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5 Tips From An SEO Expert

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5 Tips From An SEO Expert

Wish you knew the secrets to getting your written content seen and ranked faster?

Want to know what’s slowing it all down?

We can help you understand how your content gets noticed and crawled by Google so you can create naturally higher-ranking pages, blogs, and more.

Once you understand how Google sees your content, you can quickly determine how to get it live on the SERPs faster.

Real-time log file insights can become your secret ingredient to better content and SEO.

On May 18, I moderated a webinar by Steven Van Vessum, Director of Organic Marketing at ContentKing/Conductor.

He showed how you can easily use log file insights to improve crawling and indexing, leading to higher-ranked content.

Here is a summary of the webinar.

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To access the entire presentation, complete the form.

How To Get Crawled & Ranked Faster

There’s a good chance that you’re facing these issues, as most companies do:

  • Considerable delays in crawling and indexing.
  • Churning out X number of content pieces a month.
  • Inability to explain search engine behavior.
  • Lack of leverage on data sources.

[Overcome these issues with our key insights] Instantly access this webinar →

Tip #1: Make Sure Your Content Has Great Discoverability.

Make life easy for search engines by:

  • Updating your XML sitemaps.
  • Providing relevant internal links.
  • Promoting content successfully.

Tip #2: Prevent Roadblocks.

Avoid these roadblocks for search engines that try to crawl your site:

  • Canonical tag issues.
  • Robots directive issues.
  • Robots.txt issues.

Tip #3: Get Relevant & Authoritative Backlinks.

To get content crawled, indexed, and ranked fast, find a way to obtain relevant and authoritative backlinks.

This will jumpstart the success of your content.

[Learn tips for building these backlinks] Instantly access this webinar →

Tip #4: Leverage Log Files.

What are log files?

They are text files containing records of:

  • All the requests a server has received from both humans and crawlers.
  • Your site’s responses to these requests.

They show crawlers’ actual behavior and are essential in understanding how they crawl your site.

[Find out what other gems are included in log files] Instantly access the webinar →

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Companies need easy access to log file insights for content teams to succeed.

When you have those insights, you can start thinking critically and getting answers to questions like:

  • Has Google crawled these new pages yet?
  • Has Google refreshed the pages you updated?
  • Has Google tried crawling pages while they had issues?
  • How often do your pages get recrawled, on average?

Level Up Your SEO With Log Files

Log files traditionally are:

  • Inefficient and time-consuming.
  • Traditionally stored in silos as excel sheets, which makes insights hard to reach.
  • Often only examined once a year.

[Discover how often you should be checking log files] Instantly access the webinar →

Fortunately, there are easier ways to get a hold of these log files than the traditional method.

The answer is in CDN Logs.

What Are CDN Logs?

CDN Logs are databases that are stored on services like CloudFlare’s CDN, which are basically networks across the globe that have copies of sites.

A lot of these CDN sites keep logs.

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These logs are updated in real-time and are often available through a plug-and-play connector.

Connecting these log insights to your content inventory allows you to see data such as how often your newly published posts are crawled.

So, instead of sifting through excel sheets of data, you can quickly view log files this way.

Old vs. new way of viewing log files, ContentKing, May 2022Get Content Crawled & Ranked Faster: 5 Tips From An SEO Expert

Valuable Insights You Get With CDN Logs

When you use CDN logs to improve crawling and indexing, you’ll be able to get data that helps you answer these questions:

New Page CDN Log Insights

  • How long does it take for search engines to crawl new pages?
  • Can you speed up the time to crawl with improved content promotion or internal linking?
  • Is there a correlation between crawl frequency and internal links?
  • Can you move away from manually parsing raw logs to automatically extracted insights?

Updated Page CDN Log Insights

  • Has Google already picked up your improvements?
  • How soon does Google refresh pages after making updates?
  • Is there increased crawl activity after making changes?

Robots.txt CDN Log Insights

  • Has Google recrawled the new robots.txt directives?

XML Sitemaps CDN Log Insights

  • Has Google recrawled my XML sitemap after it was updated?

Tip #5: Leverage Google Search Console.

Once you see the real-time log file insights and notice that the search engines haven’t crawled your newly published pages yet, it’s helpful to check Google Search Console.

This gives Google a nudge.

Make content discovery easy with CDN logs.

If you’re using one of them, you’ll be able to get access to these CDN log files and start up-leveling your SEO game.

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

Creating and selling educational courses can be a lucrative business. But if you already have a product to sell, you can actually use courses as a marketing tool.

Back in 2017, about two years after joining Ahrefs, I decided to create a course on content marketing.

I had a very clear understanding of how an educational course would help me promote Ahrefs.

  • People like courses – Folks like Brian Dean and Glen Allsopp were selling theirs for $500 to $2,000 a pop (and rather successfully). So a free course of comparable quality was sure to get attention.
  • Courses allow for a deeper connection – You would basically be spending a few hours one on one with your students. And if you managed to win their trust, you’d get an opportunity to promote your product to them.

That was my raw thought process going into this venture.

And I absolutely didn’t expect that the lifespan of my course would be as interesting and nuanced as it turned out to be.

The lessons of my course have generated over 500K+ in total views, brought in mid-five-figures in revenue (without even trying), and turned out to be a very helpful resource for our various marketing purposes.

So here goes the story of my “Blogging for Business” course.

1. The creation

I won’t give you any tips on how to create a successful course (well, maybe just one). There are plenty of resources (courses?) on that topic already.

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All I want to say is that my own experience was quite grueling.

The 10 lessons of my course span some 40K words. I have never attempted the feat of writing a book, but I imagine creating such a lengthy course is as close as it gets.

Scripts of the course in Google Docs.

I spent a tremendous amount of time polishing each lesson. The course was going to be free, so it was critical that my content was riveting. If not, people would just bounce from it.

Paid courses are quite different in that sense. You pay money to watch them. So even if the content is boring at times, you’ll persevere anyway to ensure a return on your investment.

When I showed the draft version of the course to my friend, Ali Mese, he gave me a simple yet invaluable tip: “Break your lessons into smaller ones. Make each just three to four minutes long.”

How did I not think of this myself? 

Short, “snackable” lessons provide a better sense of completion and progress. You’re also more likely to finish a short lesson without getting distracted by something. 

I’m pretty sure that it is because of this simple tip that my course landed this Netflix comparison (i.e., best compliment ever):

2. The strategy

With the prices of similar courses ranging from $500 to $2,000, it was really tempting to make some profit with ours.

I think we had around 15,000 paying customers at Ahrefs at that time (and many more on the free plan). So if just 1% of them bought that course for $1K, that would be an easy $150K to pocket. And then we could keep upselling it to our future customers.

Alternatively, we thought about giving access to the course to our paying customers only. 

This might have boosted our sales, since the course was a cool addition to the Ahrefs subscription. 

And it could also improve user retention. The course was a great training resource for new employees, which our customers would lose access to if they canceled their Ahrefs subscription.

And yet, releasing it for free as a lead acquisition and lead nurturing play seemed to make a lot more sense than the other two options. So we stuck to that.

3. The waitlist

Teasing something to people before you let them get it seems like one of the fundamental rules of marketing.

  • Apple announces new products way before they’re available in stores. 
  • Movie studios publish trailers of upcoming movies months (sometimes years) before they hit the theaters. 
  • When you have a surprise for your significant other (or your kids), you can’t help but give them some hints before the reveal.

There’s something about “the wait” and the anticipation that we humans just love to experience.

So while I was toiling away and putting lessons of my course together, we launched a landing page to announce it and collect people’s emails.

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The landing page of the course.

In case someone hesitated to leave their email, we had two cool bonuses to nudge them:

  1. Access to the private Slack community
  2. Free two-week trial of Ahrefs

The latter appealed to freebie lovers so much that it soon “leaked” to Reddit and BlackHatWorld. In hindsight, this leak was actually a nice (unplanned) promo for the course.

4. The promotion

I don’t remember our exact promotion strategy. But I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

I also added a little “sharing loop” to the welcome email. I asked people to tell their friends about the course, justifying it with the fact that taking the course with others was more fun than doing it alone.

Welcome email with a "sharing loop."

I have no idea how effective that “growth hack” was, but there was no reason not to encourage sharing.

In total, we managed to get some 16,000 people on our waitlist by the day of the course launch.

5. The launch

On a set date, the following email went out to our waitlist:

Course launch email.

Did you notice the “note” saying that the videos were only available for free for 30 days? We did that to nudge people to watch them as soon as possible and not save them to the “Watch later” folder.

In retrospect, I wish we had used this angle from the very beginning: “FREE for 30 days. Then $799.”

This would’ve killed two birds with one stone: 

  1. Added an urgency to complete the course as soon as possible
  2. Made the course more desirable by assigning a specific (and rather high) monetary value to it

(If only we could be as smart about predicting the future as we are about reflecting on the past.) 

Once it was live, the course started to promote itself. I was seeing many super flattering tweets:

We then took the most prominent of those tweets and featured them on the course landing page for some social proof. (They’re still there, by the way.)

6. The paywall

Once the 30 days of free access ran out, we added a $799 paywall. And it didn’t take long for the first sale to arrive:

This early luck didn’t push us to focus on selling this course, though. We didn’t invest any effort into promoting it. It was just sitting passively in our Academy with a $799 price tag, and that was it.

And yet, despite the lack of promotion, that course was generating 8-10 sales every month—which were mostly coming from word of mouth.

A comment in TrafficThinkTank.
Eric Siu giving a shout-out about my course in TTT Slack.

Thanks to its hefty price, my course soon appeared on some popular websites with pirated courses. And we were actually glad that it did. Because that meant more people would learn about our content and product.

Then some people who were “late to the party” started asking me if I was ever going to reopen the course for free again. This actually seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy at the time:

7. The giveaways

That $799 price tag also turned my free course into a pretty useful marketing tool. It was a perfect gift for all sorts of giveaways on Twitter, on podcasts, during live talks, and so on.

Giving away the course during a live talk.
Me giving away the course during a live talk.

And whenever we partnered with someone, they were super happy to get a few licenses of the course, which they could give out to their audience.

8. The relaunch

Despite my original plan to update and relaunch this course once a year, I got buried under other work and didn’t manage to find time for it.

And then the pandemic hit. 

That’s when we noticed a cool trend. Many companies were providing free access to their premium educational materials. This was done to support the “stay at home” narrative and help people learn new skills.

I think it was SQ who suggested that we should jump on that train with my “Blogging for Business” course. And so we did:

We couldn’t have hoped for a better timing for that relaunch. The buzz was absolutely insane. The announcement tweet alone has generated a staggering 278K+ impressions (not without some paid boosts, of course).

The statistics of the course announcement tweet.

We also went ahead and reposted that course on ProductHunt once again (because why not?).

All in all, that relaunch turned out to be even more successful than the original launch itself. 

In the course of their lifespan on Wistia, the 40 video lessons of my course generated a total of 372K plays.

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Play count from Wistia.

And this isn’t even the end of it.

9. The launch on YouTube

Because the course was now free, it no longer made sense to host it at Wistia. So we uploaded all lessons to YouTube and made them public.

To date, the 41 videos of my course have generated about 187K views on YouTube.

"Blogging for Business" course playlist.

It’s fair to mention that we had around 200,000 subscribers on our channel at the time of publishing my course there. A brand-new channel with no existing subscribers will likely generate fewer views.

10. The relaunch on YouTube [coming soon]

Here’s an interesting observation that both Sam and I made at around the same time. 

Many people were publishing their courses on YouTube as a single video spanning a few hours rather than cutting them into individual lessons like we did. And those long videos were generating millions of views!

Like these two, ranking at the top for “learn Python course,” which have 33M and 27M views, respectively:

"Learn python course" search on YouTube.

So we decided to run a test with Sam’s “SEO for Beginners” course. It was originally published on YouTube as 14 standalone video lessons and generated a total of 140K views.

Well, the “single video” version of that same course has blown it out of the water with over 1M views as of today.

I’m sure you can already tell where I’m going with this.

We’re soon going to republish my “Blogging for Business” course on YouTube as a single video. And hopefully, it will perform just as well.

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The end

So that’s the story of my “Blogging for Business” course. From the very beginning, it was planned as a promotional tool for Ahrefs. And judging by its performance, I guess it fulfilled its purpose rather successfully.

A screenshot of a Slack message.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 

The fact that my course was conceived as a promotional tool doesn’t mean that I didn’t pour my heart and soul into it. It was a perfectly genuine and honest attempt to create a super useful educational resource for content marketing newbies.

And I’m still hoping to work on the 2.0 version of it someday. In the past four years, I have accrued quite a bit more content marketing knowledge that I’m keen to share with everyone. So follow me on Twitter, and stay tuned.



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