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17 Lead Magnet Examples + Tips on Topics & Traffic Sources

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When a visitor becomes a lead, they are a step closer to becoming a customer. That’s because a lead’s contact information allows you to start a direct conversation with them about something they are potentially interested in.

Here are 17 ideas that can help you convert visitors into leads. I’ll also cover tips on finding topics for your “magnets” and some ideas that’ll attract visitors to them. So feel free to get the full scoop or jump to the sections that interest you the most:

A lead magnet is a marketing tool that offers something valuable to a website visitor (free resources, product trials, discounts, etc.) in exchange for their contact information.

When a visitor expresses their interest by submitting contact information, they become a lead. 

Lead magnet ideas + examples

Learn the most popular (and most effective) ways to capture leads.

1. Free tools

Give out free tools? Isn’t that too much for mere contact information? Not necessarily.

Everyone expects to get something for free on the internet these days. And a lot of companies have been leveraging that expectation to get prospects closer to their brand.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. If you want people to experience your product and you spend hefty sums to get them to visit your website, why “spoil” everything with any kind of friction?

To reduce friction, you can distribute samples of your product’s functionality as free tools. An example of such a scenario is our very own Ahrefs, the all-in-one SEO toolkit. We offer visitors to sign up for the free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools if they’re not ready to get the full deal. 

Sentence on Ahrefs' homepage summarizing what our toolset is all about

Why it works:

  • Attracts visitors by offering to solve a problem for free while increasing your brand awareness
  • Allows you to show a sneak peek of your product and offer an upgrade
  • Puts the lead on a nurturing program 
  • Decreases friction to your product

2. Product trials and samples

Free tools should be free. This means “forever free.” If that doesn’t fit the bill for you, consider creating a free trial of your product instead. You can limit your free trial by making it accessible for a set time and/or introducing certain features.

Still giving out too much? Try product samples.

Here, we’ve got examples from two competitors that provide book summary services. Blinkist lets you try its entire product for free for a limited time.

CTA to start free trial. On its right, two phones and a pair of earphonesCTA to start free trial. On its right, two phones and a pair of earphones

A cool takeaway from this example is how it surveys visitors before it lets them in. I mean, why wouldn’t someone “invest” one minute or even less to fill the survey and get something for free?

Picture of two columns of books and a lady smiling. Below, the "start the survey" buttonPicture of two columns of books and a lady smiling. Below, the "start the survey" button

And below, we have its competitor, Soundview. You can’t get a trial period here. Only a sample of a book summary. Makes sense because one book summary should be enough to get a feel of the quality of Soundview’s product.

Text field where visitors can enter their email address to download the book summaryText field where visitors can enter their email address to download the book summary

Why it works:

  • The user can try your product before they buy it.
  • While the user signs up for a free trial, you can offer them to sign up for a newsletter (or some kind of lead nurturing flow).
  • The friction to your product is decreased.
  • You can survey users during the onboarding to get market research data. 

3. Early access/waiting lists

If you’ve got a product idea that just needs to see the light of day ASAP. If you want to launch it to a limited number of people before going big. If you want to get feedback from that small group of people before the entire internet sees it. Then consider launching your product with an early access lead magnet.

In this example, we’ve got Chip, the savings app. It launched its product with this kind of lead magnet. From the look of the website now, it must have worked out nicely for the company.

Text field to enter email address to get early access to Chip's productText field to enter email address to get early access to Chip's product

Why it works:

  • You can build a list of potential customers even before launching your product.
  • You can use your list to discuss product functionality. Early birds are often the savvy people within your niche.
  • It allows you to ship fast to a small/controlled group.

4. Discounts and bonuses

Challenge #1: You want to give people an additional nudge to shop your brand. Challenge #2: You want to have a “direct line” for people interested in your product.

Offering a discount or a bonus in exchange for an email address solves both of those challenges simultaneously.

Quiksilver, the clothing brand, offers free shipping and free returns when people sign up for a free account. And it’s probably a win-win. I’m sure that free shipping and returns cost the company less than distributing its goods through other shops. Smart.

Form to add personal details and sign up for a free accountForm to add personal details and sign up for a free account

WAWWA, another clothing brand, offers 15% off your first order just to get your email address. I guess that tells a lot about the power of having a prospect’s email address.

I love how it promises you a lot of spam. Everybody promises not to spam, but it does the opposite. WAWWA will probably send you product deals, which you expect and is what the brand “warned” you about. Nobody can complain about that.

Text field to enter email address to get discounts and product updatesText field to enter email address to get discounts and product updates

Why it works:

  • People love discounts. Exchanging their email for a discount is quite a fair deal.
  • Discounts can nudge your visitors toward making a purchase from you.

5. Sales materials and product demos

Self-service product trials can be ineffective when you’re dealing with a complex product. In those cases, a prospect is better off with some guidance rather than presented with a mosaic of buttons and dials. This is where guided product demos come in.

Depending on your target audience and market, you can also try other sales materials like comparisons, fact sheets, or third-party reports on your product.

Help Scout has figured out the best way for a newcomer to experience its product (and convert into a happy customer) is to simply learn what the product is all about in a 1:1 demo.

Form to fill in personal details to get a demoForm to fill in personal details to get a demo

An interesting solution when it comes to demos is to have a chatbot prequalify the lead and schedule an appointment with them and your sales team. This example is from Metadata.io.  

Chatbot showing a message that a demo has been booked for a visitorChatbot showing a message that a demo has been booked for a visitor

Why it works:

  • People who sign up for product demos are usually considering the offer quite seriously.
  • You can get in direct contact with the lead: answer questions, fight objections, or even show how your features shine.
  • This is a subtle but effective solution if you’re not comfortable with sharing details about your product on the open internet.
  • This is a common practice to attract enterprise customers, who usually have high requirements and specific needs.

6. Expert advice/free assessments

Getting a free assessment or advice from an expert for the “cost” of filling out a contact form seems like a great solution for all kinds of agencies and service providers.

In this example, agency Single Grain offers a free, custom marketing plan. No better “foot in the door” for a marketing agency than this.

Form to fill in personal details to get a free consultation Form to fill in personal details to get a free consultation

Why it works:

  • Get in direct contact with your audience and personalize your message
  • Allows you to get your “foot in the door”
  • Potential to create the reciprocity effect

7. Courses

This example from Qlik covers all bases about courses as lead magnets:

Summary of courses on data fundamentals and data fluency. Below each summary is a button for visitor to click through to start the course/register for itSummary of courses on data fundamentals and data fluency. Below each summary is a button for visitor to click through to start the course/register for it
  1. Search queries related to data literacy lead to free courses on the platform
  2. Free courses lead to assessments and paid courses
  3. Assessments and paid courses lead to submitting contact information

Reading the list from points #1 to #3 gives you the user’s perspective. Reading it from points #3 to #1 shows you the company’s perspective. I think Qlik discovered that the more people know about the role of data in business, the more customers it can have.

Why it works:

  • Courses are considered premium assets.
  • You can educate your audience over a longer period.
  • Courses are a great source of organic traffic.

8. White papers

A white paper is somewhere between a B2B sales pitch and an academic paper. It aims to be a serious document showing the necessary data and facts to explain why the issuer’s solution is the best on the market—or at least one of the best.

In this example, Ultimaker (a 3D printer manufacturer) gathers contact information from an audience interested in the real cost of owning a 3D printer. Naturally, one of its products is used as an example here.

I think it’s doing a good job because a) you read about its printer, but it doesn’t feel like product placement, and b) it’s true that other manufacturers don’t always communicate the full cost of owning a 3D printer.

Write-up about PDF. Below that, download button for PDFWrite-up about PDF. Below that, download button for PDF

Why it works:

  • You can save your most in-depth, expert content for your most qualified audience.
  • This is a good way to show your expertise.
  • You can use this opportunity to customize your content for specific market segments. 

9. Ebooks

Some problems are just too broad to tackle with one blog article. That’s where ebooks come in.

Ebooks are some of the most irresistible lead magnets because they offer free education on complex, professional topics that you’ll find hard to get anywhere else.

Write-up about DesignOps book. Below that, button to click through and get the bookWrite-up about DesignOps book. Below that, button to click through and get the book

Why it works:

  • Ebooks attract people who are interested in learning more about your niche. They are likely good candidates in lead nurturing campaigns.
  • Ebooks are considered premium content.
  • Ebooks can be a part of a larger content distribution program. They can even be made with repurposed content.
  • This is a rare opportunity to get someone’s attention for more than five minutes.

10. Webinars/virtual summits

When everyone else is blogging and publishing ebooks, you can stand out from the crowd with webinars and virtual summits.

A webinar is especially effective (i.e., better than your competitor’s educational materials) if the topic is better shown than told.

On left, summary about the webinar. On right, text field to enter email address and register for itOn left, summary about the webinar. On right, text field to enter email address and register for it

Why it works:

  • Attracts industry professionals
  • Doesn’t always require you to create content—the speakers can do that
  • Brings invited guests, especially those who are influencers in your industry, closer to your brand
  • Live sessions let you communicate with audience
  • Can be recorded and used as evergreen content

11. Reports

Serious people will take you more seriously when you show them how serious you are. And an industry report is one of the most “serious” types of content that you can produce.

Reports are usually collated after hundreds of professionals are surveyed. These professionals are often, if not always, the issuer’s customers. Only then can the report be something truly new and unique. So this is not something every company can put together. 

But when you do manage to put something like this together, it speaks volumes about the scale of your operation.

Write-up on HubSpot report; below that, download button for the report. Next to both is picture of someone typing on a computer Write-up on HubSpot report; below that, download button for the report. Next to both is picture of someone typing on a computer

An additional bonus of getting leads is that reports tend to naturally earn backlinks, which is one of the most important success factors in SEO.

Why it works:

  • Reports are considered premium content.
  • Reports can be great linkbait
  • On top of acquiring leads, you can additionally gain brand awareness if your reports get cited online.
  • Reports usually attract industry professionals. And press too.

12. Newsletters

This form of lead magnets doesn’t need an introduction. You can find it all over the web.

Some of those newsletters are just that—a content digest regularly delivered to one’s inbox.

Text field to enter email address to subscribe for Ahrefs' newsletter. Next to text field is our bearded man on a computerText field to enter email address to subscribe for Ahrefs' newsletter. Next to text field is our bearded man on a computer

And some are a gateway to a lead nurturing program. It’s common to see companies pitching their products or special deals in between the regular news.

Why it works:

  • Great way to remain in regular contact with your audience
  • Allows you to distribute any kind of content, e.g., educational materials, discounts, special announcements, etc
  • Good entry point of marketing automation programs

13. Calculators

But not the regular type of calculator. I’m talking about calculators that are meant for purposes specific to a given problem: ROI calculators, financial calculators, statistical significance calculators, and so on.

They are a brilliant way to lure in B2B prospects because a lot of decisions in business need to add up. But they can also work for B2C, e.g., mortgage calculators.

A “lead magnet” calculator can be directly related to your product, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be about something that your audience cares about. A good example is this customer support hiring calculator from Help Scout:

Text field to enter email address to unlock calculator Text field to enter email address to unlock calculator

14. Cheat sheets and checklists

If your target audience members are involved in repetitive work, they will need to go over the same steps multiple times as they carry out their tasks.

Cheat sheets and checklists help make this work easier to complete and preserve sanity. You don’t have to look up the same small bits of information or remember all the details that can make or break a complex process.

No wonder developers love cheat sheets. Here’s an example collection of cheat sheets from Opensource.com. Each one is a lead magnet.

List of cheat sheets with a summary next to each sheetList of cheat sheets with a summary next to each sheet

Creating a press release can be stressful. You need to work with different stakeholders, get everything absolutely right, and sound interesting to the press at the same time. A “press release checklist” lead magnet is hard to resist.

Text field to enter personal details to access the checklistText field to enter personal details to access the checklist

Why it works:

  • Great way to attract an audience at the top of the funnel
  • Often shared
  • Likely to be used multiple times, equating to multiple opportunities for people to remember your brand
  • Highly practical: saves people time and unnecessary mistakes, offering positive emotional potential that can be associated with your brand

15. Templates

Along with ebooks and newsletters, they are one of the most popular ways to get someone’s contact information.

There’s nothing wrong with using a template at work. A lot of people do that. If they’re not using somebody else’s template, they’re using their own. Templates allow professionals to keep the quality of their work consistent without needing to go over the same problem multiple times.

Types of templates in grid formatTypes of templates in grid format

Probably no other company publishes more templates than HubSpot. You can find over 85 marketing templates here.

Why it works:

  • Templates are a practical tool likely used multiple times. This means multiple opportunities for brand exposure.
  • Templates can be great linkbait.
  • Adding a template to a blog article can increase your chances of ranking on search engines (if that aligns with the search intent of the query).

16. Swipe files

Looking for inspiration is probably one of the most common reasons to go online. And there’s a special lead magnet for that as well.

Here, we’ve got Webprofits’ swipe file of handpicked landing page examples from 73 high-growth companies.

Form to enter personal details to download swipe fileForm to enter personal details to download swipe file

Why it works:

  • Great for helping people looking for inspiration
  • Allows the reader to save time on separating the wheat from the chaff, as swipe files are carefully curated ideas

17. Contests, quizzes, and giveaways

Getting a lead from a lead magnet that promises a prize is the easy part. The hard part is to convert that lead later on because you can attract leads not interested in your product (if the prize is something different from your product).

One way is to try and get their attention while they wait for the winner’s announcement. Another way is to try and point them to your product through a drip campaign after the whole event.

Here’s an interesting example. It combines a quiz and a contest. First, the visitor completes a personality quiz to reveal their perfect home decor style. Next, they can enter the contest to win furniture in that exact style. You can read the full case study here.

Form to enter personal details to join the giveaway; on its left is a living room decorated in "urban chic" styleForm to enter personal details to join the giveaway; on its left is a living room decorated in "urban chic" style

Why it works:

  • You don’t have to create any special content. You just need to have the budget to sponsor the prize.
  • This is great for the top of the funnel, as the contest itself can drive awareness of your brand. You don’t have to do anything special other than sponsoring a truly attractive prize.

How to find topics for your lead magnets

What should your lead magnets be about? Let’s explore a few ideas on how you can answer that question.

Do keyword research

Keyword research is the process of understanding the language your target customers use when searching for your products, services, and content. It then involves analyzing, comparing, and prioritizing the best keyword opportunities for your website.

To start your keyword research, you need two things: a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and some seed keywords.

One way to find your seed keywords is to look at your existing, top-performing content. If you don’t have any content yet or want to skip your existing content for some reason, you can use words or phrases that you think should be interesting to your target audience.

For example, our best-performing articles are on the topic of SEO. And we know that we want to attract even more people interested in SEO to our website. So creating a lead magnet for something SEO-related is a sound idea for us.

So here’s what you do once you’ve identified your seed keywords. Plug in the seed keyword, e.g., “seo,” and limit the results to some popular lead magnet types. You can then prioritize those ideas based on provided SEO metrics, such as search volume or traffic potential.

Matching terms report results for "seo"Matching terms report results for "seo"

Keywords Explorer found over 2K potential topics on lead magnets, including the seed keyword “seo” and one of three popular lead magnets.

Once you understand what content can bring organic traffic and/or is likely to generate engagement, you can create lead magnets based on those topics.

Analyze competitors

You can browse through your competitors’ websites to get clues on topics for lead magnets.

You can look for topic patterns on their blogs. Or look for content that a competitor promotes by visiting their homepage, for example.

Three separate guides with short write-ups for each belowThree separate guides with short write-ups for each below

An even more effective way to analyze your competitors is to find your competitors’ top-performing content. Here’s how Ahrefs can help with that.

First, you can check who creates content similar to yours. To do that, plug in your website in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and go to the Competing Domains report:

Competing Domains report results for the Ahrefs blogCompeting Domains report results for the Ahrefs blog

Next, there are two reports that can help you reveal the best content published on those domains.

The Top pages report allows you to discover pages based on the amount of organic traffic they bring. You can even filter those results for types of linkbait.

Top pages report showing results that include words "template" or "cheat sheet"Top pages report showing results that include words "template" or "cheat sheet"

Another report, Top Content, reveals the best-performing content in terms of engagement: referring domains (from links to that content), Twitter shares, and Pinterest shares.

Top Content report resultsTop Content report results

If you want to get an even bigger picture of the content that has been created for a given topic, you can use Ahrefs’ Content Explorer.

For example, if we wanted to look for the topic of SEO but see only lead magnets, we could plug in our seed keyword with some search operators…

seo (template OR "cheat sheet" OR checklist OR webinar) 

… to get hundreds of results that we could analyze based on their performance (traffic, Twitter shares, etc.).

Content Explorer results after plugging in seed keywords with search operators Content Explorer results after plugging in seed keywords with search operators

Study your niche

Another proven way of finding topics for your lead magnets is paying attention to what other people say in places where your industry and/or your target audience hangs out. Think groups on social media, magazines, personal blogs, and communities.

This way, you can find topics with a lot of engagement and/or topics that are currently trending. This will allow you to react to opportunities faster than your competitors. On top of that, you can potentially get valuable insights from conversations on those topics.

For example, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) became a hot topic once again when news of sunsetting the old GA came out.

Post about GA4 trending on RedditPost about GA4 trending on Reddit

You can then use a keyword research tool and see the search demand and how difficult it will be to rank a course lead magnet on the topic of GA4.

Matching terms report results for "ga 4" and other related termsMatching terms report results for "ga 4" and other related terms

Keyword Difficulty (KD) below 20. Looks like this kind of lead magnet is still something relatively easy to rank for. For now.

You can also try an audience research tool like SparkToro. Just plug in topics your target audience frequently talks about to discover related topics and hashtags (among many other things).

SparkToro overview on topics "seo" and "marketing" SparkToro overview on topics "seo" and "marketing"

How to drive traffic to your lead magnets

Lead magnets are useless when they get no traffic. Let’s see how we can get that piece of the lead-capturing mechanism to work.

Drive traffic with relevant blog posts

Look at the example below. Here, we’ve got HubSpot actually writing blog posts about its lead magnets.

This way, it can maximize its chances of driving organic traffic from search queries related to those lead magnets. And the results are impressive, given this is consistent traffic that’s basically free:

But it doesn’t have to be just one blog post per lead magnet. You can link to your templates from multiple blog posts. This is what UXPin does with its impressive library of free ebooks.

Ebooks in grid format with CTA button below each bookEbooks in grid format with CTA button below each book

Whenever it blogs about a subject related to one of the books, it can link to the book. On top of that, it can simply promote the latest ebooks in the site navigation of the blog. By doing this, its books received over 6K links pointing visitors from the blog to those lead magnets:

Internal Backlinks report resultsInternal Backlinks report results

Create an SEO-friendly landing page

Creating an SEO-friendly page means a number of things (more about that later). But first and foremost, it’s about the search intent, aka the reason behind the query.

Basically, it boils down to following the same format, type, and angle of the content (or as we call it, the three Cs of search intent) that you can find within the top 10 ranking pages for a given search query.

So for HubSpot’s templates shown in the section above, the best way to drive organic traffic is through a blog post because that’s what people seem to expect based on the SERPs.

But for calculator lead magnets, oftentimes the best way to go is with a landing page that links directly to the tool or features the tool on the page. Below are two examples of that with some impressive organic traffic results.

The first one is from Confused.com.

Confused.com's homepage; notably, CTA button to click through and get a quoteConfused.com's homepage; notably, CTA button to click through and get a quote

You won’t get a quote until you submit the contact data. At this point, it doesn’t allow you to opt out of “newsletters and relevant content.”

Text fields to submit contact details; next to those, a write-up that states the company will send promotional content to the leadText fields to submit contact details; next to those, a write-up that states the company will send promotional content to the lead

This landing page that links to the calculator gets over 113K monthly organic visits without any ad spend.

And here’s the second example. The calculator is featured directly on the landing page. What’s more is it allows visitors to get the result without submitting any information. Thoughtful. But who wouldn’t want free guidance on how to get a better house?

NerdWallet's calculator. On right, CTA button to click through and get free guidance on getting a better houseNerdWallet's calculator. On right, CTA button to click through and get free guidance on getting a better house

This calculator ranks #1 in the U.S. for the query “how much house can i afford” and gets an estimated 341K monthly visits from search engines. That’s a lot of free traffic.

Keywords Explorer overview for "how much house can i afford"Keywords Explorer overview for "how much house can i afford"

A competing lead magnet from Zillow does the same thing: The calculation is open to all. But that crucial next step—learning how much you can borrow to get your house—will require some personal information.

Zillow's affordability calculator; next to it is a text field to fill in ZIP code to get more informationZillow's affordability calculator; next to it is a text field to fill in ZIP code to get more information

The landing pages from NerdWallet and Zillow have one more interesting SEO tactic. Right below the calculators, they answer frequently asked questions about financing a house.

This way, they send a strong signal to Google about the context of the page. Also, they can rank for related long-tail keywords, such as “how much should i spend on a house.”

List of frequently asked questions List of frequently asked questions

You can learn more about SEO-friendly landing pages here:

Promote on your high-traffic pages

Your lead magnets can piggyback on other pages’ traffic. All you need to do is identify your high-traffic pages and find a spot where it makes sense to promote your lead magnet.

For example, Zendesk promotes its lead-capturing assets on the homepage—right below the main header:

Lead-capturing assets in grid format below main header. Visitors can click through to provide personal info before accessing each asset (report, study, etc)Lead-capturing assets in grid format below main header. Visitors can click through to provide personal info before accessing each asset (report, study, etc)

Adobe Marketo goes as far as making its product tour lead magnet the focal point of the homepage:

CTA button to click through and access product tour lead magnetCTA button to click through and access product tour lead magnet

Promote via email

Why send a lead magnet to a person whose email address you already have? Here are some good reasons. You can:

  • Get information from that lead (for lead scoring). For instance, you may have captured a lead with a simple newsletter lead capture form. But your new lead magnet, which offers something premium, can require the lead to submit more information.
  • Keep your leads engaged with your brand.
  • Use the lead magnet to re-engage old leads.
Write-up about Design Value Conference. Below that, a CTA button to click through and registerWrite-up about Design Value Conference. Below that, a CTA button to click through and register

By sending a lead magnet on the topic of design ops, UXPin can better segment its newsletter subscribers.

Share on social media and in communities

Here are two things you may want to consider when sharing lead magnets on social media.

First, don’t rely too much on traffic from social media when it comes to this kind of content. Sure, your content stands the chance of becoming viral, but organic reach on social media has been declining for quite some time now.

Facebook post about Design Value Conference only got two "likes"Facebook post about Design Value Conference only got two "likes"

UXPin only got two likes when it first announced its online conference. And it has over 145K fans. Quo vadis, Facebook?

Second, not all social media platforms will be suitable for your content. For example, Deloitte’s webinar on “Cloud Core Banking Academy” seems like a better fit for professional network platform LinkedIn (rather than Facebook). 

Another example, Asana’s Anatomy of Work report, earned 10 likes on Facebook (276K followers) and over 10 times more on LinkedIn (168K followers). But either way, this result seems quite low for all the effort put into this content.

Asana's engagements for its lead magnet posts on social media are quite lowAsana's engagements for its lead magnet posts on social media are quite low

Promote with online ads

Although it will cost you, promoting lead magnets with online ads makes perfect sense.

You and your prospects may be perfect strangers. For now. But well-targeted ads with a lead magnet can change this.

While the ad narrows down your “hunt” from millions to thousands or even hundreds of people, the lead magnet zeros in on the manageable group that is most likely “worth” the time to pitch your product to.

For instance, Microsoft does that all of the time on LinkedIn with its high-ticket products:

Microsoft's ebook lead magnet shown in the form of a paid ad on LinkedIn Microsoft's ebook lead magnet shown in the form of a paid ad on LinkedIn

Partner up with other companies

This is the last idea on our list. 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.

For 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.”

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

Page on Buffer about its webinar with Ahrefs. Below that is a text field for a lead to enter their email address to register for the webinarPage on Buffer about its webinar with Ahrefs. Below that is a text field for a lead to enter their email address to register for the webinar

If you want to see how this looks in practice, check out this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xn2XCFqREbU

Final thoughts

Lead magnets are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can help you get visitors’ contact information. On the other, they can create friction for people who want to access something that could help you sell your products or services.

Are leads more important than getting high volumes of organic traffic and, potentially, more brand awareness? This is a decision you need to make on your own. One solution may be to try and get the best of both worlds by getting your lead magnets search engine optimized (as I’ve explained in this article).

Also, let me add this: From my observations, gated content (at least written content) has become less popular in the last few years. It seems that most companies just prefer not to create this type of friction. This was not the case some five years ago.

Previously, the idea was that if you sold something really unique to a super savvy audience, you’d go with gated content. But now seeing that IBM doesn’t gate its quantum computing case studies, that idea seems to have gone with the wind.

Want to learn more about lead generation? Check these out:

Got questions or comments? Ping me on Twitter.

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Top 5 Essential SEO Reporting Tools For Agencies

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Top 5 Essential SEO Reporting Tools For Agencies

Your clients trust you to create real results and hit KPIs that drive their businesses forward.

Understanding the intricacies of how that works can be difficult, so it’s essential to demonstrate your progress and efforts.

SEO reporting software showcases important metrics in a digestible and visually represented way. They save guesswork and manual referencing, highlighting achievements over a specified time.

A great tool can also help you formulate action items, gauge the performance of campaigns, and see real results that can help you create new and innovative evaluations.

The latest and allegedly greatest tools hit the market all the time, promising to transform how you conduct reports.

Certainly, you have to weigh a few factors when deciding which software to implement. Price, features, and ease of use are the most important to consider.

A cost-effective tool with a steep learning curve might not be worth it for the features. Similarly, an expensive tool might be more appealing if it is user-friendly but could quickly run up costs.

Just like any transformational business decision, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons carefully to determine the right one for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Cost, accessibility, and features are the common thread of comparison for SEO reporting tools.
  • To truly get the best use out of an SEO reporting tool for your agency, you’ll need to weigh several details, including scalability, customization, integrations, and access to support.
  • What might be considered a subpar tool could be a game-changer for an agency. Due diligence and research are the keys to knowing what will work for your team.

What To Look For In SEO Reporting Tools

It can be tough to make heads or tails of the available tools and choose which will benefit your agency the most.

Here are the 10 essential requirements of SEO reporting tools.

1. Accurate And Current Regional Data

SEO reporting is all about data. The software must have access to accurate and current data localized to your client’s targeted region.

Search data from the U.S. is meaningless if your client tries to rank for [London plumbing services], so localization matters.

The tool must update data regularly and with reliable accuracy so you can make informed decisions about where your client stands against the competition.

2. Integration With Third-Party Tools

Especially for full-scale digital marketing campaigns, the ability to report on all KPIs in one place is essential.

The more available integrations with third-party tools (e.g., Google Analytics, Google Business Profile, Majestic), the better.

Some tools even allow you to upload custom data sets.

3. Scalability

You don’t want to have to retrain or reinvest in new software every time your agency reaches a new tier.

The right SEO reporting tool should work well for your current business size and leave room for expansion as you onboard more clients.

4. Strong Suite Of Features

A great SEO reporting tool should include:

  • Position tracking.
  • Backlink monitoring.
  • Competitor data.
  • Analytics.

It is a bonus if the tool has reporting features for social media, email marketing, call tracking, and/or paid ads to make it a full-suite digital marketing software.

5. Continually Improving And Updating Features

SEO is constantly evolving, and so should SEO reporting tools.

As we continue the transition from website optimization to web presence optimization, a tool’s ability to integrate new features is essential.

6. Ability To Customize Reports

Each client will have different KPIs, objectives, and priorities.

Presenting the information that clients want to see is paramount to successful campaigns and retention.

Your reporting software of choice should be able to emphasize the correct data at the right times.

7. Client Integration

A good SEO reporting tool must have the client in mind.

It should have a simple bird’s eye overview of the basics but also be easy for clients to dig into the data at a deeper level.

This can mean automated summary reports or 24/7 client access to the dashboard.

8. Ability To White Label Reports

While white labeling is not essential (no client will sniff at receiving a report with a Google logo in the top corner), it helps keep branding consistent and gives a professional sheen to everything you send a client’s way.

9. Access To Support Resources

Quality support resources can help you find a detour when you encounter a roadblock.

Whether it’s detailed support documentation, a chat feature/support desk, or responsive customer support on social media, finding the help you need to solve the issue is important.

10. Cost-To-Value Ratio

With a proper process, time investment, and leveraging support resources, it is possible to get better results from a free reporting tool than one that breaks the bank.

This can mean automated summary reports or 24/7 client access to the dashboard.

Top 5 SEO Reporting Tools

In evaluating five of the most popular SEO reporting tools, based on the above criteria, here is how they stack up:

1. AgencyAnalytics

My Overall Rating: 4.7/5

Image credit: AgencyAnalytics, December 2022

AgencyAnalytics is a quality introductory/intermediate reporting tool for agencies.

Among the tools on this list, it is one of the easiest to use for small to mid-sized agencies.

It starts at $12 per month, per client, with unlimited staff and client logins, a white-label dashboard, and automated branded reports. The minimum purchase requirements mean the first two tiers work out to $60 per month and $180 per month, respectively. But your ability to change the payment based on the number of clients could help keep costs lean.

AgencyAnalytics comes with 70+ supported third-party data integrations.

However, this reliance on third-party data means you may have incomplete reports when there is an interruption in the transmission.

Though new integrations are always being added, they can be glitchy at first, making them unreliable to share with clients until stabilized.

With the ability for clients to log in and view daily data updates, it provides real-time transparency.

Automated reports can be customized, and the drag-and-drop customized dashboard makes it easy to emphasize priority KPIs.

2. SE Ranking

My Overall Rating: 4.5/5

SE Ranking has plans starting at $39.20 per month, although the $87.20 per month plan is necessary if you need historical data or more than 10 projects.

Setup is a breeze, as the on-screen tutorial guides you through the process.

SE Ranking features a strong collection of SEO-related tools, including current and historical position tracking, competitor SEO research, keyword suggestion, a backlink explorer, and more.

SE Ranking is hooked up with Zapier, which allows users to integrate thousands of apps and provide a high level of automation between apps like Klipfolio, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Google Apps.

SE Ranking is an effective SEO reporting tool at a beginner to intermediate level.

However, you may want to look in a different direction if your agency requires more technical implementations or advanced customization.

3. Semrush

My Overall Rating: 4.4/5

Semrush is one of the most SEO-focused reporting tools on the list, which is reflected in its features.

Starting at $229.95 per month for the agency package, it’s one of the more expensive tools on the list. But Semrush provides a full suite of tools that can be learned at an intermediate level.

A major downside of Semrush, especially for cost-conscious agencies, is that an account comes with only one user login.

Having to purchase individual licenses for each SEO analyst or account manager adds up quickly, and the users you can add are limited by the plan features. This makes scalability an issue.

Semrush has both branded and white-label reports, depending on your subscription level. It uses a proprietary data stream, tracking more than 800 million keywords.

The ever-expanding “projects” feature covers everything from position tracking to backlink monitoring and social media analysis.

Though it doesn’t fall specifically under the scope of SEO reporting, Semrush’s innovation makes it a one-stop shop for many agencies.

Project features include Ad Builder, which helps craft compelling ad text for Google Ads, and Social Media Poster, which allows agencies to schedule client social posts.

Combining such diverse features under the Semrush umbrella offsets its relatively high cost, especially if you can cancel other redundant software.

4. Looker Studio

My Overall Rating: 3.6/5

Looker StudioScreenshot from Looker Studio, December 2022

Formerly known as Google Data Studio, Looker Studio is a Google service that has grown considerably since its initial launch.

Though it is much more technical and requires more time investment to set up than most other tools on this list, it should be intuitive for staff familiar with Google Analytics.

If you’re on the fence, Looker Studio is completely free.

A major upside to this software is superior integration with other Google properties like Analytics, Search Console, Ads, and YouTube.

Like other reporting tools, it also allows third-party data integration, but the ability to query data from databases, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Google’s Cloud SQL, sets it apart.

You can customize reports with important KPIs with proper setup, pulling from lead and customer information. For eCommerce clients, you can even integrate sales data.

Though the initial setup will be much more technical, the ability to import templates saves time and effort.

You can also create your own templates that better reflect your processes and can be shared across clients. Google also has introductory video walk-throughs to help you get started.

5. Authority Labs

My Overall Rating: 3.2/5

Authority Labs Ranking ReportImage credit: Authority Labs, December 2022

Authority Labs does the job if you’re looking for a straightforward position-tracking tool.

Authority Labs is $49 per month for unlimited users, though you will need to upgrade to the $99 per month plan for white-label reporting.

You can track regional ranking data, get insights into “(not provided)” keywords, track competitor keywords, and schedule automated reporting.

However, lacking other essential features like backlink monitoring or analytic data means you will have to supplement this tool to provide a full SEO reporting picture for clients.

Conclusion

There are many quality SEO reporting tools on the market. What makes them valuable depends on their ability to work for your clients’ needs.

SE Ranking has a fantastic cost-to-value ratio, while Looker Studio has advanced reporting capabilities if you can withstand a higher barrier to entry.

Agency Analytics prioritizes client access, which is a big deal if transparency is a core value for your agency.

Authority Labs keeps it lean and clean, while Semrush always adds innovative features.

These five are simply a snapshot of what is available. There are new and emerging tools that might have some features more appealing to your current clients or fill gaps that other software creates despite being a great solution.

Ultimately, you need to consider what matters most to your agency. Is it:

  • Feature depth?
  • Scalability?
  • Cost-to-value ratio?

Once you weigh the factors that matter most for your agency, you can find the right SEO reporting tool. In the meantime, don’t shy away from testing out a few for a trial period.

If you don’t want to sign up for a full month’s usage, you can also explore walkthrough videos and reviews from current users. The most informed decision requires an understanding of the intricate details.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

There is concern about the lack of an easy way to opt out of having one’s content used to train large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT. There is a way to do it, but it’s neither straightforward nor guaranteed to work.

How AIs Learn From Your Content

Large Language Models (LLMs) are trained on data that originates from multiple sources. Many of these datasets are open source and are freely used for training AIs.

Some of the sources used are:

  • Wikipedia
  • Government court records
  • Books
  • Emails
  • Crawled websites

There are actually portals and websites offering datasets that are giving away vast amounts of information.

One of the portals is hosted by Amazon, offering thousands of datasets at the Registry of Open Data on AWS.

Screenshot from Amazon, January 2023

The Amazon portal with thousands of datasets is just one portal out of many others that contain more datasets.

Wikipedia lists 28 portals for downloading datasets, including the Google Dataset and the Hugging Face portals for finding thousands of datasets.

Datasets of Web Content

OpenWebText

A popular dataset of web content is called OpenWebText. OpenWebText consists of URLs found on Reddit posts that had at least three upvotes.

The idea is that these URLs are trustworthy and will contain quality content. I couldn’t find information about a user agent for their crawler, maybe it’s just identified as Python, I’m not sure.

Nevertheless, we do know that if your site is linked from Reddit with at least three upvotes then there’s a good chance that your site is in the OpenWebText dataset.

More information about OpenWebText is here.

Common Crawl

One of the most commonly used datasets for Internet content is offered by a non-profit organization called Common Crawl.

Common Crawl data comes from a bot that crawls the entire Internet.

The data is downloaded by organizations wishing to use the data and then cleaned of spammy sites, etc.

The name of the Common Crawl bot is, CCBot.

CCBot obeys the robots.txt protocol so it is possible to block Common Crawl with Robots.txt and prevent your website data from making it into another dataset.

However, if your site has already been crawled then it’s likely already included in multiple datasets.

Nevertheless, by blocking Common Crawl it’s possible to opt out your website content from being included in new datasets sourced from newer Common Crawl data.

The CCBot User-Agent string is:

CCBot/2.0

Add the following to your robots.txt file to block the Common Crawl bot:

User-agent: CCBot
Disallow: /

An additional way to confirm if a CCBot user agent is legit is that it crawls from Amazon AWS IP addresses.

CCBot also obeys the nofollow robots meta tag directives.

Use this in your robots meta tag:

<meta name="robots" content="nofollow">

Blocking AI From Using Your Content

Search engines allow websites to opt out of being crawled. Common Crawl also allows opting out. But there is currently no way to remove one’s website content from existing datasets.

Furthermore, research scientists don’t seem to offer website publishers a way to opt out of being crawled.

The article, Is ChatGPT Use Of Web Content Fair? explores the topic of whether it’s even ethical to use website data without permission or a way to opt out.

Many publishers may appreciate it if in the near future, they are given more say on how their content is used, especially by AI products like ChatGPT.

Whether that will happen is unknown at this time.

More resources:

Featured image by Shutterstock/ViDI Studio



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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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