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15 Easy (And Free) Ways to Promote Your Website in 2022

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Free and effective promotion tactics? Yeah, right.

At the risk of sounding like a salesman, let me tell you that not only do these marketing tactics exist, but they’re also actually some of the most effective ones. We’ve been using them, other marketers use them, and most of the big websites I’ve seen to date use them. 

But that’s not all. You don’t need a degree in marketing or to be a marketing pro to start promoting your website for free and get results. Here are 15 ideas that go into the free, easy, and effective basket.

1. Prioritize easy keywords for SEO

If you’re unfamiliar with SEO, it stands for search engine optimization, and it allows you to get free traffic from search engines like Google. 

Overview of our beginner's guide to affiliate marketing
For example, our beginner’s guide on affiliate marketing gets an estimated 24.4K visits from search engines every month.

One of the fundaments of the SEO process is to choose the right keywords to create content for. Now, a tried and tested tactic for new websites and websites without a strong backlink profile is to choose keywords with low ranking difficulty. 

You can spot those keywords by mainly looking at two things: 

  • How many backlinks from unique domains do the top-ranking pages have? 
  • Do the top-ranking pages belong to a domain with high topical authority? 

Here’s how you can do it using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. You can:

  1. Enter a seed keyword (or multiple seed keywords).
  2. Go to the Matching terms report and filter the KD (Keyword Difficulty) metric to show keywords with up to 20 KD. This will show you easy keywords based on backlink profile. 
  3. Pick a relevant keyword and open the SERP panel to see what kinds of pages rank. If you see popular brands dominating, those keywords may be hard to rank despite the low KD. SERPs without brands like that should be easier to target. 
  4. Repeat step #3 for every relevant keyword on the list. 
Keywords with KD lower than 20 based on "matcha" seed keyword
Keywords with KD lower than 20 based on the “matcha” seed keyword.
Example of a keyword with low KD and no "very strong" brands
Example of a keyword with low KD and no “very strong” brands.

Single low-competition keywords may not offer as much traffic potential. But if you pile up a number of pages targeting these keywords, you can end up with serious organic search traffic. 

Also, low-competition keywords may convert better than their more generic counterparts if they are specific enough. One of the neat tricks to find keywords that can possibly convert to sales is to check the CPC ad cost to see if people bid for those keywords. 

Keyword ideas sorted by CPC

So what to do with difficult keywords? Of course, you may target them any time you wish, but note that they will probably take more time (and backlinks) to rank. 

Position history chart for our article on keyword research
Despite many factors in favor of our article on keyword research, it reached #1 in the U.S. only after some four years of content updates and earning backlinks. Even then, it could not hold that position. KD 87 out of 100. Strong brands competing on the same keyword. Data via Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Recommendation

You may also want to try out zero–search volume keywords, as they are usually low-competition too. This article will introduce you to the subject and show you the steps. Do note that this tactic doesn’t always bring results and can be a bit more complicated than what you’ve read above. Also, it may be more suitable for some areas (B2B, emerging technologies) than others.

2. Do SEO for your existing pages 

Sometimes, you don’t need to create new content to get more traffic. Your old content may just need some SEO work, including:

  • More precise alignment with search intent to better serve the meaning of the search query.
  • Refreshing the content, making it more up to date. 
  • Introducing a unique value to show Google and searchers that you have something new to add to the table (to Google, unique content is quality content). 
  • Optimizing your title tag to get more clicks from the SERPs (search engine results pages). 
  • Filling content gaps for more topical relevancy. 
  • Adding internal links to distribute link equity. 

At Ahrefs, we do these things to get more traffic regularly. With multiple successes. 

Nailed search intent (before and after results shown in line graph)
Here’s how organic traffic to one of our articles grew after we aligned with the search intent.

You can follow our step-by-step process with this guide: Republishing Content: How to Update Old Blog Posts for SEO 

3. Create a free resource 

This tactic is all about creating valuable, unique content that’s ideally centered around your brand or product—then offering free access to the content.

Whether it’s a printable PDF guide or a tutorial series on YouTube, focus on adding value for your audience. You’ll then start seeing the magic of word of mouth at work.

Actual user feedback for “Blogging for business”
Actual user feedback for “Blogging for business,” our free video tutorial course on how to grow your blog past 100K monthly visitors.

But first, you need a proven topic for your free resource. 

You can find inspiration for topics manually by visiting social media profiles of authors and magazines in your niche and looking at the engagement signals: likes, retweets, comments, etc. Additionally, you can browse through online communities and see what resonates with your target audience. 

Sample content idea from Reddit

But there are also tools that can help you with this job. 

One tool we recommend quite often for any kind of audience research is SparkToro. Just plug in topics your target audience frequently talks about to discover related topics and hashtags (among many other things).

SparkToro search tool

And with an all-in-one SEO toolset like Ahrefs, you can broaden your options with keyword research. 

Matching terms report with applied filters

And on top of that, you can reverse engineer what worked for your competitors. 

Top pages report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Top pages report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer will uncover pages with the most organic traffic. You can also filter the results, as in the example above.

Recommendation

Consider creating content tailored to platforms with native distribution mechanisms. For example, you can create a course on a site like Udemy on how to, say, paint Warhammer miniatures and mention that you own a website on the topic with more cool resources.

4. Partner up for a joint course or webinar 

Look for other businesses that target a similar audience but do not compete with you directly.

Then see if they are up for a content collaboration with you. This way, you can pitch to their audience, and they get to pitch to yours.

Here’s an example: In 2018, we worked with Buffer, a social media scheduling tool, to create a webinar titled “How to Get Website Traffic With Evergreen Content and Social Media Marketing.”

Buffer + Ahrefs joint webinar

While the audience was comprised of digital marketers, our products are different enough and do not compete with each other. 

5. Repurpose your content for other marketing channels 

Repurposing content is about using existing content and “repacking” it for other marketing channels. 

For example, you can chop a larger article into smaller pieces and use them to promote the original piece via guest blogging. Actually, it’s such a common technique that it has its own name: the “Splintering Technique.” 

Splintering technique for content repurposing

Or you can turn an article into a video and take advantage of YouTube’s search engine and content recommendation algorithms. 

Article repurposed into a video
Our article on influencer marketing was repurposed into a video and published on YouTube to reach even more people. Of course, it can work the other way around too.

Or you can take an entire post, strip it down to a tl;dr version, and publish it on Reddit. 

Article repurposed into a tl;dr version posted on Reddit
This is something we did with our guide on keyword research.

There are other ways to take advantage of this tactic. Check out our complete guide to content repurposing, where we share nine ideas for that. 

6. Find guest blogging opportunities 

How can you promote your website while writing for others? 

When you publish content for other websites, a number of things happen: 

  • You get a boost to your website traffic (although it’s not the best method for consistent traffic).
  • You expose your brand to a new audience. 
  • The earned link contributes to your backlink profile. 
  • You can make new connections in the industry. 

Apart from preparing a pitch that stands out from the crowd, the key is to find the right places to publish. 

For this, you can use Google with search operators. Then you need to vet each page manually. Try our free website authority checker for that last part. 

Using Google with search operators to find guest posting opportunities
Result from screening a website with Ahrefs' free authority checker

With an Ahrefs sub and our SEO Toolbar, you can also vet the websites right inside the SERPs.

Using Google with search operators and Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar to find guest posting opportunities

Or use our Content Explorer to get additional insight to filter for results that meet specific performance criteria. 

Possible guest blogging opportunities filtered by DR and website traffic
Possible guest blogging opportunities filtered by DR and website traffic.

7. Syndicate your content 

Content syndication is a similar tactic to guest blogging. The only difference is that with content syndication, you publish the same thing in multiple places. 

Getting started with content syndication is practically the same as guest blogging. You need: 

  • Great content. 
  • Potential syndicates (websites that can publish your content). You can use the same process and tools as described above. The only thing that changes is your search query. So you can use something like “originally appeared on” + [topic].
  • A good pitch to get your foot through the door. 

With syndication comes the option to self-syndicate. So unlike guest blogging, you can self-populate your articles to other platforms like Medium, Reddit, or LinkedIn. These platforms have a large audience and their own distribution mechanism, so you can get in front of people’s eyes for free. 

Hubspot syndicating article on Medium

Recommendation

Use a backlink checking tool to see where authors of your choice syndicate their content. In Ahrefs, go to Backlinks report, set the word or phrase filter to “Anchor with surrounding text,” and type “originally appeared on” inside the input field.

Backlinks profile with Anchor filter applied

8. Engage with your audience on social media 

Social media platforms, including online communities, are places where you can likely find your target audience. You just need to figure out where exactly and how you can provide unique value to them. If you have something important to say, there will be plenty of opportunities to link to your website. 

A link to a blog post that's part of a relevant answer on Quora
Example: posting answers on Quora.

Start by learning more about your audience. Again, for this, I’ll recommend SparkToro. 

Another way to find places that mention topics related to your website (or even your website) is to use a web monitoring tool like Google Alerts or our very own Ahrefs Alerts

Sample Ahrefs Alert setup

Once you’ve zeroed in on your communities, you may want to approach them with these universal tips in mind:

  • Pay attention to what works for each audience – After joining, read the rules and dedicate some time to researching the group. Look at how the existing members interact. Also, comment on others’ posts while adding value and being helpful.
  • Post thoughtful, insightful comments – Others will begin to return the favor. Don’t be a spammer. 
  • Start referencing your own website after a while – Only do so after you’ve spent a good amount of time giving back to the community and making some friends. Even then, try to go about it in a way that doesn’t scream “blatant advertisement.” Asking for opinions or positioning your website as something that may help people out are some ways to go about it.

Recommendation

You shouldn’t always expect referral traffic from your social posts. Two reasons:

  • If there’s no natural way to include a link, don’t do it. Otherwise, your content may be seen as a spam policy violation.
  • Social media platforms seem to prefer native continent, i.e., content that is to be “consumed” on the spot instead of accessed via a link. This means sometimes you will have to trade links for engagement. 

Case in point. Have you heard about Miss Excel? Her software training business can generate up to six figures per day. Not per month, per day. Even Google Docs tried to correct me on that.

Incorrect autocorrect by Google Docs

Miss Excel gets customers through social media. But you can rarely come across a direct link to her course in any of her posts. Instead, she directly shares Excel tips on TikTok and Instagram. Here’s a great interview on how she does what she does. 

Instagram intro on Miss Excel's page

9. Start a community of your own

And how about creating your own community? 

It may work if:

  • People genuinely like to share thoughts on topics related to your website. 
  • You can offer a unique value that will attract and retain your audience. 
Marketing Solved community promoting a free course
Marketing Solved is a popular marketing community run on Facebook. Note the highlight.

Going further, we can see there are multiple benefits of having a community tied to your website. In terms of promotional aspects, the biggest benefit will likely be word of mouth. 

Word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing channels. It will start working organically when community members feel like the value inside the community will benefit others. But you can potentially influence word of mouth by giving people a reason to talk, such as a new study you just published. 

Sharing an original research study on Ahrefs Insider

This way, a community can naturally start to attract members and, as a result, promote your website. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t expect overnight success with this tactic. Treat it, rather, as a long-term investment with dividends paid as you go. 

10. Build an email list, start a newsletter 

Here’s why email marketing has been utilized by so many marketers: It allows them to build an audience and communicate with them directly and regularly. For free. An email marketing list like that can become one of your most valuable assets. 

Of course, building an email list is not that easy. But if email marketing is done in tandem with quality content marketing, a setup like that puts the process of list-building almost on autopilot. All you need to do is to put up a sign-up form next to your content. 

Email sign-up form displayed next to an article

Before you run off and start looking for the best email app, do make sure you’re on the right track:

  • You need to commit to publishing great content regularly – After all, the content should attract people to your email list. If you feel like you can use a step back to revisit your blogging strategy, check out this list of 17 blogging tips
  • What kind of newsletter will your audience like to read? For example, we recently found that Ahrefs’ audience prefers to get a short digest of each article we feature in the email instead of, say, bare links to articles. 
  • What will be unique about your newsletter? Do you plan to include some kind of added value or exclusive content for your email subscribers? Or will you keep it simple by offering people the good ol’ “never miss a post again”? 

11. Get listed in local directories (for local businesses) 

If you’re a local business owner, getting listed in local directories is a must. 

This is because people look for local services on the web all of the time. For this, they use either local service directories or simply plug in a keyword like “lawyer near me” in Google. In the latter case, Google will usually point them to a local directory. 

SERP for "lawyer near me" dominated by map pack and directories
Looking for a lawyer via Google these days? Well, you will see mostly maps and links to directories.

Creating or claiming your Google Business Profile is a good starting point. Setting up the profile is quite straightforward (and free). However, what I recommend here is going a step further and making sure your profile is optimized. Here’s how to do it in 30 minutes

Completing this step will make your business profile (hence, your website) eligible to show up in Google Map Pack (the search result with a map, as seen in the picture above), Google Maps, and a local knowledge panel when someone looks for your brand. 

Next, add your business to relevant local directories. For example, a lawyer may want to list their service for free with Thervo.com. Just make sure to keep all information consistent across platforms.

Once you’re done with adding your business to directories, check out our guide on local SEO to take things a notch higher. Among other things, this guide will show you tactics that can improve your position in the local map pack and how to create content for keywords with local search intent.

12. Do outreach for link building 

Outreach done for link building purposes is a tactic where you get your content in front of bloggers and influencers in your industry. The aim is to get them to talk about you and link to you.

This tactic is mainly utilized to boost the “authority” of your pages in the eyes of Google so that these pages rank higher and bring more search traffic. 

Correlation between search traffic and referring domains
Our study of 1 billion pages found a strong, positive correlation between the number of websites linking to a page and search traffic from Google.

In its simplest form, outreach is the act of reaching out and asking for a link back to your website. And yet, great outreach at scale is a lot more than just asking for a backlink. The process involves:

  1. Creating content. 
  2. Finding prospects. 
  3. Segmenting your prospects. 
  4. Finding the right contact details.
  5. Crafting your pitch.
  6. Scaling your outreach. 

Sounds easy, right? But there are actually a lot of details involved that can make or break the process. Also, steps like finding prospects or finding the correct emails are too tedious or even impossible without the right tools. 

Hunter's Sheets add-on filling email addresses the tool can find

The best way to go about your outreach process is to pick up a tried and tested process you can simply follow to a T. Here’s one from us, completely free: 

Recommendation

Some backlinks will have a greater impact on your webpages than others. Learn what makes a good backlink

13. Get free press with digital PR 

Digital PR (public relations) can do such an amazing thing: carrying your message to your audience for you.

Link to a local lawyer's website in a magazine—a PR effort
And now you know a reputable music industry attorney. All thanks to her commentary on an article about NFTs.

Promoting your website through digital PR includes:

  • Using services like HARO or SourceBottle to monitor journalist requests – Sign up and wait for expert commentary requests related to your website or important to your audience. Try also following #journorequest on Twitter. 
  • Newsjacking – This is about monitoring news to react with expert commentary and thought leadership pieces. 
  • Pitching linkable assets to journalists and bloggers – You can use something you’ve already created or create something special for that occasion. 

All of the above tactics allow you to benefit in three ways: 

  1. Build awareness of your website
  2. Send traffic to your website when people want to learn more about you
  3. Boost SEO if the commentary includes a live link to your website 
Backlinks report showing a link from a high-DR website
Being featured in the press is usually a great opportunity for a high-DR link.

Here are two free tools from Ahrefs that can help you with your digital PR efforts. 

The first one is our aforementioned free website authority checker. Thanks to it, you will be able to quickly see the authority of the website. 

The second one is our Ahrefs Webmaster Tools. You can use it as a free way to monitor backlinks from your PR efforts. 

Backlinks report with DR, anchor, and dofollow filters
With the Backlinks report, you can easily filter your backlinks based on properties like DR, type of link, or the text inside the anchor and the surrounding text. In this example, we see links earned by a law firm from publicity around Johnny Depp’s recent trial.

14. Get featured in newsletters or podcasts

Chances are that there is a newsletter in your niche that regularly curates content found on the web. 

And chances are, if your content is good enough, it can be featured in one of those newsletters. 

One of my articles featured in #SEOFOMO newsletter
One of my articles featured in #SEOFOMO newsletter subscribed by +20K SEOs.

Naturally, a link inside a newsletter won’t count for SEO. But it can lead to links from authors reading that newsletter. And in any case, you’re putting your name on the map and making the newsletter’s subscribers aware of you. 

What you need to do here is to find relevant newsletters and show your work in a well-thought-out outreach pitch

Using Google with search operators to find newsletters
You can use the same process as with any prospecting process explained in this article. Tip: use brackets to group multiple terms.

Two words of advice:

  • Pitch only your best articles – Remember, you’re pitching to a flesh-and-blood human, and they don’t like spamming. 
  • Don’t worry if your content doesn’t get chosen this time – Try to reforge that into a relationship with the editor. There will be other chances. 

15. Get featured in rankings or reviews 

The web is full of rankings and reviews. Chances are that some of them are related to what you do. Getting featured (and linked) is a free way to get some direct referral traffic, boost your SEO, and increase your brand awareness. 

If you’re just starting out, you may want to build some authority before you send your first pitch. Keep in mind that editors will screen your website by a number of different criteria—from website design, social media following, to even personally testing your products, recipes, strategies, and whatever you offer. Also, they may be actual experts on the topic. 

So what may help you here is segmenting your outreach prospects based on the authority of the website you’re targeting. What you’ll do then is to start from smaller websites and move your way up. 

The backlink profile of a website can be a useful, quick proxy for this, so you can use Ahrefs’ Site Audit or the free website authority checker if you don’t own a subscription.

At all times, check your targets manually. This will help you personalize your pitch and potentially discover additional opportunities, such as a special section for “rising stars.”

"Rising stars" section in a newsletter

Another tip here is to focus on webpages that rank very specific types of websites. They can be easier to reach out to since more niche topics tend to have smaller audiences. So for example, if you’re running a blog that focuses on low FODMAP cooking, look for that kind of opportunity instead of “best food blogs.” 

Final thoughts 

These aren’t the only possible ways to promote your website for free. I do encourage you to experiment and double down on what works. If you think something may work for your audience (and even if it hasn’t been tried before), go for it. But make sure to measure the results. 

Keep in mind that your marketing tactics don’t need to be truly unique to be effective. One of the best places to find promotion ideas will always be your competition and other successful businesses—even if they operate in a different industry. 

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter



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Google’s Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

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Google's Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

John Mueller recently made strong statements against SEO companies that provide negative SEO and other agencies that provide link disavow services outside of the tool’s intended purpose, saying that they are “cashing in” on clients who don’t know better.

While many frequently say that Mueller and other Googlers are ambiguous, even on the topic of link disavows.

The fact however is that Mueller and other Googlers have consistently recommended against using the link disavow tool.

This may be the first time Mueller actually portrayed SEOs who liberally recommend link disavows in a negative light.

What Led to John Mueller’s Rebuke

The context of Mueller’s comments about negative SEO and link disavow companies started with a tweet by Ryan Jones (@RyanJones)

Ryan tweeted that he was shocked at how many SEOs regularly offer disavowing links.

He tweeted:

“I’m still shocked at how many seos regularly disavow links. Why? Unless you spammed them or have a manual action you’re probably doing more harm than good.”

The reason why Ryan is shocked is because Google has consistently recommended the tool for disavowing paid/spammy links that the sites (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

And yet, here we are, eleven years later, and SEOs are still misusing the tool for removing other kinds of tools.

Here’s the background information about that.

Link Disavow Tool

In the mid 2000’s there was a thriving open market for paid links prior to the Penguin Update in April 2012. The commerce in paid links was staggering.

I knew of one publisher with around fifty websites who received a $30,000 check every month for hosting paid links on his site.

Even though I advised my clients against it, some of them still purchased links because they saw everyone else was buying them and getting away with it.

The Penguin Update caused the link selling boom collapsed.

Thousands of websites lost rankings.

SEOs and affected websites strained under the burden of having to contact all the sites from which they purchased paid links to ask to have them removed.

So some in the SEO community asked Google for a more convenient way to disavow the links.

Months went by and after resisting the requests, Google relented and released a disavow tool.

Google cautioned from the very beginning to only use the tool for disavowing links that the site publishers (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

The first paragraph of Google’s October 2012 announcement of the link disavow tool leaves no doubt on when to use the tool:

“Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site.

If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on ‘unnatural links’ pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue.

If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.”

The message couldn’t be clearer.

But at some point in time, link disavowing became a service applied to random and “spammy looking” links, which is not what the tool is for.

Link Disavow Takes Months To Work

There are many anecdotes about link disavows that helped sites regain rankings.

They aren’t lying, I know credible and honest people who have made this claim.

But here’s the thing, John Mueller has confirmed that the link disavow process takes months to work its way through Google’s algorithm.

Sometimes things happen that are not related, no correlation. It just looks that way.

John shared how long it takes for a link disavow to work in a Webmaster Hangout:

“With regards to this particular case, where you’re saying you submitted a disavow file and then the ranking dropped or the visibility dropped, especially a few days later, I would assume that that is not related.

So in particular with the disavow file, what happens is we take that file into account when we reprocess the links kind of pointing to your website.

And this is a process that happens incrementally over a period of time where I would expect it would have an effect over the course of… I don’t know… maybe three, four, five, six months …kind of step by step going in that direction.

So if you’re saying that you saw an effect within a couple of days and it was a really strong effect then I would assume that this effect is completely unrelated to the disavow file. …it sounds like you still haven’t figured out what might be causing this.”

John Mueller: Negative SEO and Link Disavow Companies are Making Stuff Up

Context is important to understand what was said.

So here’s the context for John Mueller’s remark.

An SEO responded to Ryan’s tweet about being shocked at how many SEOs regularly disavow links.

The person responding to Ryan tweeted that disavowing links was still important, that agencies provide negative SEO services to take down websites and that link disavow is a way to combat the negative links.

The SEO (SEOGuruJaipur) tweeted:

“Google still gives penalties for backlinks (for example, 14 Dec update, so disavowing links is still important.”

SEOGuruJaipur next began tweeting about negative SEO companies.

Negative SEO companies are those that will build spammy links to a client’s competitor in order to make the competitor’s rankings drop.

SEOGuruJaipur tweeted:

“There are so many agencies that provide services to down competitors; they create backlinks for competitors such as comments, bookmarking, directory, and article submission on low quality sites.”

SEOGuruJaipur continued discussing negative SEO link builders, saying that only high trust sites are immune to the negative SEO links.

He tweeted:

“Agencies know what kind of links hurt the website because they have been doing this for a long time.

It’s only hard to down for very trusted sites. Even some agencies provide a money back guarantee as well.

They will provide you examples as well with proper insights.”

John Mueller tweeted his response to the above tweets:

“That’s all made up & irrelevant.

These agencies (both those creating, and those disavowing) are just making stuff up, and cashing in from those who don’t know better.”

Then someone else joined the discussion:

Mueller tweeted a response:

“Don’t waste your time on it; do things that build up your site instead.”

Unambiguous Statement on Negative SEO and Link Disavow Services

A statement by John Mueller (or anyone) can appear to conflict with prior statements when taken out of context.

That’s why I not only placed his statements into their original context but also the history going back eleven years that is a part of that discussion.

It’s clear that John Mueller feels that those selling negative SEO services and those providing disavow services outside of the intended use are “making stuff up” and “cashing in” on clients who might not “know better.”

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero



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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

January 25, 2023, the day that Yandex—Russia’s search engine—was hacked. 

Its complete source code was leaked online. And, it might not be the first time we’ve seen hacking happen in this industry, but it is one of the most intriguing, groundbreaking events in years.

But Yandex isn’t Google, so why should we care? Here’s why we do: these two search engines are very similar in how they process technical elements of a website, and this leak just showed us the 1,922 ranking factors Yandex uses in its algorithm. 

Simply put, this information is something that we can use to our advantage to get more traffic from Google.

Yandex vs Google

As I said, a lot of these ranking factors are possibly quite similar to the signals that Google uses for search.

Yandex’s algorithm shows a RankBrain analog: MatrixNext. It also seems that they are using PageRank (almost the same way as Google does), and a lot of their text algorithms are the same. Interestingly, there are also a lot of ex-Googlers working in Yandex. 

So, reviewing these factors and understanding how they play into search rankings and traffic will provide some very useful insights into how search engines like Google work. No doubt, this new trove of information will greatly influence the SEO market in the months to come. 

That said, Yandex isn’t Google. The chances of Google having the exact same list of ranking factors is low — and Google may not even give that signal the same amount of weight that Yandex does. 

Still, it’s information that potentially will be useful for driving traffic, so make sure to take a look at them here (before it’s scrubbed from the internet forever).

An early analysis of ranking factors

Many of their ranking factors are as expected. These include:

  • Many link-related factors (e.g., age, relevancy, etc.).
  • Content relevance, age, and freshness.
  • Host reliability
  • End-user behavior signals.

Some sites also get preference (such as Wikipedia). FI_VISITS_FROM_WIKI even shows that sites that are referenced by Wikipedia get plus points. 

These are all things that we already know.

But something interesting: there were several factors that I and other SEOs found unusual, such as PageRank being the 17th highest weighted factor in Yandex, and the 19th highest weighted factor being query-document relevance (in other words, how close they match thematically). There’s also karma for likely spam hosts, based on Whois information.

Other interesting factors are the average domain ranking across queries, percent of organic traffic, and the number of unique visitors.

You can also use this Yandex Search Ranking Factor Explorer, created by Rob Ousbey, to search through the various ranking factors.

The possible negative ranking factors:

Here’s my thoughts on Yandex’s factors that I found interesting: 

FI_ADV: -0.2509284637 — this factor means having tons of adverts scattered around your page and buying PPC can affect rankings. 

FI_DATER_AGE: -0.2074373667 — this one evaluates content age, and whether your article is more than 10 years old, or if there’s no determinable date. Date metadata is important. 

FI_COMM_LINKS_SEO_HOSTS: -0.1809636391 — this can be a negative factor if you have too much commercial anchor text, particularly if the proportion of such links goes above 50%. Pay attention to anchor text distribution. I’ve written a guide on how to effectively use anchor texts if you need some help on this. 

FI_RANK_ARTROZ — outdated, poorly written text will bring your rankings down. Go through your site and give your content a refresh. FI_WORD_COUNT also shows that the number of words matter, so avoid having low-content pages.

FI_URL_HAS_NO_DIGITS, FI_NUM_SLASHES, FI_FULL_URL_FRACTION — urls shouldn’t have digits, too many slashes (too much hierarchy), and of course contain your targeted keyword.

FI_NUM_LINKS_FROM_MP — always interlink your main pages (such as your homepage or landing pages) to any other important content you want to rank. Otherwise, it can hurt your content.

FI_HOPS — reduce the crawl depth for any pages that matter to you. No important pages should be more than a few clicks away from your homepage. I recommend keeping it to two clicks, at most. 

FI_IS_UNREACHABLE — likewise, avoid making any important page an orphan page. If it’s unreachable from your homepage, it’s as good as dead in the eyes of the search engine.

The possible positive ranking factors:

FI_IS_COM: +0.2762504972 — .com domains get a boost in rankings.

FI_YABAR_HOST_VISITORS — the more traffic you get, the more ranking power your site has. The strategy of targeting smaller, easier keywords first to build up an audience before targeting harder keywords can help you build traffic.

FI_BEAST_HOST_MEAN_POS — the average position of the host for keywords affects your overall ranking. This factor and the previous one clearly show that being smart with your keyword and content planning matters. If you need help with that, check out these 5 ways to build a solid SEO strategy.

FI_YABAR_HOST_SEARCH_TRAFFIC — this might look bad but shows that having other traffic sources (such as social media, direct search, and PPC) is good for your site. Yandex uses this to determine if a real site is being run, not just some spammy SEO project.

This one includes a whole host of CTR-related factors. 

CTR ranking factors from Yandex

It’s clear that having searchable and interesting titles that drive users to check your content out is something that positively affects your rankings.

Google is rewarding sites that help end a user’s search journey (as we know from the latest mobile search updates and even the Helpful Content update). Do what you can to answer the query early on in your article. The factor “FI_VISITORS_RETURN_MONTH_SHARE“ also shows that it helps to encourage users to return to your site for more information on the topics they’re interested in. Email marketing is a handy tool here.

FI_GOOD_RATIO and FI_MANY_BAD — the percentage of “good” and “bad” backlinks on your site. Getting your backlinks from high-quality websites with traffic is important for your rankings. The factor FI_LINK_AGE also shows that adding a link-building strategy to your SEO as early as possible can help with your rankings.

FI_SOCIAL_URL_IS_VERIFIED — that little blue check has actual benefits now. Links from verified accounts have more weight.

Key Takeaway

Yandex and Google, being so similar to each other in theory, means that this data leak is something we must pay attention to. 

Several of these factors may already be common knowledge amongst SEOs, but having them confirmed by another search engine enforces how important they are for your strategy.

These initial findings, and understanding what it might mean for your website, can help you identify what to improve, what to scrap, and what to focus on when it comes to your SEO strategy. 

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Top 7 SEO Keyword Research Tools For Agencies

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Top 7 SEO Keyword Research Tools For Agencies

All successful SEO campaigns rely on accurate, comprehensive data. And that process starts with the right keyword research tools.

Sure, you can get away with collecting keyword data manually on your own. But while you may be saving the cost of a premium tool, manual keyword research costs you in ot

her ways:

  • Efficiency. Doing keyword research manually is time intensive. How much is an hour of your time worth?
  • Comprehensiveness. Historical and comprehensive data isn’t easy to get on your own. It’s too easy to miss out on vital information that will make your SEO strategy a success.
  • Competition. Keyword research tools allow you to understand not only what users are searching for but also what your competition focuses on. You can quickly identify gaps and find the best path to profitability and success.
  • Knowledge. Long-time SEO experts can craft their own keyword strategies with a careful analysis of the SERPs, but that requires years of practice, trial, and costly errors. Not everyone has that experience. And not everyone has made enough mistakes to avoid the pitfalls.

A good SEO keyword research tool eliminates much of the guesswork. Here are seven well-known and time-tested tools for SEO that will get you well on the way to dominating your market.

1. Google Keyword Planner

Screenshot from Google Keyword Planner, January 2023

Cost: Free.

Google Keyword Planner is a classic favorite.

It’s free, but because the information comes directly from the search engine, it’s reliable and trustworthy. It’s also flexible, allowing you to:

  • Identify new keywords.
  • Find related keywords.
  • Estimate the number of searches for each variation.
  • Estimate competition levels.

The tool is easy to access and available as a web application and via API, and it costs nothing; it just requires a Google Ads account.

You must also be aware of a few things when using this tool.

First, these are estimates based on historical data. That means if trends change, it won’t necessarily be reflected here.

Google Keyword Planner also can’t tell you much about the SERP itself, such as what features you can capitalize on and how the feature converts.

Because it’s part of Google Ads, PPC experience can help you gain more insights. You’ll find trends broadly across a demographic or granular level, like a city, region, or major city.

Google Keyword Planner also tends to combine data for similar keywords. So, if you want to know if [keyword near me] is better than [keywords near me], you’ll need a different tool.

Lastly, the tool uses broad definitions of words like “competition,” which doesn’t tell you who is ranking for the term, how much they’re investing to hold that ranking, or how likely you are to unseat them from their coveted top 10 rankings.

That being said, it’s an excellent tool if you just want to get a quick look or fresh ideas, if you’d like to use an API and create your own tools, or simply prefer to do the other tasks yourself.

2. Keyword.io

Cost: Free, $29 per month, and $49 per month.

If Google’s Keyword Planner isn’t quite enough, but you’re on a tight budget, Keyword.io may be the alternative you need. It also has different features.

Keyword.io uses autocomplete APIs to pull basic data for several sites and search engines, including Google, Amazon, eBay, Bing, Wikipedia, Alibaba, YouTube, Yandex, Fiverr, and Fotolia. This is perfect for niche clients and meeting specific needs.

It also has a Question/Intent Generator, an interactive topic explorer, and a topical overview tool.

In its user interface (UI), you’ll find an easy-to-use filter system and a chart that includes the competition, search volume, CPC, and a few other details about your chosen keywords.

It does have some limits, however.

You can run up to 20,000 keywords per seed with a limit of 100 requests per day (five per minute) or 1,000 requests per day (10 per minute) on its paid plans.

Its API access, related keywords tool, Google Ad data, and other features are also limited to paid accounts.

3. Semrush

Semrush's keyword toolScreenshot from Semrush

Cost: $119.95 to $449.95 per month.

In its digital marketing suite, Semrush offers a collection of six keyword tools and four competitive analysis tools with a database of more than 21 billion keywords.

You can get a full overview of the keywords you’re watching, including paid and organic search volume, intent, competition, CPC, historical data, SERP analysis, and more.

You’ll get related keywords and questions, as well as a ton of guidance, ideas, and suggestions from the Semrush Magic, Position Tracking, and Organic Traffic Insights tools.

The Keyword Planner, however, is where much of the magic happens.

The organic competitor tab makes it easy to spot content and keyword gaps. Expand them and develop clusters that will help you grab traffic and conversions.

You can also see long-tail keyword data and other data to see what Page 1 holds regarding competition, difficulty, and opportunities at a broad or hyperlocal level.

The full suite of tools is a huge benefit. Teams can collaborate, share insights, and plan.

The seamless integration allows you to integrate your data, meaning teams can easily collaborate, share insights, and strategize.

And when you’re done, it can track everything you need for a successful digital marketing strategy.

Some of the tools they offer include:

  • On-page SEO tools.
  • Competitive analysis suite.
  • Log file analysis.
  • Site auditing.
  • Content marketing tools.
  • Marketing analysis.
  • Paid advertising tools.
  • Local SEO tools.
  • Rank tracking.
  • Social media management.
  • Link-building tools.
  • Amazon marketing tools.
  • Website monetization tools.

Semrush’s best features when it comes to keyword research are its historical information and PPC metrics.

You can deep dive into campaigns and keywords to unlock the secrets of the SERPs and provide agency or in-house teams with priceless information they don’t usually access.

4. Moz Keyword Explorer

Keyword Research Tool From MozScreenshot from Moz, January 2023

Cost: Free for 10 queries per month. $99-$599 per month.

With a database of more than 500 million keywords, Moz Keyword Explorer may be a great option if you’re looking to build a strategy rather than get a quick view of the data for a few keywords.

Moz has long been a leader in the SEO space.

Constantly updating and improving its Keyword Explorer Tool and its other core services, Moz keeps up with the trends and is well known for providing SEO professionals with the latest tools. And it has done so for more than a decade.

Like the Google Keyword Tool, Moz’s keyword planning tool provides information on the difficulty and monthly search volume for terms. It also lets you drill down geographically.

When you start, you’ll find the Keyword Overview, which provides monthly search volumes, ranking difficulty, organic click-through opportunities, and an estimated priority level.

You can also:

  • Find new relevant keywords you should be targeting but aren’t.
  • Learn how your site performs for keywords.
  • Find areas where you can improve your SEO (including quick wins and larger investments).
  • Prioritize keywords for efficient strategy creation.
  • Top SERP analysis and features.
  • Competitor analysis.
  • Organic click-through rates.

Unlike the Google Keyword Tool, however, Moz supplies you with data beyond the basics. Think of it like keyword research and SERP analysis.

Moz does tend to have fewer keyword suggestions. And like Google’s Keyword Planner, it provides range estimates for search data rather than a specific number.

However, the database is updated frequently, so you can feel confident that you’re keeping up with the constant change in consumer search habits and rankings.

Plus, it’s easy to use, so teams can quickly take care of marketing tasks like finding opportunities, tracking performance, identifying problem areas, and gathering page-level details.

Moz also offers several other tools to help you get your site on track and ahead of the competition, but we really like it for its keyword research and flexibility.

5. Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Cost: $99-$999 per month.

If I had to describe Ahrefs in one word, it would be power.

Enter a word into the search box, and you’re presented with multiple panels that can tell you everything you want to know about that keyword.

Total search volume, clicks, difficulty, the SERP features, and even a volume-difficulty distribution. And while it may look like a lot, all the information is well-organized and clearly presented.

Ahrefs provides terms in a parent-child topic format, providing the terms with context, so you can easily learn more about the terms, such as intent, while identifying overlap and keeping it all easy to find and understand.

These topics appear when you search for a related term, including the term’s ranking on the SERP, SERP result type, first-page ranking difficulty scores, and a snapshot of the user-delivered SERP. You can stay broad or narrow it all down by city or language.

Ahrefs can get a bit expensive. Agencies may find it difficult to scale if they prefer several user or client accounts, but it’s still one of the best and most reliable keyword research tools on the market.

What I really like about Ahrefs is that it’s thorough. It has one of the largest databases of all the tools available (19.2 billion keywords, 10 search engines, and 242 countries at the time of writing), and it’s regularly updated.

It makes international SEO strategies a breeze and includes data for everything from Google and Bing to YouTube and Amazon.

Plus, they clearly explain their metrics and database. And that level of transparency means trust.

Other tools in the suite include:

  • Site Explorer.
  • Site auditing.
  • Rank tracking.
  • Content Explorer.

6. SERanking

SERanking's Keyword Research ToolScreenshot from SERanking, November 2022.

Cost: $23.52-$239 per month, depending on the ranking check and payment frequency.

SERanking shines as a keyword research tool within an all-around SEO toolkit. SERanking helps you keep costs down while offering features that allow agencies to meet clients’ unique needs.

One of the first things you’ll notice when you log in is its intuitive user interface. But this tool isn’t just another pretty online tool.

Its database is robust.

SERanking’s U.S. database includes 887 million keywords, 327 million U.S. domains, and 3 trillion indexed backlinks. And this doesn’t include its expansive European and Asian databases.

The overview page provides a solid look at the data, which includes search volume, the CPC, and a difficulty score.

SERanking also provides lists of related and low-volume keywords if you need inspiration or suggestions, as well as long-tail keyword suggestions with information about SERP features, competition levels, search volume, and other details you need to know to identify new opportunities.

Of course, identifying keywords is only the start of the mystery. How do you turn keywords into conversions? SERanking provides keyword tools that help you answer this question.

You can find out who the competition is in the organic results and see who is buying search ads, as well as details like estimated traffic levels and copies of the ads they’re using.

This allows you to see what’s working, gain insights into the users searching for those terms, and generate new ideas to try.

SERanking offers agency features, such as white labeling, report builders, lead generator, and other features you’ll find helpful.

However, one of the features agencies might find most helpful in keyword research is SERanking’s bulk keyword analysis, which lets you run thousands of keywords and download full reports for all the terms that matter.

Other tools in the SERanking Suite include:

  • Keyword Rank Tracker.
  • Keyword Grouper.
  • Keyword Suggestions and Search Volume Checker.
  • Index Status checker.
  • Backlink Checker.
  • Backlink monitoring.
  • Competitive research tool.
  • Website auditing tool.
  • On-page SEO Checker.
  • Page Changes Monitor.
  • Social media analytics.
  • Traffic analysis.

SERanking is more affordable than some of the other tools out there, but it does come at a cost.

It isn’t as robust as some of its competitors and doesn’t get as granular in the same way, but it still provides the features and data you need to create a successful SEO strategy.

And with its flexible pricing, this tool is well worth considering.

7. BrightEdge Data Cube

Cost: Custom pricing model.

If you’re looking for an AI-powered digital marketing tool suite that includes a quality research tool, BrightEdge may be the right option for you.

Unlike other tools that focus on supplying you with data and ways to analyze that data, BrightEdge looks to do much of the time-consuming analysis for you.

Among its search, content, social, local, and mobile solutions, you’ll find Data Cube – an AI-backed content and keyword tool that uses natural language processing to find related topics and keywords.

You’ll also encounter DataMind, an AI that helps you find search trends, changes in consumer behaviors, and important competitor movements you need to know about.

The two together make it quick and easy to perform keyword research, build out topics, create content strategies, and strengthen your SEO plans.

Once you enter a topic or broad keyword, the tool will provide you with relevant keywords, the search volume, competition levels, keyword value, it’s universal listing, and the number of words in the phrase.

Filter the results by a custom set of criteria to narrow the list down and get the necessary information.

Once you have a list, select the ones you want to keep and download them or use them with BrightEdge’s other tools to create full strategies and gain more insights.

This could include competitor analysis, analyzing SERP features, intent, or other tasks.

For agencies that provide local SEO, BrightEdge also offers HyperLocal, which helps you find and track keywords and keyword performance at the local level.

When you’re done, give the Opportunity Forecasting and tracking tools a try to monitor your progress and provide clients with the information they care about.

Perhaps the nicest feature for agencies is its Storybuilder – a reporting tool that allows you to create rich client reports that provide clients with targeted overviews and the data they’re most interested in.

If this sounds like the right tool for you, the company gives demos, but there are a few things you should consider.

First, it only updates once per month. And while the company keeps its pricing close to the chest, this digital marketing tool suite is a significant investment. It may not be the best choice if keyword research is the only thing you need.

Secondly, while the tools are highly sophisticated and refined, there is a learning curve to get started.

You’ll also discover that there are limits on features like keyword tracking, and it can be time-consuming to set up, with some adjustments requiring technical support.

Lastly, BrightEdge’s keyword research tool doesn’t let you get too far into the weeds and doesn’t include PPC traffic.

That aside, agencies and larger brands will find that it scales easily, has a beautifully designed UI, and makes you look great to clients.

The Best Agency SEO Keyword Research Tools

This list only contains seven of the many tools available today to help you get your keyword research done to an expert degree.

But no matter how many of the tools we share with you or which ones, it’s important to understand that none are flawless.

Each tool has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, so selecting a platform is very much dependent on the types of clients that you typically work with and personal preference.

In reality, you’ll likely find that you prefer to work between a few tools to accomplish everything you’d like.

Google Keyword Planner and Keyword.io are top choices when you want a quick look at the data, or you’d like to export the data to work on elsewhere. You may even want to use this data with the other tools mentioned in this chapter.

Ahrefs, Moz, Semrush, and BrightEdge are far more robust and are better suited to agency SEO tasks.

While not free (although they offer free plans or a trial period except BrightEdge), they allow you to really dig into the search space, ultimately resulting in higher traffic, more conversions, and stronger SEO strategies. These benefits require more time and often come with a learning curve.

By far, the most important keyword research tool you have access to is you.

Keyword research is more than simply choosing the keywords with the biggest search volume or the phrase with the lowest Cost Per Click (CPC).

It’s your expertise, experience, knowledge, and insights that transform data into digital marketing you can be proud of.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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