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Examples With Pros & Cons

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Examples With Pros & Cons

Marketing channels are tools and platforms that brands use to communicate with their audience.

If we squeezed the idea of marketing channels into a single picture, it’ll look something like this:

How marketing channels work

Businesses use different means (content, messages, ads) to reach their audience in places where they hang out (e.g., social media, Google Search) or reach them directly (e.g., text messages, emails). They may use a selection of channels or all available channels. 

In this post, you will get an overview of the most commonly used channels today: what they are about, how they are used, and what they are best at. 

Organic search refers to the non-paid search results from a search engine. 

Two types of search results

Organic search is one of the pillars of the entire internet. In all, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine (BrightEdge).

The practice of optimizing webpages to increase traffic and visibility in this channel is called search engine optimization (SEO).

Example

At Ahrefs, we create blog posts about topics relevant to our product. At the same time, we try to target topics that offer search traffic potential and are within our capability to rank. 

Sample keywords we target with our content
We use Keywords Explorer to find good topics for our blog. The SEO metrics show us how much traffic we are potentially looking at (TP) and how hard it can be to rank (KD).

This way, when people Google things related to SEO and marketing, we can naturally feature our product. 

Example of high-ranking SEO content

Each piece of content that ends up ranking adds up to your overall organic traffic. So the more high-ranking content you have, the more potential customers visit your website. Plus, evergreen topics can generate traffic for years after publication. 

Chart showing traffic years after publication

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of organic search

Learn more: How to Create an SEO Content Strategy (Follow the Ahrefs’ Framework)

Social media platforms are used to engage brand followers and other users through organic reach or by paying to reach a defined audience. 

Social media is not just Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Messaging-only apps like Discord, Slack, and WhatsApp also fall into the same channel category. 

Do social media users “consume” content from brands? Quite surprisingly, 90% of people on Instagram follow a business (Instagram). 

Example 

Social media is complex. It’s a mix of product marketing, PR, and customer support. Trying to summarize it is like trying to summarize all conversations in the world. 

Each brand on social media tends to develop its own voice while publishing a balanced mix of product marketing, conversations, entertainment, and company news. 

And so while some brands will be super serious and “business-oriented,” others will try to win hearts with candor and authenticity. 

Social media profile description

Furthermore, this is an effective use of social media:

Advertising products also works: 

Demonstrating value is something fans want to see from their favorite brands: 

Last but not least, one of the best ways to use social media for businesses… user-generated content: 

Example of user-generated content on social media
Users’ photos made with GoPro published on the company’s Pinterest profile.

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of social media

Learn more: Ahrefs’ Twitter Marketing Strategy: Here’s How We Do It 

This marketing channel allows you to distribute your content and ads in a video format.

Does video marketing work? These stats seem to speak for themselves:

  • 70% of viewers bought from a brand after seeing it on YouTube (Google).
  • 96% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service (Wyzowl).

Basically, video marketing is about two things:

  • Using video instead of text and images to engage with the audience – Video can make such a difference compared to other media that focusing on this kind of content has become a distinct type of marketing. 
  • Taking advantage of video-first platforms like YouTube and TikTok – These platforms have such a big audience that it makes sense for many brands to create videos just to be there. 

Example 

The great thing about video is that platforms like YouTube have their own distribution mechanisms, which can bring your content to thousands of people for free (of course, you can boost that with some budget too). 

We use this channel on a regular basis, and we’ve even made a video on how to rank videos #1: 

Moreover, you can repurpose videos and create “packages”—like a full-blown Academy. It also works the other way around: start with a course and share it or parts of it on YouTube. 

YouTube videos repurposed for an entire course

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of video marketing

Learn more: The Simple (But Complete) Guide to Video Marketing 

Advertising is about paying media outlets that have access to your audience to display your message near or instead of regular content. 

Digital advertising is the same idea transplanted to the internet (aka paid traffic or paid media). 

Advertising is not dead. Although content marketing seems to be the perfect alternative, most B2B and B2C marketers use paid content distribution (67% and 78%, respectively). 

Example 

Why pay for ads when there are free traffic channels like search and social media? Especially when ads have such a bad reputation? 

It’s all about the creative you use and the targeting.

Some ads can be simply irresistible because they dominate the space, such as this “Stranger Things” Ad:

"Stranger Things" ad on building
Source: Netflix.

Some are genuinely entertaining, such as the Super Bowl half-time commercials

Some ads are just so well-targeted that it makes you wonder whether they’re still legal. 

And unlike free traffic channels, you can simply outspend the competition instead of building authority, backlinks, or a following. 

Pros and cons 

Pros and cons of advertising

Email marketing lets you reach your prospects’ mailboxes with messages that either prompt direct action or are aimed at creating a long-term relationship with the brand.

You can get a “direct line” to your audience either by building an email list (e.g., with a newsletter) or sponsoring someone else’s newsletter (a mix of advertising and email marketing). 

Be prepared for what success looks like on this channel, though: The highest average industry click rate is 5.01% (hobbies), and the average for all industries is 2.62% (Mailchimp).

Example 

Some brands use this channel only to “seal the deal.” They spend so much on brand awareness and product marketing elsewhere that all they need is a nudge sent directly to an inbox (my inbox, in this example).

Email marketing from Vans
We all have our favorite brands. They just need to email us from time to time to sell us stuff. No need to preach to the converted.

Other brands will need more touch points and do more soft-selling beforehand. 

Hustle introduces HubSpot in an email

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of email marketing

Learn more: 8 Easy (But Effective) Ways to Grow Your Email List

Sponsorship as a marketing channel is about attracting prospects to your business through exposure to your brand in a sponsored material or event.

It’s typically used for two kinds of goals: brand awareness and brand image (i.e., gaining customers’ trust). 

Sponsorship is all about visibility. But it works best if the cause/person you fund is something/someone that your target audience cares about, e.g., an event attended by your audience. 

Is sponsorship a popular way to do marketing? If you look at it globally, the spending from 2007 to 2018 was on a steady rise. 

Most probably, the stats are inflated by big brands sponsoring sports. But small and medium brands can engage in sponsorships too, e.g., niche magazines, industry events, or influential content creators. 

Example 

Sports would probably be just a pastime activity if it weren’t for the sponsors. 

Sports is also a great lesson about sponsorship. Watch an FC Barcelona game, and you’ll see and hear “Spotify” thousands of times. The logo is literally on every player, and its home stadium’s name starts with “Spotify.” 

Sports sponsorship example

Pros and cons 

Pros and cons of sponsorship

7. Conversational marketing 

Conversational marketing refers to engaging in real-time conversations with potential and current customers through live chats, chatbots, messaging apps, and social media. 

This channel is supposed to be the answer to generic experiences typically offered on websites where users have to navigate through a set of pages to get information or service. 

What’s more, it seems to be quite effective: 

  • 79% of companies say that live chat has had positive results for customer loyalty, sales, and revenue (Kayako).
  • 82% of companies that use AI conversational marketing solutions find them to be a valuable asset in their strategy (Drift). 

Example 

The way brands usually use chatbots (aka virtual assistants) is to: 

  • Answer basic and frequent questions.
  • Qualify leads.
  • Schedule a meeting with an agent. 
  • Promote specific content. 

Just like Drift does: 

Chatbot example

Anything beyond that is beyond the capabilities of automation for now. However, solutions like Zowie claim their chatbots are ready to sell things to humans. 

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of conversational marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing (WoMM) is the process of influencing and encouraging natural discussions about a product, service, or company.

In other words, it’s about giving people a reason to talk.

Is word of mouth effective? 

Well, it’s probably one of the most effective marketing channels because people tend to trust other people more than brands. According to a study by BrightLocal, 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Example 

WoM is so powerful it can get a company off the ground and help it grow throughout the years. 

We should know. Ahrefs started over 10 years ago with 0 marketing budget and no marketing personnel. What got us where we are today was largely thanks to WoM: recommendations from users and positive reviews. 

SEO industry poll
One of the industry polls on SEO tools.
Word of mouth example
This person subscribed to Ahrefs because their friends spread the word. Thank you, friends. 🙂

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of word of mouth

Learn more: Word-of-Mouth Marketing: A Simple Tried & Tested Guide 

Podcasting allows brands to reach people interested in a given topic by producing, being featured in, or sponsoring pre-recorded audio. 

Podcasts seem to be a growing channel in terms of audience and ad spend:

  • Podcast ad spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $2.2 billion in 2023, a 27% increase from 2022 (Statista).
  • There are more than 850,000 active podcasts today. 

Example 

Let’s take a quick look at three ways brands use podcasts today. 

The first, and probably the most popular way, is being interviewed on a podcast or co-hosting one. The brand and/or the product gets to be featured in a natural way throughout the conversation. 

Brand in a podcast

The second way, and also a very popular option, is to sponsor a podcast. The audience gets acquainted with the brand through advertisements inside the podcast and/or brand identification near the content (like in the example below).

Brand in a podcast

The last way a brand becomes engaged in podcasts is by creating its own series. Products are rarely featured; the focus is on memorable experiences delivered through carefully targeted content. This way, the brand can earn positive associations, differentiate, and give their audience a reason to come back to the website on a regular basis. 

Brand in a podcast

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of podcasts

Whereas other marketing channels are used to communicate with the audience, events are more about meeting with the audience. 

Event marketing can be done online and offline but also in a hybrid model. However, in-person events allow for evoking stronger emotions and more convenient networking. 

But can you rely on the in-person formula only? Probably not. Half of marketers and advertisers predict all future events will have a virtual dimension (MarketingCharts).

Example 

There are a few different types of events used in marketing. They can differ quite substantially. 

Trade shows. Organized around products and technologies. Usually business-oriented, with the goal of networking and generating leads. 

Formnext, example of event marketing
Formnext, an additive manufacturing trade show. Business, business, business.

Conferences. Organized around ideas or technologies. The focus is on exchanging knowledge, entertainment, and networking. Often have a laid-back atmosphere with a mixed agenda. They are the most “open” of all types. 

Inbound 2022, event marketing example
HubSpot’s Inbound landing page. Learn, meet friends, eat well. Like in life.

Seminars and workshops. Focused on exchanging ideas and experiences. Usually smaller in size and organized for a small number of people. 

SEO workshop at Digisemestr
My colleague, Michal Pecánek, running a workshop on SEO for students of Digisemestr.

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of events

Learn more: A Simple SEO Guide for Successful Event Marketing 

11. Affiliate marketing 

Affiliate marketing is where people promote another company’s product or service in return for a commission on generated sales.

The party promoting the product is called the affiliate, and the brand delivering the product is the merchant. Often, there is also a middleman connecting the parties called the network or program (e.g., ShareASale or GiddyUp).

A commission is typically a percentage of the sale price but can occasionally be a fixed amount. 

All those fractional commissions and percentages add up to a huge business. According to Statista, business spending on affiliate marketing will hit $8.2 billion in the U.S. by 2022.

Example 

This article by Musician on a Mission lists eight studio setup essentials and links to products using affiliate links. 

Example of affiliate link
The highlighted link is an affiliate link.

Products mentioned in this one article alone can get a part of that over 10,000 organic traffic (and other traffic sources too). 

Organic traffic to an article with affiliate links

At its best, affiliate marketing is a win-win for all parties involved, including consumers. Affiliates earn commissions on their work testing products (sometimes) and putting up the content, merchants get exposure to qualified audiences via trusted partners, and consumers don’t need to spend much time researching products on their own. 

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of affiliate marketing

Frequently asked questions about marketing channels. 

Why are channels important in marketing? 

Because every brand needs a way to reach out to its target audience and attract customers. Marketing channels simply connect brands to people who might need their products or services. 

What is the best marketing channel?

It’s very unlikely and definitely not optimal to use one marketing channel. Brands usually try to be present in as many channels as possible, as this increases reach and convenience to customers.

That said, it’s common to focus on one channel or a small set of channels. For example, at Ahrefs, we focus on organic search and video marketing because those channels can serve the entire marketing funnel. This has proven to be an effective way to reach out to our audience. 

How to choose marketing channels? 

Do some market research and identify places where your audience hangs out and what channels your competition is using. Then start using those channels to test out what works for you and what doesn’t, and then iterate on your findings. 

What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing? 

Omnichannel marketing is about using all available channels to attract and serve customers, providing a seamless experience. For example, Ikea allows you to purchase products in stores, online, through an app, by phone, etc. 

Omnichannel marketing in a nutshell

Whereas in multichannel marketing, multiple channels are utilized. However, not all of them are utilized or integrated. For example, I bought a wardrobe online recently, and the shop sent me text messages about the status of the order. But I couldn’t use the same channel to respond (and warn that it was about to send me the same product twice). 

How are marketing channels different in B2B than in B2C?

B2B and B2C brands invest in the same channels (according to HubSpot). However, the way they use the channels may differ. 

B2C brands usually use these channels to offer entertainment and directly impact sales. B2B brands focus more on educating prospects and forming long-lasting relations. 

These types of brands may also find some types of content or platforms more suitable for them. For example, B2C brands typically don’t publish case studies, and B2B brands find LinkedIn more effective. 

What’s the difference between marketing channels and distribution channels?

Distribution channels are the means by which products or services are being made available to a consumer (e.g., directly via a brand’s website or through resellers), whereas marketing channels are the means by which products and services are being communicated to the consumer. 

Final thoughts 

Multichannel marketing and omnichannel marketing seem to be the way to go these days. More channels mean more convenience for your customers, more prospects reached, and more ROI for your company.

But to make the best use of your channels, it’s a good idea to keep your brand’s messaging consistent across all media; marketers call it integrated marketing communications

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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13 Best High Ticket Affiliate Marketing Programs 2023

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13 Best High Ticket Affiliate Marketing Programs 2023

Are you looking for more ways to generate income for yourself or your business this year?

With high-ticket affiliate marketing programs, you earn money by recommending your favorite products or services to those who need them.

Affiliate marketers promote products through emails, blog posts, social media updates, YouTube videos, podcasts, and other forms of content with proper disclosure.

While not all affiliate marketers make enough to quit their 9-to-5, any additional income in the current economy can come in handy for individuals and businesses.

How To Get Started With Affiliate Marketing

Here’s a simple summary of how to get started with affiliate marketing.

  • Build an audience. You need websites with traffic, email lists with subscribers, or social media accounts with followers to promote a product – or ideally, a combination of all three.
  • Find products and services you can passionately promote to the audience you have built. The more you love something and believe in its efficacy, the easier it will be to convince someone else to buy it.
  • Sign up for affiliate and referral programs. These will be offered directly through the company selling the product or service, or a third-party affiliate platform.
  • Fill out your application and affiliate profile completely. Include your niche, monthly website traffic, number of email subscribers, and social media audience size. Companies will use that information to approve or reject your application.
  • Get your custom affiliate or referral link and share it with your audience, or the segment of your audience that would benefit most from the product you are promoting.
  • Look for opportunities to recommend products to new people. You can be helpful, make a new acquaintance, and earn a commission.
  • Monitor your affiliate dashboard and website analytics for insights into your clicks and commissions.
  • Adjust your affiliate marketing tactics based on the promotions that generate the most revenue.

Now, continue reading about the best high-ticket affiliate programs you can sign up for in 2023. They offer a high one-time payout, recurring commissions, or both.

The Best High-Ticket Affiliate Marketing Programs

What makes them these affiliate marketing programs the “best” is subjective, but I chose these programs based on their payout amounts, number of customers, and average customer ratings. Customer ratings help determine whether a product is worth recommending. You can also use customer reviews to help you market the products or services when you highlight impressive results customers gain from using the product or service, and the features customers love most.

1. Smartproxy

Smartproxy allows customers to access business data worldwide for competitor research, search engine results page (SERP) scraping, price aggregation, and ad verification.

836 reviewers gave it an average rating of 4.7 out of five stars.

Earn up to $2,000 per customer that you refer to Smartproxy using its affiliate program.

2. Thinkific

Thinkific is an online course creation platform used by over 50,000 instructors in over 100 million courses.

669 reviewers gave it an average rating of 4.6 out of five stars.

Earn up to $1,700 per referral per year through the Thinkific affiliate program.

3. BigCommerce

BigCommerce is an ecommerce provider with open SaaS, headless integrations, omnichannel, B2B, and offline-to-online solutions.

648 reviewers gave it an average rating of 8.1 out of ten stars.

Earn up to $1,500 for new enterprise customers, or 200% of the customer’s first payment by signing up for the BigCommerce affiliate program.

4. Teamwork

Teamwork, project management software focused on maximizing billable hours, helps everyone in your organization become more efficient – from the founder to the project managers.

1,022 reviewers gave it an average rating of 4.4 out of five stars.

Earn up to $1,000 per new customer referral with the Teamwork affiliate program.

5. Flywheel

Flywheel provides managed WordPress hosting geared towards agencies, ecommerce, and high-traffic websites.

36 reviewers gave it an average rating of 4.4 out of five stars.

Earn up to $500 per new referral from the Flywheel affiliate program.

6. Teachable

Teachable is an online course platform used by over 100,000 entrepreneurs, creators, and businesses of all sizes to create engaging online courses and coaching businesses.

150 reviewers gave it a 4.4 out of five stars.

Earn up to $450 (average partner earnings) per month by joining the Teachable affiliate program.

7. Shutterstock

Shutterstock is a global marketplace for sourcing stock photographs, vectors, illustrations, videos, and music.

507 reviewers gave it an average rating of 4.4 out of five stars.

Earn up to $300 for new customers by signing up for the Shutterstock affiliate program.

8. HubSpot

HubSpot provides a CRM platform to manage your organization’s marketing, sales, content management, and customer service.

3,616 reviewers gave it an average rating of 4.5 out of five stars.

Earn an average payout of $264 per month (based on current affiliate earnings) with the HubSpot affiliate program, or more as a solutions partner.

9. Sucuri

Sucuri is a cloud-based security platform with experienced security analysts offering malware scanning and removal, protection from hacks and attacks, and better site performance.

251 reviewers gave it an average rating of 4.6 out of five stars.

Earn up to $210 per new sale by joining Sucuri referral programs for the platform, firewall, and agency products.

10. ADT

ADT is a security systems provider for residences and businesses.

588 reviewers gave it an average rating of 4.5 out of five stars.

Earn up to $200 per new customer that you refer through the ADT rewards program.

11. DreamHost

DreamHost web hosting supports WordPress and WooCommerce websites with basic, managed, and VPS solutions.

3,748 reviewers gave it an average rating of 4.7 out of five stars.

Earn up to $200 per referral and recurring monthly commissions with the DreamHost affiliate program.

12. Shopify

Shopify, a top ecommerce solution provider, encourages educators, influencers, review sites, and content creators to participate in its affiliate program. Affiliates can teach others about entrepreneurship and earn a commission for recommending Shopify.

Earn up to $150 per referral and grow your brand as a part of the Shopify affiliate program.

13. Kinsta

Kinsta is a web hosting provider that offers managed WordPress, application, and database hosting.

529 reviewers gave it a 4.3 out of five stars.

Earn $50 – $100 per new customer, plus recurring revenue via the Kinsta affiliate program.

Even More Affiliate Marketing Programs

In addition to the high-ticket affiliate programs listed above, you can find more programs to join with a little research.

  • Search for affiliate or referral programs for all of the products or services you have a positive experience with, personally or professionally.
  • Search for affiliate or referral programs for all of the places you shop online.
  • Search for partner programs for products and services your organization uses or recommends to others.
  • Search for products and services that match your audience’s needs on affiliate platforms like Shareasale, Awin, and CJ.
  • Follow influencers in your niche to see what products and services they recommend. They may have affiliate or referral programs as well.

A key to affiliate marketing success is to diversify the affiliate marketing programs you join.

It will ensure that you continue to generate an affiliate income, regardless of if one company changes or shutters its program.

More resources:


Featured image: Shutterstock/fatmawati achmad zaenuri



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The Current State of Google PageRank & How It Evolved

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The Current State of Google PageRank & How It Evolved

PageRank (PR) is an algorithm that improves the quality of search results by using links to measure the importance of a page. It considers links as votes, with the underlying assumption being that more important pages are likely to receive more links.

PageRank was created by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1997 when they were at Stanford University, and the name is a reference to both Larry Page and the term “webpage.” 

In many ways, it’s similar to a metric called “impact factor” for journals, where more cited = more important. It differs a bit in that PageRank considers some votes more important than others. 

By using links along with content to rank pages, Google’s results were better than competitors. Links became the currency of the web.

Want to know more about PageRank? Let’s dive in.

Google still uses PageRank

In terms of modern SEO, PageRank is one of the algorithms comprising Experience Expertise Authoritativeness Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

Google’s algorithms identify signals about pages that correlate with trustworthiness and authoritativeness. The best known of these signals is PageRank, which uses links on the web to understand authoritativeness.

Source: How Google Fights Disinformation

We’ve also had confirmation from Google reps like Gary Illyes, who said that Google still uses PageRank and that links are used for E-A-T (now E-E-A-T).

When I ran a study to measure the impact of links and effectively removed the links using the disavow tool, the drop was obvious. Links still matter for rankings.

PageRank has also been a confirmed factor when it comes to crawl budget. It makes sense that Google wants to crawl important pages more often.

Fun math, why the PageRank formula was wrong 

Crazy fact: The formula published in the original PageRank paper was wrong. Let’s look at why. 

PageRank was described in the original paper as a probability distribution—or how likely you were to be on any given page on the web. This means that if you sum up the PageRank for every page on the web together, you should get a total of 1.

Here’s the full PageRank formula from the original paper published in 1997:

PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))

Simplified a bit and assuming the damping factor (d) is 0.85 as Google mentioned in the paper (I’ll explain what the damping factor is shortly), it’s:

PageRank for a page = 0.15 + 0.85 (a portion of the PageRank of each linking page split across its outbound links)

In the paper, they said that the sum of the PageRank for every page should equal 1. But that’s not possible if you use the formula in the paper. Each page would have a minimum PageRank of 0.15 (1-d). Just a few pages would put the total at greater than 1. You can’t have a probability greater than 100%. Something is wrong!

The formula should actually divide that (1-d) by the number of pages on the internet for it to work as described. It would be:

PageRank for a page = (0.15/number of pages on the internet) + 0.85 (a portion of the PageRank of each linking page split across its outbound links)

It’s still complicated, so let’s see if I can explain it with some visuals.

1. A page is given an initial PageRank score based on the links pointing to it. Let’s say I have five pages with no links. Each gets a PageRank of (1/5) or 0.2.

PageRank example of five pages with no links yet

2. This score is then distributed to other pages through the links on the page. If I add some links to the five pages above and calculate the new PageRank for each, then I end up with this: 

PageRank example of five pages after one iteration

You’ll notice that the scores are favoring the pages with more links to them.

3. This calculation is repeated as Google crawls the web. If I calculate the PageRank again (called an iteration), you’ll see that the scores change. It’s the same pages with the same links, but the base PageRank for each page has changed, so the resulting PageRank is different.

PageRank example of five pages after two iterations

The PageRank formula also has a so-called “damping factor,” the “d” in the formula, which simulates the probability of a random user continuing to click on links as they browse the web. 

Think of it like this: The probability of you clicking a link on the first page you visit is reasonably high. But the likelihood of you then clicking a link on the next page is slightly lower, and so on and so forth.

If a strong page links directly to another page, it’s going to pass a lot of value. If the link is four clicks away, the value transferred from that strong page will be a lot less because of the damping factor.

Example showing PageRank damping factor
History of PageRank

The first PageRank patent was filed on January 9, 1998. It was titled “Method for node ranking in a linked database.” This patent expired on January 9, 2018, and was not renewed. 

Google first made PageRank public when the Google Directory launched on March 15, 2000. This was a version of the Open Directory Project but sorted by PageRank. The directory was shut down on July 25, 2011.

It was December 11, 2000, when Google launched PageRank in the Google toolbar, which was the version most SEOs obsessed over.

This is how it looked when PageRank was included in Google’s toolbar. 

PageRank 8/10 in Google's old toolbar

PageRank in the toolbar was last updated on December 6, 2013, and was finally removed on March 7, 2016.

The PageRank shown in the toolbar was a little different. It used a simple 0–10 numbering system to represent the PageRank. But PageRank itself is a logarithmic scale where achieving each higher number becomes increasingly difficult.

PageRank even made its way into Google Sitemaps (now known as Google Search Console) on November 17, 2005. It was shown in categories of high, medium, low, or N/A. This feature was removed on October 15, 2009.

Link spam

Over the years, there have been a lot of different ways SEOs have abused the system in the search for more PageRank and better rankings. Google has a whole list of link schemes that include:

  • Buying or selling links—exchanging links for money, goods, products, or services.
  • Excessive link exchanges.
  • Using software to automatically create links.
  • Requiring links as part of a terms of service, contract, or other agreement.
  • Text ads that don’t use nofollow or sponsored attributes.
  • Advertorials or native advertising that includes links that pass ranking credit.
  • Articles, guest posts, or blogs with optimized anchor text links.
  • Low-quality directories or social bookmark links.
  • Keyword-rich, hidden, or low-quality links embedded in widgets that get put on other websites.
  • Widely distributed links in footers or templates. For example, hard-coding a link to your website into the WP Theme that you sell or give away for free.
  • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature.

The systems to combat link spam have evolved over the years. Let’s look at some of the major updates.

Nofollow

On January 18, 2005, Google announced it had partnered with other major search engines to introduce the rel=“nofollow” attribute. It encouraged users to add the nofollow attribute to blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists to help combat spam.

Here’s an excerpt from Google’s official statement on the introduction of nofollow:

If you’re a blogger (or a blog reader), you’re painfully familiar with people who try to raise their own websites’ search engine rankings by submitting linked blog comments like “Visit my discount pharmaceuticals site.” This is called comment spam, we don’t like it either, and we’ve been testing a new tag that blocks it. From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=“nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. 

Almost all modern systems use the nofollow attribute on blog comment links. 

SEOs even began to abuse nofollow—because of course we did. Nofollow was used for PageRank sculpting, where people would nofollow some links on their pages to make other links stronger. Google eventually changed the system to prevent this abuse.

In 2009, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed that this would no longer work and that PageRank would be distributed across links even if a nofollow attribute was present (but only passed through the followed link).

Google added a couple more link attributes that are more specific versions of the nofollow attribute on September 10, 2019. These included rel=“ugc” meant to identify user-generated content and rel=“sponsored” meant to identify links that were paid or affiliate.

Algorithms targeting link spam

As SEOs found new ways to game links, Google worked on new algorithms to detect this spam. 

When the original Penguin algorithm launched on April 24, 2012, it hurt a lot of websites and website owners. Google gave site owners a way to recover later that year by introducing the disavow tool on October 16, 2012.

When Penguin 4.0 launched on September 23, 2016, it brought a welcome change to how link spam was handled by Google. Instead of hurting websites, it began devaluing spam links. This also meant that most sites no longer needed to use the disavow tool. 

Google launched its first Link Spam Update on July 26, 2021. This recently evolved, and a Link Spam Update on December 14, 2022, announced the use of an AI-based detection system called SpamBrain to neutralize the value of unnatural links. 

The original version of PageRank hasn’t been used since 2006, according to a former Google employee. The employee said it was replaced with another less resource-intensive algorithm.

They replaced it in 2006 with an algorithm that gives approximately-similar results but is significantly faster to compute. The replacement algorithm is the number that’s been reported in the toolbar, and what Google claims as PageRank (it even has a similar name, and so Google’s claim isn’t technically incorrect). Both algorithms are O(N log N) but the replacement has a much smaller constant on the log N factor, because it does away with the need to iterate until the algorithm converges. That’s fairly important as the web grew from ~1-10M pages to 150B+.

Remember those iterations and how PageRank kept changing with each iteration? It sounds like Google simplified that system.

What else has changed?

Some links are worth more than others

Rather than splitting the PageRank equally between all links on a page, some links are valued more than others. There’s speculation from patents that Google switched from a random surfer model (where a user may go to any link) to a reasonable surfer model (where some links are more likely to be clicked than others so they carry more weight).

Some links are ignored

There have been several systems put in place to ignore the value of certain links. We’ve already talked about a few of them, including:

  • Nofollow, UGC, and sponsored attributes.
  • Google’s Penguin algorithm.
  • The disavow tool.
  • Link Spam updates.

Google also won’t count any links on pages that are blocked by robots.txt. It won’t be able to crawl these pages to see any of the links. This system was likely in place from the start.

Some links are consolidated

Google has a canonicalization system that helps it determine what version of a page should be indexed and to consolidate signals from duplicate pages to that main version.

Canonicalization signals

Canonical link elements were introduced on February 12, 2009, and allow users to specify their preferred version.

Redirects were originally said to pass the same amount of PageRank as a link. But at some point, this system changed and no PageRank is currently lost.

A bit is still unknown

When pages are marked as noindex, we don’t exactly know how Google treats the links. Even Googlers have conflicting statements.

According to John Mueller, pages that are marked noindex will eventually be treated as noindex, nofollow. This means that the links eventually stop passing any value.

According to Gary, Googlebot will discover and follow the links as long as a page still has links to it.

These aren’t necessarily contradictory. But if you go by Gary’s statement, it could be a very long time before Google stops crawling and counting links—perhaps never.

Can you still check your PageRank?

There’s currently no way to see Google’s PageRank.

URL Rating (UR) is a good replacement metric for PageRank because it has a lot in common with the PageRank formula. It shows the strength of a page’s link profile on a 100-point scale. The bigger the number, the stronger the link profile.

Screenshot showing UR score from Ahrefs overview 2.0

Both PageRank and UR account for internal and external links when being calculated. Many of the other strength metrics used in the industry completely ignore internal links. I’d argue link builders should be looking more at UR than metrics like DR, which only accounts for links from other sites.

However, it’s not exactly the same. UR does ignore the value of some links and doesn’t count nofollow links. We don’t know exactly what links Google ignores and don’t know what links users may have disavowed, which will impact Google’s PageRank calculation. We also may make different decisions on how we treat some of the canonicalization signals like canonical link elements and redirects.

So our advice is to use it but know that it may not be exactly like Google’s system.

We also have Page Rating (PR) in Site Audit’s Page Explorer. This is similar to an internal PageRank calculation and can be useful to see what the strongest pages on your site are based on your internal link structure.

Page rating in Ahrefs' Site Audit

How to improve your PageRank

Since PageRank is based on links, to increase your PageRank, you need better links. Let’s look at your options.

Redirect broken pages

Redirecting old pages on your site to relevant new pages can help reclaim and consolidate signals like PageRank. Websites change over time, and people don’t seem to like to implement proper redirects. This may be the easiest win, since those links already point to you but currently don’t count for you.

Here’s how to find those opportunities:

I usually sort this by “Referring domains.”

Best by links report filtered to 404 status code to show pages you may want to redirect

Take those pages and redirect them to the current pages on your site. If you don’t know exactly where they go or don’t have the time, I have an automated redirect script that may help. It looks at the old content from archive.org and matches it with the closest current content on your site. This is where you likely want to redirect the pages.

Internal links

Backlinks aren’t always within your control. People can link to any page on your site they choose, and they can use whatever anchor text they like.

Internal links are different. You have full control over them.

Internally link where it makes sense. For instance, you may want to link more to pages that are more important to you.

We have a tool within Site Audit called Internal Link Opportunities that helps you quickly locate these opportunities. 

This tool works by looking for mentions of keywords that you already rank for on your site. Then it suggests them as contextual internal link opportunities.

For example, the tool shows a mention of “faceted navigation” in our guide to duplicate content. As Site Audit knows we have a page about faceted navigation, it suggests we add an internal link to that page.

Example of an internal link opportunity

External links

You can also get more links from other sites to your own to increase your PageRank. We have a lot of guides around link building already. Some of my favorites are:

Final thoughts

Even though PageRank has changed, we know that Google still uses it. We may not know all the details or everything involved, but it’s still easy to see the impact of links.

Also, Google just can’t seem to get away from using links and PageRank. It once experimented with not using links in its algorithm and decided against it.

So we don’t have a version like that that is exposed to the public but we have our own experiments like that internally and the quality looks much much worse. It turns out backlinks, even though there is some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really really big win in terms of quality of search results.

We played around with the idea of turning off backlink relevance and at least for now backlinks relevance still really helps in terms of making sure that we turn the best, most relevant, most topical set of search results.

Source: YouTube (Google Search Central)

If you have any questions, message me on Twitter.



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Chrome 110 Changes How Web Share API Embeds Third Party Content

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Chrome 110 Changes How Web Share API Embeds Third Party Content

Chrome 110, scheduled to roll out on February 7, 2023, contains a change to how it handles the Web Share API that improves privacy and security by requiring a the Web Share API to explicitly allow third-party content.

This might not be something that an individual publisher needs to act on.

It’s probably more relevant on the developer side where they are making things like web apps that use the Web Share API.

Nevertheless, it’s good to know what it is for the rare situation when it might be useful for diagnosing why a webpage doesn’t work.

The Mozilla developer page describes the Web Share API:

“The Web Share API allows a site to share text, links, files, and other content to user-selected share targets, utilizing the sharing mechanisms of the underlying operating system.

These share targets typically include the system clipboard, email, contacts or messaging applications, and Bluetooth or Wi-Fi channels.

…Note: This API should not be confused with the Web Share Target API, which allows a website to specify itself as a share target”

allow=”web-share” Attribute

An attribute is an HTML markup that modifies an HTML element in some way.

For example, the nofollow attribute modifies the <a> anchor element, by signaling the search engines that the link is not trusted.

The <iframe> is an HTML element and it can be modified with the allow=”web-share” attribute

An <iframe> allows a webpage to embed HTML, usually from another website.

Iframes are everywhere, such as in advertisements and embedded videos.

The problem with an iframe that contains content from another site is that it creates the possibility of showing unwanted content or allow malicious activities.

And that’s the problem that the allow=”web-share” attribute solves by setting a permission policy for the iframe.

This specific permission policy (allow=”web-share”) tells the browser that it’s okay to display 3rd party content from within an iframe.

Google’s announcement uses this example of the attribute in use:

<iframe allow="web-share" src="https://third-party.example.com/iframe.html"></iframe>

Google calls this a “a potentially breaking change in the Web Share API.

The announcement warns:

“If a sharing action needs to happen in a third-party iframe, a recent spec change requires you to explicitly allow the operation.

Do this by adding an allow attribute to the <iframe> tag with a value of web-share.

This tells the browser that the embedding site allows the embedded third-party iframe to trigger the share action.”

Read the announcement at Google’s Chrome webpage:

New requirements for the Web Share API in third-party iframes

Featured image by Shutterstock/Krakenimages.com



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