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How to Find Quality Backlinks for Your Website



How to Find Quality Backlinks for Your Website

We all know that link building is a crucial part of any SEO campaign. But to be successful, it is all about quality over quantity.

This is where the process of link prospecting comes in. Finding and evaluating the quality of a potential site is essential for link building success. In this article, we will look at how to do link prospecting in five easy steps. 

What is link prospecting?

Link prospecting is the process of finding and evaluating potential sites to acquire links from. 

This means identifying potential sites depending on the type of link building strategy you are using, checking the quality of that site, and finding the appropriate people to reach out to as part of your outreach campaign.

Link prospecting is the essential first step to building a solid link strategy. Without it, every other aspect will likely fall to pieces. 

Why is link prospecting important for SEO?

Link prospecting helps you identify sites to acquire links from and, more importantly, helps you identify sites to avoid. 

With Google making it a priority to “neutralize the impact of unnatural links on search results,” the last thing you want is to intentionally attract any kind of link spam to your site. 

Of course, every website can naturally pick up some spam links. Coupon sites and auto-generated blogs are just some undesirable sites that can link to yours. 

However, link prospecting allows you to ensure every link you build is intentional and adds value, improving your site’s relevance and authority in the eyes of search engines. 

Link prospecting in five easy steps

Now we know what link prospecting is and why it is important, we need to know how to actually do it. There are five key steps to link prospecting, so let’s take a look at those in more detail.

Step 1. Consider your link building strategy

The types of link prospects you need to acquire and the methods you use to find them will heavily depend on the tactics you intend to use.

The best link acquisition tactics to use include:

It’s important to establish a clear strategy regarding which tactic you will use. If you are going to use multiple tactics, you will need certain prospects for each type of campaign you intend to do. 

For example, if you want to try guest blogging, you need to identify relevant sites in your niche that meet your evaluation criteria and are open to publishing content from guest authors. 

Whereas if you want to run a skyscraper campaign, this will involve analyses of your competitors. 

Step 2. Identify your evaluation criteria

You also need to establish your evaluation criteria. What makes this site a good prospect? There are certain metrics that are good for weeding out potentially poor prospects, including:

Relevance: This will depend on your business, goals, and your link building efforts. There are two types of relevance: topical and geographical.

If you want to acquire links to build perceived authority with search engines, you will need links from a site with high topical relevance. 

Whereas, if you are looking to improve your local SEO and get business from local customers, you will want to build geographically relevant links from sites like other local businesses or news outlets, for example. 

Domain Rating: The DR of a website is a good indicator of how strong its backlink profile is, as well as how much link equity can be passed to your site. 

Organic traffic: How much organic traffic a website gets each month can indicate the quality of the site and that the backlink profile has not been manipulated in any way. For example, a site might have a super high DR with zero traffic, which would be one to avoid. 

You can check these metrics of any site by plugging it into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to get a quick overview.

Organic traffic and value data, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Step 3. Find relevant and high-quality link prospects

Now that you have a clear link building strategy and evaluation criteria, it’s time to start finding relevant and high-quality link prospects. 

You can use several different methods to do this, and we will look at my four favorite ones in more detail.

Finding prospects through competitor analysis

Using competitor analysis is one of the quickest ways to find quality link prospects. 

Why? Assuming your competitors have already evaluated the quality of these sites, the qualification process is likely to be much faster. And since those sites have already linked to your competitors, there is a probability that they will link to yours too. 

Are your competitors mainly guest blogging? Using niche edits or HARO link building? These insights can help you replicate your competitors’ link building efforts and even the playing field on the search engine results pages (SERPs). 

You can check out your competitors’ links in a couple of different ways. 

You can start by identifying your competitors with the Organic competitors report in Site Explorer.

Organic search competitors, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Next, select your most important competitors and use the “Open in Link Intersect” option. 

"Open in" option in Organic competitors report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This will give you all of the referring domains your competitors have and show how many different competitors have links from those sites. 

 Ahrefs' Link Intersect tool

If you want to analyze the types of links your competitors are acquiring and which kind of content is being linked to, you can put a competitor’s URL into Site Explorer and view the Best by links report. 

Not only can you see the content driving links to the site, but you can also see which websites are linking to those pages. This works great for building skyscrapers and linkable asset campaigns, especially if you are figuring out what type of content to build the campaign around. 

Plus, you can filter the results to meet your evaluation criteria.

Best by links report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Another way to use competitor analysis (focusing on the Skyscraper Technique as an example) is to put the keyword for your intended skyscraper post into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer

Using the SERP overview, you can see competing articles on the SERP, as well as the backlinks for each of those articles. 

Backlink data displayed in SERP overview, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

By clicking on the number of backlinks for a result, you will be taken to the Backlinks report for that page. You can filter the results to meet your evaluation criteria and simply export the list.

Backlinks report with applied filters, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Finding prospects with Google and search operators

One of the easiest ways to find link prospects is to use Google with the help of some advanced search operators. Use terms that are relevant to your business or niche and add modifiers like “guest post” or “write for us” to narrow down the results.

Plus, if you use Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar, you can see important site metrics like DR right in the search results, helping you narrow down prospects even faster. 

There are many search operators you can use to help you build a comprehensive prospect list. As an example, let’s look at some search operators you can use if you are finding prospects for guest blogging:

  • “Contribute”
  • “Guest blogging spot”
  • “Guest contributor”
  • inurl:guest*author
  • inurl:guest*blogger
  • “guest blogger” + inanchor:contact
  • “guest article” + inanchor:contact

Here’s an example of one of these in use:

Using Google and Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar for link prospecting

Using appropriate search operators, you can build a list of prospects into a spreadsheet. You can even automate the process with this free tool from LinkPitch.

A spreadsheet of link prospects from Google

Finding prospects with Content Explorer

Another great way of finding link prospects is by using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer. It allows you to find content on relevant topics.

This particular method for finding link prospects is great because it works for a number of different link building tactics. 

First, using the “Pages” tab can help you find relevant content for potential niche edits. Also, if you visit the page and use Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar, you can easily find invalid links for broken link building.

Moreover, with the “Authors” tab, you can find relevant authors and influencers to reach out to when starting a digital PR campaign.

"Authors" tab, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

The best thing about using Content Explorer for link prospecting is that you can use advanced filters to ensure prospects meet your evaluation criteria. You can choose to show pages or websites within a certain DR range, with a specific website traffic or traffic value.

Applying filters in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Plus, once your filters are applied, you can simply export the results into a spreadsheet. 

Finding prospects with Web Explorer

Ahrefs’ new Web Explorer tool is a game changer for link building and is perfect for link prospecting. 

The tool allows you to do a number of different things that make finding link prospects quick and easy. For example, you can find pages that are getting backlinks with specific keywords in the anchor text or topic-specific blogs that accept guest posts.

My personal favorite (as someone who does a lot of digital PR) is the fact you can find pages with unlinked brand mentions. You can simply export the results and reach out to a site, requesting it to add a link because it’s already mentioned your site!

Finding unlinked brand mentions with Ahrefs' Web Explorer

Pro Tip

You can further expand your list of prospects by finding their “lookalikes.” See this video tutorial for more details: 

Step 4. Analyze and evaluate link prospects for quality and relevance

Once you have gathered a list of potential link prospects, it’s time to evaluate them and prioritize the best ones. If you’ve been following your evaluation criteria, this should be a reasonably straightforward process.

Remember that we are looking initially at the evaluation criteria of relevance, Domain Rating, organic traffic, and traffic value.

Here are the metrics I tend to aim for:

  • Relevance: Either niche relevant or relevant to my target audience, depending on the campaign
  • Domain Rating: DR 40–80
  • Organic traffic: 1000+ per month
  • Traffic value: $1000+

These are the metrics I work with initially to qualify sites in the first overview stage. 

However, it is important to note that you should be wary of metrics and not use them as your only way to determine the quality of a site. Many authority metrics can be manipulated, so it is always advisable to check each site to do your best and avoid spam.

Remember that although buying links is against Google’s guidelines, it has become a common practice in our industry. Many website owners know the potential to earn money from link placements. 

For less experienced site owners who aren’t as adept at spotting spammy sites, there lies a great opportunity to throw up any old site designed solely to sell links. It’s in the interest of a site like this to manipulate metrics and look more authoritative than it is. 

Here are some things to look for when spotting a spammy website:

  • Little and/or poor-quality content
  • Poor website design
  • More display ads than content
  • No “about” or “author” pages
  • Individual posts without specific authors listed (attributed to “Editorial team,” for example)
  • Individual posts with lots of outbound links

Here’s an example of a site meeting all of the evaluation criteria we’ve talked about:

Site metrics, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

However, when you visit the site, you can see it is poorly designed with a mass of poor-quality content. And for the most part, there are more display ads on the screen than actual content.

A spammy site with more ads than content

This is a prime example of why it pays to check out each site individually. Sites that don’t cut the mustard need to be removed from your prospect list.

Step 5. Find contacts for your prospects

The whole point of prospecting is to find sites to approach via outreach and acquire links from them. But you need contact details as part of your prospecting to reach out to them. 

This will be the last step in narrowing down your list of prospects. Any potential sites you can’t find valid contact details for can be struck off your list. 

The easiest way to do this is to use an email lookup tool like Hunter. This tool allows you to input any domain, bringing up all associated email addresses and information about the company.

Searching "" in Hunter

Then, once you have found relevant emails for your prospects, plug them into a tool like Pitchbox to start your outreach. 

Final thoughts  

Link prospecting is an essential part of SEO, and it’s important to take the time to do your research and evaluate link prospects properly. 

Remember to always check for quality and trustworthiness. Google penalizes sites with low-quality backlinks, so make sure you don’t overlook any potential signs of spammy sites.

Once you have identified a list of high-quality sites relevant to your niche or target audience, you can start the outreach process and begin acquiring some awesome links for your site.

If you want to learn more, you can check out our videos on link prospecting in our Advanced Link Building course.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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How To Become an SEO Expert in 4 Steps



General SEO

With 74.1% of SEOs charging clients upwards of $500 per month for their services, there’s a clear financial incentive to get good at SEO. But with no colleges offering degrees in the topic, it’s down to you to carve your own path in the industry.

There are many ways to do this; some take longer than others.

In this post, I’ll share how I’d go from zero to SEO pro if I had to do it all over again. 

1. Take a beginner SEO course

Understanding what search engine optimization really is and how it works is the first state of affairs. While you can do this by reading endless blog posts or watching YouTube videos, I wouldn’t recommend that approach for a few reasons:

  • It’s hard to know where to start
  • It’s hard to join the dots
  • It’s hard to know who to trust

You can solve all of these problems by taking a structured course like our SEO course for beginners. It’s completely free (no signup required), consists of 14 short video lessons (2 hours total length), and covers:

  • What SEO is and why it’s important
  • How to do keyword research
  • How to optimize pages for keywords
  • How to build links (and why you need them)
  • Technical SEO best practices

Here’s the first lesson to get you started:

Lesson 1: SEO Basics: What is SEO and Why is it Important? Watch now

2. Make a website and try to rank it

It doesn’t matter how many books you read about golf, you’re never going to win a tournament without picking up a set of clubs and practicing. It’s the same with SEO. The theory is important, but there’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and trying to rank a site.

If you don’t have a site already, you can get up and running fairly quickly with any major website platform. Some will set you back a few bucks, but they handle SEO basics out of the box. This saves you time sweating the small stuff.

As for what kind of site you should create, I recommend a simple hobby blog. 

Here’s a simple food blog I set up in <10 minutes: 

A blog that I set up in just a few minutes. It's nothing special, but it does the jobA blog that I set up in just a few minutes. It's nothing special, but it does the job

Once you’re set-up, you’re ready to start practicing and honing your SEO skills. Specifically, doing keyword research to find topics, writing and optimizing content about them, and (possibly) building a few backlinks.

For example, according to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, the keyword “neopolitan pizza dough recipe” has a monthly traffic potential of 4.4K as well as a relatively low Keyword Difficulty (KD) score:

Keyword metrics for "neopolitan pizza dough" via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerKeyword metrics for "neopolitan pizza dough" via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Even better, there’s a weak website (DR 16) in the top three positions—so this should definitely be quite an easy topic to rank for.

Page from a low-DR website ranking in the top 3. This indicates an easy-to-rank-for keywordPage from a low-DR website ranking in the top 3. This indicates an easy-to-rank-for keyword

Given that most of the top-ranking posts have at least a few backlinks, a page about this topic would also likely need at least a few backlinks to compete. Check out the resources below to learn how to build these.

3. Get an entry-level job

It’s unlikely that your hobby blog is going to pay the bills, so it’s time to use the work you’ve done so far to get a job in SEO. Here are a few benefits of doing this: 

  • Get paid to learn. This isn’t the case when you’re home alone reading blog posts and watching videos or working on your own site.
  • Get deeper hands-on experience. Agencies work with all kinds of businesses, which means you’ll get to build experience with all kinds of sites, from blogs to ecommerce. 
  • Build your reputation. Future clients or employers are more likely to take you seriously if you’ve worked for a reputable SEO agency. 

To find job opportunities, start by signing up for SEO newsletters like SEO Jobs and SEOFOMO. Both of these send weekly emails and feature remote job opportunities: 

SEO jobs in SEOFOMO newsletterSEO jobs in SEOFOMO newsletter

You can also go the traditional route and search job sites for entry-level positions. The kinds of jobs you’re looking for will usually have “Junior” in their titles or at least mention that it’s a junior position in their description.

Junior SEO job listing exampleJunior SEO job listing example

Beyond that, you can search for SEO agencies in your local area and check their careers pages. 

Even if there are no entry-level positions listed here, it’s still worth emailing and asking if there are any upcoming openings. Make sure to mention any SEO success you’ve had with your website and where you’re at in your journey so far.

This might seem pushy, but many agencies actually encourage this—such as Rise at Seven:

Call for alternative roles from Rise at SevenCall for alternative roles from Rise at Seven

Here’s a quick email template to get you started:

Subject: Junior SEO position?

Hey folks,

Do you have any upcoming openings for junior SEOs?

I’ve been learning SEO for [number] months, but I’m looking to take my knowledge to the next level. So far, I’ve taken Ahrefs’ Beginner SEO course and started my own blog about [topic]—which I’ve had some success with. It’s only [number] months old but already ranks for [number] keywords and gets an estimated [number] monthly search visits according to Ahrefs.

[Ahrefs screenshot]

I checked your careers page and didn’t see any junior positions there, but I was hoping you might consider me for any upcoming positions? I’m super enthusiastic, hard-working, and eager to learn.

Let me know.


You can pull all the numbers and screenshots you need by creating a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account and verifying your website.

4. Specialize and hone your skills

SEO is a broad industry. It’s impossible to be an expert at every aspect of it, so you should niche down and hone your skills in the area that interests you the most. You should have a reasonable idea of what this is from working on your own site and in an agency.

For example, link building was the area that interested me the most, so that’s where I focused on deepening my knowledge. As a result, I became what’s known as a “t-shaped SEO”—someone with broad skills across all things SEO but deep knowledge in one area.

T-shaped SEOT-shaped SEO
What a t-shaped SEO looks like

Marie Haynes is another great example of a t-shaped SEO. She specializes in Google penalty recovery. She doesn’t build links or do on-page SEO. She audits websites with traffic drops and helps their owners recover.

In terms of how to build your knowledge in your chosen area, here are a few ideas:

Here are a few SEOs I’d recommend following and their (rough) specialties:

Final thoughts

K Anders Ericsson famously theorized that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a new skill. Can it take less? Possibly. But the point is this: becoming an SEO expert is not an overnight process.

I’d even argue that it’s a somewhat unattainable goal because no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn. That’s part of the fun, though. SEO is a fast-moving industry that keeps you on your toes, but it’s a very rewarding one, too. 

Here are a few stats to prove it:

  • 74.1% of SEOs charge clients upwards of $500 per month for their services (source)
  • $49,211 median annual salary (source)
  • ~$74k average salary for self-employed SEOs (source)

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A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI




A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

Today, ChatGPT celebrates one year since its launch in research preview.

From its humble beginnings, ChatGPT has continually pushed the boundaries of what we perceive as possible with generative AI for almost any task.

In this article, we take a journey through the past year, highlighting the significant milestones and updates that have shaped ChatGPT into the versatile and powerful tool it is today.

ChatGPT: From Research Preview To Customizable GPTs

This story unfolds over the course of nearly a year, beginning on November 30, when OpenAI announced the launch of its research preview of ChatGPT.

As users began to offer feedback, improvements began to arrive.

Before the holiday, on December 15, 2022, ChatGPT received general performance enhancements and new features for managing conversation history.

Screenshot from ChatGPT, December 2022ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

As the calendar turned to January 9, 2023, ChatGPT saw improvements in factuality, and a notable feature was added to halt response generation mid-conversation, addressing user feedback and enhancing control.

Just a few weeks later, on January 30, the model was further upgraded for enhanced factuality and mathematical capabilities, broadening its scope of expertise.

February 2023 was a landmark month. On February 9, ChatGPT Plus was introduced, bringing new features and a faster ‘Turbo’ version to Plus users.

This was followed closely on February 13 with updates to the free plan’s performance and the international availability of ChatGPT Plus, featuring a faster version for Plus users.

March 14, 2023, marked a pivotal moment with the introduction of GPT-4 to ChatGPT Plus subscribers.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, March 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

This new model featured advanced reasoning, complex instruction handling, and increased creativity.

Less than ten days later, on March 23, experimental AI plugins, including browsing and Code Interpreter capabilities, were made available to selected users.

On May 3, users gained the ability to turn off chat history and export data.

Plus users received early access to experimental web browsing and third-party plugins on May 12.

On May 24, the iOS app expanded to more countries with new features like shared links, Bing web browsing, and the option to turn off chat history on iOS.

June and July 2023 were filled with updates enhancing mobile app experiences and introducing new features.

The mobile app was updated with browsing features on June 22, and the browsing feature itself underwent temporary removal for improvements on July 3.

The Code Interpreter feature rolled out in beta to Plus users on July 6.

Plus customers enjoyed increased message limits for GPT-4 from July 19, and custom instructions became available in beta to Plus users the next day.

July 25 saw the Android version of the ChatGPT app launch in selected countries.

As summer progressed, August 3 brought several small updates enhancing the user experience.

Custom instructions were extended to free users in most regions by August 21.

The month concluded with the launch of ChatGPT Enterprise on August 28, offering advanced features and security for enterprise users.

Entering autumn, September 11 witnessed limited language support in the web interface.

Voice and image input capabilities in beta were introduced on September 25, further expanding ChatGPT’s interactive abilities.

An updated version of web browsing rolled out to Plus users on September 27.

The fourth quarter of 2023 began with integrating DALL·E 3 in beta on October 16, allowing for image generation from text prompts.

The browsing feature moved out of beta for Plus and Enterprise users on October 17.

Customizable versions of ChatGPT, called GPTs, were introduced for specific tasks on November 6 at OpenAI’s DevDay.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, November 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

On November 21, the voice feature in ChatGPT was made available to all users, rounding off a year of significant advancements and broadening the horizons of AI interaction.

And here, we have ChatGPT today, with a sidebar full of GPTs.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, November 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

Looking Ahead: What’s Next For ChatGPT

The past year has been a testament to continuous innovation, but it is merely the prologue to a future rich with potential.

The upcoming year promises incremental improvements and leaps in AI capabilities, user experience, and integrative technologies that could redefine our interaction with digital assistants.

With a community of users and developers growing stronger and more diverse, the evolution of ChatGPT is poised to surpass expectations and challenge the boundaries of today’s AI landscape.

As we step into this next chapter, the possibilities are as limitless as generative AI continues to advance.

Featured image: photosince/Shutterstock

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Is AI Going To E-E-A-T Your Experience For Breakfast? The LinkedIn Example




Is AI Going To E-E-A-T Your Experience For Breakfast? The LinkedIn Example

Are LinkedIn’s collaborative articles part of SEO strategies nowadays?

More to the point, should they be?

The search landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, blurring the lines between search engines and where searches occur.

Following the explosive adoption of AI in content marketing and the most recent Google HCU, core, and spam updates, we’re looking at a very different picture now in search versus 12 months ago.

User-generated and community-led content seems to be met with renewed favourability by the algorithm (theoretically, mirroring what people reward, too).

LinkedIn’s freshly launched “collaborative articles” seem to be a perfect sign of our times: content that combines authority (thanks to LinkedIn’s authority), AI-generated content, and user-generated content.

What could go wrong?

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What are “collaborative articles” on LinkedIn?
  • Why am I discussing them in the context of SEO?
  • The main issues with collaborative articles.
  • How is Google treating them?
  • How they can impact your organic performance.

What Are LinkedIn Collaborative Articles?

First launched in March 2023, LinkedIn says about collaborative articles:

“These articles begin as AI-powered conversation starters, developed with our editorial team, but they aren’t complete without insights from our members. A select group of experts have been invited to contribute their own ideas, examples and experiences within the articles.“

Essentially, each of these articles starts as a collection of AI-generated answers to FAQs/prompts around any given topic. Under each of these sections, community members can add their own perspectives, insights, and advice.

What’s in it for contributors? To earn, ultimately, a “Top Voice” badge on their profile.

The articles are indexable and are all placed under the same folder (

They look like this:

Screenshot from LinkedIn, November 2023LinkedIn content

On the left-hand side, there are always FAQs relevant to the topic answered by AI.

On the right-hand side is where the contributions by community members get posted. Users can react to each contribution in the same way as to any LinkedIn post on their feed.

How Easy Is It To Contribute And Earn A Badge For Your Insights?

Pretty easy.

I first got invited to contribute on September 19, 2023 – though I had already found a way to contribute a few weeks before this.

Exclusive LinkedIn group of expertsScreenshot from LinkedIn, November 2023Exclusive LinkedIn group of experts

My notifications included updates from connections who had contributed to an article.

By clicking on these, I was transferred to the article and was able to contribute to it, too (as well as additional articles, linked at the bottom).

I wanted to test how hard it was to earn a Top SEO Voice badge. Eight article contributions later (around three to four hours of my time), I had earned three.

LinkedIn profileLinkedIn profile

Community top voice badgeScreenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023Community top voice badge

How? Apparently, simply by earning likes for my contributions.

A Mix Of Brilliance, Fuzzy Editorial Rules, And Weird Uncle Bob

Collaborative articles sound great in principle – a win-win for both sides.

  • LinkedIn struck a bullseye: creating and scaling content (theoretically) oozing with E-E-A-T, with minimal investment.
  • Users benefit from building their personal brand (and their company’s) for a fragment of the effort and cost this usually takes. The smartest ones complement their on-site content strategy with this off-site golden ticket.

What isn’t clear from LinkedIn’s Help Center is what this editorial mix of AI and human input looks like.

Things like:

  • How much involvement do the editors have before the topic is put to the community?
  • Are they only determining and refining the prompts?
  • Are they editing the AI-generated responses?
  • More importantly, what involvement (if any) do they have after they unleash the original AI-generated piece into the world?
  • And more.

I think of this content like weird Uncle Bob, always joining the family gatherings with his usual, unoriginal conversation starters. Only, this time, he’s come bearing gifts.

Do you engage? Or do you proceed to consume as many canapés as possible, pretending you haven’t seen him yet?

Why Am I Talking About LinkedIn Articles And SEO?

When I first posted about LinkedIn’s articles, it was the end of September. Semrush showed clear evidence of their impact and potential in Search. (Disclosure: I work for Semrush.)

Only six months after their launch, LinkedIn articles were on a visible, consistent upward trend.

  • They were already driving 792.5K organic visits a month. (This was a 75% jump in August.)
  • They ranked for 811,700 keywords.
  • Their pages were ranking in the top 10 for 78,000 of them.
  • For 123,700 of them, they appeared in a SERP feature, such as People Also Ask and Featured Snippets.
  • Almost 72% of the keywords had informational intent, followed by commercial keywords (22%).

Here’s a screenshot with some of the top keywords for which these pages ranked at the top:

Semrush US databaseScreenshot from Semrush US database, desktop, September 2023Semrush US database

Now, take the page that held the Featured Snippet for competitive queries like “how to enter bios” (monthly search volume of 5,400 and keyword difficulty of 84, based on Semrush data).

It came in ahead of pages on Tom’s Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, or Reddit.

LinkedIn computer hardware installation collaborative articleLinkedIn computer hardware installation collaborative article

collaborative article exampleScreenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023collaborative article example

See anything weird? Even at the time of writing this post, this collaborative article had precisely zero (0) contributions.

This means a page with 100% AI-generated content (and unclear interference of human editors) was rewarded with the Featured Snippet against highly authoritative and relevant domains and pages.

A Sea Of Opportunity Or A Storm Ready To Break Out?

Let’s consider these articles in the context of Google’s guidelines for creating helpful, reliable, people-first content and its Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

Of particular importance here, I believe, is the most recently added “E” in “E-E-A-T,” which takes experience into account, alongside expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

For so many of these articles to have been ranking so well must mean that they were meeting the guidelines and proving helpful and reliable for content consumers.

After all, they rely on “a select group of experts to contribute their own ideas, examples and experiences within the articles,” so they must be worthy of strong organic performances, right?

Possibly. (I’ve yet to see such an example, but I want to believe somewhere in the thousands of pages these do exist).

But, based on what I’ve seen, there are too many examples of poor-quality content to justify such big rewards in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The common issues I’ve spotted:

1. Misinformation

I can’t tell how much vetting or editing there is going on behind the scenes, but the amount of misinformation in some collaborative articles is alarming. This goes for AI-generated content and community contributions alike.

I don’t really envy the task of fact-checking what LinkedIn describes as “thousands of collaborative articles on 2,500+ skills.” Still, if it’s quality and helpfulness we’re concerned with here, I’d start brewing my coffee a little stronger if I were LinkedIn.

At the moment, it feels a little too much like a free-for-all.

Here are some examples of topics like SEO or content marketing.

misinformation example 1misinformation example 1

misinformation example 2misinformation example 2

misinformation example 3Screenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023misinformation example 3

2. Thin Content

To a degree, some contributions seem to do nothing more than mirror the points made in the original AI-generated piece.

For example, are these contributions enough to warrant a high level of “experience” in these articles?

thin content example 1thin content example 1

thin content example 2Screenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023thin content example 2

The irony to think that some of these contributions may have also been generated by AI…

3. Missing Information

While many examples don’t provide new or unique perspectives, some articles simply don’t provide…any perspectives at all.

This piece about analytical reasoning ranked in the top 10 for 128 keywords when I first looked into it last September (down to 80 in October).

Missing Information exampleScreenshot from LinkedIn, November 2023Missing Information example

It even held the Featured Snippet for competitive keywords like “inductive reasoning examples” for a while (5.4K monthly searches in the US), although it had no contributions on this subsection.

Most of its sections remain empty, so we’re talking about mainly AI-generated content.

Does this mean that Google really doesn’t care whether your content comes from humans or AI?

I’m not convinced.

How Have The Recent Google Updates Impacted This Content?

After August and October 2023 Google core updates (at the time of writing, the November 2023 Google core update is rolling out), the September 2023 helpful content update, and the October 2023 spam update, the performance of this section seems to be declining.

According to Semrush data:

Semrush data Screenshot from Semrush, November 2023Semrush data
  • Organic traffic to these pages was down to 453,000 (a 43% drop from September, bringing their performance close to August levels).
  • They ranked for 465,100 keywords (down by 43% MoM).
  • Keywords in the Top 10 dropped by 33% (51,900 vs 78,000 in September).
  • Keywords in the top 10 accounted for 161,800 visits (vs 287,200 in September, down by 44% MoM).

The LinkedIn domain doesn’t seem to have been impacted negatively overall.

Semrush dataScreenshot from Semrush, November 2023Semrush data

Is this a sign that Google has already picked up the weaknesses in this content and has started balancing actual usefulness versus the overall domain authority that might have propelled it originally?

Will we see it declining further in the coming months? Or are there better things to come for this feature?

Should You Already Be On The Bandwagon If You’re In SEO?

I was on the side of caution before the Google algorithm updates of the past couple of months.

Now, I’d be even more hesitant to invest a substantial part of my resources towards baking this content into my strategy.

As with any other new, third-party feature (or platform – does anyone remember Threads?), it’s always a case of balancing being an early adopter with avoiding over-investment. At least while being unclear on the benefits.

Collaborative articles are a relatively fresh, experimental, external feature you have minimal control over as part of your SEO strategy.

Now, we also have signs from Google that this content may not be as “cool” as we initially thought.

This Is What I’d Do

That’s not to say it’s not worth trying some small-scale experiments.

Or, maybe, use it as part of promoting your own personal brand (but I’ve yet to see any data around the impact of the “Top Voice” badges on perceived value).

Treat this content as you would any other owned content.

  • Follow Google’s guidelines.
  • Add genuine value for your audience.
  • Add your own unique perspective.
  • Highlight gaps and misinformation.

Experience shows us that when tactics get abused, and the user experience suffers, Google eventually steps in (from guest blogging to parasite SEO, most recently).

It might make algorithmic tweaks when launching updates, launch a new system, or hand out manual actions – the point is that you don’t know how things will progress. Only LinkedIn and Google have control over that.

As things stand, I can easily see any of the below potential outcomes:

  • This content becomes the AI equivalent of the content farms of the pre-Panda age, leading to Google clamping down on its search performance.
  • LinkedIn’s editors stepping in more for quality control (provided LinkedIn deems the investment worthwhile).
  • LinkedIn starts pushing its initiative much more to encourage participation and engagement. (This could be what makes the difference between a dead content farm and Reddit-like value.)

Anything could happen. I believe the next few months will give us a clearer picture.

What’s Next For AI And Its Role In SEO And Social Media?

When it comes to content creation, I think it’s safe to say that AI isn’t quite ready to E-E-A-T your experience for breakfast. Yet.

We can probably expect more of these kinds of movements from social media platforms and forums in the coming months, moving more toward mixing AI with human experience.

What do you think is next for LinkedIn’s collaborative articles? Let me know on LinkedIn!

More resources:

Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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