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Link relevancy trumps volume for SEO

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Data speaks Link relevancy trumps volume for SEO

30-second summary:

  • Earned media coverage is more valuable than ever for your website
  • Digital PR is just as important as technical SEO
  • A large volume of links is the goal, what’s stopping someone from picking the most newsworthy idea, even if it has nothing to do with your client?

In 2022, it’s impossible to deny the benefit that digital PR as a tactic has on an organic growth strategy. Earned media coverage is more valuable than ever for your website. You could be doing everything right for SEO, but if you’re not building links, you’re still missing out on the increased search visibility, organic traffic, and brand awareness that backlinks bring to your business.

Last year, Google’s John Mueller finally weighed in on digital PR as a tactic and confirmed what we’ve all known for a while now: that it’s just as important — if not more — as technical SEO.

As digital PR is still a relatively “young industry” that’s only just sprouted up in the past 10 years, many PR pros have relied on “viral” campaigns to boost the backlink portfolio of their clients. These viral campaigns are often celebrated but are often created with little regard to how relevant, or “on-brand” those ideas really are.

After all, if a large volume of links is the goal, what’s stopping someone from picking the most newsworthy idea, even if it has nothing to do with your client?

In 2022, link volume is no longer the goal (or shouldn’t be)

While many PR pros’ were evaluating their success around this one key metric (link volume) others in the industry have suspected for a while now that the relevance of linking coverage is a key factor Google looks at when assigning “value” to links.

Once again, John Mueller has settled the debate about link volume vs link relevance,  coming out in 2021 and saying that ‘the total number of links’ doesn’t matter at all.

This clarity has helped refocus the digital PR industry and forced PR pros to re-evaluate what metrics and KPIs we need to be focusing on to drive true organic growth.

It’s no longer enough to be ‘popular’ you also need to be relevant. Not just in terms of the publications you are targeting, but the keywords you want to rank for,  audience interest, and most importantly, brand alignment to the story you are pitching in.

Google is continuously looking to become more intelligent through its use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. It wants to understand web content as a human, and therefore through its use of natural language understanding, it is likely to not just be looking at the anchor text of links in third-party articles, but it is also wanting to understand the wider context of the article that a brand is placed in.

How to ensure your link-building activity is relevant to your brand

The first steps to coming up with relevant content ideas for your digital PR campaign are to:

  1.  understand your client, and
  2.  understand your client’s audience and their needs.

Every good idea will flow from these two pillars.

If Google’s main objective is to show the best content to users through search, then your job is to create content that either supports your client’s product or service or supports their customers.

It is more important than ever to not only create relevant and on-brand content in the written form but also ensure that any supporting assets created (video, images, audio) are also relevant to the target keywords and services or products that the brand sells.

In addition, it’s important to create content that engages people, to drive further buzz and positive sentiment around the brand, all of which contribute to greater brand awareness and affinity among your potential customers.

How to measure the relevancy of your backlink profile

We now have the technology available to us to be able to understand and assign quantifiable metrics to the relevance of linking coverage (or indeed the relevance of any text-based content) – which allows us to be much more data-driven and targeted when developing digital PR, link creation activity and competitor and marketplace analysis.

For example, natural language understanding tools like Salient, measure the relevancy of both off-page and on-page content. Tools like this help to understand how a search engine is viewing a brand’s content, it not only enables us to identify the gaps in our client’s backlink profile.

At Journey Further, we use this proprietary tool to measure the relevancy of both off-page and on-page content for our clients.

Measuring the relevancy of your backlink profile

We can use this tool to understand how a search engine is viewing a brand’s content, it not only enables us to identify the gaps in our client’s backlink profile but also aids us in optimizing its content on-site. The outcome of which – is a much more focused, effective, and measurable digital PR activity that is better aligned to SEO objectives and that delivers better ROI for clients.

Looking ahead to 2023

Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, it’s likely that Google will only continue to develop better technology to understand web content.

All digital PR campaigns should reflect this, and where possible, be multi-faceted, not just relying on a single press release to get cut through. We need to be thinking as marketers, not just SEO practitioners, and ensure we are driving as much ROI as possible. Taking a brand plus performance approach to SEO and digital PR will therefore be key.


Beth Nunnington is the VP of Digital PR and Content Marketing at Journey Further, leading Digital PR strategy for the world’s leading brands. Her work has been featured in The Drum, PR Moment, and Prolific North. Find Beth on Twitter @BethNunnington.

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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