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8 Stories Of Hope From The SEO Community

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8 Stories Of Hope From The SEO Community

February 23, 2022, was a regular Wednesday for Ukrainian marketers and SEO specialists.

We had our morning coffees and did tech audits, built some links, and revamped a couple of landing pages.

We were striving for better visibility and conversions, trying hard to keep up with the deadlines, and hoping to reach our KPIs.

Then, on February 24, the whole of Ukraine woke up in a newly fragile and terrifying world.

Our plans, aspirations, and priorities were transformed.

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From that day on, the only thing that mattered was saving the lives of our families, helping those in need to survive the turmoil of war, and defending our right to live freely on our own land.

For this column, my team reached out to eight Ukrainian SEO and marketing specialists and asked them to share their experiences in the time since our world turned upside down.

It turns out they all had one thing in common: in a shattered world full of painful uncertainty, they’ve drawn strength from helping others and contributing to Ukraine’s future victory.

Here is how they’re doing it.

Bringing Accurate News To Russian People

Artem Pylypets is the Head of SEO at SEO7, lecturer, and the founder of an educational YouTube channel “Школа SEO”  (SEO School).

Before the war started, Artem’s life was all about doing SEO himself and sharing his knowledge with others.

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He led the SEO department at SEO7, ran his YouTube channel called “Школа SEO”  (“SEO School), and conducted online training on SEO matters.

Currently, Artem is doing all the same things, but to the sound of artillery shelling.

War brought many challenges to his work. SEO7 team members are now scattered across Europe since many people had to flee their homes.

They are trying to streamline their operations, but it isn’t easy.

Besides, many SEO7 customers seized their operations, which left the team struggling to stay afloat with the few clients who target the U.S. and European markets.

Artem himself stayed in the Kyiv suburbs. He confessed that he is used to hearing artillery shelling and added that it is “not that heavy.”

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His neighborhood community has set up roadblocks, and people guard them in shifts to control the situation.

Image source: Author. The photo on the left was taken three months before the war started. Artem’s T-shirt says, “Content gets better if it comes with a backlink.” The photo on the right shows a roadblock with sandbags, one of Artem’s new workplaces.

“It really pleases me to see how the war united my fellow Ukrainians. The way we help each other, the way we fight for our land, is just amazing.

At the same time, I must admit that I’d rather have a peaceful sky above my head.”

Like many other SEO specialists, Artem decided to use his SEO skills to help Ukraine win the informational war.

His goal is to help Russian search engine users see the true stories of war and not the deceitful official propaganda. For this to happen, he has been working on improving the visibility of international media in the Russian SERPs.

When the war ends, Artem plans to keep building his business and hopes to launch all the projects he always wanted to but never had the time for.

He’s looking forward to reading some good news – not reporting on mounting casualties and destruction in Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Mariupol, and other cities.

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All he dreams of is celebrating Ukraine’s victory with his closest friends.

Volunteering 24/7 To Help Those In Need

Andrey Kapeltsov is the founder of SEO.Capital and a keynote speaker at leading SEO, Affiliate, and iGaming conferences in Ukraine. He has spent the last 18 years mastering SEO and is always looking for new out-of-the-box ways to keep up with search algorithm updates.

Since 2015, he’s focused on the iGaming industry, working as the CMO at major gaming and betting companies.

Because of the specific nature of the iGaming niche, SEO has always been at the core of every marketing strategy Andrey developed.

Today, Andrey is trying to serve his country and people in every way possible.

Some of his company’s employees lived in the cities ravaged by the Russian army – Andrey helped them escape to a safer place.

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Today, he continues to help evacuate people from the shelled cities on the frontline to a place to live in the central and western parts of Ukraine.

With employees moved to safe places, Andrey decided to restore his company’s operations to support Ukraine’s economy – his business provides donations to the Ukrainian armed forces.

Also, they’ve established a charity foundation to support displaced families and volunteers.

In addition to helping out financially, Andrey and his colleagues spend their evenings at humanitarian aid centers unloading goods.

Andrey says that this kind of physical activity works just as well as going to the gym.

Andrey KapeltsovImage source: Author. Andrey’s portrait in peaceful times and photos from current volunteer activities.

“What fascinates me is how the war forced us to quickly establish complex processes – it seemed unachievable in times of peace.

I still sometimes face difficulties finding particular military equipment, but my friends and new acquaintances always help me out.

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I had the pleasure of meeting so many great people over the past weeks.”

Andrey notes that his life before the war started seems very distant and blurred. He has a feeling that war lasts forever but has found a role that works for him and is ready to carry on.

When it’s all over, Andrey plans to keep developing his business and actively participate in helping Ukraine recover.

He hopes to spend some time living by the sea, where the only sound would be that of the sea waves. But first, Ukraine has to win.

Helping Ukrainian SEOs Find New Jobs

Olesia Korobka is an SEO entrepreneur running multiple projects before the war started. She offered guidance and consulting to businesses and ran a couple of her own projects sponsored by third parties.

Unfortunately, she had to stop working with most sponsors because of their country of origin.

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That left her with mostly consulting. She can now keep up with the tasks, but for a while could not work because of a slow internet connection.

Olesia, her son, and her mother were among the 4 million Ukrainians who had to flee their homes.

First, they moved to Poland and then to the Netherlands, where she could get back to work, which she admitted was challenging.

“My brain was reluctant to focus on complex technical tasks.

After operating in survival mode for a while, the first time I looked into coding, I spent several hours on a task that took me 5 to 15 minutes before, and I still wasn’t sure if I did it right.”

At the same time, working on her projects was something she needed badly. It was the only thing that helped Olesia feel she was doing okay and making a positive impact.

Olesia KorobkaImage source: Author. A selfie made from the life ‘before’ on the left, another selfie made on a bus to Amsterdam (right), and a photo taken at a refugee center.

What inspired her was the new project she organized to support the Ukrainian SEO community. Since the war started, many people have approached Olesia asking for help finding a new job. Many Ukrainian SEO specialists lost their only source of income and felt desperate.

This is how Olesia got the idea to create a listing of Ukrainian SEOs that briefly describes their skills and areas of expertise.

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She contacted Aleyda Solis with a request to share the listing on her Twitter and in the #SEOFOMO newsletter, and Aleyda kindly supported the initiative.

Then, Olesia started receiving messages from different companies open to hiring Ukrainians, so she compiled a listing of job openings.

As more and more experts and businesses joined the initiative, the spreadsheet became messy. So, Olesia is currently working on creating multiple websites targeting employers in Australia, the USA, and particular European countries.

Once the sites are up and running, the job-seeking and hiring process should be much easier.

Olesia dreams of the war coming to an end so that she can return home.

She misses her normal life and the people.

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Olesia adds that many Ukrainians will have to deal with PTSD once the war is over and won’t lead a normal life anytime soon.

However, she is determined to keep her chin up and carry on with her projects. Olesia is also grateful to everyone who’s supported her in the past weeks.

“Soooooo many people are helping me. It was amazing and kind of even uncomfortable. I’ve never had that in my entire life and never expected that.

I kind of feel a bit guilty, but also very grateful. Thank you all for your support and input.

I cannot always find the proper words to thank everyone, but I’m super grateful for everything.”

Saving Ukrainian Four-Legged Cuties

Anton Shulke is the Head of Influencer marketing at Duda.co and livestream production manager.

Since 2015, Anton has held live events, webinars, and podcasts for leading companies in the SEO industry, such as Duda, Semrush, and Kalicube.

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Duda – Anton’s latest workplace – is not a Ukrainian company and wasn’t directly affected (even though the company had about a dozen employees in Ukraine).

Anton was offered paid time off when the war started, but he prefers to keep working, so he is still doing one webinar a week.

On top of that, Anton joined the Ukrainian SEO community to help the affected people by trying to arrange accommodation, find job opportunities, or provide direct financial help.

Anton was amazed by the reaction of the Ukrainian SEO community. He always believed there were many good people but didn’t expect to see such overwhelming support for the less fortunate ones.

Anton added that he felt honored to be a part of it.

He also started a small charity project for collecting funds for cat and dog shelters, which you can learn about and support here.

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“I decided to help small shelters because I thought they could be under the radar of big charities, which tend to help children, refugees, and the army.

I get messages from people who run the shelters, and they seem to be surprised and extremely grateful for the help I provide, which gives me motivation to continue.

The hard part is that while initially the reaction from people was very positive and giving, donations are drying up as time passes.

Still, I understand that people get tired, and I cannot blame them.”

Anton ShulkeImage source: Author. Anton with his cat and having his traditional morning coffee

Anton hopes to keep his job at Duda, but he also considers putting more effort into the charity initiative.

He will probably keep the cat and dog shelter project, though the format may change.

Another thing he hopes to do is have a coffee with all the lovely people who message him on Facebook.

Every day, Anton publishes a ‘Good Morning’ post with a #coffeeshot on his Facebook page. In reply, many people say they’d love to have a coffee with him.

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Protecting Ukrainian Land In The Armed Forces

Eugene Lata is the CMO at Lemon.io and an experienced marketer who has spent the last seven years building marketing teams and developing growth strategies.

Up until January 2022, he was the CMO at SerpStat, an SEO tool company based in Odesa.

He had begun a new job at the Lemon.io marketplace not long before the war started.

In the first days of the war, Eugene decided to join Odesa territorial defense forces, and currently, he is a member of the 122nd brigade.

Due to Eugene’s previous experience, he became a managing paramedic officer in the material supply squadron.

This means he is in charge of training other paramedics and forming special evacuation and emergency brigades.

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Such brigades consist of one paramedic and four assault soldiers. They work on the frontline evacuating wounded soldiers and civilians.

Luckily, at the moment, there is no need to evacuate civilians in the regions where Eugene is located.

In addition to training paramedics, he trains various military units on NATO’s methodology of providing first aid.

Eugene LataImage source: Author. Eugene serving in the territorial defense forces and a photo of him and his labrador dog before the war started

This is not the first time Eugene decided to join the army. Back in 2014, after coming back home from the U.K., he spent six months in the Donbas region fighting the enemies with other volunteers who joined the Dnipro-1 battalion.

This was when he started helping wounded people as a paramedic.

Eight years later, his previous experience allowed Eugene to teach other officers to save lives.

“What inspires me is the progress the guys whom I train demonstrate.

Those who joined just three weeks ago with no relevant experience and no medical background are now trained well enough to provide qualified help. These people are already evacuating people and saving many lives in the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions.

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Seeing this gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

Eugene confesses that he preferred his regular job, living under peaceful skies when his biggest worry was a wasted marketing budget or the spread of the coronavirus.

But until the war is over, he can’t imagine himself doing anything other than his current occupation.

When Ukraine wins, Eugene cannot wait to hug his family, now scattered around the country.

His wife and younger sister volunteer in Odesa, getting the necessary military ammunition for Eugene’s brigades.

He wants to go on a walk with his labrador dog.

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Being an avid traveler, he’ll surely take on new adventures.

First thing, he’ll go to the Carpathian mountains. Eugene hopes for Ukraine to win before the spring ends – then he’ll enjoy the spring greenery while watching the sunrise.

He’ll also be working a lot because rebuilding a country takes many resources.

Finally, he wants to become a father – he and his wife had planned to start a family before the war broke out.

Fighting A Cyberwar Via SEO Community Chat

Igor Shulezhko is the CEO & Founder at rankUP and co-owner of Shmeo.Link. He has been in the business for over ten years as Head of SEO for several major Ukrainian brands.

Before the war started, he focused his efforts on building his SEO agency, rankUp.

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His business was doing pretty well and boasted a varied customer profile that included startups and SaaS companies, ecommerce projects, and news portals.

All these customers were from Ukraine, which means the agency wasn’t impacted as much as other companies with close ties to Russia.

Still, the war forced many businesses to put their marketing spending on hold. Now Igor is trying hard to save his agency.

His team is currently scattered across Ukraine and works remotely.

Igor noted that he can feel how anxious everyone on the team is right now.

“Constantly monitoring the news is extremely exhausting. Besides, air raid sirens keep people awake at night—often there are two to four sirens per night with brief interruptions.

All this makes it hard to concentrate on your tasks. It’s easier to do SEO when all you need to focus on is the work.”

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Igor ShulezhkoImage source: Author. Igor on his way to the border and having a meal at a refugee center

One of Igor’s projects is an SEO community on Telegram, an extremely popular messenger in Ukraine. Currently, the community unites about 5,000 people.

Before, it had more participants, but many Russians left once the community started spreading war-related messages.

Igor regretfully notes that many Russians in the group vocally supported Putin and denied all war crimes.

“When the war started, we restricted commenting in the community and limited publication rights to admins only,” he said.

The idea was to use the community chat to deliver the most important initiatives to its subscribers. They shared links to verified charities and details on evacuation opportunities, posted lists of Russian sites whose operations they were seeking to disrupt, and links to communities that spread false news so that community members could block them.

Igor believes that he and his team are contributing to winning the cyberwar against Russia by doing all this.

Igor admits that he misses his peaceful life.

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When the war ends, the first thing he’ll do is visit his mom, who lives in the Sumy region.

Luckily, the town is not on the frontline, but with Russian troops all around, it suffers from a lack of supplies. Evacuation is currently too dangerous.

Telecommunications are still operating, so Igor can still regularly call his mother.

He dreams of seeing her in person and giving her a big hug.

Helping Ukrainian Families In Need

Max Karmazin is the Digital Marketing specialist, Country Manager (Germany) at SE Ranking. He returned to Ukraine in November 2021 after living in Switzerland for seven years.

Max was working on his Master’s degree in Sociology and Media Studies, working different jobs, and traveling.

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As an expat, he always felt he had limited working hours, income, job, and social standing opportunities.

Feeling detached, he couldn’t completely embrace the new mentality and social rules.

Thus, he decided to return to Kyiv, and three months later, the war started.

The first days after the invasion were tough. Max couldn’t continue working because he was constantly distracted by the news.

When he left Kyiv on the third day of the war to get farther from the danger, he felt saving one’s life and leaving countrymen to fend for themselves wasn’t in accordance with his values.

Doing his regular job also felt wrong at that time.

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Max decided he would join the army and fight the enemy back or start volunteering.

This led him to join the territorial defense forces, volunteer military units that protect city residents.

He spent about a week guarding one of the few open gas stations, controlling incoming traffic, and keeping order.

Max KarmazinImage source: Author. Max (left) with his comrade, a 65-year-old veteran of the war in Donbas.

“I had this desire to prove myself that I had the guts to join the army and potentially sacrifice my life for the country I love (and wanted to get back to). I guess many men feel the same way at the time of war.”

Then the unit was rotated and Max joined one of his comrades who was evacuating his family to western Ukraine and Poland a few days later.

Max’s new acquaintance had lost his job a few months before and the family ran out of money a week into the war.

So, Max decided to support them at least financially.

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Max was lucky to have good and caring friends from Switzerland and Germany who were eager to help.

They decided that the best option would be to send money directly to Max’s account so that he could provide help to people in dire need whom he knew personally.

“So far, we have helped six families in need, a total of 15 people, and the army. It might not be much, but it’s quality help that provides a sufficient amount of money for a month or two.”

Currently, Max is with his family. He believes that the most important thing he can do right now is support them. He continues working for SE Ranking from his home office.

Max will continue working for SE Ranking, and would love to see everybody back at the office after his colleagues return home when the war ends.

He hopes the war ends before summertime to start new hobbies: canoeing and rowing.

He dreams of rediscovering Ukraine and its beautiful rivers with his friends on camping and canoeing trips.

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Max also plans to start voice actor training because he likes listening to audiobooks and has a suitable voice. He had planned to start training on the 6th of March.

Max confesses that he misses small things from his life before, such as going to the movies with friends, having a coriander omelet for breakfast, exercising at the gym, and having a long hot shower.

While the future remains unclear, he believes he’ll be able to fulfill his dreams, from buying a car and going on a road trip with his friends to starting a family.

And he believes that all his dreams can come true here, in Ukraine.

Building A Strong Community Of Marketing Heroes For Mutual Support

Yurii Lazaruk, is the founder of multiple well-known Ukrainian SEO communities, such as SEO Club UA, SalesHero, CPC Real Talk, and Marketing Club UA, and a community development expert.

Before the war started, he used his communities for connecting Ukrainian experts. Yurii helped them share experiences and get notable career growth.

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Yurii LazarukImage source: Author. Yurii wearing a sweatshirt with his brand’s logo.

After the first day of the war, Yurii set all his earlier initiatives aside. He decided to unite all of the active members of his numerous communities into one group called Ukrainian Hero Help.

The goal of the new community was to bring together Ukrainian SEO people to support each other, share vital information, and help the army and the entire country.

Yurii himself needed assistance finding a job to support his family.

And he found one thanks to David Spinks, a co-founder of CMX, the world’s largest network for community professionals.

Yurii now works as a part-time consultant, providing guidance on community development to Cultivate, an AI-powered coaching platform.

Yurii appreciates the opportunity to use his skills to make U.S. communities thrive.

But since it is not a full-time job, he is still looking for more opportunities.

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Yurii is also trying to help his fellow community members by collecting requests from SEO, PPC, marketing, and sales experts, and finding them jobs with the help of international experts communities and great people within them.

So, if by any chance you are currently looking for a digital marketing specialist and are willing to help Ukrainians, you can contact Yurii, who will happily share contacts with you.

All Yurii dreams of is for the war to be over.

He aspires to create an even more powerful digital community in Ukraine, find more international clients to work with, make a lot of money, and rebuild the country!

How You Can Help Colleagues In Ukraine

Search Engine Journal has shared a collection of causes in SEO Community Support For Ukraine & How You Can Help.

The SE Ranking team has a resource on how you can help Ukrainians here, as well, that we’ll be keeping updated.

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Image source: Created by author, 2022.




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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

Understanding the impact of your content at every touchpoint of the customer journey is essential – but that’s easier said than done. From attracting potential leads to nurturing them into loyal customers, there are many touchpoints to look into.

So how do you identify and take advantage of these opportunities for growth?

Watch this on-demand webinar and learn a comprehensive approach for measuring the value of your content initiatives, so you can optimize resource allocation for maximum impact.

You’ll learn:

  • Fresh methods for measuring your content’s impact.
  • Fascinating insights using first-touch attribution, and how it differs from the usual last-touch perspective.
  • Ways to persuade decision-makers to invest in more content by showcasing its value convincingly.

With Bill Franklin and Oliver Tani of DAC Group, we unravel the nuances of attribution modeling, emphasizing the significance of layering first-touch and last-touch attribution within your measurement strategy. 

Check out these insights to help you craft compelling content tailored to each stage, using an approach rooted in first-hand experience to ensure your content resonates.

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Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or new to content measurement, this webinar promises valuable insights and actionable tactics to elevate your SEO game and optimize your content initiatives for success. 

View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords your rivals rank for in Google’s search results. They may rank organically or pay for Google Ads to rank in the paid results.

Knowing your competitors’ keywords is the easiest form of keyword research. If your competitors rank for or target particular keywords, it might be worth it for you to target them, too.

There is no way to see your competitors’ keywords without a tool like Ahrefs, which has a database of keywords and the sites that rank for them. As far as we know, Ahrefs has the biggest database of these keywords.

How to find all the keywords your competitor ranks for

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report

The report is sorted by traffic to show you the keywords sending your competitor the most visits. For example, Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword “mailchimp.”

Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.

Since you’re unlikely to rank for your competitor’s brand, you might want to exclude branded keywords from the report. You can do this by adding a Keyword > Doesn’t contain filter. In this example, we’ll filter out keywords containing “mailchimp” or any potential misspellings:

Filtering out branded keywords in Organic keywords reportFiltering out branded keywords in Organic keywords report

If you’re a new brand competing with one that’s established, you might also want to look for popular low-difficulty keywords. You can do this by setting the Volume filter to a minimum of 500 and the KD filter to a maximum of 10.

Finding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywordsFinding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywords

How to find keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter your competitor’s domain in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis reportCompetitive analysis report

Hit “Show keyword opportunities,” and you’ll see all the keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap reportContent gap report

You can also add a Volume and KD filter to find popular, low-difficulty keywords in this report.

Volume and KD filter in Content gapVolume and KD filter in Content gap

How to find keywords multiple competitors rank for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter the domains of multiple competitors in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis report with multiple competitorsCompetitive analysis report with multiple competitors

You’ll see all the keywords that at least one of these competitors ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap report with multiple competitorsContent gap report with multiple competitors

You can also narrow the list down to keywords that all competitors rank for. Click on the Competitors’ positions filter and choose All 3 competitors:

Selecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank forSelecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank for
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Paid keywords report
Paid keywords reportPaid keywords report

This report shows you the keywords your competitors are targeting via Google Ads.

Since your competitor is paying for traffic from these keywords, it may indicate that they’re profitable for them—and could be for you, too.

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You know what keywords your competitors are ranking for or bidding on. But what do you do with them? There are basically three options.

1. Create pages to target these keywords

You can only rank for keywords if you have content about them. So, the most straightforward thing you can do for competitors’ keywords you want to rank for is to create pages to target them.

However, before you do this, it’s worth clustering your competitor’s keywords by Parent Topic. This will group keywords that mean the same or similar things so you can target them all with one page.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Export your competitor’s keywords, either from the Organic Keywords or Content Gap report
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
Clustering keywords by Parent TopicClustering keywords by Parent Topic

For example, MailChimp ranks for keywords like “what is digital marketing” and “digital marketing definition.” These and many others get clustered under the Parent Topic of “digital marketing” because people searching for them are all looking for the same thing: a definition of digital marketing. You only need to create one page to potentially rank for all these keywords.

Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"

2. Optimize existing content by filling subtopics

You don’t always need to create new content to rank for competitors’ keywords. Sometimes, you can optimize the content you already have to rank for them.

How do you know which keywords you can do this for? Try this:

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  1. Export your competitor’s keywords
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
  4. Look for Parent Topics you already have content about

For example, if we analyze our competitor, we can see that seven keywords they rank for fall under the Parent Topic of “press release template.”

Our competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" clusterOur competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" cluster

If we search our site, we see that we already have a page about this topic.

Site search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templatesSite search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templates

If we click the caret and check the keywords in the cluster, we see keywords like “press release example” and “press release format.”

Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"

To rank for the keywords in the cluster, we can probably optimize the page we already have by adding sections about the subtopics of “press release examples” and “press release format.”

3. Target these keywords with Google Ads

Paid keywords are the simplest—look through the report and see if there are any relevant keywords you might want to target, too.

For example, Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter.”

Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

If you’re ConvertKit, you may also want to target this keyword since it’s relevant.

If you decide to target the same keyword via Google Ads, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see the ads your competitor is using.

Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

You can also see the landing page your competitor directs ad traffic to under the URL column.

The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”

Learn more

Check out more tutorials on how to do competitor keyword analysis:

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Google Confirms Links Are Not That Important

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Google confirms that links are not that important anymore

Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed at a recent search marketing conference that Google needs very few links, adding to the growing body of evidence that publishers need to focus on other factors. Gary tweeted confirmation that he indeed say those words.

Background Of Links For Ranking

Links were discovered in the late 1990’s to be a good signal for search engines to use for validating how authoritative a website is and then Google discovered soon after that anchor text could be used to provide semantic signals about what a webpage was about.

One of the most important research papers was Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment by Jon M. Kleinberg, published around 1998 (link to research paper at the end of the article). The main discovery of this research paper is that there is too many web pages and there was no objective way to filter search results for quality in order to rank web pages for a subjective idea of relevance.

The author of the research paper discovered that links could be used as an objective filter for authoritativeness.

Kleinberg wrote:

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“To provide effective search methods under these conditions, one needs a way to filter, from among a huge collection of relevant pages, a small set of the most “authoritative” or ‘definitive’ ones.”

This is the most influential research paper on links because it kick-started more research on ways to use links beyond as an authority metric but as a subjective metric for relevance.

Objective is something factual. Subjective is something that’s closer to an opinion. The founders of Google discovered how to use the subjective opinions of the Internet as a relevance metric for what to rank in the search results.

What Larry Page and Sergey Brin discovered and shared in their research paper (The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – link at end of this article) was that it was possible to harness the power of anchor text to determine the subjective opinion of relevance from actual humans. It was essentially crowdsourcing the opinions of millions of website expressed through the link structure between each webpage.

What Did Gary Illyes Say About Links In 2024?

At a recent search conference in Bulgaria, Google’s Gary Illyes made a comment about how Google doesn’t really need that many links and how Google has made links less important.

Patrick Stox tweeted about what he heard at the search conference:

” ‘We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.’ @methode #serpconf2024″

Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted a confirmation of that statement:

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“I shouldn’t have said that… I definitely shouldn’t have said that”

Why Links Matter Less

The initial state of anchor text when Google first used links for ranking purposes was absolutely non-spammy, which is why it was so useful. Hyperlinks were primarily used as a way to send traffic from one website to another website.

But by 2004 or 2005 Google was using statistical analysis to detect manipulated links, then around 2004 “powered-by” links in website footers stopped passing anchor text value, and by 2006 links close to the words “advertising” stopped passing link value, links from directories stopped passing ranking value and by 2012 Google deployed a massive link algorithm called Penguin that destroyed the rankings of likely millions of websites, many of which were using guest posting.

The link signal eventually became so bad that Google decided in 2019 to selectively use nofollow links for ranking purposes. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the change to nofollow was made because of the link signal.

Google Explicitly Confirms That Links Matter Less

In 2023 Google’s Gary Illyes shared at a PubCon Austin that links were not even in the top 3 of ranking factors. Then in March 2024, coinciding with the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update, Google updated their spam policies documentation to downplay the importance of links for ranking purposes.

Google March 2024 Core Update: 4 Changes To Link Signal

The documentation previously said:

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“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

The update to the documentation that mentioned links was updated to remove the word important.

Links are not just listed as just another factor:

“Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

At the beginning of April Google’s John Mueller advised that there are more useful SEO activities to engage on than links.

Mueller explained:

“There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time doing things that don’t make your website better overall”

Finally, Gary Illyes explicitly said that Google needs very few links to rank webpages and confirmed it.

Why Google Doesn’t Need Links

The reason why Google doesn’t need many links is likely because of the extent of AI and natural language undertanding that Google uses in their algorithms. Google must be highly confident in its algorithm to be able to explicitly say that they don’t need it.

Way back when Google implemented the nofollow into the algorithm there were many link builders who sold comment spam links who continued to lie that comment spam still worked. As someone who started link building at the very beginning of modern SEO (I was the moderator of the link building forum at the #1 SEO forum of that time), I can say with confidence that links have stopped playing much of a role in rankings beginning several years ago, which is why I stopped about five or six years ago.

Read the research papers

Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment – Jon M. Kleinberg (PDF)

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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