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Who’s Winning Super Competitive SERPs & Why

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One of the reasons SEO is such an exciting space is that we’re constantly being challenged to innovate.

But that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel. That just isn’t scalable – especially not at the enterprise level.

You need to keep proven tactics in your back pocket that you can adapt and modify to inform your own SEO strategy.

And so I was wondering… what useful insights can we learn in studying the keywords that enterprise-level companies are optimizing for?

This is not an exhaustive study; rather, it’s a high-level view of known ranking factors such as links, content, and user experience.

There’s much to be learned from the brands that are winning in search!

In this column, you’ll learn a process for analyzing SERPs and find tips to improve your own SEO based on what we can see others doing well in Google results.

How I Chose The Keywords For This Assessment

Before we jump into the analysis, I want to share how the keywords were chosen.

First, I searched for a list of the top enterprise companies in the U.S.

An enterprise company is a large corporation with a very large marketing budget that manages thousands of employees – think Fortune 500 companies.

I picked out 21 sites I thought would return general keywords and avoided brand-specific keywords like “iPhone.”

Then, I used Ahrefs to see what organic keywords the sites were ranking for with a keyword difficulty score of 90 and above.

I sorted the list by traffic to the site because this tells me that the web page is most likely relevant to the user’s search query. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have clicked through.

At this point, I had a list of 44 possible keywords to study.

Next, I did a quick Google search to see if there was a variety of websites on the result’s page or if one type of website dominated.

This knocked out some contenders such as “weather,” for example, because it’s a given that the weather channel, national weather service, and new stations will rank.

Finally, I settled on three enterprise-level keywords that cover a broad range of business types:

  • Retail (coffee).
  • Service industry (life insurance).
  • Fintech (NFT).

[Coffee] SERP Insights

The search engine result page (SERP) for the keyword “coffee” interested me because it’s so clean!

The SERP covers just about every possible search intent for the query, “coffee.”

And a few oddities caught my eye that may provide us further insight into how Google’s algorithm works.

This section will cover what makes “coffee” an enterprise SEO keyword with quick stats, jump into a review of what the SERP tells us, and lastly analyze the link profile and content to see what we can learn.

Coffee Keyword Stats

  • Avg. Monthly Volume: 6.6 million in the United States.
  • Difficulty Rating: 96.
  • Average CPC: $1.80.
Screenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022enterprise_seo_keyword_example_coffee

SERP Review

When you search “coffee,” you may see a carousel of shopping ads and a map of your local coffee shops.

You can read a knowledge panel with information from Wikipedia and nutrition facts sourced from the USDA on the right-hand side.

enterprise_seo_example_coffee_serpScreenshot from search for [coffee], Google, May 2022 enterprise_seo_example_coffee_serp

Followed by suggested searches for Starbucks coffee drinks, songs about coffee, and other items people often search for: tea, espresso, drink, etc.

We have Wikipedia, Peet’s Coffee, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Starbucks, National Coffee Organization, and a healthline.com article in the traditional organic results.

enterprise_seo_example_coffee_serp_2Screenshot from Google search, May 2022enterprise_seo_example_coffee_serp_2

Hmmm, I wonder why Peet’s coffee ($7.9 billion in total sales) is beating Starbucks ($24.6 billion in net revenue).

And how did the healthline.com article squeak in there?

Let’s find out!

Links Review

Peet’s Coffee has 6,900 referring domains linking to the ranking page, while Starbucks has 4,900 referring domains linking to the home page.

referring_domain_comparison_screenshot_ahrefsScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022referring_domain_comparison_screenshot_ahrefs

Peet’s Coffee has approximately 1,500 internal backlinks pointing to the ranking page.

440 of the 1,500 internal backlinks have the anchor or surrounding text, including “coffee.”

internal_backlinks_peets_coffee_example_ahrefs_site_explorer_reportScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022internal_backlinks_peets_coffee_example_ahrefs_site_explorer_report

Starbucks has 13,400 internal backlinks to the ranking page; 9,600+ backlinks include “coffee” in the anchor or surrounding text.

internal_backlinks_starbucks_example_site_explorer_ahrefsScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022internal_backlinks_starbucks_example_site_explorer_ahrefs

Content Review

Peet’s home page has “coffee” in the page title and as the first menu navigation item.

Subheaders cover the topic of coffee, from roasting to the history of coffee.

The word “coffee” is counted a total of 42 times on the home page, out of a total of 1283 words.

enterprise_seo_website_example_peets_coffee_homepageScreenshot from Peet’s Coffee home page, May 2022enterprise_seo_website_example_peets_coffee_homepage

Starbucks, on the other hand, appears to use its website as an extension of its retail locations.

The home page really feels like an app to order coffee or a corporate communication board – like the digital version of a break room corkboard.

Coffee is in the page title as part of the brand’s name, but it is not the primary word on the home page.

Out of a total of 515 words, coffee is counted only 12 times.

enterprise_seo_website_example_starbucks_homepageScreenshot from Starbucks home page, May 2022enterprise_seo_website_example_starbucks_homepage

Technical SEO/UX Review

I did not run a full technical audit for this analysis, so additional factors could be at play here.

I used a schema validator and Page Speed Insights tool to quickly assess what schema is on page and the specific web page’s core web vitals.

Peet’s Coffee uses organization, webSite, Product, and Store schema, and it failed the core web vitals assessment.

Primarily in first contentful paint (FCP) and largest contentful paint (LCP).

The first input delay (FID) and cumulative layout shift (CLS) look good.

web_core_vitals_example_peets_coffeeScreenshot from Web Core Vitals report, May 2022web_core_vitals_example_peets_coffee

Starbucks.com home page passes core web vitals in all four areas: FCP, LCP, FID, and CLS however, I did not detect any schema markup.

web_core_vitals_example_starbucksScreenshot from Web Core Vitals report, May 2022web_core_vitals_example_starbucks

It was interesting to see position history between May 2020 and April 2021. Starbucks seems to have fallen out of the top 100 for an entire year.

Did Starbucks get hit with a penalty?

position_history_top_100_exampleScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022position_history_top_100_example

Breaking Into A Highly Competitive SERP

We have to talk about what Healthline did because it’s such a great example.

Healthline published an article, “9 Unique Benefits of Coffee,” on January 11, 2022, and began ranking in position 3 for the query “coffee” by March 04, 2022.

enterprise_seo_serp_analysis_example_healthline_coffeeScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022enterprise_seo_serp_analysis_example_healthline_coffee

Wondering how Healthline found the wedge in?

They noticed the missing piece from the SERP.

The SERP covered shopping, local shops, definition, nutrition facts, songs, recipes, and videos but not why people would be interested in drinking coffee – the benefits.

The people also ask (PAA) questions provided a solid hint with questions like: “What are the benefits of coffee?” and “Is coffee good for your health?”

If you search for “coffee benefits” or “benefits of coffee”, the Healthline article leads as an unorganized list featured snippet.

unorganized_feature_snippet_exampleScreenshot from Google Search, May 2022unorganized_feature_snippet_example

Outranking arguably more trusted websites like hopkinsmedicine.org, rush.edu, and harvard.edu.

YMYL sites should pay special attention to Healthline page structure and author profiles.

In the screenshot below, take note of how each sentence uses a “fact-checked” source, followed by a summary explaining it to readers in simple terms.

enterprise_seo_ymyl_page_structure_exampleScreenshot from Healthline web page, May 2022enterprise_seo_ymyl_page_structure_example

This is really well-written content.

One more thing – did you notice anything odd about when the Healthline article ranked?

Nearly two months passed between when the Healthline article was published and when the article ranked.

What gives?

Healthline went hard adding internal links to the “benefits of coffee” page in March 2022 (First seen March 2, 2022) – and pop – the article ranks!

“9 Unique Benefits of Coffee” currently has 266 internal backlinks; 247 include the term “coffee” in the anchor or surrounding text.

internal_backlinks_anchor_text_exampleScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022internal_backlinks_anchor_text_example

Coffee: What We Can Learn

By analyzing the entire SERP, we can see that Google is looking to cover every possible search intent for the very basic query of “coffee.”

While Peet’s Coffee, Coffeebean.com, and Starbucks seem to dance for the top company ranking for the query – healthline.com found an opportunity by focusing on what the SERP did not contain.

However, it seems like the Healthline article did not really gain footing until the site added internal backlinks to the article using the desired search query of “coffee.”

[Life Insurance] SERP Insights

Life insurance is an interesting SERP to study because it showcases the battle of big national brands with a seemingly unlimited marketing budget (if you look at CPC numbers) for what is a relatively lower search volume.

Analyzing “life insurance” is sure to turn out some gems.

Life Insurance Keyword Stats

  • Average monthly search volume: 202k in the United States.
  • Difficulty rating: 90.
  • Average CPC: $30.
keyword_difficulty_enterprise_seo_example_life_insuranceScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022keyword_difficulty_enterprise_seo_example_life_insurance
SERP Review

When you google “life insurance” the recommended search terms are:

  • Companies: Google understands who we are trying to reach.
  • Quotes and policy: Google understands what we want from the company.
  • For seniors: Google understands the primary target audience for life insurance.
enterprise_seo_serp_review_example_life_insuranceScreenshot from search for [life insurance], Google, May 2022enterprise_seo_serp_review_example_life_insurance

Let’s click through to see Google’s search results for our enterprise SEO keyword, “life insurance.”

There are paid ads at the top, followed by a sentence-structured featured snippet for Geico.com/life-insurance that defines what life insurance means and how it works.

life_insurance_serp_screenshotScreenshot from Google Search, May 2022life_insurance_serp_screenshot

People Also Ask common questions are:

  • What are the three main types of life insurance?
  • What is life insurance and how does it work?
  • What is the average life insurance cost per month?
  • What is life insurance used for?

Knowing the recommended search terms and reading the PAA questions, we can conclude that people who search for [life insurance] want to know what life insurance is for and how much it costs.

Let’s see what we can learn from Geico’s featured snippet compared to competitors.

Links Review

Geico has 367 referring domains to the ranking page.

And has 155 of the 1,200 internal backlinks pointing to the ranking page, including “life insurance” in the anchor or surrounding text.

internal_backlinks_example_geicoScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022internal_backlinks_example_geico

Investopedia is a contender for the top-ranking site and has significantly more referring domains than Geico or Liberty Mutual.

Significantly more, 1,100 referring domains versus Geico’s 367 and Liberty Mutual’s 300.

referring_domains_ahrefs_screenshotScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022referring_domains_ahrefs_screenshot

Of Investopedia’s 726 internal backlinks, 711 are going to the ranking page, including the term “life insurance” in the anchor or surrounding text.

internal_backlinks_anchor_text_example_InvestopediaScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022internal_backlinks_anchor_text_example_Investopedia

Content Review

Geico’s home page H1 reads, “Life Insurance Quotes,” followed immediately by an H2 that reads, “See how affordable a life insurance policy can be.”

The first paragraph of the Geico web page addresses the primary question, “What is life insurance?” as an H2.

The paragraph leads off with “Life insurance is…,” and these first two sentences are pulled into the featured snippet for the life insurance search query.

enterprise_seo_description_example_life_insuranceScreenshot from Geico website, May 2022enterprise_seo_description_example_life_insurance

The term life insurance is used 49 times on the page with a total word count of 1922, which pales in comparison to Investopedia’s 5504 words!

Investopedia’s Page title is SEO perfection.

Note how it includes the keyword and its three support terms, life insurance, policies, and companies.

seo_title_tags_example_investopediaScreenshot from Investopedia page source, May 2022seo_title_tags_example_investopedia

The page content starts with no introduction, just jumping right into an H1 “What is Life Insurance?

We find a definition for life insurance (just like Geico), “Life insurance is a contract between an insurer and a policy owner….”

enterprise_seo_keyword_definition_example_investopediaScreenshot from Investopedia web page, May 2022enterprise_seo_keyword_definition_example_investopedia

To highlight the pattern for this SERP a little bit more, I’m also showing you the fourth-ranking web page Liberty Mutual.

Just like Geico, Liberty Mutual stacks an H1 “Life Insurance” on top of an H2 “Ensure financial security for your family.”

Followed by a CTA box for starting a quote.

Scroll a bit further down the page and you will see an H2 for “What is a life insurance policy?”

Note that the header includes the additional word “policy.”

This approach didn’t pay off as Geico took the featured snippet for the search query, [What is a life insurance policy?] as well.

enterprise_seo_keyword_definition_example_liberty_mutualScreenshot from Liberty Mutual web page, May 2022enterprise_seo_keyword_definition_example_liberty_mutual

The trouble for Liberty Mutual is that the text following the H2 is not a definition.

It is sales language, explaining what the user gets when purchasing a life insurance policy.

Technical SEO/UX Review

Geico uses FAQ schema page markup for the accordion questions and answers at the bottom of the page.

This does not give the webpage a boost as it is not ranking on the first page for those queries.

Running the page path through Google’s page speed insights tool and Geico fails the core web vitals assessment.

Doing significantly poorly in the areas of first contentful paint (FCP) and largest contentful paint (LCP).

web_core_vitals_example_geicoScreenshot from Web Core Vitals Report, May 2022web_core_vitals_example_geico

 

Investopedia (position 2) uses article schema and passed core web vitals with all four areas in the green.

web_core_vitals_example_investopediaScreenshot from Web Core Vitals Report, May 2022web_core_vitals_example_investopedia

Liberty Mutual Insurance (position 4) uses breadcrumb and financial product schema. It passed the mobile core web vitals assessment by Google, with all four areas in the green.

web_core_vitals_example_liberty_mutualScreenshot from Web Core Vitals Report, May 2022web_core_vitals_example_liberty_mutual

Life Insurance: What We Can Learn

By analyzing the featured snippet, we can see that the result Google is looking for is a definition.

The top-ranking pages all have the first H2 as “What is life insurance…” and the following subsequent text “Life insurance is (insert definition here.).”

Now, why is Geico outranking Investopedia when Investopedia is faster, and the quality of content is significantly better?

Well, step back and consider the singular web page in the context of Google’s full understanding of the website.

The Geico website is a company that sells insurance.

The Investopedia website educates consumers on all things related to finance.

Remember the common theme among related search queries and the PAA?

It gives us an additional hint about who people want to hear from when they search “life insurance.”

Google has determined that people want to know what life insurance is AND how much it costs.

Google has also determined that the closest recommended search query is “life insurance companies,” meaning that people are searching for:

  • What life insurance is?
  • How much does it cost?
  • And for a company to purchase life insurance from.

It makes sense that Google would place a website that sells insurance above a website that provides information.

It would be interesting to see what happens if Investopedia places a form for life insurance quotes on its web page.

Or, if Liberty Mutual updated their definition for what life insurance is.

[NFT] SERP Insights

Crypto and NFT were two terms that had made it into the initial top 40 enterprise SEO keywords.

Given the virility of the queries, I had to include at least one in this review.

NFT had greater search volume, a higher difficulty rating, and a more interesting SERP.

Crypto.com was winning for “crypto.” Not much fun.

NFT Keyword Stats

  • Average monthly search volume: 1.6M in the United States
  • Difficulty rating: 96
  • Average CPC: $1.10
enterprise_seo_keyword_example_nftScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022enterprise_seo_keyword_example_nft

SERP Review

Google the acronym for a non-fungible token (NFT) and you’ll likely see something different depending on the day.

It’s a really volatile search with frequent position changes.

At the time of this analysis, there was a sentence-structure featured snippet by Reuters defining what NFTs are at the top of the SERP.

Note: The featured snippet changed hands three times as I wrote this article, and last I checked, it looks like the Wall Street Journal has since snagged the featured snippet.

Followed by a knowledge panel with information pulled from Wikipedia and “People also ask” questions:

  • What is NFT and how does it work?
  • What is NFT crypto?
  • What does NFT stand for in NFT?
  • What does it mean to own NFT?
enterprise_seo_keyword_serp_example_nftScreenshot from Google Search, May 2022enterprise_seo_keyword_serp_example_nft

We can see that Google also (currently) thinks that users searching for [nft] are looking for a definition.

After the PAA, there are informational articles from news sites The Verge and Forbes.

The first company you will find is a marketplace, OpenSea.io.

The article by Forbes is of specific interest here because Forbes began ranking for the term “NFT” on April 9, 2022, after an update to the page made on April 8, 2022.

The kicker is the original article published on April 29, 2021.

Almost an entire year earlier.

So, what switch did Forbes flip?

enterprise seo_NFT_published dateScreenshot from Forbes source code, May 2022enterprise seo_NFT_published date

Links Review

Forbes has 2.31k referring domains and 16 internal backlinks pointing to the article, 14 including the term “nft” in the anchor or surrounding text.

All backlinks (from referring domains or internal pages) were added on or after April 8, 2022.

internal_backlinks_by_anchor_text_first_seen_screenshotScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2022internal_backlinks_by_anchor_text_first_seen_screenshot

Content Review

I used the web page’s core web vitals to play “find the difference” and see if I could spot any of the edits to the content made on April 8th.

I didn’t see anything.

The page title, headers, and general page structure appear exactly the same.

And, it does not appear as though any edits were made to the Forbes article before April 2022.

wayback_machine_website_updates_screenshotScreenshot from Wayback Machine, May 2022wayback_machine_website_updates_screenshot

Tech SEO/UX Review

Forbes includes NewsArticle schema and failed core web vitals assessment by Google’s page speed insights tool.

It’s honestly really close to passing though, having passed FCP, LCP, and FID. Only failing cumulative layout shift (CLS).

Forbes_web_core_vitals_screenshotScreenshot from Web Core Vitals Report, May 2022Forbes_web_core_vitals_screenshot

What We Can Learn

In the case of Forbes’ article on NFTs, it appears that the article sat stale for nearly a year before getting the link love it needed to rank.

Don’t forget to link to your content! Google has confirmed that internal links are a ranking factor.

Final Thoughts

Google’s algorithm is constantly changing (thousands of times a year), so there’s no magic SEO formula or tool that can rank – and maintain the rank – of high-performance keywords.

By studying enterprise SEO wins, we can gather insights into how to best optimize our web pages:

  • Analyze what Google has determined to be the user intent.
  • Look for content opportunities left on the table.
  • Use internal backlinks to tip the proverbial search result scales in your favor.

More resources: 


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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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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

There is concern about the lack of an easy way to opt out of having one’s content used to train large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT. There is a way to do it, but it’s neither straightforward nor guaranteed to work.

How AIs Learn From Your Content

Large Language Models (LLMs) are trained on data that originates from multiple sources. Many of these datasets are open source and are freely used for training AIs.

Some of the sources used are:

  • Wikipedia
  • Government court records
  • Books
  • Emails
  • Crawled websites

There are actually portals and websites offering datasets that are giving away vast amounts of information.

One of the portals is hosted by Amazon, offering thousands of datasets at the Registry of Open Data on AWS.

Screenshot from Amazon, January 2023

The Amazon portal with thousands of datasets is just one portal out of many others that contain more datasets.

Wikipedia lists 28 portals for downloading datasets, including the Google Dataset and the Hugging Face portals for finding thousands of datasets.

Datasets of Web Content

OpenWebText

A popular dataset of web content is called OpenWebText. OpenWebText consists of URLs found on Reddit posts that had at least three upvotes.

The idea is that these URLs are trustworthy and will contain quality content. I couldn’t find information about a user agent for their crawler, maybe it’s just identified as Python, I’m not sure.

Nevertheless, we do know that if your site is linked from Reddit with at least three upvotes then there’s a good chance that your site is in the OpenWebText dataset.

More information about OpenWebText is here.

Common Crawl

One of the most commonly used datasets for Internet content is offered by a non-profit organization called Common Crawl.

Common Crawl data comes from a bot that crawls the entire Internet.

The data is downloaded by organizations wishing to use the data and then cleaned of spammy sites, etc.

The name of the Common Crawl bot is, CCBot.

CCBot obeys the robots.txt protocol so it is possible to block Common Crawl with Robots.txt and prevent your website data from making it into another dataset.

However, if your site has already been crawled then it’s likely already included in multiple datasets.

Nevertheless, by blocking Common Crawl it’s possible to opt out your website content from being included in new datasets sourced from newer Common Crawl data.

The CCBot User-Agent string is:

CCBot/2.0

Add the following to your robots.txt file to block the Common Crawl bot:

User-agent: CCBot
Disallow: /

An additional way to confirm if a CCBot user agent is legit is that it crawls from Amazon AWS IP addresses.

CCBot also obeys the nofollow robots meta tag directives.

Use this in your robots meta tag:

<meta name="robots" content="nofollow">

Blocking AI From Using Your Content

Search engines allow websites to opt out of being crawled. Common Crawl also allows opting out. But there is currently no way to remove one’s website content from existing datasets.

Furthermore, research scientists don’t seem to offer website publishers a way to opt out of being crawled.

The article, Is ChatGPT Use Of Web Content Fair? explores the topic of whether it’s even ethical to use website data without permission or a way to opt out.

Many publishers may appreciate it if in the near future, they are given more say on how their content is used, especially by AI products like ChatGPT.

Whether that will happen is unknown at this time.

More resources:

Featured image by Shutterstock/ViDI Studio



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Google’s Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

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Google's Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

John Mueller recently made strong statements against SEO companies that provide negative SEO and other agencies that provide link disavow services outside of the tool’s intended purpose, saying that they are “cashing in” on clients who don’t know better.

While many frequently say that Mueller and other Googlers are ambiguous, even on the topic of link disavows.

The fact however is that Mueller and other Googlers have consistently recommended against using the link disavow tool.

This may be the first time Mueller actually portrayed SEOs who liberally recommend link disavows in a negative light.

What Led to John Mueller’s Rebuke

The context of Mueller’s comments about negative SEO and link disavow companies started with a tweet by Ryan Jones (@RyanJones)

Ryan tweeted that he was shocked at how many SEOs regularly offer disavowing links.

He tweeted:

“I’m still shocked at how many seos regularly disavow links. Why? Unless you spammed them or have a manual action you’re probably doing more harm than good.”

The reason why Ryan is shocked is because Google has consistently recommended the tool for disavowing paid/spammy links that the sites (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

And yet, here we are, eleven years later, and SEOs are still misusing the tool for removing other kinds of tools.

Here’s the background information about that.

Link Disavow Tool

In the mid 2000’s there was a thriving open market for paid links prior to the Penguin Update in April 2012. The commerce in paid links was staggering.

I knew of one publisher with around fifty websites who received a $30,000 check every month for hosting paid links on his site.

Even though I advised my clients against it, some of them still purchased links because they saw everyone else was buying them and getting away with it.

The Penguin Update caused the link selling boom collapsed.

Thousands of websites lost rankings.

SEOs and affected websites strained under the burden of having to contact all the sites from which they purchased paid links to ask to have them removed.

So some in the SEO community asked Google for a more convenient way to disavow the links.

Months went by and after resisting the requests, Google relented and released a disavow tool.

Google cautioned from the very beginning to only use the tool for disavowing links that the site publishers (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

The first paragraph of Google’s October 2012 announcement of the link disavow tool leaves no doubt on when to use the tool:

“Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site.

If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on ‘unnatural links’ pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue.

If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.”

The message couldn’t be clearer.

But at some point in time, link disavowing became a service applied to random and “spammy looking” links, which is not what the tool is for.

Link Disavow Takes Months To Work

There are many anecdotes about link disavows that helped sites regain rankings.

They aren’t lying, I know credible and honest people who have made this claim.

But here’s the thing, John Mueller has confirmed that the link disavow process takes months to work its way through Google’s algorithm.

Sometimes things happen that are not related, no correlation. It just looks that way.

John shared how long it takes for a link disavow to work in a Webmaster Hangout:

“With regards to this particular case, where you’re saying you submitted a disavow file and then the ranking dropped or the visibility dropped, especially a few days later, I would assume that that is not related.

So in particular with the disavow file, what happens is we take that file into account when we reprocess the links kind of pointing to your website.

And this is a process that happens incrementally over a period of time where I would expect it would have an effect over the course of… I don’t know… maybe three, four, five, six months …kind of step by step going in that direction.

So if you’re saying that you saw an effect within a couple of days and it was a really strong effect then I would assume that this effect is completely unrelated to the disavow file. …it sounds like you still haven’t figured out what might be causing this.”

John Mueller: Negative SEO and Link Disavow Companies are Making Stuff Up

Context is important to understand what was said.

So here’s the context for John Mueller’s remark.

An SEO responded to Ryan’s tweet about being shocked at how many SEOs regularly disavow links.

The person responding to Ryan tweeted that disavowing links was still important, that agencies provide negative SEO services to take down websites and that link disavow is a way to combat the negative links.

The SEO (SEOGuruJaipur) tweeted:

“Google still gives penalties for backlinks (for example, 14 Dec update, so disavowing links is still important.”

SEOGuruJaipur next began tweeting about negative SEO companies.

Negative SEO companies are those that will build spammy links to a client’s competitor in order to make the competitor’s rankings drop.

SEOGuruJaipur tweeted:

“There are so many agencies that provide services to down competitors; they create backlinks for competitors such as comments, bookmarking, directory, and article submission on low quality sites.”

SEOGuruJaipur continued discussing negative SEO link builders, saying that only high trust sites are immune to the negative SEO links.

He tweeted:

“Agencies know what kind of links hurt the website because they have been doing this for a long time.

It’s only hard to down for very trusted sites. Even some agencies provide a money back guarantee as well.

They will provide you examples as well with proper insights.”

John Mueller tweeted his response to the above tweets:

“That’s all made up & irrelevant.

These agencies (both those creating, and those disavowing) are just making stuff up, and cashing in from those who don’t know better.”

Then someone else joined the discussion:

Mueller tweeted a response:

“Don’t waste your time on it; do things that build up your site instead.”

Unambiguous Statement on Negative SEO and Link Disavow Services

A statement by John Mueller (or anyone) can appear to conflict with prior statements when taken out of context.

That’s why I not only placed his statements into their original context but also the history going back eleven years that is a part of that discussion.

It’s clear that John Mueller feels that those selling negative SEO services and those providing disavow services outside of the intended use are “making stuff up” and “cashing in” on clients who might not “know better.”

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero



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