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7 Tips For Building SEO + UX-Minded Navigation

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7 Tips For Building SEO + UX-Minded Navigation

As digital marketers, it can feel like we’re chasing metrics that continuously move.

While arduous to some, it’s a passion for others. Either way, we’re always looking for the next genre of optimization that can get us closer to our goals.

While chasing bright and shiny marketing trends, obsessing over coveted SEO keyword rankings, creating content, or modifying paid search ads for better CTR, we need to stop and slow down to “see the forest for the trees.”

The core experience of your website that is shared between a user and a search engine is not solely your content; it is your main navigation.

Your main navigation is a vehicle to help a user get to your content and for a search engine to understand the hierarchy of your pages.

More importantly, it helps a user and a search engine understand what is important to your brand and what should be important to them. This is an elemental “salesperson” that is often overlooked.

So often, we traverse websites with way too much information presented in the main navigation which causes confusion.

On the other hand, as many sites have simplified for mobile-first consideration, the main navigation doesn’t provide enough guidance.

As we move forward, you will see several different considerations that should be made in optimizing the website’s main navigation.

Also, it bears mentioning that this process is not a one-person job. While data will tell us key factors in what users want, it takes the participation of multiple parties to exact the best navigational decisions. These include:

  • Leadership that can detail the future direction of the organization and what will become important in the future.
  • Sales support that can detail what prospects and customers continually ask for.
  • SEO providers can detail what is already heavily linked to on the website and what is not.

These seven tips can help you understand how users move through your website, where your navigation is insufficient, and how to improve it.

1. Analyze Google Analytics User Flow

Our first stop in the pursuit of the perfect main navigation is a review of how our current human audience is using our top link structure.

We want to make search engines happy, as well as show our content preference, but user experience trumps all of that.

Within your Google Analytics profile, navigate to Users Flow within the Audience segment. Initially, we want to see what the common user pathways are on the site.

Screenshot from Google Analytics, June 2022

Do you see defined movement behavior?

It is important here to review where someone landing on the homepage will do next as well as those that land on an internal page.

Are there any commonalities in second-page visit preference?

Next, as we have initially reviewed the Users Flow from an All Users view, create an advanced segment to view those visits that resulted in a conversion or transaction.

Analyze Google Analytics Users FlowScreenshot from Google Analytics, June 2022

Again, do you see defined movement behavior or similar to the common user?

Not to entice “rabbit-holing” in this style of review, but you have the ability to utilize other predefined advanced segments, as well as myriad options to choose from in creating custom advanced segments. You can view the journeys of:

  • New versus returning users.
  • Specific geographies and languages.
  • By referred traffic channels.
  • Even those that visited a specific section of the website during their visit.

2. Investigate Internal Site Search

We’ve investigated which navigational links web users traverse through to find content that they are interested in.

Let’s take a moment though to review the content they expect to see but are not finding.

Content that is not readily available or understood in the main navigation. You can do this by analyzing Site Search in Google Analytics.

Take a look at specific search terms the users type in, whether they refine their searches, and their exit rates.

This helps you understand what links and content they expect from your site, and what content they didn’t find in your main navigation.

Investigate Internal Site SearchScreenshot from Google Analytics, June 2022

Digging deeper,  you can also move past overall site search results to analyze data by the user’s respective starting pages. This can provide insight into additional navigational needs that may persist outside of the main navigation.

3. Visualize User Interaction With A Heat Map

In a previous analysis, we took more of a data-driven/numbers approach to understanding user behavior with main navigation.

Now, we step away from such granular behavior data to gain a visual feel of how users react to the main navigation.

To perform this exercise you will need a heat mapping data provider (I prefer Lucky Orange).

Pay close attention not only to the main navigation click movement of the homepage users but also to internal page user actions.

Most importantly, it is critical to review how behaviors change between desktop and mobile users.

Desktop and mobile examples:

Visualize User Interaction With A HeatmapScreenshot from Luckyorange.com, June 2022
Visualize User Interaction With A HeatmapScreenshot from Luckyorange.com, June 2022

You may notice in your application that desktop and mobile behavior may look very different as the example shows.

The presentations between desktop and mobile are often vastly different.

In a compressed display, you have to consider how easy or expandable the main navigation may be. Small font links do not get links.

It is worth mentioning that in your next website redesign, consider desktop navigation mimicking the above example.

This experience allows your desktop users a similar presentation to mobile users, beginning their website journey from only a few foundational points. This is becoming a common design presentation of simplicity.

You’ve done your due diligence in understanding user behavior. This is beginning to show important insight on what links or main navigational elements we must keep.

4. Teach Users What To Expect With Anchor Text

A phrase I have continuously told myself for two decades is to “get out of your head and into your customers.”

For example, your prospective customer doesn’t know what the “XL Custom Suite” is for “Preferred Users.” They are simply trying to understand what kind of services you offer.

Before you capitalize on promoting your branded offering in your main navigation, teach those entering your website what industry, product family, and product genre you serve.

What you should name your main navigational anchors relies heavily on a few areas.

First, enlist your sales, product, and service teams to understand how your customers and prospects refer to product or service offerings. Take on your customers’ mindset and your navigation will be all the better.

Second, keyword research means the world in this overall exercise. You can use Google Ads Keyword Planner or a third-party tool to research keyword demand and volume.

Teach Users What To Expect With Anchor TextScreenshot from Google Ads, June 2022

This research can tell you how users that reach your website search for and name your products and services. This information is vital when updating your main navigation anchor text.

Within the SEO realm, this keyword research also helps search engines to understand what product or service sectors you serve.

5. Find Your Top Linked Pages

To this point, we have been focused on user-specific data but let’s now put our attention on SEO.

Those well versed in SEO know that the more you link to content internally, the more it shows precedence on your website. This does not mean that you should spam links throughout your site.

But it’s important to link your pages to one another in the main navigation, footer navigation, supporting internal navigation, as well as cross-linking done in resource content.

However, today we are here to make sure important content is placed in the main navigation.

In Google Search Console within the Links section, specifically Internal Links, you will see Google’s report on the frequency of how you link to your internal site pages.

Find Your Top Linked PagesScreenshot from Google Search Console, June 2022

You obviously can see what internal pages you are linking to in your main navigation, but this report gives you a feel for instances when you may already be linking heavily in other supporting navigation instances.

Remember, we do not want to go too heavy on specific website internal linking but you may find out where you are greatly misrepresented.

If you see an abundance of internal links for pages that you deem less important, you want to investigate why and remove some of the links. Or, move them from primary to secondary navigation.

6. Mind Your SEO Basics

While anchor text does cover the on-page keyword relevancy needs of SEO, the primary main navigation SEO must-haves are rooted in technical considerations.

Think of this as the factor that surrounds the “efficiency of the crawl.”

Google and Bing have made great strides over the years in crawling and indexing JavaScript, but I still would steer clear of this style of navigation.

If you are accidentally robots.txt-excluding JavaScript on-site or not using preferred deployment such as Progressive Enhancement, you run the risk of possessing a main navigation that is difficult for a search engine to crawl.

The best practice is to ensure that your main navigation is constructed in an HTML format or what is commonly referred to as “a href” referenced links.

Mind Your SEO BasicsScreenshot from Trozzolo.com, June 2022

There is one mistake in the main navigation that occurs all too often.

Over the course of the life of a website, you redirect URLs. It’s easy to forget to update the main navigation to link to current page URLs. So, the main navigation link goes to a redirect.

Forcing a crawling search engine to endure a redirect will slow down crawl speed and give a less than efficient crawl for search engines.

To assess this potential issue in your main navigation’s current state, use the Chrome extension Check My Links. This tool will highlight any redirecting (and broken) links that may exist in your main navigation.

Mind Your SEO BasicsScreenshot from Check My Links, June 2022

As a best practice, this exercise should be executed each time the website is redesigned, both in redesign coding, Q/A, and post deployment.

7. Check What’s Ranking And What’s Not

By reviewing all of your top organic search rankings, you can get a feel for where you likely have sectional or hierarchical gaps.

Linking more so to these internal sections can convey importance to a search engine.

Example:

You may find that your homepage ranks well as well as product sub-category pages, but not the product parent category pages.

This can be caused by drop-down navigation which does a good job of linking to deeper site content, but the parent category is not linked to at all.

This causes a massive disproportion in the amount of linking and perceived importance at deeper site levels vs. parent level category pages.

A good first step is to create keyword buckets based on what composes your main navigation as well as your entire family of offerings.

Assess keyword research just as we did above but also take a look at competitor rankings to understand gaps that may exist.

To Link Or Not To Link

The steps that I have detailed are ultimately a deep dive into understanding what topics your audience has an interest in, what topics they want or expect us to have, as well as what content we need to portray importance to search engines.

As you hopefully take this main navigation audit to heart, pay attention in future months to improvements not only in conversion metrics and SEO rankings but in website user behavior metrics. These include bounce rate, time-on-site, and pages viewed per session.

Ultimately, these touchpoints will be the end-user and search engine’s way of thanking you for your hard work.

More Resources:


Featured Image: wee dezign/Shutterstock



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SEO Salary Survey 2023 [Industry Research]

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SEO Salary Survey 2023 [Industry Research]

How much do SEOs earn? I wanted to know, so I ran a survey at Brighton SEO and asked 111 attendees what they earned.

Editor’s note

We realize that this is a small sample set and not representative of all SEO salaries as it’s focused on UK and EU data. If you want to be part of the next Ahrefs salary survey, you can submit your details anonymously here.

Here are the top takeaways:

  • The median annual salary for SEOs we polled was $49,211
  • The highest annual salary we polled was $229,652
  • To earn the higher salaries in SEO you need be a technical SEO expert—Heads of SEO, SEO Directors and SEO Leads all said that their main specialization was technical SEO 
  • Only 5.4% of respondents learned SEO through a course—most learned on the job (52.3%) or by themselves (42.3%)
  • 36.9% described themselves as content specialists, 30.6% described themselves as technical specialists, 6.3% described themselves as specializing in link-building
  • 49.5% of respondents worked in SEO agencies, 42.3% in-house and 8.2% were self-employed
  • Most respondents (28.8%) worked in companies that had 11-50 people
  • The average SEO experience of our respondents was 6.9 years
  • Self-employed SEOs earned the most on average ($60,232k)—the median annual salary for in-house roles was slightly lower at $56,789, and agency SEOs had the lowest median annual salary at $44,169

There were also a few surprises:

  • Few SEOs in our survey said that they specialized in link building compared to technical and content. This is despite the fact that links are still one of the most important Google ranking factors.
  • The average level of experience between SEO Directors and Head of SEO is not that different—10.4 years for a SEO Director and 10.6 years for a Head of SEO—but the salary difference between the roles was ~$11,552—quite substantial.

Overview

Role Median annual salary ($USD) Average experience (years) Main specialization Main work location
Head of SEO $92,988 10.6 Technical SEO Agency and in-house
SEO Director $81,436 10.4 Technical SEO Agency and in-house
SEO Lead $38,289 7.4 Technical SEO Agency
SEO Specialist $49,229 5.8 Content In-house
SEO Account Manager $43,850 4.2 Content Agency
SEO Consultant $49,240 6 All-rounder Agency
SEO Executive $31,956 3 All-rounder Agency
SEO Analyst $56,393 5 All-rounder In-house

Here’s how annual salaries broke down across our respondents:

According to the SEOs we polled, most of them learned SEO on the job or were self-taught. 

Chart displaying how individuals learned SEO.Chart displaying how individuals learned SEO.

Average level of experience by role

Most of our respondents had a couple of years of experience under their belts. The amount of experience Head of SEOs had versus SEO Directors was not that different, at around 10 years.

Average level of experience by roleAverage level of experience by role
  • Across all respondents, the average experience was 6.9 years
  • For Head of SEO, the average experience was 10.6 years
  • For SEO Director, the average experience was 10.4 years
  • For SEO Lead, the average experience was 7.4 years
  • For SEO Account Manager, the average experience was 4.2 years
  • For SEO Consultant, the average experience was 6 years 
  • For SEO Executive, the average experience was 3 years 
  • For SEO Analyst, the average experience was 5 years

What areas of SEO do they specialize in? 

Technical and Content were the two top skills that SEOs we surveyed specialized in.

Areas of SEO specializationAreas of SEO specialization

The proportion of SEOs that said they specialized in links was much lower despite links being a major ranking factor.

Our survey showed an almost 50/50 split between the UK and Europe. 48.6% of respondents were from the UK—perhaps not surprising given that BrightonSEO is based in the UK.

Chart of countries SEOs are fromChart of countries SEOs are from

Most of the respondents we spoke to worked in agencies or in-house. It does mean, however, that our salary data was mainly focused on these two employment types.

Chart listing where SEOs workChart listing where SEOs work

How big are the companies they work in?

Across all respondents, the most common company size was 11-50. A large proportion of SEOs also worked for substantially larger companies that had over 1000 employees.

Number of people in the company
Number of people in the company

How much does each SEO role earn?

Here’s the full breakdown of each role.

Head of SEO salary

It’s probably not too much of a surprise that the Head of SEO role was our highest-paying SEO role surveyed. What’s more of a surprise was the variation in salary—our survey showed that a Head of SEO can earn anything from ~$25k to ~$229k. 

head-of-seo-salaryhead-of-seo-salary

Average experience

According to our survey, a Head of SEO has ~10.6 years of experience.

Type of company

46.7% of respondents worked for an agency, and 46.7% worked in-house. 6.7% were self-employed.

Education

66.7% of respondents said they were self-taught, 26.7% said they’d learned on the job, and 6.7% said that they had learned SEO from a course.

Specialization

40% said that they specialized in technical SEO, 33.3% in Content, and 13.3% said they were a generalist. The remaining 13.4% said they focused on people management. 

This is surprising, as it implies that 73.3% of people in Head of SEO roles are actively providing SEO services for their clients rather than focusing on managing a team.

Company size

There were two company sizes that were most popular for Head of SEOs to work in. 40% of respondents said they worked in companies with 11-50 people, and 20% said they worked in companies with over 1001 people. 

Location

40% of respondents were from the UK, 13.3% were from the Netherlands, and the remainder were from mainland Europe.

SEO Director salary

The salary variation wasn’t quite as extreme for SEO Directors, but salaries ranged from ~$42k to ~$121k—still quite a difference.

SEO Director salarySEO Director salary

Average experience

SEO Directors in our survey had 10.4 years of experience on average.

Type of company

There was a 50/50 split between SEO Directors’ backgrounds, with 50% from agency and 50% from in-house

Education

62.5% of SEO Directors described themselves as self-taught, and 37.5% said that they learned SEO on the job.

Specialization

75% of them specialized in technical SEO, whilst 25% described themselves as generalists or Other.

Company size

According to our survey, SEO Directors typically work in medium to large companies. 25% said that they worked in companies that had over 1000 people, and 25% said they worked in companies that had 51-100 employees.

Location

Most SEO Directors we surveyed were from the UK (62.5%). The rest were equal splits between India, the U.S., and Germany (12.5%).

SEO Lead salary

SEO Leads typically have a lot of experience, but our survey shows that they only earn slightly more on average than SEO Specialists.

SEO Lead salary
SEO Lead salary

Average experience

SEO Leads in our survey had 7.4 years of experience on average.

Type of company

50% of SEO Leads came from an agency background, 41.7% came from in-house, and 8.3% were self-employed.

Education

69.2% learned on the job, 23.1% were self-taught, and 7.7% learned SEO through a course.

Specialization

30.8% of SEO Leads specialized in technical SEO, 23% specialized in content, and 23.1% specialized in links. 15.4% described themselves as generalists. The remaining 7.7% described themselves as specializing in SEO strategy.

Company size

46.2% worked in companies that had 1001+ people, and the remaining 53.8% worked in smaller companies.

Location

23.1% of SEO Leads came from the UK, with the remainder coming from the Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden (15.4% each) and 30.7% from other European countries.

SEO Specialist salary

SEO Specialists we surveyed had around 5-6 years of experience, but they typically got paid better than SEO Leads. Based on my experience, this may be due to in-house roles paying better than agency roles in the UK.

SEO Specialist salarySEO Specialist salary

Average experience

SEO Specialists in our survey had an average of 5.8 years of experience.

Type of company

41.2% of SEO Specialists came from an agency background, while 58.8% said that they were from an in-house background.

Education

58.8% of SEO Specialists said that they had learned SEO on the job, 35.3% said that they were self-taught, and 5.9% said that they had learned SEO through a course.

Specialization

52.9% of SEO Specialists specialized in content, 29.4% focused on technical, 11.8% described themselves as all-rounders, and 5.9% described specialized in links.

Company size

41.2% of SEO Specialists said that they worked in companies that had 11-50 people. Only 17.6% of respondents said that they worked in companies that had 1001+ people. 23.6% said they worked in companies between 51-500 people. The remaining 17.6% worked in smaller companies with less than 10 people.

Location

23.5% of SEO Specialists said that they were from the UK, with the remainder from Europe.

SEO Account Manager salary

SEO Account Managers in our survey were one of the most consistent salary bands earning between ~$40k and ~$55k.

SEO Account Manager salarySEO Account Manager salary

Average experience

SEO Account managers in our survey had 4.2 years of experience on average.

Type of company

85.7% of respondents worked for an agency, and 14.3% worked in-house.

Education

71.4% of respondents said they learned SEO on the job, and 28.6% said they were self-taught.

Specialization

42.9% said that they specialized in content, 28.6% described themselves as an all-rounder, 14.3% said they were technical SEO, and the remaining 14.2% said they specialized in links.

Company size

42.9% of respondents said they worked in companies with 11-50 people, and 28.6% said they worked in companies with over 1001 people. The remaining 28.6% was split equally between people who worked in companies with between 2-11 people or 51-100 people.

Location

85.7% of respondents were from the UK, and 14.3% of the remainder were from Europe.

SEO Consultant salary

SEO Consultants we surveyed earned up to ~$87k, which was lower than I was expecting—because our SEO pricing post suggested that SEO consultants charge between $100-150 per hour. 

But as the data is UK-focused, the likely reason for this is the £85k VAT tax threshold

SEO Consultant salarySEO Consultant salary

Average experience

SEO Consultants in our survey had 6 years of experience on average.

Type of company

63.3% of respondents worked for an agency, and 36.7% worked in-house.

Education

45.5% of respondents said they were self-taught, 36.4% said they’d learned on the job, and 9.1% said that they had learned SEO from a course. The remaining 9% said they’d learned from other ways.

Specialization

27.3% said that they specialized in technical SEO, 27.3% in content, and 27.3% said they were a generalist. The remaining 18.1% said they focused on management and strategy.

Company size

SEO Consultants typically worked on their own or in smaller agencies according to our survey — 36.4% of respondents said they worked on their own, and 27.3% said they worked in companies with 51-100 people. The remaining 36.3% said they worked in companies with between 2-50 people.

Location

36.4% of respondents were from the UK, 27.3% were from the Netherlands, and the remaining 36.3% were from Europe.

SEO Executive salary

SEO Executive salarySEO Executive salary

Average experience

SEO Executives in our survey had 3 years of experience on average.

Type of company

80% of respondents worked for an agency, and 20% worked in-house.

Education

80% of respondents said they were self-taught, and 20% said they’d learned SEO from a course.

Specialization

40% said that they specialized in technical SEO, 20% in Content, and 40% said they were a generalist. 

Company size

80% of respondents said they worked in companies with 11-50 people, and 20% said they worked in companies with 1001 or more people.

Location

80% of respondents were from the UK, and 20% were from Belgium.

SEO Analyst salary

SEO Analysts typically had a few more years of experience than SEO Executives, but it looks like they earned roughly the same as them.

SEO Analyst salarySEO Analyst salary

Average experience

SEO Analysts in our survey had 5 years of experience on average.

Type of company

33.3% of respondents worked for an agency, and 66.7% worked In-house.

Education

33.3% of respondents said they were self-taught, and 66.7% said they’d learned on the job.

Specialization

33.3% said that they specialized in technical SEO, 33.3% in Content, and 33.3% said they specialized in News SEO.

Company size

33.3% of respondents said they worked in companies with 101-200 people, and 66.7% said they worked in companies with over 201 people.

Location

SEO Analysts came from a range of locations 33% of respondents were from Portugal, 33.3% were from Brazil, and the remainder were from Serbia.

Sidenote.

We didn’t get many respondents for the SEO Analyst role—so take these results with a pinch of salt.

Final thoughts

SEO salaries aren’t often discussed in detail within the industry, so getting a snapshot of their current state from one of the biggest SEO conferences in the UK was insightful.

For our next salary survey, we’ll be opening it up to all SEOs. If you’d like to take part—you can enter here.

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4 Tactics for High-Quality Backlinks That Move the Needle [+ Examples]

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Many popular link building tactics produce low-quality links that don’t improve SEO performance.

Even if these techniques make an impact, it’s often for a short time, and Google can easily devalue them down the line. 

Here are four tactics for building high-quality links that help you stay ahead of your competition, expose your brand to new audiences, and are less likely to be devalued in future algorithm updates. 

Digital PR is the process of creating content that appeals to journalists and promoting it to them. 

If they like the content, they’ll write a feature about it or include it in a piece they’re writing. This can land you many high-quality backlinks from big sites and news publications for free.

Examples

In the months following ChatGPT’s release, Fery Kaszoni and his team at Search Intelligence compiled statistics about Open AI’s popularity since launching ChatGPT and compared it to other popular platforms like Instagram and TikTok. 

The result? 60+ free link placements, including mentions on Yahoo News (DR 92), The Wrap (DR 84), and Time magazine (DR 92). 

A few examples of backlinks earned by a piece of content about Open AI’s popularity since launching ChatGPT

In another campaign, Fery and his team calculated how much money beloved video characters would earn in real life. This campaign earned 20+ free links including a DR89 link from British newspaper, The Daily Express. 

Example of a high-DR like from Daily ExpressExample of a high-DR like from Daily Express

How to do it 

Successful Digital PR requires some creativity, but this is the process in a nutshell: 

  1. Find a trending topic 
  2. Create relevant newsworthy content around that topic 
  3. Tell journalists about it 

For example, AI has been a major topic of conversation in all industries since it launched. Any new data or insights about it would go well in news cycles while it remains a topic of interest. 

Once you have a topic, you need to come up with interesting content ideas that are relevant to your business.

The best topics for digital PRThe best topics for digital PR

This is the hard part. It’s really a case of brainstorming ideas until you land on something you think could be interesting. 

For example, here are a few random content ideas for a company that sells furniture online: 

  • Have AI refurnish rooms from popular TV shows in new styles. 
  • Have AI design a new item of furniture, create it, and sell it. 
  • Ask 100 interior designers if they’re worried about AI taking their jobs, share the data. 

After you find your winning idea, create the content, give it an attention-grabbing headline, and write a press release about the most interesting insights. 

Then, promote your content to journalists. You can try services like Roxhill or Muck Rack to find journalists who might be interested in your content. 

You can also use a tool like Ahrefs’ Content Explorer to find sites that have recently published content about your topic and reach out to them. 

Here’s how to do that: 

  1. Enter your topic into Content Explorer 
  2. Filter for pages published in the last 90 days 
  3. Filter for pages on DR70+ websites (big sites that you probably want links from) 

For example, if we do this for the topic of “chatgpt,” we see thousands of well-known websites that have recently published about ChatGPT including Business Insider, Tech Republic, and Wired. 

Finding websites that recently published about a topic with Content ExplorerFinding websites that recently published about a topic with Content Explorer

Data journalism is a way of enhancing or creating newsworthy content by analyzing unique data sets. It can fall under digital PR, though it typically requires more detailed research. 

This technique works because reporters love a good statistic they can either quote or write an opinion piece about. Be the source of such data, and you can earn many high-quality links anytime your data becomes relevant to trending news topics. 

Examples

Data journalism can be quite simple. For example, in another case study from Search Intelligence, Fery’s team used Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer as a data source for a cybersecurity PR campaign. 

The study reveals the top UK banks where customers seek help with fraud, allowing journalists to report on which banks are more secure than others. 

The data fuelling these insights is keyword search volume. That’s it. 

Ahrefs' data that fuelled a cybersecurity PR campaignAhrefs' data that fuelled a cybersecurity PR campaign

This method doesn’t take very long, doesn’t need a data scientist and can very easily be replicated in other industries where search popularity can unearth interesting insights. 

In another example (and perhaps one of our all time favorites), marketing firm Yard created a data study comparing the CO2 emissions of various celebrities and ranking the worst offenders. 

Data study on the C02 emissions of celebritiesData study on the C02 emissions of celebrities

If you follow celebrity news, there’s no way you missed reports of Taylor Swift’s private jet emissions being among the highest compared to other celebrities. 

Just a few of the thousands of posts about Taylor Swift's jet emissions following a successful data journalism campaignJust a few of the thousands of posts about Taylor Swift's jet emissions following a successful data journalism campaign

Every single one of these news stories originated from the data study. 

When the study was first released, it went viral and earned links from almost 2,000 referring domains within the first month. 

But that’s not all. 

This topic trended in news cycles again when rumours spread that Taylor Swift attended a Jets game to bury the original negative publicity about her private jet usage, earning Yard a well-deserved second round of links. 

Google Trends data for "taylor swift jet" Google Trends data for "taylor swift jet"

Today, this post has 1,861 links from 1,155 referring domains, 77% of them are dofollow, and 38.4% are higher than DR 60. 

DR distribution of backlinks to the celebrity C02 emissions content pieceDR distribution of backlinks to the celebrity C02 emissions content piece

Talk about drool-worthy results! That’s high-quality link building done right. 

How to do it 

Successful data journalism is similar to digital PR but relies on the intriguing, data-backed insights you can unearth. 

In a nutshell, the process looks like this: 

  1. Find a data-driven content angle that gets links and media attention 
  2. Gather data to provide new or updated insights on the topic 
  3. Tell journalists about your findings 

Start by considering “your money or your life” content angles that everyday folk care about. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking too narrow or pitching ideas only a small demographic may understand. 

For instance, cybersecurity is not a sexy topic journalists or their readers will likely care about. There’s also not a high degree of literacy about the topic among the general population. 

But everyone cares about whether their bank is secure and how safe their money is. 

This concept needs no explanation and that’s exactly why data that helps answer the question “how safe is your bank?” worked exceptionally well as a link building tactic in the example above. 

You can also use Content Explorer to gather more ideas like: 

  • Evergreen yet stale topics that you can update with more recent data 
  • Data you can visualize better or repurpose into a different content format 
  • Trending angles in other industries you can apply to your industry 

For example, on the topic of ChatGPT, we found Rand Fishkin’s post claiming usage has declined 29% between May and August 2023 and that 30% of its usage is by programmers. 

Finding content ideas in Content ExplorerFinding content ideas in Content Explorer

You don’t need original ideas to succeed. If you’ve got the data to back it up, you can easily take the angles of a “useage patterns” or “most popular audience segments” and apply them to popular tools in your industry. 

Some decent data sources you can start with include: 

  • Search data: Like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer for uncovering interesting search patterns. 
  • Historical data: Like Google Trends for highlighting growth or decline patterns over time. 
  • Scientific research: Like on Google Scholar or in specific research journals. 
  • Public niche data: For instance, Yard’s study used the CelebrityJets Twitter page. 
  • Proprietary data: From within your (or your client’s) organization. 

When you find an interesting insight or pattern worth sharing, write a press release about it and share it with journalists who frequently report on the topic. 

Statistics pages are curated lists of facts and figures in a particular industry. These pages attract evergreen links for as long as the statistics remain relevant. 

It’s one of our favorite link building tactics. Here’s how we’ve used it quite successfully over the years. 

Example

We first launched a detailed list of SEO statistics in 2020 and it has been naturally earning high-quality links ever since. 

Backlinks over time to our SEO statistics pageBacklinks over time to our SEO statistics page

Currently, the page has: 

  • 5,787 backlinks
  • 2,282 referring domains 
  • 82% “dofollow” links 
  • 37.7% from DR 60+ websites

While we used some outreach techniques in the early days, most of the success has come from the page’s ability to maintain top position rankings for competitive keywords.

Rankings for our SEO statistics pageRankings for our SEO statistics page

Do it right, and this tactic remains wildly effective for earning links naturally for many years. 

How to do it 

Start by entering a few broad topics related to your website into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. For example, we might enter the following for Ahrefs: 

  • SEO
  • Content marketing
  • Link building

Then navigate to the Matching Terms report and apply the inclusion filter for things like stats, statistics, facts, or figures. Make sure your filter is set to include any of these phrases. 

Then it’s just a matter of checking out the results to find a relevant topic you want to write about. 

We went for “SEO statistics”: 

Finding statistics keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerFinding statistics keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Once you pick your topic, it’s a just matter of curating linkworthy stats and publishing them on a page. 

While you can earn some seed links with early outreach efforts, long term success comes down to keeping your content updated with the latest data. That’s the best way to compound performance year on year, earning many high-quality links with no ongoing outreach needed. 

Relationship-based link building prioritizes long-term relationships with journalists, writers, and editors. 

It is an effective addition to digital PR campaigns as you can shortcut the time it takes to find the right people to distribute your content. 

Better yet, you can be a journalist’s first point of call when they write a story on topics you or your clients are experts in. 

Example

Imagine having journalists contact you asking to feature your clients in upcoming stories. That’s exactly what growth marketing firm, EngineRoom, has achieved.

A journalist from Mamamia (DR 78) made a call out on Sourcebottle, the Australian equivalent of HARO, seeking expert advice on immigration law. EngineRoom’s link building expert, Don Milne, responded and won the story along with a high-quality link. 

Example of a backlink built with relationship-based link buildingExample of a backlink built with relationship-based link building

Then, the real magic started. 

Instead of ending things there, Don also shared a client list with the journalist in case they ever wanted to collaborate on future stories again. 

Sure enough, a few weeks later, the journalist reached out, asking to connect with another client in the drug rehab space to develop a story on heroin addiction. The client is featured in about 30% of the completed article with detailed quotes from the founder and (of course) a link back to their website. 

Example of a backlink built with relationship-based link buildingExample of a backlink built with relationship-based link building

No pitching. No outreach. Just a genuine partnership and collaboration now earning multiple high-quality links for their clients. 

How to do it 

This technique is all about the follow-up after you collaborate on your first story with a journalist. 

If getting the first foot in the door is where you’re stuck, you can check out our detailed guide on relationship-based link building by Irina Maltseva, the former Head of Marketing at Hunter. 

Once you get that first story, make sure you keep the relationship going. 

If you have a list of websites or clients you represent, create a professional document with a mini bio about each client. Make sure it’s also easily searchable for writers in a hurry and makes your contact details clear and easy to access. 

Then, share it with journalists, writers, and editors you collaborate with so they can refer to it in the future if they need an expert on a specific topic for their content. 

Final thoughts

Earning high-quality backlinks can be much easier than many people realize and cheaper too! All the examples shared in this post earned free link placements on high-authority websites and with minimal outreach. 

These techniques have more staying power. They are also far less likely to be seen as “link manipulation” or devalued in future Google updates. 

And, if you get your content angle just right, they also have the potential to be earning links many months, if not years, down the track! 

Got questions? Ping me on LinkedIn.

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Google To Curb Microtargeting In Consumer Finance Ads

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Google To Curb Microtargeting In Consumer Finance Ads

Google is updating its policy limiting personalized advertising to include more restrictions on ads related to consumer financial products and services.

Google’s personalized ads policy prohibits targeting users based on sensitive categories like race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Over the years, Google has continued updating the policy to introduce new limitations. The latest update to restrict consumer finance ads is part of Google’s ongoing efforts to refine its ad targeting practices.

What’s Changing?

Google will update its personalized ads policy in February 2024 to prevent advertisers from targeting audiences for credit and banking ads based on sensitive factors like gender, age, parental status, marital status, or zip code.

Google’s current policy prohibiting “Credit in personalized ads” will be renamed “Consumer finance in personalized ads” under the changes.

Google’s new policy will state:

“In the United States and Canada, the following sensitive interest categories cannot be targeted to audiences based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code.

Offers relating to credit or products or services related to credit lending, banking products and services, or certain financial planning and management services.”

Google provided examples, including “credit cards and loans including home loans, car loans, appliance loans, short-term loans,” as well as “banking and checking accounts” and “debt management products.”

When Does The New Policy Take Effect?

The updated limitations on personalized advertising will take effect on February 28, 2024, with full enforcement expected within six weeks.

Google said advertisers in violation will receive a warning at least seven days before any account suspension.

According to Google, the policy change aims to protect users’ privacy better and prevent discrimination in financial services advertising.

However, the company will still allow generalized ads for credit and banking products that do not use sensitive personal data for targeting.

What Do Advertisers Need To Do?

Google will begin enforcing the updated restrictions in late February 2024 but advises advertisers to review their campaigns for compliance issues sooner.

Advertisers should carefully check their ad targeting settings, remove improper personalization based on sensitive categories, and adhere to the revised policy requirements.

Failure to follow the rules could lead to account suspension after an initial warning. Google will work with advertisers to ensure a smooth transition during the ramp-up period over the next six months.


Featured Image: SurfsUp/Shutterstock

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