eCommerce navigation or faceted navigation in SEO. There are phrases the Gods of SEO themselves squint at when they hear them. Why? Because it involves duplicate content and very big sites. And we all know how difficult that is to fix.
The subject is hard to master and it comes with a lot of confusion on the side. Faceted search or filtered search? What is the difference between facets and filters? Which pages should I index? These are all questions webmasters ask themselves.So prepare for a ‘headachy’ journey as we’ll try to explain a couple of things in this article, such as the difference between filters and facets, which pages you should and shouldn’t index and best practices for different scenarios.
Hopefully, by the end of this article you’ll have understood everything you need to know about how to set up facets for eCommerce websites and how to manage your URL parameters for best SEO results and Google rankings.
Beware: This article is about very advanced stuff and it will twist your brain a little. It can also twist your rankings, in a good way or in a bad way, depending on whether you implement modifications the right way. The best implementation depends on the website and it differs from one case to another. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s better to ask for an expert’s opinion!
1. Faceted Search vs. Filtered Search:
What Is the Difference Between Search and Filters?
It took me myself a long time to figure out this difference. Why? Because I didn’t know what facet means. And I’m not talking about its meaning in eComm, I’m talking about its meaning in general.
So let’s start with that:
A facet is one side of a many-sided thing. Like a gem or a dice. We can also say it’s a particular aspect or feature of something.
Ok, so what does that have to do with filters and search?
Well, in eCommerce, the products of a website are usually split into categories. Sometimes, that’s enough to be able to browse it. However, in cases where there are very many products, it might not be enough.
In order to be able to browse the website efficiently, you’ll have to be able to sort those products according to different attributes. You know, like size, color, weight, etc.
To see only results that match certain criteria, you have to apply something which is known as a filter. A filter can include items that only contain the specified attribute, or it can exclude items that don’t.
Ok, so what does that have to do with facets?
Well, when you apply a filter, you can call each result page returned a facet of the category you’re currently browsing.
There are many websites that try to explain the difference between filters and facets. One explanation is that facets are unique pages and they are extensions to the category pages, while filters are just used to refine item listings.
While that’s true, one thing they seem to get wrong is that facets should be indexed and filters should not be indexed.
In the articles I’ve found (not going to give the names, though) the writers used the following example:
The writers argued that Dresses and Brands are Facets, therefore they should be indexed, while Shipping, Size and Price are filters and should not be indexed.
My counterargument is: What if a lady searches for “evening dresses size M under 400$”?
Now this might be far fetched, but it can very well be the case! The best example I personally know is in the used car industry. People search a lot for things like “used cars under xxx”.
In the following example you can clearly see that Google auto-suggests these types of results:
So we can clearly see that people search for these keywords. Let’s do a search for “used cars under 10000” and see what results we get:
Hmm… interesting. It seems like Google is returning an answer box for this result. This is cool! I can click on More items to get to Carmax.com.
I’ve highlighted the URL above to show which site is ranking in the answer box. Carmax is also ranking #1 so it has multiple positions on Google.
But wait! Is that a URL parameter? Could it be a filter for price? It sure looks like it. Let’s check out the site.
It’s seems they consider it a filter! Had Carmax taken the advice above and used a noindex tag on their price filters, they wouldn’t be ranking #1 right now and we would not have landed on their page.
Good thing they didn’t do that. Actually, Carmax does a pretty good job at telling Google which pages it actually wants indexed and which it doesn’t. We’ll use it more as an example.
So the difference between filters & facets is that facets are a result of filtering products. You use filters and they generate facets.
While the definition of facets in search is “sorting by multiple dimensions simultaneously”, which actually means using multiple filters, I like to define facets as the pages that result from filtering a search.
In my opinion, it’s not about having one filter or multiple filters. I can have a single filter: it will still create a facet. This way, it’s very easy to differentiate between them.
For example, I can apply a single sorting filter, by price, which will create a facet. The problem, however, is that the facet isn’t unique! And that’s when Google has a problem with it.
2. Faceted Search Problems & Challenges
Faceted navigation and search are great. They help you find exactly what you need pretty easily. In the following video you can see how you can take advantage of faceted search to filter out exactly the books you might want to read, from over hundreds of thousands of results to only 7.
Searching with Facets - YouTube
Ideally, the site shouldn’t create these types of pages at all. Sure, we might think it’s mostly bad for search engines but useful for users.
However, search engines try to favor the user. If you think about it, how good would a user’s experience be if you kept showing them the same products every time they apply a new filter?
Or how good is it for them if no products are shown? For example, if you don’t have any products Size M, should you show that size as being available?
The problem with faceted navigation search is that it can cause duplicate content issues. And with facets, the number of pages grows exponentially.
Hypothetically, let’s say you have two filters in a book store:
If we were to combine them, you’d probably say that there are 3 possible options:
Both Historical & Fiction
However, there is a 4th option: it’s Both Fiction & Historical.
So if you have 5 attributes (color, size, weight…), each containing about 5-10 variables (red, green, M, S, 10kg, 20kg…) you would have to multiply the variables to get the total amount of possible facets that can be generated.
If we have 15 colors, 10 sizes we already have 150 possible combinations. Add another 3 types of material and we end up with 450 combinations. Sort that by 8 different brands and we already have 3,600 products which is exactly the number of seconds there are in an hour… the Illuminati must be on me.
How fast facets can create duplicate content.
You get the point, too many filters, too many facets, too many URLs with duplicate content.
But aren’t those pages the same? I mean… both 1+2 and 2+1 equal 3, right? Well, while users might find those pages as being the same, search engines don’t! Why? Because of URLs.
3. How Google Handles URL Parameters & How It Affects SEO
Depending on which order the users choose to select the filters of a facet, some platforms generate different URLs for the same content. This is usually done using parameters.
Google treats URLs with parameters as separate pages, not an extension of the root URL, unless a canonical tag is specified.
So, in Google’s eyes, domain.com/books?filter=historical&fiction and domain.com/books?filter=fiction&historical are separate pages with duplicate content.
This is an issue because one of the pages doesn’t provide any extra value to the user.
Google doesn’t like duplicate content because it doesn’t provide much value to the users.
If you already have a page covering a set of products, why would you have a second page covering the exact same set? Why would Google want to display the exact same thing from the exact same website twice?
Sure, that happens, but Google is always trying to fix it. For example, Mihai Aperghis from Vertify notified John of some issues that kept appearing in the search results in Romania. After not much time, Dan Sullivan announced that they’re working on a diversity change. Sure, these two things might be unrelated, but it sure seems like a big coincidence.
There are ways to fix that. For example, you can use a canonical tag from one version to another to tell Google which is the original version that should be indexed and ranked. But Google sees canonical tags as recommendations, not as absolute rules, so it might ignore them!
However, there is another issue that content duplication creates, which won’t be fixed by adding canonical tags: Burning through Crawl Budget.
How facets can burn through & create a wasting of Crawl Budget.
When Google crawls your site, it allocates a certain budget for how many pages it will crawl, depending on certain factors, such as how popular your site is, how much traffic it gets how big it is and how relevant it is.
If you’re wasting that budget on pages that will anyway perform poorly because they don’t provide any value, important pages that are unique and relevant might not get crawled, losing the chance to rank higher.
That’s why it’s important to address these issues and make sure you don’t index irrelevant pages. But which parameters and facets should you index and which should you not? How do you deal with these problems? And why do some sites, like Amazon, index everything and do so well?
4. Which URL Parameters to Index & Which Ones to Not
Deciding which pages you should let Google index and which pages you shouldn’t is important for best SEO performance.
If you’re thinking about indexing ‘facets’ but not indexing ‘filters’ think again. Indexation has nothing to do with those things, but with search intent, volume and product supply.
How to decide what faceted pages you should index - YouTube
If your site has many pages, then you should only let Google index the ones that either:
Have enough demand: These pages should actively target a specific keyword or set of keywords that has a search demand. If users don’t search for it or never reach that page through organic search (you don’t see any impressions or clicks for it in Google Search Console) then maybe it’s a better idea not to index them.
Have enough supply: These pages should not result in empty pages. If you only have 1-2 products or none at all in the facet while other facets provide 10-20 results, then maybe it’s a better idea not to index it.
Are unique in the most part: These pages should not be very similar. Sure, there will be similarities, but if applying a second or third filter only results in a 5-10% difference, then maybe it’s better to not index those pages. This usually is also related to supply. Not enough products might lead to duplicate results.
That’s exactly why Amazon is doing so well, even though they are indexing all their pages. It’s because they have such a big supply of products that most of their facets have enough uniqueness to not be considered duplicate.
Sure, some are probably identical but, for example, even after filtering by 7-8 different dimensions I still get about 7 results, which is great.
Amazon is also a very popular site with high amounts of traffic going to it each day, which means Google will allocate more crawl budget for it that it will allocate for a smaller eCommerce site.
But for smaller sites, this might not always be the case. So you want to follow the best practices for best results.
5. How to Fix Faceted Search Issues & Have a Good Navigation Structure
Fixing a complex duplicate content issue might require both time and budget. It’s not easy to manage hundreds of thousands of pages.
There’s a very big difference between the effects of 301 redirects, canonical tags, noindexing and disallowing pages entirely in Robots.txt.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly how to implement things, because this can differ from one case to another. However, I can outline the best practices and give you a hint on how implementation could be done.
But the first thing you have to do is create a spreadsheet of your categories, subcategories and filters. Then you should do an extensive keyword research and map keyword clusters to the categories and filters.
Did You Know
To have a general idea of which facets you should index and which not, you need to perform an in-depth keyword research. You can use tools like the CognitiveSEO Keyword Tool or even the Google Search Console to find keywords. Along with other keyword ideas, the tool will give you great keyword insights, such as the volume of the search, their relevancy, the cost per click, etc.
The quickest solution would be to not have any filters at all. Just use category pages with enough demand & supply. If you don’t have many products, not having filters might work for you. Simply create categories for the keywords that users search for and add products in multiple categories.
A nicely implemented example comes from FilmJackets, a site that sells leather jackets.
It only took me a couple of scrolls on a desktop to see all the jackets, although on a mobile device that might be harder. Anyway, the site’s design is visually oriented, which makes me want to see all the jackets to see which design I like.
However, if they had had a lot more products and a bigger variety (such as multiple materials), filters might have been useful. The user is also led to believe that the store has all the sizes and colors in stock, as that type of filtering is made on the product page, right before placing the order.
But overall, the user experience with the current amount of products should be good. It’s a simple solution for a smaller eCommerce website and it is elegantly implemented on this website.
If you’re a big site, then you have multiple options of dealing with the problem, depending on your platform’s possibilities. Serge Stefoglo from Distilled.net did a great post on Moz showcasing the effects of different methods that deal with/fix duplicate content.
When we talk about SEO, usually all our focus goes to Google. But what about SEO for Bing or Yahoo? Is that something you need to miss out?! The short answer is no, and we’ll let you know why and how you can actually increase your rankings & get more traffic from Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.
With Google being so volatile, Bing seems a constant and valuable source of traffic with a rich source of data. Lots of people overlook it and miss a lot of audience and conversions.
Even though Bing is a good source of traffic, by no means am I suggesting that you should focus solely on Bing, but rather use it as an additional source because Google is still a strategic player.
The biggest restaurant isn’t the only choice in town. In searches, it is like every other place. For buying clothing or groceries you don’t go only to the big store, you also try the small shops, right? The same thing can happen when users look for something on the search engines; you might be surprised to find out that they have different options than you thought.
1. Understand that Bing Is a Major Source of Organic Traffic
Owning a 24.7% market share in US, Bing should be kept on sight. The latest report from Comscore Search on Explicit Core Search Share shows that Google still has the largest market share, but Bing comes right next after. Bing is owned by Microsoft and Yahoo was purchased by Verizon Media.
The interesting and best part of the Explicit Core Search is the fact that it excludes the contextual searches that do not reflect specific user intent to interact with the search results.
While Google owns almost 63% of the US market share, there still remains a significant percentage of 37 points. Moreover, you can easily see that the market share for Google dropped from January to February. In contrast, Bing and Yahoo have increased their market share up to 0.2 points.
Even though you’re a veggie, you should study the next “burger situation”. It’s not “cheesy” at all.
With that in mind, would you be willing to lose almost 25% of traffic, which may be generating conversions and leads? My guess is you would not. If we were to put Yahoo in the same basket, you’d have a total of 36.4% of potential traffic.
So, it should be taken into account. If you optimize for Bing, automatically you’ll optimize for Yahoo, too, in a smaller percentage though. And you’ll have a higher chance to get traffic for Yahoo. It will be like killing two birds with one stone.
For the rest of 49% listings and ads, Yahoo uses Google to provide for some of the desktop search queries where it doesn’t have to use Microsoft. And that covers the whole search for Yahoo. Let’s put it this way: you’d be covered on all major search engines.
2. Find out How Bing Converts Better than Google
Bing can bring a lot of traffic due to the fact that users spend more time on site, visit more pages, subscribe more to newsletters and so on. Bing can face lower competition than Google since a significant number of businesses are targeting the latter. Lots of experts tested Bing and there are many case studies on this topic.
Matthew Woodward, expert and award-winning internet marketer, did a case study on the matter and saw that Bing traffic is quite significant. If you take a look at the screenshot below, you can see that Bing traffic is almost the same as Google traffic. On top of that, he also experienced a lower bounce rate for Bing users and more clicks for affiliate links.
Another case study by Tony Edward, Senior SEO Manager at Elite SEM, shows that Bing is the second-highest source of traffic after Google by checking Q1 2016 performance year over year. Below you can see the screenshot with his findings.
Bing can get you a larger audience and more targeted web traffic than you will see on Google. Take the following situation, for example. Masha Maksimava, VP Product & Marketing at Awario, saw that Bing traffic generally has a better conversion rate than that from Google. After a deeper analysis made for one of their websites, in Google Analytics she could see that Bing traffic had a conversion rate of 19.66% and Google traffic only 16.47%. Below is a screenshot with the results.
Did You Know
Bing is much more transparent than Google when it comes to ranking factors. Also, many optimization steps meant for Google also fit into the Bing world.
You should start tracking your SERP positions on Bing for all the keywords that matter for you.
Tracking your rankings on Bing might not be a popular choice, but it’s for sure a must SEO task. You can easily and accurately track your Bing rankings with cognitiveSEO’s Rank Tracker. This way, you’ll get an overview of your position on the Bing market, and you’ll have a great starting point for your SEO strategy.
3. How to Optimize Your Website for Bing
3.1 Make a Strategy for Building Non-Spammy Links
Links are a trust signal in Bing’s eyes as well, so getting links is a good way to gain popularity. Bing supports the idea of quantity, so the more links you have, the more authority you’ll get. Websites that link to you mean that your content is good, and send signals to the search engines that your website should be trusted. But that doesn’t mean quality should be ignored. Both quality and quantity are important in this case.
Bing rewards links that have grown organically, that is, that have been added over time by content creators on other trusted, relevant websites made to drive real users from their site to your site.
Bing Webmaster Guidelines
Bing encourages websites to build links while respecting the Bing Webmaster Guidelines. Abusive tactics for getting spammy links, such as links buying, participating in link schemes (link farms, link spamming and excessive link manipulation) can exclude your website from Bing’s index.
When deciding on the right strategy and the steps for building links on Bing focus more on the following tactics:
target high authority domains and well-established sites to build links.
links on .gov, .edu, and .org domains weigh more.
select older domains, because Bing places greater emphasis on domain age.
drive social media links. According to a Searchmetrics, social signals have a strong correlation with better rankings in Bing.
set a limit of 20 backlinks a month.
use keywords as anchor texts.
Even though Bing’s ranking factors are different and acquiring links can be done easily, we shouldn’t forget that every change we make can influence the rankings on the other search engines. That’s why creating link-worthy content is the best type of link building. Which points us to another way to optimize your website for Bing.
3.2 Focus on Optimizing Your Content for Bing
When we talk about optimized content for Bing, we talk about quality. The gold rule is that you provide clean, free-of ads content to have a chance to get indexed and Bing shows your website in search results. Don’t block your main content, avoid having spammy poping ads and just make your content easy to find.
Another important metric or information that you need to keep in mind and follow rigorously is the length of blog posts. A research on content length from Buffer shows that each blog post should have approximately 1,600 words of quality content to maximize your chances to rank on Bing and Yahoo.
The average total seconds rises for longer posts, peaks at 7 minutes, and then declines.
Fresh and unique content makes Bing crawlers love your website even more so make sure you have a content marketing plan that allows you to publish articles regularly.
3.3 Use Relevant Keywords in Proper Context
Bing recommends content writers to use relevant keywords and perform quality keyword research for every piece of content. Numerous studies on the topic showed that using relevant keywords is an important search ranking factor in SERP, including Bing.
Same as in Google, relevant and contextual keywords are vital in Bing. Below you can see a comparison between Google and Bing when it comes to keywords:
Add proximity keywords in your post, if possible. They can increase your chances to get traffic for local SEO. Keywords are extracted from context. Make sure you don’t get spammy.
3.4 Tag Your Website
Using tags and categories is your key for getting your website discovered and indexed by any search engine. There are a lot of content management systems, like WordPress, that allow you to easily manage tags and categories on your website.
By tagging your content you let Bing crawlers, as well as manual or robotic Bing algorithms know what to expect from the post and what it is about. More than that, similar blog posts can be tagged using similar words and placed automatically in the same category.
Tags and categories also improve user experience by allowing visitors to quickly find the content they’re searching for and make it easier for you to manage all of your website content
Some of the studies made along the years show that 5% of the visitors are referred to by tag pages listed in search engines, out of the 250,000 unique visitors per month. That is something! You can attract even a slight slice of that audience if you grasp the category and tagging opportunity when blogging.
3.5 Optimize Your On-Site SEO Elements
On-site SEO should be the top priority for any webmaster and it is even more important than off-site SEO for Bing. Two of the most important elements of on-site are internal links and sitemap.
The easiest way to find out if your site has any on-site issues is to use a Site Audit tool. This way, you’ll find out all your website’s issues, prioritized by importance and you’ll also get recommendations on how to fix them.
Having a good linking architecture and adding XML Sitemaps can increase your search traffic from Bing, and not only. An experiment made by NinjaOutreach helped them boost their organic traffic by 40% with clever use of internal links. They started doing internal linking from the pages that were doing well to the lowest-performing pages.
If you fix your website’s errors, you can get about 1k visits from organic search each month, just like Greg Kristan from TM Blast. After fixing and optimizing the on-site elements, he got about 30% of my organic clicks from Bing.
3.6 Claim & Optimize Your Business’ Bing Local Listing
Every business owner wants more and more visitors, on the website, at the store, on the social platform, generating engagement and on every possible platform where the brand is available.
When we’re talking about optimization for local SEO, you need to visit Bing Places for Business and claim ownership for your business listing. Once you go to the site, you can follow the same steps as in Google My Business, and import the data or add your business information from scratch.
Local content that is optimized correctly can bring online purchases. A researchon “Local Search Unleashing Opportunities for National Advertisers” by IDC and YP showed that:
Nearly half (49%) of consumers looking locally for national products and services conducted four or more search activities, and nearly one in four (24%) did six or more.
The information needs to be on sight and that’s because, according to the same study, people are taking the decision to buy in less than an hour. 63% of the survey respondents completed their searches in under an hour.
On top of that, more and more users are using not just one device, but several of them. Which, in terms of local SEO, can trigger lots of benefits if you have your business listed on Bing places. It will be easier to find your website since all the local results are above Bing search results.
Device Usage Among Local Searchers
Source: IDC (2016)
For more exposure, use local listings such as Yelp, Foursquare to help Bing locate and index your website correctly.
Bing is a rich source of data and you should not overlook it. Otherwise, you’ll be losing almost 25% of new incoming traffic and potential clients. You can use it as an additional source of traffic to what you’re already targeting. And if you’re still not convinced, here are some more good..
Intentional or unintentional, be it plagiarism or bad technical implementation, duplicate content is an issue that is affecting millions of websites around the web. If you’ve wondered what content duplication is exactly and how it affects SEO and Google rankings, then you’re in the right place.
Whether you think your site is affected by this issue or just want to learn about it, in this article you will find everything you need to know about duplicate content. From what it is to how you can fix it in specific cases, here you have it all, so keep reading.
Duplicate content is content that has been already written by someone, somewhere else. So, if you take a piece of content off one website with the infamous Copy/Paste and then publish it on your website, then you have duplicate content.
Duplicate content has many sides and can be caused by many things, from technical difficulties or unintentional mistakes to deliberate action. Before we get into more technical aspects, we must first understand what content duplication actually is.
On the web, duplicate content is when the same (or very similar) content is found on two different URLs.
Another key thing here to remember is that the content is already indexed on Google. If Google doesn’t have the original version of the copied content in its index, then it can’t really consider it duplicate content, even though it is!
Around 5 years ago, I was actually contemplating scanning old news magazine pages and, using software, turning the images into text and then use it for PBNs or whatever worked at that time. While that might be illegal from a copyright point of view, it should pass Google’s duplication filters even today.
I would actually recommend publications which are moving from print to digital should repurpose old content in their magazines on their websites.
We all know Google likes to see quality content on your site, and not thin content. If you have it but it’s not on Google yet, it still is new and original, so why not take this opportunity? Sure, some news might be irrelevant today, but I’m sure magazines also featured evergreen content such as “How to lose weight fast”.
An article could even be modified into something like How people used to do fitness in the 80s’. You can keep the content identical this way (although a small original introduction might be required).
However, things are a little bit more complex than that. There’s a big discussion on what exactly makes for duplicate content in Google’s eyes. Is a quote duplicate content?
Will my site be affected if I publish someone else’s content but cite the source?
Also, there isn’t one single solution for fixing duplicate content issues. Why? Because there are very many scenarios. There are multiple solutions and one of them might be better than the other. There are many things to be discussed and, hopefully, by the end of this article you’ll have all your questions answered.
However, we must first get some other things clear to better understand the nature of duplicate content. Then we will analyze different scenarios and give solutions for each and every one of them.
2. How Google Handles Duplicate Content
There’s a lot of content out there in the world. Compared to that, Google knows only about a small part of it. To be able to truly say if the content on your site has been copied, Google would have to know every piece of paper that has ever been written, which is impossible.
When you publish something on your website, it takes a while for Google to crawl and index it. If your site is popular and you publish content often, Google will crawl it more often. This means it can index the content sooner.
If you publish rarely, Google will probably not crawl your site so often and it might not index the content very quickly. Once a piece of content is indexed, Google can then relate other content to it to see if it’s duplicate or not.
The date of the index is a good reference source for which content was the original version.
So what happens when Google identifies a piece of content as duplicate? Well, it has 2 choices:
Display it: Yes, Google might choose to display duplicate content in its search results if it finds it to be actually relevant to a user. A good example might be news publications making the same statements over and over again when something happens.
Don’t display it: Google throws your content into something often called Google Omitted Results. If you SPAM the web all the time, it might even consider not indexing your site anymore.
3. The Myth of the Duplicate Content Penalty
Will you be penalized for duplicate content? No.
Is duplicate content hurting your site? Well, that’s another story.
Because Google doesn’t like duplicate content very much, people have assumed that it’s a bad practice which gets punished by Google. With a Penalty!
Despite popular belief and although content duplicate does cause issues, there’s no such thing as a duplicate content penalty!
At least not in the same way that we have other penalties, be them manual or algorithmic. Or, at least that’s what Gary Illyes said in a tweet.
DYK Google doesn’t have a duplicate content penalty, but having many URLs serving the same content burns crawl budget and may dilute signals pic.twitter.com/3sW4PU8hTi
“In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.” – Google
So while there’s no duplicate content penalty, if you ‘try to manipulate search results’ you might end up losing rankings or even getting deindexed. Here’s Google at its best again, contradicting itself, at least a little bit.
However, I tend to take Gary’s word for granted. Duplicate content isn’t something that you should avoid just because Google might hit you in the head. Also, Google won’t hit you just because you have duplicate content.
It’s a different story with those who use content scrapers, deliberately steal content and try to get it ranked or use mass content syndication only for links. It’s not only about content duplication but actually about stealing content and filling the internet up with garbage.
The fact that there’s just so much ‘innocent’ duplicate content out there makes it even harder for Google to detect the evil-doers with a 100% success rate.
But even though Google won’t penalize you, it doesn’t mean that duplicate content can’t affect your website in a negative way.
Talking about duplicate content penalties, here’s what is written in the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines from March 2017:
The Lowest rating is appropriate if all or almost all of the MC (main content) on the page is copied with little or no time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users. Such pages should be rated Lowest, even if the page assigns credit for the content to another source.
Also, you can check out the video below where Andrey Lipattsev, senior Google search quality strategist, repeated and said content duplication penalty doesn’t exist and also that:
Google rewards unique content and correlates it with added value;
The duplicate content is filtered;
Google wants to find new content and duplicates slows the search engine down;
If you want Google to quickly discover your new content, you should send XML sitemaps;
What the search engine wants us to do is to concentrate signals in canonical documents, and optimize those canonical pages so they are better for users;
It is not duplicate content that is hurting your ranking, but the lack of unique content.
4. Why Doesn’t Google Like Duplicate & Very Similar Content?
Well, the answer to that is very simple:
When you search something on Google, would you like to see the exact same thing 10 times? Of course not! You want different products, so that you may choose. You want different opinions, so that you can form your own.
Google wants to avoid SPAM and useless overload of its index and servers. It wants to serve its users the best content.
As a general rule of thumb, Google tries to display only 1 version of the same content.
However, sometimes, Google fails to do this and multiple or very similar versions of the same pages, many times even from the exact same website get shown.
For example, in Romania, the biggest eCommerce website, eMAG, generates pages dynamically from nearly all the searches that happen on their site. In the following image, you can see 3 top listings for keyword, keyword plural and keyword + preposition. All of these were searched internally on eMAG’s website so they automatically generated these pages and sent them to the index.
Romanian site featuring 3 duplicate pages in Google search for “damasc bed linen”
You can see the titles & descriptions are very similar and the content on those pages is identical.
Now this is a very smart move from this eCommerce site. Normally, Google shouldn’t allow this to happen. Multiple complaints are emerging in the Romanian eComm community regarding this issue but it seems to keep going (some requests even reached John Mueller).
Although I highly doubt it, it is possible that those results are actually the most relevant. But this doesn’t happen for every keyword out there. Some keyword searches are unique and, most of the time, Google only displays one page from eMAG’s website on the first page.
In my opinion, although this site could canonicalize these versions to a single page, it’s not their fault that they get 3 top listings. It’s Google’s job to rank the pages, not theirs.
This is a classic example of duplicate content issue. From a user’s perspective, this might not be a very good thing. Maybe the user wants to see other websites. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience with the site in the past. Maybe they just want to see if it’s cheaper somewhere else.
Google is still trying to figure out ways to detect when this is an issue and when not. It’s not quite there, but it’s getting better and better.
I’ve encountered some queries where the first 3 pages were all occupied by eMAG results. I can tell you, it’s a scary sight! I highly doubt that they were the only ones selling that type of product, because eMAG is actually a retailer. They sell other people’s products and most of them have their own websites.
5. How Much Copy/Paste Is Considered Duplicate Content (What About Quotes?)
According to Matt Cutts, about 25-30% of the entire internet is made up of duplicate content. That figure might have changed in recent years, since the video is pretty old. Considering the expansion of the internet and the growing number of new websites (especially eCommerce ones, where content duplication is thriving), it has likely increased.
How does Google handle duplicate content? - YouTube
So what we get from the video above is that not all duplicate content is bad. Sometimes people quote other people for a reason. They bring quality to their content by doing that and it isn’t something bad.
In essence, think about it like this:
Duplicate content is when content is identical or very similar to the original source.
Now of course, very similar can be interpreted. But that’s not the point. If you’re thinking about these numbers, then you’re obviously up to something bad. If you’ve contemplated deliberately copying/stealing some content to claim it as your own, then it’s duplicate content. You can also get into legal copyright issues.
A popular type of duplicate content that is harmless are eCommerce sites product descriptions.
Either because they’re lazy or they have so many products to list, eCommerce sites owners and editors simply copy paste product descriptions. This creates a ton of duplicate content, but users might like to still see it on the web because of different prices or services quality.
What ultimately sells a product though is its copy. So don’t just list a bunch of technical specifications. Write a story that sells.
Many eCommerce website owners are complaining that other websites are stealing their description content. As long as they don’t outrank you, I’d see it as a good thing. If they outrank you, simply sue them due to copyright. However, make sure that you have an actual basis on which you can sue them. Some technical product specifications aren’t enough.
Another one is boilerplate content. Boilerplate content is content that repeats itself over and over again on multiple pages, such as the header, navigation, footer and sidebar content.
As long as you’re not trying to steal someone else’s content without their permission and claim it as your own, you’re mostly fine with using quotes or rewriting some phrases. However, if your page has 70-80% similarity and you only replace some verbs and subjects with synonyms… that’s not actually quoting.
Did You Know
Google Search Console no longer allows you to see your duplicate content issues. Some time ago, this was possible, but Google ‘let go’ of this old feature.
So how can you know if you have duplicate content issues?
You can use the cognitiveSEO Site Audit Tool for that. The tool has a special section for that, where it automatically identifies any duplicate content issues. Therefore, you can quickly take a look at your duplicate pages, duplicate titles, descriptions, etc.
More than that, the tool has a section that identifies near duplicate pages and tells you the level of similarity between them.
6. The Problems Caused by Duplicate Content
As Gary Illyes pointed above, some of the actual issues caused by duplicate content is that it burns up crawl budget (that especially happens to big sites) and it dilutes link equity, because people will be linking to different pages which hold the same content.
6.1 Burning Crawl Budget
Google has to spend a lot of resources to crawl your website. This includes servers, personnel, internet and electricity bills and many other costs. Although Google’s resources seem unlimited (and probably are), the crawler does stop at some point if a website is very, very big.
If Google crawls your pages and keeps finding the same thing over and over again, it will ‘get bored’ and stop crawling your site.
This might leave important pages uncrawled, so new content or changes might be ignored. Make sure all of your most important pages are crawled and indexed by reducing the number of irrelevant pages your site is feeding to Google.
Since duplicate content is usually generated by dynamic URLs from search filters, it ends up being duplicated not once, but thousands of times, depending on how many filter combinations there are.
One example is the one I gave above with eMAG. In reality, Google filtered a lot more results as doing a search for site:emag.ro + the keyword returns over 40.000 results. Many of those are probably very similar and some might be identical. For example, another variation is keyword + white. However, the landing page doesn’t only list white items, which makes it also irrelevant.
6.2 Link signal dilution
When you get backlinks, they point to a specific URL. That URL gets stronger and stronger the more links it gets. However…
If you have 10 versions of the same page and people can access all of them, different websites might link to different versions of that page.
While this is still helpful for your domain overall, it might not be the best solution for your website or for specific, important pages that you want to rank high.
We’ll talk soon about this issue, what causes it and how to fix it.
6.3 SEO Friendly URLs
The URL examples I gave above are rather search engine optimization friendly, but some filters might not look so friendly. We all know Google recommends..
Call it as you want: plug-in, extension or add-on, its purpose remains the same: to make whatever software you are using more feature-rich. There are a lot of great plug-ins, but the ones we’re going to focus on are the plug-ins that will enhance your SEO efforts.
We’re not going to get terribly technical so enjoy checking the plugins below and use the ones that fit you best.
Along the years, we’ve searched, tested and tried lots of plugins. The following SEO plugins will surely help you achieve better SEO results but you need to choose the right ones for you.
If you know any other SEO plugins that should be listed here, please let us know in the comments section below.
SEO Yoast is probably one of the most used and most popular WordPress SEO plugins being installed by over five million websites. One of the best features of SEO Yoast is the XML sitemap management which allows you to easily create your sitemaps. You don’t have to code and then fix it if something is not working so you avoid any of the headaches.
For content lovers, there’s the content optimization snippet preview which allows you to add your keyword, meta description and meta title to preview them as they appear on search. Besides that, you get tips and indications whether your content needs more on-site optimization, or de-optimization in case of keyword stuffing.
Moreover, Yoast SEO helps you identify and avoid duplicate content so you don’t get penalized by Google.
2. SEO Framework
SEO Framework is another great plugin for small businesses rather than big companies. The interface looks like it’s integrated into WordPress, so it delivers fast SEO solutions and it’s time efficient, leaving no room for errors. Not to mention that interacting with it feels very natural.
The fact that it has an AI built makes it very interesting and it automatically optimizes your pages. That way, it gives you lots of possibilities to create a better website. It comes preconfigured but also gives you the option to change any settings you want. You can improve the search results and the social presence with SEO Framework.
3. Broken Link Checker
In the WordPress plugins gallery, there are a lot of options for all sorts of issues and problems that you have for your website and Broken Link Checker is another example. The plugin, as the name point out, checks your broken links.
After you have installed it, the plugin will parse your whole website and show you how many broken links you have, similar to the screenshot above. You can find the list of broken links in a new tab of the WP admin panel – Tools -> Broken Links. Whenever you find broken links, there are some actions you can take: Edit link, Unlink, Not broken, Dismiss.
4. All in One Schema Rich Snippets
All In One Schema Rich Snippets can be used to improve the appearance in search engine results with rich snippets. The plugin can be used at its best for schema implementations, such as Recipes, Events, People, Products, Articles and so on.
Using the plugin will give more accurate information to the search engines about your website, help your results stand out in SERP and give you a competitive advantage.
5. Rank Math
Rank Math is a free WordPress plugin that has lots of cool features for every business. It is developed by MyThemeShop, one of the most famous WordPress theme providers. This WordPress SEO plugin helps you optimize your content and outrank your competitors. One of the coolest things is that it supports schema-based themes and also AMP pages.
With Rank Math you can check lots of errors and get a lot of information for your website:
easy setup using the step-by-step installation and configuration wizard;
rank tracking option to follow your keywords positions and LSI keyword integration;
advanced website analysis section to spot any errors that need to be fixed;
a modular framework so you can have complete control of your website;
smart redirection manager;
40 monitor that identifies and fixes any 404 pages;
internal linking management and suggestion;
Google Search Console Integration;
Easy configuration for rich snippets and so many more.
6. XML Sitemap
As the name says it, XML Sitemapwas specially designed to create XML sitemaps that will help search engines to better index your site. It works best with most search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com. The great thing about it is the fact that it notifies all the search engines every time you post new content or update any existing content.
7. All in One SEO Pack
All in One SEO Pack is an easy WordPress plugin for beginners and for small businesses that want to improve their website and increase their rankings, but it also has advanced features and an API for developers.
This WordPress plugin will help you with the following:
XML Sitemap support;
Google AMP support;
Google Analytics Integration;
Webmaster verification options for Google, Bing, and Pinterest;
Automatically generated meta tags;
Built-in API and compatibility with a lot of other plugins;
advanced canonical URLs and many more.
It is one of simple fast and very powerful SEO plugin for the WordPress user. You can find the loads of features that you can easily enable or disable as per required. You can find the premium version adds from this plugin.
SEOPress has lots of features and Jenelia shares some of the most important ones:
Discover your suggestion for your content through Google’s suggestion.
Fine tune with a content analysis tool.
You can track Google event and traffic from the dashboard.
It is very easy to create and manage 301, 302 and 307 redirects.
You will be able to check the performance of your site with Google page speed.
It allows you to implement Google structured data, such as product, article, event, local business, review, video, course, recipe and so on.
9. SEO Suite Ultimate
SEO Suite Ultimate extension is a comprehensive solution for Magento websites that want to improve their rankings and traffic. Plus it offers support for features that are not a part of the default Magento setup. It is installed by the team of experts from the plugin.
Enriched with lots of features to offer a valuable user experience, the SEO extension is developed taking into consideration lots of advantages:
automated SEO templates for product and category pages to make it easier for the user to add information.
solve duplicate content issues.
easily implement hreflang tags for any language and regional URLs.
add rich snippets in SERP to let search engines understand your pages better.
correct 301 implementation.
customize XML sitemaps and more.
10. Free Magento SEO by Creare
CreareSEOextension was created for Magento to help users solve their SEO problems by using a set of smart tools designed for them.
The Magento SEO plugin helps with:
store management: the extension will add an SEO checklist page to your store admin so you can see if they are configured correctly.
duplicate content: information to prevent it.
structured data: the platform will show you breadcrumbs, store information and social media channels.
metadata templates for product, category page titles and description.
Google integrations: you’ll get a list of Google services that are not integrated into your Magento 2 platform.
11. SEO Suite
SEO Suite is a free extension designed by Emipro Technologies. The plugin spots any aspects that need to be fixed, such as duplicate content issues allowing you to manage dynamic templates, improve indexation and even help you out with internal linking.
It solves the most important features and has lots of benefits such as:
Add rel=next/prev tag.
Add canonical tag for domain, image alt tag, advanced metadata.
Manage Twitter cards and Facebook Opengraph tags.
Create friendly URLs.
Add advanced breadcrumbs.
Use Adwords and Analytics integration.
Create XML sitemap.
Check missing meta tags.
Multiple store support and more.
12. Canonical URLs Magento Extension by FME Addons
Magento Canonical URLs is a free extension that adds ‘rel’ canonical URL to the head of your web pages and also manually sets custom canonical links for products. The extension helps the search engines select the most relevant pages for specific searches.
Plus, it helps you detect and fix duplicate content issues and it provides correct URL from databases for your CMS pages.
13. Advanced SEO by Activo
Advanced SEO by Activo is an SEO plugin for Magento 2 that adds the Organization schema.org rich snippet to the homepage of your store. We all know how critical it is to have an SEO advantage in your store so the plugin brings a lot of features to improve your store ranking and visibility.
There’s nothing too complicated, the extension guides you and it’s a great fit for your online store.
14. Advanced Sitemap
The Advanced Sitemap is an SEO plugin designed for Magento 1. There’s also an option for Magento 2, named Ultimate SEO Optimizer. Advanced Sitemap, as the name says it, is an extension that generates the sitemap automatically. It is very simple, you’ll have to install it and then generate how many Sitemaps you’d like.
It has lots of customizations included, which allows you to set the priority and the frequency for each field, even for homepage, to set the title for sitemap, to add more links to the sitemap plus many others.
15. SEO Generator
SEO-Generator is an SEO plugin for Joomla that generates keywords and descriptions for your webpages by pulling text from the title and/or the content. The plugin has an effective system to include the keyword and description in the articles. It requires you to review them and add only those that you want.
In the admin mode, on the right side of the article, you’ll see a section placed under “Metadata Information”, named “Plugin Parameter” where you get keyword ideas. In the screenshot below there’s an example.
SEO Generator for has lots of advantages for websites created on Joomla. It has support on lots of languages, making it very accessible for lots of international businesses. The process of curating keywords has three steps:
It analyzes all the content from an article and generates a list of keywords ordered by their time of appearance.
Then, it removes all the keywords from the list that might have a negative influence and puts them on the blacklist.
In the end, it selects the keywords and adds them into the keyword section.
Another cool advantage of the plugin is the fact that it works in a reversible mood, too. For example, you can generate keywords for older articles.
We’re back with a new guest for our cognitiveSEO Talks series, Gerry White, an SEO expert with broad knowledge in analytics, digital and search marketing strategy, social marketing and a lot more. With almost 20 year experience in digital, Gerry is a technical marketing consultant that has worked with companies such as BBC, McDonald’s, Gordon Ramsey, Premier Inn or DirectGov. Gerry has been creating, promoting and analyzing websites and more recently apps for companies across the world and he is also a speaker on international conferences. At the moment he is working at Just Eat.
Is Relevance the Most Important Google Factor with Gerry White - cognitiveSEO Talks - YouTube
Working with so many companies and big-name brands, Gerry acknowledged a vast experience. As Gerry mentioned in the cognitiveSEO talks, he’s always testing and does case studies on the go. For him and his team, it is very important to offer the user a great experience and always look at all the different ways people are navigating a site. He gives a rule of a thumb:
Everything has to be super simple with site architecture. The bigger the sites, the more complicated things are. You need to make sure the SEO basics are right.
In his spare time, Gerry helps organize the TakeItOffline digital round tables with businesses, consultants and agencies. You should listen to this interview with Gerry White as you’ll get lots of insights and tips for creating better websites and make them loved by the user and Google. We wouldn’t want to spoil the talk for you so go ahead and discover it yourself.
Improving the title tag will have a significant impact on SERP.
The biggest challenges in scaling your SEO efforts;
How Gerry White uses testing for his clients;
Strategies for increasing your rankings;
Google Tag Manager Pros and Cons;
What ranking factors still matter in 2019;
The importance of relevance in Google rankings;
The impact of anchor texts as a spam signal for Google;
The importance of sitemaps;
Most valuable SEO techniques used by Gerry White.
Top 10 Marketing Nuggets:
The larger the website, the more things like crawl budget are absolutely critical. 4:12
Every couple of quarters we look at all the different way people are navigating our sites. 8:43
Keyword research is one of those things that every SEO person hates to do. But it is a critical part of the job. We are using Data Studio to helps with this and it is one of the most valuable tips for business owners. 9:09
For keyword research, we are using relevancy and the good-old-fashioned keyword volume as our main metrics. 9:39
Google tries to interpret every query and optimize the results based on your search. 12:55
Brand search can impact a website’s rankings. I think traffic alone doesn’t have a direct influence in rankings. 14:33
Google is still using link architecture as a key ranking signal. 16:27
In order to rank well for a particular page, you don’t need to have a minimum number of keywords for a piece of content, but you do need to have enough keywords to show intent and relevance. 18:18
Putting images in the sitemap is a quick win. 22:59
If you’re just getting started with SEO, I’m pretty confident you’re looking to get everything for free. While that’s not always possible, the truth is that there are a lot of great free SEO Tools out there.
To be honest, there are free tools that even the pros use every single day. And that’s happening for a good reason: some free SEO tools are great.
This list isn’t the most comprehensive one and it doesn’t list every free tools out there, but it captures a little bit of everything that is necessary in daily SEO tasks.
P.S. It’s impossible for me to get them all, so if you know any Free SEO Tools that deserve to make it in this list, please share them in the comments section at the end.
1. Google Tools Suite
No list of SEO Tools should miss Google Analytics. Sure, it’s probably not the most accurate but the truth is that no tool is 100% accurate. In fact, Google has an entire suite of tools you can use for free.
Are you bored of tracking codes? Using multiple tools is always a hassle when you implement them. If you want to remove one, you have to go through plugins or templates. Maybe you forgot which plugin you’ve used to add the tracking code or which template contains the scripts.
Well, with GTM you won’t have this issue anymore. You can have them all in one place to enable and disable them at your will. It does exactly what it says: it manages HTML tags which contain tracking codes or scripts.
You can add your Analytics code there. It supports a variety of Google Tools as well as custom scripts to add external tracking codes, such as Facebook Pixel.
I’m not going to tell you how to install it, but there are hundreds of tutorials out there so go watch one. Here’s a good one:
How to install Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager (2017) - YouTube
1.2 Google Analytics
No website should miss out on Google Analytics. While not the most accurate tool, it’s definitely a ‘good value’ for the huge amount of information it offers and the filtering that it’s capable of doing.
If you don’t use it yet, you should. You can see a lot of things, such as how long your users stay on your pages, if they bounce back to the search results looking for something else or where your traffic is coming from.
You can add it via the Google Tag Manager.
1.3 Google Search Console
The Search Console is something that every SEO should use. Why? Because it tells you whether a page is indexed or not, which is indispensable for every website.
Previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, this free resource also helps you with:
Different technical issues
Keyword & Rank Tracking
If you don’t have the Google Search Console connected to your website yet, then do this as soon as possible. It’s pretty easy to add:
How to Add Your WordPress Site to Google Search Console - YouTube
1.4 PageSpeed Insights
PageSpeed Insights is a great tool which will help you quickly identify the most vital issues your site is facing regarding speed.
However, don’t take the score there for granted. A website might have a low score but still load very fast, which is what actually matters.
In fact, the PageSpeed Insights tool even lowers the score for using external scripts such as Tag Manager, Analytics or Google Fonts. To avoid that, you would have to host them locally, which is both unpractical and risky and Google doesn’t recommend it.
That score isn’t in any way related to your SEO performance and getting it to 100/100 won’t guarantee you higher rankings. However, it will help you identify some issues that might be lurking in your website.
This is just a 1 page check so make sure you don’t check just the Homepage. Now you can’t stay and check every page out there, but you can at least check one category page, one product and one blog post, just to test each important page template.
If you want to check the pages in bulk, you can use the CognitiveSEO Site Audit Tool. It will check every page, but be prepared, it’s going to take a while!
1.5 Mobile Friendly Tool
The Google Mobile-Friendly tool is really useful because it helps you confirm if Google itself sees your website as mobile friendly. Why is it so important that your website is mobile friendly?
Well, for once because Google has run a mobile first index since 2018. However, what’s more important is that more than 50% of users now search the web using their mobile phones. That number is going to rise.
So, make sure your site is mobile friendly, otherwise you’ll be losing a lot of visitors and definitely some rankings.
1.6 Google Alerts
Getting backlinks is hard. But you know what’s harder? It’s getting backlinks from relevant websites.
Now Google Alerts can’t do the outreach for you, but it can alert you when something new about a topic gets published on the web. So, if I write this article about free SEO tools and you use ‘free seo tools’ as a keyword in Google Alerts, you’ll get notified when my article gets indexed by Google.
You receive the notifications via e-mail. You can create multiple alerts. Make sure to create a filter, so that they don’t flood your inbox.
You can also use this to monitor your brand. This is very useful for building relationships and even links. If someone mentions you without giving a link, you can reach out and ask them for one.
However, we’ve found that Alerts doesn’t always get everything. So we’ve built our own tool: BrandMentions. You should check it out!
1.7 Google Trends
Google Trends is a great tool that will show you whether the interest in a particular topic is growing or falling.
This might be helpful when working on a new niche site. Maybe you think your idea is really cool, but if the interest suddenly declined, maybe you should do some more research to see if it’s worth it on the long run.
You can also use it to see if interest in your brand is growing or not. Google wants to reward Branded sites, because they are more trustworthy. You can also compare your brand with other brands to see the difference.
Google autosuggest isn’t actually a tool, but a feature which everyone uses every day when searching on Google, including yourself.
However, if you want to look for some new keyword ideas for which you can write awesome content, then it’s a good start. Just type a seed keyword there and Google will suggest you what other people generally search. Keep in mind that searches might be personalized, so it’s a good idea to do this in Icognito.
Keyword Shitter: If you want something that will quickly generate all those ideas you can try Keyword Shitter. Yeah, I know. It’s really called that.
Another cool thing you can do is scroll to the bottom of a search result to see some related keywords. You can use those keywords in your article to make it more relevant to the main keyword you searched for.
However, if you want a list of the most important keywords that you should include in your article to make it more relevant and help it rank better, you can try the CognitiveSEO Keyword Tool.
1.9 Google Keyword Planner
I was actually going to skip the Google Keyword Planner but decided to add it in the end. The reason why I don’t really feel like adding the Keyword Planner is because it’s an Adwords centered tool. It also doesn’t give as much data as it used to give… except if you pay for Ads. Then it will give you more data.
The truth is I have a better keyword tool for you, but it’s lower in the article, so keep reading.
2. CloudFlare Free SSL
In a world where security is becoming more and more important, having an SSL Certificate is indispensable. Your website should be secured, no matter what you’re doing with it.
Back in the day, SSL Certificates weren’t all that easy to get. Today however, with tools like CloudFlare, you can secure your website easily.
Image source: cloudflare.com
All you have to do is set up an account and have access to your domain registrar. You’ll have to add your host nameservers to CloudFlare, then point your Domain Registrar to CloudFlare’s nameservers. They will act as an intermediary, protecting your website from attacks and also adding SSL.
If you’re going to make the switch, make sure you check out our http to https migration guide. You don’t want to end up messing up all your rankings!
3. Chrome Extensions
If you use Chrome as your default browser, you can use these extensions to aid you in your SEO journey.
3.1 WooRank SEO Analysis
WooRank will analyze your website from a technical point of view, highlighting the most important issues that you should fix.
It works both as a Chrome Extension and on their website.
3.2 Keywords Everywhere
Keywords Everywhere is an extension that you must have! This tool might be a little invasive since it literally shows everywhere, but you can easily turn it off from the extension’s shortcut (top right in Chrome).
3.3 SEO Minion
I’m not sure how this happened, but in the screenshot above you can see an ad saying “This chrome ext is better than Keywords Everywhere”.
Well, I’m not sure if it’s better or more useful, because it does different things, but this SEO Minion extension is actually useful, so I’m going to feature it here as well.
4. SEOmofo Snippet Optimizer
SEOmofo Snippet Optimizer will help you creating titles and meta descriptions. You can either create new ones directly there or check old ones to see if they’re ok.
There are a lot of alternatives here… but this is the one I use. It’s the first I found years ago and I still use it.
However, it appears that the tool works counting characters, but from what we know, Google uses pixels instead. You can use Serpsim instead as a pixel based alternative.
5. GT Metrix
GT Metrix is an alternative to PageSpeed Insights. It does pretty much the same thing, telling you which images aren’t optimized, if you have caching problems, if you minify your CSS, etc. I often have the impression that GT Metrix does a better job.
Focus on the following: Fully loaded time, Total Page Size and No. of Requests. Keep them all low. Another tip is that if you register, you’ll wait less for a page to be analyzed.
It’s interesting for me to see that even experienced SEO specialists forget about the power of internal linking. As backlinks from other websites become harder and harder to obtain (because people focus on the wrong techniques), using an internal linking strategy with the right combination of anchor texts can bring great SEO results.
But what makes a good internal linking strategy? Well, the answer varies from site to site but, generally, it’s the foundation that matters. Build it right from the start and understand the basic concepts and you’ll be set for having a good internal linking structure forever.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know, so keep reading!
What Is Internal Linking & Why Is It Important for SEO?
Internal links are just like backlinks, but within your own website. They are links that go from one page on a web domain to another page on the same domain. They are most commonly observed in navigation menus, sidebars and footers, but also within the article body.
Search Engines look at a lot of things when they are trying to determine which pages they should rank. One of the things it looks at are internal links.
Through internal linking your website vouches for your own pages. I know, it’s kind of narcissistic, but it’s really helpful for search engines and SEO!
If we go after the same rules as in off-page SEO, namely that a page with more backlinks is more valuable in the eyes of other sites, in on-page SEO a page with more internal links is more valuable in the eyes of your own website.
So if you said “My eyes are beautiful 252 times per day” and “My nose is beautiful 9 times per day” people would naturally figure out that you REALLY like your eyes and that they’re very important to you.
But enough about how pretty I am, let’s get back to serious stuff!
How Does Google Treat Internal Links?
Generally, it’s enough to just do internal linking in order to benefit from it. That’s because many people ignore it completely! However, it’s important to understand exactly how Google treats internal links if you really want to take advantage of them.
PageRank, although it sounds ancient, is still used. So when you link to a page from another page, be it internally or externally, you pass PageRank. It’s Google’s score for… ranking pages (actually, I think Larry Page really wanted his name in one of the algorithms).
Larry Page (Google co-founder). Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
When you add more than one link, the PageRank splits evenly. This means that if, hypothetically, the PR score was 100 and you added 3 external links, each would get a score of 33.3.
The way Page Rank works has changed over time. Normally, a while ago, people would ‘sculpt’ Page Rank by using rel=”nofollow” tags. This meant that you could link to 50 pages but only follow one link to pass the entire equity to it. However, when you use a nofollow tag today, that PageRank will vanish, so you won’t win anything.
The PR algorithm is complicate, but it’s important to understand that it doesn’t only apply to backlinks, but also to internal links.
In one of my last articles I mentioned how you can create really strong pages by linking them in boilerplate content.
However, as Nikola Roza mentioned in a comment, you should take note that only the first link’s anchor text is taken into account by Google.
This is very important when thinking your internal linking structure, especially if you’re trying to rank for multiple keywords.
For example, it doesn’t really matter that I link to the domain analysis tool under a different anchor text now, because the navigation already links to it under the anchor text “Site Explorer” in the navigation section.
Don’t take this assumption for granted though! Many tests have been made and Google officials ‘kinda confirmed this, but as of today we aren’t really sure if that’s still the case.
In SEO, things might change over time. The truth is that it’s hard to believe Google only takes the first anchor text into account, especially because Google keeps endorsing the contextual links found in the body. However, it’s safer to assume at this point that the first link is the one that matters, so make sure you use the most valuable anchor text if you plan on adding important pages to your Navigation.
Quick Tip 1: If you want to avoid that, you can just link to a general services page (without any drop-downs to separate services) where you can then list each service and link to its specific page.
Quick Tip 2: If you do link to your important pages in the navigation section, consider diversifying your off-site links (backlinks) anchor texts in order to target multiple phrases. So if you secure a guest post, don’t link back to your article always using the same anchor text as in the navigation (although you should use it from time to time as well).
If you want to check your internal links’ anchor text distribution, the CognitiveSEO Site Audit makes it really easy. Just go to the Site Architecture section > Linking Structure and then go to Anchor Text Distribution. Make sure to view the Internal Links.
Link Location / Position
Google treats links differently depending on where they are located on the website. From what we know, Google values contextual links in the body of the page more.
It’s also important that the link is positioned higher in the content (but not necessarily in the Header section).
What also matters when you interlink between your pages is the click depth. If a page is only found 27 level deep in your website, there are big chances that Google will consider it less important.
The Site Audit makes it really easy for you to see the click depth of your pages in order to spot non-prioritized important pages.
In our case, those are mostly blog pages number 8, which are found 9 clicks away from the homepage. This is normal and those pages aren’t actually important. However, if we found an article there, it means that we probably should interlink it more so that Google can pick it up faster from more recent posts.
A thing that can also help you build a good interlinking strategy is your site URL path structure. We know that shorter URLs tend to rank better in Google.
However, when stuffing all the URLs immediately after the root domain, it’s harder to see the bigger picture when you’re trying to segment sections of your website.
Having a root only URL structure might work well for a blog, but having a hierarchy in your URL path might be more helpful for an eCommerce site.
Broken Links & Orphan Pages
A very important thing regarding your internal linking structure is taking care of your broken links & orphan pages.
Broken Links are actually 404 pages. They can be easily fixed by replacing them or by using 301 redirects. The CognitiveSEO Site Audit makes it easy to identify your broken links and resources:
Google doesn’t like broken links & pages because it sends users to an unsatisfying location.
Oprhan Pages are pages that aren’t linked to from anywhere in the site. The CognitiveSEO Tools can also help you find some orphan pages:
However, the truth is that it’s impossible to identify all orphan pages on a site because… there are no links to them. Usually, there might sometimes be backlinks to them pointing to other sites (but no internal links) or they might be in the sitemap but not in the site structure.
Types of Internal Links
There are multiple types of internal links that you can use when improving your interlinking structure.
Contextual links are the most important ones. They are hyperlinks found in a <a> tag which wraps around a relevant anchor text.
So in HTML it would look like this: <a href=”https://cognitiveseo.com”>SEO Tools</a> and in the article itself it would look like this: SEO Tools.
When using contextual links to interlink between your articles, make sure you include keywords in your anchors, to tell Google what the link is about. However, don’t use that as your main focus. The purpose of a link is to be clicked on! Try to get the user to click your link.
Image links are pretty simple to understand. You click an image it’s’ going to take you to a link. Here’s an example. Click it and it will take you somewhere nice.
The general consensus is that contextual links have greater value than image links. I agree. I rarely click on images to go to another article or read about something. I actually expect the image to enlarge if I’m clicking it so that I may view it better.
However, despite being less valuable, image links hide an important technique which you can take advantage of!
You see, the problem with contextual links is that you can’t really use the anchor texts exactly as you want. Sometimes, the queries people use don’t have verbs or don’t really make sense. Or the keyword you want to target might simply not fit in your sentence.
Well, in case you can’t fit your desired anchor text anywhere in your content, you can definitely use the keyword in the image alt tag, which will be viewed as an anchor text. This is also a good way of adding hard to write keywords into your content, even without links.
I’m not necessarily recommending image links and definitely not recommending exploiting alt tags. Try to keep things useful and relevant.
However, keep in mind that blind people might get a bad experience because content readers often use image alt tags to describe an image. You can save your soul by at least describing the image in the image title tag, which content readers might also pick up.
Navigational & Footer Links
Navigational links mainly refer to the structure of the site, since they are kept within lists (<ul> & <li> tags). Make sure you structure you site.
Regarding footer links, the main rule would be not to spam too much. People have a bad habit of doing that.
Also, footer links don’t always have to be the same on every page! Kayak.com uses footer links to its advantage in the car rental section. You can see some cities in the following screenshot. However, those will change depending on the page the user is viewing, to show only the closest or most relevant cities.
The same criterion goes for the sidebars. Use them to your advantage, but don’t abuse spamming all your categories in there. Only the most important ones or the most relevant to the current page the user is viewing.
If you like to live your life on the edge… you might think it’s a way of bypassing the “first link priority”. Well… I haven’t tested this so I can’t say for sure, but what I know is that links placed after a nofollow link to the same page will be ignored as well. Also, it’s sneaky and can get you into trouble.
Internal Linking Strategy
Developing a long term interlinking strategy is important because as your site grows, you have to make sure Google is able to find the pages easily.
The best internal linking strategy is to do internal linking.
Note that the following statement applies generally, not only for blogs and informational sites. It’s a foundation for any other strategy.
However, there are more specific cases in which different strategies work better. These are actually entire topics for other articles, but I’ll touch them briefly.
Blogs & Informational Sites
After following the boilerplate content tips mentioned above, the rest is pretty simple:
When you write new articles, always link to old ones. After you finish writing new ones, edit old ones and link to the new one.
Interlink between articles only when relevant and remember to use the proper anchor text.
The secret here is to create a habit of doing this. Without a habit, you’re always going to be frustrated. The truth is I don’t always edit old articles to interlink to the new ones I post, but I remember to do it when I update old articles, as it’s a habit.
eCommerce & Other
When your site is big and it has thousands of pages, things aren’t that easy. You can’t add all the pages in the Navigation.
A good strategy I always recommend for eCommerce website (which few actually do) is having a blog. This will not only enable the site to target more keywords as more content gets published, but it also opens the opportunity to link to subcategories product pages that don’t fit in the navigation as well.
Take advantage of Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs are a great way of strengthening more important pages such as category pages. Why? Because each subcategory will link to its parent, but not to its child.
Considering the following pattern, you can see how the Category page is linked to 4 times, while the product page only one time. Naturally, I’ll assume that in most cases, the Category page is the most important page, targeting a broader and more competitive keyword, which is the main anchor text used in the internal linking strategy.
Home > Category > Subcategory > Sub Subcategory > Product
Home > Category > Subcategory > Sub Subcategory
Home > Category > Subcategory
Home > Category
Moreover, it’s very important to correctly implement canonical tags on your pages, because parameters & search filters also often create links which can leak if the canonical tag isn’t properly set.
Furthermore, consider using dynamic footer links depending on your categories instead of just using the same footer links on every page. Is the user on the Guitars page? Link to Effect Pedals in the footer. Is the user in the Drum Kits section? Link to Drum Sticks.
Having an internal linking strategy is crucial when you have a huge website, with hundreds of thousands of posts, products, categories and pages.
However, when your site is smaller, you shouldn’t stress too much over it.
If you have a small services website, internal linking shouldn’t really be an issue. Google will be able to crawl 25-50 pages pretty easily.
What you should focus on is developing a content strategy that will expand your website. Keep using the general rule of “just interlink”.
Silos & Topic Clusters
There’s one point I still want to touch in this article. There are two main ways of building sites. You can either structure them hierarchically (silo) or use topic clusters, which are very useful for informational sites and blogs.
A silo structure site looks something like this:
This works really well for services websites & eCommerce sites. Then you have topic clusters which look something like this:
Relationship marketing is important in every business. Clients keep your business running. Getting them is one thing, but keeping them is a whole different story.
Customer loyalty can ensure a strong long-term relationship with your clients. Having the right tools to manage them and deliver what they need can lead you into that direction. We think that business success relies on the number of satisfied customers, plus other ingredients that make the strategy “spicier” – more elaborated and powerful.
Check out these effective relationship marketing strategies to maintain, engage and convert your clients.
Before you start building a relationship marketing strategy, you need to know your audience to connect with it. If you’re struggling to figure out your niche, you can follow the following instructions:
Identify your interests, what you’re good at and what you sell. It is important to know your skills very well, as well as your products or services.
Identify what problem you can solve, whether there’s a market for your niche and if your services can help the user.
Research your competition and see what they’re doing, what they are promoting and what their asset is.
Test your niche.
Your clients are an important asset to your business; they make your business work. Your business will exist as long as you have clients. More benefits come from your loyal customers because they continue to bring monetary value to the company. You need to maintain your customers engaged to keep them loyal.
Loyal customers need attention to keep their engagement rate high. According to Experience Matters, loyal customers are 5x as likely to repurchase, 5x as likely to forgive, 4x as likely to refer, and 7x as likely to try a new offering. Loyal customers are more likely to create customer lifetime value (CLV).
2. Build a Great Customer Service Team
It all starts with building a team to execute quality experience. Helping your customers understand the value of your services is highly important. You need to help them learn your services by making it easier. It’s just like in UX design, the users have a path and your website should follow that path. The picture below is a good representation:
As we all probably already know, UX is very important for SEO, too. Many experts think that UX is crucial in the future of SEO, especially with all the evolution of machine learning technology. And UX goes beyond SEO, your team must see what the user wants, what they need, how your services benefit them and achieve their goal.
Helping customers understand and value your product over your competitors’ is not a sales tactic.
Your support team is in the first line, talking and keeping contact with your customers. Building a great customer service team is number one in developing relationship marketing. Promote a customer-centric policy to your team and try to engage them in providing high customer support services. Your team should know how to deal with both negative and positive situations and offer satisfaction to the user.
3. Create Customer Service Q&A Templates
To know how to deal in both negative and positive situations you’ll need a Q&A template, that can be modified depending on the user’s needs. There are lots of companies specialized in all sorts of activities, but every single one of them receives lots of questions about what they do, and how they can help the user. A template offers great support.
There might be cases when the conversations can be nuanced and get a little tricky. That’s why it is good to have a plan: you can get some ideas, keep you out of trouble and please the customer at the same time.
HelpScoutcreated helpful customer service questions and answer template picturing all sorts of situations.
For small businesses, it is easier to talk with customers and you don’t require an elaborated Q&A template. In case you have a SaaS or a business that is more complex, it would be awesome if you had some documentation. It could benefit both your team and your customers for future reference.
There are lots of situations when you don’t need to play by the book, and let the master team do the job. Skyscanner did an amazing job responding to a man who got stuck with a 47-year flight connection:
4. Implement the A.C.A.F. Customer Feedback Loop
Short for Ask, Categorize, Act, and Follow-up, the ACAF Customer Feedback Loop is a business strategy that centers itself on the customer. It has 4 steps:
Ask for customer feedback to see what they need and if their needs are satisfied by your product.
Categorize the feedback. It can be positive or negative, but usually there are 3 main categories: feedback regarding the product, customer service and marketing & sales. You need to see the reasons behind the words.
Act on the feedback: share the feedback with the people in charge.
Follow-up with customers who shared feedback.
Feedback is very important in every business. It helps you evolve and correct the mistakes. Ask for valuable and personal customer feedback from your customers to see what you’re doing right and what’s wrong.
Always thank the customer for the feedback and make them feel appreciated. Not to mention feedback creates innovative opportunities, by hearing what your users need and you could develop in your product.
5. Build a Customer Support Process
Having a plan to provide quality customer support doesn’t require advanced technologies. You need to set up a process: the user sends a message, you need to assign conversations to other people, think about how to engage with the users, how to do the follow-up. After that, think about what to do with the email addresses to send them newsletters or send them special offers.
The customer support process tends to be more complex. You’ll need the following:
the right team, that knows their responsibilities;
a solid plan for dealing with issues;
relevant metrics that need tracking and performance analysis;
the right tools for dealing with customer queries and issues.
If you’re a small or mid-sized business, then you could use some free options. But an enterprise needs more advanced technologies. Having an automated customer support process can ease your work a lot. Practically, it can be a service such a help center or chatbot or any artificial intelligence, which will elaborate more at point 12.
6. Always Improve Customer Experience
Think of this: happy clients that had a good experience will return, unhappy clients that had unsatisfactory experience won’t return and can spread the bad word about the company. Studies show that almost 13% of unhappy clients tell to over 20 people about their bad experience.
Knowing what to say to your customers can be a daunting task. You can always improve your customer experience by providing excellent customer service, quickly offering answers, solutions and trying to maintain a strong relationship with your customers.
It doesn’t really matter if your product or services are impeccable if user experience is shitty. It is highly important to resolve issues when they appear and provide a clean experience on site without any problems and errors.
More than that, you should actively engage customers on social media or blogs. It will strengthen the customer relationship and they can promote your business afterward.
7. Set up Specific Customer Retention Actions
Customer retention shows the companies’ ability to keep their customers for a period of time. A high retention rate means people (users, customers) that continue to bring revenue to the company and buy products.
Studies show that acquiring a new customer, however, is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. Retaining customers is a pretty important thing. Every single person thinks about the benefits they have when choosing a brand, a product or certain services. And the brand must think about how to keep those customers.
There are lots of customer retention strategies you can personalize for your clients to keep and bring ROI, but some of the most profitable are:
social media interaction;
persuade them through newsletters;
keep the highest standard for customer support services;
appreciate your clients;
build loyalty programs.
These actions can be developed into campaigns and create something really interesting depending on your niche and business. These may come in addition to the strategies we’ve elaborated in the whole article to lead you into setting up a more specific customer retention plan.
8. Reward Loyal Customers
Since we’ve mentioned brand loyalty, you must know it is a good strategy for relationship marketing. Customer loyalty works very well and can strengthen the relationship you have with your clients. Basically, a loyalty program shows you care about your customers first. Loyal customers are hard to acquire, but once you got them, it costs the business about 5-25x less to sell to an existing client than to acquire a new customer.
Every business should aspire to customer loyalty. It is a virtue of their existence. There are lots of ideas you could generate by building a loyalty program. You can send the message by email, using an App (if your business has something like that), to the user’s account and so on. It can be a discount, a gift, or something else depending on your creativity. You can also find lots of ways to reward loyal customers in the digital marketing space.
Uber, for example, rewarded Gold members with some interesting perks, not available for all members. The membership levels are Blue (0 points to qualify), Gold (500 points to qualify), Platinum (2500 points to qualify), and Diamond (7500 points to qualify). So, all the member that hit 500 points and join Uber Gold get flexible cancellations that refund your $5 cancellation fee if you rebook within 15 minutes. In addition, members get priority support.
The Platinum and Diamond get a lot more services that make the ride more pleasant, such as:
price protection on a route between two of your favorite places regardless of traffic or surge;
priority pickups at airports;
premium support with a dedicated phone line and fast 24/7 responses;
complimentary upgrade surprises in high-end cars;
no delivery fee for orders and many more.
Loyalty programs can boost your ROI and keep the customers that really matter.
9. Set up a Referral Program
Creating a referral program is born from customer satisfaction. People that are pleased with the services might tell other people about their experience, so why not take advantage of that? Encourage them and don’t leave room for second thoughts. Satisfied customers are willing to make referrals. Those who receive such referrals are more likely to pay attention to them rather than to the brand.
If you got the referrals engaged, then you’ll get some of the best new customers you can get.
If you want, we can set aside our reasons why you should use a referral program, and listen to the studies. R&G Technologies discovered that referral leads convert 30% better than leads generated from other marketing channels. More than that, referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value.
There are lots of businesses that use the referral program. Booking, for example, gives you $15 if you recommend it to a friend. You have to invite your friends by sending them the referral link. They book and stay at the accommodation, then after their stay, you and your friend both get the $15 for the next booking.
Your customers can become true advocates, by connecting and sharing your product with others when they have a good experience. Rewarding a satisfied customer through a referral marketing program doesn’t require so much work, and it can bring lots of benefits for everybody involved.
10. Follow Sales Number and Customer Feedback Metrics
Even if you focus on relationships, you shouldn’t miss..
Regardless if you’re just starting out with SEO, or you’re offering SEO services for a long time, everybody seems to ask you the same thing:
“How long does it take to rank in Google?”
Well, it’s time to understand exactly what factors impact ranking time so you can approximate (after an SEO audit) how long it would take to rank and, if it’s the case, sign a contract with your client accordingly.
This can be a tough one to answer and it might even even prevent you from successfully making the sale. A while ago, I addressed it in the How to Convince Clients for SEO article. The short answer there for was that you can’t really tell how long it will take, because it depends on very many factors, such as budget and competition.
As mentioned before, there are some factors that influence how long it will take until you can successfully rank a page for a keyword.
You can’t really tell how much time it will take to rank until you audit the website. How many keywords does it want to target? What’s the competition for those keywords? What’s the current state of the website? What’s the budget?
These are all factors that affect how quickly a website can get to the top.
Quick tip: One thing I like to do is to offer the Audit for free in case they eventually sign the SEO services contract (for the determined period of time required, which you will find after making the audit). If they then decline, you will only bill the audit. I do this because sometimes an audit can take less than one hour (if the site is small) but it can also take weeks even months (if the site is huge).
Current website performance
The first thing that has to be taken into account is the website itself. If it has issues, they will take time. This doesn’t mean that you can’t start working on keyword research or content creation. You should do that as soon as possible. But if your site isn’t mobile friendly, for example, it just can’t make it to the top these days.
It is worth mentioning that a website which loads slowly and lacks authority will perform worse than a fast site which has lots of quality backlinks.
Technical issues don’t necessarily speed up the ranking process, but it is something most people try to fix first because it’s very important. How are the URLs, canonical tags and hreflang tags? Does the site get indexed well? Is it mobile friendly, or does it need a complete overhaul?
Depending on which technical problems the website has, it can take from 1 month to 1 year, so it’s really hard to estimate.
If you have a bigger budget, you might fix them faster, because you could outsource to multiple people. If not, it will just take more time.
There’s no time here to spend detailing what technical problems could arise and how to fix them, so we’ll just assume that you’ve taken care of them all using our technical SEO guide.
Old / New Website:
Generally speaking, an older website will perform a little better than a new website. This of course, if the site has something useful to provide.
Either way, a website is definitely not trusted by Google when it’s first launched. It could be just another automated SPAM site, or just a really bad website. You’ll need to spend some time getting it to index well, showing Google that it’s well structured and fast and that users like it.
You’ll also have to take into account how long it is going to take to build the website, if it doesn’t exist yet. Is it a small one? Is it a big one? Does it have basic functionalities or is it a complex digital eCommerce store with hard to implement features?
Big / Small Website:
Again, in general, bigger websites tend to perform better. Why? Because it also means they’re probably a little older and chances are they also have backlinks. However, while big websites might rank a page faster than a small site with no authority, it will also take more time to rank all the pages because they are so many.
If you decide to tell your client: “I think we could rank for these keywords in less than a year”, then you would also have to assume you’re going to publish articles for them all the same time, now, which is unlikely to happen.
Current Site Domain Performance:
Domain Performance is critical when trying to see how long it will take to rank. If your website has absolutely no backlinks pointing to it, then it’s probably going to take a lot longer to rank for a target keyword than if you had thousands of (quality) backlinks pointing to it.
If your domain Influence is low and your competitors’ domain influence is high, it’s going to take a lot longer to rank against them.
Now that you’ve established where your website or your client’s website stands at, you can look at your competition. The secret here is to spot opportunities. If you want to establish a long term strategy, I’d focus on creating high level content and target medium to high level competition keywords (be realistic though), while generating short terms profit via PPC.
When you’re looking to rank for a particular keyword, you’ll have to see what type of content is already ranking there.
You can see an average of your targeted keyword’s content performance using the CognitiveSEO Keyword Tool. You can also look at individual pages and see how they perform.
However, it’s not the only thing you should take into account. Is it something ugly? Is it really good looking? What about the information? Is it good? Can you find a gap?
Last but not least, how long is it? Does Google rank short articles, or does it rank “Ultimate Guides” which can be 10000 words long? You can see that in the tool as well, next to each result.
Competitor Domain Performance:
If you’re going against websites that have really strong signals that they’re qualitative (such as Wikipedia), it will take longer than if you go against websites that don’t have a strong link profile.
So, if you see that a results page is full of websites with low domain performance, it’s a good sign you can rank faster than usual. This often happens in local SEO niches, where there are higher chances of small sites being the only ones targeting those keywords.
Again, the Keyword Tool can help you identify if there’s an opportunity. You can see the average by looking at the Keyword Difficulty, which includes a mix of the average content performance and domain performance.
However, it’s also enough to spot a couple of low domain performance websites ranking to know that you can do it as well.
If the top websites don’t target the keywords directly in the title, there are 2 possible reasons:
They are incredibly authoritative (also they probably have backlinks with the keyword as an anchor text) and it will probably be very hard to rank for. If you see that no other ‘smaller’ sites are ranking there, it’s probably a good idea to skip it.
There is no relevant content that directly targets that keyword so you’ll probably rank next thing in the morning.
Budget is really important when trying to determine a website’s ranking time frame. It directs everything, from how fast the technical fixes will be implemented, to how well the content will be written.
Depending on how well or bad a website is optimized, the required technical budget can be small or huge. There might even be situations where the best solution is to rebuild the website from scratch.
This adds budget, but also time. If you have to rebuild a website, you can’t start publishing content right away. It’s better to wait until it’s finished.
For example, I’ve been working with a client which has a custom built website. This was a turnoff for me, because I knew we would run into issues. Not only did it take a lot more time, because the programmers responded slowly and we had to keep chatting to get things right, but it also cost the client more money.
For another client (actually my lowest budget client ever, which was also a very large site but didn’t really want to invest much) things didn’t go so well. They had a pretty serious hreflang content duplication issue which I did not know how to fix (from a programming perspective) and did not want to spend the enormous time required to learn how to do it, especially for that budget.
Screenshot from CognitiveSEO’s Site Audit Tool showing duplicate content issues
Either way, they knew from the beginning what I could do and what I couldn’t and how much effort I was willing to put in for the amount of money they invested.
Content Writing Budget:
Content creation is the most time consuming and expensive part on the long run. However, it’s the best investment you can make. Without content, you won’t have a foundation to play with. You can’t outreach or get links to something that doesn’t exist. Your clients can’t read the article you never published.
If you only have $10 to spend on an article, it’s probably not going to be the best one, at least not in the US market. Pay $50-$100 instead and you might have a change.
Of course, you also have to consider the other factors mentioned above, such as competition. If their content looks like $5, then a $10 article might just do it.
Outreach & Backlinks Budget:
Sometimes, there’s just so much you can do with content. If all the other competitors build links, you might feel like you’re not making any progress at all. It’s not an issue if you purchase publicity on other sites, but try as much as possible to make it worthwhile also in terms of clicks. Don’t just buy a link that nobody will see.
Again, if someone asks you for $1000 for a backlink, you’re better of investing that in quality content, outreaching and building relationships. It’s not easy to do everything yourself, but try as much as possible to develop an outreach strategy which you or someone else can easily execute.
You can also use the CognitiveSEO Tools to easily determine link opportunities you can outreach. For example, you can go into the Competitive Analysis (once your campaign is ready) and look for Common Domains. Then, find the ones that your site (Site 1) doesn’t have yet. This saves time, because you won’t be blindly writing e-mails. Instead, you’ll be targeting webmasters you already know are interesting in the topic.
Social Media Budget:
Social Media is a great way to initially boost your content. If the signals are good and the content receives traffic, it means that it’s performing well and that people might also like to see it in the search results.
Managing a social media account isn’t easy. It’s not just about simply sharing your latest article on a page. Your main focus is engagement. If you’re interested, here’s an article on how to establish a great social media strategy. You’ll see that it’s no child’s play and that it must also be done properly in order to be effective.
Google Dance & Click-Through Rate
Once you start ranking on the second or first page, you might notice that sometimes, Google throws your website to the top, on spot 1 or 2, but only for a while. Don’t celebrate yet, because chances are it’s only a Google Dance.
This happens when Google sees algorithmic signals such as quality content and backlinks, but they also have to check it with real time Rank Brain signals such as CTR. Will the users like your content? Can’t know without sending a little bit of traffic to it, right?
How Click-Through Rate Impacts Your Google Rankings with Dan Petrovic - cognitiveSEO Talks - YouTube
If the Google dance keeps pushing you up, it’s a good sign. This means that you’ll rank on position #25 for a while, then go on #2 for a day, then back to #13. After a week or so, you’ll be on #3 for a day, then go back to #9 and so on.
In order to have a quick idea, I’ve created this graphic to showcase how long it will take to rank in different scenarios. The graphic above is valid considering if your site is rather new and the piece of content you’re going to publish is of very high quality.
Note that these are just gross estimations and shouldn’t be taken for granted:
You have to sort of ‘add up’ the rows, meaning that if you have a poorly optimized website it will take you between 6-12 months to fix that before you can actually start writing quality content. Then you would focus on content and domain performance.
If your Domain Performance is high as well, then you can ‘cancel’ the Domain Performance metric and consider your competition as ‘low’. This is not available for Content as well, as that rather involves UX and CTR metrics more.
Speeding It Up!
You really only have 3 options that can really speed up the process of ranking a page in Google. And no, they’re not quick and easy. It is what it is. SEO takes time. If you want short term profits, take advantage of PPC.
Get Bigger SEO Budget
The real simple way of increasing your chances to rank is to increase budget. Better content, professional design, greater outreach efforts and social media boosting of the article once it’s published will definitely help you rank better.
However, the costs of publishing content like mentioned above can go up to $500 if not more. But it will pay off if done properly. Kick-starting things now can be beneficial on the long run.
There’s also the option of buying backlinks. This can save up a lot of time. However, this is risky and can get you into trouble. The safe way is to buy nofollow backlinks. You might think that it’s not helpful, but in fact, nofollow backlinks do help with SEO.
Your client’s answer
Either way, you should focus on finding quality backlinks that are relevant. The link should reach an interested audience. It’s ideal if it can also bring some traffic. If it costs more than $250, then you’re probably better off spending that on quality content creation or outreach.
Don’t waste money on BlackHat SEO tactics such as automated link building or PBNs. It is risky and it can even end your business if you mess up a big client’s rankings.
Bigger budget means also improving your sales capability. If your client keeps asking about the time frame, then you should be ready to explain how you can speed it up and that it requires more budget.
Write REALLY Good Content
When I say really good content I don’t mean it like “quality content”. I mean really, really good content, on which you spend weeks even months developing, planning outreach and designing it.
To be honest, this very piece of content doesn’t fit that category. Although it’s very qualitative (hopefully), we haven’t spent months designing it and, while we do outreach (as I’ll probably reach out to Nathan to let him know that I featured his video), I haven’t spent months developing a list.
A good example of a really good piece of content is what Nathan Gotch did with his..
Within this cognitiveSEO Talks episode you’ll get the chance to get inspired by Lukasz Zelezny, a prolific keynote speaker, SEO consultant, and author. He started working in the SEO industry around 20 years ago while living in Poland. Every year he is actively participating in 10 to 20 events as a keynote speaker and he constantly worked for mid and large companies such as HomeAway, Thomson Reuters, The Digital Property Group,to mention just a few.
How to Get 100% Year-Over-Year Organic Traffic Growth with Lukasz Zelezny - cognitiveSEO Talks - YouTube
As Lukasz himself is mentioning, he is a hands-on person, spending lots of his time keeping up to date with the changes in the technology of online marketing. He started his professional career in 2005 and has since been responsible for the organic performance of a number of companies including HomeAway, Thomson Reuters, The Digital Property Group and Fleetway Travel.
Lukasz traveled 75,000 km speaking at many SEO and social media conferences including ClickZ Shanghai China, ClickZ Jakarta Indonesia, SiMGA Malta, SES London in the United Kingdom, as well as conferences held in Europe – Marketing Festival in Brno, Brighton SEO in Brighton, UnGagged in London.
Additionally, whenever he has the chance he organizes workshops where he is sharing tips around SEO, Social Media and Analytics. And talking about SEO tips and tricks, hope you enjoyed the list of SEO tips Lukasz has shared with us within this interview.
How Lukasz has implemented strategies for organic traffic growth
The importance of page speed in SEO
The process of gap analysis used for his clients
The status of on-page and off-page SEO in 2019
Social signals vs. traffic influence on website rankings
The impact of brand tracking in SEO
Best use cases for SEO
How the SEO landscape will change in the next 10 years
Top 10 Marketing Nuggets:
Eliminating blockers in the organic strategy such as page speed, or situations when the website is keeping the blog or forum on subdomains (which I’m not a fan of) can achieve 100% growth YoY on organic traffic, as well on conversions. 3:15
Within the gap analysis process: first, find who your competitors are, second, use VLOOKUP or proper tool to find out the keyword that your website is not ranking at all and in the same time the first 3 competitors that rank together in the first 20 positions. You’ll get lots of keywords potentially relevant to your business. 10:40
A unique strategy is the Snapshot strategy – this means to utilize the existence of content; it is generally that you should identify 2,3,4 keywords per URL that already deliver traffic and make those keywords perform better, rank higher, deliver a better quality of traffic. If you’re able to do this at scale and repeat the process for 20 days you’ll experience major growth. 12:21
All forms of digital marketing such as free webinars, videos, courses are great strategies for SaaS companies to make them acquire their first 100 users. 16:37
Gamification works great for getting more visitors to your website. There are websites that give lifetime access for free if you are to attract enough users on the website in a certain time acting like an MLM. 18:07
When you have a very specific problem (like brand tracking, for example) it’s good not to close tightly the problem, but rather start writing around the problem and giving great content not focusing only on the product. 19:17
In my opinion, there’s no correlation between social shares and rankings because I don’t think Google likes to include signals from third-party platforms in their algorithm, and it’s easier to get shares than links which will make it easier to gain ranks. 21:29
Off-page in 2019 is not as critical as it was 10 years ago because nowadays people are thinking mostly at on-page SEO, especially page speed. Personally, I’m a fan of on-page optimization. 27:34
I find brand tracking very important. When you find a mention about your brand you can always approach the person to thank them and ask them to link back to your website. 30:50
I don’t think voice search will dramatically change in the next 10 years. 38:15