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How to Create Great Content for Search

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How to Create Great Content for Search

A lot of content that you’ll find on the web is created by SEOs or writers who do a little research and rehash a lot of the things other articles talk about. Some content may even cover a topic well and touch on the main points. But the information is usually basic, and the articles all read the same. While this content may bring you some search traffic, it’s not going to impress anyone.

Great content needs to be useful and memorable. It has to go beyond other content in a way that shows real expertise.

With brand-new content, you have an uphill battle. Many of the pages that are currently ranking have likely been in those positions for years. In fact, the average top 10 ranking page is 2+ years old

They’ve had time to gain a lot of links, and many of the pages may have updated content. If you want to beat these sites, you really have to put in the work needed and go that extra mile to create great content.

In this article, we’ll look at the following:

Let’s dive in.

How to create great content

Creating content is hard work. But to truly make something special takes even more work, resources, and expertise. You need to have a great process and the right team in place.

Here’s a framework that may help.

What content should you create?

Rather than starting with a list of keywords as SEOs usually do, I like to start with page-level research and then work backward to keywords and topics.

Plug each of your organic search competitors into the Top pages report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and export the files. I recommend saving them in a new folder.

Top pages report results

Export the top pages of competing sites.

Now we need to combine all the files with the top pages from different competitors. You may want to do this with one of the online tool options to combine CSV files if that’s easier for you.

But I usually do this with Windows Command Prompt. Here’s the process with Command Prompt. You should:

  1. Save the files to a new folder.
  2. Get the path either by using shift+right-click on the folder and “Copy as path,” or copy it from the address bar when viewing the contents of the folder.
  3. Open Command Prompt, which you can find by searching “cmd.”
  4. Type “cd,” press “Space,” right-click and paste, then press “Enter.”
  5. Type “copy *.csv whatever-name.csv” and press “Enter.”

For MacOS, you’ll use Terminal instead of Command Prompt, and the command to combine them is “cat *.csv >whatever-name.csv” for step five. But otherwise, the instructions should be the same.

What you end up with is an easy-to-filter list of the most successful pages your competitors have created in your niche.

Spreadsheet with metrics, pages, and top keywords

Combine CSV file with the top pages of competitors.

  1. With this file, go to “Insert” > “Pivot Table” > press “OK.”
  2. From there, select “Top Keyword” and either “Traffic” or “Traffic Value,” and optionally “URL” if you want to see which competitor pages are ranking for terms.
  3. You’ll want to use “Data” > “Sort” to get an idea of valuable content in your niche and may need to adjust the column width to make it easier to read.

Here’s what the process looks like:

Gif showing how to turn the competitor data into a useful pivot table

Process for turning this data into a pivot table.

You’ll end up with a useful pivot table like this:

Pivot table with the top pages in your niche

Pivot table showing top pages.

Once you’ve determined the content driving value to competitors, then you probably want to prioritize which ones have the most business value for you. Then you can go back to keyword research to determine what you should include in your content.

Keyword research

Being able to see all the things that people search for is like having a superpower. People are telling you all the things they want. They’re giving you a blueprint of the content they find useful, and that’s exactly what you should include in your content.

Plug a term into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and go to the Matching terms report. With all of the terms, you want to group them in a way that makes sense to you. We have some suggested groupings either by common terms or parent topics.

Matching terms report showing grouping by terms

Matching terms report for “content marketing.”

You may want to go even further for grouping. For example, for head terms (short searches with high search volume) that are mostly informational, the head term itself—“what is head term”—and “definition of head term” will likely all have the same intent and can be grouped together.

With your terms or groups of terms, you want to determine what should be targeted as a page or just be part of another page. There’s not really a right or wrong answer here. Again, you just need to organize the data in a way that makes sense to you.

You may not want to create pages for things where you don’t have much to say or if there aren’t enough people searching for the terms.

There’s an exercise I like to do that helps people understand this part. Print or write all the terms on index cards. I’ll have people or teams of people group these in whatever way makes sense to them. I’ll even share how I group them. What’s fun is it’s rare for two groupings to be the exact same.

Sometimes, a page with more content on a topic will work better. Other times, a page that’s more specific and specialized will work better. The main thing for now is to create the content. You can later test if it performs better combined or separated.

Now that you know what you want to write about, let’s look at that process.

Create an outline or content brief

Every article and video we create at Ahrefs starts with an outline. We use the data from the keyword research process to come up with the main content we want to include.

From there, we add any important points we want to make, data we have, and additional insights or expertise that will be useful to readers.

You may want to read through some of the pages that already rank for additional ideas. Look at the kind of language and related topics that are mentioned. Many of these terms may not show up in traditional keyword research.

We also have a report in Keywords Explorer that can help you see the related topics and language. It’s called the Also talk about report and shows you the kind of language that’s used on these ranking pages.

Even for something that you may know absolutely nothing about, you can get an idea of the kind of language used in the industry. You may want to include this kind of terminology when writing about your topic.

"Also talk about" report showing related terms for "brain surgery"

Also talk about report for “brain surgery.”

That covers the basics of the outline, but there are a couple of additional items I like to add.

Writing for featured snippets

For informational content, I recommend that you do a little more research and include the featured snippets that are currently eligible or even write a featured snippet that you think has a chance of becoming the top snippet.

This is arguably the most important section to rank for informational queries. You can see what is already eligible for a snippet and the kind of things that these snippets mention, along with why one may be better than another. Now you just have to make something that’s better.

Here’s an example: For “how to create content,” the main snippet is from inc.com.

Google search result for "how to create content" showing the first featured snippet

Google search result for “how to create content.”

If you append “-inc.com” to your search, you’re removing this site from the results and can see the second eligible featured snippet from hubspot.com.

Google search result for "how to create content" showing the second featured snippet

Google search result for “how to create content ‑inc.com.”

You can repeat this process, removing more sites from the results to see more eligible featured snippets; also, you can glean insights into what it takes to get featured snippets and figure out why one may be considered better than another.

For some head terms that are more informational in nature, you may have to refine the query as “what is head term” for this to work.

Internal links

The other thing that I like to include is suggested internal links that will go to the new piece of content.

Ever had content that ranked well early on, but the rankings dropped shortly after? New content can inherit some signals and may rank well for a period of time. But eventually, it has to rank with its own signals.

To give your content its best chance to rank, go ahead and link to it where it makes sense in your other content.

If your content already exists, we make this easy for you in Ahrefs’ Site Audit with the Link opportunities report. For instance, for the recently updated content audit post we wrote, there are nine opportunities we can link to using relevant anchor text.

Screenshot of the Internal link opportunities report

Internal link opportunities for content audit.

With a brand-new blog, what you may want to do is use Page Explorer within Site Audit to search for relevant terms within the text of other pages. In this case, you can see we have 33 pages that talk about content audits. These can potentially link to the blog post about content audits.

Page explorer report results

Searching for “content audit” within the page text of ahrefs.com.

You’ll only get so far in most niches with content alone, and you’ll likely need links to rank higher. You can go after external links later, but internal links are an easier target.

For instance, when I disavowed links to some of our blog posts, all of the posts lost several positions for important terms and quite a bit of traffic.

Screenshot showing the impact of disavowing links to prove their importance to rankings

With your outline in hand, let’s look at how to create the content.

Producing the content

I’d argue that a single person isn’t likely able to create great content. It usually takes a team of people with different skills.

The team I usually want includes an SEO, an expert, a writer, and an editor involved in the process.

It’s possible that one person can fill more than one of these roles, and there are tools you can lean on for the various functions (except expert insights). But the content is never going to come out as great as the one created by all of these people.

Checklist table showing different people (writer, researcher, etc.) can "tick" the different requirements needed to create great content

For example, for this article, I’m filling the role of SEO, expert, and writer. I can comfortably fill the SEO and expert roles in this case. In fact, much of the article is about my personal processes.

However, I’ve never been a great writer. Someone who likes to write and has a way with words will likely produce content much faster than I can. Also, their content will likely be easier to understand and more enjoyable to read.

Research

SEOs have the tools and experience to do research, target the right things, and create content that will likely rank well in search. However, most SEOs will probably not be writing about SEO, so they will not be the expert.

While I’ve known many SEOs who have crazy amounts of knowledge in random niches their clients are in, they’re not involved in that niche directly and aren’t true experts.

At best, they can fake expertise by copying what others said, which may not even be correct. This happens with articles on SEO a lot, where people copy and repeat what someone said without knowing that information is wrong. This causes bad information to spread to even more SEOs.

An SEO may even be able to identify some of the language or abbreviations that are used in a niche or relevant related topics and maybe even repeat some points they read, but they lack real expertise and unique insights.

At least some basic research and processes are required to create content for search. Lots of content is created but never gets seen. According to our search traffic study, only ~4% of pages get more than 10 visits a month from organic search.

Knowledge and insights

Experts have years of knowledge and experience in what they do. Most of the time, the people creating articles for search will not have this in-depth knowledge and experience.

Experts are busy being the experts and are rarely the ones who create content. What you really want is to differentiate your articles, show that expertise, and provide those additional insights.

This takes additional work. But if you can interview the expert or have them review the content for accuracy and add their additional insights, this can really differentiate you from the crowd.

If you find a unicorn, i.e., an expert who wants to write their own content, then support them with the research and editing needed to make their content better.

Writing

The output of a good writer is incredible. Their articles are clear, to the point, and a pleasure to read. Anyone can write, but it’s truly an art and a skill to write well.

When you’re writing, you want to cover a topic well. A page may be targeted toward one or two main terms or topics, but top pages usually get traffic from hundreds of different keywords.

Line graph showing top pages get a lot of traffic from many keywords

Editing

A good editor pays attention to details. They make suggestions and give feedback to writers on how to make their articles better and communicate more effectively. They do a lot more than what Grammarly or Hemingway can.

How to measure content success

There are a lot of different indicators you can use to measure success. There’s no one right answer for this, so measure what is important to you.

Different indicators have different use cases. SEOs may want to look at rankings, traffic, or links. But ultimately, businesses should measure things like conversions, qualified leads, and revenue.

The closer to money you can get when reporting, the more impactful that report is for stakeholders. If the content isn’t meeting your goals or expectations, you may want to revisit and audit the content created for search periodically to assess its performance and figure out if/how you can improve it.

If you’re using WordPress, check out the Ahrefs WordPress SEO Plugin, which helps with content audits and more. If you’re not on WordPress or just want a visual guide, this flowchart covers how I make decisions.

Flowchart for how to do a content audit

Content audit flowchart.

Final thoughts

Creating great content is hard work and requires a lot of resources. If you skimp in some areas, it creates an opportunity for a competitor to beat you.

Being the leader is also hard. You’ve set the bar. Now people behind you know the expectations they have to meet or exceed if they want to win. That’s why I highly recommend evaluating your most important content from time to time to make sure you’re still ranking where you need to be.

Message me on Twitter if you have any questions.




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The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024

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The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024

Choosing the right website builder may depend on your goals. They have a variety of features, and some platforms excel in areas that others don’t.

Not all builders will fit if you need advanced SEO or ecommerce capabilities.

We compared 10 website builders based on price, data limits, core use cases, and whether they provide domains.

The 10 Best Website Builders Compared

Website Builder Starting Price Free Option Premium Content Gates Limits Free Domain Great For Extras We Like
WordPress.com $9/month Yes Yes 1-50 GB Yes (annual plans only) Blogging and text-based sites
  • Easily work between the .com and self-hosted sites.
  • Customizability.
Wix $17/month Yes Yes 2 GB-Unlimited Yes Small businesses & entrepreneurs
  • Educational programs and support.
  • Scheduling.
  • Ad management.
  • Email campaigns.
Duda $25/month 14 days Yes 1-4 sites No Getting started
  • Excellent help and support.
  • Zapier integration.
  • Multiple language sites.
  • Content library and free assets.
HubSpot $15/month Yes Yes Up to 30 pages on the free plan No Scaling
  • Conversational bots.
  • Wide range of free tools for sales, marketing, and services.
  • Extensive site and business owner education.
  • Mobile app.
Squarespace $25/month 14 days Yes Unlimited bandwidth, 30 minutes of video storage Yes (annual plans only) Quick, no-fuss sites
  • Custom product creation without worrying about fulfillment and shipping.
  • Integrated ecommerce on larger plans.
Webflow $18/month Yes Yes Starts with 1 GB bandwidth and 50 CMS items Yes Designers & Agencies
  • Schema markup and structured search support.
  • Pre-built interactions.
IONOS $6/month No No 50-75 GB Yes Small businesses on a budget
  • Affordable.
  • Competitor tracking.
  • Online booking included.
  • Built-in privacy and SSL.
Shopify $5/month 3 days No Unlimited products, bandwidth, and online storage No Ecommerce
  • Wide range of ecommerce features.
  • Large app store for extensions.
Weebly $12/month Yes No Unlimited storage Yes Beginners
  • Ease of use.
  • Built-in SEO tools.
Hostinger $2.99/month No No 25,000 visits,
100 GB SSD storage,
400,000 files
Yes Budget sites
  • Very affordable plans.
  • 24/7 customer support.

10 Best Website Builders For 2024

1. WordPress.com

Screenshot from WordPress.com, June 2024

With 62.7% of the market share held between WordPress.com and .org, WordPress is the largest and most prominent website builder.

Key Features

  • Over 50,000 plugins and 8,000 themes for customization.
  • Ability to transition between hosted and self-hosted options.
  • With paid plans, custom domains, site security, and advanced features are available.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • User-friendly interface suitable for beginners.
  • Flexibility to create various types of websites.
  • Built-in SEO tools and options to optimize your site for search engines.

Cost

  • $0-$70/month ($0-$45/month, billed annually), plus custom options.

2. Wix

Wix webpageScreenshot from Wix.com, June 2024

Wix controls only 4% of the CMS market, but that small number translates into hundreds of millions of users and makes it one of the most popular website builders.

It offers ease of use and flexibility, making it suitable for creating professional websites with expanded functionality.

Key Features

  • Customizable templates with drag-and-drop editing.
  • Wide range of elements and third-party apps for added functionality.
  • Comprehensive business solutions, including ecommerce and marketing tools.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Suitable for beginners and those needing advanced features.
  • SEO Wiz tool for optimizing your site’s SEO settings.
  • Extensive help, resources, and guides for website creation and promotion.

Cost

  • $0-$159/month, plus custom options.

3. Duda

Duda.coScreenshot from Duda.co, June 2024

Duda is a website builder that balances ease of use with advanced customization options, making it popular among designers and developers.

Key Features

  • Drag-and-drop interface and customizable templates.
  • Widgets and add-ons for expanded functionality, including ecommerce.
  • Mobile editor for creating mobile-friendly versions of your site

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Suitable for businesses and individuals seeking a professional website.
  • Built-in SEO optimization features, including meta descriptions and sitemaps.
  • Excellent customer support with live chat, email, and resources.

Cost:

  • $25-$199/month ($19-$149/month, billed annually), plus custom options.

4. HubSpot

HubSpot webpageScreenshot from HubSpot.com, June 2024

HubSpot is an all-in-one marketing, sales, and customer service platform with a powerful website builder.

Key Features

  • Drag-and-drop interface and customizable templates.
  • Pre-built modules for forms, CTAs, and social media integration.
  • Integrated CMS, marketing automation, and sales tools.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Ideal for businesses seeking a comprehensive solution.
  • Built-in SEO tools for keyword research, on-page optimization, and analytics.
  • Scalable platform that grows.

Cost

  • $0-$450/month, plus custom options.

5. Squarespace

SquarespaceScreenshot from Squarespace, June 2024

Squarespace is a website builder that offers beautifully designed templates and powerful ecommerce features.

Key Features

  • Customizable templates that work across devices.
  • Ecommerce tools for inventory management, order tracking, and payment processing.
  • Marketing tools for SEO, video, and audience management

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Ideal for businesses focusing on ecommerce and brand promotion.
  • Built-in SEO features and integration with Google Analytics.
  • Mobile app for managing your site on the go.

Cost

  • $25-$72/month ($16-$52/month, billed annually), and enterprise plans.

6. Webflow

Homepage of webflow.comScreenshot from webflow.com, May 2024

Webflow is a website builder offering advanced design and development features suitable for users of all skill levels.

Key Features

  • Free plan for getting started with basic features.
  • Ecommerce plan with advanced tools for selling products and managing orders.
  • Team plan with collaboration features and client billing.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Suitable for individuals and teams looking for advanced customization options.
  • Advanced SEO features, including schema and Open Graph.
  • Unique features like scheduled publishing, logic flows, and animations.

Cost

  • $0-$235/month ($0-$212/month, billed annually), including enterprise plans.

7. IONOS

Homepage of ionos.comScreenshot from: ionos.com, May 2024.

IONOS is an affordable and simple website builder that offers all the essential features for creating a functional and beautiful site.

Key Features

  • Three-step site design process: choosing a design, adding content, and promoting.
  • Search engine-optimized templates built for performance.
  • Presence Suite for managing and promoting your site

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Ideal for quick website setups, test projects, and DIYers.
  • Templates are pre-optimized for search engines.
  • Affordable pricing plans with essential features.

Cost

  • $6-$15/month ($4-$8/month billed three years in advance).

8. Shopify

1721393763 166 The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024Screenshot from: Shopify.com, June 2024.

Shopify is a comprehensive ecommerce platform that enables businesses to create online stores and sell products easily.

Key Features

  • Customizable templates and drag-and-drop editing.
  • Powerful ecommerce tools for inventory management, payment processing, and shipping.
  • The app store has thousands of apps to extend functionality.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Ideal for businesses of all sizes looking to create an online store.
  • Built-in SEO features and the ability to edit meta tags, URLs, and site structure.
  • 24/7 customer support and extensive documentation.

Cost

  • $19-$399/month ($29-$299/month billed annually).

9. Weebly

1721393763 174 The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024Screenshot from: weebly.com, June 2024.

Weebly is a user-friendly website builder that offers a wide range of features for creating professional websites and online stores.

Key Features

  • Drag-and-drop interface and customizable templates.
  • Ecommerce functionality with inventory management and payment processing.
  • Blogging platform and app center for additional features.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Suitable for beginners and small businesses.
  • Built-in SEO tools, including meta descriptions, alt tags, and sitemaps.
  • Responsive customer support and community forum.

Cost

  • $$0-$29/month ($10-$26/month billed annually).

10. Hostinger

1721393763 885 The 10 Best Website Builders To Consider 2024Screenshot from hostinger.com, June 2024.

Hostinger offers an easy-to-use website-building tool in its web hosting plans, designed to help users get sites up and running fast.

Key Features

  • Intuitive and user-friendly interface.
  • Suitable for beginners and those needing a website up and running quickly.
  • Free domain, website migration, email, and SSL are included in the hosting package.

Benefits & SEO Highlights

  • Optimized for speed using LiteSpeed Web Server technology, advanced cache solutions, and Object Cache for WordPress.
  • Advanced security features, including unlimited SSL certificates, DDoS protection, automatic backups, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee.

Cost

  • $2.99-$9.99 for the first month ($7.99-$19.99/month on renewal).

Find The Right Website Builder For Your Needs

When choosing a website builder, consider your needs, budget, and skill level.

  • WordPress.com offers flexibility and customization for bloggers and content-heavy sites.
  • Small businesses and entrepreneurs may prefer all-in-one solutions like Wix or HubSpot for marketing integration.
  • Ecommerce stores should evaluate dedicated platforms like Shopify for robust selling tools.
  • Beginners can start with user-friendly builders like Weebly, while designers and agencies may prefer more advanced options like Webflow.

With the variety of website builders available, there’s a solution for every need.

More resources:


Featured Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Getting to the top of Google can be quite slow. Especially so for small, new websites. And the competition can often be too strong, which makes it quite unlikely for you to outrank your rivals in the first place.

Well… if you can’t win, change the rules.

There’s a very simple trick for getting search traffic for the keywords that you want to rank for—without actually ranking for them.

Enter…

One of the most common pieces of marketing advice is to “go fish where the fish are.” Whatever product or service you want to sell, you have to follow three simple steps:

  1. Figure out who your ideal customers are.
  2. Find the places where those people are hanging out online.
  3. Go to those places and find ways to promote your product.

Quick example: if you want to sell fitness gear, it would be good to figure out how to tap into the r/Fitness community on Reddit, which has over 12M members.

What does it have to do with SEO though?

Well, whatever search traffic you want to drive to your own website… someone is already getting it to theirs, right? And their website is not necessarily your direct competitor.

If you own a bagel joint in Singapore, you definitely want your website to rank in Google for “best bagels in Singapore.” But the pages that actually rank for this keyword are listicles, which give readers a bunch of different suggestions. So your job is to get featured in as many of those top-ranking listicles as possible.

Ranking for a keyword with your own website isn’t the only way to get customers from Google. Getting featured on other pages that rank for this keyword is incredibly effective too.

I call this tactic “second-hand search traffic”.

The underlying idea is not new though.

You might have heard of the concept called “Barnacle SEO,” shared by Rand Fishkin back in 2014. There’s also a concept called “Surround Sound,” coined by Alex Birkett. And another one called “SERP Monopoly strategy” by Nick Eubanks. There’s also a reverse concept, called “Rank & Rent.”

The idea behind all of these tactics is practically the same: if a page gets a lot of relevant search traffic from Google—you have to try and get your business mentioned there.

1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything
Source

But that’s easier said than done, right?

Why would anyone bother to feature your business on their website?

Well, one simple answer is money.

If a website owner can make money from mentioning your business on their page, there’s a good chance they’ll do it. This money could come in the form of an affiliate commission or a flat fee for an annual or permanent placement. Sometimes these things can also happen as part of a broader partnership deal.

Getting listed for free is very, very hard. Especially so if you’re not already a big and respected business that people naturally want to feature on their website.

And yet—it’s not completely impossible to get listed for free.

Case in point, we just published our own “best SEO conferences” post, in order to rank for relevant search queries and promote our upcoming event, Ahrefs Evolve Singapore.

And then we went ahead and reached out to all websites that rank for the “best SEO conferences” keyword and asked them to add Ahrefs Evolve to their listicles. So far 10 out of 17 featured us on their pages, without asking for any payment whatsoever.

1721330766 734 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330766 734 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

The most straightforward way to execute this strategy is to compile a list of highly relevant keywords (with high business potential scores), pull all the top-ranking pages for each of them into a spreadsheet, and start your outreach.

But there’s one other fruitful source of pages to get second-hand search traffic from. These are pages that are linking to your competitors, while getting a decent amount of search traffic themselves.

Here’s how to find these pages in 3 simple steps:

  1. Put the website of your competitor in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the Backlinks report.
  3. Apply the “Referring page > Traffic” filter.
How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for AnythingHow to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Here’s an example of a page I found while trying this out for the ConvertKit website:

1721330766 665 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330766 665 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

As you can see, this page is not about “email marketing” (the primary topic you’d go for, if you wanted to promote an email marketing tool). And yet, this page is receiving 2.6k visitors per month from Google (as estimated by Ahrefs), and it recommends a bunch of email marketing tools to its readers.

So if you own an email marketing tool—like ConvertKit—you definitely want to get mentioned on that page alongside your competitors.

The moral of this story is that you should look outside of the topics that are immediately relevant to your business. Any page that gets traffic and mentions a competitor of yours should become your target.

And Ahrefs makes it super easy to find such pages.

That’s it.

I hope you found this tactic useful. Don’t sleep on it, because there’s a good chance that your competitors won’t.

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

For the SEO industry, the Google documents leak offered an important view behind the scenes. Although the leak was not a blueprint of how the algorithm worked, there was considerable confirmation that SEO professionals were right about many elements of the algorithm.

From all the analysis and discussion following the leak, the one insight that got my attention was how important the brand is.

Rand Fishkin, who broke the leak, said this:

“Brand matters more than anything else … If there was one universal piece of advice I had for marketers seeking to broadly improve their organic search rankings and traffic, it would be: “Build a notable, popular, well-recognized brand in your space, outside of Google search.”

Mike King echoed this statement with the following observation:

“All these potential demotions can inform a strategy, but it boils down to making stellar content with strong user experience and building a brand, if we’re being honest.”

Mordy Oberstein, who is an advocate for building a brand online, posted on X (Twitter):

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand.”

It’s not the first time that “brand” has been mentioned in SEO. We began to talk about this around 2012 after the impact of Panda and Penguin when it first became apparent that Google’s aim was to put more emphasis on brand.

Compounding this is the introduction of AI, which has accelerated the importance of taking a more holistic approach to online marketing with less reliance on Google SERPs.

When I spoke to Pedro Dias, he said, “We need to focus more than ever on building our own communities with users aligned to our brands.”

As someone who had 15 years of offline experience in marketing, design, and business before moving into SEO, I have always said that having this wide knowledge allows me to take a holistic view of SEO. So, I welcome the mindset shift towards building a brand online.

As part of his X/Twitter post, Mordy also said:

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand” (a lot of which is the direct result of @randfish’s & @iPullRank’s great advice following the “Google leaks”).

As someone who has straddled the brand marketing and SEO world for the better part of 10 years – branding is A LOT harder than many SEOs would think and will be a HUGE adjustment for many SEOs.”

Following his X/Twitter post, I reached out to Mordy Oberstein, Head of SEO Brand at Wix, to have a conversation about branding and SEO.

What Do SEO Pros Need To Know About ‘Brand’ To Make The Mindset Shift?

I asked Mordy, “In your opinion, what does brand and building a brand mean, and can SEO pros make this mindset shift?”

Mordy responded, “Brand building basically means creating a connection between one entity and another entity, meaning the company and the audience.

It’s two people meeting, and that convergence is the building of a brand. It’s very much a relationship. And I think that’s what makes it hard for SEOs. It’s a different way of thinking; it’s not linear, and there aren’t always metrics that you can measure it by.

I’m not saying you don’t use data, or you don’t have data, but it’s harder to measure to tell a full story.

You’re trying to pick up on latent signals. A lot of the conversation is unconscious.

It’s all about the micro things that compound. So, you have to think about everything you do, every signal, to ensure that it is aligned with the brand.

For example, a website writes about ‘what is a tax return.’ However, if I’m a professional accountant and I see this on your blog, I might think this isn’t relevant to me because you’re sending me a signal that you’re very basic. I don’t need to know what a tax return is; I have a master’s degree in accounting.

The latent signals that you’re sending can be very subtle, but this is where it is a mindset shift for SEO.”

I recalled a recent conversation with Pedro Dias in which he stressed it was important to put your users front and center and create content that is relevant to them. Targeting high-volume keywords is not going to connect with your audience. Instead, think about what is going to engage, interest, and entertain them.

I went on to say that for some time, the discussion online has been about SEO pros shifting away from the keyword-first approach. However, the consequences of moving away from a focus on traffic and clicks will mean we are likely to experience a temporary decline in performance.

How Does An SEO Professional Sell This To Stakeholders – How Do They Measure Success?

I asked Mordy, “How do you justify this approach to stakeholders – how do they measure success?”

Mordy replied, “I think selling SEO will become harder over time. But, if you don’t consider the brand aspect, then you could be missing the point of what is happening. It’s not about accepting lower volumes of traffic; it’s that traffic will be more targeted.

You might see less traffic right now, but the idea is to gain a digital presence and create digital momentum that will result in more qualified traffic in the long term.”

Mordy went on to say, “It’s going to be a habit to break out of, just like when you have to go on a diet for a long-term health gain.

The ecosystem will change, and it will force change to our approach. SEOs may not have paid attention to the Google leak documents, but I think they will pay attention as the entire ecosystem shifts – they won’t have a choice.

I also think C-level will send a message that they don’t care about overall traffic numbers, but do care about whether a user appreciates what they are producing and that the brand is differentiated in some way.”

How Might The Industry Segment And What Will Be The Important Roles?

I interjected to make the point that it does look a lot like SEO is finally making that shift across marketing.

Technical SEO will always be important, and paid/programmatic will remain important because it is directly attributable.

For the rest of SEO, I anticipate it merges across brand, SEO, and content into a hybrid strategy role that will straddle those disciplines.

What we thought of as “traditional SEO” will fall away, and SEO will become absorbed into marketing.

In response, Mordy agreed and thought that SEO traffic is part of a wider scope or part of a wider paradigm, and it will sit under brand and communications.

An SEO pro that functions as part of the wider marketing and thinks about how we are driving revenue, how we are driving growth, what kind of growth we are driving, and using SEO as a vehicle to that.

The final point I raised was about social media and whether that would become a more combined facet of SEO and overall online marketing.

Mordy likened Google to a moth attracted to the biggest digital light.

He said, “Social media is a huge vehicle for building momentum and the required digital presence.

For example, the more active I am on social media, the more organic branded searches I gain through Google Search. I can see the correlation between that.

I don’t think that Google is ignoring branded searches, and it makes a semantic connection.”

SEO Will Shift To Include Brand And Marketing

The conversation I had with Mordy raised an interesting perspective that SEO will have to make significant shifts to a brand and marketing mindset.

The full impact of AI on Google SERPs and how the industry might change is yet to be realized. But, I strongly recommend that anyone in SEO consider how they can start to take a brand-first approach to their strategy and the content they create.

I suggest building and measuring relationships with audiences based on how they connect with your brand and moving away from any strategy based on chasing high-volume keywords.

Think about what the user will do once you get the click – that is where the real value lies.

Get ahead of the changes that are coming.

Thank you to Mordy Oberstein for offering his opinion and being my guest on IMHO.

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Featured Image: 3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock

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