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7 Ways To Tweak Your Content For Better SEO

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Every marketer will tell you – creating high-quality content is no easy feat and getting page views, shares, and conversions is even harder.

But useful, engaging, and easy-to-find content is critical to successful digital strategies – so where do we start?

Defining high-quality in this space is essentially about the balance of two things: the art of the writing itself and the approach to optimization.

Each piece of content designed for your company’s website should be considered with an SEO lens before you publish.

Applying a search lens atop your content strategy helps to ensure that the content you create supports not only the customer journey (the starting point for your content strategy), but also creates cost efficiencies.

How?

Focusing on SEO from the outset can support improved Google Adwords scores. This results in lower cost-per-click (CPC) rates for paid search marketing, for example; and cost savings are something the C-suite always loves.

In this article, we’ll share seven tips to help you make the most out of your content.

1. Ensure Great Content And Structure

Ensuring great content is all about planning.

Do your homework first.

Think about what it is your customer wants to know, and where you are (the expert who can provide them value). From there, decide what you want to say, and where, when, and how your customers will engage, then map out your plan.

An editorial calendar is a great way to get and stay organized. Amid the constant change that defines the current consumer environment, pivots will be needed, but that’s no reason not to plan.

Once you’ve got a calendar that sets out your content needs, you’ll want to set your writers up for success.

Detailed content briefs that outline the user intent or inquiry you’re seeking to address are a good standard practice to adopt.

Process, supported by clear and distinct roles and responsibilities, is important here, too.

Subject matter experts are not necessarily writers; writers may make for great editors, but self-editing is problematic. In short, ensure you’ve got a plan for publication that lets your people do what they do best.

Content comes in many forms and creating content in a variety of formats will help you reach a wider audience.

Check out this article for 100 types of content you can create (with examples).

Format aside, your structure should be simple and intuitive; an introduction followed by a body (where the main content is) and a conclusion sets the standard.

A simple way to think about this is the news approach to content: Say what you’re going to say (introduction), say it (body), and say what you said (conclusion).

2. Show Your Layout Some Love

You’ve thought about structure already, but have you considered the visual experience?

Visual variety is a key component of high-quality communications across platforms and channels.

From text layout and use of whitespace to headings, paragraphs, and imagery, make sure you think through the visual experience of your customer as well.

Paragraphs and headings with a clean layout help readers scan through text, and the use of subheadings throughout will further simplify navigation for your reader.

A good clean layout will supplement the intuitive structure you’ve already planned.

But remember, a sentence does not make a paragraph no matter how you feel about the look of a new sentence on a new line! Each paragraph should cover a single idea or subject, keeping things concise and linking out for more on the topic wherever it makes sense (more on links later!).

From the image perspective, the advice is simple: Use them.

A picture is worth a thousand words, or a bar chart, a graph, a process diagram, a quote of particular importance given prominence through varied font size and script … you get the idea.

In short, use images wherever they help to simplify subjects and as a good way to break up text-heavy content.

Whenever you use images, make sure to optimize them. Here are a few simple tips:

  • Add alt text: Supporting accessibility for customers using assistive screen readers, alt text also helps search engines to identify content on your page.
  • Apply logic to your image names: Image filenames should be readable and simple. They can also be used as alt text.
  • Size does matter: You want to keep your site simple and agile to ensure your pages load quickly. Keep your images under 500 KB and page sizes to less than 5 MB.

3. Optimize The Right Way

Images, of course, aren’t the only part of your page that needs optimization.

The structure and layout already outlined give way to lots of optimization options and the right kinds.

Back in 2011, Google launched the Panda update with the aim of eliminating black hat SEO tactics.

What exactly that means is a long story. Click through for a summary of the why, what we know about the algorithm and a complete timeline.

But the short version is that black hat SEO tactics are ones that aim to increase a site or page’s rank in search engines by violating search engine guidelines (think dirty tricks like invisible text for a simple example).

The right kinds of optimization are in fact simple enough, so there’s no need to get crafty.

Once you focus on optimizing your site information (think site title, site description, page descriptions, and page and title formats), you’re on the right track.

You want to keep things clear and concise. Fifty to 300 characters should provide a relevant readable description of the content on the site and each of the pages using simple and relevant terms.

Length is another key consideration for optimization and not just within your site information sections.

Google likes long articles, but remember, your customer should be at the center of your strategy, so think about their needs and go from there.

We’d suggest a minimum of 300 words for a topic, which can make for a 1,000-word article easily. What you don’t want is something so long it scares readers away.

Nobody wants to read 2,000 words of keyword-stuffed filler (and again, Google won’t thank you for it). Your content should provide value to the reader and need to be fit for your purpose.

4. Use The Right Keywords & Topical Alliance

Speaking of keywords, do your homework.

SEO insights represent the best real-time representation of your customer’s voice, so before you start writing keyword research is critical.

Users search for all sorts of different reasons.

By figuring out what terms your audience is searching for and the intent behind their search, you can customize your content to bolster your search results.

You will want to ensure that you use a mix of long-tail keywords, as well as head terms.

Long-tail keywords address searcher intent while tending to have low search volume, associated low competition, and high conversion.

Conversely, head terms are popular search words representing a broad topic.

Going back to our previous notes on optimization, using focused keywords together with simple substitutes and related terms is an easy win.

Search engine algorithms assess the topic of your content by recognizing your content’s keywords, their associated synonyms, and related terms (back to Panda here – it’s essentially about ensuring that the content you’ve developed has real value to it).

You can think about this as an ingredient list versus a recipe. Your ingredient list might be all the search keywords you need, but it won’t get dinner made without associated instructions, while your step-by-step recipe is the content that provides real value to the reader, bringing much-needed context.

For more information on how best to use keywords, check out this advice from Google.

And if you’re looking for more detail on search intent, we’ve got you covered here.

A quick reminder: Search intent is all about focusing on the why (informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional).

So by first researching keywords broadly and then seeking to understand how the content you’re developing will serve your user’s needs, you’ll be better positioned to maximize value (both for your customer and your Adword budget).

Understanding intent and combining that knowledge with other keyword metrics like search volume, CPC, and difficulty will enable you to serve up the right content at the right times.

How?

Take note of search engine results pages (SERPs) features by keyword, and from there, match your content to compete with the top ones.

5. Master The Art Of Meta Description Copywriting

Displayed on SERPs below the title of the page, meta descriptions don’t directly influence rankings, but they are a key piece of optimizing click-through rates.

Make sure yours are used to accurately describe the content on your page clearly and concisely and make them engaging. Treat your meta descriptions as copy, just like you would ad copy.

A well-written meta description can entice your audience to click on your listing over others that may not be quite as interesting, thereby improving click-through rates.

Let’s be clear here: Well-written is always important, and getting it right across the board (that is across your entire website and each of its pages) is the goal.

But with quick wins in mind, optimizing meta descriptions (which are short in nature at somewhere between 156 and 165 characters recommended) is a must.

Plus, a site-wide review can be a great place to flex your writing and editing muscles, ensuring a consistent brand character and tone across your site in the process.

For a deeper dive on meta descriptions, why they’re important, and how best to approach them, including some winning examples, check out this article.

The TL;DR version: Keep these seven tips top of mind:

  • Know what your competitors are doing.
  • Map your customer’s journey.
  • Use your brand voice.
  • Incorporate the right keywords.
  • Take advantage of trends.
  • Target specific intents.
  • Refresh your copy.

6. Make Sure You’re Relevant

Discussing keywords and synonyms, as well as search intent, we’ve touched on relevance already, but let’s take a moment to dive deeper.

After all, doing so has the potential to increase our credibility as an expert in our field, and thus the source and top search hit.

Bringing us back to basics, let’s agree that search engines analyze web content to assess whether a particular page contains information that might be relevant to a user based on that user’s search term.

Once we take that simple statement as the basis for the use case, we then must place ourselves in the mind of our users and their needs.

To do the job efficiently, a search engine must assess a user’s search term based on certain key factors.

That being the case, relevance becomes situational in nature; therefore your optimization goals should be, too.

The short version: You cannot be all things to all people.

In general terms, key ranking factors are openly shared by Google and include the meaning of the query (think intent, determined using language modeling), content quality and usability, as well as context and setting.

The specifics (well, don’t get us started on the challenges of SEO), but broadly speaking, let’s just say that you should think about your content and its relevance in the same way you’d want your search results to respond to your personal needs.

Be your own artificial intelligence. Assess the environment, and then lean into the places you are most relevant to maximize your ROI.

Ranking systems are designed to sort through all available content and serve up the most useful to the searcher, as such, they are not one single algorithm, but rather made up of a whole series of algorithms.

In addition to seeking the terms used in your search entry, ranking systems will evaluate source expertise and consider geographical location, for example.

As a basic relevance criterion, location information provides an incredible opportunity for niche businesses with great content to maximize ROI.

By establishing a site as a reliable source within a certain radius, a credible thought leader in their space with the right blog content (read timely in nature and regularly providing thoughtful commentary on trending topics), an organization can focus content development dollars on a targeted area with the aim of local brand awareness with demonstrable impacts, leveraging click-through as a key performance indicator.

7. Leverage Your Links

Straight off the bat, let’s agree that it’s possible to perform well in SERPs without backlinks, even Google’s John Mueller says so himself.

That’s out of the way, so let’s align that Domain Authority (which predicts how likely a website is to rank in SERPs) is impacted by the credibility granted to your content by other credible sources linking to it.

You can measure your Domain Authority with SEO tools like Moz and Ahrefs.

We’ve been talking about external promoters, but let’s not forget the importance of internal links, as well.

Ahrefs has you covered here, too, with internal backlinks reporting supplying a measurement of your internal linking efforts.

Your site structure should be set up to optimize internal links.

It makes sense from not just an SEO perspective, but from the client experience perspective that a well-structured site will enable your user to click through your site in line with their information appetite.

Conclusion

Great content is key to an ever-growing list of client experience strategies.

From broad marketing strategies to targeted client acquisition and public relations plans, to search across sectors and specialties, great content has a role to play in every business’s digital strategy.

For your content to attain higher rankings, you need to consider every area of optimization.

If you’re only focusing on body copy, you’re missing out.

While the setup may seem time-consuming, an investment in SEO optimization – truly knowing your audience and delivering accordingly – is well worthwhile.

Outside of the knowledge that planning effectively will yield better customer-centric content, you can rest assured that doing the thinking around SEO optimization will also provide value to your digital budgets.

In time, and through great effort and consistency, following tried-and-tested optimization tips, your new (and improved) content may just appear on the first page of your soon-to-be newest clients search.

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Featured Image: VectorMine/Shutterstock

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Google’s Gary Illyes Answers Your SEO Questions On LinkedIn

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Google's Gary Illyes Answers Your SEO Questions On LinkedIn

Google Analyst Gary Illyes offers guidance on large robots.txt files, the SEO impact of website redesigns, and the correct use of rel-canonical tags.

Illyes is taking questions sent to him via LinkedIn direct message and answering them publicly, offering valuable insights for those in the SEO community.

It’s already newsworthy for a Google employee to share SEO advice. This is especially so given it’s Illyes, who isn’t as active on social media as colleagues like Search Advocate John Mueller and Developer Advocate Martin Splitt.

Throughout the past week, Illyes has shared advice and offered guidance on the following subjects:

  • Large robots.txt files
  • The SEO impact of website redesigns
  • The correct use of rel-canonical tags

Considering the engagement his posts are getting, there’s likely more to come. Here’s a summary of what you missed if you’re not following him on LinkedIn.

Keep Robots.Txt Files Under 500KB

Regarding a previously published poll on the size of robots.txt files, Illyes shares a PSA for those with a file size larger than 500kb.

Screenshot from: linkedin.com/in/garyillyes/, January 2023.

Illyes advises paying attention to the size of your website’s robots.txt file, especially if it’s larger than 500kb.

Google’s crawlers only process the first 500kb of the file, so it’s crucial to ensure that the most important information appears first.

Doing this can help ensure that your website is properly crawled and indexed by Google.

Website Redesigns May Cause Rankings To Go “Nuts”

When you redesign a website, it’s important to remember that its rankings in search engines may be affected.

As Illyes explains, this is because search engines use the HTML of your pages to understand and categorize the content on your site.

If you make changes to the HTML structure, such as breaking up paragraphs, using CSS styling instead of H tags, or adding unnecessary breaking tags, it can cause the HTML parsers to produce different results.

This can significantly impact your site’s rankings in search engines. Or, as Illyes phrases it, it can cause rankings to go “nuts”:

Google’s Gary Illyes Answers Your SEO Questions On LinkedInScreenshot from: linkedin.com/in/garyillyes/, January 2023.

Illyes advises using semantically similar HTML when redesigning the site and avoiding adding tags that aren’t necessary to minimize the SEO impact.

This will allow HTML parsers to better understand the content on your site, which can help maintain search rankings.

Don’t Use Relative Paths In Your Rel-Canonical

Don’t take shortcuts when implementing rel-canonical tags. Illyes strongly advises spelling out the entire URL path:

Google’s Gary Illyes Answers Your SEO Questions On LinkedInScreenshot from: linkedin.com/in/garyillyes/, January 2023.

Saving a few bytes using a relative path in the rel-canonical tag isn’t worth the potential issues it could cause.

Using relative paths may result in search engines treating it as a different URL, which can confuse search engines.

Spelling out the full URL path eliminates potential ambiguity and ensures that search engines identify the correct URL as the preferred version.

In Summary

By answering questions sent to him via direct message and offering his expertise, Illyes is giving back to the community and providing valuable insights on various SEO-related topics.

This is a testament to Illyes’ dedication to helping people understand how Google works. Send him a DM, and your question may be answered in a future LinkedIn post.


Source: LinkedIn

Featured Image: SNEHIT PHOTO/Shutterstock



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Everything You Need To Know

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Of all the many, many functions available in Google Ads, I have a few that are my favorites. And sitelink assets – previously known as sitelink extensions – are at the top of my list.

Why? Because they’re so versatile. You can do almost anything with them if you think through your strategy carefully.

For example, you can use the mighty sitelink in your advertising to:

  • Promote low search volume themes.
  • Push lagging products out the door.
  • Maximize hot sellers.
  • Highlight certain product categories.
  • Answer common questions.
  • Handle PR problems.

And that’s just a start! Sitelink assets can almost do it all.

Best Practices For Using Sitelink Assets Extensions

If you truly want to get the most out of your sitelinks, you need to think about your intention.

To help you with that, I’m going to lay out a few sitelink guidelines.

1. Get clear on your objectives. Before you start, you need to think about your goals. What are you trying to achieve with these assets? Are you advertising products or services? Will the asset work well with both branded and non-branded keywords? Your answers to these questions will help determine if your sitelinks are versatile and useful to the searcher.

2. Use sitelinks as part of your larger strategy. Don’t think of your sitelinks in isolation. You should also consider the accompanying ad, landing page, and other assets. Make sure they all work together in service to your overarching strategy.

3. Use a mix of sitelinks. Sitelinks can serve multiple purposes, so make sure you’re using a variety. For example, you don’t want to use every sitelink on an ad to promote on-sale products. Instead, use a mix. One could promote an on-sale product, one could generate leads, one could highlight a new product category, and one could direct prospective clients to useful information.

4. Create landing pages for your sitelinks. Ideally, you want to send users to landing pages that tightly correlate with your sitelink instead of just a regular page on your website.

5. Track sitelink performance and adjust. It’s not enough to set up sitelinks. You should also track them to see which links are getting traction and which ones are not. This doesn’t mean that all sitelinks should perform equally (more on this below), but it does mean they should perform well given their type and objectives.

Why it’s Better To Use A Mix Of Sitelink Assets

Let’s dive deeper into this idea of using a mix of sitelinks by looking at an example.

In a new client account, we created four different types of sitelinks:

  • Two sitelinks are product-focused (as requested by the client).
  • One sitelink connects users with an engineer to learn more about the product (“Speak to an Engineer”). It has more of a sales focus.
  • One sitelink allows users to learn more about the products without speaking to an engineer (“What is?”).

The “What is?” sitelink is outperforming the “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink when we measure by CTR. While we need more data before making any changes, I predict we’ll eventually swap out the sales-y “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink for something else.

The fact that the educational link (“What is?”) is performing better than the sales-y link (“Speak to an Engineer”) isn’t too surprising in this case. The product is a new, cutting-edge robot that not many people are aware of, yet. They want more info before talking to someone.

sitelink extensions - performance exampleScreenshot by author, January 2023

By using a mix of sitelinks, and assessing the performance of each, we gained a lot of valuable information that is helping to guide our strategy for this account. So going with a mix of sitelinks is always a good idea. You never know what you’ll discover!

Sitelink Assets Examples

Now, let’s look at some specific examples of sitelink assets in Google Ads.

Example 1: Chromatography

Sitelinks extension - Chromatography exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Application Search: This ad is for a highly technical product that can be used in a wide variety of applications. (Chromatography is a laboratory technique for separating mixtures.) So putting “application search” in a sitelink here might make sense. It helps prospective clients find what they’re looking for.

Sign up and Save Big: A good sitelink for lead generation and potential revenue.

Technical Support: I’m not a big fan of putting technical support in sitelinks. Tech support seems more targeted to current users rather than prospective users. But who knows, maybe they really do want to help current users get tech support via their advertising.

Guides and Posters: Again, this sitelink is a bit unusual, but it might be appropriate for this product. Perhaps people are downloading branded posters and posting them in their workplaces. If so, it’s a great way to build brand awareness.

Example 2: Neuroscience Courses

Sitelink Extensions - Nueroscience courses exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

I love everything about these sitelinks! The advertising is using them to reach people in all phases of the buyer journey.

For people not ready to commit:

  • Study Neuroscience: This sitelink is broad and informational. It’s helpful to people who have just started to explore their options for studying neuroscience.
  • Get Course Brochure: This sitelink is also great for people in the research phase. And while we mostly live in an online world, some people still prefer to consume hard-copy books, brochures, etc. With this sitelink, the school is covering its bases.

For people getting close to committing:

  • Online Short Course: This is the course the school offers. It’s a great sitelink for those almost ready to sign up.

For people ready to sign up:

  • Register Online Now: This is the strongest call to action for those ready to commit. It takes people directly to the signup page.

Example 3: Neuroscience Degrees

Let’s look at another example from the world of neuroscience education: this time for a neuroscience degree program.

Sitelink extensions - neuroscience degree exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

In contrast to the previous two examples, the sitelinks in this ad aren’t as strong.

Academics Overview: This sitelink seems more appropriate for a broad term search, such as a search on the school’s name. If the searcher is looking for a specific degree program (which seems like the intention based on the term and the ad), the sitelinks should be something specific to that particular degree program.

Scholarships: Just as with the above sitelink, “Scholarships” doesn’t seem very helpful either. The topic of scholarships is important—but probably doesn’t need to be addressed until the person determines that this school is a good fit.

Example 4: Code Security

Next, let’s look at two Google search ads for code security products.

Sitelink extensions - code security exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

 

The sitelinks in these two ads look like typical assets you’d find for SaaS, cloud-based, or tech companies. They click through to a lot of helpful information, such as product plans and success stories.

I particularly like the Most Common Risks sitelink in the second ad. It leads to a helpful article that would be great for engaging top-of-funnel leads.

On the flip side, I’m not a big fan of the Blog sitelink in the first ad. “Blog” simply isn’t very descriptive or helpful.

Still, there are no right or wrong sitelinks here. And it would be interesting to test my theory that blog content is not a top-performing asset!

Sitelink Assets Are More Than An Afterthought

I hope I’ve convinced you of the usefulness and versatility of sitelinks when created with specific objectives that align with your broader strategy.

So don’t create your sitelink assets as an afterthought.

Because if you give them the careful consideration they deserve, they’ll serve you well.

Note: Google sitelink assets were previously known as sitelink extensions and renamed in September 2022.

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Featured Image: Thaspol Sangsee/Shutterstock



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How to Automate Dull SEO Tasks

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How to Automate Dull SEO Tasks

Some SEO processes involve repetitively clicking things on a screen. Not the best use of your time.

With the right tools, however, you can automate various SEO processes—and free up resources for tasks that need more creative, human input.

In this post, I’ll share two examples of how I automate SEO tasks. 

Example 1. Record and email article assignments to writers

Imagine being able to record and email article assignments to writers in seconds using a simple form like this:

Airtable article assignment form

Let’s look at how to set this up.

1. Set up an Airtable database for your writer and article data

Sign up for Airtable and create a new database with a table called “Writers.” The table should have columns for your writers:

"Writers" table in Airtable

In the same Airtable database, create a separate table called “Articles.” 

Set up columns in this table for your:

  • Article titles.
  • Article outline links.
  • Article due dates.
  • Assigned writer (set this column up as a linked record to your “Writers” table so that Airtable can retrieve data on your writers from it).
"Articles" table in Airtable

You’ll also need to add a lookup field to pull the writer’s email address from the “Writers” table. 

Add Airtable lookup field

2. Create an Airtable article assignment form

Next, create an article assignment form for the “Articles” table. You’ll use this form to add new article assignments to the “Articles” table.

Create Airtable article assignment form

3. Set up a new Zapier automation with a “New Record in Airtable” trigger

When you submit your details on the new article assignment via the Airtable form, Airtable will automatically record the new article assignment in your “Articles” table. So that’s the first step of the article assignment workflow sorted.

Demo of how Airtable automatically records new article assignments when the article assignment form is filled out

Now, we’ll use the Zapier workflow automation tool to automate the next three steps in the workflow—namely:

  1. Create a shared Google Drive submission folder for the article.
  2. Create a Google Doc submission document in the shared Google Drive folder.
  3. Use Gmail to email the writer the article title, outline link, due date, and link to the shared Google Drive submission folder.

Sidenote.

Instead of Zapier, you can also use any other workflow automation tool, such as Make, as long as the tool supports the automation triggers and actions you’ll need.

In Zapier, create a new automated workflow (also known as a “Zap”) with:

  • Airtable as the trigger app.
  • New Record as the trigger event.

With this trigger, your Zap will start running when you add a new record to Airtable (such as by submitting your Airtable article assignment form).

Trigger step: New Record in Airtable

4. Add a “Create Folder in Google Drive” action step to your Zap

Next, add an action step with:

  • Google Drive as the action app.
  • Create Folder as the action event.

For the action step’s “Parent Folder” field, select the Google Drive folder in which the new submission folder should be created.

Also, provide a name for the submission folder in the “Folder Name” field. You can map the article title data from Airtable here to name your submission folder after the article’s title.

Action step: Create Folder in Google Drive

5. Add an “Add File Sharing Preference in Google Drive” action step to your Zap

The Google Drive folder created by your Zap will have its sharing permissions disabled by default, so let’s add an action step to grant folder access to anyone who has the link to the folder.

This action step should have:

  • Google Drive as the action app.
  • Add File Sharing Preference as the action event.

Map the file ID of the Google Drive folder created in the previous action step to the “File Id” field of this action step.

Map file ID of Google Drive folder to "File Id" field

In addition, set the “Sharing Preference” field to “Anyone on the internet who has the link can edit.”

Set "Sharing Preference" field to "Anyone on the internet who has the link can edit"

6. Add a “Create Document from Text in Google Docs” action step to your Zap

Now, let’s set up the Google Doc that the writer will use to submit their draft.

We’ll have the Zap create this submission Google Doc in the shared Google Drive submission folder. And since the Google Drive folder will have general access enabled, anyone with the link to the Google Drive folder—and this includes you—will also automatically get access to the Google Doc.

No more frustration over writers forgetting to grant access to their Google Docs!

So add a new action step to your Zap with:

  • Google Docs as the action app.
  • Create Document from Text as the action event.

Map the article title data from Airtable to the action step’s “Document Name” field, and the folder ID of the shared Google Drive folder to the “Folder” field.

You’ll also need to include some default text in the Google Doc, such as “Write your article here!”

Action step: Create Document from Text in Google Docs

7. Add a “Send Email in Gmail” action step to your Zap

Finally, we’ll get the Zap to use your Gmail account to email the writer the article title, outline link, due date, and link to the shared Google Drive submission folder.

Add a last action step to your Zap with:

  • Gmail as the action app.
  • Send Email as the action event.

Map the writer’s email address from Airtable to the “To” field for this action step. Also, map the article title, outline link, due date, and Google Drive submission folder link in the email body.

I also recommend adding your own email address to either the “Cc” or “Bcc” field so you get a copy of the automated email (and can confirm it’s been sent).

Sample text for automated article assignment email

Once you’re happy with your Zap, hit the Publish button to activate your automation!

Example 2. Finding and verifying prospects’ email addresses for link building outreach

Finding email addresses for link building outreach can be a massive pain.

After all, most prospects don’t advertise their email addresses publicly. And even if you’ve managed to dig up their email addresses (or guess them using trial and error), there’s no guarantee they work.

But using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, you can generate a huge Google Sheets list of link building prospects that looks like this:

List of prospects in Google Sheets

Then as you fill out the “Approve?” column for each prospect with data—such as “Yes” or “Approved”—a Zapier automation will automatically do all these for you:

  1. Find the prospect’s email address using the Hunter email lookup tool
  2. Add the email address to your Google Sheet list of prospects
  3. Verify the email address using the NeverBounce email verification tool
  4. Add the verified email address to the Woodpecker.io email outreach tool so you can start sending customized outreach emails

Here’s how to set this up.

1. Get your list of prospects

Launch Ahrefs’ Content Explorer and search for link prospects. 

For example, if you recently published a marketing survey with unique insights and statistics, you may want to look for marketing statistics pages to pitch. To do this, simply run an “In title” search for “marketing statistics.”

Report of webpages with "marketing statistics" in their title, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Next, filter your results to show only webpages that are:

  • In English (unless you’re targeting webpages in another language).
  • Live, as it’d be weird to reach out and say, “Hey, I found you through [this webpage that no longer exists].”
  • On websites with a Domain Rating (DR) of 20 to 80 because you want to prioritize pursuing backlinks from authoritative websites but also that your chances of getting backlinks from super high-authority websites are quite low.
Filtering for live, English webpages on sites with a DR between 20 and 80, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Add a last filter to show only one page per domain (since you want to reach out to only one prospect per website).

Ahrefs' Content Explorer "One page per domain" setting

Click the Export button to export your list of prospects in a CSV file.

2. Clean up your list of prospects

As mentioned, we’ll be using Hunter to help us find our prospects’ email addresses.

Hunter uses the first names, last names, and domains of prospects to find email addresses, so we’ll clean up our list of prospects to provide Hunter with the exact data it needs.

Import your CSV list of prospects in Google Sheets and delete all columns in it except for:

  • Content Title
  • Content URL
  • Author

Also, some of the prospects in the CSV don’t have author names, so it’s worth removing these rows from the CSV. To do this, just filter for rows with empty author names and delete them.

Next, use the SPLIT formula to split the author names into their first and last names based on the space between their names.

Using the =SPLIT() formula in Google Sheets to split author names based on the space between the first and last names

Finally, add two new columns to the sheet:

  1. Approve?: Adding data to this column will trigger the Zapier automation we’ll be setting up next!
  2. Email Address: This column will store the prospect’s email address (if found).
Adding of two new "Approve?" and "Email address" columns to Google Sheets

3. Set up a new Zapier automation with a “New or Updated Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets” trigger

In Zapier, create a new Zap with:

  • Google Sheets as the trigger app.
  • New or Updated Spreadsheet Row as the trigger event.

Map the action step’s “Trigger Column” field to your Google Sheet’s “Approve?” column.

Trigger step: New or Updated Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets

With this setup, you’ll trigger your Zap whenever you add new data—such as “Yes” or “Approved”—to the “Approve?” column for any prospect row.

Adding of the word "Yes?" to the "Approve?" column in the Google Sheets list of prospects

4. Add a “Find Email in Hunter” action step to your Zap

Next, add a new action step with:

  • Hunter as the action app.
  • Find Email as the action event.

Map the “Content URL,” “First Name,” and “Last Name” columns in your Google Sheet to the “Domain or Company,” “First Name,” and “Last Name” fields for this action step, respectively.

Action step: Find Email in Hunter

5. Add an “Update Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets” action step to your Zap

The next action step will update your Google Sheet with a prospect’s email address if Hunter finds it. Use:

  • Google Sheets as the action app.
  • Update Spreadsheet Row as the action event.

Map the Row Number of the updated row in the trigger step to this action step’s “Row” field.

Map the row number to the "Row" field

Also, map the email address that Hunter found in the previous action step to the “Email Address” field of this action step.

Map email address to the "Email Address" field

Sidenote.

This email address does not exist. It is for demo purposes only.

6. Add a Filter action that lets the Zap continue only if Hunter has found an email address

Next, set up a Filter action that lets the Zap proceed only if the email address data found by Hunter contains the “@” symbol.

That’s because all email addresses have the “@” symbol. If Hunter happens to find an email address value that doesn’t include this symbol, we won’t want to waste time verifying it.

Filter action: Only continue if email address contains "@"

7. Add a “Verify Email Address in NeverBounce” action step to your Zap

Now, we’ll use NeverBounce to verify the validity of the email addresses that Hunter found. Add a new action step with:

  • NeverBounce as the action app.
  • Verify Email Address as the action event.

Map the email address that Hunter found to this action step’s “Email Address to Verify” field:

Action step: Verify Email Address in NeverBounce

8. Add a Filter action that lets the Zap continue only if NeverBounce returns a “Valid” or “Catchall” status for the email address

When NeverBounce verifies an email address, it will return one of four status text codes: Valid, Catchall, Invalid, and Unknown. Email addresses marked with the “Valid” and “Catchall” NeverBounce status codes have the highest likelihood of being valid.

So we’ll add a Filter action that lets the Zap proceed only if an email address’s NeverBounce status text code matches either “Valid” or “Catchall” exactly.

Filter action: Only continue if NeverBounce status text code is "Valid" or "Catchall"

9. Add a “Create/Update Prospect in Woodpecker.co” action step to your Zap

Finally, we’ll set up the Zap to add the verified email address to Woodpecker.co.

Create a last action step with:

  • Woodpecker.co as the action app.
  • Create/Update Prospect as the action event.

Map the verified email address to the action step’s “Email” field, and your prospect’s first and last name (as obtained from Google Sheets) to the “First Name” and “Last Name” fields, respectively.

Action step: Create/Update Prospect in Woodpecker.co

Hit the Publish button to turn your Zap on.

Now, when you fill out the “Approve?” column for prospects in your Google Sheet, your Zap will automatically do the heavy lifting of finding and verifying their email addresses using Hunter and NeverBounce and adding the verified email addresses to Woodpecker.co.

You can then customize your link building outreach emails in Woodpecker.co for each verified email address and, hopefully, snag yourself some backlinks!

Final thoughts

SEO automation takes some initial setup, but it’s amazing to watch your processes run automatically after that. It’s almost like magic.

And apart from the SEO processes we’ve shared here, there are probably plenty others you can automate.

Think of the apps you regularly use for SEO work. If you can connect these apps using Zapier or some other workflow automation tool, automating the workflows they support is likely more than possible.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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