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Should You Buy Backlinks in 2022? It Depends

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Should You Buy Backlinks in 2022? It Depends

Link building is hard, time consuming, and often soul-destroying.

This is why many people turn to buying backlinks. 

But if you’ve been offered links in exchange for money, should you do it? Is it worth the price? Or will it be a waste of money?

Let’s take a look at the facts.

Why buying backlinks is risky

Google considers bought links that pass PageRank to be a link scheme that violates its Webmaster Guidelines. If you’re unfamiliar with PageRank, it’s complicated—but most bought links will pass PageRank.

If Google sees what it believes to be paid links to your site, one of two things will happen:

  1. Google will discount the links – They won’t help or hinder your search engine rankings. Google’s algorithms will discount them, and it’ll be as though they don’t exist.
  2. Google will penalize you – Google has an army of human reviewers who can impose manual actions on websites. If you get one of these, some or all of your site will not be shown in Google’s search results.

Sidenote.

You’ll know if you have a manual action, as it’ll show up in the Manual Actions report in Google Search Console.

Neither of these are ideal situations. Either your paid backlinks will have no impact on your rankings or a negative impact on them.

Why people still buy backlinks

Even if you have great content and personalize your outreach emails, many site owners will still ask for money to place a link. This makes building links on merit extremely difficult, so it’s perfectly understandable that many SEOs would rather just buy them. 

Google also won’t give you a link-based penalty or demotion unless it thinks you have paid links.

Given that paid links often look no different to earned links, many SEOs believe they can get away with buying links—and plenty do

For example, here’s a page about the best online casinos that’s thriving in organic search: 

Estimated organic search traffic to a casino website with many (suspected) paid links

If we take a look at its backlink profile in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, it seems extremely likely to me that many of these links were bought:

Example of two suspiciously paid-looking backlinks
Neither of those anchors look natural or legit. 

If you head over to Fiverr, you’ll find packages with thousands of backlinks for just a few dollars. 

Links are cheap on Fiverr, but they won't move the needle

But the reality is that these links are unlikely to improve rankings.

For that reason, this isn’t how most SEOs buy backlinks. 

Most buy them in one of two ways:

  1. Niche edits – You ask a site owner to add a link to an existing page on their site for a fee. 
  2. Paid guest posts You write an article that contains links to your site, then pay a site owner to publish it on their website. 

A few years ago, I ran a small study to investigate the costs of these types of links. 

How much do niche edits cost?

$361.44, on average. 

I arrived at this number after reaching out to 450 sites across nine competitive niches and asking to buy a link on their sites outright (these were effectively niche edits).

Here’s the email I sent:

The email I sent asking to buy link inserts from websites

Sidenote.

Admittedly, this isn’t the best outreach email ever. I didn’t pitch any particular resource or linking page. I also pitched the link in either existing or new content. These things might have negatively impacted the response rate.

Interestingly, only 12.6% of the sites I reached out to were willing to sell me a link.

Percentage of blogs selling link inserts

Sites in some niches also seemed more willing to sell links than others. 

Percentage of blogs selling link inserts by niche

And as you may expect, the average cost of a link correlated quite positively with the site’s Domain Rating (DR):

Average link insert cost by Domain Rating (DR)

How much do paid guest posts cost?

Much less than niche edits. $77.80, on average. 

I arrived at this number after pitching a guest post to 180 sites across the same nine niches. Interestingly, I didn’t offer to pay for placement; many site owners just sent their fees anyway.

Here’s the email I sent: 

The email I sent asking to buy guest posts from websites

Sidenote.

I only pitched to blogs that had “write for us” pages. In other words, those looking for guest posts.

As with niche edits, most site owners didn’t respond. Of the 25.5% who did, roughly half of them asked for a fee to place a guest post.

Percentage of blogs selling guest posts

Sites in some niches were also more willing to sell guest posts than others:

Percentage of blogs selling guest posts by niche

And I also noticed that the websites selling them almost all had low DR scores:

DR distribution of blogs selling guest posts

Just keep in mind that although average costs for guest post placements were lower than niche edits, you have to produce content for them. This adds to your expenses.

Why do links cost so much?

Ranking high for competitive terms is a lucrative business. 

For example, let’s take that page listing the best online casinos I showed you earlier. It currently gets an estimated 54K monthly search visits, according to Ahrefs. And many of the links on the page are affiliate links.

Affiliate disclosure on a casino website

Given that casino affiliate programs pay out generous commissions, I’d estimate that this page easily generates monthly commissions in the high five figures. So it’s easy to see why site owners are willing to pay big bucks for links that help them rank higher. 

Over the years, site owners have caught on to the value of links for SEOs and started demanding more and more.

Unfortunately, many link buyers and sellers know next to nothing about what makes a good backlink. This has led to an industry where even low-quality site owners are able to demand high prices for mediocre links because some SEOs are willing to pay.

This is why you really need to do your due diligence if you plan to buy backlinks.

How to build links safely

Buying backlinks is out of the question if you want to build links in a “safe” and white-hat way. 

This leaves you two options:

  1. Create content that attracts links naturally
  2. Do outreach to earn links

Given that content can’t earn links unless people know about it, your best bet is to do both: create content that deserves to earn links, then do outreach to let potential linkers know it exists. 

However, you should still do your due diligence even with outreach-based link building.

Let’s go through a few questions worth asking before reaching out to a website.

1. Does the site look legit?

Based on your first impressions of the site, does it look trustworthy? Would you stick around to read the content if you landed on it?

If the answer is no, it probably isn’t worth pursuing a link from. 

In case you’re struggling to answer, here are a few telltale signs of a less-than-legit site:

  • Poor design
  • No links in the content
  • No images in the content
  • Vague or non-existent author bios

Here’s an example:

Example of a low-quality website that's probably a PBN

Although this site could be legit, it doesn’t fill me with confidence for a few reasons:

  • The logo looks like a Fiverr job.
  • The only two images on the page are stock photos with no attribution.
  • There are no links in the content.
  • The author bio is simply “Bridget.” But Bridget who? 

My guess: This website is part of a private blog network or set up for the sole purpose of selling backlinks. 

2. Does it get consistent search traffic?

If a website gets organic traffic, Google must see it as at least a somewhat valuable resource. 

To check this, plug the domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and go to the Overview report. 

Estimated organic search traffic to a health website

However, relying solely on a website’s current organic traffic isn’t the best idea. 

If traffic has recently fallen off a cliff or seems to fluctuate dramatically, it may have been hit by a Google update. For that reason, it’s worth scrolling to the “Performance” graph on the Overview report in Site Explorer to see the site’s organic traffic over time. 

Here’s the graph for the site above:

A health website's traffic drop

Despite still getting an estimated 4.8K monthly search visits, you can see that it used to get much more in 2018. In fact, traffic dropped by ~95% pretty much overnight. 

If we hit the toggle to overlay Google updates on the graph, we see that the traffic drop coincided with the Core Update in August 2018. 

Ahrefs' Site Explorer showing that the traffic drop coincided with a Google Core Update

This is the update that Barry Schwartz dubbed the “medic update” because it seemed to have the most impact on health and medical sites.

To conclude, don’t bother pursuing links from sites like these—paid or otherwise.

3. Has the site been selling links?

Never pursue links from sites that are obvious link sellers because a Google penalty is probably just around the corner. At which point, the links you got from the sites will become worthless or worse.

You can usually tell if a site has been selling links by checking recent posts for oddly placed links with lucrative keywords in their anchors.

Here’s an example: 

Example of unnatural links

Both of those links are quite unnatural, have exact-match anchors, and lead to commercial pages on the same website.

An often faster way to do this is to check the Outgoing Link Anchors report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer for followed external links with odd anchors. 

Examples of unnatural outbound link anchors via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

4. Has the site been buying links?

If there’s obvious evidence of a link prospect buying links, it’s yet another reason to avoid pursuing links from that site. After all, it could get penalized for buying links at any point. 

To check, use the Anchors report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to look for followed links with unnatural anchors to its homepage.

Here’s an example of a site with many suspicious links:

Examples of unnatural inbound link anchors via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

If you’re unsure whether an anchor is suspicious or not, hit the caret in the “Links to target” column to see its context:

Example of a suspicious link

In this case, I’d say the link looks suspiciously like a paid one because of the exact-match anchor text

5. Are you proposing a useful link?

Making sure this is the case comes down to two things:

  1. Creating unique and valuable content
  2. Pitching contextually useful opportunities

For example, this very article contains unique data on the cost of buying backlinks. That’s valuable information for most SEOs. But this doesn’t mean we should pitch to every SEO article on the web. We need to look for contextual opportunities where our link will add value. 

Here’s an example:

Example of a potential link building opportunity

This article already advises its readers not to buy backlinks because they’re often irrelevant, of low quality, and come from scammers. But it doesn’t say anything about the high costs of buying links.

In my opinion, this will be a useful addition to the page (with our post linked as the source).

Slutgiltiga tankar

Buying links is risky. Very risky. 

Unless you fully understand and accept the risks of link buying, this SEO tactic shouldn’t even be a consideration. It’s certainly not something I’d recommend to legitimate business owners whose livelihoods rely on their Google rankings.

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AI Content Detection Software: Kan de upptäcka ChatGPT?

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AI Content Detection Software: Can They Detect ChatGPT?

We live in an age when AI technologies are booming, and the world has been taken by storm with the introduction of ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is capable of accomplishing a wide range of tasks, but one that it does particularly well is writing articles. And while there are many obvious benefits to this, it also presents a number of challenges.

In my opinion, the biggest hurdle that AI-generated written content poses for the publishing industry is the spread of misinformation.

ChatGPT, or any other AI tool, may generate articles that may contain factual errors or are just flat-out incorrect.

Imagine someone who has no expertise in medicine starting a medical blog and using ChatGPT to write content for their articles.

Their content may contain errors that can only be identified by professional doctors. And if that blog content starts spreading over social media, or maybe even ranks in Search, it could cause harm to people who read it and take erroneous medical advice.

Another potential challenge ChatGPT poses is how students might leverage it within their written work.

If one can write an essay just by running a prompt (and without having to do any actual work), that greatly diminishes the quality of education – as learning about a subject and expressing your own ideas is key to essay writing.

Even before the introduction of ChatGPT, many publishers were already generating content using AI. And while some honestly disclose it, others may not.

Also, Google recently changed its wording regarding AI-generated content, so that it is not necessarily against the company’s guidelines.

Image from Twitter, November 2022

This is why I decided to try out existing tools to understand where the tech industry is when it comes to detecting content generated by ChatGPT, or AI generally.

I ran the following prompts in ChatGPT to generate written content and then ran those answers through different detection tools.

  • “What is local SEO? Why it is important? Best practices of Local SEO.”
  • “Write an essay about Napoleon Bonaparte invasion of Egypt.”
  • “What are the main differences between iPhone and Samsung galaxy?”

Here is how each tool performed.

1. Writer.com

For the first prompt’s answer, Writer.com fails, identifying ChatGPT’s content as 94% human-generated.

Writer.com resultsScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

For the second prompt, it worked and detected it as AI-written content.

Writer.com test resultScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

For the third prompt, it failed again.

Sample ResultScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

However, when I tested real human-written text, Writer.com did identify it as 100% human-generated very accurately.

2. Copyleaks

Copyleaks did a great job in detecting all three prompts as AI-written.

Sample ResultScreenshot from Copyleaks, January 2023

3. Contentatscale.ai

Contentatscale.ai did a great job in detecting all three prompts as AI-written, even though the first prompt, it gave a 21% human score.

Contentscale.aiScreenshot from Contentscale.ai, January 2023

4. Originality.ai

Originality.ai did a great job on all three prompts, accurately detecting them as AI-written.

Also, when I checked with real human-written text, it did identify it as 100% human-generated, which is essential.

Originality.aiScreenshot from Originality.ai, January 2023

You will notice that Originality.ai doesn’t detect any plagiarism issues. This may change in the future.

Over time, people will use the same prompts to generate AI-written content, likely resulting in a number of very similar answers. When these articles are published, they will then be detected by plagiarism tools.

5. GPTZero

This non-commercial tool was built by Edward Tian, and specifically designed to detect ChatGPT-generated articles. And it did just that for all three prompts, recognizing them as AI-generated.

GPTZeroScreenshot from GPTZero, January 2023

Unlike other tools, it gives a more detailed analysis of detected issues, such as sentence-by-sentence analyses.

sentence by sentence text perplexityScreenshot from GPTZero, January 2023

OpenAI’s AI Text Classifier

And finally, let’s see how OpenAi detects its own generated answers.

For the 1st and 3rd prompts, it detected that there is an AI involved by classifying it as “possibly-AI generated”.

AI Text Classifier. Likely AI-generatedAI Text Classifier. Likely AI-generated

But surprisingly, it failed for the 2nd prompt and classified that as “unlikely AI-generated.” I did play with different prompts and found that, as of the moment, when checking it, few of the above tools detect AI content with higher accuracy than OpenAi’s own tool.

AI Text Classifier. Unlikely AI-generatedAI Text Classifier. Unlikely AI-generated

As of the time of this check, they had released it a day before. I think in the future, they will fine tune it, and it will work much better.

Slutsats

Current AI content generation tools are in good shape and are able to detect ChatGPT-generated content (with varying degrees of success).

It is still possible for someone to generate copy via ChatGPT and then paraphrase that to make it undetectable, but that might require almost as much work as writing from scratch – so the benefits aren’t as immediate.

If you think about ranking an article in Google written by ChatGPT, consider for a moment: If the tools we looked at above were able to recognize them as AI-generated, then for Google, detecting them should be a piece of cake.

On top of that, Google has quality raters who will train their system to recognize AI-written articles even better by manually marking them as they find them.

So, my advice would be not to build your content strategy on ChatGPT-generated content, but use it merely as an assistant tool.

Fler resurser: 


Featured Image: /Shutterstock



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Fem saker du behöver veta om innehållsoptimering 2023

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5 Things You Need To Know About Optimizing Content in 2023

30-second summary:

  • As the content battleground goes through tremendous upheaval, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance
  • ChatGPT can help content marketers get an edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content
  • Making sure your content rank high enough to engage the target audience requires strategic planning and implementation

Google is constantly testing and updating its algorithms in pursuit of the best possible searcher experience. As the search giant explains in its ‘How Search Works’ documentation, that means understanding the intent behind the query and bringing back results that are relevant, high-quality, and accessible for consumers.

As if the constantly shifting search landscape weren’t difficult enough to navigate, content marketers are also contending with an increasingly technology-charged environment. Competitors are upping the stakes with tools and platforms that generate smarter, real-time insights and even make content optimization and personalization on the fly based on audience behavior, location, and data points.

Set-it-and-forget-it content optimization is a thing of the past. Here’s what you need to know to help your content get found, engage your target audience, and convert searchers to customers in 2023.

AI automation going to be integral for content optimization

Technologies-B2B-organizations-use-to-optimize-content

As the content battleground heats up, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance as a key source of intelligence. We’re optimizing content for humans, not search engines, after all – we had better have a solid understanding of what those people need and want.

While I do not advocate automation for full content creation, I believe next year – as resources become stretched automation will have a bigger impact on helping with content optimization of existing content.

CHATGPT

ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a powerful language generation model that leverages the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture to produce realistic human-like text. With Chat GPT’s wide range of capabilities – from completing sentences and answering questions to generating content ideas or powering research initiatives – it can be an invaluable asset for any Natural Language Processing project.

ChatGPT-for-content

The introduction on ChatGPT has caused considerable debate and explosive amounts of content on the web. With ChatGPT, content marketers can achieve an extra edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content. It offers assistance with generating titles for blog posts, summaries of topics or articles, as well as comprehensive campaigns when targeting a specific audience.

However, it is important to remember that this technology should be used to enhance human creativity rather than completely replacing it.

For many years now AI-powered technology has been helping content marketers and SEOs automate repetitive tasks such as data analysis, scanning for technical issues, and reporting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI also enables real-time analysis of a greater volume of consumer touchpoints and behavioral data points for smarter, more precise predictive analysis, opportunity forecasting, real-time content recommendations, and more.

With so much data in play and recession concerns already impacting 2023 budgets in many organizations, content marketers will have to do more with less this coming year. You’ll need to carefully balance human creative resources with AI assists where they make sense to stay flexible, agile, and ready to respond to the market.

It’s time to look at your body of content as a whole

Google’s Helpful Content update, which rolled out in August, is a sitewide signal targeting a high proportion of thin, unhelpful, low-quality content. That means the exceptional content on your site won’t rank to their greatest potential if they’re lost in a sea of mediocre, outdated assets.

It might be time for a content reboot – but don’t get carried away. Before you start unpublishing and redirecting blog posts, lean on technology for automated site auditing and see what you can fix up first. AI-assisted technology can help sniff out on-page elements, including page titles and H1 tags, and off-page factors like page speed, redirects, and 404 errors that can support your content refreshing strategy.

Focus on your highest trafficked and most visible pages first, i.e.: those linked from the homepage or main menu. Google’s John Mueller confirmed recently that if the important pages on your website are low quality, it’s bad news for the entire site. There’s no percentage by which this is measured, he said, urging content marketers and SEOs to instead think of what the average user would think when they visit your website.

Take advantage of location-based content optimization opportunities

Consumers crave personalized experiences, and location is your low-hanging fruit. Seasonal weather trends, local events, and holidays all impact your search traffic in various ways and present opportunities for location-based optimization.

AI-assisted technology can help you discover these opportunities and evaluate topical keywords at scale so you can plan content campaigns and promotions that tap into this increased demand when it’s happening.

Make the best possible use of content created for locally relevant campaigns by repurposing and promoting it across your website, local landing pages, social media profiles, and Google Business Profiles for each location. Google Posts, for example, are a fantastic and underutilized tool for enhancing your content’s visibility and interactivity right on the search results page.

Optimize content with conversational & high-volume keywords

Look for conversational and trending terms in your keyword research, too. Top-of-funnel keywords that help generate awareness of the topic and spur conversations in social channels offer great opportunities for promotion. Use hashtags organically and target them in paid content promotion campaigns to dramatically expand your audience.

Conversational keywords are a good opportunity for enhancing that content’s visibility in search, too. Check out the ‘People Also Ask’ results and other featured snippets available on the search results page (SERP) for your keyword terms. Incorporate questions and answers in your content to naturally optimize for these and voice search queries.

SEO-and-creating-content-in-2023

It’s important that you utilize SEO insights and real-time data correctly; you don’t want to be targeting what was trending last month and is already over. AI is a great assist here, as well, as an intelligent tool can be scanning and analyzing constantly, sending recommendations for new content opportunities as they arise.

Consider how you optimize content based on intent and experience

The best content comes from a deep, meaningful understanding of the searcher’s intent. What problem were they experiencing or what need did they have that caused them to seek out your content in the first place? And how does your blog post, ebook, or landing page copy enhance their experience?

Look at the search results page as a doorway to your “home”. How’s your curb appeal? What do potential customers see when they encounter one of your pages in search results? What kind of experience do you offer when they step over the threshold and click through to your website?

The best content meets visitors where they are at with relevant, high-quality information presented in a way that is accessible, fast loading, and easy to digest. This is the case for both short and long form SEO content. Ensure your content contains calls to action designed to give people options and help them discover the next step in their journey versus attempting to sell them on something they may not be ready for yet.

2023, the year of SEO: why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

Slutsats

The audience is king, queen, and the entire court as we head into 2023. SEO and content marketing give you countless opportunities to connect with these people but remember they are a means to an end. Keep searcher intent and audience needs at the heart of every piece of content you create and campaign you plan for the coming year.

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Rubriker med hierarkisk struktur En "fantastisk idé"

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Headings With Hierarchical Structure An "Awesome Idea"

Google’s John Mueller discussed heading elements with a member of the SEO community where he affirmed the usefulness of using hierarchical structure when using heading elements.

Background Context to What Mueller Said

Heading elements <H1> – <H6> are supposed to be used to indicate what a section of a webpage is about.

Furthermore the heading elements have a ranking order, with the <H1> being the highest rank of importance and the <H6> being the lowest level of importance.

The heading element purpose is to label what a section of content is about.

HTML specifications allow the use of multiple <H1> elements. So, technically, using more than one <H1> is perfectly valid.

Section 4.3.11 of the official HTML specifications states:

“h1–h6 elements have a heading level, which is given by the number in the element’s name.

If a document has one or more headings, at least a single heading within the outline should have a heading level of 1.”

Nevertheless, using more than on <H1> is not considered a best practice.

The Mozilla developer reference page about the use of headings recommends:

“The <h1> till <h6> HTML elements represent six levels of section headings. <h1> is the highest section level and <h6> is the lowest.

…Avoid using multiple <h1> elements on one page

While using multiple <h1> elements on one page is allowed by the HTML standard (as long as they are not nested), this is not considered a best practice. A page should generally have a single <h1> element that describes the content of the page (similar to the document’s <title> element).”

John Mueller has previously said that it doesn’t matter if a webpage uses one <H1> or five <H1> headings.

The point of his statement is that the level of the heading isn’t as important as how they are used, with the best practice being the use of  headings for indicating what a section of content is about.

What Mueller Said on Twitter

A member of the SEO community was joking around and gently ribbed Mueller about using more than one H1.

He tweeted:

The SEO followed up by sharing how he preferred using the best practices for heading elements by using only one <H1>, to denote what the page is about and then using the rest of the headings in order of rank, give a webpage a hierarchical structure.

A Hierarchical structure communicates sections of a webpage and any subsections within each section.

He tweeted:

“I’m too traditional with header elements. (HTML 4 for Life! lol)

I’d still recommend using just one H1 element on a page.

I patiently go back to pages to implement header hierarchy for fun.”

John Mueller tweeted his approval in response:

“I think that’s an awesome idea & a great practice.

Header hierarchy is not just useful to Google, it’s also important for accessibility.

(Google still has to deal with whatever weird things people throw up on the web, but being thoughtful in your work always makes sense.)”

Hierarchical Page Structure

In the early days of SEO, <H1> used to be counted as an important ranking factor, one that was more important than an <H2>.

So, back then, one always put their most important keywords in the <H1> in order to signal to Google that the page was relevant for that keyword.

H1 used to have more ranking power so it was essential to use the <H1> to help rankings.

Google’s algorithm was using keywords as a way to “guess” what a webpage was about.

Keywords in the anchor text, keywords in the title tag and keywords in the <H1> helped Google guess what a page was relevant for.

But nowadays, Google doesn’t have to guess.

It is able to understand what sections of a webpage are about, and consequently, what the entire webpage is about.

Despite those advances, many SEOs still believe that using an <H1> is some kind of magic ranking factor.

Headings are no longer about shouting what keyword you want to rank for.

The role of heading elements are now about telling search engines what a section of content is about.

Each section of a content is generally about something specific.

Heading tags make it easier for search engines to know what a page is about.

And that helps them rank the page for the topic.

And according to the official HTML specifications, that’s technically the proper way to use heading elements.

Lastly, Mueller mentioned a quality of the heading element as a way to better communicate for accessibility reasons, like for people who use screen readers.

The official HTML specifications say:

“Descriptive headings are especially helpful for users who have disabilities that make reading slow and for people with limited short-term memory.

These people benefit when section titles make it possible to predict what each section contains.”

So thank you John Mueller for calling attention to the benefits of using headings with a hierarchical structure, for calling attention to how hierarchical structure is useful for Google and for accessibility.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero



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