Hey Brian. Even though our own website ranks constantly (last 3 years now) for SEO Companies at Number 1 of Google (obviously when searching from London UK or nearby that is), I sttill keep reading other people’s posts and sending my own out when I find a gold nugget. However, within your clearly written article I have noticed multiple golden nuggets, and was very impressed by your ‘thinking out the box’ approach, and the choices you made for this article. Anytime you want a job as head of R&D for SEO at KD Web, you just let me know 😉
Structured data21 is code that you can add to your sites' pages to describe your content to search engines, so they can better understand what's on your pages. Search engines can use this understanding to display your content in useful (and eye-catching!) ways in search results. That, in turn, can help you attract just the right kind of customers for your business.
Great post. I know most of the stuff experienced people read and think “I know that already”… but actually lots of things we tend to forget even though we know them. So its always good to read those. What I liked most was the broken link solution. Not only to create a substitute for the broken link but actually going beyond that. I know some people do this as SEO technique but its actually also useful for the internet as you repair those broken links that others find somewhere else.
Write a description that would both inform and interest users if they saw your description meta tag as a snippet in a search result. While there's no minimal or maximal length for the text in a description meta tag, we recommend making sure that it's long enough to be fully shown in Search (note that users may see different sized snippets depending on how and where they search), and contains all the relevant information users would need to determine whether the page will be useful and relevant to them.

You mentioned: "many times clients have already done this work.  Ask them for copies of their market research reports when you start a project.  It will save you a ton of time and effort!"  We do this with most of our clients, like you said we have found that around 75% of the have some kind of Market research done, that saves you a lot of time and helps setting up the right SEO Strategy. 
Regarding internal linking, i believe that in the case of two links pointing to an internal page, being one of those links in the group i mentioned above, they will considered only the one witch feed the algorithm with more information. In sites that have the menu before the content, it will be the second link. I think that’s the smart way for them to analyse all the links to better understand the destination page content. And they are smart 😉 .
You should build a website to benefit your users, and any optimization should be geared toward making the user experience better. One of those users is a search engine, which helps other users discover your content. Search Engine Optimization is about helping search engines understand and present content. Your site may be smaller or larger than our example site and offer vastly different content, but the optimization topics we discuss below should apply to sites of all sizes and types. We hope our guide gives you some fresh ideas on how to improve your website, and we'd love to hear your questions, feedback, and success stories in the Google Webmaster Help Forum1.

“In conclusion, this research illuminates how content characteristics shape whether it becomes viral. When attempting to generate word of mouth, marketers often try targeting “influentials,” or opinion leaders (i.e., some small set of special people who, whether through having more social ties or being more persuasive, theoretically have more influence than others). Although this approach is pervasive,recent research has cast doubt on its value (Bakshy et al. 2011; Watts 2007) and suggests that it is far from cost effective. Rather than targeting “special” people, the current research suggests that it may be more beneficial to focus on crafting contagious content. By considering how psychological processes shape social transmission, it is possible to gain deeper insight into collective outcomes, such as what becomes viral.”
Really great article. In some cases when you are creating strategies there are many SEO companies that focus more on finding link building opportunities rather than actually create visual assets or other link earning content. Do you think more emphasis should be placed on creating these assets first based first on understanding hot topics or refining a customers pain points?
Take the 10 pillar topics you came up with in Step 1 and create a web page for each one that outlines the topic at a high level -- using the long-tail keywords you came up with for each cluster in Step 2. A pillar page on SEO, for example, can describe SEO in brief sections that introduce keyword research, image optimization, SEO strategy, and other subtopics as they are identified. Think of each pillar page as a table of contents, where you're briefing your readers on subtopics you'll elaborate on in blog posts.
There are a few competitive tools we tend to gravitate towards in our industry. SEMrush is a fantastic tool allowing anyone to look up a website and get an estimated search visibility and traffic share. Drilling in shows how well pages perform independently. Gleaning through exports can quickly reveal what topics are driving traffic, to which you might replicate or improve your own version.
Hello Brian, really such an informative article and is more meaningful as you provided screen shots. I have noticed that articles with images bring more value to understand the things. I have just started my career in this industry and thus keep looking for some good articles/blogs that are meaningful and help me to implement tips in my work apart from my seniors instructions. I guess this was I can prove them about my caliber 🙂
Traditionally, defining a target audience involves determining their age, sex, geographic locations, and especially their needs (aka pain points). Check out usability.gov’s description of personas and how to do task analysis & scenarios for more details, or better yet, read Vanessa Fox’s upcoming book about personas related to search and conversion.
For example, if a swimming pool business is trying to rank for "fiberglass pools" -- which is receiving 110,000 searches per month -- this short-tail keyword can be the one that represents the overarching topic on which they want to create content. The business would then identify a series of long-tail keywords that relate to this short-tail keyword, have reasonable monthly search volume, and help to elaborate on the topic of fiberglass pools. We'll talk more about these long-tails in the next step of this process.
By 2004, search engines had incorporated a wide range of undisclosed factors in their ranking algorithms to reduce the impact of link manipulation. In June 2007, The New York Times' Saul Hansell stated Google ranks sites using more than 200 different signals.[26] The leading search engines, Google, Bing, and Yahoo, do not disclose the algorithms they use to rank pages. Some SEO practitioners have studied different approaches to search engine optimization, and have shared their personal opinions.[27] Patents related to search engines can provide information to better understand search engines.[28] In 2005, Google began personalizing search results for each user. Depending on their history of previous searches, Google crafted results for logged in users.[29]

There are community forums setup online for virtually every niche, industry, or topic you can imagine. The internet is a prime place for like minded people to talk to each other. 9 times out of 10 you can find a forum for your industry just by typing in [your industry]forum.com or searching for “[Your Industry] Forum” on Google. Find the forums in your industry with the largest user base, start posting there and become an active community member. Most forums will allow you to leave a link to your website in your post signature, so the more you post the more traffic you get.
SEO often involves improving the quality of the content, ensuring that it is rich in relevant keywords and organizing it by using subheads, bullet points, and bold and italic characters. SEO also ensures that the site’s HTML is optimized such that a search engine can determine what is on the page and display it as a search result in relevant searches. These standards involve the use of metadata, including the title tag and meta description. Cross linking within the website is also important.
It’s free to be active in online groups and on websites that are relevant to your business and community—and it helps you to obtain more traffic. Comment on blogs and social media posts, answer questions people are posting, and participate in conversations about your industry. The more you engage with your community, the more exposure and profile visits you get.
If you haven’t used software like BuzzSumo to check out what your competitors are up to, you’re at a huge disadvantage. These services aggregate the social performance of specific sites and content to provide you with an at-a-glance view of what topics are resonating with readers and, most importantly, making the rounds on social media. Find out what people are reading (and talking about), and emulate that kind of content to bring traffic to your website.

Use the right anchor text. Using our previous example: if you wanted to internally link to the “how to make money” blog post, you can write a sentence in another blog, like “Once you have mastered [how to make money], you can enjoy as much luxury as you can dream.” In this case, the reader has a compelling case for clicking on the link because of both the anchor text (“how to make money”) and the context of the sentence. There is a clear benefit from clicking the link.
People love reading about results. That’s because it’s one of the best ways to learn. You can read information all day, but results show you the practical application of the information. Create content showing real life results. It’s easy in my industry because results are all that matter. But this can work in other industries as well. Here are some non-marketing examples:

Brian hello! First off I want to THANK YOU for this fantastic post. I can’t emphasize that enough. I have this bookmarked and keep going through it to help boost our blog. I totally nerded out on this, especially the LSI keywords which made my day. I know, pathetic, right? But when so much changes in SEO all the time, these kinds of posts are so helpful. So thanks for this. So no question – just praise, hope that’s ok 😁
Brian hello! First off I want to THANK YOU for this fantastic post. I can’t emphasize that enough. I have this bookmarked and keep going through it to help boost our blog. I totally nerded out on this, especially the LSI keywords which made my day. I know, pathetic, right? But when so much changes in SEO all the time, these kinds of posts are so helpful. So thanks for this. So no question – just praise, hope that’s ok 😁

A backlink is a link to your website from another website. Backlinks from complementary businesses or industry influencers will not only get your business in front of a larger audience, but it will also drive qualified traffic to your website. In addition, Google picks up on backlinks and will increase its trust in your business if it sees other trusted sites pointing to yours. More trust from Google leads to higher rankings, which leads to more traffic. Get noticed on Google for free with quality backlinks.
So I’m not good at English. Well I’m running a new vacation rental and travel website in French. But it seems that in francophone area people are reluctant to implement backlinks. I do need links to rank because I have strong competitors. So I’ve decided to ask for those links to Anglophone website owner. Since my content is in French, I thought I could ask for links to pages with solely touristic spots photos. What do you thinks of that?
Btw, I was always under the impression that digg and delicious were dying but I’m really mistaken. Your(and Jason’s) thinking is foolproof though. If these guys are already curating content, there’s no reason they wouldn’t want to do more of just that! Seo has become a lot of chasing and pestering…it’s good of you to remind us that there are people out there just waiting to share stuff, too.:)
Getting free website traffic may not cost you monetarily, but it will require effort on your part. However, the effort you put in will equate to the quality of the traffic you generate. As mentioned above, there is no point in getting more traffic to your website if those visitors are not likely to engage with your pages, convert into leads, or become customers.
We now have a dedicated SEO strategist who, among other things, develops 90 day plans for our websites. 90 days isn't longterm planning, but at least we have a strategic objective for the quarter. He also works closely with our UX team to identify the target audience - the crew that does the persona research and focus groups prior to the wireframe stage.
Lastly, it's important to remember that paralysis by over-thinking is a real issue some struggle with. There's no pill for it (yet). Predicting perfection is a fool's errand. Get as close as you can within a reasonable timeframe, and prepare for future iteration. If you're traveling through your plan and determine a soft spot at any time, simply pivot. It's many hours of upfront work to get your strategy built, but it's not too hard to tweak as you go.

My company has been working on a large link building project. We’ve already performed extensive keyword research and link analysis and now we’re considering executing an email outreach campaign. However, all the content we’ve created up until this point is geared more towards our target audience as opposed to the key influencers of our target audience. Do you think it would be worth it to try to build backlinks to our existing content or are we better off creating new content that directly appeals to the influencers of our target audience?

Like the hundreds of people already, I thought this was an amazing post. You have a great way of breaking things down into ways that the average reader will be able to understand and make actionable. I think this is a great resource for our readers, so I included it in my monthly roundup of the best SEO, social media, and content marketing articles. https://www.northcutt.com/blog/2014/02/january-resource-round-up-the-best-of-seo-social-media-and-content-marketing/
Brian, I recently found your blog by following OKDork.com. Just want to say you’re really amazing with the content you put out here. It’s so helpful, especially for someone like me who is just starting out. I’m currently writing posts for a blog I plan to launch later this year. I think my niche is a little too broad and I have to figure out how to narrow it down. I essentially want to write about my current journey of overcoming my fears to start accomplishing the dreams i have for blogging, business, and travel. In doing so, I will share the best tips, tools, and tactics I can find, as well as what worked, what didn’t and why.
Tip: Along with delicious I search on scoop.it for similar opportunities. If they liked an article related to a year.. say 2013 and you update the resource to 2014 chances are they’ll share it. Kind of a twist on your delicious + sky scraper technique. You don’t even have to make the content much different or better, just updated! Got some fantastic links recently because of it.
Website owners recognized the value of a high ranking and visibility in search engine results,[6] creating an opportunity for both white hat and black hat SEO practitioners. According to industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the phrase "search engine optimization" probably came into use in 1997. Sullivan credits Bruce Clay as one of the first people to popularize the term.[7] On May 2, 2007,[8] Jason Gambert attempted to trademark the term SEO by convincing the Trademark Office in Arizona[9] that SEO is a "process" involving manipulation of keywords and not a "marketing service."
Every time I write new content I post it to twitter. If you use the right keywords and make your tweet interesting enough you can get a lot of clickthroughs just from people searching. For example if I write an article about SEO and Google I can tag the end of the tweet with #SEO #Google and anyone that searches for those keywords on Twitter can see my tweet about the post that I wrote. Be sure to write creative headlines for your posts so people feel the urge to click on them.
SEO is not an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be more effective, such as paid advertising through pay per click (PPC) campaigns, depending on the site operator's goals. Search engine marketing (SEM) is the practice of designing, running and optimizing search engine ad campaigns.[56] Its difference from SEO is most simply depicted as the difference between paid and unpaid priority ranking in search results. Its purpose regards prominence more so than relevance; website developers should regard SEM with the utmost importance with consideration to visibility as most navigate to the primary listings of their search.[57] A successful Internet marketing campaign may also depend upon building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure results, and improving a site's conversion rate.[58] In November 2015, Google released a full 160 page version of its Search Quality Rating Guidelines to the public,[59] which revealed a shift in their focus towards "usefulness" and mobile search. In recent years the mobile market has exploded, overtaking the use of desktops, as shown in by StatCounter in October 2016 where they analyzed 2.5 million websites and found that 51.3% of the pages were loaded by a mobile device [60]. Google has been one of the companies that are utilizing the popularity of mobile usage by encouraging websites to use their Google Search Console, the Mobile-Friendly Test, which allows companies to measure up their website to the search engine results and how user-friendly it is.
For example, if a swimming pool business is trying to rank for "fiberglass pools" -- which is receiving 110,000 searches per month -- this short-tail keyword can be the one that represents the overarching topic on which they want to create content. The business would then identify a series of long-tail keywords that relate to this short-tail keyword, have reasonable monthly search volume, and help to elaborate on the topic of fiberglass pools. We'll talk more about these long-tails in the next step of this process.
Some search engines have also reached out to the SEO industry, and are frequent sponsors and guests at SEO conferences, webchats, and seminars. Major search engines provide information and guidelines to help with website optimization.[18][19] Google has a Sitemaps program to help webmasters learn if Google is having any problems indexing their website and also provides data on Google traffic to the website.[20] Bing Webmaster Tools provides a way for webmasters to submit a sitemap and web feeds, allows users to determine the "crawl rate", and track the web pages index status.
I second Rand's comment!  Congrats on moving from the corporate world to the independent consultant.  This is my goal for the near future.  I too have been testing the waters of independent consulting, but it doesn't quite pay the bills yet!  Sometimes I feel like I should find a mentor who has been where I am now and is where I want to go.  Perhaps i'll find a few in this community over time!
Like many SEOs, I was hired with one vague responsibility: to set up an SEO program and achieve results. Like many SEOs, we jumped right in and started spewing out SEO audits, rewriting title tags, offering up link suggestions, rewriting URLs and so on. And like many SEOs we promised results. But what we didn’t do, until that fateful launch, was develop a comprehensive strategy.
I read The Art of War in college, written by the Chinese general Sun Tzu (author of the quote above). While his actual existence is debated, his work is often considered as brilliant military strategy and philosophy. Thus, The Art of War is often co-opted into business for obvious reasons. Throughout the book, you'll realize tactics and strategy are not interchangeable terms.
“In conclusion, this research illuminates how content characteristics shape whether it becomes viral. When attempting to generate word of mouth, marketers often try targeting “influentials,” or opinion leaders (i.e., some small set of special people who, whether through having more social ties or being more persuasive, theoretically have more influence than others). Although this approach is pervasive,recent research has cast doubt on its value (Bakshy et al. 2011; Watts 2007) and suggests that it is far from cost effective. Rather than targeting “special” people, the current research suggests that it may be more beneficial to focus on crafting contagious content. By considering how psychological processes shape social transmission, it is possible to gain deeper insight into collective outcomes, such as what becomes viral.”
Description meta tags are important because Google might use them as snippets for your pages. Note that we say "might" because Google may choose to use a relevant section of your page's visible text if it does a good job of matching up with a user's query. Adding description meta tags to each of your pages is always a good practice in case Google cannot find a good selection of text to use in the snippet. The Webmaster Central Blog has informative posts on improving snippets with better description meta tags18 and better snippets for your users19. We also have a handy Help Center article on how to create good titles and snippets20.
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