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On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO: Different but Equally Important

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On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO: Different but Equally Important

The difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO is that they aim at two different sets of SEO factors. The first one focuses on impacting SEO factors occurring on a page, while the latter focuses on factors outside of a page.

Infographic illustrating differences between on-page and off-page SEO

How to know which one your website needs more? Read on to learn:

On-page SEO (also called on-site SEO) is the practice of optimizing webpages to rank higher on search engines. It includes optimizations to visible content and the HTML source code.

Example tactic – Finding relevant subtopics

If your page struggles to rank in the top 10, one of the reasons may be that it lacks the information that searchers are looking for. To find out if that is the case, you’ll need to compare topics covered by top-ranking pages against topics covered by you.

You can automate this process using Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool. This tool shows you keywords that target pages rank for but you don’t.

Content Gap tool to find guest blogging-related keywords Ahrefs' competitors rank for but the Ahrefs blog doesn't Content Gap tool to find guest blogging-related keywords Ahrefs' competitors rank for but the Ahrefs blog doesn't

Step 1. Insert URLs of the pages you want to compare and hit “Show keywords.”

List of keywords with corresponding data like volume, KD, etcList of keywords with corresponding data like volume, KD, etc

Step 2. Find topics that your content lacks. In our example, that can be definitions of guest blogging and guest post.

Off-page SEO embodies any efforts implemented outside of a website to improve its search engine rankings.

Example tactic – Finding link building prospects

Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors (more on this later). You can earn them organically, and you can also “build” them.

There are many link building tactics out there. One of them is looking for linking patterns among your competition so that you can get links from the same websites. For that, you will need a backlink checking tool.

Since links from new websites are likely to move the ranking needle the most (i.e., sites that don’t link to you yet), the best way to see linking patterns is to find websites that link to your competitors but not to you. You can do that easily with Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool.

Link Intersect tool to find websites that link to Ahrefs' competitors but not to Ahrefs Link Intersect tool to find websites that link to Ahrefs' competitors but not to Ahrefs

Step 1. Plug in URLs you want to compare.

Link Intersect report resultsLink Intersect report results

Step 2. Browse through domains in the results. Click on the number of backlinks to pages with links to your competitors.

Why are on-page SEO and off-page SEO important?

On-page SEO and off-page SEO are basically two sides of the same coin. SEO is most effective when practiced with both because Google uses ranking factors that occur on your pages and outside of them. 

Depending on your needs, you can sometimes focus more on one of those SEO types. But you probably shouldn’t focus on only one of them all of the time.

What factors impact on-page SEO?

In this section, I will cover some of the most important things you should look after to rank higher on the SERPs (search engine results pages) and attract more clicks to your content.

Note: I’ll talk about known ranking factors and factors that can increase your SERP visibility and, consequently, attract more site visitors.

See On-Page SEO: The Beginner’s Guide for more about on-page SEO. 

Search intent

Search intent refers to the reason behind the search. It’s one of the strongest ranking factors.

Utilizing search intent in SEO is about discovering what searchers want to get when they plug in a search query and then providing that information.

Search intent is arguably the most important factor for on-page SEO. After all, providing searchers with relevant and useful information is what search engines need to do every second.

Line graph showing organic traffic spike once one of our pages was updated to match search intentLine graph showing organic traffic spike once one of our pages was updated to match search intent

Organic traffic to one of our pages before matching search intent and after.

Optimizing your content for search intent comes down to looking at the search result pages for a particular query and identifying the three Cs of search intent:

  • Content type – What is the dominating type of content? Is it a blog post, product page, video, or something else?
  • Content format – Some common formats include how-to guides, list posts, reviews, comparisons, etc.
  • Content angle – The unique selling point of the content piece, e.g., “best,” “cheapest,” and “for beginners.”

Once you identify the three Cs of search intent, you should have a pretty good idea of what type of content Google “recommends” to its users for particular search queries.

Recommended reading: Searcher Intent: The Overlooked ‘Ranking Factor’ You Should Be Optimizing For 

Content quality

Search intent is critical, but utilizing it won’t be enough to create “useful and compelling content.” You also need to take care of your content’s quality. Here’s what Google has to say about what it looks for in content:

Except of article stating Google's emphasis on content qualityExcept of article stating Google's emphasis on content quality

It seems as though Google aims to embed the same attributes that readers value in any piece of content in its algorithms. And according to Google, it’s content that’s:

  • Easy to read.
  • Clearly organized.
  • Fresh.
  • Unique.
  • Aligned with E-A-T guidelines.
  • Focused on providing essential information to solve a searcher’s problem.

But in practice, you also need to create better content than your competition. And we’ve got an entire video that explains how to increase your chances of achieving that:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5KKbPS6N-g&t=1s

URLs

URLs are a small ranking factor. They bear so little weight in ranking websites that Google’s John Mueller said they are overrated in SEO and that people shouldn’t worry about them.

However, Google’s SEO guidelines mention URLs as something you should optimize. But you should do it for the user and not for Google.

This is because the user can see the URL both in the address bar and on the SERPs. And based on that information, users a) can choose to click on some results over the others and b) know where they are on the website.

So basically, this is what an unfriendly URL looks like:

http://example.com/folder1/dir1/dir2/dir3/dir422447478/x2/14032015.html

As you can see, the example website doesn’t use HTTPS; also, the URL has an overly nested structure and doesn’t really indicate what the page is about:

And here is its user-friendly alternative:

https://example.com/seo/ranking-factors.html

To learn more about the use of URLs in SEO, check out our guide: How to Create SEO-Friendly URLs (Step-by-Step).

Page titles

Page titles are another small ranking factor. Google uses them to understand what your page is about to better match the intent behind a given search query.

Except of a Google SERP showing title "Keyword Difficulty: How to Estimate Your Chances to Rank"Except of a Google SERP showing title "Keyword Difficulty: How to Estimate Your Chances to Rank"

This title is attractive and descriptive at the same time. Wouldn’t you agree?

Naturally, searches use page titles for similar reasons: to understand what they can expect from a page. And so to “satisfy” both parties, you can consider these good practices:

  • Make the title eye-catching and accurate – Write a line that piques users’ interest and accurately describes what’s unique about your offer.
  • Insert the target keyword in your title – But you should remember to make it sound natural.
  • Fit within 60 characters – Otherwise, your description may get truncated, and you’ll increase the chances of Google rewriting your title.

Recommended reading: How to Craft the Perfect SEO Title Tag (Our 4-Step Process)

Meta description

Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor. But they do appear on the SERPs (right below the title of the page), so they can impact the click-through rate (CTR).

Example of meta description on a Google SERPExample of meta description on a Google SERP

Probably the most logical choice of meta description for such a recognizable product. Apple just highlights what has changed in the latest generation of its product. Not what a MacBook Air is.

Hence, the way to optimize meta descriptions is to focus solely on the searcher. Here are some good SEO practices that matter:

  • Make the description compelling enough to entice the user to click, as long as it’s not clickbait (your reputation matters)
  • Don’t make the description longer than 920 px (try SERPSim)
  • Keep the description relevant to the title of the page (and vice versa)
  • Use a unique description for every page

Recommended reading: How to Write the Perfect Meta Description 

Outbound links

An outbound link is a link that points to a page that is not on your website.

Example of outbound links shown in Ahrefs' SEO ToolbarExample of outbound links shown in Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar

You can view external (outbound) links on any page with Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar.

Outbound links are most probably not a ranking signal. This means that you probably shouldn’t try to shoehorn outbound links in your content in hopes of ranking higher.

What you may want to do instead is to use outbound links to cite your sources. This will help to establish the legitimacy, transparency, and accuracy of your content. In other words, by citing your sources, you’ll be aligning with the E-A-T search quality guidelines.

Schema markup

Schema markup is a code that helps search engines to understand your content and better represent it in the search results.

Example of schema markupExample of schema markup

HubSpot uses schema markup to show FAQs on the SERPs.

Example of FAQs on a Google SERPExample of FAQs on a Google SERP

Schema markup is not a ranking factor, but applying it can help your content stand out on the SERPs.

Schema markup looks like programming, but it’s nowhere near the learning curve. Adding schema markup to a page is comparable to filling out meta tags. You can use a tool like the Schema Builder extension to help you with that.

Recommended reading: What Is Schema Markup? How to Use It for SEO 

Internal links

An internal link is a link from another page on the same website.

Internal links are a ranking factor. Google utilizes internal links in a number of ways:

  • To discover new pages – Internal links provide a crawl path to target pages.
  • To pass link equity between your pages – Internal linking can boost other pages you own.
  • To understand what a page is about – Understanding the content of your pages helps Google rank them. That’s why the anchor text of the internal link matters too.

And let’s not forget internal links help users discover content and navigate your website.

For all of the reasons above, you shouldn’t neglect internal linking. It’s best if you add internal links as you create new content or even strategically plan them through a content hub. And remember, it’s never too late to add internal links to your existing content.

Recommended reading: Here’s Why You Should Prioritize Internal Linking in 2022 

Page UX

The user experience (UX) of a website can mean different things to different people. To UX designers, it means the overall impression of a website. But in SEO, the UX of a page or website refers especially to its usability. It basically means maintaining a clutter-free, distraction-free, and easy-to-use user interface.

Usually, UX improvements should be applied to the entire website, not just webpages. However, if you want to keep pages with unique layouts, keep in mind that a different design means a different experience.

So here’s what to look out for:

  • Avoid intrusive pop-ups – These include sign-up forms, exit forms, etc. Do the same for any banners that shift the layout (refer to Google’s guidelines on interstitials).
  • Make sure your important pages aren’t sluggish – You should optimize for Core Web Vitals.
  • Make sure your website’s layout is clear, consistent, and usable – Try your best not to overload the user’s cognitive capacity.
  • Optimize your website for mobile devices – Website traffic coming from mobile devices accounts for slightly more than 50%. On top of that, Google indexes and ranks content based on mobile versions of the websites (mobile-first indexing).

Is UX a ranking factor? It seems that there are two factors that can impact your rankings here: Core Web Vitals and mobile-friendliness.

When pages have similar content, Google can use page experience signals to rank them—but those won’t be drastic ranking changes. Pages not optimized for mobile or slow pages can still rank.

Recommended reading: How Page Experience Ranking Factors Actually Work 

What factors impact off-page SEO?

As with on-page SEO, I will talk about factors that are known to impact rankings directly and factors that don’t but otherwise can get you more visibility and organic clicks. 

For a detailed guide about off-page SEO, see Off-Page SEO: What It Is and Why It’s Important.  

Backlinks

Backlinks are the foundation of Google’s PageRank, a mathematical formula that judges the “value of a page” by looking at the quantity and quality of other pages that link to the said page. Along with search intent, backlinks are one of the most critical ranking factors.

Generally speaking, the more backlinks (from unique websites) a page has, the higher its chances of outranking its competitors on the SERPs.

Line graph showing the more a page's backlinks, the more keywords the page has that rank in the top 100Line graph showing the more a page's backlinks, the more keywords the page has that rank in the top 100

And also, the more backlinks a page has, the more the amount of organic search traffic that lands on that page:

Line graph showing the more backlinks a page has, the more the amount of organic traffic it hasLine graph showing the more backlinks a page has, the more the amount of organic traffic it has

But not all backlinks will impact your rankings equally. You can judge a backlink by these six traits:

Infographic showing linked chains with the six traits that indicate a good backlinkInfographic showing linked chains with the six traits that indicate a good backlink
  1. Authority – If we think of links as votes, then pages with more votes will pass a stronger vote to other pages.
  2. Relevance – Here’s how Google puts it: “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 – Like internal links, the anchor texts of backlinks help Google understand the context of the target page.
  4. Follow vs. nofollow – “Nofollow” is an attribute that tells Google not to take a link into account for ranking purposes. The “follow” attribute is its opposite. Generally, the “followed” links will have more impact. All links are “follow” by default unless specified differently.
  5. Placement – Links that have a higher chance of being clicked (e.g., links in the content, links placed higher on a page) will likely pass more authority.
  6. Destination – Links can increase the ranking of the specific page that they link to. But you can pass some of that link equity to other pages through internal linking.

NAP citations

NAP (name, address, phone) citations are online mentions of your business that display your business name, address, and phone number.

Example of NAP citations for Trader Joe's Example of NAP citations for Trader Joe's

NAP citations are probably a ranking factor that counts for localized organic search results (learn more here and here). However, they may not carry a lot of weight:

Bar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think citations are most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectivelyBar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think citations are most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectively

Apart from the possibility of helping you rank on the SERPs, NAP citations will definitely help users find your local business. So here’s a quick list of good practices you can follow:

  • Get listed with big data aggregators – For example, Foursquare. That’s where a lot of local data providers get their data.
  • Submit to the big players – These are Apple Maps, Yelp, Bing Places, Facebook, etc.
  • Submit to other popular directories in your local area and industry 
  • Keep your citations consistent – You should also align them with the guidelines (like this one from Google).

Google Business Profile (previously Google My Business)

Whether a Google Business Profile (GBP) is a ranking factor is not even the right question here. The GBP is simply the requirement for getting featured in Google’s map pack.

For the record, a map pack shows GBPs close to the area relating to your search query (or based on your location). Search results located below the map pack are called localized organic results.

Example of a map pack and local organic searches on GoogleExample of a map pack and local organic searches on Google

Map pack showing GBPs of vets in Mountain View.

Does a GBP affect rankings of the results found below the map pack? Most SEO professionals say “no.”

Bar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think GBP is most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectivelyBar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think GBP is most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectively

But on the whole, if your business operates locally, you will definitely want to get a GBP. It allows Google to display your business in the map pack, and it makes it easier for customers to find you and get in touch.

On top of that, a GBP helps with getting reviews from customers, which is next on our list.

Recommended reading: How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing in 30 Minutes 

Reviews (and ratings)

Let’s look at another factor that impacts the map pack: customer reviews.

Here’s probably the most accurate way of explaining this: Customer reviews are a ranking factor impacting the order of results in the map pack, but they probably bear little importance for localized organic results.

Bar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think reviews are most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectivelyBar graph showing percentage of SEOs who think reviews are most important ranking factor for "map pack" and "regular" results, respectively

Does Google take into account every piece of customer feedback on a business? Hard to say. Your best bet here is to pay special attention to reviews on your GBP and trusted third-party sites (G2, Capterra, Yelp, etc.).

As in life, positive reviews will have a positive effect, and negative reviews will have a negative effect on your ranking.

Let’s not forget that rankings and ratings are clearly visible on the SERPs and will definitely leave an impression on the searchers.

Sidenote.

You can add rating markup to your schema so that Google may (or may not—it’s up to the search engine) show it in the organic search results.

Example of ratings under a result on Google SERPExample of ratings under a result on Google SERP

Final thoughts

On-page SEO and off-page SEO already seem like a lot to take in, but it’s not the entire landscape of SEO. You will probably come across other types or subdisciplines of SEO, such as technical SEO, local SEO, multilingual SEO, etc.

How not to get lost in all that? Try our SEO guide for beginners or our beloved YouTube channel.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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SEO

The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers

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The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., reported its fourth straight quarter of declining profits.

It made $76 billion in sales over the past three months, but it wasn’t enough to meet Wall Street’s expectations.

Google’s revenue was down 9% compared to last year, and its biggest business, Google Search, saw a 1% drop in revenue. Even YouTube’s advertising sales fell by nearly 8%.

Alphabet has decided to cut its workforce by 12,000 and expects to spend between $1.9 billion and $2.3 billion on employee severance costs.

This latest earnings report shows tech giants like Google are facing challenges in the current digital advertising landscape.

But Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, believes that the company’s long-term investments in AI will be a key factor in its future success.

In a press release, Pichai says he expects major AI advancements to be soon revealed in Google search and other areas:

“Our long-term investments in deep computer science make us extremely well-positioned as AI reaches an inflection point, and I’m excited by the AI-driven leaps we’re about to unveil in Search and beyond. There’s also great momentum in Cloud, YouTube subscriptions, and our Pixel devices. We’re on an important journey to re-engineer our cost structure in a durable way and to build financially sustainable, vibrant, growing businesses across Alphabet.”

Alphabet’s CFO, Ruth Porat, reported that their Q4 consolidated revenues were $76 billion, a 1% increase from the previous year. The full year 2022 saw revenues of $283 billion, a 10% increase.

Going forward, Alphabet is changing how it reports on its AI activities.

DeepMind, which used to be reported under “Other Bets,” will now be reported as part of Alphabet’s corporate costs to reflect its increasing integration with Google Services and Google Cloud.

What Does This Mean For Marketing Professionals?

It’s important to stay updated on the latest developments in the tech industry and how they may affect advertising strategies.

Google’s declining profits and decreased revenue in their search and YouTube platforms are reminders that the digital advertising landscape is constantly evolving, and companies must adapt to keep up.

Marketers should consider diversifying their advertising efforts across multiple platforms to minimize the impact of market swings.

Additionally, Google’s focus on AI and its integration with Google Services and Cloud is something to keep an eye on.

As AI advances, it may offer new opportunities for marketers to target and engage with their audience effectively.

By staying informed on the latest tech advancements, marketers can stay ahead of the curve and make the most of these opportunities.

Despite Google’s recent financial setbacks, the tech giant is still a major player in the digital advertising landscape, and its investments in AI show its commitment to continued growth and innovation.


Featured Image: Sergio Photone/Shutterstock

Source: Alphabet



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How to Use WordPress in 9 Simple Steps (Beginner’s Guide)

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How to Use WordPress in 9 Simple Steps (Beginner’s Guide)

WordPress is the world’s largest content management system (CMS)—around 810 million websites are built on it.

It’s free to use and includes all the features any website owner could need. And if it doesn’t have a feature you want or need, you can have a developer create it for you because it’s built on open-source software.

But with all of these features come some complications. WordPress has a fairly steep learning curve compared to other CMSes like Wix or Squarespace.

I’ve built dozens of websites using WordPress.org (not WordPress.com, which is a totally different beast) and have narrowed down the process to nine simple steps that anyone can follow.

Let’s start with…

Step 1. Get a domain name and hosting

Every website built on WordPress.org needs a domain name (www.thisisyourdomainname.com) and a hosting service that stores and displays your website on the internet.

You can buy a domain name for a small fee from a domain name registrar like NameCheap or GoDaddy. However, if you buy your domain name and your hosting from separate companies, you will need to change your website’s Domain Nameservers (DNS) to point your domain name from your registrar to your hosting company.

They look like this:

SiteGround DNS settings example

It’s a little cheaper to do it this way but not worth the hassle in my opinion. Instead, most hosting providers (such as SiteGround or Bluehost) can also sell you a domain name and connect it with your website automatically, allowing you to skip messing with DNS settings.

You can check out this guide to choosing a domain name if you’re not sure what to pick.

Step 2. Install WordPress

Once you purchase hosting, most hosting providers have a one-click install to set up WordPress on your website. Here are some links to guides on how to do this with common hosting services:

You can also opt for a faster (but more expensive) dedicated hosting provider like Kinsta or WP Engine. These companies will set up WordPress for you when you buy their hosting.

Step 3. Familiarize yourself with the UI

Now that you have a website with WordPress installed, let’s get into how to use WordPress. You can log in to your WordPress dashboard by going to www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin.

Once you log in, your dashboard will look like this (with fewer plugins since you’re on a fresh install):

WordPress user interface

Let me explain the options here:

  • Posts: This is where you’ll create blog posts.
  • Media: You can go here to see all the media on your site, such as images and videos. I typically upload media directly to my posts and pages and don’t visit media often.
  • Pages: This is where you’ll create static pages on your site, such as your homepage, about page, and contact page.
  • Comments: Here is where you’ll moderate any blog comments.
  • Appearance: This is where you’ll customize the appearance of your website, such as your website’s theme, font type, colors, and more.
  • Plugins: A plugin is an add-on to your website that adds functionality, such as custom contact forms or pop-ups on your website. I’ll discuss these in more detail later.
  • Users: Here is where you can add users to your website, such as writers, editors, and administrators.
  • Settings: Pretty straightforward; here is where your general website settings are located.

Now that you know what each option does, let’s get your website settings dialed in.

Step 4. Optimize your settings

Your WordPress website comes with some generic settings that need to be changed, as well as some things I recommend changing to optimize your website for search engines.

Specifically, you should:

  • Change your title, tagline, time zone, and favicon.
  • Change your permalink structure.
  • Configure your reading settings.
  • Delete any unused themes.
  • Change your domain from HTTP to HTTPS.

Let’s walk through each of these steps.

Change your title, tagline, time zone, and favicon

Head to Settings > General to find these settings. Change the title of your website and the tagline, which can appear underneath the title if you choose to display it.

Next, check that the time zone is correct (according to your local time zone) and upload your favicon. A favicon is the little icon that shows up in browser tabs next to the title of the page, like this:

Examples of favicons

You can make a favicon for free with Canva. Just make a 50×50 design with whatever you want your favicon to look like. Check out this guide to learn more. 

Change your permalink structure

Head to Settings > Permalinks. A permalink is the URL structure your blog posts take when you publish them. By default, WordPress displays the date in your URLs, which isn’t great for SEO or readability.

WordPress permalink structure settings

I always change this to the “Post name” option (/sample-post/) to add the title of the post by default. You want to optimize all of your URLs individually when possible, but this setting will make the process easier.

Configure your reading settings

Head over to Settings > Reading to choose whether you want your homepage to be a static page or if you want it to be a feed of your latest blog posts. 

WordPress homepage display settings

Personally, I always create a unique static page to use as my homepage because it gives me more control over the homepage. I like to add internal links to specific pages to help them rank higher on Google, as well as add an email opt-in form on the homepage.

Check out this guide to homepage SEO to learn more.

Delete any unused themes 

By default, you have a few themes installed. Once you choose a theme in step #5 below, you should delete any unused themes to remove vulnerabilities from your site (hackers can attack WordPress websites with outdated themes).

To do that, go to Appearance > Themes, click on the unused theme, then click the red Delete button in the bottom right.

How to delete unused themes on WordPress

Change your domain from HTTP to HTTPS

The “S” in HTTPS stands for secure. Adding this is done with an SSL certificate, and it’s an important step. It means your website is encrypted and safer for viewers.

Having HTTPS instead of HTTP gives you the “lock” icon next to your URL—Google (and most internet users) wants to see a secure website.

HTTPS secure "lock" icon

Most hosting providers automatically activate the secure version of your website. But sometimes, it needs to be manually activated by you. Here are guides on how to do this with common hosting providers:

If your host isn’t shown here, just do a Google search for “[your host] SSL encryption.”

Step 5. Select and customize your theme

Once you’ve optimized your settings, it’s time to start actually building your website using a WordPress theme. A theme is a customizable template that determines what your website looks like. 

You can browse for themes by going to Appearance > Themes, then clicking the Add new button at the top of the page. 

WordPress theme page

The generic Twenty Twenty-Three theme is actually pretty good. Most WordPress themes these days are optimized to show up in search engines and for requirements of the modern user, such as being mobile-friendly. 

However, some themes have a lot of added bloat that can slow a website down, so choose a theme that only has the features you need without extras you won’t use.

Alternatively, if you don’t like any themes or want something that’s more drag-and-drop, you can use a website builder like Elementor or Thrive Architect. These tools make building a website extremely easy, but they do add bloat that can slow a website down.

I use Elementor to build my websites but only use it to build static pages that I want to convert well. Then I use the built-in Guttenberg editor for my blog posts.

If you decide to go with a regular theme rather than a theme builder, you can edit the theme by going to Appearance > Customize. You’ll be taken to the following editor:

WordPress theme customization options

Depending on the theme you installed, you may have more or fewer options than the screenshot above. Rather than trying to cover every option you may encounter, I’ll just recommend that you go through each option to see what it does. 

For the most part, the options are self-explanatory. If you hit a snag, you can always do a Google search for that option in your theme to see forum posts from other users or even the theme’s FAQ or manual.

Step 6. Build your basic pages

After you’ve selected a theme, you can start building your website’s pages. Every website typically needs at least the following pages:

  • A homepage
  • A contact page
  • An about page
  • A privacy policy page
  • A terms of service page

Rather than going through how you should create each of these pages, I’ll refer you to the following guides:

Keep in mind that your privacy policy and terms of service (ToS) pages will vary depending on the country you live in. If you’re in the U.S., you can follow this guide for privacy policies and this guide for ToS pages.

That said, there are some general tips you should follow when building any page on your website. In general, make sure that your font is easy to read and a good visible size (18–20px is typical), your colors match, and you avoid too much clutter.

Here’s a good example of a webpage that is clean, legible, and thought out:

Ahrefs about page example

Here’s an example of a webpage that has too much clutter and displays an ad over half the page, causing confusion:

CNN poor website design

In general, less is more and legibility is better than fancy fonts.

Step 7. Install these essential plugins

One of the best parts of using WordPress is access to its massive library of plugins

A plugin is a custom piece of code written by a developer that anyone can install on their WordPress website in order to add specific functionality to the site, such as a contact form, extra customization options, or SEO features.

You can install a new plugin one of two ways. Head over to Plugins > Add New. From here, you can either:

  1. Browse the plugins directly on this page, then install and activate them directly.
  2. Download a plugin .zip file from the plugin’s website, then click the Upload plugin button at the top of the screen and upload the .zip file.
How to upload a plugin to your WordPress website

While many plugins are free, some are paid or have a premium paid version. It depends on what you need. However, I always install the following free plugins on my websites:

Rank Math: This plugin makes basic on-page SEO easier. It tells you if you’re missing basic things like metadata, image alt text, and more. It also allows you to create a robots.txt file and a sitemap, which are important for search engines to crawl your website the way you want.

Wordfence: This is a security plugin to help prevent your website from being hacked. I always install some sort of security plugin on my sites.

Insert Headers and Footers: One of the things you’ll often find yourself needing to do is insert code into the header or footer of your pages. You need to do this for everything from setting up Google Analytics and Google Search Console to adding the Facebook Remarketing pixel and more. Having this plugin makes it much easier to add this code.

Keep in mind that installing a lot of plugins on your website can cause code bloat and slow down your loading speeds, so only install plugins that you really need. 

Step 8. Start creating content

Now you know all the basics of how to use WordPress. But another important thing I want to talk about, which is probably why you wanted to start a WordPress website in the first place—how to create content for your blog.

Writing blog posts is an essential part of showing up on search engines like Google, having something to share on social media, and attracting more visitors to your website.

What you write about depends on your goals. I always start with some basic keyword research to figure out what people are searching for on Google that relates to my website.

A quick and easy way to do this is by plugging a broad keyword into Ahrefs’ free keyword generator tool to get some keyword ideas. 

For example, if I’m starting a website about farming, I may type “farm” into the tool. I can see keyword ideas like “farming insurance” and “vertical farming,” which are two potential blog topics I can write about.

Keyword ideas for farming, via Ahrefs' free keyword generator tool

If I want to get a little more specific, I can try a keyword like “how to start a farm.” This gives me ideas like “how to start a farm with no money” and “how to start a farm in texas.”

Keyword ideas for "how to start a farm," via Ahrefs' free keyword generator tool

Try different seed keywords—both broad keywords and more specific ones—to come up with some blog topics. Once you have a few ideas, go ahead and outline the article and then write it and publish it.

Check out our guide to writing a blog post to learn more.

Step 9. Monitor your website for technical issues

A regular part of maintaining your WordPress website is keeping plugins and themes up to date, as well as monitoring your website’s technical health.

WordPress automatically notifies you of updates to your plugins or themes with a red circle next to Dashboard > Updates. Log in to your dashboard at least once a week to update everything.

WordPress updates dashboard

Beyond weekly updates, use the free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools to run a technical audit on your site and see any issues your site may have, such as broken links, missing metadata, or slow loading speeds. 

Ahrefs website audit overview, via AWT

If you click the All issues tab, you can see every issue your site has—with an overview of what the issue is and how to fix it if you click on the ? icon.

All issues report, via AWT

You’ll also get email alerts when anything on your site changes, such as a link breaking or a page returning a 404 code. It’s a helpful tool to automatically monitor your WordPress site.

Final thoughts

Congratulations, you now know the basics of using WordPress. It may have a large learning curve, but learning how to use this CMS is one of the most valuable skills you can have in today’s digital age.

You can use your WordPress website to make money blogging, promote your services as a freelancer, or even sell products online. Knowing how to build a website is almost mandatory these days for anyone who wants to start a business.

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Top 5 Essential SEO Reporting Tools For Agencies

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Top 5 Essential SEO Reporting Tools For Agencies

Your clients trust you to create real results and hit KPIs that drive their businesses forward.

Understanding the intricacies of how that works can be difficult, so it’s essential to demonstrate your progress and efforts.

SEO reporting software showcases important metrics in a digestible and visually represented way. They save guesswork and manual referencing, highlighting achievements over a specified time.

A great tool can also help you formulate action items, gauge the performance of campaigns, and see real results that can help you create new and innovative evaluations.

The latest and allegedly greatest tools hit the market all the time, promising to transform how you conduct reports.

Certainly, you have to weigh a few factors when deciding which software to implement. Price, features, and ease of use are the most important to consider.

A cost-effective tool with a steep learning curve might not be worth it for the features. Similarly, an expensive tool might be more appealing if it is user-friendly but could quickly run up costs.

Just like any transformational business decision, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons carefully to determine the right one for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Cost, accessibility, and features are the common thread of comparison for SEO reporting tools.
  • To truly get the best use out of an SEO reporting tool for your agency, you’ll need to weigh several details, including scalability, customization, integrations, and access to support.
  • What might be considered a subpar tool could be a game-changer for an agency. Due diligence and research are the keys to knowing what will work for your team.

What To Look For In SEO Reporting Tools

It can be tough to make heads or tails of the available tools and choose which will benefit your agency the most.

Here are the 10 essential requirements of SEO reporting tools.

1. Accurate And Current Regional Data

SEO reporting is all about data. The software must have access to accurate and current data localized to your client’s targeted region.

Search data from the U.S. is meaningless if your client tries to rank for [London plumbing services], so localization matters.

The tool must update data regularly and with reliable accuracy so you can make informed decisions about where your client stands against the competition.

2. Integration With Third-Party Tools

Especially for full-scale digital marketing campaigns, the ability to report on all KPIs in one place is essential.

The more available integrations with third-party tools (e.g., Google Analytics, Google Business Profile, Majestic), the better.

Some tools even allow you to upload custom data sets.

3. Scalability

You don’t want to have to retrain or reinvest in new software every time your agency reaches a new tier.

The right SEO reporting tool should work well for your current business size and leave room for expansion as you onboard more clients.

4. Strong Suite Of Features

A great SEO reporting tool should include:

  • Position tracking.
  • Backlink monitoring.
  • Competitor data.
  • Analytics.

It is a bonus if the tool has reporting features for social media, email marketing, call tracking, and/or paid ads to make it a full-suite digital marketing software.

5. Continually Improving And Updating Features

SEO is constantly evolving, and so should SEO reporting tools.

As we continue the transition from website optimization to web presence optimization, a tool’s ability to integrate new features is essential.

6. Ability To Customize Reports

Each client will have different KPIs, objectives, and priorities.

Presenting the information that clients want to see is paramount to successful campaigns and retention.

Your reporting software of choice should be able to emphasize the correct data at the right times.

7. Client Integration

A good SEO reporting tool must have the client in mind.

It should have a simple bird’s eye overview of the basics but also be easy for clients to dig into the data at a deeper level.

This can mean automated summary reports or 24/7 client access to the dashboard.

8. Ability To White Label Reports

While white labeling is not essential (no client will sniff at receiving a report with a Google logo in the top corner), it helps keep branding consistent and gives a professional sheen to everything you send a client’s way.

9. Access To Support Resources

Quality support resources can help you find a detour when you encounter a roadblock.

Whether it’s detailed support documentation, a chat feature/support desk, or responsive customer support on social media, finding the help you need to solve the issue is important.

10. Cost-To-Value Ratio

With a proper process, time investment, and leveraging support resources, it is possible to get better results from a free reporting tool than one that breaks the bank.

This can mean automated summary reports or 24/7 client access to the dashboard.

Top 5 SEO Reporting Tools

In evaluating five of the most popular SEO reporting tools, based on the above criteria, here is how they stack up:

1. AgencyAnalytics

My Overall Rating: 4.7/5

Image credit: AgencyAnalytics, December 2022

AgencyAnalytics is a quality introductory/intermediate reporting tool for agencies.

Among the tools on this list, it is one of the easiest to use for small to mid-sized agencies.

It starts at $12 per month, per client, with unlimited staff and client logins, a white-label dashboard, and automated branded reports. The minimum purchase requirements mean the first two tiers work out to $60 per month and $180 per month, respectively. But your ability to change the payment based on the number of clients could help keep costs lean.

AgencyAnalytics comes with 70+ supported third-party data integrations.

However, this reliance on third-party data means you may have incomplete reports when there is an interruption in the transmission.

Though new integrations are always being added, they can be glitchy at first, making them unreliable to share with clients until stabilized.

With the ability for clients to log in and view daily data updates, it provides real-time transparency.

Automated reports can be customized, and the drag-and-drop customized dashboard makes it easy to emphasize priority KPIs.

2. SE Ranking

My Overall Rating: 4.5/5

SE Ranking has plans starting at $39.20 per month, although the $87.20 per month plan is necessary if you need historical data or more than 10 projects.

Setup is a breeze, as the on-screen tutorial guides you through the process.

SE Ranking features a strong collection of SEO-related tools, including current and historical position tracking, competitor SEO research, keyword suggestion, a backlink explorer, and more.

SE Ranking is hooked up with Zapier, which allows users to integrate thousands of apps and provide a high level of automation between apps like Klipfolio, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Google Apps.

SE Ranking is an effective SEO reporting tool at a beginner to intermediate level.

However, you may want to look in a different direction if your agency requires more technical implementations or advanced customization.

3. Semrush

My Overall Rating: 4.4/5

Semrush is one of the most SEO-focused reporting tools on the list, which is reflected in its features.

Starting at $229.95 per month for the agency package, it’s one of the more expensive tools on the list. But Semrush provides a full suite of tools that can be learned at an intermediate level.

A major downside of Semrush, especially for cost-conscious agencies, is that an account comes with only one user login.

Having to purchase individual licenses for each SEO analyst or account manager adds up quickly, and the users you can add are limited by the plan features. This makes scalability an issue.

Semrush has both branded and white-label reports, depending on your subscription level. It uses a proprietary data stream, tracking more than 800 million keywords.

The ever-expanding “projects” feature covers everything from position tracking to backlink monitoring and social media analysis.

Though it doesn’t fall specifically under the scope of SEO reporting, Semrush’s innovation makes it a one-stop shop for many agencies.

Project features include Ad Builder, which helps craft compelling ad text for Google Ads, and Social Media Poster, which allows agencies to schedule client social posts.

Combining such diverse features under the Semrush umbrella offsets its relatively high cost, especially if you can cancel other redundant software.

4. Looker Studio

My Overall Rating: 3.6/5

Looker StudioScreenshot from Looker Studio, December 2022

Formerly known as Google Data Studio, Looker Studio is a Google service that has grown considerably since its initial launch.

Though it is much more technical and requires more time investment to set up than most other tools on this list, it should be intuitive for staff familiar with Google Analytics.

If you’re on the fence, Looker Studio is completely free.

A major upside to this software is superior integration with other Google properties like Analytics, Search Console, Ads, and YouTube.

Like other reporting tools, it also allows third-party data integration, but the ability to query data from databases, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Google’s Cloud SQL, sets it apart.

You can customize reports with important KPIs with proper setup, pulling from lead and customer information. For eCommerce clients, you can even integrate sales data.

Though the initial setup will be much more technical, the ability to import templates saves time and effort.

You can also create your own templates that better reflect your processes and can be shared across clients. Google also has introductory video walk-throughs to help you get started.

5. Authority Labs

My Overall Rating: 3.2/5

Authority Labs Ranking ReportImage credit: Authority Labs, December 2022

Authority Labs does the job if you’re looking for a straightforward position-tracking tool.

Authority Labs is $49 per month for unlimited users, though you will need to upgrade to the $99 per month plan for white-label reporting.

You can track regional ranking data, get insights into “(not provided)” keywords, track competitor keywords, and schedule automated reporting.

However, lacking other essential features like backlink monitoring or analytic data means you will have to supplement this tool to provide a full SEO reporting picture for clients.

Conclusion

There are many quality SEO reporting tools on the market. What makes them valuable depends on their ability to work for your clients’ needs.

SE Ranking has a fantastic cost-to-value ratio, while Looker Studio has advanced reporting capabilities if you can withstand a higher barrier to entry.

Agency Analytics prioritizes client access, which is a big deal if transparency is a core value for your agency.

Authority Labs keeps it lean and clean, while Semrush always adds innovative features.

These five are simply a snapshot of what is available. There are new and emerging tools that might have some features more appealing to your current clients or fill gaps that other software creates despite being a great solution.

Ultimately, you need to consider what matters most to your agency. Is it:

  • Feature depth?
  • Scalability?
  • Cost-to-value ratio?

Once you weigh the factors that matter most for your agency, you can find the right SEO reporting tool. In the meantime, don’t shy away from testing out a few for a trial period.

If you don’t want to sign up for a full month’s usage, you can also explore walkthrough videos and reviews from current users. The most informed decision requires an understanding of the intricate details.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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