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Broken Link Building: The Complete Guide



Broken link building is one of the most popular link-building tactics around. It’s the fifth most widely used tactic according to Aira’s annual state of link building report, which crowdsources opinions from over 250 digital marketing professionals.

But it’s not entirely foolproof, and there’s some nuance to doing it well.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to get backlinks from broken link building.

But first, let’s cover the basics.

Broken link building is where you find a dead page with backlinks, create a similar page, then ask people linking to that page to link to you instead. The idea is that they’ll swap the link because they don’t want to send visitors to a broken resource.

It would be fair to say that SEOs are somewhat divided when it comes to this question.

In one video, Mark from Authority Hacker said:

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s an almost pointless tactic, and you shouldn’t waste your time with it.

If you dig through the comments on that video, one stands out:

YouTube commenter blaming Ahrefs for making broken link building sound so easy

Let’s set the record straight:

Broken link building isn’t easy. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Is this because there’s something inherently wrong with the tactic?

No. It’s because link building is hard to execute well—whatever tactic you use. The better you understand the tactic, the more likely you are to have success.

Broken link building is a four-step process.

  1. Find broken pages with backlinks
  2. Vet the backlinks
  3. Create a replacement page
  4. Do outreach

1. Find broken pages with backlinks

It’s impossible to find highly-linked broken pages without SEO tools. Even if you find dead pages manually, you’ll need a backlink checker to see how many links they have. You can use Ahrefs’ free backlink checker for this, but life is much easier with full access to Ahrefs.

Keep this in mind as we go through the tactics below. You’ll need Ahrefs for ¾ of them.

Here are the tactics:

  1. Look for your competitors’ broken pages with backlinks
  2. Look for broken pages about a topic
  3. Look for broken links on competing websites
  4. Look for broken links on resource pages (doable without paid Ahrefs)

a) Look for your competitors’ broken pages with backlinks

Many of your competitors will have at least some dead pages because everyone moves, deletes, and reorganizes content over time. If they forget to redirect old URLs when doing this, their backlinks will point to broken pages.

Here’s how to find dead pages on your competitors’ websites:

  1. Go to Site Explorer
  2. Enter a competing domain
  3. Go to the Best by Links report
  4. Filter for “404 not found” pages
  5. Sort the report by Referring domains from highest to lowest

For example, there are 134 dead pages on Content Marketing Institute’s website, and some have backlinks from over 50 referring domains.

The Best by Links report in Ahrefs' Site ExplorerThe Best by Links report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Your job is to sift through these pages for topics that make sense to create content about.

For example, the first page about “what is content marketing” makes sense for us because we have an entire blog category about content marketing. It’s the kind of topic we want to build links to.

If you don’t find a relevant broken page on one competitor’s website, repeat the process for others.


If you’re unsure who your competitors are, enter your domain into Site Explorer and go to the Competing Domains report. This shows other websites ranking in Google for the same keywords as you.

Competing Domains report in Ahrefs' Site ExplorerCompeting Domains report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

b) Look for broken pages about a topic

Broken link building has traditionally always been about the method above. The disadvantage of this method is that you limit yourself to finding opportunities on a handful of sites.

The ideal solution to this problem would be searching the web for broken pages with backlinks about a particular topic. The only tool we’re aware of that allows you to do this is Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, a searchable database of billions of web pages.

Here’s how to use it to find broken pages about a topic:

  1. Enter a broad topic
  2. Switch the search mode to “In title”
  3. Hit search
  4. Filter for broken pages only
  5. Filter for pages with at least 20 referring domains

In the example below, there are 188 broken pages with at least 20 backlinks about content marketing:

Broken pages with 20+ referring domains in Ahrefs' Content ExplorerBroken pages with 20+ referring domains in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

To confirm a broken page, click the title to open it in a new tab.

Example of a broken pageExample of a broken page


Eyeball the “Page traffic” column to find pages that are more likely to have high-quality backlinks. If the page used to have traffic, its backlinks might have been helping it to rank.

Broken page that had organic traffic in the pastBroken page that had organic traffic in the past

If the page never had traffic, the backlinks might not be great.

Broken page that didn't have organic traffic in the pastBroken page that didn't have organic traffic in the past

c) Look for broken links on competing websites

Most websites frequently link to pages on other sites, and some of these will break over time. That means your competitors are likely to link to broken pages.

Here’s how to see broken pages your competitor is linking to:

  1. Go to Site Explorer
  2. Enter a competing domain
  3. Go to the Broken Links report

For example, is linking to 32 dead pages:

Broken outgoing links in Ahrefs' Site ExplorerBroken outgoing links in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

To see which have the most referring domains, export the report, paste the broken URLs into Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis tool, and sort by total referring domains.

Using Ahrefs' Batch Analysis tool to see how many links point to broken outgoing linksUsing Ahrefs' Batch Analysis tool to see how many links point to broken outgoing links

Here are a few potential broken link building opportunities in the screenshot above:

  • Google’s discontinued mobile-friendly test tool: 2,654 RDs
  • SEJ’s guide to the Google Hummingbird algorithm: 462 RDs
  • Chatmeter’s list of local SEO stats: 276 RDs

d) Look for broken links on resource pages

Resource pages curate and link to resources on a particular topic. They’re a good source of broken pages with backlinks for two reasons:

  1. People rarely update them, so they often link to dead resources.
  2. They list helpful resources which often have links from many other sites.

To find resource pages in your industry, use one of these Google search operators:

  • KEYWORD intitle:resources inurl:links.html
  • KEYWORD intitle:links inurl: resources.html
  • KEYWORD inurl:resources intitle:resources

For example, here’s how we might search for resource pages about link building:

Searching for resource pages in GoogleSearching for resource pages in Google

Then you need to check for broken links on these pages, which you can do for free with Ahrefs’ SEO toolbar.

  1. Visit the page
  2. Click the toolbar icon
  3. Go to the “Links” tab
  4. Click “Check status”
  5. Filter for broken links only
Finding broken links on a page with Ahrefs' SEO ToolbarFinding broken links on a page with Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar

To see the total backlinks to these pages, export the list of URLs and paste them into Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis Tool.

Using Ahrefs' Batch Analysis tool to see how many backlinks point to broken pagesUsing Ahrefs' Batch Analysis tool to see how many backlinks point to broken pages

2. Vet the link prospects

Many people jump straight to creating a “similar” replacement page after finding a dead page with backlinks. This is a mistake for two reasons:

  1. Your broken page may not have any good backlinks. In which case, there’s no point pursuing the opportunity or creating a replacement page.
  2. You need to understand why people linked to the dead page to create a replacement page. This is how you keep your content and outreach in sync, which leads to higher success rates.

You can figure out both things by vetting the page’s link prospects.

Here’s the process in a nutshell:

1653319967 652 Broken Link Building The Complete Guide1653319967 652 Broken Link Building The Complete Guide

a) Check link quality

If a broken link-building opportunity is unlikely to lead to high-quality links, it’s pointless pursuing it. So the first step is a quick spot check to see whether the dead page has desirable backlinks.

Here’s how to see a page’s live backlinks:

  1. Go to Site Explorer
  2. Enter the dead page’s URL
  3. Go to the Backlinks report
  4. Set the grouping mode to “One link per domain”
  5. Set “Show history” to “Don’t show”
Using the Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer to check link qualityUsing the Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer to check link quality

Then you can eyeball the report to get a sense of backlink quality.

You can do this by reviewing each link manually, but that’s inefficient for a spot check. It’s quicker to filter the report for links with attributes that tend to align with quality.

Everyone’s criteria will differ slightly here, but these four filters are a helpful place to start:

  • Dofollow’ links only. This excludes most low-value links such as those from directories, forums, and blog comments.
  • Exclude subdomains. This excludes links from places like blogspot, which are often low-quality and spammy.
  • DR 5+. This excludes links from very low-authority websites.
  • Domain traffic: 20+. This excludes links from websites with little to no traffic.

For example, if we add these filters to the backlink report for the page above, the number of backlinks drops from 100 to 29:

Filtering for good backlinks in Ahrefs' Site ExplorerFiltering for good backlinks in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

That’s because the dead page has many desirable links, such as this one from

Example of a good backlinkExample of a good backlink

But it also has many low-quality and spammy links like this one:

Example of a bad backlinkExample of a bad backlink

It’s up to you to decide whether a broken page has enough desirable links to make creating a page and doing outreach worthwhile.

b) Check link reasons

Understanding why your broken page got links helps you add points that allow you to create compelling outreach angles. This is crucial for improving the link success rate for your campaign, so the next step is to eyeball the filtered report for link reasons.

Here are the two broad types of link reasons you’ll see:

  • General links are where people recommend the resource as a whole. You can’t see why they linked to that specific resource from the link’s context.
  • Deep links are where people recommend a resource for a specific reason. You can see what that reason is from the link’s context.

Here’s an example of a general link to a broken page about calculating your net worth:

Example of a 'general link' where the reason for linking isn't clearExample of a 'general link' where the reason for linking isn't clear

You can see that although they recommend the resource, it’s impossible to tell why from the link’s context. The anchor is “here’s an amazing post.”

There’s not much you can learn about creating a “better” page from these kinds of links.

You can learn more from deep links like this:

Example of a 'deep link' where the reason for linking is clearExample of a 'deep link' where the reason for linking is clear

This time it’s obvious why they recommended the resource: it explains how to grow your net worth.

We can confirm this by looking at how the page used to look in the Wayback Machine:

Checking how a dead page used to look in the Wayback MachineChecking how a dead page used to look in the Wayback Machine

Identifying deep links helps you create a compelling replacement page, so note them down alongside how many people link for the same reasons. Search the Backlinks report for relevant ‘footprints’ in the anchor or surrounding text to find this.

For example, we can search this page’s backlinks for words like “increase,” “grow,” or “improve” to see if this advice led to other links.

It looks like it did:

Looking for others linking for similar reasonsLooking for others linking for similar reasons

Here’s what our final notes might look like for this page:

Example link reasons for a broken pageExample link reasons for a broken page

3. Create a replacement page

Now you know why people linked to the dead page, it’s time to create a suitable replacement.

Let’s go through how to do that in three steps.

a) Create a rough outline

Although you don’t want to copy the dead page word for word, you do want to create something similar. This means crafting a piece that fulfills the same purpose and talks about similar things.

You can get a better sense of what the dead page discussed using the Wayback Machine.

For example, this page explains how to calculate your net worth in three steps, gives a few example calculations, and has tips on how to improve your net worth over time:

Looking at what the broken page is about via the Wayback MachineLooking at what the broken page is about via the Wayback Machine

If you were pursuing this broken link opportunity, you’d want to use a similar outline.

Here’s what that might look like:

  • H1: Net Worth Explained: How to Calculate and Improve It Over Time
    • H2: What is Net Worth?
    • H2: How to Calculate Your Net Worth
      • H3: Step 1. Do x
      • H3: Step 2. Do y
      • H3: Step 3. Do z
    • H2: Example Net Worth Calculations
      • H3: Example 1: x
      • H3: Example 2: y
      • H3: Example 3: z
    • H2: How to Track and Improve Your Net Worth
      • H3: Tip 1: Do x
      • H3: Tip 2: Do y
      • H3: Tip 3: Do z

b) Bake in linkable points

Remember the work you put into vetting link prospects for deep recommendations? Now’s the time to add them to your content so that your outreach angles make sense.

In this case, we covered most of these in the basic outline.


Make sure everything you include is accurate. For example, if a deep link references an out-of-date statistic, include a more recent statistic.

c) Find other ways to improve it

Most of the links to your dead page are likely to be general links. In other words, they’re people referencing the content for no clear reason.

You can’t do much to tailor your content for these people because you don’t know what they liked about the original piece. But you can make overall improvements.

For example, adding a template would probably improve our piece on calculating net worth.

Improving the content allows you to strengthen your value proposition to general linkers by adding a “why”:

  • Without improvement: you have a dead link > here’s a replacement
  • With improvement: you have a dead link > here’s a replacement > here’s why it’s a good replacement

Here are a few simple ways to improve content:

  • Simplify: Make it more accessible and easier to understand.
  • Visualize: Demonstrate concepts with graphics.
  • Templatize: Add a plug-and-play template.
  • Rectify: Fix issues with accuracy.

4. Do outreach

Outreach is where you pitch your replacement resource to those linking to the dead page.

This is usually done in one of two ways:

  • Shotgun outreach. You send the same email to everyone with no personalization.
  • Sniper outreach. You send unique, personalized emails to everyone.

Both of these approaches have their pros and cons.

Shotgun outreach is a pure numbers game. Conversion rates will be low, but you’ll get some links with enough prospects. It’s also risky. You can quickly burn bridges and get your domain blocked.

Sniper outreach converts better but takes more time and effort. You can easily spend a whole day sending a dozen emails.

Given the steps we’ve gone through so far, we recommend a hybrid approach.

Here’s how this works:

Instead of sending a unique or identical email to everyone, you segment prospects and create a personalized template for each group. This is why we spent some time identifying general and deep links. The way you target them should be different.

Pitching deep linkers

Each segment of deep linkers deserves a unique template.

For example, we have three segments for the net worth page:

  1. People referencing advice on growing your net worth
  2. People referencing the definition of net worth
  3. People referencing how to calculate net worth

Here’s a simple template for the first segment:

Hey [Name],

Just came across your post on [Topic] and saw that you recommended advice on growing net worth from [Dead page author].

Looks like that page no longer works.

Not sure if you’re still updating older posts, but if you are, my guide expands on that advice and gives a few extra tips.

Here’s where I found the link on your page:


No pressure. Just thought it might be useful 🙂


Here’s one for the second segment:

Hey [Name],

Just came across your post on [Topic] and saw that you recommended this process for calculating net worth from [Dead page author].

Looks like that page no longer works.

Not sure if you’re still updating older posts, but if you are, my guide has a similar process but includes more detail on how to estimate the value of your assets and debts (super important for an accurate calculation!).

Here’s where I found the link on your page:


No pressure. Just thought it might be useful 🙂


Both of these are pretty typical and could use a bit more creativity. But hopefully, you can see how creating personalized templates like this can potentially improve the results of your broken link-building campaign.

Pitching general linkers

As there’s no clear reason why these people linked to the dead page, you can only send them a generic pitch. This should follow the same formula as with deep linkers. The difference is that the value proposition will be a generic one.

You can use the improvements you made to the dead page for this.

Here’s an example template for our page:

Hey [Name],

Just came across your post on [Topic] and saw you recommended this guide to calculating net worth from [Dead page author].

Looks like that page no longer works.

Not sure if you’re still updating older posts, but if you are, my guide explains a similar process and includes a free template to make life easier.

Here’s where I found the link on your page:


A few other reasons why I think my guide is better (completely biased, of course):

  • More details on estimating the value of assets and debts
  • Extra tips for growing net worth
  • Flowchart to create a custom growth plan

No pressure. Just thought it might be useful 🙂


This template is the best we can do for general linkers because we don’t know why they linked to the original page.

Final thoughts

Link building tactics are just streamlined ways of finding link prospects with a reason for contact. In broken link building, the reason is that they have a dead link on their site. In the skyscraper technique, the reason is that you have a “better” page. In other techniques, it’s something else.

No technique will work well without a strong value proposition. That’s why we recommend using custom outreach templates for different segments of prospects linking to the dead page.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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Top 3 Ways To Build Authority By Going Beyond Just Link Building



Top 3 Ways To Build Authority By Going Beyond Just Link Building

You want your online business to thrive. One of the best ways to do this is to establish website authority – and the key to successful authority building is to increase trust with your audience.

With the rise of AI tools, you must publish high-quality content that stands out from your competition, who may be using tools like ChatGPT.

On March 15, I moderated a webinar with Sabrina Hipps, VP of Partner Development, and Jeremy Rivera, Director of Content Analysis at CopyPress.

Hipps and Rivera demonstrated how content promotion, link building, and authentic subject matter expertise could help you rank higher on SERPs and elevate your online authority.

Here’s a summary of the webinar. To access the entire presentation, complete the form.

1. Create Unique Content With First-Hand Experience – Avoid AI, The “Fancy Parrot”

In the world of content creation, where good content creators are showing their expertise, there are certain key things AI can’t do.

  • AI can’t have first-person experience. They can’t think for themselves the same way humans can.
  • If the AI follows a generative model, and it can’t yet distinguish the truth. If you fact-check some of the information, you’ll find it doesn’t exist.

The counter to AI content is unique content that shows this truth, expertise, and first-hand experience.

[Learn how this helps build your authority] Instantly access the webinar →

2. Highlight Quality Authorship

High-quality content encompasses everything from accuracy and mistake-free writing to clearly displaying expertise.

Ensure Your Content Is Error-Free

In many cases, low-quality content, or posts with false information and repetitive issues, can lead to being devalued on SERPs or accidentally containing duplicate content.

Image created by CopyPress, March 2023

Add More “E” To EAT – Experience

The Issue: To combat low-quality SERPs, Google seeks first-hand experience.

The Solution: Invite a subject matter expert to review the content, check for factual inaccuracies, and add that extra layer of expertise to the content.

Bridge The Write ≠ Expertise Gap

The Issue: It’s important to recognize that the ability to write is not synonymous with expertise; just because someone can write doesn’t mean they are accurate or a subject matter expert.

The Solution: Try pairing a subject matter expert with a strong writer who can interview and interject quotes helps build better content.

Ask Questions

The Issue: Sometimes, you may not have the in-house subject matter experts you need for a piece of content.

The Solution: Conduct outreach to gather expertise to boost your content quality. First, consider what your audience wants to know. Then, generate three to ten questions to ask a professional.

[Learn a tactic that works] Instantly access the webinar →

Tap Social Media

The Issue: Where do you find the professionals you need to interview for your next piece of high-expertise content?

The Solution: With so many experts creating on social media, it’s a great platform to leverage. Here are essential outreach steps you can do:

  • Observe.
  • Participate.
  • Engage.
  • Network.

Doing this can also be considered link-building in another sense. Because link building is marketing, and marketing is about building relationships.

Find Allies Who Are Also Targeting Your Audience

Combining outreach efforts with the Nexus approach helps you create relationships and connections beyond just the link.

[Learn what the Nexus approach is] Instantly access the webinar →

3. Use Other Authority Builders, In Addition To Links

One way to increase brand queries is through influencers, knowledge panel (which becomes part of a brand’s search results), and mentions.

To increase mentions:

  • Use HARO & Terkel.
  • Publish unique industry data.
  • Do something distinctive that stands out.
  • Connect with publishers with significant traffic, not for links but for visibility & mentions.
  • Leverage influencers and industry experts.

[BONUS: Get a step-by-step branded keyword strategy] Instantly access the webinar →

At the end of the day, when you publish unique, relevant, and authoritative content, it gets referenced and cited by others.

[Slides] Discover The Top 3 Ways To Build Authority By Going Beyond Just Link Building

Here’s the presentation:

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

Google Shopping: 5 Ways AI Can Increase Ecommerce Sales and Profit

Join Malin Blomberg, CEO of Bidbrain and Google Shopping expert, as she shares the best hacks for digital marketers and ecommerce business owners to maximize conversion value.

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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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Microsoft Introduces Category-Based Targeting For Search Ads



Microsoft Introduces Category-Based Targeting For Search Ads

Microsoft has unveiled a new approach to search advertising that aims to help businesses more effectively reach their target audiences in the retail media space.

This innovative category-based targeting solution aims to address the limitations of traditional keyword targeting while leveraging the power of keywords to optimize campaign performance.

Moving Beyond Keyword Targeting

Although keyword targeting has been a cornerstone of search advertising for years, it has limitations.

By focusing solely on keyword targeting, advertisers may miss out on valuable opportunities to promote their products, which can negatively impact a campaign’s performance and limit revenue potential.

Retailers and advertisers are beginning to realize that shoppers browse digital aisles on retailer websites rather than solely searching for specific products using keywords.

As a result, strategies limited to keyword targeting don’t adequately address their needs.

Unlocking The Power Of Category-Based Targeting

Microsoft’s new solution targets shoppers based on their browsing categories, utilizing keywords to boost campaign bids.

This approach allows advertisers to capitalize on both audience behaviors, resulting in a stronger performance.

By boosting bids with keywords, advertisers can increase their chances of converting purchase intent into sales.

Retailers can optimize the site experience for shoppers through product taxonomy, making it easier for customers to find what they want.

Microsoft PromoteIQ’s AI-driven algorithms can then deliver more relevant ads by layering keywords as a booster in addition to categories.

This new approach simplifies campaign management for advertisers, as they only need to test and retain a few high-performing keywords.

For retailers, this efficiency translates into increased demand.

Proven Results: Higher CTR & RPM

Tests have shown that this unique solution delivers impressive results.

Campaigns that utilize category-based targeting and boost bids by keywords have a 320% higher click-through rate (CTR) than campaigns without keyword bid boosting.

Retailers also benefit from this approach, achieving 8x higher revenue per thousand impressions (RPM).

The Future Of Search Advertising?

Microsoft PromoteIQ’s new category-based targeting solution is a significant shift in search advertising.

By addressing the limitations of traditional keyword targeting and maximizing the value of both audience behaviors, this innovative approach can potentially improve performance for advertisers and retailers alike.

As the advertising landscape continues to evolve, embracing solutions like this is crucial for staying ahead and delivering an exceptional shopping experience for customers.

Featured Image: sockagphoto/Shutterstock

Source: Microsoft

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10 Strategic SEO Insights & Tactical Advice For 2023 And Beyond



10 Strategic SEO Insights & Tactical Advice For 2023 And Beyond

I’ve written about search engine optimization (SEO) for over 20 years.

So, I wasn’t shocked when the editors asked me to refresh an article I wrote on October 21, 2020, titled “3 Strategic SEO Insights & Tactical Advice for 2021.”

But looking back at what I’d written two-and-a-half years ago, I realized that my actionable insights now need to be thoroughly updated in this era of constant change.

The advent of OpenAI’s ChatGPT on Nov. 30, 2022, has triggered a “code red” at Google, which rushed out a new experimental conversational AI service called Bard in response to Microsoft’s AI-enhanced Bing.

UBS estimates that ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly active users in January, 2 months after its launch. According to the Swiss bank’s analysts, it would be the fastest-growing online application in history.

So, what strategic SEO insights and tactical advice could I share with you today that will still be relevant a year from now?

What critical data or search trends would encourage you to display a motivational poster on your wall that advises everyone to “Keep Calm and Carry On”?

By the way, that last piece of advice is not half bad.

Google was launched on Sept. 4, 1998, and didn’t pass AltaVista to become the leading search engine until the second half of 2002 – about 4 years later.

And even the Panda Update, which shocked the SEO industry and effectively ended the “content farm” business model, only impacted 12% of queries, according to the History of Google Algorithm Updates.

The Penguin Update, which downranked websites that engaged in aggressive webspam, only impacted 3.1% of English queries.

And it’s worth recalling that the first iteration of the Panda Update started on Feb. 23, 2011, but was followed by 27 more adjustments until the final update on July 17, 2015. And the Penguin Update, which began on April 24, 2012, didn’t end until Sept. 23, 2016.

It may take more than four years to know the full impact of Google’s Bard AI or the new AI-powered Bing search engine.

So, SEO professionals would be well advised to “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

That means I can confidently share 10 strategic insights, bits of critical data, pieces of tactical advice, or search trends that will impact SEO in 2023 and beyond without losing too much sleep over the fact that 30% of them may not be relevant a year from now.

(After telling you why “the fundamental things apply as time goes by,” I’ll circle back to explain why a 70% success rate is the right benchmark.)

SEO remains an essential element of any digital marketing strategy.

And even though the search industry is constantly changing, Google is still the leading search engine.

According to Similarweb, got 3.2 billion unique visitors in January 2023, making it the most visited website globally. The search giant also got 88.3 billion visits in January 2023.

Screenshot from Similarweb, February 2023

So, don’t bet the farm on Google going away anytime soon.

And if you need to keep other people within your company, or at one of your clients, from rushing off to panic stations, then show them the chart below from Google Trends, which displays worldwide web search interest over the past 90 days for the search terms Google, ChatGPT, and Bing.

You can calmly explain that the dips in interest for Google occur on weekends.

10 Strategic SEO Insights & Tactical Advice For 2023 And BeyondScreenshot from Google Trends, February 2023

If Google remains the dominant search engine for the foreseeable future, then SEO pros don’t need to be retrained or replaced.

Why? Because they’re already familiar with Google Search Essentials (formerly Webmaster Guidelines).

And they’ve successfully navigated through the 22 Google Search ranking updates.

This is why I’m confident that more than 70% of SEO pros will continue successfully navigating the uncharted areas of keyword maps that bear the phrase: “Here be dragons.”

1. Focus On User Intent

One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding user intent.

Google’s algorithms have become more sophisticated, and they’re now better able to understand the intent behind a query.

So, SEO pros should focus on creating content that satisfies user intent rather than just targeting specific keywords. This means creating content that is not only relevant to the user’s search query, but also provides helpful information or a satisfying experience.

Now, I realize this strategic insight isn’t breaking news.

But you still might benefit from re-reading my article, The Future of SEO Lies in the ‘Messy Middle’ of the Purchase Journey.

According to research by Google’s Market Insights team in the U.K., the “messy middle” is where people decide what to buy.

Among other things, this research found:

“People look for information about a category’s products and brands, and then weigh all the options. This equates to two different mental modes in the messy middle: exploration, an expansive activity, and evaluation, a reductive activity. Whatever a person is doing, across a huge array of online sources, such as search engines, social media, aggregators, and review websites, can be classified into one of these two mental modes.”

Let me translate this “big idea” into counter-intuitive tactical advice: SEO pros must create and optimize at least two pieces of content to address the user’s different intents in the “messy middle” of the purchase journey.

And, if your company or client is targeting half a dozen different segments, then you need to create and optimize at least a dozen pieces of content.

Creating and optimizing one page for each target segment is so 2019.

2. Create High-Quality Content

Content is still king, but if SEO managers want to become prime ministers (or presidents) someday, then they need to create more original, helpful content written by people, for people.

How can you ensure you’re creating high-quality content? By following Google’s long-standing advice and guidance for core updates to create content for people, not for search engines.

So, let me suggest you re-read my article, What Is A Content Marketing Matrix & Do We Need One?

It shows you how to use a content marketing planning tool to generate ideas for enchanting content that changes hearts, minds, and actions. That’s how you become the VP of SEO.

3. Prioritize E-E-A-T

On Dec. 15, 2022, Google updated its search rater guidelines – adding an extra E for Experience to the concept of E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

Although these guidelines don’t directly influence ranking, they are useful for anyone who works in SEO because they give us an idea of where Google wants its algorithms to go. 

To improve your content’s E-E-A-T, someone with first-hand life experience on the topic should produce it.

If you can’t convince someone with experience to produce this content in-house, you need to find a freelance writer – or content creator – who has used your product or service, visited a place, or influenced brand purchases.

Unfortunately, many SEO pros still don’t think this is their job – even though the first mention of E-A-T occurred in 2014 when Google added the concept to its Search Quality Guidelines.

Even Google said:

“These are not fundamentally new ideas. And we’re by no means abandoning the fundamental principle that Search seeks to surface reliable information, especially on topics where information quality is critically important.”

If you’d like some practical advice, read How To Find Talented Writers To Fuel Top Quality Content Creation, which includes my interviews with a couple of thought leaders in this field.

4. Optimize YouTube Content

According to the Video & Visual Storytelling Survey by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) published on Oct. 27, 2022, 73% of marketers said videos have become more important to their business in the last year; 27% said they are about the same in importance; and, no one said videos have decreased in importance.

Why should SEO pros lose sleep over this critical data?

Because the content marketing department, not the SEO department, is jumping on this trend.

And that means many of the videos cranked out in 2023 and beyond won’t be optimized for search – let alone integrated into an overall SEO strategy.

So, here’s some tactical advice: first, read Sam Hollingsworth’s guide, YouTube SEO: How To Optimize Videos & Rank Higher.

Next, invite the content marketing department to a brown bag lunch to discuss ways to create great content together.

5. Earn High-Quality Links

Links continue to be one of Google’s most important ranking factors. And at least 70% of SEO pros have already read articles like:

Unfortunately, the lion’s share of chief communications officers (CCOs) and public relations officers (PROs) haven’t read articles like these.

So, only a handful of organizations use one of the most effective techniques to earn links to help your website rank higher on search engines.

Ironically, the biggest barrier is not journalists. Pogo once observed,We have met the enemy and (they are) us.”

This means you might need to invite your CCO or PRO to a swanky restaurant to discuss link building instead of hosting another brown bag lunch.

But this is a better use of your time and money than trying to figure out a clever way around Google’s December 2022 link spam update, which can now detect both sites buying links and those used to pass outgoing links.

6. Optimize For Local Search

Brick-and-mortar businesses serving specific towns, cities, regions, and states know local search is important.

When done correctly, local SEO enables people to find information about their business, putting them one step closer to making the cash register ring.

And SEO pros specializing in local search know a consistent Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP), local links, local reviews, and star ratings, as well as optimized Google Business Profiles, are important parts of Google’s local search and Local Pack algorithms.

But, to learn the latest trends and tips to help your local business grow using local search optimization, local marketing, and local advertising, read Search Engine Journal’s A Guide to Local SEO, which tackles what you need to know about optimizing for local search.

7. Keep An Eye On Multisearch

In April 2022, Google introduced an entirely new way to search using text and images simultaneously.

With multisearch in Lens, users can go beyond the search box and ask questions about an object or refine their search by color, brand, or visual attribute.

To learn more about this, read Matt G. Southern’s article, Google Multisearch: A New Way To Search With Text & Images.

Then, read Roger Montti’s article, How Does Google Multisearch Affect SEO?

So, keep an eye on multisearch in 2023 and beyond.

8. Keep Your Ear To The Ground For Voice Search

According to Roger Montti’s article, Google: Voice Search Is Not The Future, Google’s Martin Splitt shared his opinion that voice search is not the future and that there will be no need to optimize for it.

Even though I’ve written about Amazon’s Big Game Commercial: Mind Reader twice in the past year, I haven’t paid much attention to voice search until I was prompted to read a couple of recent articles on this topic, including:

And while writing this article, I re-read Kristopher Jones’ How Can Voice Search Benefit Your SEO? He wrote:

  • 40.2% of Americans use voice search.
  • 71% of people prefer using voice search to physically typing out a search online.
  • 27% of the online population worldwide uses voice search on mobile.
  • 58% of people have used voice search to find information about local businesses.

In other words, four out of five people with a veritable ton of E-E-A-T think that voice search represents a phenomenal SEO opportunity.

So, keep your ear to the ground for new voice search developments in 2023 and beyond.

9. Migrate To Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

I’ll bet Google sent you an email with the subject line: “We’ll soon configure Google Analytics 4 for you.”

It said:

“For any customer who does not set up a GA4 property with basic settings, starting in March, we will configure one with a few basic settings consistent with the existing Universal Analytics property; this includes certain conversion events, Google Ads links, and existing website tags.”

This means the chaos expected on July 1, 2023, when standard Universal Analytics properties will stop working, has arrived ahead of schedule.

And, as Sun Tzu once observed, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

In my article, Google Analytics 4 Should Trigger Reorganizations & Agency Reviews, I said the advent of GA4 would cause the marketing department to start “freaking out” if the web analytics team – which still sits in the IT department in far too many organizations – doesn’t respond to urgent requests for “help” within a week, a day, or even an hour.

So, this is the perfect time for you to make the business case for moving the analytics team out of the IT department and into the SEO department.

If there’s any pushback, remind decision-makers that 53.3% of all website traffic comes from organic search, according to BrightEdge Research.

10. Build A War Room

If you’re a chief marketing officer (CMO) or vice president of Marketing and you move the analytics team into the SEO department, your team may ask to build a dashboard. Build a war room instead.

Why? Because “most dashboards tend to stink when it comes to helping the Executive make any decisions,” according to Avinash Kaushik, the Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google.

This is because the interpretation of the “easy-to-understand visuals” in most dashboards is left to the executive.

But most war rooms feature not only maps of the global market and charts of the company’s key performance indicators (KPIs), but also an analytics and insights manager with the experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness to interpret the trends and add context.

This “Analysis Ninja” can explain to executives why some key trends are up or down (in plain English).

And over time, executives will begin to ask their analytics and insights manager to recommend which actions or steps should be taken to move the dial.

And an Analysis Ninja can answer the question, “As a result of this trend (up or down) what was the impact on the company and its customers?”

Why Should SEO Pros Adopt The 70% Solution?

Now that I’ve shared 10 strategic SEO insights and some counter-intuitive tactical advice for 2023 and beyond, I’ll circle back to explain why a 70% success rate is the right benchmark.

Ty Kiisel’s article, 70% Solution: The Marine Corps Framework for Making Battlefield Decisions, should be required reading for every SEO manager who wants to become the VP of SEO someday.

The Marines teach their young officers what they call the 70% solution.

And it could be a good strategy to adopt for making decisions in situations where you don’t have all the information or resources you’d like.

In a perfect world, you’d have all the critical data you need to make informed decisions. But we don’t live in a perfect world.

Nevertheless, if you have 70% of the information you’d like to have, then you can still make good decisions – provided you accept the notion that you may need to adjust and compensate for the critical data you lack as you move forward.

And like battlefield commanders, most SEO managers never have all the resources they need to meet their objectives.

But it can sometimes be enough if you have good people and 70% of what you need. And finding creative solutions to challenges is a hallmark of successful SEO professionals.

Finally, are you 70% confident that your plan will succeed?

In other words, do you feel good about your plan’s success with the information and resources you have?

The Marines believe a well-conceived plan, along with taking the initiative, is more likely to succeed than doing nothing.

This is why I can confidently share 10 strategic insights, bits of critical data, pieces of tactical advice, or search trends that will impact SEO in 2023 and beyond without losing too much sleep over the fact that 30% of them may not be relevant a year from now.

The Marines have given us a framework for making decisions in less-than-ideal circumstances.

That is why you should “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

More Resources:

Featured Image: Monster Ztudio/Shutterstock

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