Top SEO Curated Posts Of The Day – Excellent SEO Information – Must Read

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 2017, On-Site SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEO

Excellent SEO Information – Must Reads April 2017Excellent SEO Information

SEO Hacks – Tom Demers

Everyone loves a good hack. Terms like “low-hanging fruit” and “quick wins” are common corporate turns of phrase because things that are lower input and higher output are obviously good.

This is why it’s curious to me that many SEO-focused and SEO-savvy folks don’t have a methodology for updating old blog posts.

Publishing company wrote an interesting post about how they’ve made a regular practice of updating and re-sharing older content. Vox was starting with a lot of overall traffic and has a large library of older content that likely gets several thousand unique visitors per month, but even on sites with 5-15 thousand unique visitors a month from search, I’ve frequently seen a similar pattern:

  • There is often a “power law” that applies to existing posts where a small number of older posts drive a significant percentage of traffic (maybe 10-20% from the top two posts and as much as 75-80% from the top 25-50 posts). This can happen even if their previous content creation efforts were uneven and not particularly focused on SEO.
  • Those posts have not been updated in several months or even years.
  • When updated, those posts can frequently see a 15-30% increase, which is significant since those posts already represent a significant portion of the site’s overall traffic.

There’s frequently a lot of opportunities to update existing content to help drive organic traffic growth, which we’ll walk through in this post.

What Should You Be Updating?

The first and probably most important question is: Which posts should you update?

The first place to start is to look at the posts on your site that already drive the most traffic, particularly if you have an older blog where some of the more popular posts are things you or your team wrote six or more months ago.

If you have a limited amount of organic traffic (say less than 5,000 unique visitors from organic search a month) or just launched your site/blog, then you should probably skip this entire process and spend time building links to your domain and growing your overall traffic. You can always come back to this as your content and your site matures.

If your blog does have some existing traffic, take a look at your top landing pages from organic search:

Screenshot of Google Analytics

As you can see from the screenshot, this site is a perfect candidate. It’s driven a little over 17,000 unique visitors in the last month, and while I’ve blurred the post titles, you can see by the dates in the URLs (by the way: don’t use dates in your URLs!) that there is a lot of old content driving traffic for this site. For our purposes, that’s perfect.

The other way to find good candidates for updating is to look for “low-hanging fruit” in a quick SEMrush report (hat tip to Nick Eubanks, which you can see mentioned in this post or in-depth in his keyword research course).

Essentially you just want to:

  1. Input your own URL to SEMrush.
  2. Export all of your organic keyword data.
  3. Filter for 10-15 (or potentially anywhere from 5-20, essentially you want to find opportunities to improve rankings for valuable terms where you’re close to the first page / the top five).
  4. Sort by estimated monthly search volume.

Here is the output of that process for the same site pictured above:

SEM Rush report output (screenshot)

Now I have some additional specific targets for optimization efforts (and even some specific terms to optimize those pages for).

One question here is: How do you decide exactly which and how many pages to update? This can be a bit tricky and should be somewhat dependent on your internal resources and priorities of course, but a few ways to think about and approach the process:

  • Weigh Time to Update vs. Estimated Traffic Value: Here is a quick and dirty way to think about this: The average of the monthly unique visitors in the top five pages in the first image is ~1,490 unique visitors per month. If the upside is 15-30% traffic growth on those pages, and you call it 15%, that’s an extra ~200 unique visits a month (on a recurring basis). How much is that traffic worth to you? As in, what do you pay for similar traffic via PPC, and/or what’s the value of a visitor based on standard conversion rates and the value of a lead/sale? How much will it cost you to update the pages (you’ll have a better sense of this after reading through the process below)? Again, I think for most companies as you get into the 5-10k plus unique visits a month range, the effort will be worth the increased traffic.
  • Think about estimated search volume the way you would a new asset: If you’re looking at the SEMrush report above, you can think about traffic estimates in a similar way to how you’d consider creating a new piece of content. If you use 500-1,000 estimated monthly uniques as a threshold for launching a new asset, you can safely use that same range as a good threshold for updating existing posts (since typically updating a post will require less time and effort than a wholly new post, and should be de-risked since you already have a proof of concept that you can rank fairly well for the term).
  • Start with a defined test: Like with most new endeavors, start with a specific budget for the project and a defined scope (say 10-25 pages) and measure the output. Then you can consider applying the same methodology to more pages and/or perform the same process every 3-6 months.

Actually Updating and Fleshing Out Your Old Posts

Now that you have a good list of pages to update, you can start to actually get those updated. A word of caution before we get into some specific steps to update and freshen older content, as this excellent post from Cyrus Shepard on fresh content details a few potential pitfalls of freshening your content:

  • Changing anchors: If you’re updating internal links or building new external links and trying to push a page up a few spots for a specific term, you may “devalue” older anchors that gave the page relevance for a different term/topic (and may actually lose traffic).
  • Freshening a page for a query that doesn’t warrant freshness: If your site is focused around technical topics where most of the results are relatively “fresh,” updating is likely a good idea. But if your topic is historical, freshness may not be an advantage.
  • Changing the focus of the page: As you make updates on-page, if you deviate too much from the core focus of the post you’re updating, you can pull the theme of the page (and subsequently your existing rankings) away from where it had been focused.

With all of that in mind, once we have a batch of posts we’ve decided are good candidates for updating, we can get to work.

Move to a Last Updated Time Stamp

As multiple smart SEOs have pointed out: Switching the time stamp that populates on your blog posts from “published on” to “last updated” (and then actually updating your older posts) is a great indication that the content is up to date/fresher, particularly if you actually go through and make substantial changes to the post.

Do Some Basic On-Page Clean Up

Use a chrome extension like Link

Miner to spot and clean up any broken links. Edit the post for any outdated information. Have a study from 2014? Update to the 2017 version if possible. Have a list of tools? Make sure they’re all still in business and supported, and if they don’t, replace legacy tools with new entries into space if appropriate.

Create New Sub-Sections Within Your Post

Thickening your post with additional useful content is a great way to grow longer tail traffic to the post. You can find some natural ideas for additional sub-sections for your content by looking at Google’s own “people also ask” feature:

Screenshot of the people also ask feature in Google search results.

These are terms that Google obviously deems relevant to the query, and in many cases, there are some good questions/prompts for additional areas to cover within your post. Just remember that Google is still just a robot: These questions are frequently awkwardly worded and/or redundant, so don’t just grab them word-for-word or you’ll start to sacrifice credibility and quality in your content.

Similarly, Google suggestions (as you start to type your target keyword) and related searches at the bottom of a search result can also be good places to look for additional content ideas:

Screenshot of Google related searches

We might want to add some content to our post addressing doubts about Sundowning, information on why it occurs, or how it relates to alcohol consumption based on these results.

Add Links to External Resources

As you’re updating an existing post, a great way to incorporate more content and make it more valuable is to work in more external resources. Specifically look for opportunities to:

  • Update older data with newer data (e.g. swap out an old survey for a new one).
  • Include new research and insights (the most recent advice on how to do something, the latest research on a topic).
  • Provide a list of additional resources the reader may find interesting.

This adds value to your page and gives you a mechanism to reach out to the folks you’re now linking to and featuring to let them know they’ve been mentioned in one of the more popular posts on your site (they may reciprocate with a link/share of the post).

Consider Updating the Title Tag

This is a great example of an area that could help, but where you want to be careful. Making your title tag “more clickable” and/or incorporating some key modifiers in the title tag can be hugely helpful in driving more traffic (ranking better for specific terms and getting more clicks in the search results you’re already showing in), but you want to be sure not to undermine your current rankings and CTR. You can look in Google Search Console to see which terms are currently driving impressions for a specific page before making any tweaks to the title tag.

Then you can consider different approaches for testing and boosting your organic CTR and/or working in more modifiers to your page titles.

Link to the Page Internally From Other Pages on Your Site

The easiest links to get are links from pages you control on your own site. Look at your highest authority and most linked-to pages with a tool like Ahrefs, and add internal links from key pages back to these older, high-value blog posts.

You can also consider baking these kinds of links into the site’s navigation — add a “popular posts” widget to your blog sidebar and push link equity to these high-value pages.

Do Additional Outreach

If the post in question was a “linkable asset” that you’d done some outreach for, consider working on another round to drive additional/fresher links to the page. This won’t apply to every kind of page that’s driving traffic — if you’re not adept at link prospecting and outreach and/or the page wasn’t really built for this purpose (but is ranking anyway), you may be spinning your wheels trying to promote it (i.e. you can’t just take any kind of content and sprinkle link dust over it).

Drive Social Traffic to the Post

Once you’ve updated the post, try re-sharing it via social media. You don’t have to pretend it’s a new post, you can Tweet something like “Our Sundowner’s Syndrome Guide has been updated for 2017.” In addition to sharing it on your platforms, you can also consider some targeted paid social ads to get it in front of certain folks on Twitter and Facebook, and/or you can push some StumbleUpon or Reddit traffic to the updated post to get it a little bit of extra distribution and potentially get some additional shares, traffic, and links.

Make It More Linkable

Finally, if you’re either in a more competitive niche or there’s just a large amount of traffic available if you can get the pages in question to rank, you might consider some more serious investments to make the page more linkable, like layering onto the existing article:

  • A proprietary survey or industry report
  • An infographic
  • An interactive piece

Then you can support that updated content with a concerted link outreach effort. Again, this type of effort isn’t “for everyone” — if your upside on updating a post is a couple hundred uniques a month, you won’t want to (or likely need to) invest in an expensive creative piece and extensive outreach efforts.

Image Credits

Featured Image via Pixabay

All in-post photos screenshots taken by Tom Demers March 2017

On – 30 Mar, 2017 By Tom Demers

5 Important Audience Targeting Tips for Your SEO Campaign

You can consider your search engine optimization (SEO) campaign a success if you’re able to attract more people to your site organically. For example, if you start with 100 monthly organic visitors, and you grow that number to 1,000 over the course of several months, most optimizers would take pride and call that a victory.

But what about the quality of those visitors? How can you be sure that those 1,000 people have an interest in your brand, or a need for your products, to begin with?

The Importance of Audience Targeting

You may be caught in the line of thinking that more is always better. In the case of SEO, more is often better; each new person that comes to your site is another potential chance to secure a conversion, and more outright brand exposure to build your reputation.

So let’s say the average visitor has a 20 percent chance of being interested in buying your product. You earn 1,000 visitors, so you’ll have 200 potential visitors interested in your product.

Now imagine your average visitor has a 50 percent chance of being interested, but you’re only able to attract 800—now, you have 400 potential visitors interested in your product, making the scenario with less total traffic the more valuable one for your brand.

Audience targeting is all about increasing that relevance, so every gain in volume is more significant to your bottom line.

Strategies for Audience Targeting in SEO

So how can you get better at audience targeting in an SEO campaign?

1. Find the right niche.

Your first job is to find the right niche. You need to make sure the audience you’ve selected is the one most valuable to you, which may require you to make a switch.

For example, New Zealand entrepreneur Sam Ovens was forced to target American visitors because of their higher propensity to convert and show interest in his services. Do some market research, conduct surveys, and ultimately settle on an audience that has the highest likelihood of being interested in your brand.

2. Segment your buying stages.

Next, you’ll want to segment your audience based on different stages of the buying cycle and update your site accordingly as Kissmetrics suggests.

For example, you may want to shift your content to focus on customers who are just starting to build awareness that a problem exists, or you might shift to content that caters to people ready to buy (such as buying guides). It all depends on who you’re targeting and what your customer goals are.

3. Discover appropriate long-tail keyword phrases.

Once you have a target audience (and buying cycle stage) in mind, generate a list of long-tail keyword phrases, and start whittling them down based on those criteria.

Use a tool like SEMrush to competitively research those phrases, and pinpoint key topics for development that appeal to your target audience. If you’re having trouble, consider conducting a survey of your target audience to determine what kinds of content they’d like to see from you in the future.

4. Implement social listening.

Next, you can tap into social listening to learn more about who your customers are and what they want to see. Monitor trending topics within those demographics, observe how they interact with other brands, and get a better sense of their values, desires, and dispositions.

5. Cater to specific search habits.

Finally, find out if your demographic has any telling search habits that can help you optimize your efforts to target them specifically. For example, Bing tends to attract older audiences and people with niche search needs, and some demographics disproportionately search using mobile devices, or tools like voice search. Learn these search habits and cater to them throughout the duration of your campaign. Don’t get trapped in thinking all forms of search are the same.

Other Possibilities

Note that you shouldn’t necessarily limit yourself to one audience for the duration of your campaign. If your brand targets multiple different demographics, it’s possible—and in some cases, advisable—to split your SEO efforts between them. Of course, if you’d like a more conservative system, you can start with one audience and expand to others as you gain prominence in that area.

Audience targeting doesn’t need to manifest in any one form, but it should be considered an integral part of any campaign. With higher-quality targets, any traffic gains you make will become more valuable, and your overall campaign ROI will multiply.

How are you targeting your current audience? What tools do you use to help you with targeting and demographic research?

On – 21 Mar, 2017 By Larry Alton

46 SEO Job Interview Questions to Assess a Candidate’s Knowledge



Stoney G deGeyter

  • 3.4K

Knowledge-based interviews in the SEO world can be tough. Even with the most experienced SEOs, there’s little universal agreement regarding search ranking factors and their importance. So instead of putting together questions that feel like a test — too many wrong answers and you fail — I have created questions that focus on the candidates’ ability to explain what they know and why.

Many of the questions below are nothing more than a jump off point to a discussion. It’s not always about the correctness of the answer but their ability to demonstrate their knowledge of a topic.

While these questions can lead to discussions on the candidates’ experience and specific SEO strategies, they don’t necessarily have to go in that direction — yet. Think of these knowledge-based questions as a primer for the experience and strategy questions to come. If the candidate doesn’t demonstrate sufficient knowledge, there may be no need to go further.

Presented below are 46 knowledge-based SEO job interview questions, with a brief explanation as to where that question should lead the conversation.

SEO questions

How do you define SEO?

You want to start by establishing the foundation of what the candidate believes the role of SEO to be. This ensures that the interviewee is applying for the position you have in mind or to see if you have two different ideas as to the nature of what will be expected of them.

How did you learn SEO?

You’re looking for insight on the candidate’s overall interest and passion in SEO. Look for clues as to whether or not they are a self-starter or fell into SEO following the path of least resistance. Their answer here could tell you a lot about what kind of employee they will be.

How do you stay current with the almost-daily changes that occur in digital marketing?

You want to get a sense of the candidate’s educational process. Specifically, you want to know how much time they invest in education, the resources they utilize, and the people they follow to stay up to date.

What is the difference between a search engine friendly and search engine optimized website?

How they answer this question will tell you quite a bit about their knowledge and skill level overall. If they don’t know the difference, then you’re looking at someone extremely green. If they do know, they should be able to provide some strong details and examples of those differences.

How would you define a successful SEO campaign?

Similar to the first question, this one helps you make sure that you and the candidate are on the same page in regard to successful SEO. You should be looking for answers that go beyond “top search engine rankings” and into the realm of actual business improvement issues.

Where is the line between black hat and white hat SEO? Where do you fall on the spectrum?

white or black hat seo

Every SEO has different lines they will push and lines they won’t cross. You want to know where this candidate falls to ensure it’s a fit with your needs. More importantly, however, is to find out if the candidate can adhere to the lines you establish. You want to be sure they’ll be as aggressive as you need but not so aggressive that they cross lines you don’t want to be crossed.

What are the most important search engines and what makes them important?

Any mention of MSN (and even Yahoo) is ground for immediate disqualification. What you are looking for is how familiar the candidate is with the world of search outside of Google. Aside from Bing, the candidate should have at least surface knowledge of Duck Duck Go, Yandex, and Baidu.

What do you do differently to optimize for search engines other than Google?

The candidates may want to discuss how the various search engine algorithms differ, however, the crux of their answer should indicate that proper SEO is good for all search engines. They should be clear on the point that you should not tailor optimization for one specific search engine. The candidate should also demonstrate knowledge of some specific architectural issues that will need to be addressed when optimizing internationally.

Explain PageRank, its importance, and how it factors into SEO.

The candidate should be able to provide a layman’s explanation of PageRank. If the position requires direct interaction with non-technical people, it will be important that they are able to convey this in an easy to understand way.

What factors were impacted in the most recent (significant) Google updates?

google algorithm changes

Google is always making updates, but there is always a handful that stands out. You’re not looking for a complete history of Google algorithm changes or even the names of them, necessarily. The most important thing is they know how search engines are changing and what things they look for.

Name some of the regular features of SERPS.

Search engine results pages are much more than a list of paid and organic links. Local results, answer boxes, carousels, and more are all important parts of search results. Candidate should demonstrate a knowledge of these SERP enhancements and how those factor into their optimization efforts.

What percentage of a site’s traffic should come from Google? Where should the rest come from and what percentages?

You’re not looking for exact percentages but rather a general idea of how the candidate sees organic search falling into the overall spectrum and what other areas contribute to a site’s success. The candidate should show that they understand the value of bringing in traffic from multiple sources, not just Google (or organic search).

What are the five most important on-page optimization factors?

Every SEO focuses on different things and has different priorities. Here (and for the next three questions), you’re not looking for a “correct” answer. Instead, assess the answers given, which will tell you a great deal regarding what each candidate finds important. Even though there may be no right answers, that doesn’t mean there are no wrong ones, so keep on the lookout for anything you know to be unimportant. That’s a giant red flag.

What are the five most important off-page optimization factors?

Just as in the question above, you want to know what the candidate sees as important for off-page optimization. These answers don’t need to be specific to SEO, and in fact, a good SEO should know a few non-SEO factors that are important.

Tell me one on-page optimization factor that is commonly believed to be important but isn’t.

This could be a controversy-stirring question and deliberately so. You want to hear their opinion on specific “known” ranking factors where they disagree with conventional industry wisdom. Whether you agree or disagree with their answers is beside the point (unless they’re just so far off base it’s ridiculous). What you should get is an impassioned, reasoned, and thoughtful analysis of why this factor is not relevant.

Tell me one off-page optimization factor that is commonly believed to be important but isn’t.

Same as above but with the broader canvass of off-page optimization. On both this and the question above, you can solicit more than one example, just leave time to discuss each thoroughly.

What are some common SEO mistakes?

common seo mistakes

Where the questions above focus on SEO misconceptions, this one focuses specifically on bad SEO practices or mistakes that impact the success of SEO. The list can be almost endless. What you want to see is an awareness of things beyond optimization strategies. This will tell you what the candidate will keep an eye on once they start working for you in order to ensure the work they do for you is successful.

Explain the value of links in an SEO campaign.

This should include a discussion of both incoming, outgoing, and internal linking, and how the search engine algorithms factor them. Don’t let them get away with simplistic “quality over quantity” answers.

What is the importance of the title, description, and keyword meta tags?

The candidate should be able to articulate the value (or lack thereof) of each of these tags and why they are important to the SEO campaign. Since tag length changes frequently, this is not an important aspect of the question, though they should indicate that they understand how tag length impacts the optimization.

Define duplicate content and its relation to search engines.

The candidate should demonstrate a working knowledge of what does and does not constitute duplicate content along with how search engines treat it. Let the conversation move into areas of duplication of distributed content to partial duplication of product descriptions, etc. Don’t worry about discussing strategies here, but rather the impact of various forms of duplicated content.

How important are exact match domains to the optimization success?

Candidate should demonstrate sufficient knowledge regarding how search engines view exact match domains and how that impacts the success of your site specifically. Hint: Exact match domains have very little, if any, relevance to search, but there are other benefits the candidate should be able to articulate.

What is the difference between a sub-domain and a sub-folder? How do the search engines value these differently?

The candidate should be able to thoroughly explain the differences between the two. However, the more important aspect of this question is if they can demonstrate an understanding on how search engines treat each of these two options.

What makes a URL SEO friendly?

This might have been addressed in one of the earlier questions. If not, it bears asking here. The candidate should be able to articulate the difference between a friendly and non-SEO friendly URL accompanied with discussion as to when a site should or should not change their URLs.

How much do broken and redirecting links impact your optimization efforts?

broken links

This should be a discussion not just of the search relevance of these issues but also of the impact they might have on the visitor. Lead the candidate to tell you when and why URLs should (or shouldn’t) be redirected and what problems are created when not handled properly.

How do you check the crawl rate of a site and why is this important?

Candidates should be able to outline tactics and tools they use to review how frequently Google crawls the website. This should include a healthy understanding as to why crawl information is important.

How do you see what pages on your site Google has indexed, and why is this information important?

The interviewee should be able to provide one or more ways they can check a page’s indexed status. But more importantly, they should be able to outline the importance of getting this knowledge and how they integrate it into their SEO campaign.

What is the best way to get a page indexed in Google?

There may be no right answer to this question, but there are plenty of wrong ones. They should demonstrate an understanding of search spidering and page indexing and what specific marketing efforts factor into it.

How often should a page be updated for good SEO?

This is probably the closest to a “gotcha!” question on this list, though it’s not intended to be. What you want to learn is how often the candidate would revisit the page and to outline when and why they would make changes to it. If you get an answer that indicates they make changes to a page without any real strategy behind it, this is likely not the candidate for you.

How quickly after making changes to a page should you expect to see an impact in search?

SEO results

The correct answer here varies from site to site and the candidate’s answer should reflect that. This can also merge into a discussion regarding how long it takes for SEO changes to produce strong, measurable results.

For what reason would you want to exclude pages from search engines?

Candidates should demonstrate a knowledge of various types of pages and content. Specifically, they should be able to outline several page/content types that are better kept from search engines.

On a scale of one to ten, how important is a mobile friendly site to successful SEO?

You want to make sure the candidate can articulate the importance of having a mobile-friendly website and how it factors into today’s digital marketing landscape. The discussion should cover both search and usability issues.

What are the various configurations for a mobile site? Which do you prefer and why?

mobile configurations

The candidate should be familiar with the various ways to build a mobile website. You should get a clear understanding of why they prefer one over the other. They should also demonstrate knowledge of Google’s preferences as well.

On a scale of one to ten, how important is site speed to the optimization process?

The detail provided in this answer will tell you quite a bit about the candidate’s knowledge on the subject. They should be able to explain why site speed is or isn’t too important.

On a scale of one to ten, how important is site security (HTTPS) to successful SEO?

As with the question above, you’re looking for a reasoned explanation as to why they believe as they do. Many SEOs disagree on the level of importance of any aspect of SEO, but every SEO should understand the issue’s complexities.

On a scale of one to ten, how important is validated HTML and CSS to optimization?

Validated code is decidedly not important to the search engine algorithms. However, the candidate should understand the potential ramifications of poorly constructed code and how validation factors into preventing it.

What is the function of the robots.txt file?

The candidate should be able to explain what the robots.txt file is used for and outline some of the dangers of misusing this file.

What is the function of the .htaccess file?

As above, the candidate should have a solid understanding of how this file is used to help (or hurt) the web marketing campaign.

How does PPC impact SEO?

Most SEOs agree that PPC does not have any impact on organic rankings, though there are some that vehemently disagree. Overall, you want a candidate that can explain the value that PPC brings to organic even without impacting the organic rankings specifically.

For what reasons will Google actively penalize your site?

Google penalties

Most things described as penalties from Google are not penalties at all, just negative repercussions from doing something they don’t like. The candidate should be able to distinguish from an active penalty and a negative result.

Algorithm aside, what type of sites does Google want to rank in the organic search results?

This question is designed to see how forward thinking the candidate is or if they merely react to known Google algorithm updates. They should be able to articulate a solid understanding of the purpose of the algorithms and what they are ultimately trying to achieve.

Outside of SEO, what other factors are relevant to a site’s organic success?

You want to make sure that your candidate doesn’t have SEO tunnel vision and can see the bigger picture when it comes to digital marketing. You want to hear how they believe social media, content strategy, link building, and even PPC can be a factor in helping SEO succeed.

What is the single best way to find out what your customers are looking for?

The candidate should be able to demonstrate an ability to think beyond rankings and talk about how to find their target audience. They should outline a number of ways to find keywords and discuss how they are valued. Their knowledge should extend to understanding other signals consumers provide that tell us more about their interests.

What are related words and their value to the optimization process?

Keyword optimization is less about optimizing phrases into a page than it is about addressing the overall topic. The candidate should have an understanding of topical optimization as well as finding and using related words in content being optimized.

What is more valuable, long-tail or short-tail keywords?

long or short tail keywords

Both long- and short-tail phrases have value. Let the candidate explain to you how each is important to the overall success of the campaign while also highlighting their weaknesses.

What is your preferred CMS and why?

This is where you find out what content management systems the candidate has experience with and whether or not they’ll be ready to jump into the CMS your own site uses. They should demonstrate an understanding of the pros and cons of their favorite CMS as it pertains to SEO.

How do you think SEO will be different in five years?

This last question is to see how much they have thought about the future of SEO and what changes are coming our way. If they haven’t given it much thought, it’s possible they are reactionary rather than visionary. That may not be a deal breaker for you, but it can be important when you compare them to other candidates.

The questions outlined above cover a full spectrum of SEO knowledge. Are there specific questions missing? Probably. But these questions are designed to go beyond the scope of the specific question itself. There should be plenty of room here for the candidate to demonstrate their full knowledge.

Let the conversation meander a bit. Let the candidate talk. And by the end, you’ll have a strong feel for what they do (or don’t) know.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Stoney deGeyter
In-post Photo #1: TeroVesalainen/
In-post Photo #2: sharonang/
In-post Photo #3: Simon/
In-post Photo #4: jessica45/
In-post Photo #5: Clker-Free-Vector-Images/
In-post Photo #6: Tumisu/
In-post Photo #7: geralt/
In-post Photo #8: KeithJJ/
In-post Photo #9: tpsdave/

On – 28 Mar, 2017 By Stoney G deGeyter

How to Get Your SERPs Back After an SEO Rankings Drop

SEO experts know how tricky our profession can be. Today, your sites could deliver impeccable results in terms of traffic and CTR, but tomorrow they could drop overnight.

Is it a Google update or a manual report? Did I lose backlinks? Is it possible that someone plagiarized my content? Is it my developers’ problem?

An immediate SEO rankings drop can be caused by anything, from poorly written content to a hacked website.

As the owner of a digital marketing agency, I realize how important maintaining high (or at least stable) search rankings are to an SEO professional’s self-esteem. Basically: If you can’t increase SERPs and drive traffic, what kind of an SEO expert are you?

This is why I decided to create this simple but efficient seven-step guide for beginner SEO ninjas. In it, I describe what you should do to survive and recover from a drop in rankings. Let’s dive in!

#1 Check for Manual Penalties

This first step is fairly simple. When a specific page or your entire site gets penalized, you will receive a note in Webmaster Tools. Like this one:

Example of manual action penalty in Google Analytics

As you can see from the example above, Google is pretty descriptive about the causes of this particular manual penalty. In this case, figuring out why your site has received worse rankings or been entirely de-indexed won’t be a problem.

The bad news is, manual action penalties are very hard to get rid of. Sometimes, it makes more sense to delete the pages in question than to fight the penalty. This is the case if your site has been hit by a Pure Spam penalty.

If you don’t see any penalty-related messages in your Webmaster Tools, there are only two options left:

  1. Google has updated its algorithm
  2. You or someone from your team is responsible for the rankings drop

Let’s look at Google.

#2 Make Certain Your Site Isn’t Affected by Algorithm Update

Before you start to panic and revamp your entire SEO strategy or analyze on-page, off-page, and technical SEO factors, identify whether or not Google is responsible for the drop. Basically, provide a well-thought reply to the question: Was it a global algorithmic update?

I can’t stress enough how important the right answer is. Because if you fail to come to a conclusion, you will spend dozens of work hours and thousands of dollars to no avail.

Everybody makes mistakes. One single error in your rankings tracker may have caused the problem. Alternatively, Google might have picked up your site for rankings experiments. An ordinary server error could also be the answer:

Traffic SEO rankings drop in Google Analytics

Your site might be perfectly fine from an SEO perspective, but if you fail to locate the true cause of a rankings drop, you risk ruining your SERPs for real.

Here is what you can do to avoid mistakes:

  1. Access your Google Analytics.
  2. Sift out pages that have suffered a loss of organic traffic.
  3. Analyze traffic dynamics for these pages (week by week and day by day).
  4. Review selected pages to find similarities (or differences).
  5. Create a list of hypothetical reasons for why your SERPs suffered.

Now that you understand why your rankings may have dropped, check out Google Search Console to compare the data. Pay specific attention to clicks and impressions. Checking out the average position for a selected group of keywords is also recommended.

After that, analyze how your targeted keywords behave in search results. Type in targeted keywords and phrases one by one to gain a clear picture of what’s going on with the rankings.

Is there a mismatch between the Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google search results?

You can use the following tools to assess and analyze your data more efficiently:

  • Fruition’s Google Penalty Checker
  • Barracuda
  • Stat

If your rankings are substantially declining in GA, Google Search Console, and search results, a tectonic shift in the algorithm may be in place. Consider adjusting your SEO strategy but don’t rush. I strongly recommend allocating at least a couple of hours to conducting a more detailed analysis. Who knows? Maybe Google is not to blame.

Bonus tip! Consult fellow SEO pros to see if they have mentioned any changes in rankings. If they say yes, this is a strong indicator that Google has upgraded its algorithm. To make certain, check out trustworthy SEO resources such as Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, or Moz Blog.

#3 Run a Detailed Backlink Analysis

Backlinks from trustworthy websites are one of the pillars that enable a site to perform well in search results. However, if a high-quality resource stops sending link juice to your site (e.g. your link is tagged with “noindex, nofollow” or just gets deleted), a considerable drop in rankings is inevitable.

To figure out if that’s the case, use one of these link analysis tools:

  • Ahrefs
  • Majestic SEO

The screenshot below demonstrates the dynamics of referring domains in Ahrefs. The arrow shows the time period where rankings started to drop. Obviously, there should be a correlation.

Backlinks Ahrefs

You can also combine results from both Ahrefs and Majestic to pinpoint every problem in your backlink profile. Your goal is to check to see if:

  • Your site has suffered a sitewide link drop
  • A link drop has affected a group of pages or a specific page
  • Links have been removed from a particular site or several related sites

After you locate the problem(s), analyze every page that has lost backlinks. Consider their content, structure, visual elements, and so on. More importantly, list pages that are linked to the affected ones on your site. Screaming Frog SEO spider tool will help you to do this.

Now that you have two lists of pages (those that lost links and the ones that are internally connected with them), analyze your backlink sources. You need to figure out why they stopped pointing to your site. Were the original pages deleted? Did they change URLs? Was their content updated? Was their design and structure enhanced?

From then, start working to regain the lost backlinks:

  • Contact site owners or webmasters and ask them to link back to you (in case links were removed by mistake)
  • Update the affected pages to convince site owners or webmasters that they should place links to your site (this will work if links have been deleted intentionally)
  • Replace lost backlinks (these link building methods will help)

Bonus tip! Check to make sure your site hasn’t been attacked with spammy backlinks. This black hat SEO method is very effective. Your competitors simply purchase tons of low-quality links and point them toward your site. As a result, your linking profile gets worse, and Google downgrades your entire website. If that’s the case, check DA and SPAM Score to weed out low-quality backlinks.

Although revamping your entire backlink profile can be a daunting task, don’t turn a blind eye. Keep building new backlinks until you soothe the effects of the rankings drop. The faster you do it, the better.

#4 Audit Your Content

Content has a major influence on the SERPs of any website.

First of all, it feeds to search engines with data about your site. The better search spiders can understand how your site fits in with a specific niche, the higher rankings they will render.

Secondly, content is what brings visitors to your site. They need information and the higher quality this information is, the better engagement metrics your site will end up with. CTR, bounce rate, and average time on page metrics are key to a site’s SERPs.

Useful and valuable content has the ability to build backlinks from trustworthy resources. Dozens of trustworthy backlinks lead to higher search results, always.

My point is that content is pretty important, and you have to analyze it to figure out if it might have somehow triggered an SERP drop. Specifically, check to make sure your content is unique.

To ensure uniqueness, simply run your site through a plagiarism scanner such as Viper, Quetext, or Plagiarisma. You can also use a built-in plagiarism checker at the Small SEO Tools website.

The example below displays results for one of my articles at SEJ. These URLs all point to the originally posted article so I know everything is fine.

Example of plagiarism checker tool text

However, if you find your content on third-party sites, act immediately. Here is what you can do:

  • Reach out to the site owner and ask them to delete the content that is used without your permission
  • Contact a hosting provider to report plagiarized content and request that they remove it

If this doesn’t help, you can choose a legal route (i.e. sue the site owner) or simply update the content on your site. Reporting the violation to Google is also an option. Just use the Webspam report form.

Dealing with plagiarized content is fairly simple. Neither site owners nor hosting providers want you to take legal action against them.

And yet, sometimes you will have to give in and just update the content on your own website. This could be the case if you target third-world markets where reaching out to the authorities is a futile task.

#5 Analyze Your Site’s Structure and Usability

Nobody likes clumsy websites — neither users nor search crawlers.

Out-of-style visuals elements, mile-long conversion forms, confusing CTAs, links that lead to nowhere, and pages that take forever to load — all of these are problems that users come across every single day, and they hate it. Obviously, these all lead to poor engagement and lower rankings.

As an SEO professional, you should work with designers, developers, and usability experts to make sure every change and fix in a site’s design is justified from an SEO perspective. Your top-priority task is to ensure a site is redesigned in such a way that both users and search crawlers can navigate it easily.

Remember: A poor website structure always leads to lower SERPs.

A site’s structure isn’t your only concern, though. Implementing any change on a website (even if it is just content) without an SEO process behind it is a big no-no. This is because SEO is responsible for:

  • Ensuring every page can be crawled and indexed
  • Maintaining proper interlinking of inner pages (e.g. anchor texts, page depth, link paths)
  • Keeping high-quality backlinks pointing to necessary pages
  • Dealing with duplicate pages and redirects
  • Optimizing URL structure and length
  • Making content SEO-friendly

Your site’s structure and usability are tricky. They can trigger a rankings drop at any time, but you won’t be able to identify the cause. Thus, if anything goes wrong, contact your designers and UX pros immediately to analyze what happened with the affected pages. For instance, someone from your team might have:

  • Changed a page’s URL
  • Added an intrusive pop-up that triggered a high bounce rate
  • Removed targeted keywords from content and tags
  • Unintentionally merged several pages
  • Placed content that has not been optimized
  • Tweaked a page’s design, resulting in code errors
  • Messed up the internal linking structure and backlinks
  • Deleted a crucial piece of content

Keep your finger on the pulse of everything that happens or is due to happen on your site. Designers and usability professionals may not know much about search engine optimization, so you should coordinate with them to avoid SEO-related mistakes.

#6 Review Your Site’s Code

Your developers could also be responsible for poor search rankings. Mistakes can happen:

A site is hidden from indexation in robots.txt

Every site that is updated on a regular basis should have a dev version. Basically, this is a copy of the site that is used to implement and test new features before moving them to the live website.

A dev site is closed from indexation in .htaccess and robots.txt files to prevent crawling and indexing of duplicate pages. Mistakes sometimes occur when developers move new functionality to the site’s main version, forgetting to provide access in robots.txt. A specific page or even an entire section of the website can remain hidden from search bots which, eventually, leads to a drop in rankings.

To prevent a mistake like that, pay attention to what your developers do. Check that .htaccess and robots.txt files are set up correctly after your developers implement new features on the site.

A site’s pages are tagged with “noindex, nofollow”

The same scenario is often triggered by “noindex, nofollow” meta tags. Developers noindex, nofollow a specific page when releasing new functionality onto the site and then forget to index, follow it. Search bots’ access to your page gets restricted and eventually, your site drops significantly in search results.

The solution is fairly simple. Check to ensure that your developers haven’t accidentally made any SEO-specific mistakes in your website’s code after every update or fix. Make it a rule that they should notify you to look through the updated pages every time a change is made.

301 redirects are placed incorrectly

Google and other search engines should be instructed to crawl and index a site with www and without www as one, using 301 redirect command. If you are into technical SEO, you can try to do it on your own, but I strongly advise that you ask a certified developer for help.

The only problem is, sometimes, even developers place 301 redirects incorrectly. As a result, you can end up with duplicate pages, which are immediately downgraded by search spiders.

Ensure that your developers are properly instructed on how to place 301 redirects. One single error can ruin it all for your site, so be careful.

#7 Conduct a Competitor Analysis

Meanwhile, you and your team might not be to blame for a rankings drop. Sometimes, your competitors do such a good job with their site, content, UX, and SEO that your website immediately drops in search results because of their fierce competition.

When your competitors grow stronger, running a detailed analysis is the next logical step. Here is what you should do:

  • Use SimilarWeb to see where your traffic and engagement stand
  • Analyze backlinks (new and lost) and content with Ahrefs
  • Check your social media stats in BuzzSumo

Bonus tip! To avoid unpleasant surprises, I recommend monitoring competitor sites on a regular basis. You can do it manually or use Versionista, which unfortunately is not free but is an efficient instrument that compares site differences.

Discover and analyze top-performing traffic sources. Most likely, a competitor managed to get a high-quality link from a trustworthy resource or one of their posts became a success on social networks and it now drives droves of new visitors.

Example of high-quality source in Ahrefs

Figure out if your competition has updated their pages in terms of design, usability, content structure, and crawlability. Has content become longer or better optimized? Are there any changes in their internal link structure? What about their engagement metrics?

Now that you have located and analyzed what pages work for your competitors, emulate their success. Be careful, though. If a change has paid off for your competitor, the same tactic might not guarantee instant success for you. Magic tricks are always kept hidden; but if you and your team work hard enough, you will be able to figure them out and eventually best your competition.


A drop in rankings is a challenge to every SEO professional. However, there are sure-fire methods to pinpoint and eradicate the issues that tanked your site’s performance in the search results. Analyze your SEO campaign step by step, and I guarantee that you will locate the problem and put yourself back on the path to success.

Image Credits

Featured Image: garagestock/DepositPhotos

Screenshots by Sergey Grybniak. Taken March 2017.

On – 03 Apr, 2017 By Sergey Grybniak

The Mission-Critical SEO Checklist for New Websites
  • 5.9K

There’s few things more exciting to me than launching a new website after weeks or months of development. It’s that moment when the world finally gets to see your new baby.

But before you press the launch button, have you made sure your SEO game is in the best possible state? I have seen launches ruined due to simple mistakes that could have been easily avoided had the developer used the checklist below.

Note that this isn’t “The Complete and Exhaustive To Do List for Launching a New Website“. Rather, these are all the SEO bare essentials that you need to either do or check before a site goes live.

General Things to Do Before Launching Your New Website

  1. Google Analytics: From day one, you’ll want to start monitoring and measuring your traffic. There really is no excuse not to install GA. No need to configure it, just grab the UA code or implement through Tag Manager. Depending on how GA has been implemented, you can either check by viewing source and searching for “UA-“ (see gif 1.1) or my preferred method which is to use the Google Tag Assistant plugin on Chrome.
  • View Source for Google Analytics.
  • Double and triple check your robots.txt file. You wouldn’t believe the amount of client sites I’ve seen that were pushed live by their developers with a “User-agent: * Disallow: /“ in there. If you need to read up on what robots.txt is, go here. Although there can be many other reasons why your website isn’t getting indexed, I’ve found in my experience that this is the biggest culprit. Probably because it’s such an easy thing to overlook when you’re busy developing the website.
  • Add a Facebook pixel because chances are, sooner or later, you will want to start marketing your website on Facebook. By having a Facebook pixel on your website, you can start collecting data to build custom audiences from at a later stage. This enables you to effectively retarget people who visited your website with Facebook ads.
  • Setup Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) completely. This means make sure you verify WWW, non-WWW and HTTPS if you use it, set your target country under international targeting, set a preferred domain (Screenshot 1.2), link Google to get Search Console data in your GA, submit a Sitemap.xml, and finally hit the “Fetch as Google” button. Also, just submit the site to Bing — this won’t take but a minute or so.
  • Do a crawl of your site with Screaming Frog and/or check your links with a tool like Link Sleuth (Windows) or Integrity (MacOS). You’ll probably find a bunch of broken links or placeholder pages (lorem ipsum dummy pages) that you can either fix or remove.
  • If you run a membership or e-commerce site, go through the checkout process on both desktop and mobile to make sure everything works as it should. There’s nothing worse than not making any sales simply because you’ve left your payment gateway in sandbox mode.

Specific Things to Do Before Launching a New WordPress Website

  1. Update to the latest version of WordPress and update all your plugins. Remember that during your development cycle, an update could have been released, so be sure to check.
  2. Create a backup version of the site in its most basic version (without all the fancy and shiny plugins you’ll probably want to add later). This ensures you have a solid install to go back to in case you get hacked or break stuff. The Duplicator plugin is my preferred option but there’s plenty of others available so go and see what you like.
  3. Check if you’re using WWW or non-WWW.
  4. Make sure the checkbox “Discourage Search Engines from indexing this site” under Settings/Reading is not checked (screenshot 1.3) . This is the robots.txt fail I mentioned before, except on WordPress.

Some Final Pro Tips That Will Make Life Easier

  1. Don’t go cheap on web hosting. Nothing baffles me more than seeing people dish out tens of thousands of dollars for a new website, only to try and save a few bucks every month by going el-cheapo on hosting. It’s like building your dream house in the middle of a swamp. Once you get hacked or go offline, that’s when you’re going to start paying through the nose to get stuff fixed. Invest in solid hosting. I love WP engine personally.
  2. Set your domain names to auto-renewal and have an alarm in your calendar or phone that notifies you a few weeks before the renewal date — just in case.
  3. Set a custom alert in GA that will trip at certain data points, such as an N% in traffic drop.

Are there any things you do before launch that I didn’t mention? Tag me on social media, I’d love to know about it!

Pinterest Image: A Quick SEO Checklist for Launching a New Website

On – 20 Mar, 2017 By Bob Jones

4 Google Sheets Add-Ons Every SEO Should Have
  • 4.5K

For many in the SEO industry, the migration from Microsoft Excel to Google Sheets has been sluggish.

Folks seem to prefer Microsoft’s offering when it comes to undertaking large-scale analysis, but that has started to change of late.

Google Sheets has always had some powerful selling points, namely its potential for cloud-based collaboration and handy functions like =importxml(). However, that has often not been sufficient for SEOs accustomed to the more sophisticated and reliable functions Excel can offer.

Sheets does have something extra to offer: its extensive library of add-ons. Some of these simply add functions that any Excel aficionado would take for granted, but others go further than that, perhaps giving Google’s spreadsheet platform an edge in this ongoing battle.

Downloading just a handful of these add-ons can automate quotidian SEO tasks, providing fresh insight and simply making us better at what we do.

To get started, just click on ‘Add-ons’ in the top navigation:

Sheets Add-ons

From here, a vast array of options is instantly available.

Below, I have selected just four of my personal favorites:

Search Analytics for Sheets

Getting accurate keyword-level data has been an increasingly uphill task for SEOs. We have become dependent on Search Analytics as a data source.

However, there are still some significant shortcomings with this platform. Leaving aside the unchangeable aspects of this, such as the two-day lag (if we’re lucky) in data and the normalized search volumes, the user interface also does us few favors.

That’s where Search Analytics for Sheets comes in.

This add-on fulfills an essential function by using the Search Analytics API to pull your information into Sheets and providing a slew of new ways to slice the data.

Some common questions we go to Search Analytics to answer, at times with difficulty due to its limited functionality, include:

  • How often does my site rank for a particular query across multiple URLs?
  • Google has expanded its paid advertising footprint. How has this affected my SEO CTR by device, location, and keyword?
  • How is seasonality affecting my website’s performance? (The 90-day limit on Search Analytics data is a real restriction on this kind of analysis.)

By using the right sidebar options to call for your data by Query and Page, for example, the information will be pulled into Sheets directly, as in the example below:

Sheets Search Analytics Example

This creates new opportunities to filter query-level performance by URL, and there are options to add extra groups to the spreadsheet such as Country or Device.

Moreover, you can also schedule automated downloads of your data, so you’ll never need to worry about that 90-day historical limit again.


Supermetrics is a very useful tool for pulling data from a wide variety of different connectors into Sheets.

Their website highlights just how many of these are now available:


The pro version does come with an attached cost of $49/month, so this doesn’t quite rank alongside the great selection of free add-ons available for Sheets.

However, Supermetrics does provide two essential capabilities. First of all, it creates an easy way to synthesize a number of data sources within one spreadsheet, which in turn allows for further data manipulation and analysis.

However, the role that Supermetrics has increasingly come to play in my daily activities is as an intermediary between platforms like Facebook and integrated reporting solutions like Google’s Data Studio.

With Data Studio now free to use worldwide, it is a powerful tool for everyday reporting and analysis. That said, it does lack integration with some important connectors, such as Facebook Ads.

By using Supermetrics, we can pull Facebook data into Sheets and then sync that spreadsheet with our Data Studio report.

The valuable solutions that it brings make Supermetrics a very helpful add-on for any SEO that wants to assess their data in the context of the wider digital marketing picture.

Google Analytics for Sheets

The Google Analytics add-on is notable primarily for its ability to create and schedule custom reports within Sheets.

Once the add-on is installed, the following options will be readily available within a user’s Sheets account:

GA Add-on

By going to the right sidebar and setting the View and Start/End dates, along with the requested Dimensions and Metrics, data will be pulled from the selected Analytics account.

It does take a certain level of technical fluency to master its use of Regular Expressions, but users familiar with the data segmentation used within Google Analytics should have no issues compiling reports, allowing for some trial and error.

GA add-on for Sheets

Google has produced a short but comprehensive video that will guide users through building their first report if any hurdles are encountered along the way.

Although the interface may not be the most intuitive, this add-on provides a further level of flexibility to Analytics data and will save a lot of time normally spent isolating data points, once the reports are set up and scheduled.

If that wasn’t enough, you can also combine this add-on with Search Analytics for Sheets to start uncovering keyword-level data in a lot more detail. This guide over on Moz gives a great overview of how to get started.

Text Analysis

Text Analysis is a fantastic add-on for expediting the keyword research process, and it can also help with content idea generation.

The tool works by taking as its stimulus a selected topic, hashtag, or Twitter handle. It is then capable of pulling in and analyzing all related links, documents, and Tweets. This is powered by the AYLIEN Text Analysis API, which uses natural language processing to assess sentiment within content, for example.

It contains a range of handy functions, such as the option to summarize longer pieces of content and the ability to recognize frequently-used key phrases.

Text Analysis

As with all such technologies, its findings do need to be taken with a grain of salt sometimes (particularly the sentiment analysis), but as a starting point for wide-ranging topic research, it is still a go-to tool.

It is worth noting, however, that this is a freemium add-on; users will have to purchase credits to analyze larger data sets.

Honorable Mentions

To insert some of the typical Excel functions within Sheets, it is also worth installing Power Tools, Remove Duplicates, and Advanced Find and Replace. Although not SEO-specific, these do all serve to streamline a number of data analysis tasks.

All of these enhancements to Google Sheets, along with its in-built competitive advantage as a cloud-based solution and Data Studio integration, now make this platform a real contender when it comes to everyday SEO analysis.

Image Credits

Featured image: Pixabay

All screenshots taken by Clark Boyd, March 2017

On – 27 Mar, 2017 By Clark Boyd

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