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How to Create SEO SOPs to Scale Organic Traffic



How to Create SEO SOPs to Scale Organic Traffic

Standard operating procedures make your work faster, easier, and more scalable. This is particularly true in the case of SEO, where a lot of the tasks are simple and repeatable.

Things like adding meta tags, maintaining a proper URL structure, adding internal links, and optimizing your images are all easy to do… but also easy to forget.

Recording SEO tasks in SOP documents means they will never be forgotten—and, once documented, you can easily delegate these simple tasks to others in your team.

If you want to grow your organic traffic while working less, you want SEO SOPs. 

Let’s dive into it.


What is a standard operating procedure?

A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a document that outlines how a task is done step by step. It often includes screenshots to visually show what you’re explaining, but the best SOPs include videos as well.

I typically make my SOPs in a Google Doc with screenshots. Then I use Loom to record my screen and create video explanations.

Why should you use SOPs for SEO?


SEO SOPs allow you to:

  • Never forget important SEO steps when publishing content.
  • Hire an affordable assistant to have simple tasks taken off your plate.
  • Scale your business in ways that aren’t possible without standardization.

McDonald’s was one of the first businesses to master standardization. And its burger line was much more complex than simply creating a document. You, too, can harness the power of a standardized process to increase output and efficiency.

Five SEO SOPs you should have

There are a lot of processes in business that can benefit from SOPs. However, the five most critical SEO tasks that should have SOPs include:

  1. Content creation and on-page SEO.
  2. Internal linking procedures.
  3. Image optimization.
  4. Email outreach for link building.
  5. Tracking your rankings and making updates.

Below, I break down each one and give you example templates you can copy and mold to fit your business.

1. Content creation and on-page SEO

Content is the backbone of any good SEO strategy. However, creating great content takes time and effort. If you want to cut down on how long it takes, an SOP will do that.

At Ahrefs, our SOP for content includes these eight steps:

  1. Create a home for the post in the shared drive
  2. Fill in/update the Notion card
  3. Assign the header illustration
  4. Write the content outline
  5. Write the draft
  6. Edit the draft
  7. Assign custom images and screenshot annotations
  8. Prepare for editing + upload

Of course, these eight steps are specific to our systems and styles. We use Google Drive and Notion to keep track of everything, have a header illustration for each article, and have a rigorous editing process to ensure high-quality content.

Here’s what that document looks like:

Ahrefs' standard operating procedure for content creation

As you can see, it is a well-documented and easy-to-follow process with examples and links.

Within this document, we also link to our writing guidelines SOP with even more detailed information on our actual writing process.

This includes our style and writing guidelines with actual examples…

Ahrefs' style guidelines

… as well as screenshots to show, not just tell.

Using screenshots in SOPs

And lastly, we have SOPs in place to cover on-page SEO, which includes how to properly name images, add image alt text, and set the metadata for each page.

Ahrefs' image optimization SOP

By creating these simple documents, you can make content creation much easier and quicker.

2.  Internal linking procedures

Internal linking is crucial for ranking highly on Google. Every single page on your site, aside from perhaps landing pages, should have internal links. This is especially true for blog content.

Your SOP can look something like this:

  1. You should aim to include a relevant internal link anytime it can benefit the reader.
  2. Internal link anchor text should be relevant to the content you’re writing about and the content you’re linking to. For example, DO link to “RV accessories” from “RV water pump buyers guide.” DO NOT link to “van life builds” from “how to keep your RV cool in the summer.” Keep it related.
  3. Use Ahrefs’ Internal Link Opportunities tool in Site Audit to do the work. Alternatively, you can find internal links by performing a Google search for
    site:[] “related keyword” to see all the content that contains that related keyword or phrase.
Finding internal link opportunities for a specific target page in Ahrefs' Site Audit

3.  Image optimization

Optimizing your images for Google (and for users) is often overlooked. However, it’s easy to do and also important if you want to reach that coveted first page.

There are three steps to ensuring good image optimization:

  1. Having a proper title that describes the image (without keyword stuffing)
  2. Adding alt text that describes the image in a bit more detail for those who can’t download and view the image
  3. Using the proper file format and reducing the overall data size of the image for faster load speeds

Follow our guide to image SEO for more information.

4. Email outreach for link building

Link building is key to a good SEO strategy—links are one of the most important Google ranking factors.

While building backlinks isn’t exactly easy, it does involve a lot of repeatable steps. This makes it a perfect SOP task. In fact, you’ll probably want multiple SOPs—one for each link building strategy, including:

Each of these procedures is different. So either turn your current process into a document or follow one of the linked guides above and create a document for it.

5. Tracking your rankings and making updates

Finally, we have something almost all SEOs love: watching your rankings go up (hopefully).

While it’s easy enough to spontaneously check your Ahrefs account or Google Search Console account to see whether or not your rankings are moving from your efforts, there’s a better way.

It still involves checking your Ahrefs account. But instead of doing it with random excitement like a kid in a candy store, you use a methodical approach that tracks your changes and their effects. After all, a lot of SEO is trial and error.


First, if you haven’t already, sign up for Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker. Our reports will show you your ranking changes over time with visualized data through charts and competitor reports.

Ahrefs' Rank Tracker overview

You can track specific keywords and pages over time as well:

Ahrefs' individual keyword tracking

Once you have your account, you can make an SOP to check these on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Keep track of any changes you make to your pages, such as metadata, adding or changing content, improving your internal links, etc. Then document how these changes impact your rankings over time.

By making a habit of performing SEO tests like these and tracking the effects, you can see what works and what doesn’t—then scale up what works and stop wasting time on what doesn’t.

Final thoughts

By documenting your SEO processes in the form of SOPs, you can more easily scale up your business and hire others to perform the easier tasks.

If you want your business (and your organic traffic) to grow, having SOPs is one of the surest ways to do it. Learn what works, document the process, and scale it up. These five SEO tasks are just the beginning—you can have an SOP for every repeatable task in your business.

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HARO Has Been Dead for a While



HARO Has Been Dead for a While

Every SEO’s favorite link-building collaboration tool, HARO, was officially killed off for good last week by Cision. It’s now been wrapped into a new product: Connectively.

I know nothing about the new tool. I haven’t tried it. But after trying to use HARO recently, I can’t say I’m surprised or saddened by its death. It’s been a walking corpse for a while. 

I used HARO way back in the day to build links. It worked. But a couple of months ago, I experienced the platform from the other side when I decided to try to source some “expert” insights for our posts. 

After just a few minutes of work, I got hundreds of pitches: 

So, I grabbed a cup of coffee and began to work through them. It didn’t take long before I lost the will to live. Every other pitch seemed like nothing more than lazy AI-generated nonsense from someone who definitely wasn’t an expert. 


Here’s one of them: 

Example of an AI-generated pitch in HAROExample of an AI-generated pitch in HARO

Seriously. Who writes like that? I’m a self-confessed dullard (any fellow Dull Men’s Club members here?), and even I’m not that dull… 

I don’t think I looked through more than 30-40 of the responses. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It felt like having a conversation with ChatGPT… and not a very good one! 

Despite only reviewing a few dozen of the many pitches I received, one stood out to me: 

Example HARO pitch that caught my attentionExample HARO pitch that caught my attention

Believe it or not, this response came from a past client of mine who runs an SEO agency in the UK. Given how knowledgeable and experienced he is (he actually taught me a lot about SEO back in the day when I used to hassle him with questions on Skype), this pitch rang alarm bells for two reasons: 

  1. I truly doubt he spends his time replying to HARO queries
  2. I know for a fact he’s no fan of Neil Patel (sorry, Neil, but I’m sure you’re aware of your reputation at this point!)

So… I decided to confront him 😉 

Here’s what he said: 

Hunch, confirmed ;)Hunch, confirmed ;)


I pressed him for more details: 


I’m getting a really good deal and paying per link rather than the typical £xxxx per month for X number of pitches. […] The responses as you’ve seen are not ideal but that’s a risk I’m prepared to take as realistically I dont have the time to do it myself. He’s not native english, but I have had to have a word with him a few times about clearly using AI. On the low cost ones I don’t care but on authority sites it needs to be more refined.

I think this pretty much sums up the state of HARO before its death. Most “pitches” were just AI answers from SEOs trying to build links for their clients. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not throwing shade here. I know that good links are hard to come by, so you have to do what works. And the reality is that HARO did work. Just look at the example below. You can tell from the anchor and surrounding text in Ahrefs that these links were almost certainly built with HARO: 

Example of links build with HARO, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerExample of links build with HARO, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

But this was the problem. HARO worked so well back in the day that it was only a matter of time before spammers and the #scale crew ruined it for everyone. That’s what happened, and now HARO is no more. So… 

If you’re a link builder, I think it’s time to admit that HARO link building is dead and move on. 

No tactic works well forever. It’s the law of sh**ty clickthroughs. This is why you don’t see SEOs having huge success with tactics like broken link building anymore. They’ve moved on to more innovative tactics or, dare I say it, are just buying links.


Talking of buying links, here’s something to ponder: if Connectively charges for pitches, are links built through those pitches technically paid? If so, do they violate Google’s spam policies? It’s a murky old world this SEO lark, eh?

If you’re a journalist, Connectively might be worth a shot. But with experts being charged for pitches, you probably won’t get as many responses. That might be a good thing. You might get less spam. Or you might just get spammed by SEOs with deep pockets. The jury’s out for now. 


My advice? Look for alternative methods like finding and reaching out to experts directly. You can easily use tools like Content Explorer to find folks who’ve written lots of content about the topic and are likely to be experts. 

For example, if you look for content with “backlinks” in the title and go to the Authors tab, you might see a familiar name. 😉 

Finding people to request insights from in Ahrefs' Content ExplorerFinding people to request insights from in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

I don’t know if I’d call myself an expert, but I’d be happy to give you a quote if you reached out on social media or emailed me (here’s how to find my email address).

Alternatively, you can bait your audience into giving you their insights on social media. I did this recently with a poll on X and included many of the responses in my guide to toxic backlinks.

Me, indirectly sourcing insights on social mediaMe, indirectly sourcing insights on social media

Either of these options is quicker than using HARO because you don’t have to sift through hundreds of responses looking for a needle in a haystack. If you disagree with me and still love HARO, feel free to tell me why on X 😉

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Google Clarifies Vacation Rental Structured Data




Google updates their vacation rental structured data documentation

Google’s structured data documentation for vacation rentals was recently updated to require more specific data in a change that is more of a clarification than it is a change in requirements. This change was made without any formal announcement or notation in the developer pages changelog.

Vacation Rentals Structured Data

These specific structured data types makes vacation rental information eligible for rich results that are specific to these kinds of rentals. However it’s not available to all websites. Vacation rental owners are required to be connected to a Google Technical Account Manager and have access to the Google Hotel Center platform.

VacationRental Structured Data Type Definitions

The primary changes were made to the structured data property type definitions where Google defines what the required and recommended property types are.

The changes to the documentation is in the section governing the Recommended properties and represents a clarification of the recommendations rather than a change in what Google requires.

The primary changes were made to the structured data type definitions where Google defines what the required and recommended property types are.


The changes to the documentation is in the section governing the Recommended properties and represents a clarification of the recommendations rather than a change in what Google requires.

Address property

This is a subtle change but it’s important because it now represents a recommendation that requires more precise data.

This is what was recommended before:

“streetAddress”: “1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy.”

This is what it now recommends:

“streetAddress”: “1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Unit 6E”

Address Property Change Description

The most substantial change is to the description of what the “address” property is, becoming more descriptive and precise about what is recommended.

The description before the change:


Information about the street address of the listing. Include all properties that apply to your country.

The description after the change:

The full, physical location of the vacation rental.
Provide the street address, city, state or region, and postal code for the vacation rental. If applicable, provide the unit or apartment number.
Note that P.O. boxes or other mailing-only addresses are not considered full, physical addresses.

This is repeated in the section for address.streetAddress property

This is what it recommended before:

address.streetAddress Text
The full street address of your vacation listing.

And this is what it recommends now:

address.streetAddress Text
The full street address of your vacation listing, including the unit or apartment number if applicable.

Clarification And Not A Change

Although these updates don’t represent a change in Google’s guidance they are nonetheless important because they offer clearer guidance with less ambiguity as to what is recommended.

Read the updated structured data guidance:


Vacation rental (VacationRental) structured data

Featured Image by Shutterstock/New Africa

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Google On Hyphens In Domain Names




What Google says about using hyphens in domain names

Google’s John Mueller answered a question on Reddit about why people don’t use hyphens with domains and if there was something to be concerned about that they were missing.

Domain Names With Hyphens For SEO

I’ve been working online for 25 years and I remember when using hyphens in domains was something that affiliates did for SEO when Google was still influenced by keywords in the domain, URL, and basically keywords anywhere on the webpage. It wasn’t something that everyone did, it was mainly something that was popular with some affiliate marketers.

Another reason for choosing domain names with keywords in them was that site visitors tended to convert at a higher rate because the keywords essentially prequalified the site visitor. I know from experience how useful two-keyword domains (and one word domain names) are for conversions, as long as they didn’t have hyphens in them.

A consideration that caused hyphenated domain names to fall out of favor is that they have an untrustworthy appearance and that can work against conversion rates because trustworthiness is an important factor for conversions.

Lastly, hyphenated domain names look tacky. Why go with tacky when a brandable domain is easier for building trust and conversions?


Domain Name Question Asked On Reddit

This is the question asked on Reddit:

“Why don’t people use a lot of domains with hyphens? Is there something concerning about it? I understand when you tell it out loud people make miss hyphen in search.”

And this is Mueller’s response:

“It used to be that domain names with a lot of hyphens were considered (by users? or by SEOs assuming users would? it’s been a while) to be less serious – since they could imply that you weren’t able to get the domain name with fewer hyphens. Nowadays there are a lot of top-level-domains so it’s less of a thing.

My main recommendation is to pick something for the long run (assuming that’s what you’re aiming for), and not to be overly keyword focused (because life is too short to box yourself into a corner – make good things, course-correct over time, don’t let a domain-name limit what you do online). The web is full of awkward, keyword-focused short-lived low-effort takes made for SEO — make something truly awesome that people will ask for by name. If that takes a hyphen in the name – go for it.”

Pick A Domain Name That Can Grow

Mueller is right about picking a domain name that won’t lock your site into one topic. When a site grows in popularity the natural growth path is to expand the range of topics the site coves. But that’s hard to do when the domain is locked into one rigid keyword phrase. That’s one of the downsides of picking a “Best + keyword + reviews” domain, too. Those domains can’t grow bigger and look tacky, too.

That’s why I’ve always recommended brandable domains that are memorable and encourage trust in some way.


Read the post on Reddit:

Are domains with hyphens bad?

Read Mueller’s response here.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Benny Marty

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