as links. If millennials judge you first, search engines pick up on that.

Gary Illyes, Duane ForresterGary: People are thinking about what Bing or Google wants. That’s the wrong approach. Most sites and businesses that don’t think about millennials will be going out of business. He’ll add to Duane’s description that millennials have short attention spans. If you can keep it to five minutes, then you’re in a good span.

Duane: There’s also the amount of time you have to get their 5 minute investment. That’s seconds. Millennials will see the largest transfer of wealth when their parents die, in the next 10 years. This is a generation that was pounded by the recession, stayed in school longer, got more advanced degrees, getting higher paying jobs. This is the money you seek. Are you ready for a day when there isn’t such thing as a search engine as we know it? Apps are like vertical search engines. Millennials are used to that search experience. Search is the data layer powering the experiences. So how are you working your way into that? How are you getting your work in front of these people in a meaningful way to drive value or save the existence of your company. Typing into a box is soon going to be a quaint idea.

The topic transitions to voice search.

You can do voice search where the context flows from query to query. Apps like Google Now and Cortana are expected to answer these follow-on, context implied queries. The answers come from public data. If you’re building your business around public data, that’s not the best idea. Provide something more that users want.

Any stats on if people are using the Cortana search button?
Duane: 100% of voice search happens vocally.

Best practices for content syndication?
For other business purposes, it might have merit. If you’re using it as an SEO tool, or link building exercise, that’s not a good thing. For duplicate content, Bing isn’t at 100% correct attribution. A lot of smart things can be done to signal the original content to search engines. Canonical. A block that says that the content is from a syndication partner.

Gary: There’s no duplicate content penalty. If many pages duplicate the same content, they pick the canonical from the cluster of pages. A bigger problem is if you think you’re doing something legitimate, like selling your content to another site, and you might have problems.

HTTPS for commerce:
Gary: Don’t do it for the ranking boost. Do it for users. You never know where your user is.

Duane: It’s tough for engines to take a line on security. We’re all in for safety for our own users, employees and customers. If you want to wrap your head around these concepts, read a book called “Future Crimes” by Mark Goodman. This ex-FBI agent explains how porous everything is and how far and fast data spreads. This explains why search engines are recommending it. This book keeps Duane up at night and made him depressed. Private browsing in a Firefox window – anything like this is window dressing to security. That’s the level of problem solving they’re dealing with at the engines, and seeing how they can rationally influence what’s happening to businesses.

Will GSC and BWT treat HTTP and HTTPS versions of my site as being part of the same domain.
Gary: He’s evasive.
Duane: He pushes for things like that. Tools are powered by a series of other services that the search engine uses. The net effect is that they may want to integrate that but it requires other teams to make changes.

Why is a scraper site outranking me?
Gary: When a scraper copies your site, search engines are pretty good at discovering the original source. If your site is not ranking for your content, there might be something on your site dampening its rankings.
Duane: A warning about using DCMA requests too much.

Best URL structure or site architecture for an international, multi-language hub site?
Gary: It doesn’t matter. Use locale and language identifiers. It doesn’t matter in the end. If you use hreflang, you can specify exactly language and locale. It’s not necessarily good to think about what will be good for a search engine. Think about what users will want.

Duane: It depends on your business. If you have a big office in France, you probably want a .fr. If you’re a U.S. business who wants to touch an area, then you may want it in a folder. It’s all about giving the search engines as many signals as possible. The folder may be the way to go so that all the content is collected for you. This page is for this product for customers in France, please rank it as such. This is a level of audience segmentation that you need to know about. In France, the mindset is very nationalistic. They default to it as much of their daily life as possible. So, you may that something a .fr would be more trusted by a French national.

How is page speed playing into Google rankings? The PageSpeed Insights tool only ever recommends browser caching.
Gary: Page speed is great. Optimize your site for your users because users like fast sites. We also talk about attention spans because people demand the content fast. How do you create fast sites? Web Speed Test, a bunch of resources you ca n check for making a site faster. You can compress JS, CSS, HTML, convert images…

Duane: (he picks up where Gary leaves off) … Less dependencies on third parties. Here’s one more way speed matters for SEO. The faster a user clicks back from a SERP click through, then the faster you’ll rank lower.

Danny picks up that this is admission that Bing uses click data for ranking.

Duane uses a suspicious voice and says “Do we?” and he says he doesn’t disagree.

Gary: Google uses click-through data when they’re experimenting with new features. Google uses click-through data in personalization and disambiguation (like searches for Apple). Other use of click-through data and user signals is a real pain.

Duane: If you look at all of the data that’s a lot of noise. It’s not easy to use user signals. You can’t trust the data you’re seeing because there’s outside influences. Bing also looks at click-through data in experiments to see how it influences usability.

Why does the number of results on a Bing SERP change?
It’s experimentation. Number of items on a page generally differs by topics. There’s an above the fold page real estate issue that they have to deal with. The more they understand data from a source, they feel more comfortable answering the query.

Referrer spam in analytics, when will Google handle that?
Gary: The issue is being escalated. There’s a plugin you can use now.

Why did Google go from 7 to 3 in the Local Pack?
No answers

Penguin and Panda?
Gary: Panda is rolling out. Gary checked it yesterday. The new Panda update will be a multi-month update. (Note: This is news!)
Penguin: It’s rolling out in the foreseeable future. He won’t give a specific date or else Barry will get him in trouble again. The next Penguin will be a real-time algorithm factor and he is hopefully it will be before the end of the year. He’s not working on Penguin though.

Safe to use anchor links on page?

Should we avoid giving you too much structured data because you’ll cut our pages out of SERPs?
Gary: The assumption that a search engine will drive you out of results for rich data is wrong. Sites getting featured snippets see increased clicks.

Does using incognito search give impersonalized SERPs?
Everything is personalized at least by geographic region.

Will disavow data be cut off prior to the next update?
Gary: Keep your disavow files up to date. When moving to real-time version, it won’t matter when you submit your disavow files.


October 2nd 2015 bing, Google, SEO

Essential Steps for Performing an Effective SEO Audit – #SMX Liveblog

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Essential Steps for Performing an Effective SEO Audit – #SMX Liveblog was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

An SEO site audit lays the groundwork for everything an SEO does to ensure maximum search visibility. This SMX East session covers the most important audit tactics and best practices for making sure your SEO efforts are having the optimal impact on a site’s performance.

SEO Site Audit speakersModerator: Alex Bennert, SEO Consultant, Independent (@alexbennert)


Jessie Stricchiola, Founder, Alchemist Media (@itstricchi)

Benj Arriola, Technical SEO Director, The Control Group (@benjarriola)

Bill Hartzer, Senior SEO Strategist, Globe Runner (@bhartzer)

Jessie Stricchiola: The SEO Audit

How many are here representing yourself as an individual consultant or as an agency? How many are in-house? (There’s an even split.)

Purpose: Why Audit

No two audits, sites or businesses are alike. You may be doing an audit for any of these situations and all these different audits have different requirements and purposes:

New site/startup: Doing things for SEO at the outset will save you time, money and development.

First time audit: No prior SEO.

Site redesign/CMS migration: Page templates changing, how crawlers crawl

Domain/subdomain migration: Don’t damage current exposure.

Diagnosing traffic drops/penalties: What caused this type of an audit? Often something technical on the site.

Site checkup audit: Prior SEO before and may be caused by thinking you’ve done as much SEO as you can and want to know what else to squeeze out of the fruit or other.

Discovery: Client Intake

This discovery sets the stage for the context and the narrative behind the purpose of the audit.

  • Why did they decide to pursue an SEO audit?
  • Who was the driving force behind the decision?
  • What are the main concerns regarding SEO?
  • What is the short and long-term strategy for the site?

Have the client list specific SEO questions at the outset. You’ll learn how much a team knows or doesn’t know about SEO based on the questions.

What are their specific goals and expectations?

The more inquiry you do at the outset, the more likely you are to prevent any challenges.

Discovery: Culture and SEO History

  • Startup or established business?
  • Who will be the point of contact and what is their skill level?
  • Development and engineering – internal, external or both?
  • Prior agency relationships? Why did they end?

Request historical SEO documentation.

Identify in-house SEO “owners,” as well as resources.

Discovery: Site Background

As much info as you can get will be helpful. She usually goes back about two years, about the site. Find out about:

  • Subdomains, mobile site, international presence
  • Prior SEO efforts (list and describe)
  • Major site changes (redesigns, HTTPS implementation, etc.)

Discovery: Page Types/Purposes

Ask the purposes for different page types/templates:

  • Broad topic landing pages
  • Subtopic focus pages
  • User account pages
  • Product pages
  • Pagination pages

Discovery: Performance Metrics

Understand the point of getting the content exposed. Look at:

  • Bounce rate
  • Pageviews
  • Tracked goals, conversions

Discovery: Topics and Audience

  • Prior keyword research/strategy
  • Paid search data (as available)
  • Topics supported by content
  • Personas and solving searcher problems

Planning: New Site Audit

  • Determine launch timeline.
  • Acquire wireframes and site architecture if available.
  • Determine site/product relationship.
  • Establish a plan for reviewing, crawling, editing staging site.
  • Determine owner of GSC/BWT/GA and (?).
  • Plan for coordinated Q/A process.
  • Post-launch review.

Planning: Redesigns & Migrations

  • Determine launch timeline.
  • Acquire wireframes and site architecture (if available).
  • Identify new CMS’s SEO needs (plugins, modules, etc.).

Planning: Traffic Drops/Penalties

  • Check/document historical data.
  • Plan to obtain crawl, backlink and related data.
  • Inquire about historical link-building and SEO efforts.
  • Inquire about historical remediation efforts.


  1. Identify the purpose of the audit.
  2. Interview your client or team for background information.
  3. Investigate site history.
  4. Plan the process specific to the audit type.

Benj Arriola: SEO Audit Breakdown

SEO Audit Breakdown slide

Slide 1: SEO Breakdown (click to enlarge)

In general, when you fix the foundations of SEO, you set them up and don’t need to change that again.

SEO foundations slide

Slide 2 (click to enlarge)

The tools for technical SEO diagnostics: Xenu, ScreamingFrog, Deep Crawl

SEO tools slide

Slide 3: Tools for SEO diagnosis (click to enlarge)

Site architecture and SEO: The more specific you are, the longer your keywords.

Site architecture slide

Slide 4: Site architecture and keywords (click to enlarge)

Build the site architecture out for SEO.

Site architecture

Slide 5: Site architecture and SEO elements (click to enlarge)

Information Architecture Tools for SEO

All indexed subdomains with a site: search and also SEOQuake plugin, Scrapebox, Web CEO, SEO Powersuite

Topic hierarchy tools: DYNO Mapper and PowerMapper

Taxonomy and folksonomy tools: Google AdWords Keyword Planner and a gazillion more

Code Audit Tools

Use them and apply your own intelligence.

  • Page Speed
  • Google PageSpeed Insights
  • YSlow browser plugin

Readability Tools

Test to see if it’s readable by users:

  • Free readability scores
  • Clarity Grader
  • Mobile Phone Emulator

Is it readable by search engines?

  • Web Developer Toolbar
  • User Agent Switcher
  • Google Cache
  • Mobile sites

Tools to Check Your Content

Duplicate content: Internal is Siteliner, external is Copyscape.

Thin content: ScreamingFrog

Linkable assets: No tool checks whether you have content desirable to link to.

Panda algorithm impact: Panguin tool

Competitor content: SEMrush lets you see the keywords competitors are using that you’re not.

Backlink Analysis Tools

Backlink analysis tools slide

Slide 6: Backlink analysis tools (click to enlarge)

Quantity and Quality Tools

Backlink Factor Metrics

Backlink factor metrics slide

Slide 7: Backlink factor metrics to look at (click to enlarge)

Bad links

Enterprise SEO Tools

  • Bright Edge
  • Conductor
  • Searchmetrics
  • seoClarity

Note: Links to all tools are available at You can also view Benj Arriola’s full slidedeck.

Bill Hartzer: Making the Data Usable

How will we take all the data and make it usable?

Focus on two major steps:

  1. Analysis to make sense of data collected.
  2. Delivering recommendations.

Step 1: Making Sense of Data Collected

Data collection is gathering copious notes.

Notepad, MS Word, Excel are all involved.

Brainstorm all potential issues.

Organize all the notes into buckets (as illustrated by kittens – left ketten is the rabbit hole kitten, center kitten is the screaming red flag kitten, and the kitten on the right represents issues you can address).

Data like kittens

Slide 8: Kitten illustration for data organization (click to enlarge)

Some issues don’t really fall into the main topics (like schema or page speed), and may go into the miscellaneous buckets.

Organize notes slide

Slide 9: Buckets for organizing site audit notes (click to enlarge)

In the first few weeks, get through quick wins to make the client happy. If you do an audit, the next couple weeks are critical. Put the short-term, quick-win, biggest impact issues in a separate section of the audit.

Identify critical issues:

Critical issues in audit slide

Slide 10: Critical issues you may find during an SEO audit (click to enlarge)

Avoid rabbit holes by putting a time limit on issues you investigate. If you go over a certain time limit, list it as an issue to check later.

Step 2: Delivering the SEO Audit

Presentation phase:

  • Present the data.
  • Show the results.
  • Make it look great.

Present the results:

  • Use internal or formal doc needed?
  • Who will implement? Client’s developer or outside developer?
  • Implement changes in-house?
  • MS Word doc, spreadsheets with data, PowerPoint needed for client meeting?

Formal document should include:

  • Cover page
  • Table of Contents
  • Overview (summary, positives, negatives)
  • Website crawlability
  • Content optimization
  • Linking
  • Overall recommendations
  • List of priority issues
  • Present action plan for implementing

Panel Q&A

How much do all these tools cost?

Bill Hartzer gives a tip: He offers to write a guest blog post about using the tool in exchange for full access to the tool.

How do you find abandoned or orphaned content?

A site command will give you a list of URLs. Scrape bots, SEO Power Suite. Bill thinks a site crawl will probably find that content somewhere, check analytics. Analyze the site’s log files and get all URLs that way. Download the Google Search Console internal link report and external link report, all pages getting search traffic, and compare them against your crawl.

Have you used open source distributed crawlers like Nutch?

Bill says that some crawlers pick up pages that some won’t, so be thorough be using multiple crawlers. Alex is a hardcore go-to fan of ScreamingFrog.

What’s the best auditing tool for local?

Moz Local and Bright Local

Given algorithm changes, how often do you redo audits for old clients?

Jessie: It gets back to what you’re tracking. There could be some things you’re tracking on a weekly basis.

Benj: All the fixes don’t get applied right away. Continue to revisit and remind them to do. It’s a constant check-in.

Do clients ever call you back to demonstrate how you helped them meet their goals?

Bill: Ideally during the audit process we try to make them understand how the changes will help. As implementing things, notate them in Google Analytics so that as you see ranking increases, you can see the change in the timeline.

Alex: It’s so important to annotate everything you do. Not just SEO things, but also algorithm updates and major changes to the site and offline things like a PR push.

Jessie: You can get a little more reliable data when you’re looking at things straight in Google Search Console.

How do you pitch value of a technical fix that might not drive monetary value but is a best practice?

Benj: Technical fixes are good for users and that can affect the bottom line. Some technical changes are proactive and protective.

October 2nd 2015 SEO

5 SEO Considerations to Win with Both Customers and Search Engines

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Win with Customer Focused SEO

One of the cornerstones of any digital marketing presence is a company website. From being a destination for people to visit that are searching for your products and services to servicing existing customers, it’s difficult to understate the importance of a great website (or understate the missed opportunities that come with having a bad one). Of course, a great website isn’t much use if nobody can find it, which is where a solid investment in SEO can pay big dividends.

However, a question that often comes up when planning out an SEO strategy is: should you be more focused on optimizing for customers or search engines? Arguably, there was a time when this was a real trade-off. Many SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing or spam linking were effective for gaining search presence, but came at the cost of customer experience.

Today, thanks to smarter and more sophisticated algorithms, modern search engines have gotten better than ever at understanding, measuring and rewarding the kinds of factors that go into a great web experience for humans.

So, should you prioritize optimizing for people or for search engines? In 2016 (and the probable future), the only correct answer is both.

#1 – Mobile Responsive

This probably isn’t news to anyone with a pulse, but mobile internet usage has grown exponentially over the past few years and mobile search has kept pace. In fact, mobile use of Google search officially surpassed desktop this year. This means that if your website doesn’t work well for mobile devices, you risk alienating over half of your potential customers!

In addition to frustrating people, websites that offer a poor mobile experience risk losing visibility and traffic from search engines, since they don’t want to show results that aren’t likely to work well for their users.

#2 – Technically Sound

Ever been to a brick and mortar business with a building in disrepair? Nobody enjoys spending time in a place with dusty isles, chipped paint, faded signs, or a messy rest room.

Similarly, nobody wants to spend time browsing a website that isn’t technically sound. Slow load times, broken links, confusing navigation, glitchy apps, server outages or outdated technology (Flash anyone?) are a great way to make anyone have a bad experience on your website.

In addition to creating a subpar experience for humans, technical issues can cause an SEO nightmare. In addition to sending negative quality signals (which can hurt rankings), technical issues like broken links or server errors can cause searchbots to incorrectly index important content or miss it completely.

#3 – Serves Prospects

In the not-so-distant past, salespeople held most of the power, as they had access to information that customers didn’t. What’s the right car for you? Whatever the salesperson says…

In the age of search, people are empowered with easy access to an unprecedented volume of information and this has had a huge impact on the sales process. By the time most customers walk into a car dealership, they have already researched reviews, crash safely statistics and pricing of the various models available.

Every day, your prospects are asking questions, researching pain points and comparing features of your’s and your competitor’s offerings. Every search query is a question, every relevant webpage is a potential answer and in the uber-competitive search landscape, only the best answers win.

Make sure your website is serving prospects with the best answers by:

  • Performing audience keyword research to identify relevant topics, questions and pain points
  • Creating content that addresses needs and provides value to your prospects
  • Optimizing your website and it’s content so that it’s easy to find and consume

#4 – Serves Customers

Search engine optimization is a fantastic “top of the funnel” tactic for bringing in new prospects and helping nurture them into customers, but the potential value of SEO doesn’t stop once the contract is signed.

Ongoing customer service and support is a key piece of any successful business strategy, and SEO can be incredibly helpful here. It’s great to have FAQ pages, instructions and product tips and tricks, but it’s even better if these things are easy to find.

Providing easy to find customer resources isn’t just valuable for your customers, it’s valuable to your bottom line by saving on customer service costs. The cost of hosting a robust customer resource section on your website is dwarfed by the cost of paying customer service reps to answer the same questions.

#5 – Optimized Across the Sales Cycle

People don’t usually buy something the first time they encounter your brand online, in particular if your sales cycle is on the longer side. In order to effectively nurture prospects into customers, your website needs content that answers questions, creates memorable experiences and provides value across the phases of the sales cycle.

In order to optimize across the sales cycle:

  • Attract with lighter, entertaining, ‘non-salesy’ content like blog posts, videos or infographics, optimized for broader keywords (generally non-branded).
  • Engage with meatier content like white papers, ebooks or webinars, optimized for more specific keywords.
  • Convert prospects into customers by giving them the information they need to feel confident to purchase through content like case studies, testimonials and product comparisons. Optimize for specific, often-branded keywords.

Modern search engines are smarter and more complex than ever before, but the core objective of search remains fairly simple: to provide searchers with the best answers (results) to their questions (search queries). By optimizing your website for customers rather than trying to manipulate or game the search engines, you’re well positioned to win in search both now and into the future.

Image via Shutterstock

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5 SEO Considerations to Win with Both Customers and Search Engines |

The post 5 SEO Considerations to Win with Both Customers and Search Engines appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

October 1st 2015 Online Marketing, SEO

Creating a Search Culture in a Large Organization – Executives Share Their Experience at SMX

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Creating a Search Culture in a Large Organization – Executives Share Their Experience at SMX was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

“Empowering Your Organization with a Search Culture” is a unique SMX East session. Executives from Verizon, Comcast and Pernod-Ricard will share some of their insights, challenges and strategies when it comes to digital marketing for massive brands.

SMX speakers on Search Culture

Courtney Goldstein, Eryck Dzotsi, Wendy Bolivar, Bill Hunt, Cory Haldeman

Absolute SEO for Absolut Vodka

Pernod-Ricard is a global organization with 300 brands in 80 countries with 101 sites. Brands include Absolut and Chivas Regal Whiskey. Two years ago, Bill Hunt (@BillHunt) started doing SEO for the company. Along with Pernod-Ricard’s Engagement Manager Wendy Bolivar (@wendybolivar), Hunt talks about Pernod-Ricard’s goals, as well as his challenges and tasks.

Pernod-Ricard’s Top Three Priorities

  • Consumer Centricity
  • Excellent Execution
  • Speed and Scale

“We wanted to have one-on-one relationships with the consumers, from social media to advertising. We wanted to personalize interactions with consumers. We wanted to make sure that the entire organization is thinking of search,” explains Bolivar.

Bill’s Tasks to Achieve Goals

  • Create a scalable framework for “findability” — not just in search, but in social media, too.
  • Increase adoption by brands and markets.
  • Increase SERP shelf space.
  • Reduce paid media and agency costs.
  • Maximize the “last three feet” by enabling partners through the optimization of product feeds.
  • Develop “Spirit Interest Journeys” by finding how people search for different drinks.

While Wendy Made Sure

  • Search is a key part of a marketing ecosystem and should never be a standalone activity.
  • Search is a portfolio play and requires collaboration with wider teams.
  • Search is about understanding consumer behaviors and interests.
  • Search has to serve one or many specific business objectives to be effective for business.

Bill’s Challenges

  • Markets have limited budgets.
  • Global brand controls websites.
  • Few understand digital and search.
  • There’s a campaign marketing culture.
  • Marketing is about the experience.
  • Decentralized management and resources.

Verizon on Achieving SEO

Head of SEO and content strategy for Verizon Communications, Cory Haldeman (@coryhaldeman), takes the stage.

“At the top level, the C-suite needs to think of SEO as a vehicle. Help them understand how the search engines work at a high level. Explain crawling, indexation, ranking and relevance. It’s not dumbing it down, but streamlining,” he says.

Haldeman recommends explaining the context: everyone uses search, and their competitors are also there. Show them how the competition is beating them, and it will light a fire among executives to fight back.

And remember: share price is the bottom line. Show them how SEO will benefit the bottom line. Use Google Trends to show the C-suite when and how people think.

Achieve IT Buy-In

“Most of the time, IT hates me,” Haldeman admits. “But sometimes they love you.”

What the IT department does is critical to your success. You must form a relationship with them. Be clear. Don’t give fluffy requirements. Be very specific. Haldeman created an SEO bible for Verizon’s IT teams and constantly encourages them to use it. He also makes sure to thank them. He reports back to the IT teams how their work is helping the company achieve success. Give them the credit that they’re due.

Establishing a Digital Center of Excellence at Comcast

Comcast’s VP of digital marketing, Courtney Goldstein, and Eryck Dzotsi (@erycked), director of SEO at Merkle, are next up. They’re going to share the struggles they had bringing Comcast up-to-speed when it comes to SEO and digital marketing.

The old media approach at Comcast was all about television. Goldstein shares a quote from founder Ralph Roberts: “The fundamental fact is that people love television and if you can provide them with more television, they’ll love it even more.”

In today’s world, with 60 percent growth in the number of homes that have absolutely no television in them, the old model of focusing on television doesn’t work anymore.

Comcast used to have disparate teams, but with Dzotsi’s help, the entire organization began to think holistically. For the past year and a half, Comcast’s entire organization has thought in terms of SEO. Even lawyers were educated on title tags.

Business goals became aligned across teams, and that made the search agency’s job a lot easier since everyone was on the same page.

Search Culture Recommendations

  1. Prove value to gain advocates from a brand. Provide data, analytics and metrics. Educate your clients.
  2. Incorporate search in cross functional digital processes.
  3. Be flexible and embrace change.
October 1st 2015 SEO

SMX Liveblog: Getting Mobile Friendly to Survive the Next Mobilegeddon

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SMX Liveblog: Getting Mobile Friendly to Survive the Next Mobilegeddon was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Mobile. Mobile. Mobile!

Moderator:Barry Schwartz, News Editor, Search Engine Land, RustyBrick (@rustybrick)


Gary Illyes: Google’s Mobile Focus

When Gary was a kid he never did what parents and teachers told him to do. Roughly when Justin Beiber was knee-high to a snow blower, his parents got him a computer and thought that might give him something to spend time on in a good way. It didn’t work. But around 2000 he got a cell phone. This made him very cool. That worked!

In 2005 he got his first girlfriend a mobile phone. He expected she’d be excited about it. Her response: Is there Internet on it?

Gary appreciated the power of the Internet for getting him Super Mario cheat codes. But he also so there was more than 10 blue links. He’s flashing photos of cats playing keyboards on the screen.

Search timeline slide SMX East

People’s expectations of search have changed and continue to change – radically.

Autocomplete was a change, for example. Today Google focuses exclusively on mobile. 2015 is the year when mobile search exceeds desktop searches.

People aren’t just searching. They’re shopping, reading email, seeking advice, comparing products and reviews.

  • Mobile friendly update: On April 21, 2015, Google made the mobile-friendly update. They look at “5 or so” properties of a page and if they appear right on a mobile screen.
  • App indexing: Apps show up in search results and when users click on the result and have the app installed, they’ll bring the user to that result in the app. If they don’t have the app, there’s an install button in the result. This takes away friction.
  • Google Now: It effectively pushes relevant info to you. Traffic alerts, photospots, see this presentation by Cindy Krum from Day 1 of SMX East (
  • Now on Tap: At Google I/O, Google talked about it. If you’re chatting with a friend and want to organize dinner, you shouldn’t have to copy and paste text into a search box. Instead, a long tap on the chat text will give you more info and context.
  • Voice search: This is the future where you talk to gadgets and they answer you. Search strings like this will work:

Voice search queries SMX East

Slide of gco links SMX East

Stoney deGeyter: Configuring Your Mobile Friendly Site

Configurations SMX East

Common mistakes:

  • Blocking JavaScript, CSS and images. Search engines need this to see how your site renders on different screens
  • Unplayable content. There are issues with mobiles playing Flash videos. Use video-embedding that’s playable on all devices. Optional: provide a transcript of the video available.
  • Mobile-only 404s. Allow visitors on mobile devices to pass through to your mobile URLs without error.
  • Redirecting to the wrong pages. Redirect each URL to the appropriate mobile counterpart – NOT the home page. Make sure redirects work on all devices.
  • Use banners instead. Let people get to the content without forcing them to view an overlay.
  • Irrelevant cross-links. For example, when you provide a link to view the mobile site from the desktop site or vice versa, make sure you go to the same page and not the home page.
  • Slow loading pages.
  • Non-responsive images. Use the HTML picture element to serve different size images to different devices based on their screen size. Cheat: use automated “adaptive images” tools and plugins.
  • Small touch size. Design for fat fingers.
  • Unreadable text. Use EM or REM units on your fonts, and then adjust the base font size for different screen resolutions using media queries.

Responsive website configurations:


Marcus Tober: The Data of Going Mobile-Friendly

Marcus’s presentations are slide-heavy and available here:

Google is focusing on mobile, so forget about desktop. We use our phones everywhere. That’s why Google focuses on how users interact with content and how to serve it. On mobile we want things as fast as possible.

back to relevance

Concepts like keyword density and how many links on a page is irrelevant in the mobile world. It’s about how we use it, how we share it. Focusing on the content makes us much more successful.

Mobilegeddon was an update Google announced many weeks in advance. There’s always winners and losers of changes.


  • Boxofficemojo

In the case of Reddit they implemented a separate mobile site and recovered all their traffic and rankings.

Mobile Ranking Factors Study

Be aware of the correlation and causation paradigm. Don’t believe that high correlation is a high factor and vice versa. These factors compare mobile and desktop.

They measured the correlation of these factors.

  • Presence of unordered lists
  • Number of interactive elements
  • Number of backlinks
  • Number of internal links
  • File size
  • Site speed
  • Keyword in title
  • Word count
  • Keywords in body
  • Proof terms
  • Relevant terms
  • Redirects

For the results of the correlation study, view the results here.

Semantic content optimization is about consumer intent and not keywords. Don’t optimize a site with “seattle attractions” but rather “pikes place market” and “space needle”.

October 1st 2015 SEO

Direct Answers: How Should SEOs React? SMX Speakers Weigh In

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Direct Answers: How Should SEOs React? SMX Speakers Weigh In was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

If your site gets featured in Direct Answers in search results, it can really boost traffic to your site. Don’t think of them as the enemy, but as a friend! Eric Enge, Amber Fehrenbach and Ehren Reilly are going to share their key insights into how to make Direct Answers populate, with data and examples straight from their agencies/brands at this don’t-miss SMX East session!

Direct Answers session speakers

Ehren Reilly, Amber Fehrenbacher and Eric Enge

Latest Stone Temple Consulting Direct Answers Research – Eric Enge

Stone Temple Consulting’s Eric Enge (@stonetemple) shares an important quote from Google’s Amit Singhal: “The destiny of Google’s search engine is to become that Star Trek computer, and that’s what we are building.” Direct Answers are another step toward being the Star Trek computer.

Stone Temple Consulting ran 1.4 million queries through Google to see which would have rich answers including sidebars and which would have rich answer not including sidebars. The results? 35 percent rendered rich answers including sidebars and 29.4 percent rendered rich answers without sidebars.

How has this grown over time?

Direct Answers slide

That’s 38 percent growth in seven months. Enge fully expects this trend to continue. Rich Answers are growing.

Two thirds of the time, Google includes a link to the source of the information. The cases where they don’t supply the link, the information is either public domain (capital of Washington state, for example). In other cases, Google has licensed the data (for song lyrics, as an example).

So, if your SEO strategy has had a heavy dependency on public domain information, know that this is going to get taken away from you. Google has a right to publish it, and they have a mission to be that Star Trek computer, so they’re going to do so.

Also, 54 percent of the domains used by Google for Rich Answers have a Moz domain authority of 60 or less. Lesson? Authority doesn’t trigger the answer.

These examples of Rich Answers show many cases of sites getting more traffic, thanks to their sites. What wins when it comes to Rich Answers? Simple, direct answers.

Stone Temple Consulting’s Testing

Enge published five videos answering various search questions in May, complete with transcripts. Each of them gave more information than just an answer to the question. In addition to the direct, simple answer, there’s more valuable content to go along with it.

Enge shared one of the videos on Google+ and submitted the URL to Google Search Console. In three days, they had a Rich Answer result for “How do you implement a NoFollow attribute on a link?”

Out of the other four videos, he was also able to get one more Direct Answer via a video: a 40 percent success rate!

Enge’s Advice for Getting a Direct Answer to Populate

  1. Identify a simple question.
  2. Provide a clear direct answer.
  3. Offer value added info.
  4. Make it easy for users and Google to find.

Turning Direct Answer Lemons into Lemonade – Amber Fehrenbacher

Amber Fehrenbacher (@afehrenbacher) is the CMO from Surety Bonds (specialty insurance company for bonds). After being hit hard by Penguin and Panda, Surety completely overhauled their marketing strategy and boosted their conversion rate and organic sessions, and decreased their bounce rate. Furthermore, within 30 days of the site redesign, Direct Answers started showing up for their content (even though the content itself didn’t change that much). Here’s what did change:

  • Responsive site redesign
  • Data-driven decision making
  • Developed in-house content team
  • Re-engineered user funnel
  • Aligned social strategy with content
  • Guest post

Surety’s Preferred Tools

  • Google Analytics
  • Search Console
  • MailChimp
  • Keyword Planner
  • Google Forms
  • PageAnalytics
  • Moz
  • Piwik

Optimizing for Direct Answers, According to Surety

  • Follow Google best practices on structured data.
  • Analyze user behavior in segments.
  • Derive content from keyword research.
  • Conduct qualitative research and pair with quantitative data to develop strategy.

Winning at Direct Answers – Ehren Reilly

Ehren Reilly (@ehrenreilly), the director of growth at Glassdoor, is next up to share his latest insights on Direct Answers.

Types of Businesses Struggling Since the Advent of Direct Answers


These services were useful, but not unique. This is no longer a viable business model. Nor, as Enge mentioned earlier, are lyrics sites.

Spoiler Answers: This is Reilly’s term for Direct Answers that share everything you need right on the SERP, such as an entire recipe. Publishers get upset over these situations as they lose traffic and ad revenue. But this is the reality. So how do publishers deal with it? Face reality and focus on the positive. You can show up above the No. 1 position if you can answer the question more directly than the No. 1 result.

Think Inside the Box:

  • Clickable Direct Answers are click magnets.
  • CTR on clickable Direct Answers derive twice as much traffic as a No. 1 SERP result with no Direct Answer.
  • If you’re No. 2 and not in a Direct Answer, you stand to lose half your traffic.
October 1st 2015 SEO

No One Wants to Do Them, But Content Audits Are Worth It. Mike King Explains Why at #SMX

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No One Wants to Do Them, But Content Audits Are Worth It. Mike King Explains Why at #SMX was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Content audits are worth it.

Mike King at SMXOr so says Mike King (@IPullRank). He’s diving into content audits in “Perfect Starts: How to Get More of the Right Traffic” at this SMX East 2015 session. Fair warning: he has a lot to say, and he talks fast — this liveblog captures the highlights. (Get his full 80+ slide deck here.)

No one became a marketer so they could do content audits. But, you have to create things that people actually want and will provide people value — and content audits help you do that. But we often put things on the Internet and are like, hmm, did that work? This is wrong. You should PLAN out a strategy.

A content audit, then, helps you identify holes in the customer journey and leaks in link equity needed to support organic search rankings. Audits also help you figure out where the money is — what has performed in the past? Which audiences has it resonated with?

Key Questions for Content:

• What is already performing?
• What can perform better?
• What are we missing?

Have a clear business objective. It’s not as important to get No. 1 for terms as it is to get No. 1 for the RIGHT terms.


King is a big proponent of personas. Understand who they are, as well as the stages they go through when looking for your product or service. Use a style guide, by the way. And if you don’t already have one, check out from MailChimp.

Quickest Way to Build Personas: Data!!!

Put your mailing list through FullContact and get a lot of data – figure out more information on them. Then use DemographicsPro and upload their Twitter handles. Now you can get a 20+ page report with all kinds of data. Also, upload that your mailing list to Facebook’s audience insights.

Now you have user insights and can better build insights.

Build a Journey Map

Start with your business goals and put your keywords in social listening tools — what questions are people asking? How are they using the terms? What phase of their journey matches up with each phrase?

King’s Content Audit Preferred Tools

• Screaming Frog
• Social Crawlytics
• BuzzSumo
• DeepCrawl
• URL Profiler
SEO Tools for Excel
• SEOGadget for Excel
• Content Audit for WordPress
• Kapost

Final Thoughts

Keep doing pivots until your data tells a compelling story.

Remember to isolate your competitors’ top-performing content pieces, and run some analysis on them. And use data on your existing content to help you make a case for new content.

September 30th 2015 SEO

Study Finds Wikipedia Still Outperforms Google Properties in Google

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Last month, there were a number of reports about a significant drop in Wikipedia’s Google traffic. A report from SimilarWeb found that Google “stole over 550 million clicks” from Wikipedia in 6 months. According to Search Engine Journal, the site’s organic search traffic from Google dropped 11% from May to July.

Search Engine Land reported a few days later that Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales had said there was “a long-term issue with decreasing traffic from Google,” but that the SimilarWeb article was a misrepresentation of how Wikipedia actually needs the clicks in question. The article quotes Wales as saying:

“It is also false that ‘Wikipedia thrives on clicks,’ at least as compared to ad-revenue driven sites… The relationship between ‘clicks’ and the things we care about: community health and encyclopedia quality is not nothing, but it’s not as direct as some think.”

Wikipedia later released its own report on the subject saying, “No direct data shows a decrease in Google traffic; in fact, direct referrals from Google have been increasing in the last few months, rather than decreasing. However, we have some fuzziness around indirect referrals that cannot be resolved without the participation of Google. We should seek that participation, and work on tracking these metrics in an automated fashion.”

The report concluded:

Based on the data we have we can establish that the most obvious avenues for verifying or dismissing SimilarWeb’s claim show no evidence that Google traffic has declined. However, we do not have the data at our end to eliminate all avenues of possibility.
Our next work should be to reach out to Google themselves and talk to them about the data we’re seeing, and to build out infrastructure to begin tracking metrics like this on a consistent and automated basis, rather than relying on costly ad-hoc analysis.

Now there’s a new report on this subject. This one comes from Stone Temple Consulting, which has recently delivered interesting findings related to Google’s partnership with Twitter and engagement on Google+. They ran an analysis of the rankings data for over 340,000 search queries.

According to that, Wikipedia is still prominent on the first pages of search results, but has lost many of its #1 and #2 rank positions.

“Wikipedia still is far more prevalent than Google properties, so we cannot conclude that Google is favoring its own content,” a spokesperson for Stone Temple says.

It did find that Wikipedia pages are more prominent in commercial queries than for informational ones. It also found the opposite to be true for Google properties.

Check out that full report here.

The post Study Finds Wikipedia Still Outperforms Google Properties in Google appeared first on WebProNews.

September 24th 2015 Google, Search, SEO