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10 Ways to Cash In (+ Pros & Cons)

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10 Ways to Cash In (+ Pros & Cons)

Every other day, a new blogger claims they are earning a full-time income from their blog. But how exactly do they do it?

In this article, we will discuss 10 popular methods bloggers use to cash in on their passion, along with the pros and cons of each approach.

How much can you make from blogging?

Although many people claim to earn a full-time income, studies show only around 5%-8% of bloggers actually do. 

The monetization strategies you use and how successful you are at implementing them play a huge role in how much you can earn from blogging. If you don’t know the different methods to use, you’re not going to cash in.

I personally know content site owners earning six figures from their blogs, while some can earn even more.

In fact, globally known blogger Pete Cashmore (made Forbes’ 2014 30 under 30 list) has an estimated net worth of over $120 million. This is largely thanks to his website, Mashable, which he started in 2005 and sold in 2017 for $50 million.

How do blogs make money?

Some of the most profitable blogs make money through affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, advertisements, product sales, services, and more.

Each method requires careful planning and implementation to maximize your earning potential.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that success takes time; you’re not likely to see immediate results when launching a blog, even with the best monetizing strategies. It takes dedication and hard work before you start to reap financial rewards.

Now let’s dive into the 10 most popular ways blogs make money:

Advertising

Companies have always been willing to pay for advertising space. In the past, ads could be regularly seen on newspapers, magazines, and billboards. Today, it’s common to see display or banner ads on websites, which often rely on them as a source of income.

You can negotiate directly with a company or brand on a price you want and handle everything yourself. Or you can try an ad network like Google AdSense, Raptive, or Ezoic for a hands-off approach.

Either way, it works by placing ads on your website that are relevant to your content and niche. 

When visitors click on the ad, you will earn a commission from the advertiser.

Display ad example
Example of a display ad from the Mediavine ad network.

How much can you earn?

Typically, you earn between $0.01 and $0.25 per pageview. Of course, this depends on your niche and the ad network you work with. 

Pros

Ads are relatively easy to set up and manage. Especially with some of the bigger platforms like Mediavine, you can have someone who manages everything for you. Plus, there’s huge potential to earn money passively over time.

Cons

Firstly, ads can be intrusive and detract from user experience. We’ve all seen sites with badly optimized ads where you can’t read one line of text because the page is plastered with ads. 

Secondly, it’s difficult for people who are just getting started to earn a good income passively solely with ads. Remember that many ad networks, like Mediavine, have a minimum requirement to join, such as 50,000 monthly sessions.

Those that allow you to join without a minimum requirement, like Ezoic, require you to complete courses and set up and manage your own ads if your site gets fewer than 10,000 monthly visits. 

Unless you’re comfortable managing ads, you’re likely not going to get the most out of them without assistance from the advertising network.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a popular way for bloggers to monetize their websites. With affiliate programs, you can earn commissions when readers purchase products or services through affiliate links on your website. 

Creating a niche site that uses affiliate marketing as the main form of monetization is one of the quickest ways to earn a full-time income online. From personal experience, you can earn four figures a month within 12 months with a high-quality affiliate marketing site.

The truth is people love review content. For example, imagine you just got your first puppy. A super easy way to get what you need and feel confident as a new dog owner is to read in-depth reviews from other experienced dog owners.

Continuing with that example, a single page on the best dog food for 2023 can generate over thousands of monthly organic visits, ranking for hundreds of keywords. 

You can understand the demand for this type of blog when you look at the search volume of some keywords in the U.S. alone:

List of keywords, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
Data via Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Plus, the entire first page on Google for “dog food” shows commercial search intent, with numerous reviews also showing up.

SERP overview for "dog food" shows keywords with commercial search intent, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

You can work with affiliate networks like Amazon Associates and Commission Junction or through private affiliate programs. 

How much can you earn? 

On average, affiliate networks offer lower commissions (between 1% and 10%), whereas private affiliate programs offer anything up to 90% affiliate commissions. 

Therefore, if you’re producing dozens of articles per month reviewing high-ticket items with an affiliate program that offers a 60% affiliate commission, you can earn a comfortable income. 

Pros

Affiliate marketing is easy to start, doesn’t require you to create and manage products or services, and can potentially bring in large commissions.

Cons

It requires a lot of work in the beginning (creating content, building relationships with affiliates, and so on) and can be difficult to scale over time if you don’t choose the right niche or have the right team in place.

Sponsored content

Social proof is one of the best ways to get people interested in your products. That’s why companies pay bloggers to write sponsored posts or create sponsored content in exchange for a fee.

Example of sponsored content

How much can you earn?

That will heavily depend on how much traffic your website gets, as well as how influential you are. But the average is anywhere between $25-$1,000 per post. 

Pros

This can be a great way to get paid for your content, with the potential to earn a large amount of money per post. It can also help you to build lasting relationships with brands.

Cons

It can be difficult to find sponsors, especially if you are not considered an “influencer” in your niche. It also requires lots of work (research, writing, promotion), and you must be careful to remain unbiased. 

Selling services

By producing content on a particular topic and gaining a sustainable readership, people will naturally associate your name with your topic of expertise. That way, you become an authoritative voice in your niche. 

Because of this, bloggers can use their websites to market and sell services such as consulting, coaching, digital marketing services, and so on.

Example of consulting services
Example of digital marketing blogger Neil Patel offering consulting services on his site.

How much can you earn?

It depends on the service you’re selling. But as an example, consulting gigs can earn anything between $60–$300 per hour.

Pros

It’s easy to start with (assuming you have an existing reputation) and needs very little upfront cost or work to get going. Plus, there is potential for high earnings from services that can also build long-term relationships with clients.

Cons

If you want to actually deliver a quality service, you need to put all your efforts into it, which may be difficult to maintain if you’re already running a blog full-time. If you can’t, you will be offering a subpar service, which won’t have clients returning for more. 

It’s also difficult to scale over time, as clients want to work with you, the expert, not an employee.

Selling physical and digital products

Many bloggers create and sell physical or digital products on their websites, such as ebooks, courses, merchandise, etc. 

Digital products are more scalable and don’t take as much work to put together. For example, with ebooks, you write the book one time, and then can sell thousands of copies year after year. 

Example of digital products for sale on a beauty blog
An example of digital products sold on the Hot Beauty Health blog.

How much can you earn?

Again, this depends on the products you’re selling. But it can be anything from $4 for a book to $50 for merchandise items like T-shirts.

Pros

There is huge potential for high passive earnings from sales of the products, and it is easy to scale.

Cons

Selling products requires a significant upfront investment in terms of creating the products. Even ebooks take significant time to write and edit, produce artwork, and so on. 

With physical products, there is the additional work of setting up the management of product sales to ensure products are manufactured and shipped without any problems.

Online courses

Online courses are a great way for bloggers to monetize their websites. 

As a topic expert, you can create an online course related to your niche and sell it on your website.

There are even instances of people with successful personal blogs selling courses on “blogging tips” or “how to make money from affiliate marketing.” 

Example of a blog course
Example of courses available on the Authority Hacker blog.

How much can you earn?

On average, courses sell between $400 and $1,000 per sale. But of course, it depends on the niche and how much of a following you have.

Pros

There is a potential for high earnings from sales of a course, and it’s easy to scale with additional courses.

Cons

Courses require a significant time investment (creating the course content), require marketing efforts to find customers, and can be difficult to compete against larger businesses with more resources.

Coaching and mentoring

Bloggers can easily pick up a cult following of aspiring bloggers who want to be just like them. With expertise in your niche, you can offer one-on-one coaching or mentoring services to help others learn. 

As someone who has mentored many times, I can say from experience that it can be rewarding.

Coaching and mentoring example
Example of Women In Tech SEO’s mentoring program.

How much can you earn?

That depends on how well-established you are, but you can earn $50–$150 per hour on average.

Pros

Not only can you earn a solid income from coaching, but it can also be extremely rewarding to see former mentees build and develop their own successful careers.

Cons

It requires a lot of work to deliver the service and build and maintain relationships, and you must be careful to remain unbiased and ethical when providing advice.

Public speaking

Bloggers with expertise in their niche can share their knowledge and experiences through public speaking engagements. This can be at industry workshops, seminars, and conferences. 

Write-up explaining what to expect from an SEO speaker
Example of SEO public speaking from Craig Campbell.

How much can you earn?

You can earn anything from $500–$10,000 per event, depending on how high-profile you are. 

Pros

There is potential for high earnings from speaking fees, and it is easy to scale with additional engagements. Plus, it requires minimal upfront investment.

Cons

You have to be comfortable speaking and often presenting in front of large audiences. You also need to be a naturally confident and competent speaker. 

Premium communities

Many bloggers create premium online communities and charge a fee for access. This can be for exclusive content, mastermind sessions, or networking with industry leaders. 

Example of a premium community
Example from premium SEO community Traffic Think Tank.

Private communities work by offering monthly or annual memberships to allow access to exclusive content.

How much can you earn?

These communities can earn anywhere between $50 and $150 per monthly subscription.

Pros

Great potential for high earnings from membership fees, and it is easy to scale with additional members. Plus, you can build relationships with members.

Cons

It requires a lot of work to create and manage the community, and it can be difficult to find members if you’re just starting out.

Blog flipping

Buying and selling blogs is one of the most profitable ways to earn income online.

If you know what you are doing, you can buy a beginner blog with decent traffic relatively cheaply, make some improvements, and sell it for a profit—much like flipping a house.

You can buy or sell a site privately. Or you can do it through a broker’s website or marketplaces like Flippa, Investors Club, or Empire Flippers

Example of blogs for sale on a marketplace
An example of blogs for sale on Investors Club.

How much can you earn?

Content sites usually sell for anything between a 20–40x multiplier. So if your site is earning a monthly profit of $1,000 per month, it could sell for anywhere between $20,000 and $40,000. 

A successful blog can sell for around six figures. In fact, according to Empire Flippers, the average price of a content site is $101,400.

Pros

There’s a huge potential to cash in by selling your blog. Plus, it gives you additional capital to buy blogs that you can sell later for a profit. 

Cons

It requires a lot of work to research potential blog opportunities, buy existing blogs, and manage them. Also, it can be difficult to find buyers or sellers, depending on the niche.

Top tips to make your blog a success

Now you know how blogs make money, you need to think about how you can make your blog a success and utilize those monetization methods to cash in as much as possible!

As someone who has built, managed, and sold multiple content sites, here are some of my top tips for success. 

Choose a profitable niche

Choosing a niche that has the best earning potential is a crucial first step in the journey to becoming a professional blogger. Especially if you want to use affiliate marketing to monetize your blog, a niche with high-ticket items is a must. 

Many profitable blog niches are highly competitive, like lifestyle blogs and mom blogs—but don’t let that scare you off. Choosing a competitive niche gives you more opportunity to do competitor analysis and suss out what works and what doesn’t, giving you a blueprint to work from.

Keep it unique

With more than 600 million blogs out of 1.9 billion websites in the world and over 6 million blog posts published daily, you need something to set you apart from the competition.

Example of a unique blog angle
Example of an article on pet funeral planning from a blog about pet memorials.

There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from a competitor who is absolutely killing it. But think of a unique way to go above and beyond to offer something better than what’s on the web. Here are some ideas on what you can do:

  • Write from your personal experience – If you want to start a pregnancy blog, talk about things you wish someone had shared with you when you were pregnant.
  • Offer more thorough knowledge than others – For example, go above and beyond with product reviews, such as including an unboxing and review video. 
  • Use custom visuals – Most people skim content. Infographics, videos, and original images can help catch readers’ attention. 
  • Fill gaps in the market – Maybe you love alpacas, but there just aren’t enough dedicated blogs out there. That could be your goldmine idea right there.

But an important note: It also needs to be of high quality! Being different isn’t enough. Blog posts that are expertly written with actionable advice are what both users and search engines want to see. In fact, Google’s guidelines state:

Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.

Make your content both useful and interesting by:

  • Finding a unique angle for your topic.
  • Writing clearly and concisely.
  • Making it easy to read and absorb.
  • Satisfying search intent and E-E-A-T.

Use SEO to grow free, passive traffic

Anyone can start a blog. But not everyone can make a blog successful. Search engine optimization (SEO) can help you earn free traffic from search engines like Google and Bing.

One of the biggest mistakes new blogs make is writing about the wrong things. Writing about topics that people are searching for gets your blog in front of interested readers. This can grow your audience and get more leads for your products, services, and courses. 

Using a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer can allow you to identify relevant, high-volume keywords, understand search intent, and analyze competitors’ keyword strategies.

Matching terms report results, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Want to learn more about SEO? Check out our SEO course for beginners.

Build an email list

As amazing as SEO is, things can change on a dime. Sometimes, you’re just one algorithm update away from losing half your traffic (yes, it happens!), and that’s why capturing emails is so important. 

A niche-relevant newsletter sharing your own content and any other relevant things happening, like news or job opportunities, is a great way to gain thousands of subscribers that can turn into leads and sales.

Example of an industry-specific newsletter
An example of one of the leading SEO newsletters, SEOFOMO, which has over 27K subscribers.

As long as you aren’t spamming, you can contact your email list whenever you want. This is a great way to capture leads if you add additional monetization methods like courses, products, or services. 

Expand your blog by adding additional channels

You can make the most out of your blog (and possible income streams) by adding additional channels like social media, YouTube vlogging, or even a podcast. 

Example of a blog with multiple channels
Example of a parenting blog that has expanded to include digital products and a podcast as an additional channel.

This allows you to expand your target audience and can give you opportunities for additional monetization methods (YouTube ads and sponsored podcasts, for example) and further revenue streams.

Final thoughts

There are many ways blogs make money, and many of these can be utilized to ensure your blog has multiple income streams. 

Whether it is recommending affiliate products in your blog posts or selling consulting services, there are many monetization methods with great earning potential open to even beginner bloggers. 

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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SEO

How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile

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How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile

Search is evolving at an incredible pace and new features, formats, and even new search engines are popping up within the space.

Google’s algorithm still prioritizes backlinks when ranking websites. If you want your website to be visible in search results, you must account for backlinks and your backlink profile.

A healthy backlink profile requires a diverse backlink profile.

In this guide, we’ll examine how to build and maintain a diverse backlink profile that powers your website’s search performance.

What Does A Healthy Backlink Profile Look Like?

As Google states in its guidelines, it primarily crawls pages through links from other pages linked to your pages, acquired through promotion and naturally over time.

In practice, a healthy backlink profile can be divided into three main areas: the distribution of link types, the mix of anchor text, and the ratio of followed to nofollowed links.

Let’s look at these areas and how they should look within a healthy backlink profile.

Distribution Of Link Types

One aspect of your backlink profile that needs to be diversified is link types.

It looks unnatural to Google to have predominantly one kind of link in your profile, and it also indicates that you’re not diversifying your content strategy enough.

Some of the various link types you should see in your backlink profile include:

  • Anchor text links.
  • Image links.
  • Redirect links.
  • Canonical links.

Here is an example of the breakdown of link types at my company, Whatfix (via Semrush):

Screenshot from Semrush, May 2024

Most links should be anchor text links and image links, as these are the most common ways to link on the web, but you should see some of the other types of links as they are picked up naturally over time.

Mix Of Anchor Text

Next, ensure your backlink profile has an appropriate anchor text variance.

Again, if you overoptimize for a specific type of anchor text, it will appear suspicious to search engines like Google and could have negative repercussions.

Here are the various types of anchor text you might find in your backlink profile:

  • Branded anchor text – Anchor text that is your brand name or includes your brand name.
  • Empty – Links that have no anchor text.
  • Naked URLs – Anchor text that is a URL (e.g., www.website.com).
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that exactly matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., blue shoes).
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that partially or closely matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., “comfortable blue footwear options”).
  • Generic anchor text – Anchor text such as “this website” or “here.”

To maintain a healthy backlink profile, aim for a mix of anchor text within a similar range to this:

  • Branded anchor text – 35-40%.
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – 15-20%.
  • Generic anchor text -10-15%.
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – 5-10%.
  • Naked URLs – 5-10%.
  • Empty – 3-5%.

This distribution of anchor text represents a natural mix of differing anchor texts. It is common for the majority of anchors to be branded or partially branded because most sites that link to your site will default to your brand name when linking. It also makes sense that the following most common anchors would be partial-match keywords or generic anchor text because these are natural choices within the context of a web page.

Exact-match anchor text is rare because it only happens when you are the best resource for a specific term, and the site owner knows your page exists.

Ratio Of Followed Vs. Nofollowed Backlinks

Lastly, you should monitor the ratio of followed vs. nofollowed links pointing to your website.

If you need a refresher on what nofollowed backlinks are or why someone might apply the nofollow tag to a link pointing to your site, check out Google’s guide on how to qualify outbound links to Google.

Nofollow attributes should only be applied to paid links or links pointing to a site the linking site doesn’t trust.

While it is not uncommon or suspicious to have some nofollow links (people misunderstand the purpose of the nofollow attribute all the time), a healthy backlink profile will have far more followed links.

You should aim for a ratio of 80%:20% or 70%:30% in favor of followed links. For example, here is what the followed vs. nofollowed ratio looks like for my company’s backlink profile (according to Ahrefs):

Referring domainsScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2024

You may see links with other rel attributes, such as UGC or Sponsored.

The “UGC” attribute tags links from user-generated content, while the “Sponsored” attribute tags links from sponsored or paid sources. These attributes are slightly different than the nofollow tag, but they essentially work the same way, letting Google know these links aren’t trusted or endorsed by the linking site. You can simply group these links in with nofollowed links when calculating your ratio.

Importance Of Diversifying Your Backlink Profile

So why is it important to diversify your backlink profile anyway? Well, there are three main reasons you should consider:

  • Avoiding overoptimization.
  • Diversifying traffic sources.
  • And finding new audiences.

Let’s dive into each of these.

Avoiding Overoptimization

First and foremost, diversifying your backlink profile is the best way to protect yourself from overoptimization and the damaging penalties that can come with it.

As SEO pros, our job is to optimize websites to improve performance, but overoptimizing in any facet of our strategy – backlinks, keywords, structure, etc. – can result in penalties that limit visibility within search results.

In the previous section, we covered the elements of a healthy backlink profile. If you stray too far from that model, your site might look suspicious to search engines like Google and you could be handed a manual or algorithmic penalty, suppressing your rankings in search.

Considering how regularly Google updates its search algorithm these days (and how little information surrounds those updates), you could see your performance tank and have no idea why.

This is why it’s so important to keep a watchful eye on your backlink profile and how it’s shaping up.

Diversifying Traffic Sources

Another reason to cultivate a diverse backlink profile is to ensure you’re diversifying your traffic sources.

Google penalties come swiftly and can often be a surprise. If you have all your eggs in that basket when it comes to traffic, your site will suffer badly and might need help to recover.

However, diversifying your traffic sources (search, social, email, etc.) will mitigate risk – similar to a stock portfolio – as you’ll have other traffic sources to provide a steady flow of visitors if another source suddenly dips.

Part of building a diverse backlink profile is acquiring a diverse set of backlinks and backlink types, and this strategy will also help you find differing and varied sources of traffic.

Finding New Audiences

Finally, building a diverse backlink profile is essential, as doing so will also help you discover new audiences.

If you acquire links from the same handful of websites and platforms, you will need help expanding your audience and building awareness for your website.

While it’s important to acquire links from sites that cater to your existing audience, you should also explore ways to build links that can tap into new audiences. The best way to do this is by casting a wide net with various link acquisition tactics and strategies.

A diverse backlink profile indicates a varied approach to SEO and marketing that will help bring new visitors and awareness to your site.

Building A Diverse Backlink Profile

So that you know what a healthy backlink profile looks like and why it’s important to diversify, how do you build diversity into your site’s backlink profile?

This comes down to your link acquisition strategy and the types of backlinks you actively pursue. To guide your strategy, let’s break link building into three main categories:

  • Foundational links.
  • Content promotion.
  • Community involvement.

Here’s how to approach each area.

Foundational Links

Foundational links represent those links that your website simply should have. These are opportunities where a backlink would exist if all sites were known to all site owners.

Some examples of foundational links include:

  • Mentions – Websites that mention your brand in some way (brand name, product, employees, proprietary data, etc.) on their website but don’t link.
  • Partners – Websites that belong to real-world partners or companies you connect with offline and should also connect (link) with online.
  • Associations or groups – Websites for offline associations or groups you belong to where your site should be listed with a link.
  • Sponsorships – Any events or organizations your company sponsors might have websites that could (and should) link to your site.
  • Sites that link to competitors – If a website is linking to a competitor, there is a strong chance it would make sense for them to link to your site as well.

These link opportunities should set the foundation for your link acquisition efforts.

As the baseline for your link building strategy, you should start by exhausting these opportunities first to ensure you’re not missing highly relevant links to bolster your backlink profile.

Content Promotion

Next, consider content promotion as a strategy for building a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

Content promotion is much more proactive than the foundational link acquisition mentioned above. You must manifest the opportunity by creating link-worthy content rather than simply capitalizing on an existing opportunity.

Some examples of content promotion for links are:

  • Digital PR – Digital PR campaigns have numerous benefits and goals beyond link acquisition, but backlinks should be a primary KPI.
  • Original research – Similar to digital PR, original research should focus on providing valuable data to your audience. Still, you should also make sure any citations or references to your research are correctly linked.
  • Guest content – Whether regular columns or one-off contributions, providing guest content to websites is still a viable link acquisition strategy – when done right. The best way to gauge your guest content strategy is to ask yourself if you would still write the content for a site without guaranteeing a backlink, knowing you’ll still build authority and get your message in front of a new audience.
  • Original imagery – Along with research and data, if your company creates original imagery that offers unique value, you should promote those images and ask for citation links.

Content promotion is a viable avenue for building a healthy backlink profile as long as the content you’re promoting is worthy of links.

Community Involvement

Community involvement is the final piece of your link acquisition puzzle when building a diverse backlink profile.

After pursuing all foundational opportunities and manually promoting your content, you should ensure your brand is active and represented in all the spaces and communities where your audience engages.

In terms of backlinks, this could mean:

  • Wikipedia links – Wikipedia gets over 4 billion monthly visits, so backlinks here can bring significant referral traffic to your site. However, acquiring these links is difficult as these pages are moderated closely, and your site will only be linked if it is legitimately a top resource on the web.
  • Forums (Reddit, Quora, etc.) – Another great place to get backlinks that drive referral traffic is forums like Reddit and Quora. Again, these forums are strictly moderated, and earning link placements on these sites requires a page that delivers significant and unique value to a specific audience.
  • Social platforms – Social media platforms and groups represent communities where your brand should be active and engaged. While these strategies are likely handled by other teams outside SEO and focus on different metrics, you should still be intentional about converting these interactions into links when or where possible.
  • Offline events – While it may seem counterintuitive to think of offline events as a potential source for link acquisition, legitimate link opportunities exist here. After all, most businesses, brands, and people you interact with at these events also have websites, and networking can easily translate to online connections in the form of links.

While most of the link opportunities listed above will have the nofollow link attribute due to the nature of the sites associated with them, they are still valuable additions to your backlink profile as these are powerful, trusted domains.

These links help diversify your traffic sources by bringing substantial referral traffic, and that traffic is highly qualified as these communities share your audience.

How To Avoid Developing A Toxic Backlink Profile

Now that you’re familiar with the link building strategies that can help you cultivate a healthy, diverse backlink profile, let’s discuss what you should avoid.

As mentioned before, if you overoptimize one strategy or link, it can seem suspicious to search engines and cause your site to receive a penalty. So, how do you avoid filling your backlink profile with toxic links?

Remember The “Golden Rule” Of Link Building

One simple way to guide your link acquisition strategy and avoid running afoul of search engines like Google is to follow one “golden rule.”

That rule is to ask yourself: If search engines like Google didn’t exist, and the only way people could navigate the web was through backlinks, would you want your site to have a link on the prospective website?

Thinking this way strips away all the tactical, SEO-focused portions of the equation and only leaves the human elements of linking where two sites are linked because it makes sense and makes the web easier to navigate.

Avoid Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Another good rule is to avoid looping your site into private blog networks (PBNs). Of course, it’s not always obvious or easy to spot a PBN.

However, there are some common traits or red flags you can look for, such as:

  • The person offering you a link placement mentions they have a list of domains they can share.
  • The prospective linking site has little to no traffic and doesn’t appear to have human engagement (blog comments, social media followers, blog views, etc.).
  • The website features thin content and little investment into user experience (UX) and design.
  • The website covers generic topics and categories, catering to any and all audiences.
  • Pages on the site feature numerous external links but only some internal links.
  • The prospective domain’s backlink profile features overoptimization in any of the previously discussed forms (high-density of exact match anchor text, abnormal ratio of nofollowed links, only one or two link types, etc.).

Again, diversification – in both tactics and strategies – is crucial to building a healthy backlink profile, but steering clear of obvious PBNs and remembering the ‘golden rule’ of link building will go a long way toward keeping your profile free from toxicity.

Evaluating Your Backlink Profile

As you work diligently to build and maintain a diverse, healthy backlink profile, you should also carve out time to evaluate it regularly from a more analytical perspective.

There are two main ways to evaluate the merit of your backlinks: leverage tools to analyze backlinks and compare your backlink profile to the greater competitive landscape.

Leverage Tools To Analyze Backlink Profile

There are a variety of third-party tools you can use to analyze your backlink profile.

These tools can provide helpful insights, such as the total number of backlinks and referring domains. You can use these tools to analyze your full profile, broken down by:

  • Followed vs. nofollowed.
  • Authority metrics (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Backlink types.
  • Location or country.
  • Anchor text.
  • Top-level domain types.
  • And more.

You can also use these tools to track new incoming backlinks, as well as lost backlinks, to help you better understand how your backlink profile is growing.

Some of the best tools for analyzing your backlink profile are:

Many of these tools also have features that estimate how toxic or suspicious your profile might look to search engines, which can help you detect potential issues early.

Compare Your Backlink Profile To The Competitive Landscape

Lastly, you should compare your overall backlink profile to those of your competitors and those competing with your site in the search results.

Again, the previously mentioned tools can help with this analysis – as far as providing you with the raw numbers – but the key areas you should compare are:

  • Total number of backlinks.
  • Total number of referring domains.
  • Breakdown of authority metrics of links (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Authority metrics of competing domains.
  • Link growth over the last two years.

Comparing your backlink profile to others within your competitive landscape will help you assess where your domain currently stands and provide insight into how far you must go if you’re lagging behind competitors.

It’s worth noting that it’s not as simple as whoever has the most backlinks will perform the best in search.

These numbers are typically solid indicators of how search engines gauge the authority of your competitors’ domains, and you’ll likely find a correlation between strong backlink profiles and strong search performance.

Approach Link Building With A User-First Mindset

The search landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace and we could see dramatic shifts in how people search within the next five years (or sooner).

However, at this time, search engines like Google still rely on backlinks as part of their ranking algorithms, and you need to cultivate a strong backlink profile to be visible in search.

Furthermore, if you follow the advice in this article as you build out your profile, you’ll acquire backlinks that benefit your site regardless of search algorithms, futureproofing your traffic sources.

Approach link acquisition like you would any other marketing endeavor – with a customer-first mindset – and over time, you’ll naturally build a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

More resources: 


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Google On Traffic Diversity As A Ranking Factor

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Google answers the question of whether traffic diversity is a ranking factor for SEO

Google’s SearchLiaison tweeted encouragement to diversify traffic sources, being clear about the reason he was recommending it. Days later, someone followed up to ask if traffic diversity is a ranking factor, prompting SearchLiaison to reiterate that it is not.

What Was Said

The question of whether diversity of traffic was a ranking factor was elicited from a previous tweet in a discussion about whether a site owner should be focusing on off-site promotion.

Here’s the question from the original discussion that was tweeted:

“Can you please tell me if I’m doing right by focusing on my site and content – writing new articles to be found through search – or if I should be focusing on some off-site effort related to building a readership? It’s frustrating to see traffic go down the more effort I put in.”

SearchLiaison split the question into component parts and answered each one. When it came to the part about off-site promotion, SearchLiaison (who is Danny Sullivan), shared from his decades of experience as a journalist and publisher covering technology and search marketing.

I’m going to break down his answer so that it’s clearer what he meant

This is the part from the tweet that talks about off-site activities:

“As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.”

What he is saying here is simple, don’t limit your thinking about what to do with your site to thinking about how to make it appeal to Google.

He next explains that sites that rank tend to be sites that are created to appeal to people.

SearchLiaison continued:

“Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.”

What he’s saying there is that you’ll know that you’re appealing to people if people are discussing your site in social media, if people are referring the site in social media and if other sites are citing it with links.

Other ways to know that a site is doing well is when when people engage in the comments section, send emails asking follow up questions, and send emails of thanks and share anecdotes of their success or satisfaction with a product or advice.

Consider this, fast fashion site Shein at one point didn’t rank for their chosen keyword phrases, I know because I checked out of curiosity. But they were at the time virally popular and making huge amounts of sales by gamifying site interaction and engagement, propelling them to become a global brand. A similar strategy propelled Zappos when they pioneered no-questions asked returns and cheerful customer service.

SearchLiaison continued:

“It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that’s what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people.”

SearchLiaison explicitly said that building sites with diversified content is not a ranking factor.

He added this caveat to his tweet:

“This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things).”

Despite The Caveat…

A journalist tweeted this:

“Earlier this week, @searchliaison told people to diversify their traffic. Naturally, people started questioning whether that meant diversity of traffic was a ranking factor.

So, I asked @iPullRank what he thought.”

SearchLiaison of course answered that he explicitly said it’s not a ranking factor and linked to his original tweet that I quoted above.

He tweeted:

“I mean that’s not exactly what I myself said, but rather repeat all that I’ll just add the link to what I did say:”

The journalist responded:

“I would say this is calling for publishers to diversify their traffic since you’re saying the great sites do it. It’s the right advice to give.”

And SearchLiaison answered:

“It’s the part of “does it matter for rankings” that I was making clear wasn’t what I myself said. Yes, I think that’s a generally good thing, but it’s not the only thing or the magic thing.”

Not Everything Is About Ranking Factors

There is a longstanding practice by some SEOs to parse everything that Google publishes for clues to how Google’s algorithm works. This happened with the Search Quality Raters guidelines. Google is unintentionally complicit because it’s their policy to (in general) not confirm whether or not something is a ranking factor.

This habit of searching for “ranking factors” leads to misinformation. It takes more acuity to read research papers and patents to gain a general understanding of how information retrieval works but it’s more work to try to understand something than skimming a PDF for ranking papers.

The worst approach to understanding search is to invent hypotheses about how Google works and then pore through a document to confirm those guesses (and falling into the confirmation bias trap).

In the end, it may be more helpful to back off of exclusively optimizing for Google and focus at least equally as much in optimizing for people (which includes optimizing for traffic). I know it works because I’ve been doing it for years.

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The Complete Guide to Google My Business for Local SEO

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The Complete Guide to Google My Business

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that business owners can use to manage their online presence across Google Search and Google Maps.

This profile also puts out important business details, such as address, phone number, and operating hours, making it easily accessible to potential customers. 

Google My Business profile shown on Google MapsGoogle My Business profile shown on Google Maps

When you click on a business listing in the search results it will open a detailed sidebar on the right side of the screen, providing comprehensive information about the business. 

This includes popular times, which show when the business is busiest, a Q&A section where potential users can ask questions and receive responses from the business or other customers, and a photos and videos section that showcases products and services. Customer reviews and ratings are also displayed, which are crucial for building trust and credibility.

Business details on Google My Business profileBusiness details on Google My Business profile

Using Google My Business for Local SEO

Having an optimized Google Business Profile ensures that your business is visible, searchable, and can attract potential customers who are looking for your products and services.

  • Increased reliance on online discovery: More consumers are going online to search and find local businesses, making it crucial to have a GMB listing.
  • Be where your customers are searching: GMB ensures your business information is accurate and visible on Google Search and Maps, helping you stay competitive.
  • Connect with customers digitally: GMB allows customers to connect with your business through various channels, including messaging and reviews.
  • Build your online reputation: GMB makes it easy for customers to leave reviews, which can improve your credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Location targeting: GMB enables location-based targeting, showing your ads to people searching for businesses in your exact location.
  • Measurable results: GMB provides actionable analytics, allowing you to track your performance and optimize your listing.

How to Set Up Google My Business

If you already have a profile and need help claiming, verifying, and/or optimizing it, skip to the next sections.

If you’re creating a new Google My Business profile, here’s a step-by-step guide:

Access or Create your Google AccountAccess or Create your Google Account

Step 1: Access or Create your Google Account:

If you don’t already have a Google account, follow these steps to create one:

  • Visit the Google Account Sign-up Page: Go to the Google Account sign-up page and click on “Create an account.”
  • Enter Your Information: Fill in the required fields, including your name, email address, and password.
  • Verify Your Account: Google will send a verification email to your email address. Click on the link in the email to confirm your account.

Step 2:  Access Google My Business

Business name on Google My BusinessBusiness name on Google My Business

Step 3: Enter Your Business Name and Category

  • Type in your exact business name. Google will suggest existing businesses as you type
  • If your business is not listed, fully type out the name as it appears
  • Search for and select your primary business category

Adding business address to Google My Business profileAdding business address to Google My Business profile

Step 4: Provide Your Business Address

  • If you have a physical location where customers can visit, select “Yes” and enter your address.
  • If you are a service area business without a physical location, select “No” and enter your service area.

Adding contact information to Google My Business profileAdding contact information to Google My Business profile

Step 5: Add Your Contact Information

  • Enter your business phone number and website URL
  • You can also create a free website based on your GMB information

Complete Your ProfileComplete Your Profile

Step 6: Complete Your Profile

To complete your profile, add the following details:

  • Hours of Operation: Enter your business’s operating hours to help customers plan their visits.
  • Services: List the services your business offers to help customers understand what you do.
  • Description: Write a detailed description of your business to help customers understand your offerings.

Now that you know how to set up your Google My Business account, all that’s left is to verify it. 

Verification is essential for you to manage and update business information whenever you need to, and for Google to show your business profile to the right users and for the right search queries. 

If you are someone who wants to claim their business or is currently on the last step of setting up their GMB, this guide will walk you through the verification process to solidify your business’ online credibility and visibility.

How to Verify Google My Business

There are several ways you can verify your business, including:

  • Postcard Verification: Google will send a postcard to your business address with a verification code. Enter the code on your GMB dashboard to verify.
  • Phone Verification: Google will call your business phone number and provide a verification code. Enter the code on your GMB dashboard to verify.
  • Email Verification: If you have a business email address, you can use it to verify your listing.
  • Instant Verification: If you have a Google Analytics account linked to your business, you can use instant verification.

How to Claim & Verify an Existing Google My Business Profile

If your business has an existing Google My Business profile, and you want to claim it, then follow these steps:

Sign in to Google AccountSign in to Google Account

Step 1: Sign in to Google My Business

Access Google My Business: Go to the Google My Business website and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, create one by following the sign-up process.

Search for Your BusinessSearch for Your Business

Step 2: Search for Your Business

Enter your business name in the search bar to find your listing. If your business is already listed, you will see it in the search results.

Request access to existing Google My Business accountRequest access to existing Google My Business account

Step 3: Claim Your Listing

If your business is not already claimed, you will see a “Claim this business” button. Click on this button to start the claiming process.

Editing business information on Google My BusinessEditing business information on Google My Business

Step 4: Complete Your Profile

Once your listing is verified, you can complete your profile by adding essential business information such as:

  • Business Name: Ensure it matches your business name.
  • Address: Enter your business address accurately.
  • Phone Number: Enter your business phone number.
  • Hours of Operation: Specify your business hours.
  • Categories: Choose relevant categories that describe your business.
  • Description: Write a brief description of your business.

Step 5: Manage Your Listing

Regularly check and update your listing to ensure it remains accurate and up-to-date. Respond to customer reviews and use the insights provided by Google Analytics to improve your business.

Unverified Google My Business profileUnverified Google My Business profile

Step 6: Verification 

Verify your business through postcard, email, or phone numbers as stated above. 

Now that you have successfully set up and verified your Google My Business listing, it’s time to optimize it for maximum visibility and effectiveness. By doing this, you can improve your local search rankings, increase customer engagement, and drive more conversions.

How to Optimize Google My Business

Here are the tips that I usually do when I’m optimizing my GMB account: 

    1. Complete Your Profile: Start by ensuring every section applicable to your business is filled out with accurate and up-to-date information. Use your real business name without keyword stuffing to avoid suspension. Ensure your address and phone number are consistent with those on your website and other online directories, and add a link to your website and social media accounts.
    2. Optimize for Keywords: Integrate relevant keywords into your business description, services, and posts. However, avoid stuffing your GMB profile with keywords, as this can appear spammy and reduce readability.
    3. Add Backlinks: Encourage local websites, blogs, and business directories to link to your GMB profile. 
  1. Select Appropriate Categories: Choose the most relevant primary category for your business to help Google understand what your business is about. Additionally, add secondary categories that accurately describe your business’s offerings to capture more relevant search traffic.
  2. Encourage and Manage Reviews: Ask satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on your profile, as reviews significantly influence potential customers. Respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, in a professional and timely manner. Addressing negative feedback shows that you value customer opinions and are willing to improve.
  3. Add High-Quality Photos and Videos: Use high-quality images for your profile and cover photos that represent your business well. Upload additional photos of your products, services, team, and premises. Adding short, engaging videos can give potential customers a virtual tour or highlight key services, enhancing their interest.

By following this comprehensive guide, you have successfully set up, verified, and optimized your GMB profile. Remember to continuously maintain and update your profile to ensure maximum impact and success.

Key Takeaway: 

With more and more people turning to Google for all their needs, creating, verifying, and optimizing your Google My Business profile is a must if you want your business to be found. 

Follow this guide to Google My Business, and you’re going to see increased online presence across Google Search and Google Maps in no time.

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