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Google Algorithms And Updates Focusing On User Experience: A Timeline

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Google Algorithms And Updates Focusing On User Experience: A Timeline

As the role of search evolves to touch multiple marketing and consumer touchpoints, optimizing for the user has never been so important.

This is reflected in Google’s continual focus on the searcher experience. Whether in its core algorithmic updates, new features, products, or SERP format changes.

While some of these Google changes have involved updates targeting low-quality content, links, and spam, other updates aim to understand consumer behavior and intent.

For example, most recent updates have focused on page speed, Core Web Vitals, and product reviews.

Considering the massive competition for SERP real estate from brands, even slight drops in position will critically impact traffic, revenue, and conversions.

In this article, I examine a combination of some (not all) Google updates and technological advancements that significantly reflect the search engine’s focus on the human user and their experiences online – from Panda in 2011 through to Page and Product Experience in 2021 and 2022.

Google Panda (2011)

First launched in February 2011, subsequent updates were continuous and added to Google’s core algorithm.

Panda was announced to target sites with low-quality content; this was one of the first signals that Google focused on content for the user experience.

The focus: producing and optimizing unique and compelling content.

  • Avoid thin content and focus on producing high-quality information.
  • Measure quality over quantity.
  • Content length is not a significant factor but needs to contain information that answers the user’s needs.
  • Avoid duplicate content – initially a big concern for ecommerce sites. Most recently, Google’s John Mueller explained that duplicate content is not a negative ranking factor.

Google Hummingbird (2013)

Following the introduction of the Knowledge Graph came Hummingbird with a focus on semantic search.

Hummingbird was designed to help Google better understand the intent and context behind searches.

As users looked to enter queries more conversationally, it became essential to optimize for user experience by focusing on content beyond the keyword with a renewed focus on the long tail.

This was the first indication of Google using natural language processing (NLP) to identify black hat techniques and create personalized SERP results.

The focus: creating and optimizing content that audiences want and find helpful.

  • Long-tail keywords and intent model strategies became crucial.
  • Content creation is needed to address what users are interested in and would like to learn.
  • Expand keyword research to include conceptual and contextual factors.
  • Avoid keyword-stuffing and producing low-quality content to personalize experiences.
Image source: BrightEdge, July 2022

E-A-T (2014)

Although it gained attention in 2018, the Google E-A-T concept first appeared in 2014 in Google’s Quality Guidelines.

Now, it is part of Google’s guidelines on focusing on YMYL – your money or your life.

Marketers were advised to focus on content that could impact their readers’ future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.

Google established E-A-T guidelines to help marketers tailor on and off-page SEO and content strategies to provide users with an experience containing the most relevant content from sources they could trust.

In other words: Expertise, Authority, and Trust.

The focus: ensuring websites offer expert and authoritative content that users can trust.

  • Create content that shows expertise and knowledge of the subject matter.
  • Focus on the credibility and authority of websites publishing content.
  • Improve the overall quality of websites – structure and security.
  • Earn off-page press coverage on reputable sites, reviews, testimonials, and expert authors.

Mobile Update (2015)

This was the first time Google gave marketers a heads-up (or a warning, for many) that an update was coming.

Focusing on the user’s experience on mobile was a significant signal reflecting the growing use of mobile as part of the customer search journey.

Google clearly communicated that this update would prioritize mobile-friendly websites on mobile SERPs. Many more mobile updates followed.

The focus: mobile content and users’ mobile site experience.

  • Focus on design factors such as responsive design and mobile page structures.
  • Enhance site navigation, so mobile users can quickly find what they need.
  • Avoid format issues on mobile that were different from the desktop experience.
  • Confirm that websites are mobile-optimized.

Just after the mobile update went live, Google quietly issued a Quality update.

Websites that focused on the user experience by focusing on quality content and avoiding too much irrelevant user-generated content and too many ads did well. This was another sign that Google was putting the user experience first.

RankBrain (2015)

Like the Hummingbird principles and NLP mentioned earlier, Google RankBrain was more of a change to the algorithm.

It gave us an indication of how vital machine learning was in all marketing and technology forms.

Utilizing this to learn and predict user behavior, RankBrain powered search results based on an even better understanding of users’ intent.

The focus: ensuring that content reflects user intent and optimizing for conversational search.

  • Place greater focus and emphasis on creating content that matches the user’s intent.
  • Ensure that all aspects of technical SEO are updated (such as schema markup, for example).
  • Google signified that RankBrain was the third-most important ranking signal.

Google Mobile-First Indexing (2018)

The Mobile-First Indexing Update meant that Google would use the mobile version of a webpage for indexation and ranking.

Once again, this was aimed to help enhance the user experience and help users find what they are looking for.

Producing content for mobile and focusing on speed and performance became paramount to success.

The focus: re-affirming the importance of mobile optimization, content, speed, and mobile site performance.

  • Improve AMP and mobile page speed and performance.
  • Ensure that URL structures for mobile and desktop sites meet Google requirements.
  • Add structured data for both desktop and mobile versions.
  • Make sure the mobile site contains the same content as the desktop site.

Google has said that March 2021 is the rollout date for its mobile-first index.

Shortly afterward, Google made mobile page speed a ranking factor so website owners would focus on load times and page speed to enhance the user experience.

Broad Core Algorithm Updates (2018)

2018 was a year in which Google released lots of core algorithm updates covering areas such as social signals and the so-called medic update.

After the August update, in particular, Google’s John Mueller suggested making content more relevant.

While there was some confusion on ranking factors and fixing specific issues, it did bring the concept of E-A-T and content for the user top of mind for many SEO professionals and content marketers.

On the topic of rater guidelines being key to the broad update, Google’s Danny Sullivan suggested:

“Want to do better with a broad change? Have great content. Yeah, the same boring answer. But if you want a better idea of what we consider great content, read our raters guidelines. That’s like almost 200 pages of things to consider.”

BERT (2019)

Following RankBrain, this neural network-based method for natural language processing allowed Google to understand conversational queries better.

BERT allows users to find valuable and accurate information more easily.

According to Google, this represented the most significant leap forward in the past five years and one of the greatest in search history.

The focus: improving the understanding of consumer intent through conversational type search themes.

  • Increase the depth and specifics of the content.
  • Work more with long-tail queries and phrases using more than three words.
  • Ensure that content addresses the users’ questions or queries and is optimized correctly.
  • Focus on writing for humans clearly and concisely so that it is easy to understand.

Read more on BERT and SMITH here.

COVID-19 Pandemic (March 2020)

The global pandemic meant that consumer behavior and search patterns changed forever as Google continued to focus on E-A-T signals.

Google began to emphasize YMYL signals as the internet struggled to cope with misinformation and SEO pros struggled to keep up with the rapid shifts and dips in consumer behavior.

From setting up 24-hour incident response teams with the World Health Organization and policing content to helping people find helpful information and avoiding misinformation, the user’s needs never became so important.

The demand for SEO rose to an all-time high, and Google released a COVID-19 playbook.

Google Page Experience Update And Core Web Vitals Announced (May 2020)

Focusing on a site’s technical health and metrics to measure the user experience of a page metrics include looking at how quickly page content loads, how quickly a browser loading a webpage can respond to a user’s input, and how unstable the content is as it loads in the browser.

The focus: integrating new Core Web Vitals metrics to measure and improve on-page experiences.

  • Mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitials – The Google Page Experience Signal.
  • LCP (Largest Contentful Paint): Improve page load times for large images and video backgrounds.
  • FID (First Input Delay): Ensure your browser responds quickly to a user’s first interaction with a page.
  • CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): Include the size attributes on your images and video elements or reserve the space with CSS aspect ratio boxes and ensure content is never inserted above existing content, except in response to user interaction.

Broad Core Algorithm Updates (2020)

The third Google core algorithm update of the year rolled out in December 2020. This came in the form of slight changes that affect the order and weight of certain (not always disclosed) ranking signals.

According to SEJ Contributor Ryan Jones:

“Google aims to serve content that provides the best and most complete answers to searchers’ queries. Relevance is the one ranking factor that will always win out over all others.”

Read more on December’s Core Update here.

Passage Ranking (February 2021)

Google officially rolled out its passage-based indexing, designed to help users find answers to specific questions.

You’ve probably seen this in the wild, but essentially this allows Google to highlight pertinent elements of a passage within a piece of content that fits the question.

This means long-form content that may not be skimmable but provides valuable answers could be surfaced as a result.

Ultimately, this makes it easier for Google to connect users to content without making them hunt for the specific answer to their questions when they click on a page.

Passage Ranking (February 2021)Screenshot from blog.google, July 2022

The key to success with passage ranking goes back to focusing on creating great content for the user.

Read more on the 16 Key Points You Should Know here.

Product Reviews Update (April 2021)

This new product review update was designed to improve a user’s experience when searching for product reviews.

Marketers were advised to focus on avoiding creating thin content as this update will reward content that users find most helpful.

The focus: rewarding creators who provide users with authentic and detailed review content

Google shared nine helpful questions to consider when creating and publishing product reviews.

  • Show expert knowledge about products.
  • Differentiate your product compared to competitors.
  • Highlight benefits and any drawbacks clearly and concisely.
  • Show how the product has evolved to fit the needs of the user.

Read more here.

MUM (May 2021)

Following RankBrain and BERT, MUM (Multitask Unified Model) technology utilizes AI and NLP to improve information retrieval.

For the end user, this technological advancement helps provide better information and results as it processes multiple media formats such as video, images, and audio.

Pandu Nayak, Google fellow and vice president of Search, said:

“But with a new technology called Multitask Unified Model, or MUM, we’re getting closer to helping you with these types of complex needs. So in the future, you’ll need fewer searches to get things done.”

Read more here.

Page Experience Update And Core Web Vitals (CWV) Rollout (June 2021)

The much-anticipated Page Experience Update, including Core Web Vitals, rolled out, with further updates to desktop following in March 2022.

Nine months after the rollout of Google’s Core Web Vitals and over a year since BrightEdge launched pre-roll predictive research, new research showed how many industries are adapting and improving their Core Web Vitals.

The focus: improving Pages Experiences for users with speed and precision.

 

The focus: improving Pages Experiences for users with speed and precision.Image source: BrightEdge, July 2022
  • Retail giants have made significant strides in improving experiences.
  • In cases like Retail, CWV metrics like input delay have been cut in half.
  • Although Finance was the best prepared last year, it made the least performance gains in the categories ​evaluated.

Spam Update (June 2021) And Link Spam Algorithm Update (July 2021)

Spam updateImage source: BrightEdge July 2022

Ensuring users get the right results based on their searches is foundational to a good experience.

In addition, updates and algorithm changes help protect users’ privacy to keep searches safe and secure.

The focus: keeping user experiences safe.

Learn more in this video from Google here.

Local Search Update (November 2021))

Google has always provided local search updates for local search users and fine-tuned its algorithm for better user results.

Local search is a huge channel, not to be underestimated, but a whole other post.

This also includes guidance on how businesses can improve their local ranking for improved customer experiences.

Read more here.

Product Algorithm Update (March 2022)

On March 23, 2022, Google provided an instruction update based on how product reviews are performing in one year.

This also informed the community of improved rollout updates that will help users surface accurate and relevant information to help with purchasing decisions.

The focus: user experience and surfacing results that help users make purchasing easier.

Google Algorithms & Updates Focused On User Experience: A TimelineScreenshot from Google Search Central blog, July 2022
  • As always, showcase your expertise and ensure the content is authentic.
  • Share why you recommend products with evidence to support it.

Read more advice here and here.

Conclusion

A successful user experience requires a combination of content and technical expertise. Updates and guidance help marketers create content for the user.

In addition, algorithms and technological advancements help Google surface better results and showcase accurate, relevant, and trustworthy content.

Google will continue to focus on improving experiences for its user.

As a marketer who wants to optimize for both, ensuring your website (from navigation, speed, and reliability) and focusing on content is vital.

Many of Google’s updates signal that technical SEO, data science, and content marketing excellence are coming together.

Stay up to date and read through all of Google’s Updates here on SEJ.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock



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SEO

7 Essential Tips & Tricks You Might Not Know

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7 Essential Tips & Tricks You Might Not Know

It may not look like one of the fancy, paid SEO tools you’re used to logging into, but Excel remains one of the most versatile and powerful tools in an SEO professional’s toolbox.

You can use Excel to track and analyze key metrics such as rankings, website traffic, and backlinks.

Use it to create and update meta tags, track and analyze competitors’ SEO strategies and performance, build automated reports, and take care of many of the data tasks you’ll encounter every day.

Combine your Excel knowledge with Python, Tableau, R, and other tools, and there is nothing you can’t do.

If you’ve never worked with data before, you’ll find Excel has a bit of a learning curve, but you can use it right from the start. And it’s flexible enough to scale and grow as your site grows.

Why Excel For SEO Tasks?

While many paid tools can help you do the same tasks, Excel is a fantastic option to enhance, combine, or replace those tools.

  • It’s affordable and comes with a range of tools you already use.
  • There are a ton of resources and courses to help you learn.
  • Easily handles large amounts of data.
  • Sorting and de-duplicating – a feature often missing when you need it.
  • Create and manage databases with simple formulas.
  • Data ports easily to other tools and is available for other tasks.
  • Pivot tables and smart charts.

1. Combine Multiple Data Sources

You will often find yourself having to merge data from multiple sources.

This is intuitive and quick in Tableau, Python, or R, but you can do the same in Excel using Power Query.

There are a few steps to this process, but it’s not as complicated as you might think – even if you are new to working with data or Excel.

Power Query has automated and simplified tasks that required a lot of time and skill.

And it is probably THE best Excel feature for business and SEO professionals.

Seem a bit daunting? Don’t worry. There are several courses and tutorials on YouTube to get you started.

What It’s Good For:

  • Building reports.
  • Analytics and sales data.
  • Combining data sources to identify opportunities and gain insights.

2. Data Cleaning

Much of your time is lost simply preparing data for analysis. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Large lists are often larger than they need to be. Finding and manually removing all the duplicates, however, can be a serious pain.

Excel can do this instantly for you. Simply go to the “Data” tab and click “Remove Duplicates.”

Screenshot from Excel, January 2023.

Unwanted spaces and blank lines tend to cause havoc with many tasks, formulas, and statistics.

Excel will remove them for you simply by going to Edit > Find > Go To. Select “Special,” “Blanks,” and tell Excel how it should handle them.

“Convert text to columns” can be a lifesaver, especially if you’ve received data where the addresses or names are all in the same cell or you need to extract domains from email addresses.

Go to Data > Text to Columns. Then, indicate what to use for Delimiters (comma or space) and preview the results. When you’re ready, click “Next,” choose a destination, and click “Finish.”

When To Use It:

  • Data analysis.
  • Data processing.
  • Processing and cleaning lead databases.
  • Working with any data.

 3. Power Excel With Add-On Tools

Some of the more complex tasks, such as crawling, require a bit of coding knowledge.

If you don’t have that in your skillset, however, there are tools you can download, integrate with other tools, and add on.

Power Excel With Add-On ToolsScreenshot from SEOTools, January 2023.

SEOTools offers off and on-page SEO tools, integrations, connectors, spiders, and several other tools that make it easy to customize your Excel and create custom projects.

SEOGadget brings the power of Moz, Grepwords, and Majestic to Excel.

Analysis ToolPak is for serious data analysis. This add-on improves and automates in-depth statistics, perfect for forecasting, trending, regression analysis, and more complex data analysis tasks you might otherwise perform in R or Python.

When To Use It:

  • Reporting.
  • Regular data analysis.
  • Presentations.
  • Integrating and coordinating with other teams.

4. Infographics And Charts

Data is useless if you can’t understand it.

In fact, data visualization and storytelling are likely some of the most important skills you can have. This is where tools like Power Query and PivotTables come in.

Built right into Excel, pivot tables are the other valuable tools you have for this purpose.

However, instead of just creating a straight pivot table and a related chart, save yourself some steps by creating a master “template” first that you can then replicate as needed and adjust to suit your needs.

Excel pivot tables for reportingScreenshot from Excel, January 2023.

In many instances, however, you will need to work with dates or segments of the data. For that, you’ll want to enter splicers and timelines.

  • To splice data into segments: Select the pivot table and go to PivotTable Tools > Analyze > Filter > Insert Slicer. Then, simply input how you would like to segment the content (e.g., by product or topic).
  • To utilize timelines: Click the pivot table’s tools option, go to Analyze > Filter > Insert Timeline. Once there, you can choose what you’d like to use, style it, add captions, and more.

If you’ve never used Excel’s PivotTables before, a short tutorial will have you on your way to analyzing data in no time.

Still want a little more? Make your reports, social media, and updates even better by upping your data visualization game with add-ons like People Graph.

When To Use It:

  • Reporting.
  • Daily updates.
  • Surface data analysis.
  • Team collaboration and integration.

5. Automate Common Tasks With Macros

SEO, particularly agency SEO, is full of repetitive tasks like weekly reporting that consume much of your time. Excel’s macros are the answer. And they’re really easy to use.

Under the “View” tab, click “Macros” and “Record Macro.”

Automate Common Tasks With MacrosScreenshot from Excel, January 2023.

Fill out the details.

The macro is now recording. So, simply walk through the steps that you’d like to automate. And when you’re done, go back to the ribbon and stop the recording.

When you’re ready to run the automation, go to the macro button in the ribbon, click “View Macros,” and select the desired macro from the list.

If you have some macros that you use more often than others, you can add them to the Quick Access Toolbar.

When To Use It:

  • Sorting.
  • Calculations.
  • Reformatting data.
  • Setting up new site documents or new pages for reports.

6. Easily Import Feeds And Data Into Excel

If you use Google Alerts or publish frequently, automatically importing feeds into Excel can be a huge time saver.

To start, simply grab the RSS feed address. (Or, create an alert for Google Alerts and have them delivered as an RSS feed.)

Importing rss feeds into google sheets for excelScreenshot from Google Sheets, January 2023.

Then, go to Google Sheets and use the IMPORTFEED function to bring the updates straight into a spreadsheet.

Alternatively, you can add the information to separate columns.

Importing rss feeds into excel through google sheetsScreenshot from Google Sheets, January 2023.

From here, you can regularly download and import the data into Excel, combine it with other related data, or integrate it into your custom dashboards.

If you need something a little more automatic, use Google Apps Script or one of the add-ons available to automate the process.

Want a little more data behind your reports? You can scrape and import Google Search Results into Excel, too.

7. Backlink Analysis

To analyze backlinks with Excel, collect backlink data with tools such as Ahrefs, Majestic, or Google Search Console.

Then, import it into Excel and use it to analyze your backlinks in a number of ways:

  • Who links to you: Use Excel’s sorting and filtering tools to filter the data and use the IF function: IF(logic, true_value,[false_value]) to sort and identify domains linking to you.
  • What do people link to: Sort and filter to see the anchor text used most often for your backlinks (using frequency/count).
  • When did people link to you: Organize the data by date to see how old your links are and when most of your backlinks were acquired.

Find trends or patterns in your backlink profiles with pivot tables, groups, charts, and graphs by combining your backlink and sales or conversion data.

Highlight specific data based on certain conditions with conditional formatting. This makes it easy to spot backlinks from high-authority websites or backlinks with specific anchor text.

Summary

Many people overlook Excel either because they think it’s too basic to be of much use. Or it looks too intimidating or daunting to learn.

But those of us who use it understand just how powerful it can be and the unlimited possibilities it provides.

Hopefully, these tips will help you craft better strategies, find new opportunities, and tell your story with better reports and dashboards.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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12 Great Link Building Tools That Are Essential To Your Success

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12 Great Link Building Tools That Are Essential To Your Success

Link-building strategies, along with SEO tools, have certainly changed over the years.

Since the old automated link-building tools that automatically placed content like KontentMachine or GSA’s Search Engine Ranker, modern tools have moved to manual research and outreach platforms.

Tools that many of my link-building colleagues and I use today look more like ones used for public relations (PR) rather than link-building. However, there are still tools specific to link building that aren’t going anywhere.

These can be divided into four categories:

  • Link research.
  • Prospecting and outreach.
  • Reporting.
  • AI-powered tools.

Emerging technologies powered by AI can make the link-building process easier.

Link Research Prospecting And Outreach Reporting AI-Powered Tools
1. Majestic

Excellent for identifying the types of domains you should generate links from.

3. Pitchbox

Combines email outreach with SEO metrics.

8. Agency Analytics

Connects a variety of performance metrics.

10. Link Whisperer

Good for internal linking efforts.

2. Ahrefs

Provides useful reports to analyze trends.

4. BuzzSumo

Use to identify authors and sharers/backlinkers.

9. Cyfe

Customizable but automatic reporting.

11. Postaga

Find opportunities and initiate outreach.

5. Hunter.IO

A browser extension that helps you find contact information.

12. CTRify

WordPress plugin that generates content.

6. BrightLocal

Submit and manage citations.

7. HARO

Link Research Tools

Link research is vital to figuring out what type of sites you should be approaching. This includes establishing quality criteria, categories of sites, authority metrics, and others.

Majestic and Ahrefs are two research tools that provide large databases and robust reporting.

I’ve included both of these sites as I constantly see each having data that the other doesn’t.

You may find some links to your competitors’ sites in Majestic that aren’t listed in Ahrefs and vice versa.

These tools can be used together to build a comprehensive list of sites to analyze. As with many SEO tools, the pricing depends on how many features your team needs.

1. Majestic

  • Pricing: $49.99 per month with one user for the ‘Lite’ package. $99.99 per month for the “Pro” package, which they recommend for SEO agencies and consultants.
  • Payment options: Monthly or receive a discount for an annual subscription.
Screenshot from Majestic, January 2023

Here are some recommendations on using it and what reports should influence your link-building.

  • Topics: This data can be used to identify the types of sites you should be generating links from. Consider running this report on the link profiles for top-ranking sites, then finding sites that fit into similar categories.
  • Referring Domains: Use this to evaluate the number of unique domains you should focus on building for your site. This also offers a look into the trust/citation flow distribution (count of domains by trust/citation flow).

2. Ahrefs

  • Pricing: $99 per month with only one user for the ‘Lite’ plan. $199 per month for the “Standard” plan.
  • Payment options: Monthly or receive a discount for an annual subscription.
Ahrefs toolScreenshot from Ahrefs, January 2023

In contrast to Majestic, Ahrefs has some reports that are much easier to run inside the tool. It certainly costs more, but if you want more data, then Ahrefs is the right choice.

Here are reports to use in Ahrefs over Majestic:

  • Pages > Best by links: Two useful applications of this report are:
    • Identify competitors’ most linked content to influence your content strategies.
    • Identify the type of sites that link to the content you will produce.
  • Pages > Best by link growth: This is a “trend” report providing content that has been generating links over the last 30 days. Find content here that is receiving a rapid number of links and create more robust content.

Prospecting And Outreach Tools

Finding highly relevant sites that may link to your content is the most excruciating part of link building.

You can create a large list of sites and bulk outreach to save time, but when evaluating your link-building success on links gained per hour and the quality of those links, it’s best to handle prospecting manually or in a semi-automated approach.

I’ll go through five tools, Pitchbox, BuzzSumo, Hunter.io, BrightLocal, and HARO.

These tools can be used for the most popular link-building strategies.

3. Pitchbox

  • Pricing: Averages $500+ per month.
  • Payment options: Prices are dependent on an individual walkthrough with Pitchbox.

Pitchbox is one of the pricier tools on the market compared to email tools like MailChimp, but integrated prospecting helps reduce the time to qualify sites.

The prospecting sites list builder and SEO metrics integrated right into the opportunities report make the tool stand out.

PitchboxScreenshot from Pitchbox, January 2023

4. BuzzSumo

  • Pricing: $99 per month for the “Pro” package. $179 per month for the “Plus” package. There’s a pared-down free version with limited searches per month.
  • Payment options: There is also a free version with limited features.

This is an excellent tool for building lists of blogs, influencers, and authors. Out of all the prospecting tools on the list, BuzzSumo has the best filtering options.

You can use the tool for a lot of purposes, but for link building, these are two effective use cases:

  • Identifying authors: The content research and influencers sections provide lists of authors/influencers that are searchable by keywords in the content they shared or produced. One fantastic use for this is to search through the “most shared” report and find influencers that received more than 2,000 shares of their content, then outreach to them to share yours. This can yield a lot of natural links.
  • Identifying sharers/backlinks: The second use goes a layer deeper than the first, finding those that have shared the content. Pull a list of shares or backlinking websites by content, then create similar but better content.
Buzzsumo platformScreenshot from Buzzsumo, January 2023

5. Hunter.io

  • Pricing: Starts at free. The first two upgraded packages are $49 per month and $99 per month.
  • Payment options: Free for 25 monthly searches up to $399 per month for 30,000 searches.

This browser extension finds email addresses for easy contact options.

It helps cut down on time spent sifting through About pages. You can also take it a step further and use the tool for outreach.

Hunter.ioScreenshot from Hunter.io, January 2023

6. BrightLocal

  • Pricing: $29-$79 per month, depending on package size.
  • Payment options: You can also pay for the citation builder, reviews, or enterprise.

Citation building is important for local SEO and should be considered a link-building project.

One of the tools with the best value for submitting and managing citations is BrightLocal.

There are two components: citation monitoring and citation building. The tool also allows you to figure out how you’re ranking based on the local competition.

BrightLocalScreenshot from BightLocal, January 2023

7. HARO

  • Pricing: Starts at free. The first paid plan is $19 per month, which adds alerts and search functionality.
  • Payment options: The free options offer media options delivered to your email three times a day and up to $149/month for premium.

While this tool is traditionally used in the journalism world, it can also help link builders. It connects you with credible sources and allows you to build natural backlinks.

HAROScreenshot from HARO, January 2023

Reporting Tools

Although many of the tools in the previous section have reporting functionality built in, I’ve found them lacking in custom reporting or the ability to associate links to ranking performance.

These tools solve that issue; AgencyAnalytics and Cyfe.

8. Agency Analytics

  • Pricing: $12 per month, per campaign. $18 per month per campaign for custom reporting features.
  • Payment options: Pay annually to save money.

Agency Analytics automatically populates the dashboard with data from Moz and Majestic and connects that data to critical performance metrics, like ranking and organic traffic.

Qualified traffic that converts to leads or sales is the purpose of link-building and SEO efforts, so reporting needs to make a connection between them.

Agency AnalyticsScreenshot from Agency Analytics, January 2023

9. Cyfe

  • Pricing: $19 per month for one user, with higher tiers for more users.
  • Payment options: Unlimited users for $89/month.

This tool can be built out as a hybrid between Google Sheets and Agency Analytics, meaning it’s very customizable but can also automatically and easily aggregate data from multiple sources to create a meaningful report.

CyfeScreenshot from Cyfe, January 2023

AI-Powered Tools

AI-powered tools can significantly simplify otherwise complex and time-consuming tasks. Remember that some of your processes will require a human touch, so always evaluate how performance is impacted when integrating AI into your processes.

The following tools, Link Whisper, Postaga, and CTRify use AI to discover opportunities and automate processes.

10. Link Whisper

  • Pricing: $77 per month for one site, with additional plans for more sites.
  • Payment options: One to 50 site licenses.

Link Whisper is useful for internal link building.

AI technologies offer automatic link suggestions as content is produced. It can also help you recognize old content that needs more links directed to it.

The tools also automate links based on keywords and offer internal link reporting. It’s pretty all-inclusive and can help speed up internal link-building automatically.

Link WhispererScreenshot from Link Whisperer, January 2023

11. Postaga

  • Pricing: $84 per month for one account with five users. $250 per month for 30 accounts with unlimited users.
  • Payment options: Save by paying annually.

Postaga does everything from finding opportunities to initiating outreach.

AI comes into play with the outreach assistant, which finds relevant information from influencers to include in emails. You can also enter your domain into the tool to find relevant campaign ideas.

PostagaScreenshot from Postaga, January 2023

12. CTRify

  • Pricing: A free version. $197 or $497, depending on the plan.
  • Payment options: Single payment.

CTRify is a WordPress plugin that is great for content creation.

All it takes is a single keyword, and the AI creates the content you need for a specific campaign. You can then automatically publish the posts – it doesn’t get much simpler than that.

CTRifyScreenshot from CTRify, January 2023

Conclusion

I’ve curated this list with the intent to offer a tool for every reader, providing enterprise-level affordable solutions and highly technical tools.

There is diversity in the available tools, and you will need to select the right one for the job.

You don’t need to have a $1,000 monthly tool budget to be a link builder, but all of the tasks will take time. Allocating your time and budget in the right combination improves business outcomes.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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WordPress Admin Interface Is “Simply Bad”

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WordPress Admin Interface Is "Simply Bad"

Yoast SEO plugin founder, Joost de Valk, published a critical appraisal of the WordPress user interface (UI), saying that it makes it  “harder to use” and may be a reason that contributes to WordPress losing market share to companies like Wix and Shopify.

The official WordPress design philosophy states that they want to make WordPress easier to use with every new version published.

They write that it’s their goal that the “non-technically minded” user is the one they design for so that they can be set up within five minutes with a fully functional website.

However the reality of how easy WordPress is to use falls far short of their philosophy statement.

Even the developer of WordPress itself, Matt Mullenweg, said that designing in Wix is faster than doing the same thing in WordPress.

WordPress User Interface Design

Joost points the finger at the current WordPress admin user interface as a contributing factor to why WordPress is confusing to use.

He called attention to the fact that WordPress has three different user interfaces, forcing users to learn how to use each interface and complicating the experience of using WordPress.

To make things worse, themes and plugins introduce their own user interface elements, which again forces users to learn an entirely different way to navigate and user the software.

An ideal user interface (UI) offers a consistent workspace so that a user doesn’t have to stop and rethink where all the buttons and links are.

Interacting with the interface should be similar across every screen, regardless of what they are trying to accomplish.

Joost wrote:

“The current state is simply bad: WordPress core basically has 3 designs now.

The edit post page I’m typing this in looks nothing like the Posts overview page, which looks nothing like the Site Health page.

And then you go into plugins and each has their own UI there too. This makes WordPress as a whole harder to use.”

WordPress is Old Fashioned and Losing Market Share

Aside from the UI being inconsistent, Joost also pointed out that competitors like Wix have a consistent UI throughout their content management systems.

So while the rest of the world is moving on with best practices WordPress is stuck with the same inconsistent interface it’s had for years.

Yoast insisted that the poor user interface is contributing to the exodus of users from WordPress to competitors.

“This is how we lose CMS market share to companies like Wix and Shopify (who each do have their own design system).”

Is WordPress Hard to Use?

A major feature that makes a closed source CMS like Wix attractive is that it’s easy to use. One of the reasons it’s easy to use is a consistent design system.

PC Magazine gave Wix an Editors Choice Best of the Year Award in 2022, writing:

“If you want to build a website online with minimal effort and maximum creative freedom, look no further than Wix.”

WordPress received no such award. However, in PC Magazine’s overview of WordPress, the authors remarked that it wasn’t “particularly difficult.”

But the authors of the PC Magazine overview also acknowledged the learning curve to using WordPress:

“…people who aren’t familiar with the process may need a guiding hand.”

WordPress theme website ThemeIsle writes:

“While WordPress does not require any coding knowledge, customizing your theme is often not that straightforward.

By default, you don’t get quite the same visual editing experience as you would with Squarespace or Wix, although the new Block Editor is evolving in that direction…Some poorly coded themes might also be a pain to adjust unless you’re an advanced user.”

One of the goals of WordPress is to be easy for users to build with.

So it’s puzzling that WordPress is acknowledged as difficult to use, particularly in comparison to closed source alternatives like Wix, Shopify and Duda.

Joost de Valk puts his finger on the outdated admin UI as one reason why WordPress is so hard to use.

He practically pleads for the leadership at WordPress to prioritize designing a consistent user interface.

“WordPress needs a design system and it needs it fast…”

Response from Twitter WordPress Community

The response to Joost’s article was overwhelmingly positive, with many from the WordPress community thanking Joost for calling attention to the topic.

@learnwithmattc tweeted:

“Excellent write-up, summary, recommendations, tips, resources. It’s not often you get this much valuable info in one blog post.

WP Product Devs, pay attention! Settings UIs matter, whether you like the route Yoast took or not, I think it’s worth paying attention to.”

@Shock9699 tweeted thanks for the article, calling attention to the mismatched menus within the WordPress admin interface.

“Totally agree. WordPress now looks like a 10/15 year old CMS. Especially with the advent of the new FSE where the internal menus are different from those of the normal dashboard.”

@mnowak_eth tweeted agreement with the opinions about the state of the WordPress admin UI:

“…Wordpress panel is starting to look like ancient enterprise software (you know the names). With the whole SaaS movement constantly educating the Internet society on good and bad UX and ergonomics, wp panel was overlooked.”

A standardized design that is shared by plugins and themes would create a seamless and coherent admin interface. @wpsecurityuser tweeted an appeal for a standardized design system.

“Please stop plugins implementing their UI systems, update the wordpress admin UI and standerdize everything, let’s get modern.”

@bitartem called attention to the value of having a design system in place so that the WordPress ecosystem can know ahead of time what to expect.

“Another problem is that WordPress is in a transitional phase, I mean Block Editor, and Full Site Editing, and new features are added almost every day, so if there’s a Design System, we need to know what WordPress will become in near future.”

WordPress Admin User Interface Needs Improvement

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that WordPress is in trouble when the person who created it says that it’s faster to get things done in a closed source competitor than it is with WordPress.

Joost’s article focuses on the outdated state of the WordPress admin interface and calls attention to the need for a coherent design statement that plugin and theme developers could adopt in order to create an easier to use end product.

Read Joost de Valk’s Blog Post

WordPress’ admin UI needs to be better



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