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What Is Forensic SEO?



Forensic SEO

One of the core areas of SEO services for me over the last 10+ years has been forensic SEO.

And hell, I drop that term all the time in various conversations, groups, interviews like it’s something that everyone knows about.

Apparently, not so much.

There does seem to be a little confusion out there on what it is exactly. And so today, we’re going to try and clear that up.

Oh, by the way, I am quite aware of the myriad of existing “definitions” of forensic SEO that currently litter the landscape.

Uhm, yeah. Sigh.

This is about how those I know that specialize in it, view forensic SEO. Feel free to argue with me about it all you want (I’m kinda used to it lol).

Forensic SEO: The Basics

To start with I’m not even sure where the term came from, but I started using it maybe 10+ years ago.


Essentially, it’s a form of (SEO) audit that isn’t about optimizing. It’s more about dealing with a site that has lost visibility.

It could be a straight-up manual action.

It could be a dampening effect (think: Penguin/Panda back in the day).

It could be on-site issues.

And many times, it’s a combination of things.

I like to teach folks/clients that it’s often about the “Sherlock Holmes School of SEO”:

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

As such, when we’re doing forensic SEO we really do want to cover all the bases and look into areas such as:

  • Data assessment (Analytics, Search Console, etc.)
  • Recent and past SEO changes to the site
  • Accessing developer changelogs (changes to the site)
  • Look at hosting (server) changes (updating tech, etc.)
  • External factors (link building, etc.)
  • Known changes to Google’s algorithms
  • Market segment evolution
  • Negative SEO (malicious actions by others)
  • Site integrity (has it been hacked?)

And there’s always room for more. It’s somewhat situational.

But the main thing is that when one approaches lost visibility, never be myopic.


Look under every stone and never have a biased or preconceived mindset when you get started.

As I touched on above, it’s often a combination of elements. If you approach things with an existing hypothesis, you’re very likely to miss pieces of the puzzle that will gift insight into the overall issues.

The good news is that if you’re thorough and comprehensive about the process, you’ll inevitably find unrelated issues that can be turned into opportunities.

Types of visibility loss

The Process

We really can’t get into the specifics of the approach. Or I’d be writing a book here, not an article.

Maybe if there’s some interest, I’ll work on something more detailed in the future (hit me up in the comments on that… thanks!). But lets at least work out some basic details.

The obvious starting point in most cases will be the client. They’ve brought you in for a given reason. That onboarding meeting makes for a good starting point.

If you’re in-house/agency, then you have a good sense of where to start as well.

If it’s a manual action? Oddly, that’s even better as you have clues and a good recourse (reinclusion request).

But again, this is just a starting point. Now we have to remove ourselves from the situation. Start to dig through the potential offenders as per the points mentioned earlier. Isolate each area and make notes.


Some important considerations include:


Getting the timelines for visibility loss is a no-brainer. That being said, dig back as far as possible historically, because there may be past demons that a short temporal analysis might miss.

Knee Jerk

Often times management, in their panic, will have implemented some potential fixes. This is often done with little or no consideration of the effects.

Make sure you address these in the onboarding. It’s a separate consideration from the original problem.

Lack of Data

Like a doctor that has no patient records, you will often be faced with a lack of data.

If that’s web developer changelogs, SEO activity records (and dates), annotated analytics, etc… it’s a very common obstacle. Some of your process is going to involve instincts.

By the end of the process, you should at the very least, have some solid leads on what the issues are.

Working on Recovery

But identifying the issues isn’t where it ends. The next part is recovery.


Manual actions are reasonably straightforward. You know what the problem is, you just need to fully correct them and work on the reconsideration request.

While they’re scary and can potentially have long term effects (loss of trust, etc.), at least we have a solid starting point.

The rest? Not so much.

We’re going to have to cover as much ground as possible with the data and information at hand.

Those that are struggling financially with lost traffic often have a knee jerk reaction and start plugging away at multiple elements. That won’t work.

You have to actually implement one fix at a time and let it percolate.

This is because one “fix” might have a positive effect, while another has a negative one. As such, it would show a relative net effect of 0.

As tough as it is, we must get the client/webmaster to buy-in to the process for recovery.

What Is Forensic SEO?

Recovery Buy-in

This, much like an audit, can be the hardest part.

There’s often a ton of resistance to the recommendations which can vary from financial, convolution and even egos.

And while you can stand by your assertions and convictions, you may still run out of runway.

I would have to say that in many situations I’ve been in, the adoption of the recommendations and the metered approach isn’t fully realized. That’s the sad truth.

When doing forensic SEO work, focus on the job at hand.

Focus on the health of the site. Listen to the data and info at hand. That’s about all you can do.

Regardless of the possible push-back or the whacky client theories, just clear your mind and find the truth.

And there we have it… if you wanted to the basics of forensic SEO, you got it. Below is just a bit of insight I wanted to add to the conversation… but not mandatory reading for the piece.

On a Personal Note…

All of this brings me to the hardest part, on a personal note; The pain.


I used to do pretty much full-time forensic SEO. I had to give it up on a full-time basis. Each and every person that comes to you is suffering.

I’ve heard stories of people at risk of losing their business, their life savings, kids college fund and more. It’s not a great way to make a living (specializing in forensic SEO).

In fact, the pressure became too much and I often had poor health and sleep habits (couldn’t stop thinking about a given situation). I still work in this area, but not full time. It was just too much.

Which brings me back around to my passion for the industry. Our everyday SEO actions have repercussions. We have a responsibility that can have real-world effects.

People lose jobs and the ability to feed their family. I get very pissed off at crap-hat SEO. I go off constantly on those types in various groups (Facebook, etc.) and peeps know me for that… I don’t stand for garbage SEO.

Please… PLEASE… remember the downside of bad SEO. This is a serious business, this “thing of ours”.

As you were….

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How To Use Statistics Content To Attract High Quality Backlinks



How To Use Statistics Content To Attract High Quality Backlinks

Imagine you wake up at 8 a.m. bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, slurp down your first caffeine boost for the day, and sit down to do some cold but needed backlink outreach.

You’ve tried desperately for months, like a 5th-grade school girl crushing hard, to catch the attention of numerous link-worthy websites – only to get gut-wrenchingly turned down.


It’s too much effort for little return.

You’re at your wit’s end.

You’ve even forked over chunks of change for guest posts. And that hasn’t worked out so well either.

You know that the most organic way to scale is to create quality links, but how do you gain backlinks naturally?

Here’s my hot take: Use statistics content to generate natural backlinks by offering a great resource page for content creators.


This simple tactic sets you up for success and saves you plenty of time in the long run.

Let’s now take a look at how this works.

Why Should I Create Statistics Content As A Link Building Tactic?

As you already know, getting backlinks from cold email outreach can feel like finding a needle in a haystack.

Your email goes into their spam. They read it but don’t respond or respond months later and then ghost you.

Either way, it’s time-consuming and frustrating.

To make things even trickier, guest posts can eat up a lot of your marketing budget.

Content creation takes multiple people (writer, editor, designer, strategist) and time to truly be done well.

You want to make sure all content you create counts.


By focusing on educating your audience and crafting “less-salesy” content, you’ll set yourself up for success by attracting your ideal audience and seamlessly building links.

In return, when you cultivate more organic backlinks, your Domain Authority increases – slingshotting you toward page one of Google (hello, more sales!)

Quick note for the naysayers: As an SEO expert, I believe a metric like Domain Authority (though not Google confirmed) directly impacts SEO success.

Now back to the nitty-gritty: Getting natural backlinks with statistics content.

It Positions Your Brand As A Thought Leader

Mindfully crafting content with valid statistics for your consumer base, product, or industry is a simple way to position your brand as a thought leader.

When done correctly, others will look to you to provide solid, trustworthy data, creating sharing opportunities.

Now, at this point, I’d like to emphasize that gathering data doesn’t mean chewing up different stats from around the internet and spewing them back out again.

The data you choose to share should be as original as possible and directly relate to what you do as a business.


Although these types of posts can be more challenging to create since you’ll need to morph into your detective data-gathering mode, they are incredible assets for improving your website and your brand’s authoritativeness.

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Content Creators Are Already Looking For It

Statistics are often used as a primary source of information, meaning they’re sought by content creators (journalists, marketers, bloggers, data analysts, market researchers, etc.) all the time.

With the rise of fake news, the responsibility to share trustworthy content is greater than ever, specifically for those with a larger following.

For this reason, creators are serious about sharing statistics that are accurate and transparent.

That’s why content creators actively seek brands like yours to help provide important statistics to back up their own content.

Content creators in your industry will likely refer to your content as their credible source.

It Gets Shared More Often

Simply put, people like numbers.

They want something tangible to grasp because data can back up ideas.


That is why content with statistics gets shared much more on both social media and blog platforms.

In fact, this works so well that it’s the center of a typical data-driven PR strategy.

Either way, it’ll help your social presence and backlink situation.

Talk about a win-win!

You Can Rank For It

Think about the creators in your industry.

What would they type into a search engine to find statistics?

If you’re in the beauty industry, maybe, “beauty statistics 2022.”

If you’re in the tech industry, possibly, “new tech statistics May 2022.”


Do you catch my drift?

Once you’ve put yourself in a creator’s shoes, you can use a keyword that’ll generate backlinks and rank organically.

And the more you rank, the more backlinks you’ll generate because you’ll get more clicks from the SERPs, meaning more organic traffic.

It should always be your main goal to create topics with keywords that have search volume.

In essence, you create an automated backlink accumulation machine (as long as those statistics stay timely and relevant).

Now you’re at the edge of your seat, wondering, “How can I take action on this?”

Buckle in. Here we go!

How To Build Natural Backlinks Using Statistics Content

For those who’d like a quick visual summary of the next section, take a look below:


Infographic: How to build natural backlinks using statistics content

Learn What Your Audience Is Looking For

It all starts with your people because there wouldn’t be a need to create content in the first place without them.

What types of content is your audience seeking?

What statistics would help them achieve their goals?

How can you help your audience inform their audience?

Look at this example:

If a newspaper had an audience of American sports fans, they might be interested in the number of gold medals the U.S. has received over the years in the Olympics.

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This type of statistic may interest journalists writing about their forecast of the upcoming Olympics winners based on past results.

Think of this scenario like this: If you have reliable data related to sports, then your content might be used as the next source in CNN Sports.


Here’s another scenario: Startups may consider cities with the most entrepreneurs and how this number has grown over the years.

This data could help them decide where to relocate for the most optimal chance for success.

Sounds like a topic with credible research that might show up in a magazine like, right?

Now you’ve got the idea!

Quick tip: To dive deeper into your audience’s interests, you can use a tool like BuzzSumo for the initial content research.

Become Your Own Authoritative Source

Instead of digging for data from others, make your own!

That’s how you become known for something as a brand. And if you’re worried you don’t have a huge amount of data, your content just needs to have a big enough sample to be relevant.

So remember, quality over quantity!


To determine how you can become your own source, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are we true experts on and can present credible data about?
  • What do we have enough data on to present some findings based on that data?
  • How can we create unique data that our audience finds useful?
  • Where is there an information gap we can fill by providing relevant data?
  • How does this data help what we stand for as a brand, especially our values, mission, and purpose?

When considering these factors, it becomes easier to hone in on what you’re truly an authority on and balance that with what your audience finds interesting.

By the way, another convenient factor in being your own authority is eliminating the dreaded citation loop.

A lot of times, sources are cited with nobody knowing where they originated, or when you do find the original source, you realize it’s data from decades ago.

If you happen to find a scenario like that in your industry, it might just be an information gap you can become a new authority on!

Compile Your Own Data

Now that you understand why being your own authority is the best route start to piece together your own statistics.

Depending on the type of data you need, you can create pools from channels like your website, social media, and customer data.

A few quick ways to gather data include:

  • LinkedIn polls.
  • Your own business analytics data.
  • Qualitative or quantitative data about customers (if you’re allowed to share it).
  • Market surveys.
  • Expert interviews.
  • Market research.
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Quick tip: if you’re struggling to get a large enough sample, you can actually use a tool like SurveyMonkey to pay for survey responses from specific demographics.

This method saves a huge amount of time and is more objective than constantly asking your LinkedIn network to fill out a survey.


Focus On Data Presentation

Numbers jumbled up on a screen are confusing.

Your data needs to be accurate and purposeful, but it should also be visually appealing.

For instance, you can create an infographic that highlights the information in a simple manner.

Use branded colors, vivid designs, and appropriate UX to keep your audience’s attention.

Weaving in the data to a visual story is a sure-fire way to keep them scrolling and is also the perfect way to repurpose information across multiple channels.

Reach Out To Relevant Experts

Ever wondered why brands create content like “expert roundups?”

This is the reason: Brands compile data from credible subject matter experts and publish it on an owned channel like their website, then those experts want that exposure as well, so they share it, which in turn brings in more backlinks.

This might take some extra organizing, but creating your own data using niche experts is a great way for you and them to gain exposure.


Everybody’s happy!

Consider A Paid Boost

When you’re in the beginning stages and those organic rankings just aren’t there yet, consider a paid boost with Google Ads.

This way, you’ll boost your views, and if you’ve created content with keywords that have search volume, you can still get those backlinks.

Craft Link-Worthy Statistics Content To Generate Natural Backlinks

Link acquisition is not only the result of active outreach and content partnerships but a reflection of the quality and authoritativeness of your content.

And, as you may have guessed, in any good SEO strategy – link building and content creation should go together like Spongebob and Patrick.

To create “linkbait” content, it’s crucial to create content focused on the people actually creating the link.

In other words, to naturally generate backlinks with any piece of content, you should keep in mind content creators as your primary focus.

Now that you’re all in on crafting statistics content may the force be with you to generate those coveted natural backlinks!


More resources:

Featured Image: Visual Generation/Shutterstock


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