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Link Building for SEO: The Beginner’s Guide

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Link Building for SEO: The Beginner’s Guide

What is link building?

Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to pages on your website. Its purpose is to boost the “authority” of your pages in the eyes of Google so that these pages rank higher and bring more search traffic.

Why is link building important?

According to Google’s Andrey Lipattsev, links are one of the three major ranking factors in Google. So if you want your website’s pages to rank high in search, you will almost certainly need links.

Google and other search engines look at links from other sites as “votes.” These votes help them identify which page on a given topic (out of thousands of similar ones) deserves to rank at the very top of the search results.

Thus, as a general rule, pages with more backlinks tend to rank higher in search results. 

Links aren’t the answer to everything

Links are incredibly important for ranking well. And it is quite rare that you will outrank pages that have a lot of strong links—unless you get just as many. And yet, links aren’t the only factor that Google uses to rank pages.

So if you build lots of links to your page and it still ranks poorly, look into other ranking factors that might prevent you from ranking well.

Conceptually, most link building tactics and strategies fall into one of the following four buckets:

Four buckets of link building strategies

1. Adding links

If you can go to a website that doesn’t belong to you and manually place your link there, that’s called “adding” a link. The most common tactics that fit into this category are:

  • Business directory submissions.
  • Social profile creation.
  • Blog commenting.
  • Posting to forums, communities, and Q&A sites.
  • Creating job search listings.

Building links via those tactics is very easy to do. And for that exact reason, such links tend to have very low value in the eyes of Google. In some cases, they may even be flagged as spam.

Other than that, these kinds of links barely give you any competitive advantage. If you can go to a website and manually place your link there, nothing stops your competitors from doing the same.

However, you shouldn’t ignore this group of link building tactics entirely. Each of them can actually be quite beneficial for your online business for reasons other than SEO.

Let me elaborate with a couple of quick examples:

  • Business directories – If you’re doing SEO for a restaurant website, you should definitely list it in three to five major directory sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Allmenus, Grubhub, etc. Those links won’t be particularly strong ones, but you might get some actual customers from them.
  • Industry forums – If you know some active forums or communities where your target audience is hanging out, you should definitely be active there too. But merely spamming your links without trying to add value to conversations will quickly get you banned from these places.

As you can tell, each of these strategies can be quite meaningful. But if someone offers you to do any of the above at scale (i.e., register your site at a hundred business directories or create a hundred social media profiles)—stay away from that. These kinds of “hacks” are a waste of money at best and might even get your website penalized at worst.

Sidenote.

While looking for more ways to “add” links to other websites, you might come across tactics that mention “web 2.0s” and “bookmarking sites.” Those things used to work some 15 years ago, but you shouldn’t waste your time on them today.

2. Asking for links

As the name suggests, this is when you reach out to the owner of the website you want a link from and give them a compelling reason to link to you.

That “compelling reason” is an absolutely essential success factor. The people you reach out to don’t care about you and your website (unless you’re some sort of celebrity) and, thus, they have zero incentive to promote you or your work.

So before you ask them to link to you, ask yourself: “What’s in it for THEM?”

Here are some of the link building tactics and strategies that fall into this category, along with a briefly defined “compelling reason” that they’re based off:

  • Guest blogging – Create useful content for their website.
  • Skyscraper technique – Show them a better resource than the one they’re linking to.
  • Link inserts – Show them a resource with more information on something they’ve briefly mentioned.
  • Ego bait – Mention them or their work in your own content in a positive light.
  • Testimonials and case studies – Give positive feedback about their product or service.
  • Link exchanges – Offer to link back to them if they agree to link to you.
  • Resource page link building – Show them a good resource that fits their existing list.
  • Broken link building – Help them fix a “dead” link on their page by providing a replacement.
  • Image link building – Ask to get credit for using your image.
  • Unlinked mentions – Ask to make the mention of your brand “clickable.”
  • Link moves – Ask to make changes to an existing link pointing at your website.
  • HARO and journalist requests – Give an “expert quote” for their article.
  • PR – Give them a killer story to cover.

These strategies seem to make quite some sense, right? But as soon as you send your first email request, you’re likely to face the harsh reality—your “compelling reason” isn’t compelling enough:

  • Your guest post isn’t good enough.
  • Your resource isn’t worthy of a mention.
  • Your “skyscraper” isn’t as “tall” as you thought it was.

The truth is it is incredibly hard to persuade random website owners to link to you. Either you have a one-of-a-kind outstanding resource that will genuinely impress them, or you’re well known in your field and they will be happy to fix you a link as a favor.

If it’s none of the two, you better handle rejection well. Because for every 100 emails, 98 will either not reply or say “no.” 

And that is exactly the reason why many SEOs started looking for ways to make it worthwhile for the other party and offer something in return for a link, such as:

  • A shoutout on social media.
  • An email newsletter blast.
  • Free access to a premium product or service.
  • A link in exchange.
  • Money.

But offering these kinds of “extras” gets them into the gray area of what is considered a “link scheme,” according to Google’s guidelines.

So there you have it. The candid ways of asking for links have a rather low success rate. But as soon as you try to “sweeten the deal,” you’re entering Google’s minefield.

At this point, it may seem that I’m dissuading you from using tactics and strategies listed in this group. I’m not. I’m merely suggesting that you ensure your content is outstanding before reaching out to hundreds of people.

3. Buying links

Let’s get this straight from the get-go: 

We don’t recommend that you buy links! 

If you don’t have lots of experience with it, you’re likely to waste lots of money on useless links that will have zero impact on your rankings. Or even get your website penalized.

However, we will be putting you at a disadvantage if we don’t disclose the fact that many people in the SEO industry do “buy” links in all sorts of ways and manage to get away with it.

So if you’re willing to risk the well-being of your website and buy links, please look for advice on doing that “safely” elsewhere—because here at Ahrefs, we don’t teach that.

4. Earning links

You “earn” links when other people link to the pages on your website without you having to ask them to do so. This obviously doesn’t happen unless you have something truly outstanding that other website owners will genuinely want to mention on their websites.

But people can’t link to things that they don’t know exist. So no matter how awesome your page is, you’ll need to invest in promoting it. And the more people see your page, the higher the chance that some of them will end up linking to it.

Later in this chapter, I’m going to share some tactics and strategies that will help you both create “link-worthy” content and promote it to relevant audiences who might end up linking to it.

Bonus: Preserving links

Technically, preserving your hard-earned links does not really fall under the definition of “link building.” But when you lose an important backlink, the “vote” that it was sending to Google is also lost. So it is fairly important to preserve your hard-earned links.

There are two simple ways to do it:

  1. Fixing 404 pages that have quality backlinks
  2. Monitoring your lost backlinks and reaching out to a website owner when an important link goes missing (also known as “link reclamation”)

Both of these things are easy to do with Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. The Best by links report will help you find the 404 pages with links. While the Backlinks report has a handy “Lost” filter, which will show you all links that were recently lost.

One important caveat, though. You don’t need to bother about every single link that goes missing. You just need to preserve the most important ones. And that is exactly what we’re going to talk about next.

Nobody knows for sure how exactly Google measures the value of each link. But there are some general concepts of evaluating links that the SEO community believes to be true:

  • Authority
  • Relevance
  • Anchor text
  • Nofollow vs. follow
  • Placement
  • Destination
Six aspects of a good link

1. Authority

As you already know, Google sees links as “votes” that a given page deserves to rank well. But a link from techcrunch.com can’t possibly have the same power as a link from your friend’s personal blog, right? (Unless, of course, your friend is Tim Ferriss.) 

Well, Google has consistently denied that some sort of sitewide website authority metric exists in its system. And yet, many SEOs believe that the concept of “website authority” makes too much sense to completely discount it.

What is more important, though, is the authority of the actual page that is linking to you. It’s one thing to be mentioned in a TechCrunch article that goes unnoticed, and it’s an entirely different case if that article “breaks the internet” and gets referenced on dozens of major news websites.

Pages that have backlinks cast a stronger vote than those that don't

In other words, a page that has some strong votes of its own will cast a stronger vote compared to a page with no votes. This simple principle lies at the core of Google’s famous PageRank algorithm.

Back in the day, Google even provided a browser toolbar, which displayed the PageRank of any URL you visited. But this toolbar was deprecated more than 10 years ago. Which gave SEO tool providers an opportunity to fill that gap and develop their own authority metrics.

Here at Ahrefs, we have Domain Rating (DR) and URL Rating (UR), which measure the so-called “link popularity” of websites and URLs, respectively. 

2. Relevance

Let’s say you published a guide on grilling a perfect steak, and you want it to rank high in Google. Who would you prefer to get a link from—Joe Rogan or Gordon Ramsay?

I would imagine it’s the latter. Joe may have a larger audience than Gordon, but he’s not a world-renowned chef. So he can easily be wrong with his cooking advice.

And that is something that Google seemingly accounts for when ranking pages. Links from websites on the same topic as yours are deemed to bring more value than links from irrelevant websites.

Here’s an excerpt from its “How search works” guide:

If other prominent websites on the subject link to the page, that’s a good sign that the information is of high quality.

3. Anchor text

Just in case you’re not already familiar with the term, “anchor text” is a clickable snippet of text that links to another page. In many cases, it succinctly describes what the linked page is about.

So it’s no surprise that Google uses the words in the anchor text to better understand what the referenced page is about and what keywords it deserves to rank for. In fact, Google’s original PageRank patent talks about this quite explicitly:

Google employs a number of techniques to improve search quality including page rank, anchor text, and proximity information.

So how do you leverage anchor text when building links?

Well, it’s better that you don’t. The more you try to control how different pages link to you and shoehorn all the “right words” into the anchor text of your backlinks, the higher the chance that Google will suspect manipulation and penalize you for that. So it’s better to just let the author of the linking page decide how they want to reference your page. 

4. Nofollow vs. follow

Nofollow” is a link attribute that tells Google that the linking page will rather not give its vote to the page that it is referencing.

Here’s how that looks like in page code:

Page code for nofollowed link

Historically, Google didn’t count votes from “nofollowed links” (or so it said). Then, in 2019, it switched to a hint model, which means that some “nofollowed” links may now influence your search rankings.

It also introduced two new link attributes along with this announcement:

  • rel=“UGC” should be applied to user-generated links, e.g., blog comments and forum posts.
  • rel=“sponsored” should be applied when the link is part of an advertisement, sponsorship, or some other compensation agreement.

As a general rule, you want to be getting “followed” links (i.e., links that don’t have any of the aforementioned attributes) because these are the ones that are supposed to cast the strongest votes.

However, if you see an opportunity to get a nofollowed link from a relevant high-authority page, you should absolutely take it.

A good example is Wikipedia, where all outgoing links are nofollowed. Getting a link from Wikipedia is incredibly hard, which is why many SEOs are convinced that those links are quite valuable in the eyes of Google.

5. Placement

Google’s reasonable surfer patent talks about how the likeliness of a link being clicked may affect how much authority it transfers. And placement of a link on a page is one of the few things that can affect its CTR.

Let’s say there’s a webpage that consists of three blocks: content, sidebar, and footer. As a general rule, links in the content will get more clicks because the content block gets the most attention from visitors.

Prominently placed links may transfer more "authority"

One other thing that can affect the CTR of a link is how high on the page it appears. Readers are more likely to click links at the very beginning of the article rather than the ones at its very end.

6. Destination

When building links to your website, there are three destinations where you can point them:

  1. Your homepage.
  2. Your linkable assets.
  3. The actual pages that you need to rank well in Google.

And quite often, the pages that you need to rank well are also the hardest ones to get links to. That’s because people generally prefer to link to informational pages where their audience can get value for free rather than commercial pages where their audience is likely to part ways with their cash.

Thus, one of the most common questions in SEO is this: “How to get links to boring pages?”

And while there’s no single right answer to this question, everyone agrees that you should leverage the power of internal linking to help your “boring pages” rank better.

Use internal links to transfer authority to the boring pages that you need to rank well in Google

In part two, I listed a few dozen link building tactics and strategies for you to explore. But which of them are the best and most effective ones?

Here at Ahrefs, we’re big advocates of the following four:

  1. Pursuing competitors’ links
  2. Creating linkable assets
  3. Content promotion
  4. Guest posting

1. Pursuing competitors’ links

Competitor link research is one of the most fundamental activities in link building. Think about it. The top-ranking page for your desired search query has all the right links, which persuaded Google of its superiority. Therefore, by studying its links, you can figure out which tactics to use so that you can get similar links and outrank that page.

And this is where an SEO tool like Ahrefs is absolutely indispensable.

Just put the keyword that you want to rank for in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and scroll down to the “SERP overview.” It will show you how many backlinks (and linking websites) each of the top-ranking pages has:

SERP overview for "best productivity apps"

Click on any of these numbers, and you’ll see a report listing all of the links.

From here, your course of action is twofold:

  1. Try to get links from the pages that link to your competitors
  2. Study how those links were acquired and use the same tactics to get more links than your competitors

2. Creating linkable assets

In SEO, we use the terms “linkable asset” or “linkbait” to refer to content that is strategically crafted to attract links. Such linkable assets can take on many different forms:

  • Online tools and calculators
  • Infographics, GIFographics, and “Map-o-graphics”
  • Awards and rankings
  • Studies and research
  • Industry surveys
  • How-to guides and tutorials
  • Definitions and coined terms

I’m sure that even in the most boring industries there’s a way to create an interesting piece of content that will attract links. So it’s always a good idea to study the websites of your competitors and see if they have any linkable assets that you could get inspiration from.

To do that, simply put their domain name in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and go to the Best by links report. This will show you which of their pages have accrued the most links.

Best pages by backlinks report

As you can see in the screenshot above, three of the five most linked pages on the Ahrefs Blog (excluding the homepage) are data-driven research studies. That gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of content that attracts links in our industry.

3. Content promotion

No matter how “linkable” your pages are, people can’t link to them without first discovering them. In other words, even the best linkable assets have to be promoted in order to attract links.

Generally speaking, there are just three ways to promote content:

  1. Influencers and communities
  2. Advertising
  3. Growing an audience

1. Influencers and communities

Who will amplify this? And why? According to Rand Fishkin, the answer to this question determines the amount of exposure that your piece of content is destined to get. 

Who” refers to influential people and relevant communities in your space that might help to put your content in front of large numbers of people. And “why” refers to the actual merit of your content that makes it worthy of being promoted in the first place.

Fun fact. Back in 2015, I reached out to Rand, asking him to tweet my article. And his response was essentially a crash course in how this works:

Rand's email reply to Tim

2. Advertising

You can easily bring lots of visitors to your content with the help of advertising on platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the like. Alternatively, you can partner with selected influencers and content creators in your space and pay them to promote your content to their audience. 

Some people, though, find it hard to justify spending money to promote their content. Which naturally begs the question: How did they justify spending time to create it in the first place?

If you create your content with your business goals in mind, you should not have issues to justify spending money to promote it to people.

3. Growing an audience

Each time you publish and promote a piece of content, you’ll reach some people who will find value in it (or simply enjoy it). And it would be a real shame to part ways with these people and never be able to reach them again, wouldn’t it?

That’s why you have to work on growing your audience. Which can be done in a few different ways:

  • Ask them to subscribe to your email list
  • Ask them to follow you on Twitter/LinkedIn/Instagram/TikTok
  • Invite them to join your private community on Slack/Discord/Facebook
  • Retarget them with Facebook/Twitter/Google ads

With every new cool piece of content that you release, your audience should be getting larger and larger. And the more people follow your work, the less you’ll need to bother about promoting your content manually.

4. Guest posting

According to a 2022 survey by Aira, guest posting is the third most used link building strategy among professional SEOs.

As discussed earlier, asking for links without offering anything of value in return barely even works these days. But guest posting is not like that. You’re offering a quality piece of content in exchange for an opportunity to link to your website from it. That sounds like a fair exchange of value.

Here at Ahrefs Blog, we have a “write for us” page, inviting our readers to contribute a guest article for us. And yet, we reject the vast majority of pitches we receive. Our standards for guest contributions are very high.

So here are two simple tips that will help you get published in the top blogs of your industry:

1. Start small and work your way up

It is much easier to get the attention of the top blogs in your niche when you have a solid portfolio of published content on slightly smaller blogs. 

So before you pitch a guest article to the owner of a DR80+ blog, make sure you have a published DR70+ piece to show them. And before you pitch that DR70+ blog… well, I’m sure you get the idea.

You can use Content Explorer to quickly find relevant blogs of required “authority.” Just search for a related word or phrase in page titles and use the “Domain Rating (DR)” filter to narrow down results:

Finding blogs with required authority using Ahrefs' Content Explorer

2. Make an irresistible offer

What do blog owners want? They want to grow traffic to their blog.

So if you can persuade them that your guest article will rank well in Google for its target keyword and bring them consistent search traffic, it will be an easy sell.

And that’s where the previous tip is absolutely invaluable. If you can show some actual examples of your past guest articles that rank well, I bet you’ll get the deal easily.

A somewhat lesser-known guest posting tactic is to find an underperforming article on their blog (in terms of search traffic) and offer to do a complete overhaul with the goal of improving its Google rankings. In many cases, the blogger will be happy for you to do that.

Just open the Top pages report in Site Explorer and use the “Traffic” filter to find underperforming articles easily:

Underperforming articles in Top pages report

While it is technically possible to build links with just a bit of brain power and a Gmail account, there are a number of link building tools that will help make the process of acquiring links much easier.

Here are some free ones:

  • Ahrefs Webmaster Tools – Shows all links pointing at your own website already and lets you sort and filter them by many important SEO metrics.
  • Ahrefs’ Free Backlink Checker – Shows top 100 links pointing at any website or URL.
  • Google Alerts – Notifies you whenever a specific word or phrase was mentioned on a newly published page. Which is a great way to source quality link prospects.

 And here are some premium ones:

  • Ahrefs’ Site Explorer – Shows you all links of any website or URL with an option to sort and filter them by many important SEO metrics.
  • Ahrefs’ Content Explorer – A unique link prospecting tool, which helps you find thousands of relevant websites for link requests and guest posting. Also helps to research linkable assets on any topic from all around the web.
  • Ahrefs Alerts – Similar to Google Alerts but designed specifically with SEO professionals in mind.
  • Pitchbox/BuzzStream/GMass – Email outreach tools. There are many other tools that let you send personalized emails at scale, but these ones are the most popular among SEOs.
  • Hunter.io/Voila Norbert – The so-called “email lookup services,” which help you find contact details of websites at scale.

Let’s wrap this up

This guide turned out to be over 4,000 words. Yet we’ve only scratched the surface of what link building entails. So if you want to dig deeper, make sure to check out our other articles on this topic, which I’ve linked to throughout this guide.

And should you have any questions or comments, just tweet me at @timsoulo.



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SEO

12 Great Link Building Tools That Are Essential To Your Success

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12 Great Link Building Tools That Are Essential To Your Success

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

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

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

These can be divided into four categories:

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

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

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

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

3. Pitchbox

Combines email outreach with SEO metrics.

8. Agency Analytics

Connects a variety of performance metrics.

10. Link Whisperer

Good for internal linking efforts.

2. Ahrefs

Provides useful reports to analyze trends.

4. BuzzSumo

Use to identify authors and sharers/backlinkers.

9. Cyfe

Customizable but automatic reporting.

11. Postaga

Find opportunities and initiate outreach.

5. Hunter.IO

A browser extension that helps you find contact information.

12. CTRify

WordPress plugin that generates content.

6. BrightLocal

Submit and manage citations.

7. HARO

Link Research Tools

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

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

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

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

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

1. Majestic

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

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

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

2. Ahrefs

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

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

Here are reports to use in Ahrefs over Majestic:

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

Prospecting And Outreach Tools

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

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

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

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

3. Pitchbox

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

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

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

PitchboxScreenshot from Pitchbox, January 2023

4. BuzzSumo

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

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

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

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

5. Hunter.io

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

This browser extension finds email addresses for easy contact options.

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

Hunter.ioScreenshot from Hunter.io, January 2023

6. BrightLocal

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

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

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

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

BrightLocalScreenshot from BightLocal, January 2023

7. HARO

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

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

HAROScreenshot from HARO, January 2023

Reporting Tools

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

These tools solve that issue; AgencyAnalytics and Cyfe.

8. Agency Analytics

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

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

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

Agency AnalyticsScreenshot from Agency Analytics, January 2023

9. Cyfe

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

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

CyfeScreenshot from Cyfe, January 2023

AI-Powered Tools

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

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

10. Link Whisper

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

Link Whisper is useful for internal link building.

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

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

Link WhispererScreenshot from Link Whisperer, January 2023

11. Postaga

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

Postaga does everything from finding opportunities to initiating outreach.

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

PostagaScreenshot from Postaga, January 2023

12. CTRify

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

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

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

CTRifyScreenshot from CTRify, January 2023

Conclusion

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

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

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


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WordPress Admin Interface Is “Simply Bad”

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WordPress Admin Interface Is "Simply Bad"

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

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

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

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

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

WordPress User Interface Design

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

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

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

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

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

Joost wrote:

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

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

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

WordPress is Old Fashioned and Losing Market Share

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

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

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

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

Is WordPress Hard to Use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

WordPress theme website ThemeIsle writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response from Twitter WordPress Community

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

@learnwithmattc tweeted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WordPress Admin User Interface Needs Improvement

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

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

Read Joost de Valk’s Blog Post

WordPress’ admin UI needs to be better



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Top YouTube Videos, Shorts, And Ads of 2022

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Top YouTube Videos, Shorts, And Ads of 2022

Examining YouTube’s list of the top trending videos and top Shorts of 2022, as well as the YouTube Ads Leaderboard: 2022 year-end-wrap-up can teach content marketers, content creators, and digital advertisers some important lessons that they can apply in 2023.

But, it helps if you have a secret decoder ring to decipher why there are three lists – and why each one uses a different methodology to come up with the rankings.

YouTube unveiled its first list of the 10 most-watched YouTube videos back in December 2010. Unfortunately, that list taught many marketers that “view count” was the only metric that mattered.

But, I got my secret decoder ring back in October 2012, when YouTube started adjusting the ranking of videos in YouTube search results to reward engaging videos that kept viewers watching.

In other words, YouTube replaced “view count” with “watch time.”

This was a significant shift, because “watch time” gives you a sense of what content viewers actually watch, as opposed to videos that they click on and then abandon.

In December 2012, YouTube shifted from unveiling its 10 “most-watched” videos of the year to unveiling its “top trending videos,” based on time spent watching, sharing, commenting, liking, and other factors.

In other words, “watch time” and “engagements” were now the metrics that mattered.

Today, YouTube’s algorithm rewards “viewer satisfaction.”

In other words, YouTube doesn’t pay attention to videos; it pays attention to viewers.

So, rather than trying to make videos that’ll make an algorithm happy, focus on making videos that make your viewers happy.

This brings us to YouTube’s lists of “trending videos” and “top Shorts” for 2022.

To learn important lessons that can be applied in 2023, we need to realize that YouTube’s discovery system uses both absolute and relative watch time as signals when deciding audience engagement.

Ultimately, YouTube wants both short and long videos to succeed, so relative watch time is more important for short videos, and absolute watch time is more important for longer videos.

Top 7 Trending Videos Of 2022

1. “So Long Nerds“ By Technoblade (6:32 long, 88.3 million Views, 10.2 million engagements)

In this moving tribute, the father of beloved Minecraft creator Technoblade reads a farewell letter from his son.

The gamer lost his battle with cancer in June, but his legacy remains on YouTube.

2. “Watch The Uncensored Moment Will Smith Smacks Chris Rock On Stage At The Oscars, Drops F-bomb” By Guardian News (1:24 long, 104 million Views, and 1.8 million engagements)

It was the smack heard ‘round the world: Academy Award winner Will Smith went off-script and slapped Chris Rock, live on-stage, at the film industry’s most prestigious event.

3. “Hi, I’m Dream” By Dream (5:42 long, 48.5 million Views, and 4.7 million engagements)

Dream’s ingenuity within Minecraft has led him to become a top creator with a devoted fanbase.

But no one knew what he looked like IRL, until now.

4. “ Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar & 50 Cent Full Pepsi Sb Lvi Halftime Show” By NFL (14:41 long, 146 million Views, and 3.5 million engagements)

Lose yourself in this epic Super Bowl halftime show packed with some of the biggest artists in hip-hop history: Dr. Dre, Snoop, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lama, and 50 Cent.

5. “I Built Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!” By Mrbeast (17:01 long, 132 million Views, and 5.1 million engagements)

In a “Willy Wonka” inspired warehouse, MrBeast challenges contestants to traverse a chocolate river, climb a candy wall, compete in confection-themed games, and indulge in their sweetest fantasies.

6. “Pranks Destroy Scam Callers- Glitterbomb Payback” By Mark Rober (26:41 long, 55.9 million Views, and 2.2 million engagements).

Engineer Mark Rober exacts dazzling revenge on a scam call center in the latest version of his glitterbomb series.

7. “Being Not Straight” By Jaiden Animations (15:22 long, 17.8 million Views, and 1.7 million engagements)

In this coming-out video, Jaiden Animations depicts a personal journey from adolescence to adulthood, sharing how they discovered their sexual identity along the way.

Top 7 Shorts Of 2022

1. “Diver Cracks Egg At 45 Ft Deep #Shorts” By Shangerdanger (0:56 long, 251 million Views, and 12.3 million engagements)

The ocean floor is a mysterious place. It’s full of unknown sea creatures, strange plants, and…chicken eggs?!

Join Shangerdanger as he cracks up the internet and dives egg-first into the blue depths.

2. “Sarah Trust Challenges” By Hingaflips (0:31 long, 142 million Views, and 6.5 million engagements)

Better than parkour? This is Trampwall: an epic sport where acrobats defy gravity and leap off a wall, onto a trampoline, to pull off mind-blowing aerial stunts.

3. “Come With Me To Shave My Fluffy Dog! #Doggrooming #Grooming #Goldendoodle” By Brodie That Dood (0:52 long, 108 million Views, and 6.8 million engagements)

For years, his long fluffy fur has made Brodie one of the most iconic dogs on YouTube. So, the heartbreak was real when it was decided that he needed a close trim.

4. “Dave and Busters Bet Me 1000 Tickets I Couldn’t Do This…” By Chris Ivan (0:59 long, 83.6 million Views, and 6.3 million engagements).

No one does trick shots like creator Chris Ivan. In this Short, he attempts to land a plunger on a Dave & Buster’s sign.

The prize? 1,000 tickets … if he can pull it off.

5. “That Gap Between Your Car Seat and Center Console” By Jay & Sharon (0:58 long, 182 million Views, and 6.4 million engagements)

We’ve all lost something in the dreaded gap between the car seat and the center console.

In this comedic sketch, creators Jay & Sharon show us what’s really going on down there.

6. “Welcome To The Stomach #Shorts” By Adrian Bliss (0:34 long, 118 million Views, and 7.0 million engagements)

In this bite-sized skit, witty creator Adrian Bliss brings to life all the characters trying to gain entrance – and party in – his space-limited stomach.

7. “This Magic Trick Explained (America’s Got Talent)” By Zack D. Films (0:34 long, 97.4 million Views, and 5.6 million engagements).

How did he do it? The judges of “America’s Got Talent” were confounded by this magic trick.

But not internet-sleuth Zack D., who unveils its clever secret.

Top 7 YouTube Ads Of 2022

Meanwhile, YouTube uses an entirely different methodology to determine the top YouTube ad for its 2022 year-end wrap-up Leaderboard. This makes sense.

The top ads are generally the ones with the biggest budgets, which drive up view counts, but not always engagements.

1. “Amazon’s Big Game Commercial: Mind Reader” By Amazon (1:31 long, 69.7 million Views, and 25,700 engagements)

The creative agency for this ad was Lucky Generals and the media agency was IPG – Rufus.

The ad’s description asks, “Is Alexa reading minds a good idea? No. No, it is not.”

2. “Welcome To Clan Capital! Clash Of Clans New Update!” By Clash Of Clans (1:20 long, 52.9 million Views, and 212,000 engagements)

The creative agency was Psyop, and the media agency was in-house.

The ad’s description says,

“Welcome to the ultimate clan destination! A place where you and your clan can BUILD and BATTLE together! A place called CLAN CAPITAL!”

3. “Goal Of The Century X BTS | Yet To Come (Hyundai Ver.) Official Music Video” By Hyundaiworldwide (4:08 long, 40.5 million Views, and 886,000 engagements)

The ad’s description says,

“Our ‘Goal of the Century’ can’t be achieved by one individual alone, but we can achieve it if we all join forces and unite.

Just like football players come together as a team to score goals, we aim to use the power of football to go forward together in pursuit of the greatest goal – ‘A united world for sustainability.’”

4. “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts | Official Trailer | HBO Max” By HBO Max (1:58 long, 27.3 million Views, and 739,000 engagements)

The creative agency was in-house, and the media agency was Hearts & Science.

The ad’s description says,

“Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts invites fans on a magical first-person journey through one of the most beloved film franchises of all time as it reunites Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and other esteemed cast members and filmmakers across all eight Harry Potter films for the first time to celebrate the anniversary of the franchise’s first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

5. “Introducing iPhone 14 Pro | Apple” by Apple (4:20 long, 23.8 million views, and 571,000 engagements)

The ad’s description asks, “What lies beyond a traditional smartphone? Let’s find out. This is iPhone 14 Pro.”

6. All of Us Are Dead | Official Trailer | Netflix” by Netflix (2:35 long, 22.6 million views, and 518,000 engagements)

The creative agency was The Refinery, and the media agency was in-house. The ad’s description says,

“All of us will die. There is no hope.” The school turned into a bloody battleground and our friends into worst enemies. Who will make it out alive?”

7. Sally’s Seashells (Extended) | Big Game Commercial 2022“ by Squarespace (1:07 long, 21.6 million views, and 67,600 engagements)

The media agency was in-house. The ad’s description says,

“See everything that Sally sells in this extended cut of our 2022 Big Game commercial. Starring Zendaya as Sally and narrated by andré 3000.”

Most Important Lesson That Marketers Can Apply In 2023

Looking back at YouTube’s lists of top trending videos, top Shorts, and top ads for 2022, there is a meta-lesson that marketers can learn: one size does not fit all.

Different metrics matter when measuring different types of video, and different types of ads are better for different marketing objectives.

Or, as the British say, “There are horses for courses.”

Now, that’s a lesson that all of us can apply in 2023, and beyond.

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