Link building in 2018 (and beyond): 6 techniques that work

Ever since the onset of SEO, the factors that search engines use to determine which site to rank over another keep changing. Techniques have gone and go, but one thing remains constant: links are still as valuable and relevant as they have ever been.

In fact, I will make bold to say that link building is the most important factor in determining which website to rank over another. Now, Google won’t exactly say link building is the “most important” factor, but they’ve gone on record to tell us that it is one of the most important three.

The problem with link building is that, in an attempt to combat spam and abuse of their search results, search engines constantly evolve what kind of links they pay attention to. So a link building technique that worked in 2015 might no longer work in 2018.

Below are six link building techniques that are still working in 2018 and that will be just as effective in the foreseeable future:

Technique #1: content repurposing and distribution

An evergreen method of building links that works in 2018 and that will be effective for the foreseeable future is repurposing your content. A single piece of content can be repurposed into a dozen or more different pieces of content.

For example, a blog post can be turned into a slide presentation, a video, a podcast, a social image, an infographic, etc. The different pieces of content created from the original blog post are then distributed to different channels (such as infographic directories, slide sharing sites, video sites, social networks, etc) and all with links pointing back to the original content piece.

Technique #2: broken link building

Broken links are bad because they disrupt the user experience. Users don’t like them. Search engines don’t like them either. They present an opportunity for you, though, and will still be as effective many years from now.

There is smart broken link building and there is dumb broken link building. When you use the smart approach to broken link building, you realize that each broken link you find on a website presents more than one link opportunity.

Say you discover a website linking to a broken link. Not only can you reach out to the website to inform the owner and suggest replacing it with your link, you can also take things to the next level by using tools like Ahrefs Site Explorer to find other websites linking to the page that was broken. You can then reach out to all of these websites, thereby increasing your prospects of getting a link.

Technique #3: creating research content, assets, and outreach combo

Search engines emphasize usability of content for their users and make it clear that this is one of the factors they use to determine which websites to rank. So how do you create usable content that serves as a linkable asset? By creating a research piece/asset.

Your research content could be in the form of a listicle or an infographic, but you will get even better results if you combine both.

Here are some tips for creating research assets that people want to link to:

Identify a topic of interest that is relevant to what your audience wants from you.
Ensure a single research piece is focused on a single topic—don’t try to create research content that focuses on everything under the sun.
Ensure that each study and data you cite is properly backed.
Since you are creating a linkable asset, usability is a must—organize your data and facts in a way that is easy to cite, copy, and reference.

Once you’ve created your research piece, you can kickstart the link building process by doing outreach to relevant publications and blogs in your niche. Once you’ve gotten the first few links, over time, people will start linking to your research content naturally. To keep up the momentum, make sure you regularly update your research piece to keep it fresh.

Technique #4: infographics link building

One of the most effective ways to put your link building on steroids is by leveraging the power of infographics. And guess what? Link building through infographics is still as effective in 2018 as it has ever been.

Here are steps you should take when trying to build links with infographics:

Determine a core topic.
Gather your facts and data.
Design the infographic in such a way that the most important and key facts are highlighted prominently.
Once your infographic is published, submit it to as many infographics directory as you can. Here’s a list of infographics directory still active in 2018.
Take things up a notch and do manual outreach to publications that publish content related to a fact or stat included in your infographic — and ask them to use it and link to you.
Once the above has been done, organic links will naturally start to come in.
Technique #5: images link building

If you’ve created a number of original images that you are using on your website, or that you have put on the web, then there’s a huge probability you have a lot of links that you are yet to claim. Many people are probably using these images without crediting you, violating image copyright laws. You can take advantage of this fact by locating the people using this images.

How? Simple. Visit google, opt to search by image, and upload the image you want to search for. Google will show a list of all the different sites using the image or a version of it. You just have to confirm that you are being properly credited and ask those who did not credit you to link back to you.

Technique #6: guest blogging

It’s been a few years now since Matt Cutts famously declared the “death” of guest blogging. “Stick a fork in it,” he said. But guess what? Since Cutts famously stuck a fork in guest blogging, two things have happened:

Cutts no longer works at Google
Guest blogging is just as effective as it used to be

Jokes apart, the kind of guest blogging Cutts said was dead is still dead. And that’s not the kind I am advocating. The kind of guest blogging that works is the one that involves the following steps:

Only focus on guest blogging on websites that are topically relevant to yours.
Make sure these websites are highly authoritative websites—the higher the Domain Authority and Trust Flow of the websites you are targeting, the better.
Ensure your pieces for these websites are comprehensive, detailed, and high quality.
Aim to get relevant, contextual links from your guest posts on these publications. Bio link is good, but in-content link is better.

Link building will keep getting complicated, but most of the above techniques are evergreen and will keep working for years to come. Take advantage of them and watch your search results soar.

Chris Porteous, CEO of Framestr / My SEO Sucks, builds high performing sales funnels and marketing workflow solutions for businesses across North America.

What Google’s E-A-T score means for ecommerce

Google updated their search quality rating guidelines in July. These rating guidelines, which you can view here, are used by humans to rate the quality of web pages as search results for specific queries. These ratings are used to guide how Google’s search engineers improve their search engine.

Soon after the update to the guidelines, Google introduced a broad core algorithm update circa August 1st, most likely to ensure that the search engine was returning results that reflected the changes to its guidelines.

One of the most important changes to the guidelines was a greater focus on Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T), as well as a focus on applying this to individual authors—not just brands or web pages.

E-A-T is important for the ecommerce industry because shopping pages are considered by the rater guidelines to be “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) pages, and these types of pages are held to the highest quality standards. For that reason they are also expected to have the highest E-A-T.

If you want your shopping pages to show up in the search results, you will need to identify how to maximize your E-A-T score for Google’s hypothetical human quality raters, which Google’s algorithms are designed to emulate.

Let’s talk about how to do that.

Which content is Google taking into consideration?

The expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of a page are determined primarily by looking at the main content on the page. What counts as main content is obvious when we are talking about a content site like a blog, but which content are Google’s quality raters taking into consideration on your category and product pages?

The first important thing to recognize is that “content” is not limited to text. The rater guidelines explicitly state that “webpage content includes … functionality (such as online shopping features, email, calculator functionality, online games, etc.).”

So raters aren’t just being asked to evaluate text. They’re being asked to evaluate your site’s functionality. It isn’t just the text on your page that needs to be high E-A-T, it’s the design, interface, interactivity, useability, and other features.

For example, raters are explicitly asked to “put at least one product in the cart to make sure the shopping cart is functioning.” They are reminded that “high quality shopping content should allow users to find the products they want and to purchase the products easily.” I highly recommend meeting these basic functions expected of the modern ecommerce site in service of that goal:

  • A persistent shopping cart that stores the products you are planning to buy
  • The ability to create a wishlist
  • The ability to sort category pages and search results by price, weighted relevance, review score, best sellers, and similar criteria
  • The ability to filter category and search results by product features and tags
  • A responsive design that looks good and functions well on mobile devices
  • Modern search capable of interpreting queries and dealing with misspellings rather than simply matching text exactly to what is found on the page

Google provides quality raters with some examples of main content. In an example featuring a product page, they consider the content behind the reviews, shipping, and safety information tabs to be main content:

The rest of the content on the page is considered “supplementary content.” This is because the purpose of the shopping page is to sell or give information about a product. Everything directly involved in serving that purpose is considered main content. Everything peripheral to it, such as suggested products and navigation, is considered to be supplementary.

For a page to receive a good quality score, raters are asked to look for a “satisfying amount of high quality content.” They give an example of a shopping page that includes “the manufacturer’s product specs, …original product information, over 90 user reviews, shipping and returns information, [and] multiple images of the product.” High E-A-T isn’t going to get you far enough if the amount of content isn’t satisfactory for the purpose of the shopping page, so this is where you need to start.

Prerequisites

For quality raters to determine the E-A-T of your shopping pages, there are a few things they need to be able to find to give you a positive score at all.

When raters are evaluating shopping pages, the guidelines ask them to “do some special checks” for “contact information,” including “policies on payment, exchanges, and returns,” suggesting that this information will most likely be found under “customer service.” Make sure this information is present and easy to find.

What is expertise in the ecommerce industry?

The rater guidelines offer an example of a shopping page that earns a high quality score because of its high E-A-T:

They say that the page has “high E-A-T for the purpose of the page” because they have “expertise in these specific types of goods.” They mention that many of the products sold on the site are unique to this company, presumably as evidence of this. They also mention that they have “a positive reputation.”

This suggests that what counts as expertise for a shopping page, according to Google, is the expertise of the manufacturer and the brand regarding the products being sold. The fact that they have a good reputation and exclusive products are used as evidence of this. Needless to say, this means you should only work with manufacturers that have recognized expertise in the industry.

The expertise of those who don’t work for your brand are actually relevant as well. The guidelines ask raters to look for “recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information…about the website” while they are doing reputation research for your brand or your content creators.

This emphasizes the importance of outreach in earning a high E-A-T score. Obviously, your products, your site functionality, and your brand integrity must be inherently high in order to earn positive press and recommendations from experts in the appropriate industries, but there are limits to how much your site and products are capable of promoting themselves.

To earn a positive reputation, you will also need to reach out directly to industry influencers and experts, send products to product reviewers, and make headlines by taking newsworthy actions. Failing to do so means that even if your products, brand, and site are stellar, while you won’t have a negative reputation, you will have less of a reputation than those who have made the effort to promote themselves effectively.

Crucially, reputation requires high editorial freedom. Placing sponsored content on sites or promoting your site with ads will not earn you a positive reputation, at least not directly, because content created by your own brand isn’t considered during this research phase.

What makes an ecommerce brand authoritative?

The rater guidelines consider this shopping page to deserve the “highest quality” rating:

As part of the reasoning behind this, they mention that “since the store produces this backpack, they are experts on the product, making the page on their own website authoritative.”

This reveals an interesting insight into how Google decides product content is authoritative. An industry expert or the manufacturer of the product needs to be providing the information, or it isn’t authoritative.

In contrast, a blog post written by somebody who doesn’t work in this industry, isn’t an outdoors enthusiast, and otherwise doesn’t know very much about backpacks wouldn’t be considered an authority on this product.

Google provides this page as an example of one that should receive the “lowest” quality rating:

They name “no evidence of E-A-T” as one reason for this. They note that the “Contact Us” page doesn’t give a company name or physical address, and that the “Shipping and Returns” page lists a different company that doesn’t seem related.

Perhaps most notably for authority considerations, however, they note that they include official looking logos for the Better Business Bureau and Google Checkout, but these don’t seem to actually be affiliated with the website. While the guidelines don’t explicitly mention it, the inclusion of the “Nike” logo in the header also seems to be deceptive.

When it comes to authority, Google seems to be most concerned with how it can be misrepresented. Presumably, a small company with limited reach could still be considered to have good authority so long as it only claims to be the authority over its own products. Likewise, a marketplace selling products produced by other manufacturers would presumably be considered authoritative if it were easy to verify that those manufacturers were indeed affiliated with the seller, and that the ecommerce site was an authorized merchant.

For this specific example, had the Nike, BBB, and Google Checkout logos linked to some sort of verification of affiliation, the page likely would have been considered to have high, or at least satisfactory authority.

What is trustworthiness for ecommerce sites?

To be considered high quality, raters are asked to look for “satisfying customer service information” when evaluating shopping pages. This means that any potential questions or concerns that shoppers might have about the product and the buying process should be addressed.

It’s best to be as extensive and comprehensive as possible. The purpose of the product, how to use it, what it looks like, and what results they should expect need to be covered in as much detail as possible.

Information about shipping charges should be transparent and revealed up front.

Return policies, guarantees, and similar information should be easily accessible. The checkout process shouldn’t surprise users by completing before they thought they were making a purchase or introducing fees they were not expecting or warned about.

Contact information, live chat, and customer support should be easy to find.

Remember that Google is considering all of this information main content. This should be reflected in your site design as well. Do not hide this information away or make it difficult to find. Put it where shoppers and human quality raters alike would expect to find it and where it will alleviate any concerns about the buying process.

The guidelines explicitly mention that stores “frequently have user ratings,” and that they “consider a large number of positive user reviews as evidence of positive reputation.”

Needless to say, it’s strongly recommended to introduce user review functionality to your site. User reviews have a well-measured positive impact on search engine traffic. Various studies have found that 63% of users are more likely to buy from a site that features user reviews, that users who interact with user reviews are 105% more likely to make a purchase, that they can produce an 18% lift in sales, and that having 50 or more reviews can result in an additional 4.6% boost in conversion rates.

In addition to allowing users to leave reviews, it’s important to encourage your users to leave reviews. Include automated emails asking your users to leave a review into your checkout process, with emails arriving in user’s inboxes shortly after their product is shipped successfully, or even papers telling them how to leave a review sent with the product.

If you’re concerned that asking users to leave reviews, or allowing them to in the first place, will result in negative reviews, this fear is largely unfounded. A study published in Psychological Science found that buyers were actually more influenced by the number of reviews than by the overall score, even to the extent that this was considered irrational behavior on their part.

Another study found that users are actually more likely to purchase a product with a rating between 4.2 and 4.5 stars, since excessively high star ratings are considered suspicious.

Finally, if you leave users to their own devices, the ones who are most likely to leave a review are the ones who are either extremely surprised by how well things went, or extremely disappointed. Additionally, they will review your products on another site if they can’t do so on yours, and Google’s guidelines ask quality raters to look at other sites for reviews.

For these reasons and more, try asking your users to leave reviews.

One crucial piece of the puzzle for trustworthiness is security. The guidelines specifically call out an “insecure connection” on a checkout page as a reason to consider a shopping page untrustworthy, and a reason to give it a “low” quality rating. While they are specifically talking about the checkout page, it’s best to deploy HTTPS on every page of your site in order to eliminate any source of doubt.

Another example receiving the “lowest” score, is considered malicious because it asks for the user’s government ID number and ATM pin number. While this is an obvious piece of deception that no legitimate checkout page would ask for, consider less clearly malicious features that could lead to distrust. For example, requiring an email address for checkout, without explanation, that automatically adds users to an email list instead of the option to opt into one, is likely to reduce your trust score.

Conclusion

Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines indicate that expertise, authority, and trustworthiness are central considerations for Google’s engineers. To perform well in the search results for the foreseeable future, your pages should be developed as though humans were evaluating them for these factors.

When it comes to ecommerce, shopping pages are of primary concern, and E-A-T functions differently for them than it would for a blog post. A high quality ecommerce site doesn’t just feature authoritative text, its features and functionality are built with E-A-T in mind.

Earn expertise by working with manufacturers at the top of their industry, and by getting your brand and products in front of industry experts. Be authoritative by partnering with authoritative brands and ensuring that everything is easily verifiable. Build trust with user reviews, extensive contact and customer service information, a secure site, and a transparent checkout process.

Invest in these features to ensure that your shopping pages continue to perform well and remain competitive in the long run.

Manish Dudharejia is the president and founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego based digital agency that specializes in website design & development and ecommerce SEO. Follow him on Twitter.

Marking 10 years of DuckDuckGo: From Search Engine to Privacy Company

screenshot of browsing with duckduckgo

We’ve covered DuckDuckGo many times here at Search Engine Watch (check out Rebecca Sentence’s great primer here). This month sees the privacy-first search engine turn 10 – an impressive age for any business that boasts Google and Bing as its main competitors.

The 10-year anniversary coincides with a major funding boost for the service. This comes courtesy of Canadian pension fund Omers who have invested $10m to assist with expansion into Canada and further global impact. While DuckDuckGo’s worldwide search market share might currently be tiny compared to Google et al. (less than 0.39% according to StatCounter), it is clear there are tech disruptors beyond the walls of the business itself who continue to see great potential for growth as the digital landscape evolves.

So how has DuckDuckGo grown in recent years? And is there still a viable pull from the duck side as the service enters its second decade?

DuckDuckGo: The search engine that doesn’t track you

As we’ll discuss later, DuckDuckGo has evolved to become more than just a search engine during its first 10 years. But first, let’s recap on this element of the company and how it sets itself apart.

Launched in 2008, DuckDuckGo gave users the option to search the web without having their IP addresses, search history, or any other user data stored save for some essential cookies. It has its own web crawler, and its SERPs bolster this primary source with hundreds of other secondary sources such as Yahoo! and Wikipedia – as well as ads from the Yahoo-Bing network (but these are not tracked).

In a nutshell, complete privacy is DuckDuckGo’s USP. There are no filter bubbles for users because there are no user profiles. The same results are delivered to everyone regardless of their demographic, location, user behavior, etc.

Thanks to the un-tracked ads and affiliate partnerships it runs, the company has managed to be profitable since 2014. It makes a point of diverting some of these profits as donations to start-ups and projects who share a similar philosophy to their own.

DuckDuckGo: The privacy company

The search engine arm of DuckDuckGo certainly has its fans, averaging 24m daily direct searches last month. But the company is broadening its appeal by working to make it even easier for the average internet user (i.e. those who might not be familiar with VPNs or Tor) to be able to retain their privacy throughout their online journeys beyond just making searches.

In the first place, the latest iteration of the DuckDuckGo app and browser extension helps demystify just how tracked we are online. As each webpage loads, DuckDuckGo provides users with a ‘Privacy Grade’ (A is safe, D to F are not so) allowing them to make a quick assessment. With just a click or two, users can then see a list of the trackers it has identified on the site.

This tracker visibility is enlightening. For readers from Europe who are used to the EU Cookie Directive, it is a lot more usable and transparent than the varying quality of warning pop-ups we’re used to. Trackers that seem to crop up with frequency often relate to Google advertising – but it doesn’t take much browsing before trackers from big media names such as AOL and Fox are noticed, as well as expected Web 2.0 businesses such as Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. Of course, this is after just a few minutes of surfing. We can quickly see tracker after tracker with more and more obscure names.

As we move around the web, DuckDuckGo immediately gets to work blocking these trackers. It also forces sites, when possible, to use encryption to keep your data even more secure. The tool doesn’t promise 100% security across the internet, but when it can’t impose its tweaks or be sure of certain elements, the Privacy Grade and information at least highlights a site’s failings and alerts users to potential nefarious scripts. If DuckDuckGo can successfully block a site’s trackers (it usually can), it will offer an amended grade for that site after it has done its work. And if a user decides it doesn’t want DuckDuckGo to make its changes, they can easily whitelist any site they like with a single click.

The increasing need for the duck side

It is unsurprising that DuckDuckGo hit new heights of popularity earlier this year in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is precisely this kind of creepy data breach which the company is working to protect internet users from.

In a post at the DuckDuckGo blog, the company published the results from a survey of US internet users in the weeks after the scandal which found growing concerns in online privacy and the consequent increasing interest in tools which help to make web use safer. It also points out that regardless of whether internet users have a profile on the site or not, Facebook-run trackers operate on around 25% of websites, collecting user data and creating shadow profiles for ad targeting even if you never visit the social network’s domain.

survey facebook data privacy effect on search

Tracking hit the headlines again last month as numerous scripts were found to be operating on US school websites. Of course, not all trackers are bad. Yet it is unsurprising parents and technologists in the US are asking some big questions about student data and where it ends up as they are increasingly expected to engage with their schools online.

However, arguably some of the most significant privacy questions which might convince users to consider DuckDuckGo’s search engine and app/extension emerge from recent reports surrounding Google’s storing of location data even after users have turned this functionality off. The search giant is being sued by a user for just such activity in San Diego, and this again raises concerns about who really owns our personal data even if it appears that we, as users, can opt out of having such information stored.

DuckDuckGo’s future

This latest round of investment and the near-weekly headlines about data breaches, dodgy tracking, and dishonest privacy practices are good news for DuckDuckGo. The company still has a difficult job competing in the pure search vertical. Private search is, after all, not a completely original pursuit when Startpage and even incognito searching via Google Chrome is also an option for users seeking to make private searches.

But where DuckDuckGo have really made great progress in recent years is by broadening their reach to assist web users to browse in private beyond search. The privacy app/extension is both educational when it comes to reminding users of the ubiquity of ad trackers and other bad practice, and it is useful and practical for making browsing the web that bit more secure.

The future of online data and privacy is hard to predict, but it is good that companies like DuckDuckGo are working to make the internet a safer, more transparent, space – one that is led by the rights of users, rather than the desires of advertisers. This is especially important when so many of the bigger digital names seem to find it so difficult to operate in such a way.

Best tools for monitoring backlinks

A great link building strategy works wonders for the SEO performance of a website. Helping websites gain traffic, these backlinks are expected to be high-quality because search engines weigh them when it comes to the ranking of a website.

Ensuring that your website is sporting high-quality and authentic backlinks is crucial. If not monitored properly, the presence of bad quality links on the website can ruin the online reputation of the site as it can be identified as a black hat SEO move. For this purpose, the SEO domain offers some pretty amazing backlinks monitoring tools that help you monitor the link profile of your site and make sure that everything is as per a standard link building strategy.

Let’s check them out.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs primarily offers tools to grow your search traffic and research your competitors while you monitor your niche. Its backlink research tool is powered with the world’s largest index of live backlinks. The service’s robots crawl 4 billion web pages every 24 hours. They also update this index every 15 minutes so that everything is caught up.

To use Ahrefs tool for your site, you simply need to enter your site’s URL into the site explorer tool and you’ll see all its backlinks along with some useful SEO metrics such as the quality of these links. The tool also offers several advanced reports and filters to provide you with more information.

Majestic SEO

The service is very popular among online marketers when they have to take care of the link building aspect of their sites or the sites of their respective clients.

Its backlink history checker tool runs the web robots to determine the number of backlinks for given domains, subdomains, or URLs. If you are looking to compare up to 5 domains for their backlink performance, the tool will let you do so.

Offering time-specific charts for your external links and referring domains along with the analysis of the types of backlinks that run to your site, MajesticSEO is a viable link tool.

SEO PowerSuite

Offering profound link analysis service, SEO PowerSuite helps its users find, monitor, analyze, and compare all the backlink data so that they can effectively accomplish link building for their websites.

The service’s SEO SpyGlass tool provides new link-building opportunities for its subscribers with the help of 50+ backlink factors available for analyzing the performance of these backlinks. It also offers different types of backlink reports that you can further customize and share.

Claiming to have the world’s largest backlink index on the Web, the tool lets you find and neutralize harmful backlinks present on your site with its Anti-Penalty Link Audit. You can also run a deep link quality analysis to make sure that your links are functional in accordance with the Google algorithm changes.

Linkody

The tool has been helping its users monitor their website backlinks 24/7 by offering robust link management services. It notifies its users over the loss and gain of links along with the analysis of the site’s link profile with tons of metrics. This analysis helps the site owners figure out the backlinks that are valuable and the ones that are harmful for the site’s keyword positions and traffic. It even helps you get rid of the bad links by disavowing them.

Monitoring the backlink strategy of your competitors is just as important as building one for yourself, as claimed by several blogging guides and website resources. Linkody provides you insights into your competitors’ link building strategies so that you don’t miss out on anything.

Linkody’s main SEO tool is the Backlink Checker that can be used to check 5 unique domains per week. It is available for a 30-day free trial.

Kerboo

Helping you understand your Link profile better, Kerboo employs multiple data sources to come up with a highly accurate one true view of the link performance at your site.

While you encounter bad links on your site with the tool, you can create a disavow file that will tell Google that these are the certain links that are no longer needed to be considered towards ranking factors on your site.

The Link Audit feature of the tool identifies the strengths, weaknesses, and risks in your link profile, and offers the service of getting work done by their team.

Monitor Backlinks

Monitor Backlinks helps you find the good and bad backlinks on your site and even monitor your competitors link building strategy.

The service tells you about the relevant, high-quality sites that you can contact for outreach and link building. If one of your ads or guest posting links has been removed from a site, the tool will notify you. Helping you ward off negative SEO penalties, the tool also offers the feature of disavowing bad links.

The service features an easy to use dashboard that will help you drive insights into the site’s traffic, backlinks changes, and keyword rankings. It also provides useful and customizable reports analyzing the patterns across the backlinks with its comprehensive filters.

The best thing about this tool: it aggregates metrics from the best data sources (like Majestic and Moz) in one place so that you can manage them efficiently with useful tags, filters, notes, and import/export.

In sum

All the above-mentioned backlinks monitoring tools have their established reputation in the online marketing community. Offering different versions for your site’s link profile management, these tools have been steadily working their way to improve your site’s overall ranking and enhancing its SEO. Having quality links on your website is integral to its success as well as the fact that they help new visitors find your website. Some of these backlinks monitoring tools mentioned above will help you ensure that’s the case.

Pawan Sahu is a Digital Marketer and blogger at MarkupTrend.

Best tools for monitoring backlinks

A great link building strategy works wonders for the SEO performance of a website. Helping websites gain traffic, these backlinks are expected to be high-quality because search engines weigh them when it comes to the ranking of a website.

Ensuring that your website is sporting high-quality and authentic backlinks is crucial. If not monitored properly, the presence of bad quality links on the website can ruin the online reputation of the site as it can be identified as a black hat SEO move. For this purpose, the SEO domain offers some pretty amazing backlinks monitoring tools that help you monitor the link profile of your site and make sure that everything is as per a standard link building strategy.

Let’s check them out.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs primarily offers tools to grow your search traffic and research your competitors while you monitor your niche. Its backlink research tool is powered with the world’s largest index of live backlinks. The service’s robots crawl 4 billion web pages every 24 hours. They also update this index every 15 minutes so that everything is caught up.

To use Ahrefs tool for your site, you simply need to enter your site’s URL into the site explorer tool and you’ll see all its backlinks along with some useful SEO metrics such as the quality of these links. The tool also offers several advanced reports and filters to provide you with more information.

Majestic SEO

The service is very popular among online marketers when they have to take care of the link building aspect of their sites or the sites of their respective clients.

Its backlink history checker tool runs the web robots to determine the number of backlinks for given domains, subdomains, or URLs. If you are looking to compare up to 5 domains for their backlink performance, the tool will let you do so.

Offering time-specific charts for your external links and referring domains along with the analysis of the types of backlinks that run to your site, MajesticSEO is a viable link tool.

SEO PowerSuite

Offering profound link analysis service, SEO PowerSuite helps its users find, monitor, analyze, and compare all the backlink data so that they can effectively accomplish link building for their websites.

The service’s SEO SpyGlass tool provides new link-building opportunities for its subscribers with the help of 50+ backlink factors available for analyzing the performance of these backlinks. It also offers different types of backlink reports that you can further customize and share.

Claiming to have the world’s largest backlink index on the Web, the tool lets you find and neutralize harmful backlinks present on your site with its Anti-Penalty Link Audit. You can also run a deep link quality analysis to make sure that your links are functional in accordance with the Google algorithm changes.

Linkody

The tool has been helping its users monitor their website backlinks 24/7 by offering robust link management services. It notifies its users over the loss and gain of links along with the analysis of the site’s link profile with tons of metrics. This analysis helps the site owners figure out the backlinks that are valuable and the ones that are harmful for the site’s keyword positions and traffic. It even helps you get rid of the bad links by disavowing them.

Monitoring the backlink strategy of your competitors is just as important as building one for yourself, as claimed by several blogging guides and website resources. Linkody provides you insights into your competitors’ link building strategies so that you don’t miss out on anything.

Linkody’s main SEO tool is the Backlink Checker that can be used to check 5 unique domains per week. It is available for a 30-day free trial.

Kerboo

Helping you understand your Link profile better, Kerboo employs multiple data sources to come up with a highly accurate one true view of the link performance at your site.

While you encounter bad links on your site with the tool, you can create a disavow file that will tell Google that these are the certain links that are no longer needed to be considered towards ranking factors on your site.

The Link Audit feature of the tool identifies the strengths, weaknesses, and risks in your link profile, and offers the service of getting work done by their team.

Monitor Backlinks

Monitor Backlinks helps you find the good and bad backlinks on your site and even monitor your competitors link building strategy.

The service tells you about the relevant, high-quality sites that you can contact for outreach and link building. If one of your ads or guest posting links has been removed from a site, the tool will notify you. Helping you ward off negative SEO penalties, the tool also offers the feature of disavowing bad links.

The service features an easy to use dashboard that will help you drive insights into the site’s traffic, backlinks changes, and keyword rankings. It also provides useful and customizable reports analyzing the patterns across the backlinks with its comprehensive filters.

The best thing about this tool: it aggregates metrics from the best data sources (like Majestic and Moz) in one place so that you can manage them efficiently with useful tags, filters, notes, and import/export.

In sum

All the above-mentioned backlinks monitoring tools have their established reputation in the online marketing community. Offering different versions for your site’s link profile management, these tools have been steadily working their way to improve your site’s overall ranking and enhancing its SEO. Having quality links on your website is integral to its success as well as the fact that they help new visitors find your website. Some of these backlinks monitoring tools mentioned above will help you ensure that’s the case.

Pawan Sahu is a Digital Marketer and blogger at MarkupTrend.

7 Off-Page SEO Techniques to Build Your Website’s Reputation and Visibility

So, you’ve optimized your site content and followed all those under-the-hood best practices to maximize your appeal to search engines…what’s next? Executing a truly complete SEO strategy means going beyond the confines of your own site to also engage in off-page SEO.

A search engine ranking isn’t solely based on your own site’s merits; it’s also a bit of a popularity contest. Off-page SEO includes bolstering your digital reputation and authority by earning both backlinks and reputation-validating placements across the web. Search engines strive to connect information-seekers with content they’ll find valuable, and these off-page factors demonstrate there’s a world out there that believes your site and your content is useful and trusted enough to recommend. Said another way: search engines want their users coming back, and quickly pointing them to the relevant information they need is the golden ticket – your goal is making that job as easy as possible for them.

To that end, here are seven specific techniques for building links and growing your site’s reputation from an off-page SEO perspective:

Link-Building Techniques

While earning a link from another site helps affirm your brand’s relevance and authority in the eyes of search engines, not all backlinks are created equal. Search engines view a link to an external site as a recommendation, and the reputation of the linking site informs how much weight that link carries. This being the case, effective link building means not just earning backlinks, but high-quality ones.

Search engines assign links their value based on several factors, including the linking site’s overall authority and the number of backlinks to the site—generally, sites with good off-page SEO make more weighty recommendations. Links also carry more value coming from pages that are more relevant to the content, brand, and industry being linked to, and also benefit when the link’s anchor text is relevant.

To assess sites and select worthy targets for your backlinking efforts, checking a site’s website traffic rank provides a useful indicator of its influence.

1) Guest blogging builds links—and your reputation

Successfully placing guest blog posts with influential sites is a highly effective method for boosting off-page SEO. Most guest blogging opportunities will allow you to include a link or two back to your site, which will also help build your reputation in the eyes of the all-powerful search engines. To recognize guest blogging opportunities, investigate sites that are authoritative in your industry and/or with relevant topics (finding such sites through your own research or via tools). Also, uncover where your competitors are active and check the ranks of sites that share the same audiences. Once you determine which targeted sites overlap with your desired audience and have the rank to make them worthwhile, reach out.

2) Turn existing brand mentions into links

If your brand has reached a certain level of success, you may already be receiving mentions of your brand, products, or other company information on influential sites outside of your guest blogging efforts. If this is the case, it’s worth searching for these mentions and reaching out to ask that links be added (or updated to point to the correct or newest content you’ve published).

3) Help other sites fix broken links

Links are somewhat ephemeral—sites change link structures or go offline, and URL addresses stop working. With tools such as Broken Link Builder or Check My Links, you can quickly locate broken links in articles or content relevant to your business. After identifying promising targets, contact the site in question to helpfully inform them of the broken link (and offer a potential substitute link that goes to your own site).

4) Where your competitors have links, often you can too

Beyond guest blogs, your competitors may successfully gain inclusion in articles, industry roundups, directories, and more. These are often ripe targets for your own off-page SEO efforts. Recognize where competitors are active, and work to achieve similar placements wherever possible.

Reputation-Building Techniques

Not all methods of enhancing off-page SEO focus on link building. Follow these additional best practices to win search engines’ trust by bolstering your digital reputation:

5) Really build out your business directory and social media profiles

After creating your website, building out business directory and social media profiles are the next most important steps to establishing your digital foothold. This means ensuring your business and your website appear in directory searches and across major social media platforms (depending on your business this could include LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Wikipedia, etc). Brick-and-mortar businesses should also create a Google My Business page to appear as a rich result in searches. Not only will search engines take notice of these placements when calculating your site’s reputation, they often include the opportunity to add a link.

6) Utilize social media marketing

While social media metrics such as likes and shares aren’t confirmed to directly influence off-page SEO, the indirect benefits are too compelling to pass up. Developing a social media presence certainly builds your brand’s reputation and authority; doing so can also win you brand evangelists, thus increasing the reach of your content and ultimately adding to your site’s traffic – which is certainly a contributor to SEO improvements. To do so, create content that’s shareable, encourage shares by including share buttons, and actively maintain your presence on key social channels.

7) Attach your reputation to influencers

Industry influencers germane to your market—and other brands that make sense as strategic partners—can boost your own reputation by association. To make the most of this technique, enlist influencers (who don’t need to be celebrities!) to share your content and play an active role in marketing your brand. This improves your off-page SEO by adding traffic, mentions, and authority to your site, while also introducing your brand to new audiences you want to reach.

When using these off-page SEO techniques, it’s important to closely monitor site metrics to understand their effectiveness and adjust strategy as necessary. In conjunction with successful on-page SEO, these methods will enable your site’s reputation to flourish and better ensure that search engines are taking proper notice.

Kim Kosaka is the Director of Marketing at Alexa.com, whose tools provide insight into digital behavior that marketers use to better understand and win over their audience.

Page title optimization – the Holy Grail

google search title SEO practices in 2018

Page titles are probably the most overlooked aspects of SEO. Crafting a good page title is a must-have skill for anyone aiming for high SERP conversions. Title tags are a major factor in helping search engines understand what your page is about, they also determine the first impression visitors have of your page.

It’s important to always optimize your page title as search engines mostly rely on it when ranking because it gives an insight into the content of a page. To excel at SEO & get business online, it is important to play by Google’s rules. In 2017, Google accounted for over 79% of all global desktop search traffic, followed by Bing at 7.27%, Baidu at 6.55% and Yahoo at 5.06%, clearly ranking on Google is essential.

Whether you’re looking to improve the SEO of your website, or increase the impact of a content marketing strategy, optimizing page titles is an important step. In this article, we’ll talk about best writing practices for page title optimization.

Pay attention to length

Google will display 50-60 characters of a page title in the search results before cutting it off, so you should aim for page titles that are around 55 characters or less in length, including spaces.

The length of your page title can affect how it is presented in the SERP. If it’s too long, it’ll be truncated. If it’s too short, Google might decide not to show your page in the search results at all, or simply overwrite your title.

Source: Google.com

To be safe, make sure the most important or descriptive words in the keyword are towards the beginning so they’re less likely to get cut off. A good page title should be structured like this: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.

Note that longer titles may work better for social sharing in some cases, and some titles are just naturally long. While it’s good to be mindful of how your titles appear in search results, there are no penalties for using a long title. Use your judgment, and think like a search engine user.

Write unique titles for every page

Every page on your website is unique and it should be treated as such. It’s important to have specific, descriptive titles for each page on your site. The Page title should reflect the individuality of each page. Unique titles help search engines understand that your content is unique and valuable, and also drive higher click-through rates.

Customize the page title on each page of your website so that they accurately describe what’s on that specific page. With 57% of B2B marketers stating that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative, won’t it be smart to ensure your business pages are seen and understood?

On the scale of hundreds or thousands of pages, it may seem impossible to craft a unique title for every page, but modern CMS and code-based templates should allow you to at least create data-driven, unique titles for almost every important page of your site.

Use your target keyword

Every page on your website should answer a question or provide valuable information someone is searching for. Your website will be more useful to searchers if it ranks in search for the right term – just when they’re looking for the information you provide. This is extremely important. A well-crafted title should include your target keyword. So for each page, you should have a target keyword (or a few) in mind.

Since Google’s algorithm uses the page title as one of the main ways to determine what a page is about, A good title helps both search engines and users understand what the page is about, and having your keywords in the title is a step towards that direction. That makes it clear to Google that this page is relevant for anyone searching for that specific term.

It’s sometimes helpful to have a few descriptive terms in the title, but it is overkill to have the same words or phrases appear multiple times. While there is no penalty built into Google’s algorithm for long titles, you might face challenges if you start stuffing your title full of keywords in a way that creates a bad user experience, such as: Buy shoes, Best shoes, Cheap shoes, shoes for Sale.

This kind of keyword stuffing can make your results look like spam to Google and to users.

Create titles for users and not search engines

This is also very crucial. Your titles should be interesting enough to catch and hold the attention of searchers. While page titles are very important to SEO, remember that your first goal is to attract clicks from well-targeted visitors who are likely to find your content valuable.

It’s important to think about the entire user experience when you’re creating your titles, in addition to optimization and keyword usage. The page title is a new visitor’s first interaction with your brand when they find it in a search result — it should convey the most positive, important and accurate message possible.

Avoid vague descriptors like “Home” for your home page, or “Profile” for a specific person’s profile. Also avoid unnecessarily long or verbose titles, which are likely to get truncated when they show up in the search result listings.

Outsource your SEO auditing

Consistent SEO plays a vital role in helping you achieve your goals. But you can’t just spend a week dedicated to SEO and be done with it for the next three months and expect success. You need to actively track your progress adjust as required. An SEO company will offer you guidance in a constantly evolving industry with optimal strategies changing. Their sole purpose is to help you improve your visibility online.

An SEO company will help place keywords in your page titles to help Google rank your page, add well written, keyword rich copy to underperforming landing pages. These SEO professionals also provide a range of services, including auditing your site, developing a tailored SEO strategy, and implementing the tactics that will help your business rank for keywords and gain organic traffic through search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Outsourcing to an SEO company will give your website the best possible chance of placing highly in search engine rankings and driving a higher volume of relevant traffic to your website. Within months of having your website SEO outsourced to the right people, you should find that your website’s traffic skyrockets.

Whether your aim is to optimize your page title or drive traffic to your website in order to increase your profits or your website’s popularity, ensuring your page titles are optimized put your site on the right lane!

4 warning signs AdSense is ruining your contextual advertising strategy

media.net native ad unit

In the dark ages of the SEO era, when bloggers and webmasters were still familiarizing themselves with the process and its functionality, certain tactics and strategies had become industry standards.

The era I’m talking about is the one where Google AdSense was heavily built into the foundation of a blogger’s strategy. The “legacy” tactics associated with this approach can still be found in the way modern publishers think about SEO and branding strategy. However, AdSense’s limited customizability can hold back publishers. This needs be addressed and rooted out.

Before assuming AdSense is the best monetization partner for you, consider these four warning signs. If you’re guilty of practicing any of these points, it’s time you re-evaluated your monetization partner and strategy.

1. You haven’t considered other platforms

It’s no secret that AdSense as a standalone monetization stream isn’t enough to earn substantial revenue. Most solopreneurs that still operate in the “blogosphere” have understood for years that it is important to branch out and diversify revenue streams. So there’s nothing revolutionary about this concept.

Most of the focus on diversification has been on developing products to sell, with eBooks being a gold standard. This is great advice, even if it can become a bit boilerplate at times. But we’re not talking about selling products today. We’re talking about contextual advertising, which means placing relevant ads on your site that fit in with the content of your page. When it comes to contextual advertising, too many people still aren’t considering their other options.

Media.net, the second largest contextual advertising business worldwide by revenue, is a good place to start experimenting. The platform uses machine-learning algorithms to predict user intent, based on the content of your pages, and serves ads based on the associated keywords. With Media.net you get exclusive access to Yahoo! Bing’s $6 billion worth of search demand. This allows you to leverage quality advertisers even if you are in a smaller niche.

Performance is obviously different for every site, but Perrin Carrell of AuthorityHacker claims Media.net ads earns them 5x as much as AdSense ads, and Jon Dykstra of FatStacksBlog reported that some Media.net ad placements were earning more revenue than all other ad networks.

One of the biggest advantages of Media.net ads is that their ads are heavily customizable. Sizes and designs can be designed to match your site so that they are native to your content and inline with your branding, resulting in higher engagement and revenue. Native ads are a great way to offer your readers an uninterrupted experience since these ads look like a natural extension of your website. In fact, these ads are also mobile responsive, which means more revenue for you.

Media.net Native Ad Unit

Media.net Contextual Ad Unit

From there, you can also consider ad servers like the Google Ad Manager (formerly DoubleClick For Publishers) and OpenX. Ad server platforms like these give publishers great control over ads, including the ability to set preferred deals with a CPM floor, and the option to interact directly with the ad marketplace.

In short, if AdSense is the only ad platform you’ve experimented with, you are missing out on great revenue-generating opportunities.

2. You are picking topics based on AdWords keyword bids

The SEO industry grew up on the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, and its successor, the Keyword Planner. One trend, born in the age of “Made For AdSense” (MFA) blogs and microsites, was to use the Keyword Planner to discover topics to write about based on AdWords bid prices.

This approach was never a good long-term strategy. A blog based on topics chosen to optimize revenue according to this approach often leads to a poorly branded content site that doesn’t naturally adapt to the needs of its audience. The obviously commercial intent of the topics chosen puts a hard ceiling on the size of your recurring audience.

Search engines like sites that build recurring audiences. They earn higher click through rates from the search engines, which Googlers have admitted are used to judge SERP quality.

Modern content creators need to select topics based on what will most successfully help them cultivate an audience. This means identifying keywords that address specific problems you can help users solve.

You do not find these topics by typing generic industry keywords into the Keyword Planner. You find them by identifying your audience and the platforms they frequent, the kind of questions they ask one another, or even asking them directly what they are most frustrated with, and looking for satisfaction gaps in the answers to those questions. Only then should you turn to the Keyword Planner to start looking for the best keywords to represent your solutions.

The goal isn’t to target valuable keywords, but to target valuable audiences. This is a crucial difference that should guide your strategy at a more foundational level.

3. Your ad placement is based on MFA “best practices” instead of testing

“Best practices” rooted in old school MFA thinking prevent you from building your own monetization strategy from the ground up. They can also hurt your rankings in the search results.

Damaged Rankings

Old school, “gray hat” MFA tactics like trying to place ads where they will be confused for navigation rather than placing them depending on your layout and content were never good branding strategies, and simply don’t work anymore.

Google’s internal quality rater guidelines explicitly state that sites should never disguise advertisements as the main content or navigation of the site, and if they do they will receive the “lowest” quality rating. Likewise for ads that make the main content unreadable, as well as ads that are distracting because they are too shocking.

Bad Strategy

Even advice that seems innocuous and doesn’t violate search guidelines can be harmful.

Recommendations like “place your ad in the sidebar,” “place it within your content just above the fold,” or “use the 300×250 ad size” are often unhelpful and counterproductive. Advice this specific shouldn’t be given without context, because ads should be placed in a way that fits your site design.

Suggestions like these are always hypotheses that you should test, not rules written in stone. Run your own A/B tests to find out what works for you.

We recommend Google Analytics Experiments for your testing because their Bayesian statistical methods make it easier to interpret results, because they are free, and because the data is as fully incorporated into Google Analytics as possible.

4. You are not partnering with sponsors

This is one of the biggest opportunities you miss out on if you operate on an AdSense-focused monetization strategy. When you work with sponsors, you can work advertisements entirely into the main content of your blog post, or host articles that are sponsored content created by sponsors themselves. You can negotiate deals that will guarantee a certain level of revenue, which is not always possible using programmatic advertising.

You can collaborate with sponsors on innovative campaigns that will earn the sponsor far more attention than traditional ads, which naturally means they will be willing to spend more. Innovative approaches can also result in more exposure not just for your sponsor, but even for your own brand.

It also lets you monetize on channels where AdSense won’t, such as your social media platforms.

If you aren’t reaching out to potential sponsors to discuss possibilities like these, you are missing out on substantial revenue.

Conclusion

AdSense should not be thought of as central to your contextual advertising strategy, or worse, the foundation of how you approach brand building. Diversify your advertising platforms, migrate your market research outside of AdSense’s native tools, and rely on your own testing strategies. Let your brand drive your monetization strategy, not the other way around.

Manish Dudharejia is the president and founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego based digital agency that specializes in website design & development and ecommerce SEO. Follow him on Twitter.

Getting personal with SEO: how to use search behavior to transform your campaign

In order to meet the needs of today’s consumers and a more intelligent digital market, creating value in optimization campaigns requires innovative thinking and a personalized approach. Adverts, landing pages, and on-site messages that feel tailor-made are becoming the norm for many brands, contributing to higher response rates, visibility, and value.

Arguably, in today’s post-truth era, creating a personal message that can tap into the emotions and needs of a consumer is exactly the direction in which we will continue to progress. It’s also likely that in the near future, this will become the only way that optimization campaigns can be successful.

Anyone can enhance and deliver stronger campaigns by picking insights from search behaviors and using them to directly address your digital customers. But how can you maximize the effectiveness of doing this? Using Delete’s European Search Award-winning campaign for Leeds Beckett University as a case study, this article will take an in-depth look into profiling and understanding your browsers to attract and convert new customers.

Why utilizing user search behavior is necessary in campaigns

From Google’s personalized search algorithm that was launched in 2005, to 2015’s RankBrain, search results have consistently shifted towards searcher satisfaction rather than the needs of a webmaster or business. As users began to demand more intelligent, considered content (keyword stuffing is now a definitive no-go), we’ve had to adapt by creating engaging content that is authoritative in terms of knowledge and information.

There are clear signs that behavior signals are on Google’s radar. Google now elevates the results that it considers to be more relevant to a searcher based on profile information that it gathers about them. So, when it comes to creating your own outreach campaigns, it is only logical to harness and use this profile information to influence post-click user experience.

Harness search behavior to create customer profiles and develop positive relationships

Using search behavior information and user profiles is important because of the phenomenal results you can achieve, particularly at a time when advertising is becoming more challenging by the day.

Splitting users into customer profiles is a method that will enable the creation of targeted, tailor-made advertising and content that is more likely to result in conversions. There are a variety of ways that user behavior can be tracked and profiled, varying from more in-depth and specific methods to quicker, cheaper options that may benefit a brand looking to boost a current campaign or alter the way that their advertising is completed in-house. Not only will customer profiles ensure that only relevant content is delivered to users, but it can also contribute to the development of customer trust and loyalty.

Delete’s Leeds Beckett campaign saw the development of delivering tailor-made landing pages and adverts to international students in an aim to encourage verbal contact with the university as early in the cycle as possible and to make an easier, less daunting application process. By using geographical data, we were able to create customer profiles for international students, which then meant we were able to serve carefully selected imagery to visitors from China, India, and Europe, as well as clear and relevant calls to action.

Splitting apart potential customers by geography, interests, and type of content consumption on the site is the most efficient way to create customer profiles. It can be done through both organic searches and paid searches, with both outlets leading to different customer bases across a variety of platforms. Leveraging existing data is also a practical and simple solution that will help develop stronger relationships with a current customer base. You can then lead users to dynamic pages and imagery that are reflective of organic searches, geolocation, and paid advertising clicks.

The value in creating customer profiles from paid or organic searches

Advertisers now have to look for ways to outsmart the competition. Unfortunately, managing a campaign well is no longer anything special, but a default expectation. Try going beyond the boundaries of just “best practice” SEO or PPC and show real innovation and creativity; it will really pay off.

Using data from users’ organic searches enables a valuable customer profile of people who are already invested or interested in a brand. When it comes to applying this behavior to SEO, it results in the opportunity to tap into a receptive audience who will benefit from additional information and who may have abandoned conversion if they hadn’t been given access to the information that they were looking for.

Delete’s campaign with Leeds Beckett University experienced phenomenal results. For a typical budget for a campaign of its caliber, we were able to generate approximately £6.9 million revenue in one year and an ROI of 10,403.00%. The use of customer profiles undoubtedly played a large part in this.

Use geographical data to deliver direct and relevant information

In an aim to target potential customers and increase conversion, Delete used an innovative method of developing a live map that would plot the addresses of past enrollments, prospects gathered at educational fairs, and open day registrations. This completely changed their geographical targeting in all marketing campaigns, resulting in a 691.67% increase in traffic to the clearing section.

By creating customer profiles based on geography, there is the opportunity to attract and cater to people who may have less initial interest as well as reduce abandoned conversions due to unrelated content. As well as this, it can encourage behaviors that are natural and reflective of the user with a lower cost per click and a higher volume of leads.

Revolutionize the way you use paid and organic search behavior for remarkable results

To maximize results in a marketing campaign, create dynamic landing pages and website experience based on recorded search behaviors and the profiles that can be subsequently created using this information. When it comes to paid ads, you can pass targeting and settings to a website and use this information to personalize the website.

With organic listings, you can glean user interests from entrance pages from organic search and what users do once they are on a page. If you create your landing pages right, so that they target the desired keywords well, you can also make assumptions from people landing on these pages from organic search and then interact with them in whichever way you want, even targeting certain interests.

For example, in our campaign with Leeds Beckett, if a user indicated an interest in a Civil Engineering degree (by clicking on a PPC ad from Civil Engineering for Undergraduates ad group), the landing page or the whole website would start surfacing an image of a work placement student standing on a building site, wearing a hard hat and high visibility jacket. This brings the individual student’s interests to the surface, highlighting the best relevant features that the university has on offer. Ultimately the aim here is to shorten the user journey and increase the chance of a conversion.

This can be applied to almost any marketing area or industry, and it will transform the way that your users are able to engage with your content.

How to scale content production to capture the long-tail opportunity

Here’s something we all know so well that nobody needs to say it anymore: content is king.

We know it because we’ve been hit over the head with the phrase more times than you can shake a page view at. There’s no getting away from it: producing high-quality, engaging content and unique copy is vital for SEO, brand awareness, and affinity.

There will be few digital marketers out there who are not painfully aware of the challenge. When resources, time, and money are (more likely than not) limiting factors, how do you produce large amounts of content to a high enough standard to be effective?

This can be especially true if you or your client is a business with many different product lines, or in multiple locations around the world. The potential topics are infinite, red tape acts as a bottleneck, and copywriters can be overworked and expensive.

The good news is that with the rising popularity of remote working and digital nomads, partnered with a solid strategy and process, you don’t have to make the impossible choice of quality or quantity.

Use a network of freelancers

Perhaps you have a short-term project in the pipeline, or your client suddenly wants to dramatically increase the amount of content in production. What do you do? Hiring a team of copywriters is expensive.

The freelance market, however, is competitive, and these days you don’t have to compromise quality for the sake of cost. Digital nomads are highly-skilled, maybe even multi-lingual, and are likely to be based in countries where the cost of living is low.

Of course, this might not work for you if you need writers based in your market, in which case you could use your international freelancers for other means. Have you got a killer strategist on your books, or someone who speaks four languages who could translate and localize your copy using their knowledge of your markets? Make use of their skills.

It goes without saying that good communication is central to making it work with freelancers. Make yourself as available as possible to your writers and remind them again and again that there is no such thing as a silly question. Building a personal rapport is vital—video calls are great for this, and often far quicker than trying to painfully explain something over email. Apps such as Google Hangouts will become your best friend, for when a simple question requires a quick answer.

With freelancers you have the opportunity to not only become more cost-effective, but to make time zones work for you. This is the key: whilst you’re sleeping, some of your freelancers will be working. Manage this effectively and the amount you produce will rapidly increase, without compromising on quality.

Establish a process

It sounds absurdly simple, but if you don’t set up a clear, defined process, then you’re at very real risk of not achieving the core goals of the project. Common pitfalls include repeating work (or producing the wrong content due to poor briefs), missing deadlines, and inefficiently handling budgets.

It may take some time to set up, but it will undoubtedly pay off once it’s up, running, and ticking along by itself whilst you dedicate yourself to other tasks.

Firstly, one of the most useful things you can do is to spend some time getting your briefs watertight. Provide key details about the client, background information for the task such as the target audience, and clearly explain how this work fits into the wider strategy. Outline the deliverables clearly, and provide a step-by-step guide and examples if necessary.

Brief templates can help with this, especially if you’re producing different types of hygiene content for the same client. It will be worth it when you receive the work back exactly as needed, with minimal questions in the process, and future you will thank you.

Secondly, I strongly advise setting up trackers, because let’s face it: the benefit of a good Excel document cannot be underestimated. Create them so you know what stage your project is at from a glance and include pricing information and details of your freelancers. These trackers should essentially be a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about the project. This will be invaluable not only for measuring where you are in the process but also for reporting.

Project tracking and management services such as Trello can be a godsend. Make use of them. Here at Croud we have our own proprietary technology, Croud Control, which allows us to manage huge content projects flexibly, with full visibility and control over every aspect of each project.

If this all sounds a little exhausting, why not use a trusted freelancer to manage this process for you? That way you only need to brief one person (although admittedly you will probably need to do a deep-dive), and providing you have regular check-ins along the way, you will only need to get involved at the final stage.

QA, QA, and QA again

Speaking of the final stage: check everything. Then check again.

It is unavoidable that your copywriters will make mistakes, as they are human beings. It’s also possible that your proofreaders will miss the odd spelling mistake here or there. This is the reason why I operate on a two-stage QA process at a minimum.

If your client is a multinational company, you may be required to translate or localize your copy into several different languages. It goes without saying that native speakers should perform the QA on this type of work, especially if the copywriter was a non-native speaker.

Providing your freelancers with feedback is crucial to the success of content projects, aside from just being a decent thing to do. After all, everyone wants to do a good job and more likely than not, wants to know how they could do it better.

Tight budgets mean you might have to get creative with how you manage it. This QA process allows me to do just that. If a new, potentially unexperienced copywriter with good writing skills and low hourly rate does the bulk of the work, the more skilled writers who are almost definitely more expensive can be lined up to proofread, check tone, and generally make sure it is up to scratch, in half the time it took to write it. Just make sure they don’t end up re-writing the work. Empower them to provide constructive feedback directly to your copywriters, and effectively train them up.

If your QAs pick up on the same mistakes being made repeatedly, allow your copywriters the opportunity to review their edits. If they can actually see the corrections being made, they are more likely to bear them in mind when they write for you again. If fewer edits are required, then congratulations, you have made the process even more efficient and cost-effective.

Summary

Creating high-quality, unique copy and content on a large scale is never going to be easy, but it doesn’t have to be painful. With a bit of legwork at the beginning to establish a well built process, and by making the most of a network of freelancers, it has the potential to be a breeze.

Not only that, but you and your clients will undoubtedly reap the commercial rewards of your hard work. Using exactly this process, together with our global network of 1,700+ freelancers known as ‘Croudies’, we were able to produce city-specific landing page copy for a client with hundreds of locations. This work led to a 113% increase in organic traffic, coupled with a 124% uplift in domain visibility.

And the key to success? Engage your writers at every available opportunity, so they don’t feel like a cog in a machine. Provide them with valuable feedback and help them whenever you can. This will likely not only improve your enjoyment of the project, but you’ll also probably find that they are more willing to help with future work. And when the whole project goes off without a hitch and you receive fantastic reviews (because why wouldn’t you), tell them of the good news and allow them to share in your success.