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A Simple (But Complete) Guide



A Simple (But Complete) Guide

There’s much more to marketing your music than just promoting it to your fans.

Every band, solo artist, songwriter, producer, record label, venue, and promoter should have a firm grasp of the four Ps—product, price, promotion, and place (distribution)—if they want their music to succeed.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to use marketing to reach your music goals in seven steps. 

But first, let’s address the basics.

For this, let’s adapt the AMA definition of marketing. Music marketing is the act and process of creating, sharing, delivering, and exchanging music offerings that have value to customers, fans, or partners.

So let’s break down this definition.

  1. Creating – Marketing is about creating music products (which you’re doing already).
  2. Communicating and sharing – Marketing is telling people about your music. “The best thing about doing something you love is sharing it with someone who loves it too.” – Eric Prydz
  3. Delivering – Marketing is about delivering music to fans and customers.
  4. Exchanging music offerings – Your music gives fans value; in exchange, they provide you with value by consuming or buying your music.

How your role in music influences your approach to marketing

Accordingly to Spotify, of the 8 million people who have uploaded music to its platform, 5.4 million have published fewer than 10 songs. This data suggests that they may be new to music, approaching music as a side project, or not leveraging streaming.

Around 165,000 artists have released at least 10 songs, and 199,000 have had a gig or live concert.

Of these 165,000 to 199,000 artists, 25% earn more than $10,000 from Spotify streaming and $40,000 or more in total revenue.

Published on Spotify Musician status Number Percentage
At least one song New to music 8 million
Fewer than 10 songs Hobbyist, side project 5.4 million 67.5%
10 or more songs Aspiring, not leveraging streaming or music career 165,000 2%
Earning over $10K from Spotify Earners drawing streaming and concert income 41,250 1%

While this is how Spotify identifies musicians, you may identify yourself as a:

  1. Band.
  2. Solo artist.
  3. Songwriter/composer.
  4. Record producer.
  5. Music venue.
  6. Combination of the above.

No matter where you are in your music career, author Steven Pressfield sums up the artist’s way:

There is no worse feeling for a writer or any artist than to see their book, their film, their comedy, their music go out there and die. Or worse, go out into the world and nobody even knows they exist. I’ve experienced it more than once and it’s heartbreaking.

Seven steps to achieving your music marketing goals

Follow these seven steps to nail your music marketing.

Step 1. Create or decide your product

All marketing starts with a product, even if it’s just one song.

In traditional marketing, you look out at the market, see how big it is, what it wants, and how your product is different.

But you can’t think of your product in the same way as a Tesla car or cornflakes.

The product comes from within for the artist or musician. You need to listen to your inner voice and figure out what you want to bring into the world.


Here are some examples to help you understand what I mean by a “product.”

A song or album

You create a song; a single release is a product.

You have three or four demos sitting in Ableton; that’s an EP in the making. 

The album you released last year to critical acclaim is a product—so is the proposed remix album you are considering.

A gig, DJ set, or tour

A one-off gig or DJ set is a product. Extend those gigs into a series, and you have a tour, which is another product.


When Carly Paradis was commissioned to create the soundtrack for “The Rising” TV series, she created a product.

Caleb Murphy licensed a song to the TV series “Chicago Fire,” and over 76% of his music income came from sync licensing.

Distribution of music income for Caleb Murphy's song
Source: Musician With A Day Job.

Get a synchronization license that allows someone to use your songs in commercials, videos, games, or even YouTube videos.

An exclusive sync license lets one party use your song, while a non-exclusive sync license lets an unlimited number of people use your music.


Different types of merchandise, such as clothing, vinyl, and CDs, are products.

Go to most concerts, and you’ll see T-shirts, hats, and other artist merchandising.

You don’t need a massive fanbase like New Order or Depeche Mode to sell merchandise. Spanish musician Henry Saiz sells a small collection of products on Bandcamp.

Record production

The production of a song or album is a product, whether you are paid a flat fee or negotiate a percentage of ongoing royalties.


Music on streaming platforms, such as Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Spotify, is considered a product.

Session musician

A session musician is a person who plays music for a band, orchestra, etc., and is only needed to play a particular song or performance; a session is a product.

Artists like Clare Uchima tour with artists like Harry Styles, Pet Shop Boys, Kate Tempest, and others as session musicians while having their own music and merchandising.

Legal stuff

Make sure you take care of your products’ copyrights, trademarks, and registrations. Talk to a lawyer, record label representative, and other musicians.

Here are some valuable resources and links:

After creating or deciding on your product, move on to the next step.

Step 2. Decide your pricing/income streams

Pricing is what people will pay for your product, and it should be linked to the real and perceived value of the product you offer.

For example, early birds pay a lower fee at this concert in Seattle.

Example of lower early bird ticket prices

You can differentiate product value by using tiered pricing, such as standard, premium, and VIP tickets.

In most cases, musicians work with third parties, and everyone shares revenue.

The 15/85 rule for concerts and gigs

A good rule of thumb for artists and concert tickets is the 15/85 rule.

That means 15% of the gig income is for you; 85% is spent on agents, the venue, promotion, travel, accommodation, and other musicians.

If you are an unknown or new band, many venues will work on a revenue share with you. You promote and sell tickets to your gig, and they get a cut and all the bar and drinks revenue.

Streaming pricing

Spotify determines the price per play or stream.

Here’s the estimated revenue for a band with 600,000 streams of its songs.

But remember, there are more streaming platforms than Spotify. You can use this calculator to work out your streaming income.

Streaming income calculator

You may earn more if you release the edited version of a single or album for free on Spotify:

Free album on Spotify

Then sell the extended versions on another platform such as Beatport:

Beatport platform


Producers’ fees can vary considerably, but these examples illustrate some common scenarios:

  • Studio – $600 per day
  • Mixing – $300 per song
  • Mastering – $70 per song
  • Production – $350 per song (plus royalties)
Producer on SoundBetter
Source: SoundBetter.


According to Spotify, the most popular types of merchandise across all music genres are:

  1. Vinyl
  2. Shirts
  3. CDs
  4. Other
  5. Hats
  6. Outerwear
  7. Accessories
Spotify's stats on merch

Artists and labels can use Merchbar to sell more merchandise directly or through channels like Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, and their own websites.

Merchbar manages the products, orders, payments, deliveries, and returns. But you can sell merch on Spotify as well:

Alternatively, add your merchandise to Bandcamp.

Session musician

According to the ​U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics​, session musicians roughly earn these amounts:

  • Median annual salary: $58,552 ($28.15/hour)
  • Top 10% annual salary: $152,547 ($73.34/hour)
  • Bottom 10% annual salary: $21,632 ($10.40/hour)

By now, you should know which products you can create and which prices and income streams they’re worth.

Now it’s time to set a goal.

Step 3. Set a goal

If you have a clear goal, you can structure your marketing efforts to reach that goal efficiently.

If you’ve published one song on Spotify and only have a few hundred listeners or followers, your goal may be to get 10,000 streams of your song.

That’s an achievable goal.

Or consider the 1,000 True Fans strategy: For example, you have 1,000 fans. Each fan spends $50 a year on your products. That equates to $50,000 revenue per annum.

But let’s say the goal is a mini tour of eight gigs.

So eight gigs x 500 tickets sold per gig x $20 per ticket = $80,000.

And 15% of that is $12,000. That’s fine for a solo artist or DJ, but remember that revenue is shared among band members.

If you’re one of the millions who have added fewer than 10 songs to Spotify, you may have other goals, such as:

  • Securing one tour as a session musician with a band.
  • Earning one commission for a soundtrack or video game.
  • Booking four other musicians into your production studio per month.

You should have multiple goals when it comes to releasing and streaming your music because it will eventually grow your reputation and fan base in the long run. But don’t forget to have another product with a more immediate revenue stream.

What now?

Step 4. Choose the places to distribute your product

There are many places to distribute your music or product so that it can be played, heard, seen, and/or purchased.

Here’s an overview of key places to distribute each product type and links to relevant resources and guides.

Product Key places to distribute product
Single or album – Spotify
– Apple Music
– YouTube
– SoundCloud
– Bandcamp
– Tunecore, CDBaby, or EmuBands to distribute music to 100/150 other places
Gigs or concerts –
– Google search (Bandsintown widget)
– Facebook Events
– Spotify gig listing
– Your website
Merchandise Amazon for artists
– Your website
Licensing CD Baby music licensing service
– YouTube Content ID – license to YouTube
– Music licensing companies
– Personal networking with music supervisors
– Networking with filmmakers
– Networking with video game companies
Use a music licensing agent
Production/session musician – Personal networking
– Google search results
– Music production marketplaces such as SoundBetter and AirGigs
– Booking platforms such as Encore and GigSalad

Some of these places provide the ability to stream your music, list your gigs, and sell your merchandise, e.g., Spotify.

Next, you need to promote your products to reach your goals.

Step 5. Create promotional campaigns

Promotion is the tactics used to tell people about your product and encourage them to notice it and take action.

Your promotional campaign consists of pre-launch announcements, the launch, and post-launch activities.

Here’s how Vivrant launched its compilation album.

Album launch post from Vivrant
Source: Vivrant.
  • March 2 – Announce album; save and preview track #1 using fan links
  • March 4 – Launch track #1 on Spotify and link to all streams
  • March 7 – Spotify playlist appearance
  • March 9 – Announce track #2; preview on SoundCloud with partner and link to all streams
  • March 11 – Launch track #2 and link to all streams
  • March 17 – Announce track #3; preview on SoundCloud with partner and link to all streams
  • March 18 – Launch track #3 and link to all streams
  • March 24 – Announce track #4; preview on SoundCloud with partner and link to all streams
  • March 24 – Spotify playlist appearance
  • March 25 – Launch track #4 and link to all streams
  • March 25 – Track #4 appears on an Apple Music playlist
  • March 31 – Announce track #5; preview on SoundCloud with partner and link to all streams
  • April 1 – Launch track #5 and link to all streams
  • April 18 – interview about the album
  • April 20 – SoundCloud mix features album songs
  • April 25 – Spotify playlist appearance

Planning for this event would have begun months before the first date mentioned above, and some larger venues plan events a year in advance.

Songkick provides the tools for artists, managers, venues, and booking agents to list and promote their live events and notify fans to promote pre-sales.

You can use tools like ToneDen to allow fans to pre-save or pre-add songs to their streaming platforms so that they can listen to or buy them on the release date.


Your website should be the focus of your promotional efforts.

First, you’ll need a logo, color scheme, fonts, and photography.

Your best bet is on low-effort and low-cost website builders like Bandzoogle, Wix, or GeneratePress (customize the “Solo” template).

Bandzoogle website builder

The website should have the following sections:

  1. Your music (or equipment)
  2. Previous and forthcoming gigs or events
  3. Press kit and images
  4. Videos
  5. Biography
  6. Contact form or “subscribe” button

Once you’re done with the website, you should make sure that it’s well optimized for both users and search engines. To do that, add the website to Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, which will analyze and monitor everything for you for free.

Search traffic

Depending on the type of musician and product you sell, you may want to develop content beyond these essentials.

For example, a mixing engineer or producer may want to communicate their experience or expertise by writing articles or guides to help secure a solo artist or band as a client.

And there’s quite a lot of content that can be covered. For example, this website has pages about home studio setup, DIY vocal booth, how to master a song, how to make an album, etc.

Its 1,000+ pages drive almost 80,000 monthly visits from Google:

Top pages by traffic in Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Top pages report from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

King Tuts, a renowned music venue in Glasgow, generates nearly 10% of its search traffic from its artist profile pages.

Example of an artist profile page

So when fans search for a band, King Tuts shows up near the top of Google’s search results, promoting the venue, band, and ticket sales.

Email marketing

Your website and social channels should have a contact or subscription form to capture the email address of fans (or potential customers) who can receive advance notifications and news from you.

Email platforms, such as Mailchimp and ConvertKit, allow musicians to create a free-of-charge mailing list of 2,000 and 1,000 people, respectively.

Here’s an email from Liam Gallagher to pre-order tickets and an album months in advance of the release.

Ticket pre-order email

The first thing you see on Ushuaia’s website is a subscription form: “Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the most updated information on the DJs of the season.”

Newsletter opt-in example

In addition, you can add links to your subscription form from your social media profiles using tools such as Linktree or ToneDen smart links.

Social media

If you haven’t done so already, set up the following social media accounts:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • SoundCloud
  • Bandcamp
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
  • Spotify

Of course, take into account your listeners. TikTok will likely be a waste of time if you have a predominantly older audience.

You or your team can use Canva’s templates to design images and videos and then publish them to your social media channels.

Press kit

An electronic press kit is a collection of information about you or your band, including your logo, photographs, contact details, social media links, and any other relevant content.

A press kit is great for music journalists who use it when writing articles or doing features about you.

The ideal place to store a press kit is on your website.

Press kit example

Spotify for artists

Spotify is built for artists, and you can use it to promote your songs, gigs, or merchandise.

  1. Add music to Spotify
  2. Pitch to playlist editors
  3. Add or manage your profile
  4. Add your gigs and events
  5. Add promo cards
  6. Add merchandise to Spotify
Spotify Promo Card


Search for any artist or band and, in most cases, the top result is a Wikipedia page.

Wikipedia is the top result for many artists

Getting a Wikipedia page is difficult for most businesses, but it should be easier for artists who already have some coverage and history.

Recommended reading: How to Create a Wikipedia Page (Step by Step)

Pitch to journalists

An essential part of promotion is to pitch products or stories to relevant journalists so that they can feature such content in their publications or websites.

For example, here’s a new musician featured in DJ Mag who played a live set from an abandoned concrete plant in Sweden.

News article about a band's livestream from an abandoned concrete plant

This event was “pitched” to promote his new EP.

So how do you find journalists?

1. Find journalists

Use Ahrefs’ Content Explorer to identify journalists for your genre of music, e.g., rock.

Enter this search query:

alternative rock” OR “alt rock” OR “indie rock” OR “stoner rock” OR “psych rock” OR “surf rock” OR “post rock”

Searching for journalists who write about your genre of music in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

You’ll then see a list of potential journalists to contact under the “Authors” tab.

Searching for journalists in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Or you can find journalists who write about new music. I looked up the following query:

track of the day” OR “track of the week” OR “new music roundup” OR “music roundup” OR “new music Friday”

Searching for journalists who write about new music in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Again, when you click the “Authors” tab, you can view journalists or bloggers who write about new music, their Twitter addresses, and how many followers they have.

Relevant journalists and authors in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

In this example, I discovered Georgia Murphy had written 293 articles on her website about new songs and musicians. She shares them with her 43,171 Twitter followers.

Example of a music journalist's website

2. Filter and export list

Filter your contact list by using the filters available and then export it.

3. Find email addresses

Use an email look-up service, such as Hunter, to identify the addresses of the journalists you found.

Finding email addresses with Hunter

4. Pitch your idea

Here’s how to pitch your idea to a music journalist.

  1. Your idea doesn’t need to be as elaborate as a DJ set in a Swedish warehouse, but it does need to stand out.
  2. You should include links to your press kit with material about your “pitch.”
  3. Then do one email follow-up if you don’t get a response or deliver your idea to those who do respond.

Getting featured by journalists isn’t that easy, but the above should give you an idea of the process.


Pitching playlists is another way to promote your music.

Use a service like Repost by SoundCloud to promote playlists to editors at Apple Music and other platforms like Tidal, Deezer, Beatport, and Amazon Music.

Or follow these steps to pitch a Spotify playlist:

Promote your songs with mixes

Promote your product well in advance of the release date by featuring the new song in a mix.

For example, this SoundCloud mix includes two new songs from Molo’s forthcoming EP and was published on SoundCloud less than 48 hours ago (as of when this article was written). Since then, there have been 1,481 plays and 45 reposts.

SoundCloud Mix

Pitch for placements

Caleb Murphy outlines the steps to pitch your songs for film and television placements to licensing agents.

  1. Register or log in at
  2. Submit a song (and instrumental version) you have performed, produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered
  3. Provide song details
  4. Repeat

Booking platforms and marketplaces

Specific booking platforms and marketplaces, such as SaladGig, Upwork, SoundBetter, and The Bash, are where you can find projects.

After registering, follow these steps:

  1. Profile: write a bio describing how you’re different from others and can solve their problems
  2. Respond to inquiries quickly
  3. Follow up via email, call, or text
  4. Add a free gift or a guide with your quote
  5. Use anchor pricing to propose higher- and lower-price options

Spotify Marquee

Spotify Marquee is a paid service to help you promote your music to the right audience, increasing listeners and playlist adds.

Spotify Marquee

Promote your concerts and gigs

To promote your events, concerts, and gigs on Facebook and Instagram, follow these steps using ToneDen:

  • Events are pulled from your ticketing platform.
  • An audience visiting specific music event pages is created.
  • People interested in an event are targeted with an advert for that specific event.
Promoting gigs via ToneDen

Step 6. Measure and review

Let’s say your goal was to sell out tickets to eight venues. But you only secured four venues, and they are 50% full.

Most online platforms will provide you with audience statistics, e.g., followers, streams, ticket sales, orders, etc., that you can review.

SoundCloud statistics
Source: SoundCloud.

Review the previous steps. Then discuss what did and didn’t work with your team or colleagues.

Step 7. Repeat

So let’s say you published your first song on Spotify, followed the above steps, then measured the results.

Now repeat the steps with your next product, which can be extending the first song into a full album.

Or you released an album and decided the next product is a nationwide tour.

Marketing is a continuous loop of going over product, price, goal, distribution, and promotion.

Use our music marketing campaign template

I’ve created this simple music marketing template with examples you can use as a guide. You can make your own copy here

Product Price Goal Place Promote
Single or album release $0 – $13.99 Get published – Spotify
– SoundCloud
– Apple Music
– Bandcamp
– Or use a distribution service like
– Spotify
– Social media
– Email list
– Playlist
– Mixes
– Advertising
Live tour $20 ticket revenue share Get eight venues booked – Venue #1
– Venue #2
– Venue #3
– Venue #4
– Venue #5
– Venue #6
– Venue #7
– Venue #8
– Etc
– Create gig graphics and videos
– Announce dates
– Email list
– Add venue links to the website
– Work with the venue’s promotion staff
– Social media
– Advertising
Merchandise $25 per item 500 units – Your website
– Your events
– Amazon for artists
– Spotify
– Merchbar
– Bandcamp
– Google search engine
– Email subscriber
– Promo code
– Use FOMO
– Upsell
– Advertising
– Table at live events
Licensing License four songs $10,000 per annum – Licensing
CD Baby music licensing service
– YouTube Content ID
– Music licensing companies, such as Music Bed, Music Vine, etc
– Personal networking with music supervisors
– Networking with filmmakers
– Networking with video game companies
– Use a music licensing agent
– Publish music on SoundBetter
– Add music to other licensing sites
Record production See price guide Produce one band’s album – Personal networking
– Your website
– Social media
– Industry events
– Various marketplaces and booking platforms
– Publish your own productions and sounds
– Collaborate with other artists and promote
– Publish content frequently to the website and social media platforms
– Tour (as a support act)
– Search, find, and bid on booking platforms and marketplaces

Final thoughts

Music marketing is a lot like any other marketing: start with your product, determine the pricing, set a goal, and use the suggested distribution channels and promotional methods to promote your product.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to creating success for your music.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile




How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile

Search is evolving at an incredible pace and new features, formats, and even new search engines are popping up within the space.

Google’s algorithm still prioritizes backlinks when ranking websites. If you want your website to be visible in search results, you must account for backlinks and your backlink profile.

A healthy backlink profile requires a diverse backlink profile.

In this guide, we’ll examine how to build and maintain a diverse backlink profile that powers your website’s search performance.

What Does A Healthy Backlink Profile Look Like?

As Google states in its guidelines, it primarily crawls pages through links from other pages linked to your pages, acquired through promotion and naturally over time.

In practice, a healthy backlink profile can be divided into three main areas: the distribution of link types, the mix of anchor text, and the ratio of followed to nofollowed links.

Let’s look at these areas and how they should look within a healthy backlink profile.

Distribution Of Link Types

One aspect of your backlink profile that needs to be diversified is link types.

It looks unnatural to Google to have predominantly one kind of link in your profile, and it also indicates that you’re not diversifying your content strategy enough.

Some of the various link types you should see in your backlink profile include:

  • Anchor text links.
  • Image links.
  • Redirect links.
  • Canonical links.

Here is an example of the breakdown of link types at my company, Whatfix (via Semrush):

Screenshot from Semrush, May 2024

Most links should be anchor text links and image links, as these are the most common ways to link on the web, but you should see some of the other types of links as they are picked up naturally over time.

Mix Of Anchor Text

Next, ensure your backlink profile has an appropriate anchor text variance.

Again, if you overoptimize for a specific type of anchor text, it will appear suspicious to search engines like Google and could have negative repercussions.

Here are the various types of anchor text you might find in your backlink profile:

  • Branded anchor text – Anchor text that is your brand name or includes your brand name.
  • Empty – Links that have no anchor text.
  • Naked URLs – Anchor text that is a URL (e.g.,
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that exactly matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., blue shoes).
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that partially or closely matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., “comfortable blue footwear options”).
  • Generic anchor text – Anchor text such as “this website” or “here.”

To maintain a healthy backlink profile, aim for a mix of anchor text within a similar range to this:

  • Branded anchor text – 35-40%.
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – 15-20%.
  • Generic anchor text -10-15%.
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – 5-10%.
  • Naked URLs – 5-10%.
  • Empty – 3-5%.

This distribution of anchor text represents a natural mix of differing anchor texts. It is common for the majority of anchors to be branded or partially branded because most sites that link to your site will default to your brand name when linking. It also makes sense that the following most common anchors would be partial-match keywords or generic anchor text because these are natural choices within the context of a web page.

Exact-match anchor text is rare because it only happens when you are the best resource for a specific term, and the site owner knows your page exists.

Ratio Of Followed Vs. Nofollowed Backlinks

Lastly, you should monitor the ratio of followed vs. nofollowed links pointing to your website.

If you need a refresher on what nofollowed backlinks are or why someone might apply the nofollow tag to a link pointing to your site, check out Google’s guide on how to qualify outbound links to Google.

Nofollow attributes should only be applied to paid links or links pointing to a site the linking site doesn’t trust.

While it is not uncommon or suspicious to have some nofollow links (people misunderstand the purpose of the nofollow attribute all the time), a healthy backlink profile will have far more followed links.

You should aim for a ratio of 80%:20% or 70%:30% in favor of followed links. For example, here is what the followed vs. nofollowed ratio looks like for my company’s backlink profile (according to Ahrefs):

Referring domainsScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2024

You may see links with other rel attributes, such as UGC or Sponsored.

The “UGC” attribute tags links from user-generated content, while the “Sponsored” attribute tags links from sponsored or paid sources. These attributes are slightly different than the nofollow tag, but they essentially work the same way, letting Google know these links aren’t trusted or endorsed by the linking site. You can simply group these links in with nofollowed links when calculating your ratio.

Importance Of Diversifying Your Backlink Profile

So why is it important to diversify your backlink profile anyway? Well, there are three main reasons you should consider:

  • Avoiding overoptimization.
  • Diversifying traffic sources.
  • And finding new audiences.

Let’s dive into each of these.

Avoiding Overoptimization

First and foremost, diversifying your backlink profile is the best way to protect yourself from overoptimization and the damaging penalties that can come with it.

As SEO pros, our job is to optimize websites to improve performance, but overoptimizing in any facet of our strategy – backlinks, keywords, structure, etc. – can result in penalties that limit visibility within search results.

In the previous section, we covered the elements of a healthy backlink profile. If you stray too far from that model, your site might look suspicious to search engines like Google and you could be handed a manual or algorithmic penalty, suppressing your rankings in search.

Considering how regularly Google updates its search algorithm these days (and how little information surrounds those updates), you could see your performance tank and have no idea why.

This is why it’s so important to keep a watchful eye on your backlink profile and how it’s shaping up.

Diversifying Traffic Sources

Another reason to cultivate a diverse backlink profile is to ensure you’re diversifying your traffic sources.

Google penalties come swiftly and can often be a surprise. If you have all your eggs in that basket when it comes to traffic, your site will suffer badly and might need help to recover.

However, diversifying your traffic sources (search, social, email, etc.) will mitigate risk – similar to a stock portfolio – as you’ll have other traffic sources to provide a steady flow of visitors if another source suddenly dips.

Part of building a diverse backlink profile is acquiring a diverse set of backlinks and backlink types, and this strategy will also help you find differing and varied sources of traffic.

Finding New Audiences

Finally, building a diverse backlink profile is essential, as doing so will also help you discover new audiences.

If you acquire links from the same handful of websites and platforms, you will need help expanding your audience and building awareness for your website.

While it’s important to acquire links from sites that cater to your existing audience, you should also explore ways to build links that can tap into new audiences. The best way to do this is by casting a wide net with various link acquisition tactics and strategies.

A diverse backlink profile indicates a varied approach to SEO and marketing that will help bring new visitors and awareness to your site.

Building A Diverse Backlink Profile

So that you know what a healthy backlink profile looks like and why it’s important to diversify, how do you build diversity into your site’s backlink profile?

This comes down to your link acquisition strategy and the types of backlinks you actively pursue. To guide your strategy, let’s break link building into three main categories:

  • Foundational links.
  • Content promotion.
  • Community involvement.

Here’s how to approach each area.

Foundational Links

Foundational links represent those links that your website simply should have. These are opportunities where a backlink would exist if all sites were known to all site owners.

Some examples of foundational links include:

  • Mentions – Websites that mention your brand in some way (brand name, product, employees, proprietary data, etc.) on their website but don’t link.
  • Partners – Websites that belong to real-world partners or companies you connect with offline and should also connect (link) with online.
  • Associations or groups – Websites for offline associations or groups you belong to where your site should be listed with a link.
  • Sponsorships – Any events or organizations your company sponsors might have websites that could (and should) link to your site.
  • Sites that link to competitors – If a website is linking to a competitor, there is a strong chance it would make sense for them to link to your site as well.

These link opportunities should set the foundation for your link acquisition efforts.

As the baseline for your link building strategy, you should start by exhausting these opportunities first to ensure you’re not missing highly relevant links to bolster your backlink profile.

Content Promotion

Next, consider content promotion as a strategy for building a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

Content promotion is much more proactive than the foundational link acquisition mentioned above. You must manifest the opportunity by creating link-worthy content rather than simply capitalizing on an existing opportunity.

Some examples of content promotion for links are:

  • Digital PR – Digital PR campaigns have numerous benefits and goals beyond link acquisition, but backlinks should be a primary KPI.
  • Original research – Similar to digital PR, original research should focus on providing valuable data to your audience. Still, you should also make sure any citations or references to your research are correctly linked.
  • Guest content – Whether regular columns or one-off contributions, providing guest content to websites is still a viable link acquisition strategy – when done right. The best way to gauge your guest content strategy is to ask yourself if you would still write the content for a site without guaranteeing a backlink, knowing you’ll still build authority and get your message in front of a new audience.
  • Original imagery – Along with research and data, if your company creates original imagery that offers unique value, you should promote those images and ask for citation links.

Content promotion is a viable avenue for building a healthy backlink profile as long as the content you’re promoting is worthy of links.

Community Involvement

Community involvement is the final piece of your link acquisition puzzle when building a diverse backlink profile.

After pursuing all foundational opportunities and manually promoting your content, you should ensure your brand is active and represented in all the spaces and communities where your audience engages.

In terms of backlinks, this could mean:

  • Wikipedia links – Wikipedia gets over 4 billion monthly visits, so backlinks here can bring significant referral traffic to your site. However, acquiring these links is difficult as these pages are moderated closely, and your site will only be linked if it is legitimately a top resource on the web.
  • Forums (Reddit, Quora, etc.) – Another great place to get backlinks that drive referral traffic is forums like Reddit and Quora. Again, these forums are strictly moderated, and earning link placements on these sites requires a page that delivers significant and unique value to a specific audience.
  • Social platforms – Social media platforms and groups represent communities where your brand should be active and engaged. While these strategies are likely handled by other teams outside SEO and focus on different metrics, you should still be intentional about converting these interactions into links when or where possible.
  • Offline events – While it may seem counterintuitive to think of offline events as a potential source for link acquisition, legitimate link opportunities exist here. After all, most businesses, brands, and people you interact with at these events also have websites, and networking can easily translate to online connections in the form of links.

While most of the link opportunities listed above will have the nofollow link attribute due to the nature of the sites associated with them, they are still valuable additions to your backlink profile as these are powerful, trusted domains.

These links help diversify your traffic sources by bringing substantial referral traffic, and that traffic is highly qualified as these communities share your audience.

How To Avoid Developing A Toxic Backlink Profile

Now that you’re familiar with the link building strategies that can help you cultivate a healthy, diverse backlink profile, let’s discuss what you should avoid.

As mentioned before, if you overoptimize one strategy or link, it can seem suspicious to search engines and cause your site to receive a penalty. So, how do you avoid filling your backlink profile with toxic links?

Remember The “Golden Rule” Of Link Building

One simple way to guide your link acquisition strategy and avoid running afoul of search engines like Google is to follow one “golden rule.”

That rule is to ask yourself: If search engines like Google didn’t exist, and the only way people could navigate the web was through backlinks, would you want your site to have a link on the prospective website?

Thinking this way strips away all the tactical, SEO-focused portions of the equation and only leaves the human elements of linking where two sites are linked because it makes sense and makes the web easier to navigate.

Avoid Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Another good rule is to avoid looping your site into private blog networks (PBNs). Of course, it’s not always obvious or easy to spot a PBN.

However, there are some common traits or red flags you can look for, such as:

  • The person offering you a link placement mentions they have a list of domains they can share.
  • The prospective linking site has little to no traffic and doesn’t appear to have human engagement (blog comments, social media followers, blog views, etc.).
  • The website features thin content and little investment into user experience (UX) and design.
  • The website covers generic topics and categories, catering to any and all audiences.
  • Pages on the site feature numerous external links but only some internal links.
  • The prospective domain’s backlink profile features overoptimization in any of the previously discussed forms (high-density of exact match anchor text, abnormal ratio of nofollowed links, only one or two link types, etc.).

Again, diversification – in both tactics and strategies – is crucial to building a healthy backlink profile, but steering clear of obvious PBNs and remembering the ‘golden rule’ of link building will go a long way toward keeping your profile free from toxicity.

Evaluating Your Backlink Profile

As you work diligently to build and maintain a diverse, healthy backlink profile, you should also carve out time to evaluate it regularly from a more analytical perspective.

There are two main ways to evaluate the merit of your backlinks: leverage tools to analyze backlinks and compare your backlink profile to the greater competitive landscape.

Leverage Tools To Analyze Backlink Profile

There are a variety of third-party tools you can use to analyze your backlink profile.

These tools can provide helpful insights, such as the total number of backlinks and referring domains. You can use these tools to analyze your full profile, broken down by:

  • Followed vs. nofollowed.
  • Authority metrics (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Backlink types.
  • Location or country.
  • Anchor text.
  • Top-level domain types.
  • And more.

You can also use these tools to track new incoming backlinks, as well as lost backlinks, to help you better understand how your backlink profile is growing.

Some of the best tools for analyzing your backlink profile are:

Many of these tools also have features that estimate how toxic or suspicious your profile might look to search engines, which can help you detect potential issues early.

Compare Your Backlink Profile To The Competitive Landscape

Lastly, you should compare your overall backlink profile to those of your competitors and those competing with your site in the search results.

Again, the previously mentioned tools can help with this analysis – as far as providing you with the raw numbers – but the key areas you should compare are:

  • Total number of backlinks.
  • Total number of referring domains.
  • Breakdown of authority metrics of links (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Authority metrics of competing domains.
  • Link growth over the last two years.

Comparing your backlink profile to others within your competitive landscape will help you assess where your domain currently stands and provide insight into how far you must go if you’re lagging behind competitors.

It’s worth noting that it’s not as simple as whoever has the most backlinks will perform the best in search.

These numbers are typically solid indicators of how search engines gauge the authority of your competitors’ domains, and you’ll likely find a correlation between strong backlink profiles and strong search performance.

Approach Link Building With A User-First Mindset

The search landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace and we could see dramatic shifts in how people search within the next five years (or sooner).

However, at this time, search engines like Google still rely on backlinks as part of their ranking algorithms, and you need to cultivate a strong backlink profile to be visible in search.

Furthermore, if you follow the advice in this article as you build out your profile, you’ll acquire backlinks that benefit your site regardless of search algorithms, futureproofing your traffic sources.

Approach link acquisition like you would any other marketing endeavor – with a customer-first mindset – and over time, you’ll naturally build a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

More resources: 

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Google On Traffic Diversity As A Ranking Factor




Google answers the question of whether traffic diversity is a ranking factor for SEO

Google’s SearchLiaison tweeted encouragement to diversify traffic sources, being clear about the reason he was recommending it. Days later, someone followed up to ask if traffic diversity is a ranking factor, prompting SearchLiaison to reiterate that it is not.

What Was Said

The question of whether diversity of traffic was a ranking factor was elicited from a previous tweet in a discussion about whether a site owner should be focusing on off-site promotion.

Here’s the question from the original discussion that was tweeted:

“Can you please tell me if I’m doing right by focusing on my site and content – writing new articles to be found through search – or if I should be focusing on some off-site effort related to building a readership? It’s frustrating to see traffic go down the more effort I put in.”

SearchLiaison split the question into component parts and answered each one. When it came to the part about off-site promotion, SearchLiaison (who is Danny Sullivan), shared from his decades of experience as a journalist and publisher covering technology and search marketing.

I’m going to break down his answer so that it’s clearer what he meant

This is the part from the tweet that talks about off-site activities:

“As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.”

What he is saying here is simple, don’t limit your thinking about what to do with your site to thinking about how to make it appeal to Google.

He next explains that sites that rank tend to be sites that are created to appeal to people.

SearchLiaison continued:

“Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.”

What he’s saying there is that you’ll know that you’re appealing to people if people are discussing your site in social media, if people are referring the site in social media and if other sites are citing it with links.

Other ways to know that a site is doing well is when when people engage in the comments section, send emails asking follow up questions, and send emails of thanks and share anecdotes of their success or satisfaction with a product or advice.

Consider this, fast fashion site Shein at one point didn’t rank for their chosen keyword phrases, I know because I checked out of curiosity. But they were at the time virally popular and making huge amounts of sales by gamifying site interaction and engagement, propelling them to become a global brand. A similar strategy propelled Zappos when they pioneered no-questions asked returns and cheerful customer service.

SearchLiaison continued:

“It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that’s what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people.”

SearchLiaison explicitly said that building sites with diversified content is not a ranking factor.

He added this caveat to his tweet:

“This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things).”

Despite The Caveat…

A journalist tweeted this:

“Earlier this week, @searchliaison told people to diversify their traffic. Naturally, people started questioning whether that meant diversity of traffic was a ranking factor.

So, I asked @iPullRank what he thought.”

SearchLiaison of course answered that he explicitly said it’s not a ranking factor and linked to his original tweet that I quoted above.

He tweeted:

“I mean that’s not exactly what I myself said, but rather repeat all that I’ll just add the link to what I did say:”

The journalist responded:

“I would say this is calling for publishers to diversify their traffic since you’re saying the great sites do it. It’s the right advice to give.”

And SearchLiaison answered:

“It’s the part of “does it matter for rankings” that I was making clear wasn’t what I myself said. Yes, I think that’s a generally good thing, but it’s not the only thing or the magic thing.”

Not Everything Is About Ranking Factors

There is a longstanding practice by some SEOs to parse everything that Google publishes for clues to how Google’s algorithm works. This happened with the Search Quality Raters guidelines. Google is unintentionally complicit because it’s their policy to (in general) not confirm whether or not something is a ranking factor.

This habit of searching for “ranking factors” leads to misinformation. It takes more acuity to read research papers and patents to gain a general understanding of how information retrieval works but it’s more work to try to understand something than skimming a PDF for ranking papers.

The worst approach to understanding search is to invent hypotheses about how Google works and then pore through a document to confirm those guesses (and falling into the confirmation bias trap).

In the end, it may be more helpful to back off of exclusively optimizing for Google and focus at least equally as much in optimizing for people (which includes optimizing for traffic). I know it works because I’ve been doing it for years.

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The Complete Guide to Google My Business for Local SEO



The Complete Guide to Google My Business

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that business owners can use to manage their online presence across Google Search and Google Maps.

This profile also puts out important business details, such as address, phone number, and operating hours, making it easily accessible to potential customers. 

Google My Business profile shown on Google MapsGoogle My Business profile shown on Google Maps

When you click on a business listing in the search results it will open a detailed sidebar on the right side of the screen, providing comprehensive information about the business. 

This includes popular times, which show when the business is busiest, a Q&A section where potential users can ask questions and receive responses from the business or other customers, and a photos and videos section that showcases products and services. Customer reviews and ratings are also displayed, which are crucial for building trust and credibility.

Business details on Google My Business profileBusiness details on Google My Business profile

Using Google My Business for Local SEO

Having an optimized Google Business Profile ensures that your business is visible, searchable, and can attract potential customers who are looking for your products and services.

  • Increased reliance on online discovery: More consumers are going online to search and find local businesses, making it crucial to have a GMB listing.
  • Be where your customers are searching: GMB ensures your business information is accurate and visible on Google Search and Maps, helping you stay competitive.
  • Connect with customers digitally: GMB allows customers to connect with your business through various channels, including messaging and reviews.
  • Build your online reputation: GMB makes it easy for customers to leave reviews, which can improve your credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Location targeting: GMB enables location-based targeting, showing your ads to people searching for businesses in your exact location.
  • Measurable results: GMB provides actionable analytics, allowing you to track your performance and optimize your listing.

How to Set Up Google My Business

If you already have a profile and need help claiming, verifying, and/or optimizing it, skip to the next sections.

If you’re creating a new Google My Business profile, here’s a step-by-step guide:

Access or Create your Google AccountAccess or Create your Google Account

Step 1: Access or Create your Google Account:

If you don’t already have a Google account, follow these steps to create one:

  • Visit the Google Account Sign-up Page: Go to the Google Account sign-up page and click on “Create an account.”
  • Enter Your Information: Fill in the required fields, including your name, email address, and password.
  • Verify Your Account: Google will send a verification email to your email address. Click on the link in the email to confirm your account.

Step 2:  Access Google My Business

Business name on Google My BusinessBusiness name on Google My Business

Step 3: Enter Your Business Name and Category

  • Type in your exact business name. Google will suggest existing businesses as you type
  • If your business is not listed, fully type out the name as it appears
  • Search for and select your primary business category

Adding business address to Google My Business profileAdding business address to Google My Business profile

Step 4: Provide Your Business Address

  • If you have a physical location where customers can visit, select “Yes” and enter your address.
  • If you are a service area business without a physical location, select “No” and enter your service area.

Adding contact information to Google My Business profileAdding contact information to Google My Business profile

Step 5: Add Your Contact Information

  • Enter your business phone number and website URL
  • You can also create a free website based on your GMB information

Complete Your ProfileComplete Your Profile

Step 6: Complete Your Profile

To complete your profile, add the following details:

  • Hours of Operation: Enter your business’s operating hours to help customers plan their visits.
  • Services: List the services your business offers to help customers understand what you do.
  • Description: Write a detailed description of your business to help customers understand your offerings.

Now that you know how to set up your Google My Business account, all that’s left is to verify it. 

Verification is essential for you to manage and update business information whenever you need to, and for Google to show your business profile to the right users and for the right search queries. 

If you are someone who wants to claim their business or is currently on the last step of setting up their GMB, this guide will walk you through the verification process to solidify your business’ online credibility and visibility.

How to Verify Google My Business

There are several ways you can verify your business, including:

  • Postcard Verification: Google will send a postcard to your business address with a verification code. Enter the code on your GMB dashboard to verify.
  • Phone Verification: Google will call your business phone number and provide a verification code. Enter the code on your GMB dashboard to verify.
  • Email Verification: If you have a business email address, you can use it to verify your listing.
  • Instant Verification: If you have a Google Analytics account linked to your business, you can use instant verification.

How to Claim & Verify an Existing Google My Business Profile

If your business has an existing Google My Business profile, and you want to claim it, then follow these steps:

Sign in to Google AccountSign in to Google Account

Step 1: Sign in to Google My Business

Access Google My Business: Go to the Google My Business website and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, create one by following the sign-up process.

Search for Your BusinessSearch for Your Business

Step 2: Search for Your Business

Enter your business name in the search bar to find your listing. If your business is already listed, you will see it in the search results.

Request access to existing Google My Business accountRequest access to existing Google My Business account

Step 3: Claim Your Listing

If your business is not already claimed, you will see a “Claim this business” button. Click on this button to start the claiming process.

Editing business information on Google My BusinessEditing business information on Google My Business

Step 4: Complete Your Profile

Once your listing is verified, you can complete your profile by adding essential business information such as:

  • Business Name: Ensure it matches your business name.
  • Address: Enter your business address accurately.
  • Phone Number: Enter your business phone number.
  • Hours of Operation: Specify your business hours.
  • Categories: Choose relevant categories that describe your business.
  • Description: Write a brief description of your business.

Step 5: Manage Your Listing

Regularly check and update your listing to ensure it remains accurate and up-to-date. Respond to customer reviews and use the insights provided by Google Analytics to improve your business.

Unverified Google My Business profileUnverified Google My Business profile

Step 6: Verification 

Verify your business through postcard, email, or phone numbers as stated above. 

Now that you have successfully set up and verified your Google My Business listing, it’s time to optimize it for maximum visibility and effectiveness. By doing this, you can improve your local search rankings, increase customer engagement, and drive more conversions.

How to Optimize Google My Business

Here are the tips that I usually do when I’m optimizing my GMB account: 

    1. Complete Your Profile: Start by ensuring every section applicable to your business is filled out with accurate and up-to-date information. Use your real business name without keyword stuffing to avoid suspension. Ensure your address and phone number are consistent with those on your website and other online directories, and add a link to your website and social media accounts.
    2. Optimize for Keywords: Integrate relevant keywords into your business description, services, and posts. However, avoid stuffing your GMB profile with keywords, as this can appear spammy and reduce readability.
    3. Add Backlinks: Encourage local websites, blogs, and business directories to link to your GMB profile. 
  1. Select Appropriate Categories: Choose the most relevant primary category for your business to help Google understand what your business is about. Additionally, add secondary categories that accurately describe your business’s offerings to capture more relevant search traffic.
  2. Encourage and Manage Reviews: Ask satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on your profile, as reviews significantly influence potential customers. Respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, in a professional and timely manner. Addressing negative feedback shows that you value customer opinions and are willing to improve.
  3. Add High-Quality Photos and Videos: Use high-quality images for your profile and cover photos that represent your business well. Upload additional photos of your products, services, team, and premises. Adding short, engaging videos can give potential customers a virtual tour or highlight key services, enhancing their interest.

By following this comprehensive guide, you have successfully set up, verified, and optimized your GMB profile. Remember to continuously maintain and update your profile to ensure maximum impact and success.

Key Takeaway: 

With more and more people turning to Google for all their needs, creating, verifying, and optimizing your Google My Business profile is a must if you want your business to be found. 

Follow this guide to Google My Business, and you’re going to see increased online presence across Google Search and Google Maps in no time.

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