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SEO Agency Software (What Do They Use?)

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SEO Agency Software (What Do They Use?)

Here’s my selection of the software that SEO agencies use to get their work done and manage their teams successfully.

Accurate data is important for SEO agencies to make good decisions. As a result, every agency I’ve worked for over the past 10 years has had access to Ahrefs. 

So when it comes to providing specific SEO services for clients, it mostly comes down to using the different Ahrefs tools.

Keyword research

Most agencies use Google Keyword Planner (GKP) or a tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to do their keyword research. 

GKP used to be considered the most accurate keyword tool because the data came from Google. These days, however, it’s probably not true. 

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Here’s why.

Firstly, GKP no longer shows exact search volumes—it only shows a range. 

Keyword data, via Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner’s estimated average monthly searches.

Whereas, Ahrefs gives a more definitive answer in terms of volume, which is more helpful for agencies planning an SEO campaign.

Keyword data, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
“Volume” column in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Secondly, Ahrefs CMO Tim Soulo’s GKP study suggested that GKP data is overestimated

91.45% of search volumes in GKP are overestimates

It’s why many agencies have switched to third-party tools like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to do their keyword research. 

Overview report, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Generally speaking, tools like this can provide a helpful representation of what’s happening in the search results. 

Competitor analysis

Each agency has its methods for completing a competitor analysis. But there is one common denominator that most agencies will agree on—speed.

With multiple clients contacting you at all times during the working day, agency workers must understand a competitor’s SEO strategy. They then need to share it at a moment’s notice with the client. 

To get a bird’s-eye view of the competitor landscape, you can use a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Simply plug a domain into Site Explorer and head to the Organic competitors report.

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Organic competitors report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This tool lets you quickly identify the top five organic competitors for the domain entered and shows you their value plotted against their traffic. 

Once you’ve identified your top competitors, you can analyze them further by scrolling down to the Top competing domains report to get into the details.

Another quick method to analyze your competitors’ websites is to use Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar to get an overview of each competitor and jot a few notes down about each site.

Here’s an example of me looking at the Nasty Gal homepage using the toolbar.

Nasty Gal website content details, via Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar

From here, you can understand the state of the competitor’s SEO and also use Site Explorer and Keywords Explorer to dig deeper into the details.

Once the agency has enough information about the competitors, it’ll typically present its findings in a PowerPoint format.

Rank tracking

Rank tracking overview, via Ahrefs' Rank tracker

SEO agencies also need to prove results, and the primary way they do this is by tracking a client’s keywords and Google rankings. 

This often means tracking hundreds or even thousands of keywords and organizing them logically. But how can you do this?

You’ll need to use a software tool like Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker to do it effectively. 

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Rank Tracker can help you monitor several key performance indicators, such as:

  • Share of voice
  • Average position
  • Organic traffic
  • SERP features
  • Positions

Monitoring these data points helps you understand the impact of any Google updates as well as the performance of your website.

SEO audits and SEO proposals

Most agencies audit a prospective client’s site before working with them, so they can show the client what SEO issues are on the website and suggest fixes.

Although you can manually audit their site, it isn’t an efficient use of time.

Therefore, many agencies use a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Audit to quickly get to the core of a website’s SEO issues.

Site Audit homepage, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Here’s an example of the types of issues the tool can find:

High-priority issues, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

This type of technical analysis overview is a good starting point for fixing the issues on your client’s website.

Link building

When it comes to link building, agencies usually focus on creating a stand-out piece of content for a client that will help them acquire links naturally. 

This content could be new research, a survey, or anything else the agency feels would accrue links over time. 

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Once it has made the content, it starts the outreach process—to spread awareness of the work.

To contact the relevant websites, it will typically use one of two tools:

  • BuzzStream – The first outreach tool I used in my agency career. It covers link prospecting, creating custom email templates, organizing contacts, and managing the outreach process.
  • Pitchbox – A popular alternative to BuzzStream that has testimonials from several well-known SEOs. Features are tailored toward agencies.

An SEO professional’s main objective is to rank websites in Google search, so it’s natural they’ll use several Google software products to understand their performance in the search engine.

Here’s my rundown of the top Google software SEO agencies typically use:

Google Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is relatively ubiquitous in the agency-client world.

It’s usually the first place SEO agencies go to when they want to gauge the amount of traffic their clients’ websites have.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is another popular tool SEOs in agencies use to gauge performance. 

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It allows you to:

  • View how often your site appears in Google Search and which search queries it shows for, and how often searchers click through for those queries.
  • Get a breakdown of websites that link to your site.
  • See if Google can find and crawl your site.
  • Fix indexing problems and request reindexing of new or updated content.
  • Receive alerts when Google encounters issues on your site.

Google Looker Studio (formerly known as Google Data Studio)

Like rank tracking, reporting on the progress of your SEO campaign is important for agencies of all sizes. 

Tools like Google Looker Studio (GLS) allow them to do several things:

  • Aggregate multiple data sets – GA, GSC, and Ahrefs data can be integrated into one dashboard.
  • Create scheduled reports – Schedule PDF reports to be sent to them and other stakeholders.

Check out our Data Studio documentation for more information on setting up the Ahrefs integration.

Google Trends

Spring Equinox "Interest Over Time" data, via Google Trends

Every keyword you search for in Google has a search trend. Agencies will spot-check these trends by typing them into Google Trends. It helps to give an idea of whether a keyword is worth targeting.

Agencies use Google Trends to visualize specific keywords’ rising or diminishing popularity.

Google Colaboratory 

Google Colaboratory in action

Google Colaboratory (Collab) is one of the tools that SEOs use to run Python scripts. 

Although you can run Python code in different ways, getting sign-off to run Python on your work laptop is often more trouble than it’s worth. 

Using a third-party tool like Collab enables you to bypass this restriction (in most cases) and run your favorite Python scripts, increasing your efficiency and automating the mundane.

Google PageSpeed Insights

CWV assessment for Ahrefs, via Google PageSpeed Insights

Site speed has been a hot topic for a few years now. Google estimated that for every one-second delay in mobile page load, conversions could fall up to 20%. 

One of the tools agency SEOs use to measure page speed and Core Web Vitals is Google PageSpeed Insights.

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There are other tools agencies use, such as:

  • Webpagetest.org – Great for comparing site speed vs. competitors’.
  • GTmetrix – Good all-around tool for checking site speed.

With so many SEO Chrome extensions, it’s hard to know which ones to use. These are the extensions most shared in agencies I’ve worked in. 

It may seem unconventional that agencies use free Chrome extensions, but it comes back to speed. 

These types of extensions help you to identify issues quickly. You can always return to the issues later for further analysis if needed. 

Chrome DevTools

Data on Ahrefs, via Chrome DevTools on ahrefs.com

Chrome DevTools is another useful tool for most agency SEOs that’s worth taking a look at. 

Although extensions, plugins, and software can help you spot-check the data quickly, you need to go into the code to understand what is happening. This is where Chrome DevTools can be really useful.

As agencies use various tools, they often dream of simplifying their tool setups into one single platform. Several “middle-ware” solutions can help you achieve this:

Supermetrics

Supermetrics connectors, via Supermetrics

Supermetrics is a paid software tool that allows you to integrate data from 100+ platforms together. This enables you to increase your agency’s efficiency—specifically with SEO reporting.

Zapier 

Example of Zapier tasks

Zapier is another useful tool that automates interactions between different software tools. 

This is particularly useful for automating repetitive tasks. Another benefit is that it is a no-code tool, so you don’t need any development experience to set up the automation.

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Time tracking, via Hubstaff

As an SEO agency, you and your team must keep track of your time. 

Every agency I’ve worked at has used a different time-tracking tool, and there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on which is the “best one.”

So here are a few examples of time-tracking software I’ve used in agencies:

  • Hubstaff – A great all-around time-tracking system.
  • Toggl – Popular with smaller agencies.
  • Timeneye – A simple and easy-to-use time tracker.
  • SAP – Comprehensive time-tracking solution.

6. Task and project management

The most efficient SEO teams will have their methods to organize and distribute tasks among their team members. 

Although you can do this in a humble spreadsheet, software tools can help. 

All of the below are great, and I have seen them used in agencies effectively.

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  • Trello – Basic Kanban board functionality with simple and effective project management.
  • ClickUp – Useful to keep your team on track with progress and break down tasks.
  • Monday – Easy-to-use task management tool with no-code automation built in.
  • Confluence – Team workspace useful for agencies working with clients to track progress on shared goals.
  • Basecamp – One of the easiest-to-use task management platforms around.

7. Team and client meetings

SEO agencies have lots of clients, and the reality is they will all have their preferred method of getting in contact with you. 

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams landing page, via microsoft.com

When it comes to remote meetings, Microsoft Teams is the de facto standard for SEO agencies in terms of client-agency communication. 

This is because signing off on a Microsoft product with the IT department in most agencies is generally much easier.

Microsoft 365 apps, via microsoft.com

The most used software suite by far for agency SEOs is Microsoft Office (now known as Microsoft 365). 

Yes—it’s not the most exciting piece of software. But it’s been a constant presence throughout my agency career.

The key products SEO agencies use in Microsoft 365 are:

  • Microsoft Outlook – Send and receive emails.
  • Microsoft Excel – Analyze data from your SEO campaigns.
  • Microsoft Word – Prepare documents for your SEO campaigns.
  • Microsoft PowerPoint – Create presentations, reports, and pitch decks for your clients or prospective clients.

If you are working with clients, they’ll expect you to have access to this software.

Sidenote.

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Google offers software that mirrors the functionality of Microsoft 365 for free. There is nothing wrong with the Google software option. But on the whole, agencies still prefer to use Microsoft 365.

9. Working with freelancers

Working with freelancers in an agency setting is becoming more common. You can manage them through day-to-day task management and existing HR tools, but some agencies prefer to keep them separate. 

If you are working with freelancers at scale, you may need a platform to manage them. 

Lano

Tools like Lano enable you to manage freelancers, e.g., allowing you to pay your remote contractors easily. 

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Lano features, via lano.io

10. Contracts and recurring payments

DocuSign example contract, via DocuSign

Once your agency has won a new client, you must create a contract and set a recurring billing schedule. 

Here’s how agencies of different sizes approach it:

Many of the larger agencies will use purchase orders (POs). In the past, I’ve used tools such as Mediaocean’s Prisma to book these in. 

For smaller agencies, it’s more likely they’ll use something like DocuSign or Stripe, but every agency will have its preferred methods.

Final thoughts

Access to the best software is vital for agencies; without this, they can’t advise their clients effectively and efficiently. 

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter 🙂

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How We Built A Strong $10 Million Agency: A Proven Framework

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How We Built A Strong $10 Million Agency: A Proven Framework

Building a successful agency can be a daunting task in today’s ever-evolving space. Do you know the secrets to succeeding with yours?

Watch this informative, on-demand webinar, where link building expert Jon Ball reveals the closely guarded secrets that have propelled Page One Power to become a highly successful $10 million agency.

You’ll learn:

  • The foundational principles on which to build your business to succeed.
  • The importance of delegation, market positioning, and staffing.
  • More proven lessons learned from 14 years of experience.

With Jon, we’ll provide you with actionable insights that you can use to take your business to the next level, using foundational principles that have contributed to Page One Power’s success.

If you’re looking to establish yourself as a successful entrepreneur or grow your agency in the constantly evolving world of SEO, this webinar is for you.

Learn the secrets of establishing a thriving agency in an increasingly competitive SEO space.

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View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

How An Enterprise Digital PR Firm Earns 100’s Of Links In 30 Days

Join us as we explore how to scale the very time-consuming and complicated process of earning links from digital PR, with proven case studies showing how you can earn hundreds of links in 30 days.

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SEO Woe or a Load of Baloney?

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SEO Woe or a Load of Baloney?

Toxic backlinks are links that some SEO tools say could hurt your website’s Google rankings. The implication is that you should disavow them to keep your site safe.

But there’s some disagreement and confusion among SEOs as to whether “toxic” links are actually a thing and what, if anything, you should do about them. 

If you believe Google’s John Mueller, they’re not: 

Yet, according to my poll, the majority (just!) of SEOs think they are: 

So… what’s the deal here? Are toxic backlinks actually a thing? Are they hurting your site? And if so, what should you be doing about them? 

Before we can answer those questions, we need to understand the terminology… 

Every website has some spammy backlinks that just don’t make sense. But that doesn’t necessarily make them manipulative or “toxic.”

For example, here are a couple of obviously spammy links to our site: 

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Example of spammy links, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerExample of spammy links, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We didn’t build or buy either of these, so they’re not “manipulative” by definition. They’re just low-quality links we’ve attracted over time because the internet is rife with spammers. 

If you study Google’s link spam documentation carefully, you’ll see that, in theory, these aren’t the kind of spammy links they have a problem with. They warn only against the ill effects of spam links intended to manipulate rankings. 

Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages. Any links that are intended to manipulate rankings in Google Search results may be considered link spam. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site. 

Here are the examples Google gives of these manipulative links: 

What Google says are manipulative linksWhat Google says are manipulative links

As for “toxic backlinks,” this is just a term made up by certain SEO tools to describe backlinks they think could hurt your rankings based on several so-called “markers.”

Key takeaway

  • Spammy links are low-quality links that every site attracts through no fault of their own. 
  • Manipulative links are links built or bought solely to improve Google rankings. 
  • Toxic links are links that certain SEO tools say could hurt your website’s rankings. 

If you asked this question before September 2016, the answer would have likely been “yes.”

So what changed? 

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Penguin 4.0.

With this algorithm update, Google switched from demoting pages to a system that tries to ignore bad links.

Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site. 

Since then, Google’s stance has been that you can ignore spammy backlinks. 

If you’re seeing individual links that pop up and you say, “oh this looks like a spammer dropped the link” or whatever, I would completely ignore those. […] because these spammy links happen to every website and Google’s system has seen them so many times over the years that we’re very good at just ignoring them. 

John MuellerJohn Mueller

But is this true? Is Google really as good at ignoring low-level spam as we’re made to believe? 

Judging by my colleague Chris’s recent poll on LinkedIn, a good chunk of SEOs (38%) don’t think so, as they’re still disavowing them. 

Most SEOs either disavow or do nothing about spammy backlinksMost SEOs either disavow or do nothing about spammy backlinks

Does that mean they’re right to do so? Not necessarily. It just means they don’t fully trust Google that they won’t do any harm. They’re being careful. 

Personally, the person I trust most to answer this question in 2024 is Dr. Marie Haynes. I don’t think anyone’s done more research into this than her. She’s spent well over a decade working to understand Google’s search algorithms and auditing link profiles on behalf of business owners. 

Now, the interesting part of that statement (and why I actually trust her!) is the obvious conflict of interest. Until fairly recently, she made her living selling link audit and disavow file creation services—and for a pretty hefty sum at that! 

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Pricing from Marie's link audit services page in March 2023Pricing from Marie's link audit services page in March 2023
Pricing from Marie’s link audit services page in March 2023

Clearly, it would be good news for Marie if Google were still terrible at ignoring spammy backlinks because she could sell more link audits! 

Yet, these days, she no longer appears to offer such services. In fact, she’s actually been warning folks against the need to disavow low-quality, spammy backlinks for a few years. 

Here’s a quote from a 2022 blog post of hers:

While there is no harm in disavowing low quality spammy links, it likely does not help improve rankings. We believe that Google’s algorithms are already ignoring these links. […]. When we do see improvements these days after disavowing, it is always in sites where we have disavowed links that were purposely made for SEO and very little else. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

It’s clear that Marie is being cautious with her words here. But overall, her opinion after digging into this for many years seems to be that, yes, Google is now pretty good at ignoring most low-quality spammy links. 

Does that mean they’re perfect? No. But it does mean that worrying about obvious low-quality link spam is probably a waste of time for most people.

If you’re buying or building the types of links that Google class as “link spam” then, yes, they can absolutely hurt your rankings.

But before you panic about that link exchange you did with your best friend’s wife’s brother, Google is likely looking for patterns of manipulation here. In other words, manipulative link profiles rather than manipulative individual links: 

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Danny Richman, founder of Richman SEO Training, agrees: 

Here’s a bit more context from Danny: 

As for Marie Haynes, she echoes a similar sentiment in this post. She states that manual actions aside, she would only recommend a client disavow links if they have “a very large number of links that [they] feel the webspam team would consider to be ‘manipulative.’ ”

In these cases, Google often slaps the worst offenders with an unnatural links manual action. If you get one of those, that’s Google telling you, “Hey… you’re being demoted in search because we think you’ve been trying to game the system with manipulative links.” 

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But this doesn’t have to happen for manipulative links to be a problem. It’s possible for Google to algorithmically demote a site if they detect a large volume of spammy and manipulative links, at least according to John Mueller.

If we see a very strong pattern [of spammy links] there, then it can happen that our algorithms say well, we really have kind of lost trust with this website and at the moment based on the bigger picture on the web, we kind of need to be more on almost a conservative side when it comes to to understanding this website’s content and ranking it in the search results. And then you can see kind of a drop in the visibility there. 

John MuellerJohn Mueller

Either way, the point remains: it’s patterns of manipulation that are likely to hurt rankings. There’s very little chance that you need to worry about the odd potentially dodgy link here and there. 

While it might be tempting to use an SEO tool that finds “toxic backlinks” for you, I’d seriously urge you to reconsider. Trusting these can do more harm than good. Way more. 

Just look at this unfortunate Redditor’s reply to John Mueller: 

Someone on Reddit's traffic tanked 60% after disavowing "toxic" backlinks in one SEO toolSomeone on Reddit's traffic tanked 60% after disavowing "toxic" backlinks in one SEO tool
A 60% drop in traffic! That’s no joke! 

Even if this is an extreme case, worrying about these links likely only wastes time because, according to Marie Haynes, they’re rarely truly toxic: 

I find that the truly toxic links…the ones that could have the potential to harm your site algorithmically (although you’d have to really overdo it, as I’ll describe below), are rarely returned by an SEO tool. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

Sam McRoberts, CEO of VUVU Marketing, seems to agree: 

So… how do you find truly toxic backlinks that are likely to be hurting your site? 

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The truth? You might not even need to look for them. If you haven’t built or bought links that Google considers link spam at any reasonable scale, chances are you’re good. 

If you’re not confident about that, do a manual backlink audit with a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

The Anchors report is a good starting point if you’ve never done this. It shows you the words and phrases people use when linking to you. If they look unnatural or over-optimized (lots of exact matches of keywords you’re trying to rank for), that could be a sign you have paid or other links intended to manipulate rankings. 

Example of keyword-rich anchors, which are often a sign of paid backlinksExample of keyword-rich anchors, which are often a sign of paid backlinks

If things look fishy there, use the Backlinks report to dig deeper and check the context of those links. It’s usually quite easy to spot paid and unnatural ones. 

The Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer showing the context of the backlinkThe Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer showing the context of the backlink

Just remember that you’re looking for patterns of unnatural links, not just one or two. 

WARNING

If you’re not 100% sure what you’re looking for when doing a backlink audit, hire someone who knows what they’re doing. You need to be confident that the links are truly “toxic.”

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If you have a manual action for unnatural links or a bunch of what you believe to be truly toxic backlinks, yes. Google’s advice is to disavow them (assuming you can’t get the links removed). 

You should disavow backlinks only if: 

You have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, 

AND

The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual action, on your site. 

Marie Haynes advises the same: 

There are two situations where we will recommend to our clients a thorough link audit followed by filing a disavow: 

  1. The site has a manual action for unnatural links in GSC. 
  2. The site has a very large number of links that we feel the webspam team would consider to be “manipulative”.
Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

If you just have a bunch of spammy backlinks that most sites naturally attract or the odd paid backlink, probably not. Google probably ignores most, if not all, of these links, so disavowing them is likely a waste of time. 

While there is no harm in disavowing these links other than the time spent analyzing them, there is likely no benefit either. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

But what about negative SEO?

Being the victim of a negative SEO attack is indeed the possible exception here. This is when a competitor sends a load of spammy or toxic backlinks your way to try to get your site penalized. 

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Google remains adamant that it basically never works, but it really comes down to what you believe. 

[I’ve] looked at hundreds of supposed cases of negative SEO, but none have actually been the real reason a website was hurt. […] While it’s easier to blame negative SEO, typically the culprit of a traffic drop is something else you don’t know about–perhaps an algorithm update or an issue with their website. 

Gary IllyesGary Illyes

If you see a traffic drop after an influx of backlinks in Site Explorer, I’d say that it’s at least worth a bit more investigation. 

Site with traffic drop coinciding with an influx of backlinksSite with traffic drop coinciding with an influx of backlinks
This site experienced a traffic drop coinciding with an influx of referring domains. Maybe there’s benefit to disavowing here… and maybe it’s something else!

As Gary said above, something else could be to blame—but you never know. There’s always a chance that Google’s algorithms rule it was you who built or bought those backlinks to try to manipulate rankings and penalize you for it. 

If you just found a bunch of so-called “toxic backlinks” in an SEO tool, probably not. Again, most of these are probably just link spam Google already ignores. 

Here’s yet another quote from Marie Haynes backing this up: 

While there is probably no harm in disavowing [links reported as toxic in SEO tools], you are not likely to see any improvement as a result. Disavowing is meant for sites trying to remove a manual action and for those who have been actively building links for the purpose of improving rankings. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

There’s also the risk that you could end up disavowing links that are actually helping you… 

Patrick showed further evidence that this can absolutely happen when he experimented with disavowing links to the Ahrefs blog. Traffic dipped, then went back up after he removed the disavow. 

The impact of disavowing links to the Ahrefs blogThe impact of disavowing links to the Ahrefs blog

Final thoughts

“Toxic backlinks” is a term made up by certain SEO tools to scare you. That’s not to say bad links can’t hurt your site. They absolutely can. But fortunately for most site owners, it’s rarely a problem worth worrying all that much about. 

Got questions? Disagree? Ping me on Twitter X.

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On-Page SEO Checklist for 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

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On-Page SEO Checklist 2024

On-Page SEO Checklist 2024

Want to make your pages rank high on Google? You won’t be able to do that if you don’t know where or how to start your on-page SEO — and with each Google update, this pillar of SEO gets more and more complicated. To keep you updated with the best and most relevant practices when it comes to this aspect of your website, I have prepared an on-page SEO checklist for 2024. 

On-Page SEO Factors

On-page SEO, in simple terms, is all the ways you can optimize your website take place on your website. Tweaking certain elements of your pages can enable them to climb very quickly up the ranks when done right. These elements include essentially everything you can see on your webpage, like its title tags, headers, and images.

Webmaster’s Note: This is part two of our SEO checklist series. Part one covers our technical SEO checklist, so go back if you haven’t seen that yet. I also do deep dives into other aspects of on-page SEO in other articles, like the best content strategy for SEO, how to hack on-page factors, and ways to dominate niche keywords in your industry.

1. Identify Your Target Keyword

This is where any SEO effort should start. Identify which basic keywords you would like each page to rank for. From there, you can expand into common phrases, questions, and related words people use to find pages like yours through keyword research. 

Key Aspects of Keyword Optimization:

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  • Keyword Research: Identifying the right keywords that your target audience is searching for.
  • Keyword Placement: Sensibly incorporating keywords in titles, headings, the first paragraph, and throughout the content.
  • Searcher Intent: Catering to why someone is performing a search, whether it’s to find information, make a purchase, etc.

Effective keyword optimization allows you to create pages that best meet user intent. This boosts your chances of ranking highly for your chosen keywords. 

Using a Keyword Research Tool for On-Page SEOUsing a Keyword Research Tool for On-Page SEO

I have longer guides on the types of keywords you should look at, and another on how to do keyword research you can follow for this step.

2. High-Quality Content Creation

Quality content is the keystone of on-page SEO. It is, after all, fundamental to the selling point of Google — which is that it is the go-to place to find answers to your questions. It’s why Google pushes Helpful Content Updates every so often.

So, your content must meet Google’s standards of quality in order to make it to the top. To do that, your content must be authoritative, valuable to the reader, and deliver on the promises made by your meta tags and headings.

What Constitutes Quality Content:

  • Originality: Your content must be unique and offer fresh insights.
  • Relevancy: It should align with your target user’s intent and be updated regularly.
  • Engagement: Content must encourage users to spend time on your site and interact with your offerings.

Creating content that exceeds user expectations can dramatically bolster your SEO as it can directly affect user engagement metrics and boost the credibility of your site. 

Webmaster’s Note: Beyond making sure all new content is high-quality, however, is ensuring all of your existing content is also up to par. I’ll be covering that in part four of this series, so keep an eye out for that. 

3. URL Structure

URLs are not only a ranking factor but also enhance the user experience when structured logically. 

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Features of an Effective URL Structure:

  • Concise and Descriptive: A URL should be concise and explain your page content. No stop words.
  • Keyword Inclusion: A relevant keyword can enhance a URL’s performance.
  • Use Hyphens instead of Underscores: Conventional use dictates using hyphens to separate words.

A clear URL helps users and search engines make sense of the page’s content before they even reach it.

Here’s an example of a bad URL slug. 

Example of Bad URL StructureExample of Bad URL Structure

And here’s an example of a good, optimized one.

Example of Good URL StructureExample of Good URL Structure

4. Title Tag and Headings

I find that certain practices for these two elements give the most benefit to a page’s SEO. 

Best Practices for Title Tag and Heading Optimization:

  • Use a Keyword-First Approach: Place keywords first in your title tag, as uninterrupted by stop-words as possible.
  • Keep it Simple: Title tags should be concise to ensure the entire tag is displayed on the SERPs.
  • Same Keyword, Different Phrasing: Use the same keyword in your title tag and heading 1. However, use different phrasing or wording for each. 
  • Insert Related Keywords: Do this for your heading 2, 3, and so on, where it makes sense.
  • Avoid Duplicates: Use different title tags and headings for every unique page.

4. Meta Tags Enhancement

Meta tags, such as the meta description, serve as a brief pitch to users on search engine results pages. Other meta tags, like your image alt text and links, provide important context to both the user and crawlbot.

Tips for Enhanced Meta Tags:

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  • Compelling Copy: Write title tags and meta descriptions that accurately summarize the page content and entice clicks.
  • Keyword Usage: Try to insert target keywords and/or related keywords effectively in your meta descriptions, and within the limit.
  • Uniqueness: Each page should have unique meta tags. 
  • Be Descriptive: Your image alt text should not only include a related keyword but should also adequately describe what is seen on the image. 
  • Add internal and external links: Semantic search means Google can use the links in your pages to gain a better understanding of its content. Always add relevant internal links, and only include external links from trusted websites. 
  • Use Noindex Robots Meta Tag: Add this to prevent any pages with thin content, or pages with little value and no intent from appearing in the SERPs.
  • Use rel=”canonical” Link Tag: Use this for any duplicate pages you have on your website. Doing this can help you control which version of the page gets indexed and ranks for your targeted keywords. 
  • Set your Open Graph Meta Tags: This will let you optimize how your pages look when they’re shared on social media.
  • Set your Viewport Meta Tag: This configures how your pages are scaled and displayed on different devices and platforms, which is important for user experience (more on that later). 

To get the most out of your SEO, don’t neglect this part of your on-page SEO checklist. The small tweaks here can add up to the big picture. 

Well-crafted meta tags have the potential to increase click-through rates, boost your visibility on organic search and image search, enhance user experience, and also distribute link equity throughout your pages. All these contribute to how well your page ranks. 

5. Internal Linking

Internal linking spreads link equity throughout your site and can help search engines discover new pages. Always link back to pillar content, or other high-value content on your website. 

Benefits of Strategic Internal Linking:

  • Navigation: They guide users through other relevant pages on your website.
  • Page Authority: Anchor text can help to convey what the linked-to page is about, which can aid in ranking for those terms.
  • User Time on Site: Providing relevant links can keep users engaged on your site for longer periods.

Good internal linking can significantly increase your engagement rates and contribute to building a robust site architecture. I have a separate post on how to build topical authority through internal linking you can check out.

6. User Experience (UX)

User experience affects on-page SEO because search engines favor websites that provide a positive user experience.

UX Factors to Consider in Your Website Design:

  • Mobile-Friendliness: The site must perform well across all devices — but especially on mobile-view, as most users use Google through their phones.
  • Ease of Use: The site should be navigable and logical in its layout. Navigation bars and other menus should be intuitive and prioritize the most important pages of your website.
  • Page Speed: Pages should load quickly to reduce bounce rates. Follow this guide to site speed optimization for this point.

As UX becomes an even more important ranking factor, I find it is necessary to add to this on-page SEO checklist. Sites that deliver a high-quality user experience will dominate search engine results pages.

Key Takeaway

Mastering this pillar of SEO is crucial for achieving high rankings on Google, and staying updated with evolving best practices is essential. But with every update, what works best changes. 

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My 2024 on-page SEO checklist provides basically the most up-to-date practices for the elements on your website. Follow it, and you should be able to boost your website’s authority, credibility, and long-term SEO performance.

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